the earley edition David Earley - exploring digital journalism and cross-platform delivery of new media Tue, 02 Sep 2014 11:46:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Facebook news feed changes. Again. ‘Clickbait’, image posts and organic reach Wed, 27 Aug 2014 09:19:15 +0000
Facebook news feed

Despite appearances, plush ‘f’ is not the Facebook logo. © Dave Earley | the earley edition

Facebook has introduced more changes to the news feed that will significantly affect news distribution on the platform. Their news feed changes always do but, for what it’s worth, I think this change – announced on Tuesday and aimed at “click-baiting headlines” and “sharing links in posts” – is the most important so far for publishers.

In a nutshell, in order to reduce the effectiveness of “click-baiting headlines”, Facebook say they’re going to give more weight to time on site. Or, more correctly, they’re going to give more weight to time off site – away from Facebook. Without clearer explanation from Facebook this is somewhat of an unknown – so is less in your control than you might think. More on that below.

The second part of the news feed change is clearly and completely in your control. Posts where a link is included in the post text will not be shown to as many people. This is a direct hit to image posts with links and, if taken as gospel, you can mitigate your losses here by using link posts instead of images with links in captions.

1. Click-baiting headlines

With this update we will start taking into account whether people tend to spend time away from Facebook after clicking a link, or whether they tend to come straight back to News Feed when we rank stories with links in them.

Previously, more clicks on your post meant more visibility in the news feed. They’re not saying that this is bad, but it will no longer be enough to generate decent post clicks to win the battle for readers’ news feeds. Facebook will consider something “click-bait” if people come back to the news feed too quickly, or bounce off your site. On the surface, this sounds like a great move for news outlets. If you have quality content that people want to spend time reading (and everyone thinks they do), Facebook will reward you by showing it to more people.

The catch is, there’s no way of knowing at this point what length of time on site Facebook will consider high or low quality, and their subsequent penalty or reward in news feed visibility. Social traffic has a high bounce rate and low visit duration generally, so I’ll be interested to see if many pages see significant drops in Reach before Facebook recalibrates.

Nominally, the measure is meant to signify the quality of content you’ve linked to, but time spent doesn’t strictly relate to quality – on several levels. Firstly, while engaged time with a story can be a very powerful indicator, as my colleague Mary Hamilton has pointed out previously, time on site is not always an accurate measure for quality of news content.

Secondly, it may sound like Facebook is considering page duration, but they are not. They can’t. As they say themselves, Facebook can only consider “time away from Facebook after clicking a link”. What you do or where you go between leaving the news feed and coming back to it, Facebook will attribute to the quality of the link you clicked, even if you immediately ‘bounced’ off that link to something else.

Read Mary’s take on these recent changes Facebook’s news feed here..

2. Sharing links in posts

The second part of Facebook’s announcement is directly related to the first, and that is a change to prefer link posts over image or status posts.

With this update, we will prioritize showing links in the link-format, and show fewer links shared in captions or status updates.

For a long time I’ve advised using image posts with a shortURL included because for me they’ve always performed better in Reach than link posts. Always. Without fail. Interestingly, Facebook say they’re making this change not because of better Reach performance, but because of perceived click-through value:

We’ve found that people often prefer to click on links that are displayed in the link format, rather than links that are buried in photo captions.
In our studies, these posts have received twice as many clicks compared to links embedded in photo captions.

The potential for an image post (and its ‘buried’ link) to go viral is also much higher because the publisher controls the message – via the image caption. Sadly, it looks like this won’t be the case any more if image posts with links will get muted.

Consider this image post from the Courier Mail a few weeks ago. The story was from Perth, not local, and was covered by news outlets around the world. This is an image post with a link included in the caption. It received 88,000 Likes, 6,700 Shares, and 2,300 Comments. And that shortURL? A massive 216,000 clicks through to the story.

As explicitly stated by Facebook, before this news feed change that mass of clicks would have been GOLD to news feed ranking, and combined with almost 90,000 Likes the Reach on that post would have kept pushing it higher in the news feed. Now its effect could be doubly muted by the presence of the shortURL in the post text, and the fact that it was an image instead of link post. It will be a shame if Facebook reduces the effectiveness of good images shared by news organisations. It’s also interesting to note that Facebook doesn’t mention video posts here, and whether the presence of links in post text will affect Reach. It will be worth experimenting with that.

