31 March 2009

BBC & Blogging Guidelines

The pros and cons of BBC reporters maintaining their own blogs were discussed recently on the broadcaster’s Newswatch programme.

Featured below, the debate between media commentator Stephen Glover and BBC News deputy director Stephen Mitchell touches on issues such as neutrality, objectivity and accuracy with regards to blogging.

The video appears on The Editors blog on a post which also highlights the BBC’s recent design changes to its blogs.

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North-West Awards Shortlist Unveiled

The nominees in contention for the 12 prizes at this year’s How-Do Awards have been announced.

How-Do Awards recognise the media and creative industries in the north-west of England, and this year’s website award will be contested by online newspapers, magazines, radio and community sites among others.

The shortlist for the award for Media Website:

BBC Liverpool
City Talk 105.9
Lancashire Evening Post
Planet Confidential
The Westmorland Gazette

How-Do received more than 200 entries this year, with the resulting shortlist for each of the 12 prizes published on the How-Do website.

The winners will be announced at a ceremony to be held at the end of April.

[HT – HoldtheFrontPage.co.uk]

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Paper Plans Investigative Radio Show

A morning radio show devoted to investigative journalism is to be launched by the Washington Times this spring.

The syndicated three-hour programme will be carried by Talk Radio Network and will feature investigations by the newspaper’s journalists and interviews with the key reporters.

“I think the goal here is to take what we’ve done so successfully in print and translate it to radio,” said John Solomon, executive editor at the Washington Times.

He added: “The concept is that when you tune in in the morning, it’s not going to be yesterday’s news.”

A spokesman for Talk Radio Network asserted that the new show could do for radio what 60 Minutes did for television.

More on this story on the Washington Times website.

[HT – Journalism.co.uk]

[Picture - Web Radio, by Alessandro Bonvini on Flickr]

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30 March 2009

Orwell Prize Reveals Blogger Shortlist

The six bloggers shortlisted for the inaugural Orwell Prize for blogging have been announced, reports Press Gazette.

Awarded for excellence in political journalism, the Orwell Prize presents awards for books and journalism and has included the blogs category for the first time this year.

Selected from a longlist of 83, the shortlist includes writers with blogs hosted by mainstream media platforms as well as one-man-band full-time and part-time bloggers.

The nominees are:

The People’s Republic of Mortimer - Party political blog (Conservative Liberal Democrat) from Alix Mortimer.

Guardian Politics Blog - By Andrew Sparrow, the Guardian’s senior political correspondent.

Three Thousand Versts of Loneliness – Created by a liberal unionist from Northern Ireland blogging under the name of Chekov.

Iain Dale’s Diary – Party political blog (Conservative) from Iain Dale.

Night Jack – By blogging policeman Jack Night.

BBC Newsnight Idle Scrawl – Blog from Paul Mason, economics editor for the current affairs programme.

The prize director, Jean Seaton, said that this kind of recognition is particularly needed at the moment: “It is especially important, when the newspaper industry is writing headlines about itself daily of job losses and falling profits, to celebrate some of the best examples of journalism."

The prize winners will be revealed at a ceremony in London at the end of next month.

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Twitter App Delivers News To Journalists

The creators behind a new Twitter application hope it will provide a “communication channel for people to reach journalists with news”.

Nyouse (pronounced news) is the brainchild of freelance copywriter Leif Kendall and app developer Jon Markwell and aims to divert news tweets to reporters.

Speaking to Journalism.co.uk, Kendall said Nyouse provides a way for “ordinary people to alert the press” about stories that no-one else is covering.

He added: “It really takes two groups of people to understand the process and use it.”

It requires Twitterers to label their tweets with the #nyouse label or send them to @nyouse.

They can then be picked up by journalists who visit nyouse.com or subscribe to the RSS feed.

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Huff Post Launches Investigative Fund

A new investigative journalism project funded by the Huffington Post and the Atlantic Philanthropies is about to be launched.

The Huffington Post Investigative Fund will use its £1.2m starting budget to pay a team of ten reporters and freelancers to get digging and produce a range of in-depth investigative reports concerning the American economy.

HuffPost founder Ariana Huffington says the project has been created in response to fears that industry cutbacks will affect the quality and quantity of investigative journalism

Writing on the HuffPost, she continues: “All who recognise the indispensable role good journalism plays in our democracy are looking for ways to preserve it during this transitional period for the media.

“For too long, whether it’s coverage of the war in Iraq or the economic meltdown, we’ve had too many autopsies and not enough biopsies.

“The HuffFund is our attempt to change this. It will also provide new opportunities for seasoned journalists who have been laid off or forced into early retirement.”

Huffington also announced that the resulting reports would be published on the HuffPost and would also be made freely available to any other publishers.

Among the partners working with the HuffPost on this project are the Columbia School of Journalism and Jay Rosen from New York University.

More about the fund can be found on Rosen’s Press Think blog and on guardian.co.uk.

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27 March 2009

Sun Becomes UK’s Online No.1

The Sun online has become the most popular national newspaper website in the UK after attracting more than 27 million unique users last month.

Year-on-year comparisons show thesun.co.uk increased traffic by 118.2%, a leap which saw the News International title move from fifth to first in the order of most visited online newspapers.

The release of ABCe monthly data shows that guardian.co.uk fell from first to third, Telegraph.co.uk remained in second and Times Online and dailymail.co.uk are fourth and fifth respectively.

Speaking to Press Gazette, The Sun’s online editor attributed the site’s growth to a number of factors.

Pete Picton said: “It’s a combination of things - great stories, great content, increased promotional activity and increased site optimization.”

“If you’ve got great content, it’s being linked to by a lot more places than it was,” he added, in reference to the site’s increase in referrals from social media sites like Digg.

Picton also pointed out that the user-generated content zone MySun and the Sun Woman section of the site saw record traffic last month.

Several high-profile stories also helped thesun.co.uk to break web traffic records, including the exclusive about an alleged baby-faced dad and the ‘bong’ photo of Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps.

