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August 06 2010

17:21

Facebook Launches Media Page But Resists Revenue Sharing

Facebook is the alpha dog of social networks, and it's also becoming a top dog when it comes to referring traffic to news sites. That became clear in February when Hitwise found that Facebook was referring more traffic to news and media sites than Google News. But for a long time, Facebook only had intermittent communication with media companies about how they used the social network.

That all changed last month when Facebook launched its new Facebook + Media page, along with a media partnership team headed by Justin Osofsky that's on a "listening tour" of media companies. The goal is to hear what tools publishers want developed by Facebook, and build a stronger relationship with them. So far, tools like the omnipresent "Like" button, the activity box listing most "Liked" stories on sites, and Facebook Connect have created a true symbiotic relationship: Publishers get traffic, and Facebook gets high visibility and more members.

Justin Osofsky.JPG

"The nature of our [media] partnerships is mainly as a platform company," Osofsky told me in a recent phone interview. "The Facebook platform gives media companies and other organizations the ability to build social experiences by bringing in people's friends, what they care about and want to recommend. Since we launched social plug-ins back in April, more than 350,000 sites have implemented it, and that's the primary way we work with media companies."

Facebook also did extensive research and issued best practices for media organizations, including best placement for the Like button, what story types did best on Pages, and how to use Facebook Insights, their version of Google Analytics for Facebook Pages.

But one thing that's off the table is sharing revenues with media properties from the ads Facebook serves onto their popular fan pages. For instance, CNN's Facebook Page has more than 1 million fans, but the ads that run on that page only bring in revenues for Facebook. Osofsky says Facebook is happy to drive traffic to publishers but hasn't considered sharing revenues with them.

The following is an edited transcript of my interview with Osofsky, where he discussed how Facebook worked with the New York Times on a World Cup visualization, and how they are considering a page on what stories have been "Liked" the most Facebook-wide.

Q&A

Tell me how you got involved in doing media partnerships at Facebook.

Justin Osofsky: We recently formed a team at Facebook to focus on media companies. We're excited to begin a dialogue on how best we can deliver value. Media companies are great at creating content and delivering it to the right people at the right time. We're excited to think about how those things can have a social dimension. We formed this team a couple months ago, and I'm leading the team.

Why you? What's your interest in working with the media?

Osofsky: I've worked at Facebook for a little over two years in various roles, most recently I led product marketing for Facebook Connect for the Facebook platform and led our platform partnerships. I'm excited about the opportunity to partner with media companies, because there are so many interesting things going on in the industry, and there's also this desire to share content with friends and recommend it to friends. The opportunity to work with media companies to create innovative experiences was one that was personally exciting to me.

Osofsky explains that partnerships with media companies don't involve money, but simply Facebook providing tools for them:

mediaface.mp3

What do you hear from the media companies that they would like to see from Facebook?

Osofsky: Media companies are excited to work with us for a few reasons. First, they want Facebook to drive more referral traffic to their sites. And they're interested in using our tools, both the social plug-ins and also pages on Facebook to help drive traffic. The average Facebook user has 130 friends, so when a Facebook user shares a piece of content from a media company site, on average 130 people see it. So Facebook can be a meaningful referrer of traffic.

Also, media companies can make the experience on their site more customized and engaging for each user. For instance, they can surface friends' activity and recommendations on the site itself. A great example of that is CNN. On the home page I can see what articles my friends have recommended and shared with others. There are other examples of that -- CNN, ABC News, the Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe -- they all use the activity panel to show what friends have done.

But I think engagement goes beyond plug-ins. For instance the New York Times recently did a very interesting visualization. They took the public status updates from Facebook users during the World Cup, and created a visualization showing which soccer players were most popular [and mentioned most on Facebook] during specific days during the World Cup.

nyt world cup facebook.jpg

Osofsky: I thought that was a good way to show how people are expressing themselves on Facebook, and create an engaging, immersive experience on the New York Times.

Were you able to work with the Times on that project?

Osofsky: Yes, the Times used our search API to create the visualization and our team helped them in the process.

So your team will help in an informal role for people like at the Times?

Osofsky: Yeah, the purpose of our team is to work with all sorts of media companies to create engaging experiences. We work with them to develop innovative new ideas and implement our platform tools.

Is there a tool that publishers have asked for from Facebook that you don't offer yet?

Osofsky: We're in an active dialogue, we're on a listening tour, and asking publishers, 'What can we do to meet your needs?' Publishers are constantly giving us feedback on how we can do things better, from improving our Insights product to deliver better stats to them to potential plug-ins we could create. What my team does is bring that back to the product team to meet their needs.

If publishers create a Facebook Page that gets hundreds of thousands or even millions of fans, would it be possible for them to serve their own ads onto that Page or do a revenue split with Facebook for the ads that Facebook serves up?

Osofsky: Within a page, there are monetization opportunities. We don't work with publishers directly around that, there is no revenue share. We encourage publishers to create popular pages which can then drive traffic back to their sites, where they are obviously good at monetizing them.

But if they create a page that has interactions and engagement, shouldn't they deserve some of the ad revenues from that page or serve their own ads? I know it's not something you currently do or offer, but perhaps it's something publishers might want down the line?

Osofsky: We're not currently looking into that model. The value to the publishers out of the fans they acquire is to create a meaningful long-term distribution channel. So when I've liked a page, the publisher can reach me as frequently as they want to reach me with engaging content, and send that traffic back to their site to monetize it there. That's the core value that our pages provide.

Osofsky explains why he attended a recent Hacks and Hackers meetup in San Francisco:

hacksface.mp3

Did the media folks you met feel like they had had problems getting through to people at Facebook in the past?

