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Month: August 2009

Using Disqus for Blog Comments

Disqus Logo

From this post onwards, I’ve replaced the commenting system on this blog with the Disqus Comments system. Disqus is one of the breed of external comment providers that have become popular in the last year or so, that include Automattic’s Intense Debate, Six Apart’s Typepad Connect and JSKit Echo.
Why have I chosen Disqus? Well, it’s the only one that syncs comments back to my Movable Type database right now, thanks to a new version of the plugin that was released with Disqus 3. And that’s important to me. Should Disqus go away, or I decide to stop using it, I don’t want to lose the discussions around my blog posts. This way, I can easily revert back to the native comments without losing anything. It might seem counter-intuitive for companies to offer this, but, for me, it’s actually made me try out their service, which I’d never have used otherwise.
Beyond that, it’s nice for someone else to handle things like using Facebook or Twitter logins to leave comments on this blog. There are Movable Type plugins that handle this, but they need some integration work, and, frankly, I’d rather leave that effort to someone else. The service also offers commenters the chance to start tracking their comments through the Disqus Profiles service.
Unless anything horrific goes wrong, I’m planning to have Disqus on here for at least a month, to see how it goes. I’ll report back. 

Should Hyperlocal be Hyperniche?

I’d like to share something with you. Something that has made me very happy. Something, in fact, about sheep. This sheep, in particular:

Record-breaking Sheep
You see, this “tup”, as the livestock breeders call ’em, was sold for a staggering £230,000 yesterday, a story that’s being covered from the BBC to the Daily Mail. But where was it broken?
On the Farmer’s Weekly livestock and sales blog, that’s where. But it was the above photo that really got the commenters going.
I mention this, both because I think it’s a fun story, and because I think that blog in particular illustrates something that I think is missed in much thinking about the future of news. We keep talking about hyperlocal, and that’s a thought process that’s rooted in the geographic nature of most newspaper circulations, particularly in the US. What our experience in RBI is teaching us is that hyperlocal is just a subset of hyperniche – and that there are many niches calling our for good, community-focused journalism.
Something to chew on over the bank holiday weekend. With some mint sauce.

Good Listening: This Week in Google

This Week in Google Logo

I’ve just been reminded by a discussion on our company Yammer that I meant to recommend a new podcast called This Week in Google. It’s the latest offering from the TWiT stable, is hosted by Leo LaPorte, and features journalism blogger Jeff Jarvis and smater-working blogger Gina Trapani
Why do I recommend it? Well, it’s really good at putting the changes coming to journalism in the context of what’s happening in the rest of the web. All four published episodes are worth listening to, but I recommend episode 3, with Anil Dash of Six Apart, in particular. 
Excellent brain food. 

Job: Web Community Manager

Estates Gazette Logo

I don’t normally do this sort of thing, but I have a feeling some good candidates for this job could be reading my blog.
Estates Gazette, one of RBI’s leading magazines, is recruiting for a web community manager.
This is a great opportunity to join a team determined to transform the online presence of the magazine, as well as help an online community develop from scratch. Experience with Movable Type and Community Server an advantage.
All the details are on Total Jobs.

The Murdoch Plan: A Consortium

And so, the Murdoch plan for content charging begins to become clear:

As newspapers across the country struggle with declining readership and
advertising revenue, News Corp. executives have been meeting in recent
weeks with publishers about forming a consortium that would charge for
news distributed online and on portable devices — and potentially stem
the rising tide of red ink.

So, it’s a consortium model. And that’s interesting, because it runs the risk of running afoul of cartel legislation, and because it immediatly creates a significant dividing line between the new low cost, free to air business who live and die by links and engagement and the old high cost, paid content businesses, who huddle together behind a paywall designed to protect their traditional business model. 

If it succeeds, it will change many of the assumptions about the way that the internet operates. If it fails, it may well be the killing blow for many old media institutions. 

Beat Blogs and Topic Pages

Steve Yelvington has posted an absolute must-read entry on his blog, where he breaks down the two major types of visitors and the ways you should serve them:

The beat blog focuses on the small circle, offering speed, depth and conversation among the reporter and people with high interest in the subject matter. While regular users are the primary beneficiaries, there is a secondary benefit to the casual user: the reporter gets better at his or her job. Better leads, better feedback, better ideas can lead to more interesting journalism.

And then there’s the topic page, which is what your less engaged, occasional visitor wants. Go read.

The Hole in the “Twitter is Inane” Argument

Good piece of analysis from danah:

Twitter – like many emergent genres of social media – is structured around networks of people interacting with people they know or find interesting. Those who are truly performing to broad audiences (e.g., “celebs”, corporations, news entities, and high-profile blogger types) are consciously crafting consumable content that doesn’t require actually having an intimate engagement with the person to appreciate. Yet, the vast majority of Twitter users are there to maintain social relations, keep up with friends and acquaintances, follow high-profile users, and otherwise connect. It’s all about shared intimacy that is of no value to a third-party ear who doesn’t know the person babbling.

Perfect for showing the sceptic that falls back on the inanity argument.

Why Gatekeepers and Sticky Sites Fail

This has been said many times, and in many ways, but Dave Winer has put it very clearly, and in a way traditional publishing organisations should take to heart:

A long time ago I discovered this fundamental rule of the net — People come back to places that send them away. Places like Google, Yahoo, Craigslist, Youtube, even Twitter. These are the mainstays. You go there to get somewhere else. Sites that try to suck you in and hold you there, no matter how cleverly, go away. While it may seem like a good approach at first, long-term it’s a losing strategy.