One Man and His Blog: May 2010 Archives

May 2010 Archives

May 26, 2010

On Opinion Polls

Possibly the finest moment from Yes, Prime Minister:

Any journalist about to write about opinion polls should be forced to sit down and watch this.

It was as if thousands of iPhones cried out at once, and were silenced

I noticed an odd thing on my way home from work on Monday night. The data connectivity on my iPhone (which I tend to use continuously on train commutes) just died. I arrived home, hopped on the wifi and forgot about it. But there is an explanation:

"It was very hot yesterday and the airconditioning at our datacentre in Croydon failed," said Bob Dunn, general manager of customer experience at O2. "It had to be cooled down, and there was a network outage in London."
Slightly startling that the connections we have come to rely on are so dependent on airconditioning...

Stuff Journos Like

Stuff Journalists Like is rapidly becoming essential morning coffee reading for me. 

May 25, 2010

The Paywalled Times: An Online Private Members' Club?

And so it begins.

After a launch event last night (which was invited to but was unable to attend, alas), The Times and The Sunday Times have begun the four week transition to their new online model. The new sites are live already, and, in four weeks' time, the old sites will be frozen for good, and the paywall will go up around the new ones. You already have to register to see the new content.

The journo blogs are full of discussion on the subject, and I'll spare you my analysis of the sites as they appear now, as I don't have much to add beyond efforts like, say, Malcolm Cole's. Some people have gone as far as to say that this is an anti-social media, dead end effort

I disagree.

I think there's a concept hidden in this that most people have missed. Recent statements by people working on the project have given us two clear ideas:

  • They expect to lose 90% of their traffic in this process
  • They will enforce "real name" commenting and discussion within the paywall
And where does that leave us? Well, to me, this opens up the possibility that what News International are actually trying to create is, in essence, a private members' club. There will be a limited number of people joining in on discussion, largely around content. James Harding even highlights the fact that the content should trigger the question "What do you think?" in the video above. People sharing what they think will be identifiable, and they will have paid an entrance fee to get in there. This is, in fact, a community model, just one that differs from the wide, inter-connected community model we're used to on the open web.

I recall Lee Bryant saying at last year's Social Media Influence conference that sometimes its the wall that defines the community. And that maxim will be tested on these sites.

Now, if this is what The Times is attempting, it's a very interesting experiment, and one that I'll be watching with a great deal of interest. 

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May 24, 2010

Free Mini Guardian

Interesting marketing effort, handed to me as I arrived at Charing Cross this evening:

Is this new or have they been doing this for a while?

Posted via email from One Man & His Posterous

Old Media Is Your "Trendy" Uncle

There's an interesting post over on by guest blogger Aaron Cohen that points out that the speed from launch to mainstream media adoption of new social web tools is growing ever faster.

I've been chuckling ever since I read it, because it's left me with the image of "old media" as your embarrassing uncle, desperately buying albums from new bands in an attempt to cling on to his long-gone youth...

How Deep In Data Should We Dive?

Nice summation of data journalism, and how much the average hack should know:

Journalism is about asking the right questions. We research stories before we interview subjects so that we can ask pertinent questions whose answers will illuminate the subject. We need to be able to do the same thing with our data - we need to know what questions to ask and how, so that even if we can't make the tools ourselves we can hand over the task to someone else without asking the impossible or wasting their time.

Nice post from Mary Hamilton, whose acquaintance I had the pleasure of making at jeecamp. 

May 21, 2010

At Jeecamp

Made it to a jeecamp at last - and not before time. This is the last one.

