August 2011 Archives
August 31, 2011
The London riots sent traffic through the roof, with 35,000 visitors on the Monday, when riots in Lewisham took place and 45,000 visitors on the Tuesday, when Brockley Kate provided coverage of the aftermath and we provided a live report, during which mostly nothing happened. On a good day, the site normally gets 2,000 visitors.
August 30, 2011
August 27, 2011
What perhaps we need is for all the warring media factions to lay down their arms. Instead of The Times vainly pursuing online subscribers while its competitors watch it haemorrhage the kind of money only the Murdochs of this world have, why don’t the media bosses agree to simultaneously put up paywalls or micropayment systems? Picture the scene: 1 January 2012 and the country wakes up in a collective hangover, makes its way online to find pictures of Boris Johnson drunkenly swimming in the Trafalgar Square fountains from the night before. Sixty million muggy-headed readers scrabble for their credit cards and a new media landscape emerges.
- Look up the word "cartel"
- Believe it or not, the traditional media aren't the only people publishing on the web
Why do so many journalists find it hard to see the world beyond the traditional media?
August 26, 2011
August 25, 2011
A personal account of the new Apple CEO from a former employee:
Tim Cook is one of those rare people who stop and think before speaking. Standing in the same room with him I realized that he's comfortable with silence as long as that silence is productive and appropriate. He's not like other tech execs who ramble almost immediately and incoherently at any question lobbed at them, as if doing so will convince others they know everything about everything.
Fascinating. And somewhat reassuring.
August 24, 2011
Yesterday, a rather depressing story about journalism training appeared on the Press Gazette site. It wasn't depressing because of the headline finding:
The top four most important skills cited by editors were: writing, finding news stories, interviewing and legal knowledge
As Joanna Geary pointed out in the comments, that has a definite "Pope revealed to be Catholic" element. No, it was this addendum:
at the bottom of the list came social media, web skills and interaction with readers
Oh, goodness. The fact that interaction with readers is so low would have horrified me, even if the rest wasn't in there. Building a relationship with the readers is fundamental to supporting the long-term success of any journalism enterprise of whatever type, and showing that level of disdain for the people who support your business is alarming to say the least. The platonic ideal of journalism may be a wonderful thing to strive for, but that and a couple of quid will buy you a cup of coffee if you fail to serve and understand your readers.
Now, there's something to be said for separating the core skills of journalism - which are pretty much the four things outlined in the first quote above - from specific means of expression. If you teach journalists those, you prepare them to work in any medium: print, digital, broadcast, whatever. I was certainly big on the idea of unpicking the core skills of journalism from the specific elements that were a product of print's workflow (350 word inverted pyramid, I'm looking at you...) But that, in a very real sense, is 2008's argument, if only because that last time that was even in question was last decade. The world has moved on since then, as Alison Gow nails in her response to the piece:
I wholeheartedly agree that finding stories, interviewing, local knowledge, are fundamental skills for anyone who wants to report (whether that's in msm or otherwise). But here's the thing; why would any editor say these were more important than social media, web skills and interaction? Why would any editor not understand that these are intrinsic to finding stories, interviewing and local knowledge?
Trying to separate working a beat from social networking and the web is pretty much like trying to separate it from using the telephone: ridiculous. But the problem is that anything new has this vague sheen of "techie" that people seem to use as an excuse not to move beyond their comfort zone - and there's plenty of evidence of that in the comments on the original post.
This discussion has to move on. We have to stop seeing the web and the tools it offers as something "new-fangled" and "for techies", but just as a new set of tools that allows us to find, research and publish stories. The web makes journalism bigger, not smaller. And we should be celebrating that, not hiding from it.
Update: Andy Dickinson identifies another reason editors de-prioitise web skills:
Because they are seen as a way of getting content out there not getting content in or helping with the journalistic process. They will always be less important than getting the paper/programme out.
And that's a good point. People are still missing that the web can be a conversational medium as much as an broadcast one.
August 23, 2011
http://t.co/sgyYTFF latest coal analysis from our new coal editor Manca Vitorino
Sorry, Katie, but it made me chuckle when I saw it. ;-)
Actually, joking aside, if you actually click through and read the link, you'll find the sort of in-depth analysis and reporting of something that actually matters - our power supplies - that make it clear why people are prepared to pay online for the work that the ICIS team do.
Knowledge, research, insight, analysis: these things makes paywalls work.