Here’s an example of a link post, if you’re not sure what the difference is between the two. The headline and standfirst are automatically pulled in and displayed. But click on the link and see if you can spot the difference. It’s a way publishers will be able to, in some small way, still control the message content as it spreads.

Every news feed tweak can change your brand’s potential organic Reach, drastically if that tweak is to the post type you most frequently use. So be aware of the news feed changes so you can adapt and at least try to maintain your organic Reach and engagement levels, if not improve them, and amend your post strategy if you need to.

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Here’s why NYT probably won’t implement its brilliant innovation report, and neither will other organisations Thu, 22 May 2014 15:27:20 +0000 This is a test post
The NYTimes probably won’t implement its brilliant innovation report. Most papers will fail to do similar. Here’s why:

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Ten years of The Earley Edition Wed, 09 Apr 2014 07:30:43 +0000 the earley edition
On April 9, 2004, the earley edition – as a blog – was started with an inauspicious post titled: IT’S OFFICIAL. And it was officially bad. More along the lines of awkward #FirstTweets with nothing to say.

Aside, I recently earned a mention from the ABC in their #FirstTweet by Australian news outlets roundup, because the first Brisbane Times tweet (still on record) was a reply to me… But dig a little deeper and their REAL #FirstTweet was deleted. #scandal!

Strangely, #FirstTweets lists the first @couriermail tweet as being in 2008, but I set up the first @couriermail Twitter accounts in 2007.

But I digress.

A decade on, and what have been the highlights here? Thankfully I’m no longer a university student in the throes of overdue assignments and Journalism 101, and while posts have fallen behind in recent years there are still some decent ones to look back on.

Easily the most read, linked to, commented on and tweeted article on this website in the last 10 years has been this post: Australia’s Top 100 Journalists and News Media People on Twitter.

Posted in April 2009, the list was larger than 100 but Top 100 sounded good, like it was rigorously tested. It was not. It was clickbait but, disclaimer, I openly acknowledged that!

The list continued to grow as I actively updated it by requests posted in the comments, but three months later had become so large I trimmed it back to 100 and broke out the full list into a new post: 501 Australian Journalists and News Media People on Twitter. Again, it was more than 500, but 501 was a nice, shareable number!

Ever since I’ve been more than happy to let both posts stand as a historical record of who was on Twitter at the time. And they do a good job of that. Have a look through the comments for some familiar names who requested they be added to the list – which itself earned mentions on Crikey, Mumbrella and in The Australian’s Media section. PRINT, no less!

A month earlier, I’d broken down Australian media organisations on Twitter (originally posted January 2008). The ABC had a few active accounts, but across all of Fairfax and News Limited, The Courier-Mail was the only active mainstream media on Twitter, with a fistful of accounts I’d set up in October 2007 being fed from various sections of the website.

Looking back, April was good for one post a year – maybe it was the pressure of the blog ticking over for another year. Another highlight, posted six years ago this week, was SMO: Social Media Optimisation, looking at mainstream media’s response to the rising use of social media in news distribution. And this in 2008, before SMEGs! SMEG, so 2010.

Other than that, it’s been a good 10 years. Graduated, joined the online team, became digital editor of Seven News Brisbane, digital editor of Quest Community Newspapers, and now back at The Courier-Mail as engagement editor.

Sure, general population usage is low, but Twitter was a game changer in the journalism industry, and for me personally. My presence and contacts there have played a big part in my career movements over the years thanks to building a reputation and, dare I say it, a ‘personal brand’. Thanks for the memories, Twitter!

As always, I remain passionate about the digital distribution of information, particularly the communication of information that helps people make important decisions in their day-to-day lives. Namely, news. So here’s to another 10 years of innovation and experimentation with the earley edition, @earleyedition, and whatever exciting things come along in the future.

