One Man and His Blog: May 2011 Archives

May 2011 Archives

May 28, 2011

Anatomy of a Comment Threat

Love LOVE Love this:

Made by students doing a Design Jam in Dundee yesterday. 

May 27, 2011

#newsrw - Liveblogging liveblogging - the meta death of the pyramid story

Marcus Warren, editor of the Telegraph website, hosting a panel on liveblogging

A session on liveblogging. Which I'm liveblogging. Blog will eat itself.

Matt Wells, The Guardian

Matt Wells

The infamous Louse and Flea post is being mentioned (discussed here). Matt thinks that liveblogs are one of the best ways of covering stories that don't have a clear beginning, middle and end. The inverse pyramid story may be the single biggest reason that journalists are mistrusted. It encourages sensationalism.

Liveblogs haven't developed by accident. They started (on The Guardian at least) with minute-by-minute coverage of sports and television events. They are a "uniquely digital" format (Martin Belam). They are the quickest way of publishing updates on a story and curated and verified relevant material from social media - the journalists can give them narrative and context. They're interactive, encouraging many, many comments.

However, they're almost the victims of their success. Threads of comments 1000 strong are hard to monitor, so they've employed people just to do that. And it can be hard for newcomers to pick up the thread. Regular summaries and links to pyramid stories can ease this.

Has Twitter killed liveblogging as Tim Montgomerie has suggested? It can do, if you have the right people on Twitter - but it doesn't give you the breathing space or room for context that liveblogging does.

We need to make them easier to comprehend, easier to navigate, and easier to escape. The Guardian's liveblogs can have up to 10 people working on them.

Alan Marshall, head of digital production, PA

Alan Marshall

Marshall kicks off by pointing out that liveblogging looks a lot like an evolution of traditional newswire update stream. It's just "live coverage" he suggests, showing the traditional media aversion to the word "blog".  They offer liveblogs on several topics to their customers. Liveblogging is just another outlet for rapid coverage. They use ScribbleLive as their platform.

Users want to get involved and interact with them - which is very new to them at the PA. Ran a liveblog through the whole week of the royal wedding. They started to see audiences building from the Monday - and it was a real watershed, with reporters filing via Twitter... Prepared background material kept the discussion moving.

They can syndicate their liveblogs, allowing customers to customise them with their own, local or specialist content. It's a new version of the agency model. The royal wedding was a test case for them. Next two are William & Kate's first overseas visit (to Canada and the US) and the Olympics next year.

It's a new way of doing what reporters have always done. It's allowing their journalists to include the sort of material that was never relevant for the newswires. Encouraging their journalists to be a bit more quirky and irreverent.

Paul Gallagher, Manchester Evening News

Paul gallagher

Been liveblogging for two years on MEN. He categorises that as "early on" To me that's "late to the party"... UPDATE: see Sarah's comment below for details of when the MEN started liveblogging. 

Their first experiments taught them that it was more of a service to their readers than traditional forms of journalism. Over 300 in the last 18 months or so. English Defence League rally was their first. Huge peaks in traffic when they do liveblogs. They did liveblogging of the snow disruption, which allowed their readers to contribute live information on travel problems. they've honed their skills over time, getting better at incorporating video and maps.

It's also been a very powerful way of teaching journalists about the value of social media. They get to experience its power in real time as they participate in the liveblog. And readers stay on liveblogs for an hour or two, rather than the minute or two for a traditional article.

Local councillors are now tweeting from council meetings, and they can aggregate that with reporters' tweets to create local democracy liveblogging. Some resistance from councillors, but generally they've had enthusiasm. They go to more council meetings than they used to - and get more stories. It's become accepted practice for all reporters to report everything live, and then develop it for print. (he should be prouder of how deeply they've integrated liveblogging rather than how "early" they way. Better not earlier...)

It has made their coverage of local politics better than ever.

Anna Doble, social media producer, Channel 4 news

Anna Doble

Finds it hilarious that people link liveblogging with the death of journalism - it's clearly not. Their liveblogging allows them to bring live reaction, and insights into how the programme is developing throughout the day. "shows we are really busy from early doors". The budget liveblog had a panel of real people to join in with them, not just the normal suspects. Gave it an extra dimension.

Mantra: a touch of mischief

It gives correspondents a new point of contact with the audience they've never had. They can share video far earlier than they normally do. Let's use the broadcast skill they have around them. Loads more footage than they can use in the bulletins - so use it in the liveblogs.

Very personality-driven. The anchors are the hub of the newsroom and there will be more of them within the blogs to come. Interviews, chats, etc. They have so much knowledge to share.


Not entirely convinced by the link between talk radio call-ins. There's only one basic similarity - user contribution. As Anna pointed out, call ins tend to be dominated by a few people, whereas liveblogs are potential way more open - and have the professional contributors.

Accuracy and verification issue raises its head yet again. Shouldn't verification be inherent to any journalism process. Why do so many people assume that social media means throwing it out of the window? As Matt Wells replied, you being your same basic journalistic skills and value to liveblogging as you do anything else.

Matt Wells suggests that the journalist ability to filter and build a narrative from a stream of information is a key skill. Paul Gallagher suggests that guidelines should boil down to common sense and journalistic skepticism. Marcus Warren mentions that the ability to work sources applies just as much to Twitter. Alan Marshall highlight the ability to spot the key information from the wave of social media information that's coming at you. Anna Doble suggests learning a foreign language and the ability to spot a story that isn't being told is vital.

Liveblogging from court? One mistake away from them being banned in courts, says Gallagher. We'd like to cover them live, but you wouldn't be able to have the audience interaction. Matt Wells doesn't agree. They've liveblogged court - Ian Tomlinson inquest, for example. No unmoderated comments - too much chance of contempt (of court...). They were able to bring in experts to give background and context.

Platforms: Wells suggests that CoverItLive and ScribbleLive aren't good for large volumes of comments, and for archiving. That's why they use their own systems.

#newsrw - Can data shape the way we publish?

Afternoon session kicking off, looking at how data can inform our business decisions in media. Tim Faircliff, general manager of Reuters Media chairing.

Ron Diorio, VP of product and community development at The Economist

Ron Diorio

Coming in via Skype!

Lies, damn lies and product development. What does it look like inside their lab? Like a cartoon, apparently. ;-) There's a continuous stream of data coming in live from both the website and from social media generally. However, the proliferation of streams means its harder to dedupe users. So when social media consultants say things like a tweet in a particular stream reaches "9 million people" he doesn't know what to do with that data.

The Economist has a product development cycle. The look outside to the real world to see what others are doing, gauge likely adoption rate and size of market, where the revenue will be, prototype and survey (often in Facebook group), and then feed monitoring of metrics back into the process. If readers are using it differently than they expected - have the made the wrong decisions? The clickstream data can tell them this.

The well-read quiz to Facebook - based on the rise of social gaming. People played it, but they didn't come back - and that was because it was too hard . 2/10 doesn't encourage people to come back. So they demoted the game, and spent two or three months building a new version, that will be launched shortly.

John Barnes, managing director of digital strategy and development at Incisive Media.

John Barnes, Incisive

B2B company, all about attracting people to the site and trying to keep them there, as they can monetise them.

Battled internally to promote the idea that people engage with product on different platforms in different was. Mobile is "quick fix", web is research and exploration. Print is education.

In the web world the relationship between story and audience is continuos. It's ot just about writing the story, but how it develops; write then tweet or tweet then write? Successfully B2B publishers are about exploring niches. It's good for B2B publishers, because the way the world is going we can get good data from those audiences, and build close relationships with them. The publication of a story is just the start of a process.

Print headlines in e-mail alerts failed. They need to be shorter and more emotive. 25% increase in page impressions as a result. Headlines retuned during the day based on response.

Surveys give useful feedback on "use occasions". News roundups or product exploration popular in video, voxpops or interview, no so much. Frequency is important - 3 to 4 uploads a week for core brands. 900% video usage as a result.

Chris Duncan, director of customer management, News International

Chris Duncan

Demographic data used to determine strategy, but now customers are changing faster than the demographic data is. Customer behaviour is now multidimensional. Tablets in the morning, 11pm is the web, as is mid-afternoon. Tablets are back for the evening commute, or the sofa at home.

The Sunday Times Social List - the underlying truth is that there are a number of people who drive our content harder than we can. Lots of organisations are trying to figure out how to reach those influencers - and what;s interesting is tracking how their influence changes over time.

You need to be clear about what you're trying to achieve, because otherwise you'll just drown in the volumes of data available.

Edward Barrow, cto, idio

Edward Barrow, idio

If you follow a strategy solely based on reactive data, it's very hard work. Each new device means starting again. If you understand that it's all about breaking down barriers between your content and the customer. So you need to understand your content more - and we apply content analysis to all your content streams. That way, the more people interact with your content the more you can learn about them.

One teleco used their technology to see if their was a correlation between intelligence and mobile spend. Sadly, it turned out that chavs spent the most…

You need to understand the full journey your customer is on. Identity association is key to maintaining a single customer view. You don't have to won the content to learn from it. Facilitate users to sign in using Facebook, Twitter, etc, and we can use those streams to personalise the site. The more you know, the more money you can make.

Privacy? With current legislation coming through, this is an issue. Behavioural targeting are words we should put under the carpet. Transparency is important - tell customer what you're doing and why., Google and Facebook are three sites we all use all the time - all of them personalise your experience very heavily.

Briefing Media uses their technology to extract semantic topics and then match user to them. You can then target e-mail newsletters to them. Make it very transparent, and engage them with the data gathering process. The site can then start recommending the kind of content you're interested in.

#newsrw - What's the best social media strategy for media companies?

Suw Charman-Anderson still chairing, with a rod of iron…

Jack Riley, The Independent

Jack Riley

He's going to talk about the best ways of bring about institutional change (and I'm feeing my scars itching as he says it). The Independent has open graph pages for Facebook, majority of journalists tweeting, and designed the site to allow users to share the content. "On and of the social web" - you have to think about how you exist within the community.

The basics are tools. Everyone's seen the Like button, but you can do things to optimise the site. They have higher than average referrals from social media:

Like buttons: Near headlines, faces, top and bottom of stories.

