links for 2009-09-24

  • Kevin: ProPublica is using money from the Knight Foundation to hire two companies to improve its abilities to raise fund online and through traditional means of institutional and foundation fund-raising.
  • Kevin: Dan Kennedy blogs about a Clay Shirky Presentation: With newspapers supplying about 85 percent of accountability journalism, Shirky said that what we need are a large number of small experiments to try to make up some of the gap. He divided those experiments into three parts:

    * Commercial: The traditional advertising model for newspapers, magazines and broadcasters.
    * Public: News organizations funded by money unconnected to commerce, the prime examples being public radio and non-profit news sites.
    * Social: Journalism produced mainly through donated time, including certain pro/am crowdsourcing initiatives such as Off the Bus, a citizen-journalism project that covered the 2008 presidential campaign for the Huffington Post."
    The entire post is well worth reading. There is a lot to digest in this discussion about "accountability journalism".

  • Kevin: This is definitely one of the posts where the comments are probably just as important as the post itself. Why? Emily Bell, the head of digital content at The Guardian, and Guardian Editor Alan Rusbridger respond to comments. In response to the a commenter implying that layoffs at the Guardian are due to the amount of money spent on our internet operations, Alan says: "That's not actually right. Since 2002/3 our spending on (operational and capex) has exceeded revenue by just £20m. There's a crisis in the industry, and the Guardian is no more immune than anyone else, but it's a myth that we've plouged lunatic sums into digital."
  • Kevin: Marshall Kirkpatrick attempts to explain the real-time web in 100 words or less. He begins: "The Real-Time Web is a paradigm based on pushing information to users as soon as it's available – instead of requiring that they or their software check a source periodically for updates." He asks for input.
  • Kevin: Wendy Parker looks at a the possibilities of a one-man news operation taking over a local news site in Kansas City Kansas. "Nick Sloan, 24, purchased the Kansas City Kansan from Gatehouse Media and will be a one-man news operation, covering suburban Wyandotte County." She has a nuanced, pragmatic take on the project. "It’s important to outline the possibilities for hyperlocal news, and to offer words of caution. But it’s also unfair to fold any single effort either into insanely optimistic projections of success or into a dismissive argument that they are unlikely to reach their readership or earning potential.

    Each project deserves to be looked at on its own merits, in the context of the unique community and niche it serves."

links for 2009-09-23

  • Kevin: Steve Outing, who I count as a friend, has another blockbuster column full of analysis in Editor & Publisher looking in-depth about paid content. He draws on a lot of information and experience. He says: "But MOST digital news content, I am going to suggest to you, has no monetary value to readers or viewers. Sure, it has value for advertisers, who will pay to get in front of the audience assembled to consume the content." Instead of simply heaping scorn on paid content ideas, he also looks at ideas that could work including 'freemium' models and apps. Well worth the read.
  • Kevin: Great career advice for journalists from Steve Buttry. "Wherever you are as a journalist and wherever you want to go, you can elevate your career by working on personal development. Editors, colleagues and training programs will help you move to a higher level, but nothing will help as much as your own commitment to improvement." Couldn't agree more with that. The post reminded me of areas that I can improve. If there is anything I suffer from, it's lack of focus. It's not just about being distracted by shiny technology but by having possibly too many things going on at once.
  • Kevin: Paul Walsh writes: "I agree governments (not just the Irish one, but others too as they’re all the same wherever you go) should do more to help small businesses – especially during the troubled times.

    However, I think too many entrepreneurs feel ‘entitled’ to hand-outs in the form of grants and conference subsidies."

links for 2009-09-22

  • Kevin: "Blogs are often criticized for helping to kill print media. Last week, though, the prominent political blogger Andrew Sullivan used his forum on to tell readers to subscribe to the print edition of the magazine. … It worked. Within two days after last Monday’s post, Mr. Sullivan’s appeal pulled in 75 percent of the subscriptions that the Web site draws in a typical month, the magazine’s publisher, Jay Lauf, said."

links for 2009-09-17

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?"

links for 2009-09-11

  • Kevin: "Without any fanfare, Google has launched a new resource called "Google Internet Stats" which brings together industry facts and insights from across five different industries." It looks like a product being trialled in the UK. Very useful if you're looking for UK/European internet industry stats. Still wish that we had a Pew Center for Internet for the UK.
  • Kevin: Suw and I watched President Barack Obama's address to students in the United States, and one of the applause lines for Suw was when he said: "you can’t let your failures define you – you have to let them teach you. You have to let them show you what to do differently next time". Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures talks about he has learned this lesson in his own life. He talks about the hard lessons he learned in the crash. Often when we succeed, we don't take away lessons that help us repeat that success, but if we fail and learn, we can make sure that even if we fail again, it won't be for the same reasons.

links for 2009-09-10

  • Kevin: Jason Fry writes: "I’ve written before about the possibility of a new compact: one in which journalists are “micro-brands” within the paper, tackling the expanded duties of chatting and shooting video and beatblogging (and thus creating new contexts for attracting and keeping readers) in return for a higher public profile and some portable brand equity. But that’s just half of it: Papers also have to face the reality that not only established but also new writers will want to pursue outside opportunities, whether their goal is to make more money, build their brands or just scratch a creative itch."

    In some ways, I see and understand some of the ethical issues. On another level, this really grates. Big name writers have always operated as media properties unto themselves. Why is it right for them but not less established writers?

  • Kevin: "Ten private companies, a number of US Government Federal Agencies primarily in the Health sector and the OpenID and Information Card Foundations will announce this morning in Washington DC the launch of a pilot program to allow members of the public to log in to participating government websites with their credentials from approved independent websites. "
  • Kevin: "With journalists being laid off in droves, ideologues have stepped forward to provide the “reporting” that feeds the 24-hour news cycle. The collapse of journalism means that the quest for information has been superseded by the quest for ammunition. A case-study of our post-journalistic age."

    This is an interesting piece showing how vested political interests seed the mainstream media with stories. The only point in which I might disagree with it is that this is not a product of blogs and the internet age. This has been going on for years with various political groups trying to spin the media. This effort might be aided by politically active bloggers, but it's not new. Basically, this is crowd-sourced opposition research. It's an old practice with a bit of a new twist.

links for 2009-09-09