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Project Thunderdome Shuts Down – Mad Max and Post Apocalyptic Linotype Mon, 07 Apr 2014 22:20:28 +0000 I was genuinely shocked to hear late last week that Digital First Media’s Project Thunderdome was shutting down. Whether accepted or not by the network of papers it was serving, it was a bold project with a plan to save newspapers with a new model for news.

I was lucky enough to visit the Project Thunderdome office in New York just after they started, while on my CNA scholarship trip in 2012. Between the New York office and visiting the Journal Register properties in Connecticut, I was able to meet Jim Brady, Steve Buttry, Matt DeRienzo and even John Paton.

It was a fairly empty office at that stage. And now it will be again. I wonder where John Paton will park his glorious wooden desk now. Anchoring their open plan New York office, it will suddenly be a very lonely place to sit.

Here’s a roundup of coverage of the shutdown, starting with John Paton’s own post about the announcement:
– John Paton: Moving On From Thunderdome | Digital First

From Mandy Jenkins: Thunderdome’s demise is déjà vu all over again | Zombie Journalism

“Thunderdome never even got the chance to carry out even the beginnings of our goals. We were on the brink.

DFM and Thunderdome was founded on the idea of “putting the digital people in charge”. We were put in charge – and we made positive, forward-moving changes”

– From Steve Buttry: Looking for my next opportunity, whatever that is

Anyone who says Thunderdome failed is wrong. As I said about TBD, you can’t fail unless you were given a chance to succeed.

No denial or sugarcoating here. I don’t agree at all with today’s decision to cut Thunderdome or with the company’s new direction. But neither of those calls was mine to make and I’m not going to criticize them or waste time discussing them.

The newsonomics of Digital First Media’s Thunderdome implosion (and coming sale) » Nieman Journalism Lab

“With Thunderdome folding, the creation and production of national content will presumably fall back to the papers — though don’t expect new resources to be added back, even though some were cut in the move to Thunderdome.
“Paton parlayed a small hand on a way-down-on-the-food-chain (Journal Register Co.) into a major U.S. digital news company.”

Reflections of a Newsosaur: Lessons from the Digital First implosion

Schadenfreude broke out among some publishers today when Digital First Media killed an ambitious interactive publishing initiative and commenced layoffs to bolster the bottom lines of its newspapers in a reported plan to groom them for sale.

But no one should be happy that Digital First hit the wall.

Inside the Thunderdome newsroom: heartbreak and hustle | Poynter

“We still feel like we’re fighting for the future of journalism. We just won’t be doing it together.”

Reinventing a newspaper chain for the digital age is really hard — just ask Digital First Media – by Mathew Ingram on GigaOM

And yet, the images that name conjures up — of the post-apocalyptic world of the Mad Max movies, with brutal hand-to-hand combat and cars retrofitted with machine guns — make it one of the best metaphors for the newspaper world that I’ve heard in a long time.

One of DFM’s most recent efforts was what it called Project Unbolt: an attempt to get the newspapers in the chain to rethink every step of the entire news-gathering and publishing process, in order to try and make it more natively digital first and more efficient.

A number of media-industry insiders responded to the news about Digital First Media with expressions of outright or barely-disguised schadenfreude — about how the demise of Project Thunderdome was unsurprising

Beyond Project Thunderdome | Yvonne Leow
What went wrong at Digital First Media — and what’s next? | Poynter

Above, a Linotype machine I found hidden in a corner at the New Haven Register.
Below, getting my #famousjournogeeksimet on with John Paton in the Project Thunderdome office.

And here, Storified, reactions to the collapse of Thunderdome.

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Choose the perfect typeface for every project Tue, 01 Apr 2014 05:50:04 +0000 Choose the perfect typeface for every project. Here’s how... via massive flowchart!

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The day Times New Roman died Sat, 29 Mar 2014 06:04:10 +0000 Want to save $400m? Just print in a different font! School kid shows US Government how to save big bucks on ink costs.

It begs the question/s – as arguably the biggest printers in the world, how many iterations of font and ink have newspapers gone through over years of cost-cutting. With margins of error in newsprint, you couldn’t go too fine.

Also, if ink really is “two times more expensive than French perfume by volume,” that also says something about the cost of being in the newspaper business.

