links for 2009-09-15

  • Kevin: This project has been running for a while, but like many Google projects, it was running quietly. Suw used it to help a friend move a blog from Google's blogger to WordPress. Now, Google has taken the raps off of it. It really builds on the idea of data portability, which got quite a bit of notice a few years back but since then has gone a little quite. The Data Liberation Front, a group of Google Chicago engineers, has been working on a data liberation product. "What does product liberation look like? Said simply, a liberated product is one which has built-in features that make it easy (and free) to remove your data from the product in the event that you'd like to take it elsewhere."
  • Kevin: Jim Gaines constructs an extended metaphor about newspaper reporters and the decline of their business. He says about reporters: "I feel bad for you. You didn’t do anything wrong. You were great. And to watch you stare at death, unable to see your way up and over to storytelling heaven, where paper, ink and distribution are free, is in fact exquisitely painful."
    I disagree with him. Some had their heads focused on work, and journalism is consuming work. However, many more have actively resisted change for more than a decade. Many have and continue to heap scorn on digital journalists. Journalists do have some responsibility in the decline of their business.
    I will agree with him. The road is plainly marked, but it has been for more than a decade. I can appreciate his sentiment to try to encourage reporters to take advantage of this plain path ahead of them. However, had more chosen to take the path when times were easier, we wouldn't be suffering now that times are very hard.
  • Kevin: This is a really interesting bit of data about trust in the press in the US, but I wonder if it's not reflecting an increase in partisanship over the past 15 years in US politics as much as it is reflecting in a decline in trust. It's worth reading the partisan press section of the report. I think trust has declined, and partisanship is only a part of it. Without trust and credibility, it will add to newspapers woes as they struggle with business issues during the recession.
  • Kevin: The team building the DocumentCloud, a hosting system for news organisations to process and host documents, has released something very interesting, the CloudCrowd, "a heavy-duty system for document processing". They have detailed explanation of how it works, and they have released the code on GitHub. If you're processing documents, this is definitely something to investigate.
  • Kevin: Mindy McAdams looks at the New York Times' map of water polluters. Mindy has written a book about Flash and journalism so she knows what she's talking about when she says:
    "Producing this kind of data graphic requires three personnel assets:

    * Expert reporters
    * Data integration expertise
    * Flash graphic expertise

    The New York Times might be the last newspaper in North America that has all three."

  • Kevin: The New York Times does an excellent visualisation of water pollution violations in the US as part of a large series on the subject. It's well done and allows people to see polluters near them either on a map or using zip (postal) codes.
  • Kevin: "Heaping criticism and scorn on media companies has worked well for Mike Masnick, operator of the popular blog Techdirt. Masnick is the firey commentator who blasts copyright owners and anyone else he believes has failed to accept that in the Digital Age most of the control now rests with consumers. He strongly maintains, however, that there are still ways for entertainers, artists, and journalists to make money. They just have to be developed." He's now working on experiments of whether content creators can make money by giving away content and seeking to generate revenue via alternate revenue streams.
    "Instead of charging for his posts, Masnick offers fans a range of other items or services to purchase, such as a Techdirt T-shirt, spending a day with Masnick, or access to his stories before they're posted."
  • Kevin: Alan Mutter highlights a survey for the American Press Institute that found: "A bare 51% of the newspaper publishers in the United States believe they can charge successfully for access to their interactive content, according to a survey released today. The other 49% of publishers either fear that pay walls will fail or just aren’t sure." And Mutter concludes: "While the success of launching a pay solution would seem to require a fairly broad and concerted approach among not only newspapers but also other news outlets, the survey shows little common ground among even newspapers as to how to proceed."
  • Kevin: "Today, the New York-based company is launching the transmedia property about an epic battle between science and nature, between sci-fi and fantasy. It starts as both a free-to-play online battle game, where you can start for free but have to pay for upgrades, and a kids’ comic book in the Japanese manga tradition (see image below of Dragons Vs. Robots: Blade Guardian). A live action film is under way in collaboration with Jinks/Cohen Productions, makers of the film American Beauty. Over time, the company also expects to produce novels, animated web videos, toys and more."
  • Kevin: Frédéric Filloux, editor for the Norwegian group Schibsted, gives a good roundup of the revenue picture for US newspapers and also some of the proposals for paid content including Brill's Journalism Online. He looks at some of the key components of a "modern paid-for system for news sites". The comments express a lot of cynicism about readers paying for news. I would echo the questions from John Einar Sandvand in the comments: "So what are the content areas and ways of packaging the content that makes it possible to charge online? What are the attractive premium products news sites can develop in the digital world?"