Turn each piece of content into an object that exists on the social web. Open graph: six or seven lines of code that tells Facebook what the content is. 23,000 people have Liked Robert Fisk on Facebook, and because it's configured right, they can push content back to Facebook. The feedback rate is three times higher on these sorts of Likes, as people are self-selecting. They've done the same with Football teams. Acknowledge niche interest in social contexts.

There's been a move towards using non-propriety. The move to Disqus increased comments five fold, while increasing accountability.

Trove - an experimental news aggregation site, that's based on a Facebook login.

Personalised URLs  - The community share more content than we do. The Indy gets more clicks per link, but there are so many more users…

Declarative or interrogative headlines? Questions encourage a conversation rather than declarative statements.

It's important to have a social mindset within the staff. We do live Q&As which we then repupose and push back into print.

Mark Jones, Reuters

Mark Jones

The company is constitutionally bound to explore new technologies. They've had a lot of success with aggregation blogs during key events - but people tend to love it when it's going, but get annoyed when it finishes.

Journalists in a chat room engaging busy professionals makes them money…

Journalists aren't always skilled in being hosts and creating conversations. Hence, 25 full time community managers. They're working with Tweetminster to figure out ways of analysing the conversation between bloggers and tweeters and figure out useful information for particuclar people, like venture capitalists - peHUB.

Their comfort zone is working with people they know, and now they're expanding into working with people they don't…

Mark Johnston, community editor,  the Economist - @majohns

Mark Johnston

Not just Twitter and Facebook, but also the social media site under his nose -

The idea of competitive debate is inherent to everything they do. They strongly believe that reader-contributed content can make the site better. They have an extremely distinguished, knowledgeable and intelligent audience. Community contributors view six times more pages than the average visitor. A proper social media strategy is an important way of dragging visitors from first time to regular visitors to coming to events to becoming editor…

1.1m followers on Twitter, 700k on Facebook. But the important trend is the increasing levels of traffic from these social media sites.

Ask the Economist - monthly live web chat on Twitter, but integrated on

The Economist Debates - two years old now. As many comments on Facebook as on the site now, but seeking to integrate them more.

By Invitation Panel - 50 economists who are fans of the Economist. They send a single question, and they provide their responses.

Ideas Arena

Figure out what is special about your brand, and then figure out how to make that work in a social environment.

Stefan Stern - Edelmann

Mindset shifts needed from people who have built their careers in traditional forms. Journalists have treated readers like some teachers do parents - that they should mind their own business and stay out of the process.

Stefan Stern

Handled properly, social media is a liferaft for journalists in the era of citizen journalists. Stern is queasy about free as a business model. But it also makes you a social being, one who creates and finds interesting material.

He's become more active on Twitter since leaving the FT - and his number of followers has increased. He's freer to speak out at Edelmann than at the FT…

"Strategy" and media companies have not always been comfortable bedfellows, but it's becoming necessary in a time of change.

Suw Charman-Anderson

Suw Charman Anderson

How do you get to a social media strategy in the first place?

Suw & Kevin went to work with Network18 in Mumbai. It was an opportunity to shape a strategy from scratch, social and digital-first. First question: who were they speaking to? Concept: original content plus aggregation. How do you aggregate? Not just reading RSS feeds - the journalists need to be embedded in their beats socially. And that means figuring out what the audience are already doing in social media. They decided to take the audeince on a journey from shallow social media usage to something more interactive.

Also, peaks and troughs of use. Peak of mobile in the morning (good time to tweet) - peak at lunchtime, when people had time for in-depth - good time for blogging. Production? Whole suite of tools we could use - which support our strategy? May launch from a Feb start - 1/9/90 rule. 1% will seriously engage, 9% will engage somewhat and 90% will lurk. What actions will they engage with? You can't just bolt social media on the side, you have to integrate it with your product.


Stern: moving from era when journalists were authorities handing down wisdom from on high, to an era when the ability to engage boost your career. Evidence will convert over time.

Jones: you need to treat the internal editorial network. Work with the keenest and big them up internally. The chief executive repeatedly saying that it's important helps.

A general discussion about which is better for traffic - Facebook or Twitter. Charman-Anderson points out that its horses for courses - different audiences use different social media sites (including LinkedIn)

#newsrw - Organising the Social Media Chaos

Suw Charman-Anderson hosting. Four people who are using crowd-sourcing and user-generated content and who can give us some idea of how you can verify that information

Neal Mann - @fieldproducer

Neal Mann

Twitter is Reuters on acid, crack and cocaine. We have to ignore that chaotic aspect and pull out information that's of value to us. We have beat journalists who distill information - that's our job as journalists. We can use Twitter in the same way, with a structure way of dealing with it. He treats Twitter as his path. "I'm casting a net across twitter." If something happens in Yemen, I follow six journalists from Yemen. They tweet it, and we can jump on it half an hour before it hits the wire. Twitter is only chaotic is you treat it in a chaotic way.

You need to be following the key nodes for information - the people who are constantly sharing the best information on Twitter. He has a list of about 2,000 because anything less than that and he'll start missing things. Twitter is an echo chamber - things get retweeted, so if you miss it once, you'll see it very quickly.

However - you also need to become one of those nodes. He's had many tipoffs from people because they've built a relationship with people using Twitter over months. People see Twitter as a chat room. As a journalists I see it as a newswire and a news publishing medium. He takes a structured approach to how he publishes - people are interested in news. Within social media there are a people interested in a range of stories, from crime to fashion. I need to become to the go-to source for a particular subject in the build-up to an event. When he was covering the Julian Assange bail story, he spend the weeks before tweeting links to relevant stories.

Alex Gubbay, social media producer, BBC News

Alex GubbayThe opportunities are huge: you can get content more quickly, and direct from the scene. The challenge is verification. As a "mainstream" broadcaster they need to be rigorous in their fact checking. It's an evolving approach, and they are lucky to have a dedicate team. For the first couple of years it was all about processing material sent directly to them. As social media has grown, they've moved to curating the wider web.

Gives and example of a video of a fire. How do you check? Traditional methods, sure, but you can also use Google Street View to check the video matches what you can see on the ground. They did some verification - it matched up, so they sent a news crew.

The arab spring has brought this to a new level. They need to get more sophisticated. Often you can't get hold of people, people are trying to push an agenda. But the footage is important, and if we can't get correspondents in, they are the only source. You can compare against existing images and maps, you can compare with weather reports. You can use local expertise (or language expertise). And KEEP A LIST of the things you've verified.  Look for clues like number plates, weapons, that sort of thing.

Take you time, use forensic values, make sure you get it right.

Fergus Bell, senior producer, Associated Press

Effective monitoring is knowing which tool and which site to use in the right situation. Not all countries use Twitter or YouTube. Think about the sort of person that will be sharing relevant material, and think which platforms they will be using. Facebook is your safest bet. Sometimes you can't get to the right person - but you can get to one of their friends.

Fregus Bell

He uses Hootsuite - finds it the best. Don't be loyal to one app. Use the thing is the best for the job.

Fergus disagrees with Neal - he doesn't like to follow people, he chooses to put them in lists and following the lists. By following people "you increase the chaos". "There are people in my lists that I don't want to know that I'm following them". Extreme right wing groups, for example. He doesn't want to tip his hand to them. You don't need to build all the lists yourself - many people have already done that work for you. You can also build lists of "nodes" - people who are doing pre-filtering. He has Neal on a list for that reason…

You can keep lists Private - if you see your list as a competitive advantage KEEP IT PRIVATE.


Verification: it's very hard to fake a social history. Sometimes just looking back at what people have posted previously will be very revealing. So don't just verify the content - verify the individual. If we reach out to people and expecting them to provide the truth, we also need to verify ourselves. Don't have an egg (the default icon) on your Twitter page. You wouldn't ask them for information with your face covered. You have to gain the trust of people you want to get information from. You have to respect how they shared it. The AP waits until they have confirmation that people have given permission to republish.

Nicola Hughes, data journalist, Data Miner UK

Nicola Hughes

There are huge peaks of information on twitter. Some tools can't cope because of API limits. You are looking for a link - to an image, video, blog post or local news report. The first thing you want to do is filter down to the location that the story is coming from. Your best tool is TrendsMap. Hahtags are your guide, follow the hastag to the original location. Look for "beacons" - often key links to shared media. It's best to work in an application that shows you the media within the application, as time is of the essence.

(Aside: this is a session where watching the video will be invaluable)

Topsy is your next best friend. It'll show you links over time - if the earliest link is too early, it's not genuine. You can check locations based on Twitter location info, if their using it - or Foursquare checkins...Using these techniques, she's been able to track down individuals on the ground, and contact them via mobile phone and get them to do reporting directly.

You need to make a name for yourself on the internet, but you may need to make a name. Nicola Hughes is hard to find, @dataminerUK isn't.

Lanyrd - great tool for finding out what events people you are interested in will be at…

#newsrw - Heather Brooke on the UK's culture of secrecy

Heather Brooke

Heather Brooke is kicking off news:rewired with a talk on data journalism, based on her campaigning work for more data transparency from UK government.

She's glad to see so many people interested in data journalism - used to be just three of them.

Best known as the person who did the legwork for the MPs expenses story.

The main problem with doing journalism in the UK is access to data. In the US, where she started her career, they had access to information from public records. When she covered the state legislature. She'd go to the clerks' office, and ask for all the representatives' expense reports.

It used to be illegal in the UK for fire departments to disclose the details of fire inspections. Arrest reports are not public documents. A lot of court information is hard to get. A lot of what you can get is anonymous. . Control of data means control of how the public perceive the story - and that's why authorities are so reluctant to let go.

So, one of the reasons that journalists don't "get" data journalism is the lack of availability of meaningful data sets. Brooke started the expenses investigation as much to get a full "feed" of the expenses information as anything else. Data journalism isn't just about learning to use Excel spreadsheets, it's about having something to put into those spreadsheets - and that's where we should concentrate.

What is the role of a journalist in the digital age, when people have so much information they're exposed to, when they have so much to deal with?

