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July 31 2012


U.S. Video Services NeuLion to Stream 2014 and 2016 Olympics in China

PLAINVIEW, NY -- NeuLion, a U.S.-based digital video services company, has won the contract with China Central Television (CCTV) to provide video streaming services for the 2014 Winter and 2116 Summer Olympics in China, the company says.

Late last week, the International Olympics Committee announced that it had awarded the rights for the upcoming games to the Chinese broadcaster for $160 million.

NeuLion is streaming HD quality video of the London 2012 Olympics for CCTV as we reported earlier this month.

NeuLion was founded as a private company in 2004 by executives of Computer Associates.  Computer Associates founder Charles Wang is chairman of the company.  Mr. Wang is also owner of the NY Islanders professional hockey team.

We interviewed Wagner at the company's headquarters for this video about streaming the London 2012 Olympics in China.  We have republished that interview today.

Andy Plesser


July 30 2012


The silver lining in the #nbcfail cloud

A touch of irony: There’s good news in the #nbcfail fuss for the network and all networks: The channel is not dead, not yet.

If I went too far — which, of course, is what I do for a living — I might argue that once we could get all the sports from the Olympics live on the web and apps, then we’d abandon old-fashioned broadcast channels and fragment ourselves silly. The channel, I’d argue, is a vestigial and artificial necessity of scarce broadcast spectrum, so who needs it?

But, of course, that didn’t happen. NBC is getting record ratings for its old-fashioned channels — even though it is airing an incredible volume of video online and even though Twitter, Facebook, and the web act as gigantic spoiler networks assuring that every result is known by every American hours before prime time.

Here’s the silver lining, then: Viewers still want channels and the value they add. That is precisely why they’re so mad that NBC is not showing the hottest contests live, because that’s what they expect a great channel to give them: the best, right now.

So NBC could take the #NBCfail fiasco as a Valentine. Not only would I argue that all the spoilers and chatter online are driving audience to prime time but the audience is telling NBC they’d prefer to watch a well-produced channel than the internet.

Take that, Jarvis and all you internet triumphalists!

Listen hard, NBC. Serve your audience well and maybe you’ll keep an audience.


July 29 2012


#nbcfail economics

Reading the #nbcfail hashtag has been at least as entertaining as much of NBC’s coverage of the Olympics. It’s also enlightening — economically enlightening.

There’s the obvious:
* The people formerly known as the audience have a voice and boy are they using it to complain about NBC’s tape delays of races and the opening ceremonies, about its tasteless decision to block the UK tribute to its 7/7 victims, and about its commentators’ idiocies (led by Meredith Vieira’s ignorance of the inventor of the web; they could have used their extra three hours to enlighten her).
* Twitter is a gigantic spoiler machine. It would be nearly impossible to isolate oneself from news of results because even if you don’t read Twitter or Facebook or go to the net, someone you know, someone you run into will. Information can’t be controlled. Amen.
* We in the U.S. are being robbed of the opportunity to share a common experience with the world in a way that was never before possible.
Those arguments have all been made well and wittily on #nbcfail.

The counterargument has been an economic one: NBC has to maximize commercial revenue, which means maximizing prime time viewership, to recoup the billions paid for the rights to broadcast, billions that pay for the stadiums and security and ceremony. The argument is also made that NBC’s strategy is working because it is getting record ratings.

But there’s no way to know whether airing the Phelps race or the opening ceremonies live on TV would have decreased or increased prime-time viewing. Indeed, with spoilers everywhere, viewing is up. I can easily imagine people watching the Phelps defeat live tweeting their heads off telling friends to watch it in prime time. I can imagine people thanking NBC for curating the best of the day at night and giving folks a chance to watch the highlights. I tweeted: “I’m waiting for NBC to take credit for idea Twitter helps build buzz & ratings for tape-delayed events.” (Which led Piers Morgan’s producer, Jonathan Wald, to take joking credit and then the executive producer of the NBC Olympics, Jim Bell, to offer it. To his credit, Bell has engaged with at least one tweeted suggestion.)

If NBC superserved its viewers, the fans, wouldn’t that be strategy for maximum audience? The BBC is superserving its viewers. I went to TunnelBear so I could sample what the BBC is offering on the air and in its iPlayer — which, of course, we can’t use in the U.S. — and it’s awesome. But, of course, the BBC is supported by its viewers’ fees. So the argument is that the BBC serves viewers because they’re the boss while NBC serves advertisers because they pay the bills.

I still don’t buy it. I don’t want to buy it, for that pushes media companies to put all they do behind walls, to make us pay for what we want. I still see a future for advertising support and free content. I still believe that if NBC gave the fans what they wanted rather than trying to make them do what NBC thinks it wants, NBC could win by growing audience and engagement and thus better serving sponsors. I ask you to imagine what Olympics coverage would look like if Google had acquired the rights. It would give us what we want and make billions, I’ll bet.

The problem for NBC as for other media is that it is trying to preserve old business models in a new reality. To experiment with alternatives when billions are at stake is risky. But so is not experimenting and not learning when millions of your viewers can complain about you on Twitter.

