Shifted focus – audience, content, platforms

The Daily Post is three weeks into a new  live breaking news blog – viewable in real time and fullscreen, here

(This is how it appears on the homepage,on the right hand side of the above screengrab)

It runs seven days a week, ticking away between 6.30am and 10pm Monday-Friday and with a little later start at the weekends (or earlier, depending on what’s been happening).
We keep the tone conversational but informative (and also, when appropriate, a bit informal – why not? Today’s shift handover update made me smile).

Anyway,TM’s digital publishing director David Higgerson has been involved from the get-go, and he’s been explaining the raison d’etre of ours and the MEN’s breaking news blog on and Hold the Front Page – you can find the articles here and here.
In them he explains the hows and whys of how print and digital platforms can and should support each other. 

It’s shiny, but the liveblog is actually higher-profile piece of a much bigger jigsaw in our newsroom, with the aim of moving from 




A couple of years ago I blogged that producing a newspaper by using a flatplan as a guide to the contents was not the best way to do things. 
Now the editorial team has had to put its money where my mouth is, as we experiment with print and digital production ideas based around that. We still have to use a flatplan but it’s far less in evidence than was previously the case.
Live news is reported live; I’ve always believed our best chance to sell newspapers is to use our sites and networks to actually tell potential readers what’s going on rather than produce it, magician-like, and hope that they’ll a) see the newspaper and b) care enough about the headline/free pasty offer to buy it

Visibility matters. Take this blog post – it will get auto-tweeted by my service at some point, I’m not sure when, and lost as the Twitter river flows on. A tiny slice of people will see the link, an even tinier slice click on it (and thank you, reader, for doing that. You are lovely.)
If I were to keep retweeting that tweet, I’d have a bigger audience but no guarantee of a more interested audience – I probably just annoy those seeing the same content being pimped for the third time.

But by telling people the progress of something , you make it more compelling. Flowing information onto our digital platforms, and repositioning ourselves to be a part of people’s day earlier, gives us a better chance of reflecting their interests in our print pages. 
So the liveblog is important – it tells people what’s happening, it gives the team staffing it their own identities, and it allows conversations. But it’s also an enabler to us changing the way we think, and way the work.

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CoveritLive gets hacked

So this morning brought a “We’ve been hacked!” email from CoveritLive with the assurance ” We regret any inconvenience that this password change process may cause you”. Frankly, an enforced password change is a small price to pay… hopefully that’s the full extent of it.

From: CoveritLive Date: 14 January 2012 01:22
Subject: Important CoveritLive Password Notification

CoveritLive recently discovered that certain proprietary data files were accessed without authorization starting on or about January 7, 2012. We have not yet determined if, or to what extent, CoveritLive account information (i.e., user names, email addresses and/or passwords) was accessed. We do know, however, that no financial account information has been compromised.
Our investigation is ongoing, and, as a precautionary measure, we will implement required password resets for all active CoveritLive accounts. We plan for this process to begin Saturday January 14, 2012 at 12 AM EDT (5 AM GMT). The next time you log in after the process has begun, you will be asked to change your password before you will be allowed into your account. NOTE: we do not anticipate that you will experience a disruption in your event if you are using CoveritLive while the change is invoked.
Your password and all account passwords are encrypted as a standard CoveritLive information security practice, and we have no evidence that an unauthorized individual has actually retrieved, or is using such data. However, out of an abundance of caution we recommend that if you registered for CoveritLive using an email address and password combination that you use for other online accounts, you should immediately create unique passwords or new login credentials for those other sites and accounts.
We take this matter very seriously and will continue to work to ensure that all appropriate measures are taken to protect your personal information from unauthorized access. We also would like to take this moment to remind you of a couple of tips that should always be followed:

  • Do not open emails from senders you do not know. Be especially cautious of “phishing” emails, where the sender tries to trick the recipient into disclosing confidential or personal information.
  • Do not share personal or sensitive information via email. Legitimate companies will not attempt to collect personal information outside of a secure website.

