A wending path does lead

July 23, 2008 by  
Filed under News, Online, SMO, Social Networking

As the internet leads a wending path, a range of discussions (starting with Jeff Jarvis and on to Stilgherrian’s comments section) brought me to news.com.au’s live Twitter coverage of the pope at WYD08 on http://twitter.com/popedownunder.
Twitter - popedownunder

I like the live Twitter event coverage (as a personal effort instead of just a pushed RSS feed).
The Twitter account web link was to news.com.au’s in-depth WYD08 coverage page, linking to their What’s on when? page, with an embedded Google map.
Follow that through to the same Google map, full sized, showing, amongst other things, pilgrimage routes, papal motorcade and boat-a-cade routes, and locations for mass.
The creator of that map, news.com.au journalist Alexandra Marceau, has also created 58 other news maps for individual stories. What’s great about creating a map for an individual story is that it’s a mapped record of that story, available through a permanent list of user-created maps.

Obviously, you say, but I’ve been in the habit of giving a quick search-generated map reference link to online for a news story, one that simply points to the intersection where said news event took place, for example. That’s not a permanent record, and doesn’t extend the news into the “user-generated content” section searchable within Google Maps. Creating individually annotated news maps is something I’ll consider doing from now on, time permitting.

It would also be much better if I could mash up a geotagged rss feed with Google Maps to automatically show news down to the street, or at least suburb, level. That’s something I would still like to work on, again, time permitting.

Mind you, somebody much smarter than me is probably already doing that.

Did Pope Benedict crash Australia’s ABC Online website?

July 15, 2008 by  
Filed under Media, News, Online

The ABC website was down for a while yesterday morning. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen their site offline, and the message would seem to suggest it wasn’t scheduled.

I was trying to find something about a contact who was on Australian Story earlier this year, when I was faced with this ABC Online: Outage page. I tried navigating to a few other pages, but the entire abc.net.au domain was off the radar.

The following screengrab was taken Monday, July 14, 1.50am, and says:ABC Online outage

We’re sorry…

We’re unable to supply the service you have requested. This may be due to unavoidable technical problems or very high load on our site. We apologise for any inconvenience and anticipate that normal service will resume shortly.

Twitter - popedownunder - tallI did wonder if the blue was a nice homage to Microsoft’s universally recognised blue screen of death. The only reason I can think of for the site being down at that time is perhaps an influx of Catholics looking for news about the Pope’s arrival in Australia. Our 1-2am would usually be prime internet traffic time for both the west and east coast of the US (8-9am and 11am-12), as well as Europe (5-6pm).

Mobile journalism, citizen journalism and virtual worlds

July 15, 2008 by  
Filed under Delicious, Mobile, Online

Originally from my auto-posting daily Delicious links, I have cut this back to just a few links I have added comment to and those I think particularly useful. I have also retitled the post. This is in preparation for a blog redesign, where I no longer want posts titled “links for YYYY-MM-DD”. A live stream of Delicious links will also always be available in a sidebar widget and/or stand-alone page.

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Cover It Live – free live blogging tool

July 1, 2008 by  
Filed under Journalists, Online, Other blogs

Cover It Live - free live blogging toolI just sat in on a live blog using Cover It Live.

James Mowery from Performancing was demonstrating how it works.

A lot of bloggers on mainstream news sites already do ‘live blogging’, often on a regular day and at a regular time, and this tool could make their lives a little easier. Even if not working with an already clunky CMS, managing a live blog can be difficult at the best of times.

I like the ability to embed the live discussion within a blog’s post page – or on any page – and then easily manage things from the Cover It Live interface. A three-pane view shows additional functions (like inserting a poll), the content box, and incoming comments.

