Three fallacies of newspaper thinking (and how paywalls cracked…)

Three fallacies of newspapers’ assumptions about online content, highlighted by a discussion of paywalls etc, summarised by William Owen of Made by Many:

1) the internet is free because of a mix of habit and a spurious moral right, and that if you can change habits and challenge morality we’ll go back to paying for content.

2) a newspaper’s competition is other newspapers.

3) nothing else changes, content is still just the end product of the publishing process.

Read more here [link]

Data journalism in action: hacks and hackers

Some interesting examples from a 'Hacks and Hackers Hack Day' run by ScraperWiki "to see what happens when you put journalists and developers in the same room and ask them to come up with a data-driven story in one day."??They came up with everything from mapping the shortest journeys and the profiles of candidates in the safest Conservative constituencies, to gifts and freebies received by the Mayor of London, and which MPs (and from which parties) write for which newspapers.

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How news organisations are using Google Wave to engage their audience

The Chicago Tribune’s RedEye has a live public Wave on news every weekday morning. Hilary Fosdal writes:
“With each Daily Wave, RedEye connects with their readers and builds a sense of community. The RedEye is also demonstrating that is sees itself as more than a newspaper and more than a blog by embracing innovative technology that encourages a continuous and dynamic discussion about the news.

Robert Quigley, social media editor of the Austin American-Statesman has also held public waves with his readers.

“The challenge right now is keeping public waves on topic. If they get more than 50 blips discussion grinds to a halt […] for Google Wave to work during a news event, there needs to be the ability to moderate and/or easily spin something into another wave and link to it in the first wave to keep it on topic.” ”

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How one reporter used Twitter to help with sources

Daniel Victor provides a detailed account, ending with three key points for journalists to note:

1) If I were sitting in my cubicle thinking, “Who could help me with this story?”, none of the five people would have immediately popped into my mind, and I certainly wouldn’t have met them outside of Twitter since this story wasn’t on my beat. This is the power of Twitter for reporting: You can find help in unexpected places, from people you wouldn’t normally have access to.

2) But it only paid off because I’ve taken the time to build a useful local network. I’ve counted 415 Twitter users I follow in the Harrisburg area, though I suspect I follow more who I’ve neglected to add to the list. Every one of them could prove valuable in a pinch — we just never know when it’ll be.

3) You’ll notice Twitter didn’t replace fundamental reporting, it just facilitated it. I still needed to persist and call the chairman three separate times before I got the source on the phone.

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A reminder of Wolcott Gibbs’ points about good writing (from James Thurber)

James Thurber noted 31 points about good writing made by New Yorker editor Wolcott Gibbs. They include the following (via Charles Miller on the CoJo blog):

– Writers always use too damn many adverbs. On one page recently I found 11 modifying the verb 'said'. 'He said morosely, violently, eloquently, so on' … It is impossible for a character to go through all these emotional states one after the other.
– Word 'said' is OK. Efforts to avoid repetition by inserting 'grunted', 'snorted' etc are waste motion and offend the pure in heart.
– Our writers are full of clichés, just as old barns are full of bats. There is obviously no rule about this, except that anything that you suspect of being a cliché undoubtedly is one and had better be removed.
– The more 'As a matter of facts', 'howevers', 'for instances' etc, etc you can cut out, the nearer you are to the Kingdom of Heaven.
– On the whole we are hostile to puns.
– Try to preserve an author's style if he is an author and has a style.

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It’s still early days for journalism to adapt to the networked environment

So says Doc Searls, on a panel at Harvard:
"Big newspapers, big magazines, big radio and TV… these are industrial age creatures. Some will persist in the new age that is coming upon us. But they will need to adapt to the new networked environment, where everybody can contribute.

That environment is very new. Think of today as a moment in the early paleozoic, say in Cambrian time. In that context Facebook is a trilobite. Twitter is a bryzoan. The Huffington Post is a primitive sponge. For small-j journalism, this is not the End of Time, but the beginning of it. Will big-J journalism survive? Only if it adapts. While some of that adaptation will be corporate, the leadership won’t be in the corporate system. It will be among the journalists themselves. Just as it was, and still is, with technology companies and the geeks they employ."

Read more here [link]

How social networks can help save media (Jim Brady, True/Slant)

Social networks have created an under-exploited advantage for media companies, suggests Jim Brady:

"…news consumption has now become seamlessly blended into the daily lives of so many consumers. Twenty years ago, if you wanted to read the newspaper, you completely dedicated yourself to it at the breakfast table or dinner table or den for some fixed period of time. When you were done, you went off to work, paid bills or went shopping, and news wasn’t a part of the equation.[…]

Now, think about media consumption in the social media era. Today, content from media companies lives in the same stream as so much other information in a consumer’s life. […] Now, if you’re using e-mail, Facebook or Twitter — three pretty big chunks of time for most Web-savvy consumers — you can, at any moment, be pulled back into news and information. This is a massive opportunity, and one that requires news organizations become fuller participants in those venues."

Read more here [link]

Four factors critical to journalism and publishing

Adam Tinworth flags up social, mobile, real-time, and location-aware technology:

"I think it [this graphic] neatly encapsulated the four issues that will effect the web, and which the publishing business needs to get its head around. I talk a lot about social on here, and the whole hyper-local journalism movement is, to some degree, predicated on the idea of geo-centric technology, even if the potential benefits of geocoding information haven't really been discussed.

The whole mobile environment has been changed by the new breed of smart phones, led by the iPhone, which are turning users into voracious data consumers on the move, and the Real Time web is becoming, in a technological sense, a very real proposition (and, if fact, I should write a post about that).

This graphic is the sort of thing every publisher and journalist should be looking at and thinking "what does this mean for what I do?" "

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Aspiring journalists must specialise, says Malcolm Gladwell. Try stats or accounting…

From his interview in Time: "The issue is not writing. It's what you write about. One of my favorite columnists is Jonathan Weil, who writes for Bloomberg. He broke the Enron story, and he broke it because he's one of the very few mainstream journalists in America who really knows how to read a balance sheet. That means Jonathan Weil will always have a job, and will always be read, and will always have something interesting to say. He's unique. Most accountants don't write articles, and most journalists don't know anything about accounting. Aspiring journalists should stop going to journalism programs and go to some other kind of grad school. If I was studying today, I would go get a master's in statistics, and maybe do a bunch of accounting courses and then write from that perspective. I think that's the way to survive. The role of the generalist is diminishing. Journalism has to get smarter."

Read more here [link]

SEO basics can help, but great content — and telling people — is what really counts

Great post on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) by Derek Powazek (who ought to know): "If someone charges you for SEO, you have been conned. […] The problem with SEO is that the good advice is obvious, the rest doesn’t work, and it’s poisoning the web.

[…] the One True Way to get a lot of traffic on the web. It’s pretty simple, and I’m going to give it to you here, for free: Make something great. Tell people about it. Do it again.

That’s it. Make something you believe in. Make it beautiful, confident, and real. Sweat every detail. If it’s not getting traffic, maybe it wasn’t good enough. Try again.

Then tell people about it. Start with your friends. Send them a personal note – not an automated blast from a spam cannon. Post it to your Twitter feed, email list, personal blog.

[…] It’ll take time. A lot of time. But it works. And it’s the only thing that does."

Read more here [link]