Interesting reads (weekly)

  • Some new PEW research on how people use social media for news, and what that means for news brands.
    ” Facebook is an important source of website referrals for many news outlets, but the users who arrive via Facebook spend far less time and consume far fewer pages than those who arrive directly. The same is true of users arriving by search… visitors who go to a news media website directly spend roughly three times as long as those who wind up there through search or Facebook, and they view roughly five times as many pages per month. This higher level of engagement from direct visitors is evident whether a site’s traffic is driven by search or social sharing and it has big implications for news organizations who are experimenting with digital subscriptions while endeavoring to build a loyal audience.

    tags: social media pew research journalism

  • I saved this ages ago but think I’ve only just gotten around to reading it. Anyway, useful tips as ever from the BBC College of Journalism.

    tags: bbc journalism how to

  • The weight of nostalgia could drag us all down. This article makes excellent points and also hits the nail on the head about conferences where the same issues are repeatedly examined, because people can’t or won’t accept that print is never going to enjoy a resurgence. “People want change, but they want to keep things as they were before. “

    tags: nostalgia publishing WAN-IFRA

  • Sound authentic, get shared more. This is an interesting piece of work, with 8 takeaways to sound more human online

    “To try and discover the magic formula for conveying that you are in fact a human on the internet, I’ve analyzed and tested over 1,500 quizzes that have been created through interact. My general hypothesis is that human sounding quizzes will get shared more, viewed more, and commented on more because people like them better. “

    tags: how to audio

  • I do like this idea, and I think it’s exciting to see a big media group try something out like this but on the whole I think I see more potential for everyday useful information sharing using AR, in the style of Talk About Local, who demo-ed it very effectively at a Digital Editors Network meeting earlier this year.

    tags: VR innovation virtual reality augmented

  • Trendspotting on Pinterest – a really good idea. “Autumn is not yet upon us, but Jill Waage, a top editor at Better Homes and Gardens, has already predicted some of the biggest trends of the coming holidays. Painted pumpkins are about to replace carved pumpkins. Snowman cookies with jiggly eyes will overtake traditional gingerbread men. And decorative ribbons on Christmas presents are going to get much more creative.

    But instead of spotting these trends by consulting colleagues or outside experts, Ms. Waage has tapped Pinterest, the social media site that lets its members pin, or post, images of their favorite foods, hairstyles and clothes.”

    tags: pinterest

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

A short guide to longform

It sounds like one of the speakers to hear this year was Aron Philhofer at #hhldn this week, when he levelled some zingers at mainstream media for complacency about their future.

I wasn’t there, but Richard Kendall very thoughtfully grabbed a lot of the tweets around his talk into a Storify and it makes a fascinating read (which will probably have a lot of digital journalists punching the air in agreement).

One of the interesting things to me was the subsequent discussion around immersive longform, an we at Trinity Mirror have ventured into recently, courtesy of working with Shorthand on some projects.

I love immersive storytelling; it’s important to me that a good tale gets a good telling, but the reading experience has to be a rewarding thing if an audience is going to stick with it.

One of the points Aron Pilhofer made was that the New York Times‘ Snowfall immersive story measured page views, but missed the more important metrics. He’s right: PVs and UUs don’t show the true impact. I wouldn’t say discount them entirely –   collating all the metrics to get a rounded picture is important – but they are only a small element.

Talking on Twitter with Andy Dickinson the next day:

Sparking:

Some of the metrics that matter (imo, anyway) – the completion rate, active reading time, the device used, the recirculation rate, how the story is retaining users…  And then there’s the social side of things: How someone interacts with the content; shares it on Twitter without @-ing the brand or author (ie. tweeting the link with a comment rather than retweeting);  likes, comments or shares it on Facebook, pins on Pinterest or on other social book marking sites. The number of unique users for a piece of storytelling that took several days to complete might be low in comparison to those piling on to read a breaking football transfer story. If you went by PVs you might conclude it the game wasn’t worth the candle.