The Media Library is a great tool.  You can permanently store content in folders (audio, video, images, polls, links, ads and prewritten text), then drag relevant content for a specific live blogging session into a prepared show folder.  (see demo)

The benefit of this is preparing a live blog with what you already plan to say and present.  Many mainstream media blogs don’t really provide the functionality or interactivity of an actual live conversation.  A blog post is made, and then the live blogger takes and responds to comments, with no real further addition to their initial post it is essentially a statement up for discussion.  With Cover It Live, that can be spread out in real time, inviting more interactivity.

Image function could be improved.  During the live blog session you can  post images or video that the participants will be able to open and watch.  The way Cover It Live works, images at this stage can’t be too detailed as it looks like they’re restricted to about 330 x 220 px.   A full screenshot, for example, is difficult to view, whereas a portrait image of a person comes out looking fine.  In image selection, general web thumbnail standards should apply – crop tight.

Different templates can also be created that will show your branding before the blog goes live, while in progress, and once the live blog session has ended.

Cover It Live is probably best served covering a live event, and that was probably its intent.  I can see the downside for mainstream news bloggers who take the statement-response approach would be that newcomers to the conversation have to try and catch up with what has already been said.

On the standard static screen, they can at least read all the other comments and responses, easily, before choosing to engage themselves.
The live blog I sat in on, including a review of Cover It Live:

And a review focused on live blogging news events using Cover It Live:

It pays to be with iStockphoto

May 9, 2008 by  
Filed under Online, Pictures

iStockphoto logoI’ve just logged into my iStockphoto account for the first time in over six months, and am mildly surprised to see I have earned some money.

I only have three images available for purchase in my portfolio there. Admittedly they’ve been there for quite a long time but I wonder if the hit rate is because of good keywords, because there are a large number of purchases comparative to views on one of the photos.

One of the images has been purchased by one out of every five people who have viewed it in the last 18 months, while the other has only seen 1% of viewers purchasing.

In the case of the second image, the higher number of views could be a result of more keywords associated with the image, and therefore less specialised searching allowing people with too many interests to view the image. In the first example, a specific few keywords means only people who want that kind of image are seeing it.

Anyway, I thought it interesting that so few photos added to iStockphoto are still giving some sort of a ‘return’, no matter how small.

Digital journalism – attempt first, succeed later

Digital media isn’t about a perfect product straight out of the box, it’s about taking the first step and just having a crack.

You’ve got NO EXCUSE
via News Videographer

I’m extremely impressed with these high school student journalists and the site. If they can do this, you really have NO EXCUSE.

Just have a go. Try your hand, you never know the amazing stories you can tell in new ways. You only learn through experience.

As part of that, there must be a culture within newsrooms that allows the freedom to fail in respect to digital media. You only fix mistakes by making them, and if people are going to learn the new skills they’re going to have to not be afraid to make mistakes.

Encourage your newsroom to change.

The most basic things to encourage self-learning in are video and audio recording. Don’t even worry about editing skills if people have zero experience or are discouraged. Just teach them to hit record. Give the result to someone else to edit/craft, and then give feedback.

Location based News and Media

April 30, 2008 by  
Filed under Media, Online, SEO, SMO

The MediaShift Idea Lab have linked to a great list of examples of mainstream media using location-based technology in news delivery.

Personally, I like the idea of geo-tagging content so that readers can get a map view of their news across the city, state or country, and then be able to pick out what news to follow in feeds based on particular regions.

I’ve been experimenting with Yahoo!Pipes in trying to do that with news content that hasn’t specifically been prepared to be ‘locative’. It’s certainly time-intensive experimentation while I teach myself, and is yet to yield the results I’d like.

The list linked to by Paul Lamb is by LoJo connnect, who are also conducting a survey of news outlets and their offerings/experiments in locative media.

Paul Lamb at MediaShift Idea Lab

Newspaper circulation dips further

April 29, 2008 by  
Filed under Media, Online, Print

Print circulation showed another dramatic decline in the US in figures released on Monday.

As Louis Hau from Forbes says in the article linked from Romenesko, circulation decline isn’t the biggest problem, it’s monetising an increasingly online readership.

