Interesting reads (weekly)

  • This analysis of Twitter’s shift from developer darling to standalone creator is a fascinating read. I remember the blog post alluded to in this article, and the shockwaves it caused about Twitter’s supposed retreat from openness, dev culture and the open web.
    Of course, Twitter has never pretended to be a charity; it employs people, and they need paying. It has offices, shareholders, expense accounts – it’s a company that exists to make money and grow. The Meerkats and Datasifts, that build businesses on someone else’s data, are always gong to be at risk. “Twitter’s story in many respects makes me think of Google: both companies started out benefiting greatly from openness and the power of both connecting users to what they were interested in and opening up powerful APIs to developers. The monetization model is even similar: note the AdSense reference above. Over time, though, Google has pulled more and more of its utility onto its own pages (and the revenue balance in the company has followed), just as Twitter focused on its own apps, and now Google is even starting to eat its best customers like travel websites and insurance agents (members-only), just like Twitter ate Datasift.”

    tags: Twitter api social+media

  • What is says on the tin.

    tags: video how-to

  • “what we have here are ignorant people (Vaynerchuk, Brogan, Kawasaki, and friends) telling big brands and agencies to dump their money into unproven platforms, or platforms with really shady metrics that they can totally fudge and claim their successful to journalists who don’t really know better. A tech blog may know to call out Vaynerchuk’s portfolio company, MeerKat, for spamming Twitter in order to grow their service, but other publications like AdAge won’t. And guess which one of those publications the brands and advertisers are reading? So the money continues to flow from the agencies and brands and that leads to VCs continuing to prop up these companies”OUCH

    tags: Google+ social media

  • I had no idea it was based on such an everyday annoyance as an unavailable name. Now, Flicker would just look weird. “We wanted Flicker, but the guy who had it wouldn’t sell,” says co-Founder Caterina Fake. “So I suggested to the team, ‘Let’s remove this “e” thing.’ They all said, ‘That’s too weird,’ but I finally ground everyone down. Then of course, it became THE thing and everyone started removing vowels right and left.””

    tags: flickr marketing

  • Where next? I like Google Glass and it’s been useful for our journalism, but the problem was it was made by developers, and really it’s a fashion accessory for most people. So, we’re expected to fit around the device, not vice versa. This piece on where wearables are headed is worth a read. “We’re at an interesting point with these devices that feel analogue but have a subtle digital participation. We are used to watches being so simple that making them into tiny phones on your wrist may prove interesting to some but will create a split between those designing for aesthetics and those designing for function.

    When you get ready in the morning it seems natural to use voice. I don’t often talk to my computer because it has a rich set of interfaces but you could imagine a talking mirror, a piece of furniture that would work. With wearables we are in a weird place because they are a mix of analogue things and digital devices so do I use a crown or do I talk and tap?  Apple has done both with Siri and double touch but they have also included the scroll wheel from 20 years ago.”

    tags: new york times NYT wearables Glass

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

Interesting reads (weekly)

  • Research paper by Matthew Hindman into the regional news business in the US. Fascinating, frustrating and familiar… “Hindman’s research finds that although national news websites have robust traffic, traditional local newspapers are severely behind in adopting the technology and digital content practices needed to retain and grow audiences. No business model – advertising, paywalls, or nonprofit funding – can succeed long-term without continuous digital audience growth. Hindman suggests a variety of proven techniques for newspapers to implement, including faster page load time, improved user experience, personalized content recommendation, social media optimization, and A/B testing.

    tags: future+of+news innovation disruption

  • ‘If your mother says she loves you, check it out’… Or not, in the case of Rolling Stone. So much has been written about the Rape on Campus ‘story’ but this is one of the most considered reads around what it says about Journalism and what happens when the scramble for a Good Story overtakes fundamental training. “The Story Too Good To Check happens at the intersection of journalism’s two imperatives: Be truthful, and be interesting. This doesn’t provide a lot of room to operate—almost everything that’s true is boring and almost everything that’s interesting is false. There’s an asymmetry in the profession, however; journalists are expected to be truthful, but they are rewarded for being interesting. It is into that asymmetry that “A Rape On Campus” fell. “

    tags: journalism Rolling+Stone

  • Vertical video isn’t going away although I could do with the shaky ‘LOOK AT MAH PERISCOPE OF THE OFFICE!” dying down, like, yesterday, this is a good set of how-tos for getting it right.