Journalism has one unique selling point, on reason they'd come to us rather than reading one of a million blogs. We have skills to sift through mountains of information for what is (a) important and (b) true. We are information managers.  A time-strapped and attention-strapped public needs people to signpost what is important - that's what we can bring to the table.

What is true? When a politician claims crime has gone down, you can only test that is you can cross-check it against the data. You need the data, and you need to know how it was collected. Access to time and money to do this is they only thing that marks a professional journalist out from a blogger.


Q from someone at the BBC College of Journalism about justified exceptions to the Freedom of information act.  Brooke doesn't like the question. We alway think about the costs and dangers of making information public. We never talk about the costs and dangers of keeping it secret.

Q from The Guardian about wether the Data Protection Act act has been a problem. Brooke seems to agree, saying that it's been better at protecting the "privacy" of big organisations that private individuals.



May 26, 2011

The Journalistic Narrative Drift – a story of the BBC Social Media Summit

Journalists are creatures of narrative. We write stories. We ask what the story is. We shape a series of events into a coherent article, be that 300 or 3000 words long, that makes sense. One could accuse us of imposing meaning and order on events that have none – but that’s a human trait, just one that we have to excess.

We even have our own narratives, the narrative of the Fleet Street reporter, which carries the whiff of the trilby and the press card, and of the adrenaline junkie war reporter. We have the doorstopping local journalists and the obsessive TV reporter.

Those narratives are being disrupted. Have been disrupted. Will be disrupted.

Many people have noted that there’s been a huge narrative shift in many contemporary dramas, because the mobile phone had disrupted storytellers’ ability to put their characters into isolation. They have such each and rapid access to communication and information that many dramatic tropes of the past simply don’t work.

Our own narratives are rooted in us being the noble public servants, given access to the sacred keys of communication. But those keys are available to pretty much everybody now. Anyone who is on Facebook is publishing more than anyone bar professional journalists were publishing 30 years ago. That’s the new mainstream media. Those who think of themselves as “mainstream” media are just slightly bigger specialists than those of us who have rejoiced in the label for decades. But their own narratives don’t allow them to see this.

Perhaps it was inevitable that the fastest adopters of social media have been those without such a compelling self-narrative; the web journalists, the specialists, the entrepreneurs. Without such a defining vision of what their job is, of who they are within the mythology of journalism, they have been freed to write a new one. They aren’t compelled to bolt the new stuff onto the old; they can, instead, recreate what they are doing with new tools that make what they are doing more compelling, more enjoyable, more useful.

My abiding impression of the BBC Social Media Summit was of a bunch of people who are still trying to incorporate social media into their pre-existing narrative. They are trying to rope new communication technology onto the conventions of the past. They are using petrol engines to pull carriages once pulled by horses, while others are busy pottering around in cars.

Those who believe that Twitter is mainly about “broadcast” for mainstream organisations are not just wrong, they are wilfully ignoring the experience, successes and failures of many others. And that was one of the most powerful messages that came out of the summit to me – that some people will work very hard to exclude the experiences of others that challenge their own preconceptions of their working environment. I’ve called this “special pleading” in the past. Every single market we serve at RBI has given me reasons why social media won’t work in their market. Most memorably, someone from Computer Weekly gave me a long speech on why people in the tech industry would never, ever use social media. Ever single piece of special pleading has been proved to be false.

Elements of the “mainstream” media have already started to change their narratives. Alan Rushbridger’s mention of “mutual media” was probably the most compelling sentence uttered in the entire day. But then compare the name of his publication – The Guardian – to the Telegraphs, Mails, Heralds, and Mercurys – broadcast names all, in their own ways. His implies a relationship with the people they serve beyond that of those-who-are-speaking and those-who-are-listening. The others do not.

Until the mainstream of the  “mainstream” media learn that 10,000 quiet voices can be more powerful than a single loud one, then days like last Friday will have elements that are useful and even compelling – and I think the talk from Al Jazeera was one of those – but ultimately be dominated by too many voices raging against the irrelevance of their own story. They no longer have an angle, and they hate it.

May 20, 2011

#bbcsms - Bringing together the digital conversation


Claire Wardle is running a "pulling together" session. Key points so far:


  • Do we need to get more comfortable with saying that things are unverified
  • Is it irresponsible to just push things out, knowing people won'y come back to check things later.
  • More training needed on how to use tools?


  • Do we need to respect people supplying material more? Do we need to credit citizen journalists as we would our collegues
  • Or do they just want to get that message out to the world? Is the personal credit irrelevant and a journalist obsession.
  • Still a reluctance in newsrooms to name bloggers/tweeters/YouTubers
  • Digital doorstopping - just grabbing content from people's Facebook etc, which they don't see as public, even if it is...


  • Reporters are expected to keep our notes for 5/7 years - but we don't keep our tweets. Do we need to? Do we need formal archiving - which could also be useful to academics. (Paul Bradshaw)
  • BBC has a scale of content, users and technologists - but they don't open ANY of that up. They could make that much more accessible and usable (Emily Bell)

Other issues:

  • How do we get working groups or collaboration communities out of this
  • How do we get big media used to being intermediaries and middlemen rather than top-down editors of journalism?
  • Specialist media has been virtually ignored in this discussion - we have plenty of experience in collaborating with communities.

Alan Rusbridger:

  • Cultural battle has been won, it's now the practical battle (link)
  • Does nobody else seeing a play have anything worth saying apart from a theatre critic? Clearly not.
  • Daft to think that you can cover the whole world with a small group of people in a newsroom
  • Moving beyond social media - open or mutual media
  • Story a very limited way of describing a world where things keep happening
  • Claims Guardian invented liveblogging, which is nonsense
  • Guardian US will give them the opportunity to experiment without traditional structures

#bbcsms - Technology and Innovation

Nic Newman

Social media is your friend, not your competitor. Visits to news sites is growing at about the same rate as social media visits.

So who is losing?

Search is starting to fall as a source of information - being replaced by social discovery. Mainstream media seeing huge increases in referrals from social media. Daily Mail doing best. Times suffering.

Who is originating news?

Yes, sometimes social media breaks stories, and that is amplified by traditional media. But generally, it's the other way around. However, individual journalists and bloggers are becoming as influential as news brands. But Twitter and social media acts generally as an amplifier of mainstream news.

New ecology of news production and consumption
Race for influence
Social discovery is a core traffic driving strategy
Social needs to be built into new business models

We're telling better stories
Now we need to increase engagement and distribute content.

Liz Heron, NYT

Building a strong social media-centric team. They have been focusing on socmed as a way of reaching new audiences. This year, we've taken it to a new level. if you're only thinking of it as a distribution channel, your missing out on the opportunities for engagement. "Source up" on social media - before you need them. Reply, and join in conversations. Twitter is so natural for journalists hat sometimes we forget about Facebook.

We don't have social media guidelines - use common sense and don't be stupid. We have to trust them to use it well.

Trying to get involved with high impact projects in the newsroom to ensure a social media element.

Facebook gives you a lot of information on people who sign in through them - almost too much. You can learn a lot about who is interested in what.
The NYT has an R&D department, looking at how social stuff might look on the site in five years...

They're planning on focusing more on Facebook now, as they've "cracked" Twitter. Cyborg Twitter accounts - half automated links, half human interaction. Next week they're going to go all human on the main account, turning off the feed.

She's not threatened by people developing personal brands - people tend to stay at the NYT, and strongly identify themselves as belonging to the title. They're less convinced about personal pages on Facebook, though. But they're still just experimenting.

Facebook Connect has been very important for things like their Oscars web app. Has driven subs, but not a lot. More important in promoting content.

Mark Little, Storyful

Started as a journo, remember covering prison riot with a mobile the size of a brick. The dirty secret was that being a foreign correspond ant was it was mostly about the logistics of big equipment.
We're living through a disruption - there's so much information now; how do we filter and integrate that. Tried to do it in RTE. Hit cultural issues.

People confuse Technology and innovation. Tech is a shiny box, innovation is changing the way we report. Most news organisations are not comfortable with risk and failure, which is necessary for innovation. Bit disappointed by some things he's heard today. It should be about collaboration, not competition - which is not how newsrooms work.

Social media people in newsrooms are like insurgents...

Holy grail of integration is trust indexes. Every news event creates a community.

Mark Rock, AudioBoo

Media organisations are stuck in the electric age, not the digital one. You'll lose people if you don't change. They don't think about bits and iteration. They build R&D factories, when there are factories out there (startups).


Interesting debate about innovation in big companies. Illico from Reuters argued that it does happen, on an individual basis. Mark Rock replied that he wasn't saying that innovation doesn't happen, it's just that they won't take risks in the same way as startups.

Esra from Al Jazeera thinks that partnerships with startups is a win, win. you can experiment, and if you fail, fail fast and then replace. A lady from the Huffington Post said she's given complete freedom to use what she wants - no directives from the top. Mark Rock pointed out that most big media companies ignore new tech, then try to build itself, then fail, then try to partner.

Discussion around failure - we're so ashamed of it in the UK. We haven't seen the same large startup online journalism business we have in the US. Mark Little thinks we expect innovation to spring forth full-formed, rather than changing and experimenting.

#bbcsms - Editorial Issues

Esra Dogramaci, Al Jazeera

Content from people on the street was important in Egypt - the government had shut down traditional reporting methods.

100 communities in the US got together to demand Al Jazeera, which is only available in four states.

Social media is about trust. There's a disparity between the connected and unconnected parts of the world. AlJ don't create the news agenda, but they reflect it. When people begin to trust us, they come to us for news.

(Info - noise) + context = responsible reporting

Try to get in contact directly with the person who sent the information. They've had people supply photos of old protest elsewhere as new material. They try to pre-identify key people on Twitter in advance when news starts breaking, filtered by location.

There's a distinction between reporting and journalism. Reporting is the facts, journalism is the context.

Working with users is a two way street - distributing Flip cameras gave them footage, but also helped build trust between them and the community.

Telling the truth is hard, not telling it is harder.

AlJ tries to take a neutral line. Two language channels. When the Japanese earthquake happened, it was more important on English that Arabic, which focused on the Middle East protests.