Osofsky: We do our best to communicate well with developers through our development site and other communication channels. Like any platform, we can always do better. Publishers and media companies appreciate the focus on the media industry and their needs.

I like the way you let people track activity on their sites and you offer plug-ins for publishers to put on their site to rank their own stories that get "Liked" the most, etc. Have you considered doing a page on Facebook that ranked all the stories on all of Facebook that are being shared or "Liked" the most?

Osofsky: That's actually a question that's been raised by a number of companies and organizations we've talked to. I'm currently providing that feedback to the product team to see where that fits into what we're trying to accomplish. Generally, the most effective way to communicate to a Facebook audience is for an individual to communicate with their friends, rather than for us to share information that's occurring across the system as a whole. It's the most social dimension. If we're friends and you see something I shared, it's actually a really cool experience, and that's been our product to date. But I'm providing feedback to the product team based on conversations we're having.

I think it is interesting to understand at a network level what's going on. Part of what we do are these best practices, where we pull out some similarities and commonalities about what works well on Facebook for media organizations. We're open to hearing ideas like this and then we can figure out how well they integrate into our product direction.

In your research, did you find that there are problems with cluttering up the page with Like buttons? Is there a point where you overwhelm someone with too many of those kinds of buttons on a page?

Osofsky: We didn't find that there would be too much clutter with a Like button on a page, but we did find that the way people implement a Like button does have a real effect on driving traffic. We found that if you had a Like button with thumbnails of your friend, and if you let people comment when they are Liking something, and show it next to visually appealing content -- those things combined can increase the use of the Like button by three to five times. Implementation definitely matters with the Like button.

Publishers often grapple with the question of how often to post to their page on Facebook. Have you found any best practices around posting frequency?

Osofsky: We didn't look specifically at the frequency of posts. What we looked at was the nature of the content in the post. Was it a question? A headline? A call to action, such as 'like this article' or 'comment below.' The time of day it was posted. We did see significant differences when it comes to passionate debate or emotional and evocative or interesting breaking sports news like the Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup. Those tended to have two to three times more engagement. And status updates with calls to action also had more engagement.

We didn't look specifically at the frequency issue, but I think that probably depends site to site. There are some forms of content where more frequent updates are something people are interested in. For instance, I follow the Boston Globe's coverage of sports, and if they sent me the Boston Red Sox score every night just as the game was ending that would be great and useful to know for me. But on the other hand there are things that are lengthy discussions, and at that pace, a high frequency of postings wouldn't be as effective.

What's great about our Insights tool is that it gives you the ability to understand how users are interacting with it. You can understand which posts are most engaging, and also if you're posting too much, users have the ability to hide all posts from a publisher -- which is a good leading indicator to how people are reacting to your frequency of posts.

So you can see how many people are hiding your updates?

Osofsky: Yes, you can see a stat [to find out] after making a post if people are hiding future posts from you. On the flip side, you can see the engagement after each post, how many Likes you got or comments, which can be positively reinforcing.

Osofsky talks about future plans for the Facebook + Media page:

futureface.mp3

*****

What do you think about the new Facebook + Media page? How has Facebook helped drive traffic to your site? Do you think they should share ad revenues with page publishers? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.

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August 05 2010

10:56

Online news on the rise in Italy

Online news is gaining popularity in Italy, according to a survey cited by the Shaping the Future of the Newspaper blog.

Research by the Mediawatch Journalistic Observatory suggests readers of online daily news outlets has risen to 39 per cent this year. In 2007 only 25 per cent of internet users read online news.

Trust in the information provided by online dailies has also increased from 18 percent to 45 percent in the last three years, the survey revealed. Overall, Italians are spending more time online and 59 percent said they are using social networks, way up from the 12 percent who used them back in 2007, Ansa revealed. Nonetheless, there is still opposition to buy online and only 21 percent trust digital payments.

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August 03 2010

12:06

Life as an editor – through the eyes of a journalism student

Sophie Ryley is a second year journalism student at Cardiff University. She recently won a radio prize to be ‘editor for the day’ at the South Wales Echo. Here she talks about her experience of a day in the ‘hot seat’ and how it has impacted on her view of journalism and future plans.

When the day finally came for me to take my place in the ‘hot seat’ as editor of the Echo, I really didn’t know what to expect from the day. I walked into the impressive Media Wales offices at 9:00am in a brand new crease-free white shirt. I didn’t feel nervous, just apprehensive. I thought to myself, “what does the editor of the Echo do all day? Will I just be making coffee? Will I be going to important meetings? Will I meet any famous Welsh rugby players..?” No, dream on.

My day began with meeting everyone who worked in the main newsroom. When I was introduced to each department as their ‘editor for the day’ they seemed to be quite pleased at the prospect. I explained to the reporters that I was lucky enough to come in for the day and I’d be keeping a close eye on all of them!

After being introduced to my colleagues in the newsroom, I was taken up to see the real editor of the Echo, Mike Hill, so we could have a chat about what my day in the ‘hot seat’ would entail. He explained the usual running of the day at the newspaper, where he would attend morning and afternoon conferences, as well as meetings with individuals or companies from outside the newspaper.

At 11.00am it was time for the morning conference, I would be shadowing Mike at the head of the table. We discussed which stories would be going into the following day’s paper as well as overseeing the page layout, and I voiced my opinion on which stories should go where. Mike and I approved the potential stories and then went out for lunch, in true editor’s style!

