30 September 2009

Apps for BlackBerry-Wielding Journalists

The Orlando Sentinel's technology reporter, Etan Horowitz, offers a Top 10 list of (mostly free) Blackberry apps for journalists at PoynterOnline.org.

(Coming later this week from Horowitz: A list of iPhone apps, followed by a comparison of Blackberry and iPhone. Check Poynter's "Online and Technology" site to keep up!)

Both the iPhone and Blackberry offer online apps stores. You'll need to download "BlackBerry App World" if it didn't come on your phone. If you can't find an app you want there, Horowitz says, it can be downloaded from the developer's Web site on your BlackBerry browser.

Here's his list:

* Qik: Enables you to broadcast live video from your phone. Qik videos are embeddable, and a live stream can be posted on Twitter, Facebook and other sites. Qik is an easy way to cover breaking news visually.

* UberTwitter: Faster and with more features than TwitterBerry, this free program makes it easy to promote your work, crowd-source and stay on top of breaking news. It also lets you e-mail tweets and upload both photos and videos.

* BlackBerry Messenger: The instant messaging programme (allowing you to communicate with other BlackBerry users) includes the ability to group messages and to see when the other person is typing -- helpful when you need to know if someone is about to respond. Horowitz says Sentinel photographers and photo editors use BlackBerry Messenger because it allows them to send information quickly without interrupting a photographer on assignment.

* Google Mobile App: This app allows journalists who use Google products and services, such as Gmail or Google Maps, to get easy access to them on their BlackBerry.

* Evernote: You cannot edit or create new Google Docs on a BlackBerry, but Evernote provides a handy way to write notes that are accessible on the Web. For instance, you could start writing a story on Evernote on the BlackBerry, then pull it up on Evernote.com when you return to your computer. Evernote also enables you to record audio notes and to store documents or photos.

* Google Voice: For journalists who don't want to ever miss a call from a source, or who want to screen calls, Horowitz writes, "Google Voice is a godsend." The app also transcribes voice mails, enables you to record conversations and lets you switch from your cell to your office phone in the middle of the conversation.

* Opera Mini: The Web browser installed on your BlackBerry may not be a full HTML browser, so some pages won't load and others will be displayed in a text format. Opera Mini is an alternative browser that displays Web pages in an easier-to-view format on your phone.

* Facebook: The social networking site has become a valuable tool for journalists who want to find sources and story ideas, promote their work and engage readers. The BlackBerry version sports a basic interface; it enables you to upload photos (but not video) to Facebook.

* Tethering: Rather than an app, tethering is a feature that gives the BlackBerry an advantage over the iPhone, Horowitz writes. Depending on your rate plan, you can connect it to your computer and use it as a modem to get online.

* Vlingo: This app lets you use voice commands to perform such tasks as sending text messages, opening applications, and updating your Twitter or Facebook status. Both free and paid versions are available.

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29 September 2009

Four Steps to the New News Organization

Local newspapers are in the best position to form the profitable "New News Organization" envisioned by Jeff Jarvis and his colleagues, Judy Sims, former vice president of digital media for the Toronto Star Media Group, writes for PaidContent.org.

Jarvis envisions a local news ecosystem that includes blogs, niche sites, non-profits -- plus a profitable news organization, capable of curating, aggregating audiences and producing original reporting.

Local newspapers are best positioned to do this because of their relationships with local advertisers, Sims suggests. "For small businesses, advertising is, was and always will be about return on investment. If the cash register doesn’t ring, the model won’t work. And metro newspapers know, understand and are trusted by local advertisers more than anyone else in their markets," she says.

Sims offers "four easy steps" for local newspapers seeking to become the New News Organization:

* Step 1: Create a separate organization. Put an online product person in charge of a small (at first) team that includes an online advertising sales person, an editor and a web developer -- and put them "in an office someplace far, far away from the print organization." This team, she writes, "will discover that the best business/editorial/advertising model is considerably different from what the print folks would come up with. And, it will very likely cannibalize the core business." Sims admits this is a "doozy" of a first step, but she feels it is necessary.

* Step 2: Build verticals. Local advertisers want audience and context. Sims urges an analysis of market data to identify categories with the greatest potential advertising revenue, such as homes, health, parenting and entertainment. "Use everything at your disposal to make these sites the ultimate online destinations in their subject-area for the residents of your city," she urges. They should combine news, resources links, data, business and event listings, and input from users, as well as advertising and shopping information.

