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October 05 2010

10:42

TheMediaBriefing: What news publishers can learn from supermarkets

Patrick Smith maps out “the [Tesco] Clubcard model for news”:

To stretch analogy out to news, what’s for sale on your shelves? The kind of thing you think consumers are after, or what you know they want to buy? In a print age there is only hope and focus grouping: the call is made by the editor and publisher each day what goes into the paper both editorially and commercially, largely based on flimsy research and an instinctive understanding of a title’s brand.

Full post on TheMediaBriefing at this link…Similar Posts:



July 29 2010

10:47

The New Online Journalists #7: Dave Lee

As part of an ongoing series on recent graduates who have gone into online journalism, Dave Lee talks about how he won a BBC job straight from university, what it involves, and what skills he feels online journalists need today.

I got my job as a result – delightfully! – of having a well-known blog. Well, that is, well-known in the sense it was read by the right people. My path to the BBC began with a work placement at Press Gazette – an opportunity I wouldn’t have got had it not been for the blog. In fact, I recall Patrick Smith literally putting it in those terms – saying that they’d never normally take an undergrad without NUJ qualifications – but they’d seen my blog and liked what I was doing.

I met Martin Stabe there, and worked closely with him on a couple of projects – including the Student Journalism Blog on their site.

Martin knew Nick Reynolds – social media executive at the BBC – and when he heard a blogger was needed for the BBC Internet Blog, my name was passed on. That door into the BBC then made it much easier to progress upwards to the newsroom.

My job is to write news and features for BBC News Online, based on output from the BBC World Service.

There wasn’t much in my course [at Lincoln University] which directly relates to the skills I use now – much has been learnt on the job – but there is a certain level of law knowledge, ethics and general good practice that has proved to be invaluable – and that came from my studies.

Of course, it’s always worth stressing that my blog was able to succeed because of my flexibility to write about my studies and people met via work at my university. So while studying didn’t perhaps give me the practical skills for my day-to-day job, it certainly has helped me be a good journalist in other, less measurable ways.

It’s hard to predict how my job will develop in the future. Within the BBC, it’s pretty crucial when making sure we share our best stuff – it’s not good having two sets of BBC journos (or more…) running after the same stories and sources. Jobs like mine help solve that situation.

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04:05
10:05

The New Online Journalists #7: Dave Lee

As part of an ongoing series on recent graduates who have gone into online journalism, Dave Lee talks about how he won a BBC job straight from university, what it involves, and what skills he feels online journalists need today.

I got my job as a result – delightfully! – of having a well-known blog. Well, that is, well-known in the sense it was read by the right people. My path to the BBC began with a work placement at Press Gazette – an opportunity I wouldn’t have got had it not been for the blog. In fact, I recall Patrick Smith literally putting it in those terms – saying that they’d never normally take an undergrad without NUJ qualifications – but they’d seen my blog and liked what I was doing.

I met Martin Stabe there, and worked closely with him on a couple of projects – including the Student Journalism Blog on their site.

Martin knew Nick Reynolds – social media executive at the BBC – and when he heard a blogger was needed for the BBC Internet Blog, my name was passed on. That door into the BBC then made it much easier to progress upwards to the newsroom.

My job is to write news and features for BBC News Online, based on output from the BBC World Service.

There wasn’t much in my course [at Lincoln University] which directly relates to the skills I use now – much has been learnt on the job – but there is a certain level of law knowledge, ethics and general good practice that has proved to be invaluable – and that came from my studies.

Of course, it’s always worth stressing that my blog was able to succeed because of my flexibility to write about my studies and people met via work at my university. So while studying didn’t perhaps give me the practical skills for my day-to-day job, it certainly has helped me be a good journalist in other, less measurable ways.

It’s hard to predict how my job will develop in the future. Within the BBC, it’s pretty crucial when making sure we share our best stuff – it’s not good having two sets of BBC journos (or more…) running after the same stories and sources. Jobs like mine help solve that situation.

June 16 2010

11:50

Johnston Press Atex system is bad news, but the death of the sub-editor is inevitable

It’s not just journalists that threaten to go on strike to maintain the standards of their work – but surely no other occupation’s products can be judged so subjectively. One managing director’s “quality journalism” is a reporter’s incitement to take up arms and storm the parent company’s HQ.

According to the National Union of Journalists, it’s this urge that saw Johnston Press journalists vote for group-wide industrial action last month (they were thwarted by a High Court challenge; a re-ballot is underway). JP journalists are enraged that a new publishing strategy, based on an online/print content management system (CMS) called Atex, will make reporters responsible for subbing and editing their own newspaper stories using pre-made templates. Several companies including Archant are either using or considering using the same system.

The NUJ has a point: with fewer staff and less checks and balances, more errors will get through – this aberration of a front page in the JP-owned Bedfordshire Times & Citizen recently is a classic example.

Yesterday I questioned exactly why the union was opposing Atex; included in the union’s greviances were baffling and unexplained “health and safety” concerns. The union later told Journalism.co.uk that they meant that it adds to staff stress levels.

But, I went on in conversations both online and privately, isn’t this part of a wider problem? The NUJ has a fundamental belief that sub-editors should sub stories and reporters write them. Like the pre-Wapping ihousen-printers that jealously guarded their very specific, outdated roles, the ideal outcome for the union is to maintain the status quo and protect jobs.

