One Man and His Blog: January 2010 Archives

January 2010 Archives

January 31, 2010

On Blogging About The iPad

I have about three iPad-related posts in my head right now. One of them exists in partial form in my blog software.

But I can't bring myself to publish them, and that's for much the same reason as I refused to blog about the Apple tablet before it was revealed. Let my illustrate by means of a pie chart:

iPad Blogging
Never has so much been written by so many about one thing they have so little experience of...

January 29, 2010

The 4m Pageview Blogger

Flighblogger, one of our stable of blogs on Flightglobal, was just shy of 4m pageviews in 2009, from 2.3m visitors.

Not bad for B2B. :-)

Congratulations, Jon. A solid mix of work and skill there, mate. 

January 23, 2010

Participatory Culture and Traditional Media

Kevin Anderson on why people participate in online communities and share content on them:

I can tell you why I bother. A global culture of participation has been, for me, key in meeting one of Maslow's hierarchy of needs: Belonging. Originally participatory culture was something I did in my spare time because their was no place for it in my professional work, but co-creation in journalism has been one of the most richly rewarding aspects of my career.charman-anderson.com, Generosity and post-scarcity economic media models: Why I love participatory culture, Jan 2010

Lots to think about in that post, especially about the way traditional media people, who have a different attitude to creation and sharing than most people, misunderstand motivations for participation. More myopia?

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Kodak, Disruption and Economic Inertia

From an article about Kodak's difficult decade:

Even though they talked about being in imaging and memories - their financial base was still in film, and even though they could move conceptually, they could see no way to move economically (and I suspect that many of us sitting around the Kodak board table at the time would have come to similar conclusions).creativedisruption.net, Creative Disruption, Jan 2010

Much for publishers to learn here...

Weekend Coffee Reading

Lurking around in my browser tabs:

  • On Makers and Managers - good look at the tension between these two roles that should be familiar to most people in journalism
  • The Death of Tag Clouds - this has been creating some debate internally at RBI. I still like 'em, but I never thought they were a navigation tool, just a visual means of displaying the "aboutness" of the site.
  • Why Tumblr is Kicking Posterous' Ass - insightful post on the difference between an engineered website and a designed one.
  • Jeff Jarvis's Cockeyed Economics - some good economic theory around paid content in here
  • The Value of Blogging - anyone familiar with my job title knows that I'm contractually obligated to value blogging as a journalistic endeavour - but this post enumerates some of the reasons well.
  • Posterous, the iPhone and Microjournalism - great account of using the iPhone and Posterous to report from abroad using a mobile device. 
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Creative Commons Watch

Most of my photos on Flickr are Creative Commons licensed, and I like to keep half an eye on where they appear. A couple have popped up in my in-box in recent weeks:

For some reason, my pics from the various incarnations of Le Web seem to get used more often than anything else...
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January 22, 2010

Flight Global Desktop App Launched

Cool thing of the day: we just launched an Adobe Air-based desktop app for one of our titles. Flight Global. Video introduction:


Covering Our Future (or where are the designers?)

Hairdressers Journal
I don't write much about print on here, but long-time readers will know I'm not a "print is dead" type. I do believe that print will have to change and evolve to deal with the changing environment - much as theatre had to after the coming of cinema and then television - but that it will survive. And I'm glad about that, because I love magazines as objects, especially when they're designed to really showcase the visual impact good print titles can create. 

Yesterday, I had a day that caused me to think much more about design than I normally do. It started the moment I walked through the doors of Quadrant House, RBI's Sutton main office. There's a big wall of our magazines in reception there, and the above cover, of Hairdressers Journal, really leapt out at me from that wall. It has a level of design aspiration above that of most of our titles, with a few honourable exceptions - New Scientist for a start - and some meetings later in the day reminded me how lacking traditional publishers can be in design aspiration online. Again, I think HJi, the online version of Hairdressers Journal, leads the way in our company.

