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December 21 2011


New Poynter eye-tracking study focuses on tablet design and user experience

Tablets have been around for a while, it's time we finally learn how people use them.

Well, SND STL was amazing and is finally in the books. After a little recovery and catch-up-on-reading time, I’ve found my next side project: The Poynter Institute’s new eye-tracking study, focused on tablet design and user experiences.

I remember when the previous eyetracking studies were released it was kind of like this kid on Christmas morning. I’ve regularly referred to them and re-read them throughout my career and now to be involved in the project now is amazingly humbling and exciting. The group involved in this round of research is like my fantasy journalism design team: Sara Quinn, Dr. Mario Garcia, Jeremy Gilbert, David Stanton, Rick Edmonds, Regina McCombs, Roger Black, Rusty Coats, Andrew DeVigal, Jeff Sonderman, Jennifer George-Palilonis, Michael Holmes, Damon Kiesow, Miranda Mulligan, Tor Bøe-Lillegraven, Nora Paul, Robin Sloan, and Matt Thompson.

Our focus this time around, tablets, are an interesting beast because they seem to marry dynamic and interactive content of the web with the portability and “lean back” nature of print or even TV experiences. Often lumped in with mobile devices, tablets are similar, but very unique in many ways. Mobile is always with you and very utility, speed-driven; tablets tend to be portable within the house and workplace, and early research shows that people tend to consume more content and for longer periods on them than either mobile or the web.

We’re going to look at design challenges such as which view do people people prefer to consume content in most frequently – portrait or landscape.  Even in those two options, I suspect the behaviors from users on an 10-inch, letter-box shaped device like the iPad may differ greatly from those on a 7″ tablet, like the Kindle Fire. Or the type of content they’re consuming will likely also change the results, from my personal anecdotal experience (and what I’ve observed in others), I tend to read text more frequently in portrait mode and video in landscape no matter what device. But that’s just anecdotal.

There’s lots to learn and this research will offer ‘more than a hunch’ solutions to help us all improve our products. Specifically, we’ll focus on some of these issues and questions, which Sara spelled out in her original announcement post:

  • Tools and tasks: How intuitive can tablet navigation be and how long does it take to successfully complete a task?
  • Satisfaction: How happy are users with an overall experience and how does that impact their perception of the credibility of the source?
  • Comprehension and retention: Which forms help people to understand and remember what they have seen or read?
  • Business and revenue: What strategies might work for news organizations? For advertisers? For consumers? How might editors set up a newsroom to create content for a tablet product?

How you can help right now

  • Your questions - Share your thoughts, comments and suggestions on the Poynter Eye-Tracking research page on Facebook and follow along there to learn more about what we’re learning.
  • Funding – The Knight Foundation and CCI Europe is helping kick in money, but the more funding, the more extensive research we can do. Please contact Sara about this at: squinn [at] poynter.org.


July 10 2011


Help us lead and change the future of journalism

Uncle Sam

UPDATE, 7/10/11: The Society for News Design is also on the prowl for some new leadership! Nominations for their Secretary/Treasurer position is now open (they use a ladder system for the executive leadership, so in three years you could be the president). As you may know, I’m also heavily involved in SND and working as co-director of the SND St. Louis convention. The deadline for nominations is Sunday, July 31st and the winner of the election will actually be announced in St. Louis at the shindig, so bust a move. Check out all the details here.

Reminder: Monday, July 18th is the deadline for the Online News Association’s call for Board of Director nominations.

ONA is becoming one of the largest and most influential journalism organizations in the world, so the role the Board of Directors plays is not only steering the organization, but the potential future of journalism. So we really need the best and brightest allies at the helm. :) Please come join us or consider if any leaders you know might be interested and spread the word!

It may seem like an insurmountable goal to get elected, and believe me, I know. When I ran for election last year I didn’t think I really had a chance going up against more than 20 amazing leaders from around the country, including seven excellent incumbents, but thanks to your support, I was elected and have been rocking out and making a difference with the MJ Bear Fellowships, student and educators committee (and with that helping found ONA Mizzou) and ONA Issues. Also at board meetings, I’ve done my best to help drive the strategy, represent ‘fly-over country’ and made strong (sometimes unpopular) stances on issues I believed in, including challenging the removal of term limits for board members. (Fyi, Liz Lufkin and I were the only votes against. See page 5 of the Jan. meeting minutes if you want more info.) The board has a lot of power and a heavy hand in the organization, and with removal of term limits it’s exponentially important that we reach out to find the best, active leaders to help steer the organization.

Don’t get me wrong, ONA is doing fantastic, but as Uncle Ben in Spiderman said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” We need to keep up the great progress and continue to move forward and lead past the digital transition into the future. If you’re at all considering running, please contact me [Will -at- Journerdism.com] and feel free to ask any questions.

