21 December 2007

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Hi All,

The JP DD is going to be rested over the festive period but will be bouncing back in the New Year.

See you in 2008,

Jane and Louise

Local Editors’ Resource Launched

A website putting global events into local contexts has recently been launched in the USA.

Editors’ World intends to become a resource tool for editors of mid to small-sized market news providers by offering summaries of international stories and suggesting ways to develop local news angles, reports Editor & Publisher.

Regular features include a daily story idea, which outlines a world news item and then recommends how this could be tailored to serve local readers’ interests and offers a list of potential sources.

In addition, the site aims to provide editors with a place to share best practice ideas and tips for covering global news happenings through its interactive sections.

“The site provides insightful research that allows journalists to show their readers how to connect world issues with the day-to-day priorities of their personal and professional lives,” said Jerelyn Eddings, editor of the resource and former Baltimore Sun correspondent.

“For example, the recent Chinese toy recall can be focused globally, and then re-examined locally for its potential impact on holiday sales in a particular community.”

With the tagline “Bringing the World to Main Street”, Editors’ World focuses on a number of priority subject areas and these include immigration, global terrorism and globalisation.

The independent website is currently available for free but will become pay-for-view one month after launch.


20 December 2007

NUJ Welcomes ‘Journalists Who Blog’

The general secretary of the NUJ says the union is happy to admit some bloggers to its ranks.

Writing on the Guardian’s opinion site, Jeremy Dear asserts that the representative body must reflect changes in the industry and this includes protecting the rights of bloggers.

“The NUJ is about protecting our members’ rights at work; it’s about maintaining quality and standards.

“To do that, we’ve got to be active wherever journalists are working, in whatever medium.

“That's why we’re growing our membership right across the new media sector.

“It’s why we’re examining the ways in which multimedia working can improve our profession.”

However, Dear also notes that entry is not open to everyone as “not all people who blog are journalists, but journalists who are bloggers should be encouraged to join”.

But does this then raise questions such as what defines a journalist and who decides which bloggers can be considered journalists and therefore admitted?

In November, the NUJ accepted Conrad Quilty-Harper as its first full-time freelance blogger to become a union member [See November 15 - NUJ Approves First Full-Time Blogger].


PA Launches Digital Project

A group of graduates are to assist the Press Association (PA) in facing the future challenges presented by digital technology.

As part of a partnership project between PA and the University of the Arts in London, the cohort of three will review current multimedia horizons and assess how new technological developments could affect the agency.

PA editor-in-chief Tony Watson told holdthefrontpage.co.uk: “Just as PA has always been at the heart of traditional media, over the next few years we aim to ensure it is also at the centre of the digital landscape.

“This project demonstrates our commitment to meeting that objective.”

JP Holds Inaugural NI Awards

The first Northern Ireland Division Awards staged by Johnston Press have recognised several titles for their digital innovations.

Ulster Star took the prize for best multimedia campaign with the Ballymena Times highly commended by the judging panel for its multi-platform storytelling strategies this year.

The News Letter scooped several honours with the award for Digital Centre of the Year and sharing the title of Best Newspaper with the Derry Journal.

Ballymena and Antrim Times editor Des Blackadder, who also took home the award for Best Total Audience Performance, said: “Anyone with an eye on media trends will have witnessed the growth of online and digi-media and I am very conscious of how enthusiastically and skillfully my staff in Ballymena and Antrim have adapted to the radical changes which are sweeping the news media.

“We are now providing a service which has been praised by the leading experts in new media and this has been reflected in the hit statistics on our website which is now firmly established as a leader in the field in weekly newspaper terms.”

In the past year, we have also conducted a successful re-launch of the Times titles and more improvements are on the horizon.”

Further details can be seen at the Antrim Times and a full list of winners can be found at holdthefrontpage.co.uk.


18 December 2007

Uncertain Future For Blue Blogs?

A Conservative victory at the next election could have serious implications for the “thriving” right-of-centre blogosphere, predicts the Spectator editor.

Matthew d’Ancona says the current political blog landscape in the UK could see a changing relationship with the Tories if they attain office.