    tags: video tips how-to

  • Casey Neistat responding to a question about why he’s using YouTube to make video blog posts (yeah, I can’t say vlog and keep a straight face): “I have premiered movies at Cannes Film Festival, the Sundance Festival and written, directed, edited and starred in my very own HBO TV series. I was awarded the Rockefeller Grant for Film Making and I am a lifetime member of the Sundance Institute. Creating a new movie every 24 hours and releasing that movie to an audience of hundreds of thousands of people is an evolution in filmmaking. Our job as creative’s is to further define any medium and also define a new cliché and not to adhere to generations past. To suggest that this is anything but film making is to highlight some preconceived falsehood of what film making is.”

    tags: video youtube journalism

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

Interesting reads (weekly)

  • This… “…media ad experiences are awful. I wonder sometimes if folks at media companies ever try clicking their own links from within social media like Twitter or Facebook, just to experience what a damn travesty of a user experience it is. Pop-ups that hide the content and that can’t be scrolled in an in-app browser so you effectively can’t ever close them to read the article. Hideous banner ads all over the page.”

    tags: facebook futureofnews

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

#mojocon15 part I: Talking mobile innovation and storytelling

MoJocon15 organised by RTÉ
Daniel Berman speaking at Mojocon

March 27 and 28 were spent immersed in the world of mobile, journalism, storytelling and content creation, courtesy of the first Mobile Journalism Conference held in Dublin and organised by broadcaster RTÉ.

It was the most rewarding, packed and inspiring event – filled with incredible journalists and storytellers doing wonderful things, often armed with just a few pieces of tech, some apps and a determination to get the story out no matter what.

I was lucky enough to be asked to attend by my boss, and then even luckier to be asked to participate as a speaker by organiser Glen Mulcahy,  Innovation Lead with RTÉ, and author of this brilliant blog.

Day one got off to a flying start with two of the best keynotes talks I’ve heard, by Richard Sambrook and Gerd Leonhard.

Richard Sambrook said the changing immediacy of journalism was a challenge, and that “first and wrong was not first”; he also warned that mobile journalism wasn’t so much about phones as about the end of the age of satellite. “It’s the age of IP news” he told his audience. He cited mobile, social and realtime visual as the three disruptions to traditional news, and warned that to survive a newsroom had to understand and do all three. “Mobile is about much more than reorganising desks,” he said.

Gerd Leonhard said broadcasting was over and ‘broadbanding’ was the new world: “If you want a job [in journalism] what you do has to be above the api, because if it falls below the api a machine can do it”, was his takeaway message. He also introduced me to a word I’ve never heard before: ‘Humarithams’. As in, ‘stories can be made by algorithms, great stories are told by humarithms’.   Here’s an extra bit of Gerd bonus copy, for all those social media editors still traumatised by the recent Facebook upheavals: “Facebook is not in it for the journalism. It is not the reason Facebook exists… we should not be giving away our content to people who are not interested in news, but who are only interested in news as a commodity”.

The point I really took away from his talk was that the pace of change in most mainstream media is just too slow, given the speed of the innovations are happening away from our industry, in the world of tech and the world of the consumer – and we have to be faster, more nimble, and more open-eared/open-minded to trying new things.

Of course, as with any mobile conference I guess, you do come away wanting to do everything on a mobile phone and just bin off the desktop forever. But, in a world where the Nerd Herd was gathered in such great numbers, it was interesting that my presentation was the only one that day (as far as I can recall) to reference work that had been done in newsrooms with Google Glass. Occulus Rift didn’t get much of a mention either on day 1 (I can’t speak for all the day 2 workshops) and the most interesting wearable I saw was a Narrative camera that takes photos on a timer and which I now want so badly I’m ready to commit a crime for one.

The other talks that I found highlights from Day 1 were by Michael Rosenblum (aka the Father of Videography, according to his bio) who sucked all the air out of the room by informing journalists they were effectively “fucked” and that ‘editing, curating, publishing’ was the future for news organisations. I love a bit of agent provocateur, and I thought his talk was fascinating – designed to needle, provoke and make mainstream media ponder its role in such a world, and for indies to consider their responsibilities.

From the same panel, I really enjoyed Shadi Rahimi‘s talk on covering Ferguson with just mobile phones, what made AJ+ social media existence a faster, more fit-for-purpose news organisation than rivals. The answer, in a nutshell, is hitting the story out into the park on social as soon as you can verify it, and involving the audience as much as possible.