August 21, 2011
And now for a brief Sunday diversion from the normal topic of this blog. I'd like to talk for a moment about whisky (although one could argue that whisky and journalism have often been closely linked…)
Some months back a jokey comment about heading out for a bottle of whisky to drown my frustrations was picked up by the team that manage the Grant's Whisky twitter account. A little gentle leg-pulling by myself and Suw, amongst others (Twitter's lousy search and my worse memory is making it hard for me to track down exactly who) actually led to Rebecca from the @grantswhisky team sending us all some miniatures of their products. I've finally got around to drinking all three, and these are my thoughts:
Grant's Sherry Cask - the idea behind this (and the next) whisky is to age the spirit in a cask formerly used for sherry, imparting different flavours to the drink. And, in this case, the result is something a little warmer and smoother than a traditional Scotch. And, honestly, this didn't grab me. It reminded me a little of drinking an Irish whiskey (triple distilled against Scotch's twice), and I think I'd rather do that that drink this.
Grant's Ale Cask - Now this was rather more up my street. The Ale cask has given a lovely creamy texture to the whisky that made me think of autumn evenings. An enjoyable, drinking whisky that I'll be getting a bottle of once the summer is done. Something to look forward to after a walk in the woods…
Grant's Family Reserve - If I'd drunk this on its own, I'd have really enjoyed it. I made the mistake of drinking it too close on the heels of the Ale Cask, though. They share too many notes to avoid making a comparison rather that treating the Family Reserve on its own merits. It's less challenging to the palate that the Ale Cask, and that made it seem slightly insipid to me, but then I've always like my whiskies full of character and punch. I'd happily drink this, but I'd be secretly lusting after the Ale Cask.
Rather ironically, though, I wouldn't count any of these three whiskies as the sort you'd use to drown your sorrows in. Far better to just let your sorrows drift away on an Ale Cask-aged haze…
August 19, 2011
The meme that Facebook Comments could be the saviour of newspapers' troubled comments sections has emerged again.
In the long run, handing comments over to Facebook may increase traffic, but it could also make it easier for publishers to simply ignore their comments and not engage as much as they would have otherwise. Why should they, if Facebook is handling them? This is a little like a retailer outsourcing their customer service to an outside firm: it might take a frustrating element of the business off their plate, but it also hands control of a crucial element of customer interaction over to a third party.
I often make the point when I give presentations on social media and the business world that competitive B2B print magazines exist in strange, alternative universes where their competitors don't exist and are never referred to. Why "strange, alternative"? Well, for the last decade I've spent much of my time participating in a world where linking to those you "compete" with is part and parcel of what makes the publishing format work: blogging. And that link-and-connect idea has stayed just as true as the different forms of social media have evolved.
The network effect and the very nature of the web means that linking to others in your space benefits both of you, both in terms of search engine ranking, and in intertwining your communities. Online, people don't have to make a choice between one site and another, and so each publication doesn't have to compete to be their community's only choice. You are, if anything, competing to be their most regularly-visited site or, more interestingly, their most trusted. And one thing that really helps build trust in you is when you link to those you notionally compete against. That's a 180-degree shift around from the values of print media.
So, it's kinda amusing to see people treating the online world like the print one by ruthlessly expunging any touch of their competition from a list of influential property Twitter users. I honestly couldn't imagine any blogger doing this to a list of influencers in their field, yet I'd bet it wasn't even a question for the magazine team. And, to be fair to the Property Week guys, it's a tough mindset shift that I've seen many people at all levels of the business struggle with here at RBI. But It's still B2B media turning social media into quasi-social media. Ah, well.
I'm always delighted to link to the competition - and this blog would be a hell of a lot less interesting if I did nothing but spout my own opinions rather than linking to the wealth of good journalism bloggers there are out there right now. And there are some interesting Twitter users on that list that you should be following if you're in the property business. ;-)
The tyranny of the inverted pyramid in most journalists' minds right now is one of my recurring bugbears. It's a product of print, and of the working techniques needed to get words onto paper in a timely fashion. But people can't seem to move beyond it in the digital era.
This lovely post from Poynter reminds us that many more formats have been used for journalism than we acknowledge.
Journalism format conservatism: just say no. ;-)
August 18, 2011
Fraser Nelson, on the Speccy's Coffee House blog:
Best of all, we've been picking up up two (paying) digital readers for every one news-stand reader lost. And this ratio is improving all the time. When you include our blogs, the number of Spectator readers has never been higher.
Their digital readership is up to 8% of their total readership. Nice mix of free social and paid-for article content, that's not a million miles away from many of our magazines.
There's more to magnetisation life that an all-or-nothing paywall…
So, today the (allegedly) British media goes into its annual frenzy of exam-results celebration, in predictable style. First we have the pretty girls celebrating.
Tomorrow, inevitably, it'll be all about how A-levels have been dumbed down
But that's not what's really irritating me.
No, I'm niggled by the same thing I've been annoyed by since I was a teenager growing up in Scotland. The Scottish exam results came out two weeks ago, but would you know it from coverage from our supposedly national media? No you blooming' well wouldn't. A few stories about the text-messsage cock-up, sure. But a live-blog? Nope.
Elitist, shallow and London-centric media? You betcha.