Interesting discussion about Al Jazeera having to walk the line between reporting on the revolutions and seeming to encourage them. There are risks to both the organization - journalist and buildings have been targeted - and for social media users who participate and feed the news, too. They give attribution or anonymity as contributors wish. AlJ will tend to take the side of the masses, she suggests.

Will Perrin

Finally, someone standing up for specialist news, particularly hyperlocal journalism. 400 page views per day in a community of 500. - the dominant form of journalism in Sheffield.

Christian Payne

Was fed up with the newspaper messing with story - it was always manipulated by the time it hit print. Disgruntled with the number of channels I had to go through to get my craft out there.

In 2005 was watching BBC news, got annoyed by the coverage, so flew to Turkey and made his own way there. The mainstream channels who took his stories didn't express them to his satisfaction, so he stuck it on YouTube - was seen by more people than it would have done in national newspapers. If he could find a way of making money from this, he could go direct, no need for mainstream channels.

Blogger not a journalist - it's fine if you can't spell as a blogger, if you can't spell as a journalist, you're an alcoholic.

We stop journalists from being passionate about what they are doing by taking emotion out of stories - emotion IS one of the tools that we use to get the message across.

Sinai Motalebi

BBC Persian lacked the reporters on the ground, so had to go to the people making the news direct. Some years ago, someone at a BBC panel at Bush House said that people come to the BBC for expert reporting, not the voices of everyday people. The experiences of BBC Persian show that isn't true. They maintain balance by giving both sides a voice. They are nor proud or defeated by their used of social media - it's just a fact.

In the 2005 election, the blogosphere did not reach the general public in Iran. By 2009, YouTube and Twitter were taking the footage to the masses. The BbC took footage from YouTube, it was broadcast, and people would reupload it with the BBC brand on it. We are now giving a platform for debate, not just a voice in a voxpop. Very emotional and revealing when they provided a platform for debates between Iranians and Iraqis.


is the debate being forced into a traditional Western model of objectivity. Is there room for activist journalism? Esra says yes, sort of. Part of their success is bringing traditional values to the reporting. Sinai, however, is not actively part of a movement. He thinks there is a need for established values. Not all conversations on social media are representative, all the time. Two kinds of noise to filter from Iran, one from the opposition who wanted to hasten events. The other, pro-Government, who would produce sophisticated fake material, so broadcasters would publish it, and then the originators could discredit it and the journalists with it.

Perrin points out that most local sites are unashamedly biased, because they love their area - and many are responding to "if it bleeds it leads" negative coverage.

#bbcsms - Cultural Change

Kevin Marsh chairing

Peter Horrocks (BBC Global News) - "tweet or die" - no, "tweet or be sacked." Serious about the message of using social media as a source and as a communication message is something they should be doing. Social media reluctantly adopted at first, now more enthusiastically. The normal Twitter = lunch tweeting. Gadaffi interview not credited to BBC because co-interviewer tweeted it, but Jeremy Bowen didn't. You need carrots and sticks, persuasion, and a clear vision.

We have stressed insufficiently how to link ourselves together. That's a vision.

People who criticised the BBC's change to the comments on news stories and blogs are "zealots". Which makes me a zealot, apparently. And zealots like me are a hinderance to change. Personally, I find that people use words like "zealot" when they don't want to engage with criticism.

Meg Pickard (Guardian)

First issue: getting products right. Guardian comments were designed to be flexible (and are pretty good)
Second issue: providing training, finding organic grassroots activity and encouraging it. Not so much carrot and stick as telling people how delicious and crunchy carrots are. Community hosts almost, journalists who act as a bridge between the community and the newsroom. Social media is something we do with the community, not to them.
Third issue: editorial propositions - integrating it into the mix, not just employing a social media person. Where's the value to the audience?

Mark from AudioBoo asks about tech blocking change. Meg mentions CMSes which are optimised for anything but digital. How do we make sure digital isn't an afterthought. How do you integrate new tools with your existing one?

Raju Narisetti (Washington Post)

Numbers are everything are in our business. Part of the lesson was to tell the journalists what not to do - are the blogs growing, have they got an audience. Moving to a metrics-based newsroom was a big shift for us. Your content has to be in Facebook - people are there, you can't expect them to come to you.


No point in trying to force anyone to do social media. Forcing people to Tweet will just make it obvious that you don't want to. I would encourage them to do so, through showing them the consequences.

Peter Horrocks doesn't think everybody should be tweeting, just using Twitter as a source.

Raju thinks people without experience of using Twitter and Facebook probably won't get hired right now. Meg thinks all journalism students should be handed one.

Documentally suggests that Twitter is as much about communication as publishing. Maybe e-mail should be optional? The panel didn't really go for that. Maybe the telephone should be optional.

Interesting discussion of the individual versus the glacial big media, and how quickly individuals can publish now. Meg makes a solid point of finding ways of integrating individual sporting with big media platforms. I'd argue that you actually need to enable your journalists to produce and publish in an individual way. Raju made comments to similar effect.

More notes from the session on the BBC College of Journalism site

May 19, 2011

The BBC Social Media Summit: storms in teacups and cultural divides

My, oh, my. I can't remember the last time a small journalism event with only 30 attendees created such a fuss. But today's first leg of the BBC Social Media Summit has done just that, with particularly strident criticism from Jeff Jarvis on the #BBCsms hashtag. The event is being conducted under Chatham House Rule, meaning we're seeing what's being said, but not who said it.

Jeff is, pretty much, the high priest of openness amongst journalism bloggers. And any man who can talk so openly about his erectile problems following prostrate surgery is walking the walk as well as talking the talk. And I have a great deal of sympathy for the points he's making. Having a public body holding a summit about interaction with the public in private creates more than a little cognitive dissonance.

I would suggest that the criticism is rather missing the point. While the values of openness and transparency in public discourse are to be valued, not all of the participants are from public bodies in the way that the BBC is. More to the point, many of them are from organisations who are still uneasy with social media, and who are fighting internal political battles with people who would rather see them withdraw rather than engage further. A closed session really does give them an opportunity to discuss things that they just can't in a public arena.

The mistake, if anything, was in being CHR rather than closed. The partial tweeting of the event just makes it more clear that people are being excluded. And people are sensitive souls, sometimes. The restricted information flow creates an unintentional air of "nah, nah, we're here and you aren't" that is probably more at the heart of some of the criticism that people are making than they would admit, even to themselves.

But, actually, I'm more interested in the factors behind the people who were included than I am the whole CHR business. As I tweeted earlier:

Looks like those at "closed" #bbcsms day are all national media - no startup or specialists that I can see... Conscious choice?less than a minute ago via Twitter for Mac Favorite Retweet Reply


Organiser Claire Wardle responded:

@adders Was a conscious me! Happy to talk about why tomorrow. Here's my justification than a minute ago via web Favorite Retweet Reply


A quick look a the BBC College of Journalism blog posts suggests that the chosen few are:

mainstream social media producers


national and international news organisations

Matthew Eltringham

The second is more specific, if not actually accurate; I don't see anyone from international specialist news organisations there, for example. You have to combine the two to get to the reality: this is a closed group of national and international general interest news people, from broadcast, web and print.

  • No specialist media - even if they're international (like many of our titles are).
  • No startup media.
  • At least one academic is in there, mixing things up. Update: Sue Llewellyn clarifies that the academics are there as "scribes for blog posts to go up later."

Now, the second day - tomorrow - is open to a lot more people, and I was invited along to that a few months ago. But that rather begs the question - why do the people on day one need the protection of CHR but not the people on day two? Is our opinion (or our job security...) less important than those on day one?

Intentionally or not, the impression is that those of us in other forms of news reporting are somehow lesser than those in the national and international general interest press. And that does actually make me a little sad. One of the strongest and most enjoyable elements of the journalism blogosphere in the last five years has been the fact that local news journos, national press hacks, broadcast stalwarts, specialist reporters and startup innovators have shared discussions and ideas as peers who can learn from each other. The artificial barriers between the different forms of journalism have eroded, largely because every page on the web is pretty much equal to any other. And this seems a step away from that.

None of this is intended as criticism of the event, really. It's the BBC's event and they can do exactly as they wish. And, in the end, it'll be the results of the two days combined that will define its success or failure. I'm hoping for success.

But there are some very interesting issues around the way journalists perceive themselves buried in the underlying assumptions around the structure the BBC college team have chosen that actually, to my mind, strike at the heart of some of the difficulties journalists have in using social media effectively.

Boy, am I looking forward to tomorrow. :-)

#next11 - Day Two in video

May 18, 2011

#next11 - Lessons from Community-Centric Businesses

It's nearly the end of the conference, and I'm flagging. I've tried to distill the essence of the advice from three community-driven businesses and keep this punchy. Here goes:


Jovoto - Bastian Unterberg

I found the first talk the most difficult to get value from. Unterberg talked about the problem of disposable coffee cups used by most coffee shops, and their huge environmental cost; 16bn gallons of water, millions of trees - they're the cost of disposable coffee cups. The average in-use life spans is seven minutes...

So, they launched a competition - betacup - to try and resolve the problem.  They reached out to Starbucks who had an interanl team working on the same problem. They connected multiple communites - threadlessInstructables, core77

The result? 430 ideas in 1600 versions, with 13k votes on them. And a tonne of brand exposure for Starbucks. But, uh, as far as I can figure, no actual solution as yet. And surely, unless something actually comes from this, all that goodwill will turn bad…?

Etsy - Matt Stinchcomb

Matt Stinchcomb

Like so many startups, Etsy was born, 6 years ago, from an idea in a flat. And that idea took $100k in its first year, then $7m, then $27 to $600m now. 96.5% of that money stays in the community. It's not an eCommerce site, but a marketplace, says Stinchcomb. You don't just go there to buy, but to join in with the community. Once you knew the cobbler who made your shoes, you knew the baker who baked your bread. You supported them because you knew them - and they supported you back. So Etsy is about the community.

They publish all their revenue and traffic details - the community is a partner. They hold meetups wherever they go in the world.

