31 October 2008

SPOTLIGHT – Social Bookmarking II

Following on from last week’s introduction to the world of social bookmarking, this SPOTLIGHT post will be examining how it relates to journalism.

What advantages does it present to journalists? And what possible dangers could be lurking?

These are the issues we’ll be looking at in this post, and we’ll discuss the ways that some mainstream sites are dipping their toes in the waters of social bookmarking.

We’ll also have a list of the ten most popular social bookmarking sites linked to by the UK’s mainstream media.

And at the end will be a list of useful places to visit if you want to find out more about this dynamic and fast-changing online activity.

Bookmarking The News

The early years of social bookmarking have already been marked by innovation and invention as new service providers pop up to the surface like bubbles in a glass of champagne.

And among these are the sites dedicated to the collecting and sharing of online news content links – such as Digg, Reddit and NewsVine.

So do these websites – and their counterparts such as Delicious and StumbleUpon – present journalists with an opportunity or a problem?

Freelance journalist, blogger and social bookmarking superfan David Cohn is firmly in support of the former.

“I think ignoring it is like shooting ourselves in the foot,” is his take on whether journalists should be getting involved in social news sites.

While academic and blogger Paul Bradshaw stated that social bookmarking holds “enormous potential” for reporters.

So here’s an introduction to just a few of the ways that social bookmarking could aid journalists and media groups with the gathering, production and distribution of news.

The Benefits Of Bookmarking


Generate Story Leads

According to Cohn, social news websites are a good source of stories if journalists are prepared to dig (excuse pun) for them.

“Often there are great ideas that stay at the bottom because they were presented poorly. Journalists have the time to take those ideas and polish them up.”

While Bradshaw notes that the use of tagging on social bookmarking site Delicious can help reporters to “spot leads or information you would otherwise have missed”.

For example, any member of Delicious can look up a particular theme or topic and see all the page links saved by other users.

Grow Contact Book

Most social bookmarking sites enable you to find people who are prolific collectors of the same content as you.

For example, the Conversation Tracker on NewsVine allows members to follow comment threads of their peers while users can “make friends” on Reddit, create a network of like-minded people on Delicious and receive notice of Diggers Like You on Digg.

As Beat Blogging editor Patrick Thornton puts it: “Social bookmarking is a way to find experts in specific fields.”

Thornton also notes that these contacts don’t always have to come from outside the news world – they could be fellow journalists.

He points to new networking/bookmarking hybrid site Publish2 as a platform that could help local reporters covering a particular beat share sources and information with a journalist from a different location.

Create Extra Content

It’s becoming an increasingly common practice for bloggers to automatically publish their Delicious links on their own pages.

Blogger Martin Belam writes: “Publishing daily lists of links in this way gives a blogger an opportunity to ‘micro-blog’ about items they’ve read but haven’t wanted to or had the time to write a full-length post about, and to add another regular stream of content to their blog.”


Crowdsourcing Research

Social bookmarking websites can also be used during the writing process as they can help point the way towards relevant articles for information.

For example, in writing this blog post about social bookmarking I searched through the most popular articles on Delicious tagged under “social” and “bookmarking” to find useful examples and background material.


Draw More Traffic

Just taking Digg as an example, the site passed the milestone for one million registered users back in 2007 and could have almost tripled that figure this year according to one estimate.

So any website which gets its articles on the hallowed pixels of the Digg front page can usually expect a pretty significant increase in traffic.

One newspaper putting this to the test has been the Chicago Tribune, which has created the character of Colonel Tribune to be its representative on social media sites including Digg, Twitter and Facebook.

According to one of its media coordinators, it was the social bookmarking sites that proved to be the most successful of the social media platforms for drawing traffic to the Tribune online.

These kinds of strategies could soon be emulated by news groups in the UK after it was reported that Digg, which tends to lean towards North American news, has plans to launch localised versions early next year.

Attract New Eyeballs

If there’s one demographic grouping that you could say has embraced social bookmarking it’d be the young (see this Hitwise study from 2006 on Delicious).

So social bookmarking websites offer regional news providers an effective way to put their content in front of people who may not visit their neighbourhood news website or read their local newspaper.


Show Your Sources

Social bookmarking is also a way to open up the news production process to the audience by sharing links to source material.

For example, Bradshaw’s model for the modern newsroom includes social bookmarking in its list of “Five Ws and a H that should come after every news story”.


Most social bookmarking sites allow their users to submit comments on stories and therefore provide journalists with another platform for interacting with the audience and ascertaining their opinions.

Putting This Into Practice

If you want to know how to start putting some of these ideas into practice, this excellent slideshow produced for Journalism.co.uk has some practical tips for journalists using Delicious and Furl.

The Downsides Of Bookmarking

Finding What You Want

Social bookmarking websites are folksonomies so there are no hard and fast rules for tagging content and giving names and terms to things.

This means that journalists using sites for research may miss out on articles with unexpected tags or ones with spelling mistakes and so on.

Spammers can also make it hard for users to find what they’re looking for as they could deliberately mislabel content to appear in popular searches.

Cliques Rule

This is an allegation levelled particularly at Digg, where bloggers in the past suggested that a relatively small group of contributors were responsible for submitting a significant share of the front page stories (this Mashable story has details).

It means that in some instances it can be difficult for newcomers and those without an extensive social bookmarking network to get their stories where they can be noticed.

How Wise Are Crowds?

The voting systems on social bookmarking rely at least partially on the actions of its users to help good content float to the top and let poor content sink to the bottom.

However, some say the crowds cannot always be trusted to make the wisest choices and this Read Write Web story has an example of misinformation and herd behaviour in action.

Overloaded and Out-ranked

This occurs when a website’s article appears on the main page of one of the big bookmarking sites and the subsequent traffic influx results in some kind of technical failure.

Whether it’s the Slashdot Effect, the Digg Effect or you’ve been Farked or Drudged – the end result is the same.

Here’s one blogger’s account of their day of mixed fortunes after one of their pieces made the Digg front page.

Meanwhile another blogger tells of his Digg front page experience and points out another potential downside is the fact that the Digg link page then out-ranked his own blog post in a Google search for a certain period.


If you want to know more about what some see as the potential pitfalls of social bookmarking check out this 2007 blog post entitled “Top Ten Reasons Bloggers Should Avoid Social Bookmarking”.

