As I mentioned last week – I’m in need of a break. And I think, for my sanity, it’s worth taking a break from this blog, too.
Graduated from Cardiff just as the recession hit – so went home and set up Bournville Village, a local blog. Worked with Podnosh. Is now The Guardian’s beat blogger in Cardiff. No office, just her and her laptop. Teamed up with mysociety to provide information which encourages civic engagement.
Kit: laptop, smartphone, handheld cameras and a gorillapod. Uses Google Reader, and Twitter trends, tags and saves in delicious. WordPress for blogging, ScribbleLive for liveblogging. Bambuser for live video, Vimeo for uploads. Just started using AudioBoo. Has a great Flickr community, and also uses TwitPic. Accesses open data sources, like mysociety, Help Me Investigate. Many Eyes and ZeeMaps aren’t very user-friendly but are useful. Scribd great for letters or documents.
Challenged the assumption that stories are everything. They impose a false narrative with characters, plotline, etc that doesn’t suit everything. People learn more when they engage with things rather than just read them – Civilization (a game) is being used to teach history. Maybe games are the future of journalism?
The story as the atomic unit of journalism is denying us commercial opportunities. There are no easy answers – if anyone tells you that, fire them. In 2000 there was an IndyMedia guy live streaming police from a black MacBook. We’re too slow to take advantage of new tools.
There’s a project to publish a newspaper just using free and open source tools. That’s what we need to be doing. In 2008 he ran social media coverage across America during the elections from his mobile phone. People are running a newspaper purely using free or open source tools.
However, the lack of innovation spreads further than just the newsroom. The commercial side is as bad. The FT is doing good commercial innovation in the UK – but how about the News Room – a combine newsroom and coffee shop?
She’s talking about the significant changes in journalist skillsets – Core journalistic skills, surrounded by degrees of specialisation is different platforms and tools for spreading news. People need to play to their own strengths – don’t try to be everything, specialise and train in what you’re inclined towards.
It’s no longe enough to have the core skills – you need to pick’n’mix in the digital space, too.
SK: The core skills are the same, but there’s also a need for basic skills, say, filming with a Flip cam
PT: Everyone needs the ability to connect, to work together, to use collective intelligence.
KA: Not some much skillset as mindset. If I had a pound for every time I’ve heard “it’s not my job”, I’d be rich. It’s the art of the possible. I can’t code, but I know when an Interactive might be appropriate.
HW: Shorthand, chatting to contacts are still core to what I do. Not everyone has to learn how to use audio, but you can learn to use a Flip in 10 minutes – you turn a red button on and off.
KA: There’s a disenchantment with the everyone does everything approach. Move to playing to strengths, and a multi-skilled team.
Karl Schneider from the audience: There’s still an instinct to go “what shall I write about this?” That mindset needs to be broken.
General agreement that it’s about choosing the appropriate medium for the story, rather than forcing the story into the medium.
Just got sucked in, when someone said that we have standards that set us apart from the amateurs. Yes, we do. And sometimes they’re lower, more abusive and more exploitative than the amateurs. There’s plenty of great, high principled amateurs out there.
PT: If I was (through some huge error) in a position to hire journalists, I’d ask where they blog. If they didn’t, goodbye. iPhones now have 720p HD video, soon it’ll be on every crappy mobile phone. There’s no excuse.
KA: We take data and structure it into a particular story. There’s nothing you can do with it after that. There are businesses who are built on adding back in the metadata that we take out of the story.
PT: You can convey the function basis of an activity through interaction without any narrative. That’s the link with games. A game like Budget Hero – where you had to cut the deficit – could teach the situation.
Audience Member: That’s not journalism: that’s education. Your teaching people someone, but are you informing them? (Me: how can you teach without informing someone…?)
KA: There’s a problem with the value of writing over the value of reporting, and they’re not the same thing.
If you were starting today, would you join a big company, or go entrepeneurial?
