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Month: May 2011

#newsrw – Liveblogging liveblogging – the meta death of the pyramid story

Marcus Warren, editor of the Telegraph website, hosting a panel on liveblogging

A session on liveblogging. Which I’m liveblogging. Blog will eat itself.

Matt Wells, The Guardian

Matt Wells

The infamous Louse and Flea post is being mentioned (discussed here). Matt thinks that liveblogs are one of the best ways of covering stories that don’t have a clear beginning, middle and end. The inverse pyramid story may be the single biggest reason that journalists are mistrusted. It encourages sensationalism.

Liveblogs haven’t developed by accident. They started (on The Guardian at least) with minute-by-minute coverage of sports and television events. They are a “uniquely digital” format (Martin Belam). They are the quickest way of publishing updates on a story and curated and verified relevant material from social media – the journalists can give them narrative and context. They’re interactive, encouraging many, many comments.

However, they’re almost the victims of their success. Threads of comments 1000 strong are hard to monitor, so they’ve employed people just to do that. And it can be hard for newcomers to pick up the thread. Regular summaries and links to pyramid stories can ease this.

Has Twitter killed liveblogging as Tim Montgomerie has suggested? It can do, if you have the right people on Twitter – but it doesn’t give you the breathing space or room for context that liveblogging does.

We need to make them easier to comprehend, easier to navigate, and easier to escape. The Guardian’s liveblogs can have up to 10 people working on them.

Alan Marshall, head of digital production, PA

Alan Marshall

Marshall kicks off by pointing out that liveblogging looks a lot like an evolution of traditional newswire update stream. It’s just “live coverage” he suggests, showing the traditional media aversion to the word “blog”.  They offer liveblogs on several topics to their customers. Liveblogging is just another outlet for rapid coverage. They use ScribbleLive as their platform.

Users want to get involved and interact with them – which is very new to them at the PA. Ran a liveblog through the whole week of the royal wedding. They started to see audiences building from the Monday – and it was a real watershed, with reporters filing via Twitter… Prepared background material kept the discussion moving.

They can syndicate their liveblogs, allowing customers to customise them with their own, local or specialist content. It’s a new version of the agency model. The royal wedding was a test case for them. Next two are William & Kate’s first overseas visit (to Canada and the US) and the Olympics next year.

It’s a new way of doing what reporters have always done. It’s allowing their journalists to include the sort of material that was never relevant for the newswires. Encouraging their journalists to be a bit more quirky and irreverent.

Paul Gallagher, Manchester Evening News

Paul gallagher

Been liveblogging for two years on MEN. He categorises that as “early on” To me that’s “late to the party”… UPDATE: see Sarah’s comment below for details of when the MEN started liveblogging. 

Their first experiments taught them that it was more of a service to their readers than traditional forms of journalism. Over 300 in the last 18 months or so. English Defence League rally was their first. Huge peaks in traffic when they do liveblogs. They did liveblogging of the snow disruption, which allowed their readers to contribute live information on travel problems. they’ve honed their skills over time, getting better at incorporating video and maps.

It’s also been a very powerful way of teaching journalists about the value of social media. They get to experience its power in real time as they participate in the liveblog. And readers stay on liveblogs for an hour or two, rather than the minute or two for a traditional article.

Local councillors are now tweeting from council meetings, and they can aggregate that with reporters’ tweets to create local democracy liveblogging. Some resistance from councillors, but generally they’ve had enthusiasm. They go to more council meetings than they used to – and get more stories. It’s become accepted practice for all reporters to report everything live, and then develop it for print. (he should be prouder of how deeply they’ve integrated liveblogging rather than how “early” they way. Better not earlier…)

It has made their coverage of local politics better than ever.

Anna Doble, social media producer, Channel 4 news

Anna Doble

Finds it hilarious that people link liveblogging with the death of journalism – it’s clearly not. Their liveblogging allows them to bring live reaction, and insights into how the programme is developing throughout the day. “shows we are really busy from early doors”. The budget liveblog had a panel of real people to join in with them, not just the normal suspects. Gave it an extra dimension.

Mantra: a touch of mischief

It gives correspondents a new point of contact with the audience they’ve never had. They can share video far earlier than they normally do. Let’s use the broadcast skill they have around them. Loads more footage than they can use in the bulletins – so use it in the liveblogs.