The industry’s most pressing problem isn’t the state of print circulation, which has been in decline since the mid-1980s. Instead, it is figuring out how to generate more advertising revenue from both its shrinking but still lucrative print product and its growing online properties.

Is it the beginning of the end for newspapers? Not likely, since dropping circulation has been ‘the beginning of the end’ for the last 20 years according to Hau’s quote above.

It’s just the beginning. Smaller community newspapers will continue to provide local news, including in a web presence. Larger metropolitan dailies may become media outlets, of which their newspaper is a component of the news distribution methods they offer, rather than their defining characteristic.

Until someone comes up with an effective monetisation strategy for web and mobile content that can either match current print advertising revenue, or at the very least break even, the doom and gloom outlook for newspapers will continue.

Sourced from Romenesko:

Print newspaper circulation continues on its steep downward slide
Editor & Publisher
Some ABC FAS-FAX numbers for the six-month period ending March 31, 2008:
* New York Times down 9.2% on Sunday, 3.8% daily
* Washington Post down 4.3% on Sunday, 3.5% daily
* Wall Street Journal up 0.3
* Los Angeles down 6% on Sunday, 5.1% daily
* USA Today up .27% to 2,284,219
* Boston Globe down 6.4% on Sunday, 8.3% daily

> How the top 25 daily newspapers performed in the FAS-FAX report (E&P)
> Louis Hau: Why circulation declines aren’t a wholly reliable barometer of overall performance. (Forbes)

SMO: Social Media Optimisation

April 5, 2008 by  
Filed under Media, News, Online, SEO, SMO, Social Networking

Social Media sitesSocial Media Optimisation, or SMO, is gaining momentum as the new content distribution buzzword. Content is increasingly shared, and news content particularly is delivered through social networking sites. Will SMO replace SEO, search engine optimisation, as the way news organisations get their content seen by a wider audience?

A New York Times article last week tried to explain the future of news distribution by describing how ‘the young’ share news online via social networks.

SMO, or Social Media Optimisation, is one of the most important stories of the new media campaign – for several reasons.

  1. MSM (main stream media) are beginning to understand that social content distribution is a serious threat to their current distribution methods
  2. MSM in the main were disrespectfully late in adopting SEO, and
  3. It’s only now, well into the Facebook boom, that people are starting to take notice of the value of SMO.

While SEO, Search Engine Optimisation, will remain very important to news gathering and searching methods, it could soon be superceded by a much more important player in news distribution channels and strategies – Social Media Optimisation, or SMO.

How do people share information online? How do they find it? How does social media facilitate this?

What the New York Times article shows is the acceptance, if only partial, of the concept of SMO – that news is no longer force-fed, it is now shared, social, viral, and word of mouth.

Young people expect to see video with campaign stories
New York Times

“And they’ll find it elsewhere if you don’t give it to them, and then that’s the link that’s going to be passed around over e-mail and instant message,“ says Huffington Post’s Danny Shea. Brian Stelter writes: “Younger voters tend to be not just consumers of news and current events but conduits as well — sending out e-mailed links and videos to friends and their social networks. And in turn, they rely on friends and online connections for news to come to them. In essence, they are replacing the professional filter — reading the Washington Post, clicking on CNN.com — with a social one.“
via Romenesko

Like it or not, for traditional news media the news is a commodity that must sell. For it to sell and make money, it must be traded, clicked, monetised, and advertised. When content went online, MSM (mainstream media) very slowly caught up to the idea of SEO – making content user and search engine friendly.

Arguments from MSM – and let me be brutally honest here – dinosaurs, have been that using SEO techniques in news media is simply bowing to a digital master. Many in MSM have for too long bucked at what they call ‘writing headlines for a machine’.

That argument represents a fundamental lack of knowledge about how the future of information distribution will be shaped, and does not bode well for the necessary rapid uptake of SMO – integration with Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, Pownce, Tumblr, Stumbleupon, and numerous other variety of social networking startups.