I’d also especially encourage those potential candidates who are based in the Midwest, South, West and international, and who believe in / work in entrepreneurial projects, community news or emerging technologies. We’re seeking out candidates who can help us represent more diversity in medium and geographic location on the board to help reflect members’ interests and growth areas in the industry.

Help us help the industry. Get involved.


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December 28 2010


AOL Patch in Cleveland: Elephants, Mercenaries, and Crossing the Alps

Buy the People and Force the People or By the People and for the People?

Here we are at the end of another year. For me, 2010 passed by like a closed rest step on the side of the highway when you really need a place to pull over and stretch your legs and contemplate the next stretch of your journey. There is good news, though, fellow journalists.

The front lines (and the guerrilla war behind enemy lines) are both going well as people begin to wrestle power from the corporate Overlords.....Wait. It’s the end of 2010. That stage is past. Good things are about to happen, however, as Cleveland Free Press starts up.

Crossing AlpsCrossing Alps
Websites as War Elephants

I’m done with playing angry young journalist, and I’ve been quietly working on solutions. The focus has been money for just over a year and the results have been pretty good. From toys to military photos to televisions to robots, it’s all about niche content.

Newspapers and other big media companies should be putting these out a lot more. Hire more writers. Hire more photographers. And so on. While the History of Televisions or Toys Timeline websites aren't ground-breaking journalism by any means, they do make profit with little investment.

There are some of us starting to plan the stages of hiring mercenaries - barbarians or merely content creators the “real” journalists call them. Although if you look at what AOL Patch is doing - they’re hiring (you can’t really call it that at the rates they pay) citizens to produce the “news.”

Quick story. I was dealing with the “press room” at Mitsubishi the other day about why they don’t think online journalists are worthy of their valuable information. I never got a real name from them. Just some sort of “desk” that I was emailing back and forth with. In the back of my mind, I could picture their laughter and mocking tone.

Instead of angry young journalist anger, I simply said, “Cool, the public will be okay without your information, I’m sure.”

I still don’t know what the problem was. I gave examples of “real” journalism. Just because I no longer dabble in print (at the moment), I’m no longer a genuine journalist? Who among you has taken a test or passed some sort of necessary certification? J-school?

Anyway, the point is that the future of media is looking bright. Even with AOL Patch trying to invade the Cleveland, Ohio area. In fact, that makes the next stage of my journey a little more exciting and important in a few ways.

As I head to Northern Ohio, I have already begun to gather allies that want to help save journalism - for the people. As the United States heads toward 2011, I am more excited than ever before about the prospects for grassroots journalism - for a better media in this country.

Grassroots JournalismGrassroots JournalismGrassroots Journalism in 2011

Throughout history, the best journalists come from many different fields, bringing many different viewpoints and opinions to the craft, the duty of Journalism. Here I go - big speeches with still very little to show, but if you must know, I am perhaps keeping silent on purpose. I like to give updates here and there - notes for the book scattered on the web - so here we are.

The year of Our Lord 2011 is almost here and things are continuing to improve. As I mentioned, the niche sites are taking off. This is with no overhead, no daily staff (yet), but raw determination and a ragtag band of new media rebels out there working the grind - ALL THE TIME. From toys to televisions to health to robots, I have spent time building up content online.

The equation for success? The Internet + Hard Work / Over Time = $ and of course the profit does not come easy or simple, but there is a very obvious model once you look. The thing I don’t understand is the waste at the large corporations. If I had a fraction of the resources, I can’t imagine what I would be able to do - perhaps even storming the gates of Rome herself to topple once and for all the media old guard.

(Is Gannett Rome? Or is it the whole current system of media ownership?)

Don’t get me wrong. Journalism is still going to be important, but hopefully all the really talented journalists WILL BE WORKING FOR THEMSELVES. Massive amount of mini-collectives - working together. All it takes is one man to step forward and begin to put the pieces in place. The lean years of learning are just about over.

The plan, the route, the plan of attack has been committed to memory and destroyed lest too much information is leaked to those in the Glass Towers reading spreadsheets and drinking coffee, wondering how they got caught up in the corporate Death Star culture that was so much like high school.

That’s not to say there aren’t great newspapers and media outlets still out there - big ones even - but the nation - the United States of America, I must sadly say, is chock full of mediocre, half-ass newspapers running on auto-pilot. The small and medium-sized print dailies are cash cows used to perpetuate the madness of the modern media machine. And don’t get me started on lame attempts like AOL Patch are NOT shining beacons that are going to save journalism.

Some of the elephants (websites) I have with me may be lost trudging over the Alps, but the element of surprise is crucial to be able to effectively begin to dismantle the broken media outlets in this country. Perhaps not every journalist and person with a mission (or a passion) will work for themselves in the years to come, but many more are going to and they are going to need (or want) information from someone who has been in the trenches doing it for over half a decade.