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Twitter announces Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings to be launched in Australia Mon, 24 Mar 2014 00:06:33 +0000 Twitter announces Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings to be launched in Australia. Pretty exciting news for advancement of social audience measurement:

Meanwhile, they quietly shutter the TwitterMusic app. The We Are Hunted team had already left…

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Getty, the world’s largest photo service, is now free Mon, 10 Mar 2014 08:02:56 +0000 Wow. Need an image for your blog/site? Getty, the world’s largest photo service, is now ‘free’. For embeds, anyway.

Like this!

Or this!

Get your thinking hats on – each of these images would normally cost $65.

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Which department in the company should own Social Media? Mon, 08 Jul 2013 07:05:33 +0000 This question was asked in a LinkedIn group for newspaper professionals a while ago.

SOCIAL MEDIA: In your opinion which department should administer your organization’s Social Media properties? Do they really have the knowledge/tools to be successful? What’s your experience?

I’m interested in your thoughts. While the context was newspapers’, there’s no industry bias in the question itself, so if you want to leave your thoughts, why not let us know what industry you’re in as well? Below you can see how I replied to the question.

There were about half a dozen replies in the thread, but I was surprised to see they were mostly in favour of Marketing ‘owning’ Social Media across the organisation to control brand and brand messages. Moreso, the view was generally that Marketing is better equipped than Editorial to create a Social Media Strategy focused on business needs, and to execute that strategy in view of dollar values, KPI measurements and ROI. Clearly these were Marketing people, so naturally they were approaching it from a Marketing perspective.

There were some very good responses from extremely experienced industry people, including those who favoured a mixed approach to responsibility. I would link to the conversation, or detail more of what others said, but it’s a private LinkedIn group, so the content stays there.

I could have written more, and I’ve expanded a little bit in this post, but now you can read the ‘quick’ response I gave. What do you think? Which department in a media organisation should administer the social media properties?

This was my response:

While marketing can definitely help with strategy, sourcing tools for and measuring targets, audience growth through social competitions and promotions of content through something like Facebook Ads, I’m firmly of the belief that the day to day management of social needs to be in the hands of Editorial. And definitely NOT Advertising. Particularly so for social media accounts that carry the name of the publication, and are effectively the public voice of the organisation to readers across social media.

This is for the same reason Editorial takes charge and handles production of the newspaper – it is the stories/content produced by Editorial that drive reader engagement across any platform.

Marketing has a place in the social media mix, definitely, but I’d agree with what was said right at the start about B2B and B2C client bases. Marketing can handle B2B and limited B2C, but it’s Editorial’s responsibility to engage with readers. We have also had, and I have helped develop strategy for, specific Marketing social media accounts around programs at the newspaper. Like business awards or youth awards, these rightly sit with the Marketing department, who manage the content and interactions from those program’s accounts.

I could write more, but I must run. If I had time to go on, I would talk more about providing breaking news and sourcing news and contacts via social media during a breaking news or crisis event. Those are purely news and editorial judgements being made on the fly, with very serious consequences, and not something I would be comfortable having Marketing involved in. Much more could be discussed about that. Final thought, when readers complain, who takes the phone call? Editorial, where ultimately the Editor takes responsibility for the content.

I think in almost every industry other than news media, the natural answer is Marketing. It’s social media marketing, after all. It’s generally marketing who produce the ‘content’ that is customer-facing. In the media, Editorial not only produce the entire body of content that the consumer sees, but they also have to back it up in what can at times be an environment hostile to the message or story being aired publicly. This is a much trickier environment than mere brand marketing.

Does Editorial have the tools or training to manage this environment effectively? Yes and no. Not every Editorial person needs to have the full skill set for managing the brand account, persona, and interaction. Just as Marketing has people with different skills, Editorial needs a group of people – even if it’s not a formal or full time Social Media Team – who have the skills, knowledge and tools to manage social media effectively whether it’s rolling crisis updates or promoting a lifestyle piece on the weekend’s cat show. That’s my shout out to Veronica Corningstone.