The bottom-line lesson for all media is that business models built on imprisonment, on making us do what you want us to do because you give us no choice, is no strategy for the future. And there’s only so long you can hold off the future.

The bottom line for Olympics fans is that, as Bill Gross pointed out, much of the blame for what we’re seeing — and not seeing — falls to the IOC and the overblown economics of the games. There is the root of greed that leads to brand police who violate free speech rights in the UK by chilling use of the innocent words “2012″ and “games”, and tape delays, and branded athletes. This is the spirit of the Olympics Games? It is now.

July 27 2012


Student Journalists Go Global, Think Locally in #Olympics Coverage from London

Amid the thousands of professional journalists gathered in London for the start of the Summer Olympics will be a handful of journalism students with the unusual opportunity to work in school-sponsored teams to cover the high-profile games.

Several U.S. universities have launched new programs to bring journalists-in-training directly to the scene of the giant international sporting event, where they have set up working newsrooms to create content for news media partners, school outlets, and in one case, for the U.S. Olympics Committee itself.

olympics digital 2012 small.jpg

Boston University's College of Communication, for example, has created a six-week study abroad program that brings 14 journalism majors and grad students to London. They'll primarily be producing sidebar coverage of New England athletes for half-a-dozen media partners.

News outlets the BU team will be reporting for include Boston's CBS network affiliate WBZ TV and Radio. Boston.com, MetroWest Daily News, WBUR's Only a Game, and other outlets in Providence and Worcester, Mass. The BU students will also tweet to their own Twitter account, and post to their own website, which launched July 25.

"We're trying to teach real reporting...It's a great exercise for the students," said Susan Walker, an Emmy Award-winning TV journalist who teaches at BU and is supervising its London newsroom. "The idea is to give them a great education in how to cover an international event, cross-platform."

[DISCLOSURE: I'm a graduate of Boston University's journalism program, but have had no formal and little informal contact with the program since graduating 30 years ago].

Putting games in context; covering 'backyard heroes'


The student team -- made up mostly of broadcast journalism majors, with a few print journalism majors and one or two photojournalists -- will operate as a multimedia newsroom for the partner sites and its own outlets, Walker said. That means tweeting, blogging, and filing video reports, still photos and audio slideshows, as well as written articles.

Walker also added that the first three weeks of the program were organized as a for-credit summer course into the history, politics and issues surrounding the Olympic Games, with the final three weeks of coverage structured as working internships.

"Student[s] need to learn the context before they go out to cover [the Games]," she said. For example, students learned about the history of women in the Olympics prior to covering one of the first female members of the Saudi Arabian team. They also did classroom work on the Munich massacre, Olympic judges, doping, and presidential politics around the Games, to create long-form reporting projects prior to the start of the games.

But Walker said her team is focused on carving out coverage of Boston's "backyard heroes" at the games. One example is a video report on a Rhode Island boxer who barely missed making the U.S. team and must now decide whether or not to go pro. Another is a report on a local high school choral group that is raising money to go perform at the Olympics.

Walker is under no illusions her student journalists will get big stories that other journalists can't, if only because her reporters could not be credentialed by the International Olympic Committee.

But the challenge of sidestepping Olympics security has already been the source of much resourcefulness in the team's coverage, she added. For instance, students are getting information directly from Olympic athletes who are using social media to share their views on their housing, the Olympic Village, and more. They've also pigeonholed athletes crowding a nearby shopping mall in the days before the Opening Ceremonies. And numerous stateside interviews were also arranged, some with athletes even before they made the U.S. team.

Scripps program an 'opportunity to take risks'


A similar team of 16 students from the Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University has also formed an Olympics summer abroad newsroom in London, where they will be reporting for a school-sponsored news site and Twitter feed.

Hans Meyer, a one-time community newspaper reporter who now teaches online and multimedia journalism at Scripps, called the school's Olympics initiative "the perfect opportunity for students to take risks. They'll be in an environment where there are a wealth of stories and reporters. I'm urging them to tell different stories than all their counterparts."

His students will report a range of spot news, long-form features, and sidebars on local athletes, and he said he's encouraging students to use as many multimedia tools as possible to experiment with backpack journalism. The stockpile brought on the road include digital SLRs with boom mic attachments, digital audio recorders, and video editing laptops.

Meyer said, "I'm pushing them as much as I can to think differently about their work... I really want them to try something they haven't, such as video if they are primarily a writer, or social media tools, such as Storify."

Like their BU counterparts, Meyer said the Scripps students dedicated themselves ahead of time to researching athletes of local interest, along with issues affecting the games. As part of the preparation, they took a spring semester course covering Olympic history, issues and media coverage, and Meyer worked with them on web-first reporting approaches.

Also like BU, Scripps reporters lack credentials, something Meyers said almost derailed the program before he got offers of help to submit one-off media requests for individual events and was reassured by sports journalist alumni that there were many stories beyond officially sanctioned events; students just needed to keep their eyes and ears open.

For instance, Meyer said he and student Melissa Wells were on a tour bus that was diverted off a bridge, so the two of them jumped down to start reporting, and then put together a soon-to-be-published story on a London cabbie protest.