Read more about this story on guardian.co.uk.

[Graph from Press Gazette]

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BBC Shows Bookmarked Content

Articles which have been shared most by users on social media sites are now displayed on the BBC news page.

Previously, the Most Popular Stories Now box showed the Most Emailed, Most Read and Most Watched/Listened.

But in recognition of the growing popularity of social bookmarking and recommendation websites, the BBC has changed Most Emailed to Most Shared.

This then takes into account not just articles which users have emailed to one another but also stories they have shared via sites such as Digg and Facebook.

Writing about the change on The BBC Editors blog, news website editor Steve Herrmann said the change was introduced in order “to get a broader range of input to these recommendations”.

Herrmann also used the blog to announce that the Most Read section will continue to include ten headlines after it proved a success with users.

The Editors blog welcomes any feedback about these changes in the comments section of Herrmann’s blog post.

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26 March 2009

How To: Create Local News Mashups

Blogger Adrian Short has published a useful guide to building local news mashups.

Short blogs about hyperlocal news in Stonecot Hill (Sutton) and has created a Twitter feed for the area which pulls together news stories from a range of websites.

This mashup can be used by Short to gather leads for his own blog and also acts as a hyperlocal news distribution tool in its own right.

His step-by-step graphic guide illustrates the way that RSS feeds from news sources - his own blog, the Sutton Guardian and the website of his local MP - are filtered to supply relevant material to the feed.

Short also explains how his Yahoo Pipes mashup creation pulls in content from the local council website without the use of RSS feeds.

And he believes that all websites should pay attention to their mashable-friendly credentials.

“If you run a website, it’s time to start thinking of mashability with the same degree of seriousness as you treat human visitors.

“Your website needs to serve up feeds and APIs so that other programs can connect to your content and deliver it to people in ways and contexts that they find useful.”

[HT - Journalism.co.uk]

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Evening Post Expands Hyperlocal Coverage

More neighbourhoods have been given their own news channels on the website of the Nottingham Evening Post.

The Northcliffe site introduced its first batch of hyperlocal news sites last summer and has now expanded the service to include more areas.

Among the districts in and around the city given their own news channels are Sherwood, Aspley and Eastwood.

According to HoldTheFrontPage.co.uk, the online Evening Post now has over 70 mini sites devoted to hyperlocal news coverage.

“This gives our visitors a way of filtering the news that is specific to their communities,” said Martin Done, deputy editor at the newspaper.

He added: “These sites will be places where people can meet online and discuss news relevant to their districts.”

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25 March 2009

The Power Of Networks

Here’s an interesting slideshow about the impact of digital networking upon the ways we communicate in the modern era.

It’s taken from a presentation recently given by David Armano, the vice president of Experience Design at Critical Mass and a new media blogger.

The Micro-Sociology of Networks considers social media and networking, participatory journalism, blogging, and branding among many other aspects of the digital age.

[HT – cybersoc.com]

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FT Unveils Semantic Search Service

The Financial Times has launched a new search service dedicated exclusively to business-related content.

Beta project Newssift differs from Google and other search engines as it trawls only material related to specific topics rather than searching the web as a whole – known as deep search.

Spokesman John Greenleaf said this aspect has helped the FT create “an exclusive content library”.

According to The Guardian’s PDA blog, the service also differs from mainstream search engines as it is based entirely on semantic search rather than keyword search.

This concentrates on meanings and relations between terms or concepts and so aims to produce more relevant search results and recommended articles of further interest.

It is also resistant to efforts by content providers to boost search rankings using search engine optimization tactics, claimed Greenleaf.

Visitors to the site can create their own search queries or use the existing options divided into categories such as organisation, place and person.

And the results page boasts a couple of interesting features with a Sentiment pie chart showing the proportion of positive/neutral/negative articles and a Sources pie chart displaying the share of content from newspapers, TV, news wires etc.

The search facility is free to use and is currently supported by display advertising.

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Sun Launching Radio Phone-In Online

The Sun promises that its forthcoming online radio station will be “The Home Of Free Speech”.

Weekday phone-in show Sun Talk is set to launch next month with former Talksport DJ Jon Gaunt at the helm.

According to Media Week, the new show forms part of News International’s investment strategy in multimedia content.

Sun Talk will be transmitted live between 10am and 1pm and will also be available as a download during the whole week.

And the station has managed to pull in an impressive guest for the first live show - Conservative leader David Cameron.

The Sun says the opposition leader will be taking calls and email questions from Sun readers during the inaugural show.

Writing on the launch announcement page, Gaunt reiterates the show’s commitment to the views of the audience.

“This is the station for YOU where you will not only get expert comment, controversy and loads of laughs but also the chance to interact and have YOUR SAY - and say it how you want.”

Further details about Sun Talk can be found on thesun.co.uk.

[HT – Journalism.co.uk]

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24 March 2009

Site To Cover Parliament Debates

A new website providing comprehensive coverage of the goings on within the House of Commons is to be launched next month.

The brainchild of Tony Grew, I Spy Strangers describes itself as the product of “a non-partisan, not-for-profit group” which will provide an accessible record of parliamentary debates.

Speaking to Press Gazette, the former editor of Pink News said the website will provide the kind of coverage not offered by the mainstream media.

“At the moment, only the BBC provides that sort of coverage - and we don’t think that’s acceptable in a democratic society,” said Grew.

He added: “There’s a gap in the market for people interested in democracy, but who haven’t the time to go through Hansard.

“We want to go back to accurate, engaging reports of what was said. We think there is a lot of good stuff that’s missed.”

Set for launch on April 20, I Spy Strangers is currently staffed by volunteer journalists, photographers and web designers.

Grew aims to employ salaried workers in the future and is working to secure funding from organisations committed to widening public access to democracy.

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PCC Notes “Wobble” In Online Journalism

Falls in the quality of online journalism have been noted by the Press Complaints Commission, reports Press Gazette.

Speaking at the launch of the PCC’s annual report, chairman Sir Christopher Meyer said the regulatory organisation has seen some declines in standards of online reporting during the past year.