But PVs and UUs miss the point. It’s abut how invested people are in the piece – the time they spend reading it, the multimedia they engage with, the emotions exhibited the words they use when sharing it, and how often they return to it. This is valuable information to help inform future decisions (and commercial opportunities).

I’ve learned plenty from working with Shorthand; it has driven home  the benefits of collaborating outside the mainstream media. It made me put the needs of the mobile reader above everyone else, and it also helped me think about story structures in a new way.

Every time we make an immersive story now I think we improve on previous efforts, mainly because we endeavour to learn from things that tripped us up along the way. Getting text, multimedia and various 3rd party content tools to play nicely together isn’t always easy, whether you’re thinking of doing it in your own CMS or via another platform.

Shorthand’s Rachel Bartlett spoke to Maria Breslin (Liverpool Echo), Paul Gallagher (MEN) and myself recently about our experiences and I’ll link to her piece once it’s live. My longform learnings are pretty simple:

Storyboard it

When I edited newspapers, in common with quite a few other editors I think, I often sketched out the front page I wanted, complete with blurbs, ads and smiley or frowny stick people (depending on whether the subjects of the p1 photograph were calamity-struck or not) on A3 paper.  It helped me visualise if and how the elements of the front fitted together; the fit of the overall package.

Storyboarding an immersive read is a great way of seeing if you have a flow to the narrative, or whether you’re stacking multimedia unnecessarily, overloading some sections with content, and whether it has a strong ending. The final section needs to be as rewarding a read as the opening one.

Device-check it

Build a draft, see how it looks on mobile, desktop and tablet. Refine the draft, check it across devices again. When we built the LFC ‘We Go Again’ story it had beautiful graphics for each player, created by the TMR Data Unit. On desktop these looked really great; on mobile they were a) too small to read and b) required the reader to scroll until March 2015 to get to the end of the graphics. In the end, graphics for key players were redone and these featured in mobile-friendly format. It’s missing a ‘Suarez’s Biting Stats’ graphic, but hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Browser-check it

During the build of NC&J Media’s Great North Run ‘One Million Stories’ tribute, oddness was discovered. The story displayed beautifully everywhere except IE10, although every other iteration of IE was acceptable. Some checking showed that IE10 is the tenth most popular browser for their users (Chrome and mobile Safari came top.) Tenth wasn’t enough to be a deal breaker but incorporating some helpful advice about using Chrome or a similar modern browser in the promotional marketing was a smart idea.

Have an analytics plan

Twice the analytics caused problems, once due to a glitch and once simply because we didn’t know what we wanted to track; now it’s fairly obvious what the important statistics are. Social, real-time, engagement and user-data-over-time all need to be considered.

Think like a user

Shorthand advises around 20 sections is optimum for UX; the first draft of the MEN’s Blue Moon Rising was about double this. Then you try to read it as the audience would, and realise you’ve stopped reading and are just scrolling.  Just think how you’d react if you were reading the piece, and then you’ll probably slash it in half. I can’t even be bothered to click through to the second page of a Storify half the time, and I suspect my attention span is pretty typical of most people’s so I try to bear that in mind when thinking about longer reads. As with many things in life, just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should.

 

 

Talking innovation, blockers and culture change at WAN-IFRA summit

I was amazed and delighted when WAN-IFRA contacted me recently to invite me to speak at the upcoming 13th International Newsroom Summit during World Publishing Expo in October, in Amsterdam.

I said yes  – what an opportunity to hear industry leaders from around the world talk about things I passionately want to learn as much as I can about! – and then I entered into a state of terror at the idea of public speaking at such an event. This terror has not left me yet…

Other speakers include Steve Herrman,  Editor of BBC News Online, Lisa MacLeod, head of operations for ft.com, and John Crowley, digital editor for WSJ.com in Europe, Middle East and Africa.

Anyway, ahead of the event WAN-IFRA’s Jessica Sparks asked me for my thoughts, as a regional journalist, on innovation, newsroom blockers and how the industry should continue to adapt and evolve.

