Dumping the newspaper

News recycled

Breaking up with newspapers:

I’ve found a platform that fulfills my news-reading needs. My Internet-powered cell phone has replaced you, and it’s time for us to go our separate ways. To be honest, newspaper, I’ve been using my new platform for years now, while I’ve tossed you into the recycle bin nearly every day.

And interesting counter-point to David Ho yesterday.

Stijn Lehaen 1

How do you bring start-up thinking to a traditional broadcaster? That's what Stijn Lehaen set out to explain in the closing session of news:rewired yesterday. The Belgian broadcaster was struggling online, at least in comparison to its traditional presence. So it set up a startup-style division called VRT Start-up at the edge of the organisation, headed by Lehaen.

They worked with Made by Many to implement the lean startup approach to working. They have user insight sessions every two weeks, where they talk with pairs of friends about what they expect from media. Why friends? Well, the idea is to get them debating between themselves, so they forget they are talking to the broadcaster.

Power to the prototypes

They're trying to develop as many solutions as possible, and they test them by by building very simple prototypes - as simple as a sketch on paper. The basic nature of this helps promote honesty - if people feel you've spent a long time on building one, they're less likely to be critical. They have a small content team to build out the surviving prototypes, and then they move into a beta state.

They started with the idea of making news for teenagers and young people, in the digital world. They look at them as the YouTube generation, who want choice in their media. This tends to be 16-24 year olds, but it can go much older. For this group, a new media product needs social media promotion - and to become part of people's existing timelines.

The first prototype they built out was 6things - a simple aggregation website with the most interesting six things for young people they'd found that day. It was responsive from the start, and promoted via the Facebook newsfeed. Problems? Everyone's doing this sort of list curation, and they were too slow compared to the competition, because they were publishing at a set time of day.

Power to the Pivot

Stijn Lehaen

So, they pivoted the model - they switched from daily editions to a continuous flow, on a site now called Sambal. And they started creating YouTube-style video, rather than broadcast-style. A strong branding around Sambal was vital, because their content was being shared outside their own environment. They moved on from aggregation to creation, trying to find unusual approaches to stories. This led to experimenting with the content mix. The core categories were:

  • beautiful
  • entertaining
  • serious
  • LOL
  • amazing
  • geeky

Video has to be very short - over 30 seconds is just too long. So, they launched Ninja News, a social-focused quick news service.

Their organisation is in constant experiment, with freedom to fail, and a total focus on the user.

Unanswered Questions

Sadly, the conference was over-running and there was no time for questions. The key one I wanted to ask was: how are they taking this experimentation back into the core business. These skunkworks-style business units can be great for generating ideas, but there is a string tendency for the main business's corporate "immune system" to eventually kill them off because they don't fit the existing models and processes - I'd have liked to see some sense of how they hope to keep their innovation alive in the long tedm/

Sarah Marshall, social media editor EMEA, WSJ

Sarah marshall

9 clever uses of social media tools

  1. Tweetdeck - use two columns for the same search term, one for the term, and one for the term, but filtered by retweet.
  2. Twitter Collections (was custom timelines) - drag tweets into a custom timeline, to gather them all in one place for later use.
  3. Twitter Lists: on Twitter, select Timelines on the left, and then select lists - to find experts in a field
  4. Facebook Geolocation (selecting where posts are targeted): works really well if you have a large following in that region already. Posst without images or links do well at the moment - they got 10,000 comments in a day for an Egypt-targetted post.
  5. Facebook Follow: use your settings to limit it to Friends of Friends, pushing very one else to Follow. Set posts you're tagged in to "Friends only".
  6. Storyful Multisearch is great. Search a whole range of social media sites from one search box.
  7. Instagram - many of us use it to source stories. But it can also be used for moments of reporting to the community. Gramfeed is a great way of searching for a location.
  8. Tagg.ly - Allows you to watermark images on social.
  9. Watermark.ws - Another handy watermarking tool

Richard Moynihan, social media editor, The Telegraph

Rich moynihan

Analytics and metrics

Buzzsumo - measures your shares and competitor stories (LinkTally.com is an alternative), across a range of core social media sites. You can drill down into the sharers, and who were the most influential.

It also allows you to find people influential on topics, and target them to work with, of for retweets.

It was heavily used by them for Project Babb, their sports-centric site. They used it to target people whose audiences they wanted to get access to. They also didn't include comments on the site, because they wanted people discussing it on social media. It was a big success, and has some of the Telegraph's most shared stories…

Pivot Tables - incredibly useful for tidying up data. He uses it, for example, for identifying total number of shares per author.