“We’ve noticed some wobble in standards in areas of online reporting where it’s clear the pressure of time and the 24-hour news cycle may have led people to put up stories which haven’t been thoroughly vetted,” said Sir Christopher.

Speaking in response to a query about the impact of editorial job losses on news output, Sir Christopher also asserted that the PCC will be keeping a check on standards in the future.

“If we do notice something which appears to be linked to some of the hollowing-out that’s going on in the industry, I’m sure we would say something.

“It’s part of our remit to keep standards high.”

The PCC annual report for 2008 revealed that it received almost 4700 complaints during the course of the year, more than half of which were related to stories published online.

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Newsrooms Should Take Risks Online

Newspapers need to experiment more with their digital output in order to meet the challenges of tomorrow, according to ex-editor Jim Brady.

Brady oversaw washingtonpost.com for four years during one of its most innovative periods and he said that newsrooms need to “ratchet up the level of experimentation” in digital media while users are still relatively forgiving.

Speaking to Poynter Online, Brady asserted that it is through such editorial experiments and risk-taking that feasible business models may be discovered.

“Digital journalism is still the Wild West; the rules are still being made,” he noted.

“But I don’t think there’s much of a doubt that digital is the sandbox that future readers will be playing in, so pulling back now would seem shortsighted.

“We have to figure digital out from a business perspective if we’re going to survive, much less thrive.”

Brady also pointed out that some news websites are still lagging behind in terms of the breadth and depth of their online offerings.

“Launching blogs in 2009 isn’t innovative anymore. Launching comments on articles in 2009 isn’t innovative. But a lot of sites are just getting to that point now.”

And he refuted the suggestion that small sites cannot take as many editorial risks as big websites such as washingtonpost.com.

“My belief is that the ability to experiment in new areas isn’t really a function of staff size, though scale is.

“We can produce 20 to 30 original video pieces a week; I realise many news sites can’t do that. But there’s no reason a site can’t do four to six a week.”

Visit Poynter Online for the full interview and links to some of the online successes achieved by washingtonpost.com during Brady’s tenure.


23 March 2009

Sky Maps UK Jobs Scene

A map showing the pattern of job losses across the UK has been launched online by Sky News.

Forming part of the news provider’s recession coverage, Sky News Jobs Watch enables visitors to see employment gains and losses by region and by sector, reports Journalism.co.uk.

Users can also view lists for each region showing the names of organisations and the approximate number of job gains/losses at each one.

The interactive map is provided by business intelligence group Mandis and will be automatically updated from its data gathering services.

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Chronicle & Echo Launches Film Comp

Local film-makers have the chance to earn some recognition as the Northampton Chronicle & Echo launches its annual short film competition.

Supported by industry groups such as 20th Century Fox and Reelscape Films, the contest invites people to submit five-minute films shot in the county which will be judged by both a specialist panel and the public.

Film Northants 2009 invites submissions via its website for the three categories – fiction, non-fiction and schools, reports HoldTheFrontPage.co.uk .

Entries will be displayed on the website and the judging panel will then select a shortlist from which visitors will select the three winners.

The finalists will also see their films make the big screen at a special ceremony at a Vue Cinema in September.

Prizes include a flat-screen TV, passes for the cinema and places on workshops with industry figures.

Further details can be found on northamptonchron.co.uk .

[Disclosure – The Northampton Chronicle & Echo is a Johnston Press publication.]

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Uni Launching Online Journalism MA

Online journalism is one of the new subject areas to be offered as a Masters degree by Birmingham City University .

Journalism.co.uk reports that the Online Journalism MA will be open to students from this September.

The course will be led by academic and blogger Paul Bradshaw, who said that the year-long MA will cover themes such as news-gathering and news distribution.

In addition, Bradshaw revealed that students will also be exploring new business models in online news rather than only concentrating on existing newsroom set-ups and jobs.

“Ultimately the industry is crying out for this and there’s clearly a demand for it,” he said.

The founder of the Online Journalism Blog added: “We will be exploring new business models and I think that is the chief difference. We’re certainly not relying on the existing structures.”

In addition to the online journalism course, the university will also be offering a new MA in Social Media at the start of the new academic year.

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20 March 2009

Subscription Model Tested In Denver

Ex-staffers from the Rocky Mountain News could be back on their old beats if a venture to fund a website with subscriptions proves a success.

Three entrepreneurs are behind the attempt to create a news website – In Denver Times – to replace the gap left by the closure of the Rocky last month.

Video introduction to In Denver Times.

According to Associated Press, the site would be funded by reader subscriptions and advertising revenue.

Some 50,000 annual subscriptions costing $4.99 (£3.43) is the target figure for the investors if the website is to be up and running by May.

These subscribers would then receive extra content in the shape of mobile feeds, access to interactive features etc.

About 30 journalists and editors from the Rocky Mountain News would be hired by the website if subscription targets are met.

One of these former Rocky reporters in line to get a job with In Denver Times is Tillie Fong.

She said: “I want to be a journalist. This is ‘what I want to be when I grow up,’

“When the Rocky closed, it was traumatic, shocking. It was a hard blow. It was a death. This is sort of like a phoenix.”

If you want to know more about the creation of In Denver Times, a video is available of the press conference announcing its goals.

The first website to rise from the ashes of the Rocky Mountain News was I Want My Rocky, which features blog posts and reports from former journalists at the newspaper.

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BBC Introduces Embedded Videos

The BBC has added the embed function for the first time to videos displayed on certain areas of its website.

As a result of the move, users will be able to embed BBC videos on their own websites and blogs.

The beginning of the embedded video rollout has begun with the News Technology section and will be expanded to other areas in the future.

Writing on the BBC Internet blog, chief technical architect John O’Donovan explains: “It’s taken a while because there have been a huge number of tricky little issues to sort out and most of these have been complex business issues around rights, terms and conditions, etc.

“But at last through the fog, a simple and subtle change finally emerges.”

He also reveals that following the initial rollout stage, “there are different flavours of embedded widget which will be made available”.