Here’s a sample of her (very tough!) questions, and my response;  her article in full is here.

You’re speaking at the upcoming Newsroom Summit on strategies to prevent newsroom cultures blocking change. What’s the biggest barrier you have personally faced working in this space?

Inertia has been a terrible thing for the news industry – for decades nothing changed, and then everything changed, including the amount of revenue flowing into our businesses, and we just weren’t equipped to deal with it on an economic, cultural or and operational basis.

[Online] was regarded at best as a luxury, and at worst as helping hasten the demise of historic news brands. I think the biggest blocker was probably the ‘them and us’ mentality that existed between digital and print teams, because it fostered the idea that the newsroom Nerd Herd ‘did digital’ while everyone else did the heavy lifting. It wasn’t uncommon to find a journalist refusing to file breaking news stories for online because they felt it would damage the newspaper.

We’ve travelled a long way in a relatively short time, but we can never stop striving to do more – otherwise we will simply end up repeating the mistakes we made in the late 20th century all over again.

The theme of the conference centres on: “See how successful editors are syncing their newsrooms to the digital world. Over one and a half days, we will hear how people and processes are being managed to ensure growth in audience, engagement and loyalty”; my contribution will be on the important role of leadership within that changing world.

 

 

 

Innovations and ideas on the agenda for #fearlessDEN

Here’s an exciting thing: The next DEN (Digital Editors Network) meeting is being held at Trinity Mirror Towers, aka One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, aka IN MY ACTUAL HQ.

Having attended many DENs over the year (we even hosted one at the Liverpool Daily Post and Echo) it’s exciting to be inviting the network at Canary Wharf, and pretty timely too as this one is #fearlessDEN – all about being bold with ideas and taking innovative leaps of faith (probably backed by some market research).

DEN is always a great place to meet like-minded people, put names to faces in your social networks, and grow ideas. Obviously the theme of innovation is close to my heart and my job title, and I’m delighted we will get to hear the genesis and progress of some inspirational ideas.

There’s a lot more information on the event here (plus some quotes from me that Francois insisted on having – thanks, Francois!) and the Eventbrite tickets are here.

Hope to see you there!

Interesting reads (weekly)

  • This chapter opens with a description of how users of 4chan set out to exploit, humiliate and expose a girl who – from her willingness to pose with her meds – seems to have some problems with her mental health. It’s a Very Tough thing to read, by the way. It then expands into a discussion with a self-annointed troll, and looks at the history of the phenomenon. It is, in short, a very good read for anyone who deals with online communities.

    tags: trolls OnlineCommunities abuse

  • Crunching the data on what you really see on Facebook.
    “My News Feed showed me only a fraction of my network’s total activity, most of what it showed me was old, and what I was shown was often jarringly unexpected.”

    tags: facebook social+media

  • “News organizations learned about the arrest and harassment of their reporters on Twitter and were able to take steps to get them out of jail. In the meantime, important information continues to flow out of Ferguson. As much as any traditional wire service, Twitter spread the remarkable work of David Carson, a photographer at The St. Louis Post-Dispatch who managed to take pictures despite being pushed around by both the police and the protesters.

    Continue reading the main story
    There is a visceral quality to Twitter that can bring stories to a boiling point. Ron Mott, an NBC correspondent and a social media skeptic, watched Twitter turn up the heat on Wednesday and tweeted, “As powerful as our press have been through years of our democracy, social media raises temp on public officials like never before.””

    tags: ferguson shooting nytimes social+media twitter

  • Handy little gif maker from YouTube videos – let people watch Fenton running after those deer over and over and over and….

    tags: gif youtube how-to

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Social media is humanising – it’s how we use it that can dehumanise

Discussions of what is and isn’t acceptable for publishing on social media (specifically Twitter and YouTube in current debates) are occupying much of my timeline.

Articles written around the role social media played in disseminating images and messages following journalist James Foley‘s murder will abound and I wasn’t intending to add to the noise, but then a couple of things happened: First, Mathew Ingram’s tweeted question made me consider my personal view, and where that view fitted in the expanding horizon of content publishing and distribution.

