Kevin: New York Times announces layoffs and a hiring freeze. It will also examine its coverage priorities.
Kevin: It says what it does on the tin. Easy blog design for all of those CSS-challenged among us.
Kevin: Ryan Sholin lists five sites and services that can allow news sites to begin innovation today. Not tomorrow after you sign off a deal or buy in consultants or developers. Now. This is a much overlooked part of Web 2.0 innovation.
Kevin: Benjamin Melançon asks: What’s to stop us from doing cool things with geotagged news with Drupal or other existing free software tools? Good question.
Kevin: This was a dumb, poorly financed deal based on a best case scenario that never was going to happen. With the sub-prime meltdown hitting real estate and classified ads, it’s only going to get worse.
Kevin: Steve Outing shares lessons from the Enthusiast Group’s effort to launch outdoor sports focused community groups. In the end, they have closed the business, but they have learned a lot about media, community and UGC.
Last night, Suw and I went to Reuters headquarters in Canary Wharf for an Online News Association event. Reuters was talking about its MJT – mobile journalism toolkit (they used to call it MoJo for mobile journalism but for some reason aren’t using the term any longer). Reuters partnered with Nokia to develop the toolkit after working with the handset maker on a mobile Flash-lite application to highlight their content on the N95. Nokia is trying to understand the needs of journalists in the field and how that might drive development of special applications for consumer-oriented mobile phones like the N95. Reuters is exploring what is possible with the current generation of phones (and networks) while doing some experimentation with what types of story-telling this might allow.
The basic toolkit includes:
- a standard Nokia N95
- a Nokia Bluetooth keyboard
- a Sony digital mic with a bespoke adapter for the phone
- a special tripod
- a solar charger
- a Power Monkey supplemental charger
They also have slightly modified the RSS output from the phone’s production app and WordPress’ RSS intake to allow for some additional RSS elements that Reuters needs in order to handle content correctly. Video is uploaded direct to their hosting service and text goes straight to the blog platform, and an editor is automatically alerted that content has been sent for review and publication. The material can then be published to various platforms.
The discussion was lead by Ilicco Elia, Mobile Product Manager Europe; alongside Mark Jones, Global Community Editor; Matt Cowan, European Technology, Media and Telecommunications Correspondent; and Nic Fulton, chief scientist for Reuters media. Ilicco gave an overview of how Reuters and Nokia decided to work together.
Nic said that they decided to work on multi-horizon strategy, looking at what they could do right now, what they could do in the near future and aspirational things they might want to do a lot further down the line. Right now, the N95 takes 5-megapixel stills, near DVD-quality video and works on 3.5G data and WiFi networks. But Ilicco is already looking to the future:
We see in five years, HD video, extremely powerful CPUs. You might say it’s a laptop, but it will still be a personal, mobile device.
They worked directly with Timo Koskinen, the project manager for Nokia’s research centre. Matt Cowan talked about his experience with the toolkit, showing video he shot of Vint Cerf at the Media Guardian’s Edinburgh TV festival. My colleague Jemima Kiss has an overview of the experiment and talked with Matt about the toolkit for the Guardian’s digital content blog.
Before joining Reuters, Matt worked for Canadian CTV covering California. There he did work shooting and editing his own pieces, so he had experience with multimedia reporting. Matt said that he fed back his experiences directly to Nokia. The phone is a bit difficult to hold steady, which isn’t surprising – it’s not like balancing a hefty traditional TV camera on your shoulder, which provides some stability.
I’ve experienced this same problem myself, first hand, doing a video journalism project for the BBC in 2003. I used a Sony PD150, a ‘pro-sumer’ digital video camera. Doing handheld work takes practice because the light camera is much easier to shake, despite built-in motion compensation.
- unreliability of 3G networks (Ilicco said they had spoken to Vodafone but didn’t seem very pleased with response)
- battery life, although this improving
- it takes six hours for the solar panel to recharge the phone
- the brutal costs for data roaming charges
Matt talked later about this would allow journalists to develop relationships with the audience.