[HT – Journalism.co.uk]

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19 March 2009

Seattle P-I Becomes Online-Only

America’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer has converted to an online-only newspaper this week.

Owner Hearst Corporation says the Seattle P-I is the biggest American daily newspaper to cease print production and become a web-only operation after it printed its final edition on Tuesday.

The New York Times reports that the move will be closely watched by other titles operating “in an industry that is fast losing revenue and is casting around for a new economic model”.

It continues: “The move shows how some newspapers, in the future, may not vanish but move the battle from print to the digital arena.”

A minority of editorial staff will be kept on to produce content for the website, which is to become more like an opinion and news aggregation site rather than a traditional news website with investigative reports.

Some people are taking an optimistic view of the change and see it as a chance to be at the forefront of news experimentation in the digital age.

“We clearly believe we are in a period of innovation and experimentation, and that’s what this new SeattlePI.com represents,” said Steven Swartz, president of the newspaper division at Hearst.

However, some ex-staffers have expressed their concern at the lack of investigative reporting that will be carried out by the new online-only SeattlePI.com.

“The thing that’s always been closest to my heart is The P-I’s coverage of the underdog, people who are invisible,” said Ruth Teichroeb, an investigative reporter for almost 12 years with the newspaper.

She added: “Those people who have the least voice in society are losing access to another part of the mainstream media.”

To see more reactions from editorial staff to the print closure, see the below video which features interviews with columnists, reporters, editors and photographers.

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Blogs & Their Mainstream Links

A new chart from Technorati shows the most popular mainstream media websites linked to by bloggers.

The blog search engine gave an insight into its first Technorati Attention Index on a blog post, showing the 50 websites linked to by most bloggers in the past 30 days.

Leading the pack is video-sharing website YouTube, followed by the agenda-setting nytimes.com and BBC News.

Also making the Technorati top ten are: MSN, Guardian.co.uk, washingtonpost.com, and Reuters.

A number of British mainstream media websites also made it into the Top 50 but outside the top ten, including: Telegraph.co.uk, dailymail.co.uk and FT.com.

Writing on the Technorati blog, Jen McLean explains some of the reasons behind starting the new index.

She notes: “We know the independence and immediacy of the blogosphere has had a huge impact on mainstream online media.

“Much is made of the tension between the two – but what we’re seeing is convergence, and a symbiotic relationship.

“So what is the influence of mainstream media sites in the blogosphere? We’ve tried to answer with the Technorati Attention Index.”

[HT – TechCrunch]

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18 March 2009

Site Launching Business Social Network

A New York newspaper is set to launch a social network channel aimed at small businesses.

The New York Daily News has announced that it is working with social media platform provider SaleSpider.com to create the service.

According to the Editors Weblog, the social network will enable some 500,000 companies to communicate with one another as part of a networked community.

“By providing an active community and business support system, it is our goal to offer a sustainable service to help them cope with these difficult economic times and help them build for their future,” said Marc Kramer, chief executive at the Daily News.

The president of its project partner added that this kind of offering will benefit online advertisers as it should give them “greater reach”.

Russell Rothstein also noted that the small business social network could become “a model for the newspaper industry to increase revenue within the digital business demographic”.

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Guardian Opens Up Online Content

This month has seen The Guardian making some of its content and data freely available to developers through its Open Platform project.

Launched as a commercial initiative, Open Platform enables people to access its articles and data sets in order to create new applications and online offerings.

The beta trial makes the content available through the Content API and Data Store channels on Guardian.co.uk.

Visitors to the Data Store can access statistics on a range of subjects, from the cost of military engagements in Iraq to the makeup of the British population and the tax-paying habits of some of the UK’s biggest firms.

And developers can share their creations through a blog dedicated to the data applications built using Open Platform.

Several partners are already working with The Guardian on the project, including OpenStreetMap which is hoping to work with users to create a map of geotagged Guardian content.

Director of digital content Emily Bell believes that Open Platform is a great way for the newspaper to interact with the wider world on the Web.

“We try very hard and spend many pounds a year to put our journalism in from of a wider audience: this is another way to do that,” she writes.

“We also recognise that by opening up what we do to more people who have more expertise than we do, we can improve what we do and change the Guardian’s relationship with the web and the internet.”

And she stresses that such a project works well as an accompaniment to more traditional journalism.

“This ‘showing your insides’ approach to publishing might seem like a million miles away from the relatively controlled world of top-down journalism, but it is strangely complimentary.”

A number of news organisations are starting to make some of their content available online to developers, including the New York Times which launched its first API last year.

Visit Guardian.co.uk for more details on Open Platform.

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How To: Audio Slideshows

Creating successful slideshows is the latest topic in a guide to multimedia journalism from academic Mindy McAdams.

Her tenth blog post in the series – Reporter’s Guide to Multimedia Proficiency – provides an introduction to the Soundslides program and offers tips and tricks for producing effective content.

According to McAdams, Soundslides “is a simple tool that builds simple audio slideshows.

“That’s all. But that’s actually quite a lot - especially because Soundslides is almost ridiculously simple to use.”

She adds: “There are many examples of elaborate, cinematic Soundslides online, but even a print reporter can combine an interview and some on-the-scene photos to produce a story with both audio and images.”

The Reporter’s Guide to Multimedia Proficiency series has so far included posts on blogging and RSS feeds, effective photography, recording and editing audio.

Visit McAdams’s Teaching Online Journalism blog for the full post.

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17 March 2009

New Business Model Is PEJ Focus

The state of journalism in all its forms is laid bare in this year’s annual report from the Project for Excellence in Journalism.

An introduction to The State of the News Media 2009 highlights the main area of concern making its presence felt time and time again throughout the extensive study – “the revenue problem”.

This is attributed to two things that happened during the course of 2008:

“First, the hastening audience migration to the Web means the news industry has to reinvent itself sooner than it thought - even if most of those people are going to traditional news destinations.

“At least in the short run, a bigger online audience has worsened things for legacy news sites, not helped them.”

