30 October 2009

Facebook tip-off leads to front-page story

A regional daily newspaper is celebrating after a tip-off on their Facebook page led to a front-page splash this week, reports holdthefrontpage.co.uk

The tip-off was posted on the North West Evening Mail’s page, set up by reporter Amy Fenton, by one of the group’s 2000 ‘friends’, saying a body had been found on a Barrow Street.

This meant that the CN Group-owned paper was first on the scene, giving them the front page story, along with pictures and video footage.

Whilst some newspaper groups ban their journalists from looking at the social networking site, Fenton has been encouraging as many of her colleagues as possible to use it, saying that the Facebook page has generated countless stories.

She has also visited sister newspapers in the CN group to give a presentation on the site and how it can be used as a journalistic tool.

Speaking to Holdthefrontpage she said: "Using Facebook is a great way to source stories, get contacts and receive tip-offs."

Deputy editor Phil Pearson added: "Through her own initiative Amy has shown everyone in our newsroom, and across the group, what a multimedia operation can achieve.

"She has embraced Facebook as a source of news and used it as a great way of communicating and interacting with our readers. Her work has benefited both our website and the paper. She has made our operation more immediate and relevant."

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29 October 2009

Manchester Evening News launches iPhone app

The Manchester Evening News (MEN) has become the first regional news publisher to launch an iPhone application, reports journalism.co.uk.

Readers will be able to follow headline stories in categories such as news, business and showbiz, as well as dedicated sections for Manchester United and Manchester City.

According to the MEN, more that 1,000 users have downloaded the application since it was created earlier this month.

The MEN already has a mobile website but says that this new app will provide an enhanced service for iPhone users, as well as allowing them to share stories on Facebook and Twitter.

Users can also download stories to be read offline later.

iPhone users can get the application from the App Store on their device, by searching for Manchester Evening News and iPod Touch users can get it from iTunes.

A short video of the app, developed by Spreed Inc - who also created Canadian newspaper the Globe and Mail's iPhone app - can be seen on YouTube


28 October 2009

How should web traffic be measured?

A key factor in attracting advertisers is to be able to deliver an audience. So what is the best way to measure traffic to a newspaper’s website? This is something discussed in an article on the Guardian’s PDA blog.

According to the report, methods of evaluating data online are always changing. It describes how, initially, the most important web traffic measurement was page impressions.

This however prompted some publishers to try and boost ratings by using picture galleries and a move to counting unique users on a monthly basis was made.

This method counts the unique device – a computer or mobile phone for example – that requests content from a website. This monthly count does not account for the individual user, however, only the device used.

Daily newspapers, however, would prefer a daily figure so a discussion is underway as to whether the system should change again. When last week, the ABCes were published, the statistics included figures for daily unique users for the third time.

The calculation is not as simple as taking the total unique user figure and dividing it by the number of days in the month.

As the ABC explained to the Guardian: "The total monthly unique user/browser figure is deduplicated over the period of time being measured, which is a calendar month. For example, if a unique user/browser visits a website on day five and on day 12 in the month it will be counted as a daily unique user/browser on day five and a daily unique user/browser on day 12.

"Hence, it will be counted twice (once per day present) when calculating the daily average unique user/browser figure. However, it will only be counted once within the total monthly UUB figure."

Looking at monthly users rather than daily users, says the article, can reward a site that is attracting a lot of different users rather than the same regular users and has remained the more important measurement.

But, it says, a change to daily measurements could still be on the horizon.

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27 October 2009

Newspaper sites: The "patent, leather shoe" of advertising campaigns

Advertising managers look away now: a New York Times story has stated how newspaper sites may be overlooked as brands seek to increase their online advertising efficiency, according to a report on SFNBlog.com.

It describes how newspaper sites experienced a temporary boon when Mercedes-Benz USA introduced its updated E-Class cars this summer.

According to the report, Mercedes bought out the ad space on the home pages of The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, and had those sites create special 3-D ads for them, at an estimated cost of $100,000 a site.

However, the company then tightened its aim and shifted money to cheaper ads from networks, which bundle ad space from many Web sites.

A further blow was dealt when digital media specialist for Mercedes-Benz USA Beth Lange said that they would avoid newspaper sites in the future, when advertising more basic models, and rely on networks.

