One Man and His Blog: November 2010 Archives

November 2010 Archives

November 30, 2010

The Two Direction Era of Publishing

I couldn't help but chuckle, as two stories came to my attention in a very short period of time:

So, which way are you going? Towards more sharable content or less?

(And yes, I've added the LinkedIn Share button already)

November 29, 2010

Hacks'n'Hackers Day at RBI

Anyone with even a passing interest in data journalism will be aware of the hacks'n'hackers days that have been going on all over the country. Well, today is RBI's turn to host one, which is being run by the good folks at ScraperWiki.

After a morning briefing, liveblogged by Sarah Booker, the teams have formed and are hard at work scraping data and building projects from it. I'll try to chronicle what happens as the day goes on, but here's some photos of the day in progress:

RBI hacks'n'hackers day in progress

Solving a data scraping problem

Heads down, building a project

Work in progress

November 26, 2010

The award-winning Olympics blogger

The award-winning Paul Norman
I thought Mr Paul Norman was looking a little rough around the edges this morning at Estates Gazette's busting metropolitan HQ. I didn't figure out why until I got around to catching up with his excellent Olympics blog on my iPad.

Last night Paul bagged the multimedia journalist of the year award from the IPB, largely for his work on that blog. 

As I mentioned to Paul, his is one of a handful of our blogs I cite when training or advising people as an excellent example of beat blogging. It's great to see his skill recognised by people in his niche, too.

What a great end to the week. 
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Blogs: The new source of poster quotes

Windows Phone 7 & Gizmodod
I noticed this (huge) advert for Windows Phone 7 on my way through London Bridge this morning. Now, I must have seen it over a dozen times in the last few weeks, but it was only today that what it actually said registered with me.

There was the normal quote from a publication extolling the virtues of the new product - but this was no national newspaper or technology magazine.


A quote. On a huge advert. In one of the mainline commuter stations. In one of the biggest cities in the world.

That feels like another tipping point. 
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November 25, 2010

Storify's Story

Storify has been on my "must experiment with" list for the past couple of months. It just shot up towards the top, thanks to this video:


News and Journalism are not synonyms

vanityfeature My most recent bugbear has been the confusion between “news” and “journalism” in the online debate about the future of our industry. As I see it, news is a subset of journalism, but not the entirety of it. But then, as a former features editor, I would say that, wouldn’t I? :-)

I was reminded of this over lunch, most of which I spent reading this feature from Vanity Fair: The Case of the Vanishing Blonde, linked by Kottke.

It’s not, by any standards, news. The core facts and events were reported a while back. But it is a great piece of journalism. Compelling reading, telling a great story that’s factual. It’s great, compelling feature writing. (And yes, I did read it on a screen…) Great journalism, in other words.

On Social Commerce

This made me chuckle:

(A point made on one of the posts three years back was that Social Commerce was like your friend coming up to you at a pub or dinner party dressed in Coca Cola gear (or any other brand you care to name) and trying to recommend you buy it, knowing he gets paid for it, and wondering why the guy didn't realise he was being a complete w*nker)

November 24, 2010

Journalism is exciting. And don't you forget it.

Day 134 - MACBOOK.jpg

I was reminded this morning that this is, despite all appearances, a great time to be in journalism.

I've been training on a series of blogging workshops for various of our magazines, doping some close analysis of the blogs they have, setting a strategy for improving them, and then reviewing progress a few months on. (Dave Mascord has been doing the heavy lifting in organising them. I just turn up and pontificate.) The follow-up with the Community Care team this morning suggested that at least some of them are really coming to enjoy the freedom to experiment that the medium gives them.

And there's so much exploration to be done. We have new tools, from iPhones to Flip cams, and new methods of delivering journalism, from beat blogging to data journalism. There are new audiences to reach out to, and engage with. There are new audiences to serve, and they may be as active in content production as we are.