We regret any inconvenience that this password change process may cause you. Please do not hesitate to contact us at if you have any questions.
CoveritLive Team

This is not a blog post… this is a confession

This was quite a taxing post to write. It took me a while to work through my thoughts and I suspect it might irritate some as, essentially, it advocates allowing the people we interview to see and change copy before it’s finished.

So, before I get to the point, here’s a story.
As a trainee reporter for a weekly paper I once arrived in newsroom to find a note in my pigeonhole from Fierce News Editor. His handwriting was – still is, I’d bet – too poor to decipher. So I asked him, and braced for impact.
Turned out he’d scrawled me a compliment along the lines of: “Liked your piece on Bird Woman; you’re turning into a decent feature writer”. I remember his words practically verbatim not because of any warm glow they produced, but because of the guilt.

The ‘Bird Woman’ of his note was a former personality who had dedicated her twilight years to bipeds of the feathered-variety. She refused requests for interviews from local (or, on occasion) national journalists but, after months of cajoling, she agreed to give me an interview… so long as she got to see the copy first. She said ‘see’, we both knew that potentially meant ‘change things’; I wanted that feature and so I went along with it. Sending my article to her before it was published was a big deal to me; moreover, I think I’d have got absolute carpeting if my news editor had ever found out.

I interviewed her, I wrote it, I posted a draft to her (yes, it’s that long ago) and a corrected proof arrived a few days later. The corrections were, to my shame, mostly spelling but I also remember some adjectives (it was for our magazine so the odd random act of prose was permitted) were replaced – ‘small, elderly’ became ‘sprightly’ for example, and ‘eccentric’ became ‘a local character’ – vanity changes that were important to her, as a septuagenarian dealing with a teenager who couldn’t spell ‘receive’ properly. The feature ran, I had lovely feedback from readers and colleagues, but it was ashes in my mouth.

I’ve sent my copy out for approval on two other occasions and both subjects were rape victims – one a young girl who recounted her ordeal as her father stood, frozen and grieving, behind my chair watching my shorthand, the other was a woman in her eighties, reunited for the first time with the son she’d conceived during the attack. I broke the rule for a simple reason – I simply couldn’t bear the thought of getting their stories wrong. Hence, I broke it for me, not for them.

All journalists get asked the “Can I see the copy” question at some point; most news editors will advise trotting out something along the lines of: “I’m sorry, it’s against company policy”. I think newspaper-types feel a little wounded by the request – why, anyone would think you don’t trust us. But, culturally and professionally, print journalism is undergoing a sea-change, which is sweeping aside long-held tenets.

Letting others see your copy-in-progress in advance of publication is no longer the issue it was, because we’re already showing the thought-processes behind articles via blogs, tweets, liveblogging, crowdsourcing, livestreaming and more. The big ‘Ta-daa’ moment of revealing an exclusive is a lovely thing if you’re the reporter writing it but if others are blogging or tweeting or commenting on forums about various angles before you’re anywhere near a print deadline what are you gaining?

I’m not saying journalists should just hand over all articles pre-publication, whatever platform that article is intended for so individuals can approve (“Could you just ask the defendant if he’s happy with this latest trial update M’Lud?”) although John Terry would probably like that a lot. But I do think we need to challenge the ‘never let them see your work’ attitude.

The rise of collaboration and the opportunities for openly developing a story mean that those involved can be active participants rather than passive subjects, and I also think platforms like Google Wave can allow reporters to develop interviews, ideas and question threads in real time.
For the newspaper industry, especially for print journalists, I think the sooner we grasp the concept that collaboration means showing our hand the better. If someone shares their story a reporter, then asks to collaborate with them by seeing – and most probably amending – the article pre-publication, then an automatic “No” is a difficult position to maintain.

How open are your lines of communication?

And yea, it is written that when four or more editorial execs are gathered together to forward plan the coverage of an impending Happening, one among them will, at some point, spake thusly: “We should do a liveblog”.
And everyone else nods while secretly wishing they had suggested it, and the suggestee gains immense Multimedia Kudos and envy points.