Mainstream Media & Social Bookmarking: Who's Linking Who?

The majority of mainstream news websites in the UK now feature some sort of bookmarking options, encouraging users to share content in the wider world of the Web.

But which bookmarking sites enjoy seeing their little logos adorning the most Share This boxes?

To get some insight into the most popular bookmarking tools I did a quick data collection exercise looking at the share buttons available on 20 UK news websites.

Of course, this is by no means a definite picture of the current situation in the UK but it provides an interesting peek into some possible trends.

With the regional news websites, publishers seem to have installed a generic selection for all their sites so I looked at examples from nine of the 20 biggest groups and also gathered information on 11 national online newspapers.

Ranked according to the percentage of the 20 sites including it among their share icons, here’s the Top Ten Most Popular Social Bookmarking websites:

Digg - 100%
Delicious - 95%
Reddit - 85%
Facebook - 75%
StumbleUpon - 65%
NewsVine - 50%
Fark - 35%
Yahoo! My Web - 30%
Google Bookmarks - 25%
MySpace - 20%

(The Nationals: Daily Express, Daily Mail, Daily Record, Daily Star, Financial Times, The Guardian, The Independent, The Mirror, The Sun, The Telegraph, and The Times.)

(The Regional Groups: Archant, CN Group, Guardian Media Group, Iliffe News & Media, Johnston Press, Midland News Association, Newsquest, Northcliffe, and Trinity Mirror.)

Interestingly, from the ones I looked at only two websites – Express.co.uk and Mirror.co.uk - have the Add This widget function which posts content to over 30 bookmarking sites simultaneously.

(I'm working on a fuller version of this research with results on 15 national news websites and the 20 biggest regional publishers' sites and will make it available soon.)

If you want to compare these results with trends in the US, this Poynter Online article from Ellyn Angelotti has some interesting data on the social bookmarking situation stateside.

While the effectiveness of these social media options has been put to the test recently by Belam.

Belam monitored social bookmarking sites to see how many articles from online newspapers and broadcasters were being featured on them.

And his results for the Metro, local London news sites and ThisisPlymouth.co.uk (looking at Fark only) can be viewed on his blog.

Plus, Belam looked into the help and advice which mainstream media sites offer to users with regards to the often bewildering array of colourful logos.

Internal Social Bookmarking

To finish up, we’re going to take a quick look at a fairly rare phenomenon but one which may become more widespread in the future – that of in-house social bookmarking systems.

For example, The Guardian has a clippings file option which lets registered users not only collect and store articles, but also share them with other members.

According to The Guardian: “Your clippings are publically available at a web page personalised with your username so that you can access them without signing in.

“Anyone can see your clippings so you can send the link to your friends and let them know what you’re reading.”

Each clippings file also has a webfeed so users can receive their own saved stories via RSS or sign up to get a feed of someone else’s, including a Guardian journalist.

While earlier this year the New York Times launched its TimesPeople service, which acts as a social bookmarking meets social networking service for its registered users.

According to the NYT: “TimesPeople is a great way to discover things on NYTimes.com that you might not otherwise have found and to share your discoveries with people you know and trust.”


If this hasn’t satiated your appetite for knowledge about social bookmarking, there are plenty of resources on the Web.

Dosh Dosh has a good introduction to over 40 social bookmarking sites with a screen grab of each.

Meanwhile, eBizMBA has an up-to-date chart of the 30 most popular ones measured by criteria such as inbound links, Google page rankings and traffic data.

And Wikipedia has a list of various social software sites with links to their home pages.

In terms of practical tips for utilising social bookmarking services, Poynter has a good guide to Delicious for beginners.

And this slideshow from web developer Stuart Marsh is an introductory guide to building traffic by using social bookmarking tools.

Pro Blogger has a post from 2006 with ten tips which have stood the test of time for encouraging a “Digg culture” for your site.

While Cohn’s Columbia Journalism Review article has some good advice for becoming an effective Digger.

Finally, if you want to share your thoughts about social bookmarking and its value for journalists, Cohn has created a social network group for just those kinds of discussions.

So that’s it for this week’s SPOTLIGHT post. As usual, do get in touch if you have any examples of innovation you’d like to share or any topics you would like to see covered in future posts.

[Pictures from top: eConsultant; Martin Belam.]

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ITN Unveils Maps Mashup

Visitors to the ITN website can now access international news via a Google Map application.

British users are presented with a UK map and a search facility where they can manually request to view articles from global locations.

Results when opened provide a picture and introduction to the geotagged story and a link to view it in full.

And Firefox users automatically receive news from their area on visiting the page as the Google Gears Geolocation API “reads” their location.

Further information on this and other mapping applications can be found on the Google Maps Mania blog.

[Hat tip to Martin Stabe.]

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30 October 2008

Users Debate BBC’s “Sachsgate” Online

Newspaper readers are flocking to their keyboards to make their feelings known about the Brand-Ross saga at the BBC.

The comments sections of news sites are playing host to some heated debates about the conduct of presenters Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross during a recent radio show.

Reports and blog pieces about their prank calls to actor Andrew Sachs have attracted far more posters than usual as the debate continues.

Moderators at the BBC’s Have Your Say are currently swamped as more than 32,000 messages have been submitted since a thread on the incident was opened (almost 20,000 of which are yet to be moderated).

While the Daily Mail’s online coverage of the furore has prompted over 1,000 comments from visitors and a post on The Guardian’s Organ Grinder blog has elicited over 600 responses so far.

A discussion thread on the topic from The Sun has reached over 300 posts and a Telegraph.co.uk article has received over 200 submissions from readers.

Plus these comment threads are being used by some journalists to form part of their stories.

The Daily Mail ran an article pointing to comments posted on Organ Grinder as evidence that even Guardian readers have been upset by the actions of Brand and Ross.

And YouTube is also a beneficiary of significant public interest in the incident, with an audio clip of the broadcast in question chalking up almost 700,000 views in the past week.

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29 October 2008

Trinity Launches Local M-Sites

Mobile sites are now available for a number of Trinity Mirror titles including the Liverpool Echo and Birmingham Post.

According to Guardian.co.uk, the publisher is in the process of launching ten m sites for its local newspapers following the unveiling of the new mobile site for the Mirror.

The Western Mail and South Wales Echo are among the first group to launch their own mobile offering through the WalesOnline brand.