Is it me, or is the issue of design, of user-experience of our website almost entriely absent from the future of journalism debate? And, if so, why the hell is that? 
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January 19, 2010

news:rewired:reviewed

It has been a funny old week, as the lazy, journalistic cliché goes. This time last week, I was telling myself for the third afternoon in a row that I'd do my slides for news:rewired tomorrow, and now they've spent the best part of a day on the front page of SlideShare

I think that the good folks at journalism.co.uk are to be congratulated for the conference. It's the first journalism shindig I've been to where it felt like the majority of the people who are actively engaged in the front line of journalism exploration in the digital age where there, and willing to share and robustly debate their views and experiences. In short, it felt like a conference where you could learn something, and that beats the same old corporate faces giving the same old corporate presentations we see too often.



And it has most decidedly sparked some discussion. Most of it was very useful, as the compilation of links and discussion makes clear, and I'll almost certainly blog more about that in the coming days. But some of it really revealed the fractures in this industry, as it desperately tries to reshape itself.

I have a theory, which Andy alluded to in his blog post about the event (uh, Andy - might want to get the subs to check my surname there, by the way... ;-) ). Most journalists, if they loved their industry (or their job, which is not quite the same thing) have to go through the standard five stages of grief, as they deal with the changes that are happening to our profession. Many are still in denial (and Kevin made a good job of eviscerating their dismissal of all things digital), but some of the people who were there were very clearly still in the throes of anger.

In some ways, I think the citizen journalist versus "real" journalist debate that kicked off in the crowdsourcing session, moderated by The Telegraph's Kate Day, is pretty much a non-debate, as Sarah explains:

Personally, I find this an outdated debate but I fear it will go round-and-round until the idea that people can have a 'virtual life' and a 'real' one as two separate things is finally, belatedly put to rest.
That would be the move to "acceptance", of course.

I fear that we, in the mainstream media (does B2B really count as mainstream?), are somewhat to blame for this continuing conflict, though, because we have had a tendency to appropriate the name "citizen journalist" for user-generated content on our sites, rather than use it in the context it was intended - people using the tools the web provides to publish their own acts of journalism to the internet. As Martin identifies, part of the heat of the debate was in people confusing publishers using low cost (low value?) content from the audience with people choosing to publish for themselves. 

I think Jon hits the nail right on the head, when he suggests that we forget the labels, and get on with thinking about how the tools allow us to do good journalism. And I mean good journalism, not the sort of shoddy page-filling nonsense torn apart here
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What's Hot in my Feed Reader Right Now?

news:rewired fever

Not bad after 5 days...

January 18, 2010

The Dangers of Journalistic Myopia

I'm busy pulling together my normal links for the day, but this post from Fleet Street Blues in the wake of last week's conferences really needs a response:

It's all very well talking about building a social media strategy and the growing need for entrepreneurial journalism, but there are lots of journalists out there - good, hard news journalists with skills we as a profession don't want to lose - who are being left behind. So, a plea to those who were there: please don't run before the rest of us can walk. 

And that's all very sweet and lovely - but it's very, very dangerous. Because if those people who are pushing at the edges of online journalism - the spaghetti throwers, as George Brock put it - slow down and wait for the rest of the industry to catch up, we might as well just lie down in a grave and, as a profession, die now.

This is myopia. This is only seeing the traditional publishing ecosystem, and not all the new things that are competing for our audience's time and interest (and our advertisers' cash). It's not just the social media journalists and traditional journalists in this equation. It's the untold thousands, maybe millions, of people who are using these tools to publish and consume materials. We're in a huge battle for attention, and if we're not in the places where people find interesting content, if we don't understand how people are consuming content in this new publishing environment, and creating news and journalism generally in ways that match that demand, we're history.

Sorry, Fleet Street Blues, but we can't wait. 

Update: Psmith, Journalist takes on another post in similar vein

Journalism, Spaghetti and news:rewired

One of the more thought-provoking (and somewhat reassuring) speeches at news:rewired last week was George Brock's, which I live-blogged. The BBC College of Journalism have put the video online, and it's well worth a watch*.



*Yes, for those wondering. Mentioning me in a speech does boost your chances of my republishing it. ;-)

Everything I Know in 7 Slides

My presentation from news:rewired last week. I suspect it might lose something without me talking over it ;-) :

January 14, 2010

news:rewired - Journalism is Entrepreneurial

Greg Hadfield, head of digital media at telegraph.co.uk:

We've been in an era when journalists thought about the lifestyle and about being journalists, but never had to be part of the conversation about funding, about advertising and about money.