The hard work really started during the afternoon, when I sat in on meetings with Mike. We met with Roy Payne, marketing manager behind WBC Night of Champions, a prestigious boxing event to be held in Cardiff during August. The WBC were working alongside the South Wales Echo to promote the boxing event. I asked Roy if any of the competitors be available for interviews with the Echo to attract publicity, and felt I really got the most out of taking part in the meeting, as well as displaying my passion for the newspaper and journalism.

The day was drawing to a close so Mike and I made our way to the final conference at 4:30pm with the sub-editors and heads of departments. It can’t deny it was quite intimidating sitting there with such knowledgeable and successful journalists, but I kept my cool! During the conference there were some problems with an advertising space so I said: ‘Why not move this story there instead?’ I think they were quite surprised that this young journalism ‘hot shot’ actually came up with a solution to their problem!

The day had come to an end, but I have been fortunate enough to be asked to come back during August to take part in a full week’s work experience. I am really looking forward to experiencing the ‘typical’ week of a newspaper journalist.

Spending the day as editor of the South Wales Echo really did have an impact on my future plans. After being shown around the departments within the newspaper, I feel my passion lies in news and feature writing. The journalists really gave me an insight into what they’re job entails, highlighting how there really is no comparison between what you learn in the newsroom and the classroom. I am not discrediting the Cardiff School of Journalism in any way, but what I learnt in that one day has been invaluable compared to my weekly lectures.

Journalism is a very difficult profession to get into, but I don’t have a negative outlook on the industry. It is competitive because the journalists and editors I met really love what they do. It became clear to me over the course of that day how exciting journalism is. The world around us is constantly changing, and it is our job to report on these changes; taking you to different places and talking to different people each day.

I am a year away from graduating and I feel that journalism is the industry in which I want to build a career. Spending the day with the South Wales Echo made me confident that I can become a successful journalist. I am now full of anticipation for my week’s work experience at the newspaper, and building up my portfolio and enhancing my journalistic skills. Watch this space!Similar Posts:



July 30 2010

14:15

This Week in Review: WikiLeaks’ new journalism order, a paywall’s purpose, and a future for Flipboard

[Every Friday, Mark Coddington sums up the week’s top stories about the future of news and the debates that grew up around them. —Josh]

WikiLeaks, data journalism and radical transparency: I’ll be covering two weeks in this review because of the Lab’s time off last week, but there really was only one story this week: WikiLeaks’ release of The War Logs, a set of 90,000 documents on the war in Afghanistan. There are about 32 angles to this story and I’ll try to hit most of them, but if you’re pressed for time, the essential reads on the situation are Steve Myers, C.W. Anderson, Clint Hendler, and Janine Wedel and Linda Keenan.

WikiLeaks released the documents on its site on Sunday, cooperating with three news organizations — The New York Times, The Guardian, and Der Spiegel — to allow them to produce special reports on the documents as they were released. The Nation’s Greg Mitchell ably rounded up commentary on the documents’ political implications (one tidbit from the documents for newsies: evidence of the U.S. military paying Afghan journalists to write favorable stories), as the White House slammed the leaks and the Times for running them, and the Times defended its decision in the press and to its readers.

The comparison that immediately came to many people’s minds was the publication of the Pentagon Papers on the Vietnam War in 1971, and two Washington Post articles examined the connection. (The Wall Street Journal took a look at both casesFirst Amendment angles, too.) But several people, most notably ProPublica’s Richard Tofel and Slate’s Fred Kaplan, quickly countered that the War Logs don’t come close to the Pentagon Papers’ historical impact. They led a collective yawn that emerged from numerous political observers after the documents’ publication, with ho-hums coming from Foreign Policy, Mother Jones, the Washington Post, and even the op-ed page of the Times itself. Slate media critic Jack Shafer suggested ways WikiLeaks could have planned its leak better to avoid such ennui.

But plenty of other folks found a lot that was interesting about the entire situation. (That, of course, is why I’m writing about it.) The Columbia Journalism Review’s Joel Meares argued that the military pundits dismissing the War Logs as old news are forgetting that this information is still putting an often-forgotten war back squarely in the public’s consciousness. But the most fascinating angle of this story to many of us future-of-news nerds was that this leak represents the entry of an entirely new kind of editorial process into mainstream news. That’s what The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal sensed early on, and several others sussed out as the week moved along. The Times’ David Carr called WikiLeaks’ quasi-publisher role both a new kind of hybrid journalism and an affirmation of the need for traditional reporting to provide context. Poynter’s Steve Myers made some astute observations about this new kind of journalism, including the rise of the source advocate and WikiLeaks’ trading information for credibility. NYU j-prof Jay Rosen noted that WikiLeaks is the first “stateless news organization,” able to shed light on the secrets of the powerful because of freedom provided not by law, but by the web.

Both John McQuaid and Slate’s Anne Applebaum emphasized the need for data to be, as McQuaid put it, “marshaled in service to a story, an argument,” with McQuaid citing that as reason for excitement about journalism and Applebaum calling it a case for traditional reporting. Here at the Lab, CUNY j-prof C.W. Anderson put a lot this discussion into perspective with two perceptive posts on WikiLeaks as the coming-out party for data journalism. He described its value well: “In these recent stories, its not the presence of something new, but the ability to tease a pattern out of a lot of little things we already know that’s the big deal.”

As for WikiLeaks itself, the Columbia Journalism Review’s Clint Hendler provided a fascinating account of how its scoop ended up in three of the world’s major newspapers, including differences in WikiLeaks’ and the papers’ characterization of WikiLeaks’ involvement, which might help explain its public post-publication falling-out with the Times. The Times profiled WikiLeaks and its enigmatic founder, Julian Assange, and several others trained their criticism on WikiLeaks itself — specifically, on the group’s insistence on radical transparency from others but extreme secrecy from itself. The Washington Post’s Howard Kurtz said WikiLeaks is “a global power unto itself,” not subject to any checks and balances, and former military reporter Jamie McIntyre called WikiLeaks “anti-privacy terrorists.”

