30 April 2008

Tips To Avoid Online “Shots In The Dark”

Advice on how to approach some of online journalism’s latest tools is being provided by American Journalism Review.

The article Online Frontier suggests that newspapers should incorporate “must-do products” such as video, podcasting and microblogging platform Twitter.

But it stresses that a gung-ho approach may not be the most effective, and advocates considered planning instead.

So here are author Barb Palser’s four top tips for using new technologies:

* “Offer your customers what they want, not what you want to give them.”

Palser, who is director of digital media at McGraw-Hill Broadcasting, says past examples like TV news webcasts show that the tools you might want to work will not succeed if there is simply no demand for it.

* “Plan around the content, not the tools.”

According to Palser, it should be “what’s the best way to get this information out?” rather than “let’s find a reason to use Twitter”.

* “Practice healthy scepticism…”

This relates to “fabulous products” that rivals may be using and new tools as they come into view. Palser recommends test-driving new products first and finding out how others got on with them.

* “Always monitor the research and keep an open mind.”

Palser suggests that means of media consumption can change dramatically in a short space of time, so newspapers have to keep their eyes on the ball at all times.

She concludes that the newspapers which have the ability to meet user demands will be more successful online.

“The prize will go to those who know how to listen and react to their customers, not those who launch the most products the fastest.

“Anything we do in this space will be a gamble, but we needn’t take shots in the dark.”

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UGC Site Scoops New Media Prize

A website dedicated to user-generated content (UGC) has topped its category at the recent Newspaper Awards.

Your Mail from the Hull Daily Mail emerged triumphant to win the Best Use of New Media title in the newspaper production awards.

The website was launched earlier this year and its content - from neighbourhood news stories to messageboards and photo galleries - is supplied by users.

According to holdthefrontpage.co.uk, the judges stated that the UGC site is an example of innovative community media and a good blueprint for interaction between newspapers and their audiences.

“The site has had an encouraging start. It has just passed the landmark of 1,000 registered users and has established itself as a mature and responsible forum for people to communicate with others on issues of their choice,” commented John Meehan, editor of the Hull Daily Mail and Mail News & Media.

He added: “The major challenges now are to build a larger, engaged audience and to grow the traffic on the site, while also generating revenues from this new form of publishing.”

The Best Use of New Media category also featured a commendation for the Herald Express in Torquay for a recruitment campaign.

And the coveted award for Electronic News Site of the Year went to timesonline.co.uk, with commendations for the Guardian, BBC and Manchester Evening News.

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UCLan Forum Debates Digital Business Models

Speakers including Web 2.0 pioneer Chris Anderson have put forward their ideas on viable business models for newspapers in the digital age.

Anderson formed part of the panel at the 9th Journalism Leaders Forum, staged by the University of Central Lancashire, which looked at the financial future for media companies.

The “Long Tail” author joined the debate via the Web from San Francisco and offered some interesting and provocative views on money matters.

Is Freemium The Future?

The freemium concept could be an alternative business model for online newspapers in the digital era, according to Anderson.

The editor-in-chief of Wired says the freemium idea could offer a direct revenue channel in addition to advertising earnings.

With freemium models, the majority of users can access services and content for free while the most active visitors pay a fee for premium features.

It is already used by several prominent websites, including photo-sharing site Flickr and web-based call service Skype.

According to Anderson, the freemium model would see news sites give away free content to 99% of users and charge the “engaged minority” of 1%.

Anderson also told delegates that newspapers need to change their attitudes towards the relationship between advertising and editorial in the digital age.

“We need to rethink our sense of an impermeable barrier between journalism and filthy lucre.”

He asserts that online consumers are “very sophisticated” and understand that adverts within editorial sections are placed there algorithmically by software systems.

Anderson says this awareness means the internet audience has “different expectations” compared to its print equivalent.

“Harness Your Readers”

Anderson is something of a crowdsourcing evangelist and suggests that future business models could involve using readers to create content.

He points out that newspapers need to harness the power of their “engaged, smart, informed, opinionated readers”.

Anderson sees this happening particularly in the area of hyperlocal news, where he envisions journalists becoming more like “community organisers, facilitators and editors” working with amateurs.

He concludes by saying it’s his job at Wired to hunt out the cleverest people who don’t work for him, harness their wisdom and help them to solve their own problems.

More Details...

Further information about the conference and its panel, which also included myfootballwriter.com founder Rick Waghorn and Hitwise representative Anton Grutzmacher, can be found at the Journalism Leaders Forum website and blog.

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29 April 2008

BBC Blogs Now Require Registration

Anyone wanting to post a comment on any BBC blog will now have to be registered in order to do so.

BBC Blog Editor Giles Wilson says the corporation has introduced the change to iron out technical problems, reduce levels of spam and to maintain the “standard of debate”.

Wilson writes on The Editors blog that the move is also intended to introduce standards across the board for blogs, improving on the previous situation where some required registration and some didn’t.

He maintains that the BBC has “got a pretty strong stomach for comments” and has in the past published plenty of comments which have been critical of the organisation.

The editor adds: “In a matter like this there are always competing interests - no doubt some people will feel cheated that they now have to register to leave a comment.”

He concludes: “But we’ve thought long and hard about the best thing to do, and believe that this is likely to be the most effective and efficient way of publishing as many comments as possible.”

Wilson also notes that the BBC is continuing “to strive to do better” in relation to blogging journalists responding to comments more often.

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Citizen Media Site To Pay Contributors

A citizen journalism website is offering membership of a revenue-sharing project to its regular writers.

The revamped DigitalJournal says payment will be based on the number of articles submitted each month and the rankings they achieve.

However, the initiative is only open to citizen journalists who upload news stories and will not include payments for blogs, videos or photographs.

“DigitalJournal.com is the first online community where citizen journalists actually get paid for contributing,” states the website.

“With an always-growing cash pool, every single citizen journalist gets a chance to compete for a share of the moneypot. The more you contribute, the more you earn.”

People looking to become members of the revenue-sharing club will first need to have their work approved by DigitalJournal to show they can find and write relevant pieces.

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Pulitzer Winners Showcase Web Power

This year’s Pulitzer Prizes highlight excellent examples of online work in breaking news, public service and feature journalism.

About one-fifth of entries contained some online elements and web-based stories are well represented among the award winners, reports Poynter Online.

The Washington Post received the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News for its “multi-faceted coverage” of the Virginia Tech shootings both in print and online.

And the Post also achieved the gold medal in the Public Service category for its investigations into the treatment of veterans in a military hospital.

Winning the Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography is a striking example of effective multimedia storytelling from the Concord Monitor.

Remember Me uses photograph slideshows and audio clips to chronicle the experiences of a wife and mother dying from cancer.

The six-part feature has many poignant images and includes moving interviews with the family.

Pulitzer Prize administrator Sig Gissler has confirmed that the number of entries containing online elements is growing each year.

He told Poynter: “Entrants are getting better at integrating single, unified elements into Pulitzer entries, instead of dropping in a kind of digital glob (we say entire Web sites should not be submitted as part of the core entry).”

Gissler added: “We will continue to refine our procedures and monitor the whole field.”

