29 February 2008


Welcome to SPOTLIGHT, a new series of posts for the JP Digital Digest where we focus on a key area of interest within digital journalism.

The fortnightly feature concentrates on local news providers and will include a round-up of recent blog stories on the chosen theme.

It will also offer pointers to useful web-based resources for visitors who want to find out more.


In this first instalment we’re looking at online video, a development referred to recently as “the most visible change for local papers” in the digital age.

According to university lecturer and blogger Paul Bradshaw, the possibilities of using the medium online “have gone largely unexplored” by local news publishers.

Well, let’s take a look at some examples to see how newsrooms are taking up the challenge of video production.

Incidentally, we’ll be leaving vlogging, vodcasting, mobiles and user-generated videos to future posts and concentrate here on in-house video news packages.

Being First

Breaking news stories provide fertile ground for effective local news films and this week’s earthquake saw one site in particular making the most of the opportunity.

The Grimsby Telegraph found itself in the middle of the action and captured footage of repair operations before daybreak on Wednesday.

[‘Quaking News’ Draws Web Traffic]

Journalist Gareth Parry-Jones also secured video interviews with a fire officer and the manager of a Tesco store close to the epicentre.

Later on in the day, the Manchester Evening News added an ‘earthquake aftermath’ piece to their website showing damage done to properties and featuring interviews with residents.

The MEN gets its video news from local TV station Channel M, which now shares an intergrated newsroom with the newspaper.

From breaking news stories to exclusives – and a couple of newspapers recently demonstrated their commitment to being the first with local stories through the use of video.

First up is video journalist James Shaw at the Shropshire Star, who filmed two different sets of protestors greeting the arrival of Prime Minister Gordon Brown in Telford.

Shaw stuck around and was rewarded with exclusive footage of clashes between anti-war campaigners and police officers.

It was a more sedate exclusive produced by the Bradford Telegraph & Argus meanwhile, as the newspaper secured a video interview with David Cameron.

[Website Has Cameron Video Exclusive]

Editor Perry Austin-Clarke led from the front and carried out his first filmed interview and emerged with some great local news quotes from the Conservative leader.

However, the experimental camerawork did get a bit of stick from one poster in its comments section.

Anything TV Can Do…

Efforts to produce content similar to that of broadcast news groups are growing and the Devon Express & Echo recently deployed video equipment to enhance its coverage of a rape trial.

[Devon Rape Trial Receives Multimedia Coverage]
Three reporters covered the case and produced daily video updates from outside Exeter Crown Court.

While the Express & Star in the Midlands is using video to enter the football arena by featuring team news, score updates and results as part of its Sporting Star Live service.

[Video Service For Footie Fans]

Meanwhile, the Kent Messenger is one of a number of newspapers offering web users a video bulletin of local news every weekday.

Go Your Own Way

Other newsrooms seek to do the exact opposite and provide content which their broadcast counterparts simply could not or would not consider.

For example, the Bristol Evening Post is behind a project offering live webcasts of city council and committee meetings on their site.

[‘I’m A Councillor – Get Me Out Of Here’]

Meanwhile, the Wrexham Evening Leader is using video to encourage user participation with its Your Justice initiative.

The project asks visitors to watch lawyers argue the defence and prosecution sides of a fictional case before making a judgment.

[Users Decide With Interactive Courtrooms]

Experimenting with video content is also on the agenda at the Western Daily Press, where a head-cam provided unique pictures from a Boxing Day hunt.

[‘Horse Cam’ Creates Hunt Film]

So the past few months have seen some interesting uses of video news across local newsrooms in the UK.

Rest Of The World

If you’re interested in examples from further afield, a recent three-part series on video journalism is featured on the Editors Weblog with lots of links to video journalism projects in Europe and the US.

In addition, this American Journalism Review story contains examples of innovative use of video by news groups across the States.

For some award-winning examples, see the Digital Edge blog for links to websites which have just scooped prizes for innovative multimedia storytelling.

And from an international perspective, here are the finalists for this year’s Concentra Award for video journalism.

Finally, for information on non-print media outfits supplying video news, visit the European Journalism Centre.

Online Resources

The web is teeming with resources for those who want to know more about video journalism so here are just a few examples for follow-up.

Firstly, what better way to keep up to date than by following a couple of blogs produced by those in the thick of it – the practitioners.