Secondly, and unsurprisingly, it’s the effect of the global economic downturn and its consequence for journalism:

“The numbers are only guesses, but executives estimate that the recession at least doubled the revenue losses in the news industry in 2008, perhaps more in network television.

“Even more important, it swamped most of the efforts at finding new sources of revenue.

“In trying to reinvent the business, 2008 may have been a lost year, and 2009 threatens to be the same.”

This sixth edition of the annual report is available online and includes a study of citizen media websites, a section devoted to coverage of the presidential election, content analysis of the news of 2008 and features on new revenue models.

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Echo Video Celebrates Site Revamp

A video showing the past and present South Wales Echo aims to promote the newspaper’s online redesign.

Created by multimedia specialist James Cuff, the video highlights the title’s history through some of its famous front pages.

The video also shows the Echo in the here and now with footage of its new website, with reporters immersing themselves in the news.

“I wanted to create a short film that would celebrate the Echo as an important part of the history of South Wales and look forward to its future both in print and online,” said Cuff.

In an article on the Echo website, Cuff also explained some of the secrets behind the video’s special effects.

[HT – Press Gazette]

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Patch Launches NJ Hyperlocals

New Jersey residents are spoiled for choice with hyperlocal news coverage as another three sites are launched.

Just a couple of weeks after the New York Times went live with its community news sites in New Jersey, the newly-created Patch.com unveiled its websites covering Maplewood, South Orange and Millburn.

According to Lost Remote, each Patch platform is “deeper than NYT’s effort, featuring a business directory, video and data mapping, to name a few”.

The sites also offer interactive events listings and announcements, searchable directories of local restaurants, local facts sections and links to schools and colleges in the area.

According to its About Us page: “Patch is a new way to find out about, and participate in, what’s going on near you.

“We’re a community-specific news and information platform dedicated to providing comprehensive and trusted local coverage for individual towns and communities.”

Funded by private investors the Polar Capital Group, Patch.com is managed and staffed by media professionals and has plans to become a nationwide network in the future.

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16 March 2009

A Face Behind Anon Comments

An interview with a regional news website’s anonymous comment poster provides a valuable insight into why people comment online.

Former Birmingham Post development editor Joanna Geary has published a video interview with the active user in a bid to learn more about online news from the perspective of a commenter.

On her blog, Geary asserts that both journalists and posters can learn something about each other and themselves when they engage in a face-to-face dialogue about their respective positions.

For example, she notes that the commenter had “developed quite a bit of a reputation as a curmudgeon”, and yet, “the man I met in reception could not have been further from what I expected - polite, erudite, passionate and engaged in local news”.

She adds: “For his part, he was oblivious to the image he had been portraying to others online.

“Of course the wider point is that those who engage on the internet need to remember there are humans behind the handles (or bylines) and try and think about how their comments might be taken.”

Visit Geary’s Thoughts of a UK Regional Newspaper Journalist to see the 15-minute interview and full post.

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Interactive News Via Online Gaming

Incorporating news stories into online games is a way to encourage deeper engagement with the audience.

This is the view of entertainment technologists Eric Brown and Asi Burak – the founders of the Play the News website.

Visitors to the website can play a range of games based on news events or long-running global issues, taking on different roles and sharing comments and ideas with fellow gamers.

For example, a current game about October’s commando raid in Syria by American forces enables the player to take actions and make predictions representing either the US or Syria.

And it features video footage about the incident from Reuters.com, as well as maps of the region and information on events before and after the raid.

The duo’s company – Impact Games – has also created a popular online game based on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict entitled Peacemaker.

In an interview with Poynter Online, Brown said that Play the News helps people to gain an understanding into complex issues.

“It’s the concept and forms that we’ve developed that can help people understand the issue: looking for the underlying issues and then projecting into the future what the possible roles and actions might be.”

He added: “When you package it in this way, you’re engaging someone with an interactive.

“You’re increasing the likelihood that they’ll come back because they care about the story.

“Or the likelihood that they’re following the story because they want to see the next event in that string of actions.”

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BBC Relaunches Mobile Site

The BBC has unveiled a beta version of its latest mobile site boasting new customisation and localisation features.

Users can adapt the homepage so they can directly access their favourite content and can also create a localised version of the news, weather and TV sections.

In addition, the site appears in different forms and image sizes depending upon the users’ handsets and network capabilities.

The site “is the first milestone in an ambitious roadmap for the development of our service to be contextual, social, personal, immediate, device and location aware,” said Ulyssa MacMillan, executive producer for BBC Mobile.

Richard Titus, BBC future media controller, also stated that the corporation’s next step would be to adopt locative media tools for its mobile offerings.

He told The Guardian: “In a way, the BBC is one of the safest organisations to share your location with.

“We take privacy very seriously and there’s no malicious or commercial intent - we just want to make the experience better.”

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13 March 2009

Twitter – Not A Fan?

For some it heralds a new dawn in journalism, yet for others it’s an over-hyped bubble that’s about to burst.

Yes, it’s the seemingly ubiquitous Twitter and feelings about the microblogging platform can be on the strong side.

And since I usually present the positive side of the divide, I thought I’d redress the balance every now and then.

So I’m giving the last word this week to an amusing anti-Twitter video from Jon Stewart and the team at The Daily Show.

Viacom says No. OK, here it is from The Daily Show website:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Twitter Frenzy
Daily Show Full EpisodesImportant Things w/ Demetri MartinPolitical Humor

[HT - Cyberjournalist.net]


Sylvester Gets Tweety In Court

A journalist has been granted permission to provide coverage of a federal court case via Twitter updates.

Ron Sylvester has previously Twittered a murder trial from a state courthouse, but this is the first time that he has been allowed to post Tweets from a federal courtroom, reports Editor & Publisher.

The Witchita Eagle journalist is reporting on the racketeering trial via his Twitter feed, and he has revealed that among his followers is the father of one of the defendants.

According to E&P, Sylvester’s tweets “have recounted testimony and offered some courtroom color”.