* Step 3: Curate the ecosystem. Engage local bloggers and encourage experts to start new blogs to fill any gaps. For instance, ask an OB/GYN to write for the parenting site or an interior decorator for your homes site; in general, "make it easy for the passionate to be heard." In addition, Sims urges, news organizations should create widgets and other apps that allow other sites to publish their content. "The news media of the future is about distribution, not destination," she writes.

* Step 4: Create a Glam.com-style advertising network, using the ecosystem described above. Link extensively: Push traffic from the verticals to the blogs, and the blogs to the main news site, and the main news site to the verticals. And create packages around commercial content.

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28 September 2009

NY Times Explores Twitter Search Tool

The New York Times is experimenting with search tools to sift through Twitter feeds and pull together commentary on thousands of specific topics, Mediaweek's Mike Shields reports.

The company already has built one such product, for its popular fashion-themed blog The Moment. The Moment, which has more than 1.2 million followers on Twitter, aggregates commentary about the high-end fashion industry from editors and readers, Times Senior VP for Digital Operations Martin Nisenholtz said.

Nisenholtz says the Times has a unique opportunity to play a prominent intermediary role on Twitter, as part guide and part editor.

“If you go out and search Twitter, it doesn’t work very well,” he said. “It’s very literal.” But if the newspaper can build multiple search products for Twitter that better understand context, there “is a lot of power in organizing and curating this world.”

Overall, the Times’ core Web site is enjoying a Twitter-driven traffic boost, adding roughly 15,000 followers each week, Nisenholtz reported.

Facebook also is a solid source of social media traffic; the Times has accumulated half a million followers since extending its presence on the site in 2007. Unlike NYTimes.com, the newspaper's Facebook followers are predominantly female, and 80 percent are under age 35.

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25 September 2009

A Special News Relationship

American visits to UK news and media websites have soared 54% over the past year, according to a Hitwise report released this week.

BBC News was the 21st most visited news and media website in the United States during August. Other British sites in Hitwise's US News and Media top 200 last month included the Daily Mail (47th), the BBC home page (65th), the Telegraph (71st), the FT (115th), The Sun (117th), Times Online (131st) and the Guardian (134th).

In Australia, BBC News ranked 13th in the news and media category, and the BBC home page was 18th. However, UK news sites have long been popular in Australia, so August traffic represented just a 6% increase over 2008. Among UK internet users, visits to British news and media websites were up 8% year on year.

In the U.S. market, Hitwise reports, the Drudge Report is the key traffic driver to British news sites. In fact, Drudge was second only to Google search -- but ahead of Google News -- in sending visitors across the Atlantic for their news. Drudge accounted for nearly 11% of visits during August, compared to 13.5% for Google search and 5.3% for Google News.

E-mail also has been a key traffic source for UK websites, including Yahoo! Mail, Gmail and Hotmail. Digg also has been important in driving U.S. traffic to the Telegraph site, in particular.

More than a quarter of the American visitors are from California, with another 6.6% from New York. Forget about the cowboys in Wyoming, though; they're just not into British media, according to the Hitwise data.

Wealthy Americans, households earning more than $150,000, are the most likely to visit British news websites -- but the least affluent, earning less than $30,000, are the second most likely. This group may include students.

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24 September 2009

Pay to Read about the Play?

The Minneapolis Star Tribune has begun charging users for "premium" online coverage of the city's professional American football team, the Vikings.

For $5.95 for three months (not quite a whole season), or $19.95 a year, subscribers to Access Vikings get additional "insider" information not available anywhere else. This includes:

* Chats with a reporter from inside the locker room after every game.

* The ability to ask well-known Vikings reporters "probing questions" before the game each week.

* "Insight and analysis" from the newspaper's Vikings columnists.

* Access to a blog by a former all-pro player, who will "blog his impressions of the season."

* Photo galleries of game images from Star-Tribune photographers.

The Star Tribune tried something similar seven years ago, Staci Kramer points out in a post on PaidContent.org. It didn't work -- but the price was higher in 2002, costing $4.95 for just one month's access then, $29.95 for the year. The newspaper shut the experiment down after attracting only around 1,000 subscribers.

"Put in fan perspective, the [2009] three-month pass is less than one beer at an NFL [National Football League] stadium; the annual subscription would be two or three beers," Kramer helpfully points out.