Several others were skeptical of Assange’s motives and secrecy, and Slate’s Farhad Manjoo wondered how we could square public trust with such a commitment to anonymity. In a smart Huffington Post analysis of that issue, Janine Wedel and Linda Keenan presented this new type of news organization as a natural consequence of the new cultural architecture (the “adhocracy,” as they call it) of the web: “These technologies lend themselves to new forms of power and influence that are neither bureaucratic nor centralized in traditional ways, nor are they generally responsive to traditional means of accountability.”

Keeping readers out with a paywall: The Times and Sunday Times of London put up their online paywall earlier this month, the first of Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers to set off on his paid-content mission (though some other properties, like The Wall Street Journal, have long charged for online access). Last week, we got some preliminary figures indicating how life behind the wall is going so far: Former Times media reporter Dan Sabbagh said that 150,000 of the Times’ online readers (12 percent of its pre-wall visitors) had registered for free trials during the paywall’s first two weeks, with 15,000 signing on as paying subscribers and 12,500 subscribing to the iPad app. PaidContent also noted that the Times’ overall web traffic is down about 67 percent, adding that the Times will probably tout these types of numbers as a success.

The Guardian did its own math and found that the Times’ online readership is actually down about 90 percent — exactly in line with what the paper’s leaders and industry analysts were expecting. Everyone noted that this is exactly what Murdoch and the Times wanted out of their paywall — to cut down on drive-by readers and wring more revenue out of the core of loyal ones. GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram explained that rationale well, then ripped it apart, calling it “fundamentally a resignation from the open web” because it keeps readers from sharing (or marketing) it with others. SEOmoz’s Tom Critchlow looked at the Times’ paywall interface and gave it a tepid review.

Meanwhile, another British newspaper that charges for online access, the Financial Times, is boasting strong growth in online revenue. The FT’s CEO, John Ridding, credited the paper’s metered paid-content system and offered a moral argument for paid access online, drawing on Time founder Henry Luce’s idea that an exclusively advertising-reliant model weakens the bond between a publication and its readers.

Flipboard and the future of mobile media: In just four months, we’ve already seen many attention-grabbing iPad apps, but few have gotten techies’ hearts racing quite like Flipboard, which was launched last week amid an ocean of hype. As Mashable explained, Flipboard combines social media and news sources of the user’s choosing to create what’s essentially a socially edited magazine for the iPad. The app got rave reviews from tech titans like Robert Scoble and ReadWriteWeb, which helped build up enough demand that it spent most of its first few post-release days crashed from being over capacity.

Jen McFadden marveled at Flipboard’s potential for mobile advertising, given its ability to merge the rich advertising experience of the iPad with the targeted advertising possibilities through social media, though Martin Belam wondered whether the app might end up being “yet another layer of disintermediation that took away some of my abilities to understand how and when my content was being used, or to monetise my work.” Tech pioneer Dave Winer saw Flipboard as one half of a brilliant innovation for mobile media and challenged Flipboard to encourage developers to create the other half.

At the tech blog Gizmodo, Joel Johnson broke in to ask a pertinent question: Is Flipboard legal? The app scrapes content directly from other sites, rather than through RSS, like the Pulse Reader. Flipboard’s defense is that it only offers previews (if you want to read the whole thing, you have to click on “Read on Web”), but Johnson delved into some of the less black-and-white scenarios and legal issues, too. (Flipboard, for example, takes full images, and though it is free for now, its executives plan to sell their own ads around the content under revenue-sharing agreements.) Stowe Boyd took those questions a step further and looked at possible challenges down the road from social media providers like Facebook.

A new perspective on content farms: Few people had heard of the term “content farms” about a year ago, but by now there are few issues that get blood boiling in future-of-journalism circles quite like that one. PBS MediaShift’s eight-part series on content farms, published starting last week, is an ideal resource to catch you up on what those companies are, why people are so worked up about them, and what they might mean for journalism. (MediaShift defines “content farm” as a company that produces online content on a massive scale; I, like Jay Rosen, would define it more narrowly, based on algorithm- and revenue-driven editing.)

The series includes an overview of some of the major players on the online content scene, pictures of what writing for and training at a content farm is like, and two posts on the world of large-scale hyperlocal news. It also features an interesting defense of content farms by Dorian Benkoil, who argues that large-scale online content creators are merely disrupting an inefficient, expensive industry (traditional media) that was ripe for a kick in the pants.

Demand Media’s Jeremy Reed responded to the series with a note to the company’s writers that “You are not a nameless, faceless, soul-less group of people on a ‘farm.’ We are not a robotic organization that’s only concerned about numbers and data. We are a media company. We work together to tell stories,” and Yahoo Media’s Jimmy Pitaro defended the algorithm-as-editor model in an interview with Forbes. Outspoken content-farm critic Jason Fry softened his views, too, urging news organizations to learn from their algorithm-driven approach and let their audiences play a greater role in determining their coverage.

Reading roundup: A few developments and ideas to take a look at before the weekend:

— We’ve written about the FTC’s upcoming report on journalism and public policy earlier this summer, and Google added its own comments to the public record last week, urging the FTC to move away from “protectionist barriers.” Google-watcher Jeff Jarvis gave the statement a hearty amen, and The Boston Globe’s Jeff Jacoby chimed in against a government subsidy for journalism.

