31 March 2008

Four-Step Guide To Breaking News Online

The Telegraph recently gave an insight into its procedure for breaking news stories online.

Digital editor Ed Roussel revealed that the national newspaper has introduced a new system for its integrated newsroom when it comes to reporting major news events as they happen.

Individual editors are assigned as “story owners” and then take responsibility for implementing the following four-phase strategy, reports Journalism.co.uk.

Step 1:

“When news breaks, send out immediate alerts: SMS, email, desktop.”

Step 2:

“After ten minutes, get 150 words on the website and solicit reader help with images/video or other accounts.”

Step 3:

“Within an hour, update story to 450 words and add additional images and video.”

Step 4:

“Then look to commission analysis and opinion pieces, develop a topic page with multiple angles and multimedia.”

Roussel also revealed that assigned “story owners” should ensure they keep to task deadlines by using a grid to note down their plans and strategies.

According to Roussel, the “story owners are key in the newsroom in an integrated environment, and they have got to be really, really good”.

He added the Telegraph believes that newspaper websites are not just a platform for breaking news, but can also be an effective platform for comment and analysis.

“We think the future of successful websites is that we need to have everything, the first word and the final word.

“And that means analysis…we want to have the best people reporting directly for the website.

“It’s about serving the customer, not serving the newspaper.”

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Aberdeen Relaunches Target Youth Market

Two newspapers in Aberdeen have unveiled their new-look websites two years after coming under new ownership.

Bought by DC Thomson, the Evening Express and Press & Journal relaunched their websites last week.

Express editor Damian Bates revealed that his paper’s revamped site is looking to draw in younger visitors through its “tabloid and youthful” content.

He told holdthefrontpage.co.uk: “We very much decided that we wanted the websites to reflect the newspaper brands.”

Bates added: “Both are targeting a younger market, trying to attract the people we would not necessarily attract in the paper.

“Speaking for the Evening Express, we do a lot of show business stories and the result is the website may not reflect the paper.

“There was no cannibalising the newspapers and just sticking them online.”

DC Thomson, which is world famous for publishing the Beano and Dandy comics, bought Aberdeen Journals Ltd from Northcliffe for £132 million in March 2006.


28 March 2008


Welcome to the second part of the SPOTLIGHT series on blogs, the sequel to last fortnight’s look at the mainstream media blogging landscape.

Having examined journalist bloggers in Part I, this post will shift the focus to online newspaper blogs written by non-professionals.

These can take the form of personal diaries chronicling the everyday experiences of the writer, or experts offering their thoughts on a range of current affairs issues or group blogging projects for specific events.

We’ll look at all these types of blogs in this post and will also discuss contributors to mainstream media websites who could be labelled “civic bloggers” – such as local politicians and other public figures.

And to finish up, we’ll offer some useful resources for anyone who wants to know more about blogs as a form of user-generated content.

All Kinds Of Everything

Having established in Part I definitions of a blog etc, let’s dive straight in and see some examples of how newspapers are incorporating citizen blogs into their Web output.

First up is the generic citizen blog – this is where newspapers invite any registered user to start their own blog about anything and everything.

Some take the form of personal diaries, others may concentrate on a single theme such as music or food, and quality as well as regularity of posting varies tremendously.

These open invitation blog networks haven’t really caught on yet in the UK but are growing in popularity among US news websites.

A typical example is Oklahoma’s Shawnee News-Star blogs page, which states: “Blogs are a great way to express yourself. You can post what you did for the day or things about what you enjoy doing.

“The blogs give you a place where others can read and post messages. It’s a great way to make friends or get your feelings out.”

The Bakersfield Californian has a similar citizen blogging feature, enabling users to publish their thoughts and views with just a couple of clicks.

Blogs on these sites can be labelled by name or by theme, which provides visitors with a way to navigate the many blogs on offer to find the one that may interest them.

Some newspaper sites also display automatically updated lists of recent posts, such as Cape Cod Today whose Blog Chowder section aggregates the latest blog posts.

In addition, the 100 or so citizen bloggers at Cape Cod Today see their work published on the Web and can have it distributed straight to the inbox of email subscribers.

Although these open citizen blog networks are not a common sight on UK newspaper websites, there are individual examples of personal diary-style blogs offered alongside those penned by journalists.

A particularly interesting one is a blog featured on the Birmingham Post website from English language teacher Nikki Aaron who has just moved to Beijing.

[Historical Advance for Post]

Readers can follow Aaron’s personal progress as she makes friends and finds a boyfriend and also read first-hand accounts about political events such as the recent switch-off of BBC services as Aaron describes no longer being able to catch Eastenders.

Special Interest

Citizen blogging isn’t all about diaries and personal journeys though – there’s a growing number of blogs appearing based upon a certain theme or hobby.

These can encourage the formation of shared interest networks as the interactive nature of blogs enables citizen bloggers and readers to engage in conversation.

A great example of this community conversation was featured on the JP Digital Digest recently when it covered the creation of a bilingual Polish-English blog by the Newcastle Chronicle.

The blog acts as an information resource for Poles in the region – as shown by this entry about driving licences – and as a social noticeboard.

Meanwhile, the Newcastle Journal has also introduced a special interest blog written by professional pool player Malcolm Clarke.

Visitors can read about life on the road with Clarke as he tours the UK to compete in tournaments.

Another useful example of special interest user-generated content can be found at the Yorkshire Post, which has a blog dedicated to the art of allotmenting.

Entitled A Plot For All Seasons, the blog is written by Leeds city banker Peter Coady and is updated about once a month.

In the US, gardening is an oft-occurring theme among citizen bloggers and a place where users can share hints and tips.

Have a look at the Philadelphia Inquirer’s a Master Gardener’s Journal for a typical example.

The Professionals

Citizen blogs may be written by amateurs with regards to the profession of journalism as it is traditionally known, but that doesn’t mean professionals aren’t getting in on the act.

In fact, many of the most interesting newspaper blogs come from the pens of experts across a range of fields.

Probably the most famous example at present is the Freakonomics blog hosted by the New York Times.

Written by a freelance journalist and an economics professor, the blog blends economics and pop culture and appears in Technorati’s top 100 blogs ranked by authority (most linked-to sites achieve the highest rankings).

There are a number of local UK newspapers which have enlisted experts to write for them in this capacity, including the Birmingham Post with a blog written by a criminologist from Birmingham City University.

James Treadwell blogs on issues such as law and order, crime and punishment, armed conflict and mental illness.

Another website which has recently engaged the writing skills of a professional is the new business site from the Liverpool Daily Post.

The site boosts its commercial credentials with blogs from local managers, lawyers and one from the managing director of a PR firm in the city.

One final example of this blogging genre comes from the States and forms something of a hybrid of all that has been mentioned so far.

Blogs written by servicemen and women are based upon their professional roles, incorporate the diary elements of personal blogs and could also be seen as a special interest item.

They are popular with readers and consistently provide leads for news articles – as illustrated by this blog written by Sergeant Patrick Lair for the Charleston Times-Courier.