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28 April 2008

Newspaper Blogs Must ‘Increase Interaction’

A study of newspaper blogs has concluded that they must “generate a conversation” if they are to emulate the success of independent blogs.

The joint project from two US universities looked at political blogs written by newspaper journalists during one week before autumn elections in 2006.

It found that commitment to blogging varies widely, with one in four blogs receiving no posts at all during the sample period.

Plus, research revealed that 80% of newspaper bloggers did not post any responses to comments submitted by readers during the five days.

Author Lori Demo writes: “These blogs offer individuals an opportunity to communicate outside the dominant media structure found in news stories, staff columns and letters to the editor.

“To be as effective as some of the more popular citizen-produced blogs, however, newspaper versions must attract an audience and generate a conversation.”

The paper also suggests that the mainstream media blogging landscape does not seem to support the notion that blogs have the potential to “save democracy and revive journalism”.

Further details on the study can be found on the Ball State University website.


A Lesson In The Benefits Of Blogging

Blogger Jeff Jarvis has outlined the advantages - both financial and otherwise - of writing a new media blog.

Jarvis left his job with Conde Nast to become a full-time blogger in 2005, and says he has never looked back in terms of income, job satisfaction and variety of work.

And he puts a price on all this too - pointing out that his Buzzmachine blog costs $327 (£165) per year in hosting costs and makes him approximately $13,855 (£7,000) in advertising revenue.

That’s not to mention the indirect financial benefits, which Jarvis says include a teaching job at a New York university which he obtained after gaining attention in the blogosphere.

In his Guardian column, also a result of the blog, Jarvis asserts that Buzzmachine has brought him a range of consultancy jobs.

He writes: “The only reason I get those gigs is because companies read the ideas I discuss at Buzzmachine and ask me to come and repeat them in PowerPoint form and explore them with their staff.”

Jarvis reveals that he has also secured a book contract for an idea he first discussed on his blog.

He concludes: “The blog has stoked my ego, getting me on TV and on conference stages to blather to audiences far and wide.

“It has also checked my ego, as my readers never hesitate to challenge and correct me.

“It has forced me to be more open to new ideas. It has given me a second career playing with new toys; professionally, it keeps me young.

“Personally, it has made me countless new friends and reconnected me with old ones, owing to a blog’s ability to give a person a strong identity in Google searches.

“People ask how I have the time to blog on top of everything else. But the real question is, how could I not blog when it leads to so much more?”


26 April 2008

All a-Twitter over Football Match

The Evening Leader used mobile phones and micro-blogging platform Twitter to provide 140-character live updates from Saturday’s football match between Wrexham and Accrington Stanley.

The coverage is available through a widget on the paper’s website and to followers of the Evening Leader’s Wrexham Twitter account.

The newspaper already publishes links to its news stories through a separate Twitter account set up last week.

Martin Wright, deputy editor of the Evening Leader and lifelong Wrexham fan, told journalism.co.uk: "I go to as many Wrexham home games as I can, but inevitably I end up missing some.

"When I’m at work, this can be a bit of a problem because I want to know the score and what’s happening all the time - not just when the final whistle goes.

"By Twittering live from the match, we can now make sure that other Wrexham fans don’t have this problem."

Digital editor Christian Dunn described the new service as "a very cheap and simple way to keep a section of our site regularly updated. It’s another way the Evening Leader is embracing web technology to offer our readers a better service."

On the down side, the team lost its match, bowing out of the Football League in the process. Sorry, Martin ...

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25 April 2008

Fans Get Inside View From Video Diary

An online video diary is offering an insight into the Wembley experience from the perspective of the players.

Holdthefrontpage.co.uk reports that the exclusive four-part series is the brainchild of the Grimsby Telegraph’s sports desk and follows the fortunes of Grimsby Town in a recent trophy final at Wembley.

Wembley Video Diary was put together by Town players Danny North and Nick Hegarty and follows the lads on the trip down south and onto the hallowed turf.

The videos include a passionate team-talk from the manager, interviews with players in their hotel dressing gowns and pre-match shots from the dressing room.

In addition, they give Town fans a unique insight into the spirit and camaraderie of their team, with footage from the team bus and hotel breakfast tables.

It’s thanks to a journalist’s relations with the club that the idea was turned into a reality.

“Our chief football writer David Pye has a really good relationship with the players,” said James McMath, deputy sports editor at the Telegraph. He said the two team members also were “really up for it.”

He added: “The video was edited by Peter Craig, one of our video journalists from the news department, whose task it was to ensure the content was family-friendly.”

All the hard work seems to have paid off for McMath and his team: “So far we’ve had nothing but positive feedback, and fans really appreciate the chance to have a rare insight into what goes on behind the scenes.”


24 April 2008

Archant Websites No Longer “Bolt-Ons”

Publisher Archant has launched a series of revamped news websites as online responsibilities shift to editorial staff.

The group states that web-based operations have come under the jurisdiction of editorial departments for the first time since their introduction in 2000.

And with the new teams has come a new in-house design for sites such as Cambs 24 and Herts 24, as well as an assurance that the refreshed websites are not just servants to the print editions.

“Now, rather than just being a bolt-on to the newspaper they represent, the sites really have emerged into entities of their own,” asserts web editor Sam Newby-Ricci.

She adds: “It is an exciting time locally for our websites.

“All brands have worked hard to ensure that we are now a multimedia business, rather than just print.”

The publisher carried out a survey late last year asking users what style and services they wanted to keep and lose.

Archant says the results of this research are reflected in the new “clean and fresh design”, which it claims is more user-friendly and easier to navigate.

Newsquest Launches Jobs Site

A recruitment website from publisher Newsquest has gone live.

JobsSW.co.uk offers job search information for the south-west of England and also includes fact-files on each location covered.

These include details on local services such as transport and education, as well as information on leisure and entertainment amenities, sports clubs and “famous facts”.

Among the towns and cities covered are Bristol, Exeter, Plymouth, Taunton and Penzance.

In addition, the website has a Google Maps feature to help job-seekers locate vacancies by area.

The publisher’s managing director for Somerset, Vincent Boni, told holdthefrontpage.co.uk: “We deliver a unique experience for people looking for work, either from within or outside of the region.”

He added: “We have added value to the traditional jobs search portal by integrating other factors to consider when making work-life decisions.”


23 April 2008

The Truth About Google News

Google News recently debunked a few myths and confirmed some rumours about the factors influencing its rankings and content.

And here are some of the truths:

* Redesigning websites can affect coverage on Google News

Google says this is because its crawlers can sometimes struggle to navigate the new design and may need to be updated.

* Updating stories can cause problems with Google News

Because its crawlers only check each URL once, Google News will not reflect any updates. It hopes to bring in re-crawling capabilities soon.

* Photo or video-only articles will not be included

Google crawlers look for text content, so any items without any text at all will not feature on Google News.

And now for some of those myths:

* Timing publication can improve ranking

Google says this is not true, explaining that its algorithms take several factors into consideration before producing a cluster of “best articles”.

“Whether you publish before, after, or in the midst of when other publishers post articles won’t affect your article ranking.”

And Google warns: “If we detect that a source is constantly rewriting stories in order to game the system, we will flag the source in our system.”

