Sunday, 30 December 2012

My Interesting Reads (weekly)

  • "A solution based on giving people the same thing for a new, higher price only opens you up to disruption. A solution based on providing more value for your users that keeps them loyal to you is going to last a lot longer. "
  • "This is all going to turn into B-roll. With each passing day, the filing clerks of our hearts and minds will cart it a little further back, to a dimmer and dustier shelf. But it happened, so that:" This piece of writing really resonated with me. I think beyond the remarkable writing and heart-rending topic, it's an important message for journalists. Not to let an issue become a B-roll. 
  • Best or worst? Anyway, some of them were new to me. I do like Sweden's idea though - I wouldn't call it fail;I think it's actually quite cool 
  • I've made it into Hansard, albeit with a sex change. Still, Alison is a pretty easy name to confuse. Sigh.  I'd care less if he at least agreed with me. 
      • I see I have changed sex. If it's in Hansard, I guess it must be true. 
    • accept that there are concerns about state regulation. In a letter to me, the editor of my own regional newspaper, the Daily Post, said:
      “I am strongly opposed to statutory regulation of the press.”
    • However, I say to that newspaper editor, and to others who share his view, that we need to consider what that means. In his summary of recommendations, Lord Leveson says:
Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

My Interesting Reads (weekly)

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

Friday, 21 December 2012

Emerging markets... in Journalism?

A new, uh, spin on corporate communications reached me via The News Hook's post How HSBC uses journalism to reach new customers. 

Essentially, HSBC bank has found a niche in the knowledge market - in this case, how to expand into emerging economies - and is filling it with niche content. The article explains:

HSBC’s tack was to start a news site focused on helping American and Canadian businesses that want to expand abroad. Recent articles explore how changing policies in China could impact international companies, whether international companies need political risk insurance and why American companies should consider going public in Canada. Some of the content is behind a subscription wall but membership is free (the site claims 10,000 members and over 10,000 visits a day).
According to News Hook, the site has 10,000 members, and HSBC is using the gap in the market not to push its services, but to meet users search needs and, I assume, convert them into customers if possible.

“HSBC has been very progressive in understanding that in having more voices with their content, that it’s just a better way of creating a dialogue with viewers to the site who are ultimately potential customers,” says Deborah Stokes, who edits the site... “[It is] independent content and independent voices.”
I'm intrigued. Trinity Mirror has a number of writers in the regionals whose roles includes anticipating and responding to users' online searches - for example this on
I'm not sure if a bank moving into journalism is a brilliant innovation or a bit 'all your base are belong to us' but it does raise the question that, beyond the mainstream media and the independents, there is another funded strand for journalism and professional journalists.

As an aside, I use a Zemanta plug in on this blog, which helpfully throws up linked articles around what I'm writing. I thought it's related articles choices for this were... illuminating.

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Sunday, 16 December 2012

My Interesting Reads (weekly)

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

The rise of the retweet junkie

I thought I'd tweeted off my chest the things that appalled me about the 'be first or be right' social media minefield following the shattering horror of the Newton shootings. 
 But then I read this post by Andy Dickinson, and it struck a chord. It made me realise I hadn't blogged a lot recently because I was either posting tweets or just using Diigo's bookmarks-to-blog option and not bothering to otherwise update my blog. 

 Writing my thoughts down here has only ever brought me clarity, and wise words of advice or support from people who stopped by to read them. I don't have time to do the tool exploration and testing I used to on here (which, incidentally, I really miss) but if I can't find 10 minutes a week to consider the stuff that's annoyed, inspired, smacked me between the eyes with its brilliance or helped me shape how I think, do or feel about journalism, then it's a poor look-out.  

Cheers, Andy.

Anyway, to return to where we came in the social media 'first or right' issue. I tweeted this a few hours after the shootings, which I had to follow on my iPhone, as I was travelling (and mostly followed via Twitter) 
I was angry and perplexed that opinion and rumours were being peddled and passed on as if they were nuggets of Golden Truth. 

Even Jeff Jarvis got himself tied in knots after taking on trust the Twitter account of the (wrongly) identified shooter was genuine and real.
It wasn't the right account. hell, it wasn't even the right name. Cue this.