“Civic Blogs”

The sub-set of the citizen blog genre to be examined here is that of civic blogging – where representatives from public life maintain regular blogs hosted by newspapers.

Leading the pack at present it seems is the London Times series of newspapers, which has secured the blogging services of the ever-entertaining Conservative politician Boris Johnson.

The MP for Henley and London mayoral candidate proved a draw with his very first blog post this month, which has attracted 67 comments so far.

In addition, the website has blogs penned by a local Liberal Democrat councillor and from the leader of Barnet Council.

The site states that the blog from leader Mike Freer provides “opportunities for two-way communication with Barnet’s residents”.

And civic blogging is not just for the politicians, as the Plymouth Evening Herald recently demonstrated with the launch of a blog written by the area’s highest ranking police officer.

[Bobby's Blog At Plymouth Herald]

Chief Superintendent Jim Webster uses the blog to interact directly with Plymouth residents and to discuss the latest community policing initiatives.

Blog By Project

This final type of citizen blog is associated with a particular project and can include both individual and group blogs.

For example, the icWales website currently has a blog entitled “Pole to Pole” where students visiting an Arctic island and a fellow student visiting Antarctica write about their experiences at opposite ends of the earth.

And in the US an open blogging project entitled Primary Place Online managed by New Hampshire Public Radio has just drawn to a close (further details on Poynter Online).

The initiative enabled voters to blog about their impressions of the presidential nomination candidates when they visited the area and these comments were then used to inform the station’s wider election coverage.

Similar projects are likely to come about here when a British general election is declared and Sky News has already put in place its plans to enlist a team of citizen bloggers.

[Citizen Bloggers Wanted By Sky]


The question of moderation often accompanies any discussion of blogs produced by users and here’s the Lawrence Journal-World’s policy for bloggers for an example of rules and regulations.

New media pioneer Steve Outing declares his support for citizen blogs in this article entitled The 11 Layers of Citizen Journalism.

Finally, the J-Learning website from the University of Maryland has some practical advice on setting up blogs and how to edit them effectively.

‘Til Next Time...

So that’s it for this fortnight’s SPOTLIGHT, next time we’ll be looking at the independent blogosphere and the latest means of blogging from video to mobile to instant messaging.

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Ad Models ‘Should Lean Towards Interactive’

Newspapers could improve their online revenues by adopting ad models based on interaction rather than reach, claims a new study.

An Ernst & Young report states that news providers should consider following Google’s lead by using cost-per-click (CPC) or cost-per-lead (CPL) systems in order to enhance revenue growth.

The paper asserts that most newspapers miss out on money-making opportunities on the Web because they use the cost-per-thousand (CPM) model, which is based on reach rather than interaction.

If the main news sites had used CPC last year they would have reaped online earnings of between £120 million to £250 million each, according to Ernst & Young estimates.

“The online revenue gap between nationals and Google is also evident if we consider that the latter could have generated £2.40 per UK unique user per month from its websites in 2007 compared to top newspaper websites’ £0.10 to £0.13,” remarks Luca Mastrodonato, media and entertainment analyst at the organisation.

“This gap is an opportunity for newspapers as it shows that monetising online services in the UK is possible.

“But to do so, newspapers need to move away from the volume based CPM model towards more interactive ad models such as CPC or CPL.”

He adds: “With many online users spending time interacting on social networks and the like, by circulating millions of untargeted adverts publishers may be missing out on opportunities to increase their ad revenue to the advantage of online specialists.”

Further information on the report, entitled “Media and Entertainment… by numbers”, is available to view here.


Cup Success Breeds Web Success At Pompey

A great cup run for Portsmouth’s football club is providing a dramatic boost to one of the city’s newspapers.

The Portsmouth News says its website has recorded a 40% increase in the number of unique users since Pompey produced a shock result against Manchester United in the recent FA Cup quarter final.

Sales Director Ken Sim told holdthefrontpage.co.uk: “Portsmouth’s victory over Man United saw website visitors on the Saturday and Sunday increase by 40%, with page views up by 61.6% compared to a win against Sunderland two weeks earlier.”

Portsmouth face West Bromwich Albion in the semi-final on April 5 and the News is covering the big match build-up with its “Pompey at Wembley” section.


27 March 2008

Local + Local + Local = National

A new idea for an online distribution model could offer a way for local newspapers to gain national attention.

That’s the view of blogger and new media publisher Scott Karp, who believes his model would provide local websites with both national distribution and “content targeted distribution”.

Karp’s theory centres around the notion that journalists should take a hint from bloggers and engage in linking activity when and where possible.

If local blogging reporters set up a network where they all link to each other, this could be used as a way of passing on news from one local source to another and another and so on, says Karp.

He provides an illustration of this in practice: A local journalist has done a story on a universal issue such as water quality and then links this to other online reports produced by local writers across the country.

Thus producing “a great link journalism piece to complement original reporting on how the issue presents in your locality”.

He adds: “The result would be that your link journalism drives traffic to other local sites - put another way, your journalism would be contributing to the national distribution of the reporting by those other local journalists, on the issue of water quality.”

Karp goes further: “Now imagine if 1,000 newspapers where actively link blogging about issues of local importance - and linking to each other’s reporting on the same issues as part of their link journalism effort.”

He concludes that not only is this country-wide distribution since “distributing content across hundreds of localities adds up to national distribution”, but it is also content targeted since “you’re directing people interested in a topic to other content on that topic”.

“Reinventing Local News Distribution on the Web” is available to view on Karp’s blog, Publishing 2.0.

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Hyperlocal Traffic ‘Exceeds Expectations’

The Glasgow Evening Times has launched a further 12 hyperlocal websites after the first batch proved so popular with users.

A total of 12 community sites went live at the start of this month [Glasgow's Hyperlocal Sites Go Live], prompting significant numbers of readers in other areas to ask when grass-roots coverage of their neighbourhood would begin.

This, coupled with better-than-expected visitor figures for the first dozen websites, led the Evening Times to accelerate its phased introduction strategy.

Assistant Editor Graeme Smith told holdthefrontpage.co.uk: “Traffic has exceeded all our expectations and we’ve brought forward our roll-out of the next batch in response.

“We’re still compiling figures from the first fortnight but obviously we would not have accelerated the introduction of the second phase if we hadn’t been greatly encouraged by the interest we’ve had so far.”

The websites are intended to provide a platform for users’ news and views and also include histories of each community, which can be written and edited by registered visitors.

As well as speeding up the roll-out of the hyperlocal sites, the Evening Times is planning improvements after receiving feedback from users.

These include expanding the community noticeboard sections and the categorisation of photo galleries, which have proved popular with local snappers.

A total of 80 hyperlocal websites are scheduled to be launched by the end of this year.

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26 March 2008

Twitter 'Drives Traffic Through Conversation'

Mainstream news providers need to get to grips with the two-way nature of Twitter to reap the traffic rewards.

That’s the view of new media journalist and blogger Patrick Thornton, who reckons traditional news organisations are yet to realise the full benefits of the microblogging application.

According to the US-based web developer, most newspapers have “missed the point” about Twitter and utilise it solely as a headline feed.