Meyer added in an email from London shortly after arriving and getting online: "The most important measure of success for me, and I hope for the students, is the experience. As a reporter, I attended only a handful of events where there was more than one media outlet present, but I always remember those events as good gauges of my reporting ability. I could compare my coverage against those of more seasoned professionals and identify what I did correctly, and on what I could improve. For students, I think this opportunity is invaluable. I'll consider the program a success if students come away knowing how they stand in their preparation for a journalism career."

Testing the waters at Olympics trials

Among other Olympics-related programs is one at Penn State, where the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism has a sent a team of five undergrad and grad students to London to produce feature material for the U.S. Olympics Committee's press service, as well as for a school outlet and as freelancers for news organizations (More here, plus a video).

Another initiative involved the University of Oregon. Prior to the games, the school's Daily Emerald had a small team covering the Olympic trials in Eugene, an experiment publisher Ryan Frank wrote about earlier in a PBS Mediashift column.

Frank explained that for the project, "Our big focus was local athletes, especially ones with UO ties. Most of the fans were from within our region." But he added that the team also tried to cover major news and tried to compete with the local professionals and the nationals for the big stories.

The project also aimed for a 50-50 digital-print mix, said Frank. One or two longer daily print stories were matched by a series of what he called short web-based "stub" pieces for each significant event as it concluded. He added that the team live-tweeted almost every development, that by the end it was live-streaming every press conference, and that it developed a stream of user-generated Instagram pictures of the action.

A. Adam Glenn is associate professor, interactive, at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, and a longtime digital journalist and media consultant. Connect with him on Facebook or LinkedIn, and follow his Twitter feed. This monthly column draws liberally from conversations about digital journalism teaching practices on the online educators Facebook group of the Online News Association. The ONA Facebook group is currently a closed group but you can view ongoing conversations (see our group Q&A tracker), or join in via ONA membership.

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July 26 2012


Special Series: Olympics in the Digital Age

It used to be that there were two ways to experience the Summer Olympics: watch the games on your TV (and on NBC's schedule) or travel to the games themselves.

Oh my, how things have changed. This summer, you can follow your favorite Olympian on Facebook. Live stream the finals on your laptop. Look at near real-time photo galleries online. Track the most important news from the Games via a special Twitter page.

Over the next two weeks, MediaShift will be looking at how coverage of, and interaction with, the Olympics has changed and what that means for everyone from fans, Olympians, media players, journalists, journalists-in-training and technology companies alike.

Stay tuned. And if you have a story to share, please be in touch.

Series Posts

> Covering the Olympic Trials: 8 Lessons in Journalism Education News and Business by Ryan Frank

> London 2012: The Thrills (and Agony) of the Social Olympics, by Terri Thornton

Coming soon:

-How journalism students are using the Olympics as a training ground, by Adam Glenn

-Your guide to online resources for following the 2012 Olympic games, by Jenny Xie

-5Across: Athletes on Social Media (with guest Olympians Natalie Coughlin and Donny Robinson), hosted by Mark Glaser

-Storify: Highlights from the most interesting Olympians on social media, by Jenny Xie

-How one Olympic junkie adjusts after cutting the cable cord, by Jenny Shank

-A special Olympic Mediatwits podcast, hosted by Mark Glaser and Rafat Ali

Previous Olympic Coverage on MediaShift

2010 Vancouver Games

> Inside the Social Media Strategy of the Winter Olympic Games by Craig Silverman

> Photo Gallery: Citizen, Alternative Media Converge at Olympic Games in Vancouver by Kris Krug

> Best Online Resources for Following 2010 Winter Olympics by Mark Glaser

> True North Media House, W2 Provide Citizen Media Hub at Olympics by Craig Silverman

2008 Beijing Games

> A Mix of Skepticism and Hope on Propoganda Tour 2008 by Elle Moxley

> China Partially Lifts Great Firewall for Media But Access Remains Pricey by Elle Moxley

> Cell Phone Use, Texting Widespread in China by Elle Moxley

Managing editor Courtney Lowery Cowgill is a writer, editor, teacher and farmer based in central Montana. In addition to her work with MediaShift, she teaches online courses at the University of Montana's School of Journalism. Before she came to MediaShift, she was the co-founder and editor in chief of the now shuttered online magazine NewWest.Net. When she's not writing, teaching or editing, she's helping her husband wrangle 150 heritage turkeys, 15 acres of food, overgrown weeds or their new daughter. She blogs about life on the farm, and other things, at www.lifecultivated.com.

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April 19 2012


Daily Must Reads, April 19, 2012

The best stories across the web on media and technology, curated by Lily Leung.

1. Publishers could reach settlement with 50 states in e-books case (PaidContent)

2. NBC will stream live all 30-plus sports in upcoming summer Olympics (NYT)

3. California's lieutenant governor snags gig at Current TV (NYT)

4. Spotify teams up with Coca-Cola to draw more users (Businessweek)

5. Do social-reader apps on Facebook work? (ReadWriteWeb)

6. Should the Emmys shift to a web-only program? (The Wrap)

Subscribe to our daily Must Reads email newsletter and get the links in your in-box every weekday!