But mistakes like that aside - and taking as read the fact that how people react on a social network is but a sideshow to the enormity of this tragedy - what I saw on Twitter on Friday night was depressing. 
It wasn't about racing to share information, and I actually don't think it was about being first, a lot of the time; it was about ego, and the retweet boost. 

Journalists can be needy creatures. When I was a reporter I wanted the front page; not much better than landing a belting story and being told it's going to be the splash - it's Hack Crack. 

On Twitter, Hack Crack becomes Retweet Smack, and it's available to all, courtesy of the site's Interactions option which shows just who and how many times your tweet has been favourited or shared.

Four or five years ago, I was sitting down with journalism students and urging them to use social media to raise their profiles, and market their work and themselves. 
I still believe that's vital, but I also think the whole 'be your own brand!' clarion call has helped create RT monsters. 

RT monsters don't need news breaks to exist - their bible is Favstar, and you've probably encountered them on a day-to-day basis. 
Typically, they're the user who takes your Twitpic link, deletes your tweet, and reposts it with their own, or they steal others' jokes and ideas, and post them as their own - Twitter's Witty Writers brigade gets very vocal about this. 

Retweet junkies abound on Twitter. I think Pat Smith summed up the issue of neediness and validation perfectly with this, during a discussion about the Newton Twitter frenzy:

Validation - now there's a thing social media was made for: How many followers do you have? How often do you get retweeted? Who, exactly, are your followers - any good ones? What's your Klout score, your Favstar ranking? Who likes your Instagram? 

Personally, I want my journalists to validate facts, not themselves. You can be a brand without letting it become the most important thing about you.

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Sunday, 9 December 2012

My Interesting Reads (weekly)

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

Sunday, 2 December 2012

My Interesting Reads

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

Sunday, 25 November 2012

My Interesting Reads (weekly)

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

Sunday, 18 November 2012

My Interesting Reads (weekly)

  • "For some time now, newspaper people have been insisting, sometimes angrily, that we readers will soon have to pay for content (an assertion that had already appeared, in just that form, by 1996.) During that same period, freely available content grew ten-thousand-fold, while buyers didn’t. In fact, as Paul Graham has pointed out, “Consumers never really were paying for content, and publishers weren’t really selling it either…Almost every form of publishing has been organized as if the medium was what they were selling, and the content was irrelevant.”"
  • "Online earnings are falling despite booming audiences at leading UK news publisher Trinity Mirror, caught in a confluence of circumstances that prompt the big question — does content pay?"
  • Nice blog post from Storyful, which Includes some handy tips and diagrams for anyone upgrading to 'new' Tweetdeck... 
  • What is a social network? How is it defined, why do some succeed when others fail, and what make us use them? "The purpose of this  is to provide a conceptual, historical, and scholarly context for the articles in this collection. We define what constitutes a social network site, present one perspective on the historical development of SNSs, draw from personal interviews and public accounts of sites and their changes over time...We conclude with suggestions for future research."
  • elevision shows will have other types of media like text merged into them, and World Wide Web pages will begin to be temporal entities that tell a story. Another way of looking at this is that both your television and your computer will be running a similar super browser which will allow the same content to be viewed on both devices. Also, to say that the two converge it is not enough to say that you will be able to watch television on your computer-- that merely means that television content is a sub-set of computer content and is already possible today. For the two to truly converge the content that can be received by both devices should be the same"
Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Making time for added value

Money UK British Pound Coins
 (Photo credit: hitthatswitch)

I have an intellectual crush on Robert Picard - he's one of the academics currently publishing about journalism, and particularly mainstream print media, who really is a must-read. 
I mostly follow his journal papers as he's an occasional blogger but, like Clay Shirky, it's always worth reading when he posts an update. 

His latest post, Many Journalists Can't Provide the Value-Added Journalism Needed Today, makes the point:

To survive, news organizations need to move away from information that is readily available elsewhere; they need to use journalists’ time to seek out the kinds of information less available and to spend time writing stories that put events into context, explain how and why they happened, and prepare the public for future developments.  These value-added journalism approaches are critical to the economic future of news organizations and journalists themselves.