The boundaries are breaking. The playing field is not what it was. We don't have all the answers yet. We may not even have most of them. Everybody who comes into journalism has a chance of being one of the people who helps redefine this profession. How can you not be excited by that and call yourself a journalist? This is an inquisitive, status quo-challenging profession. We should enjoy change and the death of received wisdom.

So, sure, business models are being disrupted. And sure, journalist's working methods are having to change. But change is part of life, and I find the current environment a hell of a lot more inspiring that the stultifying, formulaic received wisdom journalism that defined so much of the first 10 years of my working life.

There is, in short, room to play. Why do children play? To learn about themselves and their environment. That's where we all are now. We are children stepping into a whole new publishing environment, a whole new information ecosystem, and we have to learn our role in it. And we learn by playing. Or "experimenting" as we grown-ups like to call it, to pretend that it's something important.

I'm fairly sure I do a post like this every nine months or so. And if you've seen this before, I apologise. But I do think it's worth repeating. I don't want to see the doom-mongers who bemoan the end of the Old Ways defining the conversation about online journalism. I want to keep the excitement alive.

Photo by Margot Conner, used under a Creative Commons license

November 22, 2010

Afternoon Coffee Reading: The Return

Afternoon Coffee
I'm back at work, and Afternoon Coffee Reading is back on this blog. I was taken to task by a colleague the other day, who had apparently found them good readin', but who didn't find the equivalent links shared intermittently on Twitter as useful. So, here goes:

November 15, 2010

Student Protests, 1989 Style

Anti-Student Loans Demo
November 1989. I was not long turned 18, in my first year at Imperial College, and working on Felix, the student newspaper. Oh, and Margaret Thatcher's Conservative government was proposing to replace student grants with student loans. Cue a wave of protests and demos...

The first of those was on November 22nd, meeting at 1pm on Malet Street, London. I was there - but not as a protestor. I had my notebook, I had my camera. I was reporting

Over two decades later, I was watching this year's demos begin, and discussing it with others on Twitter. I couldn't resist digging out my old negatives, scanning them and sharing them, as a point of comparison with last week:



Things have, I think, changed...

November 13, 2010

A Little Admin Note

Beach in the sun
I'm now on a week's holiday - this could mean almost no blogging here, loads of blogging here, or maybe loads of blogging over there.

However it turns out, see you all a week on Monday.

November 12, 2010

Le Web 10 - Counting Down The Days

I've just finished an hour or two looking at Paris hotels. Why? Because it's coming around to the Le Web time, and I need to get my ducks in a row.

Le Web has become, I think, the major gathering point of the European Web 2.0 community each December - significant enough now that more and more major players from the states are making the trip over. This will be my fifth Le Web, and my first as one of the official bloggers. What does that mean? I'll be doing all the liveblogging I normally do, except with a little more access to speakers and organisers - which will be cool. 

Here's a video outlining what to expect this year:


I'm really looking forward to it. Le Web seems to go through cycles of controversy, from 2006's "political hijack" to 2008 "deepfreeze". That makes this year a controversial year - and that should be a blast.

There's still time to sign up to join us in Paris. Let me know if you're going to be there...

November 10, 2010

Competition, newspapers and webpages: the competition conundrum

Roy Greenslade has been kind enough to link to this blog for the second week running, this time highlighting yesterday's post about Clay Shirky and newspaper competition. He makes a point that, while I think is correct, I also think is tangential to the point I was making:

Newspapers have competed with radio and television for more than half a century. Competed for audiences, competed for advertisers and competed in terms of journalistic content, not to mention entertainment.

Well, yes. That's true. But it only goes so far. In the end, newspapers are also competing with computer games, movies, reading a book, soaking in the bath… Everything is a competition for our time at some point.