James Shaw’s blog provides a behind-the-scenes look at life as a video journalist – three hours to film a hole anyone? – while Colin Mulvaney offers an insight into his role as a multimedia editor on the Spokesman-Review in Washington

For keeping up with video news, blogs from Andy Dickinson and Cyndy Green provide UK and US perspectives respectively.

Dickinson also recently produced a piece for journalism.co.uk offering advice on video equipment for those on a budget.

The Shirtless Apprentice is a valuable resource for technical tips and offers video tutorials on subjects such as lighting, techniques for shooting interviews and filming in extreme weather (Just to clarify now - the aforementioned apprentice is male, and indeed shirtless).

Further advice on how to shoot interviews can be found on Mindy McAdams’ Teaching Online Journalism blog, which has lots of other points of interest for budding video journalists.

More general advice can be found in the OJR’s top tips for shooting online, while this recent Poynteronline feature discusses the use of HD video for those wanting to stay ahead of the pack.

The Future

Digital is an ever-changing world and it’s a challenge for journalists to keep pace with developments.

For some predictions on the evolution of online video, have a look at this New Yorker panel discussion featuring the Huffington Post and Craigslist founders.

Another interesting debate about the future of newspaper video featured earlier this year on the blogs of Andy Dickinson and Mindy McAdams.

While correspondent and Black Hawk Down author Mark Bowden throws his two-pennorth in on the future of journalism in the multimedia age here.

Any Ideas?

So we’ve reached the end of the first SPOTLIGHT post and we hope there was some useful info in there for you.

Future themes for this section could include mapping, mobile, blogging and user-generated content, but we’re really keen to hear any suggestions of areas of interest to you and anything you’d like to see come under the spotlight.

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LDP Launches Business Website

A new multimedia business website has been unveiled by the Liverpool Daily Post.

LDP Business uses text, audio, video, blogs and social networking features to provide professionals in the city with a news resource and information hub.

Among the innovative aspects are video bulletins on the stock market from an investment expert and audio highlights from an associated business radio show.

The website also has a members club offering free newsletters, discounts on advertising and attendance to seminars and other networking events.

And insider views of Liverpool’s business world are provided by the selection of blogs, including one from the MD of a PR firm.

LDP editor Mark Thomas told Press Gazette: “With the expansion of Liverpool’s economy, the business community is crying out for this kind of coverage, and we are uniquely positioned to deliver it.”

He added: “Under the LDP Business brand we are pushing that coverage to a wider audience than ever before.”

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28 February 2008

‘Quaking News’ Draws Web Traffic

Breaking news stories about Wednesday morning’s earthquake attracted traffic from around the world to local news websites.

The news editor at the Nottingham Evening Post revealed that the site received almost 2,000 visitors between 01:00 and 02:00, and staff uploaded breaking news within half an hour of the quake.

Steven Fletcher told holdthefrontpage.co.uk: “Because the epicentre was so near to Nottingham, people were logging on from as far away as Singapore, the United Arab Emirates and Taiwan.”

The site also saw a dramatic increase in user-generated content as visitors were keen to share their experiences online.

Also enjoying an influx of stories from readers was the Skegness Standard, which has a page dedicated to local people telling their earthquake stories.

It was a similar story at the Grimsby Telegraph, which had more than 70 posts from users by 11:00 on Wednesday morning.

Staff broke the news online within five minutes of the tremors and headed out before daybreak to film the fire brigade attending to damaged houses at the epicentre near Market Rasen.

One of the videos features journalist Gareth Parry-Jones interviewing a fire chief as his crew attend to unsafe buildings and talking to a Tesco store spokesperson about his experience of the quake close to the epicentre.

Editor Michelle Lalor asserted: “This was a truly remarkable response from the news team in Grimsby and just shows how we can react to be at the centre of a major news story - our digital and print coverage has been first class.”

Further details on the Telegraph’s impressive text and video coverage can be found here.

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US Newspapers Team Up For Ads

Four newspaper groups in the US have joined forces to create a company selling online ad spaces on their local news web pages.

Based in Chicago, quadrantONE has a team of 17 aiming to encourage national firms to advertise on their local news sites.

The project is the brainchild of Gannett, the Tribune Company, Hearst Corporation and the New York Times Company.

Agents will be selling online ad space on a range of titles owned by the four - including the Des Moines Register, Boston Globe and Houston Chronicle.

Lincoln Millstein, senior vice president for digital media at Hearst Newspapers, told the New York Times: “We want to control our own destiny.”