Very personality-driven. The anchors are the hub of the newsroom and there will be more of them within the blogs to come. Interviews, chats, etc. They have so much knowledge to share.


Not entirely convinced by the link between talk radio call-ins. There’s only one basic similarity – user contribution. As Anna pointed out, call ins tend to be dominated by a few people, whereas liveblogs are potential way more open – and have the professional contributors.

Accuracy and verification issue raises its head yet again. Shouldn’t verification be inherent to any journalism process. Why do so many people assume that social media means throwing it out of the window? As Matt Wells replied, you being your same basic journalistic skills and value to liveblogging as you do anything else.

Matt Wells suggests that the journalist ability to filter and build a narrative from a stream of information is a key skill. Paul Gallagher suggests that guidelines should boil down to common sense and journalistic skepticism. Marcus Warren mentions that the ability to work sources applies just as much to Twitter. Alan Marshall highlight the ability to spot the key information from the wave of social media information that’s coming at you. Anna Doble suggests learning a foreign language and the ability to spot a story that isn’t being told is vital.

Liveblogging from court? One mistake away from them being banned in courts, says Gallagher. We’d like to cover them live, but you wouldn’t be able to have the audience interaction. Matt Wells doesn’t agree. They’ve liveblogged court – Ian Tomlinson inquest, for example. No unmoderated comments – too much chance of contempt (of court…). They were able to bring in experts to give background and context.

Platforms: Wells suggests that CoverItLive and ScribbleLive aren’t good for large volumes of comments, and for archiving. That’s why they use their own systems.

#newsrw – Can data shape the way we publish?

Afternoon session kicking off, looking at how data can inform our business decisions in media. Tim Faircliff, general manager of Reuters Media chairing.

Ron Diorio, VP of product and community development at The Economist

Ron Diorio

Coming in via Skype!

Lies, damn lies and product development. What does it look like inside their lab? Like a cartoon, apparently. 😉 There’s a continuous stream of data coming in live from both the website and from social media generally. However, the proliferation of streams means its harder to dedupe users. So when social media consultants say things like a tweet in a particular stream reaches “9 million people” he doesn’t know what to do with that data.

The Economist has a product development cycle. The look outside to the real world to see what others are doing, gauge likely adoption rate and size of market, where the revenue will be, prototype and survey (often in Facebook group), and then feed monitoring of metrics back into the process. If readers are using it differently than they expected – have the made the wrong decisions? The clickstream data can tell them this.

The well-read quiz to Facebook – based on the rise of social gaming. People played it, but they didn’t come back – and that was because it was too hard . 2/10 doesn’t encourage people to come back. So they demoted the game, and spent two or three months building a new version, that will be launched shortly.

John Barnes, managing director of digital strategy and development at Incisive Media.

John Barnes, Incisive

B2B company, all about attracting people to the site and trying to keep them there, as they can monetise them.

Battled internally to promote the idea that people engage with product on different platforms in different was. Mobile is “quick fix”, web is research and exploration. Print is education.

In the web world the relationship between story and audience is continuos. It’s ot just about writing the story, but how it develops; write then tweet or tweet then write? Successfully B2B publishers are about exploring niches. It’s good for B2B publishers, because the way the world is going we can get good data from those audiences, and build close relationships with them. The publication of a story is just the start of a process.

Print headlines in e-mail alerts failed. They need to be shorter and more emotive. 25% increase in page impressions as a result. Headlines retuned during the day based on response.

Surveys give useful feedback on “use occasions”. News roundups or product exploration popular in video, voxpops or interview, no so much. Frequency is important – 3 to 4 uploads a week for core brands. 900% video usage as a result.

Chris Duncan, director of customer management, News International

Chris Duncan

Demographic data used to determine strategy, but now customers are changing faster than the demographic data is. Customer behaviour is now multidimensional. Tablets in the morning, 11pm is the web, as is mid-afternoon. Tablets are back for the evening commute, or the sofa at home.

The Sunday Times Social List – the underlying truth is that there are a number of people who drive our content harder than we can. Lots of organisations are trying to figure out how to reach those influencers – and what;s interesting is tracking how their influence changes over time.