The future is a new sort of organisation, a new sort of journalism. It's no longer about us telling, about us preaching, but engaging with communities. More individual, more stand alone. 

Where does this end up? The same skills that make a journalism also make an entrepreneur - passion, vision, a sense of ownership. The connectedness of the digital age is only what society knew before - everyone is connected. We are individuals moving within society - and holding it to account. 

If you don't have the passion or the curiosity, you won't survive. 

news:rewired Making Money Dos and Don'ts

SoGlos.com - James Fryer

Launched the week of the floods in 2007. Founded by two journalists from the county. 

Do:

  1. Be great! - Niche websites work, they can capture audiences. All of our content is exclusively written by professional journalists - it's about high-quality content.
  2. Search engine optimise - 5,395 pages - 75% of traffic comes from Google.
  3. Know your market and products - make sure you know who your advertisers will be and target them with research, clear suite of products. Keep clear differentiation between ad and ed. 
  4. Establish a clear sales strategy - Either divide your role to focus on sales some of the time, or get a professional. Make the process as easy as possible - and provide great reporting. 
  5. Forge partnerships - work with radio and print. Syndicate your content in a controlled fashion - but cash is almost always better than a contra deal. 
Don't

  1. Compromise your model - stick to the plan
  2. Be afraid to stand up for yourself - lots and lots of problems with plagiarism. 25 organisations have plagiarised 200 individual infringement.
  3. Spend all your time on Twitter - make sure your social media activity is bringing you an audience and money.
  4. Rely on UGC - think this decade will see a resurgence in professional journalism
  5. Stop moving forwards - Redesign coming, iPhone app, franchise model for sites...
And this is their most popular video:

news:rewired Crowdsourcing

So, onto other people's panels, and I've plumped for the crowd-sourcing one, as I'm not local enough for the local panel and not clever enough for the data-mashing one...

The speakers have placed very heavy emphasis on the verification process, from Demotix looking at information contained within digital photos to check they were taken when and where they claimed to be, to Sky taking twitter accounts that talked about Iranian issues prior to the protests more seriously than ones that jumped on the bandwagon.

Thumbnail image for Ruth Barnett
Ruth Barnett of Sky made the point that it isn't just a question of pushing things online, but think how a journalist (dare I say curator?) can add value and analysis to it in the way that crowd-sourced information is presented. An unverified picture submitted to the Telegraph news desk is more likely to be spiked than a verified one.

Perhaps this isn't a surprise from a conference full of journalists (and hence vested interests...) but we've spent very little time talking about the mechanisms of crowd-sourcing as opposed to verification of sources. 

What incentive is there for student journalists to train and do things differently? asked one member of the audience. "They're just another source,' argued Andy Heath of Demotix. "But they're not if you call them a journalist," argued back the woman from the audience.

There's an undercurrent of hostility to the very idea of calling these contributors to crowd-sourced journalism "journalists" in any way - and that it's under-mining credibility. In answer, people are suggestion that people can become journalists for single events - one time they happen to be at the right place at the right time. 

Indeed, is the citizen journalist label being misappropriated by traditional media outlets? Are crowd-sourced opinions or contributions really citizen journalism, or is citizen journalism individuals using new technology to make a difference?

Andy Heath
Heath has just come back with a good point: that it's a spectrum, from one-off acts of journalism, through to the full-timers, but people are countering with suggestions that pay, or ethics, or training are a hard line, not a spectrum.

Kate Day from The Telegraph has suggested that these are tools you can use as part of journalism, and that those voices that feed into it are participating in the journalism.

But the tone here is of hostility: "irresponsible" "legal risk" "diluting reputation". 

The point I haven't heard raised once is that this is happening anyway, whether or not we (as the 'professional media') participate in this, and that there's a hunger for it - for the voices of real people, without the heavy filters traditional journalism processes put in the way. If we choose to ignore it, we lose attention (and influence) to other places were people can do their individual acts of journalism. 

