Results tagged “journalism”

This is what happened to journalism

Mac Desk

I think this gif sums up the changes in journalism that have defined my working life over the past decade or so. I know some people will look at the "finished product" in horror - but to me, it's all about the possibilities that emerge when all that working equipment can be slung into a backpack and carried with you wherever you go...

[via Desk]

Journalism in 2014

Paul Bradshaw has provided a handy round-up of what happened in the worlds of digital journalism in 2014.

Of note:

YouTube. Media organisations are still overlooking YouTubers in the same way as they overlooked Vice, Buzzfeed et al. But there are serious non-mainstream publishers on there doing things differently.

It's not just YouTube - there's an entire culture of online video that's going unreported by most mainstream media - including the whole gaming video industry. There are media businesses and celebrities growing here that look so different to what we think of as journalism that people aren't joining the dots - yet.

Amazon did, though. It acquired Twitch earlier in the year - for $970m in cash.

LeWeb: Surviving media evolution

Cedric Ingrand


  • Ben Huh, Cheezburger
  • Michael J. Wolf, Activate
  • Frédéric Filloux, Groupe Les Echos
  • Host: Cedric Ingrand, Podcaster & resident geek at LCI/TF1

The revenue challenge

Frederic Filloux

Frédéric Filloux: This will be the first year in six years we make a profit. The overall circulation of the title will be the highest for 10 years, with digital being 25% of that. The readership is shifting, though. It went from print to the web, and now from the web to mobile. Mobile is 30% of the readership now, and they expect it to be 50% by the end of the year. Right now they need two digital subscribers to compensate for one print subscriber loss.

Michael Wolf: Everyone is watching more video. The major providers are finding new outlets for that. Shows won't just be on TV, they'll be on Netflix and Amazon streaming, They're finding new places.

Ben Huh: Old media has a very difficult constraint - it needs revenue to survive. For us, revenue just extends our runway. It gives us more time to experiment with new formats.

MW: It's not about investment - it's about the user. Frozen is the fifth highest motion picture ever. Someone like Katy Perry still draws a tremendous amount of interest.

BH: Newspapers still sell advertising better than us. Rates from older media are significantly larger than from new media.

FF: the split between high audience, low yield media and the low audience, high yield media has never been greater. But these new businesses are valued far higher than traditional businesses.

MW: Mobile gives readers more opportunities to look for news. People are looking at weather, Facebook, news…

FF: But the revenue for mobile is going to be only 20% of the web. The deflation keeps going.

Ben Huh

When Ben Huh founded his company - he bought a bunch of cat photos. Yes, he acquired I Can Has Cheezburger? He created the company, bought the website and closed funding in just 45 days. Since then they've launched and experimented endlessly. Their mission statement is to make people laugh for a few moments.

But how do you win the content game in the long term?

The medium is the message

-Marshall McLuhan

For Huh, the format is the message. The format is the kind of content that exists within your device. It's these formats - pioneered and owned by other companies often - that make things interesting. The reason your phone looks the way it does, is because a bunch of people got together in the 90s to create the widescreen TV format. Formats can have unexpected effects.

In the past, each vertical had its formats: print had books, magazine and newspapers. Those safe silos are gone. Now we have vertical competition - your Kindle isn't just about reading - it will read to you. That's audio.

Connections through content

Social media has made it easier for us to send content across the internet. The only way to connect with others online is with content - we are what we expose to others. The creation of beautiful and funny content has been driving media for the last five years.

We spend 112 hours awake a week. We spend 80 hours a week consuming media. How much of your visual space is filled with pixels? There are more and more screens in our lives. The longer we live the more pixels we will encounter.

Every time the content market fragments, as it does when new devices emerge, there's a new chance for a new company - or a new format - to grab market share. That's why media is so exciting right now.

Ben Huh too

Old formats do not go away - had a till receipt recently? That's a scroll. Old formats just end up in niches. New formats are born all the time. The people who created media for old formats are woefully bad at creating it for a new format. Yet, we need more than just gaming skills to make VR work - we need the storytelling skills of old media. How do we bring these together?

We are now entering a world where physical objects can be treated as media, thanks to 3D printing. Cats have evolved from bad ass ferocious animals, to cute, friendly meme vectors. It's not what you might expect from evolution…

The old stories are over

Old stories had beginnings, middles and ends. Online, we go straight to the punchline. How do we learn to tell these new stories. Creativity is not a blank canvas. Constraints and formats that force you to work within a box drives creativity, because you know the limits. Three window jokes aren't an internet format - they're the triptych of religious art. We derive new formats from old.

Cheeseburger wants to own short form humour. They want formats that are simple, that don't make you work too hard, because we are all what we share.