The news groups boast that quadrantONE provides advertisers with access to some 50 million unique users, but the scheme has met with skepticism in some quarters.

Forrester Research spokesperson Shar VanBoskirk said: “I don’t think the alignment of newspaper companies will solve the issue.

“They need that alignment with a technology company that will bring them the set of skills that they need to monetise their content.”

Meanwhile, Amy Gahran reckons the news groups have overlooked some potentially important matters - such as contextual advertising in addition to display ads.

She writes on PoynterOnline: “The more quadrantONE’s back-end interface for advertisers borrows the best from Google and Yahoo ad systems, the more likely it is that both advertisers and newspapers will make more money.”


Scott Trust To Fund Online Courses

The Scott Trust has extended its bursary scheme to encompass digital journalism.

Funding opportunities are now available for students taking postgraduate courses in online journalism, with technology and broadcast bursaries also open to application.

Each award, worth up to £10,000, includes work experience with the Guardian Media Group (GMG).

“GMG said that changes to the bursaries are to better reflect the breadth of the group’s operations across online, radio and newspapers,” reports journalism.co.uk.

It continues: “The Trust aims to offer the majority of the awards to applicants from minority ethnic backgrounds, with the technology bursaries targeted at female applicants.”

Further details can be found at the Scott Trust.

27 February 2008

Let Wikipedia Light The Way

Wikipedia could be a valuable roadmap for journalists researching stories online.

That’s the view of a growing number of news professionals and researchers in the US who are coming round to the idea that the digital encyclopedia is a useful gateway to information.

Among the “converts” is New York Times reporter David Cay Johnston, who says Wikipedia acts as a valuable “source guide” for journalists researching certain subject areas.

Speaking to American Journalism Review (AJR), he provided the example of Wikipedia’s entry on thermodynamics: “It has names of researchers whose books were published by eminent organisations, and you can take that as a quick way to find sources.

“So as a tip sheet, as a road map to reliable sources, Wikipedia seems valuable.”

In addition, a copy editor from Washington state said his newspaper is happy to attribute information to Wikipedia once sources have been checked out.

Jim Thomsen from the Kitsap Sun asserted: “The bottom line is that Wikipedia can be a great tool as a central clearinghouse for contextual information.

“But not a single syllable there should be taken at face value.”

The AJR article - Wikipedia in the Newsroom - features interviews with staff at the LA Times and a leading academic and is well worth a look for an insight into the pros and cons of Wikipedia for reporters.

For more info on David Cay Johnston, why not check out his entry on Wikipedia.


Website Has Cameron Video Exclusive

A video interview with opposition leader David Cameron is gracing the web pages of the Bradford Telegraph & Argus.

The regional daily secured an exclusive talk with the Conservative chief when he visited the Yorkshire city along with members of his shadow cabinet.

Asking the questions was editor Perry Austin-Clarke, in his first attempt at a video interview.

He told holdthefrontpage.co.uk: “It’s not often you get the chance to grill the leader of one of the main political parties on any subject you like, especially in this day and age when politicians seem intent on trying to control every aspect of the news.

“Hats off to Mr Cameron for his refreshing attitude - long may it continue.”

The full 25-minute interview with Cameron is currently available to view here.

The Telegraph & Argus produces at least one video per weekday and others uploaded this week include footage of Princess Anne visiting a hospital , and a film of Dancing on Ice star Chris Fountain training at the local skating rink.


26 February 2008

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Parent Participation Scoops UGC Awards

News sites and parents are a winning combination as two user-generated content (UGC) projects win prizes in the US.

An interactive website for mums and an open participation site about education have received Digital Edge Awards for innovation from the Newspaper Association of America.

CincyMOMS.com won the prize for Most Innovative Visitor Participation in the 250,000-plus circulation category for the Cincinnati Enquirer.

The website acts as a social networking and information hub for mothers and hosts blogs, photo-sharing sections and discussions.

While the Knoxville News Sentinel gained Most Innovative Visitor Participation award in the 75-250,000 category for its School Matters initiative.

Parents, teachers and other people interested in education issues can write their own blogs and chat with others, as well as joining social groups based on separate schools or areas via the website.

The Digital Edge Awards also recognised three news sites for their innovations in multimedia storytelling.

Winning in the smallest circulation category was the site run by Lawrence Journal-World and 6News in Kansas which produced a multimedia feature entitled 24 Hours in Lawrence.