I think, however, that Shirky (and, by extension, I) was talking about a much more specific point. When I decide I want to buy a newspaper, it's a pretty binary decision; I'm either going to buy a newspaper, or not. I can't ever recall an occasion when I thought "Hmm. Might buy a newspaper. Or maybe I'll listen to the radio." The competition does not exist in the consumers' mind in that way. Once I've made the decision to buy a newspaper, then I make the decision which newspaper to buy.

The decision point online is very, very different. When I sit down at my laptop, or fiddle with my iPhone, or pass a commute with my iPad, a newspaper website is no different to any other website. I rarely specifically choose to visit a newspaper website, any more than I chose to visit a blog. I'm not sitting there going "I feel like a blog, what blog should I choose?". And I'm certainly not going "I fancy visiting a newspaper, which newspaper shall I visit?". About the only website that I treat as a destination in any way at this point is Facebook - and that's a testament to how well that network has made itself something of a walled garden. In fact, the majority of my visits to both blogs and newspaper websites is triggered by an external event - an interesting post popping up in my news reader or, in a less of an edge case manner, a link shared by a friend or colleague on Twitter, on Facebook or on our internal Yammer network.

The key point I was trying to make was that the decision point that leads to consumption of online newspaper content is radically, completely different to that of consuming print content.

We still see our content as a structured entity, a collection of pages that are ordered in some way, and which people pick and choose their way through. That is, substantially, a myth. It's just not how people use the internet, and it's not how the internet is designed. The power of the link is that, potentially, every page on the internet is adjacent to every other page. It's built into the very underpinnings of the web. The link laughs at our concepts of site structure.

I was chatting to our metrics expert last week, and she, thankfully, was able to back up with raw data what my understanding of the way the internet works is right: people rarely use website "home pages". Our obsession with them is a legacy of our "package" thinking from the print era. Online new and opinion content is atomised, and people consume it page by page, not as an entire package. (Task or data-based products are different, and I think people do see them as a whole entity - that's both why Facebook and our paywalled products work, I think).

So, to expand upon the quote from Shirky that both Greenslade and I were commenting on, it's not so much that newspapers are competing with other websites online, it's that every page online competes for our attention with every other page online. And that's what the industry has to get its head around.

 

November 9, 2010

Paywalls and the problem of competition

Clay Shirky has brought forth another long piece on the economics of the paywall business that's worth a read. I'd just like to highlight a single sentence, though, as I think it's a point that's missed far too often in discussion of the economics of content online:

Newspapers compete with other newspapers, but newspaper websites compete with other websites.

[emphasis mine]

Not with other newspaper websites, but with other websites in general...

November 8, 2010

How Boris Johnson gets his news

From his column in The Telegraph, in which he explains why he barely noticed the BBC journalists' strike:

I consume vast quantities of news - but almost entirely without the assistance of the BBC. I get up early and read a fair quantity of newsprint, notably this paper and the FT. But if I then switch on my computer and go to Google news, I can see what everyone is reading across the planet.

I can watch stories break in real time.

Never had him down as a Google News man...

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Pretty full house at City Uni

November 4, 2010

Cardiff Journalism Postgrads 2010

November 3, 2010

9 Years Under The Blog

I started blogging 9 years ago today.

I remember pressing "publish" on that post, being shocked at how little effort it took compared to using our web CMS at work, and thinking "this is going to change everything".

Nine years on, I realise what an understatement that was…

November 2, 2010

Paywall Quote of the Day

George Brock:
A prediction: in a year or two, paywall knowledge and software will have advanced so far that we will look back to this point and marvel that anything as crude as a fixed-price, 100% paywall was even thought of.
Indeed.

Elevenses Reborn

Just a photo post, really, marking the rebirth of our internal Elevenses knowledge-sharing sessions, now under the steady hand of Mr Martin Couzins:

Martin Presents, Tim Listens

Karl and the crowd

A good session this morning, looking again at video. Amazing how much changes so fast in this field...

