31 August 2007

Reporters Share News Via Twitter

Social networking website Twitter has launched a new platform which enables journalists to share stories and information in real-time.

Members signing up to reportwitters.com can communicate by text or instant messaging with fellow reporters and freelancers across the globe to obtain advice on news items and share story-gathering tips.

The founders are also encouraging journalists to proofread each other’s articles and keep followers updated with their progress on stories from the initial idea to publication.

“Using Twitter journalistically, much of your efforts will involve setting a stage for a hyper-interesting experience,” states the website.

“At the moment these are only the bare bones of a concept that can easily be expanded into a mega project. Reality-style journalism could become a thing of the future.”

Further details on this story can be found at journalism.co.uk.

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Local News Sites Increase By 33%

The number of regional news websites created in the UK grew by a third last year, reveal new figures from the Newspaper Society (NS).

A total of 274 local press websites were launched in 2006 and this represents an increase of 33% in comparison to the previous year’s tally, according to the Annual Regional Press Survey.

The study also shows that online advertising revenue rose by 18.3% during the course of the year to a total of £71 million.

“Growth in local newspaper websites means they now collectively represent one of the top UK online properties, attracting an estimated 20 million unique users a month - which would put it above the BBC, alongside Yahoo! and within striking distance of eBay, MSN and Google,” says Russell Whitehair, NS president and chairman of NWN Media.

He adds: “The regional press is growing and reaching new audiences across its print and digital platforms.”

The survey also reveals that local titles employed a total of 618 staff members to handle their online publishing and web design activities in 2006.

NS based its report on information supplied by just over three quarters of the regional press publications in the UK.

Further details can be found in the society’s press release and the survey can be viewed on the NS website.


30 August 2007

Citizen Bloggers Wanted By Sky

Sky News is planning to recruit several hundred citizen journalists to provide content for the next general election in the UK.

The innovative project will see a significant number of non-professional writers contribute towards the political coverage provided by Sky News in the form of blogs.

Press Gazette reports that City University in London is joining forces with Sky to deliver the initiative, which will be coordinated by a postgraduate student.

Neil Thurman, senior lecturer in electronic publishing at the university, stated that Sky is looking to experiment with its news format and has agreed to fund a PhD studentship in order to “get input from the academic side”.

He said: “Rather than having Sky News journalists blogging [about the election], they'll aim to recruit a number of citizens who will blog as well.”

Applications are currently being sought for the studentship and the successful candidate will be responsible for identifying suitable citizen journalists to participate in the project.

Further details about this story and the studentship can be found at Press Gazette, the Guardian and City University.


29 August 2007

NCTJ Introduces Online Story Test

Reporters taking exams with the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) will be required to write a story for a website for the first time next month.

Journalists undertaking the body’s National Certificate Examination (NCE) from September will have to compose a news item to be published immediately on the Web using facts and comments gleaned from written information and a mock interview.

The news interview element of the NCE previously asked candidates to write a story intended for publication in the next day’s newspaper, but the NCTJ has introduced the change to reflect newsroom activities across the UK.

NCTJ journalism chief examiner Steve Nelson commented: “This evolvement of the news interview section recognizes the changing newsroom practices and presents candidates with the opportunity to write in a slightly different style to that normally required in the NCE.”

In addition, Nelson asserted: “I am confident that candidates will easily adapt to this new requirement.”

The NCE is open to journalists who have been working for at least two years and is assessed by both portfolio submission and examinations.

Further details on this story can be found at the website of the NCTJ.

News Sites Should Encourage ‘Green Living’

New media journalist Steve Outing is issuing a call to arms to newspapers to encourage eco-friendly behaviour among their readers.

Writing in his latest Stop the Presses column, Outing asserts that the media needs to return to a form of advocacy journalism in its reporting of climate change issues and this means assuming a pro-active role in helping people to adopt more environmentally friendly lifestyles.

The self-styled “online-media pioneer” suggests that newspapers can lead the way by hosting online communities for people with shared environmental interests, such as homeowners who use solar energy or individuals who cycle to work.

Outing asks: “How about if newspapers abandon their old way of doing things when it comes to the issue of global warming and turn their influence to good?

“It just might be that through this issue alone, newspapers revive themselves to some extent. Editors are shirking their responsibility to improve our world, in my view, so let’s change that.”