You need to be clear about what you’re trying to achieve, because otherwise you’ll just drown in the volumes of data available.

Edward Barrow, cto, idio

Edward Barrow, idio

If you follow a strategy solely based on reactive data, it’s very hard work. Each new device means starting again. If you understand that it’s all about breaking down barriers between your content and the customer. So you need to understand your content more – and we apply content analysis to all your content streams. That way, the more people interact with your content the more you can learn about them.

One teleco used their technology to see if their was a correlation between intelligence and mobile spend. Sadly, it turned out that chavs spent the most…

You need to understand the full journey your customer is on. Identity association is key to maintaining a single customer view. You don’t have to won the content to learn from it. Facilitate users to sign in using Facebook, Twitter, etc, and we can use those streams to personalise the site. The more you know, the more money you can make.

Privacy? With current legislation coming through, this is an issue. Behavioural targeting are words we should put under the carpet. Transparency is important – tell customer what you’re doing and why. Amazon.com, Google and Facebook are three sites we all use all the time – all of them personalise your experience very heavily.

Briefing Media uses their technology to extract semantic topics and then match user to them. You can then target e-mail newsletters to them. Make it very transparent, and engage them with the data gathering process. The site can then start recommending the kind of content you’re interested in.

#newsrw – What’s the best social media strategy for media companies?

Suw Charman-Anderson still chairing, with a rod of iron…

Jack Riley, The Independent

Jack Riley

He’s going to talk about the best ways of bring about institutional change (and I’m feeing my scars itching as he says it). The Independent has open graph pages for Facebook, majority of journalists tweeting, and designed the site to allow users to share the content. “On and of the social web” – you have to think about how you exist within the community.

The basics are tools. Everyone’s seen the Like button, but you can do things to optimise the site. They have higher than average referrals from social media:

Like buttons: Near headlines, faces, top and bottom of stories.

Turn each piece of content into an object that exists on the social web. Open graph: six or seven lines of code that tells Facebook what the content is. 23,000 people have Liked Robert Fisk on Facebook, and because it’s configured right, they can push content back to Facebook. The feedback rate is three times higher on these sorts of Likes, as people are self-selecting. They’ve done the same with Football teams. Acknowledge niche interest in social contexts.

There’s been a move towards using non-propriety. The move to Disqus increased comments five fold, while increasing accountability.

Trove – an experimental news aggregation site, that’s based on a Facebook login.

Personalised URLs  – The community share more content than we do. The Indy gets more clicks per link, but there are so many more users…

Declarative or interrogative headlines? Questions encourage a conversation rather than declarative statements.

It’s important to have a social mindset within the staff. We do live Q&As which we then repupose and push back into print.

Mark Jones, Reuters

Mark Jones

The company is constitutionally bound to explore new technologies. They’ve had a lot of success with aggregation blogs during key events – but people tend to love it when it’s going, but get annoyed when it finishes.

Journalists in a chat room engaging busy professionals makes them money…

Journalists aren’t always skilled in being hosts and creating conversations. Hence, 25 full time community managers. They’re working with Tweetminster to figure out ways of analysing the conversation between bloggers and tweeters and figure out useful information for particuclar people, like venture capitalists – peHUB.

Their comfort zone is working with people they know, and now they’re expanding into working with people they don’t…

Mark Johnston, community editor,  the Economist – @majohns

Mark Johnston

Not just Twitter and Facebook, but also the social media site under his nose – economist.com

The idea of competitive debate is inherent to everything they do. They strongly believe that reader-contributed content can make the site better. They have an extremely distinguished, knowledgeable and intelligent audience. Community contributors view six times more pages than the average visitor. A proper social media strategy is an important way of dragging visitors from first time to regular visitors to coming to events to becoming editor…

1.1m followers on Twitter, 700k on Facebook. But the important trend is the increasing levels of traffic from these social media sites.

Ask the Economist – monthly live web chat on Twitter, but integrated on Economist.com.

The Economist Debates – two years old now. As many comments on Facebook as on the site now, but seeking to integrate them more.

By Invitation Panel – 50 economists who are fans of the Economist. They send a single question, and they provide their responses.