“If you use Twitter as merely another one-way conversation tool, it will be nothing more than a really poor version of RSS,” states Thornton.

He adds: “But if you use Twitter as the two-way communication tool that it is, not only will you be able to drive traffic, but you’ll most likely be able to discover new readers and users.”

Writing on his blog The Journalism Iconoclast, Thornton outlines three ways Twitter could be used by newspaper journalists looking to increase their page views.

• Initiate conversation

Use Twitter to discuss stories you’re currently covering, enabling fellow users to ask questions.

• If you write a blog - you should be Twittering

Reporters who have a blog or column can use a Twitter account to share bite-sized versions of their opinions and to interact with readers.

• Go live

Journalists could use Twitter to cover local government meetings, using the tool as both a way of making notes for writing up later and to get other people involved in the process as it’s happening.

If you want to know more about Twitter, visit its FAQs page.

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Mobile Pics Mean Prizes

A European freesheet is set to hand out cash to readers who send in the best mobile phone photos.

Commuter freebie 20 Minutes also has Nintendo Wiis and iPods on offer for images and videos which are featured on its website or in its print editions.

According to the Editors Weblog, “mobile reporters” will receive up to 100 Swiss Francs (about £50) for photos published in the national papers or 50 Swiss Francs if included in any regional issues.

However, as part of the deal 20 Minutes will have the right to sell on any videos or pictures.

The daily newspaper is available to commuters in urban areas across France, Switzerland and Spain.

Its name refers to the average time European workers spend on public transport each day.

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Echo Kicks Off Year With Record Traffic

Online football coverage has helped the Sunderland Echo to record its highest ever Web traffic figures.

This January the Echo’s website was viewed by some 216,000 users, that's more than double the visitor count from the same period in 2007.

Holdthefrontpage.co.uk reports that sport is proving to be the site’s most successful area.

Digital Editor Lee Hall attributed this to a combination of video highlights from the Premiership, “big transfer scoops” and “exclusive player interviews”.

Hall also revealed that it’s onwards and upwards for the Echo as it seeks to enhance the website’s interactive features in 2008.

He said: “We’re looking to introduce more ways to get involved with the website by giving users the chance to submit their own content.

“Expect to see more forums for debate and more community sections as we look to bring the people of Sunderland together online.”

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25 March 2008

Citizen Journalism ‘Not A Good Thing’

Most local journalists do not think user-generated news stories are a good thing for the profession.

That’s according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center, which surveyed a total of 585 reporters, editors and news executives to gauge their attitudes to “internet-driven innovations”.

Only 36% of the respondents from local news providers agreed that “users posting news content on news sites” is a “good thing for journalism”.

However, user-generated content in the form of comments seem a popular form of citizen interaction, with 70% of local journalists agreeing that they are a positive development.

Just over half (51%) also believes that independent citizen media websites are a good thing for journalism.

The least popular Web development among local newspaper staff is the growth of news ranking sites, which is viewed positively by only 24%.

Carried out in the final quarter of 2007, the US survey also features journalists’ attitudes towards financial matters, challenges to values and staffing issues.

It can be viewed here.

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Comments Not A “Default Position”

Editors need to think about why they enable comments on their online news stories, says a digital content director.

The Guardian’s Emily Bell has spoken out against the practice of applying comment sections to all web articles, reports Journalism.co.uk.

Speaking at a recent media summit, Bell stated that user-generated comments have enhanced news coverage, but warned that they should not be a “default position” on all stories.

“You should make editors think about why they’re opening comments,” said Bell.

“If the answer is, just to get a lot of comments, then don’t do it.

“If the answer is, because you think people have got a lot to add or you want engagement from them, then open comments.”

During her talk, Bell also revealed that the Guardian plans to open a new community zone on its website for the most engaged users.

Working with social media group Pluck [Guardian Thanks Pluck For UGC], the Guardian is looking to develop ways of gathering the opinions of its most active members.

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Echo Forum Hosts ‘Fix’ Debate

Visitors have flooded to a newspaper’s online forum to post their opinions on the Champions League draw.

The Liverpool Echo’s football forum thread “Possible Leak of Draw” was started by a regular user who wrote that the trophy’s semi-final draw was rumoured to have been leaked.

A flurry of posts followed with similar assertions and once the live draw matched the “leaked” details, the Echo’s forum became the place for football fans to swap conspiracy theories.

The following weekend saw the debate continue and the thread currently runs to some 69 pages.

A spokesman for Echo publisher Trinity Mirror told holdthefrontpage.co.uk: “The fact that a full prediction of the Champions League draw appeared on our forum site well before the live draw took place in Switzerland is quite remarkable.”

Steve Harrison, regional websites content manager, added: “We are investigating the circumstances surrounding this posting.

“As a result the site has experienced a dramatic increase in visitors.”

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20 March 2008

'Engagement Attracts Advertisers'

The amount of time registered users spend online could be a better indicator of success than the number of unique users.

That’s the view of the managing editor of the Financial Times, who reckons advertisers are more interested in websites with high numbers of loyal visitors.

Speaking at a recent media summit, Ian Cheng says the amount of time users spend looking at any given site is a further key indication of strong engagement.

Cheng also points out that the FT can prove to its advertisers that the majority of its online visitors watch videos in full, reports Press Gazette.

“A lot of newspaper brands look at something like unique users per month,” states Cheng.

“But that’s a general reach number - our advertising model is about being able to offer clear growth of engagement.”

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Four Roles For Newspapers In Digital Era

To thrive in the digital age newspapers need to adopt four editorial voices, says a US academic.

Bill Densmore from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst asserts that 21st-century news providers have four roles – that of navigator, valet, referee and coach.

Navigator - Finds

According to Densmore, this is the first key role and involves helping visitors to your website find the information they need in order to become “participatory citizens”.

“The editor’s role is less and less defined by choosing which information to leave out, and more and more by what information to highlight.”

Valet – Recommends

This second role centres on the idea that the news media in the digital age provide a service rather than simply a product.

“And that’s a fundamental change in thinking - from making a product - the newspaper - to providing a service - the trusted, customised information home-base for your readers, users, viewers and listeners.”

Referee – Facilitates Community

This third role takes into account the growth of user-generated content and suggests that newspapers should take up the role of refereeing these virtual participants.

“You can watch the cacophony and help players to find constructive roles.

“You can take note of offsides, illegal touching and rule infractions (where rules exist!) in the discussion.

“It’s a critical role, and one you are institutionally suited to play.”

Coach – Builds Community

Densmore contends that the Web has changed the landscape so much that users now expect advice as well as impartial information from their newspapers.

“My own view is that publishers who want to survive in the new participatory culture are going to have to revert back to the 19th-century form and be willing to coach and lead their users – openly – to active participation in civic life, in the discussions of the public sphere.”

More Info

Densmore presented his ideas during a recent speech to newspaper editors as part of the Knight Digital Media Center’s seminar series entitled “Best Practices: Editorial and Commentary in Cyberspace”.

The edited text of the speech with ideas on how to implement the four editorial voices can be found in this pdf file.