SK: I’d go small and go netrepeneurual
PT: I used to think that the BBC is like an aircraft carrier, really hard to turn around. I know now it’s like a planet, it creates its own gravitation effect. Your plugged into something huge and powerful, but you’re a tiny part of it.
KA: I’ve seen it all from a tiny newspaper in Kansas to the BBC. Some of the things I want to do require a level of autonomy you can’t get in a large audience. I’m an autonomy freak. WHen I joined the BBC website, I was part of a very well-funded, very collegiate start-up.
PT: It’s not like that any more.
KA: Now there’s just as much risk in a big company as there are in a startup.
HW: I’ve done both. I’m being paid to do something local for a big company.
And we’re done – can I have a beer now, please?
Key points emerging from the Interactives session:
- Interactive graphics need a clear defined purpose. Understand what the users can get out of it, and what makes it different from a static graphic.
- They take time to produce, so think in terms of updating them to keep them useful over time.
- Pick a concept that has “legs” in the first place – that won’t get old fast.
- Coders and designers are different – and you need both
- You can use human curation of information into the interactive display to add value
- Old content can be valuable in them – all the BBC’s stories around the 2012 olympics will get new value when the Games start
- Do you want users to “consume” or “interact”? Pick.
- It should be a story in its own right, not an addendum to one.
- People still mainly using Flash (despite iOS issues). Take up for Silverlight-based infographics has been awful.
- If you don’t trust the data, don’t use it.
- As you do more and more, you start developing a code library that can speed up later projects.
- Useful tool: Freebase
- Book recommendation: The Tiger That Isn’t: Seeing Through a World of Numbers
Liveblogging highlights of a speech. Prone to inaccuracy, omission and typo
By bundling together thousands of readers with one publication, publishers deluded themselves into thinking they had a single community. On local papers,sports readers followed those oases but rarely read the rest of the paper – where the ads were. Online, that became clear as they went straight to the latest news about their team without going through the home page.
Traditional modes of ad and ed splits are outdated. Advertisers are part of the audience. It’s always been about the relationship with the readers – and we deluded ourselves into thinking that it was about the content.
Other businesses are encroaching on our territory – why shouldn’t we encroach on theirs?
If you want to serve a niche, get out of your comfortable journalism role and become a business person. We know our audience isn’t cruising the net all day – so we concentrate on the times that they most often use the net. Mainly it’s the pre-9am e-mail which drives 80% of the traffic to the story.
Marc reviews signups every day that he can, so he can monitor the audience – are some companies under-represented. They’re ruthless about dumping activities that don’t attract views or revenue. If they spends ages wiring on a feature that no bugger reads – they won’t do that again.
Not surprisingly, the questions have started by questioning Marc’s attacks on journalistic received wisdom. Can you go to companies for advertising even which you’re covering them, asked one. Yes, says Marc. He doesn’t use freelancers, but would if they came with a compelling business idea. He thinks national newspapers’ structures cripple them and stop them making money online. He works in the heart of his readership so he’s always bumping into them.
Warning: Liveblogging – errors and typos likely
iVillage – Lulu Phongmany:
Been around for 10 years without really talking to the community about what they wanted. Very different issues drive success in message boards as opposed to content. Content seems tool-based, forums more around mutual support issues.
Food site relaunch: Editors and community managers are of equal footing in the approval process. Integrated community with content so there’s no real distinction. In essence message board content is seen as no different to anything else. 285% up on page views.
The more options for participation, the better. Bake community into the whole editorial process.
Chris Taggart – OpenlyLocal
Journalists don’t generally know much about anything – they aren’t really interested in the subject, just the story. Fine for basic, traditional reporting. It worked because they had skills and access to information other people didn’t have. And all this (cuttings libraries, directories, contacts) have been subsumed by the web. But it’s still about the stories. And they can be focal points for conversations.
Your readers know more about the subject than you do. The thought of doing journalism without involving them is terrifying.