* Including images enhances ranking

Not true, says Google, although it says including a good picture improves the chances of getting that image shown.

* You never know why your articles don’t appear

Google says publishers can create an account via its Webmaster Tools to find out why articles are not showing up in Google News.

Full details of the myths and truths can be found on the Google News Blog.

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22 April 2008

Multimedia Chronicles Life In San Fran

The everyday existence of San Francisco residents forms the latest subject of an online multimedia project.

San Francisco Chronicle journalist Mike Kepka took his inspiration from the lives happening around him to produce a series of photo galleries with accompanying audio clips.

Among his subjects is a flower seller, a promotional worker dressed as the Statue of Liberty, an impromptu Easter bonnet party and a small group of lads out for St Patrick’s Day drinks.

Kepka illustrates each snapshot of a life with a series of images while allowing the subjects to tell their own stories in their own words.

Entitled The City Exposed, the collection caught the eye of Editor & Publisher’s online editor Pauline Millard and is included in her recent picks of multimedia initiatives on US news sites.

Millard writes that each set of photos and audio represents “an instant story that is told in less than five minutes”.

“The project isn’t complicated but shows a nice swatch of San Francisco.”

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Day In The Life Of A VJ

An insight into the work of video journalists (VJs) in the regional press is provided by a new case study.

The multimedia piece from Journalism.co.uk features the video team from the Wolverhampton Express & Star and follows the head of video and the two VJs on a typical day.

Via video and audio interviews, slideshows and text, the case study presents a chronological view of events and shows how each package is put together.

Journalists talk about some of the techniques they use while out filming and explain what they like about their jobs.

The article shows that interviewing passersby, amateur model makers and Championship footballers is all in a day’s work for regional VJs.

And it features a useful breakdown for each assignment, showing how long was spent on the various components to complete the finished product.


21 April 2008

“Turning Point” for Yahoo! Online Ads?

Yahoo! has announced that it will be launching its new online advertising management platform this year.

AMP! represents a union between the internet giant and a consortium of US newspaper publishers as they attempt to simplify web-based ad models.

Yahoo! says the system enables agencies to buy advertising space such as search, display or mobile by using a single integrated interface.

In addition, it claims that AMP! allows advertisers to target audiences by location, demographic features and their interests.

“We’re blown away by how Yahoo! is working with intensity and commitment to create a collaborative and very efficient platform that we expect will have a significant impact on our sales capabilities,” asserts Jay Smith, president of Cox Newspapers. “This is a turning point for our industry.

He adds: “We are equally excited about the tremendous value Yahoo! sees in our great local newspaper content, which is getting broader exposure nationally on some of Yahoo!’s most popular sites.”

A phased rollout of AMP! with participating newspapers is planned to begin in the third quarter of this year.

More information can be found in this press release from Yahoo! and this video demonstration of AMP!.


19 April 2008

Top Tips for Video Journalists

Newspapers may be looking to their TV counterparts for film inspiration - but one video journalist reckons they need to “mix it up” a bit, too.

Practitioner and trainer David Dunkley Gyimah concedes there’s nothing wrong with using “the bedrock of TV style shooting” as a template, but he believes VJs can also learn from other forms such as feature films.

To make his point, he offers the benefits of his experience with a brief guide to shooting video - highlighting the pitfalls and offering some best practice tips.


“All stories have an inbuilt metronome. It can be languid or pacey. You can affect its pace in the edit, but try and feel the pulse.”

Tell The Story

“Unless you’re shooting docs and are adept at observational-based features, there are many occasions when you’ll need a narrative.”

The narrative should explain the story and provide background context.

Vocal Coaching

“The voice is an instrument and can telegraph emotion and meaning. Learn how to use it. ... Some broadcasters often start their careers mimicking a favourite before their voice comes into its own.”


Journalists can produce superior videos if they do things the hard way and “script to picture rather than the easier picture to script”.

Words, Words, Words

“Write the spoken word, not the literary one. That often means halving your word count and working to active sentences with few parentheses.”

The Interview

“Interview in situ. You don’t always need the set up - rule of thirds interview.”

Learn From Others

“If you’re shooting to TV’s stanza, you run the risk of making your videos stale after a while. … Watch what other people are doing, not as a spectator but as a technician.”

Go Against The Grain

“Learn to break the rules that are there to help you on your way to shooting video. Remember they’re just guidelines: rule of third, crossing the line.”

The full version of the guide can be viewed on Dunkley Gyimah’s blog.


18 April 2008

Law ‘Can’t Protect Online Video’

A judge has allowed the News of the World to put a sex video back up on its website after ruling that it would be a “futile gesture” to stop it.

In a decision that could have a significant impact upon future legal cases, Mr Justice David Eady said the video clip was so widely available across the internet that it would be pointless to stop the newspaper from hosting it.

The court action was brought against the newspaper by the film’s subject - Formula One chief Max Mosley - who claims that its publication is a breach of his privacy.

Press Gazette reports that the judge saw the 90-second video, which shows Mosley engaged in sexual activities with five prostitutes, before making his ruling.

Mr Justice Eady said: “I have, with some reluctance, come to the conclusion that, although this material is intrusive and demeaning, and despite the fact that there is no legitimate public interest in its further publication, the granting of an order against this respondent at the present juncture would merely be a futile gesture.”

He added that since the video has been copied many times and viewed almost 1.5 million times, “the dam has effectively burst”.

“Anyone who wishes to access the footage can easily do so, and there is no point in barring the News of the World from showing what is already available.”

He concluded that in practical terms there is “no longer anything which the law can protect”.

The News of the World voluntarily removed the video following a complaint from Mosley’s solicitors.

It has now been put back up, along with a statement about the case from the newspaper’s legal manager.

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Rescue Film Offers Car Crash Insight

A journalist filmed himself being cut out of a car by firemen to show the perspective of injured drivers in a crash.

Chad reporter Adam Raistrick used a hand-held pocket camera to capture the moment when the team removed the roof to reach him, as part of a fire brigade extrication exercise.

As well as the driver’s view, the whole rescue scene was shot by a photographer and then the two films were used together in the online video.

Digital Content Manager Tom Pegg told holdthefrontpage.co.uk that it was this aspect of the project which makes it unusual.

He said: “We are proud of the video piece because we think the use of two different cameras really brings it to life.

“We’ve been working hard on the quality of our video reports and I think this shows here.”

Raistrick recounts his experiences in the car and during his removal in the text accompaniment to the video.


17 April 2008

Post Beats Sky To Online Exclusive

The Birmingham Post was the first news provider to break a national news story online last week.

Editor Marc Reeves says the regional daily newspaper beat broadcasters such as Sky News to confirm on the Web that the two arrested Birmingham City executives were managing director Karren Brady and co-owner David Sullivan.

And he told holdthefrontpage.co.uk that the experience has taught him a lot about web-based journalism.

“We spoke to two or three contacts and confirmed exactly who it was. Then it was a race to get in online.”

He noted: “It was good old-fashioned fun with the web at the heart of it.

“It was very interesting - I am very much learning about the life cycle of stories online.”

Reeves added that Sky News was about five minutes behind the newspaper in getting the names on the internet.


Virginia Tech Video Wins BOP Award

A film of students and families saying thanks to the world has been recognised at this year’s Best of Photojournalism (BOP) Awards.

