April 02, 2009


I'm not blogging so much lately, and here's why: I've been putting the final touches on a project we started developing last fall. We're looking to launch in about 10-14 days. If you'd like to be a part of the beta, start following us on Twitter at @knowledgewebb (or just click here).

March 06, 2009

More Free Training...

The news this week has been grim. Again.The Rocky Mountain News is no more, and I suspect that won't be the last paper to fold in the coming months.

Here's what I know you don't want to hear: Many of you probably won't land back on your feet as a working journalist at an American newspaper.

So we're going to reprise our free training, that we offered to laid-off Gannett folks in December and January, and open it up to all the journalists who lost their jobs in Colorado, in Seattle and elsewhere. About half of what my company (MyDigiMediaGroup) does is training. We train reporters, editors, producers, developers, teachers...hell, we even train lots of trainers...on how to adapt technology for journalism. (The other half is strategic planning and innovation. Like, which content management system should you use and how can you best implement it to accommodate mobile, the geospatial web, etc?)

So, to the recently laid-off journalists, here's something to help: We're going to offer an updated version of our free training session on what to do next. It will focus on emerging technology and post-mainstream journalism careers. We'll show you some new tech trends, explain how you can combine them with what you already know, and then show you how to apply your skillset to either land a new gig or even start your own site. As before, this won't be an hour of learning code - it'll be instruction on how to think and understand differently.

Again, these sessions are free. You'll also get access to tipsheets and other information. Criteria are below:

WHO: We'd prefer that you're a newspaper refugee, but we won't turn away working journalists or anyone working in communications. Sorry - this time, we will not take technologists, consultants, academics or students. We're going to check, so don't try to pull a fast one on us.

WHEN: Wednesday, March 25th at 3pm Eastern Time. The training session will last 75 minutes.

HOW/ WHERE: We'll give registrants a call-in number and passcode ahead of the session. You'll need a computer (one that's online, of course) and a phone line to call into. After the session, we'll give you access to tipsheets and other information to help you continue learning on your own.

HOW TO REGISTER: Send an email message with your full name, your email address and where you're currently (or were recently) employed. Also tell us what kind of job you had (multimedia producer, city hall reporter for the paper, etc). For those of you who have previously participated in one of our training sessions, you'll already know that we never do the same thing twice and that all of our sessions are completely personalized. To the extent we can, we're going to try and do the same thing this time around - so share whatever information you'd like. The more we get, the more meaningful we can make the information for you. DEADLINE FOR REGISTRATION IS MARCH 20th. NO EXCEPTIONS.

I'd like to cap the session at 200 people total, so this will be first-come, first-served. While I'd prefer that you didn't participate in one of the previous sessions, this one will be different, so it's okay for you to register again.

There are no strings attached, folks. We're just trying to help out. Please help spread the word!

November 14, 2008

Journalism 007

I'm headed to see the newest Bond movie tonight, and I've been thinking all week about how many of 007's gadgets can be used for journalism. While some of his equipment may seem far-fetched, there are a number of "spy" products that are actually on the market and might help improve your reporting capabilities.

An important caveat: Please check with your state/ province/ country's laws as well as the guidelines in your newsroom before using any of what I describe below. For example, in some U.S. states it's okay to surreptitiously record someone without getting their permission. In some other states, it's illegal to record someone without their prior knowledge and consent. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press website keeps a database with information on laws both in the U.S. and abroad.


Yes, we live in a digital world, one full of very smart computers and phones. So a smart...pen? Consider the Voice Recording Pen, which is doubles as a highly-sensitive voice recorder. It records up to seven hours, and it also includes a remote controller - you could leave the pen on a desk and start recording a conversation from across the room. The Pulse, by Livescribe, is a great tool for anyone who takes handwritten notes during a speech or interview. It records the penstrokes that you're writing on paper while simultaneously recording the audio. The audio is automatically linked to what you write. You can tap a place in your notes to hear an audio playback of what was being said, and later you can transfer all the files to your computer for further use.

The DocuPen is an incredibly cool scanner shaped like, what else?, a high-quality pen. It'll store up to 100 pages of scanned text that can be viewed on a computer via USB hookup. I could have used this when I was still reporting... there were many times that I was allowed in to an office to review documents, but I wasn't allowed to remove them or make copies.

Wiretap Tapping

So you're using a proxy search engine, instant messaging on a private network under and assumed name and you've password-protected all of your sensitive documents and social networking sites. Think you're safe? Think again! With the Keywatcher, you can record all keystrokes that are made - which means later decoding passwords or other sensitive information that's been typed. It plugs in to both the keyboard and computer and, for most people, is indistinguishable from other cables.