That lets Mercedes “be very targeted and efficient with our dollars,” said Lange.

The New York Times claims that this explains why newspaper sites are missing out on online advertising revenue even though internet advertising is increasing, describing the sites as the “patent-leather stilettos of the online world: they get used for special occasions, but other shoes get much more daily wear.”
These “shoes” include exchanges like Advertising.com from AOL and DoubleClick Ad Exchange from Google, which dominate the buying and selling of extra space.

There is some hope for newspaper executives. McClatchy Newspapers (whose portfolio includes the Miami Herald) seems to be bucking the trend, experiencing a rise in revenue from online display ads which Christian A. Hendricks, vice president of interactive media at McClatchy, attributes to the rise to the company’s focus on online-only ads and its selling of local ads, rather than national brand campaigns.

The Times counters this however by explaining that one reason newspaper sites do not appear to be bouncing back as much as the overall Internet is price: after advertisers introduce their splashy campaigns on news sites, they can follow up with cheaper ads all over the Web.
If newspapers hope that online advertising will be the end of their financial woes, it seems they may need a new strategy.

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26 October 2009

News wire criticised for inaccuracies

As debate focuses on how to make online content pay, it is important not to forget about reporting standards.

Journalism.co.uk highlights how this was raised at a recent debate hosted by Thompson Reuters, titled 'What Price the News?', which saw the wire service coming under fire from former employees for apparently favouring speed over accuracy in an increasingly competitive market.

They cited two examples where the company reported inaccurate stories from other media without checking primary sources first.

The first example was from this month, when Reuters initially published a report, first broadcast by Sky News, that the Lockerbie bomber, Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, had died, until his lawyer corrected them.

The second example was CNN's report on a US Coast Guard training exercise on the anniversary of September 11 this year, which was wrongly claimed to be a gun battle.

Audience member Paul Iredale, a former Reuters journalist of 30 years, said he was 'deeply concerned and sad' about what he heard during the debate.

"In Reuters it seems to have gone to speed rather than accuracy," he said. "What we used to say about Reuters was we got it last, but we got it right. I don't think that is the case now."

Reuters' political and general news editor Sean Maguire defended the news wire, saying that it was completely transparent when the stories were found to be untrue.

He said: "When we saw it was wrong, we said we were wrong."

"Because Sky had been a good source on the [al-Megrahi death report] story we reported it. We very quickly said what they said was nonsense."

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23 October 2009

Study shows that Journalists want quicker change to digital

Nearly half of all print newspaper journalists think their newsrooms are moving too slowly in the transition into digital news reporting reveals Editor and Publisher.

A study from Northwestern University's Media Management Center (MMC) finds that whilst publishers and sales directors are searching for ways to make digital news pay, newspaper journalists "have no trouble envisioning a career where news is delivered primarily online and to mobile devices instead of in print," according to the study "Life Beyond Print: Newspaper Journalists' Digital Appetite."

Study authors Vickey Williams, Stacy Lynch and Bob LeBailly surveyed almost 3,800 journalists in print, online, or hybrid jobs at 79 U.S. newspapers, asking their attitude towards shifting from print-only to multimedia.

The majority were still working in print, but did not want to continue doing so forever, according to the study. In fact, when dividing participants into six categories, depending on their level of enthusiasm for the transition into digital, just 6% of journalists fell into the category characterized as "Turn Back the Clocks," who wish the digital era would just go away.

"For several years we have heard that it is the journalists' resistance to change that was holding newspapers back," said MMC executive director Michael P. Smith. "What this study shows is that they are ready -- and some are even impatient -- for change."

Fully half of newsroom staffers fell into the category the study called "Moderately More," journalists who would prefer to work as much in digital as they do in print.

Another 12%, dubbed the "Digitals," are already doing most of their work in the digital space, and wish their paper were transitioning quicker from print.
The study also found that it was heavy use of the Internet outside of work and knowledge of online audiences and their preferences that drove digital appetite and it was there were no particular age groups, or levels of experience that distinguished those keen on digital content and those reluctant to change.

Finally, even in the face of job losses and employment uncertainty in the wake of the recession, the survey reports that journalists are surprisingly upbeat.
More than three-quarters, 77%, say they are somewhat or very satisfied with their current jobs, and 67% think it somewhat or very likely they will be in the news business two years from now. Most, 59%, even think they'll be working for their present newspaper.