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Comments Prompt Follow-up Piece

Accusations posted by visitors to a local news website resulted in a follow-up story to ‘set the record straight’.

The original article from the Bournemouth Daily Echo concerned a party of councillors which was visiting the resort’s twin town in Israel when eight students were killed in an attack on a college in Jerusalem.

Holdthefrontpage.co.uk reports that the story – headlined ‘Terrible Tragedy’ Shocks Bournemouth Party – attracted a raft of comments from users demanding to know who was funding the trip.

One comment stated: “What the hell are Bournemouth councillors doing on a freebie at the local taxpayers' expense - what a load of wasters. How dare they pretend to be working hard for local people.”

Such was the impact of the comments, three days later the Echo published a follow-up piece – headlined Trip to Israel Wasn’t a Freebie Say Councillors - through which the councillors explained that they had funded the trip themselves.

Councillor Peter Charon said of the comments: “Members of the public are entitled to make judgments on our work as councillors, though some who have commented really ought to check their facts first.”

Meanwhile, web editor Nick Rowe suggested that the incident illustrates the way communiction methods are evolving.

“It was an interesting reaction from the public. Sometimes they go down blind alleys (with comments) while at other times they are quite sharp.

“It's a good opportunity for people to have their say and it does generate stories.

“Whereas previously they might not have been motivated to put pen to paper, it’s so much easier to hit a button on a computer.”

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19 March 2008

9,000 Views For Ice Cube Vid

A video news story has been viewed over 8,800 times by visitors to the Birmingham Mail website.

Editor Steve Dyson says the film about a lump of ice that fell from the sky onto a school field was the Mail’s top viewed video of last week.

The footage includes interviews with witnesses to the event, including staff and pupils who speculate on the possible origin of the “ice meteor”.

Writing on his blog, Dyson explains that the many page views for the video were partly boosted by the newspaper’s Saturday splash on the story.

The editor also reveals that the Mail’s new visual content service achieved a total of 167,937 video views during its first full month online.

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Online Users Count Cost Of Budget

Several local news sites took the opportunity of last week’s Budget to introduce an interactive element to their coverage.

Publisher Archant livened up its online reporting with a Budget Calculator, which enabled visitors to work out how the changes would affect them.

The feature focused on users’ spending habits regarding alcohol, tobacco and petrol to help them calculate the cost to their pocket of the price rises.

Offering an even more detailed picture was the Budget Calculator from the Manchester Evening News, which also took into account household incomes and expenditure on flights.

For further examples of local press coverage of the Budget, take a look at the comments submitted to this Press Gazette blog post.

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Hampshire Site Breaks Minghella News

A local news website was among the first to break the news online of Anthony Minghella’s death.

According to a Google News search performed shortly after the story broke, thisishampshire.net was the first to post an article informing visitors that the Isle of Wight-born director had died.

The website, whose associated titles include the Daily Echo and Hampshire Chronicle, uploaded the breaking news at 1.15pm.


18 March 2008

Multimedia Journalism Draws Traffic

Multimedia coverage of a multiple murder trial has resulted in record numbers of web visitors for two newspapers.

Journalists at the Ipswich Evening Star and East Anglian Daily Times used an array of digital tools for reporting on the trial of convicted serial killer Steve Wright.

Internal figures suggest the affiliated websites doubled the number of unique users visiting during the trial period, reports Journalism.co.uk.

Publisher Archant also states that the websites increased the frequency of visits in the first months of 2008.

The titles provided blanket coverage of the trial, with reporters submitting live updates for the websites direct from court.

[Multimedia Storytelling For Murder Trial]

Specialist online reporting of the case also included the use of interactive maps to highlight the key locations.

“Staff at the Star and the Anglian have taken to doing online coverage,” commented Archant Suffolk web editor James Goffin.

He added: “It was a big demand on them to be doing constant updates throughout the day.”

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Cornwall Gets Wiki Treatment

A wiki concerning all things Cornish has been launched by a newspaper publisher.

Cornwall and Devon Media (CDM) unveiled wikiKernow this month and hopes that the site will become a unique and valued resource for the region.

Reporters at the media group have made a start creating pages, but it’s now up to registered users to add to this and build up pages of fascinating facts about the county.

CDM editor-in-chief Andy Cooper told holdthefrontpage.co.uk: “We feel wikiKernow will provide a fantastic platform for our existing readers and online viewers, and a whole range of new ones, to play their part in building a fantastic site all about Cornwall.

“The beauty of the wiki concept is that people can write and edit their own material and contribute in whichever way they see fit.”

WikiKernow, named after the Cornish name for Cornwall, already has plenty of pages offering information of interest to both natives and tourists.

Topics so far include the infamous Cornish pasty, the mysterious beast of Bodmin Moor, and Cornish emblems and anthems.

The wiki also boasts guides to the county’s beaches and castles, and fact-files on places such as Newquay, Padstow and Land’s End.

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“Limited Prospects” For UGC

User-generated content (UGC) may not play a central role in the future of journalism, claims a new study.

The Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) review suggests that, contrary to previously held assumptions in some quarters, news stories written by readers are likely to play only a limited role in the digital age.

According to the organisation’s annual report, opportunities for user interaction such as comments and photo-sharing sections are the most promising areas of citizen participation.

However, it contends that news articles written by users have “proven less valuable” due to a lack of new news or information that can be verified.

“The prospects for user-created content, once thought possibly central to the next era of journalism, for now appear more limited, even among ‘citizen’ sites and blogs,” states the study.

“And the skepticism is not restricted to the traditional mainstream media or ‘MSM’.”

According to the State of the News Media 2008 report, research into citizen media websites “finds most of these sites do not let outsiders do more than comment on the site’s own material, the same as most traditional news sites.

“Few allow the posting of news, information, community events or even letters to the editors.”

It concludes: “In short, rather than rejecting the ‘gatekeeper’ role of traditional journalism, citizen journalists and bloggers appear for now to be recreating it in other places.”

More information about the PEJ can be found here.


17 March 2008

Guardian Dominates Digital Awards

The Guardian has received four nominations in the two digital journalism categories of the British Press Awards.

Alongside a nod for best website, half of those shortlisted in the digital journalist category work for the Guardian.

They are photographer Sean Smith, who produced this gallery of photos from the Lebanon in 2007, Afghanistan and Pakistan correspondent Declan Walsh and Beirut-based journalist Clancy Chassay.

Completing the shortlist are the Times comment editor Daniel Finkelstein, Daily Telegraph US editor Toby Harnden and Financial Times columnist and US managing editor Chrystia Freeland.

While the other nominations for best websites are: The Sun Online, Daily Mail.co.uk, the Times Online, Telegraph.co.uk and Mirror.co.uk.

British Press Awards winners will be announced on Tuesday April 8 during a ceremony at London’s Grosvenor House.


Hyperlocal Going National?

Trinity Mirror is considering rolling out its network of hyperlocal sites to cover all its regional titles, reports the Guardian.

Following the “incredibly successful pilot” of the project at the Teesside Evening Gazette, the publisher revealed that a national rollout is now a likely prospect.