They grow primarily through word of mouth. They need to give their community tools to bring more people to the site. The desire to use them comes from the relationship. Community curation and activity determines the home page, rather than the traditional metrics of what sells when.

SoundCloud - David Noël

David Noël

Everyday, we choose a user as SoundClouder of the day, says Noël. They started sending back stories about how the site has changed their lives. Site was built from the group upwards to encourage participation. People can put comments at particular moments in the track. Community people can tend to talk too much - do too much. It's important to listen and absorb. The first thing you need is support - the faster, more personal and more friendly the reply, the better. It's the foundation of the community team. When things go bad, be totally transparent and keep communicating until things are fixed.

Other community initiatives: SoundCloud Local - picking a city a week. Meetups. Old-Skoolers - took them on board and talked to them, along with QnAs. Sessions on their roof in Berlin.

Be patient and place dots - you want too much too fast. It's extremely hard, and you need to be patient. See how people respond to your dots.

#next11 - An API to your body's data

David Rowan

David Rowan tried to build a compelling case for gathering and sharing data about yourself, because it can benefit both yourself and society.

One example: Patients like me. It's a site where people are sharing response to treatments for 500 different conditions. In particular, for one condition called ALS, there was a belief that lithium could delay the onset of some symptoms. So some of them took lithium treatments, and some didn't. And they found that it didn't work - not even a placebo effect. Pushed science forward.

Lots of people have depression. There are lots of different ways of coping. The community tracked 5000 people to see what worked and what didn't. Most popular and effective was exercise, followed by more sleep. But there were some interesting results in the middle around various art-type therapies.

Self-tracking and self-reporting is moving forward our knowledge, he suggested.

Some other tools:

  • mycrocosym - allows you to visualise anything
  • runkeeper - tracks you using GPS - maps, graphs and share with other people. Got an e-mail congratulating him on April being the best month yet. Drove him to do better this month.
  • Daytum - allows you to track all sorts of everyday facts about your life.
  • 23 and me (although I know a PhD geneticist who is sceptical about this)

Price of storage is trending towards zero.1TB is £50 from Amazon.So why shouldn't we collect this data? We might not know what we'll use it for now, we might not spot the trends straight away, but over time, we will. And we'll regret not storing more once we do.

A lot more of our devices are going to be linked to the network -  so we need to take control. Companies are collecting data about us. Why shouldn't we? It's opening up our own API.

#next11 - Beaming a mouse and other data-driven product designs…

Martin Deinoff and Frederick Marcus gave what has to be the most strange presentation I've seen at NEXT. The talk was nominally about making data central to product design.

You should bake technology into the product to make it better, they suggested. And there are several layers of data:

  1. Product
  2. Product data layer
  3. Extended service data layer.
  4. Organic data layer (social media)
  5. Broadcasting data layer

data layers in product development

So, a pair of scales with a WiFi chip (layer 2) apps and website (layer 3) and then tweets your weight (layer 4) - or connect to your doctor or your sports system…

Beware: The power of habits is strong, the habits of power possibly even stronger. (IE, your traditional management may be resistant to these concepts - there's always golf to distract them - and you need to find ways of doing this that don't need their permission)

But data is a two-way flow. You need to respect and understand the power of the user - something they never had before: time, media, tools, opinions and information. Time, for example, is time shifting of media consumption. Fredrik is a time-shifter, never watching TV when it's broadcast. We chose to control media - like using comparison sites instead of going to a business's site.

Frederick Marcus

Product development is all about utilising the power of digital technology. The levels of data we have now are new. There's an ecosystem of data around every product in social networks and elsewhere. Price as a message (or absent message) is a problem - because people now have easy access to that information. Transparency is damn efficient. It is better to be good than to try and persuade people that you are good. Why are cars more integrated with the net? Spotify in the car - homepage linking to maintenance videos. Data about how you drive and your fuel consumption. Make it useful, and then you can integrate commerce around it. Integrate everything.

And then we went into a bizarre demo - of a teleport system mediated by your iPhone or iPad.

Martin Deinoff

The beaming app, you see was too technical, so people made mistakes, and so they went missing during the teleport.  So they had to back people up. Problem: old backups. Half a year old in some cases - kids had grown, wife left… Half a year of work to catch up to. Solution: Instant backup.

How interesting is it to see Foursquare and Gowalla in Facebook? Not very… Now you're beaming it is very, very interesting....

And then they demoed beaming a mouse live on stage. Uh, wait for the video. It might make sense then…


#next11 - Social Media for Good

WARNING: Liveblogging. Here be errors, inaccuracies and typos

Peter Bihr

The panel is working on the assumption that social media is going to go away as a separate, but become integrated into the whole of the business.

Mike Arauz, Undercurrent

Mike Arauz

Mr Arauz prefers to do over-complex presentations. But today (phew) he's going to try and keep it simple. In the summer of 2004, a group of people built a system that allowed them to deliver messages to 1000s of places all over the world. And he's going to go through a whole number of examples like that…

I Love Bees - an immersive game that promoted Halo 2. Thousands of gamers worked together to solve puzzles and take on challenges. The ARG evolved to the point where "Melissa" (the alien character) would call one payphone, and demand that someone at another payphone somewhere in the world, and the person who answered had to have the answer. The developers pushed it down to 15 seconds - and still the players managed it.

Reddit & Stephen Colbert - How do you get Stephen Colbert's attention for your plan? Work together to raise money for a charity he's on the board off - and he went on to host the rally they wanted him to.

Ask Metafilter - a spin-off community from Metafilter, full of people who enjoy research. One day, a post: "Help me help my fiend in DC." The friend, a woman, had come over on a shaky visa situation. She was going to meet some people in New York, and her friend was concerned that she would be kidnapped, or dragged into sex slavery. In 24 hours, 20 to 50 people called embassies, government agencies, the FBI, the police, the woman herself. By the time she got to New York, she had met a safe person from the community, the NYP investigated the people she was to meet, and they turned out to be sex trafficers…

It Gets Better - After a series of teen suicides by kids who were being bullied for being gay, Dan Savage and his husband posted a video. 3 days later they had one extra video. Within a month they had thousands, including a messaged of support from Obama.

So why do people do things they don't have to?

  • Accomplishing satisfying work
  • Get good at something
  • Spend time with people I like
  • Be part of something bigger

Will Sansom, Contagious

Will Sansom

Contagious is a quarterly magazine looking at the future of marketing and engagement. And we're in an era when people tune out of anything that looks like marketing. But he argues that it's all become marketing (God, I hope not). People are looking for entertainment and meaningful experiences.  That's why you can't carpet-bomb people with social media - it needs to be meaningful.


1. Projects, not campaigns

Lots of brands are having success through effective change in the real world. You can't plan and schedule this in the same way as traditional campaigns. They need to be designed to live and grow organically. Volvo's right to clean air is cites as an example.

"Dude we should do" - problem of jumping on bandwagons. Chose the media that work for your idea, not whatever's trendy.

Doesn't have to be worthy - Nightlife Exchange Project

Is you project so good people would share it without media, then you have something that will work.

2. Networks of the Unacquainted

Getting people to connect around common interests, and reaping the benefit. Examples:

3. The Emotional Power of Response

  • @jessGreenwood tweeted @flyairnz asking them to change the music in the airline lounge. She was paged, called to the desk and asked to change the music… Of course, she tweeted to her thousands of followers about the experience.
  • @interfloraUK monitoring Twitter for people who are having a bad day - and sending them flowers to cheer them up.

Social data - lets you treat people as people. Data is the oil of social media - useless until you refine it.

  • @twelpforce - Best Buy's tech pros on twitter offering real time after sales services. Creates a real relationship with recent customers.
  • iButterfly - an augmented reality butterfly collection game - and the butterfly becomes a coupon for a local retaier - and they're sharable with friends...

Amanda Rose, Twestival

Amanda Rose

She was nine when LiveAid happened - but that sense of being part of something bigger than yourself left a deep impact on her. He had big dreams of changing the world 20 years ago, but then became part of the PR world. About 5 years ago she had the "wow" moment of social media with Facebook. She did a Masters about Twitter (I was interviewed for it ;-) ). She found that it changed events, because of the backchannel…

In 2008, she and friends organised a meet-up, a good night out, called Twestival - and it was great. And she couldn't help thinking that this was something that should happen all over the world. But it took finding the right charity - and that turned out to be Charity Water.

202 Twestivals simultaneously around the world was the result. 55 new wells in 3 countries was the result.

Now there's two different branches of Twestical: Global and Local. Over the four campaigns, they've raised $1.75m and 200+ cities have participated.

Social media has changed the game - they was no way all those volunteers worldwide could have been mobilised without Twitter. Even Facebook couldn't have done it.

Amanda doesn't have a home right now. She was in Sicily, and now going to Thailand, and then Switzerland… Skype and social media have enabled that working pattern.

The first Twestival cost her £200. To raise that much money for £200 - pretty crazy. She's not a fan of "Tweet this" - she wants to see connection and tangible results.

#next11 - Day One in video


 Just a quick montage of moments from the day.

May 17, 2011

#next11 - Driven to Distraction

Warning: Liveblogging. Here be inaccuracy, errors and typos

Here goes a session on attention, distraction and obsession:

Jeremy Tai Abbett has set himself a challenge: answering a question

What is continuous partial attention?

Jeremy Tai Abbett

Four steps to Zen:

1. Infinite Resources

Moores law - where once it was number of users per computer, but 100s of computers per user. Digital is making a lot of things obsolete. The music industry is "pretty fucked". Music is no longer about distribution. Digital photography has made film obsolete. The Kindle is quickly replacing print books. Publishing companies - the iPad is meant to save them, but we'll see...

The old model was about scarcity. The new model is all about abundance. What was scarce before - information - is now abundant. But our attention hasn't gone up. attention is the new scarcity.

We have: infinite resources and limited attention

2. New Behaviours

Attention no longer focuses on the TV - it's on the phone, the iPad, the iPad, the computer... And consumers are now producers. Messages from friends drown our commercial messages - we're no longer as important as we were. Everybody wants to be at the middle of the social graph.