Subscribe to Daily Must Reads newsletter

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February 20 2012


“All that is required is an issue about which others are passionate and feel unheard”

Here’s a must-read for anyone interested in sports journalism that goes beyond the weekend’s player ratings. As one of the biggest names in European football goes into administration, The Guardian carries a piece by the author of Rangerstaxcase.com, a blogger who “pulled down the facade at Rangers”, including a scathing commentary on the Scottish press’s complicity in the club’s downfall:

“The Triangle of Trade to which I have referred is essentially an arrangement where Rangers FC and their owner provide each journalist who is “inside the tent” with a sufficient supply of transfer “exclusives” and player trivia to ensure that the hack does not have to work hard. Any Scottish journalist wishing to have a long career learns quickly not to bite the hands that feed. The rule that “demographics dictate editorial” applied regardless of original footballing sympathies.

“[...] Super-casino developments worth £700m complete with hover-pitches were still being touted to Rangers fans even after the first news of the tax case broke. Along with “Ronaldo To Sign For Rangers” nonsense, it is little wonder that the majority of the club’s fans were in a state of stupefaction in recent years. They were misled by those who ran their club. They were deceived by a media pack that had to know that the stories it peddled were false.”

Over at Rangerstaxcase.com, the site expands on this in its criticism of STV for uncritical reporting:

“There does not appear to be a point where the media learns its lessons. There is no capacity for improvement. No voice that says: we have been misled by people from this organisation so often in the past that we need to get corroboration before we publish anything more. Alastair Johnston, you will recall, artfully created the impression for Rangers’ supporters and shareholders  that the payment of the tax bills that are now crushing their club would be the responsibility of the parent company. His words then were carefully chosen to avoid actually lying, but his intended audience seemed in little doubt at the time as to what they thought he meant.  Either Mr. Johnston has been misrepresented by STV or he appears to be trying to gain an advantage in the battle to oust Whyte by misleading Rangers’ supporters.”

The piece also includes some interesting reflections on collaborative journalism and crowdsourcing:

“Rangerstaxcase.com has become a platform for some of the sharpest minds and most accomplished professionals to share information, debate, and form opinions based upon a rational interpretation of the facts rather than PR-firm fabrications. In all of the years when the mainstream media had a monopoly on opinion forming and agenda setting, the more sentient football fan had no outlet for his or her opinions. Blogs and other modern media, like Twitter, have democratised information distribution.

“Rangerstaxcase.com has gone far beyond its half-baked “I know a secret” origins to become a forum for citizen journalism. The power of the crowd‑sourced investigation initiated by anyone who is able to ignite the interest of others is a force that has the potential to move mountains in our society. All that is required is an issue about which others are passionate and feel unheard.”

Rangerstaxcase.com is not unique. Combine the passion of sports supporters with the lack of critical faculty in much sports journalism and you have potentially fertile ground.

For my own club, Bolton Wanderers, for example, I turn to Manny Road (site currently laid low by a malware attack).

For the Olympics there will be a regular and easy supply of good news stories to wade through, but also an extremely active network of local and international blogs from people scrutinising the foggier side of the Olympic spirit, which is why I set up Help Me Investigate the Olympics and am encouraging my students to connect with those communities.

January 11 2012


The test of data journalism: checking the claims of lobbyists via government

Day 341 - Pull The Wool Over My Eyes - image by Simon James

Day 341 - Pull The Wool Over My Eyes - image by Simon James

While the public image of data journalism tends to revolve around big data dumps and headline-grabbing leaks, there is a more important day-to-day application of data skills: scrutinising the claims regularly made in support of spending public money.

I’m blogging about this now because I recently came across a particularly good illustration of politicians being dazzled by numbers from lobbyists (that journalists should be checking) in this article by Simon Jenkins, from which I’ll quote at length:

“This government, so draconian towards spending in public, is proving as casual towards dodgy money in private as were Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. Earlier this month the Olympics boss, Lord Coe, moseyed into Downing Street and said that his opening and closing ceremonies were looking a bit mean at £40m. Could he double it to £81m for more tinsel? Rather than scream and kick him downstairs, David Cameron said: my dear chap, but of course. I wonder what the prime minister would have said if his lordship had been asking for a care home, a library or a clinic.

“Much of the trouble comes down to the inexperience of ingenue ministers, and their susceptibility to the pestilence of lobbying now infecting Westminster. On this occasion the hapless Olympics minister, Hugh Robertson, claimed that the extra £41m was “worth £2-5bn in advertising revenue alone”, a rate of return so fanciful as to suggest a lobbyist’s lunch beyond all imagining. Robertson also claimed to need another £271m for games security (not to mention 10,000 troops, warships and surface-to-air missiles), despite it being “not in response to any specific security threat”. It was just money.