My panel was on challenging story concepts, boiled down to ‘what makes a good story?’ and as I’d begged to go first (my slides are at the bottom of this post, along with bonus content for reading that far – a video of @warrengatchell and I talking social media…) I was able to relax and actually listen to the rest of the speakers. Christian Payne was, as ever, compelling as he ran through the tech he uses for storytelling, dating back to 2003, and also somehow shoehorned a quick burst of harmonica playing into the session.

Here’s a link that’s worth a listen

Day 2 was a very special event – a group of us were taken around Dublin by two of the best mobile phone photographers in the business, and given a masterclass. But as this piece of writing is now reaching epic proportions, I’ll blog about that when I have a bit of time to do (hence ‘part I’ in this post’s title).

So I hope RTÉ get plenty of kudos for organising something so cool – they deserve all the plaudits going. Thank you for inviting me along to participate – it was an experience I am delighted to have been a part of. I met fascinating and cool people who do amazing things in mobile spaces, and I learned so much. I really don’t ask for much more from a conference.

Interesting reads (weekly)

  • I’d agree with this, and also add apathy into the mix – not only how do you hold people’s attention, but how to do you get them to care enough to engage in the first place? For a mercifully brief moment the Upworthy headline was seen as the way forward – now I think it has to be about knowing the conversation well enough, and presenting your content in a way that has the audience’s needs at the forefront of the presentation “The scarcest resource in journalism right now is attention span,” Oreskes said. “We used to live in a world of journalism governed by the laws of physics. Time and space were our key constraints: space in a newspaper, time on the air.”

    But that has changed, he said. “The really controlling force in the world right now [is] how long you can keep your audience, your followers, consuming the journalism you’re creating. They have just so many other places to go, so many things pulling on them and so many demands on their time that our goal is to create journalism that holds them.”

    tags: npr future+of+news

  • Clff Levy, editor of NYT Now, on the restructuring towards mobile of the wider company: “the whole company is shifting resources toward mobile at every part of the company. [Times Publisher] Arthur Sulzberger and Mark Thompson and [Times Executive Editor] Dean Baquet are really, really focused on mobile right now. Every division in the company is looking at how they can shift more resources to mobile. In the newsroom we’re certainly doing that. There’s been a lot of discussion about how we can free up resources, what can we do less of in order to move more people to mobile.”

    tags: new york times mobile advertising

    • Bruni himself started responding to comments about the story posted to the Times’ Facebook page, and the conversation lasted throughout the weekend. But on Monday, he ventured away from the confines of the Times’ page and toward that of conservative media personality Laura Ingraham.

       

      The Times’ audience-development team had been monitoring the story’s social media performance and was alerted that Ingraham’s page had posted the piece. Recognizing her as an influencer, the social media team deployed Bruni to her page, where he answered the question Ingraham posed in her Facebook post about the story.

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

Pix or it didn’t happen?

So, Meerkat, eh?

It was, by all accounts, the darling of SXSW and digital acres have been given over to assessing its worth (and here I am, adding to them). Search Twitter at any given time and it’s everywhere, being [LIVE NOW]…

//

I downloaded it a few weeks ago when it still had access to Twitter’s social graph, which meant that as people I followed also joined there was an onslaught of notifications.

When I tested it in the BelfastLive newsroom, and later discovered my timeline was subsequently full of me @-ing myself, which was a puzzle until I realised it was a kind of reverse-publishing of my Meerkat conversations, back onto Twitter. This tweet-conversation feature did cause some controversy and at one point was switched off by Twitter, although it’s been reinstated.

I like the idea of another live streaming app (I liked the late, lamented Qik although I’ve always returned to Bambuser) but I just don’t know that I’m that sold on the idea of ephemeral livestreaming for news organisations, as unless you save the Meerkat video to your phone, it’s gone.

Your livestream has a mayfly-like existence, no matter how large your audience for the stream was, if you forget to save it down. In the heat of breaking news moments, I like to know my livestream is already safely stored, with an option to download or embed, on a site somewhere.

Of course, ephemeral conversations can offer wonderful opportunities for journalists (hello, Snapchat!) but I also think newsrooms should attempt to put down permanent markers of their work, because a) certain events that merit live streaming need to last, and b) with permanency comes authenticity and the opportunity for checks and verification. It’s harder to challenge inaccuracy if there’s no permanency, both in terms of the journalist and audience. It’s definitely easier for People With Agendas to call out journalists for errors if there’s that piece of work’s lasting testimony is this: joshconstine on Meerkat So, yeah. Meerkat. It’s fun, it’s insanely popular, and it has a social cache right now that means most of us working in digital journalism are interested in trying it for new things. But, as with a lot of The Shiny (and, yes, I am guilty of loving The Shiny)  it should also come with a caveat: When you’re planning to go live, don’t just think about trends, think about what is fit for purpose in the long term as well.