There were slightly predictable questions about quality. One of the journalists said “cutting quality is a fancy way of saying cutting corners”. One of the shots, an opportunity shot backstage at a New York fashion show was a bit jerky, and one person asked what the point of the video was.
What I really liked from the Reuters team was this spirit of experimentation. Matt said:
I don’t think that this will change everything overnight. It is an incredibly exciting tool. It will change how we report certain stories. … It’s not ‘I’m here in front of this building, and this happened 10 hours ago’. You have immediate interaction, an intimacy. You’re in the environment.
As Howard Owens recently said after widely circulated comments from Rob Curley about the difference between mindset and skillset, having the right skills doesn’t mean that someone is open to innovation and entrepreneurial ideas. Owens calls it the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.
And I think he puts the ‘quality’ debate in perspective:
There were some comments about how we would see “Bloggers doing this in a year’s time”, but as Suw said last night, bloggers have been doing this for years. I often say that keeping an eye on bloggers and other grassroots media is a good way to find inspiration for new ways to get the story. I still remember at the 2000 Democratic Convention in Los Angeles seeing an IndyMedia reporter backing up as mounted police moved towards him. He has carrying a PowerBook with a webcam and an early wireless modem strapped on it, sending live video from the streets to the net.
But one thing that was refreshing was to hear Reuters talk about community and bloggers in such a positive way. Mark talked about Reuters’ community strategy:
Reuters have their own blogs and their YouWitness user-submitted photo and story effort. They have invested in Pluck and its Blogburst aggregator service. They also partner with multi-lingual blog community Global Voices, including on their Reuters Africa project, and they have a carbon trading community.
And Matt said that he saw advances in mobile technology as an even bigger boon to bloggers. He knows the founder of eco-community TreeHugger who used to have to trek to internet cafes to feed his site but now can do it almost anywhere. Bloggers can “build a brand with their own thoughts.”
In 1999, I covered Hurricane Floyd as it made landfall in North Carolina for the BBC News website. I filed throughout the night, but after the storm passed, it knocked out electricity and phone lines throughout the eastern third of the state. I wasn’t able to file a number of pictures I had taken because I simply had no way to get them back to the back to base. Within months after the storm, I had a data cable for my mobile phone. As the mobile technology got better, I could do more in the field. In 2006, on a trip for the BBC’s World Have Your Say, I was able to use a 3G data card in the US to set up a mobile WiFi hotspot and keep us connected when standard communications channels failed.
Mobile technology lets journalists stay closer to the story and connected not only to our office but also to our audience. The news organisations that experiment now will be best placed to take advantage of the journalistic possibilities that ever-advancing mobile technology allows.
Suw: Robert Scoble is not impressed with the Kindle he bought. I’m not famous enough to be given a review Kindle, and I’ve no desire to buy something with DRM baked in, so I guess I’ll never know what it’s like. I’m not missing much, by the looks of it.
Suw: Fancy being on about 700 databases? Well, you probably already are…
(Thanks to Euan.)
Kevin: Tom Coates says: “In France with blogs and the US, cultural products try to look up to date by actively pushing new sites and services. In the UK, cultural products are resistant to the new, denying their impact.”
Kevin: This is a belated link but I was looking through my unread feeds and found this link from Bryan at College Media Innovation titled “The last words of a journalist: that’s not my job”. It was inspired by Merand Watling, a young journalist getting
Steve Outing highlighted on Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits how useful Twitter can be during breaking news. Sending out short burst updates during a breaking news event can keep journalists in the field and close to the story while quickly filing updates that can easily be pulled via RSS into your site. He wrote:
In the not-so-distant past, I would have urged you to create a breaking-news blog for your news site if any big story like those hit in your backyard. …That’s so 2004! You can still do it, and probably should. But the breaking-news blog is about to be supplanted (or perhaps supplemented is a better word) by the Twitter breaking-news feed.