This simple and effective idea comprises text, video and photos showing the activities of a variety of Lawrence residents during the course of one day - from police officers on dawn patrol to an evening game of softball.

For a full list of winners, see the Digital Edge Blog.

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Hyperlocal Key To Web Success?

Hyperlocal content is emerging as one of the drivers for success among online newspaper readerships.

According to new research, the focus on local community news is one of the core components for achieving growth with integrated audiences.

Executives with local newspapers which have seen rising numbers reading both print and digital content revealed that the other two key areas are photo-sharing and “relentless promotion”, reports Editor & Publisher.

The findings form part of an investigation conducted by Scarborough Research, which also showed that increases in online audiences are making up for 28% of the decline in print readership.

Gary Meo, senior vice president of print and digital services at Scarborough, commented: “The key is that website audience is slowing the erosion”.

He also stated that newspapers seeing integrated audience growth are doing “a lot to promote their websites,” adding, “and guess what? It’s working”.

Among the newspapers cited for achieving such growth are the Albuquerque Journal & Tribune, the Chicago Tribune, the Buffalo News, and the Greensboro News & Record.


Tiinker Tailors News For You

A new website is enabling users to get the news they want by profiling their interests.

Tiinker offers a wide array of global news stories which visitors can rate with a thumbs up or a thumbs down.

Using this and other information, the system begins to build a personalised profile of individual users and will adapt its offerings to their interests.

The Australian-based intelligent news aggregator also provides options such as “Popular” so visitors can view most-read stories alongside their personalised selection.

“Tiinker looks like a great service to help you sort through the massive amount of news published daily and gives you a more personal alternative to sites like Digg,” states a review on Read Write Web.

The article continues: “The interface itself is slick, fast, and easy to use” and “with tiinker, story selection is all about you and what you are into - you can’t even cross-reference your selections with others like you or your friends”.

According to the guys at tiinker, the site has had some great feedback already and they’re now looking into introducing “more substantial features including social tools”.


22 February 2008

Users Decide With Interactive Courtrooms

People can become virtual magistrates at the online version of the Wrexham Evening Leader.

The newspaper has launched an innovative feature which enables users to hear criminal cases and decide the sentences of the accused.

Participants are given the facts of the case by real-life lawyers acting for the defence and the prosecution and can then make their judgment based on the evidence.

The current courtroom scenario involves a case of domestic violence and the website states that further scenarios will be added in future months.

Your Justice is the result of collaboration between the Evening Leader and Wrexham’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

The newspaper’s digital editor, Christian Dunn, told holdthefrontpage.co.uk: “This kind of working partnership shows great common sense by the CPS; they can use our website’s traffic to get their message across and we can use their content to add more value to our site.”

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21 February 2008

‘Pool Rules Set Tone For Comments’

Worried about users posting abusive comments? Perhaps you should try creating a set of ‘pool rules’.

A prominently placed list of clear rules along the lines of those used at local swimming pools could help newspapers combat offensive posts from readers, according to a community news specialist.

Michelle Ferrier writes for Poynter Online: “Back when you were a kid spending the afternoon at the community pool, remember how you used to hesitate when you glanced at those signs bearing the pool rules - just as you were about to dive head first into the shallow end?

“If your news or community site allows comments, why not put similar notices in a prominent place and format so users will likely notice them, and then let their conscience be their guide.”

Ferrier, who is managing editor of community website MyTopiaCafe, says rules should make it clear exactly what is not acceptable and how readers can complain if they spot an inappropriate post.

She believes the rules placed at the bottom of stories by the Corpus Christi Caller-Times in Texas provide a shining example of good guidance.


Carry On The Conversation Via Facebook?

Facebook group walls could become the destination for discussions about news stories, according to a freelance writer.

Pat Walters says the social networking website could host forums initiated by news providers if the topic required more interactive tools than simple comment sections.

Speaking to American Journalism Review, Walters asserts: “I think it could be interesting. It would have to be something people care a lot about.”

He adds: “But there already are viable, sustainable groups happening all over the industry”.

Walters also suggests the advantage of Facebook is not that it alters the way people talk about a subject, but that it brings “more people into the discussion”.

Last year, Walters created a Facebook group called “Journalists and Facebook” and asked all members what they feel journalists can learn from the website.

His conclusions from the experiment can be seen here.


Second Brum Editor Launches Blog

The editor of the Birmingham Post has started his own weblog chronicling his experiences in the new digital age.

