27 September 2007

Digg Adds New Features In Spades

News aggregator Digg claims to have added more than 50 new features to its website this month.

The community site where users “digg” their favourite stories and “bury” those they don’t like has expanded its offerings, enabling members to add more personal profiles.

Digg also revealed that it is on schedule with plans to launch an image-only section towards the end of next month and is preparing to create an additional feature which enables users to set up customised email alerts on stories that interest them.

The site’s founder Kevin Rose told users: “We’ve completely revamped our profiles from the ground up - making it easy for you to share your favourite stories and discover new interesting content.”

He added that the website’s new additions “will make it a lot easier to discover great content and share it with others”.

Digg attracts millions of unique users each month who can submit news story headlines, summaries and links in the hope that they achieve enough Diggs to make it to the top of the chart and onto the front page.

The high number of users means that websites displaying submitted stories can experience a sudden dramatic increase of traffic from Digg users, known by some as the “Digg effect” or being “dugg to death”.

For further information on this story visit blog.digg.


26 September 2007

Don’t Fight Google, Says Media Head

Publishers should use news aggregators to their advantage rather than waging war against them, according to a multimedia chief.

Michael Hill from Trinity Mirror suggested that news providers should view aggregators and bookmarking websites such as Google, Digg and Reddit as marketing tools which direct users to their content, reports Journalism.co.uk.

The publishing group’s head of multimedia told delegates at the recent Association of Online Publishers (AOP) conference: “There’s a phrase used at Google: don't fight the internet and I'd extend that to include Google.

“I think it would be a pointless thing for us to do, to enter into a battle to stop Google and aggregators putting our content on there.”

However, Hill added that aggregators change the nature of how people access sites, with fewer users entering via homepages.

“What are we going to do on that page, around the place that’s been aggregated, to keep them on our site and make the most of that marketing opportunity?”

Further details on the AOP conference can be viewed here.

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Web Users To Set Agenda At Sky

Broadcaster Sky is launching an innovative multimedia news programme to be screened simultaneously on its TV news channel and website.

Sky.com News will be the UK’s first TV news programme to take its agenda from the day’s most popular online stories and will also use internet-based discussion forums as the departure point for live studio debates.

Among the features will be a chart of the most watched videos on the internet and details on the day’s most recommended articles.

The news show will make use of a range of websites and technologies in order to determine the day’s top items, including bookmarking sites such as Digg and Reddit, user-generated video charts, aggregators such as Technorati and Sky’s own readership data.

Producer John Jelley commented: “Sky.com News marks a radical step forward in merging the boundaries between TV breaking news and the web's news agenda.”

From October, the show will be broadcast in the evening from Tuesday to Friday with Martin Stanford assuming presenting duties.

For further details on this story, visit the Sky News press office.


NYT Calls Time On Paid Content

This week saw the issue of paid online content return to the news agenda after the New York Times announced the end of its subscription service.

A letter to readers from the publication’s senior vice president revealed that articles and archives previously only available to TimesSelect subscribers will now be opened up to all users for free.

“Readers increasingly find news through search, as well as through social networks, blogs and other online sources,” notes Vivian Schiller.

“In light of this shift, we believe offering unfettered access to New York Times reporting and analysis best serves the interest of our readers, our brand and the long-term vitality of our journalism,” adds Schiller.

Commentators have interpreted the move in different ways but none can ignore the big question - can paid content ever be a viable business model for news on the web?

Poynter Institute media analyst Rick Edmonds believes in general that it cannot, but remains optimistic: “If direct paid news does not work as a business, that still leaves open the possibility of licensing fees or other partnerships with aggregators big and small.”

Meanwhile, NewWest.net founder Jonathan Weber writes in the Times: “As the online media world evolves, there will be lots and lots of new business models.

“Paid models are not dead, they're just assuming new forms. And in that regard the New York Times' decision is not any big landmark. It's just a sign of a company experimenting with different approaches as its business changes.”