Speaking at a recent Newspaper Society conference, company spokesperson Georgina Harvey announced that its Coventry titles are about to undergo the hyperlocal treatment.

These new websites, which will cover a single postcode and encourage contributions from users, are scheduled to go live next month.

Harvey said of the hyperlocal websites already up and running: “They are closer to the community than any newspaper could hope to achieve.”

The Gazette’s network of 22 hyperlocal websites has been recognised by the Association of Online Publishers with awards for best online community and best consumer site.

[Teesside Gazette Scoops Two Web Awards]

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OS Maps The Future?

A mapping application from Ordnance Survey (OS) could be made available to digital journalists in the future.

The national agency is seeking feedback from online reporters to ascertain whether they would want access to its interactive mapping tool.

On his Online Journalism Blog, Paul Bradshaw reveals that the OS is looking at the possibility of offering the application as an alternative to Google Maps.

Bradshaw writes: “Now I think this is a great opportunity for the OS. Google Maps, as demonstrated by my mapping of OJB readers is not as usable as one would like.

“And the OS already has relationships with picture desks and news websites who make use of its mapping royalty-free to illustrate stories.”

OS spokesman Scott Sinclair says the tool is “aimed at web developers who want to experiment with our data. It goes down to street corner level and you can see the outlines of buildings”.

He adds: “It looks like 2008 will see more and more mapping applications emerging and I’m just keen to know how we can best serve journalists given the fact we map all of Great Britain to a high level of detail…”

Click here to see the OpenSpace application in action and visit the OJB to give your views about the mapping tool.


14 March 2008


Welcome to this fortnight’s post for the SPOTLIGHT series, where we’ll be concentrating on another aspect of the digital world.

This week we’re looking at the rather expansive subject of blogs – so expansive in fact that it’s going to be split into a “Blog Trilogy” with three instalments over the next few weeks.

Today we’re looking at examples of mainstream media bloggers who produce blogs for their newspaper or broadcaster.

While Parts II and III will look at user-generated blogs, the independent blogosphere as well as mobile and video blogging.

Back to today, we’ll be providing a picture of the online newspaper blogging landscape in the UK and have some interesting examples from the US.

Then we’ll take a look at some of the resources available for journalists looking to take their first step on the blogging ladder.

Blog – What is it?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a blog is “a frequently updated website consisting of personal observations, excerpts from other sources, etc., typically run by a single person, and usually with hyperlinks to other sites; an online journal or diary”.

SOA offers a more detailed definition, adding that a blog consists of entries presented in reverse chronological order with the latest posts (blog entries) showing first.

As we shall see from the examples below, newspaper blogs come in all shapes and sizes and range from the personal and opinionated to news round-ups (like this blog) to breaking news platforms.

However, they usually share these key features:

• Regular updates
• Posts presented by latest first
• Links to sources within posts
• Links to relevant websites in form of a blogroll
• Space for user comments

Why blog?

Journalists and editors may well be asking themselves what all this has to do with them. Should they be blogging? And if the answer is yes, what are the advantages to blogs?

Experienced journalist Alfred Hermida recently addressed the question of “Why blogs should play a role in journalism” on – where else – his blog, where he argues for more debate about its potential role as a publishing platform for reporters.

Meanwhile, new media pioneer Steve Outing advocates that reporters should start blogging to better understand how the “modern consumer interacts with media and news”.

[2008 All For Online]

And Scott Karp on his Publishing 2.0 blog goes even further and suggests all journalists should start blogging as it will enable them to become publishers and to build portfolios of online work.

Of course, not everyone subscribes to these views and Guardian technology correspondent Bobbie Johnson explains here why he believes blogging isn’t suited to all journalists.


There are a number of ways newspapers in the UK and beyond are incorporating blogs into their digital output.

To get an idea of what’s happening, we’ll take a look at some examples of editorial blogs, breaking news blogs and beat blogs.

Editorial Blogs

These usually provide a behind-the-scenes peek at the newsroom, explaining the decision-making process behind issues such as story selection and headline choices.

They provide a place for interaction between readers and the newsroom and can be group blogs or written by individual members of staff.

Examples include BBC blog The Editors, Sky News’s Editors’ Blog and the Birmingham Post’s News Blog, which has devoted several posts to editorial matters.

Some good examples from the US include the Fresno Bee with its Ask the Editors blog, the Raleigh News & Observer’s Editor’s Blog and the Los Angeles Times’s Readers’ Representative Journal.

The advantages of managing such an interactive service are discussed in a recent American Journalism Review piece.

[Editorial Blogs ‘Open Conversation’]

Meanwhile, a sort of hybrid editorial/personal genre of blog is cropping up in the UK on regional press websites.

A growing number of blogs penned by editors are appearing which discuss editorial decisions and provide an insight into their daily lives.

Some are more personal than others and leading the pack in that regard is Alistair Machray’s blog for the Liverpool Echo, where he chronicles his home and office lives.

Next up is Birmingham Mail editor Steve Dyson who’ll blog one day about putting together a splash and the next about his near-death choking experiences.

Joining Dyson in the blogosphere is Birmingham Post editor Marc Reeves who last month launched a blog entitled "What a UK daily newspaper editor is learning about online journalism".

[Second Brum Editor Launches Blog]

Other examples of these “edistorial” blogs include Mark Thomas’s blog for the Liverpool Daily Post and Adrian Seals’s blog for the Uxbridge Gazette.

Oh, and if you’re interested in some of the potential pitfalls of blogging, check out Seal’s latest post where he appeals to the person who’s sent him 217 blank replies during the past 24 hours to kindly desist.

Breaking news via blogs

The first known case of a newspaper using a blog to issue breaking news occurred in 1998 with the Charlotte Observer’s reporting of Hurricane Bonnie, according to Cyberjournalist.

And Online Journalism Review says a breaking news blog is a must-have for newsrooms in 2008, citing examples of its success in 2007 with the LA Times’s coverage of the Californian wildfires.

[OJR’s Online Lessons From ‘07]

The advantages of blogs for breaking stories can be seen from the BBC’s coverage of the plane crash at Heathrow in January where political editor Nick Robinson found himself at the end of the runway on another plane.

He posted updates from his vantage point directly to his blog, thus turning his political blog into a breaking news resource.

And the fastest way to break news with blogs? Well, according to Steve Outing it’s by using micro-blogging service Twitter (of which we’ll hear more in Part III).

The website enables members, using text messages, instant messaging and the web, to submit short posts (known as tweets).

Outing reckons regional newspapers should harness its capabilities for their own ends by getting reporters in the field to “tweet” about stories breaking on their patch and direct readers to these posts.

[Tweet – To Who?]

It’s a tactic followed by Birmingham Post journalist Joanna Geary who was twittering not long after February’s earthquake.

Beat Blogs

Journalists blogging by theme has been an established feature of newspaper websites for some time.

Cyberjournalist has a wiki containing a list of ongoing newspaper blogs and it’s certainly worth seeing to get an idea of which websites have an established blog network.

Also, if you write a blog then you can visit the wiki and add yourself to the ever-growing ranks.