Interesting reads (weekly)

  • Does what it says on the tin. I like the opportunities presented by Snapchat – I particularly like the idea of going back to that more intimate connection with an audience – it feels to me like the early days of journalism brands were using social media, and really sharing and connecting with the people in their niche (be that interest or geographic).

    tags:Snapchat socialmedia how-to

  • The headline is ridiculous and doesn’t really reflect the article, which is an excellent consideration of how internet media are adapting to audience needs, and shaping them, while making money. I also think the storied NYT page 1 meeting disappearing is of precisely zero interest to its readers, and of vast interest to the mainstream media. Which is probably symptomatic of the whole MSM problem – we’re the most self-absorbed industry around. “Perhaps the single most powerful implication of an organization operating with Internet assumptions is that iteration – and its associated learning – is doable in a way that just wan’t possible with print. BuzzFeed as an organization has been figuring out what works online for over eight years now, and while “The Dress” may have been unusual in its scale, its existence was no accident. What’s especially exciting about BuzzFeed, though, is how it uses that knowledge to make money. The company sells its ability to grok – and shape – what works on social to brands; what they don’t do is sell ads directly2 (in a narrow sense BuzzFeed almost certainly lost money spinning up servers and paying for bandwidth to deliver “The Dress”). The most obvious benefit of this strategy is that, contrary to popular opinion, and contrary to its many imitators, BuzzFeed does not do clickbait. “

    tags:journalism buzzfeed content strategy NYT

  • “Having increased the size of its staff (in addition to the recruitment of Wilson, Guido Fawkes also has a parliamentary sketch writer, Simon Carr, who joined in October 2013) the site – which has tabs for politics, media, environment and technology stories – generally runs around 15 stories every working day. This is up from seven or eight a couple of years ago. Guido Fawkes claims to attract between 120,000 and 250,000 unique browsers a day. It aims to have something up by 8.30am each morning and then a new post every 45 minutes after that. The site has peaks in traffic at around 9am, 11am, 5pm and 8pm. Alongside Twitter – the main Guido Fawkes account has 144,000 followers – the site’s main source of traffic is its newsletter emails. Staines says that around 70 per cent of Guido Fawkes’ income now comes from advertising”

    tags:journalism westminster Guido Fawkes

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

Off with their heads! Crimes against cropping in tweets

Update: Some more cropping tools. This one, which is – I think – called Favicon Generatorwas suggested by @ourman and Twitshot by @xxnapoleonsolo. Thanks chaps.

When it comes to critiquing others’ work, I am very much of the ‘there but for the grace of God…’ school of thought. I’m fairly sure, for example, there are enough spelling and grammar issues over the course of this blog’s eight or so years to make the average sub editor’s heart sink.

But.. there is a new-ish thing that is quietly driving me nuts and, as more titles latch on to the idea of Tweet+image+link = More Engagement it’s spreading like a weed.

It’s the phenomenon of Headless Subject Matter. Here are some examples (and I’m sorry, titles below, to pick you out – another time search would have revealed several different offenders I’m sure)…

The Headless Royal (thankfully not in the wives of Henry VIII sense)

TweetDeck
I’m assuming the £1 beauty product she can’t live without is for her hands?

The Headless-But-Clothed-So-That’s-Something Pop Sensation

Miley's smile may or may not have reached her eyes
Miley’s smile may or may not have reached her eyes

The Headless Only People In The World To Have Married, Ever

The answer, apparently, is ‘get her entire head in a Vogue social media post’

The Headless My-Dress-Cost-Less-Than-A-Tonne-So -I’m-Spinning-With-Joy Model

Visible hair, invisible head
Visible hair, invisible head

And finally, two Cropping Crimes for tragic Jagger. Poisoned (allegedly) and now beheaded – what is this? The 13th century?

_32__Twitter

My dog's got no nose. etc etc
My dog’s got no nose. etc etc

The thing is, even when it looks normal in the tweet, the preview (these examples are from Twitter and Tweetdeck) often doesn’t. I learned bitter lessons last week, as I selected, cropped, uploaded, posted, checked… and then deleted photos on both Twitter and Facebook posts because I’d sized them wrongly.  Eventually Google (or Audience Review, to be accurate) provided me with a key: Use a 2:1 ratio, with the best upload size being 1024×512, as this scales down well to 440×220.