In addition, Outing recommends that journalists should encourage readers to post their energy-saving tips on the website where fellow users can rate them according to the most useful.

Other initiatives outlined by the US-based columnist in the latest edition of Editor & Publisher include the online promotion of green campaigns by featuring details on homepages and the staging of competitions to find the community’s best energy saver.

The full article (time-sensitive for non-subscribers) is available online.

28 August 2007

‘More Young Women Going Online’

Growing numbers of young females are using the internet, according to the annual media consumption report from industry regulator Ofcom.

The independent body’s audit reveals the UK’s internet habits and demonstrates that women account for the majority of online users in the 25 to 34 age group.

In addition, the report entitled The Communications Market 2007 states that young females between the ages of 18 and 34 are the most prolific internet users in the UK in terms of time spent online.

Ofcom director of research James Thickett told the Times: “Young women are finally finding content relevant to them on the internet.”

Thickett added that the increase in the number of young women using the internet can be partly attributed to the rapid and recent growth in social networking sites.

However, the proportion of older female users is much lower with men accounting for 79% of so-called silver surfers over the age of 65.

The large study also features data on the growth of broadband, converged media, surfing habits and mobile internet services.

It can be found at the Ofcom website alongside a summary of key findings for the telecoms industry.


Plymouth Daily Joins Facebook

A local newspaper in the south west of England has created its own pages on a number of social networking websites in order to reach new readers.

The web editor at the Plymouth Herald has set up entries for the daily publication on Facebook, MySpace, Bebo and Friendster in a bid to attract younger people who are not part of its traditional print readership.

Neil Shaw told holdthefrontpage.co.uk that the pages, which feature the newspaper’s front page and the day’s top stories, have been visited by more than 600 users since their creation.

“We have not promoted the sites through our paper or through our own website, relying solely on the sites themselves to generate their own interest - so the users we have found there are likely to be brand new to us,” said Shaw.

The Herald’s Facebook group currently has 65 members, while its MySpace profile has so far attracted 311 friends.

Shaw added that the experimental move has enabled the Herald to interact with some of these new readers.

“We've had a few people come forward with details about bands and other entertainment news and a couple of requests from younger users about content they would like to see, so it's also been interesting from that point of view.”


24 August 2007

Local News Traffic ‘Not Growing’

A report investigating traffic on the internet has revealed that many websites operated by local news organizations are not achieving online user growth.

The Harvard University study examined traffic to a variety of US-based news sites and found that most daily and weekly newspapers covering large, mid-size and small cities have seen a decline in visitors between April 2006 and April 2007.

By contrast, the research showed that so-called brand-name dailies with a national profile, such as USA Today and the New York Times, saw their online audiences increase during the same period.

Furthermore, the paper claimed that audience redistribution as a consequence of the internet poses the greatest risk to local newspapers as they will find it more difficult to maintain online readers in the future.

Among the problems noted are the issues of profitability regarding online readers compared with print customers and the fact that the Web has weakened the impact of geography in news source selection.

It is not all bad news for local providers though and the report outlined their advantages in the online news market, such as brand name leverage and established access to the audience.

“The greatest asset that the traditional media may have, however, is their product – the news,” stated the study, which is entitled Creative Destruction: An Exploratory Look at News on the Internet.

“It makes sense to believe that, when they [readers] choose the site of a news organization, they expect to see the news.”

The Harvard research team also asserted its “hunch” that local news sites could increase their traffic in the long term by including national and international stories to prevent people deserting them for brand-name websites.

The full report can be found on the Harvard University website.


23 August 2007

Virtual News Receives Award Nod

A news website provided by Reuters in the virtual world Second Life has been recognized for its creativity with an award nomination.

Cyberjournalist.net reports that the Second Life News Center is among the ten sites competing for the Knight-Batten Awards, which are designed to honour websites that are making use of new technologies to help citizens engage in public issues and current affairs.

The Reuters site provides news to users about the latest happenings within the international virtual world and also supplies headline stories from the real world alongside entertainment items and quirky tales from across the globe.

Also nominated for one of Knight-Batten’s three awards is a US-based news forum which is run by volunteers and provides stories serving three local communities in New Hampshire.