“This was merely the climax of naivety. In their first month in office, ministers were told – and believed – that it would be “more expensive” to cancel two new aircraft carriers than to build them. Ministers were told it would cost £2bn to cancel Labour’s crazy NHS computer rather than dump it in the nearest skip. Chris Huhne, darling of the renewables industry, wants to give it £8bn a year to rescue the planet, one of the quickest ways of transferring money from poor consumer to rich landowner yet found. The chancellor, George Osborne, was told by lobbyists he could save £3bn a year by giving away commercial planning permissions. All this was statistical rubbish.

“If local government behaved as credulously as Whitehall it would be summoned before the audit commission and subject to surcharge.”

And if you want to keep an eye on such claims, try a Google News search like this one.

January 13 2011


SochiReporter Becomes Major Russian Media Player in 2010

2010 was a very good year for us at SochiReporter SochiReporter.ru. In late December we took time to analyze the year's achievements and, to be frank, I was excited about the list of various activities SochiReporter initiated or participated in.

Of course, I try to be cautious about praising myself and our team too much, as satisfaction is always a killer of development and a friend of stagnation. The undeniable good news, however, is that SochiReporter launched in the fall of 2009 and we managed to reach some serious heights in 2010, especially on the marketing side of the product.

SochiReporter is a citizen journalism platform that reports on the preparations for the Olympics, by the people and for the people. As a result of our efforts, the site is today one of the most advanced websites in Sochi, especially when it comes to interactive tools, features, and design. Its possibilities and potential are enormous and still to be realized in many ways. SochiReporter is the best Drupal website in Sochi and one of the best Drupal sites in all of Russia, according to the Russian Drupal community and the local programming community. Right from the start, the project was designed to be much more than just a blog, or a news wire; we envisioned it as a multi-functional tool that can also be an educational platform. SochiReporter is the first global initiative to build a unified digital archive of the multimedia resources about the preparation of the host city for the Olympics.

Stories about the transformation of the city were abundant in 2010. Just recently we received a report about the demolition of the "iron flea market," where an office and shopping center will soon be built. Citizen reporters are able to express how these kinds of changes affect the daily lives of residents.

2010 Highlights

SochiReporter enjoyed wide media coverage from both traditional and online media. Our site was featured in about 300 online media articles, 13 TV reports (that were aired 30 times), and over 20 newspaper stories. Here's a quick list of some of the key activities I engaged in over the past year:

  • I organized roundtables and participated in a number of professional conferences, presenting SochiReporter in Russia and worldwide.
  • I negotiated with and attracted our first partners.
  • I worked to raise the number of users, utilizing social media and other platforms to spread the word.
  • I communicated with potential advertisers, delivering presentations in their offices and meeting with them in other venues.
  • I worked to diversify the number of topics covered on the website, and increase the brand awareness nationally and globally.

To put it in a nutshell, my activities were aimed at strengthening our young brand.

sochireporter gpics.bmp

And here's a look back at some of the highlights from 2010:

January: Cooperating with McDonald's
SochiReporter supported McDonald's International Child Day on November 20. The Ronald McDonald Foundation is working to open child-care rooms in Russian hospitals all over the country (about 10 rooms are already open). SochiReporter, along with just a few other media outlets, helped with charity activities that raised 10 million rubles towards opening three more rooms in three other Russian cities. We partnered with McDonald's for a similar project early this year.

January: A Mobile Journalist School for the Students of Sochi
We organized a two-day seminar offering tips on how to blog, use social networking, and generate content. Professors from the faculty of journalism at Moscow State University took part as lecturers.

February: Sochi Winter Music Conference
SochiReporter was selected to be a media partner of the fifth Sochi Winter Music Conference, a two-day business forum and three-day music program. SWMC brings together well-known figures in show business, music journalists, DJs, producers, promoters, record company owners and managers, radio and TV presenters, brand managers, and music festival organizers. These creative, active and talented people are also sophisticated web users. Thanks to this collaboration, all of the 1,500 participants left with a SochiReporter leaflet in their conference bag.

February: Winter Olympics in Vancouver
SochiReporter participated in the Fresh Media Olympics conference. I Skyped into the conference from Sochi to connect with the dozens of bloggers and citizen reporters who gathered to cover the Winter Olympics.

June: Kinotavr
SochiReporter was selected to be the media partner of Russia's second largest film festival, Kinotavr. We were the only Sochi media to be named a media partner. (Other media partners were big Moscow-based media outlets as the Channel 5, STS, Hello! Magazine, etc.).

June: MIT Center for Future Civic Media Conference
This conference was one of the highlights of the year. After attending, I spent a week in Nebraska as the first Innovator in Residence at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Journalism School, where I met with students and faculty members and presented SochiReporter.

October: Abandon Normal Devices
I presented SochiReporter at the Abandon Normal Devices festival of new cinema and digital culture in Manchester, U.K. I also participated in the one-day #Media2012 conference.

October: Paralympics Action
SochiReporter reporters organized Paralympics Action to spread knowledge about the Paralympics and the Paralympic values in Sochi. This event was also aimed at supporting the creation of an accessible environment for disabled people. SochiReporter will continue to work on this important theme.