Among the newspapers aiming to create blog networks as an integral part of their online offerings in the UK is the relaunched Birmingham Mail.

[Mail Aims To Be Midlands Portal]

Beat blogs are not only a way of distributing news, but are also a way of generating stories due to the interaction with users.

Citizen journalism pioneer Jay Rosen is putting this to the test with his latest venture – Beatblogging.org.

Rosen has teamed up with a dozen reporters who are experimenting with the social networking potential of beat blogs as a way of creating leads and meeting new sources.

[And The Beat Goes On]

And for anyone interested in what makes a good beat blog, Rosen and his team’s research into America’s best blogging newspapers is worth a look.

Finally, if you’re curious about the popularity of such blogs, Martin Belam produced a chart last year showing the most popular UK newspaper blogs by subscribers.

How Do I Begin Blogging?

There’s a plethora of online resources advising people on the best way to blog so here’s just a few to provide a starting point.

For general blogs, Publishing 2.0 offers some practical tips with this post.

Poynter Online’s “How to start a news blog” is short but sweet and Alfred Hermida offers some ideas about how to begin a breaking news blog.

A more in-depth discussion about journalism and blogging is available from Blog-Talk Radio.

The programme is hosted by new media professor Sree Sreenivasan and features best practice tips for print and broadcast journalist bloggers.

For those who want to cut to the chase, Poynter has a short round-up of the highlights of the show.

What About You?

So that’s it for BLOG I, hope there’s some useful information in there for any curious would-be bloggers.

Next time we’ll be looking at the world of user-generated blogs while the final part will look at independent bloggers and new trends such as mobile and video blogging.

And if you’re a journalist or editor with your own blog we’d love to hear from you and maybe we can include your blog in future instalments or regular blog posts.

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Citizen Paps Are 'New Prospectors'

The market for amateur snaps of well-known figures resembles a modern-day gold rush, says an industry insider.

Freelance photographer Brian Ach says so-called citizen paparazzi can now be found at most events, jostling for space alongside the professionals in the hope of making money.

He told the Wall Street Journal: “It becomes difficult when there are marked spots for traditional agencies at an event, and somebody with a little point-and-shoot shows up and says, ‘Well, I’m with so-and-so website.’”

According to the WSJ, the industry is being fuelled by growing numbers of gossip and showbiz news websites which pay for photos submitted by the public.

In addition, picture agencies such as Buzz Foto and Scoopt which encourage and buy user-generated content have also reportedly swelled the ranks of citizen photographers hunting their big payday.

Ach noted: “People hear about the videos of Britney crying somewhere getting $30,000. It’s kind of like the gold rush.”

While the head of British-based agency Mr Paparazzi attributes the growth in citizen paps to the fact that the public has a clear advantage in comparison to the professionals.

Darren Lyons said: “The public has greater access and better access than the official media at these times.”

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13 March 2008

Video To Be “Biggest Star” Of 2008

The fastest growing social media websites are video-sharing networks – according to a Nielsen analyst.

Alex Burmaster reckons video will dominate the social networking landscape this year and points out that many video-sharing sites achieved triple-digit growth during 2007.

Figures from Nielsen Online also revealed that YouTube has become the most popular social networking website among UK users, attracting 10.4 million unique visitors this January.

Others appearing in the top ten of the most visited social media sites in January 2008 are Wikipedia, Facebook, Bebo, Blogger and MySpace, reports the Guardian.

“The fact that almost two-thirds of Britons online visited at least one of the top social media sites shows it isn’t a niche part of the internet but is now the backbone supporting its growth,” says Burmaster.

He adds: “Whilst the majority of the most popular social media sites are the networks, most of the fastest growing are video sites, which points to video being the biggest star of the 2008 social media scene.”

Among the fastest-growing video sites in the past year are the How-to style Video Jug, TV show-sharing Veoh and the Chinese video-sharing website Tudou.

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Editors Share Interaction Best Practice

A group of regional press editors recently shared some of their initiatives aiming to improve online interaction with readers.

The ‘show and tell’ session at a Best Practice conference in the US saw local news editors reveal some of their projects to make opinion and editorial sections relevant in the digital age, according to Online Journalism Review.

For example, the Kansas City Star launched an Unfettered Letters page where correspondence submitted to the print edition is put online in the form of blog posts where readers can make comments.

The Charlotte Observer aims to engage readers with its You Write the Caption blog where users supply the words to best suit the picture provided each Monday by its professional cartoonist.

And the Portland Oregonian has created a cohort of reader bloggers after a trial process which saw successful applicants first produce one op-ed piece per week for three months.

The OJR states: “Those who have shown their ability to write professionally and meet deadlines have earned the right to blog directly to the Oregonian, unsupervised and unedited.”

In addition, the newspaper has carried out video interviews with each of its so-called community writers so readers can get an idea of who they are and put a face to the blog.

Further information on the conference, entitled Best Practices: Editorial and Commentary in Cyberspace, is available to view here.

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Trinity Trials Traffic Tool

A new tool which could enable newspapers to publish online-only readership figures is being piloted by Trinity Mirror.

Developers told Journalism.co.uk that the metric device measures people rather than computers so can identify when the same visitors use different hardware to access the website.

The publishing company hopes the tool will provide a picture of the total reach of its websites and show how many users do not read the newspaper but visit the site.

Trinity Mirror describes the software as the “most accurate form of multimedia internet audience measurement available”.

Results from the trials, taking place at the group’s regional titles, will become available in the summer.


12 March 2008

Blogs - 50 Most Powerful

A list of the 50 most powerful blogs across the globe has been compiled by the Observer.

Blogging subjects among the top 50 range from political to personal to pop-culture, with a helping of techie news thrown in for good measure.

The newspaper places US political blog the Huffington Post at the top of the tree, citing its launch as a seminal moment in the evolution of the blogosphere.

According to the Observer: “The history of political blogging might usefully be divided into the periods pre- and post-Huffington.”

It adds that the Huffington Post “showed that many of the old rules still applied to the new medium: a bit of marketing savvy and deep pockets could go just as far as geek credibility, and get there faster”.

Other political blogs making the top 50 include the Drudge Report, Marbury, a British expat’s take on American politics and Talking Points Memo, which recently won an award for its investigative journalism. [Blogger Scoops Reporting Award]

Personal blogs making the chart include Dooce, whose author was one of the first bloggers to be sacked from the day job for blogging activities, anonymous blog Angry Black Bitch, and Greek Tragedy from Stephanie Klein.

Showbiz gossip blogs also feature several times, with the highest entry going to Perezhilton, with Britain's Holy Moly not far behind.

Finally, and not too surprisingly, tech and web news blogs find themselves dotted around the top 50, including Techcrunch, Engadget and social networking news source Mashable.


Spanish-Speakers ‘Catch Citizen Journalism Bug’

Innovative citizen journalism projects are growing across Spain and Spanish-speaking nations, according to an influential blog.

PBS MediaShift has produced an interesting landscape report detailing the latest efforts in Spain, South and Latin America to involve users in the production of content.