21 September 2007

Website Reaps Rewards From Video

A regional news site in the US has shown the value of video clips after one of its freelancers filmed the now notorious taser incident at the University of Florida.

The Gainesville Sun has attracted more than 20,000 users to its website to view footage of student Andrew Meyer being arrested and tasered by campus police at a forum where defeated presidential candidate John Kerry was the guest speaker.

Serving the north central zone of Florida, the daily publication has also massively boosted its national and international profile after the video was posted on YouTube, where it has attracted in excess of 840,000 hits.

Gainesville Sun executive editor Jim Osteen told Editor and Publisher: “The thought there is - if it is on YouTube, it brings traffic to your site because it says it is from the Gainesville Sun. There is a certain strategy there.”

He added: “We staffed it and we did shoot video of it and we got the incident that has taken on an interest beyond anything we could imagine.

“It is the most-watched video we’ve ever done and it had the entire incident.”


20 September 2007

Hyperlocal Sites ‘Boost Value’

A local newspaper editor has asserted that the creation of hyperlocal community websites is helping his firm boost the commercial value of its digital operations.

Darren Thwaites from the Teesside Evening Gazette revealed that the categorisation of local news by postcode location on gazettelive has added value to the publication’s online presence and enabled him to hire more staff, reports Press Gazette.

Speaking at the recent Society of Editors Scotland conference, the editor also claimed that the hyperlocal content is proving to be the most successful part of the Gazette’s online services.

“We have new advertising opportunities and it has generated great content that we can reverse back into the paper,” said Thwaites.

He added that the hyperlocal pages have “proved such a success that Trinity [Mirror] has launched print versions of the microsites”.


19 September 2007

ONA Announces Digital News Finalists

The Online News Association (ONA) has revealed the finalists competing for its annual digital reporting prizes.

Some 70 titles have made the nominations stage for the Online Journalism Awards with websites ranging from national brands like the Washington Post to regional providers, including the Wisconsin State Journal and the Denver Post.

Categories in the US-based awards comprise areas such as General Excellence and Best Breaking News, which features a number of websites’ coverage of the shootings at Virginia Tech.

“The range of finalists this year demonstrates the remarkable diversity in online journalism and the ever-growing number of sites producing first-rate content,” remarked Kinsey Wilson, president of the ONA.

“From established brands, to small community start-ups, we’re seeing great work at every level,” added Wilson.

The final will take place on October 19th in Toronto.

A full list of finalists with links to the nominated stories and features is available at the ONA website.


18 September 2007

Poynter Column Opens Debate On Online Ads

Digital journalist Amy Gahran argues for attention to be paid to the value of targeted online advertisements in her latest Poynter Online column.

The conversational media consultant suggests that offering adverts relevant to accompanying editorial content can enable publishers to improve turnover from digital operations.

“My understanding is that learning to work with and integrate targeted online ad networks … can significantly increase revenue,” states the co-founder of I, Reporter, a training scheme for citizen journalists.

She notes that advertisers are realising that “targeted exposure of their ad to 20,000 site visitors in a context relevant to editorial content probably benefits them far more than shotgun-style, largely irrelevant exposure to the 200,000 circulation of your Sunday paper, or to the overall 100,000 daily visitors to your site”.

Gahran acknowledges reporters’ fears about losing independence but counters that “this approach might even support excellent journalism that otherwise has a hard time making it into the news hole”.

In addition, Gahran reveals that she is embarking on a project to research the issue further and anyone interesting in tracking her progress and finding out more about online ad networks can check out her postings on bookmarking site del.icio.us by following the ad+networks tag.


BBC Seeks User Input On Election Coverage

Members of the public will be invited to contribute to the BBC’s coverage of the next general election in the form of wikis, reveals Journalism.co.uk.

Users will be able to add and edit profiles of their constituencies on the BBC’s website as part of the planned initiative for the next UK election, which is widely tipped to take place either this year or next.

“We are planning an audience-edited constituency profile area, which along with other statistical election information about the area, would provide a detailed look at each constituency from a national as well as an 'ultra local' grassroots level,” comments Vicky Taylor, head of interactivity at BBC News.

