30 April 2009

Readership Is Up. That's the Good News ...

U.S. readership of online newspapers rose significantly in 2008. But nearly a quarter of internet users said they stopped their subscription to a printed newspaper or magazine because they could get the same information online.

Those are among the findings of the 2009 Digital Future Report, released this week by the Center for the Digital Future at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication.

Internet users spent an average of 53 minutes a week reading online newspapers in 2008, up from 41 minutes in 2007.

`We're clearly now seeing a path to the end of the printed daily newspapers -- a trend that is escalating much faster than we had anticipated,' said Center director Jeffrey I. Cole. 'The decline of newspapers is happening at a pace they never could have anticipated. Their cushion is gone, and only those papers that can move decisively to the Web will survive.'

However, he highlighted tremendous opportunities for newspapers as they establish themselves online, including their ability to get `back in the breaking news business.' He also cited strong brand loyalty among readers; the study found that 61 percent of those surveyed said they would miss the print edition if it were no longer available, up from 56 percent the previous year.

Other findings:

* A large majority of people with residential broadband connections keep them on all the time while they are at home.

* Users are publishing more and more of their own material online; 44 percent said they post photos online, and around a quarter keep a personal blog. Both figures are up sharply from earlier years.

* More than half the internet users said the medium is important in helping them maintain social relationships.


29 April 2009

Keeping Old Friends

Although many older readers are now getting their news online, a great many are not -- and have yet to be convinced that it's a viable option. Yet as print editions become thinner or even fold altogether, such readers will lose out if they do not make the transition. And publishers will lose them altogether.

In this month's Stop the Presses column, long-time online journalist Steve Outing offers advice on how to convince -- and then train -- remaining print readers to make the transition to online and mobile news services.

`I believe they’ll be more forgiving if you can convince them that the money they continue to pay the “newspaper company” gets them a lot more than just the thinning paper edition,' he says. As cutbacks continue, he adds, `publishers will want a contingency plan so that their remaining older customers don’t bail out in disgust.'

Among his suggestions:

* Offer a 'digital-replica' e-edition that mirrors the print edition but with the added advantages of search, archive access and environmental friendliness -- and then, at least some days, forego actually printing the 'print' edition. Although Outing previously has criticised such e-editions, which are not big revenue generators, he says the current industry crisis makes them a sensible option for both publishers and consumers who will find the familiar format comforting.

* Use the print edition far more frequently to promote and provide URLs for extra material available online, such as expanded visuals, multimedia content or interactive options. `As print editions get thinner, it’s essential to hold on to paying print subscribers by offering them more than they hold in their hands and guiding them to accessing it in a simple way,' he says. `Repeated often enough and routinely, even print loyalists will start to get the idea: “Go online once in a while, because we’ve got much more for you!”'

* Educate older readers. For instance, run regular short features in print on how to use the internet or mobile devices for news, how to interact with journalists and other readers, and the like. Public seminars on such topics are another option, one that will bring community members together and potentially stimulate new ideas.

* Publish excerpts from, and URLs for, content from other online sources, `curating' the best that’s available and pointing print readers to it. Such a service enhances the value of the print edition, teaches the internet skeptics the value of the online world, and perhaps will keep people paying for the print edition a while longer.

Outing concludes that paying attention to current print readers is crucial `as newspapers go through a crisis that will kill more of them, and transform the survivors into companies that are digital-centric and have lesser print products.'

The newspaper industry does not have to simply leave print readers to drift during the transition, he adds. `Publishers need to take an active role in educating the people who for now continue to provide much of the revenue that newspapers live on and give businesses a reason to continue spending money on print-edition advertising.

`Only by guiding the print loyalists to complementary online and mobile services offered by the publisher can newspaper print editions survive for a longer time. To expect them to continue to pay for a product that continues to shrink in size, influence and quality is folly. Offer them more, or watch them slip away.'


28 April 2009

Democratic Leaders

In a trial project launched this week, the Financial Times is asking readers to contribute to future leader columns by debating topics on its new Arena blog.

FT writers initiate a debate; for example, the first one is on whether taxes should be raised permanently or only temporarily. Readers are invited to comment at the end of each post from the journalists, who then select the best comments and add them to the main blog.

Next Monday, the editorial team will use readers' comments as part of their leader conference, responding to reader views in that day's leader both in the paper and online.

`I've long wanted to share the quality of the debates we have inside the building with our readers. This way we get to go one step further and invite them to participate,' FT.com managing editor Robert Shrimsley says on the Guardian Media website.

`Our community of readers is perhaps the most sophisticated in the business world, and this is a chance to draw on their expertise and invite them into the editorial process at the highest level.'

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27 April 2009

Free raw video, courtesy of the PA

A free Press Association video wire service will be available to regional newspapers from Tuesday 5 May, the PA Group has announced.

The video wire, which will be available on a trial basis, will provide raw, editable footage of the day's main stories. It will cover up to 30 stories a day across news, sport and entertainment, including interview clips and cutaways.

The agency says its training arm also will provide courses on video editing to help newspaper clients get full value from the new service.

PA has been producing pre-packaged video content for media websites since 2005, primarily as edited clips. This material will continue to be available.

However, as HoldtheFrontPage.co.uk reported, the new wire service is the first time that video has been available to customers on an unedited basis alongside text and picture content.

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24 April 2009

History, Day by Day by Day (by Google)

Reaction to the beta version of the Google News Timeline, recently unveiled by Google Labs, has been generally positive, though critics say it still feels very much like a work in progress (which of course it is).

The new feature enables users to see news, scanned newspapers and magazines, blog posts, sports scores, and other information on a zoomable, graphical timeline. It looks to be especially useful for journalists seeking background on a story.