The Eagle’s executive editor has asserted that Sylvester’s use of Twitter as a court reporting tool has proved effective.

“He certainly has not sacrificed accuracy, quality and standards,” said Sherry Chisenhall.

She added: “There is an immediacy that has been great for our audience.”

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Chat Answers Tech Q’s For Journalists

Two technology experts recently put themselves at the mercy of journalists and their tech questions.

And the end result is an interesting and informative webchat, full of advice, suggestions and lots of links to further resources.

Hosted by Poynter Online, “Ask a Geek” gave reporters, developers and students the opportunity to put their posers to Tyson Evans – interface engineer at nytimes.com – and Jacob Kaplan-Moss – lead developer of django.

Among the subjects discussed are: News widgets, Twitter, interactive features, content management systems and the best ways to start a website from scratch.

Powered by CoveritLive, the webchat has become an archived chat and is well worth a look.

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12 March 2009

Reuters To Launch Markets Channel

Thomson Reuters subscribers are set to receive a new markets service heralded as the next generation of multimedia coverage.

Codenamed Reuters Insider, the online video service will offer coverage of money markets, breaking news from the financial sector and analysis of events.

These reports will be available in both real-time and as on-demand content, and customers will be able to personalise channels so they can receive only the news relevant to their sector.

According to Reuters, the new offering represents the “future of news dissemination” as it encompasses both narrowcasting and vertical programming.

The Reuters definition of narrowcasting: “Delivering focused, fast, intelligent and relevant information to make our clients and customers smarter and more successful.”

As for vertical programming, global editor of multimedia Chris Cramer explains it like this: “The key to our success is that our programming will not be linear - one program after another - but will be vertical and will provide the kind of rich content and analysis our clients need.”

Press Gazette reports that Reuters Insider is set for a full launch this summer.

More details about Reuters Insider can be found in this pdf profile of one of its key creators, who was recently named one of the agency’s top journalists of 2008.

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BBC Opens Journalism Training Sites

A network of journalism training websites is being made publicly accessible by the BBC for the first time.

The microsites form part of the corporation’s Virtual College of Journalism and are now being opened to journalists around the world.

Each site contains text and video guides and advice about many aspects of reporting, with sites offering these services and resources in over 30 different languages.

The project will also provide public access to the online training and guides used currently by BBC journalists.

“One of the most important things that we need to think about and do is teach journalism to the next generation and to the new leaders within journalism,” said Kevin Marsh, editor of the BBC College of Journalism.

Marsh announced the move at the recent Digital News Affairs conference in Brussels, and further information on his talk can be found on the BBC dot.life blog and on journalism.co.uk.

And the progress of the Virtual College can be followed via its Twitter feed.


Florida Duo Launch Statehouse Mobile Alerts

Florida residents can receive the latest local politics news on their mobiles thanks to a collaboration project between two titles.

The St Petersburg Times and the Miami Herald are the two newspapers behind the initiative to provide mobile alerts from their joint bureau at the statehouse, reports Editor & Publisher.

Subscribers receive breaking news under general categories such as Top News, and specific ones including Legislature and Governor.

“We think The Scoop on Florida Politics will give followers of politics the best news and information possible, and faster than ever before,” said Anders Gyllenhaal , executive editor for the Miami Herald.

“In the mobile culture of Tallahassee during the Legislative session, it will be one more way people can rely on the Miami Herald-St.Pete Times bureau to provide the news they need at this critical time.”

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11 March 2009

Laid-Off Staff Create News Site

Journalists from the now defunct Rocky Mountain News are still reporting the local news via their own website.

Created and managed by former Rocky reporters, I Want My Rocky is described by Poynter Online as a “nascent local news site” and is currently a non-profit operation.

As well as publishing news stories, it also acts as a gateway linking to a variety of blogs and websites run by the newspaper’s ex-staffers.

For example, former assistant sports editor Steve Foster is one of the site’s creators who has just launched a blog covering the state’s baseball team – Inside The Rockies – along with two other sports journalists from the Rocky.

And former transport beat reporter Kevin Flynn is publishing stories on I Want My Rocky as well as planning to launch his own blog.

Foster told Poynter that the action of ex-staff shows their belief that they have something to offer the community, with or without the newspaper brand.

He said that when the Rocky was up for sale, its workers were constantly told “that the newspaper has no value. It has negative value; it’s worth only what someone is willing to lose on it.

“I believe I have value. There’s reporters who have real value.”

Flynn added that contributing his stories to the website is providing him with something to do – even if it is unpaid at present.

He said: “I’m not necessarily a free agent forever, but for right now, in this situation, it feels good to have something to do.”

Flynn added: “I had a busy day. And when you’re suddenly unemployed, having a busy day is a good way to feel good about yourself.”

The transport reporter is also upbeat about the future of I Want My Rocky, and hopes it may be able to function in the future as an aggregator of profit-making local news blogs.

The Rocky Mountain News closed at the end of February after a buyer could not be found for it.

According to Editor & Publisher, its website attracted over three times its average page views on the final day.

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Sky Unveils Twitter Correspondent

The growing profile of Twitter continues apace as Sky News has created the post of “Twitter Correspondent”.

Ruth Barnett will be tasked with navigating her way through posts on the microblogging platform in search of breaking news stories.

In an interview with CNet UK, Barnett admits that the role will initially involve a degree of trial and error, but she believes Twitter is an important news-gathering tool as “that’s where people are talking about their real lives”

She added: “[For Sky News] it’s about having someone who can flag up news when something’s kicking off, and to talk back to people to see what their opinion is.”

TechCrunch features an excerpt from a Sky News internal email announcing the appointment, which states:

“The Twitter phenomenon continues to explode ... The first phone on the Buffalo plane crash came from Twitter. The first photo of the Hudson River rescue came from Twitter. Convinced?

“The Online team is using Ruth Barnett as a ‘Twitter correspondent’ - scouring Twitter for stories and feeding back, giving Sky News a presence in the Twittersphere.”