She adds: “We will have a whole interactive section for the election…we'll involve the audience a lot more in saying what really matters and what issues we're going to cover.”

This follows on from the BBC’s announcement last week that it is expanding its user-generated content hub to incorporate a night-shift team to cover international news and points of debate contributed by readers.

Further details on the second story can be found at Journalism.co.uk.


17 September 2007

Online Forum Launches Citizen Awards

Press Gazette has announced a month-long discussion on the merits of readers’ contributions to mainstream media leading up to its second annual Citizen Journalism Awards.

The value of user-generated content and its integration into the news output from publishers and broadcasters will be among the topics to be debated on the web over the course of the next four weeks.

Press Gazette also asserted that this year’s Citizen Journalism Awards will seek to represent the wider spectrum of contributions from users after last year’s competition focused solely on photographs taken by non-professionals.

The winning entries will be selected by an expert panel, which included Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow and Nick Wrenn from CNN in 2006.

Prizes were awarded for two photographs taken in the aftermath of the 7/7 July bombings in 2005 and for a picture of the Buncefield oil depot fire taken from the air.

“At its best, citizen journalism fulfils the promise of a never-before realised democratic ideal empowering all citizens to exercise their right to free expression, particularly on issues of broad public concern,” states Press Gazette.

Further details on this story can be found here and last year’s entries including the three winning images can be viewed on the Citizen Journalism Awards website.


14 September 2007

Multimedia Service Launched In Kent

A total of nine local news and community websites have been launched to cover stories in Kent.

The online content is part of the new multimedia offering from KOS Media which also includes a broadband TV service and eight free weekly newspapers.

Among the websites’ innovative features are the e-editions of each newspaper using page-turning technology and video clips of the latest national news, sport and entertainment headlines.

In addition to the audio visual pieces on the eight individual sites, yourkenttv.co.uk is dedicated solely to TV content and features business, sport and leisure items as well as a community channel where the best clip uploaded by users wins £500.

Last month, the company’s managing director said of the multimedia service: “Everybody knows and understands newspapers but it is clear that young and old are engaging in these new forms of media in the internet and on video.”

Paul Stannard, former publishing director at Trinity Mirror, added: “This is an evolutionary process and we want to create a virtual community through our newspapers, the web and our TV service.”

Among the areas covered by the new websites are Ashford, Dover and Canterbury.

For more on the launch, visit yourmaidstone and kentnews.


Meyer Calls For PCC Brand Online

A mark of quality assurance is needed to help users identify reliable news sources online, according to the chairman of the Press Complaints Commission (PCC).

In a speech to the Society of Editors, Christopher Meyer asserted that there is a need to distinguish ‘good’ news on the web and suggested that this could be achieved with the display of the PCC logo on conforming websites.

Meyer said: “There is a crying need to distinguish between what is rubbish and what is quality; between what is fantasy and what is reliable.

“The code must become the quality stamp, the seal of good housekeeping for the online editions of newspapers and magazines.”

Meyer also rejected claims for state intervention in the monitoring of digital journalism, instead stating that the challenges created by recent technological advancements must be met by self-regulation.

Further details on this story can be found at HoldtheFrontPage.co.uk, Press Gazette and journalism.co.uk.

13 September 2007

NS Unveils Awards Shortlist

The Newspaper Society (NS) has released its shortlist for this year's Advertising and Digital Media Awards.

All of the UK's major publishers feature prominently among the nominations and the digital publishing arm of Johnston Press appears in both the digital and advertising categories.

In addition, the Lancashire Evening Post will be hoping to repeat the success of winning the Digital Innovation of the Year award in 2006 after it has secured a place in the running again this year for both digital and advertising prizes.

The Scotsman will also be seeking to follow up scooping last year's Best Daily Newspaper Site award as it has been nominated again in the digital category.

According to the NS: "These prestigious awards are designed to showcase the best in advertising and digital media initiatives from the regional press industry in the UK and provide well-deserved recognition.