August 17, 2011
Damian Wild on building Estates Gazette's first iPad app:
When it comes to embracing new technologies property isn't normally on the fast train. It's a face-to-face business, dealing with assets that usually last lifetimes. But at EG we've sensed a change this year. The visibility of iPads at events has shot up and, for some of the more forward-thinking developers and advisers, augmented reality is more what happens after too many drinks in a Mayfair wine bar.
August 12, 2011
There's lots I want to blog about in the aftermath of this week's looting, but this is one of those times when a little reflection serves us better than rushing to share our ill-informed opinions with the world. Noted for my (and your) reference:
- Are we talking to ourselves on Twitter? - self-reinforcing circles are a danger of social networks…
- Taking back social streams - we need to evolve away from merely commenting on the things we agree or disagree on and actually start conversing
- 9 ways to use Twitter responsibly - it saddened me to see so many journos reacting to rumour with publicity rather than investigation - and yes, I'm looking at you Fleet Street Fox.
- We had it bad at times in Lewisham; false rumours of race wars circulated, while Lee High Road was the tranquil sight you can see above. Here's how residents quashed the rumours.
- Now, the PM is proposing that the government gets the power to shut down social networks in times of emergency. Tory MP Louise Mensch makes the comparison with train networks.
- However, is it actually more like an emergency broadcast system?
- Or a neutral force for social organisation?
- A summary of the debate so far.
This one will run and run…
August 11, 2011
It wasn't just in Clapham that people pulled together in the aftermath of the riots:
August 9, 2011
A burned-out car not far from my Lewisham flat, from a photo set by Tom Royal.
A rough night in London, as looters smashed up and burnt high streets all over the capital.
Morning has dawned, with the #riotcleanup hashtag, promoted early on by Dan Thompson, helping people co-ordinate themselves to clean up the damage of the night before. Proof, if you want it, that social media is inherently neutral, and that people can use it for good or ill.
- Brixton yesterday morning, before the next wave of riots.
- Riot damage in Deptford
- The night the looters stole from us all
- Matthew Taylor explores the Prime Minister's challenge
- Good to see student journalists doing live coverage of the riots
- Bad to see journalists being attacked
- Brockley Central has a time-line of attacks in the south east of London
- Google map of rioting locations
- The story of what's rapidly becoming the defining image of last night
Clapham looks shut this morning:
More as I find them.
- Guardian news meeting, with a map of London
- Brockley Central lists damaged shops in south east London
People waiting to join #riotcleanup in Clapham, via Simon Parsons
- A first person account of a restaurant being attacked last night
- Facebook page in support of the Police
- Remember you're a #riotwomble
- The Times is reporting that London's cells are full [£]
- At times like this no news can be news.
- A tumblr for photos of looters
The Great Harry pub in Woolwich (via @darryl1974)
Feels like a miracle that no-one's been killed in the riots yet, especially when you see this:
There's been a definite shift away from recording the damage and arranging positive action, into blame-storming and political posturing, which I'm less interested in chronicling.
Here's a last link for now, channeling the positive vibe of this morning.
August 8, 2011
Playing with my iPhone over the weekend, I decided to shoot the same scene with three different High Dynamic Range methods. One is the iPhone 4's in-built HDR, and the other with HDR apps.
This is the iPhone default:
Quite naturalistic. Nice shot.
This is Pro HDR:
More dramatic and vivid, I'd say. A little unreal for my tastes, though.
This is, I think, my favourite. It's more moody and dramatic, and the HDR is a little less obvious than in the previous pic.
Cameras that are also computers. So many possibilities.
Yes, we're now going to have to suffer through lots of ill-informed speculation from columnists. Brace yourself yet again as they take out their favourite axe from the kitchen cupboard and grind away on it just a bit more until the head is gone and they're whittling the handle into a toothpick.
He has solutions. Howabouts we all agree not to link, like, retweet or share any political posturing following the riots, and just concentrate on the good journalism and fact-based analysis?
Mike Butcher, writing on TechCrunch UK:
Over the weekend parts of London descended into chaos as riots and looting spread after a protest organised around the yet unexplained shooting of a man by Police. Of course, there was huge amounts of chatter on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, with the latter coming under enormous amounts of criticism from the UK press for fuelling the fire. But while Twitter has largely been the venue of spectators to violence and is a handy public venue for journalists to observe, it would appear the non-public BlackBerry BBM messaging network has been the method of choice for organising it.
I think we can safely say the business brand value cachet of owning a BlackBerry is done.
From business essential, to tool of rioters to irrelevance...
UPDATE: Some think this is good news for BlackBerry and RIM
August 5, 2011
In the computer-scarce past, the institution purchased and owned the computer. The institution managed the computer and the institution controlled what happened on that computer.