Ideas Arena

Figure out what is special about your brand, and then figure out how to make that work in a social environment.

Stefan Stern – Edelmann

Mindset shifts needed from people who have built their careers in traditional forms. Journalists have treated readers like some teachers do parents – that they should mind their own business and stay out of the process.

Stefan Stern

Handled properly, social media is a liferaft for journalists in the era of citizen journalists. Stern is queasy about free as a business model. But it also makes you a social being, one who creates and finds interesting material.

He’s become more active on Twitter since leaving the FT – and his number of followers has increased. He’s freer to speak out at Edelmann than at the FT…

“Strategy” and media companies have not always been comfortable bedfellows, but it’s becoming necessary in a time of change.

Suw Charman-Anderson

Suw Charman Anderson

How do you get to a social media strategy in the first place?

Suw & Kevin went to work with Network18 in Mumbai. It was an opportunity to shape a strategy from scratch, social and digital-first. First question: who were they speaking to? Concept: original content plus aggregation. How do you aggregate? Not just reading RSS feeds – the journalists need to be embedded in their beats socially. And that means figuring out what the audience are already doing in social media. They decided to take the audeince on a journey from shallow social media usage to something more interactive.

Also, peaks and troughs of use. Peak of mobile in the morning (good time to tweet) – peak at lunchtime, when people had time for in-depth – good time for blogging. Production? Whole suite of tools we could use – which support our strategy? May launch from a Feb start – 1/9/90 rule. 1% will seriously engage, 9% will engage somewhat and 90% will lurk. What actions will they engage with? You can’t just bolt social media on the side, you have to integrate it with your product.


Stern: moving from era when journalists were authorities handing down wisdom from on high, to an era when the ability to engage boost your career. Evidence will convert over time.

Jones: you need to treat the internal editorial network. Work with the keenest and big them up internally. The chief executive repeatedly saying that it’s important helps.

A general discussion about which is better for traffic – Facebook or Twitter. Charman-Anderson points out that its horses for courses – different audiences use different social media sites (including LinkedIn)

#newsrw – Organising the Social Media Chaos

Suw Charman-Anderson hosting. Four people who are using crowd-sourcing and user-generated content and who can give us some idea of how you can verify that information

Neal Mann @fieldproducer

Neal Mann

Twitter is Reuters on acid, crack and cocaine. We have to ignore that chaotic aspect and pull out information that’s of value to us. We have beat journalists who distill information – that’s our job as journalists. We can use Twitter in the same way, with a structure way of dealing with it. He treats Twitter as his path. “I’m casting a net across twitter.” If something happens in Yemen, I follow six journalists from Yemen. They tweet it, and we can jump on it half an hour before it hits the wire. Twitter is only chaotic is you treat it in a chaotic way.

You need to be following the key nodes for information – the people who are constantly sharing the best information on Twitter. He has a list of about 2,000 because anything less than that and he’ll start missing things. Twitter is an echo chamber – things get retweeted, so if you miss it once, you’ll see it very quickly.

However – you also need to become one of those nodes. He’s had many tipoffs from people because they’ve built a relationship with people using Twitter over months. People see Twitter as a chat room. As a journalists I see it as a newswire and a news publishing medium. He takes a structured approach to how he publishes – people are interested in news. Within social media there are a people interested in a range of stories, from crime to fashion. I need to become to the go-to source for a particular subject in the build-up to an event. When he was covering the Julian Assange bail story, he spend the weeks before tweeting links to relevant stories.

Alex Gubbay, social media producer, BBC News

Alex GubbayThe opportunities are huge: you can get content more quickly, and direct from the scene. The challenge is verification. As a “mainstream” broadcaster they need to be rigorous in their fact checking. It’s an evolving approach, and they are lucky to have a dedicate team. For the first couple of years it was all about processing material sent directly to them. As social media has grown, they’ve moved to curating the wider web.

Gives and example of a video of a fire. How do you check? Traditional methods, sure, but you can also use Google Street View to check the video matches what you can see on the ground. They did some verification – it matched up, so they sent a news crew.

The arab spring has brought this to a new level. They need to get more sophisticated. Often you can’t get hold of people, people are trying to push an agenda. But the footage is important, and if we can’t get correspondents in, they are the only source. You can compare against existing images and maps, you can compare with weather reports. You can use local expertise (or language expertise). And KEEP A LIST of the things you’ve verified.  Look for clues like number plates, weapons, that sort of thing.

