Home » Archives for January 2011

Month: January 2011

An experiment begins, Daily

News International’s next experiment with paid content is about to begin:

Apple and News Corp. sent out invitations to a February 2 event to unveil The Daily. The press event will include News Corps. Chairman & CEO Rupert Murdoch and Eddy Cue, Apple’s vice president of Internet Services. The duo are expected to provide all the juicy details on the iPad-based newspaper and confirm the product’s 99-cent weekly pricing.

Daily still seems like a very strange concept in the internet, publishing-on-demand age.

Can social media get you a job?

The answer, according to former colleague James Garner, is “kinda”:

Too much can be claimed at times about the power of social media and its transformative affects. However, I firmly believe that social media is partly the reason why I started a new role, so soon after leaving my last, timing, luck and good-old fashioned networking were also a big factor.

Social networking doesn’t replace traditional face to face relationship building – it complements it. And that’s why anyone who contrasts online relationship building with “real” relationship building is an idiot. 😉

Enhanced by Zemanta

An Oatmeal gift for Tumblr

I love this kind of thing:

Giant blogging platform Tumblr has decided to adopt cartoonist Matthew “The Oatmeal” Inman’s suggestion for a “fail whale” down-time graphic, the artist said in a Twitter message this afternoon. Inman posted the image of TumblBeasts taking over the servers this afternoon and said “please oh please use it” to Tumblr. Four hours later, Inman said he’d received an email from Tumblr’s founder agreeing to use the image.

I wonder how many “traditional” media sites would have accepted a gift like this?

Mapping my LinkedIn Community

LinkedIn Network Map

These are all over the blogosphere today, but they’re interesting, so why not join in? 🙂

The image is a visualisation of my LinkedIn Network, showing the people I’m connected to, and the relationships between themselves.

I’m fascinated by how clearly some groups stand out, and how some seem more complex. For example, the huge blue blob on the left contains my RBI colleagues past and present. The small grey island up in the top right is a group of folks I worked on a Student newspaper with back in the 80s and 90s. However, the green/orange section in the top centre are pretty much all commercial property folks, with some RBI folks who are closer to their industry than their colleagues thrown in for good measure. However, they’re distinct enough to the algorithm to stand our as separate group – and I’m trying to figure out why. I have two theories right now:

  1. The more orange coloured ones tend to be advisors to the property industry
  2. The green ones are property people with strong links to Estates Gazette staff

Whatever the truth proves to be, it shows how easily visuals can identify patterns in data, doesn’t it?

Finding web simplicity where none exists

Antony Mayfield succinctly captures what I’ve been feeling about people’s attitude to the internet over the last year or so:

The other problem we have is we fixate on platforms, like Facebook, Google or Twitter and use them as proxies for the complexity of the web. It would be better to recognise that these are access points to the vast network of networks that is the web, the web that is connecting up all of humanity, all of our knowledge, increasingly all of our objects.

Just one gem in his presentation from TEDxBrighton.

Research and radical reinvention: universities’ role in journalism

Carnival of Journalism: It’s back, and this time it’s personalDavid Cohn has brought the journalism blog carnival back from its grave. For those who haven’t experienced blog carnivals in the past, they’re an excuse for a group of bloggers who specialise in the same subject to all post about the same topic once a month. This month’s topic is the role of universities.

Would you recommend that someone took a journalism course right now? In Britain, course fees are going up while the number of journalism jobs is going down. You’re likely to rack up debt while you head towards an uncertain job market. Could you put your hand on your heart and say that it’s the right decision?

For the past few years, the poor students of the Cardiff University post-graduate journalism course have had to endure my ramblings for an hour of their lives. (I’ve heard rumours that Glynn has to lock the doors to keep them there, but I discount this on the basis of pure ego.) And every year, I’ve told them the same thing: I’m jealous of them. They’ve got a year to experiment and learn, before launching themselves into the most exciting period of journalism since the first newspapers were born in the coffee shops of London. Everything is in flux, the formats are changing, as are the business models. They are the generation who will start to pin down some of the answers, and recreate the world of reporting in the digital era. I’m an aging old hack, with aspirations to a coastal home, with kids and mortgage to match. My room for risk is smaller than theirs is, and should be.