Time will tell whether this heralds the beginnings of Twitter as a mainstream communication tool or if this will sound the death knell for it as mass media gatecrashes the party.

[HT – Pda blog]

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10 March 2009

Codebook Updates MySpace Advice

New advice on using pictures found on social networking websites such as MySpace is included in an update to The Editors’ Codebook.

The revised version features a new section in relation to coverage of a spate of suicides of young people in south Wales, some of whom had profiles on social networking sites.

Before using such material without the family’s consent, the codebook advises that newspaper editors should voluntarily consider the effects its publication could have upon the bereaved.

According to the Press Complaints Commission, this second edition of the codebook has been launched in order to “reflect the rapidly changing media scene”.

It includes the latest landmark cases which have occurred since the first edition in 2005 and a pdf version is available on the website of the Editors’ Code of Practice Committee.

[HT - HoldTheFrontPage.co.uk]

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Hearst To Launch E-Reader

A large-format e-reader is being launched this year by American publishing company Hearst.

CNN reports that the corporation has developed an e-reader using electronic ink technology which will enable readers to wirelessly download newspapers.

The large screen is reported to be more suited to the formats of newspapers, in comparison to the Kindle, which was primarily developed as an e-book reader.

Hearst is expected to sell the product to its fellow publishers and then take a cut of the revenue generated from newspaper and magazine sales.

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09 March 2009

Social Media Lessons Shared

Regional newspapers and their use of social media software is the subject of a slideshow from blogger Joanna Geary.

A former development editor at the Birmingham Post, Geary has created the presentation to show how the Trinity Mirror title built an online community through its use of various social media tools.

The slideshow shows the results achieved from activities such as blogging on own sites and microblogging using third-party platforms like Twitter.

Geary, who writes the Thoughts of a UK Regional Newspaper Journalist blog, was recently appointed web development editor for The Times.

[HT – Online Journalism Blog]

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Multimedia Prize Goes To Election Coverage

Reuters has awarded its annual multimedia prize to the team which provided coverage of last year’s presidential election.

The Multimedia Storytelling of the Year title was given to the team in recognition of the innovative content produced to tell the story of the historic race for the White House.

Name-checked in the winner’s profile were the Tales from the Trail election blog, which was a regular favourite among visitors to Reuters.com, and its post-election Postcards to the President.

The Trail blog included a special feature during party conventions hosting vlog posts from delegates.

Also mentioned were the slideshows, timelines, videos and factboxes produced by the team.

The Reuters 2008 Journalists of the Year Awards presents a total of ten prizes to its staff for examples of journalistic excellence.

Other categories include: Video Story of the Year; Scoop of the Year, Video Journalist of the Year and the Editor’s Choice Award.

Visit Reuters for the full list of awards and profiles of the winners.

[HT – Press Gazette]

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The Most Valuable Blogs In The World?

A list of the 25 most valuable blogs has been put together by market analysts at 24/7 Wall Street.

Taking into account partially known factors such as traffic and estimating advertising revenue and operating costs, they have calculated a value for some of the world’s best known blogs on the basis of what they’re worth to potential buyers.

And it seems that news blogs are faring well in the blogosphere, with the Huffington Post placed at number two on the list with an estimated value in excess of $90 million (£63.1 million).

Despite noting that the American blog probably costs over $18m (£12.6m) a year to run, 24/7 Wall Street places such a high value on it since “owning Huffington would be a prize, especially for a major media company”.

Behind HuffPo at number three in the chart is another American news and opinion blog - The Drudge Report.

With high margins, it is awarded a potential value of $48m (£33.7m), which would be reduced to almost nothing if Drudge himself was not part of it.

Other news / political blogs making the grade include Daily Kos at 22 and Talking Points Memo at 23.

Visit 247wallstreet.com for the full list.

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06 March 2009

British Press Awards Shortlist Unveiled

The coveted titles of website and digital journalist of the year are again up for grabs as the British Press Awards reveals this year’s shortlist.

Celebrating the best in British Journalism, the Press Gazette British Press Awards are a popular fixture of the industry calendar and six online journalists will be especially looking forward to it this year.

These are the shortlisted nominees for the Digital Journalist of the Year award, and they are:

Daniel Finkelstein – author of the Comment Central blog on Times Online.

Ruth Gledhill – Times Online religious correspondent and author of the Articles of Faith blog.

Dave Hill – writer and blogger at Guardian.co.uk.

Darren Lewis – sports writer and presenter of the Football Spy video on Mirror.co.uk.

Paul Murphy – one of the writers behind the FT’s Alphaville blog.

John O’Mahony – writes travel pieces for Guardian.co.uk.

And here is the shortlist for the Website of the Year award:

Times Online

Bob Satchwell, chairman of judges, told Press Gazette that the quality of online content is now attracting global audiences.

“New readers are being won over from around the world, getting the news from all the different platforms newspapers are providing.

“This is because of the amazing talents, skill and dedication of displayed by the British journalists shortlisted for these awards.”

Hosted by Channel 4 News anchorman Jon Snow, the awards ceremony will be held at the end of the month in London.

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BBC Reveals News Radar

A way to see all news stories as they are added to any section on the BBC website is now available in demo form.

BBC News Radar is a prototype page displaying the headline and first line of news stories as they are published or updated.

Writing on the Journalism Labs blog, the BBC’s Jake MacMullin writes that the idea behind the page is to supply people with a single place where they can see all the news pieces published across the site’s many sections.

And he says that the public would be surprised at the sheer amount of content that is added to the site throughout the day - “almost literally ‘every minute of every day’”.

He adds: “One reason you may not be aware of how frequently we publish new content is that until now there has been no one place you can go to see all of the stories we publish on the news site.”

Radar is an attempt to change that as the BBC aims to produce a publicly available version of it in the future.

The BBC is keen for some feedback on it too so check out the prototype at BBC News Radar and send your thoughts to Journalism Labs.


Web Stats Show Traffic Loss For Locals

Many regional news websites saw traffic fall during the second half of 2008, new figures show.

