29 June 2007

Ethical Responsibility for User-Generated Content

The Society of Editors has revised its Editors’ Code of Practice to include guidelines related to user-generated content, according to HoldtheFrontPage.co.uk.

The preamble will now clarify that editors and publishers are responsible for applying the Code to ‘editorial material in both printed and online versions of publications.’ Moreover, they are to ensure that the ethical precepts are ‘observed rigorously by all editorial staff and external contributors, including non-journalists.’ Editors’ Code Committee Chair Les Hinton of News International said the group considered it vital that the code’s ‘approach to online and printed versions of newspapers was fully synchronised.’

The Society of Editors is printing and distributing 40,000 wallet-size copies of the revised code to Britain's journalists and civic leaders. The change, along with a separate modification related to subterfuge in information gathering, will come into force from August 1.

Mike Gilson of the Scotsman is among the senior newspaper executives on the society’s Editors’ Code Committee.

Background information, along with additional information about the change in the guidelines on subterfuge, is available at http://www.holdthefrontpage.co.uk/day/code/070627update.shtml and from the news section of the Society of Editors Web site.

28 June 2007

A Penny for your Comments

News organizations are exploring a variety of ways to handle user comments. The Poynter Institute recently offered examples of approaches taken by US media. Among major newspaper sites:

* The Wall Street Journal does not allow discussion on all stories, having found that many financial discussion boards have turned into attempts at stock price manipulation. The Journal does allow comments in blogs and in forums but handles them differently. On the blogs, readers are free to comment however they like, without registration and without having to subscribe to the rest of the site. Forums are generally attached to media-generated questions or columns; users must register to add comments, which managing editor Bill Grueskin says ‘has a way of leading sometimes, but not always, to more thoughtful discussion.’ WSJ journalists do not edit for spelling or grammar, but do troll both blog posts and forums for ‘the nasty stuff’ such as profanity and ad hominem attacks.

* The New York Times publishes reader comments alongside blog posts, articles and reviews; it sees them as a way to draw on what community editor Heather Moore calls ‘our greatest strength,’ a readership that is ‘well-informed, passionate and more often than not highly articulate.’ The Times does not edit comments but does pre-screen in an effort to weed out ‘the tenacious few who would try to derail the conversation.’

* The Washington Post sees commenting as ‘an essential part of where online journalism is headed’ and a device to build both loyalty and community, according to online editor Jim Brady. The Post ‘post-moderates’: Other than profanity, which is filtered by a software program, any issues are dealt with after publication, typically as flagged by other users. Editors do keep a close eye on stories on the site’s home page.

More details, as well as information related to two non-newspaper sites, are available at: http://www.poynter.org/content/content_view.asp?id=123155

07 June 2007

Slip in Local Advertising Share

A new study in the United States warns that online newspapers' share of local advertising is declining and is likely to continue to slip, according to a report in Editor & Publisher magazine. The reason is that the Internet is changing from a medium of banner advertising and pay-for-listings, formats that are familiar to newspapers and their existing advertisers, to one dominated by video adverts and paid search.

In addition, the 'pure-play' sites -- those not affiliated with traditional media -- are gaining local market share. Analysts suggest that newspaper companies teaming up with Google, Yahoo, Monster and others stand to gain. But in general, online newpapers' share of local advertising has decreased 8.2 percent over the past two years, even though the total amount spent on local online adverts is growing.

The study said successful newspaper sites typically had instituted higher online ad rates and employed online-only sales people who target non-traditional advertisers. In addition, the more successful sites tended to depend less on classifieds; the top performers received 62 percent of their online revenue from classifieds as opposed to 71 percent for the average newspaper Web site, according to the report.

Full article (time-sensitive for non-subscribers):

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