In addition, the list of nominees also features a Florida-based news organization which encourages users to submit their own story contributions regarding the actions of the local government.

The three winners will be unveiled at a meeting of the National Press Club in Washington DC next month.

Further details about the nominees can be found at the website of the Institute for Interactive Journalism.


Google Adds Video to News Pages

Video footage of broadcast news items is now being featured on the Google News site.

This week the company launched the new service which enables users to watch a video report of a story by opening a YouTube player on the page.

A number of news providers now have video items included on the site, such as Reuters, the US television network CBS and several local American broadcast stations owned by the Hearst Corporation.

Google, which bought YouTube in 2006, has stated through its News Blog that the idea behind the enhanced service is to provide a “broader spectrum of info available”.

It also noted: “We're working with YouTube so you can easily view online videos without any downloads required and regardless of what browser you're using.”

At present, the service is available to users in the UK, the Republic of Ireland and the US, with Google aiming to offer it in non-English language editions in the near future.


JP Weekly Breaks Fire Story Online

The Skegness Standard recently used the internet to break the story of a large fire as the drama was unfolding.

Rebekah Baker, editor at the Johnston Press weekly publication, revealed that as soon she heard about the incident she rushed to the scene of the massive blaze at a seafront entertainment venue along with one of the Standard’s photographers in order to get the latest details and pictures.

As the fire still raged, photographs of the burning Parade Complex and some of the 60 firefighters in attendance were then published via the newspaper’s online edition in the early hours of the morning and were soon complemented by readers’ pictures and video footage.

The editor told holdthefrontpage.co.uk: “It is a huge story, the biggest this year.”

“I wanted to get the story on as quickly as possible. People want to know what is happening and I hope they turn to us,” added Wade.

The clean-up operation has also been featured prominently on the Standard’s website with videos and photographs of the demolition of the building.

Footage of the blaze and its aftermath can be viewed online at the Skegness Standard.

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21 August 2007

Local Paper Creates Wiki for Digital Journalists

An online discussion forum and networking site for new media journalists across the UK has been created by the head of digital news at the Wrexham Evening Leader.

Christian Dunn said he hopes the newly created wiki will provide a place where online reporters and other users can share top tips on digital content and provide advice to one another, reports holdthefrontpage.co.uk.

Dunn is also appealing for journalists who know of any similar blogs or discussion forums to sign up and create links to relevant sites.

"Like just about everything on the internet, this idea will only work if members sign up and actually use it to their benefit,” he said, adding: "I'm sure many of us are trying to work our way around similar problems which we could help each other with - without affecting the hits on our own sites.

"If digital news in general gets better and readers become more used to getting their news online this will help us all out in the long run."

The wiki can be found at eveningleader.co.uk/wiki


17 August 2007

Bloggers Stage Union Discussions

Forming a bloggers’ union was one of the subjects up for debate at a convention for online political writers held in Chicago this month

The Associated Press reports that attendees to the YearlyKos Convention participated in a panel discussion to argue the pros and cons of creating some kind of union organization for the blogging community.

Supporters of an association for bloggers pointed out the increased likelihood of gaining recognized press credentials if individuals banded together and also suggested that a union would enable the establishment of guidelines for issues such as advertising and data presentation.

Susie Madrak, who compiles a political blog entitled Suburban Guerilla, told PR Week: “What I've been trying to form is a bloggers’ association - something that will offer bloggers the opportunity to affiliate.”

She added that any association would limit its membership to a relatively small number of bloggers and asserted: “I’m not interested in starting a union for the benefit of people who blog about their kittens.”

The YearlyKos Convention is open to members of the political action group Netroots community and was first held in June 2006.

More information can be obtained from several online sources which covered this story, including PR Week and Guardian Unlimited, while the AP report is available at Fox News.


Online Users ‘Spending More Time on Content’

Figures from the Online Publishers Association (OPA) have revealed that internet users are visiting content more than ever before and this has been partly attributed to the growth of news offerings on the Web.

The president of the US-based organization suggested that the increase of 37% over the last four years in the proportion of time spent on content is a consequence of several factors, including major news events which enhance traffic flow.

“The dominant role of content is driven by several important factors. The first is the online transition of traditionally offline activities, such as getting news,” commented Pam Horan.