Among the feedback this week:

* "It really shows how news goes from being the first draft of history to become history." -- The Guardian

* "Got a deadline anytime in the next 24 hours? Then don't, for your own good, check out Google News Timeline. ... (It)looks to be the biggest, funnest time waster since we all spent hours exploring the globe with Google Earth." -- PC World

* "It offers interesting possibilities for exploring stories, especially older ones, that are largely hidden in newspaper and magazine archives. It is also a powerful way to view trends in culture and society or the careers of famous people." -- The New York Times

* "One question kept nagging at me as I was looking at this latest Google effort at delivering the news, and that was: Why couldn’t a news organization have done this? ... Isn’t delivering the news in creative and interesting ways that appeal to readers what we are supposed to be doing? Apparently not." -- Matthew Ingram of the Toronto Globe and Mail, writing on the Nieman Journalism Lab site.

Google Labs also has released a beta version of an application called Similar Images, which allows users to search for images using pictures rather than words.

How good is it? BBC News Magazine put it to the test by requesting, among other things, a match for a photo of John Prescott. The application promptly responded with photos of ... Renee Zellweger. Go figure.


23 April 2009

Music to Your Users' Ears?

Music is a powerful and pervasive part of our culture, and it offers an opportunity to add an extra kick to a visual story.

No, wait. Music can be emotionally manipulative, and it hurts credibility to attach it to journalists' stories.

The Poynter Institute's Regina McCombs recently offered some guidelines for online journalists who agree (or disagree) with both arguments:

* In general, you should not add music to what was gathered from the scene.

The authentic audio, video or photography gathered in the field is the most important storytelling material a journalist has. Adding material that was not gathered through the reporting process must be done with great caution and skill. Natural sound can be just as powerful.

The BBC is among the organisations that have decided against using music in news stories. "You are changing what you're representing, and if you're changing it, it shouldn't be there," said Fiona Anderson of BBC Newsgathering. "I think this whole issue of enhancement is really dodgy."

* In the rare cases in which you add music, it should be used to enhance or further the narrative, not to compensate for incomplete reporting.

Brian Storm of media production company MediaStorm says music works best when the photojournalism carries the storyline and contains the narrative -- not because narrative is missing. Music "doesn't make a piece work," he said. "All the elements have to be working. It's like another gear you have."

"Music can get in the way, it can control the pacing, it can put it on rails. It becomes like an amusement park ride, presented so you become passive," argues documentary editor Jonathan Menell. "It tells the viewer you're going to handle them and control the emotion."

* All stories are not equal.

Just as writers don't approach feature stories the same way as investigative pieces, the standards for adding music may vary within story genres.

In general, the American Press Institute says, the more serious or sensitive the story, the more careful you should be in using background music.

* Music is not a universal language.

A breathtaking aria to one person is grating noise to another. Because people's reactions to music are subjectively influenced by their personal tastes, music and mood, you can never be certain how you affect a story by adding a piece of music.

* You must understand the craft of scoring music if you add it to stories.

Most of us are not skilled in the use of music with video. As with photography and writing, incorporating music well requires a lot of craft, both in selecting the music and editing it.

McCombs offers several examples of how music can affect reaction to a story. The bottom line, she says, is that music should not lessen our stories nor be used to manipulate viewers' emotions. If you're considering adding music to any piece, you need to be cautious and thoughtful. And you must respect the integrity of the story.

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22 April 2009

Court Campaign

Scarborough Evening News editor Ed Asquith seems a step closer to victory in his campaign to get court lists and results published online.

HoldtheFrontPage reports that after five months of communication with HM Courts Service, asking them to reconsider the imposition of fees for court lists, the JP editor has received a letter from justice secretary Jack Straw that says he hopes to make court lists available electronically, possibly this summer.

If that hope becomes a reality, journalists would be able to retrieve court lists and registers with password-protected access.

Last summer, some papers had to suspend court coverage because they could not afford photocopying charges. In July, the justice secretary announced that court results must be available free to local newspapers, abolishing a 1989 provision that gave magistrates the right to charge a fee.

For the Evening News, Asquith said, the costs would have amounted to £13,000 a year; he said papers such as the one in Bradford faced annual costs of £40,000. "The move towards a digital solution is a remarkable development," he said.

Electronic publication of case outcomes also has been sought by the Society of Editors and Newspaper Society.


21 April 2009

Tittering over Twitter

Well, it was a good thought. The Telegraph experimented Monday with opening up its Budget 2009 page to live Twitter messages ... briefly.

Twitter users flocked to the site as word spread that comments including "#budget" were automatically being posted. But -- and this is hard to believe, but true nonetheless -- many of them did not actually want to talk about the budget.

The twittered messages (as reported in the Guardian, on the journalism.co.uk blog and elsewhere), included:

* "I love a party with a happy atmosphere, so let me take you there and you and I'll go dancing in the cool night air #budget."

* "Jacqui Smith ate my hamster ... and claimed it on expenses! You couldn't make it up! #budget"

* "Well that's the Telegraph's #budget twitterfeed boned. What shall we destroy next?"

The Telegraph gave things a quick rethink. The live feed vanished.

But the short-lived fun was more evidence of Twitter's rapid rise in popularity among UK users. Earlier this month, Hitwise reported that for the week ending 14 March 2009, the Twitter.com homepage received more hits than that of the Telegraph -- or the Guardian or the Times or the Sun. In fact, of the main newspaper homepages, only the Daily Mail received more UK Internet visits than Twitter, which also overtook Google News UK.

However, Twitter also giveth back some of what it taketh away. One of the major drivers of traffic to news websites now is ... Twitter. Hitwise reports that during February 2009, almost 10% of Twitter's downstream traffic went to news and media websites -- and more than 40% of that went to print sites.

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17 April 2009


Welcome to this latest SPOTLIGHT post, where we focus on one particular subject affecting the present and future of the news media industry.

In this post our attention turns to e-readers – hand-held reading gadgets described by the New York Times as like a prop from science fiction.

Might sound hyperbolic but here’s an oft-cited example from the 1968 sci-fi novel, 2001: A Space Odyssey:

“Floyd sometimes wondered if the Newspad, and the fantastic technology behind it, was the last word in man’s quest for perfect communications.

“Here he was, far out in space ... yet in a few milliseconds he could see the headlines of any newspaper he pleased.