The reality isn’t quite that simple. Atex, as more than one person said, is far from the innovative answer that newspapers need. One person with knowledge of how Atex works, who works for a company that is planing to implement it and asked not to be named, put it to me like this:

We’re still in transition in my newsroom at the moment – we haven’t switched to using it for the web yet. However, if the system goes ahead as planned we will not be able to insert in-line links into stories, nor will we be able to embed content from anywhere else online. It’s possible to build link boxes that sit next to web stories, but it’s time consuming compared to in-line links – and if our current CMS is anything to go by, in the press of a busy newsroom, it won’t get done.

That sounds like a retrograde step. Far from holding back innovation, it sounds like JP journalists are right to oppose the move. This is from a company whose former chairman of nine years, Roger Parry, last week criticised the very board that he chaired for not investing enough in digital media (via Press Gazette). Exactly who else is there to blame?

But it gets worse:

For those of us who possess data skills and want to make mashups, visualisations and so on, this is a massive inhibition – even if we find the time to innovate or create something really special for our papers, we’ll have no outlet for it. It also means we can’t source video or images for our stories in innovative ways – no YouTube embeds or Flickr slideshows – cutting us off from huge resources that could save time, energy and money while enhancing our web offering.

It’s astonishing that we’re even considering such a backwards step to a presumably costly proprietory system when so many cheaper, more flexible, open source solutions exist for the web.

Regional reporters, web editors and even overall editors will read that and find this frustration of digital ideas by technical, budgetary limitations very familiar. The last point rings loudest of all: cheap, dynamic blogging solutions like Wordpress and Typepad provide all newsrooms need to create a respectable news site. Publishing executives seem to find it hard to believe that something free to use can be any good, but just look at what’s coming in the in-beta Wordpress 3.0 (via @CasJam on Mashable).

So the union’s misgivings in this case appear to be well placed. The drop in quality from Johnston’s cost-cutting is there for all to see in horrendous subbing errors, thinner editions and entire towns going without proper coverage.

Unfortunately, journalists have to accept that no amount of striking is going to bring back the staff that have gone and that times have changed. Carolyn McCall’s parting shot as CEO of Guardian Media Group was to repeat her prediction (via FT.com) that advertising revenues will never return to pre-recession levels – and don’t forget Claire Enders’ laugh-a-minute performance at the House of Commons media select committee, in which she predicted the death of half the country’s 1,300 local and regional titles in the next five years.

Regional publishers may not all have a solution that combines online editorial innovation with a digital business model right now. But to get to that point, reporters will have to cooperate and accept that their roles have changed forever – “sub-editor” may be a term journalists joining the industry in five years will never hear.

this is from a company whose former chairman of nine years criticised the very the board that he ran for not investing enough in digital media (via Press Gazette).

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January 27 2010

15:11

Why the iTablet isn’t the saviour of journalism as we know it

The hype surrounding Apple’s new touch-screen mini-computer, predictably, is huge. Just like film studios, book and textbook publishers, news producers are hoping the i/Tablet/Pad/Slate/Thing can boost the online, mobile content marketplace.

Here’s a “source”, who purports to have worked with Apple CEO Steve Jobs, telling the Wall Street Journal exactly what it wants to hear:

Mr. Jobs is “supportive of the old guard, and [he] looks to help them by giving them new forms of distribution”.

One publishing CEO was even moved to write poetry about it (via Moconews.net) and Apple fanboys and news executives will no doubt be glued to their screens when Jobs takes the stage at around 6pm (GMT) tonight to announce the details.

But when the hype dies down, will the journalism business really be in better shape? These people have taken a welcome dose of reality juice:

  • Craig McGill, a former journalist now plying his trade at digital PR firm Contentlymanaged, quite reasonably asks who is going to create all the content for new organisations’ multiplatform mobile packages given all the job cuts in news publishing in the past year.
  • Forrester analysts Charles Golvin and James McQuivey consider that maybe the iTablet won’t be all it’s cracked up to be: “It is flawed in meaningful ways: It’s a computer without a keyboard, it’s a digital reader with poor battery life and a high price tag, and it’s a portable media player that can’t fit in a pocket.” (via paidContent.org)
  • I couldn’t put it better than David Campbell, a professor of cultural and political geography, did this morning: “Information and distribution are separate. Journalism is information, tablet distribution. Can help journalism circulate but can’t ’save’ it.”

Much is made of iTunes and its successful monetisation of mobile applications and music – the Financial Times is even planning to imitate (via PCUK) its “pay-per-view” micropayments model, although FT.com told Journalism.co.uk last week that paid-for day passes would come first.

The model is attractive: there are more than 100 million iTunes accounts with users’ credit cards pre-loaded and ready to go. A new shiny, powerful device – somewhere between an e-reader and a netbook – could just persuade people to buy the news subscriptions the New York Times and Rupert Murdoch so desperately want to sell them.

But Apple’s new device is just another distribution platform for words, pictures, videos and data, just like PCs, mobiles and print. Recreating a print experience on another device is not going to solve the economic crisis news finds itself in: Google will still be more efficient at selling advertising and will still point readers to free content.

The future of news is about distributing content as widely as possible and monetising not just content but relationships. Devices will be a big part of that, but they’re not the answer.

Photo credit: Mike McCaffery, from Flickr, via a Creative Commons licence.

Patrick Smith is a freelance journalist and event organiser, and formerly a correspondent for paidContent:UK and Press Gazette. He blogs at psmithjournalist.com and is @psmith on twitter.

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