Other Trinity titles now providing web pages tailored for mobile phone users are the Liverpool Daily Post and the Newcastle Chronicle.

Like the Mirror.co.uk mobile platform, these new sites have various personalisation options enabling users to create home pages displaying content of interest to them, from local sports reports to weather forecasts and what’s on guides.

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28 October 2008

Regional Awards Round-Up

The South-East

Archant’s HamHigh.co.uk was named Website of the Year at last week’s EDF Energy awards for London and the South of England.

HoldTheFrontPage.co.uk reports that 2008 saw the site surpass 50,000 unique users per month for the first time and achieve in excess of 100,000 page impressions for the second time.

This year’s record-breaking figures followed a concerted attempt to increase online figures and were boosted by coverage of Tottenham Hotspur’s League Cup victory.

“The judges were impressed by the story teasers on the homepage and liked the fact there was a good number of headlines without the reader being overwhelmed with information,” according to HoldTheFrontPage.

The North

Meanwhile, the shortlist for the Yorkshire Press Awards was unveiled last week with two sites nominated for the title of Best Multi Platform News Package.

John Meehan and the Hull Daily Mail (Northcliffe) will battle it out against Ben Nolan and the Scarborough Evening News (Johnston Press) for the trophy.

The Yorkshire Press Awards are to be held in Wakefield next month.

HoldTheFrontPage has a list of the non-digital category nominations.


27 October 2008

Are Blogs Changing News Processes?

A new survey provides an insight into how journalists who blog think the online activity is changing the way they work.

Blogger and academic Paul Bradshaw polled some 200 journalists from around the world for the project.

He writes that the research aims to show “the perceptions of journalists themselves of how the blogging has affected their processes”.

Among the areas looked at are how blogging is changing the way stories are generated and gathered, and whether blogs are altering the relationship between journalists and their audience.

The results are now available on Bradshaw’s Online Journalism Blog in the form of seven blog posts.

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24 October 2008


Welcome to the latest SPOTLIGHT post where we’ll be looking at the world of social bookmarking.

First up will be some definitions of this positively infant topic and then we’ll provide an overview of the current crop of social bookmarking sites and cast a glance at their history and development.

In Part II, we’ll see what all this means for journalists and how they can incorporate social bookmarking applications into their ever-expanding digital toolkits.

We’ll also examine how some mainstream media sites have started to utilise social bookmarking and check out some examples of innovation.

And we’ll finish up with a list of resources for anyone who wants to investigate this area further.

What Is Social Bookmarking?

According to Poynter’s interactivity editor Ellyn Angelotti, social bookmarking websites can be seen as the “virtual refrigerators” of the Web.

“Clipping articles from the newspaper and posting them on the refrigerator just doesn’t cut it anymore. Now social bookmarking sites serve as virtual refrigerators, giving users an unlimited number of magnets and much more surface area.”

This popular analogy captures the essence of social bookmarking – these are links that users can share with friends, groups or even the rest of the world.

So they work like browser bookmarks (such as Internet Explorer’s Favourites) in terms of enabling people to store and collect webpages and content of interest to them, but go a stage further by allowing these collections to be made public.

As usual, Common Craft has come up with an excellent video to show the basics:

Social Bookmarking – A Brief History

The term social bookmarking was coined by probably the best known bookmarking site, Delicious.

Launched in 2003, Delicious allows users to install browser buttons (known as bookmarklets) which make storing and sharing pages easy.

Initially it was used by people to save the URLs of static webpages they frequently visited or of articles of particular interest.

Fast forward a year or so and along came Digg, heralding two major changes for social bookmarking – a voting/rating system and an emphasis on articles with a temporal dimension.

Digg wasn’t alone for long and this trickle of social news sites soon resembled a flood, with each new site proclaiming its own killer features.

Hundreds of social news bookmarking sites now exist, each offering users a place to store, share and rate content and giving news providers a new place to find readers.

Described as “an outgrowth of social bookmarking” by freelance digital journalist David Cohn, the social news media has become a crucial sub-genre of bookmarking.

Most mainstream media sites have recognised this fact and are now getting in on the act, providing buttons at the end of articles encouraging readers to recommend it to one or all of the various bookmarking service providers.

So who are these providers? And what exactly do they provide?

Some You May Know

There are so many social bookmarking websites that it’s impossible to provide an overview of them all here so we’ve picked out some of the most common to mainstream users in the UK.

We’ve also thrown in a few lesser known ones at the end for good measure.


Self proclaimed as the “biggest collection of bookmarks in the universe”, Delicious is probably the best known social bookmarking site and also included as a share option on the vast majority of UK online newspapers.

Delicious allows Web users to share and save content and use their own tags to organise links, which can be shared via networks or kept private.

Visitors can also search all links by tags to find relevant material – for example you can search Delicious for all items to which users assigned social bookmarking tags.

Incidentally, it features as the only social bookmarking application in this year’s list of essential online tools for online journalists from lecturer and blogger Alfred Hermida.


Along with Delicious, this is the most popular bookmarking site among the UK digital media’s article share icons.

Members submit stories for digging and can help rank content by the digg or bury options.

Submissions which hit the front page reward the user with community ranking points, and reward the source with an influx of Digg traffic.

Cohn wrote this article for the Columbia Journalism Review explaining the appeal of Digg from the point of view of a community user and a news organisation.

And this JP Digital Digest post from earlier this year shows how Digg has now entered the news creation process too.


Another permanent fixture on many newspaper’s share buttons, StumbleUpon is a recommendation engine enabling users to endorse content they like and find communities of interest.

This Venture Beat article has some useful information on how it works for anyone interested in the algorithms and human filtering processes used by bookmarking sites.


Another mainstay on share options, the social news site Reddit awards so-called karma points to trusted posters and also recommends articles of interest.


Yes, it may be a social networking site but as long ago as 2006 Facebook entered the social bookmarking arena.

Its “share on Facebook” icon appears on hundreds of mainstream news websites and allows Facebook members to post text, photos and video to their profile pages.


More common in the US, NewsVine is owned by MSNBC and is a citizen journalism website as well as a bookmarking service.

Users can vote for articles and can also create same interest groups which can be public or private.

[Appears as a share option on regional sites owned by Trinity Mirror, Guardian Media Group and on national websites including DailyMail.co.uk, Guardian.co.uk, Telegraph.co.uk and Mirror.co.uk.]