English Translation, Roundtables, Mapping
In 2010, SochiReporter started translating citizen journalists' posts into English. We also organized a number of roundtable discussions, including one on how residents of the city can unite on the web to fight smoking. I also spoke at a World Health Organization anti-smoking symposium in Sochi, I also moderated a roundtable on user-generated content at Michigan State University. Participants were the heads of seven leading Russian Internet sites. We continued our collaboration with Kodak, which saw digital cameras given to our citizen reporters. We also worked with Kodak to outline a Moscow replica of SochiReporter. Finally, back in Sochi, we initiated and fostered the creation of the OpenStreetMap of Sochi, which you can see below.


I hope 2011 is just as exciting and eventful.

October 15 2010


The Marriage of Social Media and the Olympics Is Inevitable

I've just returned from England where I spoke at the Abandon Normal Devices (AND) event, an independently funded festival of new cinema and digital culture. It was held in the Cornerhouse, a 25-year-old arts and media space located in the heart of Manchester. My presentation was part of the #media2012 session dedicated to the growing importance of social media in covering the Olympics, and during the preparations for the Games. The event drew artists, designers, researchers and new media folks from many corners of the world, including the U.S., Canada, Brazil, and Scandinavia.

AND Manchester__.JPG

Social Media and the Olympics

A special session on social media and the Olympics was organized by Andy Miah, a professor in emerging technologies at the University of the West of Scotland. He's a very well known Olympics culture researcher, and he posed a challenging and thought-provoking question, "Will citizen media take over the 2012 event?"

Miah built a very interesting one-day long program that drew charismatic and knowledgeable speakers. The goal was to have discussions "focused on opportunities, strategy and vision to create a publicly owned new media legacy for the Games." Miah also presented a media blueprint for London 2012, which emphasized the significant role of the new media in covering the Games.


Fortunately, the modern Olympic movement doesn't view the Internet as a threat (as it had). The IOC has started taking steps towards embracing the Net, and that trend seems to be continuing. It's obvious that the future of the Olympics strongly depends on the openness towards, and readiness to accept, new technology. With social media reinventing activism, the Games have a chance to get more people engaged in order to create positive change. And even more important, new media enables organizers to build a public archive of the preparations for the Olympics and the Olympics themselves. The legacy of the Olympic Games is one of the most important issues that the IOC and host country address every time the Olympics is organized. New media are the best tools to preserve and spread the legacy.

Presentation and Discussion

While in Manchester I gave a presentation about SochiReporter and participated in the discussion that followed. I spoke after Kris Krug, one of the creators of the True North Media House, which was established during the Vancouver Games. (Read more about it here.) My presentation was followed by one from Josi Paz of Brazil. He told us how the former Brazilian president had cried when he learned that Rio won its bid, and described the current state of preparations for the Games.

I first met Professor Miah virtually when I Skyped into the W2 Community Media Arts Fresh Media Olympics event back in February 2010. The folks at W2 in Vancouver organized an exciting discussion about social media's growing role in the coverage of the Olympics. The Vancouver Games were truly a breakthrough when it came to the engagement of bloggers; the expectation is that new media will only become more involved in telling the story of the Olympics.

During the event in England, Ruth McKenzie, the director of the Cultural Olympiad for the London 2012 Organizing Committee, pointed out that during the Olympics the London 2012 website expects a peak of 6 million visitors a day. They plan to turn the site into a platform for presenting the culture and soul of Britain.

AND festival Manchester_.jpg

A Natural Fit

In reality, the popularity and the accessibility of digital media basically requires the organizers of big events such as the Olympic to do their jobs better. The ability for anyone to document anything on their mobile phone and produce high-quality footage is something that organizers have to keep in mind. Fifteen years ago the big media played the role of a watchdog; today everyone is a watchdog.

Here's the simple truth: the Olympics are global and the web is global. What could be more logical than to marry the two? You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.

September 14 2010


English-Language Content a Boon to SochiReporter in Russia

On Monday, September 27, SochiReporter will begin publishing in English.

From that point on, every Monday will see us publish new exclusive stories about ongoing preparations for the 2014 Winter Olympics, and about life in four of the Big Sochi main areas: Central Sochi, Adler, Khosta and Lazarevskoye. (We will be translating the Russian posts submitted by our citizen journalists.)

Vancouver Test Case

As I previously wrote on Idea Lab, we began testing an English version of SochiReporter during the Vancouver Olympics. We then hired Yuliya Talmazan, a Russian-speaker from Vancouver who worked as an editor at NowPublic, to cover the Olympics for us. We wanted to see what English content would do for our traffic. Simply put, it had a significant effect, driving our traffic up over 300 percent.

Yes, those weeks in February were a hot time for anything Olympics-related. Thousands of people were surfing the web looking for the information about the Games. Our headlines were crafted and customized according to SEO principles in order to attract that traffic and deliver news about what was going on in Vancouver with the Russian team.

We are currently in the process of translating content for our English version, as August and September saw the significant rise in the number of posts at SochiReporter. What makes me especially happy is that the journalistic quality of stories has improved -- that's partly why I made the decision to start translating into English. At first, we will translate about 60 to 70 percent of every post in order to convey the core idea of the story.