Expect intermittent live-blogging through the day. Or not. Been too busy talking to people. :-)

Live blogs from and Online Journalism Blog

Ego Linkage

Other people reporting on me around teh interwebs:

More on Students and National Newspapers

A couple more responses to the "students want to work on national newspapers" debate:

May 20, 2010

Paywalls, Apps and the Frontline Club

Frontline DiscussionLast night I took myself off to the Frontline Club, for a discussion on digital media, mobiles and paywalls - based on the question "Will Apple save media?". All relevant, cool and topical stuff. However, I should have known that the presence of Gurtej Sandhu, digital director of Times newspapers there, this was going to turn into a discussion primarily about paywalls - and indeed it did, despite the presence of several iPads in the room. The News International paywalls have become the discursive equivalent of black holes - bending all conversation out of shape around them…

I found the disconnect between the representatives of our nationals newspapers there - Sandhu and Marybeth Christie, head of product development at - and the audience was marked. Every time they were questioned about "the conversation" - which is essentially social media shorthand for the vast web of interlinks stories, blogs, tweets and the like around a particular topic - Sandhu tended to reply with comments about being on as many platforms as possible, and Christie came very close, at chair Steve Hewlett's prompting, to equating social sharing with theft. The message seemed to be clear - the majority of the audience, and the remaining two panelists, thought that the social web was important, the national newspaper representative did not.

William Owen of Made by Many identifies three fallacies he sees in national newspaper thinking, based on what he heard at the event. I think he's absolutely spot on - in fact, I think all three are extensions of the national newspaper-centric thinking I highlighted earlier in the week. I challenged Sandhu on this, suggesting that he assertion that we were all in an experimental phase around paying for content was nonsense. After all, RBI has been doing it for 15 years, His reply implied that there was something different going on here because they're the first general interest newspaper to follow that route. But really, does the source of the content matter that much? Doesn't each piece of content stand on fall on its own amongst the web of information out there?

The closer we get to The Times paywall experiment, the more excited I get about it. We have two very different sets of assumptions amongst publishers, and those interested in publishing, about where the value lies in journalism. This experiment will, over time, expose which assumptions have the deeper flaws in them.

Patrick Smith has posted a write-up of the event, as well as a video of the whole thing over on the Frontline Club blog.

May 19, 2010

Student Journalists: Ones to Watch

A very long time ago - in the 1980s in fact - I got my start in journalism working on the Imperial College student newspaper Felix, before going on to edit the Queen Mary student rag, Cub. It's been a long journey since then, but I learnt a hell of a lot from those days, while having an absolute blast.

Back then, keeping track of the student media scene was basically impossible, but now, with most student rags online, you can see what the wannabe journalists of the future are up to. And that seems to be the idea behind Ones to Watch:

Ones to Watch
It's a neat idea for a blog - linking to the best of the student journalism out there. A classic aggregation model, that takes something disparate and boils it down to something useful for a wider audience. 

The site launched today, with a mix of links to news, features and jobs. If I were to raise any criticism at all, it's that it's all a bit serious at the moment. Student journalism can be scurrilous, swashbuckling and sometimes downright outrageous, and I'd love to see that reflected, too.

But it's in my feed reader, and I'll be reading with interest. 

May 18, 2010

Newspapers, Greenslade and Journalism Students

Now, this deserves a response:

Journalism professor who spent most of his working life in national newspapers defends a national newspaper-centric view of the world.

There's a surprise. :-)

Greenslade actually misrepresents my position in his post, through omission:

Tinworth is upset that Caesar ignores local papers. But the truth is that my post-grad students ignore local journalism too

Well, yes, I am upset that Caesar ignores local newspapers, but only as part of a wider concern that he ignores every form of journalism bar national newspapers. And it shouldn't be a surprise that most journalism students aren't aiming at local press if they have any industry awareness at all - the terrible salaries and serious problems of that sector are much reported. By missing the broader point I was making, he misrepresents my argument.

However, the difference between them and Caesar (and me) is between "is" and "ought." Caesar and his interviewees are telling like it is. His critics are saying what ought to happen.

Really? I'm saying that there "ought" to be many other types of media? I think you'll find that there already are many other types of media that employ journalists.

Continue reading Newspapers, Greenslade and Journalism Students.

May 17, 2010

Monetising Conversation

Six Apart have added an interesting feature to their Typepad hosted blogging platform. Typepad Conversations is reminiscent of Vox's QotD -  a daily question which people can answer as fodder for their own blogs.

The interesting thing is that some of these questions are sponsored:

The Six Apart blog post goes into a little more detail. I can see some purists twitching at this mixing of "the comversation" and "commerce", but given how opt-in it is, it looks like an interesting model to me.