Marc Reeves has joined Birmingham Mail editor Steve Dyson in the blogosphere with his contribution, subtitled: “What a UK daily newspaper editor is learning about online journalism”.

The blog is part of the Post’s forthcoming web relaunch, which is scheduled to go live at the end of this month.

Reeves reveals that blogging reporter Joanna Geary provided the inspiration for him to get started.

He writes: “I’ve resisted the temptation in the past, I think, as some other newspaper editors’ blogs seem to consist of Meldrewesque griping and self-serving ‘look-aren’t-I-normal-like-you’ condescension.

“Not great additions to the sum of human knowledge, in other words.”

By contrast, the editor says he aims for his blog to be “an honest account of the process of engineering a new website for a business-led broadsheet newspaper in the West Midlands region of the UK.”

In addition, he hopes it will become “a place to discuss the issues that inform news gathering and editing decisions at The Post” and will provide “an opportunity for others to contribute”.

Improving its blogs selection is one of the key intentions behind the Post’s relaunch, which follows the recent release of the Mail’s new website [See Mail Aims To Be Midlands Portal - 04 Feb 2008].


18 February 2008

News Gamble Game Launched

A new website is mixing current affairs with betting to create a fantasy news forecast game.

Hubdub.com features a series of questions about news events and users are encouraged to gamble virtual money on the outcomes.

Predictors compete against each other for the coveted top spot of the Hubdub leaderboard and can also submit their own posers for fellow users to bet on.

The site is the brainchild of former regional press man Nigel Eccles and is managed from an office in Edinburgh.

He told Press Gazette: “I had always been a news consumer and I always thought there must be a better way to cover news stories.

“Whether it’s an election or Pop Idol, I had always used betting odds as a guide to who’s going to win.”

He added: “We are trying to have big-running news stories and we’d love for people to use it as a hub.”

The site currently only covers US news stories but Eccles plans to expand its remit to UK current affairs by the end of this year.


Editorial Blogs ‘Open Conversation’

Growing numbers of newspapers are opening up the editorial process to their readers through staff blogs.

News sites across the US are starting up editors’ blogs to provide users with the opportunity to question ethical issues and story decisions, according to the latest American Journalism Review.

Editors on newspapers such as the Raleigh News and Observer in North Carolina, the Idaho Statesman and California's Fresno Bee all participate in Ask the Editors sections where they may be called upon to explain their actions.

Jamie Gold at the LA Times manages a similar blog which aims to outline the newspaper’s ethical guidelines and to enable readers to interact directly with reporters.

“Readers feel really separate from the press, and it’s become an ‘us versus them’ thing,” says Gold.

She adds: “It has been going on for decades, but it has gotten worse.”

Meanwhile, Jack Robinson from the Fresno Bee believes such blogs help readers to understand the editorial discussions which take place before decisions are made.

The managing editor asserts: “We all make that mistake by overestimating what readers know.”

He concludes: “We want people to understand the newspaper and [to] help demystify the process.”

And the trend for editors’ blogs is certainly catching on here too and a significant number have sprouted up in recent times.

For a frank account of modern editorship see Steve Dyson’s blog at the Birmingham Mail, while Adrian Seal’s blog offers a great insight into his day-to-day activities as editor of the Uxbridge Gazette.


15 February 2008

Web Focus For Wales

A group of Welsh newspapers is recruiting reporters to help realise its online ambitions.

Media Wales has six vacancies to fill as it aims to fully develop its digital integration plans for the South Wales Echo, Western Mail, Wales on Sunday and weekly titles.

The new jobs comprise five multimedia journalists and a communities editor, who will be required to produce copy for all titles on the icWales network.

Soon-to-be Head of Multimedia Pete Morrell told holdthefrontpage.co.uk: “The idea is to focus more on our online service then we’ve ever done previously.”

He added: “Instead of being title focussed it will be web focussed so we’ll have people working across titles.

“All our journalists from all our papers will feed copy into the website.”


14 February 2008

Beeb Tries Moblogging

The Mobile World Congress provided the perfect opportunity for the BBC to dip its toe into the waters of mobile blogging.

Tech correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones used his mobile to upload regular posts to the dot.life group blog and used a cameraphone to record interviews with big names from Nokia and Microsoft.

Cellan-Jones described the experiment as a “modest start” in the field of moblogging and asserted that he will continue to try out different ideas over the coming weeks.