Writing in the Guardian, d’Ancona states the success of blogs such as Guido Fawkes and Iain Dale’s Diary can be traced to the party’s 2005 leadership contest.

“When it was over and David Cameron installed as leader, the Tory movement had developed a serious taste for online mischief, a demand that was quickly met by entrepreneurial bloggers,” asserts the editor.

“The Cameroons understand this phenomenon and have tried to surf the wave rather than resist it.”

However, d’Ancona suggests Cameron and his web-savvy colleagues will face a “conundrum” if he gets the keys to Number 10.

“Those in power, of whatever political hue, always want to control what is said, to impose message discipline, to centralise ideas.

“In the era of Rove and New Labour they have succeeded, taming rightwing blogs in America and leftwing sites in this country.”

The article by d’Ancona was featured in a special edition of the Media Guardian guest-edited by former Sunday Times editor Andrew Neil.


'Messing About On The River' Earns Holiday

Two students who undertook a mobile reporting assignment have been rewarded with a trip to Cape Town.

Postgraduate journalism students Andy Sloan and Chris Cousens used mobile phones to make a short film of a reporter surfing down the River Taff in Cardiff as their entry for a contest organised by Nokia.

The competition was launched by the Finnish telecoms group in partnership with Cardiff University to show how mobile phone cameras can capture film of sufficient quality for use on news websites.

Online journalism lecturer Matthew Yeomans told holdthefrontpage.co.uk: “The idea was to create a piece of mobile journalism that would tell a story of film, design or music in Cardiff.”

Sloan said of their winning film: “We got a different perspective on Cardiff thanks to the size of the phones and by taking a bit of a risk with them.”

The contest formed part of Nokia’s Trend Labs and the two students participated in the initiative’s first experiment in Africa while on their expenses-paid trip.

You can view the winning film featuring an intrepid reporter in search of ‘Cardiff Reef’ on YouTube.

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BBC Unveils New Homepage

The BBC is getting personal with its new customisable homepage.

Launched last week in beta, the page is a fairly radical departure from the current one with extensive widgetisation to allow users to edit and adapt the page to suit their needs.

Among the key features is a news widget which enables visitors to input their own location to keep updated with the latest headlines from their area.

There are also options for people to customise national news, sport and entertainment articles and a useful blog feed to read the latest entries from high-profile news names such as Mark Mardell and Evan Davies.

“We wanted to build the foundation and DNA of the new site in line with the ongoing trend and evolution of the Internet towards dynamically generated and syndicable content through technologies like RSS, atom and xml,” writes Richard Titus, acting head of user experience and design at the BBC and the main man behind the changes.

Titus continues on the BBC Internet Blog: “This version is called a ‘lick of paint’ because it hasn’t massively changed the content of the homepage.

“But it reflects, I hope, how the BBC is changing: it helps to empower the user to find, play and share more of what they want, when they want.

“This page is the beginning of a conversation between the BBC and you about the page; I hope that you’ll join us, as all conversations are better with an honest open dialogue.”

At present, customised versions of the beta homepage are saved in cookies and the corporation hopes to be able to include them in unique user profiles from January.

If you want to take a look at users’ reactions to the changes, take a look at the comments posted to the Internet Blog.

14 December 2007

Rankings Favour Updates

Breaking news and regular updates could help websites chart higher in Google News search rankings thanks to a new algorithm.

The Google News blog reveals that the company recently deployed the new algorithm to ascertain the most recent update to any given breaking news story.

In addition, the blog states that the new procedure enables Google to “highlight the sources which brought you the information in the first place.

“Once there’s new information from another source, we update our results so you get any new developments to the story”.


MediaNews Outsources User Input

A US publisher has signed a deal to hand over management of its forums and comments sections to a third party.

Web journalists at titles including the San Jose Mercury News and the Denver Post will no longer handle messages on articles submitted by users as control is being given to Topix.

As a community news aggregator, Topix provides details of hyperlocal news from thousands of sources and claims to provide links to some 360,000 forums.

Topix Chief Executive Chris Tolles told Online Journalism Review that the deal brings many benefits to MediaNews: “They get content up without any work on their part.”

He added: “And there are opportunities down the road for them to actually integrate their journalism and the commentary - using forums as a place to get stories, to take the pulse of the community.”