Old thing x new technology = FAIL

You NEED new thinking

3. Opt-out

Highly technical people are dictating how we communicate with each other. The least social people are dictating how we interact. They force us to opt-out not opt-in. There's software that kills you internet connections for a set time to allow you to focus. Opt out is the new opt-in.

4. Question Everything

The rise of makers shows that people are happy to take things apart and make new things, and recognise that things aren't the work of just one. The questions can be as important as the answers. question everything and answer only to yourself.

Dan Rollman

Dan Rollman is talking about the Universal Record Database - a crowd-sourced Guinness Book of World Records, based on the ideas that everyone can be the best at something, however bizarre. It was born from his adolescent desire to break records.

It's a company employing eight people. People are often inventing records based on brands. For the last few years they've been working with brands for one off events, campaigns and now brand channels.

I want one of those yellow jackets...

Rollman has set us a record to break:

Rex Sorgatz worries that being over-connected is the new over-educated.


Enhanced by Zemanta

#next11 #media - New metrics for a new media age

Warning: Liveblogging. Here be inaccuracy, errors and typos

Pablo Metz

Pablo Metz at NEXT11

How similar are the Union Flag and the Tricolore? Both flags...

Bike and a ball? Not very. Expcept, they're both things people buy for their kids.

This is the problem data has right now. Measurable quantities are important, but easy and limited. Characteristics like brand held. But you also need to understand product categories.

You CANNOT handle all of the data out there. If you want to do things in real time, you have to choose the data you work with. Item to item? If one person bought a bike and protectors, you can recommend protectors to someone who buys a bike. But if they bought the bike for a performing monkey, and also bought bananas, you're going to get strange results.

So, you use social demographics, because people who share characteristics, tend to share habits. But not completely - would you recommend AC/DC to a mid-40s above average income guy (uh, probably :) )

All of this standard targeting is limited.

So... social media marketing. All friends! Similar likes! Except... grandma is a friend on Facebook. Very different tastes...

So...consumer action mining - similar customers who are interested in the same things. Segment all you customers into groups, without throwing away information. And algorithm based on the physics of complex systems. Physicists laugh at us - because they deal with way more data than we do.

We do data mining on the actions of your consumers - might be buying, might be surfing pages, might be listening to a track or playing a game. All good. All interesting. People have many dimensions. If we show the consumer something, and he doesn't click on it - we need to capture that. We need negative events, too.

What you need:

  1. raw data and anonymised data
  2. unique user ID, unique event ID
  3. 3 events per user

He gave us an example of four groups of users - who all looked the same. They had to go deeper to sub-categories of activities before they were able to spot differentiation. He seems to be suggesting a lot of pre-calculation, that allows you to match event tracks in real time to particular people.

Claus Moseholm, goviral

claus moseholm

Let's talk video. 

The audience is about engagement. You want them to spend time on your video, to engage with you. It's not about click through to an e-shopping page, it's about building emotional ties. Traditionally, we focused on the success of click-through - and the rates of click-through have been dropping almost since the internet began. So, there's been a shift from destination to distribution as a central plank of thinking.  Video both gives you the opportunity to tell a story and gives you better click rates - but that's on the "play" button.

Media are shifting display and TV budgets into online and viral video. Your moving beyond brand awareness into engagement. CPM is giving way to CPE - cost per engagement or view. 

Afterwards? Sure, you can put a click through there, but many people use that space for interactive overlays and other experiences at the end of the video. It's about persuading them that they want to spend time with us. Rates of people doing follow up actions after a video are going UP. <-- interesting. 

However, engagement drops with video length - the median seems to be just under a minute, according to a graph he showed. Keep it short.

Ciaran O'Kane of gave a quick update on what publishers are doing with modern ad models. Most interesting idea: Could publishers become media agencies? If they're inventory limited, could they start selling those extra ads on, using their own data and the trading platforms?

Wolf Allisat of ComScore is "the antichrist of clicks". He goes around telling people that clicks are the wrong thing to measure. Click-through rates on online ads. 0.11% click through in any month. People try to make up for this with volume. And we could, for a while, when growth rates were 200%. Clever advertisers are buying loads of PPC ads, because they get all the brand awareness with none of the costs... Publishers should change their models right now. 

Wolf Allisat

And who are the people were clicking? 62% of clicks from 3% of the internet audience... Do you really want those people?

Significant branding CAN be achieved, according to comScore research. It drives sales - and the offline lift is higher (!) than the online lift. 

#next11 - Socialising Search with Bing

Ralf Herbrich of Bing

Ralf Herbrich of Bing, which we all know as the other search engine, is up and talking about making search more social. This is something that Google are starting to play with, but which is not seen as their forte. An opportunity for the Bing folks? Perhaps.

Herbrich kicked off by setting a pretty damn familiar scene. He presented us with a lot of data to persuade us that social is one of the most important data sets on the web, if for no other reason than sheer size:

Social data signals in comparison with other sources

Bing has a pretty deep intergration with Facebook, giving you a set of social information overlaid on the raw search data that your query produces. I can't decide if the map search he showed, which brought up which of his friends lived in that area was cool or creepy...

They started a research project about a year ago to try and determine link quality on Twitter. Tweets with links appear to be perceived as of better quality than those without...

Twitter is an incredible fast news distribution system, but unless you find the right 40 or 50 people, it can be hard to get what you want. So, they want to build a database of what people like or don't like by the links they share on Twitter, and comparative traces from others like them.  But how do you predict whether they will like a new product? Metadata.Metadata about people and products (like actor, director, genre etc for movies) allow you to build a sophisticated taste matching matrix.

Project Emporia:

Strip out all your tweets without links, and run them through this matchbox matrix discussed above, which matches people types with what the algorithm thinks they like or not. This can feed into search results even for something brand new - but you need to feed back results on individual pages straight away.

Project Emporia then builds you a newspaper (this customised news pages based on social sharing are all the rage, aren't they?)

Some discussion in the questions as to wether you will reshape your friendships based on your search results. No-one wanted to admit that this will happen... But it's an interesting idea. I can't help feeling that it brings a large element of recommendation into search - which is great - but it brings the danger of the bubble mindset, where you never really see anything challenging to you...

#next11 - that's one Angry Bird right there

Peter Vesterbacka of Rovio
Peter Vesterbacka of Rovio proving that he's one Angry Bird at the end of his session...

#next11 - Boon and Bane of Analytics

Warning: liveblogging. Here be error, inaccuracy and typos...


Media track session on data-drive publishing...

Host: Anitra Eggler

Started as a journalist, became infected by the media fever, and ran several startups from the mid-90s. One principle: whereever there is an elephant in the room we like to mention him...

What is the elephant here? The debate is about data; data is the new black; trendy. Publishers are agonising about how to monetise their advertising. But, in the absence of good data, they still don't know what price to sell their data-driven advertising at. And all this activity being threatened by privacy regulation. Is the cookie about to be shackled? Is the click dead and data the new currency. Is semantic the way to go? Are we becoming data slaves?

Smart use of data will define good media businesses.

Thomas Promny, Velvet Ventures

Thomas Promny

Various players are trying to move us into the next era of targeting. Gutenberg gave us the content target era. The Google team gave us the search targeted era. But if you topics are extremely innovative, no-one is searching for it. Data driven targeting could mean the end of wastage. The key is real time pricing. More and more data streams are becoming available, including social networks, that allow us to target people's intentions so much more accurately.

Right now, we have loads of advertisers, but only a small proportion are suitable for display advertising. With increased data flows around people, eventually everyone should be a potential display advertisers - moving from search to display advertising.

Wow. He's just put up a slide of all the inter-related companies in the online advertising space - complex? Or a mess? Or an opportunity to bring together more and more data before you serve up an ad? If we can transition people to display advertisings, the return on online publishing will shoot up. Premium publishers are scared of this. Why? Because people start buying audiences NOT sites - underlying ad trafficking can publish to people wherever they are. The business might get more profitable, but it won't get easier. They need to learn new skills to use data in a virtuous cycle, to ensure they're attracting valuable audiences.

Jason Kelly, AdMeld

Jason Kelly of AdMeld

AdMeld is a "Supply side platform" - works with over 400 "premium" publisher clients worldwide. Kelly spent 10 years within the airline industry, working with Virgin, helping move it into the US, then moved to Time Inc and then AdMeld. Travel has moved a long way since the era of the travle agent . Advertising is still in a "legacy system" era, with traditional tools. The airline business went through a series of changes from the 70s onwards, that allowed them to manager and sell directly to different tiers of demand. This change hasn't removed middlemen between airlines and passengers, but it has fundamentally changed them to a combinations of online sites and highly-specialised, personalised agency services.

Publishers are coming through a similar cycle, where online services have emerged, but publishers are realising that they need to investing in their own people and systems around sophisticated ad-targeting if they are to keep up with their clients' needs.

Realtime Bidding: bidding for a cookie to serve ads against in real time. In the US, there was a lot of skepticism about it at the end of 2009. By the middle of 2010, people were opening up to it, and now they are hitting mainstream adoption. $823m of business right now... They manage ad networks, and are seeing tags as their revenue source dropping from 85 to 46% over a year, thanks to the rise of RTB.

Lots of players moving into this space, and innovation is happening really fast. Publishers need to rise to the challenge. If you don't like change,. you'll like irrelevance even less.

[The next presenter was in German, so I had no idea what he was saying - something about affiliate marketing and online dating]

[Final speaker in German, too, so bailing on this one]

Enhanced by Zemanta

#next11 - Here comes the liveblogging

NEXT 11 Begins
For the next two days I'm in Berlin, liveblogging those parts of the NEXT 11 conference that catch my eye. Today, I'll be largely following the media track, for reasons that should be self-evident to anyone who reads this blog... ;-)

WiFi holding up so far, power available, and coffee accessible (despite the queues for it). All systems are go...

May 16, 2011

Scaling is Hard

Scaling is Hard
I think we broke it...

The viral launch of the Sunday Times Social List has clearly been rather more successful than they expected. Wonder if it'll be back in action for Sunday's paper launch?