On those Times paywall numbers

I am surprised by the amount of positive reaction that's going around to the news that The Times has around 105,000 paying online customers of various stripes. (Full break-down of the numbers.) Partially I'm surprised, because nobody seems to be comparing acquisition cost to revenue, as well as the technology development needed to sustain this effort, and are treating the revenue as all money to be spent on journalism. Or, indeed, how much advertising revenue they've lost. But mainly because, well, I think those numbers will go down, not up. 

Here's the thing - I'm two of those 105,000. I've paid for the iPad app monthly sub a couple of times, and I currently have a paywall subscription. The problem for The Times, and the assumption that subs will grow from that base is this: I'm going to go from two of those subscribers to 1, or probably zero. 

While I used the Times iPad app quite a lot in the early months, I've stopped using it entirely in the last couple of months. The free Telegraph app is part of that, but really, I'm using my RSS reader on the iPad in preference to the Times format. The lack of search, the lack of ability to share and comment on what I'm reading actually makes it less valuable to me than many free-to-air sites are. They are, in effect, asking me to pay for a reduction in value as compared to competitive products. That's not a good proposition. And yes, the same holds true for the the paywalled version, too. I'm hanging on in there for two reasons: a couple of bloggers I value, and the fact that unsubscribing is difficult - you have to phone up and do it, you can't cancel it on the web. 

And the cynic in me can't help feeling that there's a reason for that...

That aside, the really significant figures aren't these - they are the ones from a year's time. Then we'll know how this is really going. 

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November 1, 2010

The new trusted sources

Really nice summation of the problem with the "people will always turn to trusted brands" idea that many people in traditional media companies cling to as their hope for survival:

The community gathers around its self-created experts, and with little cost structure to manage, a quality content origination process is activated. It might seem impossible that the value that publishers create will be completely removed, but as we see more and more authors, musicians, and industry experts choose to set up without a 'publisher', the likelihood increases. Even beyond these emergent experts, we have an ocean of what is popularly called user generated content, which is of varying degrees of quality, but on aggregate poses a substantial risk to traditional publishers.
Andrew Davies, co-founder of Idio, hits the nail on the head here (and the whole article is worth a read). Yes, people will turn to trusted brands - but those brands will often be people rather than the traditional media brands of the past. And there will be a whole range of trusted sources, from friends, through to industry experts. The question is: can you build a business out of a group of trusted individuals? 

On liveblogging and #likeminds

Some people have been saying some very kind things about my liveblogging of Like Minds last week:

@adders your coverage of #likeminds was incredible - how do you do that? Superfast and insightful http://bit.ly/9DAFsdless than a minute ago via TweetDeck


There's two answers to his question: passion and practice.

The second is the easier one to address: I've been liveblogging events since 2005-ish, and half a decade's practice, mistakes, successes and experimentation makes a difference. There's a post to be written at some point about how I liveblog and what kit I use, but that will probably have to wait until after my next big liveblogging appointment: Le Web in Paris, where I'm one of their official bloggers. 

Passion is the harder one. My wife refers to my liveblogging as "taking notes for the class" - betraying her university lecturer view of the world a little - and I think she's spot on. Back in my reporting days, it always used to annoy me that I had to compress all the great material covered at conferences I attended in 300 to 700 words. You could never more than skim the surface of the event. I was always a prolific note-taker at conferences, and from there it was only a short step to taking those notes in public. In my notebook, or in my MacBook these days, the notes are only useful to me. On a blog, they're useful to the whole community, whether or not they were at the event. And that feels like a worthwhile use of my time.

It helps, I think, that I'm the sort of person who thinks things through most effectively when writing them down. So not only is liveblogging a conference useful to the community, it's useful to me.

But, truthfully, it's an addictive high for me. I just love doing it. It's probably an endorphin-rush thing, the narcotic power of the deadline magnified to the umpteenth degree. A day's liveblogging leaves me tired, a bit dazed and (always) thirsty - but dammit, I enjoy it. 

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