BBC News website editor Steve Herrmann said of the coverage: “The video is no-frills, quick and simple compared with what we might normally do, and it is decidedly rough around the edges, but it has immediacy and gets across the information.”

Writing on the Editors Blog, Herrmann added: “In a fitting coincidence, I’ve been reading their reports on a mobile, too, on my commute home, and have typed out this blog post en route with my thumbs. Who needs offices any more?”

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Your Mail Achieves Goal In Five Days

A user-generated content site run by a local newspaper has reached its half-year user target in its opening week.

Hull Daily Mail’s assistant editor has revealed that Your Mail achieved its six-month goal for the number of registered users within five days of its launch.

Alex Leys also told Press Gazette that Your Mail “is well on its way to topping the first year’s targets - which is brilliant news”.

He added: “But the site was always set up to test the market, and none of us are naïve enough to think that we’ve cracked it.

“I’m certain there are many lessons still to be learned and hurdles that we haven’t yet considered waiting round the corner – hopefully not lining up like the proverbial buses.”

Your Mail is dedicated to its users and features a blend of debate, community news and social networking elements.

See Northcliffe Launches “Community Conversation” for more details.

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13 February 2008

BBC: Caution With Net Pics

The BBC has advised its reporters to be wary of using pictures posted on social networking websites.

According to the Guardian, the corporation recently issued an email to editorial staff recommending that they exercise caution before using photos taken from personal profile pages.

“Simply because material may have been put into the public domain may not always give the media the right to exploit its existence,” states the email.

It continues: “The use of a picture by the BBC brings material to a much wider public than a personal website that would only be found with very specific search criteria.”

The message suggests that journalists consider the potential impact upon people, the veracity of the source and copyright issues before using photos from sites such as Bebo and MySpace.

Several high-profile stories in recent years have brought into focus the question of using social networking sites as sources.

Citizen journalism blogger the Editorialiste discussed the issue in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings in 2007, while a Society of Professional Journalists article features a reporter’s account of covering the on-campus tasering of a student in Florida.

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12 February 2008

International Calling For Experts Resource

A UK-based website holding the names of thousands of experts has announced it is opening up to a worldwide audience.

Expertsources contains a database of specialists that can be searched by journalists and other workers in the media industry.

After reaching two million hits last year, founder Bob Mills has decided his online contacts centre should be made relevant to reporters across the globe.

He told holdthefrontpage.co.uk: “Having worked in radio, television and on newspapers I obviously know how important it is to find experts quickly and easily - and often how difficult it can be to find people other than the ‘usual suspects’ to quote and interview.

“You can find experts on almost anything by going to just one site. That takes the hassle out of using the internet over and over again.

“And you know the people you’re calling are ‘media friendly’ because they’ve already signed up to be contacted.”

Mills started his career as a regional journalist working on several Staffordshire titles before becoming a producer at Sky News.

He launched Expertsources three years ago and says the site now gets over 4,000 keyword searches a month submitted by journalists.


11 February 2008

Over 3M Downloads For Telegraph TV

The Telegraph claims its online TV content achieved 3.4 million downloads during the month of December.

Unaudited figures also show that Telegraph TV welcomed over 790,000 unique visitors in the last four weeks of 2007.

Launched three months ago, the video content includes a number of cultural and lifestyle programmes as well as a news channel run in partnership with ITN.

Digital Director Ed Roussel told the Independent: “The future of news on the internet is going to be a combination of text, video and user-generated content.

“This is our philosophy and forms the pillars of our editorial strategy for 2008.”

Roussel also stated that recent news stories have played out well on the TV channel: “When you have instances like the plane crash at Heathrow, that is obviously something where you want to see the images.

“You want to go round the plane and see it from every angle. Video feels like an absolutely natural extension of that story.”


Horrocks In Global Grilling

The BBC’s multimedia news chief has taken part in a “Global Vlog” hosted by ViewMagazine.tv.

Peter Horrocks answers posers put to him by nine bloggers from around the world, who all submit their questions by video.

The project enables the corporation’s newsroom exec to respond to questions from the press, academic and commercial worlds.

In doing so, Horrocks provides an insight into the BBC’s thinking on the future of digital and topics include how to inspire reporters to use new media tools and how to best utilise mobile technology.

Among the British participants are a Guardian new media blogger and a lecturer from the University of Central Lancashire.

Other talking heads include a professor from a German university, an associate director from Norway’s Institute of Journalism and the CEO of a digital firm in Chicago.