— Former equity analyst Henry Blodget celebrated The Business Insider’s third birthday with a very pessimistic forecast of The New York Times’ future, and, by extension, the traditional media’s as well. Meanwhile, Judy Sims targeted a failure to focus on ROI as a cause of newspapers’ demise.

— The Columbia Journalism Review devoted a feature to the rise of private news, in which news organizations are devoted to a niche topic for an intentionally limited audience.

— Finally, a post to either get you thinking or, judging from the comments, foaming at the mouth: Penn professor Eric Clemons argues on TechCrunch that advertising cannot be our savior online: “Online advertising cannot deliver all that is asked of it.  It is going to be smaller, not larger, than it is today.  It cannot support all the applications and all the content we want on the internet. And don’t worry. There are other things that can be done that will work well.”

July 14 2010

16:24

Online journalism: A return to long-form?

Nieman Journalism Lab’s Megan Garber has a good post up about Slate and its dedication to long-form journalism, a dying art in the world of blogs and aggregators and online news consumption analysis.

Slate editor David Plotz launched the Fresca Initiative last year, designed to give reporters the opportunity to produce long-form work on subjects of their choice. Under the scheme, staff can take four to six weeks off their normal jobs to produce more in-depth stuff.

The result? Not only a handful of very good (and, at as many as tens of thousands of words, very long) articles but serious traffic to the site too. For the tens of thousands of words there have been millions of page views.

For Plotz, the form is about “building the brand of Slate as a place you go for excellent journalism”. It is not about “building Slate into a magazine that has 100 million readers,” but making sure they have “two million or five million or eight million of the right readers”.

Anybody trying to monetise online content at the moment knows about the right readers, and about their value to advertisers.

So here’s to the idea that ten thousand word articles and are not anathema to online audiences, and to the idea that giving your staff six weeks off to write them isn’t anathema to making money from online content.

And, most of all, here’s to the idea that my boss thinks so too.

But I’m not holding my breath.

Full Nieman post at this link…Similar Posts:



July 13 2010

15:53

Should newspapers publish full interview transcripts online?

Washington Post economic and domestic policy blogger Ezra Klein has called for newspapers to make interview transcripts available online, where, unlike the printed edition, there are not the same restrictions on space.

Klein cites last week’s New York Times article on Paul Volcker, which is “clearly and proudly set around a wide-ranging, on-the-record interview with Volcker himself”:

But that interview, aside from a few isolated quotes, is nowhere to be found. This is a baffling waste of good information. Reporters are endlessly interviewing newsmakers and then using, at most, a handful of lines out of thousands of words. The paper, of course, may not have room for thousands of words of interview transcripts, but the web certainly does.

Klein’s comments echo those of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who criticised the media on Friday for not making use of the huge amount of space available online to make primary source material more readily available.

The main issue for Klein, like Assange, seems to be one of transparency, especially for the interviewee:

It’s safer to have your full comments, and the questions that led to them, out in the open, rather than just the lines the author thought interesting enough to include in the article.

“And for the institution itself,” writes Klein, “it’s a no-brainer. You get a lot more inward links if you provide enough transcript that every niche media site can find something to point their readers toward.”

But news organisations considering such a move would have to weigh any potential increase in traffic – and any respect garnered by increased openness – with what is surely, for most, an unwelcome level of transparency. To say nothing of having to transcribe the hours and hours of interviews conducted by a newspaper such as the New York Times.

It is an interesting question for online journalism nonetheless. With programmes like the Open Government Data Initiative tipping more and more raw materials into the internet, will news organisations benefit overall from taking the same open approach?

Read Ezra Klein’s post here.Similar Posts:



July 05 2010

10:51

NewsLabs closes as founders admit overestimating potential

It appears that journalism startup NewsLabs, which created the NewsTilt platform, has been closed by its founders.

NewsTilt, which we reported on in April, aimed to provide a space where journalists could publish their work and increase direct interaction with readers.

But the founders have reportedly now put the site into “hibernation”.

According to internal emails from founders Nathan Chong and Paul Biggar, published by PoynterOnline, the pair suffered a “difficult post-launch period” which they felt they could not recover from.

In his message, Chong reportedly says they overestimated what they could achieve.

As I’m sure you’ve noticed not much has been happening with the site recently. I’m very sorry to report that this is because NewsLabs is ending.

(…) I now believe that we should never have made promises about building your online brand or large amounts of traffic (early email threads about how to deal with large number of comments now seem very ironic). If I could rewind and start again then I believe the pitch for NewsLabs should have been simpler and much more realistic: we will build you a technology platform and strive to work hard for you as programmers… but we cannot magically generate you an online brand or guarantee traffic.

Biggar then adds his apologies to those involved in the project.

I’d like to chime in with my own apologies. I had high hopes for NewsLabs and NewsTilt, and am sorry we weren’t able to follow up on our promises.

In a message sent to members last night, Biggar confirms the rumours and says he will give more details soon.

We have indeed shut down; I apologize you heard it elsewhere, but we weren’t really ready to announce it widely when it was reported. I’m writing a piece about how and why we shut it down; needless to say its not a simple explanation, but a summary is: we realized it wasn’t going to work. I’m hopefully going to post the retrospective in a couple of days.

Requests for comment direct from the founders have so far not been answered.Similar Posts:



10:15

June 29 2010

07:44

paidContent:UK: How BBC News and Drudge send UK newspapers traffic

Data from the Newspaper Marketing Agency, turned into an interactive graphic by paidContent:UK, suggests that the Drudge Report and BBC News are two of the top traffic drivers to UK commercial newspaper websites.

The BBC News site referred 1,992,425 unique users to the papers’ websites in April, according to the figures.