Reddit for Journalists

Three speakers at news:rewired talking about use of Reddit in journalism, moderated by Mark Frankel, assistant editor, social news, BBC

James Cook, Daily Dot

James cookThere's two main tasks:

  • Finding new stories
  • Sharing stories

How do you get started? Sign up. That allows you to start following what you're really interested in. Reddit is made of communities of interests: subreddits.

How do you do Reddit wrong? Don't identify yourself. Reddit is great at identifying who you are - and if you're pretending to be someone else, you'll be busted. Be honest about who you are. Be honest and you'll get good results

How about promoting your story? Look for who has been sharing your stories. Chances are someone has already done it. If it's there, leave a comment saying you're the author and asking for feedback and questions.

If they haven't - well, the temptation is to post your own. And that is fine. But gaming Reddit isn't. OnGamers was banned for Reddit for doing this, and lost 50% of their traffic overnight. Here's a rule of thumb: no more than 10% of your links should be to your own stories.

Matt Nevarra hosting


Bella Hurrell

Bella Hurrell

"Tell me something I don't know" is a basic journalistic premise. Over 50% of traffic to the BBC website is coming from mobile devices now - so everything has to be responsive. It ha to adapt to different screen sizes.

They're expiring ways of spreading their stories beyond the site. Flat info graphics, simple, but to the point, have been one focus, They're optimised for Twitter and Facebook and link back to a main story. They need an element of wit, and certainly of interest. Respond to comments - and make improvements if the suggestions are good.

Interactives - like budget calculators, or "which athlete are you most like?" - are another good way of telling the story. The latter used scatter plots which was too "maths-y" for the mainstream audience - and it didn't work on tablet. they'd do it differently today.

They've just published a Commonwealth Games one, that looks at which event you are more suited to. And it was built mobile-first. But even before that, before you write a line of code, you need to figure out what the audience will take away from this - and that's what will bring them back.

David Ho

David Ho is the editor for mobile, tablets and emerging technology, The Wall Street Journal. This is a liveblog of his talk at news:rewired.

David is not an alien from the planet Tech - he's a reporter, but he has a background in coding and page design. His job is about bringing technology and reporting together.

Why Mobile is a big deal

In the US, 60% of digital time is on mobile device. Many titles are reaching 50% of greater mobile consumption.

He has us hand our phones to the person on our right. The point? To illustrate how uncomfortable people feel as a result - our phones are intensely person devices. They're intimate - and that's why it's so critical we get it right. We're sending new straight into people's lives.

The one platform world is sea. We live in a many platform world, and when you produce news it goes everywhere. No matter what journalism job you do, this matters a lot. How you tell a story is related to how people consume it.

Storytelling tips

  • Beware the words: "click here" is meaningless on mobile, and insults the readers - it tells them it wasn't meant for them. Your text needs to be platform agnostic.
  • Everyone has seen a graphic that works really badly on a phone. Do you want more than half of everyone coming to your site having a bad experience? You, as a reporter, have a stake in this.
  • The legacies of WWI that the WSJ had done recently was designed with mobile in mind.
  • Feel, don't show. Emotions are a factor in storytelling. The Daily did some great work on graphics for tablets. They did a submarine graphic that was really, really tall, so you had to swipe and swipe and swipe to get to the bottom. The physical interaction was very meaningful in that experience.
  • Our storytelling tends to two dimensions - paper or screens. It doesn't not need to be that way - gestures, accelerometers, voice control, AR… Ponder that.

Lovely close to the New Yorker piece announcing the new website:

Publishing the best work possible remains our aim. Advances in design and technology are tools in that effort. In all forms—digital and paper—we intend to publish in the same spirit of freedom, ambition, and accuracy as Harold Ross did when he prowled the halls nearly ninety years ago, the latest model of pencil stuck behind his prominent left ear.

If the relationship between journalism and technology was viewed in that spirit more often, we would not be in the mess we are right now.

The New Yorker website was not looking healthy this morning:

Broken New Yorker website

However, it wasn't that bad for everyone:

And that triggered a little bell in my memory. A few days back, I saw, via Matt Mullenweg, that the New Yorker is rebuilding its website:

The new site, designed to be cleaner, with new typefaces, will be based on the WordPress publishing system. It is expected to be easier to navigate for mobile users — among the fastest-growing segments of the readership.

I was told for years by publishing company IT people that blog CMSes would never be good enough to run serious sites. In the meantime, they kept adding more and more technology costs into the business, for less and less gain. Big IT projects have an awful lot to answer for in the current debate about the viability of online journalism.

Also noted: Variety, a title sold by RBI a few years ago, is now running on WordPress:

Variety on WordPress

Right now, your operation needs a really good reason for NOT running on a cost-effective, cheap, and rapidly developed CMS like WordPress. And yet, the custom, bespoke magazine/newspaper CMS still reigns supreme.

UPDATE: In the time it's taken to write this post, the site is live.