The full report is available here.

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22 October 2009

The end of the road for paid content?

Bad news for struggling newspapers: nine out of ten UK consumers would never pay for online news, reports Press Gazette.

They highlight a survey of more than 2,000 consumers by Lightspeed Research which asked what content users wouldn’t be prepared to pay for online.

It found that 91 per cent of respondents would never pay for news online and 90 per cent would be unwilling to pay for news analysis.

This follows a Harris Interactive poll, commissioned last month by Paid Content, which found that just five per cent of readers were willing to pay for online news.

The survey, says the article, is yet further evidence against publishers, like Rupert Murdoch, who intend to start charging for access to their websites.

But, reports Press Gazette, News Corp claims to have conducted its own audience research in Australia, the UK and US, which gives it confidence that people will happily pay for news content across a range of digital devices.

Surprisingly, the Lightspeed survey found that it is the older age group that seems the most unwilling to pay for news content.

Of those aged 16 to 24, 86 per cent would never pay for news online, while in the 45 to 54 age sectors, 96 per cent said they would not pay, according to MediaWeek.

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21 October 2009

Mobile Journalism: the tools you need

Twitter, iPhones, Flips, Flickr, Geotagging, Facebook, MP3s…the influx of technology now involved in digital journalism can be overwhelming.

Every journalist is looking out for the next thing that will give them the edge when reporting the news, especially when they’re out on the street.

So what are the best tools for the job?

This is a question asked by Paul Bradshaw, Course Direct of the MA in Online Journalism at Birmingham City University’s School of Media, on his blog.

He has considered just what hardware, software, systems and mindset today’s mobile journalist needs and will be presenting his ideas in a lecture tomorrow (Thursday 22nd) which, as he says, in the spirit of mobile journalism, he will be streaming live on Bambuser from 9am UK time.

Some of the essentials Paul suggests include:

  • Smartphone with camera, video, audio, unlimited data plan

  • Digital camcorder, e.g. Flip, Kodak Zi8

  • Digital dictaphone or Zoom

  • Applications such as Spinvox – a blog via voice – Audioboo, Twibble – GPS twitter updates – and Zyb – which synchronises contacts and your calendar

  • Map of wifi hotspots, mobile and 3G coverage

  • Embedded players for livestreaming/liveblogging

  • Geotagging information for mapping

  • An ‘Always-on’ approach – tweet on the go; share images; stream quick video. Think humour, art, quirky, as much as ‘news’. Prepare yourself and users for when you need it.

  • Being part of a mobile community – follow people on Twitter

  • Being creative with mobile, not formulaic: the rules aren’t written yet
For anyone who can’t watch the session live (which lasts approximately 45minutes), Paul will be embedding the lecture onto his blog.

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20 October 2009

Got your facts right? The student blog that says otherwise

Journalists across Europe may start dreading answering their telephones lest it be one of a group that Columbia Journalism Review’s Craig Silverman has dubbed the “Tilburg Checkers”.

It’s a new initiative from the Tilburg School of Journalism in the Netherlands where fourth-year journalism students participate in three-week long fact checking programmes, the results of which they publish on a daily blog.

Each morning, the students gather in a room to review the day’s news and identify stories that seem questionable. Then they go to work, hitting the phones and other sources to pull suspicious stories apart and see if they hold up to scrutiny and then, having spoken to the journalist in question, publish online.

According to the programme instructor, Dutch journalist Theo Dersjant, as of today, roughly 80 percent of the stories checked have contained some form of factual mistake.

He also describes how, whilst some journalists are happy to co-operate, others have refused to take their calls anymore, stating that they only have an obligation to their readers (which, Silverman points out, suggests they do not feel obliged to provide accurate stories to their readers).

Whilst the students’ work is largely within mainland Europe, (and the blog itself is in Dutch) Dersjant is hoping that other j-schools across the globe will repeat this format, not only to teach students about accuracy, but to keep local media under check.

So tread carefully next time you wish to report on the latest opinion poll, or science item. The students did such a good job of revealing the bogus data behind some of these “news” items that Dutch news agency ANP has stopped publishing them.


19 October 2009

A business model for Twitter?