“The text was updated automatically on every hour ... one could spend an entire lifetime doing nothing but absorbing the ever-changing flow of information from the news satellites.”

[Picture from Infomaniac - Behind the News]

Sound familiar? In 2009 the fantasy has become reality (‘cept the spacey bit) and electronic readers are beloved by many of the tech world’s early adopters.

But they’re still fairly unknown in the UK and have yet to really break the mainstream market in the US (although the Kindle did make Oprah Winfrey’s list of favourite things in 2008).

However, lots of media commentators are already excited about their potential for newspapers and are predicting that the e-reader could represent the future iTunes moment for the news industry.

In this post we’ll be taking a look at some of the current market leaders and how they are working with newspapers to offer paid-for content.

And we’ll examine some of the arguments for the devices becoming an ideal way for newspapers to make money from their content in the digital age.

We’ll also see how devices such as smartphones and Mobile Internet Devices (MID) could provide an alternative e-reading platform.

Then we’ll take a look at predictions for the future of e-readers and consider which manufacturers and publishers may enter the market soon.

Finally, we’ll offer links for further reading and to reviews of some of the main hardware devices.

What Is An E-Reader?

E-book readers, e-readers, eReaders – these terms are all used by various companies for their products, whether it’s the actual piece of hardware on which documents are read or the software that facilitates their display.

For ease of understanding, we’ll refer to them as e-readers and by this we mean a portable device on which users can read electronic versions of books, newspapers etc (software will simply be referred to as e-reader software).

At the moment the best known types of e-readers (Kindle, Sony Reader, iRex iLiad) use the electronic paper display from E Ink Corp, which its creators claim has a “paper-like contrast appearance”.

The idea is that these devices provide users with the closest experience to reading actual paper as possible, so they have none of the backlight and glare of standard LCD computer screens and can be read in bright sunlight.

On the downside, the technology is pretty expensive and E-Ink displays cannot yet produce colour or moving images.

So, let’s have a look at some of the most popular models on the market and see what they have to offer.

Amazon Kindle and Kindle 2

Now, the Kindle is not yet sold in the UK - although super keen customers have been importing them - but it still merits top billing here as it’s the best known e-reader and is working with a lot of newspapers (including British ones) to deliver their content.

Launched in 2007, the Kindle uses a wireless 3G network with Whispernet technology so users can download books, newspapers and blogs without being connected to a computer.

It made TIME magazine’s Top Ten Gadgets of 2008 (it was a late launch in 2007!) and it is estimated that about 500,000 were sold by the start of this year.

The latest model – Kindle 2hit the market earlier this year and the below video taken at its showcase launch by Gearlog provides a useful demonstration of its main features and shows how newspapers are displayed.

Kindle users who subscribe to a newspaper pay a monthly subscription fee (from about £4-£10) and then get new issues automatically downloaded to their device each day.

And there are plenty of titles which have signed up to this deal, including the Independent, Financial Times and The Times from the UK.

Other non-American newspapers available for subscription on the Kindle are Le Monde, the Irish Times, Frankfurter Allgemeine and the Shanghai Daily.

As for American newspapers and magazines, each month seems to bring news of more signing up to deliver their news via Kindle, including USA Today, Newsweek and The Oklahoman (full list available on Amazon).

And just this week, USA Today also signed up to have its blogs and online communities made available for Kindle subscribers.

Most of the buzz surrounding e-readers and their potential for the newspaper industry is related in particular to the Kindle 2, which has introduced some new features proving popular with its reporter users.

For Poynter Online blogger Amy Gahran, it’s the automatic text-to-speech function that offers a service she calls a “news radio”.

She writes: “The automated text-to-speech reader is a bit flat for fiction, narrative and essays that require significant emotional or rhetorical inflection - but it’s great for news.”

Gahran adds that “it’s pretty cool to be able to have stories from WSJ.com read aloud to me while I cook my veggie pesto omelet”.

The other innovation from Kindle 2 creating a lot of noise in the tech blogosphere is the introduction of Whispersync technology, enabling users to switch between different Kindle devices and keep the same page etc.

Making this functionality even more exciting for e-reader fans is that it was shortly followed by the launch of a Kindle application for the iPhone.

This free software means Kindle owners can read a book on their main device at home, then pick up where they left off on their iPhone while on the move.

Want to know more about Kindle 2 and its new functions? Hear it straight from the horse’s mouth in the below video, which shows Amazon founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos demonstrating the product and defending its price tag (£250).

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Kindle 3?

The latest rumour surrounding Amazon is that the company is looking to launch a bigger-screen version of the Kindle in a bid to attract more magazine and newspaper publishers.

People who claim to have seen the new e-reader told the Wall Street Journal (subscription needed to access full story) that the large-screen Kindle could be out by the end of this year.

(See a summary of the WSJ article on paidcontent.org.)

Plastic Logic Reader

The e-reader device developed by Plastic Logic may not have reached the market yet (selected launch later this year, general release 2010) but it has already caused a stir among media types.

This might have something to do with its look – unlike the Kindle, it has not been developed primarily as an e-book reader but rather as a business document reader.

So the Plastic Logic Reader is bigger, thinner and lighter than its e-reader rivals – as shown in the below demo.

This e-reader may be thin but its makers claim it is particularly robust as it’s made entirely of plastic, and engineer Dean Baker demonstrated this claim to the BBC with a punch to the screen.

Put all this together and you’ve got an e-reader that attracted a lot of interest from newspaper publishers when the prototype did the rounds at trade shows last year.

Plastic Logic chief executive Richard Archuleta told the New York Times: “Even though we have positioned this for business documents, newspapers is what everyone asks for.”

And the firm has already sealed the deal on several content partnership deals with newspapers, including USA Today and the Financial Times.

Plastic Logic has also signed a deal with LibreDigital, which supplies digital content for newspaper publishers including Hearst Corp.

But the major one to watch will be Plastic Logic’s trial with the Detroit Media Partnership (DMP).