23 September 2009

Publishers Turning to Mobile

Print publishers are extremely interested in mobile strategies for content distribution and advertising, according to a new survey by the Audit Bureau of Circulations, MediaDailyNews reports.

More than half the 375 print publishing executives surveyed said they are already distributing content via mobile devices. Among newspaper publishers, 58% said they have formatted their Web sites to make them mobile-friendly or have created dedicated mobile Web sites.

They expect the services to be financed through both subscription and advertising; so far, however, users have shown more interest than advertisers in mobile content, the survey found. Publishers also commonly report that mobile use drives traffic to their Web sites.

In addition, three-quarters either have a "smart phone" application already in production or plan to create one in the next two years.

The publishers widely expect print distribution to diminish, but not vanish, over the next decade.

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22 September 2009

Winning Ideas from "Creative Technologists"

"Creative technologists" and their terrific ideas for imaginative journalism were on display this month at the 2009 Knight-Batten Symposium and Awards for Innovations in Journalism, J-Lab Executive Director Jan Schaffer reports.

“Technology is not a slice of the pie of what we do. It’s the pan,” said Ellen Miller. Her Sunlight Foundation is making data available on everything from government contracts to foreign lobbyists.

Among the trends Schaffer highlights this year:

* Making information easy to access, visualize and use. The winners built ways to track changes on government Web sites, fact-check assertions in political debates, find and annotate documents, and mash data sets. “Transparency is the new objectivity,” Miller said -- sounding a lot like the BBC's Richard Sambrook, quoted in in yesterday's Digital Digest post, below.

* Helping citizens track what their elected officials are up to. For instance, The New York Times“Represent” feature lets users track New York state and congressional officials by such things as their floor appearances and Twitter comments.

* Engaging in collaboration and open sourcing. The source codes for winners such as ProPublica’s ChangeTracker are intended to be available to all. "Could we put together a recipe so any reporter could do this?" asked ChangeTracker developer Scott Klein.

The tools these creative technologists are building for citizens also are valuable to reporters. For example, participatory blogs such as Vaughn Hagerty’s MyReporter.com, which collects and answers questions from readers of the regional Star News in North Carolina, gives journalists a real-time window on the interests of local readers.


21 September 2009

Is Transparency the New Objectivity?

The impact of social media on breaking news is overestimated in the short term -- and underestimated in the long term, according to BBC Global News Division Direction Richard Sambrook.

Sambrook said at last week's Oxford Social Media Convention that mainstream media are adopting social media such as Twitter but failing to discuss its long-term effects, Mercedes Bunz reports for the Guardian.

He suggest a new objectivity may be evolving. Objectivity, he said, was designed to deliver journalism that people can trust. But today, it is transparency that creates trust. News still has to be accurate and fair, but it is as important for the public to see how the news is produced and where the information comes from, he said.

Information is not journalism, Sambrook added. Journalism needs discipline, analysis, explanation and context; its "added value" comes from judgement, analysis and explanation. Journalism, therefore, has a future, he promised.

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18 September 2009

'Tangible' Mobile Apps Will Sell, Outing Advises

News publishers expecting to make money online will need to figure out how to offer something tangible -- and mobile represents big-time opportunity, especially for phone applications, advises veteran digital media observer Steve Outing in his latest Stop the Presses column.

Outing has long believed that non-niche news content is better off being free, supported by advertising and other revenue streams. But after talking recently with two mobile gurus, he said, he realized that people seem to prefer to spend money on things they can "keep." A phone app may not be a physical thing, but it's there on your phone every time you turn it on, he writes. It's "yours."

Consider the iPhone, for which Apple CEO Steve Jobs boasted last week that 1.8 billion apps had been downloaded in just two years. An estimated 13% of those apps carry a price tag, according to a February 2009 presentation by Pinch Media; the figure is likely higher today.

For years, Outing points out, publishers had no trouble selling a physical product, the printed paper, which readers got to keep as long as they liked. Efforts to charge for the intangible online product, in contrast, have nearly all failed miserably.

Perhaps, he says, one of the main reasons is that when online news consumers were asked to pay for news, many felt that they weren't getting anything, because they received nothing tangible -- just information (most of which is free online anyway).

The same goes for general news content on mobile phones, Outing says. But, he added, "Fortunately, mobile phones now have something that people will buy: apps. And mobile is poised to become the next growth area for content publishers."