Of course, ‘we should do a liveblog’ is just one of the options when playing Multimedia Newsroom Bingo. Other popular phrases include “Can we make a Dipity timeline”, “What about a SurveyMonkey” (it’s always ‘a’ SurveyMonkey – I love that) , “We could do some (ie. any) video” and that old favourite, “Get some comments off the forum” (ie. is there a workie who can translate all that textspeak into English?).

To be fair, I’m as happy to talk to the talk as the next meeting-attendee but there are times when it seems these meeting-friendly web 2.0 phrases disguise a deeper issue.
Because at the end of the day Dipity, liveblogs, surveys et al still come down to newsrooms trying to control what the story is. It’s not quite one-way traffic but a contraflow is most definitely in operation and we’re the ones in charge of the signals.
What we are really saying is this:

“Want to know the background to this story? Here’s our Dipity timeline” (featuring our rss feeds and images)

“Want to take part and get involved? Join our liveblog” (and we’ll pre-moderate comments, determine and set the polls and decide when it opens and closes)

Such an approach is massively counter-productive. Yes you might have a Googlemap on your website but will you allow your readers to contribute to it? If not, why not? Suppose you did allow anyone to edit and it backfired – would you risk such a venture again? Or is it a case of once bitten, twice shy?
And another starter for 10: Do you select the ‘anyone can edit this’ option when using Dipity? If you do, then you’re creating an opportunity for collaboration. If not, why not?

These are, I think, important questions we newspaper-types need to ask ourselves not just once but repeatedly. Otherwise, even when we tell ourselves we’re trying new ways to communicate, ultimately we’re still dictating how news is presented and served up.
We may not necessarily control what happens to it next on other sites but on our own, it’s pretty much ours to dictate.

But, look, the tradition model (write content, publish content in paper, sell shedload of newspapers), is gone. The current model of write content, upload some content, publish all content in print, is built on compromise and uncertainty. So where do we go from here? I don’t have the answer but I think it might look something like:

Ask people/publish
Expand on what people tell us…
PUBLISH WHAT IS KNOWN allowing anyone to keep asking/adding to content
Conclude findings in print…
… and keep asking and listening because what you end up with may be completely different to the idea you started with

For me what makes a website sticky are the developments in a topic I care about. I go back to take part, see what others are saying, how things have changed, to comment and expand. I don’t go back to watch a video of someone talking about a plan for a new housing estate.
I would dearly love to see the traditional newspaper website format replaced with something more akin to wikis and blogs. To have open-ended news gathering and reporting (where we don’t close down the comment option after a week whether people have finished talking about it or not), and to have newsrooms embrace an approach where collaboration and partnerships are seen as opportunities.

Joanna Geary’s latest blog post struck a chord with me when she said “I began to realise that it was only journalists who thought they always had to finish the stories by themselves“.
Too many times we try to finish a story, we present it as a neat package with a beginning, middle and end, and present it to the reader with a flourish. We follow up of course, and we may start a forum thread, or publish readers letters – increasingly reporters blog about their stories too, once they have written them.

But it’s not enough. I’d love reporters to spend a week where none of their stories were featured in the newspaper – they would only be able to get their information out online, via a blog, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, a wiki – hell, they could even arrange a meeting at a local cafe and talk to people – anything but the printed page. I think it would be an eye-opener for everyone involved.
The way we currently operate – and I mean our wetware, not a company’s hardware – inhibits our ability to share information and our thinking. That, in turn, inhibits our ability to grow audience, reach, reputation and, by extension, revenue. We’re bright people; we can be better than this.

Reporting live from the court press bench

Florida’s Palm Beach Post is giddy with happiness at the moment, because a judge has ruled journalists can report court cases in real-time.
In a breakthrough which, I suspect, no other media source in Florida will acknowledge the Post’s role in achieving, a judge overturned a rule that stated journalists could not bring devices such as mobile phones into a courthouse.
The order will not allow reporters to blog or text from inside the courtroom – instead they will have to nip in and out of the hearing to Tweet, liveblog or text their updates on the proceedings.
The Post reports:

In an expansion of public access to federal courts, a judge will allow news reporters to post live updates to the web inside federal courthouses from Key West to Fort Pierce.
U.S. District Judge Federico Moreno, chief judge for the Southern District of Florida, issued the administrative order Monday in response to a request from The Palm Beach Post.