As part of the project, subscribers to e-newspaper content from DMP will not have to buy their own devices but will instead have the option to lease the Plastic Logic Reader through the subscription deal.

The success of such a scheme could help e-reader makers answer one of the main accusations from their detractors – that they are too expensive for the mainstream market.

iRex iLiad Reader & Digital Reader

Dutch company iRex Technologies is the maker of the iLiad Reader Book Edition and 2nd Edition, which are available in the UK from the iRex online shop for £400-£550.

iRex also offers a large format device with its new Digital Reader, which is designed with business users in mind and has a 10-inch display which can show A4 documents.

The A5-sized 2nd Edition has wireless internet connectivity like the Kindle and allows users to write electronic notes in the margins of documents.

The below video shows how newspapers are displayed on the 2nd Edition and gives an insight into some of the functionality (no sound though).

From 2007 it has offered a newspaper subscription with French publication Les Echos, in a move described by iRex as one which will “set the trend in the newspaper industry”.

According to the New York Times, Les Echos provides its iLiad subscribers with a daily edition as well as up to ten updated versions of the paper throughout the course of the day.

In March 2008, NRC Handelsblad became the first Dutch newspaper to sign up to delivery via an electronic paper device when it completed a content deal with the iLiad.

And the makers of the iLiad have promised that more content partnerships are on their way in the future.

It sounds like good news for the iLiad on the continent, but iRex has suffered a setback in the UK recently after Borders announced that it will stop selling the devices due to poor sales.

According to the Independent, “customers baulked at the high price” of the iLiad, so Borders is looking to stock a different reader by the end of this month.

Orange Read&Go

Still in the pilot stage, the Read&Go device from telecoms group Orange is described by its makers as a “mobile newspaper kiosk”.

The e-paper technology device is purpose-built for displaying newspapers and boasts wifi and 3G connectivity.

In a bid to test both the device and the potential appeal of e-newspapers, Read&Go was trialled last year in collaboration with seven French newspapers, including Le Monde, Le Parisien, Les Echos and L’Equipe.

The trial produced some promising results for the newspapers and the executives shared some of their findings at a conference in Paris.

Editors Weblog reports that researchers found people spent as much time reading content on the e-reader as they would on a printed newspaper, thus enhancing the appeal for advertisers.

This leads the Editors Weblog to conclude that a limited release is the likeliest next step for the Read&Go, but no word from Orange as yet.

Sony Reader

The Sony Reader was designed to be an e-book reader but merits a mention here as it’s one of the few high profile devices available in the UK (from Sony and Waterstone’s for about £200).

Lacking the wireless internet capability of the Kindle devices, the Sony Reader does offer more format choice as well as free blog subscriptions.

Here’s a good text and video review of the latest model from guardian.co.uk’s Jemima Kiss.

No newspaper subscriptions are yet available for the Sony device but who knows what will happen in the future with this one – worth watching.

Hearst E-reader?

With two large-screen e-readers on their way from Plastic Logic and Amazon (we think…), could the next one be coming from within the newspaper industry?

Yes it could, according to a recent Fortune article which quoted insiders from newspaper publisher Hearst Corp saying the company has been developing its own e-reader for launch this year.

The story cited sources claiming the device is designed for newspaper and magazines with a large-format screen, wireless download delivery and an easy-to-read display.

And it was also reported that Hearst, along with its development partners, would sell the e-readers to other publishers and take a proportion of the revenue generated from subscriptions.

The news has been greeted with a mixed response from media commentators, with Amy Gahran describing it as a “step in the direction”, yet also warning that it would perhaps have been wiser for Hearst to partner with an e-reader manufacturer rather than make the devices themselves.

Harsher words came from blogger Michael Jones, who wrote that “the e-reader idea as floated by Hearst is more of a last-ditch attempt to save the industry than an attempt to save a couple of Hearst papers or the Hearst chain.

“Moreover, it seems a slender thread on which to hang the entire American newspaper industry.”

On a more positive note, CNET News declared: “It looks as if the e-paper revolution is really about to start.”

And with three large-screen e-readers likely to be on the market by this time next year, that could prove to be a prescient declaration.

Smartphones As E-Readers

Before we move on to look at the e-readers of the future, mention should be made of devices with LCD displays which have e-reader capabilities.

There are a whole host of companies cropping up which provide the software and/or content for smartphone users to read e-books on their LCD screens.

And although some people may see a smartphone as an inferior e-reading device due to high power consumption and backlit screens, plenty of users are signing up for the software.

Among the e-reader software applications available is TextonPhone, which has over 30,000 e-books available, and Stanza, which can be used on the iPhone and iPod Touch.

Also there’s the document reader software from Readdle and the Shortcovers app, which enables iPhone users to build up libraries of newspaper and magazine articles.

And as we saw earlier, Amazon now offers a free Kindle application for iPhones which works in conjunction with its own device.

So what’s a better buy for the e-book reading consumer? The Kindle with its e-ink display or the iPhone with its LCD screen?

According to ReadWriteWeb: “The Kindle does very few things with its black and white screen. It reads books, it checks some RSS feeds and gets the news... that’s about it.

“The iPhone, on the other hand, lets you do all of that, and pretty much anything else you can do on the Internet. And it’s a phone. And a portable media player.

“With sites like eBooks.com out there, which sells over 100,000 books, most in the PDF format that Readdle supports, theoretically the same content available on the Kindle is available on the iPhone.”

So which will win out between the purpose-built e-reader and the smartphone, only time will tell.

Matt Buchanan of Gizmodo summed it up nicely when he wrote: “Which display tech will win out may prove to be more economic than aesthetic, but ebook readers are here to stay.

“The presumption that everyone will eventually read books on an electronic display of some sort in the future is so fundamental I haven’t bothered to question it, mostly because nobody else does either.”

E- Readers – The Future

Colour for E-Paper

The future for e-ink is a colourful one according to insiders, who believe that the transition from black and white is only a year or so away.

E-Ink spokesman Sriram K Peruvemba told the New York Times that e-ink technology will be able to reproduce “newspaper-like colour” by 2010 (although full colour could be another year from then).