I don’t think it’s an either/or proposition. Twitter can be a good resource to reach your audience via SMS and even desktop alerts if you encourage your subscribers to follow breaking news ‘tweets’ via applications like Twitterific. But you can easily pull that into a blog via an RSS feed, and really, in the age of networked journalism, it’s about your site being a hub in the network to disseminate news. Journalists back at base can tap into the network for leads, pictures and first person reports.
I’ll give you an example from last week when we looked out our window here on the fifth floor of the Guardian and saw black smoke billowing from somewhere in east London. Journalism.co.uk noted the pace of updates across several different sites and services, including Twitter, Flickr and the Guardian’s Newsblog:
The first tweet Journalism.co.uk saw on the fire came from the Guardian’s head of blogging Kevin Anderson shortly before 12:30pm. Anderson has also posted pictures to Flickr and at 12:45pm posted an entry on the events to his Guardian blog.
I also did a quick post here on Strange Attractor. A commenter from Washington DC found the post and said:
Greetings from Washington D.C. Getting reports here that it is an industrial site. Stock futures markets moving up after intial shock. Looks ugly but, industrial chemical fires usually are. Yours was the first blog I came across that had the story. Who needs cables news? Will be watching to see how story develops. Thanks for posting
I was able to post faster and with more pictures and information than Sky and the BBC, which we were watching in the office. Flickr users noted that they were seeing more pictures on the site than on traditional news sites and TV channels. I also used Technorati to find video posted to YouTube before Sky had its helicopter on the scene. People were also posting links in the comments on the Guardian Newsblog.
Since the advent of radio and television, newspapers have been pushed out of the breaking news business. News is frozen at the time you have to go to press. Web-first has only slowly been embraced by newspapers and newspaper journalists.
I do sometimes find that newspaper journalists suddenly pushed into the 24/7 news cycle can feel that quality suffers as one daily deadline becomes a rolling deadline. But the internet does both immediacy as well as depth as Paul Bradshaw recently highlighted in the first of his 21st Century Journalism series of posts.
The strengths of the online medium are essentially twofold, and contradictory: speed, and depth.
And Paul’s ‘News Diamond’ shows how a story passes from speed to user control. It’s a great series of posts, and Paul’s thinking has brought together some brilliant ideas. Ideas that I’ll use the next time I’m blogging breaking news.
I was sitting in the office, which is a role for a networked journalist to play pulling together a news organisation’s own coverage while also aggregating the best of crowdsourced content. But I think there is also a role for field journalists to use Twitter, blogging software or other forms of flexible field filing to break news. Blogging was liberating for me as a journalist if for no other reason as a field journalist, it gave me a much easier way to file than using traditional content management systems that are made to work in the office but are unusable in the field. Until traditional CMSes provide that kind of flexibility, they will have significant drawbacks when compared to blogging platforms. But that’s another post for later.
Kevin: A great overview of milblogs, members of the military who blog. I’ve worked with several soldier bloggers to get another view of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s an amazing, almost immediate view on the wars from a first person point of view.
Kevin: Steve Outing writes about breaking news coverage via Twitter. I used Twitter to quickly write about a fire in London last week. It is good for alerts.
Kevin: Steve Yelvington has a smart, nuanced response to a Guardian article decrying the death of sharp newspaper headline writing as newsrooms integrate. Print and web are two different media and require different approaches to succeed.
Kevin: Clyde Bentley looks at the difference between bloggers and journalists. “The more I look, the less evidence I find to support my assumptions about what information interests people, how they value it and what they believe.”
Kevin: Tish Grier says about journalism: “we can get things to change, but we have to get over the entrenched professionalism of the past 20-odd years that is blocking any sort of innovation and creative thinking that might bubble up from the people”
Kevin: I’m loathe to link to Henry Blodget after his record as an analyst during the dot.com boom. But he points that the Washington Post’s newspaper business may slip into the red.