May 15, 2011

The Sunday Times turns Social List

The Sunday Times Social List

On Friday evening, I was invited to the launch of a new Sunday Times-related website, The Social List (as this rather cryptic post hinted). The organisers asked us to refrain from blogging about it until midnight tonight, but despite that, Twitter is now absolutely full of news about it. (point of embargoes on live websites in a social media age: discuss) The cat is well and truly out of the bag.

And what is the Social List? Well, it's a site that ranks activity around your postings on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Foursquare, and calculates your influence as a result - and thus ranks you. I fed it all four of my accounts on Friday evening, and this was the result:

Adam Tinworth's rank on The Social List

I think we can safely say that's the highest I'll ever rank. :-)

The graph on the right shows levels of activity on each of the services, proving that I'm very much a Twitter man, and the developers, VCCP, were keen to emphasise that the algorithm focuses on other people's activity around your postings, rather than raw follower numbers. The graph will be updated weekly, with the slider below kicking in after about four weeks.

Inevitably, as the audience pointed out, the top echelons of the list will come to be dominated by celebrities (which means I was only keeping the number four spot warm for Stephen Fry). And that's where the second listing comes in - your comparative rank to those you know. This is how mine looks this morning (I've sunk to number 32, FWIW)

The Sunday Times Social List lists

The obvious question is how does this service compare to, say, Klout or PeerIndex? They were soundly dismissed as "techie" services, of no interest to the general consumer. This is meant to be a social ranking service for the average consumer. And to try and drive traffic virally, you're encouraged to share your current rank with networks:


Beyond that, Gordon Thomson, online editor of the Sunday Times, was keen to point out that The Social List follows a long line of Sunday Times lists, most notably The Rich List - which cynics might note is very heavily promoted in the footer of the new site.

"The Rich List can only be accessed by the monied few," said Thomson. "This can be enjoyed by everyone."

The Social List launch event

He also suggested that the Social List is reflective of how important the Sunday Times feel social media is - an interesting statement coming from a man whose website is locked behind a paywall...

The creative director of the site, Andre Assalino, quipped that they'd put all their time and effort into developing an "astonishing three page website".

"The potential to show more over time is quite great," he added. And I suspect the longevity of the site will be measured in how well they add additional functionality onto this initial offering to keep people coming back.

There's going to be some promotion from the paper product - it'll be officially launched next week, and the paper will continue publishing the top placed people for the foreseeable future. But, in the main, they're relying on viral spreading and people's competitive spirit - and ego - to drive use.

Privacy came up as an issue, but the only specific response the team gave was that you can make yourself anonymous on the service, if you wish (and you can see some Anonymous folks in the lists above), and control which of your services are publically linked:

My Social List profile

In the above shot, only my Twitter and LinkedIn accounts are active links - as they're the ones I consider "public".


This feels like principally a promotional effort for the Rich List, but on the other hand it seems like an awful lot of time and effort has gone into this, just for that. I'm sure it'll be a roaring success for the first month or so, but given the lack of clear benefit to the Sunday Times from it (bar the reputation boost), a lot will depend on how it develops and how relevant it is in six months' time.


  • Will it last? The competitive league element of it might see people coming back - but I can easily see people using it for a few weeks, and then it slowly dropping off their radar.
  • How spammy is it going to be? The OAuth links to other sites grab a pretty large number of permissions, and at the launch event they specifically told us that it would publish your position to your most-used network once a week. I can't find a setting anywhere that turns that off. And that's a little concerning.

May 14, 2011

The BBC's revamped blogs are a road crash


I've been watching the revamp of the BBC's blogs with a mix of horror and awe. It feels as if they've decided to go back and make all the mistakes that most big media organisations make the first time they try social media. Maybe they feel they missed out.

Some changes make a certain sense. Moving off Movable Type? Many have done so. We may make the same decision later in the year.

Moving to a generic non-blog platform? Not so smart. Function begets form, sometimes, and blog platforms are designed to facilitate blogging, rather than other forms of content production. They're using a spanner for a screwdriver's job.

Headline-only RSS feeds? Great way to lose all your RSS readers!

But this I find incomprehensible:

With some news stories each day having comments on them, there may be times when a story and correspondent's analysis cover the same subject. To avoid unnecessary duplication and even confusion, generally we will seek to have comments on one or the other. So correspondents' pieces may not always include comments. In addition, in our new system, comments have a maximum length of 400 characters. It's my view that this makes for sharper contributions, though I know some disagree.

The reaction, across all the blogs, has been uniformly negative.

From Nick Robinson's blog:

I believe he (and other Editors) looks on the commenters on his blog as idiots.


The new format was not imposed for our benefit. The intention is to stifle serious debate. And frivolous debate.


This is no longer a blog. What a shame.


Tellingly, Robinson himself has only posted once since the switch to the new format.

This shows such a fundemental disrespect for the commenting community that they would have been better saying "we can't handle the comment load, we're turning off comments". Some blogs function perfectly well like this - Daring Fireball, The Dish - but this half-arsed solution with the newest comment at the top, breaking any conversational continuity? Horrible. It feels like someone who has never written, used or commented on a blog outside the BBC's own has taken charge of their blogging technology, and ignored the accumulated experience of hundreds and thousands of bloggers big and small worldwide. That's a powerful fusion of arrogance and stupidity right there.

Prediction: they'll either revert to a more traditional blog form, or end up turning off comments within six months.

All too often, this is how social media is...

Nice satire on social media marketing stupidity, that sadly loses its way and hits predictable jokes at the end:

May 13, 2011


Sunday Times launch event
An interesting evening at a launch event for something that I've been asked not to blog about until Monday.

So, I'll just post this picture and be a complete tease... ;-)

The anti-social iPad?

Kristine compares the media environment around iPad subs with the theories of the last decade:

It made me wonder how customers feel about the prospect of being co-owned by Hearst and Apple.

I understand the  business sense behind that statement, but it made me wonder if anyone remembers stuff like Day of the Longtail and the empowerment of the people formerly known as the audience?

I guess that must all have been forgotten in the iPad-age... and the people who in 2001 were the media's very own "cuddly coach-potatoes" preparing a revolt causing total disintermediation ... well, they must've gone back to being cuddly coach potatoes again.

My gut reaction: tablets are in the same place that the web was in the mid- to late 90s: companies think that they can recreate the environment of the past, even as the tidal wave of change surfs towards them. While people were building brochure sites, the blogging revolution was getting underway. Look for the niche, techie, cool stuff happening on tablets, and you'll see the real face of the future.

Good question of the day

Glyn asks the question on pretty much everybody's mind today in our little social media journalism bubble:

Just how do the authorities impose injunctions on users of social media if that site isn’t within the territorial jurisdiction of that authority?

Anyone got any bright ideas?

The Dale Plan for "rescuing" political blogging

Iain Dale thinks he's riding to the rescue of British political blogging:

I think the way forward for mass audience blogs is with group blogs. To that effect in a few weeks I am launching a new multi-authored site provisionally called Iain Dale & Friends. It won't have an editorial line, it won't be politically partisan, and it will cover culture, the media and sport as well as core UK and world politics. I've recruited 40 or 50 friends to write for the site.

My experience is that group blogs are significantly harder to make work that individual blogs, as I mentioned here. That's not to say that Dale's enterprise won't work - Samizdata is an example of a long-running, successful group political blog, for example - but the challenges may be much greater than he expected.

Personally, I suspect the decline in political blogging, such as it is, is around the change of government. It is, after all, the first time that has happened in the life of the UK blogosphere. The blogs of the right are more muted now that their lot are in power, and the blogs of the left have yet to really take on board the fact that they lost the election. The ones I read seem to think that the Coalition will collapse at any second, and that Labour will return to its natural position in government Real Soon Now. Once they get through this denial and the other stages of grief, I expect they'll start growing a bit more vigourously.

May 12, 2011

Getting our grubby paws on iPad subscriber data

Well, now, this is interesting, isn't it?

Although the idea of giving iPad owners a choice of whether or not to divulge their name, email and zipcode sent chills through some publishers, a report finds nearly 50 percent of people click the “allow” button. For some time, Apple and publishers have been at loggerheads over who will control the flow of subscriber information. The finding that most people are willing to give up some personal data in exchange for their favorite magazine on the iPad may explain why more publishers are agreeing to Apple’s terms.

Full article at Cult of Mac.

That figure feels like something publishers can work with, but it also feels pretty random, in that there are precisely two options available when you subscribe, and slightly less than half are choosing to hit the pre-selected one:


It's a pretty bland, factual pop-up, so it's not really giving people much incentive to click "Allow", really, is it? In fact, it very easily reads like you're accepting a dump of junk mail. Now, I'm not sure how customisable that pop-up is (my guess is that it isn't), but surely if developers could find ways of incentivising people to accept earlier in the process, by highlighting the benefits of that data transfer on the subscription information page.

Because there are benefits to the user from this, right…?

May 11, 2011

The power of a single blog

Interesting graph from Andrew Sullivan as part of a post on journalism 2.0:

The Daily Dish Moves
The sudden divergence of traffic at the end marks the point Sullivan's blog, The Dish moved from The Atlantic to The Daily Beast


But it's worth noting that, according to Quantcast, the Beast's traffic in terms of page views is now 39 million a month, compared with the Atlantic's 15 million. The month before the Dish moved, it was 27 million pageviews for the Beast vs 21 million for the Atlantic. The gap in pageviews between the two sites has gone in one month from 6 million to 24 million. Since ads are sold on pageviews, that has got to mean something long-term. Quite what I don't really know.
I'm sure you can come up with one or two suggestions...
Enhanced by Zemanta

Super Injunction Linkage

Not really had much to say on this, beyond what I said back when it was all about Trafigura. But here are some interesting links that have crossed my radar:

Any other links people would like to recommend?

Twitpic's attempted copyright grab?

Twitpic becomes the latest in a long line of web companies playing fast and loose with their users' copyright:

The first part highlighted is a clause seemingly denying anyone who uploads a picture to Twitpic the media exploitation rights for that picture; it specifically targets those businesses who might want to pay for it. The second is a more vaguely-worded catch-all clause that, in the most draconian interpretation, could deny a user from uploading their own pictures to other hosting services like Flickr.