Other companies are also working on this technological step forward, but who might be putting up the money for such projects?

None other than media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who revealed at a recent industry show that News Corp. is considering investing in the production of a large-screen e-reader with colour display.

Flexible Screens

Rollable or flexible high-resolution display screens represent another target for e-reader manufacturers as they compete to produce an easily portable and robust device.

And one Dutch company says it has already achieved this with its creation of the world’s first “pocket ereader”.

The Readius is the size of a mobile phone with a rollable five-inch screen, which uses e-ink technology in its display and boasts wireless connectivity.

According to a New York Times review of the product from last year, “the screen looks just like a liquid crystal display, but can bend so flexibly that it can wrap around a finger”.

There’s no sign of it on the European market as yet despite a 2008 launch target, but it is expected to be made available at some stage this year.

Looking further ahead, designer Mayo Nissen took the opportunity last year to show off his ideas on what he envisions for the e-reader of the future.

Featured on the Editors Weblog, his design for the Guardian in 2015 introduces a new element where text would be revealed as the display screen is unfurled.

Visit the Design Blog to see a larger image of his vision for the Guardian of the future.

New and Improved LCD?

Developers are working on producing LCD screens to rival the readability of electronic paper displays.

And one company – Pixel Qi – says it has done just that and more, with designer Mary Lou Jepsen telling Gizmodo that its LCD screens are in fact more readable than e-paper displays.

She said the screens have all the advantages of the e-paper display, like sunlight readability, alongside LCD-only offerings such as full colour.

And they don’t have the disadvantages of standard LCD as backlighting can be switched off and the screens use a lot less power

The screens are scheduled for launch in the middle of this year, and Jepsen has predicted that “in 2010, LCDs designed for reading will overtake the electrophoretic (e-paper) display technology in the e-reader market”.


This is the term used by Josh Quittner in his TIME magazine article to describe a new kind of e-reader software from Adobe.

Adobe AIR allows users to view Flash-required web pages offline and the company has been working on applications for the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times.

[Picture - Rafe Needleman/CNET]

Quittner believes that such applications are a kind of hybrid that “act more like computer programs than Web or printed pages”.

At a trade show last year Adobe showed off the results on a Mobile Internet Device from Chinese consumer electronics firm Aigo.

And the end product is impressive according to Quittner, noting that the IHT app “looks identical to but somehow better than the paper version of that newspaper. It feels alive”.

He also points out that the software can display colour images and does not need a constant connection like a web page, so users can read the application wherever they like once downloaded.

Apple & E-Readers

Despite the fact that Apple supremo Steve Jobs has claimed he has no interest in e-readers, there are lots of whisperings about Apple developing some kind of large-screen device.

TIME magazine reports that “Apple is rumored to be working on an iPod Touch-like device with a 7-in. or 9-in. (18 cm or 23 cm) screen, big enough to comfortably read”.

If the stories prove to be true, then the hallowed iPod of e-readers could be yet another innovative i-invention.

And The Economist states that the infrastructure is all in place for Apple to join the e-book market: “There are already millions of iPhones and touch-screen iPods in circulation, and the company has long been rumoured to be working on a larger “tablet” device.

“Selling e-books and newspapers via iTunes, which already has millions of paying customers, would be simple.”

E-Readers – The Salvation of Newspapers?

So how much notice should newspapers really be taking of this relatively new phenomenon?

A lot, according to a number of media commentators and industry analysts who believe that e-readers offer a solution to the industry’s biggest headache - how to get people to pay for digital content.

Digital trend spotter Steve Rubel outlined this belief in a recent blog post penned as an open letter to media companies.

He writes: “The good news is your great white hope has arrived. It’s the Amazon Kindle.

“My unsolicited advice is to jump in now. This could be your last chance to monetise content.”

In essence, Rubel’s argument is that the Kindle is like the iPod in that “it actually encourages people to pay for content rather than get it for free”.

Despite the abundance of free content on the Web, Rubel maintains that some people will still pay to get their favourite things - “The secret sauce is easy and instantaneous delivery of content as soon as it ships.”

TIME’s Josh Quittner agrees on this point: “It’s true that as long as we in the media ask you to read our stuff on your computer screens, you won’t pay for it.

“But if we deliver that content for a small fee on devices that can surpass the pleasures of reading on paper, you will.”

The argument that people will pay for convenience has also been made by The Economist.

Its article, “Electronic Books and Newspapers: An iTunes Moment” states that consumers are likely to pay for content that arrives overnight and can then be read anywhere.

And it contends that the impact on newspapers could be huge if e-readers become a hit with the market.

“If this approach took off, newspapers would no longer depend on advertisers and could wind down their paper editions. (They could also quietly scale back their free websites.)”

Amy Gahran is perhaps a bit more cautious on this point, but she too agrees that devices like the Kindle 2 could be the “game-changers for online and mobile news”.

“That is, if online news operations start taking e-reader technology seriously and work with Amazon and other companies to improve e-reader news delivery.”

And this is the crucial point made by them all – we are witnessing the beginning of the e-reader story and how it ends with regards to newspapers is firmly in the hands of the publishers.

Resources & Reviews

This New York Times article provides a useful overview of e-readers currently on the market or about to launch.

And Poynter Online has a page linking to e-reader related stories from the last couple of years.

Plus a round-up of some of the ongoing projects exploring the views of the news consumer towards e-readers is available on the Editors Weblog.

If you want to know more about the individual devices, there are lots of reviews posted on the Web and here are links to a sample few.

Kindle 2

Kindle2reviews.com – has a round-up of lots of reviews including video reviews

Sony Reader PRS-500




Sony Reader PRS- 700


New York Times

e-paper Central

iLiad ebook Reader

ars technica

personal computer world

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16 April 2009

Citizen Journalism Guidelines From HuffPo

Guidelines to help citizen journalists produce quality content have been published by the Huffington Post.