The video from the Roanoke Times came first in the small newspaper website category for Best News Video.

Virginia Tech Thanks The World captures the moment when thousands of students, relatives and local residents gathered on a sports field to send a global message via a passing imaging satellite.

The Roanoke Times also took the title’s second prize for its First In Line On Black Friday video, which showed what people do to pass the time when they’re queuing overnight for bargains at the Best Buy store.

Also recognised by the judging panel was the Oakland Tribune for its Caltrans Worker Safety film.

First prize in the large newspaper website category went to the Detroit Free Press for its coverage of an anti-war protest, with the New York Times and San Antonio Express-News also honoured.

The BOP awards are now in their seventh year and are presented by the National Press Photographers Association.

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16 April 2008

Torch Troubles Broadcast Live By Mobile

Scuffles on the Olympic Torch route were filmed and broadcast in real-time online by an American journalist.

A Sacramento Bee reporter used a mobile phone to capture images of protestors in San Francisco and used Qik software to enable live streaming of the footage on the Web.

This was then downloaded by Bee staff to their own site’s embedded video player.

According to Journalism.co.uk, Manny Cristomo attached the phone to his digital video camera in order to get both live action shots and better quality footage to be edited and uploaded later.

Director of Multimedia Mark Morris said journalists at the Bee have only been using the Qik technology for the last fortnight.

He noted: “We see it as a way of posting editorial content immediately online, I think we had something posted on our site within 15 minutes of everything being transmitted into Qik.”

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Online Trusted By ‘More Readers Than Editors’

The public places more trust in online journalism than newspaper editors, according to a new survey.

Regarding newspapers and their affiliated websites, a US poll finds that almost one-quarter (24%) of editors trust the print output more than the web coverage, compared to 15% of readers.

The Online Credibility Gap study also shows that 10% of the public trust web reports more than print, while only 3% of editors state this as their opinion.

All this could prompt the question - is there something editors know about online operations that their readers do not?

Less surprisingly, the report also reveals a split between newspaper editors and readers on the issue of posting comments anonymously.

Some 45% of users believe it is a good idea for websites to not require proper names, in comparison to 24% of editors who support this view.

Interestingly, almost one in two (47%) readers says it’s unlikely that they would submit a comment to a website if they had to give their real name.

Compiled by the Donald W Reynolds Journalism Institute and the Associated Press Managing Editors, the report includes responses from over 1,200 daily newspaper editors and 500 readers.

A pdf version of The Online Credibility Gap is available on the APME website, along with an executive summary of the findings.


Echo Editor Wins Online Award

A digital editor from the Sunderland Echo was recently honoured at a regional awards ceremony.

Lee Hall won the prize for Best Online Contribution at the Northeast Press Awards ceremony, which was staged earlier this month at the Customs House in South Shields.

Also receiving a mention in the digital category was Robert Brooks from the Northumberland Gazette, who was highly commended for his online work.

The Gazette and the Echo picked up a clutch of awards between them at the event, with a full list of winners available to view at holdthefrontpage.co.uk.

Echo Editor Rob Lawson said of his paper’s recent triumphs: “I’m delighted at the success of the awards and that so many of the Echo’s talented journalists were recognised.”

Hall’s award represents the Echo’s second digital achievement this year, the first coming in January when it doubled its online readership figures from the same time in 2007.


14 April 2008

UGC Trial Shows Where Interest Lies

A Norwegian newspaper’s call for user-generated content (UGC) of a skiing contest produced a flurry of activity from its readers - with surprising results.

Blogger Kristine Lowe says journalists at Drammens Tidende (DT) were hoping for an avalanche of action shots of the global skiing superstars taking part in the World Cup Ski Sprint.

But they found interest lies a little closer to home for many users who submitted pictures of their kids participating in the previous day’s Children’s Ski Cup.

“Shots submitted by readers garnered quite some interest, but people were particularly interested in viewing and submitting pictures from the Children’s Cup,” said Geir Arne Bore, editor-in-chief of DT.

The spokesperson added: “Our experiences confirm the general impression which is taking root in Norwegian media: User-generated content does not come unsolicited, and if it does come it is on issues people are very passionate about, or as a result of substantial marketing.”

See Lowe’s blog on journalism.co.uk for more information on UGC in Scandinavia.

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Glimpse “The Future Of Online Video”

A film showing excerpts from a public meeting is a “fine example of newspaper video”, according to blogger and lecturer Mindy McAdams.

The author of the Teaching Online Journalism blog says the Las Vegas Sun’s coverage of a consultation about a proposed power station is “10,000 times better” than video packages put together by local TV channels.

Entitled “Are EPA coal emission standards strict enough?”, the video includes highlights from the event accompanied by explanatory graphics and narration.

McAdams writes: “This is real reporting that tells an important story, and it does so by virtue of (A) Having sent reporters to cover a meeting - in its entirety.

“(B) Using animated information graphics wherever possible to help explain the facts - during the video.

“(C) Writing meaningful, useful narration.

“(D) Carefully editing what must have been hours of live testimony and comments down to a compact package under five minutes.”

She concludes: “This is the future of online video, right here”.

In her blog post Some Fine Examples of Newspaper Video, McAdams also points out several other packages which demonstrate effective use of multimedia storytelling techniques.

They include the Spokesman Review’s “Last Call for Haircuts”, about twin brothers retiring from their barber business, and A Bronx School Revives from the New York Times.

It tells the story of a headteacher who turned around the fortunes of a struggling school, featuring interviews with the head, his colleagues and pupils.

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Six Steps To Successful SEO – Video

If you want your web video to be discovered via searches, you must do your groundwork first.

That’s the view of Pete Kocks, president of video search site Truveo, who gave Beet.TV his top tips for improving search engine optimisation (SEO) results for online video.

Truveo offers embedded searches on websites and is also the search unit for AOL, giving Kocks and his team an excellent idea of what users are looking for and how they find it.

His best practice tips to enhance SEO results for video are:

1 – Make your metadata as accurate and complete as possible.

2 – Ensure your video is categorised appropriately – such as news, entertainment etc.

3 – Promote the video via your own networks to attract a following.

According to Kocks, a video which has “become by itself popular” will fare better as people want to look at what’s popular within vertical searches.

He calls this the “chicken and egg situation” of web video – once it starts to become popular, it will gather momentum and become even more popular.

4 – Promote the video through other sites to attract a following.

5 – Pay a third party to distribute your video.

He recommends this for people starting out who want to become established quickly.

6 – Use your brand.

Kocks states that users like videos with a name attached – he lists examples such as CNN, ABC and NBC.

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11 April 2008


Welcome to the third and final part of this SPOTLIGHT feature on blogs.

Following on from looking at mainstream media blogs, penned by both journalists and readers, we’re now turning our attention to the independent blogosphere.

We’ll highlight some of the blogs making waves in the news world and see examples of how professional journalists can play a role in the blogging universe.

Moving on from this, we’ll look at the different means of blogging on offer to anyone looking to make their mark – from moblogging and microblogging to vlogging.

And at the end, we’ll have a bunch of links to useful resources for visitors who want to pick up some practical tips on the art of blogging.