Kate Day

Troubleshooting at news:rewired

Still in recovery mode from my panel at news:rewired. We had a small crowd, but they were very heavily engaged, which is a good thing. Lots of questions, and a massive over-run on the time, despite Judith's best efforts to keep us on time.

Troubleshooting audience at news:rewired
news:rewired
Obviously, as a participant, I'm not the best-placed to write about it, so I'll link any coverage of it later.

news:rewired Opening Sessions

George Brock, head of journalism department, City University London

George Brock has just given a rather inspirational address at the beginning of news:rewired, and I'm not just saying that because I was one of the first people he name-checked...

He speech celebrated chaos, the idea that we're in a process of massive change, and that the "spaghetti throwers", those actively promoting and exploring change, is vital. We're throwing spaghetti at the walls and seeing what sticks...

Many of our past assumptions are false. Traditional, established professional journalism is not as old, traditional or established as we think it is.

And I love some of his ideas - journalism taught on the "teaching hospital" model. Brilliant. Great agenda setting.

Kevin Marsh, BBC College of Journalism

Three key ideas while facing the practical challenges of education journalists:

One.

Journalists were suddenly expected to take on new roles and new skills that didn't exist within the BBC before. We were putting at the centre of the news offer not the bulletins but "live and continuous". The internal news agency became the flywheel of the whole operation. Blogging and podcasting became much freer. 

Our landscape is shifting - it's changing faster than we can understand it, it's changing faster than we can handle in any formal way. If you think you have the answer, you didn't understand the question.

Large organisations are changing from within - in a way that can look like chaos - but only in the way that any living organism looks chaotic. 

Two.

Two core skills: Finding checking, assessing facts and telling those facts. That duality was at the heart of his infamous e-mails about Andrew Gilligan and the Hutton enquiry. Multimedia skills do not supplant traditional journalistic skills - making contacts, findings stories, pursuing investigations, etc. 

However, he sees an anxiety amongst journalists about how much they are expected to do. A newsroom does not need to be populated exclusively by pan-media people. You need people with higher than average skills, but not everyone needs to have them all. He's making the comparison with one man media machines like Ben Hammersley

Look at what attracts you. Look at what you do well. Evaluate new skills and media - what do they add to what you do? Is it working for you? Is it delivering? If not, drop it. When you find the skills that work for you, keep innovating. Once you stop innovating, the chances are you should be moving on and looking at something else.

Blogging has done more than anything else to transform how journalists work. Nick Robinson and Robert Peston are cited as examples. Robinson has destroyed the notion that a story isn't a story until it appears on the 10 O'Clock bulletin using his blog.  It puts expertise to the front - both knowledge and authenticity. 

Three

Any skills you have are a means to an end, not an end in itself. We spend too much time talking about the applications and not about what they can do. Stay outside that bubble. 

January 13, 2010

The media140 Meetup and Social Media Evolution

media140 Meetup
And so to the first media140 meetup, over in the City. Unusually for this sort of event, I've only recognised two faces (oh, three) here so far.

It's a grand total of eight months since I went to my first media140 event, and the mood and feel has changed completely. There's been a progressive move from the social media enthusiasts and evangelists to those who are trying to figure out how to integrate it into their businesses - and that's great. That's social media growing up.

But I am feel rather that the questions and answers I'm hearing aren't really adding to my sum of knowledge. In fact, there are things being said that I'd say were objectively wrong. "homogonised output on Twitter"? Uh, no. Luckily some voices are being raised in protest. But this is social media as a tool applied to existing processes rather than as a thought process, as a means of conversation. 

Charlie Osmond from Fresh Networks is being provocative by suggesting that the social media mantra of "go where the conversation is" is wrong. But his argument rather relies on the idea that the only conversation worth having is the marketing one. He gave the example of a vicar, who does his evangelism from the pulpit, but also goes to village fetes, etc. And that trying to evangelise at the fete would be a poor idea. And he's right in that. However, just trying evangelising from the pulpit if you haven't built a relationship with your parishioners by going and chatting at the fete...