Champions of Twitter and its influence in public debate have had a lot to celebrate recently; the overturning of the Trafigura super-injunction and Jan Moir’s reputation being torn to shreds following her column on the death of Stephen Gately, for example.

But, as described in a blog article by Mark Potts, Twitter has another area of excellence – its ability to break news. Twitter, argues Potts, through its broadcast, real-time, 140-character headline nature makes it a perfect vehicle for the latest news, whether it's being generated by on-the-spot observers or news organisations.

Whilst many media organisations have attracted a large core of followers (such as the New York Times, with 1,995,199 followers), one feed that is keeping up with the “big guns” is a Twitter-only headline service Breaking News Online, that boasts over 1.3million followers.

Run by 19-year old Dutch entrepreneur Michael van Poppel, the Breaking News team scan the major news sites and use them alongside their own reporting to produce the feed.

What is particularly interesting about Breaking News notes Potts – besides its ability to hold its own alongside major news organisations – is that Poppel may have found a way to monetize Twitter. They have developed an iPhone app that sells for $1.99—plus a 99-cent-per-month subscription fee - to send followers the latest headlines.

It will be interesting to observe whether the company which prompted PaidContent to write: "Hey Media Company. Buy BNO News. Now. Really” will be able to make this particular business model work. The organisations that Potts succinctly describes as: “taking a backseat to a clever 19-year-old kid” will almost certainly be watching.

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16 October 2009

Huffington Post: better headlines from real-time testing

A/B testing - where you show half of your audience one version of something, the other half a different version and adjust accordingly based on the results - is a highly valued method of user research, from Google’s testing of its design tweaks, to Dustin Curtis’ experiment with direct commands and clickthrough rates.

Now the Huffington Post has got in on the act, according to a report by Zachary M. Seward at Harvard's Nieman Journalism Lab, randomly showing one of two headlines to readers before permanently offering the headline that attracts the most clicks, something that, as a high-traffic site, they can determine within several minutes.

Considering the role that headlines play in attracting readers, Seward argues that it only makes sense to apply the best tools of market research to their crafting, likening the process to "a more rigorous version of magazines adjusting their covers based on newsstand sales."

Speaking to Seward at the Online News Association conference in San Fransisco earlier this month, Huffington Post's Chief Technology Officer Paul Berry said that the system was created inhouse, but wouldn’t disclose much else about how or how often it’s done.

He did tell Seward that Huffington Post editors have found that placing the author’s name above a headline almost always leads to more clicks than omitting it.

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15 October 2009

Mapping the news

North Wales-based newspaper publisher NWN Media has launched a series of websites using mapping technology to highlight news and advertisers by location, reports Holdthefrontpage.

Editorial content from the publisher’s 12 newspapers, along with advertising from that area, will be automatically plotted onto Google Maps, a system the company believes to be the first of its kind in the UK.

Speaking to the website, NWN Media digital editor Christian Dunn said: "We had been experimenting with geotagging stories for a while – adding a latitude and longitude to an article and plotting it onto a digital map – and wanted to make more use of this when we re-launched our websites.

"Our readers can now easily see all the news that's happened in their neighbourhood or village.

"By linking our editorial system in with our advertising system we can also make sure we deliver tailored adverts with every article."

The new-look websites will also feature third party applications while Twitter feeds, Flickr image slideshows and YouTube videos will be embedded on the company's main website leaderlive.co.uk.

The newspapers include the Powys County Times, the Chester Standard and the Wrexham-based Leader.


14 October 2009

The "unheralded" benefits of paid-for content

With Rupert Murdoch describing some aggregators as "content kleptomaniacs" and with regional media organisations looking for potential business models for their hyperlocal journalism, the debate over paying for content continues to rage.

Dorian Benkoil at Poynter Online has provided an interesting argument for the benefits of charging for some content.

Recalling a calculation he made on the effects of making the Wall Street Journal free, he explains how by charging, the Journal (and other publications) can say to an advertiser that they have a "committed, consistent" audience. A free Journal, he calculates, would potentially result in a 60% drop in its ad rates.

Besides obvious benefits such as minimal production and distribution costs for digital subscriptions, he also looks at some of the "less intuitive" benefits, as described by Gordon Crovitz, former publisher of the Journal.

He says: "charging for online subscriptions can help increase the perceived value of the print subscriptions, spurring more sales. Presumably, the psychology of saying "this is worth money" works across media.