The blog post looks at user-generated content initiatives from leading newspapers such as Spain’s El Pais, whose Yo, Periodista section enables users to submit news and feature articles as well as photos and videos.

In addition, the blog provides snapshot reports on the latest newspaper-led and independent citizen journalism projects across several South American countries.

The two converge with Peru’s “citizen-generated newspaper” Gua 3.0, which has done some investigating into the inadequacy of government aid supplies to flood victims and also offers hyperlocal news and events updates.

However, the blog notes that the rising trend of Spanish language citizen journalism websites has not yet extended to the US, which has a significant Spanish-speaking population.

“Perhaps the citizen journalism bug will spread northward and US Latinos might find that, if the stories important to them aren’t covered, they can cover it themselves.”

Have a look at MediaShift for more examples of citizen journalism projects in Spain, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and other nations.


Pay-Per-View For UGC Site

Visitors to a citizen journalism website will soon have to pay to see its photographs.

User-generated content site Skoeps has confirmed plans to introduce pay-per-view charges to increase the financial incentives for potential contributors.

Journalism.co.uk reports that Skoeps is set to launch the new system within the next few months.

The organisation’s managing director also revealed it is eliminating its ad spend this year and using the budget to pay its contributors instead.

“Last year we spent €500,000 on advertising. This year we will spend nothing and everything we were going to spend will go back to the site's community,” said Marcel Houtman.

He added: “ It’s very important to give something back, because those are the people that make it. We are only editing it.”

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11 March 2008

Sky Wants Your Videos

Users will soon be able to upload their videos directly onto the Sky News website as it seeks to attract more user-generated content.

The broadcaster plans to embed its own video-sharing website - Skycast - into its news pages so people can submit their videos to be viewed by Sky producers, reports Journalism.co.uk.

Sky News associate editor Simon Bucks said of Skycast: “It was originally conceived of as a consumer-facing product, but we think it makes much more sense to integrate it into our existing site, in a sense creating a white label operation.”

He added that the move could help attract “raw” video footage and asserted that “increasingly people are going to be shooting stuff that will be valuable to us”.

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Poll Reveals Web Attitudes

Almost one in two Americans say the Web is their first port of call for news, a new survey finds.

Research from We Media/Zogby Interactive reveals that 48% of people in the US cited the internet as their primary source of news, compared to 10% who said newspapers are their chief source.

Among young readers (aged 18 to 29) this percentage increases to 55% who say they get the majority of their news from online sources.

The Web also came out on top regarding trustworthiness as just shy of one-third of respondents said websites are their most trusted source for news and information.

It was mixed news for the blogosphere though as 59% said they believe blogging is significant for the future of journalism but only 1% considered blogs as their most trusted news source.

The results - available to view here - will be presented at this week’s We Media forum in Miami, which is organised by US media think-tank, the Institute for Connected Society.

iFOCOS co-founder Andrew Nachison commented on the findings: “We see clearly the generational shift of digital natives from traditional to online news - so the challenge for traditional news companies is complex.

“They need to invest in new products and services - and they have. But they’ve also got to invest in quality, influence and impact.

“They need to invest in journalism that makes a difference in people’s lives.

"That’s a moral and leadership challenge - and a business opportunity for whoever can meet it.”

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Paper Launches £500K Property Search

A newspaper group has launched a new website advertising sales and lettings properties in the north of England.

Holdthefrontpage.co.uk reports that the CN Group, which publishes titles including the Cumberland News and Hexham Courant, has created the site at a cost of £500,000.

Features of clickin2property.co.uk range from property searches to maps and photo galleries and it offers information about local schools and facilities.

Visitors can also search for homes nationwide through the CN Group’s partnership with the Property Today search service.


10 March 2008

Executive Treatment for Social Networkers

An exclusive online social network for high-ranking businesspeople is being launched by the Financial Times.

The FT says its Media & Technology Executive Membership Forum enables senior managers to network with their peers via the internet.

Costing up to £2,000 per year, the service includes premium access to the FT online and entry to offline networking events throughout the year.

FT Global Conference Director Jayne van Hoen asserted that the service “provides a highly-targeted network where executives from these fast-moving industries can connect and share their knowledge”.

The forum offers a good example of a newspaper tailoring the latest digital tools to create a service suited to its user demographic.

Further details on this story can be found at the Guardian and Press Gazette.


Question Time For Tribune Users

Users are putting their political questions directly to journalists covering the US primaries thanks to an innovative video project.

The Chicago Tribune’s Video Chats feature is devoting its time to the presidential nomination polls and provides the public with a chance to put their posers to the professionals.

Last week’s latest half-hour telecast featured reporter Mike Dorning answering readers’ queries about the March 4 primaries in Ohio and Texas.

The so-called Interactive Chats have up to 500 participants submitting their questions, which are typed up by a producer so they appear on the screen during the live show.

“We wanted to have a little more interactivity with our audience,” said the Tribune’s interactive executive producer, Clark Bender.

He told Newspapers & Technology: “You can do regular chat, but it was good to try video chat because we liked the connection that it had with the audience.”

Bender added: “I don’t think we’ve ever had any delusions that we’re going to have thousands and thousands of people watching these chats.

“Maybe someday we can grow into that. Right now it’s something of a toe in the water as we figure out what we are going to do.”

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PCC Investigates Social Networking Content

The use of content uploaded to social networking websites is to be examined by the Press Complaints Commission (PCC).

Director Tim Toulmin revealed to BBC Radio 4 that the body has commissioned research to investigate how newspapers use personal information uploaded onto sites such as Facebook and Bebo.

The PCC will also carry out interviews with members of the public to find out their awareness of how content on such sites could be used by the press, reports Journalism.co.uk.

Toulmin said: “We are aware that people are putting up stuff to these sites with the expectation that it is going to a limited number of people, but if they become the subject of a news story it may end up being published to a great deal more people than they initially envisaged.”

He added: “That’s not to say that newspapers and magazines are not entitled to take some of the information that is out there that people have volunteered, but it does mean that people should be aware that the consequences of uploading personal information online might be not quite what they had considered.”

There have been a number of high-profile stories this year where reporters’ use of information from social networking websites has been called into question.

Last month the Guardian published an article about the press’s use of personal content from social websites in its coverage of a spate of suicides in south Wales.


07 March 2008

Managing Comments “Not Rocket Science”

Flummoxed by how to manage readers’ comments? A social media consultant offers his best practice guide.

The current VP-Editorial at the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News reckons newspapers often fail with user interaction initiatives and “seem allergic to the idea of letting readers have their say”.

According to Mark Potts, the solution is for newspapers to “trust the readers” and get to the stage where they are only managing the tiny proportion of posters who want to abuse the system.

He notes on his blog: “Sifting through all the acceptable comments to find the offensive ones is like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack. It’s just not worth it.”

Potts has recently put his plans into action at Philly.com and here are his top tips for successfully managing comments.

1. Required Registration with Confirmable E-Mail Address

“Pure anonymity is a recipe for disaster”

2. Unique Usernames

“We suggest that readers use their real names; some do, but that's a subliminal effort to make it clear that posters' identity is important to us.”