SochiReporter.Ru Posts

We're very happy with how the posts on our site are starting to evolve. To give just a few examples, we've received a story about the public hearings related to the reconstruction of the Sochi embankment; the transformation and rebuilding of one of the city's main hotels; the opening of a new center that will provide municipal services to the citizens of Sochi; the creation of an open-air fitness club; a mini-golf championship in Sochi; the arrival of new wolves at the nature reserve; and the start of an around-the-world voyage of a famous sailor and an honored citizen of Sochi and Newport, R.I., Victor Yazikov; and many, many more.

Another interesting story was about Sochi residents who were collecting the clothes and other donations for residents of central Russian towns who lost their houses in the fierce summer peat fires.

All of these stories inspired discussion at SochiReporter.Ru.

August 19 2010


Calls for local media to apply for Olympics accreditation

Local news organisations are reminded they can now apply for accreditation to cover the 2012 Olympics in London in a release from the Newspaper Society.

Companies wishing to send journalists and photographers to the games must apply to the British Olympic Association (BOA) by the final deadline of 15 October.

The Society says it has held talks with both the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG) and BOA to remind them how “uniquely placed” local media are to cover the event.

The NS has re-iterated that it is vital that the organisers of the Games should take full account of the particular role and needs of the local and regional press both in terms of those applying for full accreditation and in respect of non-accredited journalists, including as regards access to local venues and facilities to follow and report on particular athletes’ progress. The NS has also raised the issue of balancing broadcast rights against the needs of legitimate reportage on newspapers’ own websites, including blogs.

Applications for accreditation must be made using the downloadable form on the BOA website. According to the NS, accreditation for non rights-holding broadcasters is managed by the International Olympic Committee with application forms available in March next year.Similar Posts:

June 30 2010


Serving as Media Innovator in Residence at University of Nebraska

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Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

Flying over Lincoln, Nebraska, aboard a Delta jet, I peered down at the gently rolling meadows, farmlands and the statue on the peak of the high-rise state capitol, which is situated the heart of this cute town.

The state capitol tower, a historic landmark, is one of the few places in the United States where all three branches of government are housed in one building.

I am on my way back to New York City after spending a wonderful and very efficient week at the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln as its first Media Innovator in Residence.

The position is part of the new program being enacted by Gary Kebbel, the new dean of the college who officially starts tomorrow. He invited me to spend six days in town to meet with faculty and students and speak about SochiReporter and the project's developments. The idea was for me to share my experiences and participate in discussions about the future of new media. 

Lectures and Active Discussions

As Kebbel put it, one of the central ideas of this program is that active entrepreneurs -- people who are right in the middle of working on their projects -- visit the college, demonstrate their work and also focus on the questions and issues not yet resolved. One of the main questions that I ponder is how to make our website sustainable. What new media business model -- or combination of models -- will keep the site running after the Knight grant money runs out in a couple of months?

While visiting the school, I gave six lectures that eventually turned into vibrant discussions with  students. In a marketing class we discussed the partnerships that SochiReporter forged with local media, the ways to promote SochiReporter online and offline, and the SochiReporter-McDonald's partnership.

In the design and advertising class, one of the students said she would be interested in working out a plan for the global marketing strategy for SochiReporter. In the reporting class, the students were especially interested in the kinds of stories being generated by our citizen reporters, how the moderation process works, and how we package stories at the website. They wondered which kinds of stories actually cause change and influence the decisions made by the city officials. The students also viewed SochiReporter as an outlet for possible internships next year.

I also spoke to students at the College of Business Administration and with Dr. Sang M. Lee, a distinguished professor and chairman of the Department of Management. We discussed the possible business models based on attracting global and local businesses.

What I found interesting is that in about three weeks Lincoln is hosting a Special Olympics event that will attract thousands of visitors from all over the country. This creates a direct bridge between Lincoln and Sochi, the host of the 2014 Olympics.

I really clicked with Jordan Pascale, a student and staff writer with the Lincoln Journal Star. The newspaper is organizing a new unit to cover the Special Olympics and produce content for the print and the online versions of the paper. Pascale said the plan is to post more original content online than usual and to experiment with it. We talked about the ways of integrating the citizens of Lincoln into covering this event. Some of the school's journalism students will volunteer at the Games and will also be blogging about it.

Trip to Omaha

At one point Dean Kebbel and I took a trip to Omaha to meet with the publisher, executive editor and advertising executives of the Omaha World-Herald, the largest newspaper in the state. It took us 50 minutes driving one way, and I found Omaha to be a fast-developing city with cheerful residents who are excited about the construction of a new, big stadium.


Publisher and company president Terry Kroeger and the vice-president for news and content Larry King (whom I jokingly complemented on his his CNN show when we first met) were open and excited about collaborating with the school. They agreed with Kebbel's statement that the future of journalism builds upon traditional values of quality reporting by using new technologies to enable people to get news in any format, any time, on any device. (The above photo shows Joanna Nordhues from UNL along with Gary Kebbel and Mike Reilly, executive editor of the Omaha World-Herald.)

We spent more than three hours in the newspaper's office, and it was also entertaining to meet with the paper's cartoonist Jeff Koterba. Aside from me, he had a very unusual visitor in his office, as you can see below.