"Bundling print subscriptions with online can help sell both. Crovitz found after data analysis that WSJ readers preferred buying online and print as a package over buying one or the other separately for less.

"Selling print subscriptions online greatly decreases the cost of acquiring new subscribers. This makes perfect sense. When someone uses an online form and payments system, he or she doesn't require phone agents or mailings or other costly infrastructure to handle it.

"The cost of sales goes down, too. You don't have to pay as much for advertising if people reading your material online then click to subscribe."

Benkoil acknowledges that getting the mix right is tricky and publishers must consider the risks, such as driving away core audiences or losing valuable page-view statistics, and shouldn't "plunge in" to payment systems.

But he believes that with incremental experiments and continuous improvement it should be possible to create a digitally-based business model that bolsters the print product as well.

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13 October 2009

Citizen Journalists to be syndicated

Citizen journalism site AllVoices has launched a syndication programme to bring professional and amateur newsgatherers together, according to a report on Journalism.co.uk, following in the footsteps of the likes of AssociatedContent.com, who already pay fees to their contributors.

Content providers will now receive 75% of the money paid for non-exclusive and exclusive images and video content whilst retaining copyright of the material.

AllVoices' Chief Operating Officer Aki Hashmi told the website that they are in talks with 'traditional' media groups in the US, Europe, Middle East and south Asia.

"The syndication programme is very good news for the community; it’s very good news for traditional media, because they’re looking for global content and most of them have been very dependent on Reuters and the AP," said Hashmi.

"These have become the global providers of news, but, if you look at it, in 40 per cent of the countries they have no coverage.

"If you have a platform where you can bring professional and citizen journalists together you can have global reach."

The programme has been developed after content providers expressed an interest in monetising their material.

According to Hashimi, the technology powering the site makes publishing and distributing contributors' work online low cost, enabling the site to give the majority of any sale fee back to the user.

This follows an incentive scheme that was launched earlier this year for contributors and is the next stage in marketing the site's content, which attracts more than 3.2million unique users per month.

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12 October 2009

News Apps Build User Loyalty

People who download news, weather and reference apps tend to use them relatively often and for a long time compared with other kinds of applications, according to a recent study conducted by mobile application analyst Flurry and reported by WAN's Shaping the Future of Newspapers blog.

Flurry studied user retention across 19 categories, looking at whether consumers returned to use a downloaded app within 30, 60 or 90 days, as well as how frequently they used it over those time periods.

The study found that continually refreshed news apps, which provide consumers "nearly infinite value over time," were used an average of 11 times per week.

The least-used apps were those in the "entertainment" category, a collection of "gimmick" apps such as Lighter, Fart and IQ Test. Such apps are typically used only a few times and then abandoned, Flurry found.

Social media monitor Mashable observed that though silly apps might have the most initial downloads, they also are easily uninstalled. In other words, 'farts win the battle, but news wins the war,' as Mashable put it.


09 October 2009

No More Free Ride for Aggregators?

The leaders of two of the world's major news organizations said today that search engines and others who use news content for free must pay up, Editor & Publisher reports via The Associated Press.

Many news companies contend that sites such as Google have reaped a fortune from their articles, photos and video without fairly compensating the news organizations producing the material.

"We content creators have been too slow to react to the free exploitation of news by third parties without input or permission," Tom Curley, the AP's chief executive, told the World Media Summit, attended by 300 media leaders in Beijing.

"Crowd-sourcing Web services such as Wikipedia, YouTube and Facebook have become preferred customer destinations for breaking news, displacing Web sites of traditional news publishers," Curley said.

"We content creators must quickly and decisively act to take back control of our content," he added. "We will no longer tolerate the disconnect between people who devote themselves — at great human and economic cost — to gathering news of public interest and those who profit from it without supporting it."

Rupert Murdoch also told summit attendees that content providers would be demanding to be paid.

"The aggregators and plagiarists will soon have to pay a price for the co-opting of our content. But if we do not take advantage of the current movement toward paid content, it will be the content creators — the people in this hall — who will pay the ultimate price and the content kleptomaniacs who triumph," the News Corp. chief executive said.

Curley said earlier this week that the AP was considering selling news stories to some online customers exclusively for a certain period, perhaps half an hour.