3. Profanity Filter

“Filtering comments and rejecting them if they use a banned word is one of the simplest ways to control comments.”

4. “Report Abuse” Buttons

“Enlists the community in the effort to police what's happening in comments or on discussion boards.”

5. Clear, Upbeat Language About Behaviour

Comments forms “set a tone and clear expectations for behaviour”.

6. Selectivity About Stories Getting Comments

“We’re avoiding stories that might be racially charged, for instance.”

7. No Formal Moderation of Comments

“We keep an eye on them, but not in a systematic way. We trust the “report abuse” function to let us know if there are problems.”

And a final thought from Potts: “I think all of the problems that newspaper sites have with implementing comments is a metaphor for the old-school newsroom thinking that’s crippled the transition to a more conversational style of journalism.”


06 March 2008

MEN Reveals Web Traffic Stats

Data detailing online traffic figures is being made public by the Manchester Evening News.

Holdthefrontpage.co.uk reports that the MEN is the first regional newspaper to publish its web statistics alongside print circulation information.

Initial figures show that the MEN’s website was visited by over 1.5 million unique users during the course of November last year.

“We acknowledge that these remain challenging times for our industry and have responded by breaking new ground in how we get the news to people in our area,” commented Mark Rix, managing director at MEN Media.

He added: “We aren’t frightened of facing the circulation decline of the regional press full on and looking for ways to attract new readers while maintaining our important paid for readers.”


Mail Campaign Sparks 'Great Debate'

A campaign launched last year by the Birmingham Mail has elicited over 1,300 comments on a forum.

The thread concerning the Mail’s call for an elected mayor referendum has been viewed almost 186,000 times and has drawn some 1,383 responses since its posting in March 2007.

Featuring on the forum of local website The Stirrer, the thread accounts for some 8% of its host’s activity and shows that newspapers can encourage debates on sites other than their own.

Mail editor Steve Dyson notes on his blog: “I think it’s great that so many people have been engaged in thinking and talking about politics.”

He adds: “Most interesting of all are the posters who register dismay, anger, nay, disgust at the subject.

“And yet they still can't resist commenting... day after day. A right row goes on most days.”

The Stirrer, which also exists as a blog, is managed by Mail columnist Adrian Goldberg.

Its tagline is “News that matters, campaigns that count”.

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05 March 2008

Blogger Scoops Reporting Award

A political blogger has won an award recognising excellence in investigative journalism.

Josh Marshall has become the first blogger to receive a prestigious George Polk Award for his investigations into the dismissals of two attorneys in the US.

According to the awards body, Marshall’s Talking Points Memo (TPM) and TPMmuckraker blogs “led the news media in coverage of the politically motivated dismissals of United States attorneys across the country”.

In addition, it notes that “Marshall’s tenacious investigative reporting sparked interest by the traditional news media” and led to the resignation of the attorney general.

TPM and TPMmuckraker are part of Marshall’s TPM Media, which employs two staff reporter-bloggers.

Handed out by Long Island University in Brooklyn, the George Polk Awards were founded in 1949 and claim to be among the most coveted journalism prizes in the US.


Pole To Pole News Via Blog

A blog launched by the Newcastle Evening Chronicle is helping to forge new relations in the North East.

Poles to Newcastle acts as a bilingual information resource for Poles living on Tyneside, offering advice about settling into British society.

Updated weekly by Polish interpreter Alexandra Jarocka, the blog also aims to help Polish emigres find friends and learn about social events.

Evening Chronicle editor Paul Robertson told journalism.co.uk: “Hopefully Alex’s blog can help integrate the Polish community into life in the North East and provide a platform through the Chronicle where they can discuss issues or seek advice.”

And following feedback from English readers, the blog is becoming something of a cultural exchange tool as users have asked Jarocka to tell them things about life in Poland.

She writes: “I would like to let you know that this blog is getting very popular, not only with the Polish community but English too, which is fantastic.

“I am receiving a lot of letters from the English community asking if I can write about Poland as well as England, so we can all understand each others lives and so on.”


Glasgow’s Hyperlocal Sites Go Live

A dozen community websites have been launched this month by the Glasgow Evening Times.

It hopes users will provide the bulk of the content for the hyperlocal websites - with the newspaper declaring, “what interests you, interests us”.

All the websites include a local news section and a community noticeboard where local clubs and societies can post information.

Visitors are encouraged to help build a detailed history of their neighbourhood and an interactive Google map feature enables users to upload and share local knowledge and photos.

Members can also create their own mini-sites so schools, clubs and other associations have their own pages.

In a message to readers, the Evening Times states that the websites have been created “to let your friends, neighbours and the rest of Glasgow know what is happening in your community”.

The paper continues: “We want to put you in control, to give you a platform to discuss local issues, post pictures and videos, announce events or just submit something you think is interesting.”

Finally, the Evening Times appeals: “Join with us to make these the most happening and up to date websites across the country.”

A total of 80 community websites are scheduled to be rolled out by the newspaper during the course of this year.

Further details on the project can be found at holdthefrontpage.co.uk and Press Gazette.

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04 March 2008

JFK Files Open For Crowdsourcing

Readers are helping a newspaper search for clues among papers relating to the assassination of John F Kennedy.

The online version of the Dallas Morning News is asking visitors to turn detective by reading through scanned documents found in a “secret treasure-trove” and to contact them directly if they find “something interesting”.

The newspaper said it is appealing for users’ help due to the sheer volume of documents and has 90% of the material available for view.

Discovered last month in a district attorney’s safe, the papers comprise personal and official letters, police reports and other files, some of which relate to assassin Lee Harvey Oswald and his killer Jack Ruby.

Visitors can also download a PDF version of a report concerning the transcript of an alleged conversation between Oswald and Ruby.

And users are encouraged to use the newspaper’s online forum to discuss their findings and thoughts on the newly discovered documents.

As well as this crowdsourcing project, the Dallas Morning News has deployed a range of multimedia tools to report the story, including video footage and photographs of the current DA unveiling the documents.


03 March 2008

“Historical Advance” For The Post

The Birmingham Post has relaunched its website with promises of breaking news, great debate and analysis.

Among the new features are an impressive range of blogs covering topics from news to lifestyle to business.

The Post has recruited bloggers from outside the newsroom too with a local lawyer and a China-based English teacher offering their thoughts via new blogs.

Joining the bloggers is editor Marc Reeves, as reported here in February, who says the website represents “a truly historical advance” for the 150-year-old newspaper.

Reeves writes on the blog: “From now on, all the insight, news and analysis you have rightly come to expect from us is just a click away every minute of the day.

“We’ll be breaking news and bringing you information on your sector of interest that you just can’t get anywhere else - and even more than you can get in the newspaper."

He adds: “Our roster of knowledgeable and provocative bloggers will ensure the Post’s reputation as a home for argument and debate live on into the digital age.”

The unveiling follows last month’s relaunch of the website of sister paper the Birmingham Mail [Mail Aims To Be Midlands Portal].

Further information on the relaunch can be found at journalism.co.uk and holdthefrontpage.co.uk.


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