Comments auto-moderated by Topix will appear on both the newspaper website and in the relevant themed section on the Topix site, which Tolles asserted will drive more traffic back to the original article.

The practice of outsourcing user input has come under fire from some media commentators and things got pretty heated when Tolles took the opportunity to answer critic Howard Owens via the journalism.co.uk blog.

Reaction to the deal can also be found at Poynter Online, while further details on the story are available here.


13 December 2007

UGC ‘No Replacement For Quality Journalism’

The NUJ has warned that user-generated content (UGC) should not be used as a “replacement for quality professional journalism”.

A new study from the union’s Commission on Multimedia Working delivers a broadside to certain UK and US publishers, accusing them of using citizen journalism “as a source of free content while cutting professional journalistic capacity to the bone”.

The Shaping the Future report also criticises expectations at some newspapers that journalists should answer emails from readers, saying it “can be a time-consuming distraction from their core duties and responsibilities”.

It’s not all doom and gloom though, as the paper insists that UGC does have a role in “modern media”.

Published this month, the report outlines the challenges faced by journalists in the digital world, encompassing areas from working hours, health and safety issues to pay and conditions.

The document, available online here, includes results from questionnaires submitted by reporters, excerpts from staff interviews and details of agreements made between NUJ members and their employers.

A variety of reactions to the report have sprouted up across the journalism blogosphere, check out blogs from Paul Bradshaw, Andy Dickinson, Neil McIntosh and journalism.co.uk for more.


Local Beeb To “Complement” News Sites

The BBC’s proposed web-based local services would link to existing online newspapers, according to the man at the top.

Director General Mark Thompson told a parliamentary committee that the planned My Local websites are expected “to complement local newspaper websites”, reports the Guardian.

The DG confirmed that original plans for local services had to be scaled down due to a lower-than-anticipated licence fee, so broadband TV is out but the corporation will move ahead with text and radio services if approved by its Trust.

Thompson also revealed that the websites would centre around personalised news and sport pages with geotagging playing a major part in story searches.

He said: “No one else is doing anything like this. For local democracy, My Local will be a fantastic way of getting involved.”

The BBC’s plans to enter the hyperlocal news market have been criticised by the Newspaper Society and in 2005 the body submitted a 63-page report detailing what it believes will be the impact of the move.


12 December 2007

Google's Xmas Gift To Local Press?

Google News says it is now “actively promoting” local stories via its search facility.

The portal has recently changed some of its news ranking algorithms and claims that the adjustments will favour online reporting from local sources.

A post on the Google News blog outlines some of the changes and asserts that the company is seeking to “recognise the importance of local context”.

The blog continues: “In order to provide a local angle to global events, we have started actively promoting high quality local reporting in addition to coverage from foreign sources.

“This means we try to find sources at the scene of a story who are doing original reporting.

“It may be a national or international story with many sources from around the world reporting on it, but often times one of the best sources of information on a story are those closest to it.”

Further news ranking changes can also be expected as the blog ends on a teasing note: “There are quite a few other exciting quality initiatives we are working on, but we don’t want to take away all the suspense!”

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Londoners Share The Knowledge

Geocoding has enabled thelondonpaper to launch an interactive map marking the city’s eateries and bars.

The online version of the freesheet has created thelondonknowledge Google map, which features reviews and ratings of restaurants, pubs and clubs across the capital.

Visitors and London natives can also use the tool to obtain listings for theatres and cinemas and to get route planner information via a link to the Transport for London site.

Associate editor Lisa O’Carroll told Press Gazette about the formation of the tool: “Every time a restaurant review went up on the site, the uploader would have to include the geocode as well.

“That’s how you can pinpoint exactly where the restaurants are because the geocoding is very specific.

“You get the postcode of a restaurant and from that you get the longitude and latitude.”

The News International publication now plans to create a mobile-friendly version of the map which will pinpoint a user’s location in the city and send details of places to go in that area.

O’Carroll also revealed that geocoding could be used in the future with news stories, adding: “In the long term, it’s possible that you could go to an area in Camden and find out which celebrities have been spotted hanging out in the Hawley Arms.”