Here's a question I answered and the conversation page for that question.
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Who Cares About The Front Page?

Some of my most popular blog posts have been written when I'm really, really cross about something. But sometimes, I read something that puts me into such an incandescent rage that I just have to put the keyboard down and walk away. And so it was when I saw this article in The Sunday Times  being much discussed on Twitter yesterday.

It wasn't the core message of the article that annoyed me, because that's basically true: this is a rough time to be coming into journalism, with most of the traditional publishers shedding jobs, not creating them. (We have some vacancies, BTW) And there are a lot more journalism graduates emerging than there are traditional media jobs around.

But, as Adam Westbrook, a man the best first name around and some real experience in the new ways of the world, writes the author, Ed Caesar, misses the whole area of entrepreneurial journalism. Adam's article heads off into the world of useful, helpful advice that, if you're about to graduate in journalism, I suggest you go read. I, however, want to take another path. I want to focus on the desperate myopia on display in the original article, the perception of the world through the filter of the national newspapers. 
Continue reading Who Cares About The Front Page?.

That George Osborne Speech

Given the state of the economy, the state of my to-do list and the amount of time available to me right now, I couldn't resist taking the speech George Osborne, our new Chancellor, gave this morning and putting it through Wordle.

Wordle of George Osborne's speech
Not many clear messages there, other than the fact he likes the word "fiscal"... Is this just a complicated issue, or is Osborne just not very good at making a point?

May 14, 2010

How Our Social Networks Change Us

A fascinating look into the behaviour of social networks (the offline kind) and how they can influence many aspects of your life. Thought-provoking, isn't it? If we're only just starting to understand the impact of traditional human relationships, it'll be a long time before we understand the impacts of the online kind.

You can see or listen to a much longer version of the talk at the RSA website.

Less News, More Reporting

Farmers Weekly colleague Caroline on the sheer rudeness of the coalition government:

It's taken long enough, but we've finally got ourselves a new DEFRA secretary. Caroline Spelman was announced as the department's head honcho at about 7pm last night. If I were paranoid, I'd say the politicians were timing their announcements just to wind us journos up. Gordy decided to tell everyone he was stepping down at 5pm (probably just as most of the national newspapers were getting ready to set their pages), while we were on our third version of the lead story for this week's Farmers Weekly, ready to push the button to send the magazine to the printer, when Cazza got the official nod.
Ah, the tyranny of print, the necessity of delay, as the presses roll, the collators and binders work and the trucks deliver. 

But that's not the only tyranny at work:

Take, for instance, the Haiti earthquake of January 12 this year. It got almost blanket news coverage for days, running on the front page of the national newspapers and precipitating a huge outpouring of donations. But then, slowly, despite the 230,000 estimated deaths and the rebuilding campaign led by Wyclef Jean, the earthquake was overtaken by 'new' news stories.
Ciaran attributes it to the fickle market for news. But I can't help but wonder if it's a touch more complicated than that. For one thing, we have the tyranny of space - the limitation enforced by the physical number of pages in a publication. But we also have the tyranny of news over reporting. The internet is damn good at news - far better than paper ever was, and ever will be now. 

But print is damn good at reporting - at long, in depth reporting. Words, photos, infographics. All the things that print does so well. Would I buy a magazine with some really well-researched, written and produced updates on the Haiti situation? Damn right, I would. 

Maybe, just maybe, we need a little less news and a little more reporting. 

Our Turbulent National Press

We've had the digital exodus from The Guardian.

We've had the dethroning of Will Lewis at The Telegraph.

And now, The Guardian and are reporting redundancies at The Times as the paywall goes up, and further departures from The Telegraph. 

Anyone get the feeling that the internal political battle for the future of our national newspapers is really heating up?
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May 13, 2010

Experimenting, with chair

Zi8 on a chair
Trying out a little project to boost internal knowledge sharing and communication. I'll let you know how it goes tomorrow.

Noted In Passing

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May 12, 2010

Facebook: Opportunity or Threat for Publishers?

Facebook, Inc.