Vox Media's worth? $380m

Vox Media has just secured another funding round:

Vox Media, the company behind high-profile sites including The Verge, SB Nation and Vox, has raised $46.5 million in a round led by General Atlantic. The funding gives Vox a post-money valuation of about $380 million, according to people familiar with the transaction.

Vox publishes good, interesting sites, rethought for the digital age. They're one of the most interesting journalistic publishers out there right now.

I really enjoyed this profile of Rurik Bradbury, the man behind the amusing Jeff Jarvis parody account @ProfJeffJarvis:

A main target of Bradbury’s satire is the Orwellian lengths to which major tech players go to distort language. […] Bradbury’s semantic umbrage is not limited to big platforms like Facebook or Google. He also takes issue with “meme hustlers” who try to fill the Web with their deep thoughts so they can sell books and charge high consulting fees. He thinks the sharing economy espoused by Uber and Airbnb should actually be called “poor persons as a service.”

To give you a taste of his medicine, here's a typical tweet:

And another:

Is satire trolling?

I've always enjoyed his work, because it does nicely capture the inherent ridiculousness of the outer edges of the field I work in. Jeff Jarvis himself has been less amused:

Now I tried to talk to my imposter-troll earlier in his two-and-a-half-year and 17,500-tweet campaign against me. He didn’t have the balls. After he affected my reputation with someone I’ve met, I sent him another message, saying he’d crossed the line. He still doesn’t have sufficient balls or the decency or the mere maturity and civility to talk to me. Hasn’t he had his fun already? But there’s no reasoning with trolls; indeed, that’s the definition of a troll.

I struggle a little with this - satire and trolling are distinctly different things, although exploiting someone's failure to recognise that it's a parody account, not the real one, does come perilously close to trolling (even if the victim in this case clearly takes himself far too seriously).

Still, satire is a valid part of our intellectual life, and I'm uncomfortable with dismissing it as trolling this easily.

Age of Twitter accounts in #gamergate

I thought that yesterday's brief post on #gamergate would be all I had to say on the subject - but two really interesting posts caught my attention, that I want to bring to yours.

First up, some serious data work. Andy Baio has done the hard work of scraping 3 days of #gamergate and #notyourshield tweets, and done some analysis on them. His central finding is this:

Two massive, impenetrable hairballs of people that want little to do with one another, only listening to their side and firing volleys across the chasm.

And that's visualised beautifully.

He also points out that the average age of the Twitter accounts used by #gamergate supporters skews very, very recent, as the graph at the top of this post clearly shows. Baio's careful to not suggest that it's the result of sock puppetry - but it's another data point to suggest that there's some of that at work.

My friend Kevin Anderson weighs in on the subject of sock puppets and false flag campaigns:

When you look at the techniques being used by some of these groups, such as creating sockpuppet social media accounts and using feminist critiques as a weapon against Brianna Wu (to demonstrate that her games were “anti-feminist”), you quickly get a sense of how the next partisan political scorched earth campaign will be fought. Sockpuppets will become the weaponised drones of popular opinion, amplifying marginal views so that they swamp mainstream opinion

And he raises a spectre of this becoming standard operating procedure for fringe groups wanting to persuade the media that they're more numerous than they really are:

Who needs robo-callers push-polling voters when you’ve got an army of AI-driven Twitter and Facebook accounts all spewing your line and endlessly quoted by cable TV show hosts who don’t care if the accounts are real, only if they reinforce their own talking points? They’ll be found out eventually, but it will be too late.

It's really beholden on us as journalists to develop a sophisticated enough understanding of social media and how it operates, and the data skills to analyse behaviours in the way that Baio did, to counteract this. If we take one thing away from #gamergate, it's that a minority can magnify their voices through smart use of technology. (It's arguable that ISIS is another example of this.)

Social media and data journalism aren't quirky digital add-ons - they're essential tools in our journalistic arsenal to understand, interrogate and report on the world around us. If we don't equip ourselves with these tools, we'll be used by those who have done so.

Bing it on!

I am something of an accidental SEO trainer. It all came about because of a phone call from Sarah Marshall, a little over two years ago - but it has been an unexpected and fascinating voyage. I don't think there's been a single SEO course I've run that I haven't enjoyed, and I've got to meet a great range of journalists from different parts of the industry.

I do love journalist. They're great people.

How did I get here? I've been publishing on the web for over 15 years now, and I've kept up with SEO, because, well, I rather like being read. It's a handy thing, that makes the time committed seem like time well spent. It always surprises me how bad this industry is - structurally - at keeping up with this. A significant chunk of the people who come on the course are there because either they're not being given any SEO support in their jobs, or because the messages they're getting about SEO have no context. Given how crucial search traffic remains - even in this social media age - that's a good decision. What fascinated me is the patterns that emerge from the stories they tell.