"Previous entrants say winning an award provides not only a fantastic sales tool and motivator for staff, but a great way to raise the profile of a publication throughout the industry."

The ceremony will be held in London on October 10th.

A full shortlist of the nominees can be viewed at the NS online and the names of all last year's winners and runners up can be found here.


Report Reveals Readers' News Sense

A new study has unveiled the differences between news agendas set by readers in comparison to those assembled by professionals.

Research from the Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) has revealed that when readers have control over news coverage, stories in areas such as technology, science and lifestyle tend to be more popular.

The report, entitled The Latest News Headlines – Your Vote Counts, also found that user-driven news websites covered more articles when compared to mainstream online news sites but had fewer follow-up articles.

Staff at the PEJ uncovered the trends after studying the output of online news from 48 mainstream news groups during one week in June 2007 and comparing this to content displayed on four user-driven sites - Reddit, Digg, Del.icio.us and Yahoo's Most Recommended and Most Viewed.

"The user-news agenda, at least in this one-week snapshot, was more diverse, yet also more fragmented and transitory than that of the mainstream news media," states the report.

"This does not mean necessarily that users disapprove or reject the mainstream news agenda ... they may gravitate to them in addition to, rather than instead of, traditional venues. But the agenda they set is nonetheless quite different."

12 September 2007

Using ASFs Online 'Assists Story Recall'

Readers are more likely to understand complex stories online if they are presented using alternative story forms (ASFs), according to a new PoynterOnline article.

Studies conducted by the institute revealed that readers tend to find it easier to remember web-based stories which use visual graphics to illustrate facts and figures as opposed to those which adopt traditional narrative structures.

Among the tools used by researchers were question and answer forms, timelines, numbered lists and fact boxes to provide readers with explanatory or supplementary information.

Sara Quinn from the Poynter Institute writes: “Alternative story forms seem to work best with fact-laden stories, providing a way to handle numbers, time, location and juxtaposition references in a simple, comparative way.”

Quinn adds: “To choose the form that works best for the story and for the reader, newsrooms need to get daily conversations going with people at all points in the writing and editing process.”

The full version of this story can be found at PoynterOnline.


Breaking News Online ‘Helps Print Sales’

Websites which feature breaking news are helping affiliated newspapers to increase sales figures, according to an editorial manager.

Publishing group Newsquest operates a web-first strategy with its daily titles and spokesperson Margaret Strayton has claimed that this policy is enabling newspapers such as the Swindon Advertiser and Oxford Mail to improve print sales.

Strayton told Press Gazette: “It was our intention to grow sales with our web-first strategy and it is fair to say that our websites are actually helping.

“We have found we have had some huge successes with reverse publishing, particularly when there have been tragic incidences where people have been killed in car crashes or there has been a murder.”

She added that the web coverage of breaking news is also helping print titles to attract a younger audience: “They have seen something on the web and like to pick up the paper to confirm what they have seen.”


07 September 2007

Online Publishing Awards Shortlist Unveiled

The UK Association of Online Publishers (AOP) has revealed the shortlist for this year’s digital awards, which recognize innovation and excellence in online content.

Regional news websites feature prominently on the shortlist with the Gazette Live garnering a total of four award nominations, including Best Consumer Website and Best Online Consumer Publisher.

The internet portal for the Teesside Evening Gazette is also in the running for the Online Community award for its Gazette Communities initiative where users can access news by postcode.

In addition, the online presence of the Southport Visitor made the shortlist in the community category for its Southport Communities innovation, which enables local groups and societies to create their own web pages.

The online version of the Manchester Evening News is also among the nominees, which comprise a variety of business publications as well as local and national news organizations.

Park Lane’s Hilton Hotel will host the awards in October.

The full shortlist is available at the AOP.


06 September 2007

USA Today 'Wades In With Widgets'

The biggest newspaper in the US has introduced a widgets service for its website users.