So, good for the Post – it’s always heartening to see campaigning newspapers pushing against established laws that hinder public knowledge.
Now my question is this: Should UK newspapers be lobbying for the same change in the law? And I’d have to say that this ruling, as it stands, wouldn’t work in most of our courts.

I covered magistrates and crown courts for around 10 years; I got to know judges, clerks, ushers (tip: be nice to ushers – they know everything) defendants and the occasional barrister, one of whom once told me she hoped I was unable to have children after I successfully argued against a Section 39 order. Classy.

Once the court is in session, it is considered inappropriate to enter and leave the courtroom unless it is absolutely vital. Vacate the press bench more than twice in an hour and you can well have the full weight of magisterial might (aka the bloke with the double-barrelled name who also sits on the county council) glaring down from the town hall bench.
In Crown court, should the judge deign to notice, a reporter might well end up having to tell a hushed courtroom exactly what was so pressing that they had to interrupt the proceedings again and risk committing Contempt.

And I can understand why. After all, these are the halls of justice and the defendant deserves his or her case to be heard by all, not muted by sounds of shuffleshuffle “sorry” shuffle “‘scuse me” shuffle and then scrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrech as the courtroom door groans open to allow the exit of a hapless hack…

But equally, the laws governing court reporting in the UK needs a pretty serious overhaul. The days of sitting laboriously through a case then heading back to the office have given way to press rooms in courts where reporters can file remotely back to HQ.
During the recent Rhys Jones murder trial the Liverpool Echo liveblogged the proceedings, which lasted nearly two months.
It was a service readers valued and stayed with for the duration, but the Echo was only able to do this because the court press bench was so oversubscribed that a special annexe had to be set up to house most of the pack. Information was relayed via video link, and one reporter liveblogged from the annexe, while another sat inside the court to cover proceedings.

Wouldn’t it make sense to have a reporter sat at a press bench with a laptop, liveblogging proceedings, or simply inputting copy direct to the newsdesk queue? Laptops are so unobtrusive it could easily be achieved – and someone working quietly on the press bench (sans webcam of course!) is far less irritating than, for example, a bored solicitor idling away time until his case starts by wrestling with a broadsheet.

Mobile phones being banned from a courtroom I understand – too much potential for noise, without even taking the camera option into consideration – but in an age of networked journalism, shouldn’t we expect the court press bench be networked too?
It’s hardly as though a juror would nip over at recess and ask if a quick Google search on the background could be done. (Although there are few things I would put past juries – I’ve never known one not break a news editor’s heart, whether it be over the decision or the timing of it.)

Is it really too great a stretch for a reporter to be allowed to update a public hearing in a public courtroom? Is it really an affront to justice if proceedings are covered in real time, without the journalist having to nip out an ring copy back?
Get the courtroom press bench online and networked, and you suddenly really do start to have open justice. (And that, of course, opens up another question: Should laptops be allowed in the public gallery?)

No doubt there are a whole raft of security reasons why this can’t happen but even if the argument is naive I still think the time has come for a change in the procedures to allow real-time court reporting. And not the ‘scurry out-scurry in’ approach Florida has allowed but authentic, honest, up-to-the-minute coverage of court cases that are happening around the country right now. If people can see justice in progress, may be they will have more confidence in the Judiciary.

The Year of the Blog (Part I)

I’ve just realised this blog has notched up its first anniversary.
Where has the time gone? So I thought it was an opportunity to take stock, consider how blogging has helped me become (I think) a better journalist and what I’ve learned.
Please forgive the naval-gazing and, yes, it’s going to take more than one post.

February 2008
Blog debuted after a week of learning about social media on the Trinity Mirror Journalism Leaders course at Uclan, where I also got introduced to Twitter. Of 13 newbies on my course, four of us are still tweeting.
I thought a blog might help me learn about Web 2.0 and the potential it offered for journalists. I wasn’t sure what to write then Vernon Scott, who started me off as a journalist (as opposed to a teenager who turned up and typed inaccurate pieces of copy then went drinking) died and I posted a tribute to him. I miss him still.
What I learned: Blogging is addictive; watching your audience grow makes you want to deliver better blog content – your readers make you up your game; you can teach old dogs new tricks, but some don’t want to learn, and you can’t force them.