Google dominates the search referrals list, directing 39,694,597 unique users to the sites. While Twitter is yet to make the top 10 of sites referring traffic to newspapers, Stumbleupon, Facebook and Digg are all up there.

Full chart and stats at this link…Similar Posts:



June 17 2010

15:27

TechCrunch: HuffPo buys Adaptive Semantics to aid moderation of 100,000 comments a day

The Huffington Post’s first business acquisition has not brought a blog or media site under its umbrella, reports TechCrunch, but a technology startup.

Adaptive Semantics provides a ’semantic analysis engine’ already used by HuffPo to help moderate the staggering 100,000 comments posted on the site every day.

“Technology is very critical to us,” says CEO Eric Hippeau. “In this case, the technology has implications for our content. It makes moderation hyper-efficient.” With close to 3 million comments a month, the only way to moderate them is through automation tools (as well as a corp of about 30 professional human moderators).

Full story at this link…

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10:10

NYTimes.com most visited newspaper site in US last month

NYTimes.com was the most visited newspaper site in the US last month, according to Statistics released by comScore.

The New York Times website had more than 32 million visitors and 719 million page views in May, with the average visitor to the site viewing 22 pages of content.

A short way behind was Tribune Newspapers, with 24.8 million visitors.

Jeff Hackett, comScore senior vice president, says the numbers prove online news is the future.

“The good news for publishers is that even as print circulation declines, Americans are actually consuming as much news as ever – it’s just being consumed across more media,” he said. “The Internet has become an essential channel in the way the majority of Americans consume news content today with nearly 3 out of 5 Internet users reading newspapers online each month.”

See the full statistics here.

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May 21 2010

09:08

Brand Republic: FT withdraws from ABCe audits for web traffic

In the same month that it launched its own metric for measuring readers across print, online and other media, the Financial Times has officially withdrawn from the monthly audit of UK newspapers’ web traffic conducted by the Audit Bureau of Circulations Electronic (ABCe). It’s been some time since the FT website’s figures were included in the monthly stats – listed as N/A below a print circulation figure in the monthly multi-platform reports issued by the auditor.

Says a spokesperson:

The FT no longer participates in ABCes as volume traffic measures have become less relevant to our advertisers and clients. We do not intend to compete on volume, rather the quality of our registered and subscriber readership.

Full story at this link…

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April 15 2010

15:15

Nieman Journalism Lab: MinnPost editor on new audience building strategy

Valuing returning readers over vagrant visitors, a strategy extolled by Gawker a few weeks back and termed “reader affection”, has caught on at non-profit investigative site MinnPost. Speaking at the ASNE NewsNow Ideas Summit this week, editor Joel Kramer announced that MinnPost is also a fan of the affection metric, and aims to build up a “community of intensely engaged followers”. From Nieman:

The strategy, for MinnPost, is a financial as much as an editorial one: It’s about concentrating impact, but also about monetising that impact. The outlet’s ultimate goal in developing a core readership, Kramer said, is to “convert that community into enough money to sustain the journalism”.

Full story at this link…

Read Journalism.co.uk’s interview with Kramer at this link.

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April 13 2010

17:22

Tough love: Gawker finds making it harder for comments to be seen leads to more (and better) comments

That chart is, for news organizations seeking to tame their commenters, perhaps the best evidence yet that adding a few obstacles for those seeking the leave their mark on a web page can actually lead to more comments. And better ones, too.

That chart (bigger version here) tracks the number of comments left by month on the Gawker Media blog empire, Nick Denton’s collection of themed sites (Gawker, Gizmodo, Deadspin, et al.). It covers September 2005 to the present. See that big dip on the right? That’s when Gawker implemented a new, stricter commenting system, in which trusted commenters get preferred access to readers and the unknown hoi polloi have to audition for an audience. (We wrote about it at the time; in an internal memo, Denton wrote about “taking back the site from some commenters who thought they were in charge” and said “we’ll be able to encourage the kind of discussion that *we* want — not one that is dominated merely by the most prolific of our commenters. It’s our party; we get to decide who comes.”)

In essence, Gawker’s “class system” means unknown commenters get stuck behind a “show all discussions” link few users will click. What most readers will see are only the musings of trusted commenters and the few comments from the riff-raff that either Gawker staff or trusted commenters have decided to promote — the “featured discussions.” (The system also put the most recent comments on top, not on bottom as at most sites. That would seem to reduce the possibility that a dumb early comment would sway the chain of comments that follow it into irrelevance.)

As the chart shows, the shift led to an immediate decline in comment volume. (Interestingly, the biggest drop seems to have been at Jezebel, Gawker’s women-centric site. Attention communications and/or gender studies grad students: There’s a thesis somewhere in there!) But comments quickly rebounded and have since skyrocketed at a much faster slope than before the switch. Some of that is no doubt related to Gawker’s overall increase in traffic, but the scale of the increase is still remarkable.

Gawker Media CTO Tom Plunkett posted the chart on his blog. His interpretation?

Quality *and* growth — it’s possible! We launched tiered commenting mid-year 2009, and introduced a new process to manage comment volume. Note the dramatic drop in volume, and the subsequent rise (double in 9 months). With this increase, Gawker still has the best commenting system/experience out there — and I usually hear the same from people that want to share their opinion…

Though there were some calls to do so, purging commenter accounts is not a solution for the out-of-control commenter community. Nor is a large moderation staff. We believe pruning, and a commenting platform as we have implemented, will lead to increased participation, while at the same time encouraging quality. This data, and the subjective opinion of many, seem to back this assertion.