Publishers, he says, should create an iPhone app (followed by apps for other devices such as Blackberries) that offers a better news experience than viewing a website on a phone's browser, as well as other valuable features. And they should charge for it.

"Non-niche, non-unique digital news has no monetary value to most readers. News providers, if they are to make money directly from consumers in the online and mobile worlds, need to come up with non-ephemeral offerings," he says. "The key to getting paid for news in digital format is that what's being sold is not fleeting."

For instance, he suggests:

* Paid news memberships. With a membership to a news organization, you get something -- perhaps including a membership card (physical or digital) to be used repeatedly to get special privileges, such as discounts from advertisers or access to premium content.

* Access. Charging people to read the regular column from a star writer, for instance, may not work, as The New York Times discovered during its TimesSelect paid-subscription experiment. But publishers might take a hint from Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly, who offers a paid "Premium Membership" Among 16 extra benefits, it includes special access to O'Reilly, including "preferred e-mail" that gets your message bumped to the front of the queue, and a weekly live chat during which Premium members get to ask O'Reilly questions.

* Special Web applications for PCs. If apps sell so well on mobile phones (albeit at generally low prices), news companies may want to consider selling applications for the PC that offer consumers an enhanced online news-reading experience. Readers get to "keep" the software.

More thoughts and ideas can be found in Outing's column, available free for a limited time.

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17 September 2009

Perspectives on the Great Pay Debate

As newspapers scramble to decide how best to increase revenue online, editors are desperately trying to figure out what content to charge for, while still keeping print viable and their Web numbers up.

In a special report published this week, U.S. newspaper trade magazine Editor & Publisher summarizes the current thinking among American newsroom leaders.

Most of those interviewed by reporter Joe Strupp said no decisions have been made. But they said they welcomed a paid approach to online, noting that readers seem to be willing to pay for Web content that is useful, exclusive and/or in-depth.

However, the definition of marketable content varies. Some editors believe everything is chargeable. Others point at sports, or find blogs and analysis the most sellable.

"The model that most think is worthwhile is a hybrid of free and paid," says Gordon Crovitz, former publisher of The Wall Street Journal and co-founder of Journalism Online, which is helping newspapers transition to paid content. "For most, the vast majority would continue to access online without a payment. But the challenge is finding what you would charge for."

Few editors disclosed any specific plans, but most cited "news you can't get anywhere else" as the elusive element they'd place behind a pay wall. That includes local sports, community news, exclusives, breaking news, and investigative projects. Others said Web-only staples such as blogs, pages of data, documents and statistics, and video are also key.

Other dismiss the whole idea of charging for the web as "delusional," such as Tampa Tribune Editor Janet Coats: "People have lost their minds. They need to have a cold cloth on their heads and go lay down for a while."

For Coats, a more aggressive approach to getting online ad revenue is the answer. "We have spent 15 years in this industry getting newsrooms to change," she said. "By God, they have changed. How much have things changed on the ad side?"

The E&P article offers extensive quotes and other ideas from editors of U.S. papers large and small.


16 September 2009

Facebook Makes Friends -- and Money

Facebook, the social networking phenomenon, announced this week that it now has more than 300 million users worldwide -- having added 50 million just since July -- and has become "free cash flow positive," the Guardian reports on its Technology blog.

That means it is finally making money after five and a half years and an estimated $716 million of investment.

Facebook now has as many users as the entire internet population of China -- or of Europe's 10 largest countries combined. It is still growing in Britain and the United States, and its recently launched Facebook Lite is designed to appeal to users with slower internet connections in countries such as Brazil and India.

The news prompted speculation that the company could prepare for a stock market launch as early as next year, a rumour that senior executives have tried to squash in the past.

Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, 25, seem to have settled on several key ways to bring in the money, the Guardian reports in a sidebar post:

* Self-serve advertising allows marketers to buy ads to put in front of users who precisely fit a desired profile. This has proved appealing for some big brands.

* In addition, almost anyone can walk up and buy space on the site if they have the cash -- including other Facebook users, who try to direct people to their profiles, fan pages or elsewhere in order to promote a cause or pitch a product.

* Users also can buy gifts and other virtual property to give to each other. This still seems like a crazy idea to some people, but it can be profitable. Think of ringtones, for instance.

* In addition, the company is working on a micropayments system that likely will allow it to take a slice of any transaction conducted through the site.