March 2008
Markmedia introduced me to Utterz (now Utterli) and I started building a network there, podcasting onto my blog and posting photos through it.
The idea of online tribes and forum building intrigued me so I asked Rob Marcus from Chat Moderators how newspaper social networks could succeed. His advice, in a nutshell, was:
1). Control freakery is as unattractive in newspapers as it is in people; take part, don’t take over
2). Have a little humility
3). You only get one chance to make a first impression
I wrote/spoke 24 blog posts, made a blidget using Widgetbox, discovered SpinVox, Qik, Bambuser and bought an N95 (one of my most worthwhile purchases ever).
I also wrote this sentence…

I’ve got the editor’s sign off to live stream conference on Qik

…but it turned out to be a little more ambitious than that.
What I learned: A blog is a great way to test out new ideas; making apps is a lot easier than it looks; building an online community takes time but the rewards more than make up for the effort; editors will take risks if they can see the potential benefits.

April 2008
In April I was back at Uclan, where I was baffled by Yahoo Pipes and marketing strategies. I tried Friendfeed (again) – some people swear by it, I just swear at it – wrote about Cartoon Avatar day on Twitter, a post which still brings massive amounts of traffic to my blog through the wonders of SEO, and started my own YouTube channel, with Nyx cat as my début film.
April, while not the cruellest month, was frankly a bit of a triviafest blog-wise. But writing posts and experimenting with new sites and tools was helping me learn new tricks, and test out new thoughts.
What I learned: SEO is really all about the headline; the long tail can be very long indeed; blogging is another way of thinking out loud – solutions often appear as you type; Friendfeed is, like Plurk, not for everyone.

May 2008
I discovered how far-reaching a blog post can be. A throwaway remark on an earlier post about artist Ben Johnson annoying the two Liverpool newspaper editors by describing the press as lazy led to him phoning them, apologising and explaining he meant the national press. I’d noticed a lot of traffic to the blog from National Museums Liverpool IP addresses and knew they’d been reading it, but it was an interesting development.
I also had an idea to live-stream a day in the life of the LDP. I posted my thoughts on Bambuser, describing how and why I thought it would work, and then pitched it to the editor. He said yes… David Higgerson suggested using CoverItLive, and we did it. The day was so much fun (and hard work).
What I learned: Liveblogging is a great way to introduce online social media to an un-networked newsroom; blogging has consequences – this might be my own personal blog, but what I write can have repercussions for my employer, and my colleagues; cultural evolutions can be exciting and engaging for both journalists and readers.

June 2008
The impact of how much knowledge is available through online networks really struck me this month. I wrote this

Contacts on my networks point me – either intentionally or as part of wider community sharing – at blog posts, sites, information streams and applications I would never have found out about on my own.

And it is one of the most fundamental reasons I strive to keep maintaining and building my network. It’s very precious to me, both personally and professionally, and it has made me a better journalist, and a more aware, informed person.
June also saw the arrival of mini Superlambananas in Liverpool

(they were another SEO phenomenon for my blog) and I found Plurk. I loved it; I still do.
What I learned: You can write the most thoughtful, observant post ever but a headline with the words ‘baby Superlambanana’ is the best way to drive traffic to your blog; social media has made my real world network wider than I ever thought possible.