Chris Applegate has done a thorough exploration of what's going on and Twitpic's moves to correct the issue.

Enhanced by Zemanta

May 10, 2011

Helping other people pimp your content

Ah, my poor little blog. I've been experimenting on it again. In the past couple of hours, I've added the new Tumblr share button and put some preparations in place to add the Facebook Send button, too. 

Now, there's part of me that rebels against this. My choice would be to have less cluttered page designs. But it's becoming very, very clear that social sharing is becoming a big driver of traffic, not just to my blog, but much of what we publish. 

The latest study from the good Pew people highlights that our metrics are far from unique:

Social media, however, and Facebook in particular, are emerging as a powerful news referring source. At five of the top sites, Facebook is the second or third most important driver of traffic. Twitter, on the other hand, barely registers as a referring source. In the same vein, when users leave a site, "share" tools that appear alongside most news stories rank among the most clicked-on links
I do wonder if the results show a combination of more mainstream adoption of Facebook than Twitter, alongside a tendency for national media to choose Facebook sharing over others when they integrate options into their pages. 

We see a very mixed bag here. Some markets, like Farming and Hairdressing are all about the Facebook. Estates Gazette does very well out of LinkedIn. Here? It's the Twitter, in the main, with odd spikes from LinkedIn and Facebook (my last post is on 29 likes at the time of writing, for example). 

And that sort of information is why experimenting with this stuff is so important. Given how fast the Tumblr community is growing, I'll be very interested to see how the new button works (and I'll be even more interested if they create a more customisable version that allows me to force the URL shared, and thus make it workable from the blog homepage). 

So, uh, feel free to share this, however you like. :-)

May 9, 2011

Is the social web reducing our access to information?

I find this a far more frightening talk than the cheery presentation would suggest. Is algorithmic personalisation weeding out challenging content from our news flows? Are web companies pandering to that part of ourselves that prefers non-challenging information?

The journalism old guard needs to be "put down"

Mike Arrington, founder of the hugely successful Techcrunch technology blog:

I have little hope for this industry until the last of the old guard have finally been put down. They do NOT control the news. They do NOT control opinion. They do NOT get to say who gets to write content and who doesn’t. And they do NOT get to rant about their ethics when they constantly fight against simple transparency.

A challenging rant on the somewhat shaky ethics of traditional media, as he sees it.

May 7, 2011

A Carnival of Journalism Failure


It's Carnival of Journalism time again, and I'm about 36 hours late with this post - but then, what could possibly be more apposite for a journalism debate than a massive deadline FAIL? It's an integral part of the job, surely? :-) And failure is at the very heart of what the D-man has challenged us to do this time around.

That said, I've struggled with this brief: one big FAIL, one big lesson. So, I'm pretty much going to ignore it, because the failure in my working life hasn't arisen in a way that suits that model. And there are complex lessons to be learnt from failure.

Failure's a funny thing. Those things that seem like huge failures at the time, often seem quite different with the benefit of hindsight.

For instance, pretty much my whole journalism career was born out of failure; in that specific case, a failure of courage. I wanted to be a photographer, but as a country boy newly arrived in the big city, my courage absolutely failed me when I went to join the student newspaper team. The confident "I'd like to be a photographer" I'd imagined turned out to be a terrified squeak of "I'd like to help", and I ended up as a co-reviews editor, rather than as a photographer. And then I fell in love with the assemblage of words, photos and design that make up magazines. That failure of courage shaped directly the next two decades of my life.

I suppose the next major FAIL of my career was in the mid-2000s, when a magazine I was editing was killed after only four issues. At the time, I was devastated. It was my goal to be a magazine editor in my early 30s - and I thought I was there. And it was then snatched away from me. But I did learn some things that I took into the next phase of my life. One was that it doesn't matter how compelling an editorial product you create - and it was, if I say so myself, a damn good magazine - if there's no revenue there, you're done. In all my work since, I've always had a weather eye on where the commercial value will eventually be. That's been a good lesson. But, in retrospect, it's hard to see that fail as much of a bad thing. Maybe if GRID had succeeded I'm be another magazine editor who'd crawled his way to the top of the heap and resisting the changed that are sweeping over journalism, rather than somebody working near the forefront of that wave. In a sense, it freed me from the burden of my own narrow ambitions, and gave me the chance to view the world with refreshed eyes. These first two failures taught me that sometimes flexibility is way more valuable than single-mindedness. If a focus on a single goal blinds you to reality, you're on course for a far, far bigger FAIL.

Another FAIL came in my early days as head of blogging for RBI. I didn't trust myself and my own judgement enough, and I didn't oppose the proliferation of group blogs that we set up across our magazines in the early days. I knew instinctively and from my own experience that "owned" personal blogs, which individuals felt they had a heavy investment in would work better, but I didn't push that case hard enough. I listened too much to the arguments about keeping workload down and creating a team identity rather than a personal one. And, with one notable exception, every single team blog we set up in that period failed.

And, actually, that's why I'm pleased that I've defied the brief with some small failures, because iterative rounds of experimentation and failure are exactly what we need right now. Testing things presupposes the possibility of failure, and we need to come to terms with that. We're in a period of profound change for the industry - indeed, "the industry" as we know it may have already mutated beyond recognition (but that's fodder for another post) - and the ability to learn from failure is a pre-condition of experimentation. My wife once came home from the lab on a Friday evening, and mentioned that one of her colleagues had said "Nature: one; Stephen: nil" before leaving for the weekend. Failure is at the heart of experimentation, and we're too inured to that as an industry. We've spent too long making small improvements on a well-known business model and that has ill-prepared us for what we're experiencing now.

Failure is incredibly valuable, as long as you accept it for what it is, face up to it, and learn from it. So many of the problems we see in the journalism business right now are rooted in people's refusal to accept that their old business models are failing (or failed), and that their current working methods are doing likewise.

Blogging: a dance of conversation

Tim Carmody guest-blogging on Kottke:

These are also the elements that help establish bloggers' identity as readers in conversation with other readers: I have seen something that I feel strongly enough to think and write about, and what would make me happiest is if you look at it, then think and write about it too.

This sums up perfectly why I love link-based blogging so very much, and why I still think it beats that "serialised instruction manual" style of blogging that so many advice sites will tell you is the one true way to success…

May 6, 2011

Official Blogging Upcoming: Next - Data Love, Berlin

NEXT11 - Register now!

I have been invited to be an official blogger at this month's Next Conference, in Berlin. And given the subject - Data Love - how could I possibly refuse?

Data is a significant part of our business here at RBI, and data journalism is such a very strong trend both in online journalism as a whole, and in the work we're doing out of the Editorial Development team, that the programme just looks choc full of inspirational goodness for me and those I work with.

As usual, I'll be frenetically liveblogging those sessions I attend right here on OM&HB, but those of you who are as deeply data hungry as me could still attend in person

Can we use web metrics to improve print products?

Catching up on my RSS feeds after my holiday, I came across this post in Jeff Jarvis's blog. One bullet point in particular struck me:

* Some readers are not worth saving. One newspaper killed its stock tables, saved $1 million, and lost 12 subs. That means it had been paying $83k/year to maintain those readers. In creating business plans, the net future value of readers should be calculated and maximized.

The publishing package we call a newspaper or magazine has long disguised the value of individual chunks of content within that package. The value of content has been left to the judgement of the editorial team, which may be why so many journalists are resistant to using metrics to determine what is or isn't working on the web. Their judgement can be questioned and challenged by the brutal realities of audience reaction.

Now, if you're looking to reduce costs on your print product, without affecting its value to the existing audience, and to free up time to devote to online development, chopping out a chunk of the magazine that you deem low value is a risky strategy. But is there room for a virtuous feedback cycle. If a chunk of content is getting very little traffic on the web, could that be an indication that its value to the audience is way lower than your judgement suggests?

Understanding quality in online video (or angry birds are cool)

Link of the day for anyone working in online video comes from Loïc, talking about the views on the videos they created around last year's Le Web.

Which one fared worst? The high-production value, highly-edited one.

The most watched? Tweet tweet rage…

It's increasingly clear that the definition of "high quality" in online video is radically different to that seen in TV production, and most attempts to port TV values over to the web lead to disappointing results at best, and abject failure at worst.

But then, the TV industry should know that. They had to get over the paradigm of just pointing cameras at theatre productions a few decades back…

I have three rules for online video:

  1. Experiment cheap
  2. Focus on content quality, not production values
  3. Analyse your metrics ruthlessly and use them to inform your next experiments

If you really want to produce TV-style video, than the TV business might be a better place to work. ;-)

May 5, 2011

Telegraph goes paid-for on the iPad

Well now, this is interesting:

Free website, £9.99 a month for the iPad app. So the question here is: 

Will people pay for a convenient package and experience?

I have my doubts, but it's certainly a question worth asking.

Other things to note:

  • They're using the iTunes subs model
  • It's free for existing Telegraph subscribers
  • The future of the existing iPad "Best of" app is unclear. It's still working in its current form, but the new version is an update. So, to try out the new paid service, I say goodbye to the old free one. Clearly, there will be no new users of the old app, as it's been replaced in the app store, but will they cut off access to those who choose not to update? UPDATE: Yes, access to content via the old app will be "winding down" in the next few days, a helpful tweet from the Telegraph folks informs me.
Downloading the new version now...

May 4, 2011

Who wields influence amongst UK online journalists?

Well. I'm back from my break in France, and feeling relaxed, refreshed and recharged. There's much blogging I want to do, but I've been flat out with strategy and training and liaison and other exciting work things since I returned. My diary opens up a bit from tomorrow, so expect a bit more posting then.

In the meantime, my ego, pesky little thing that it is, won't let me getting away without linking to this list of the UK's most influential online journalists. At the moment I'm 18th, and probably the 2nd most influential B2B journalist after Patrick Smith:

If you fancy helping demote me, they're looking for suggestions for 50 more people to add to the list.


Follow me on

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from May 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

April 2011 is the previous archive.

June 2011 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.