I’m a regular Gizmodo and Gawker reader (and less regular Lifehacker and Deadspin reader), and I can add to the subjective opinion that average comment quality is higher than before. But “better” isn’t the only scale on which you can measure comments. I think the audition-for-an-audience nature of the new system also makes the comments quippier; Gawker comments can feel like a bunch of wannabe Henny Youngmans spouting one-liners and seeking attention. But that vibe may have more to do with Gawker’s content and tone than the details of its commenting policies.)

In any event, complaining about awful commenters seems to be the first thing any gaggle of journalists does when lamenting the new news reality. The default solution has been to say every commenter should have to use his or her real name — a solution with practical as well as ethical problems. (Although Facebook Connect may be taking away some of the practical concerns.) Still, there’s a whole world of ways a news site can improve the tenor of its comments while keeping itself reasonably open. Gawker Media’s success is one example of how.

March 31 2010

13:56

Nieman Journalism Lab: Gawker’s new traffic metric measures ‘reader affection’

While others pour over pageviews and underscore uniques, Gawker Media has been quietly working on a new metric, one designed to measure so-called “reader affection”. This new metric is called “branded traffic” and is, according to Nieman Journalism Lab, “both more nebulous and more significant” than traditional forms of measurement.

The idea is to measure the number of visitors that arrive at the site via a direct search for its name or variations on its branding, or by typing in the site URL directly, and distinguish them from more incidental traffic.

The metric comes from a simple compound: direct type-in visits plus branded search queries in Google Analytics. In other words, Gawker Media is bifurcating its visitors in its evaluation of them, splitting them into two groups: the occasional audience, you might call it, and the core audience.

The original Gawker release highlights the value the site places on turning the internet passerby into an affectionate reader:

While distributing content across the web is essential for attracting the interest of internet passersby, courting these wanderers, massaging them into occasional visitors, and finally gaining their affection as daily readers is far more important. This core audience – borne of a compounding of word of mouth, search referrals, article recommendations, and successive enjoyed visits that result in regular readership – drives our rich site cultures and premium advertising products.

Full post at this link…

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13:19

Media Beat: Former Gawker managing editor talks niches and revenue streams

Dramatically named blogger and journalism entrepreneur Lockhart Steele has guested on mediabistro’s Media Beat video series in the last two days, with the last episode appearing later this afternoon. Steele began blogging around the beginning of the decade while working in magazines. He was recruited by Nick Denton as Gawker began to pick up traffic and later became managing editor of the site, seeing it expand from just a handful of editorial staff to around 150.

In the second installment of the Media Beat series, below, Steele discusses getting traffic through Twitter and Facebook, diversifying revenue streams online, and “looking for niches where we can be a little bit weird”.

Follow this link for the first installment, in which Steele discusses starting out in blogging and breaking away from Gawker to establish his own blogging network.

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March 30 2010

18:56

A “reader affection” formula: Gawker creates a metric for branded traffic

Influence, engagement, impact: For goals that are, in journalism, kind of the whole point, they’re notoriously difficult to quantify. How do you measure, measure a year, and so on.

Turns out, though, that Gawker Media, over the past few years, has been attempting to do just that. Denton and Crew, we learned in a much-retweeted post this morning, have been “quietly tending” a metric both more nebulous and more significant than pageviews, uniques, and the other more traditional ways of impact-assessment: They’ve been measuring branded traffic — or, as the post in question delightfully puts it, “recurring reader affection.” The metric comes from a simple compound: direct type-in visits plus branded search queries in Google Analytics.

In other words, Gawker Media is bifurcating its visitors in its evaluation of them, splitting them into two groups: the occasional audience, you might call it, and the core audience. And it’s banking on the latter. “New visitors are only really valuable if they become regulars,” Denton pointed out in a tweet this morning. (That lines up with Denton’s recent pushing of unique visits over pageviews as a performance metric.)

The goal — as it is for so many things in journalism these days — is to leverage the depth against the breadth. As the post puts it:

While distributing content across the web is essential for attracting the interest of Internet passersby, courting these wanderers, massaging them into occasional visitors, and finally gaining their affection as daily readers is far more important. This core audience — borne of a compounding of word of mouth, search referrals, article recommendations, and successive enjoyed visits that result in regular readership — drives our rich site cultures and premium advertising products.

I spoke with Erin Pettigrew, Gawker Media’s head of marketing and advertising operations — and the author of the post in question — over gChat to learn more about the outlet’s branded-traffic metric.

“The idea came from a few places,” she told me.

First, for so long we concerned ourselves with reach and becoming a significant enough web population such that advertisers would move us into their consideration set for marketing spend. Now that we have attained a certain level of reach and that spend consideration, we’re looking for additional ways to differentiate ourselves against other publisher populations. So branded traffic helps to illuminate our readership’s quality over its quantity, a nuanced benefit over many of the more broadly reaching sites on the web.

Secondly, there’s a myth, especially in advertising, that frequency of visitation is wasteful to ad spend. As far as premium content sites and brand marketers go, however, that myth is untrue. So, the ‘branded traffic’ measure is part of a larger case we’re making that advertising to a core audience (who visits repeatedly) is extremely effective.

Another aspect of that case, she adds, is challenging assumptions about reader engagement. “The wisdom has been that the higher the frequency of ad exposures to a single visitor, the less effective a marketing message becomes to that visitor. To the contrary, the highly engaged reader is actually far more receptive to the publisher’s marketing messaging than the occasional passerby.

In other words, she says: “Branded traffic is to a free website what a subscriber base is to a paid content site. The psychology behind the intent to visit and engage with the publisher brand in those two instances is very similar.”