Here, then, are the three original SEO sins of the news publishing business:

SEO Sin #1: old information

This is the most common one. Someone in the publishing company did SEO training (or took SEO advice) seven or eight years ago, and that's still being held as gospel. And so, poor journalists are left carefully crafting meta keywords - which haven't been used by Google since 1998.

I've had to make four major changes to the SEO course since I started teaching it two years ago. That's how fast this area is changing. The SEO advice of seven years ago is not useless - it's worse than that. It can be actively damaging.

The waves of Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird updates have changed the world of search considerably, and in a manner that is not very friendly to clumsy attempts at SEO. We're certainly at a stage where bad or old-fashioned SEO can be worse than no SEO at all. And that's where some publishers are right now.

SEO Sin #2: all tactics, all the time

This is most often seen when there's an SEO department within the company, or they have one person keeping an eye on the SEO blogs. Edicts come down from on high about keywords, or URL patterns, but without any context or explanation. This is problematic, as it leaves journalists chasing SEO pixie dust, rather than making good content decisions through understanding what's attractive in search.

Journalists do not like operating in the dark. It gives then the sense that something is being hidden from them. They do care about being read - and widely read - so why not trust them with the strategy behind the tactics? Good SEO is built up over time, and that's a strategic move, not a tactical one.

There's a whole issue lurking here about strategic content planning - and how badly we've adjusted to doing that in digital - but that's fodder for another post.

SEO Sin #3: SEO as science

Somewhat connected with the previous point - there's a lurking assumption that big publishers can:

  1. Follow an SEO "checklist" and get results
  2. Expect to place well by virtue simply of being a big publisher.

Now both of these are true - to a degree. But that degree is not as large as they think it is. There's a strong human element of SEO - putting yourself in the mindset of a searcher - and a strong competitive one, as well. You are quite literally competing from ranking with everyone else writing about the same topic. And the "advantage" a large but unenthusiastic publisher has over (say) a small, but highly expert blogger is not as great as you might think.

The key point, though, is that this is not an exact science, as you're working with an ever-changing algorithm designed by humans. And you're trying to match yourself to the ways a human searcher's brain behaves. Losing sight of the human side of this has all sorts of consequences, not least failing to get the click-thought from a good search placement.

In conclusion…

…I'm not really sure what the conclusion is, honestly. Partially that many publishers are neglecting a key digital skill. Partially, that a lot of good journalists out there have a good sense that something's wrong and the drive to correct it.

I suppose, fundamentally, I worry that we're trying to build digital businesses on skill foundations that are so much weaker than we had in the print era - and that concerns me. And it should concern everyone who care about the future of professional journalism.

Journalism needs better tools

Om Malik:

If technology has upended the media ecosystem, then it should also be the solution for that ecosystem to adapt to the new hyper-speed reality of news and information. What we need is a set of tools that basically are a way to help the information-gathering process at network speed. Instead of reporters asking questions — if you don’t have historical context you can’t really ask some key questions — we need tools that help augment the process.

Right now, we're not even good at the publishing end tools, let alone the research end ones. That has to change.

Maria Popova

Here's a fascinating interview with Maria Popova, curator of the truly excellent Brain Pickings blog.

Some choice highlights:

I can’t speak for others, but I’ve found in myself a tendency to retreat deeper and deeper into my existing interests as a form of self-defense against the abundance of demands for my time and attention. Again, it takes a certain discipline not to do that and to continually expand one’s ideological comfort zone, as it does not to scatter oneself too chaotically across a multitude of diversion.

And, on journalism, this:

Every nonfiction writer is essentially a curator of ideas – whether this means the selection of academic and clinical studies to be cited in a Malcolm Gladwell-style pop psychology book or the snippets of articles highlighted and contextualized in a day’s worth of Andrew Sullivan’s blog. At their best, journalists – writers, editors, “curators”, or whatever we choose to label them – help people figure out what matters in the world and why. The label under which they do it is irrelevant.

One of the most thought-provoking interviews I've read in a while.

Photo by Ryan Lash for TED conferences, and used under a Creative Commons licence

Fascinating account from Storyful about their social media verification work around the downing of flight MH17:

In the aftermath of the attack, the Ukrainian Ministry of Internal affairs released the video below, described as showing a ‘Buk’ anti-aircraft missile system being transported in eastern Ukraine, en route to the Russian border. The footage is not the original, however we believe that the first instance of this footage was removed by the uploader and the version below is the earliest we can find. Ukrainian Interior Minister, Arsen Avakov, made early claims that the video was filmed in the Ukrainian town of Krasnodon near the Russian border, however collaborative geo-location was able to place the footage in southwestern Luhansk.

This really is one of the new frontiers of serious journalism, and one that's only growing in importance.