July 2008
Paul Bradshaw’s Seemsic debate on the future of journalism provided some real food for thought and sparked a 5-point blog post that boiled down to this: Ask for help; embrace change; Listen to people; Evolve; Share knowledge.
I found Dipity’s TimeTube and Mento (both of which I still use) and had a bit of a rant about newspaper forums and why most newspapers don’t seem to build successful, thriving, friendly communities.
What I learned: Video is a great platform for debate; networked-journalists who use tools to tell stories are able to promote their work quickly and crowdsourdce/gain feedback much more easily; newspapers’ online forums can, if not resourced, nurtured and engaged with, swing from being communities into troll ghettos where new users are in danger of being driven away (and believing that the forum represents the newspaper’s own character)

August 2008
August was a Red Letter Month – I built my first Yahoo Pipe after being taken through the process by Paul Bradshaw. I was so happy I went on a bit of a pipe-building oddessy for myself and the office – whether colleagues wanted them or not. Among other things, I found and started polling like a mad thing, tried out story-telling opportunities through Dipity and asked Twitter when newspapers should break exclusive stories online. I concluded ‘Exclusive’ means far more to us than our readers. I still believe that is true.
What I learned: Yahoo Pipes look more daunting than they really are; readers love timelines and so do reporters once you show them the rss feed makes them simple; the future is going to find us no matter what and the trick is to be ready for it. Some people aren’t yet but they will be.

Phew! I think that’s enough for now. Part II at some point.

Learning from liveblogging

I’d love to know how many of the UK’s regional newspapers have run liveblogs this year; it seems as though real-time coverage and participation in almost everything (public spectacles, event TV, sports, political rallies to name a few) is on the increase when it was hardly in evidence 12 months ago.

I’ve been pondering this as the Newspaper Society is planning an article on the Post & Echo’s liveblogs, and contacted me for some information, plus I also received an email from CoverItLive’s Keith McSuprren with links to two liveblogs of the Emmys.

The New York Times liveblogged the event on its TV Decoder blog. It reminded me of the Guardian’s entertaining television liveblogs and has great knock-about comments from readers/viewers who are interacting with the host and each other.

Canada’s National Post used CIL to liveblog and the contrast is quite apparent.
It engages the post-event reader just as much as those participating at the time – it’s compelling, entertaining and, possibly a more attractive commercial option for sponsors as well.
The posted comments show how invested the online audience was in the Times’ offering but it just doesn’t have the same longevity, or presence, as the Post’s.

The Post & Echo run liveblogs fairly regularly; the last one saw me part-hosting the whiteknuckle ride that was the Everton FC v Standard Leige UEFA cup match. I was only doing a 30 minute stint but it was incredibly intensive.
The footie liveblogs are great for fans without access to radios or TV (some are overseas, some trapped at work on a night shift) and their demand for information is relentless – believe me, if you think ringing in copy on deadline to a news editor is intense, try finding the team sheets for a UEFA cup match with a clamouring audience.

So, some things I’ve learned to make my liveblogging easier:

Preparation is vital
Before you start, ensure you’ve banked information your readers are likely need so you can upload it with minimal delay. For the Tall Ships that meant knowing links to any webcams and shuttlebus times in advance; for La Machine, a timetable of the giant Spider’s performances. Being able to respond very quickly to queries on these issues (which tend to come right at the beginning) sends a message to your audience that your blog is the source of information they need. You’ll get constant queries for this information and can just refer them to the top of the blog.

State your objectives for readers
Newcomers don’t necessarily know what a liveblog is, they may have just Googled some keywords in an attempt to find information and wound up on the blog. So a welcome and introduction which states exactly what’s going on then users’ expectation levels are set. For example, football fans won’t expect kick-by-kick coverage but will understand it offers broad reporting, colour, photos and fan banter.

Advertise your activities
Share what you’re doing with the liveblog. As in ‘Our photographer is downloading the images now – they should be up here in the next 5 minutes’ or ‘we’re planning to live-stream this event starting at xpm’… it lets users know there’s a structure in place for the coverage and makes the liveblog feel more as-it-happens. You can also plug upcoming related content in the newspaper, let people know how they can get involved or point them towards photosales.