Unfortunately, many journalists do not evidence the skills, critical analytical capacity, or inclination to carry out value-added journalism. News organizations have to start asking themselves whether it is because are hiring the wrong journalists or whether their company practices are inhibiting journalists’ abilities to do so.  

Added value journalism doesn't thrive when there's a requirement to write multiple page leads, plus hampers, photo captions and nibs every day. For writers, it's hard to find the time to develop your own skills and methods of story-telling.
Audience can add value, if we get them involved - through comment, image-sharing, document scrutiny or suggesting interview questions. Given the invitation, they'll come up with some good headline suggestions too (I particularly like the Northern Echo's use of this). 

I have an issue with this statement...
Unfortunately, many journalists do not evidence the skills, critical analytical capacity, or inclination to carry out value-added journalism. 
...because the evidence of the Daily Post newsroom trial demonstrates, ever day, that reporters do have the skills and inclination to add value. They may lack the time, but that's an entirely different thing and a failing of an organisation, not an individual. 

 But Picard is right to say journalists should add value themselves, whether through context, data interpretation or by creating compelling, competitive content, be that via text, images, visuals or curation. 

The landscape of newsrooms, especially regional newsrooms, has changed vastly. There are smaller teams but within those we need a wider range of skills, or entirely new skills. Added value for readers can also be career-enhancing for hacks. 

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Sunday, 4 November 2012

My Interesting Reads (weekly)

  • The @ComfortablySmug Sandy tweets were obviously fake, but journalists retweeting without checking the source or facts led to his deliberate misinformation being broadcast as fact on network TV. Salutary warning about the dangers of RT-ing, without checking what is being said.  "Tripathi, as an internet troll, was completely in character, and he had no responsibility to the public. But journalists do have that responsibility – and so, if Tripathi's silly tweets made it into the national press, it is the national press that is, at heart, to blame for not protecting journalistic standards as well as they should. It is a matter of a few minutes to call a spokesperson or check a live camera, and that is what journalists get paid to do. Producers or editors should not rush information to air or print until those calls have been made, and answered."
  • "Trying to trick his media followers, and their followers and readers in turn, with fake news. He reported, falsely, on a total blackout in Manhattan, on a flood on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, and other things that didn't happen." See also and
  • Love this piece from the Atlantic, on sorting the fake and Photoshopped from the genuine eyewitness images of Hurricane Sandy. Some very handy pointers for journalists dealing with less apocalyptic stories in need of verification, too.
Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

My Interesting Reads (weekly)

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

Friday, 26 October 2012

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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Sunday, 21 October 2012

My Interesting Reads (weekly)

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

Sunday, 14 October 2012

My Interesting Reads (weekly)

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

Monday, 1 October 2012

Storified: The Future of News Media in Wales debate

I would have liked to attend the Future of News Media in Wales debate at Cardiff JOMEC on Monday night - it sounded fascinating.
Luckily, I discovered it was underway on Twitter and with assistance of some excellent tweeters at the scene (a big thank you to everyone who helped those of us not attending follow the event by posting such great updates) I was able to see how the debate unfolded.
This was the purpose of the night: 
Newspapers are closing and there is uncertainty about the future of news provision on radio and TV.  Can new media, citizen journalism and the promise of local television fill the gap?  And is the news business in terminal decline in Wales, or are we simply seeing an adjustment to technological change and new consumer demands?
The speakers were: 

  • Phil Henfrey – Head of News and Programmes, ITV Wales
  • Alan Edmunds – Editor in Chief, Media Wales (and, in the interests of disclosure, my former boss) 
  • Mark O’Callaghan – Head of News and Current Affairs, BBC Wales

And, because it was so interesting and relevant, I've Storified it here too (it has a few seconds load time...) 

