links for 2009-07-31

  • Kevin: Steve Yelvington hits the nail on the head, once again, about AP and the horribly botched announcement about the hNews microformat it's effort to 'protect' its content.

    He writes: "Some geeks at the AP got together with some geeks in Europe and came up with a really smart idea. Unfortunately, that smart idea got sucked into the swirling vortex of panic and craziness that reigns at a lot of media companies these days."

  • Kevin: Charlie Beckett makes an interesting point, one close to home as a Guardian employee. Waitrose is part of the John Lewis group, a co-operative business here in the UK. John Lewis is a chain of department stores, and Waitrose is an upscale, values-led supermarket chain. The Guardian is also a value-led organisation supported by the Scott Trust and also by a wholy commercial wing, the Guardian Media Group. Charlie suggests:

    "The idea of the Waitrose model was that the John Lewis’ supermarket shares the same community and values as Guardian readers. North London, liberal, organic, quality, cosmopolitan, over-priced etc. So why shouldn’t Waitrose buy up the Guardian and deliver news as part of the groceries and a series of other services for the Guardianistas such as fringe theatre tickets, French film DVDs, Fairtrade banking etc? I already get a Times newspaper with my Ocado delivery, so why not go the whole (free range) hog?"

  • Kevin: Mark Glaser writes: "Recently, the "citizen photo agency" Demotix has had reason to celebrate. The site gained fame by selling front-page photos to the New York Times taken by Iranians who captured shots of protests after the disputed presidential election in Iran. Then came another seminal moment when the site got the only shot of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. in handcuffs when he was arrested. That photo was featured on CNN, CBS and NBC and in the Washington Post, Boston Globe and other papers, bringing in more than $4,000 for Demotix and the photographer, William B. Carter.

    But the money-losing startup, which launched last year, still has a long way to go to prove that a citizen photo agency is a viable business."

  • Kevin: FeedDemon and NetNewsWire from Newsgator are great piecs of software, and they really show what is possible with standalone RSS readers. Journalists should be using these tools because they help manage huge amounts of information easily. Newsgator announced today that it was discontinuing its online RSS reader and suggesting to their customers that they use Google Reader. They say that they will be focusing on enterprise customers. I really hope that this is a move to focus on their readers and not a sign of distress for the company. They make a great piece of really useful software, and it would be a shame to see them go.

links for 2009-07-30

Social filters have replaced professional ones

Chris Anderson, of Long Tail and now Free fame, is obviously getting peeved at the questions he’s getting from journalists. He says as much in this interview at Frank Hornig at Probably the most important line in this rather tedious interview is when Anderson says:

I read lots of articles from mainstream media but I don’t go to mainstream media directly to read it. It comes to me, which is really quite common these days. More and more people are choosing social filters for their news rather than professional filters. We’re tuning out television news, we’re tuning out newspapers. And we still hear about the important stuff, it’s just that it’s not like this drumbeat of bad news. It’s news that matters. I figure by the time something gets to me it’s been vetted by those I trust. So the stupid stuff that doesn’t matter is not going to get to me.

[From Who needs newspapers when you have Twitter? | Salon News]

Like Anderson, I have developed filters to tune out much of what is in the media. A few years ago journalists were decrying the loss of the all (self-)important gate-keeping function that they said they performed. I got to a point where I thought that if that is what journalists think is their unique selling point then they’re doomed because they are doing a lousy job of determining what is really important.

I spend a lot of time sifting through, while ignoring, much of the garbage produced by media to find a few, small nuggets of information that are useful. I can afford to do that. It’s my job. Not only can I not imagine most people doing this, I think they stopped quite a while ago. They realised that the signal-to-noise ratio was so low that they were better served by just tuning out.

I can ignore most of the childish nonsense that obsesses the mainstream media. Honestly, if it weren’t my job, I would pay to filter out much of this noise. I don’t need to read the professional trolls aka columnists who try to tell me what I should be outraged about. I can figure that out for myself, thank you very much. I do pay for insightful analysis. Most of what obsesses the media is remarkably juvenile, and as the media’s fortunes have waned, they have becoming annoyingly shrill in trying to reassert their role in society. Watchdogs? Defenders of democracy? I wish. Mostly of the media operate as little more than professional gossips and hypocritical scolds.

For the last several years, I have said that the network is my filter. Through blogs, social bookmarking services like Delicious, Twitter and even simple things like email newsletters, I am passed incredibly relevant and high quality information. It’s not that I think professional journalists are superfluous. I just find that social filters are providing an extremely valuable service in recommending the best, most relevant information available.

We’re coming to an economic point where we as journalists have crossed a Rubicon where we can’t do more with less, we’re simply going to have to do less. We just don’t have the resources to create redundant content that provides little value to our audiences. We need to start looking to ways to filter the best information. We need to do it soon. We’re running out of time. Our audiences ran out of patience long ago.

links for 2009-07-29

  • Suw: I'm going through citation hell at the moment, trying to tidy up all the half-written citations in my report. Looks like Zotero might well help me sort out the mess!
  • Kevin: Umair Haque writes an open letter to 'newspaper magnates'. It's well worth a read. Just a taster: "20th century news isn't fit for 21st century society. Yesterday's approaches to news are failing to educate, enlighten, or inform. The Fourth Estate has fallen into disrepair. It is the news industry itself that commoditized news by racing repeatedly to the bottom. It's time for a better kind of news.
    A new generation of innovators is already building 21st century newspapers: nichepapers. The future of journalism arrived right under the industry's nose. Nichepapers, as the name implies, own the microniche."
  • Kevin: My Guardian colleague and journalistic hacker Simon Willison lists a number of tools that non-developers can use to create mash-ups, visualisations and other data-driven web projects. It's a good starting place if you're looking to create a data project but don't know where to start. We'll be using these at the Guardian at our second internal Hack Day.