A Blogging Tail

Anyone with internet access can write a blog – simply sign up with a free host service such as Blogger or Wordpress, and with one click you’re a writer, editor and publisher.

This seismic shift in the media landscape introduces a new and very real competitor into the news marketplace – the independent blogger.

Someone who is not in the pay of a publisher but who can use the same channels and tools to compete with the major league players.

But this independent blogosphere does not exist in a vacuum – it both influences and is influenced by the mainstream news providers.

And this budding relationship is growing all the time, as shown by a recent Brodeur survey which revealed that the majority of American journalists see blogs as helpful sources for story ideas, angles and insights into sentiments on a given news event.

The blogosphere is the “tail”, says Brodeur spokesman Jerry Johnson, that’s not yet “wagging the media body”.

But who are the young pretenders in this news blogosphere and do traditional journalists need to know about them?

An orbit around the blogosphere

Digital publisher Howard Owens recommends that “blogs should be a daily routine for every dedicated journalist”.

“They should read every blog related to their beats. They should read blogs about their own interests and hobbies. They should read blogs about their profession.”

And what better way to start than with blogs from the recent 50 Most Powerful chart compiled earlier this year by the Observer.

Blog aggregator Technorati is another good way to find popular news blogs as well as those which are favoured most by fellow bloggers.

Its Top 100 by fans includes the Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo (TPM), and tech news sites such as techcrunch.

While the Top 100 by authority (based upon links to the blog from other blogs) is headed by the Huffington Post and affords high places to the Daily Kos and Drudge Report as well.

And although many readers seem yet to be convinced about the reliability of blogs as news sources, some institutions are coming round to the idea that blogs can offer valuable and effective coverage.

For example, Josh Marshall from TPM recently became the first blogger to receive a prestigious George Polk Award for excellence in investigative journalism.

Some unions are also beginning to accept independent blog authors into their ranks, with the National Union of Journalists granting membership to its first freelance full-time blogger last November.

At the same time, some bloggers are looking at ways of organising themselves into representative bodies distinct from those peopled by print and broadcast journalists.

So one could say the independent news blogosphere is growing not just by numbers but also in confidence, making it increasingly important for traditional journalists to become familiar with this rising entity.

Many online newspapers are showing their ability to do this by providing extensive blogrolls on their sites listing independent blogs relevant to their readers.

A British example of this is found at the Liverpool Daily Post, while America’s Roanoke Times also boasts a series of useful links in its Community Blogroll.

Reading blogs, using them as sources and linking to them is all well and good but what about more active engagement with the blogosphere?

How to get involved

According to blogger Graham Holliday, “freelance journalists can use blogs to fatten up features, research stories, garner contacts, market their work, earn cash and publicise projects”.

This is precisely what freelancer Neil Clark decided to do, so as well as producing work for the Guardian and Spectator amongst others, he now writes his own blog.

Providing his take on political events as well as entries on sport and entertainment, Clark’s blog certainly publicised his “brand” effectively when it won the title of Best UK Blog at last year’s Weblog Awards.

Freelancers can also use blogs as their news publishing outlet and Christopher Allbritton does just that with his Back to Iraq independent blog which is funded by readers’ donations.

Similarly, Deborah Bonello’s From the Frontline blog provides regular news from Mexico City, while Sandeep Junnarkar’s Lives in Focus blog is also partially funded by public donations.

Meanwhile, mainstream media journalists needn’t feel that this world of independent blogs is closed to them – and many around the world are showing that it isn’t.

Adrian Sudbury works for the Huddersfield Examiner as a digital reporter, but also writes about living with a rare form of leukaemia via his Baldy’s Blog, which won last year’s Weblog Award for best medical blog.

Other journalists busy in the independent blogosphere are Joanna Geary from the Birmingham Post, BBC broadcast journalist and producer Robin Hamman, and Pat Thornton from America’s Stars and Stripes who blogs as the Journalism Iconoclast.

And there are plenty more, many of which can be found at Cyberjournalist.net on its list of journalists blogging independently around the world.

Ways & Means

As new technologies develop, the ways and means of blogging also expand to move with the times.

Desk-bound bloggers hunched at computer screens typing text posts are no doubt a common sight – but it’s not the only way to get your voice heard in the blogosphere.

Moblogging always seems to be on the cusp of becoming the “Next Big Thing”, as this Online Journalism Review article shows.

Blogging using a mobile can incorporate text, photo and video posts, and the Reuters and Nokia partnership claims to have created a toolkit ideally suited to moblogging.

It’s not a particularly common activity on the UK’s news sites, but the BBC’s technology team recently gave it a try-out at February’s World Mobile Congress.

Where the mobile phone has proved its value to bloggers in recent times, however, is as a tool for microblogging.

Hosted by services such as Twitter and Jaiku, microblogging comprises posting short messages to a selected group.

Members can send mini blog posts from mobiles via SMS, or via email, instant messaging or the web.

Digital journalism expert Jeff Jarvis overcame initial skepticism to proclaim Twitter as an “important evolutionary step in the rise of blogging”, and political blogger Patrick Ruffini reckons it shortens the news cycle from 24 hours to seconds due to its immediacy.

In addition, new media blogger Pat Thornton believes all bloggers should be using the platform to share bite-sized versions of their opinions and to engage with readers.

Thornton offers several journalistic uses for Twitter, while this post outlines a total of 17 for people who want to get twittering but don’t know where to start.

And while microblogging may be a minority trend in the UK and the US, blogger Pramit Singh says it’s a far bigger affair in “mobile mad” India.

Finally, there is video blogging or vlogging, which is not something you see everyday as yet.

But the big names have dipped their toes in the water – including several Guardian journalists who have produced vlogs for Current TV.

More recently, an ITN news team produced a vlog from their reporting base in Afghanistan, which received mixed reviews from journalism.co.uk and Paul Bradshaw blogging at Poynter.

Some regional news websites have also tried their hand at vlogging, including the Yorkshire Post when it followed the fortunes of a local resident trying to obtain treatment for a serious eye condition.


The internet is teeming with resources for anyone who wants advice on writing their own blog, but this brief advice guide from the New York Times is good for the essentials.

For journalists about to embark on a journey into the blogosphere, the in-house blogging style guide from the Telegraph is particularly useful.

And anyone wanting to enhance an existing blog might find Press Gazette’s Ways to Brighten Your Blog an interesting read.

Finally, would-be bloggers who want to learn from others should take a look at the latest winners of Weblog Awards and Bloggies for inspiration.

Over to you

So that wraps things up for SPOTLIGHT’s blog trilogy, we hope the three posts have provided you with some useful info and ideas to follow up.

Do get in touch if there’s any blogs you feel we missed out or any areas you’d like to know more about.

And as always, please let us know if you have any particular themes, technologies etc that you’d like to see come under the SPOTLIGHT.

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Six Steps To Slideshow Success

A judging panel for a clutch of online photography awards has issued its top tips for producing effective multimedia packages.

The team, including staff from the Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times and Dallas Morning News, was recently tasked with electing the winners for multimedia and slideshow prizes from the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA).

Disappointed with the standard of some of the online entries, the panel has given several best practice tips for journalists engaging with multimedia storytelling techniques.