Take you time, use forensic values, make sure you get it right.

Fergus Bell, senior producer, Associated Press

Effective monitoring is knowing which tool and which site to use in the right situation. Not all countries use Twitter or YouTube. Think about the sort of person that will be sharing relevant material, and think which platforms they will be using. Facebook is your safest bet. Sometimes you can’t get to the right person – but you can get to one of their friends.

Fregus Bell

He uses Hootsuite – finds it the best. Don’t be loyal to one app. Use the thing is the best for the job.

Fergus disagrees with Neal – he doesn’t like to follow people, he chooses to put them in lists and following the lists. By following people “you increase the chaos”. “There are people in my lists that I don’t want to know that I’m following them”. Extreme right wing groups, for example. He doesn’t want to tip his hand to them. You don’t need to build all the lists yourself – many people have already done that work for you. You can also build lists of “nodes” – people who are doing pre-filtering. He has Neal on a list for that reason…

You can keep lists Private – if you see your list as a competitive advantage KEEP IT PRIVATE.


Verification: it’s very hard to fake a social history. Sometimes just looking back at what people have posted previously will be very revealing. So don’t just verify the content – verify the individual. If we reach out to people and expecting them to provide the truth, we also need to verify ourselves. Don’t have an egg (the default icon) on your Twitter page. You wouldn’t ask them for information with your face covered. You have to gain the trust of people you want to get information from. You have to respect how they shared it. The AP waits until they have confirmation that people have given permission to republish.

Nicola Hughes, data journalist, Data Miner UK

Nicola Hughes

There are huge peaks of information on twitter. Some tools can’t cope because of API limits. You are looking for a link – to an image, video, blog post or local news report. The first thing you want to do is filter down to the location that the story is coming from. Your best tool is TrendsMap. Hahtags are your guide, follow the hastag to the original location. Look for “beacons” – often key links to shared media. It’s best to work in an application that shows you the media within the application, as time is of the essence.

(Aside: this is a session where watching the video will be invaluable)

Topsy is your next best friend. It’ll show you links over time – if the earliest link is too early, it’s not genuine. You can check locations based on Twitter location info, if their using it – or Foursquare checkins…Using these techniques, she’s been able to track down individuals on the ground, and contact them via mobile phone and get them to do reporting directly.

You need to make a name for yourself on the internet, but you may need to make a name. Nicola Hughes is hard to find, @dataminerUK isn’t.

Lanyrd – great tool for finding out what events people you are interested in will be at…

#newsrw – Heather Brooke on the UK’s culture of secrecy

Heather Brooke

Heather Brooke is kicking off news:rewired with a talk on data journalism, based on her campaigning work for more data transparency from UK government.

She’s glad to see so many people interested in data journalism – used to be just three of them.

Best known as the person who did the legwork for the MPs expenses story.

The main problem with doing journalism in the UK is access to data. In the US, where she started her career, they had access to information from public records. When she covered the state legislature. She’d go to the clerks’ office, and ask for all the representatives’ expense reports.

It used to be illegal in the UK for fire departments to disclose the details of fire inspections. Arrest reports are not public documents. A lot of court information is hard to get. A lot of what you can get is anonymous. . Control of data means control of how the public perceive the story – and that’s why authorities are so reluctant to let go.

So, one of the reasons that journalists don’t “get” data journalism is the lack of availability of meaningful data sets. Brooke started the expenses investigation as much to get a full “feed” of the expenses information as anything else. Data journalism isn’t just about learning to use Excel spreadsheets, it’s about having something to put into those spreadsheets – and that’s where we should concentrate.

What is the role of a journalist in the digital age, when people have so much information they’re exposed to, when they have so much to deal with?

Journalism has one unique selling point, on reason they’d come to us rather than reading one of a million blogs. We have skills to sift through mountains of information for what is (a) important and (b) true. We are information managers.  A time-strapped and attention-strapped public needs people to signpost what is important – that’s what we can bring to the table.