According to The Guardian, the first audited data report of its kind showed a significant number of regional newspaper websites from six of the UK’s biggest publishers saw average monthly traffic figures drop in the latter part of last year.

This is in contrast to web traffic coming to the UK’s national newspaper websites, which reached new highs in October last year and continued the trend into 2009.

Published by ABC, the regional news website reports will now be released every six months and made available online to members.


05 March 2009

NYT Launches Community Sites

Residents living in five New York neighbourhoods are being encouraged to write stories for two new community sites on nytimes.com.

The citizen journalism websites form part of a New York Times pilot project and will be launched this week.

According to Editor & Publisher, two websites will cover news from five communities in New Jersey and Brooklyn.

NYT staff will oversee the sites but the content – from articles to photos and videos – will come from people living within the areas.

And the newspaper’s editor for digital initiatives revealed that the overseers have already been busy recruiting volunteers ahead of launch.

“They have each recruited initial contributors and the mission of their sites will be to encourage and instigate people in their communities to do their own reporting and contribute their own creativity to the community we are trying to build online,” said Jim Schachter.

He added that the new sites are not intended to replace community coverage produced by professional journalists but they represent instead “a grassroots effort, to see if there is a new kind of journalism we can be part of”.

Schachter concluded: “There are ‘place’ blogs everywhere. We have to create a real quality community that figures out the answers to questions on the minds of people in each place.”

See Editor & Publisher for the full story.

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Hearst Charging For Some Web Content

Regional publisher Hearst is reportedly set to introduce paid-for content on the websites of its newspaper titles.

A memo reproduced in the Wall Street Journal reveals that the company is planning to keep at least a portion of its online content reserved for paying customers only.

In his statement to staff, Hearst’s newspapers president Steven Swartz conceded that recent internal research found that “our cost base is significantly out of line with the revenue available in our business today”.

And in searching for a new business model he listed several revenue-generating areas under consideration, including charges for online articles.

“Exactly how much paid content to hold back from our free sites will be a judgment call made daily by our management, whose mission should be to run the best free Web sites in our markets without compromising our ability to get a fair price from consumers for the expensive, unique reporting and writing that we produce each day.”

He also asserted that newspapers should be looking to deliver news to iPhones in a similar way to e-readers like the Kindle and therefore impose a subscription charge.

Several Hearst titles have been making the news recently due to financial difficulties, including the San Francisco Chronicle, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and theHouston Chronicle.

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04 March 2009

Users Set Agenda At Patriot-News

Readers are getting their chance to dictate which stories a regional news reporter will cover in Pennsylvania.

Patriot-News journalist Daniel Victor is asking the audience for their ideas on which stories they would like to see him write about for both the newspaper and its online presence – PennLive.com.

Victor says that users will be able to submit their ideas via a comments section on the blog and he will then put these proposals together into a poll form where all web visitors can vote on them.

The beatblogging.org participant says the idea behind the blog is to build a community and to enable the audience to interact directly with their newspaper.

He writes: “Our role is shifting; we are not just story-tellers, we are community-builders. Harnessing the power of the Web is a crucial part of that.”

And he believes that using a blog as the platform for this project is a good way to attract people who maybe haven’t contributed much in the past.

“My theory, which I’m eager to test out, is that there are a lot of level-headed readers out there who may at times be intimidated by PennLive.

“Those people have a tremendous amount of value to contribute to the community if their voices are heard. They have stories that deserve to be told.”

He adds: “You don’t need to be a citizen journalist or have your own blog to leave a comment on a news site that would be valuable to your community.”

[HT – The Editors Weblog]

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03 March 2009

Video Shows Rocky’s Last Days

The impact of the closure of a newspaper is shown in a new video capturing the final days of Denver’s Rocky Mountain News.

How this event affects the newspaper’s workers and its readers is displayed in the video - Final Edition - put together by multimedia producer Matthew Roberts and his team.

The 20-minute video features interviews with journalists, the editor and the audience about what the closure will mean to them personally and the wider implications for the community.

It also includes footage from meetings during the newspaper’s final months.

The Rocky Mountain News was the oldest newspaper in the state of Colorado and approaching its 150th anniversary when it ceased publication.

[HT – Press Gazette]

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Trinity Adds UGC To Mobile Sites

Trinity Mirror is preparing to add a user-generated content feature to its existing mobile sites.

According to HoldTheFrontPage.co.uk, the addition of UGC forms part of the second phase in the development of the publisher’s m sites.

The mobile sites are also set to offer mobile users a selection of ringtones from a downloads centre and various wallpaper options.

Launched in October last year, Trinity’s network of mobile sites includes m sites for The Chronicle (Newcastle) and the Liverpool Daily Post.

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02 March 2009

Video Channel Launched For Henley

A channel devoted to video content has been unveiled by the website for the Henley Standard.

Entitled HSOtv, the channel promises to host all the “latest broadcasts” from South Oxfordshire.

Press Gazette reports that new videos are uploaded weekly and describes the current crop of content as impressive.

Among the packages available to view on the site are an interview with one of the stars from the West End production of Oliver!, an interview with Angie Best and footage from the funeral of writer Sir John Mortimer.

The Standard is now looking into developing the section to enable users to contribute their own videos.

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Guardian Relaunches Mobile Site

Guardian News & Media is set to unveil a new smartphone-friendly mobile site this month.

Designed to enhance speed of service and to work with all major mobile web browsers, the new site is the result of collaborations with various tech partners.

According to The Guardian, the relaunched mobile site will feature advertising and sponsorship tie-ins as well as Google Ad Words on each page.

The company’s director of digital content stated that the relaunch aims to make the mobile site accessible to as many users as possible.

Emily Bell said: “The way it was structured in the past made that difficult but the site rebuild and the new platform means far easier access to content.

“Mobile has also been fiendishly difficult for content providers because of complex relationships with networks but particularly with the growth of the iPhone and smartphones with full web browsers, it would be perverse for us not to make our content more accessible.”

Check out The Guardian's current mobile offerings at m.guardian.co.uk.


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