Image via Wikipedia

I have spent a lot of time thinking about Facebook in recent weeks. The announcements at f8 were, I think, significant in how the social network is starting to overlay its social graph over other people's content - or, without the webby jargon, about how your web reading experience can become a social activity through your Facebook account. And I'm think about how that might affect our business.

Some context: three years ago, I tended to describe Facebook as "training wheels social media", with people who got enthusiastic tending to move on to other things fairly swiftly. Things have changed since then. Facebook has developed rapidly, and for many people it effectively is social media. If they have no strong impulse towards creation, be it photos, art, video or text, then it's the perfect place: an easy way to share what they do creates, and exchange messages, with their social circle at a central point. The arrival of the News Feed, which is deeply bloggy in form (items of content with comments below, reverse chronological order) has solved the "what do I do on Facebook?" problem in one fell swoop, and pushed it towards mainstream acceptance. 

The ability to take this network of people, overlay it over your content, and allow them to share it with their friends through Facebook has obvious attractions to publishers. Social sharing is, as Shane Richmond wrote recently, the most important behavioural shift of the 21st century. People market your content for you, and then share information about themselves through that process? Intriguing.That has all sorts of implications for both content and commercial personalisation. 

There is, however, a nasty wee fly wriggling in the Facebook ointment, and that's privacy. As Alan Patrick posted earlier, there's money out there, and people to take it, for a new social network that respects privacy as Facebook, well, doesn't. The early adopters of the web are deeply unhappy with Facebook's shifting approach to privacy, and many of them are deleting their Facebook accounts. Is this something that will stay within the tech bubble, or is it the beginning of the end for Facebook as Alan predicts? Facebook is, I suspect, gambling on the trade-off; it expects that most people will think that the better personalised experience they get is worth the transfer of data. But is that a good assumption?

I've been experimenting with these new tools a little. You can now Like every post on OM&HB with the little button below. My Typepad blogs have Like buttons for the whole blog (an example). And I'm seeing use of them. It's less than I'm seeing around, say Twitter and Tweetmeme, but it's there and growing.

With my corporate hat on, that leaves me weighing corporate imperative against the political issues around Facebook. Given that the general public are far more accepting of Facebook than the web elite, can any publisher that aspires to mainstream success afford to ignore the new Facebook?

Update: Facebook is being put to the question on privacy issues tonight

Update 2: Facebook is doing very well in display advertising. That's one for the "threat" column.

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May 10, 2010

Afternoon Coffee Reading - 10th May 2010

Reading the newspaper: Brookgreen Gardens in P...

Image via Wikipedia

The "Parliament can go hang itself" edition...

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Web 3.0: Making Data Meaningful

Superb, fascinating short documentary on what the future of the web might hold:

May 7, 2010

An Alternative Form of Journalism

Liveblog of a talk by citizen journalism site OhMyNews founder Yeon-ho Oh. Some thought-provoking stuff. 

Blogger Goes Corporate

Google is adding Blogger (amongst other things) to Google Apps.

That's going to be a significant sea change for corporate blogging.

Was This An Online Election?

So, how has the online media done on this election? The BBC has reported unprecedented levels of traffic to its site this morning, but Paul Bradshaw has a good post up, suggesting that there's a degree of homogenisation amongst the online news outlets

One of Computer Weekly's bloggers is claiming that It Was Twitter Wot Won It, but I'm not sure I agree. Pre-election, I found Twitter too much of an echo chamber, and I've seen both Labour and LibDem supporters acknowledging that overnight. I've actually found it more interesting in the last eight hours or so, for discussion of consequences, rather than as a bellwether for the likely result. 

Personally, I got most of my news from the TV - the BBC in fact - only switching largely to the internet once I got into the office. How about you?

What RBI's Business Bloggers are saying about the General Election

Palace of Westminster.

Image via Wikipedia

So, popping my day job hat on, what have RBI's pool of bloggers been saying about the general election?

Estates Gazette's bloggers have been particularly busy:

New Scientist's S Word blog thinks that science lost the election.

Community Care's Mad World blog is running a poll on what its readers want from a hung parliament, while The Big Picture asks if more people with learning disabilities voted this time around.