HuffPo relies on voluntary contributors for much of its content and has published a set of basic guidelines to enable them to meet the editorial standards of the website.

The nine-point list asks potential citizen journalists to avoid expressing opinions irrelevant to the story, to give credit to work of others and to fact-check claims by sources.

Would-be contributors are also strongly encouraged to identify themselves to sources, avoid submitting misleading images and to avoid hearsay.

The list could act as a useful guide for other publishers looking to help enhance the quality of material submitted by users.

[HT – Poynter Online]

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Guardian Launches US Media Podcast

A new monthly podcast about the American media made its debut on guardian.co.uk last week.

Hosted by journalism professor Jeff Jarvis, Media Talk USA provides a view from across the Atlantic to complement the Guardian’s existing podcast on media happenings in the UK.

Jarvis, who is also a columnist on Guardian.co.uk, said the new podcast would “jump off the news to examine the state and fate of media with a variety of provocative guests”.

He noted that British listeners might find it a useful listen as they can “look at the wave of destruction overtaking US newspapers as the canary in the coal mine”.

The podcast features an interview with Arianna Huffington, who discusses the Huffington Post’s new investigative fund project.

Journalism professor Jay Rosen and Wall Street Journal reporter Elizabeth Holmes also make appearances on the inaugural podcast.

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‘Charging For Web Content Can Save Newspapers’

Newspapers can save themselves by all charging for their web-based content, according to an industry analyst.

Former journalist John Morton makes his tongue-in-cheek proposal in an American Journalism Review article entitled “The Morton Plan: Here’s how America’s newspapers can save themselves”.

So what is the Morton Plan? Well, the main idea is that newspapers take the decision individually to introduce charges for their online content and thus avoid the need for antitrust exemption from the government.

“Offer your readers the choice of getting their paper online, with the advantages of expanded information and search capabilities, or in print for the same price. A modest premium would give them both,” writes Morton.

He adds: “Decide, individually, that you will make these changes on July 4, 2009, a fitting day for a nation founded on the belief that a free press is necessary for government to function properly.

“If the Feds come complaining about a conspiracy, tell them: ‘I didn’t conspire with anybody. Morton made me do it.”

The full article is available on ajr.org.

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15 April 2009

Papers Compete For New Media Awards

Regional newspapers are competing against nationals in the digital categories at this year’s Newspaper Awards.

Designed to celebrate newspaper and new media production, the annual contest gives away two web-based awards – Best Use of New Media and Electronic News Site of the Year.

The shortlists for both have been revealed and among the nominees are national newspapers, local newspapers, new media companies and the BBC.

Best Use of New Media

Alphaville, Financial Times - The Long Room

chroniclelive (Newcastle) - Ronnie Gill avatar

Evening Times (Glasgow) - Community websites

Express & Echo (Exeter) – Kellow’s Bootlaces football TV show

Henley Standard - Website

Thisissouthdevon - Rockstars

Daily Telegraph - Mobile applications

Electronic News Site of the Year


Plus, the video content on the website of the Cambridge News has been shortlisted for the award for Most Significant Contribution to Future Newspaper Success.

The winners will be announced near the end of this month in a ceremony in London.

A full list of all the awards and nominees is available on HoldtheFrontPage.co.uk.

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Channel 4 Crowdsources News-Gathering

Visitors to the Channel 4 News website have been helping its journalists find buried news, reports Journalism.co.uk.

The news editors had a hunch that the recent G20 summit and protests would provide the government with a “good day to bury bad news”, so they asked web users to find stories “that might otherwise slip under the radar”.

“We would like you to help us keep an eye on government departments during G20,” stated the website.

It continued: “If you think there’s a story we’ve missed or a buried statistic or announcement that deserves more attention, then let us know.”

Channel 4 News provided crowdsourcing helpers with links to government department websites so they could dig around for interesting press releases and then email or tweet any findings to the newsroom.

The website later featured an update publishing some of the stories found during the course of the day.

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14 April 2009

Regional Press Awards Shortlist Unveiled

The journalists and newspapers shortlisted for multimedia prizes at this year’s Regional Press Awards have been announced.

These are the six reporters competing for the title of Multimedia Journalist of the Year:

Nicola Dowling – Manchester Evening News

Among the stories reported on this year by the crime reporter was a car crash involving footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, where she captured video footage and still photos of the aftermath using a Nokia mobile phone.

Gary Grattan – Belfast Telegraph

Video journalist Grattan has produced and edited many multimedia features during the course of the past year, including this video about last month’s peace rallies in Belfast.

Joanna Hunter, Katy Wood – Hull Daily Mail

Nominated separately, the reporters worked on numerous projects including the newspaper’s Back Home campaign last year, which sought to speed up the return of people affected by floods to permanent accommodation.

Debbie Lockett – Worksop Guardian

Among the stories covered by the chief reporter last year was the murder trial of a local man taking place in Boston, US, from where she produced on-location video reports.

Joseph Watts – Nottingham Evening Post

Parliamentary columnist Watts is the man behind the Post’s political blog – Lobbydog.

And here are the seven titles in contention for the Multimedia Publisher of the Year award:

Belfast Telegraph
BPM Media
Henley Standard
Hull Daily Mail
Manchester Evening News
News & Star (Carlisle)
Nottingham Evening Post

The winners will be announced at an awards ceremony at the beginning of May.

A full list of nominees is available on Press Gazette, and a round-up of last year’s digital winners can be found in the JPDD archive.

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Best Ways To Share Blog Posts

Social media, texting and Instant Messaging all make Mashable’s list of the Top 20 Ways to Share a Great Blog Post.

Writer Ben Parr points out that there’s a whole host of ways to share blog posts with friends and strangers on the Web, so he's put together a list of Mashable’s 20 favourites.

On the social media side, this includes microblogging site Twitter, social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace, and social news sites like Digg and Reddit.

Suggestions also include spreading the word about a good blog post by blogging about it yourself, sharing the link with friends via Google’s RSS reader or sending the link to blogging platforms such as tumblr and posterous.