People use the internet to search for information. When doing so, people looking for a story about the conclusion of the divorce trial between Heather Mills and Paul McCartney would most likely use the search terms, heather mills divorce, or paul mccartney divorce, or heather mills paul mccartney divorce, or even add the word settlement to any of those searches. They will not search using a print headline like “Damnation of Her Ladyship“ or “Lady Liar“, from the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror respectively, both on March 19.

People use a search engine to find what they are looking for, so writing page or article titles that assists them to do that is by no means writing headlines for a machine – it is writing headlines that will help real people find information using a machine.

But as MSM has only recently grasped the importance of doing this, and just as they catch up and start optimising content for search, the rules of the game gradually begin to change again.

MSM need to not be left behind this time. News in the new world of digital media is shared. Social media is word of mouth advertising. Social media is recommending a product to a friend, and whether that be viral video or a news story, it is a link to content of mutual interest, shared among a community of friends, a seperate community of family, another community of professional contacts, and innumerable other communities that gather around hobbies.

That MySpace, or Facebook, may be the flavour of the social networking month and gone tomorrow as another new social networking site enters the friend-swapping fray, is no good reason to neglect to stay in the game. If you’re only just starting to embrace MySpace as the skyrocketing Facebook begins to face new competition from bebo, you’re two full lengths behind the leaders.

The only saving grace for MSM in the past is that they have generally formed a pack that lag behind the innovators. Be warned though, as soon as your competition gets a clue and embraces the reality of online content sharing and community building in their news distribution strategy – you’ll find out just how lazy you’ve been when you lose community respect and relevance.

When the editors and owners hit the panic button and ask, “What the hell have you been doing? We’ve been left behind!“ – What will you say?

Integration is not just newsrooms. Integration is leading innovation, or at the very least keeping up with it.

Traditional media no longer control the news distribution channels.
Seed your content. Link out. Allow your video to be embedded, linked to, displayed elsewhere.

Slow progress

March 25, 2008 by  
Filed under Online, SEO, Social Networking

Apologies for the infrequency of posts. The site has been undergoing a protracted redesign, and in the process has seen a dramatic decline in its most important aspect – content.

In the meantime, please take a look at one of the new additions, my Reading List, which has been added to the right sidebar.

It’s my selection of the best and most useful content from a wide array of new media blogs and industry sites that I regularly read.

Updated in real time as I hand-select the most valuable content, you can read the best of new media and online news industry content that I would be blogging about if I had the time.

Alternatively, I have also added related post links to the bottom of each individual post page, through which you can delve deeper into this site’s content.


Australian media organisations on Twitter

March 12, 2008 by  
Filed under Media, Online, Social Networking, Technology

In a rush to get this post out, I buried it in another article, Email Old News to Gen C.
It reappears now because it needed to be republished in its own right as a review of Twitter usage in Australian media and politics.


In Australia, very few news organisations use Twitter. As full disclosure, before I continue, I work at The Courier Mail, a News Limited paper.

An informal audit of a selection of Australian media and their Twitter presence

Fairfax Digital logoFairfax masthead sites

ABC News - logoABC News

News Digital Media - News Limited logoNews Limited masthead sites

I am assuming the unused Twitter accounts above belong to these publications, but it’s entirely possible someone could simply be ‘squatting’ on the Twitter user names.
Twitter logoI set up Twitter accounts for all of The Courier Mail’s news sections in early October last year, making our newspaper one of the only two news outlets in Australia using Twitter (that I have found), and definitely one of the largest media contributors to Twitter by number of content categories, but not necessarily volume of content.

The Courier Mail’s current crop of 20 Twitter user accounts are providing free SMS/IM updates on topics ranging from sports, to business, to breaking news, all with tinyurl links to the original story content. I’m now trying to find time to play around with a Facebook page for The Courier Mail, although I rarely have any spare hours at home to spend doing that.