What is true? When a politician claims crime has gone down, you can only test that is you can cross-check it against the data. You need the data, and you need to know how it was collected. Access to time and money to do this is they only thing that marks a professional journalist out from a blogger.


Q from someone at the BBC College of Journalism about justified exceptions to the Freedom of information act.  Brooke doesn’t like the question. We alway think about the costs and dangers of making information public. We never talk about the costs and dangers of keeping it secret.

Q from The Guardian about wether the Data Protection Act act has been a problem. Brooke seems to agree, saying that it’s been better at protecting the “privacy” of big organisations that private individuals.



The Journalistic Narrative Drift – a story of the BBC Social Media Summit

Journalists are creatures of narrative. We write stories. We ask what the story is. We shape a series of events into a coherent article, be that 300 or 3000 words long, that makes sense. One could accuse us of imposing meaning and order on events that have none – but that’s a human trait, just one that we have to excess.

We even have our own narratives, the narrative of the Fleet Street reporter, which carries the whiff of the trilby and the press card, and of the adrenaline junkie war reporter. We have the doorstopping local journalists and the obsessive TV reporter.

Those narratives are being disrupted. Have been disrupted. Will be disrupted.

Many people have noted that there’s been a huge narrative shift in many contemporary dramas, because the mobile phone had disrupted storytellers’ ability to put their characters into isolation. They have such each and rapid access to communication and information that many dramatic tropes of the past simply don’t work.

Our own narratives are rooted in us being the noble public servants, given access to the sacred keys of communication. But those keys are available to pretty much everybody now. Anyone who is on Facebook is publishing more than anyone bar professional journalists were publishing 30 years ago. That’s the new mainstream media. Those who think of themselves as “mainstream” media are just slightly bigger specialists than those of us who have rejoiced in the label for decades. But their own narratives don’t allow them to see this.

Perhaps it was inevitable that the fastest adopters of social media have been those without such a compelling self-narrative; the web journalists, the specialists, the entrepreneurs. Without such a defining vision of what their job is, of who they are within the mythology of journalism, they have been freed to write a new one. They aren’t compelled to bolt the new stuff onto the old; they can, instead, recreate what they are doing with new tools that make what they are doing more compelling, more enjoyable, more useful.

My abiding impression of the BBC Social Media Summit was of a bunch of people who are still trying to incorporate social media into their pre-existing narrative. They are trying to rope new communication technology onto the conventions of the past. They are using petrol engines to pull carriages once pulled by horses, while others are busy pottering around in cars.

Those who believe that Twitter is mainly about “broadcast” for mainstream organisations are not just wrong, they are wilfully ignoring the experience, successes and failures of many others. And that was one of the most powerful messages that came out of the summit to me – that some people will work very hard to exclude the experiences of others that challenge their own preconceptions of their working environment. I’ve called this “special pleading” in the past. Every single market we serve at RBI has given me reasons why social media won’t work in their market. Most memorably, someone from Computer Weekly gave me a long speech on why people in the tech industry would never, ever use social media. Ever single piece of special pleading has been proved to be false.

Elements of the “mainstream” media have already started to change their narratives. Alan Rushbridger’s mention of “mutual media” was probably the most compelling sentence uttered in the entire day. But then compare the name of his publication – The Guardian – to the Telegraphs, Mails, Heralds, and Mercurys – broadcast names all, in their own ways. His implies a relationship with the people they serve beyond that of those-who-are-speaking and those-who-are-listening. The others do not.

Until the mainstream of the  “mainstream” media learn that 10,000 quiet voices can be more powerful than a single loud one, then days like last Friday will have elements that are useful and even compelling – and I think the talk from Al Jazeera was one of those – but ultimately be dominated by too many voices raging against the irrelevance of their own story. They no longer have an angle, and they hate it.

#bbcsms – Bringing together the digital conversation


Claire Wardle is running a “pulling together” session. Key points so far:


  • Do we need to get more comfortable with saying that things are unverified
  • Is it irresponsible to just push things out, knowing people won’y come back to check things later.
  • More training needed on how to use tools?