TwitThat, it installs a bookmarklet into a browser to enable one-click posting to Twitter feed, also merits a mention and so does ping.fm, which sends links to multiple social media accounts at once.

And not forgotten is sharing via texts – using the text share option under articles – or posting the link to friends via Instant Messaging.

Check out the full 20 on Mashable.

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How To – Shoot Video For The Web

The all-important basics for shooting Web video are featured in the latest Reporter’s Guide to Multimedia Proficiency post from Mindy McAdams.

Blogger and academic McAdams has reached part 12 in the series and turned her attention to filming video pieces for news websites.

Here’s a summary of her guidelines:

What’s A Story?

McAdams asserts that video packages should not rely on facts like a report, but rather seek to tell a story.

This requires journalists to be genuinely curious about the subject and able to find and identify the interesting, the unusual and the unexpected.

What’s Worth Capturing?

This means going around without a camera and microphone at first in order to get an idea of what’s happening and what would make an interesting image etc.

When To Shoot?

McAdams suggests that interview subjects will talk about the things the reporter asks them about – so get material first and then pose your questions, rather then shooting footage to fit an interviewee’s responses.

What To Shoot?

Taking her cue from video journalism blogger Angela Grant, McAdams says the question of what to shoot comes down to three things: “I like to call them ‘action or activity’; emotion; and ‘you’ve got to see it to believe it.’”

How To Shoot?

McAdams suggests beginners should try to keep camera movement to a minimum – no panning or tilting – and shoot short clips of action.

How Much To Shoot?

The five-shot method is recommended – where five different shots are taken of each action to increase your options when editing.

Visit McAdams’s Teaching Online Journalism blog for the full post and for some useful links to other resources and blog posts on video journalism.

The Reporter’s Guide to Multimedia Proficiency also includes posts on blogs and RSS feeds, and creating audio-visual slideshows.

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13 April 2009

Newspapers & Content – Learn To Let Go

It is the user-focused business that will survive and thrive in the media industry of the future.

That’s the view of self-confessed “user-experience zealot” Mike Ellis, who recently delivered a presentation on media content and the Web.

If You Love Your Content Set it Free has some interesting ideas on how the Web has radically changed the value of content and how consumers construct identities around ownership of it.

Ellis, who works at non-profit IT group Eduserv, advocates sharing Web content and concentrating less on where it is consumed and concentrating more on producing the stuff.

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10 April 2009

Colbert Versus The NAA

Following on from Jon Stewart’s anti-Twitter tirade, I thought I’d give way to the Easter break with another irreverent take on the state of the news media from across the pond.

Asking the all-important questions about the future of news is satirist and Daily Show alumnus Stephen Colbert, host of The Colbert Report.

The man tasked with answering them is the president of the Newspaper Association of America, John Sturm.

Sturm told E&P that he took the decision to go on the Comedy Central show in the hope that it would “make newspapers visible to the younger audience”.

See how he fared below.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Better Know a Lobby - Newspaper Lobby
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorNASA Name Contest

[HT - Editor & Publisher]

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09 April 2009

Press Gazette Ceases Online News

PressGazette.co.uk will stop publishing journalism news from this weekend as its offline counterpart is to close.

Next month’s issue of the trade magazine Press Gazette will be the last and the website will no longer publish online content, according to owner Wilmington.

An announcement formally confirming the closure of the magazine and addressing the issue of the website was published on the site this week.

“During Wilmington’s stewardship there have been several positive developments. One has been the rapidly increasing traffic to the online edition of Press Gazette.

“Whilst we will no longer be able to offer the magazine’s content online, we aim to develop this site as a resource for the UK journalism community, and we plan to roll out additional functionality in the coming months.”

Wilmington managing director Les Kelly confirmed to media commentator Roy Greenslade that the site will continue, but will not feature any stories.

He said: “There will not be news coverage but we will develop the site to offer other services, such as training and freelance referrals.”

Reactions to the announcement can be found on HoldtheFrontPage.co.uk and in this Paid Content article from former PG staffer Patrick Smith.

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Micro-Fund Trial Gets $3K In First Month

More than $3,000 (£2,025) has been raised in the first month of a “community-funding” project by news site MinnPost.

The non-profit news provider is conducting a micro-sponsorship experiment to see how many visitors to its most popular blog will make a small donation to fund it.

So far, David Brauer’s BrauBlog has attracted one-off payments of $10 and $25 from over 150 people.

The total (up to $10,000 within 3 months) will be matched by the Harnisch Foundation, which means over ($6,000) has been raised at present.

According to the Nieman Journalism Lab, the site’s micro-sponsorship donations “won’t bowl anyone over, but they could point toward a long-term fundraising model for non-profit news organisations that generally depend on large grants from foundations”.

In a blog post launching the project, MinnPost editor Joel Kramer explained the experimental nature of his latest venture.

“One of the ideas floating around for financing journalism is ‘community-funding’ - getting lots of people to donate small amounts to support a writer, a beat, or a specific story project they are interested in.

“So we’ve decided to try this concept out with BrauBlog, since it’s our most popular feature on MinnPost, other than the home page itself.

“This is an experiment. If it works, we’ll brag about it all over the country, and pay some of our bills, too.”

Kramer also said that the micro-sponsorship model would be expanded to one of the MinnPost beat blogs if this trial proves successful.

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08 April 2009

BBC To Share Online Content

The BBC is working on a syndication strategy which would see the broadcaster share content with online newspapers.

In response to a government report, the BBC said it is exploring ways to help newspapers in the future by sharing some of its online stories.

Press Gazette reports that the BBC’s submission to the Digital Britain report revealed that a plan to increase the number of links to newspapers from the BBC News site is also under consideration.

However, it is also noted that the strategy would be limited in scope during an initial trial period and “syndication would be subject to partners agreeing to appropriate terms and conditions”.

See Press Gazette for the full story.

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Telegraph Uses Tweets On Match Report

A flow of football-related posts uploaded to Twitter now adorns the football match report page on Telegraph.co.uk.