He's a social media pragmatist rather than a social media purist, he suggests. I might ge tempted to insert the word "cynic" in place of "pragmatist". Certainly one could argue the methods he are advocating are cynical rather than genuine engagement...  :-)

Ooh, best idea of his bit: the last thing you want to do when launching a community is just open the doors. If you just open the doors of a restaurant, and it's empty on a Friday night, you have a problem. And that's bang on. And that brings us back to the vicar at the fete, talking to folks so they will come back to his sermons. 

And he's predicting a social media backlash. Which is pretty safe, as it's already started. :-) And, yes, I think he was being deliberately provocative up front, as he is talking what I would consider the talk, with sensible words about the fact it's going to take at least a year to build a community, and get genuine engagement.

And with that, I'm sneaking off home.

Nice cocktails from Ping Pong, though...

Snow, Travel and the Kodak Zi8

Almost inevitably, while I was sat on a train crawling its way into London in this morning's snow, the one meeting I had today was cancelled. Bah.

However, I decided to take the opportunity afforded by the weather and give my new Kodak Zi8 a bit more of a workout in the snowy conditions. Here's the result:


Shot at 720p at 60fps.

The camera has, as one might expect, somewhat underexposed the footage, but that's pretty common with snowy situations. I could have fixed most of that in iMovie, but I decided not to, for testing purposes. The camera shake isn't too bad, given that the footage is hand-held in cold conditions, and could be stabilised even more in iMovie, if I'd wanted. 

That all said, I'm reasonably pleased with the results. It's that bit more complex than the Flip HD models, and that does slow you down on occasions, but the results are usually worth it. 

I need to give it a test run with an external microphone next.

January 12, 2010

Could Local Newspapers Make Money From Snow?

Sofa in the snow
Laura has a thoughtful post up on her blog on the sort of app she'd pay for around a weather event like last week's snow:

For me it would be mobile + reliable travel news. I would happily pay to download an iPhone app from my local paper that has: reliable data on what services are running on the bus routes; which trains will be affected by the bad weather; and which parts of town aren't worth attempting to walk through.
It's an interesting idea, but I'm not sure I'd be as quick to purchase it. You see, I got pretty much all the travel information I needed during the period, just by having a few key searches saved in my Twitter application: lewisham, sutton, southeastern. By browsing the streams of tweets from these searches, I was quickly able to get a sense of the situation at both Sutton and Lewisham stations, and the practibility of getting to work by train. And I wasn't the only one to feel that Twitter was enough.

Now, admittedly, during that period I had no meeting important enough that I had to be at a particular place at a particular time. And there was an amount (if small) of effort and knowledge needed to glean the information I did. Would there be enough people who needed the information Laura suggests, and who lack the time and inclination to discover it themselves? 

Thanks to...

Just a quick thank you to John & Laura of journalism.co.uk for mentioning me as one of their journalism bloggers of 2009

Also, Neil Perkin of Only Dead Fish has nominated my Death of the News Package post for Post of the Month. Feel free to go and vote for me... :-)

Afternoon Tea Reading 12th Jan 2010

The renaming just for Martin (blog, twitter) who asked if I ever drank tea...

What is PubSubHubbub?

A video attempting to explain PubSubHubbub, a protocol that takes RSS and Atom feeds and makes them real time:

 

It's an important technology for the tech guys in publishers to get their heads around. 

January 8, 2010

A Journalist's Bottom Drawer

Champers in the drawer
Whisky is so very down-market these days... ;-)

Evening "Shouldn't I Be In The Pub?" Reading

Been far too busy today, but wanted to kill the tabs before I headed home for the weekend...

Now get you to the pub. Call yourself a journalist? Pah. :-)

Blog Software Update

The software underlying this blog has just been updated to Movable Type 4.33. It's just a security update, but if you run into any problems with the site, do let me know.

Movable Type 5 is out now, and I'll be writing about it a little in a few days, but I won't be upgrading this site to it until a few key plugins have been updated, too. 

January 7, 2010

Afternoon Coffee Reading - 7th Jan 2010

Yeah, yeah, I know. I was busy this morning...