(Not sure a fancy mashup map is needed to work that one out though - it begins with an A and ends in a Beehive.)


11 December 2007

Web Advice For Small Newspapers

The Newspaper Association of America (NAA) has published a report tracking the success of digital changes made by two news sites.

“On Site: How Two Smaller Newspapers Energised Their Web Strategies” features two case studies where the association made recommendations on how to improve web traffic figures to staff grappling with problems posed by the digital age.

The study outlines the advice provided to the Times-Mail in Indiana and the Shakopee Valley News in Minneapolis and the changes implemented thereafter.

According to the NAA: “The report serves as a primer for other papers looking to maximise the value of their websites for increased revenue, audience development and branding while dealing with limited resources and change.”

Suggestions included creating community interaction through allowing people to submit their own content and enhancing revenue by using standard ad sizes and increasing the number of classified ads.

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Editors Hear About ‘The Value Of Friendship’

A presentation extolling the virtues of corporate-academic partnerships in journalism was delivered to international editors last week.

The group visited Preston as part of a whistle-stop UK tour to attend a multimedia talk about the joint initiative between the University of Central Lancashire (UClan) and publishing group Johnston Press (JP).

[Disclosure – this blog is a product of the partnership.]

Presenters at the World Editors Forum (WEF) event discussed the importance of the partnership to both parties in the setting of UClan’s new Sandbox development centre.

Among the speakers was David Rowell from JP who emphasised the importance to the company of the digital workshops for weekly editors.

Rowell said about 150 editors had so far visited UClan to participate in the seminars, which had “inspired their thinking” and helped them “come up with their own ideas for moving forward”.

JP’s head of editorial development also asserted that the workshops had “brought the JP family together” as editors kept in contact after attending to share best practice tips with their colleagues from across the UK.

Meanwhile, UClan’s head of journalism Mike Ward explained the benefits of the partnership to the university and stated both parties are “excited” about the changes brought about by the dual approach.

The group of international editors visited the UK on a WEF Study Tour, which also included visits to the Guardian, Financial Times and Daily Telegraph newsrooms.

According to the forum’s website, the aim of the tour was “to visit several of the industry’s most famous examples of integration to see how their once separate newsrooms work together and how they trained their journalists to adapt to the multimedia world”.

Expats Mapped By Echo

International readers of the Sunderland Echo online can be seen at the click of a mouse thanks to its interactive map.

The website features a Google map where users can add their details to mark their location in the world, and they have been doing so in significant numbers.

Other visitors can view the profiles so expats have been using the service to contact old friends on Wearside and in many cases, to reassert their love for the Black Cats.

In addition, some returned expats are using the map to get in touch with people back in their former home country for chats about old times.

The map also provides a glimpse into the international nature of news websites and shows the Echo currently enjoys a presence from Tokyo to British Colombia.

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10 December 2007

Trainees Take Inaugural Web Exams

Students in Poole have become the first in England to sit exams for the new Online and Video Journalism qualification accredited by the NCTJ.

Five trainees on the Up to Speed Journalism course took the exams, which comprised shooting video packages as well as writing articles for the web and other platforms such as text message and news tickers.

Holdthefrontpage.co.uk reports that nine other training centres will now offer the course to students next year.

“It’s still early days in the great newspaper rush to use multimedia on their websites,” commented Lloyd Bracey, chief examiner for online reporting at the NCTJ.

He added: “No one’s sure how - or even if - it will settle down, but there are already some ‘givens’ - skills the journalist must have - and this qualification covers some of those key competencies.

“The certificate has been devised after extensive consultation with the industry, so it helps journalists know what they need to know.”

Guardian Names Get Vlogging

Four writers from the Guardian’s blogging community are to produce video blogs for Current TV.

Following a deal between the national newspaper and the “peer-to-peer video network”, the high-profile writers will make their own vlogs to be aired online and on Current’s channel on Sky and Virgin Media.

The vloggers will be Dave Hill, the novelist as opposed to the Slade guitarist or New Labour spin doctor, pop culture commentator John Harris, blogger Anna Pickard and Jerusalem-based writer Seth Freedman.