  • Do we need to respect people supplying material more? Do we need to credit citizen journalists as we would our collegues
  • Or do they just want to get that message out to the world? Is the personal credit irrelevant and a journalist obsession.
  • Still a reluctance in newsrooms to name bloggers/tweeters/YouTubers
  • Digital doorstopping – just grabbing content from people’s Facebook etc, which they don’t see as public, even if it is…


  • Reporters are expected to keep our notes for 5/7 years – but we don’t keep our tweets. Do we need to? Do we need formal archiving – which could also be useful to academics. (Paul Bradshaw)
  • BBC has a scale of content, users and technologists – but they don’t open ANY of that up. They could make that much more accessible and usable (Emily Bell)

Other issues:

  • How do we get working groups or collaboration communities out of this
  • How do we get big media used to being intermediaries and middlemen rather than top-down editors of journalism?
  • Specialist media has been virtually ignored in this discussion – we have plenty of experience in collaborating with communities.

Alan Rusbridger:

  • Cultural battle has been won, it’s now the practical battle (link)
  • Does nobody else seeing a play have anything worth saying apart from a theatre critic? Clearly not.
  • Daft to think that you can cover the whole world with a small group of people in a newsroom
  • Moving beyond social media – open or mutual media
  • Story a very limited way of describing a world where things keep happening
  • Claims Guardian invented liveblogging, which is nonsense
  • Guardian US will give them the opportunity to experiment without traditional structures

#bbcsms – Technology and Innovation

Nic Newman

Social media is your friend, not your competitor. Visits to news sites is growing at about the same rate as social media visits.

So who is losing?

Search is starting to fall as a source of information – being replaced by social discovery. Mainstream media seeing huge increases in referrals from social media. Daily Mail doing best. Times suffering.

Who is originating news?

Yes, sometimes social media breaks stories, and that is amplified by traditional media. But generally, it’s the other way around. However, individual journalists and bloggers are becoming as influential as news brands. But Twitter and social media acts generally as an amplifier of mainstream news.

New ecology of news production and consumption
Race for influence
Social discovery is a core traffic driving strategy
Social needs to be built into new business models

We’re telling better stories
Now we need to increase engagement and distribute content.

Liz Heron, NYT

Building a strong social media-centric team. They have been focusing on socmed as a way of reaching new audiences. This year, we’ve taken it to a new level. if you’re only thinking of it as a distribution channel, your missing out on the opportunities for engagement. “Source up” on social media – before you need them. Reply, and join in conversations. Twitter is so natural for journalists hat sometimes we forget about Facebook.

We don’t have social media guidelines – use common sense and don’t be stupid. We have to trust them to use it well.

Trying to get involved with high impact projects in the newsroom to ensure a social media element.

Facebook gives you a lot of information on people who sign in through them – almost too much. You can learn a lot about who is interested in what.
The NYT has an R&D department, looking at how social stuff might look on the site in five years…

They’re planning on focusing more on Facebook now, as they’ve “cracked” Twitter. Cyborg Twitter accounts – half automated links, half human interaction. Next week they’re going to go all human on the main account, turning off the feed.

She’s not threatened by people developing personal brands – people tend to stay at the NYT, and strongly identify themselves as belonging to the title. They’re less convinced about personal pages on Facebook, though. But they’re still just experimenting.

Facebook Connect has been very important for things like their Oscars web app. Has driven subs, but not a lot. More important in promoting content.

Mark Little, Storyful

Started as a journo, remember covering prison riot with a mobile the size of a brick. The dirty secret was that being a foreign correspond ant was it was mostly about the logistics of big equipment.
We’re living through a disruption – there’s so much information now; how do we filter and integrate that. Tried to do it in RTE. Hit cultural issues.

People confuse Technology and innovation. Tech is a shiny box, innovation is changing the way we report. Most news organisations are not comfortable with risk and failure, which is necessary for innovation. Bit disappointed by some things he’s heard today. It should be about collaboration, not competition – which is not how newsrooms work.

Social media people in newsrooms are like insurgents…

Holy grail of integration is trust indexes. Every news event creates a community.

Mark Rock, AudioBoo

Media organisations are stuck in the electric age, not the digital one. You’ll lose people if you don’t change. They don’t think about bits and iteration. They build R&D factories, when there are factories out there (startups).


Interesting debate about innovation in big companies. Illico from Reuters argued that it does happen, on an individual basis. Mark Rock replied that he wasn’t saying that innovation doesn’t happen, it’s just that they won’t take risks in the same way as startups.