Sunday, 30 September 2012

My Interesting Reads (weekly)

  • "For those willing to take an experimental plunge, Instagram is more about branding and engagement than eyeballs and dollars. After some campaign trail experimentation, the Associated Press is encouraging its staff photographers to use their personal Instagram feeds in a professional capacity. Meanwhile, well known media outlets like NPR and the Wall Street Journal maintain official accounts that share photos highlighting major news events.  "We haven't totally figured out a strategy, to be honest," NPR Multimedia Producer Claire O'Neill said last week at the Online News Assocation (ONA) conference in San Francisco. Whatever they're doing, it seems to be working. The organization's Instagram account boasts over 213,000 followers with each image sparking hundreds of comments and thousands of likes. "
  • "In a post-Leveson world, of all worlds, the UK mainstream media has to answer the L’Oreal question. Are you worth it? And once they’ve done that they have to come up with much ideas than a broadband levy. "In a country where we are shutting hospitals, cutting disability benefits and charging students £9,000 a year to attend University, journalism is more needed than ever. But professional journalists have to justify what they do more honestly, efficiently and imaginatively than ever before, too."
  • "I looked The Troll in the eye and said "Stand up." " e stood. I said " Look at me. I'm a middle aged man with a limp and a wheeze and a son and a wife that I love. I'm not just a little avatar of an eye. You're better than this. You have a name of your own. Be proud of it. Don't hide it again and I won't ruin it if you play ball with your parents. Now shake hands.""
Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

My Interesting Reads (weekly)

  • "Journalists and news publishers have long sought the best ways to create engagement on Twitter and make the most of every Tweet - and we want to help. We've created a set of best practices for journalists and newsrooms that can help you increase follower growth and engagement on Twitter, based on extensive research by our Platform and Analytics teams. " The team analyzed thousands of Tweets from more than 150 news brands and individual reporters around the world, determining four specific areas of focus: tweet your beat, use hashtags for context, @ cite your sources, and share what you’re reading." 
Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

My Interesting Reads (weekly)

  • "Basic rules for writers: Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print. Never use a long word where a short one will do. If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out. Never use the passive where you can use the active. Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent. Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous."
Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Video: a (very) interactive newspaper

I'm indebted to Andy Dickinson for sharing this video on Twitter, of an interactive Lancashire Evening Post, created by UCLan and partners. 
Paul Egglestone explains the why and the what of the project in the video, and also shows how the data of reader interaction is captured. 
The last bit is so important thing; I understand (and suffer from) the Distraction of Shiny but it can be just that - a distraction. 

 Related articles
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Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Future newsrooms, and lessons from Poland

Now I’m in North Wales, it’s no longer such a stretch to get to events in Liverpool like Social Media Cafe (find out more on SMC here - and if you can go to one, do. It’s brilliant)
So off I went to Thursday’s open mic SMC to find out more about the mechanics of how it operated (can you work out why, Reader?*) and sang for my supper by giving a 10 minute talk on journalism futures and digital newsrooms.

It wasn’t a formal presentation; I just jotted some notes down about what I want to achieve at the Daily Post, talked around that, and then fielded some smart questions from the audience.
The following day, I watched a
fascinating video presentation on the future of media (of which more later), and after musing some more, I figured I may as well blog my thoughts out a bit.  
The prompt notes I used for SMC are in italics,
subsequent musings aren’t.

1. Academic Robert Picard says the “fundamental problem for media firms” is that of selling 19th and 20th century products in the 21st century, without altering the value of the offering, or relationships with customers.
His  point being, you can’t
have a seismic shift in the market - the sort of disruption that not only creates entire new platforms and turns production, consumption, and distribution on its head - then still expect the inherent value to remain unchanged. Or, indeed, for the customer/consumer base to remain unchanged.
Getting past the legacy issue, given the inherent costs and the structural, operational and cultural drivers, is not easy. But JRC is attempting it with their latest move; I will be interested to see how that develops.

2. The term Legacy, when applied to the Olympics, should be a good thing. When applied to Journalism, less so.
The legacy not only of infrastructure but of culture and practise is one of the biggest obstacles there is.
I hesitate to use the phrase digital evangelist but if you’re one of the people trying to work in new ways in a newsroom, I suspect at some point you or a like-minded colleague has uttered the phrsae: ‘But journalists are supposed to like Change; that’s why we went into this job. If we didn’t we’d work in a bank.”
I’ve said it myself... and I was wrong. Journalists are people, and people like Variety. That’s a very different thing to Change. Variety is interesting; Change is generally unsettling, at best.