Readers of USA Today are now able to install updates of its content on their own web pages, blogs and profiles on social networking sites such as Facebook.

The organization is currently offering three widgets displaying travel information ranging from last minute holiday deals to the latest aviation news and transport updates.

Executive editor Kinsey Wilson told the Associated Press that the publication plans to make available a further four widgets covering different content areas.

The San Francisco Chronicle also recently entered the widgets market and asserted that they are increasingly seen as a potential source of advertising revenue since friends tend to copy each other, helping widgets and any featured adverts to spread quickly through cyberspace.

Further details on this story can be found at Associated Press.

05 September 2007

NS Launches Multimedia Search

The Newspaper Society (NS) has created a database which provides information on local multimedia news outlets.

Users can access readership and advertising details about hundreds of regional news websites and blogs as well as traditional media such as newspapers and radio stations.

The Media Portfolio Database enables potential advertisers to obtain information on specific titles or to perform searches by area, publishing group, media type and subject matter.

Among the information available regarding news websites are audience reach figures, the number of unique users per month and page requests.

NS communications director Lynne Anderson told holdthefrontpage.co.uk: "For the first time, advertisers and agencies are able to access detailed information on the rapidly growing portfolio of media opportunities available from the regional press.

"This new database brings us a step closer to the launch of an industry-wide multimedia audience measurement system."


Heron Hunters Use Google Maps

A Lincolnshire weekly is employing the Google mapping service to keep readers updated on the movements of a ‘killer’ heron.

The Grantham Journal first reported stories of a pond-raiding heron last month and illustrates its path of fish-killing destruction on Google maps with the help of eagle-eyed users who send in details of sightings.

Assistant editor for content Bob Hart told the JP Digital Digest: “The Garden Gobbler map has had a good response from the public - it's been running for several weeks now and we're getting new sightings each week.

“When we originally found out about the Google mapping tool we envisaged using it for something more serious, but it's lent itself well to this more quirky item.”

The Johnston Press publication has also been making the most of other online resources and has created a group on social networking site Facebook in order to promote a local music festival.

In addition, all the Journal’s news video items from its website are being uploaded onto YouTube.

“We're finding that use of resources like these is helping us to tap into a younger market and find more imaginative and creative ways of approaching our stories,” added Hart.


04 September 2007

Floods ‘Double Web Traffic’

Two regional websites covering flood-hit areas of the UK saw their online traffic double during the spring and summer months, according to newly published data.

Associated Northcliffe Digital states that its thisishull portal achieved twice its average visits per month during June when it recorded hits in excess of 180,000.

The group’s thisisgloucestershire website also recorded double its monthly averages with 200,000 visits in July.

In addition, holdthefrontpage.co.uk reports that the floods prompted a dramatic increase in user-generated content with more than 500 pictures uploaded to the Hull site by local residents.

Visitors to the Gloucestershire website were equally active and the number of comments posted by users rose to 3,000 during the worst week of the crisis.

“In times of crisis people need regular information updates, which we were able to provide via our online portals,” said Michael Pelosi, managing director of Northcliffe Media.

He added: “Local digital media now plays an integral part in people's lives.”


03 September 2007

Google Hosts Agency News

Four major press agencies have signed an agreement with Google to have their articles hosted by its news site.

Stories produced by the UK’s Press Association, the Associated Press in the US, the Canadian Press and Agence France-Presse can now be viewed on Google News in their original form.

According to its News Blog, Google states that it has decided to host stories from the agencies as they do not have their own consumer websites on which content can be published.

In addition, the global online organization claims that the move will enable users to find original sources quickly and will avoid search results offering multiple versions of the same article.

“By removing duplicate articles from our results, we’ll be able to surface even more stories and viewpoints from journalists and publishers from around the world,” asserts Google.

“Duplicate detection isn’t just for our news agency partners - it also enables you to find the original copy of articles from publishers and news agencies that have their own destination site.”

Reactions to the deal can be found at a variety of online sources, including Media Week, Guardian Unlimited and the New York Times.

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