I’m tired. Really. Exhausted. I work too much. My Oma worries about me, but I trudge forward, against the cold winds, knowing that crossing the Alps may be the only way.

The lessons learned in the medium sized markets in the Midwest will be very helpful moving into larger cities. The momentum is building. The networks are coming together and merging.

The clouds are forming, the storm is gathering, the people are typing and the words will always be there in one form or another.

Saving JournalismSaving JournalismAOL Patch in Cleveland? Hannibal on the Move?

If you haven’t heard by now, AOL Patch is trying to move into the Cleveland area in a big way. They have already started. To me, this is not good news or bad news really. It means there’s never been a better time maybe to return to my city, bringing the knowledge I’ve gained over the years.

AOL Patch - in my opinion - is BUY THE PEOPLE, FORCE THE PEOPLE rather than By the People and for the People. The two are close, of course, but the former is not going to be good for the people of the greater Cleveland area.

Cleveland.com (Plain Dealer, Sun News and others), AOL Patch, the Lakewood Observer and many, many others are in Cleveland now, some even doing really great things - the Lakewood Observer and the The Chubby Cook for example. In my mind, however, there’s never been a better time to join the fray and stake out my claim - for the people of the greater Cleveland, Ohio area.

While Anderson Free Press is still not where she should be at this time, I have decided to set my sights on a larger city to see if I can take the successful model I have in Indiana and transplant it to Cleveland, Ohio via Cleveland Free Press.

Is it a wise move? Wouldn’t Indianapolis, Indiana make more sense? After setting up Cleveland Free Press the weekend of 12/3/2010 and promoting it for a few weeks, the results are very positive. I have come into contact with friends old and new who are willing and able to help with Cleveland Free Press.

How does this differ from AOL Patch? For one, it’s bottom-up instead of top-down. The big media companies ARE the problem. There’s a solution that I’ll share in the years ahead, but for now know that big media ownership is why AOL Patch in Cleveland, Ohio and many other areas is going to fail - in a big way. (Akron anybody? McLean, VA? EveryBlock/MSNBC?)

Of course, some of the smaller players (like me) have failed in big and small ways over the last four or five years, but lessons are being learned. I still don’t claim to have all the answers, but I’ve learned that it is possible to create something online - a living, breathing community.

Once I can prove that my “model” for grassroots journalism can be transplanted from one location (two small cities in Indiana) to another (one large city in Ohio), things are really going to start moving more quickly.

So far, results have been very, very positive - even from a remote location. This will be a cash strapped attempt at starting something up in a large city, but I ask everyone out there to consider the resources AOL has when comparing their efforts with mine in 2011. By Q3 or Q4 2011, things should be really interesting.

For now, take a look at Cleveland Free Press - if you have friends, family, or even enemies in Northern Ohio, please pass on word about the site.

I’m going to try to contribute more to NewAssignment.net in 2011.

Remember, the future is online and non-linear.

Until next time,
keep up the good fight,
K. Paul Mallasch - Publisher

February 22 2010


The dangers of Winter cabin fever

Death of a SnowMan by Wiskeyboytx

Winter is a dangerous time for me. I tend to get cabin fever just about the time that many conference and workshop organizers start planning their spring and summer lineups, then I start over-committing myself to a lot of interesting opportunities. It’s definitely an adventure, but makes you squeeze every 24 hour out of every day. This year is no different so far.

I’ll be at Poynter the second week of March teaching at the Essential Skills for Digital Journalists workshop , as well as leading a session for the Leading the New Newsroom: Digital Skills and Strategies for Today’s Managers

Immediately after that I’m heading back to Austin again for South by Southwest Interactive, where I’ll be moderating a panel on “Process Journalism: Getting it first while getting it right” SXSWi is always a blast, there’s a bunch of other cool panels and this one should be an interesting discussion, with the following panelists:

After that I’ll be wrapped up in work on our new CMS transition and mobile development projects at the day gig until late April, when St. Louis will be hosting the Illinois Press Photographer Association convention and contest judging.

May will bring the 4th Annual National Press Photographer Association Multimedia Immersion, which I’m co-organizing again. This year we’ll be in Syracuse, New York at Newhouse and focusing more on the use of HD SLR cameras for creating multimedia, which should be a really exciting change.

Then in June, I’m teaching multimedia distribution strategies at the Maine Media Workshops, which should be really interesting. I’ve never done these before so it’ll be a definite adventure and Maine in the early summer will be beautiful.

So if posting around here gets light over the next couple months, that’s what I’ll be up to. If you happen to be near or attending any of these events, please don’t hesitate to make contact and we can grab a beer or something.

Thanks for reading and keep up the good fight.

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