Naked Capitalism blog is a great example of journalism done with the audience.
Newspapers get blogs wrong because they’re not used to having a conversation.
Paul Bradshaw – Birmingham City Uni, Help Me Investigate
Citizen journalism is a patronising and outdated term. It covers a ridiculously wide range of activities: accidental journalism, value adder, data analyst, the ear or eye of a group of friends…
Collaboration is about many groups, overlapping, and working in collaboration. A journalist is an ideal overlap point. Join the dots, make interesting connections. That’s what Help Me Investigate has found in its investigations.
Help Me Investigate is essentially a project management tool for collaborative investigation.
How to get people involved: Don’t ask, don’t offer tokens; lead by example. Share.
Tony Curzon Price:
Job one: Unfolding Democracy. They tell the story of democracy as it expands across the web. They’re funded by donations. Their agenda is to get news and analysis (quite serious) to the right audience.
Job two: Online editor of Intelligence Square – they do live and online events.
The goal is efficient distribution – the most efficient is everyone in the world consuming exactly the right piece of media. Our goal is create that. The goal of spammers is to disrupt it, the role of journalists is to create it. The Internet has made information distribution more and more efficient. It’s far less likely now that you will miss an important piece of information to you.
He’s giving a potted history of the Internet, from USEnet and gopher, through listservs, then forums and then search, blogs and RSS. Now we’re moving beyond RSS into social distribution.
There are key hubs – for example, the Richard Dawkins forum can send an avalanche of traffic. But there’s are diffuse networks, which compensate for lower traffic with higher. But the era of diffuse networks is ending. most of our time should be sent identifying the small, powerful networks. E-mail continues to be incredibly important.
Informational distribution efficiency is just getting better and better – and it’s becoming less centralized, which ia bad news for search companies.
Vikki Chowney: Has split feeds for professional and personal, so people have a choice between interaction or just following the stories. Its about making it easy for people to read and share the content. One tool is AddThis, which they put on all stories. The started using Disqus comment management tool on the site earlier in the year. It makes it easier for people to strategy tracking the thread of conversation.
However, it’s pointless trying to create buzz if you don’t have great content. Reputation Online is in a fierce community. Traditional tools are useful: newsletters, meeting people face to face at events.
There’s a limit to what one person can do. When you reach a certain size, you need to think about community manager who can track and get involved with conversations across the web.
Mike Harris, Libel Reform Campaign: Most visits come from links from communities like forums and blogs, the second group is from Twitter. People are referred to the site, people don’t search for it. Even links in traditional orient media are important – but Twitter and Facebook are more important than a good Google ranking…. Stephen Fry drove nearly 2000 visits.
Social media is important: which bloggers, celebrities, people will drive the most attention? What do you want? We wanted money and signatures. We collected postcodes, and there were complaints, but we needed to prove that this wasn’t just a niche campaign. Twitter and blogs make a lot of noise – but you need to work out how to translate that into action.
Liveblogging: errors and typos likely
Peter Bale of Microsoft UK, whose building we’re sitting in is kicking off the conference, and he’s promised us it won’t just be a product pitch.
Why are we doing this? For the audience. Within the UK audience there are many niches, some of which are very broad and deep.
He’s given us some decent examples of using photo journalism and Microsoft tools like Bing maps and Photosynth to tell stories. And he’s reminded us that this is a terrible time to be an average journalist hiding behind a corporate machinery.
He highlights Josh Halliday, a student journalist who has built his own brand, Jemima Kiss, Robert Andrews and Will Perrin.
More of a potted “stuff that’s happening in journalism” talk than a strong agenda setter for a day on niche journalism, but a few ideas in his speech worth revisiting.
BBC Radio Scotland is running a journalism experiment of sorts today – pitting an office-based, but internet-enabled journalist against another hack only allowed to ferret out stories face-to-face without even so much as a mobile phone for company.