Remember it’s a LIVEblog
Some liveblog software have timelines to show what time comments are posted. If there are lengthy gaps between when you post, promote readers’ comments or upload content the existing audience could start leaving and new arrivals might not bother hanging around. If things quieten down it can be a good time to ask questions, promote a poll, or maybe post some links to relevant copy on yours or other websites. If you don’t keep it looking fresh and active you’re inviting a ‘is this thing on?’ comment appearing from a reader…

You can’t please everybody
I feel an obligation to blog readers when I’m either filing for a liveblog or helping produce one. After all, we’ve offered them a service, they’ve bothered to come and use it, so we have to listen to their opinions, criticisms and observations.
There’s no point ignoring critical comments or refusing to upload them; accept not everyone will like what your doing and let those that do respond. I think every liveblog I’ve been involved with has attracted at least one comment along the lines of how useless newspapers are now compared to what they were, and how we should be doing real journalism.
Don’t post defensive replies – it looks petty, and blog readers are just as likely to shout down the naysayer for you. And don’t promote comments that contain language you’d refuse to accept in the printed paper.

Blog readers want images
They really do and if you fail to deliver they may well get annoyed; the clamour for images on a liveblog of an event is daunting at times.
During the La Machine liveblog our Flickr group photos were an invaluable resource – as was the special text line for spectators to send their cameraphone pix. YouTube is great – a recent search for Steven Gerrard produced a host of (very professional!) ’10 greatest Gerrard goals’ type video packages, which the BBC and SKY may not be too happy about but hey… liveblog readers waiting for kick-off would love to have a link to them. Livestreaming is a great option; readers aren’t too fussed about the quality – they just want to experience something as it happens.

So those are some of the things I’ve learned while liveblogging. Personally I love doing them – you really feel a part of the event you’re covering, you’re providing a service that people enjoy, appreciate and get involved with, and it means you get to break news. It’s also a great way to change minds in the newsroom about the value of interaction – when you ask something and a response is straight away, it brings home the fact that newspapers have an audience with answers as well as questions.

Giant spider in liverpool

La Princess left the Echo Arena on Friday night and moved through the crowds to the Pier Head – walking straight past me.
It was an amazing experience…

… but what made it even more brilliant was that reporting the event on the hoof was so simple. Along with VJs for the Post&Echo at the event, I texted tweet updates to Twitter which were scooped by by the digital editor for the live blog of the event. Photos were sent via Twitpic and instantly transfered as were links to my N95’s live stream to Qik.
Personally, I think phones like these are as essential for a reporter as a notebook now – a multimedia newspaper has to be prepared to invest in the tools that allow the journalist to do their job as speedily as possible. I know the Birmingham Post & Mail staff have all got N95s now and I’m looking foward to hearing how they get on, and how they use them.

The Lifecycle of a News Story

I rediscovered a link on my Delicious recently, called the Lifecycle of a Blog, from Wired, which traces how a post goes from the author’s keyboard through the system into a subscriber’s RSS reader. It’s here if you’re interested.

Anyway, that sent me off on a bit of a tangent; I started wondering about the lifecycle of a news story, and how online tools have improved the ways journalists can source, tell and share our news. And of course, how we can get our audience to be a part of it.
I want to create a presentation for reporters on the subject so I’ve gathered some thoughts on the potential ways of sourcing, presenting and sharing news articles here. If you have suggestions please add as it would help me illustrate my point:

Step One
Reporter gets potential story (Web 1.0)
Via: Phone call or meeting with contact; letter to the editor; email; comment on the newspaper’s web forum; item in a publication or website; video on YouTube; punter walking in to the front office and asking to speak to a journalist.

Reporter gets potential story (Web 2.0)
Via: Any of the above PLUS link posted on a social network; RSS feed of news and message board posts;status update or link on a micro-blog; Twitter search;search of blog posts;comment on the reporter’s blog; online forums; email/post/link via the reporter or newspaper’s Facebook page; a podcast; online searches;threaded video debate; an incident live-streamed onto a website.

Step Two

Reporter researches story (Web 1.0)
Phones/meets contacts to verify information; searches Google for background/experts; finds expert and emails questions; includes response in article; sets up photo opportunity with picture desk; writes article and sends to newsdesk.