Tiny Cameras

The Flip may be growing in popularity, but many people still don't realize it's a lightweight video camera. It records between 30-60 minutes of video on two AA batteries, and when you're finished you can plug it directly into your computer using its enclosed USB drive. And if you cover over the tiny red light that appears when you turn the Flip on, many folks won't realize they're being recorded. The Flip not small enough for you? Check out the ThumbCam, a video recording device that is literally the size of your thumb. It records color video with voice and uses a microSD card to store up to 2GB of data, which means that you can play back what you've recorded on a computer or your cell phone. There are tiny cameras available now in a variety of places including belt buckles (see: Buckle DVR) and sunglasses (see: Sunglasses DVR).

iPhone Tricks

I've been using Evernote lately, and it's a fantastic way of turning everyday items into searchable data. For example, I can take a picture of a document, record someone's conversation and a lot more... Evernote synchs that content to my account and enables me to search, categorize and send that information whenever I want. I also use SplashID to safeguard my contacts and other critical information. It came highly recommended to me by a close friend, who's also talented hacker. It's the system he uses - and it works on a PC or Mac. And in a pinch, you can use FakeCalls to simulate a phone call from the person of your choice. I had president-elect Barack Obama "call" me during dinner last week...I still haven't told one of the folks there that I'd actually FakeCalled myself.

As for my favorite Bond gadget? I thought that the Ericsson JB988, from Tomorrow Never Dies, was a killer mobile device. It was a remote control for Bond's BMW, had a finger print reader, a camera, a stun gun and made fantastic international calls without dropping them! Ah, a girl can always dream...

October 21, 2008

Mobile TV, Image Recognition and Plants That Blog...

Still on the road - currently en route to Hong Kong. Just spent a week reviewing all kinds of new technologies coming out of Tokyo. Highlights include mobile TV, image recognition and - I'm not making this up - a plant that blogs. Will flesh out details more when I'm back in the office. But I have a list of cameras for mobile journalists to keep on the lookout for - and a longer of mobiles that made my iPhone drool.

August 14, 2008

QR Codes in NY Mag

I'm a subscriber to New York Magazine - yesterday, I got the Aug. 18th edition, the one on Race. The back cover features a Polo ad as well as an active QR code.

From what I can tell, Ralph Lauren has partnered with Augme Mobile (new site coming soon) to deliver the ad and the reader... at least I think the reader came from them. They're billing it as a "new era in mobile right from your RL magazine stories and watch RLTV videos."

I've been harping on this for the past year and a half, now, and I'm hoping that news organizations don't let yet another technology pass them by. Seriously, if Ralph Lauren is doing it, why aren't our nation's best magazines and newspapers? 2D barcodes work on websites and video (even on TV) too. More on 2D barcodes here and here and here. If you want to talk more in depth about how to use them for your comapny, give us a ring. You can also download a copy of our tipsheet on 2D barcodes here.

July 31, 2008

Time and AdAge, Barcoded

So today I've taken two stories published in recent issues of Time and AdAge, both of which we get delivered to the office. I'd have done this experiment with a newspaper, but we're no longer subscribers to any newspaper print editions.

In the back of the book, Time features a story about the new Terra Cotta Warriors exhibit at the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art in California. What we've done is created a 2D barcode and inserted it into white space next to the story (apologies to Salman Rushdie's left shoulder). We did this using a printout of the barcode, page 66 of the magazine and some clear tape. Obviously, the layout and design desk at Time would make it look prettier, but you can get the gist of where we're headed.


That's a QR code we used above, one of a handful of 2D barcodes now being used. If you have a camera-enabled phone, you can "scan" it by taking a picture and then using a reader. (For more details on 2D barcode readers for mobile phones, click here and here.) Click on the image of the story to get a PDF that you can print out and try scanning yourself.

And here's an example from AdvertisingAge. There was a story on the front cover about Shelly Lazarus, who had until recently been a bigwig at Ogilvy & Mather. I thought it would be nice to see what other related content AdAge had in its archives that might be offered along with the news about her departure. We used a datamatrix code for this story (you'll notice it looks slightly different.) You can learn what we did by printing out the story below or clicking here to scan the code we created...


June 24, 2008

Editors: Prepare to lose control of your hyperlinks

Quite a while back, I added the Quick TransLation (qtl) add-on to Firefox. It was launched by Gilad Kutiel and is meant to help you translate and/or define foreign words as you search the web. Since a handful of our clients are in Japan, and since I seem to be forgetting a handful of kanji as each day passes, I downloaded qtl to help me get through the more complicated kanji characters on sites I regularly visit.

The fact that qtl works beautifully and elegantly to help me with international sites isn't why I'm writing about it today. All I do is highlight a character or word, and a small window pops up - that I can control and interact with - that displays the information.