The approach’s big x-factor — whether branded traffic will get buy-in, in every sense, from marketers — remains to be determined. “It’s something we’re just beginning to explore,” Pettigrew says. But marketers, she points out, “have always considered front door takeovers or roadblocks as one of the most coveted advertising placements on a publisher website. And they “intuitively understand that the publisher brand’s halo is brightest and strongest for a reader who comes through the front door seeking the publisher’s brand experience” — which is to say, they should realize the value of the core audience. “But we’ve yet to see a metric take hold across the industry that gets at a numerical understanding of this marketer intuition.”

March 23 2010

18:55

SochiReporter Drives Traffic with 2010 Olympics Coverage

At SochiReporter, we looked at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics (and Paralympics) as an important event that can move our site forward and attract more international users. I'm happy to say that our efforts have paid off with increased traffic and interest in the site.

During the Games, SochiReporter experienced a 350 percent increase in the number of European and North American visitors to the site. We also published several exclusive posts from Yuliya Talmazan, a Russian-speaker from Vancouver who works as an editor at NowPublic.

During the Olympics, Talmazan worked for NBC doing editorial research, and she also attended athletic events and other festivities during the Paralympic Games. I asked her to provide us with coverage of the Paralympics because they receive much less attention from global media. Having her on the ground during the Paralympics has given us some very unique content in all multimedia genres.

Also, beginning in February, SochiReporter changed its design to celebrate the Vancouver Games. The site's new background image is focused on winter sports and mixes blue, violet and magenta. The images feature athletes and reporters together, and we think the softer background colors do a better job of letting users focus on the site's content.

Olympics_eng_.JPG

Changing the design is part of our marketing activities, and we plan to keep on introducing new background images in the future. My feeling is that it's another way to tell a story and make the website more topical and relevant. For example, Google often alters its logo to celebrate holidays, and the iGoogle service allows people to customize their header. Twitter also allows users to choose from a wide range of skins, or to create their own.

New Tagline

Aside from the new background image, we introduced a new tagline for SochiReporter: "The news is me." It was inspired by the well-known saying, "The law is me," which was made by France's Louis XIV, the Sun King, in the 17th century. The tagline reflects the new realities and conveys the idea of citizen journalism, which is at the core of SochiReporter.

On a related note, the Vancouver Games were notable for the presence of citizen media and social media. There themes were explored in recent articles and photo essays on MediaShift.

Thanks to our work on the Vancouver Games, I've been receiving emails from people in Europe and Northern America. They tend to be either students inquiring about an internship within SochiReporter, people writing a thesis about social media who are interested in getting to know more about SochiReporter, or folks working in new media who are interested in how social media is being integrated into the traditional media content structure. In the end, our work during the Vancouver Games has helped build the global dialogue around SochiReporter and social media in general.

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March 19 2010

22:49

4-Minute Roundup: Google TV Disrupts; Facebook Passes Google

This episode of 4MR is brought to you by the Knight Digital Media Center, providing a spectrum of training for the 21st century journalist. Find out more at KDMC's website. It's also underwritten by GoDaddy, helping you set up your own website in a snap with domain name registration, web hosting and 24/7 support. Visit GoDaddy to learn more.

Here's the latest 4MR audio report from MediaShift. In this week's edition, I look at Google TV, the new alliance between Google, Intel, Sony and Logitech to create a new TV or set-top box that will finally connect the TV with the Net in a simple way. Plus, Facebook last week surpassed Google in traffic for the U.S., according to Experian Hitwise, and Facebook referrals to news sites were more loyal visitors than referrals from Google News or the Google search engine. And I asked Just One Question to Time magazine TV critic James Poniewozik, getting his take on Google TV.

Check it out:

4mrbareaudio31910.mp3

>>> Subscribe to 4MR <<<

>>> Subscribe to 4MR via iTunes <<<

Listen to my entire interview with James Poniewozik:

Background music is "What the World Needs" by the The Ukelele Hipster Kings via PodSafe Music Network.

Here are some links to related sites and stories mentioned in the podcast:

Google and Partners Seek TV Foothold at NY Times

Google TV Should Finally Push Apple TV Beyond A Hobby at TechCrunch

It's Official - Facebook Rules the Web at PC World

Facebook surpasses Google in weekly traffic at San Jose Mercury News

How Facebook overtook Google to be the top spot on the Internet at Fortune Brainstormtech

Facebook edges past Google for weekly traffic at SFGate's Tech Chronicles

Facebook Visitors Come Back Again and Again at Hitwise blog

If You Tell Them On Facebook, They Will Come...Again and Again at ReadWriteWeb

The Google giant begins to topple at Network World

Check out some of our write-in answers to last week's poll question about what people thought about geo-location services such as Foursquare:

survey answers foursquare.jpg

Also, be sure to vote in our poll about what you think about your cable or satellite service:




What do you think about your cable or satellite TV service?answers

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.

This episode of 4MR is brought to you by the Knight Digital Media Center, providing a spectrum of training for the 21st century journalist. Find out more at KDMC's website. It's also underwritten by GoDaddy, helping you set up your own website in a snap with domain name registration, web hosting and 24/7 support. Visit GoDaddy to learn more.

This is a summary. Visit our site for the full post ».

March 15 2010

09:51

Globe and Mail: Misunderstanding web metrics can cause lazy journalism

Interesting column from Roy MacGregor for Canada’s Globe and Mail on the damage that chasing ‘hits’ online can do to journalism and why circulation and web traffic should not be confused with circulation:

Why be a storyteller when a ranter will have far more traffic? Why be investigative when instigative is a far quicker route to success on the web?

(…) It is a terrible vision of what journalism could evolve into as it enters a world it so desperately wishes to own, but has little idea of what the available measures in this digital world actually mean.

Full column at this link…

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