The AP already plans to roll out a system, called a news registry, that will track its content online and detect unlicensed uses in ways that could help boost revenue for the not-for-profit news cooperative and its member newspapers.

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08 October 2009

A Look Ahead from `Oasis of Optimism'

Last week's Online News Association convention in San Francisco (see post below) was "an oasis of optimism," reports Jacqui Banaszynski, a long-time journalist and currently the Knight Chair in Editing at the University of Missouri School of Journalism.

The crowd gazing at the relatively near horizon identified a variety of "Web 3.0" tools and trends that seem to hold enormous promise for journalists. Banaszynski summarizes a few of them:

* GoogleWave, which observers think could be the next ... well, Google. ChicagoTalks.org publisher Barbara Iverson says Google’s soon-to-be-released real-time sharing tool is "the latest blockbuster in the communications journey that has taken us from phone to Napster to Facebook to Twitter," Banaszynski reports. "It will apparently make the hiccup of time spent waiting on Twitter or IMs seem limiting."

* Facebook Connect is seen as a powerful tool for building online communities around a product or message. It will let people log in to a website directly through their Facebook accounts. Those users will then have real identities, which the optimists say should boost transparency, accountability and even civility.

* Twitter, "already the stud of the online world, is taking steroids," Banaszynski says. Co-founder Evan Williams mentioned three specifics: Twitter lists to let you more easily aggregate and organize the Twitterverse, as well as send group messages; location information embedded into every tweet; and a still-in-the-works “reputation system” designed to make tweets more transparent and verifiable.

Other predictions include more video, less podcasting -- and a surge in online initiatives by and for women.

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07 October 2009

Hyperlocal Aggregator Debuts in 12 UK Cities

The hyperlocal news aggregator Fwix, which offers feeds in 80 U.S. cities, debuted in the UK this week, according to the Guardian's PDA blog.

Fwix launched in 12 British cities, including Belfast, Edinburgh and Leeds.

Fwix brings together pro-amateur blogs and professional content. Founder Darian Shirazi, 22, says he has identified an average of 45 local blogs and news sources for each UK city feed.

He also says he is willing to share ad revenue with each of them.

"When I look at the UK, I see a lot of local media, but people are struggling to find content that's written by small bloggers — the extent of local media in an aggregated form is from Thisisbristol.co.uk or those types of sites," he said. "So the focus is to find those really good bloggers and show people what's really happening in these areas."

Readers of the Fwix -- via web, mobile, Twitter or iPhone app -- can browse the news and suggest additions.

Many of the U.S. Fwix feeds, which currently attract a total of around 9 million unique users a month, have newspaper and magazine content as well as grassroots bloggers.

"The professional media sources, we still publish content from them because some of it's very good," Shirazi said. "They cover crime and big local stories very well, but some things that are niche and more interesting don't get covered at all."

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06 October 2009

Journalists Coach Contributors at `News Cafe'

A hyperlocal news project in the Czech Republic, built around Starbucks-style "news cafes" staffed by journalists, appears to be working, Larry Kilman reports for the World Association of Newspapers' Shaping the Future of Newspapers blog.

Roman Gallo, CEO of project sponsor PPF Media, told the 2015 Newsroom Conference that 13 weeks after launch in four Czech regions, circulation of the company's paid-for weeklies is growing, as is web traffic. The cafes are quickly becoming a centre of community life, with meetings, concerts, dance lessons and other events organised for local residents.

Editorial staff sit in the middle of the cafes, without walls or doors, allowing regular interaction with local residents. Gallo said half the newspapers' new subscriptions come from people who come in for coffee and conversation.

"The readers can go there and be in contact," he said. "For the editorial team, they're much more open to talk to people, to understand the problems of the people in the region."

If the success continues, the company expects a year-long nationwide rollout of 220 weeklies, 89 news cafes and 700 websites.

About a third of the content for the newspapers is provided by local people - fishermen, firemen, mothers with young children and so on. But none of it goes into the paper or websites without input from a journalist, called a "community manager." A central editor oversees all publications.

"This is a total change for journalists," said Gallo. "We changed the job - they're trainers, coaches -- they work with the communities."

He said the key is to provide "unique content, which you can't find anywhere else, and it has to be credible content. That's the model that worked for newspapers for 100 years, and I have no doubt it will work for another 100 years."