And for the video folks:

And finally, here's Sutton looking all scenic in the snow:

Sutton in the Snow

January 6, 2010

I'm Speaking at news:rewired

newsrewiredlogo.png

I'm one of the particpants at next week's news:rewired event organised by journalism.co.uk. In fact, I'm speaking as part of a troubleshooting panel, the very panel that troubles Ben... 

I'm really looking forward to catching up with some old friend and meeting some new people at the event, and hoping that some really interesting thinking comes out of it. Here's the agenda.

In the meantime, you can enjoy my answers to five questions that Laura shot at me before the event.

Morning Coffee Reading - 6th Jan 2010

These are the perfect complement to your reflective caffeine moment today:

January 5, 2010

Can We Still Learn From Journalistic Icons?

An e-mail arrives from Amber Johnson, pointing me to a list of the 10 Iconic Jourmalists Every JStudent Should Study. I imagine most journalism bloggers got one this morning.

And this list is, well, very American and fairly predictable. But I do think the post makes a point that's worth re-iterating:

 ...but dismissing the history of newspapers and broadcasting would be a huge mistake
It would, yes.

I don't believe that the changes sweeping through journalism right now changes the fundemantals of journalism at all. What does change is the means of expression of those fundementals, and we still have quite a long way to go in unpicking those elements of journalism that a function of a particular medium and those that are the inherent basics. And there are still a lot of people confusing the characteristic of a medium with a core journalistic practice.

Morning Coffee Reading - 5th Jan 2010

Here's what's caught my eye today:


January 4, 2010

Bloggers, The TSA and Pressure on Sources

Runway Girl
Even in my quasi-social media isolation, I became aware that there was some sort of run-in happening between bloggers and the US Transport Security Administration (TSA), based on bloggers republishing a new directive in the wake of the Christmas Day bombing attempt. 

Now I've had the chance to poke around, I find it interesting for two reasons. For one, this indicates that good bloggers are becoming more and more prone to the same sorts of pressures to disclose their sources that journalists are. Both Steven Frischling and Christopher Elliott have been subpoenaed by the authorities.The line between the journalist and blogger, never very clear to begin with, is becoming ever more muatble, as journalist and blogger Mary Kirby (right) points out on her Runway Girl blog (Disclosure: Runway Girl is part of FlightGlobal, which is owned by my employer). Mike Arrington of TechCrunch makes the point rather more stridently...

The second thing? Imagine, for example, if one of the agents left behind his notebook in a public place. And if that found its way into the hands of our of our journalists, say Ms. Kirby? Gosh. No wonder Boing Boing picked up on it

It may be the dog-end of the holiday period, but the blogosphere never stops reporting....

Living (and Blogging) Better in 2010

Sad Tree
Christmas is finally, irrevocably over. I have taken down the Christmas cards and decorations at home, and am back in the office, with a denuded and forlorn looking tree (right). 

And that means my self-imposed social media diet is over. I've made tentative first passes at both my feed readers and my e-mail, and hope to be down to In-Box Zero by tomorrow afternoon. 

But I'm not pressuring myself. I made some mistakes last year - I took on too much, I didn't find enough time for myself and I certainly didn't take my alloted amount of holiday. Not this year. I've had a very clear warning in the shape of a couple of friends who burnt-out completely last year, with time off work and medical intervention to recover. I'm not walking that path, and so I'm making some changes:

  • Stop using my in-box as a to-do list. Maintain in-box zero and capture tasks elsewhere.
  • Read more. Last year I was so busy doing that I almost stopped consuming information. This year I'm going to spend more time in my feed readers, and in books and magazines. Reading is an integral part of blogging and I need to make it a regular (and guilt-free) part of my routine. 
  • Write more. The corollary of the above. Too many blog posts of all stripes went unwritten last year because they weren't "urgent". I'm one of those people who can best define their thinking by writing it out. I need to do this more.
  • Take some breaks from the office. In recent years I've slipped into the habit of being in the office from dawn to dusk. Compare that with this blog in 2004, when it was full of photos and observations from lunchtime walks. I need the break, the exercise and the thinking space. 
I'm trying not to think of these as New Years' Resolutions as much as lifestyle changes I want to implement. Let's see how it goes...

Happy New Year, all. 

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