In the computer-rich present and the even-richer future, I think that Apple’s looking towards a different model. The user of the device “owns” it. Whether they really purchase it themselves is somewhat beside the point. The idea is that the person who spends their days working with that device has control of it, and the institution can overlay certain policies on top to meet their requirements.
An interesting inversion of the way things often work now.
August 3, 2011
David Higgerson published an interesting meditation on comments under articles yesterday. "Are comments under articles worth doing?" he asks, and flirts with the answer "no", without coming to a definitive conclusion. The post, and the comments underneath (ironically) are well worth reading.
There are, I think, a couple of issues that arise from this. Firstly, if you have a problem with your comments, did you invest in community management resources before you enabled comments? If not, well, there's part of your problem.
Secondly, the closer you get to general interest, the more of a problem you're likely to have with comments. There's less consequence for commenters, and often less personal investment in the subject. And, in my experience, the more mainstream the journalist, the more likely they're to see themselves as above interacting with the hoi polloi readership...
Most importantly, though, I think there's a structural issue which David gets very close to identifying here:
If you look at a blog by a sports journalist, you'll see a much higher quality of comment than you will under the same sports journalist's stories elsewhere on the site - and the quality will be even higher if the sports journalist responds to the comments.
A journalist and a reader will get infinitely more out of an open relationship via Twitter than they will via comments under a story. Maybe it's the 140-character limit keeping you brief, or maybe it's because on social media you expect the journalist to see what you've said. Or maybe it's the fact that on Twitter - and even more so on Facebook - you're more likely to use your real name.
Here's the thing: most article formats are designed for the print age. The sites they sit on are structured in ways not unlike that of print, a medium where there is no inherent ability for the reader to react straight back to the author. Articles are designed to be complete in of themselves, not open-ended and prone to discussion. The author is a long way down the list of priority in "ownership" of the page. None of these are creating social signals that promote a good discussion.
A blog is a lot more than just a series of articles with comments under it. There are issues of ownership, identity and community that just can't arise out of the more loosely collated structure that articles are publishing in online. A blog is a social construct. A website with a series of articles on it is not. Too often, attaching comments to a traditional form articles is like attaching an internal combustion engine to a bicycle: you can probably hack together something that goes, but you're undermining the strengths of each of the two parts...
However, I'm not saying just rip comments off articles, and forget the whole thing. I'm suggesting that you need to rethink your articles more completely for the digital era. You build a motorbike by attacking an internal combustion engine to a frame that was designed for it. The problem isn't that comments are broken, it's that our site structures are still too wedded in print.
I'm more interested in rethinking site structures and article formats for the social publishing age than deciding if comments "work"...
Stuff crossing my information superhighway radar this morning:
- Seven books that journalists working online should read - up to 9, with recommendations in the comments
- How I tracked down an entire family from one tweet - Joanna make s triumphant return to blogging with a concise account of how you can build good investigative journalism off the information in a single tweet.
- The New Yorker has up to 100,000 readers on iPad - difficult to tell exactly how many are making regular use of it, and I did like Leo's suggestion on yesterday's MacBreak Weekly that people feel less guilty about a pile of unread magazines on a tablet than they do about unread magazines on the floor...
And this is an interesting watch:
August 2, 2011
Love this article, as tweeted by Kevin Sablan:
Unless a once-in-a-lifetime story is breaking in your community, the most urgent challenge facing every news organization today is making a swift and successful transformation to the digital future. Leading that transition is every editor’s most urgent challenge. And, for better or worse, Twitter has become a leading current indicator of a newsroom’s — or an editor’s — willingness to change.
You don’t lead change from your comfort zone. You lead change by showing your staff that you are willing to learn a new skill and suffer the discomfort of learning publicly.
Well worth reading the whole thing, by Mr Steve Buttry.
Much as I'm delighted to have a job that's based around social media, new technology and journalism, I do somewhat miss the days, a decade back, when I was still just experimenting with these new tools.
The endless hordes of people who have rushed in since, declaring the rules, the one-true-ways of blogging/social media/Twitter etc do somewhat spoil the swashbuckling fun of it all. Oh, I know everyone's desperately keen to stake out their territory, establish their expertise and make some money off the Big New Thing, but I'm still convinced we're only in the foothills of the change, that the true changes in publishing, commerce and society that a permanently connected, networked world will bring will take years, if not decades, to emerge.
As a rule of thumb, people who:
- tell you what the rules of success are, without acknowledging their provisionality
- use the word "brand" more than twice a paragraph
- declare confidently that social media is xxxxxx, where xxxxxx is a pre-existing business concept
- tell you that platform x is the only solution you should consider
- have no sense of humour about the whole silly, wonderful, inspirational, informative and useful social media thing
should probably be ignored.
August 1, 2011
Google News US has launched collectable badges for reading news stories.
This is stupid.
Mary has provided plenty of more detailed reasons why it's stupid, too. Another example of Google jumping on a social bandwagon without really understanding it?