According to Poynter, the “judges said they want to see higher production quality, tighter editing, and a clearer understanding of how to use various media most effectively”.

And here are the six areas they marked out for improvement:

1 - Keep it simple

The judges said packages must be consistent with their navigation systems and not sacrifice ease of use for something that looks a bit flashy.

2 - Tell the story

A clear narrative thread was missing from many slideshows, with only a shared subject holding the piece together.

3 - Take notes from the TV

Too many features were missing “broadcast storytelling fundamentals” such as transitioning shots from wide to medium to close-up, and effective framing of subjects.

4 - Let users stay in control

The panel was quite critical of autoplay features and packages where users were unable to stop and start the slideshow themselves.

5 - Avoid content overload

Tons of material does not necessarily tell the best story.

6 - Wield the cutting tool

Most of the slideshows had shots which did not contribute to the story or repeated the same material - don’t be afraid to cut.

To see the best of the bunch, visit the NPPA’s website for lists of the winners for Multimedia Package and Audio Slideshow awards.

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10 April 2008

Hyperlocal Site Offers Personal Touch

Members of a new hyperlocal website can customise its features to create their own neighbourhood home page.

Backyard Post offers information guides to over 200 hyperlocal areas in Florida’s West Palm Beach, including regularly updated data on the housing market, schools, parks and libraries.

And registered members who just want to know about news and activities in their neighbourhood can create their own home page.

The site belongs to the Palm Beach Post and is the brainchild of several of the newspaper’s team, including online innovations editor William H Hartnett.

On the Backyard Post blog, Hartnett explains the website’s customisable aspects: “You’ll have to sign up to take advantage of these features, but in return we’ll let you set up your very own Backyard Post home page, too.

“Choose your neighbourhood, set your own news preferences and Backyard Post is no longer our site, it’s your site.”

The team has spent over a year mapping neighbourhoods and collating facts and figures ranging from property transactions dating from 1995 to school performance scores and park opening times.

And Hartnett promises that housing information will be updated five times a week -“who says real estate can't be a spectator sport?”

Backyard Post is looking to include more neighbourhoods as the year progresses.

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Wash Po Scores Facebook Success

The Washington Post has achieved some 350,000 downloads with its “quick-and-dirty” application for Facebook.

Compass asks ten questions about politics to provide users with a political reading which can be displayed on their pages.

Executive editor Jim Brady has revealed that the application was relatively easy to develop and required few resources.

Brady described the Compass as a “quick-and-dirty application” created to take advantage of the time people spend on the social networking website.

In a video interview with Beet.TV, the Post editor said the tool achieved a high number of downloads “right off the bat”.

He added that the application is particularly useful as it gets the Washington Post brand sitting on Facebook pages.

If you’re interested in tracking the technical development of Compass, Washington Post web programmer Deryck Hodge provides some valuable insights into the process on his blog.


Argus Wins Website Of Year

The South Wales Argus has triumphed over 300 other titles to win a Website of the Year award.

Argus journalists and web staff were celebrating after it scooped the digital prize in Newsquest’s annual competition, which is open to all its 317 newspapers.

In second place was the highly commended website from the Southern Daily Echo and the third-placed site from the Lancashire Telegraph achieved the Commended tag, reports holdthefrontpage.co.uk.

The winners received their award during a recent ceremony at Heathrow Airport, hosted by Conservative MP and London mayor candidate Boris Johnson.


09 April 2008

Playing Safe ‘Will Not Succeed Online’

Provocative articles are rewarded and subtle arguments forgotten in the new media landscape, claims a recent blog post in Time magazine.

Michael Scherer argues that individual articles possess greater value in the internet age and this leads to enhanced competition between journalists to write attention-grabbing pieces.

Writing in the Swampland blog, Scherer points out that online stories which get linked to most by news portals and popular blogs attract traffic and therefore “money in the bank” for their newspapers.

He illustrates his point with examples drawn by America’s ongoing Democratic primaries, suggesting that more nuanced reports about Hillary Clinton are worth less then polemical pieces.

“Which story is going to get the most links and therefore the most readers? Is it the one that cautiously weighs the pros and cons, and presents a nuanced view of her chances?

“Or is it the one that says she is toast, and anyone who thinks different is living on another planet?”

Scherer asserts: “If you say something provocatively, in a new way, or with an unexpected spin, you will succeed online. If you play it safe, you will not.”

He does concede though that it’s not all bad news in the digital age, as greater story competition is leading to “better writing” and “increasing the value of actual news-making”.


North-West Web Award Up For Grabs

Organisers have revealed the three digital journalists short-listed for an inaugural O2 Media Award for Cheshire and Merseyside.

They are: Tony Clixby and Rebecca Edwards from the Chester Chronicle and David Chana from the Warrington Guardian.

Picking the winning digital journalist from the group will be the judging panel comprising Manchester Evening News editor Paul Horrocks, Greater Manchester Weekly Newspapers editorial director Richard Catlow, and Bolton News editor Ian Savage.

A spokesman for the event told holdthefrontpage.co.uk that O2 is considering rolling out the contest to the rest of the country as the north-west one has proved so popular.

Winners will be announced tomorrow (Thursday, April 10) at a presentation evening in Cheshire.


Metro Plans Global Blogging Network

International newspaper the Metro has launched the first in its new wave of interactive websites.

Metro France represents the pilot project testing the publishers’ plans to operate a series of news sites across the world boasting an array of Web 2.0 services.

And one of its core features is expected to be a blogging network, which will provide local angles on both news and lifestyle matters.

“With this investment Metro will define its own space, where we not only draw on our users’ appetite for relevant news and information but provide a space that is completely focused on urban living and increases the users’ influence,” said Tom Symonds, Managing Director at Metro Interactive.

Metro International publishes free newspapers issued to commuters in 21 countries across Europe and the Americas.


08 April 2008

Crowdsourcing Project Makes Grant Shortlist

A UK community news initiative has reached the final round of America’s Knight News Challenge.

The foundation has up to $5.5 million (£2.78 million) available for digital news projects and among the contenders is a crowdsourcing idea from lecturer and blogger Paul Bradshaw and former BBC journalists Adrian Goldberg and Nick Booth.

Bradshaw is seeking £200,000 for Citizen Investigation, which aims to enable people within a community to decide the issues they want investigating and then do their own research and reporting.

The Birmingham City University teacher says the crowdsourcing project is designed to give participants “a stake in the issues involved”.

Bradshaw and Booth also have another proposal in contention, entitled the Conversation Toolkit.

The initiative aims to improve user engagement via a series of bolt-ons to online stories, such as maps, social bookmarking tools and links to additional resources.

Further details on the other finalists and their proposals can be viewed here.

In 2007, a total of 25 individuals, companies and public agencies received awards from the Knight News Challenge to fund their digital experiements.

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Telegraph Relaunch Opens The Archives

The new website for the Coventry Telegraph is balancing old and new with a blogging network and nostalgia archive.

Published by Trinity Mirror, the newspaper says its new website boasts an “immense” collection of historical photographs uploaded from its picture library.

The extensive gallery section has photos categorised by theme from Coventry cathedrals, to the Bard, and the Blitz.