The interview is well worth a look and available to see at ViewMagazine.

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08 February 2008

Online Ads Boost Northcliffe’s Coffers

Northcliffe has seen a dramatic increase in revenue from its regional online activities.

In the quarter ending 30 December 2007, the publishing group saw local digital earnings grow by 90% from the same period in 2006.

An interim statement from parent firm Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT) attributed the bulk of the growth to the “recruitment category”.

DMGT finance director Peter Williams said the results show the impact of increased investment in web services and advertising.

He told Press Gazette: “We’ve certainly done a lot in terms of rolling out job sites and property sites.

“It’s really all happened in the last 12 months. We’ve put a lot more effort into the regional sites and we’re getting some reward for it.”


Google News ‘Promoting Local Sources’

Google News says its latest search innovation will benefit local providers.

The firm is experimenting with a new local search option on the US version of Google News, which is designed to increase diversity of sources.

Users type in a zip code or name of a city and Google brings up a local section for that area with news from “thousands of sources”.

“We’re not simply looking at the byline or the source, but instead we analyse every word in every story to understand what location the news is about and where the source is located,” states the Google News Blog.

“Our article rankings will also take into account a publication’s location so we can promote all the local sources for each story.”

Google says it hopes to rollout the option to other editions of its news search in the future.


07 February 2008

Geocoding Comes To UK

A major British press group is on the brink of using automated geotagging software provided by MetaCarta.

The US-based company has revealed it is supplying a big player in the UK press market with a software package which automatically tags stories with relevant area codes, reports Press Gazette.

MetaCarta already provides geocoding services to Reuters and several US regional titles such as the San Antonio Express-News, which sends email alerts according to users’ local interests.

And now the Massachusetts firm has modified and customised its software to make it suitable for British location searches.

“I believe there are about 85 Parises in the world. But we have the ability to identify the right one - and in fact that it’s not Paris Hilton but rather Paris, Texas or Paris, France,” said Rick Hutton, director of content services at MetaCarta.

Hutton also pointed out the advantages of automated geotagging: “If you wanted to find out about a murder in Sudbury with a keyword search engine, you would only get those documents that mention the word ‘Sudbury’.

“With our technology, it would find anything that happened in the area around Sudbury.

“The document might mention a village, or a street in Sudbury, or even one particular store, but it might not ever mention the name of the town itself.”

Among the British publishers pressing ahead with automated geotagging is Archant, which is scheduled to launch its new coding system by the middle of this year.


06 February 2008

Blog Reveals Convergence FT-Style

An exclusive glimpse round the converged offices at the Financial Times is the latest offering from a multimedia site’s blog.

Bloggers at Viewmagazine.tv have posted half a dozen photographs showing the integrated newsroom and hub at the FT’s London headquarters.

“It’s been written about … but these might be some of the first pictures on the web showing off the Financial Times’s new newsroom and the hub, which is triangular of sorts,” writes David Dunkley, editor of the website.

He adds: “The newsroom has changed beyond recognition from when I was there last year doing some interesting projects with their journalists.”

The FT first announced its convergence aims in 2006, which included the integration of print and online output and developing reporters’ multimedia skills.

Editor Delivers Comments Warning

Concerns about abusive user comments are a burning issue among local press editors – and one has decided to make his position clear.

Gerry Keighley at the South Wales Argus has taken the step of displaying a warning message to visitors at the site to make it clear that personal insults are not welcome.

The editor told holdthefrontpage.co.uk: “We’ve reached the point where we have to send a clear message to the minority who are disrupting our websites’ reader interaction facility.

“They feel they can post insults and disguised obscenities carte blanche under some sort of freedom of speech agenda.

“What they are actually doing is ruining the credibility of our websites and driving serious debaters away.”

He added: “Media commentators are describing some interactive sites as bear gardens and I don’t want ours to carry such a description.

“We usually remove unpleasant comments anyway but readers often see them before they’re taken off and wonder why we have allowed them.

“Now we have made it clear that such comments are not welcome and will not be tolerated.”

The message is posted on the South Wales Argus news page.


05 February 2008

Online Success For Regionals

Two local newspaper websites have shown that success can be reaped from online investment, according to a media commentator.

Former Daily Mirror editor Roy Greenslade uses the recent achievements of Wolverhampton’s Express & Star and the Shropshire Star to illustrate the impact of digital innovation.

