28 December 2009

Logging Off

As you may have noticed, updates to the JP Digital Digest blog have come to an end -- as will, shortly, my term as Johnston Press Chair of Digital Journalism at the University of Central Lancashire. It has been a pleasure.

Many thanks to our loyal followers, at JP and elsewhere around the world. We hope the information and ideas provided here over the past three years have been useful, helpful and even occasionally provocative!

Many fabulous blogs and other websites also track developments in digital media. An assortment of the ones we like best are featured in our blogroll on the right side of this page, including:

* Paul Bradshaw's Online Journalism Blog.

* Martin Stabe's MartinStabe.com.

* Alf Hermida's reportr.net.

All best wishes for the coming year, everyone. And keep those innovations coming!


17 December 2009

BBC: Decade of road deaths mapped out

With winter well and truly here and the Christmas party season in full swing, a road safety or anti drink-driving campaign may be on your news agenda.

In which case the BBC has devised a rather handy, if not a little gruesome, interactive map, which may prove an excellent source for facts and figures.

Using data between 1999 and 2008 provided by the Department of Transport, the BBC has produced the map which, by plugging in your postcode or local police authority, displays where road accidents have taken place in that area, that involve at least one fatality.

So, for example, if I wanted to know how many people died in Lancashire in 2008, I can enter my post code and see that there were 74 deaths of which – bad news fellas – 59 were male and 15 were female.

I can also see that the majority involved a car and that the largest number of deaths occurred in the group of those aged 30-59 years old.

If this is just a bit too morbid for you, you want to get into the Christmas mood, or find out if it’s likely to be safe to travel to a story location then you could try the UKSnow map.

It’s a simple app that searches Twitter for real-time snow reports and then – you guessed it – marks them on a map.

At the time of writing, the snow seems concentrated in London and the South East as well as just north of the border, in Scotland.

Anyone wishing to report snow fall can tweet with the tag #UKSnow.

(Links via Cybersoc)

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16 December 2009

Could a "Mobile first" strategy work for your newsroom?

Here’s a little experiment – next time you’re commuting on a train or bus, or waiting for a flight, look at your fellow travellers. How many are reading newspapers? Now how many are fiddling with their mobile phones?

Steve Buttry of Poynter Online would argue it’s probably more of them and this is one of the reasons that led him to call for a mobile-first news strategy.

Since writing that first article, he’s now devised an actual plan on how a mobile-orientated newsroom could operate. Those toying with iPhone apps and SMS subscriptions may want to pay attention.

Says Buttry: “A successful mobile-first strategy will require effective work by reporters, photojournalists, designers, technologists, sales and marketing people, and management.”

So far, so obvious.

But he adds: “The mobile-first strategy needs to embrace new relationships with the community”, as described in his blueprint for the Complete Community Connection.

“That principle,” he says, “is fundamental to mobile-first success.”

What then follows is an incredibly detailed breakdown of each aspect of the mobile news strategy, broken down into Reporting, Writing and Photojournalism, Design, Technology, Sales and Marketing, Leadership and Training.

For example journalists, he argues, need to become fluent in metadata, giving the mobile phone the context of the story so it knows what to give the user when and where.

As for the moneymen, Buttry advises them that any service needs not to be too intrusive, especially location-based advertising, lest the audience devise ways of turning it off.

He also suggests that organisations must be careful not to use just a single mobile tool, such as a mobile website or iPhone application, and therefore miss opportunities such as local business sponsorship for breaking news alerts or e-newsletters.

Even if “mobile first” isn’t for your newsroom, there is certainly enough here to enhance whatever use you do want to make of mobile technology.

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14 December 2009

Times Online: Comments service = better reader interaction

One of the oldest, most basic forms of reader interaction on news sites is the trust comments box, the “letters to the editor” of the 24/7 digital age.

But, reports journalism.co.uk, one technology firm behind such tools for newspapers Pluck claims there's still plenty of opportunity to improve and increase this facility.

They would be expected to say that, says the report. Otherwise they’d be out of work pretty quickly.

However, it also points out that recent figures back up the company’s suggestion that news sites can do more.

Following the implementation of Pluck's social media platform on Times Online in July there was a 30 per cent increase in user comments over the first three months.Numbers from Pluck suggest that more than 170,000 comments were made on the site during this period.

Journalism.co.uk have spoken to Times Online assistant editor Tom Whitwell to find find out how the Times making use of this commenting community and what can it offer in return.

Whitwell told the site that one of the key benefits of Pluck’s features was “simple customer service” with comments being moderated more efficiently and quickly.

Readers also get feedback on their comments via the “recommend” button, which Whitwell says is clicked 40,000 times a day.