Editor Alan Kirby told holdthefrontpage.co.uk: “Of course, the new website is about breaking news and sport but our historic picture archives are immense and offer a unique glimpse into Coventry’s past.

“There are thousands of pictures which we could never hope to publish in the paper. Our website gives us a fantastic new outlet.”

And on the new side, the website has a network of blogs, including David Bentley’s Geek Files covering what’s happening in the Sci-Fi universe, an insight into the life and times of DJ Helen Legh and Tara Cain’s From Dawn Till Rusk, chronicling life as a working mum in the Midlands.

The relaunch is part of a national roll-out of new websites by Trinity Mirror, which started at the Birmingham Mail and Birmingham Post.

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07 April 2008

PCC States UGC Responsibilities

The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) has reiterated its views on where editors’ responsibilities begin and end with submitted material.

After revealing that online video prompted just a “handful” of complaints last year, the PCC asserted that the majority of these concerned user-generated content (UGC).

The UK organisation stated that its policy regarding users’ video puts responsibility on the editor once he or she takes the decision to publish the footage.

According to the PCC: “This places a responsibility on the editor to make appropriate checks on material before it is placed online or in the paper.”

However, the body confirmed that its rules on comments submitted by users are different since the PCC accepts that not all posts can be pre-moderated.

Last year, the commission received approximately 50 complaints about comments but did not have to intervene with most as they were dealt with by in-house procedures.

“The PCC is able to rule upon complaints about user comments only if two conditions are met: The online editor or moderator is made aware of any problems and then exercises “editorial control” by allowing the material to remain online; the complaint raises an issue under the terms of the Code.”

As well as highlighting UGC policies, the PCC showed that complaints about online stories outweighed those regarding print articles for the first time.

Reactions to the new report can be found at journalism.co.uk and holdthefrontpage.co.uk, while the original PCC piece is here.

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Facebook Tips From Poynter

Poynter Online offers advice to newspapers about expanding their networks through Facebook.

A post on the Poynterevolution Blog looks at two aspects of the social networking website which can be used to drive traffic to online news sites and to improve brand awareness among younger people.

First up are Facebook Pages – distinct from Facebook Groups – where newspapers can create pages with their own brand identity.

“Pages enable news organisations to identify loyal users, or fans,” according to Poynter.

“When users choose to be fans of your organisation, they invite updates about what the organisation is up to via a text story or links.”

The article also reveals how Virginia’s Roanoke Times has created its own Page, which is updated weekly with content from its news site.

Secondly, Poynterevolution asserts that Facebook applications are being used by newspapers to enhance their profiles among young audiences.

It highlights the New York TimesNews Quiz as an example of an effective Facebook application.

“The cross promotional value and competitive factor make this application effective. The quiz encourages me to use nytimes.com to be more informed about current events.”

Last word goes to John Jackson, online editor of the Roanoke Times, who says of his newspaper’s use of Facebook: “We wanted to be able to say we’re here.

“It allows us to extend our brand and keep control over the content that is put out there.”

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Reporters Filling “Online News Holes”

Print journalists are increasingly expanding their skill-sets to provide online content, finds a new survey.

Research shows that some 39% of newspaper reporters are now expected to produce work for their employers’ websites.

The first ever PR Week/PR Newswire Media Survey reveals how the evolving media landscape means journalists are adapting to different ways of working.

“Many journalists are having to expand their skill set and add ‘blogger’ to their resumes,” reports PR Week.

“Moreover, reporters at newspapers across the country are finding that they have to fill an online news hole, as well as the traditional ink-stained pages.”

PR Week illustrates this point by looking at the career of Scott Hensley, a health reporter on the Wall Street Journal.

Hensley used to concentrate solely on in-depth articles for the print issue, but now edits the Journal’s health blog.

He says: “The thing that has changed my life the most is blogging. I start at 7am every day, and it’s a rare day when I’m out of [the office] before 5pm.

“We’re a news-driven blog. We post eight to 10 times a day. We try to have three up by 9am; a half-dozen by noon.

“When I was writing for print, I wasn’t even thinking about what a possible story would be most days by 10am.”

And the survey finds blogs are not just being used by reporters to distribute news, they are also growing in importance as a source.

Some 73% of respondents in the poll say they sometimes or always make use of blogs for research purposes, and the most popular reason for doing so is to “measure sentiment”.

More than 1,200 print, web and broadcast journalists took part in the survey, which can be found here.


04 April 2008

The Journalism Counteroffensive Starts Here...

Serious journalism can thrive in the future if publishers and their staff act more boldly, says the editor of American Journalism Review.

And to put his money where his mouth is, Carl Sessions Stepp offers up a raft of innovative ideas which newspapers could utilise to improve their online content.

In his article “Maybe it is time to panic: Why news organisations have to act much more boldly if they are to survive”, Stepp outlines the challenges faced by the industry.

The editor and university lecturer suggests that publishers should respond by launching a counteroffensive to “preserve serious journalism”.

He says: “The challenge is this: News organisations need to think more imaginatively, turn duress into motivation and make their content irresistible and their business operations unstoppable.”

And here are some of his ideas for the counteroffensive:

• Create an “online information superstructure” via a double home page – one screen for editorial content and the other acting as a gateway to services and resources relevant to your audience.

• Adopt a more “conversational tone” through blogs from both staff and users, increase the number of analysis pieces and “behind-the-scenes essays”.

• Create user-friendly search services and archives, where content could be grouped by location or topic.

• Offer interactive guides to events, films and shows where users can submit their own ratings and reviews.

• Online discussion forums such as a book club.

• Competitions for the “funniest, weirdest, most helpful or most outrageous local images”.

• Enable users to “web-cam their neighbourhood news” and offer “stand-up comedy bits on the news”.

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‘Undercover Criminal’ Video Shows Arrest Process

An online video has revealed what goes on behind closed doors in Cornwall’s police cells.

Shot by journalists at thisiscornwall.co.uk, the film tells the story of one man’s arrest – from the moment police apprehend him, through his night in custody to his release the following day.

The man pretending to be a drunken citizen is in fact West Briton community editor Jeff Reines, who worked alongside local police officers to produce the video.

As well as filming the “arrest”, the team followed Reines after his arrival at the station and saw him deprived of his possessions as he experienced the legal process for someone charged as drunk and disorderly.

Reines then took a camera with him to record his night in the police station cell, and provided regular updates of his thoughts and feelings.

The video, which can be viewed on thisiscornwall’s video player, will also be used by the police for training purposes.


03 April 2008

Online Forum Supports Quitters

A newspaper recently launched a forum dedicated to people in the region who are trying to stop smoking.

The Norfolk’s Big Quit forum on the Eastern Daily Press website aims to provide a support service to users who are taking part in the county’s health campaign.

It also includes a roll of honour of registered members to act as an extra incentive to those who have pledged to kick the habit.

The newspaper has teamed up with local NHS services to launch the interactive forum, which provides advice and support as well as top tips to quit.


Google Trends Is “Essential” Tool

News publishers should use Google Trends to improve their incoming traffic from the search engine.

According to the Online Journalism Review, the data service is an essential tool for digital newspapers as it enables them to compare the popularity of different search terms.