Here's how qtl, and other tools like it, impacts journalism.

You see, after I installed the tool, I noticed that whenever I highlighted a word the qtl window appeared and offered me various choices: a dictionary, a Wikipedia entry, the ability to search that word instantly on Google and Yahoo. It also pulled up content tagged with that word on Flickr, YouTube and Amazon.

What I'm getting at here is that via qtl, your website may be displaying content from other sources - content that you've never seen. Have a look at what I found on the Baltimore Sun's site today:

The thing is, I installed qtl independently. It's a third-party application that delivers content. I happen to find it incredibly useful, but when I highlight a word, I get content displayed on the Sun's site that isn't necessarily approved by editors there.

I was speaking at the Punch Sulzberger program at Columbia last week, and we had a short debate about hyperlinked content and whether it mattered if I could access additional content via the Sun, even if the Sun didn't place it there. My position is that as a user, I love qtl's features and the ability it gives me to find more content and context regardless of what the editors fed to a particular site. But looking from an industry perspective, I'd be weary. It takes control away from the content providers. Example: what newsroom would publish, verbatim, copy from a Wikipedia article without first vetting it?

Qtl isn't the first or only third-party linking content tool that's driven by users. I can guarantee that you'll start to see more just like it.

I'd like for newsrooms to start evaluating these kind of tools, learning more about how they function and then developing smart ways to either exploit - or block - that technology on their own terms.

May 07, 2008's Newsware

Don't get me wrong. I'm all for tools that can be adapted for journalism that also happen to bring context, depth or other relevant information to a story. What I'm not an advocate of is tricking out a news story as if it was a Honda Civic auditioning for The Fast and the Furious Part 5/ News Drift.

Newsware is the latest entry into and ever-expanding tricked out news story space. You can play the (wham!) NewsBlaster, an "RSS-fed online game involving a race against time to smash orbs holding live news headlines." Or try the Spectra, to create a 3D spinning environment fed with the latest headlines. You can even change the headlines using your own web cam. No, I'm not making that up: "In one viewing state, viewers with webcams trigger movement of the content and categories of headlines based on the motion of their body and the color of their clothes."

While I think these tools are certainly impressive and wildly creative, I have to wonder how spending resources on this is advancing the story. Or journalism, for that matter.

For example, I've been following the Dmitry Medvedev story on MSNBC. Two hours ago, he was sworn in as Putin's successor, but there wasn't any video showing the it. (To be fair, there were two analysis videos from NBC Nightly News, but that was it.) There are a few references to blogs and an interactive map. But the map and blog links take me away from the story. There were no hyperlinks besides related MSNBC content...and while the "Ice bar opens in Portugal" story sounds intriguing, what I'm really after is as much information as I can glean about what Medvedev's swearing in means for me here in Baltimore and for our increasingly icy relationship with Russia.

There's certainly a balance that needs to be accomplished. Gimmicks will draw in a temporary crowd, but content that offers rich context and depth will make them stick.


May 05, 2008

More contextualization

I installed QTL - a nifty Firefox extension - last week. I think that it was meant to help translate pages into different languages, but I'm using it to add context to my basic searches or to see more related content on any given page.

For example, I was looking up mydigimedia's site traffic and noticed that someone had been hitting me from I hovered over the word "Plantronics" and - viola! - a window opened with all sorts of information on the company. It saved me the step of physically typing in P-l-a-n-t-r-o-n-i-c-s-dot-c-o-m, and I was essentially able to find out basics about the company without any effort.

I've been following Apture and you'll see it all over this site... And we're now trying to figure out the many applications for contextualization services for publishing and journalism.

May 01, 2008

Captured by Apture

So I've been speaking with Tristan Harris about a new tool that just launched. It's not really a tool - it's a different way of using the web. It's a conceptualization service, and I just can't say enough about how exciting it is.

The problem now is that if I offer hyperlinks, you have to leave my site and click from page to page to page. But what if I wanted to offer more related content, all without making the user leave my page?

Here's an example. Let's say that I'm a reporter at the Baltimore Sun covering American Idol. (If that ever happens, someone please shoot me. Right between my eyes.) Yesterday's opening few graphs look like this:

On tonight's American Idol, we'll learn who the final four are. And, I'm sure, hear some explanation for Paula's seeing into the future moment last night when she started evaluating Jason's second song when he'd only sung once thus far. (Here's the story that's been making the rounds today.)

Host Ryan Seacrest says he's still out of breath from last night's show because of its fast pace and that more than 45 million votes were cast.

First up: The group sing, a tribute to Neil Diamond.