3. Convergence is not about multimedia, it’s about users.
Specifically, users and customers. The collective formerly known as Them and Us.
This theme had previously been touched on at SMC by Laura Yates and Edwin Pink, who - while talking about the achievements and work of Liverpool’s tenantspin, in engaging older people digitally - observed “It’s never about the tech, it’s about the people.”
Convergence is a lightbulb phrase: Use it with someone who knows what it means, and it illuminates the conversation; use it with someone who doesn’t, and everything goes dark.
I think about convergence more as a service shift to meet audience needs, instead of deadlines.

So, for example, a converged newsroom would promote: Collaboration, transparency, accountability, reciprocity, partnerships; it would do this by making engagement and audience management integral, online and in real life (irl being *social media cafes or surgeries, for example); and asking, explaining, sharing, would be an editorial ethos.
My expected outcomes would be: Newsroom sees better engagement, culture change, openness, wider network; Audience has more trust, engagement, involvement, better value

I thought some more about this while watching the interesting video mentioned earlier. Editor Grzegorz Piechota, speaking at the 2012 Future Forum (it’s 50 minutes long, and worth the investment of time, I promise) said this about the changing internal structures of the Press: “Editors were responsible for the audience development and we [his newspaper company] simply believe that in the digital world cooperation between the editorial and the marketing side of the newspaper is becoming even more crucial than it was in print.”
Media, converge thyself.

4. We’re competing against Apathy
I don’t routinely worry about BB
C getting a story up online before me - although it might irritate me - or buying a story from an agency I don't have the budget for, or hyperlocal sites establishing local news hubs. That’s not because I am indifferent hyperlocals or the BBC/ITV et al or dismiss what they do, it’s because competition are a reality; I've dealt with it all my working life in one form or another, and there is no monopoly on information.
But I do worry about apathy - about waning attention spans, disappearing audience who aren’t migrating elsewhere, they’re just... gone, and incorrect facts and opinion (Misinfopinion?) that has a half-life of seemingly forever. Just ask Morgan Freeman.
It doesn’t have to be incorrect, either. Media companies Facebook apps have resulted in all kinds of linkbaity non-stories from way back when appearing in my timeline as friends read and share them, apparently failing to spot the ‘2008’ dateline on them).

Kevin Anderson has also blogged about the ‘battle for attention’ here and sums up what bothers me far more purposefully. His considered post, which examines the clamour for audience attention and the bombardment of information we’re exposed to now, is recommended reading.

Finally, while considering how a digital newsroom could and should operate, I found inspiration once more in Grzegorz’s brilliant reality.
In his speech, he explained how his newspaper sent 21 reporters to 21 schools to get the inside view on digital natives and education in Poland. 
His newspaper galvanised Poland’s education system by making people a part of it. More than 20,000 teachers became involved in Gazeta Wyborcaz’s education campaign,  more 7,000 schools participated and changed how they worked, and the government ripped up its policies and started again.
That’s what I call a result.

Now, aside from the rock of bureaucracy most regional editors trying to launch a similar idea would founder against, I can’t imagine having 21 reporters, let alone losing all of them for one week to do research.
Such a project is beyond most the resources of most press (regional, at least) but I can see a way of crowd sourcing investigations.
It would involve a lot of planning, a lot of goodwill, and a lot of mutual trust (these three things are not exactly what the media is known for) but it is not only do-able, it’s desirable. It is, quite possibly, essential for the survival of MSM.

Being able to say “we know how this should be done, and why this should be done - we even have an idea what is going to be found out as a result of doing it - but we can’t do it on our own”  is a digital future that
has to become a reality.
Finding the people who want to be involved, and asking them to do so, isn’t hard (although rejection
is, obviously, but we're big enough to take it).
Wanting to know, and then wanting to understand, are common traits
in us all; journalists in MSM have the advantage in that we’re trained and supported, and have an established platform to parade our work on, as opposed to having to create and build that platform.
But collaborative partnerships do give us opportunities to work across larger-scale stories that might seem out of reach, with mainstream media bringing the benefits of platform, audience, legal protection and guidance.

; that’s my Trinity, always in that order. One informs the other, informs the other. And that would be my future newsroom.

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