“With Google Trends, you can test related search terms that are not showing up in your traffic logs, to see if they are, in fact, more popular than the terms people are using to find your site,” asserts Niles.

He adds: “If they are, you will have found the terms you need to start emphasising in your site’s content and navigation design.”

Interestingly, Niles also did a little research of his own and found out that “Weather” is as common as “News” in the world of Google searches.

He notes: “Search data suggests that there is significant public interest in weather, meriting prominent placement on news websites.”

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Harness The Power Of Flickr

A newspaper is using photo-sharing site Flickr to provide a host platform for user-generated content.

Wrexham’s Evening Leader has created three public groups on the website to encourage submissions from amateur photographers living in North Wales.

Two groups are asking for photographs of anything and everything in the region and state that some pictures may be published on the website or print issues of the Evening Leader and its affiliated titles.

In addition, staff have set up a third group called “Aspiring Photographers”, which aims to be a discussion group for budding amateurs.

On its profile, Group Picture Editor Rick Matthews writes: “The photographic team ... will help by giving tips on how to improve your work in the future.

“Together, let’s aim to reach our full potential.”

Digital Editor Christian Dunn told journalism.co.uk that external sites such as Flickr provide an additional news gathering and news distribution method for newspapers.

He said: “Flickr groups are another way the web can provide content for our print products - giving our readers an alternative method of getting in touch with us and further breaking down the traditional barriers between newspapers and members of the public.”

Dunn added: “I think it’s really important for regional newspapers to take full advantage of sites such as Flickr.

“Not only do they offer fantastic services, which we can harness, but they also allow our brand to reach a far wider readership than ever before.”

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02 April 2008

MetaCarta World Map Goes Live

A new website enables users to search for news stories from around the world by location and theme.

The GeoSearch News service from MetaCarta claims to have articles from over 1,400 global news sources available to search using its Google Maps application.

Visitors can zoom in on the world map to select a place or can type in precise locations or topics to search for related items.

The website uses AP and Reuters extensively due to deals with both wire services, but MetaCarta also searches a range of newspaper and blog sources.

For example, a search performed today for Preston UK revealed, from the past month, four relevant articles from three sources - the Telegraph, thisislondon, and the Herald Sun in Australia.

MetaCarta’s vice president of content services Rick Hutton said the new site “combines the unique power of geographic search with keyword search and is the single place to find current news stories, from a wide variety of sources, about any place, quickly,” reports Journalism.co.uk.

British reactions to the website and its relevance to local newspapers can be viewed at the Bristol Media blog and on Paul Bradshaw’s post for Poynter Online.

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Trinity Mirror Launches Tourism Site

Journalists have joined forces with advertising staff to create a new online tourist guide for North Wales.

Trinity Mirror’s northwales.co.uk was created by a team from the Daily Post, jointly led by the newspaper editor and a regional advertising director.

The website has the standard tourism resource offerings such as hotel and restaurant guides, but also features a range of multimedia services like interactive maps and photo galleries.

Plus, the site has a range of videos showing popular events including the International Eisteddfod and Llangollen Balloon Festival.

Editor Rob Irvine explained the site’s creation to holdthefrontpage.co.uk: “We agreed from the start to break down the traditional invisible barrier between editorial and advertising.

“So the digital team - account managers and journalists - share a desk and share their ideas to develop and constantly improve the site for visitors and advertisers.”

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Google Hijacking Search Ads?

A new search feature from Google could eat into advertising revenue garnered by newspaper websites.

Blogger Martin Belam says the internet giant has started offering an in-site search option for five British newspapers on its main pages.

The facility was always available for visitors who used its advanced search options, which Belam claims is a minority, but the service is now prominently placed on the general search page.

All this means users no longer have to leave Google to search for a specific topic on the websites of the Times, Guardian, Telegraph, Daily Mail and the Sun.

Belam asserts that this means newspapers will lose page impressions, and therefore advertising earnings.

In addition, the internet consultant says the service eats into any search-related ads on the news sites.

“Google is effectively hijacking the advertising that can be displayed by newspapers against search queries on their own site,” he writes.

Belam adds: “Even if it isn’t raw advertising income that Google is eating up, it is certainly removing from the newspapers the ability to cross-promote their own relevant content alongside search results.”

And he suggests that the option isn’t even providing users with a better service, Google’s usual reasoning behind such services.

“The Times, the Telegraph and the Guardian all have filtering options in their site search based around their readers’ understanding of their authors, sections and branding, which Google can’t at present replicate.”

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01 April 2008

Courting Users Versus Enabling Interaction

A review comparing the Birmingham Mail and Wolverhampton Express & Star highlights two different approaches to engaging users on the internet.

Sarah Hartley examines the facilities for user-generated content (UGC) offered by the Mail online and finds that the relaunched website is ‘actively courting user involvement’.

Hartley says this is “at odds” with its main newspaper rival’s site, which does not have such a clear “conversational construct”.

She points to the Mail’s blog devoted to issues affecting Muslim communities and the participation of editor Steve Dyson in comment threads as examples of the newspaper’s approach to engaging users.

In contrast, she suggests that opportunities for user interaction on the Express & Star site are harder to find.

Writing in Press Gazette, she notes: “The underlying ethos of each site appears, to a visiting user like myself, to be very different, with the Mail actively soliciting participation and displaying UGC at the top level alongside the professional journalists, while the Express & Star offers facilities for those users who seek it out."

She concludes: “It will be interesting to see how users respond to such a choice” and “how these two giants in the newspaper industry monetise their audiences.”

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Iraq Story Told Via Multimedia

A new website uses an array of tools to document journalistic coverage of the conflict in Iraq.

Bearing Witness represents the testimony of more than 100 Reuters employees who have reported on the country since the US and British invasion in 2003.

The multimedia site combines video footage with arresting photographic images, talking heads, maps and data graphics to tell the story of Iraq as Reuters staff saw it.

As well as an introduction from the agency’s former Iraq Bureau chief Andrew Marshall, Bearing Witness features an interactive timeline of events and maps overlaid with religious and ethnic boundaries.

In addition, the website has a significant number of links to other resource centres or institutions ordered by categories such as Fatalities, Humanitarian and Military.

The Editors Weblog says Bearing Witness “is an excellent example of merging online journalism and multimedia to engage the viewer”.

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Top Tips From The 10 Best News Blogs

A guide to the best newspaper blogs posting breaking news has been compiled by a US blogging expert.

Ryan Sholin has published his list of the top ten mainstream media blogs to show journalists what they “should be doing with an all-purpose breaking news blog”.

Topping the chart is The Lede from the New York Times, which Sholin rates highly for its substantial number of links to other news sources and blogs, and its use of embedded YouTube clips.

Sholin also cites USA Today’s On Deadline breaking news blog for its frequent updates and The Trail blog at the Washington Post for its “short and sweet” reports.

In the post entitled “10 blogs your newspaper needs to rip off”, Sholin asserts: “These are all great examples of blogs that get news up in a timely way without a great deal of waiting around for a daily-print-cycle-based editorial process to wrap up.”

He adds: “If you run a newspaper.com and you don’t have a blog like this to put together links and short updates, ask yourself why not.”

Sholin is currently writing a thesis about the adoption of weblogs by the American mainstream media.

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