One final interesting fact about the school is that faculty members all just received iPads, and it was great to see them all downloading and trying out applications. 

Serving as innovator in residence was a delightful and enriching experience. Since it's a long-term program, I'll always be the first -- but I definitely won't be the last.

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Education content on MediaShift is sponsored by Carnegie-Knight News21, an alliance of 12 journalism schools in which top students tell complex stories in inventive ways. See tips for spurring innovation and digital learning at Learn.News21.com.

June 28 2010


Video: BBC at the 2012 Olympics: visualisations, maps and augmented reality

With 2 years to go to the 2012 Olympics, the BBC are already starting to plan their online coverage of the event. With a large, creative team at hand who have experimented with maps, visualisations and interactive content in the past, the pressure is on them to keep the standards high.

At the recent News:Rewired event, OJB caught up with Olympics Reporter Ollie Williams, himself a visualisation guru, to find out exactly what they were planning for 2012.

May 27 2010


SochiReporter Helps Transform Sochi in Preparation for Olympics

I recently spoke with a friend of mine here in Sochi, Russia. She is a specialist in modernizing the technological infrastructure of sanatoriums, which were the places where lucky Soviet working class heroes would be sent to rest and relax. (Think of them as health spas.)

It's a challenge to transform the Soviet-era sanatoriums. For example, her job entails computerizing the files and data and modernizing the registration of new clients. But she said it's exciting work. For her, the most enjoyable part of the job is organizing courses for the staff (doctors, waiters, janitors) who at first seem dazed and confused by the changes and new technology. Gradually, their puzzlement gives way to excitement. "How come we were doing this job manually for so many years?" they eventually ask.

I can definitely relate to her experience, as can many people who are trying to modernize different aspects of Sochi culture and society for the upcoming 2014 Winter Games. It's not just about the modernization of the sanatoriums; it's about every aspect of the locals' lifestyle and the character of the infrastructure. Of course, this is what makes this process of transformation so exciting.

Our project, SochiReporter, a hyper-local citizen news website, is working to create an archive of these changes -- an archive that is built by and for locals. It's never boring, but there is still much work and learning to be done.

Over the last several weeks we have been working at mastering our own technology. We added new features to the site, expanded the social networking component, added links to SochiReporter groups on other social networks, and will add more changes over the next two weeks. Also of note is that the website is loading much faster, partly because of some back-end work, and partly because the new 4G WiMax Internet service called Yota that was launched in Sochi at the end of March.

Becoming a Journalist-Entrepreneur

I have become part of the new breed of journalists-turned-entrepreneurs, and I'm finding a certain amount of pleasure in this lifestyle, crazy though it is.

First of all, I am living between two cities: Sochi and Moscow. Being in Sochi means working with contributors and the people who actually submit content to the website, and promoting the project at the local level. Moscow is a bigger source of financing, a business hub where I can meet with advertisers who might be interested in supporting SochiReporter.

Our team has recently been working on developing a sustainable business model, as the Knight Foundation grant money that enabled us to launch the project and start the experiment will soon run out.

Being an entrepreneur means being simultaneously responsive to two mobile phones, an iPad, a laptop and even a fax machine. It also means being very open to new collaborations and projects. You need to be open to taking risks, and adept at using the knowledge you acquired in traditional media reporting and applying it to new media.

Giving Newspapers a Chance

We recently decided to start giving the local Sochi papers, which don't have an online presence, an opportunity to place their content on our site. This section is called News and it's where we mostly have content from RSS feeds. It's separate from the Reports section, which is filled with reports from citizens and includes original content.

The editor of the first Sochi paper to go on our site is extremely happy about the arrangement. He had been seeking a presence on the web. For our part, we'll see how things go and will probably partner with additional local media. However, our main goal is to provide our content to local media. We hope to expand those possibilities by enabling people to submit reports and photos via mobile phone. Right now, people aren't able to upload content using their phone, though they can read the site.


Just a final word about marketing, as it is now one of our primary goals. With the site now built and working, we are focused on telling people about it and getting them to use it. One way of doing that is by being part of big events in the area. We were recently chosen as a media sponsor for one of the biggest annual movie festivals in Russia, Kinotavr. It will take place in Sochi from June 6 to 13.

We are the only Sochi-based media outlet to be among the sponsors. The rest are Moscow-based media outlets. We will receive some very cool promotion during the event and the SochiReporter logo will be present in the Kinotavr daily newsletter, its brochures and on its website.

March 04 2010


Visualisation through sound – the New York Times ‘audiolises’ the Winter Olympics


The New York Times has combined visualisation with audio to produce a fascinating piece of work on the differences between gold winning times and runners-up across a number of Winter Olympics events. It’s a particularly creative approach to the challenge of communicating a relatively abstract story: what separates gold and silver. Well worth a look.

h/t Pete Ashton

March 01 2010


February 27 2010


Olympics 2010: Trash to treasure

Cory was fun to hang out with. His art is original and elegant. I can't wait to see where his work takes him. Fuhr's speed skater is on display at the Richmond Oval (speed skating center) for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.
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