Computer Weekly's Tony Collins notes that the minister responsible for local service provision contracts lost his seat to the Tories by the slimmest of margins.

Microscope's Simon Quicke thinks the result is bad for small businesses.

The Asian Chemical Connections blog from ICIS bemoans the lack of personality in politicians today. 

And Farmers Weekly's Matthew Naylor notes that England has a Tory majority - it's only the devolved Scotland and Wales keeping us hung...
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May 6, 2010

How TED Gave Away Content - and Won

Fascinating talk outlining how letting go of their content allowed TED to grow as a business:

Generally Electing

Lewisham Polling Station
Like so many others, I stopped off to vote on the way in to work this morning. I had three separate ballot papers: for the national government, for the local council and for the local mayor. 

I was particularly pleased to be able to vote for local blogger Max Calo, who has done some great campaigning work in the area in recent years, and is standing for a council seat for the LibDems.

This has been the first general election of my adult life when the outcome feels very much in doubt. I'm looking forward to the counts and over-night coverage immensely. Are you?

May 5, 2010

Journalism and Hung Parliaments

Don't you love blog posts that save their most interesting observation for the last paragraph?

Of course, if we do get a deeply hung parliament then that will also raise all sorts of interesting procedural issues for journalists - especially the BBC. Generally, governments - especially new ones - are given the dominant position in news coverage and allowed to dictate terms and set agendas because they have the popular mandate. But if we have a minority administration it raises the question of just how to balance stories.
Based on the polls, we might not have long to answer that question...

May 4, 2010

On Political Tribalism

Stephen Fry just articulated with astonishing clarity and wit exactly what I was trying to say last week .

Choice quotes:

For a Labour voter to hate a Tory voter or vice versa is for us all to stumble into the revolting and nonsensical little-endian big-endian madness that Swift pilloried in Gulliver's Travels.

However one thing has remained constant in my political affiliations, and that is a deep contempt and fear of tribalism. When I meet a Labour voter who can only hiss, stamp and fume at any Tory, or a Conservative voter who can only jeer and condemn a Labour voter then I bridle, bristle and simply writhe with indignation. Let this be known and celebrated: we all have the right to vote the way we want. We all have our reasons and motivations and they do not justify anyone insulting or reviling us.


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Electoral Fraud and Violence Against Journalists

I'm surprised by how little reaction to this story has cropped up amongst the social spaces I inhabit online:

I didn't, but I explained I was a journalist for The Independent looking to speak to a man at an address in the area, who was standing as a candidate in the local elections, about allegations of postal vote fraud. "Can we see your note pad," the boy asked. I declined and then the first punch came - landing straight on my nose, sending blood and tears streaming down my face. Then another. Then another.
An Independent journalist, investigating electoral fraud, is beaten up in the pursuit of a story. As Brian Micklethwait, a blogger whose work I have long enjoyed, puts it on Samizdata, a libertarian blog:

Isn't trying to learn the truth about things, sometimes naively and foolishly, going where people who already know it all are too wise to venture, what journalism is all about?

Yes. And that's why I think this might be a more important story than many that have washed over the media in this election campaign. 

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The Merger of Blogs and Social Networks

One of the "joys" of living in the social media world is those days that you wake up, and discover your e-mail in-box crammed with something - comments on one of your posts, Twitter follows or, as happened this morning, a metric ton of new followers on Typepad, where I run a small handful of blogs. The venerable hosted blogging platform has been going through a major reinvention over the last year, integrating social networking with its base platform, to make blogging a more social activity. If this seems familiar, it's because it's been baked into newer platforms like Tumblr and Posterous from the very start. Even WordPress is bringing BuddyPress, its social networking addon, closer and closer to the core of the product.

Right down the bottom of the overnight e-mails was the explanation: I'd been added to the Typepad Bloggers Directory by one of the team, as a pick of the week:

Me in the Typepad Directory
And that leads me to two thoughts:

  1. My worries some months back about blog platform innovation slowing were unfounded. All of the platforms I listed above are adding features at a rapid clip.
  2. This is the year when social networks and blogs are going to merge very deeply indeed - and any publisher would be unwise to ignore this.
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This page is an archive of entries from May 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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