Writing in his Guardian blog, Greenslade states that both websites have seen impressive improvements in unique user counts and page impressions between April and November 2007.

He notes: “The rises for both papers come on the back of more in-house video content, along with the introduction of a fantasy football game, greater use of picture galleries plus Google Maps being added to illustrate key stories.”

The Express & Star has almost doubled its page views in eight months and has seen the number of unique users grow by over 50%.

“What these figures indicate is the way in which regional papers willing to invest in online products can ensure that their brands work across both platforms,” suggests Greenslade, who is professor of journalism at London’s City University.

He adds: “Incidentally, both papers, unlike most other regional dailies, have not been losing significant print sales in the last couple of years.”

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Herts & Cambs Scores Web Win

Archant’s Herts and Cambs 24 news site has been named Website of the Year at the East of England Media Awards.

This is the second successive year that the regional website has scooped the accolade at the awards, which recognise excellence in print and online output across East Anglia and parts of Essex, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire.

According to the judges, the website “continues to give a strong showing. It is a neat and tidy site but is still very busy, with lots to do.”

The full list of winners can be viewed at holdthefrontpage.co.uk.


04 February 2008

Mail Aims To Be Midlands Portal

The Birmingham Mail is aiming to become the online portal for the West Midlands region with its new website.

Blogs, videos and interactivity are the focus for the relaunched site, which has been developed under the guidance of Trinity Mirror multimedia editor Ross Hawkes.

Press Gazette reports that newly trained staff at the Mail will be uploading videos each day and several journalists have also received blogging training sessions.

Among the blogs already launched are Bad Dad, chronicling the trials and tribulations of a dad with teenage kids, and a fashion group blog called Bag Ladies.

Editor Steve Dyson has also led by example by writing his own blog providing an honest and frank account of the life of a newspaper editor and offering insights into key editorial decisions.

“We want birminghammail.net to be the only site anyone has to visit to find out everything they need to know about news, sport, health, education and entertainment in the West Midlands,” said Dyson.

He added: “The result will be a new vibrant community online, extending the Birmingham Mail brand further than ever before.”


Line-up Revealed For Editors Forum

Some of the most important figures in the global press industry are scheduled to appear at this year’s World Editors Forum.

Javier Moreno from Spain’s El Pais and New York Times digital news editor Jim Roberts will be speaking at the three-day event, which is taking place in Sweden this spring.

Le Monde Interactif president Bruno Patino and Alma Latour from the wsj.com are also participating in the global forum, which aims to attract more than 1,500 delegates from the news industry.

This year’s theme is integration and among the sessions will be discussions and presentations on mobile news, Web 2.0 and new media training for journalists.

“Many newspapers have already begun the process of integrating print and online,” states the World Association of Newspapers (WAN), which manages the annual event.

“Others consider that two separate newsrooms are still better. The 2008 Forum will help editors-in-chief to choose the formula that fits.”

The summit, entitled “Newsroom Integration: Why, How and When”, is being staged in the first week of June and further details can be found on the forum website.

01 February 2008

EveryBlock Launches City Info Resource

A new website is aiming to provide city dwellers with an invaluable resource for their stamping ground.

EveryBlock covers New York, Chicago and San Francisco and offers users a hyperlocal search to uncover the latest news articles relevant to them.

The website also brings together a wealth of civic information in the form of searchable databases, which cover crimes reported, restaurant inspections, building violations and much more.

Plus EveryBlock also features “Fun from across the Web”, such as the latest Flickr photos of any given area and reviews of local businesses by user-generated content site Yelp.

“We aim to collect all of the news and civic goings-on that have happened recently in your city, and make it simple for you to keep track of news in particular areas,” says the team’s launch statement.

The team continues: “We’re a geographic filter - a ‘news feed’ for your neighbourhood, or, yes, even your block.”

And the website should act as an inspiration for newspapers looking to expand their online offerings, according to blogger Beth Lawton.

Lawton, who blogs for the Newspaper Association of America, writes of EveryBlock: “Hooray for a journalism-related, database-driven map mash-up that really shows how it should be done!”

She adds: “It’s not entirely unrealistic (ok, perhaps aside from expenses…) for a dedicated group of developers and journalists to build this for their own news site.

“The relationships with the local government should already be in place, and there are a ton of business opportunities here - advertisers can purchase dots, for example, that link to coupons.”

She concludes: “This site is capital-I impressive.

“I’m a huge believer in the journalistic power of databases and this is a great demonstration of that.”


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