And when it comes to tools, I use Canva, PicMonkey and Spruce (all are excellent for overlaying text too, although I found I had to close and reopen Spruce each time I wanted to upload a new pic).

Links with photos in Facebook also have a nasty tendency to crop in unfortunate ways. I tend to get around this by uploading a specific image rather than going with whatever the link generates. I found this post very helpful in choosing sizes.

So, a minor gripe in the scheme of things but it’s something that takes just minutes to get right, and it makes all the difference in the world.

The beige world of clickbait journalism

Things I worry about:

  1. Why the airport tax charged by cabs from Belfast City Airport fluctuates by £1 for no apparent reason
  2. Is Rick from The Walking Dead aware of how awful his beard is?
  3. In the rise of Junk Food News, how do I avoid being a part of the problem?
I like a good internet meme, and have enjoyed the odd diverting scroll through tweets in a Twitter row between mildly famous-in-certain-spheres people to see mud hurled in 140 characters or less.
But The Dress depressed the hell out of me and it was only the latest in a round of mildly-diverting-but-ultimately-non-stories that are sucking up readers attention at the cost of… what?
At the point of Peak Dress, 99% of my Facebook feed was related to it – either news brands posting their own content about it, or friends complaining about it being everywhere, or friends discovering it for the first time. I hide posts to start with, and then I just gave up on Facebook for several hours.
My social feeds were boring, stuffed full of the same topic. It briefly started again tis week with that photo of cheese and biscuits (which is, I believe, 5 years old) cropping up everywhere.
If everyone is talking about something does that make it interesting? And does that interest make it news? Logic suggests the two go hand in hand, so at what point does a topic swing in the audience’s mind from diverting to dull ?
News should not be boring – news about a dress that can apparently be one colour while being another one entirely should certainly never be boring. But the sheer proliferation of stories, quizzes, explainers, polls and memes made it boring.
The quest for hits killed the golden-or-blue dress.
When it comes to weird news, what’s seldom is wonderful. Otherwise it ceases to be weird, and is merely tiresome.
'Divided a planet'? oh Washington Post,
‘Divided a planet’? oh Washington Post,
If you put up a post about The Dress on Facebook, you might wind up within as many as 500 comments in a few hours. You can put up a gallery or a poll, and get a lift in page views and uniques off said same garment.
This works for national news brands because the pool they fish in is both deep and wide. But the regional press has, in my opinion, to walk a fine line between audience expectation and audience interest.
If a brand’s unique selling point is its locality and ties with the area it covers, that should be protected as it has lasting value and impact.
When it comes to quick hits, social traction isn’t  really being boosted in the long term, just as those comments aren’t engagement in the useful sense of the word. Often they aren’t even comments – they’re picture memes (“lookit mah unfunny and ctrl alt v-ed picture of Jean Luc Picard face palming”) or ’slow news day’ complaints.
I was part of a team launching a new website last week and for the first few days we had no analytics to go by except social growth. And it felt odd to be making decisions blind – moving stories up or around the homepage, and creating more of some content because we thought it would do well.
It made me understand how valuable analytics are to me when I come to make content decisions.
However, if you are only led by analytics, a stretched local angle on a clickbaity story will seem the answer, because the figures will back you up – in the short term.
Analytics show us volume and interest, but they can’t measure sentiment (ok, some social ones can in a fairly basic way). They can’t measure the long-term damage done to a brand by some careless clickbait fishing.
So last week drove home just how important analytics have become to me not only when I come to make decisions, but also when I take a flier, and learn from it.
But if online readers are attention and time-poor (and they tend to be) … if shortform or snacky pieces of information are more highly prized,… if visual socially-shareable content drives hits… if analytics shape our decisions, then how does the local council budget report compete for and hold attention?
It’s a tough sell, even if you think you know which of the day-parted audience spike you should be targeting, but I think it’s a sell that we have to keep on our toes about.
 Related articles

Up the Boro! Tapping into the fans’ mood on Twitter

This is my new favourite thing, courtesy of the @GazetteBoro team in Middlesbrough (disclosure: yep, they’re part of Trinity Mirror Regionals, like me).

The gif (you might need to click to activate) is a simple, neat idea, and really summed up the how fans feel about being up in the rarified atmosphere of the top of the table.

Lots of great engagement too. Just goes to show, you don’t need to break the internet to be awesome sometimes.

Thoughts on journalism, digital storytelling and the future

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