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14 September 2009

Google Micropay Platform Could Help Newspapers

Google is developing a micropayment platform that will be available to "non-Google properties" within the year, according to a document the company submitted to the Newspaper Association of America (NAA).

The system, an extension of Google Checkout, would be a new and unexpected option for the news industry as it considers how to charge for content online, reports the Nieman Journalism Lab, which offers the Google document for download.

The revelation comes in an eight-page response to the NAA’s request for paid-content proposals, extended earlier this year to several major technology companies and startups -- including Google, with which the industry has had a rather tenuous relationship in the past.

In the document, Google outlines its "vision of a premium content ecosystem" that includes subscriptions across multiple news sites; syndication on third-party sites; accessibility to search; and various payment options, including micropayments.

"The idea is to allow viable payments of a penny to several dollars by aggregating purchases across merchants and over time," Google says.

Google has sought to position Checkout as a competitor to eBay’s PayPal service, the leading system for online payments. Although the company says the process for merchants currently is "fairly rudimentary," it "could be improved to be more relevant for news and media companies."

The NAA asked Google, along with other technology companies, to submit ideas for how newspapers could use technology to generate more revenue from their digital content. Google has been experimenting with new ways to highlight news content and new ways to display it.


03 September 2009

Regionals Make Top Blogs List

A chart of the top 40 political bloggers in the media features a significant number of entries from the regional press.

HoldtheFrontPage.co.uk reports that Joe Watts from the Nottingham Evening Post is among the regional journalists with a Westminster blog who have made the list, voted for by blog readers.

Another lobby blogger in the top 40 is Torcuil Crichton from Glasgow’s Herald newspaper for his Whitehall 1212 blog.

Scottish politics bloggers are also represented in the chart by The Steamie, a blog from Scotsman.com city editor David Maddox.

The list has a few newcomers too, including David Bartlett from the Liverpool Daily Post who has been writing his blog for less than a year.

National media bloggers feature heavily in the 40 with the Spectator Coffee House blog taking the top spot and the BBC’s Nick Robinson and Daily Mail’s Peter Hitchens also making the top ten.

Visit totalpolitics.com for the full list.


02 September 2009

Awards To Honour Breaking News

The finalists for the Online Journalism Awards have been announced and a total of ten sites have been nominated for breaking news coverage.

Award nominees compete in categories with websites of a similar size and this year sees three titles up for the breaking news prize for a small site.

They are: The Daily Astorian for coverage of the Gearhart Plane Crash; The Desert Sun for the Desert Hot Springs Gang Sweep; Pressconnects.com/Press & Sun-Bulletin for the Massacre on Front Street.

In the medium site category, the shortlist of four includes LasVegasSun.com for coverage of a snowstorm and the Dallas Morning News for its breaking news reports on the collapse of an American football training stadium.

Finally, the nominees in the large site category for breaking news are: The BBC for the Mumbai terrorist attacks; the New York Times for the plane crash on the Hudson river; chron.com for Hurricane Ike.

Run by the Online News Association, the awards also honour investigative journalism, multimedia, blogging, video journalism and general excellence – the full shortlist is available to view in the press release.

“We were regularly awed, inspired and delighted by the quality and innovation evident online today,” said Anthony Moor, co-chair of the awards committee.

The winners will be announced in October at the 2009 ONA Conference.

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01 September 2009

Three Compete For Digital Title

Three journalists from Lancashire have made the shortlist for an inaugural digital award.

William Watt (The Gazette, Blackpool), Paul Cockerton (Lancashire Telegraph) and Martin Hamer (Lancashire Evening Post) are in the running for the Digital Journalist of the Year prize at the first O2 Media Awards for the region.

HoldtheFrontPage.co.uk reports that the new awards for Greater Manchester and Lancashire represent O2’s third regional journalism contest.

The telecoms company also runs competitions for newspapers in Cheshire and Merseyside, and Yorkshire and The Humber regions.

O2’s director of communications, Glenn Manoff, said of the new awards: “This is a region rich with quality journalism which has been reflected in the high level of entries we have received from writers, broadcasters and photographers working in the area.

“Local and regional journalists provide an important service in their communities, keeping people connected to the world around them and supplying important news and information that otherwise may have remained hidden.”

The winners will be announced at a ceremony in Manchester on October 1st.

See HoldtheFrontPage.co.uk for the full shortlist of nominees.

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