Esra from Al Jazeera thinks that partnerships with startups is a win, win. you can experiment, and if you fail, fail fast and then replace. A lady from the Huffington Post said she’s given complete freedom to use what she wants – no directives from the top. Mark Rock pointed out that most big media companies ignore new tech, then try to build itself, then fail, then try to partner.

Discussion around failure – we’re so ashamed of it in the UK. We haven’t seen the same large startup online journalism business we have in the US. Mark Little thinks we expect innovation to spring forth full-formed, rather than changing and experimenting.

#bbcsms – Editorial Issues

Esra Dogramaci, Al Jazeera

Content from people on the street was important in Egypt – the government had shut down traditional reporting methods.

100 communities in the US got together to demand Al Jazeera, which is only available in four states.

Social media is about trust. There’s a disparity between the connected and unconnected parts of the world. AlJ don’t create the news agenda, but they reflect it. When people begin to trust us, they come to us for news.

(Info – noise) + context = responsible reporting

Try to get in contact directly with the person who sent the information. They’ve had people supply photos of old protest elsewhere as new material. They try to pre-identify key people on Twitter in advance when news starts breaking, filtered by location.

There’s a distinction between reporting and journalism. Reporting is the facts, journalism is the context.

Working with users is a two way street – distributing Flip cameras gave them footage, but also helped build trust between them and the community.

Telling the truth is hard, not telling it is harder.

AlJ tries to take a neutral line. Two language channels. When the Japanese earthquake happened, it was more important on English that Arabic, which focused on the Middle East protests.

Interesting discussion about Al Jazeera having to walk the line between reporting on the revolutions and seeming to encourage them. There are risks to both the organization – journalist and buildings have been targeted – and for social media users who participate and feed the news, too. They give attribution or anonymity as contributors wish. AlJ will tend to take the side of the masses, she suggests.

Will Perrin

Finally, someone standing up for specialist news, particularly hyperlocal journalism. Parwich.org 400 page views per day in a community of 500. Sheffieldforum.co.uk – the dominant form of journalism in Sheffield.

Christian Payne

Was fed up with the newspaper messing with story – it was always manipulated by the time it hit print. Disgruntled with the number of channels I had to go through to get my craft out there.

In 2005 was watching BBC news, got annoyed by the coverage, so flew to Turkey and made his own way there. The mainstream channels who took his stories didn’t express them to his satisfaction, so he stuck it on YouTube – was seen by more people than it would have done in national newspapers. If he could find a way of making money from this, he could go direct, no need for mainstream channels.

Blogger not a journalist – it’s fine if you can’t spell as a blogger, if you can’t spell as a journalist, you’re an alcoholic.

We stop journalists from being passionate about what they are doing by taking emotion out of stories – emotion IS one of the tools that we use to get the message across.

Sinai Motalebi

BBC Persian lacked the reporters on the ground, so had to go to the people making the news direct. Some years ago, someone at a BBC panel at Bush House said that people come to the BBC for expert reporting, not the voices of everyday people. The experiences of BBC Persian show that isn’t true. They maintain balance by giving both sides a voice. They are nor proud or defeated by their used of social media – it’s just a fact.

In the 2005 election, the blogosphere did not reach the general public in Iran. By 2009, YouTube and Twitter were taking the footage to the masses. The BbC took footage from YouTube, it was broadcast, and people would reupload it with the BBC brand on it. We are now giving a platform for debate, not just a voice in a voxpop. Very emotional and revealing when they provided a platform for debates between Iranians and Iraqis.


is the debate being forced into a traditional Western model of objectivity. Is there room for activist journalism? Esra says yes, sort of. Part of their success is bringing traditional values to the reporting. Sinai, however, is not actively part of a movement. He thinks there is a need for established values. Not all conversations on social media are representative, all the time. Two kinds of noise to filter from Iran, one from the opposition who wanted to hasten events. The other, pro-Government, who would produce sophisticated fake material, so broadcasters would publish it, and then the originators could discredit it and the journalists with it.

Perrin points out that most local sites are unashamedly biased, because they love their area – and many are responding to “if it bleeds it leads” negative coverage.