The dizzying numbers from a national paper may seem academic to local publishers but Whitwell says that it has created an active, dedicated core readership who are more valuable in the long term than “drive by visitors”.

He also told the site: “We're learning that all the time, finding ways to create a closer connection between journalists and readers.

“Journalists often want to contact commenters to follow up their stories and we're increasingly seeing Times journalists in the comments responding directly to readers.”

Whitwell says the planned relaunch of the Times Online site in the new year will see a more prominent comments service.

The full Q &A can be read here.

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11 December 2009

2010 - what will it hold for you?

Christmas is coming, the goose is on a credit-crunch inflicted diet and as the journalism world licks it wounds from this year's squabbles, many are starting to look what next year is set to bring.

Firstly, Patrick Smith brings a tale of caution on PaidContent – if you thought hyperlocal news was going to be your big thing of 2010, you may want to have a quick re-think.

He reports that whilst the promise for hyperlocal’s place in UK news is there, the boundless optimism is not in doubt and there’s even hints of a local business model emerging, the delivery of quality post-code level news across most of the country still a long way off, and sustainable revenues and—dare we say it—profits are even further.

He also says how unless the ifs and maybes surrounding the use of hyperlocal models do not turn into certainties the Digital Britain project won’t be up and running till 2012 and that includes any role that public money would play.

So, he says, 2010 will not be hyperlocal’s year. But, he counters, the signs are auspicious: increasing levels of online literacy and broadband connections mixed with more inevitable local newspaper closures mean it’s natural that readers—and advertisers—will shift to new outlets.

Next, acknowledging that talking about journalism and its future is the “lifeblood of Academia”, there’s a nice piece by Harvard’s Nieman Lab writer C.W. Anderson on what we have learnt from 2009 and what new squabbles will arise in the new year.

The article jokes how bloggers and journalists seem to have finally made peace and accepted their perceived war is over; that we realise not all content will be free but the new business models may not be enough to counter the financial losses many news organisations have suffered; and that, because of this, journalism will be produced in a different way – by smaller, niche publications.

Instead, our attentions will turn to the kind of politics facilitated by the digital world and the policies and laws that will govern this world (and whilst the focus of the article is on the US, it is still relevant to the UK as the government faces up to a growing campaign to reform libel law, something it has been considering because of the impact of the internet).

It also talks of the type of networks that might emerge in the new “media ecosystem” – that we may see that it is large media companies that have diversified and created a local branding – and how journalism schools will need to adapt as the industry itself mutates.

It also talks about what the increased use of a semantic web may have for the future of news in a world of Demand Media and computational journalism. Big questions indeed but something new to think about at least.

Finally, for any of those curious to know if the Manchester Evening News’ launch of an iPhone app was worth it – HoldtheFrontPage has the numbers.

They have reported that over 6,700 readers have downloaded the app to follow the latest updates from the paper.

This means that it has been downloaded at a rate of approximately 900 a week since its creation.

There are section for news and show business, among others, while fans of Manchester United and Manchester City can keep in touch with dedicated sections for the two teams.

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10 December 2009

New research set to show users' local news sites habits

In the ongoing discussion of finding innovative ways of using digital media and trying to generate income from such methods, it can be easy to quickly lose sight of your audience.

But, as freelance journalist Jon Slattery blogs, new research is set to reveal how, when and most importantly why people use local online news services.

He has reported on an announcement by The Newspaper Society that they have appointed Connect Insight to conduct the research.

The study, wanted ads Digital, will take place in January with results expected to be announced by the end of February. It is intended to complement the local media print and online planning tool Locally Connected which was launched by the Society in November.

According to The Newspaper Society, the project will use focus groups and in-depth interviews which will include accompanied web surfing sessions in which respondents will be quizzed by researchers while surfing news websites.

Keith Donaldson, NS head of research and insight, said: “Locally Connected has enabled us to see and quantify the unduplicated reach that local media websites add to the print product.

“Building on this, the wanted ads Digital will provide valuable insights into why people log on to their local media websites as opposed to any other news outlets, and how they use them.”

The study will look at usage of different areas of websites and services such as video, blogs and podcasts. It will also examine how local media online fits within the overall picture of online media and how it relates to its parent print product, the local newspaper.

It will certainly prove interesting for digital editors and journalists looking to refine their online product to generate much needed traffic.

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08 December 2009

What removal from Google could mean for your news site

Thinking about removing your content from Google?

Press Gazette’s Wire blog has reported on a story in the Telegraph giving tips on how to survive your website no longer being indexed by the search engine.