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The Pew Future of Mobile News report Wed, 03 Oct 2012 17:35:04 +0000 Here’s a few things of interest I thought worth noting in the Pew MoJo report, otherwise known as (in very important and loud caps): THE EXPLOSION IN MOBILE AUDIENCES AND A CLOSE LOOK AT WHAT IT MEANS FOR NEWS

“… fully a third of all U.S. adults now get news on a mobile device at least once a week […] And for many people, mobile devices are adding how much news they consume. More than four in ten mobile news consumers say they are getting more news now and nearly a third say they are adding new sources.”


If you can do it without an app, do: “the use of news apps on mobile devices, which many publishers hoped would be a way to charge for content, remains limited. Most people still use a browser for news on their tablet.”

A very interesting finding on new digital customers, and digital customers who remain loyal to the print product. The latter prefer an app-based news experience that’s similar to a traditional reading experience of the physical product. This brings up development resourcing issues in retaining some readers while continuing to attract new readers with innovative designs.

Highlights from the Infographic, which can be found here:

In 2011, iPad had 81% of the tablet market and Android just 14%. In 2012? iPad 52% and Android 48%. iPad people use their tablet more regularly and more for news – Android tablet users are more social, and get their news from shared links.


And if you think ’email is dead’, it’s still the most performed daily activity on tablets, and even moreso on smartphones. By a large margin. News is right up there too. Smart mobile-formatting + daily newsletters and email news alerts = Win for MoJo.


An interesting statistic for long-form journalism and social sharing: 90% of people who read in-depth articles on a tablet do it for personal use, while only 23% read in-depth articles recommended by friends and family.

And while readers are willing to pay for news, only 6% say they’ve paid directly for news on their tablet.

There’s also the Future of Mobile News Infographic Challenge. Play with all the data, submit your infographic, win, get featured by the Economist and Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ)!

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Digital conversion or death Mon, 09 Apr 2012 13:11:09 +0000 My tagline on Twitter has for many years now been “One digital convert at a time”. That was more a reflection of my limited ability to change the world – a quip to humour those who saw digital as an oddity – not a desire to continually and repeatedly convince obtuse individuals that there was in fact a future in digital. For years, whether they knew it or not and especially now, nobody has that sort of time to waste ignoring digital, waiting until they’re persuaded to listen.

One digital convert at a time was never enough anyway, all it did was express a sentiment that we who believed were willing to chip away at the obstructionists. After years of inaction I have lost patience. I am no longer content with chipping away.

Convert thee to digital or risk eternal damnation and suffering in the fires of irrelevance.

It’s not a call to scrap everything, just to accept that digital participation is no longer optional, so embrace it. And we don’t need any more blog posts titled: “Web skills journalists need in 2015”. That list has hardly changed since 2007.

Bring on the revolution.

This rant marks the eight year anniversary of the earley edition.

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Merry Christmas from the earley edition! Mon, 26 Dec 2011 10:50:53 +0000 It’s been a long year for me, but an almost non-existent one for the earley edition. Blogging is dead, long live the blog (in 2012)!

For those who didn’t know, I’ve been online editor at Quest Community Newspapers – – for almost 18 months now! Time flies, and the last six months of the new website has been like a speeding freight train. A few nudges here and there to make sure it stays on track, but expect to be crushed if you get in the way. Sometimes I have to get in the way, so the last six months has been a particularly hard slog (more so for my family, who have seen me briefly and sometimes not at all), but I’m looking forward to a bigger and better 2012. Not just at work, but here too at the earley edition!

In the last few weeks I’ve had Kristofor Lawson on deck full time as my deputy online editor at Quest, so there are exciting times ahead. 2012 is going to be massive, prepare to be blown away ;) It definitely won’t be less work with an extra set of hands!

Anyway, here’s a fun earley edition Christmas message, featuring the indomitable first edition (Miss 2), and introducing the second edition (Mr 0.75). [abridged version]

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Storify – Ben Grubb’s arrest at AusCERT, and the Qld Police Twitter timeline at @QPSMedia Wed, 18 May 2011 08:52:31 +0000 With all the social media kudos being given to the Queensland Police Media unit in the last six months, this will be another instructive case study for them.