Most respondents indicated these platforms shouldn’t remove it (Mathew’s conclusions from the debate are here). I suspect our views are actually moot; removing such content from the internet is an exercise in futility – these images aren’t expunged, they simply slide down through the strata of the web to darker layers, or become downloaded shared content, and so viewers gain an extra frisson and the pedlars weird exclusivity-linked kudos.

When Ken Bigley was beheaded in 2004, the videos were removed by YouTube but you could buy a DVD  of the killing – should your tastes run that way – at a Liverpool street market. So YouTube did revoke publication rights but a secondary distribution market had already sprung up.  Ten years on, the options for alternative online distribution platforms are far greater, and harder to control.

The ability to view something isn’t really the same as wanting to view it. I know I could find and footage of James Foley kneeling and dying alone in the desert but I don’t intend to seek it out. I haven’t clicked any links that looked likely to lead to it, and although I believe there were gifs they weren’t in my Twitter feed or in my hashtag columns. Twitter is considering removing the images in deference to his family’s wishes, although I imagine that won’t stop them being searchable and shareable elsewhere.

The second thing that happened was a world away from the horrors of a young man’s murder, although it was a photo someone retweeted into my timeline. It was utterly innocuous but made me consider how censorship via the removal of content had influenced me.  It was a photo of Gerry Adams and a goat.

When I was a child, Gerry Adams was judged to be allied with a cause so dangerous UK TV viewers and radio listeners could not even hear his own voice being broadcast, thanks to a government ban. Instead, an actor spoke his words. Today he publishes selfies and uses myriad broadcast and distribution channels (not least an autobiography). The internet would never suffer such a restriction to hold  now and, that is a positive development.

Media companies make daily decisions around in-house and external codes of ethics and conduct, not to mention legal restraints and what the audience reaction might be. Twitter and YouTube are platforms that host content; they don’t create, own and distribute that content, users self-publish. Journalists rail at Google when it removes articles in accordance with the Right To be Forgotten ruling but I can see parallels with YouTube withdrawing a user’s content that is being re-published and distributed across myriad networks.

Taking away someone’s actual voice is a powerful insinuation that we need protection from them, and it made a powerful impression on me as a child. Skip forward a few decades and the world is quite a different place –  I know Adams doesn’t speak with Received Pronunciation, for a start, and he is considered the architect of the Peace Process. But until today I had never thought of him as a man likely to take a selfie with a goat.  Social media is actually very humanising; it’s how we use it that can dehumanise.

Later… 

The Guardian’s James Ball sums it up better than me: “Before clicking, serious self-examination is required: why do you want to see this? Do you need to see it to understand something important? Still deeper self-examination should certainly be engaged before even contemplating sharing such material.” I recommennd reading his article in full

 

Interesting reads (weekly)

  • “When you see a troll or abuser online, what do you do about it? Do you egg on or ignore the miscreant? Do you shame the fool? Do you support the troll’s victims? Or do you laugh at them?You — yes, you and I — are creating the norms of our new society. What are those norms? What is our new society? Is it something we are proud to pass on to our children? Does it improve society for them? Or is it easier to snark and snigger at some stranger’s expense?”

    tags: trolls online community culture

  • There is nothing wrong with wanting people to read something you have written well and spend time on. The SEO email doing the social media rounds jars with people who don’t work in newsrooms – I imagine some of the practical terms and descriptions you’d hear in hospital staff rooms would probably shock those of us who don’t work in the medical trade.
    “SEO is sales for your content…Newsagent posters screaming “Shock Hollywood death” work for that medium.
    A massive picture of the face of the person we have lost with their birth-death years works for print.
    But people won’t find your stuff online with headlines like that, because that’s not how people look for them.”

    tags: seo

  • This blogger is writing about designing websites, but I think the idea translates to online journalism too – stories are constantly evolving and the presentation of them should too … “The homepage is constantly evolving throughout the project (even if you try to stick to your sketches, wireframes or prototype). It’s also the page which tends to block the project the longest, because getting the look and feel right is a difficult part of the design process.