“When we were approached by Current TV we knew that their profile and outlook was highly compatible with the Guardian,” said Emily Bell, director of digital content at Guardian News and Media.

She added: “We are very excited about the partnership and think it will bring our journalism to a wider audience and help us showcase our best blogging talent in a video format.”

The TV station was founded by former US vice president and current environmental evangelist Al Gore with entrepreneur Joel Hyatt, citing disillusionment with US news networks as the inspiration behind the organisation.

Current’s schedule is selected by users who vote online for the programmes they want to see and it also shows films submitted by the public, labelled as VC² - Viewer Created Content.

Further details on this story can be found here.

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06 December 2007

Pro-Am Site Sells Stake

A website which enables amateur and professional reporters to sell visual content has sold 60% of its shares to a news agency and media company.

Citizenside.com, formerly known as Scooplive, buys and sells pictures and video footage and is now part-owned by Agence France-Presse (AFP) and IAM.

The website buys material from both individuals and paid journalists, sharing with them the commission from sales made to news groups around the world.

AFP chairman Pierre Louette said of his company’s purchase: “This gives us the opportunity to conduct a commercial and technologic experience in the world of Web 2.0 for the benefit of our clients, mainly in the media sector.”

He added: “AFP will not be involved in the editorial process of selection and validation of the documents available on the platform.”

A press release from AFP also revealed that citizenside.com is seeking to enhance its international presence and increase its number of partnerships with print, TV, online and mobile media.

Scooplive was launched in June last year by Julien Robert, Philippe Checinski and Matthieu Stefani.

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News Sites Seek More Rights

A global consortium has made the first move in a bid to give news providers greater control over their online content.

Organisations including the World Association of Newspapers (WAN) and the European Publishers Council are behind the initiative to ensure the rights of news websites are respected by search engines such as Google and Yahoo.

Known as Automated Content Access Protocol (ACAP), the new commands could limit how long copies of articles are kept in indexes as well as set time delays on access.

However, the Associated Press reports that search engines would need to agree to recognise the new rules by mutual agreement as they are not enforced by law.

A Google spokesman said the company welcomed any move to improve co-operation between news publishers and search engines, according to Press Gazette.

But he did reveal a touch of scepticism about the new commands by adding: “We are discussing this proposal with the WAN and in particular how it can build on robots.txt - the nearly universally accepted Internet standard that already enables publishers automatically to prevent the indexation of their content and is honoured by all reputable search engines.”

Just a day after the launch of ACAP, Times Online announced that it has become the first UK national news publisher to implement the new commands.


05 December 2007

‘All Articles Are Equal At Digg’

The founder of Digg claims participatory websites have helped “level the playing field” of media communications.

Kevin Rose asserts that his news and social content-sharing site has introduced an equality between major news groups and individual writers due to people-power.

In an interview with the Guardian, he says: “Whether it is a Wall Street Journal story or a personal blog entry, everything on Digg is ranked by the community’s interest in it, and that is fascinating to watch.”

Rose also believes Digg has widened the scope for political coverage and given a voice to previous outsiders, saying the site “makes it possible for a wider range of points of view to get exposure”.

He adds: “I am also convinced that social media has the potential to get people more engaged or re-engaged in politics by giving them more of a voice and more ways to participate in the public debate.”

Rose’s e-interview was conducted by Google vice-president Vint Cerf in a special feature for the Guardian.


Stormy Weather For Online News?

The challenges faced by newspapers in the digital world resemble dark clouds on the horizon, according to a high-profile reporter.

Writing in American Journalism Review, Paul Farhi delivers a stark warning for future journalists if these challenges are not met by news groups in the present.

The Washington Post reporter predicts the appearance of four significant “rumbles of thunder” in the distance - audience growth figures, “fly-by” visitors, increased online competition, and slowing digital ad growth.

Farhi uses Nielsen/NetRatings and other research group data to paint a picture of a static audience, the majority of whom are fast mouse-clickers who don’t linger long on news sites.

But it’s in the field of advertising that he finds the greatest cause for concern due to declining print revenue, and Farhi suggests current rates would see online ad turnover take at least a decade to counteract it.