It may not be self-evident to the casual observer just from looking at the timeline of tweets below, but there’s a PR storm brewing over how Queensland Police handled the matter on Twitter.

Is this an example where a live response wasn’t the best tactic?

Twitter may have worked brilliantly for Queensland Police in the dissemination of emergency information, but they could have better handled the immense pressure they were coming under from Twitter users who demanded a response to Ben Grubb’s initial arrest tweet.

The main points of why this has turned into a very bad PR exercise for Queensland Police Media.

1. Be sure before you tweet; [blackbirdpie url=]

2. Don’t snap back, or take the criticism personally, and; [blackbirdpie url=]

3. Try not to appear flippant when acknowledging your mistakes [blackbirdpie url=]

A good question during Stilgherrian’s live stream of Det Supt Brian Hay’s media conference at AusCERT was, “When was the last time Queensland Police arrested a journalist?” Anyone know the answer to that?

See Det Supt Brian Hay’s media conference on USTREAM here, or embedded in the Storify below.

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Knight Ridder’s concept iPad app – bridging the paper-digital divide. In 1994. Mon, 25 Apr 2011 21:47:56 +0000 Check out this video, showcasing the Knight Ridder Information Design Lab’s concept tablet news device. With personalised news feeds, articles read aloud and even voice command recognition, it sounds like it could be a news application being developed for the iPad right now.

Only this is 1994.

Imagine where digital news distribution could be by now if, in 1994, Knight Ridder had been able to build that “bridge of familiarity to get us from the ink on paper product into the digital world”.

Maybe a media company could have come up with a user experience like Flipboard a decade ago, or been innovative enough to create a new communication platform like Twitter, instead of constantly being left behind or playing catch up. Suffice to say, the industry would pretty well know by now what works and what doesn’t.

Instead, the merits of all manner of form and function in the digital news process are still being discussed, tested, failed miserably and, if we’re lucky, refined until successful.

Roger Fidler, director of the Knight Ridder Information Design Lab, says in the video:

“This is one of the most exciting places to be in the newspaper industry today. This is where I think we’re going to play a role in changing history.”

Maybe an idea before its time, but one that really could have changed the history of digital news if it had succeeded.

I wonder where Roger Fidler ended up. (UPDATE: Roger Fidler is Program Director for Digital Publishing at RJI, the Reynolds Journalism Institute)

and from Wikipedia:
“Knight Ridder had a long history of innovation in technology. It was the first newspaper publisher to experiment with videotex when it launched its Viewtron system in 1982.”

UPDATE: This was on Mashable in August 2009!
Thanks to @garykemble for the heads up.
And in an interview that same year, Roger Fidler said the tablet concept was never built because screens were too heavy and required too much power. See the May 2009 Bloomberg interview with Roger Fidler here:

]]> 0 app launched Fri, 22 Apr 2011 01:02:23 +0000 For all of us tragics who went to the blank website all those months ago and signed up for an email alert, well today’s the day! for iPad has launched. They’re saying all you need is an iPad and a Twitter account, but you don’t even need an iPad…

For those without an iPad, you can get the same stream ‘digest’ via email.

I’m yet to get beyond opening the app and authorising my Twitter account (it’s Good Friday!), but the recommended/featured users for me to follow were very digital news media centric. That’s great if the app has picked up on my area of interest already, based on my bio and who I follow.

I imagine it’s more than a glorified Twitter stream. It should be! You can get that through Flipboard, Zite, and numerous other great apps without paying a $1.19 per week subscription ($0.99 in US).

Read the full email from below:

20110422-103603.jpg for iPad launched today! It’s available in the App Store for download: is a different kind of social news experience that shows you not just
what your friends are sharing on Twitter, but also what they are reading—a great opportunity to read over the proverbial shoulders of close friends and mega-interesting writers and thinkers alike. All you need is an iPad and a Twitter account to get started!

If you don’t have an iPad, you can still use – just sign up to receive a daily email digest of the most interesting news flowing through your Twitter stream:

Want to read more about, how it started and who’s behind it?

Thanks and let us know what you think!


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