The advice comes from Neil Boom, PR Director of technology company KTS who own Onepagenews.com - a website that The Wire suggests may be seen as a rival to the web giant’s own news service - which was quietly dropped from indexing by Google.

According to the Telegraph, the move by the site saw Onepagenews’ traffic tumble from around 18,000 per day to around a paltry 700 (aspiring Murdochs may wish to pay attention to that particular statistic).

The company was then forced to set about rebuilding its online presence whilst investigating why Onepagenews was suddenly absent from Google.

Boom’s tips include setting up news alerts and stories by email functionality and making registration as simple as possible, also flagging up the extra benefits for readers who register.

"Focus on events under your own control. We looked at content, distribution, added value features and site promotion," he says.

And, he adds, don't panic.

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07 December 2009

Reuters straw poll reveals media execs (mostly) read free news

When Reuters reported that consumers would have to face up to the fact that the digital content they’d enjoyed for free would eventually come with a price tag, journalist Robert MacMillan asked media executives how they read their news.

He found that plenty of them – those, he reminds us, who are trying to find the ways to generate money from what they produce – still read free news.

Whilst they still pay for some of their news, he suggests that perhaps the “romance with free content” isn’t quite dead yet.

Below are the responses he included in his story, when he approached the execs at Reuters’ Global Media summit, which interestingly suggest that perhaps the execs aren't entirely ready to practice what they preach:

Nikesh Arora, president of global sales operations and business development at Google Inc (who, MacMillan notes, despite Google’s despised status among newspaper defenders, pays for some of his news):
“I read my news in a combination of Twitter, Facebook, Google News and The New York Times. I get my New York Times delivered to my house. I have it before I wake up. I scan through it. I get my newspapers in planes and whenever I have a sort of down moment, I am following CNN, the BBC, Reuters, TechCrunch and a whole lot of other relevant people at Twitter… If I have a free moment at my desk, I will go onto the Google News site to see what’s happening in the world. For some reason, I feel as informed as I used to be when I used to read two newspapers every morning.”

Mike Fries, CEO of Liberty Global:
“I may not read my local paper much anymore, but I never miss reading the Journal. Primarily because I want to know what I’m missing. I’m looking at it more like a student than a consumer. I need this information — I don’t want it, I need it.”

Andrew Barron, chief operating officer of Virgin Media:
Multiple sources: Internet, Blackberry… the Financial Times, The Times of London and the Daily Mail. He gets home delivery, but doesn’t read the papers until evening.

Gary Bettman, commissioner of the National Hockey League:
“I start in the morning, first thing, like somebody in their mid 50s, by going through traditional newspapers. And then I go from there to online. Obviously because of the nature of our business, I get news flashes instantaneously through my Blackberry.”

Mark Greenberg, president and CEO of Epix:
“I have to admit, I still watch the evening news. I’m sort of an old-fashioned kind of guy, a dying breed, an avid reader of the Times and the Journal. I will admit, though, that when I travel, I take my Kindle with me, and I prefer to download it. So it’s been an interesting change for me as a person who always liked reading paper, to now all of a sudden the Kindle, which has changed how I read a newspaper.”

Hilary Schneider, executive vice president of Yahoo North America (and an alumna of Knight Ridder, an extinct newspaper publisher):
“I’m a mixed-media consumer of news. I start every day on Yahoo, as you would expect, to get the highlights. I am a Kindle reader so I also, when I’m traveling, keep up through the Kindle. And I am a hard-core, old-fashioned newspaper reader on the weekends or when I’m on airplanes.”

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04 December 2009

Agencies collaborate online for Copenhagen

An interesting story from Holdthefrontpage rounds off this week in online journalism news.

It reports how The Press Association has teamed up with ten other international news agencies to interact with the world during the UN Climate Change Conference.

The group has is using Facebook to bring news directly from the event, which runs from 7 to 18 December in Copenhagen, and has set up a page called 'The Climate Pool'.

Holdthefrontpage describes how the agencies hope that it will allow readers directly communicate with journalists covering the event, sparking a global conversation.

The other agencies involved are Agence France-Presse, ANP of the Netherlands, Associated Press, APA of Austria, APcom of Italy, Canadian Press, dpa of Germany, Kyodo of Japan, Lusa of Portugal and RIA of Russia.

According to the report the Facebook page will feature a blog format, providing a behind-the-scenes view of the conference, and link out to coverage of the talks from the agencies and the media outlets they serve.

It will be produced in English and incorporate content from the participating agencies, along with links to coverage from around the world.

The group will also use Twitter to attract followers.

PA's head of digital development Chris McCormack told HTFP: "Everyone is wondering whether there are new opportunities for news and information flow across social networks, and that's what we are exploring with this blog and fan page.