And Some You May Not Know…


Standing for File Uniform Resource Locators, Furl is more of a general social bookmarking site with the usual rating and sharing options.

It also provides users with their own file space to save pages and clippings which they may have annotated themselves.

[Appears as a share icon on regional sites owned by Newsquest and on Mirror.co.uk.]


Described as the snarky side of social bookmarking, Fark takes a tongue-in-cheek look at the news with tags such as Dumbass, Strange, Stupid, and Asinine.

It’s often the destination for the weird and the photoshopped and features as a share button on TimesOnline, DailyMail.co.uk, Mirror.co.uk and Telegraph.co.uk.


One of the new faces on the bookmarking scene, Tip’d.com concentrates on financial news and investment tips.

Like Digg, members rate articles by tipping it and the most popular make it to the homepage.


The founding principle of NewsTrust is to promote articles which display “quality journalism”, so members are asked to rate articles against criteria such as sourcing and accuracy.

Add This

Websites can include the Add This widget on their site to enable users to click just one button and send content to a multitude of social bookmarking sites.

It’s not yet featured on many UK sites but one of the few that does have the widget is Mirror.co.uk.

Want To Know More?

Squidoo has this list featuring over 100 social bookmarking and networking websites for you to explore at your leisure.

While journalists may find Cohn’s guide to bookmarking sites a useful resource as he explains their nature through suggesting what print publication it would be (e.g. NewsTrust would be the New York Times etc).

And this Dosh Dosh article provides a useful introduction to social news sites and has some handy tips on how to find the relevant one for your needs and how to become an effective participant.

End Of Part One

So that’s it for Part I of this SPOTLIGHT post. Next week’s sequel will look at how journalists in mainstream media are engaging (or not) with social bookmarking tools, the pros and cons of doing so and some examples of innovation in this field.

In the meantime, please get in touch if you know of any innovative ways that media sites are using social bookmarking sites or if you have any other comments.

Until next time…

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BBC Maps Medal Parade With GPS

A real-time map boosted with geotagged multimedia content formed part of the BBC’s coverage of last week’s “parade of heroes”.

Visitors to bbc.co.uk followed the progress of the Olympians and Paralympians via the map’s red line, which slowly crawled its way through the streets of London.

Along the route, journalists on the ground added geotagged text updates using a combination of GPS-enabled mobile phones, Twitter and Twibble to provide users with a flavour of the atmosphere among the crowds.

They also submitted geocoded photos, using Flickr and Shozu, of some of the now familiar faces of Team GB.

While members of the public were encouraged to upload their photos of the parade to the specially created Flickr group.

Sports journalist Ollie Williams said of all the technology used for the coverage: “It’s clever stuff, and it allows us to tell the story of events in a complex, live, graphic environment for the first time.”

He added: “In the future, mobile technology like this could help us cover big sporting events (for example, Wimbledon or the Open golf) in new ways.”

Further details on the map, which uses Microsoft Virtual Earth technology, can be found on the BBC Olympics blog and the Mapperz blog.

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23 October 2008

Tribune Expands Classifieds To Mobile

Car buyers can browse potential purchases on their mobiles as part of a new initiative from the Chicago Tribune.

The Automart QuickFind service allows users to text for further details of vehicles advertised for sale in the newspaper.

According to the press release, mobile users can text a unique Web ID number to receive photos and how-to-buy information on the cars of their choice.

“This programme further solidifies the complementary relationships among our print, online and mobile product offerings,” said Joe Farrell, vice president for sales operations at Chicago Tribune Interactive.

Classifieds senior manager Kurt Mueller added that the project came about following the success of the group’s QuickFind mobile service for job listings.

“Based on the success of our recruitment product, car listings were the next most logical classified vertical to expand into mobile,” he stated.

[Story via The Editors Weblog]

Picture from Specialphones.eu.

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Writing For The Web: 5 Tips

Headlines, keywords and search engines are all covered in a new guide about writing online news articles.

Digital editor Christian Dunn has put together his recommendations in a two-part series called How To: Write for the Web on Journalism.co.uk.

“Writing for the web is a skill every journalist should have if they are considering uploading any content to a news website,” said Dunn, who works for NWN Media.

Here are some of the highlights from his posts:

  • Headline Tips

  • “Keep headlines short: evidence suggests that Google pays greatest attention to the first 60 characters of any headline and many RSS feeds cut the headline off after this too.”

    Dunn adds: “Google News will find it easier to pick the stories up, categorise and send out as news alerts if there is a clear location.”

  • The Crucial First Par

  • Since eye-tracking studies show most users do not reach the end of an article, Dunn recommends “giving the story away” from the start.

    “Most content management systems are also set up so that your first paragraph appears as the snippet of text underneath your headline on a Google search result.

    “This can account for 43 per cent of a user’s decision on which result to choose – making it even more important than the headline.”

  • Link In, Link Out

  • Whether it’s an inbound or external link, Dunn says it’s important that the link is relevant.

    “Google and other search engines like links - especially if the anchor text is relevant to the site they are linking to, and this in turn is relevant to the rest of your webpage.”

  • Make Use Of Multimedia

  • “Whether this is a reader debate, video, Google map or slideshow, make sure you offer online readers something that you can’t reproduce in a newspaper.”

  • Encourage Interaction

  • “At the end of your article give your readers something to do.

    “Make them want to leave a comment or email you with their opinions; offer them one side of the argument and let them answer back.”

    Part One and Part Two of Dunn’s guide to writing an online article are available on Journalism.co.uk.

    More of Dunn’s thoughts on online journalism can also be found at his blog – Digital Journalist .

    22 October 2008

    Publisher Launches More Hyperlocal Sites

    The Cumbrian Newspapers Group has launched a further two hyperlocal websites.

    Grange Local and Windermere Local are standalone websites linked to by the North-West Evening Mail, reports Guardian.co.uk .

    Each site is automatically updated with relevant news articles from the Mail and is also a platform for user-generated content.

    And local community groups are being encouraged to upload their own information to the hyperlocal websites.

    Head of digital content Nick Turner said of the new sites: “We see this as a way of upgrading the traditional district correspondent idea, to move it online and broaden it to other areas of the community.”

    Earlier this year, the CN Group unveiled a dozen hyperlocal websites affiliated to its other titles across Cumbria.

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    Aggregators & Newspapers – A Perfect Match?