links for 2009-07-28

  • Kevin: "Total revenue shot up 22% over the year-ago period. Much of the growth came from international expansion of its education publishing, but online revenue at FT Group also contributed."
  • Kevin: A new project in the US 'focused on 'helping newspapers identify a strategy to survive its midlife crisis.'"
    Some ideas:
    • "Focus on taking market share from existing customers in the local market. Yellow Page directories are particularly vulnerable right now, NP 2015 notes.
    • Keep the focus on increasing Internet revenue to push up multiples. Investors value Internet revenue 10 to 20x as much as revenue from print. (Keeping print is an imperative, however)
    • Break down ad sales teams by specialists. Sales people should be category experts — like say those who concentrate on consumer packaged goods — who can sell across all channels."
  • Kevin: Patricia Handschiegel makes an incredibly important distinction in her post looking at website traffic numbers and possibly highlighting why lots of traffic doesn't necessarily mean a successful business: "What a lot of companies are secretly finding out is that traffic does not mean there is an audience, at that at the end of the day, the audience is where the value is. Boasting giant page views and unique visitors means very little when those you are driving to the site are not sticking around, using it or returning."

links for 2009-07-27

  • Kevin: Steve Dennen at comScore Voices writes: "These trends demonstrate the challenge for newspapers to more deeply engage online with the growing number of consumers who do not get any of their news information from the print or online editions of their newspapers. Beyond looking for approaches that will attract these consumers to their own sites, the newspapers must explore alternative ways – including using social media or distributed content as potential distribution models – to reach this audience as the Internet becomes the preferred medium for news consumption. By continuing to evolve their services in a way that aligns with their consumers’ preferences, they may be able to identify alternative ways to offset the revenue lost from their declining print channel."
  • Kevin: The criticicism of the Associated Press continues to roll in. Scott Rosenberg writes: "“A.P. Cracks Down on Unpaid Use of Articles on Web.” That’s the headline on a New York Times article right now. But if you read the article, you see that the Associated Press’s new campaign isn’t only about “unpaid use of articles,” it’s about any use of headlines as links. In other words, it sounds like A.P. is pulling the pin on a legal Doomsday Machine for news and information on the Web — claiming that there is no fair use right to link to articles using a brief snippet of verbiage from that article, or the original headline on the article."
  • Kevin: Josh Karp, founder of The Printed Blog, provides this excellent advice about starting a business, content or otherwise: "It's really important to strike a balance between product development, or available functions, and revenue generation. You want to develop the smallest amount of functionality you need to generate the maximum amount of initial revenue. We focused too much on the product, and not enough on proving that we could make money, and that was a big part of our downfall."
  • Kevin: Paul Bradshaw highlights two posts comparing Associated Press' plans to add content protection to the failing effort of the Recording Industry Association of America to protect content through litigation and fighting music consumers.
  • Kevin: Hat tip for this to Scott Porad, part of the team behind the LOLCat site, I can haz cheezburger writes: "Previously I addressed the misconception that user-generated content is free. To make user-generated content work, Cheezburger expends significant cost to sift through all the user submissions to find the best quality content. However, including this expense, content costs us less to acquire and is undoubtedly of higher quality. This fundamental win-win is the promise of crowd-sourcing and user-generated content."

links for 2009-07-24

  • Kevin: "My answer to the beat reporter was that she should reassess what she does to figure out how she can best serve the audience. It could be that writing two or three stories a day is the answer. Or blogging may provide a way to develop a closer relationship with that audience. The digital revolution is less about adding multimedia tricks than it is about reinventing the role of the journalist."
  • Kevin: "The New York Times is the latest to report Q2 profits mainly due to cost cutting. And like Gannett, McClatchy and Media General, and Journal Communications executives with the New York Times said the chilling ad revenue losses are starting to subside a teeny-tiny bit."
  • Kevin: "Certainly, U.S. newspapers are in a mature industry with low growth potential once recovery from the recession occurs. Most companies will performance reasonably well after the recovery, but certainly some companies will have difficulties because of imprudent strategies and choices. Nevertheless, the industry as a whole will still remain in place producing revenue for many years to come."

links for 2009-07-23

links for 2009-07-22

  • Kevin: There is a bit of contradictory information in this post, but it appears that UK blogging network Shiny Media has gone bust (gone into administration). What is more interesting in this post is the contention that Shiny never got $4.5m in funding and never retracted the information. Something doesn't read right here, but it sounds as if things have been rotten in the state of Shiny for a while.
  • Kevin: A communications lawyer looks at some of the proposals that have been floated recently in the US in order to keep newspapers afloat including outlawing linnking; allowing newspapers to become non-profits; changing copyright, tax or antitrust laws; or mandating the Automated Content Access Protocol. In the end, Jeffrey Neuburger concludes: "As the debate rages over both the root causes of traditional journalism's economic troubles and possible legal solutions, the online world marches on."

links for 2009-07-21