In addition, the OPA president noted that major news stories and high-profile sporting events “are clearly driving consumers to engage more deeply with online content”.

The results were published as part of the association’s four-year Internet Activity Index and showed that online users now spend an average of 47% of their time on content, 33% on communications, 15% on commercial activities and 5% on search sites, in comparison to 2003 when communications accounted for the greatest proportion at 46%.

More information on the study is available from the OPA.


16 August 2007

ABC Reveals Habits of Online Users

The inaugural ABC report combining print and online circulation data shows that internet-based news consumption habits are still in a state of flux.

Circulation figures from July released by the Guardian, Times, Sun and Daily Telegraph reveal that the majority of national news Web site users are based outside the UK, with 67% of timesonline users and 66% of Guardian Unlimited visitors living overseas.

The combined report also demonstrates that users accessing news via the Web tend to adopt a different approach than their print-reading counterparts and are more likely to concentrate on a specific section as opposed to browsing the range of stories available.

Writing in the Guardian, media research spokesman Jim Bilton suggests the new data show that ‘publishers have to become much more creative in their website architecture to make the customer journey longer and more wide-ranging’.

The managing partner at Wessenden Marketing adds: ‘Publishers need to get smarter about building loyalty and frequency of usage on their websites.’

The full story is available from Guardian Unlimited.


15 August 2007

Financing the News Called Fundamental Issue

The fundamental issue for news organizations today is not declining readership – it’s how to finance the news and to prevent quality from shrinking as revenue and resources shrink, Project for Excellence in Journalism Director Tom Rosenstiel said during last week’s journalism educators’ convention in Washington, DC.

Media executives have not gotten away from the idea that theirs is an advertising-driven business. But the Internet is a worse advertising vehicle than print. Getting information about goods and services is an online activity in itself, not a byproduct of getting news, he said.

News organizations must find ways to get people to pay for content – including going to war with Internet access companies and news aggregators to insist that the current system, in which the people producing content get nothing for doing so, be re-engineered.

Rosenstiel also warned that the notion that news is platform-agnostic is ‘suicidal.’ You’re dead if you do the same thing you’ve always done but simply put it on the Web, he said. News competitors believe in the power of the Internet, and news organizations must structure what they do to that platform. For instance, they must think of news as something much broader than the narrative itself; news also encompasses documents, databases and more.

Among Rosenstiel’s other points during his panel discussion at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication convention:

* Journalism includes not only narrative but also original documents, links, elements that people can use to assemble their own news, and more. In this environment, the journalist’s role is one of sense-maker, helping people make sense of information gathered in many places.

* The news industry is simultaneously a mature industry and an emerging industry. It’s hard for editors and publishers to know which set of behaviours is appropriate: To what extent should we worry about next year as opposed to five or six years from now?

* The values of media owners are more important than the structure of ownership. Corporate ownership is not necessarily better or worse than private ownership, for example. But there are so many pressures on corporate owners that it can be hard to be a long-term entrepreneur.

* The energy in news companies now is in the newsroom. People are excited about doing news on the Web. The greatest level of fear, however, is in mid-level management on the business side, as awareness grows that the problem is a revenue one.

* User-generated content drives traffic, but at the moment, it is not directly helping revenue. The New York Times spends $215 million a year gathering news. User-generated content cannot replace the cuts in staff and produce journalistic value in the same way. The journalistic component will be enriched by user views, but the problem of financing quality news gathering remains. ‘That dialogue is vital, but it doesn’t solve the business problem,’ Rosenstiel said.

The section about online media from the PEJ’s latest State of the News Media report, produced by a team that Rosenstiel leads, is an excellent resource for trends in digital journalism.

Comments from Sources Sought

Google News last week added a ‘new, experimental feature’: displaying comments from people or organizations who were part of a published story.

Google has said it wants to ‘enhance the news experience for readers, testing the hypothesis that -- whether they're penguin researchers or presidential candidates-- a personal view can sometimes add a whole new dimension to the story.’

Comments will be published in full, without any edits, but they will be identified so it is clear to readers that they are separate from the journalist’s report.

The new feature is currently available only in the United States, though Google has said that ‘based on how things go, we'll work to expand it to other languages and editions.’

More details, as well as links to initial reactions to the announcement, are available from the Google News Blog.

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