During the process of setting up these Twitter accounts, I did a search to see if other Australian news outlets were already using Twitter.

Of News Limited mastheads, apart from The Courier Mail, none of the other existing News Ltd Twitter users have posted.
Of Fairfax mastheads, only The Age has a single feed, last updated in May 2007.
The ABC has two feeds – one of which I follow to receive local news alerts on my mobile phone.

A search for “news” in Twitter yields a large number of results. Here are just a few (listed as their Twitter user name) that may be of interest – financialtimes, npr news, cbcnews, wired, ITN_NEWS, BBC, SkyNewsBusiness, indianews, SkyNews, and CNETNews.

In the UK, the BBC and Sky have a larger selection of Twitter updates that can be followed.

The 2007 federal election was approaching when I was working on the Courier Mail Twitter accounts so, having already written a story about politics and social networking, I had a look at what political parties had on Twitter.

At the time the results were:
Greens: http://twitter.com/Greens
Three updates in total, all on August 2, 2007, that are worth mentioning.

The Greens have established a twitter and are testing it.
04:11 PM August 02, 2007
Do you receive my Greens twitter?
04:26 PM August 02, 2007
Hrrrmmm, if I was 14 I’d know exactly what would happen
06:39 PM August 02, 2007

Liberal (both spoofs)
Labor: none
Democrats: none
Nationals: none

In 2008, however, the Greens seem to have got their act together with a Twitter page feeding from the Greens Blog website.

I also didn’t find this during the election last year , but https://twitter.com/kevinrudd is another spoof Twitter account.

The possibilities of Twitter as a quick and easy mass distribution method would be well utilised by politicians.

Watch Hulu video in Australia

March 3, 2008 by  
Filed under Media, Online, Videos

Hulu.com icon logo

I recently posted saying it’s not possible to use the online video service, Hulu, in Australia or any country outside the US.

Well, I was wrong. Don Day at Lost Remote was kind enough to make a post about a new service called OPENhulu, where you can download a third-party application that will allow you to watch Hulu shows.

To do this, you must download Hotpot Shield, free software that makes it look like you are browsing from an IP in the United States, therefore allowing you to watch Hulu content via the OPENhulu website.

It’s not entirely foolproof. On downloading the program for use, you only receive a 10 gigabyte bandwidth limit per month to run through their system, which will limit the number of full-length shows you can watch.

You will want to have some good high-speed broadband to be able to watch Hulu’s NBC shows through OPENhulu. Trying to port video content through the Hotspot Shield has proved nigh on impossible for me, simply because of my broadband speed.
I’m on a wireless 3G internet connection, which claims speeds up to 512kbps but rarely reaches 300.

I don’t think you’re required to watch videos through the OPENhulu site. I was also able to watch videos directly at Hulu.com, but it does run ALL your internet traffic through the Hotspot Shield, so whether watching Hulu videos or not, it will slow down your entire browsing experience until you turn off the filter.

It does work though, and that’s the important thing! The videos started downloading and playing for me, even if that was happening too slowly to actually watch them. There is also no message of death informing you the video is not available in your region.

If you were asking the question, “How do I watch Hulu outside of the United States?”, here is your answer to what has likely been a painfully long search.


CIA notes declining newspaper influence

February 9, 2008 by  
Filed under Media, Online, Social Networking

CIA logoThe CIA may not hold the same respect they once had, but you must admit their intelligence-gathering techniques must still be superior to either yours or mine.

The CIA have said newspapers have not just become less important as a source of information, but are in freefall when compared to the growing importance of online information gathering.

From Doug Naikin, director of the CIA’s Open Source Center (OSC), formerly the Foreign Broadcast Information Service which was tasked to collect and analyse public information, comes the following.

What we’re seeing [in] actuality is a decline, a relatively rapid decline, in the impact of the printed press – traditional media.
A lot more is digital, and a lot more is online. It’s also a lot more social. Interaction is a much bigger part of media and news than it used to be.