    The head of a hybrid news aggregator has said it can work well in collaboration with online newspapers.

    Chris Tolles told the Editors Weblog that he sees Topix.net as a “great partner to newspapers” because it creates a platform for users to discuss articles of interest to them.

    The chief executive of the participatory news aggregation site also asserted that it can introduce regional newspapers to a new audience online.

    Topix.net has so far enjoyed an impressive year in terms of traffic and is now ranked as America’s third most visited newspaper site.

    In addition, the website has seen an increase in its numbers of active users and recently received over 140,000 comments in one day.

    The secret of success? Tolles reckons the effective strategy pursued by Topix can apply to newspapers working in the digital environment.

    “I would urge any news organisation starting today to figure out what they provide their audience, and then focus on that relentlessly.

    “We did that with participation, but there are other ways to succeed.”

    Topix allows users to select articles from over 50,000 national and local news sources by topic or by location.

    It has investment from American regional news publishers Gannett Co , the McClatchy Company and the Tribune Company .

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    21 October 2008

    Newspaper Launches Online TV Show

    A web-based show dedicated to following the fortunes of a local football side has been launched by the Exeter Express & Echo.

    Kellow’s Bootlaces is a 25-minute weekly fanzine show devoted to Exeter City, who currently stand eighth in Coca-Cola Football League Two.

    Presented by City die-hards Barry Fulls and Graham Kirk, the show features chats about the latest game, news from St James Park, interactive polls, and features such as Player of the Week.

    Previously broadcast on a local radio station, the three-part programme is also being made available as an audio download.

    Editor Marc Astley told HoldTheFrontPage.co.uk he hopes that the Kellow’s Bootlaces microsite will bring a new audience to the Express & Echo brand.

    He added: “The Kellow’s Bootlaces show was a must-listen for Exeter City fans and it has transferred to the net brilliantly.

    “I’m really looking forward to seeing the response we get.”

    The site also has profiles of the presenters and a Teletext-style service with City’s results and forthcoming fixtures.

    Check out Kellow’s Bootlaces for the inaugural episode and the reason behind the name.

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    Blog’s Comedy Comments Go National

    A newspaper’s blog has made the nationals after disgruntled fans used its comment section to air their views about a Steve Coogan gig.

    Over 50 comments have so far been added to a blog entry on liverpooldailypost.co.uk containing a less than favourable review of the northern comedian’s recent show in the city.

    Many of these have come from people who attended the stand-up show and their opinions (the negative ones at least) have been picked up by several national news websites.

    The blog post’s author, Vicky Anderson, said: “If it was the simple matter of one bad review in a regional paper then the nationals wouldn’t have given a toss.

    “What grabbed their attention were the comments - bloody loads of them - from scores of unhappy people who had seen the show for themselves and wanted to give their two cents.”

    The Independent and the Mail Online both ran the story, including actual quotes from the posters, while ITN also had a small piece about the online responses.

    Writing on the Comedy Blog, Anderson notes that the sheer number of comments came as something of a surprise to the Daily Post.

    “I was imagining maybe three or four comments if I was lucky, but the response just went through the roof.

    “What’s more, despite the sheer disappointment from people, the majority are unbiased, eloquent, and hilarious.”

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    Mainstream Sites ‘Embrace The Link’

    Linking to external sites is becoming a more common practice among mainstream news websites, according to the New York Times.

    Writer Brian Stelter points to recent innovations by the Washington Post, NBC and the Times itself as evidence that we are in the middle of an “attitude shift” towards linking out.

    Unveiled last month, the Post’s Political Browser points to the best on the web, and this includes scoops on rival websites.

    And the New York Times is soon to launch an “alternative home page” which will contain hyperlinks to its competitors.

    While this month saw TV network NBC open beta versions of local websites which have links to other sites.

    For example, its current Chicago site has links to local news articles on the online versions of the Chicago Sun-Times and the Southtown Star.

    NBC’s local media division president told the Times: “We’re looking at the fragmented local market and saying, ‘We’re going to provide a destination where you can come and search across different segments.’ ”

    John P Wallace also said that this latest project represents “a change in mindset” with regards to linking to the competition.

    Stelter’s article, entitled Mainstream News Outlets Start Linking to Other Sites (may need to register to view the article), also features comments from blogger Scott Karp and has a brief round-up of examples of mainstream sites learning to link.

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    20 October 2008

    Post & Echo Live Blog Murder Trial

    Two Liverpool newspapers are using a live blog to offer almost real-time online coverage of a murder trial.

    Journalists at the Echo and the Daily Post email updates to the shared blog from Liverpool Crown Court where a man is being tried for the murder of schoolboy Rhys Jones.

    According to HoldTheFrontPage.co.uk, the court-based reporters send copy to their respective newsdesks where it is checked before being put onto the live blog.

    The Echo’s news editor Maria Breslin said the live blog, using CoverItLive software, forms part of the newspaper’s aim to provide full coverage of the high-profile case.

    “What we’re looking to do with the blog is cover the trial as comprehensively as possible.”

    She added that the court updates initiative has so far met with a “positive response” from the audience.

    And she also revealed that some comments from users, which can currently not be shown due to legal reasons, will be published following the trial’s conclusion.

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    Mirror Goes Mobile

    The Daily Mirror has unveiled the new mobile version of its national news website, reports Journalism.co.uk.

    Among Mirror Mobile’s content categories are Celebs, Live Football and Your Life, which currently offers diet and culinary tips.

    The site also has several personalisation options within each category to enable users to select offerings relevant to them.

    For example, mobile users can choose their star signs for horoscopes and their own locations for weather.

    The head of Trinity Mirror interactive and mobile, Rick Gleave, said: “The launch of Mirror Mobile takes the Mirror into new territory with new users and new audiences for advertisers.”

    He added that the addition of a mobile site to the print and online edition “is further proof that we are a growing multiplatform media business”.

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    BBC Holds Off-Site Video Debates

    The BBC has extended its Have Your Say brand to third party video websites.

    HYS channels have been created on video comment sites Qik, Phreadz and 12Seconds as the corporation seeks to ‘join in conversations, wherever they are’.

    One of the first video discussion topics centred on the recent vice-presidential debate in the USA and attracted over 200 videos from users.

    While a later HYS asking for views on the second presidential face-off also drew a significant response.