"Social networks are where the digital conversation is, so that's where we need to be but we are also counting on the Facebook fan page to direct a highly engaged global audience to the best news stories and analysis among our UK media customers."

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03 December 2009

Thinking about paywalls? Read this first...

With the paywall debate having no end in sight, it is sometimes nice to step back and examine the lay of the land, particularly for regional and small publishers.

Having been accused by his most prolific critic as suggesting solutions that only work for large-scale, national publishers, and with a close friend finding himself the Managing Editor of a local newspaper in Montana, Steve Outing (pictured), of EditorandPublisher.com has done just that.

Whilst his tips come from US case studies there is still plenty there for panicking publishers to step away from the paywall, at least for a little longer.

He argues that a recent American Press Institute study demonstrates that paywalls only work in certain markets. One newspaper, he states, could maintain a paywall because it was the only paper in town. Another, though, couldn’t sustain the model due to competition from a local free website.

So what is the alternative? One suggestion, with his editor-friend in mind, is a five-point plan of generating revenue from the digital output whilst protecting the print product, particularly of use to those publishers who operate within tourist towns:

1. Offer paid subscriptions to the newspaper that also include free access to a digital-replica edition.

2. Offer paid digital-replica edition subscriptions that mimic the paper in electronic form, for those second-home owners in the area and others who want to keep up with...news and developments and prefer not to receive the print edition by mail when the news is several days old.

3. Continue to keep all your Web site content -- including locally produced news -- free to all. And yes, that includes print subscribers who might be tempted to save money, cancel the print edition, and rely on the free Web site.

4. Have your Web manager focus on better ad targeting, in order to identify out-of-area users as potential tourists interested in hotels, camping, excursions, etc. and show them relevant ads.

5. Most importantly, devise other reasons for paying print and/or digital subscribers to keep paying -- primarily by value-added online, digital, mobile and even physical extras not available to non-paying users of the Web site.

This is expanded for those who may not have such a tourist trade to include advice on finding other incentives for people to subscribe to your newspaper, such as a free breaking-news mobile service that would otherwise be charged for.

Outing will have to wait if his advice satisfies his critic but it is certainly worth a look by anyone who has a Google-sized headache from the paid-content debate.

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02 December 2009

Has Google caved to pressure from Murdoch?

Google have announced that newspaper publishers will now be able to set a limit on the number of free news articles people can read through their site, reports the BBC.

This action follows claims from some media companies that the search engine is profiting from online news pages.

Under the First Click Free programme, publishers can now prevent unrestricted access to subscription websites.

Users would now start to see a registration page if they click on more than five articles in a day.

"Previously, each click from a user would be treated as free," Google senior business product manager Josh Cohen said in a blog post.

"Now, we've updated the programme so that publishers can limit users to no more than five pages per day without registering or subscribing."

The BBC describes how Rupert Murdoch had earlier accused firms such as Google of profiting from journalism by generating advertising revenue by linking readers to newspaper articles.

BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones told the website that the concession was relatively minor but Mr Murdoch might see it as vindication of his decision to take on Google.

Cohen also stated in his blog post how, besides First Click Free, Google would also offer publishers the option where they would index and treat as “free” any preview pages that were made available to them – generally the headline and first few paragraphs.

He said that because the content would be identical to what a normal user would see, this would not breach Google’s strict “no cloaking” policy – where the page that a web crawler sees and indexes is different to the one seen by the end user.

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01 December 2009

Northcliffe to trial topic pages

ThisisBristol.co.uk has become Northcliffe Media's first local news site to use topic pages, reports Journalism.co.uk

During the two week trial, articles on the site will now include inline links from key words, such as places, names and issues, to a web page gathering stories, relevant information and multimedia linked to that topic, according to the report.

Robert Hardie, content strategy director at Northcliffe, told the website how the pages are created using a process called data-mining, which uses technology from OpenCalais and Nstein to analyse stories semantically and suggest subjects for topic pages.

"We've already been data-mining our archive and automatically data-mine every live story as part of the normal publishing cycle," he said.

"Once a topic is mentioned more than three times a topic page is created for that topic and an email alerts the site publisher. They can then decide to unpublish the page if they don't want it; allow it to stand unenhanced or gather the extra images, video and static content for it.

"We're starting the enhancement process with the most popular topic pages."He also said how the sites with topic pages will have to carefully monitor the level of sensitivity employed by the semantic technologies so that users are not bombarded with links from every word.

Northcliffe plan to roll out the pages across the rest of the Thisis network following the live testing.

Hardie added how the pages will help drive more traffic to Northcliffe’s websites, saying that they are 'brilliantly indexable' via Google.

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