These bright young things need to come out of university with a set of skills, both those taught and those self-acquired, that will give them an edge in this new digital environment. They might use those skills to launch their own sites, or to join traditional publishers and help them reinvent themselves. And that does feel pretty damn cool, if you have an inherent passion for publishing.

But there’s a caveat here: it’s only worth it if the course is training you with the skills you need to thrive in the real world of 2011, and not the journalism environment of 1991.

Largely, I would suggest, that means teaching journalism students the core skills of journalism, and detaching them as much as possible from the skills of expression. To me, the core streams that Jomec offers – broadcast, magazine and newspaper – seem meaningless in the second decade of the 21st century. While all these streams still exist – at least for now – no a single one of them thrives in isolation any more. TV journalists blog and connect with their audiences on Twitter. Newspaper journalists may spend more time writing for the web than for the dead tree edition. Magazine journalists may be doing more audio (for podcasts) and video than their notionally broadcast colleagues.

And some of those students might well be looking for “none of the above”, for a career in purely online reporting. And those careers exists, both in personal journalism startups, and in businesses like RBI, where we now have titles that exist online-only. And I tell you what, when we recruit for those roles we look for both core traditional skills, as well as experience and awareness of everything from data journalism to content promotion and audience engagement through social media.

So, is it worth doing that course? If you use that time as a rapid learning experience, where tutors skilled in the digital era give you core traditional skills, and the mindset needed to innovate in a rapidly-changing environment, then yes. Damn straight it is. You’ll rarely get so good a chance to experiment, find your own strengths and weaknesses and build a set of skills to impress an employer or launch your own journalism enterprise.

And, dammit, universities should be able to offer this. Despite the recent efforts of governments of all stripes, universities have always been as much research institutions as teaching ones. Any university which fails to poke at the changes of journalism with a sharp, academic stick is failing in its duty, And the news that people like Judith Townend are now doing good, phd research into the future of our profession is heartening. We need more solid research into the changes in this industry. Too much is anecdote, evangelism and guesswork right now. The more hard facts and evidence we have to shape the publishing choices we make, the better.

So, if you ignore research, choose to just be a passive sponge instead of an active experimenter, and join a course that’s still focused on the traditional models of publication, then congratulations. You’ve just racked up a huge debt for the sake of nostalgia.

iPad over the Atlantic

Using my iPad as in-flight entertainment

A meeting at work this morning reminded me of something I noticed on the flight over to Florida at the tail end of last year and which is worth sharing.

Inspired, possibly, by reading Runway Girl who has talked about this as a possibility, I had my iPad all loaded up with movies, TV and games ready to entertain me for the near-9 hour flight. And it did the job just great. I still had around 40% battery life left at the end of the flight. (Can anyone name the film I’m watching in the photo? 🙂 )

But that wasn’t the thing that was interesting. Here’s what was: the guy next to me was also using an iPad (he was watching opera videos). And so was the woman across the aisle from me (playing Fruit Ninja, mainly). And so were two other people in the block of five seats she was sitting in. And so were other people all up and down the plane. As many people were using iPads as were watching the in-flight entertainment – and this was just in the economy class.

We found out earlier in the week that Apple has shipped 15m of these things. And it’s beginning to show…

The Times opens up (a little)

Talking of RSS, I note than some more changes have hit everyone’s favourite paywalled enterprise, The Times online.

First up, the blogs now have a free-to-air front page, and the main page is also available to view. Here’s Ruth Gledhill’s Articles of Faith, for example.

You’ll still need to cough up to see the full posts, though. And the blogs now have RSS feeds, too (again, here’s Ruth’s, by way of example). They’re not full text feeds, indeed, sometimes they’re not even the whole of the first sentence, but it’s another step towards a more conventional approach to blogging. I wonder if login-protected full text is next for subscribers? It’s certainly technically possible.

As I’ve said before, I don’t agree with a lot of what The Times is doing, but I do admire their willingness to iterate and experiment with the paywall.