So watch out. The CIA is trawling your Facebook, Myspace, YouTube and any other social networking media you can think of. Just don’t say the ‘B’ word.

via EJC

Creating a Google storm map

February 7, 2008 by  
Filed under Media, Online, Social Networking

googlemapThe Spokesman Review is doing some cool things with Google Maps.

User generated content is populating a map, so that individual stories are tied to a particular location using plain text, images and video.

This could be compared to Every Block, but for breaking news/continuing stories on a particular event, rather than data.

The potential for storm stories, either by user submitted photos, or using information as it comes in from police, makes it a great tool for 1) rolling updates of affected areas and, 2) a continuing story of what people are experiencing on the ground.

And they’re sending it in to you, talking about it, interacting with it.

Often we may write, “The Smith, Jones, and Harry street bridges in Doe Shire have been washed away by flood waters,” but people could have no idea where those are.

In some instances online sites have been giving a link to a Google map of a street location mentioned in a crime story, for instance.

Expand that to include multiple locations and you have big-picture view, that everyone can see.

Spokesmanreview.com: Storm Stories

Colin Mulvaney works at the Spokesman Review, and for more pearls of online wisdom, see his blog, Mastering Multimedia.

Own your video – YouTube doesn’t pay

February 3, 2008 by  
Filed under Media, Online, Videos

On a Lost Remote post that gave a not-so-rosy outlook for the future of online video, Steve Safran commented that, rather than there simply being no money in online video, “There is no money in giving away your video and hoping someone else will sell it and make you rich”.

The example suggesting there was little money in online video mentioned Perez Hilton from TMZ, who claims to have only made $5,000 from 25 million video views on YouTube. Safran says Perez could realistically be making $500,000 a month.

Of course Perez isn’t making money off video. He’s hosting it on YouTube. That’s a free service. He doesn’t have control over pre-roll tied with banner ads or any of the tracking that’s required to make advertisers want your product. He’s paying nothing for video hosting, so naturally he’s getting next to nothing in return.

Even at a modest $20 CPM (and this should be $30 – $40), he could be bringing in $500,000 a month in preroll ads. He’s missing out on $6 million in inventory.

Safran is adamant that just because you can’t make much money off YouTube doesn’t mean there is no money to be had in online video.

via Lost Remote TV Blog

So what is it about owning your brand that brings in the advertisers? Safran points out that Perez may not be making as much money as he could because of ownership rights to those videos. When online newspapers do video, the ‘wire’ videos from Reuters and Sky News (in Australia) are generic news items. Often they’re not local, or locally owned.

If you don’t get a lot of views, perhaps its because people are aware they could get that news and video at any other site, since you’ll often see the same ‘wire’ video across competing sites, as you would agency stories across print.

So what will a viewing public repeatedly come back looking for? Trusted local content delivery. By trusted, I mean people are aware that the video they want to see can be found with your media organisation so they will eventually, unprompted, return repeatedly to see what’s new.

In the case of TMZ, this is guaranteed celebrity video, pictures and humiliation that will be regularly updated, and that either can’t be seen anywhere else, or is just easier to find on TMZ because you know it will be there. You can ‘trust’ there will be something there to see.

In the case of local news sites, the only video of interest to your loyal readers or viewers that you can guarantee to always have is – local video. And if you do it well, they keep coming back, just to see if you’ve got the video they trust you’ll have. As local content, you absolutely won’t get the 25 million video views that celebrity clips will get on YouTube, but if you’re getting a large chunk of the local population, that translates into excellent advertising dollars locally.

So I remain a believer in the potential of locally produced online news video, and the market for it. Corey Bergman makes a good point in the post in question, consumers are going to begin demanding more accessible content.

Just vaguely thinking about doing online and mobile content delivery won’t cut it. Our news sites need to be aggressive in developing their own multi-platform content-delivery solutions so that, again, by making themselves the reliable point of content consumption they capture the new market, rather than try to catch up with it.

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