Farhi writes: “Journalists, or indeed anyone with an interest in journalism, had better pray that doesn’t happen.

“Because online revenue is still relatively small and will remain so even at its current pace, this scenario implies years of financial decline for the newspaper industry.”

He adds: “Newspapers were already cutting their staffs before this year's advertising downturns.

“A sustained frost of similar intensity would likely lead to even more devastating slashing.”


04 December 2007

AJR Celebrates Video Picks

Some of this year’s most innovative online video news stories are highlighted in the latest American Journalism Review (AJR).

Among the video packages picked out for praise is the Band of Brothers multimedia project from the Detroit Free Press, which won a national Emmy this year for best news coverage for broadband media.

The project used videos, slideshows, stills and text to tell the story of a local marine battalion’s experiences before, during and after its seven-month deployment in Iraq.

Also discussed is a Washington Post story by Gene Weingarten where video gave the online version the edge over its printed counterpart.

The article Pearls Before Breakfast recounts an experiment to see how commuters would react if one of the classical world’s most highly regarded musicians - Joshua Bell - performed anonymously as a busker on a busy morning in a Metro station.

AJR reports: “The story ran in the paper’s Sunday magazine on April 8, accompanied by still photos.

“It was a fine story in that format, but the Post enhanced it online by embedding small video clips in the text.

“By mouse-clicking one of those videos, readers could see - and hear! - exactly what Weingarten described.”

Weingarten says the story was like a “perfect storm” and told AJR: “First, it was about a celebrity, which always helps.

“Second, it was easily summarisable in one sentence: A world-class musician plays in the subway and nobody notices.

“But the third and probably most important reason was that there was video, so this became quickly viral. I was getting e-mail from cybercafes in Beijing.”

Further stories and tips on using video for news coverage can be found at Poynter Online.


03 December 2007

Readers Quiz NYT Web Chief

The web editor at the New York Times (NYT) has been answering readers’ questions on its online strategies.

Users put their posers to Fiona Spruill via the website’s Talk to the Newsroom pages and topics ranged from user-generated content to updating articles to tips on how to become a top web journalist.

Through the online conversation Spruill revealed that interaction with its readers is the “major priority” for the NYT at present and this incorporates increasing opportunities for posting comments and experimenting with images uploaded by users.

“During the recent protests in Pakistan, we ran a picture solicited from readers on the home page for the first time. I am sure you will see a lot more of this in the future,” said Spruill.

She added: “We are extremely lucky to have readers who are well-informed, passionate and, more often than not, highly articulate.

“So publishing comments alongside blog posts, articles and reviews not only rounds out our coverage by presenting different points of view, it also gives us the opportunity to show off how smart our readers are.”

The Talk to the Newsroom feature enables readers to put their questions directly to different staff members at the Times and previous participants have come from a variety of sections included obituaries, culture and sport.

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JP Offers News On The Move

Publisher Johnston Press is moving ahead with its mobile strategy next year with the rollout of a news subscription service.

Brand Republic reports that the group intends to expand a news alerts service to 120 of its website titles during 2008.

Subscribers will have the option to set up headline updates according to their interests as the publisher aims to enhance its user interaction features.

The company is currently building up a market of potential mobile subscribers through text-to-win contests and other special offers.

“We receive tens of thousands of texts every month and usage is growing rapidly as we develop new ideas and initiatives,” says Chris Pennock, sales and marketing director at Johnston Press.

Pennock added that “there is a market and an interest in this type of technology”.

Further details on this story can be found at Business Wire.


Newsquest Calls For Court Orders Online

The head of legal at Newsquest has suggested that an internet-based resource giving details of reporting restrictions would help journalists avoid breaching orders.

At a recent court case examining an accidental breach of an order, Simon Westrop said the courts have an obligation to ensure details of restrictions are made accessible to news providers, reports Press Gazette.

“If there were a central website where all court orders of this kind were lodged then it would be much more convenient for everybody and there would be no excuse for the press then in having missed an order, especially when you are hundreds of miles away from the court concerned,” suggested Westrop.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice commented that its court service agency has already discussed the possibility of an online database with the Society of Editors and is “investigating the options of setting up such a database so that the media can fund it”.


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