Journalism.co.uk reports that the newspaper is using a widget from aggregator Twitterfall to produce the series of tweets scrolling down the side of the page, which features live reports from Premier League and Champions League games.

The widget enables users to develop a custom search so tweets containing the selected key words or terms will then appear in close to real-time.

“Developed by a team of students, using Twitterfall could provide a neat way of following the conversations around certain players, transfer gossip or matches as they’re played,” says Journalism.co.uk.

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07 April 2009

Telling The G20 Story With Social Media

News reporting via Twitter and AudioBoo became the norm last week as journalists used social media tools to tell the story of the G20 Summit in London.

The majority of the mainstream media got in on the action as social media software provided an ideal way for field-based reporters to provide real-time updates on events at the summit and on the streets of the City.

According to BBC tech correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones: “It does seem as though just about everyone involved in G20 - from the politicians to the journalists, from bloggers to demonstrators - has been snapping, filming recording everything in site and uploading it to the web to share with the world.”

Several online newspapers provided coverage using CoverItLive blogs, including Times Online and Sky News.

On the Sky live blog, correspondents sent text updates and links to photos uploaded to TwitPic.

Meanwhile, the Times Online’s live blog featured embedded photos and eye-witness posts from members of the public.

On Guardian.co.uk, award-winning blogger Dave Hill posted regular updates to his London blog about the action on the ground at the Bank of England.

And the BBC offered multimedia coverage through its Live Map, which linked to geotagged video, text and photographic content.

The BBC also pulled together links to all its G20 related content on a Live Text Page which featured links to news articles and blog posts from journalists as they were published.

An abundance of content from citizen journalists appeared throughout the day on content-sharing sites such as Flickr, and a group of students from London’s City University used their mobiles and social media tools to provide extensive coverage of the street protests (HT – cybersoc.com).

For more on this, journalism.co.uk and the BBC’s dot.life blog have round-ups of how social media was used by the mainstream and alternative media during last week’s events.

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Google Earth - Opportunity For Journalism?

Poynter Online’s Amy Gahran believes Google Earth and Street View could become useful story-telling tools for reporters.

Gahran suggests that online newspapers could create multimedia stories using Google Earth’s satellite pictures and photos from the controversial Street View service.

Writing on Poynter’s E-Media blog, she says journalists could use Street View to “show the effects of a disaster such as a flood, hurricane, earthquake or tornado”.

She adds that Street View pictures could also be used to show “the effects of a redevelopment project or environmental cleanup”.

And Google Earth’s historical images could be used with current photos to “create a sense of transition from past to present”.

Gahran concludes: “Seems to me that Google Earth is a field ripe with engaging journalistic opportunity - especially considering there’s a Google Earth iPhone application.”

Launched in the UK this year, Street View can be accessed via Google Maps and is available for cities including London and Manchester.

The below video shows you what it is and how it can be accessed.

[HT - Editors Weblog]

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06 April 2009

NYT Readers Capture Hard Times

People are sharing their experiences of financial hardship via a new user-generated content initiative from the New York Times.

Picturing the Recession asks readers to submit photos which capture the signs of economic troubles in their homes, neighbourhoods and towns.

The result is an extensive gallery of interesting and often moving photos showing the effects of the global financial crisis on people’s everyday lives.

Subjects vary from empty fridges to closed shops, boarded-up houses and make-shift homes in tents and under motorways.

Pictures are grouped into categories - Business, Home, Sacrifice, Family, Work and Transportation.

The NYT invites submissions from users around the world and asks potential contributors: “How do you see the recession playing out in your community? What signs of hardship or resilience stand out? How are you or your family personally affected?”

[HT – Journalism.co.uk]

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Regional Business Site Launched

A website dedicated to business news for the south-west of England has been launched by Northcliffe.

SouthWestBusiness provides breaking business news by sector or by area, which is pulled in to the site from the regional publisher’s newspaper titles in the region.

The new website also offers business directories for Bristol, Bath, Gloucestershire and Somerset.

According to HoldtheFrontPage.co.uk, the main feature is the site’s comment section which aims to help create an online community of users.

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Google Funds Online Ads Research

Internet giant Google recently partnered with media group WPP to fund research into the influences and effects of online advertising.

And last month saw the partnership announce the first round of projects to receive money from the $4.6 million (£3m) fund.

Various aspects of online advertising are to be studied by a range of academics from institutions across North America.

For example, a team of psychologists at the University of California will investigate how people decide what is relevant to them with regards to online advertising.

A project led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology will study whether online advertising is more useful to established brands or niche brands.

The full list of research award winners is on the WPP website, and further details about the three-year partnership between Google and WPP can be found on Internet News and the Wall Street Journal (subscription needed for full article).

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03 April 2009

North-East Paper Plans Digital Archive

One of the UK’s oldest independent newspapers is to make thousands of past editions open to the public through an online archive project.

Issues of the Teesdale Mercury dating back to the mid-nineteenth century will be uploaded to the digital store, as the newspaper plans to make over 5,000 editions available online.

Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund to the tune of £35,000, the Teesdale Mercury Access Project will produce a searchable archive which can be accessed by people from around the world.

Speaking to HoldtheFrontPage.co.uk, project chairman Roy Tranter said the initiative would preserve the newspaper for future generations.

“The Teesdale Mercury has played such an important role over the years in documenting Teesdale life and events that have happened, it would be an awful tragedy if those records were lost.”

The Teesdale Mercury began publication in 1854.

[Photo - by abbyladybug on Flickr]


A Question Of Quality Online

Is the quality of online content compromised by sub-editor job cuts and the direct publishing nature of the Web?

That’s the question posed by Carl Sessions Stepp in his latest American Journalism Review article, entitled The Quality-Control Quandary.

Stepp interviews a range of journalists, editors and managers at several newspapers to gauge feelings on this issue in newsrooms across the US.

What he finds is a range of opinions, from those who see it as a manageable risk with relatively minor repercussions at present to copy editors who fear a major court case is just around the corner.

Read the full story on AJR.org.

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