    tags: homepage online

  • “32.9 percent of 18-34 year-olds now use Snapchat, reveals new data from comScore, compared to less than one quarter (23.8 percent) who use Twitter. To be clear, this is users of smartphone apps, and doesn’t include Twitter’s desktop audience. Still, with the world going increasingly mobile – and Twitter (alongside everybody else) wanting to gobble up the biggest slice of that pie – it’s a worrying trend.”

    tags: Twitter Snapchat

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Newsrooms: Not what they were, but that’s no bad thing

Been catching up on some thinking around “what future for newspapers?” this week; this one by Michael Wolff was part-anguish and part-nostalgia and of the “on the one hand, [opinion], nevertheless, having said that [counter-opinion]…” school of writing.

This one is a pretty unsentimental look at the issue from David Carr, of the NYT, which warns against the cosy sentiment that  has dogged publishers for too long (and there is a spirited riposte to Carr’s print obituary here):

Just because the product being manufactured is news in print does not make it sacrosanct or immune to the natural order.

And this one, by Steve Outing, which considered and suggested outcomes, and promoted quite a few replies and retweets when I tweeted the link, including one voicing a view I’m sure strikes a chord in the hearts of those who think newsrooms aren’t what they used to be and journalists are stuck at their desks, unable to interact with the communities they cover because they are too busy writing listicles.

Lots of people have been lost from the industry as a result of title closures or redundancies in their titles; editorial teams are much smaller these days ( side note: I once worked for a newspaper where the Opinion Editor did only that daily duty. Now, if I had a job where all I did was write a 350 word Voice of the Tribune column every day – which was probably read by about five people including the revise editor – I would look elsewhere for my salary and job satisfaction.)

Personally, I don’t think the editorial size (and geographic location) of a newsroom matters.  It is true that newsrooms are not what they used to be but that isn’t a wholly bad thing – they had to evolve because the news gathering and distribution operation had ceased to be all about newsprint. The old models – the news desk gets a flat plan of the next day’s paper, the newsroom spends the day filling the pages relating to said flat plan – simply did not translate.

So the newsroom operation is a vastly different thing now to what it was ten years ago. Today’s newsrooms are:

  • Noisy:  Not in the clattering-of-typewriters way. Look at the Tweetdeck columns of the average reporter and they will be humming with conversation, feedback and chat.  This social conversation and hubbub is, as far as I’m concerned, a more productive,  energising backdrop to work in that any amount of clacking keys (here’s another thing newsrooms were when I started out – a haze of cigarette smoke. Can I get nostalgic for that? Nope. I do get a bit misty for spikes and blacks though, those old-skool filling systems that were pretty foolproof… until you had a desk clean-up)
  • Accountable: Any link to a piece of journalism posted on a title’s social media can be challenged and discussed in the real world; if a title doesn’t respond it no longer means the conversation is confined to ignored Letters to the Editor. In fact the silence might spur on more comment on Facebook or Twitter, or bloggers might take the issue to their own platform to explore it in more depth.  It’s a more open and transparent world now – as a journalist you can get called out on an error, or add context to a discussion, or stamp on a misreading of facts quickly. You can also get some lovely thank yous and expressions of gratitude for the work you’ve undertaken. Sometimes, anyway
  • Moveable: Newsrooms can be virtual and still operate in the real world, via social media cafes and reporter surgeries. Online, they operate via Facebook, Twitter, Google Apps, Trello and a host of other sites. I was involved in the Crewe Chronicle’s shift to become an office-less title; with the right tech and training the team there has done an amazing job of proving a newsroom is not about a postcode
  • Informed: When I was a local reporter – in an office based right in the middle of the town I covered for a weekly paper – I knew a lot of people, some of whom told me things. Now I’m no longer a reporter, I still know a lot – more, in fact – about what is going on in any particularly locale ( potentially, anywhere) I choose to search, thanks to social media. An example – say I know Phil who owns the local grocery and he sees me passing daily on my way to the local police station to write up the log book (let’s pretend this quaint old custom still happens); he might remember to tell me the interesting thing his customers were talking about the previous day. Or he might tell me in a few days time when he drops by the office to pay his ad fees.  However, with online networks and decent geo searches set up around the town, the need to rely on sources is vastly reduced.
  • Attuned: Thanks to analytics we know what our readers want and like. Even if a post has several snarky “Slow news day?” comments on it amid the 90-odd other comments, it’s a fair bet that it has proved one of the more popular stories of the day. Analytics tell us more about our audience than we could ever know before. If you read a news website the information, direct and extrapolated, that might be known about users includes the broad geography of where you live, when you get up and go to bed, what tech you like to use, when and how you commute, what TV shows you like, what football teams you support, what you plan to do this weekend. Potentially we know where your children go to school and how you plan to vote in the next election. Some of this information readers provide voluntarily, some of it is data derived from how they use and interact with a brand’s website or social platforms. None of it is particularly difficult to access, and decisions around digital and print content are made on the basis of these analytics every day.  So today’s newsprint products are built from the ground up by newsrooms who have real insights into how readers consume information and react to it. Theres very little guesswork about it these days.  What do I know about someone who buys a newspaper every day, without going through the circulation department’s files and spreadsheets? I know that they buy a newspaper every day
  • Diverse: I guess newsrooms have more people in them who aren’t doing traditional journalism jobs than ever. I head a team with job titles that didn’t exist 12 months ago. Social media editors are viewed as integral to most regional newsrooms, but five years ago, they were exotic creatures. There are audience editors, data analysts, online content planners… all bringing different perspectives on the agendas and content audiences are looking for. Also, an empty reporters bench doesn’t mean there are no reporters. They might be working remotely from a surgery in town, or sat live tweeting a case from the crown court, or videoing a debate in the council chamber,  or they might be hosting a live blog debate with readers – when it comes to ways of creating online information, the list is extensive and exciting

 

 

 

 

 

On ‘posting a blog’

It’s a small point, in the grand scheme of things, but when people ‘post a blog’ my day loses a little of its savour.

Ancient (well, several years old, at least) blogger credo insists: You post a post to your [web]log; you do not post a blog. You don’t upload a blog either, and there are purists who would prefer it if you didn’t blog as a verb at all. You are allowed, however, to post an update to your blog.  It’s a pedantic minefield.

Having said all that, you can do all of the above so long as you don’t follow the lead of one long-ago sales colleague and tell me (repeatedly) that you’ve “sold a blog” because you think blog is the technical term for a one-off sponsored content slot.

(I’ve nothing against Cathy’s tweeted sentiment, incidentally; she just happened to be the 3rd person to ‘post a blog’ in my timeline today)

Interesting reads (weekly)

  • “Twitter appears to be testing a feature that will better organize its chaotic world of hashtags” – Man, I *really* hope this happens.

    tags: Twitter hashtags

  • The Google+ video shares figures are very interesting. In my unscientific way, just from the networks I have, or have been added to on there, it seems to be where the audience is more engaged, and possibly comprises more of time-served internet users. Possibly, as someone said to me this week, Google+ fans use it harder because they remember what happened to Wave.
    “We took the 20 most popular videos from the YouTube channels of four big players in the video space – VICE, BuzzFeed, The Guardian, and The Daily Telegraph – to see how some of their most successful content is performing on the social web.

    The results
    It’s apparent that Facebook and Google+ are where the majority of shares happen for these publishers’ video content.”

    tags: collaboration video social sharing

  • This is fascinating – what happened if news media treated each other as collaborators, not rivals?
    “What if five regional sites share ad staff and combine their audience numbers to attract new advertisers? What if 15 local newsrooms could support a world-class development and technology shop? What if a data journalist, an event planner or a designer could make a great living by serving a bunch of these local sites?” he asked.”

    tags: news collaboration

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Thoughts on journalism, digital storytelling and the future

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