Reporter researches story (Web 2.0)
Crowdsources idea using social networks; uses blog searches and blog translators to find posts and experts worldwide; uses own blog to post developing and ask for input and suggestions from readers; sets up online survey and poll (promotes these using links to it from own blog, Facebook page and online forums); posts links and questions on specialist messageboards; searches social bookmarking tools for related issues; uses video discussion site to seek views; records telephone interview for podcast; collates findings and discusses package with print and digital news editors; films video report; begins writing detailed, analytical article for print product, accompanied by quality images – some found by picturedesk searching photo-sharing websites’ Creative Commons pool.

Step Three
Presentation (Web 1.0)
Newsdesk checks copy, adds come-on for readers to send their views via email or letter to the editor, or via the onlinjavascript:void(0)e forum, sends to subs for layout on page. Content and photo uploaded onto website following morning after publication of print product.

Presentation (Web 2.0)
Copy checked by newsdesk for content, style and reporter’s email, phone number, blog url, keywords for tagging and postcode for geo-tagging, along with relevant links; sent to subs for layout on page; package uploaded to website; link placed to story in newspaper’s forum; copy chunked online to hold readers’ interest; video report embedded in online version; image slideshow with reporter’s voiceover; downloadable podcast offered; reporter blogs on outcome of story and links to associated news stories and external blog posts; words, links, video and images combined in Dipity timeline and embedded on website; updates with links posted on social networks; video report uploaded to newspaper’s YouTube Channel; images placed on newspaper’s Flickr group; reporter hosts readers’ Q&A with expert in online chatroom hosted by newspaper; article leads the morning and midday news bulletins on newspaper website; Googlemap offers locator plus internal and external links to associated issues.

Step Four

Sharing the story (Web 1.0)
Newspaper sold on streets for around 12 hours; shovelware story and images remains on website’s main page until overtaken by more news; readers may find it using search facility in future; radio may pick up story and report (without crediting source); forum members debate issue briefly; readers discuss story with family, friends or colleagues.

Sharing the story (Web 2.0)
Newspaper sold on streets for around 12 hours; online news story has an SEO-ed headline to ensure maximum visibility in searches; story and links seeded on appropriate websites; RSS subscribers sent article and links to associated content; headline and link to content promoted via Twitter feed; article included on e-newsletter sent to subscribers with link back to website; placed on news widget for readers to add to their own webpage; video report on newspaper’s website, YouTube and embedded on Facebook page and reporter’s blog; online package promoted on website front page with links; web forum moderator encourages comments and promotes topic; content highlighted on social bookmarking sites; content features in the ‘top 5’ of web blurb in following day’s newspaper.
In addition to this online readers might: Share the article by emailing links to contacts; post their views on external message boards and link back; blog about the article and link; Tweet and link; save it to their own social bookmarks or Digg existing version; join the newspaper’s Flickr group, Facebook page; forward e-newsletters; add the news widget; or just talk about it…

Step Five
What next (Web 1.0)
Forum comments might be reverse published in a ‘From Our Forums’ column; potential ring in from reader with a follow-up tip.

What next (Web 2.0)
Reporter monitors: Blog traffic for activity and routes; uses online search tools – for alerts, external messageboards, Tweets and blog posts – to see who, where and how the article is being discussed; comments and reactions arrive via blog, external forums and newspaper’s own, social networks, YouTube ratings, video debate sites, Twitter…
Reporter gets several new lines of investigation and begins using online tools again to research these emerging stories.

I had no idea when I started doing this how thin the ‘old’ opportunities for investigating stories would look compared to the tools at our disposal now; it’s quite stark really. It drives home just how important mastering these tools is for journalists as our industry continues to develop and change.

Blogging Macca

The live blogs keep coming; we’re blogging the Liverpool Sounds concert on Sunday with words and images (but maybe not live streaming as there organisers are confiscating cameras and ‘recording equipment’. Boo!
So that will be sorted out today and Sunday will see various Post & Echo people Twittering, texting and phoning in their experiences to the live blog, along with readers. Should be really exciting.
In other news Ben Johnson has apologised to the Post and Echo journalists for calling us all lazy. He rang both papers to say he meant to say the national press, not the local ones, so I guess I can forgive him for that.
Don’t know if my hard-working friends on the nationals will be so kind about his work next time they get to write about it though…