    Matthew Eltringham, assistant editor of interactivity, said of the project: “We wanted to hear what people thought about the US presidential debates and get their views in video rather than in text.

    “It was the first time we have done something like this - starting a conversation on the web outside the BBC - and we tried to approach it in a more informal and open way.”

    Writing on The Editors blog, Eltringham added that the VP discussion acted as a useful learning curve for working on these kinds of platforms and revealed that the BBC is “planning to do a lot more of it”.

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    17 October 2008

    Criminal Mugshots Among ‘Most Read’

    An online editor has revealed that his website’s rogues’ gallery is a regular fixture in its most read stories chart.

    Ian Brogden of Cumbria’s News & Star said the Banged Up photo feature has attracted significant levels of traffic since it was unveiled in February this year.

    He told Journalism.co.uk that the gallery regularly draws some 60,000 page impressions per month.

    Pictures of local people who have been given prison sentences of two years or more are included in the collection, which is frequently updated with assistance from the police.

    Following the success of the project, the News & Star’s sister title has also started its own gallery.

    The North-West Evening Mail states: “We are highlighting some of the worst offenders on-line and updating it regularly, as people are brought to justice.”

    And Superintendent Paul Kennedy from South Cumbria said in support of the initiative: “It’s important that the public know what’s happening in our law courts in order to feel confident about our justice system.

    “These sentences also send out a message to criminals, that if you commit crime then you will be punished.”

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    BBC Appoints Readers’ Reporter

    The BBC has created a new post for a journalist to work solely with story leads submitted by the audience via emails, texts and pictures.

    Siobhan Courtney is the corporation’s first Interactive Reporter and it’s her brief to cover tip-offs from users regarding stories that “aren’t part of the conventional news processes”.

    Matthew Eltringham says that although the BBC has been creating articles from user-generated content (UGC) for some time, there are many more falling by the wayside as journalists are unable to explore them further.

    Writing on The Editors blog, the assistant editor of interactivity notes: “They’re stories that matter to people … and weren’t getting the attention they deserved so we’ve decided to try out a reporter whose beat is simply all the content you’ve been sending in to us”.

    And he points to two stories broken by Courtney since the start of the pilot project two weeks ago – including a multimedia report into initiation activities at universities which has led to a police investigation.

    The BBC has been developing stories from users’ emails and texts since the creation of its UGC Hub following the Asian tsunami in December 2004.

    Journalists working on the Hub process the thousands of emails and pictures submitted each day and then distribute them to the relevant BBC news programmes.

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    16 October 2008

    Papers Launch Regional Wiki

    A group of newspapers has launched a wiki with the aim for it to become an “encyclopaedic reference for the North East of England”.

    Journalists at several of the region’s Trinity Mirror titles have collaborated to produce wikinortheast.co.uk, reports HoldTheFrontPage.co.uk.

    (Wikis enable users to create and edit content – more information on them can be found on this Spotlight Post which we created in June this year.)

    The brainchild of a Web developer, the wiki has content spread across seven different subject titles – including Art & Culture, History & Heritage, Sport and Environment.

    Within each heading there are then entries on people, places, events and topics and these can be added to by any registered member.

    Registered users can also create their own topics within the subject areas and can edit articles written by others.

    Evening Chronicle editor Paul Robertson explained that the wiki provides a platform where newspapers and readers can share their knowledge about the region.

    He said: “We have an amazing archive of material on all manner of subjects but we also have an army of readers in the region across our titles who have their own mines of information which they now have an opportunity to share through wikinortheast.

    “If the amount of work put in is anything to go by it deserves to be a success and the site has already attracted positive comments even though it has only just gone live.”

    The site came about after Trinity Mirror asked staff to contribute ideas for innovation in journalism.

    Louise Midgley from NCJ Media won the contest and will receive a share of any profits which are generated by the wiki.

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    Yahoo Pipes: Tips For Journalists

    Using Yahoo Pipes can help journalists enhance their output and forge links with their communities.

    That’s the view outlined by Amy Gahran in her recent blog post on Poynter Online where she provides some tips on creating pipes and suggests how they are relevant to reporters.

    First up – what exactly is Yahoo Pipes? According to Yahoo it’s “a powerful composition tool to aggregate, manipulate, and mashup content from around the web”.

    In other words, it enables users to remix their RSS feeds, combining them and filtering them to create a unique feed that can then be shared with the world.

    And here are some of Gahran’s tips for journalists looking to build their own pipes:

    1 – Get To Know Your Feeds

    “If you don’t know what feeds are, you’ll need to learn the bare basics - especially which kinds of sites or services offer feeds.”

    2 – Be Prepared To Revise

    “Don’t expect your Yahoo Pipe to work perfectly the first time you create it.

    “Its initial results will probably miss some stuff you want, include some stuff you don’t want, and include some duplicate content.”

    Gahran also advises checking a pipe every now and then to ensure all the correct feeds are still coming through.

    3 – Be Imaginative

    “You can use a pipe’s output to feed interactive maps, special Web pages, widgets, information graphics, and more that can appear anywhere.”

    She adds: “As you start experimenting with Yahoo Pipes, sit down with designers and Web developers to discuss possibilities for turning your pipe into something compelling or fun.”

    4 – Public or Private?

    Creators can elect to publish their pipe so anyone can clone it and amend for their own uses, but Gahran points out that you can also decide not to publish and share your pipe with a select few by giving out its URL.

    She concludes: “Learning how to use Yahoo Pipes is one relatively easy-to-learn skill that can enhance your journalism, strengthen ties with communities of geography or interest, and help you find or keep a job.”

    If you want to know more about Yahoo Pipes and see some celebrated examples, have a look at this article on Read Write Web entitled The Ultimate Yahoo Pipes Creations List.

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    15 October 2008

    Website Plots UFO Sightings Over Wrexham

    Visitors to the Evening Leader site can now see when and where local residents have reported UFO sightings thanks to a new widget application.

    It could be a case for Mulder and Scully in North Wales at the moment as the region has seen a spate of UFO spots recently and the newspaper is now charting them online via an interactive timeline and map, reports HoldTheFrontPage.co.uk.

    Using a widget from Dipity, the Evening Leader has produced a timeline detailing updates on the sightings and featuring links to articles and video footage.

    The application also uses Google software to create a map displaying the locations of reports of unusual activities in the skies over North Wales.