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05 October 2009

Outstanding Online Journalism Reaps Awards

A collection of linking tools enabling journalists to complement their original reporting, a hyperlocal site covering a Seattle neighborhood and a small site that covers a big city were the winners of the three newest categories at the 2009 Online Journalism Awards Banquet last week.

A complete list of winners is available here.

Publish2, a two-year old startup of collaborative journalism tools, won $5,000 and the first Gannett Foundation Award for Technical Innovation in the Service of Digital Journalism at the 10th annual awards ceremony.

My Ballard, a hyperlocal site covering Seattle's Ballard neighborhood, won the first Community Collaboration award, while the Gotham Gazette was recognized for General Excellence, Micro Site, a new subcategory.

The awards acknowledge the important role of emerging technology, the influence of the independent digital journalist and the growth of community reporting efforts.

My Ballard, for example, is "exactly what newspapers are trying to do with hyperlocal content." the judges wrote. "It's extremely useful for the neighborhood and because it lists cool places to go, it works for others."

"These honorees demonstrate the vitality and innovation of online journalists in a time of tumult and transformation in our industry," said Anthony Moor, deputy manging editor/interactive of the Dallas Morning News and co-chair of the Journalism Awards Committee. "We continue to be impressed by the way journalists are pushing the envelope and serving the public interest at the same time."

ProPublica, LasVegasSun.com and The New York Times also won General Excellence Awards, which include a $3,000 cash prize, also courtesy of the Gannett Foundation.

The Chauncey Bailey Project, a collaboration of more than two dozen reporters, photographers and editors who investigated the death of the Oakland Post editor, won the Knight Award for Public Service and a $5,000 cash prize from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Just a few of the other winners -- and there are lots more, all well worth checking out -- at the 2009 awards ceremony were:

* Breaking News, small, medium and large sites: Pressconnect.com /(Binghamton, New York) Press & Sun-Bulletin for Massacre on Front Street; Knoxnews.com (Knoxville News Sentinel)for coverage of a church shooting; and BBC News for its coverage of the Mumbai attacks.

* Multimedia Feature Presentation, small, medium and large sites: National Film Board of Canada for Waterlife, described by the judges as "crazy good," with a "user experience unlike anything we've seen"; LasVegasSun.com for Quenching Las Vegas' Thirst, with an "awesome coordination" between graphics and video; and Washington Post Digital for Sacred Ground: The Building of the Pentagon Memorial, which makes "excellent use of the technologies and the tools."

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02 October 2009

All A-Twitter Over Post Policy

The Washington Post has been the target of considerable squawking recently over its guidelines for journalists' use of Twitter and other social media. This week, Post media writer Howard Kurtz offers his own tongue-in-cheek guidelines.

They include:

* Don't say something that makes you look like a blithering idiot.

* Don't appear to be in the pocket of [insert your favourite political party or cause here].

* Stick to subjects on which you actually have a clue.

* Refrain from boring people with the minutiae of your daily life.

* Don't say anything you couldn't defend as fair analysis in print or on the air.

OK, that last one was actually a serious point. Although his column includes an interesting array of views from around the media blogosphere, Kurtz says he actually finds his paper's contested policies to be quite reasonable.

"There's plenty of running room to be insightful and entertaining -- within the confines of 140 characters -- and engage in dialogue with people who care about politics and journalism," he says. "It all comes down to using a bit of common sense."

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01 October 2009

Input Sought on Libel Law

The British government is seeking public input on the multiple-publication rule, under which each publication of defamatory material can form the basis of a new legal claim, the World Association of Newspapers' Shaping the Future of Newspapers blog reports.

The proliferation of online archives has prompted the review. The current rule facilitates "libel tourism," or forum shopping, in which plaintiffs with few or no ties to the United Kingdom bring suit here -- where libel laws are more likely to be in their favour -- because the material in question is available online.

Comments for and against adopting a single-publication rule are being collected online through December 16.

Justice Secretary Jack Straw has called for an update to existing defamation law to make it "fit for the modern age," according to a recent summary of the issue inThe Times.

In March, The Times took a test case to the European Court of Human Rights, arguing that the multiple publication rule was so onerous a burden for newspapers in the internet age that it had a chilling effect on their right to free speech.

ECHR judges dismissed the case but noted the need for restraints.


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