(Which is, of course, why we teach it as part of the Interactive Journalism MA at City…)

Twitter's UK in-house journalism expert and friend of the blog Joanna Geary has crowd-sourced a great list of 30 Twitter tools that are useful for journalists:

Some are familiar and essential, but some are brand new to me. Well worth a little time.

From blogger to Bloomberg

Josh t

Bloomberg has a new hire:

Josh Topolsky, the co-founder of the technology website The Verge, will join Bloomberg as the editor of a series of online ventures it is introducing as part of a revamped journalism strategy.

He'll be running a range of new online initiatives for them as "Editor of Bloomberg Digital, and Bloomberg Media’s Chief Digital Content Officer".

Interesting to see people who have risen through the "blog" ranks of online media transitioning into senior positions in more traditional publishers…

Matt Nevarra hosting


Bella Hurrell

Bella Hurrell

"Tell me something I don't know" is a basic journalistic premise. Over 50% of traffic to the BBC website is coming from mobile devices now - so everything has to be responsive. It ha to adapt to different screen sizes.

They're expiring ways of spreading their stories beyond the site. Flat info graphics, simple, but to the point, have been one focus, They're optimised for Twitter and Facebook and link back to a main story. They need an element of wit, and certainly of interest. Respond to comments - and make improvements if the suggestions are good.

Interactives - like budget calculators, or "which athlete are you most like?" - are another good way of telling the story. The latter used scatter plots which was too "maths-y" for the mainstream audience - and it didn't work on tablet. they'd do it differently today.

They've just published a Commonwealth Games one, that looks at which event you are more suited to. And it was built mobile-first. But even before that, before you write a line of code, you need to figure out what the audience will take away from this - and that's what will bring them back.

Coffee in Tom Foolery

Four good reads that I think are worth your coffee time this morning:

  • Looking for a job in journalism? Kevin Anderson, who recently landed a great one, has some really excellent advice for preparing for the journalism job interview. His point about researching the community the title serves is very well-made, and all too often neglected by job hunters.

  • Meanwhile, Paul Bradshaw has some excellent advice for journalists looking to the security of their work, their online presence and their sources. You're not paranoid if they're out to get you, and given the nasty piece of legislation that was pushed through yesterday, I think we can assume that no online communication is secure, unless completely encrypted.

  • An interesting look at the media consumption habits of the under-24s. Consume with caution because we know that people habits change with age, but that's more than balanced by the fact that they're starting from a very different place that earlier generations.

  • Google has finally given up on its "real names only" policy for Google+. I'm not going to make the standard joke about G+ being a ghost town - as I can see clearly from my feed over there that it isn't. However, the activity there is limited to select communities - but that was the case for Twitter and Facebook at the same stage (time-wise) in their evolution.

Enjoy your coffee.

Burger bites journalist

A burger

I'm not entirely sure if this is journalists going above and beyond the call of duty, or just bloody stupid:

Assistant news editor Arron Hendy, and trainee reporter Ruari Barratt were taken by ambulance to the Royal Sussex County Hospital after taking one bite each of an XXX Hot Chilli Burger from Burger Off, in Brunswick Street West, Hove. Mr Hendy agreed to try the burger after the takeaway came in the top ten of burger restaurants in the country – as rated on the Trip Advisor website.

Sounds like a delightful experience:

Mr Barratt took a bite and minutes later suffered severe stomach pains which increased. He lost the feeling in his hands, his legs were shaking and his eyes rolled back in his head.

Verification is so very hard

Google Concept (not)

Take a look at this video:

Pretty clearly a concept video done by some students, right? That information's all there, including the account name on Vimeo. Even the most cursory of verification checks would show that up.

So, it's not like anyone would publish it as a real Google concept without doing the 60 seconds of checking needed, right?


Grabbing a paper at the station

Merciless attack on print nostalgists from Clay Shirky:

The most important fight in journalism today isn’t between short vs. long-form publications, or fast vs. thorough newsrooms, or even incumbents vs. start-ups. The most important fight is between realists and nostalgists.

He builds a compelling argument that the media convering the media downplay the likely demise of print, and that too many people - including those teaching in universities - lie to young journalists about the future:

If you want to cry in your beer about the good old days, go ahead. Just stay the hell away from the kids while you’re reminiscing; pretending that dumb business models might suddenly start working has crossed over from sentimentality to child abuse.

I think he misses one key point: some student journalists come in wanting to work in print. They come pre-equipped with nostalgia, and sometimes find a cozy welcome amongst academic staff who left the coalface of journalism before the digital shift happened in a big way. These sorts of students dislike being given the hard realities of life about the shift to digital - right until they see that all the jobs for young journalists being advertised seek digital skills.

For would-be journalism students interested in those emerging journalism jobs in digital, I lead the social media and community module on the Interactive Journalism MA at City University in London - well worth a look.