    Digital editor Christian Dunn said using a third-party site to create the resource has saved time and created a new traffic source.

    “We turned the whole thing into a widget and embed this onto our site, and by making our UFO spotting ‘topic’ public on Dipity other users of the site can find it, which helps drive traffic to eveningleader.co.uk.”

    He added: “We’ll definitely be looking at what else we can use Dipity for in the future as our sites don’t let us create such good visual timelines - which can be a great way to illustrate how a story has developed.”

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    Chronicle Joins Online Do-Gooders

    The Houston Chronicle has become the latest American newspaper to launch its own ‘good causes’ community channel.

    Visitors to the Chron.com can now use the databases on its Do Good pages to find out about charitable and non-profit activities in the local area, reports Editor & Publisher.

    The channel is part of a partnership with web-based company good2gether.com, which aims to put not-for-profit groups in contact with volunteers and vice versa

    And this latest regional joint venture has coincided with the launch of its new Crises category, enabling visitors to search for how to help in emergency situations.

    For the Chron.com this means the newspaper’s website now hosts a resource supplying information about the various groups helping the relief effort after Hurricane Ike.

    “This provides an excellent opportunity to reach out to our print and online readers who are moved by the Chronicle’s coverage to do something to help,” said Joycelyn Marek, vice president of business development and community affairs at the Chronicle.

    Other newspapers which are running online Do Good channels in collaboration with good2gether include the Boston Globe and the San Francisco Chronicle.

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    14 October 2008

    Sites Fact-Check Debate Via Twitter

    Journalists at an American newspaper provided a real-time fact-checking service during the latest presidential debate.

    Reporters working on PolitiFact.com used the site’s Twitter stream to give verdicts on the veracity of statements made during the head-to-head between Barack Obama and John McCain, blogs Amy Gahran at Poynter Online.

    The website, a project of the St Petersburg Times and Congressional Quarterly, is running an online fact-checking service throughout the campaign and offering truth-o-meter readings on claims made by the two candidates and their running mates.

    And during the debate its journalists used this growing database of verdicts on statements to update people via the microblogging platform Twitter.

    News technologist Matthew Waite explained the website’s two-pronged approach to covering the debate to Gahran.

    “The whole live-tweeting thing was just a seat-of-the-pants idea,” he said.

    “Every time the candidates said something we’d already checked, we hollered it out.”

    He added that at the same time other reporters were keeping an eye out for any new statements from Obama or McCain which could then be checked out as the debate continued.

    While Waite himself used Twitter to post links to previous PolitiFact reports on various pronouncements repeated during the discussion.

    The initiative has already seen some immediate benefits with the number of people following PolitiFact via Twitter increasing by about 50%.

    An audio file containing an interview between Gahran and Waite is available on Poynter Online.

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    Journal Hosts Football Debate Live Online

    The future of crisis-hit Newcastle United was the topic for debate on the Journal’s first ever live webchat.

    Chief sports writer Luke Edwards spent Friday afternoon taking readers’ questions about both on the pitch and off the pitch happenings at St James’ Park.

    Joining Edwards was multimedia editor Matt McKenzie, who also gave his views in response to comments and queries from a multitude of Magpies’ fans.

    Using CoveritLive liveblogging software, the platform enabled users to put their questions straight to the journalists and encouraged debate about the troubled club.

    It included several ad hoc polls, asking the audience to give their verdict on interim manager Joe Kinnear and predict Newcastle’s table position come August.

    And the chat also incorporated inbound links to previous Journal articles as well as external links to related sites which were submitted by users.

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    13 October 2008

    Citizen Journalism Films On Show

    Videos entered for a citizen journalism competition are now available to view online.

    Over 80 films were submitted to Project: Report, a contest for “non-professional, aspiring journalists” run by YouTube in partnership with the Pulitzer Center.

    Visitors to the Project: Report channel can watch all of the pieces entered for round one, which asked budding storytellers to make a short video profile of a person in their community.

    Among the varied array of subjects are an unorthodox high school physics teacher, a D-Day veteran and a Holocaust survivor.

    On October 14 the judging panel will announce the ten semi-finalists from the first round who will then go on to fulfill two more assignments.

    The winning citizen journalist will receive a grant from the Pulitzer Centre to produce a video report.

    More details on Project: Report can be found at PulitzerCenter.org.

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    10 October 2008

    Trinity Sites Live Blog Credit Crisis

    Journalists on three Trinity Mirror newspapers teamed up this week to produce a live blog on the current financial crisis.

    Websites for the Birmingham Post, Liverpool Daily Post and Newcastle Journal all hosted the live blog providing real-time updates on falls in the share index, according to Press Gazette.

    As well as breaking news on the UK stock market, the live blog encouraged direct input from users through comments and interactive polls.

    The Banking Crisis Live Blog also featured internal links to in-depth articles and video reports posted on the three news sites, and external links to resources such as the Treasury statement published in full on bbc.co.uk.

    Running through Tuesday and Wednesday, the live blog covered both the announcement of the government’s support package for banks and the Bank of England’s interest rate cut.

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    Hyperlocal Site Launching In UK

    An American website featuring hyperlocal news is launching a beta version for the UK.

    Outside.in enables users to aggregate information from news websites and blogs concerning places of relevance to them – from cities and towns to tiny neighbourhoods.

    Spokesperson Nina Grigoriev confirmed to Journalism.co.uk that a UK version is on its way and revealed that the organisation is considering setting up an office here too.

    And she said that one of the main reasons for this new launch was “the failure of the newspaper industry to capitalise on featuring hyperlocal content” in the UK.

    Grigoriev added that “the demand for personalised information on the web” was another contributing factor to the launch of the new site.

    Outside.in also offers embeddable story maps enabling bloggers and publishers to geotag their content - see this blog on architecture for an example of the Story Maps application.

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    09 October 2008

    Standard Launches New Site

    The Evening Standard has unveiled a new-look website which combines both news and entertainment coverage.

    HoldTheFrontPage.co.uk reports that the redesign has seen the showbiz and culture orientated thisislondon.co.uk become a section of the main site rather than the homepage.

    In its stead is thisislondon.co.uk/standard, which has main news headlines followed by business and sports headlines and updates on the newspaper’s campaigns.

    “We believe that this new clarity, and a genuine multi-platform consumer and commercial offering, will be greatly appreciated by our readers and advertisers,” said Andrew Mullins, managing director at the Evening Standard.

    ‘Four In Ten Bloggers Write About News’

    News is the fourth most popular topic among writers in the Technorati-indexed blogosphere.

    Some 42% of bloggers consider News to be one of their blogging subjects, reveals The 2008 State of the Blogosphere Report from the blog search engine.

    Using data from the Technorati index and from blogger surveys, the study shows that News comes fourth behind Personal/Lifestyle, Technology and the Other category for issues outside the main ones.

    The five-part report was recently released over five days and provides a useful overview of who is blogging, what they are blogging about and whether they are making any money from it.

    Section One is devoted to the demographics of the blogosphere and states that two-thirds are male, half are between the ages of 18-34 and some 70% have a higher education.

    Part Two is called The What and Why of Blogging and contains information on blog topics, tone and how they impact on the lives of their authors.

    The How of Blogging is the theme of day three’s report with details on frequency of posts and the use of online tools.

    Published on day four was the making money stuff with data on the number of blogs carrying advertising and how much revenue bloggers are making.

    And the final section looks at brand use on blogs and bloggers’ views on the future of the medium, especially in terms of its relationship with traditional media.

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    08 October 2008

    Food For Thought On Future Of Media

    How the media meets its challenges in an economically uncertain world was the topic for last night’s Journalism Leaders Forum in Preston.

    At the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) event, the debate ranged from whether the advertising-supported business model was well and truly broken to how journalists can help themselves to thrive in the digital age.

    Among the panellists offering their thoughts was American internet strategist Steve Yelvington, who maintained that newspapers need to increase their range of services in order to succeed in the future.

    He supported the view that the ad-supported model is not broken but claimed news by itself is not enough to build the kind of audiences sought by advertisers.

    Speaking from Florida, the current VP for content and strategy at Morris Digital Works added that a key new challenge is for newspapers to add extra services to its “town crier function”.

    Although journalists are well adjusted to this idea of reporting what happened, they now need to adopt the “town square” function and start to build “community memory” resources, he said.

    Explained on his blog, this notion is similar to the one espoused recently by various Google experts regarding journalists creating “living resources” on their websites.

    Meanwhile, fellow panellist Steve Gray (speaking from West Virginia) pointed to the importance of encompassing different kinds of advertising in order for online newspapers to succeed in the future.

    Gray, who manages the American Press Institute’s Newspaper Next project, predicted that video, email and search advertising are the three categories likely to “explode” in the next five years.

    And, like Yelvington, he believes news by itself is not enough to enable newspapers to hold on to the large audiences they once had.

    Instead, Gray recommended that regional newspapers must become the “information provider of choice across many categories of consumer information”, and help people find “local solutions” to their day-to-day problems.

    Panellist Professor Jane Singer added that this information needn’t all come from journalists, some could be provided by regional businesses, local authorities and the audience.

    The Johnston Press chair in digital journalism at UCLan noted that this then would free up reporters to concentrate on community coverage and doing the work “other folks cannot do”.

    Guardian blogs editor Kevin Anderson also suggested that the changing role of the journalist will play a part in the future of news media, particularly when it comes to utilising social media tools.

    Speaking from America, Anderson said that social media can “reinvigorate relationships with our audience”.

    And he pointed out that the journalists who succeed in the online environment are the ones who don’t wait for training in using these tools but who follow their “natural curiosity” and find out for themselves.

    Lancashire Evening Post editor Simon Reynolds added that the biggest challenge for journalists takes the form of a mental one – thinking about working in two to three different mediums at once.

    Subtitled “Hard Lessons: What are the tough times teaching media decision-makers about the way forward?”, this was the tenth in the series of Journalism Leaders Forums.

    Visit the Journalism Leaders Forum blog to see video from last night’s event, while for further coverage of the summit take a look at Journalism.co.uk.

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    10 Questions About Online Video

    A multimedia editor has produced a list of ten questions all journalists should ask themselves to decide if video is right for their website.

    With this post on his Mastering Multimedia blog, Colin Mulvany enters the quantity versus quality of online video debate currently occupying the minds of many web editors.

    The Spokesman-Review staffer writes: “If you can’t find a decent answer or solution to each of these questions, then maybe you shouldn’t be messing with video at this time.”

    Here’s an excerpt from Mulvany’s list of ten questions:

    Is quality video valuable to your viewers?

    Has video gained traction on your website over time? If not, why?

    Has your paper invested in training that empowers your video producers to be able to tell and edit a story effectively?

    Do you have (need) a web-savvy management structure in place to filter out bad video ideas and is an advocate for video-based storytelling?

    If you are producing lots of video, do you have a website that showcases this valued web-only content?

    The full list can be found on Mulvany’s blog post, “Video: Quality vs. Quantity Debate Rages On”.

    And a reaction to his post can be seen on Mindy McAdam’s Teaching Online Journalism blog.


    Story Process Laid Bare By Wired

    Wired.com has opened up its editorial process to the public through a profile piece on film-maker Charlie Kaufman.

    Visitors to the website are able to follow the evolution of the article - from the original idea and pitch through to the interview, writing, editing and design stages.

    The “profile of a profile” is the brainchild of senior editor Jason Tanz and is based upon the idea of “radical transparency”.

    Guest blogging on reportr.net, Tanz explains the notions behind the experimental piece: “At Wired, we’ve written about the notion of “radical transparency,” in which companies air their inner deliberations online and thereby create stronger relationships with their customers.

    “When it came time to write my Kaufman profile, I suggested something similar: Let’s post everything that went into the pitching, writing, editing, and design of this story.”

    So among the information shared with the audience via blogs are audio files with a “lightly edited” version of the full interview with Kaufman, edits of drafts, fact-checking notes and proofreading changes.

    The blogs reveal the team of workers behind the finished article and each of them – from the writer to the photo editor to the designer – writes a post explaining their part in the process.

    In addition, the main blog now has a full pdf version of the final article available for view several weeks before it will appear in print.

    According to Tanz, the experimental profile is a way to bring journalists out from hiding behind “our objective voice”.

    He writes: “We present ourselves as all-knowing seers, delivering the truth from the mountaintop, when really our product - like any - is the product of humans making decisions.”

    Tanz concludes: “The underlying questions that we’re trying to address - how do we connect to readers and engage them in our process and our product - are ones we’re sure to keep asking.”

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