One external link, not much context. If I wanted to know more about Paula or Ryan or Neil Diamond, I have to hop off the site and start clicking elsewhere.

Here's how Apture changes things... I'm going to use it on the same three graphs. But the context and the user experience is infinitely more fulfilling:

On tonight's American Idol, we'll learn who the final four are. And, I'm sure, hear some explanation for Paula's seeing into the future moment last night when she started evaluating Jason's second song when he'd only sung once thus far. (Here's the story that's been making the rounds today.)

Host Ryan Seacrest says he's still out of breath from last night's show because of its fast pace and that more than 45 million votes were cast.

First up: The group sing, a tribute to Neil Diamond.

Apture is in very soft launch now - but when it's fully deployed, watch out. It's going to help piece together the web in an entirely new way. This is Web 3.0, the "semantic" web, whatever you want to call it. And journalists ought to take notice asap - we need to think about content in multi-dimensions.

Then again, I know editors who are still discussing endlessly whether or not there should be hyperlinks at all on their websites.

Amy. Out.

April 23, 2008

Our favorite Twitter apps...

Here's a roundup of the Twitter apps we're using over at WMG. When applicable, I've also indicated how to apply them for use in journalism.

Want a better handle on microblogging as a viable communication platform? Have a look at this study from the University of Maryland (shameless plug - they're just up the street from us). Their findings aren't necessarily earth shattering - we connect with others because we either have something in common or want their knowledge - but the paper does a great job of explaining how we stay in touch, digitally.

In order to get started, create a free account at Twitter.

TwitterFeed - Got a blog? This will automatically updated your posts to your Twitter account. Use it for journalism: If you're not sure how to effectively Twitter at your news organization, create a basic Twitter account - like BaltimoreNews. Then, you can automatically send out announcements of your new blog entries to everyone who's following you.

Twhirl - This is a nice desktop application that allows you to update and read your Twitter account. Use it for journalism: This application really functions more like an instant message client. Still, it can help reporters stay on top of breaking news.

PocketTweets - This tool enables you to post and read tweets via your iPhone.

Twadget - If you're a (blech) Vista user, this is a gadget that will track and send all new tweets from your account.

Twitter Tube Tracker - Track the status of London's Tube trains and get delays sent to Twitter.

TwitterGram - Tired of just sending out 140 characters? Use TwitterGram to send mp3s tweets. Use it for journalism: This could be a fantastic way to share breaking news audio reports. You might also consider using it to send out quick advertisements every X# tweets.

TwitterLit - This application will send out the first line of a book and a link to Amazon. It's part trivia - can you guess the author and title? - but mostly a marketing ploy to get Twitter users to buy more stuff on Amazon. But it's effective - and lots of people are using it. Use it for journalism: Mimic this application for use in your own newsroom. Tease new stories. Use quick-hit trivia to drive traffic to your site. What about promotions? Selling photos or archived video?

TwitterLocal - Filter out tweets from just a certain area. Use it for journalism: Reporters can use this as source material to find out what's happening within a certain range of miles, postal code, state, city, etc.

TwitterCal - This application allows you to add events directly to your Google calendar.

Twittervision - I wrote about this last year... Twittervision displays random updates from people around the world. It's a bit like watching an aquarium, and it's addictive. Want to get included? Add TwitterWhere, which will automatically post your tweet location.

Yahoo! Pipes - Now optimizes your Twitter RSS feed.

Twitzer - Want more than 140 characters? Twitzer works with Firefox and will allow you to type in longer posts. Be warned, though. Twittering is meant to be is micro-sized, and some of your followers may not want long, rambling posts from you.

TrackThis - Track your FedEx, UPS, USPS and DHL packages.

Twubble - Want to follow more people but not sure where to start? Twubble will make recommendations based on who you currently follow and your geographic location. Use it for journalism: This is a good way for jurnos to get started using Twitter, especially if they're not sure who to start following just yet.

TwitterTroll - A workable search engine for Twitter feeds. Not comprehensive, thought. Use it for journalism: Try running a search for people, information on a story, etc. You won't find tweets at Google.

Tweet Scan - This is another search engine for tweets. Use it for journalism: Requires login to get full access to all the tools, but it can definitely be used as a reporting tool. Again, you're not quoting directly from folks - just looking for leads and additional context to aid in the reporting process.

Twitbar -- For our Linux friends, a Twitter client for Gnome users to post from the Deskbar.


March 13, 2008

Uses for QR Codes in Journalism

(Sorry, there was just no way to get around using industry jargon to introduce what I'm about to tell you.) It's really easy to take a camera-enabled mobile phone, download a bit of software, and make your PRINT publications interactive.

Yeah, you read that right. I'm going to tell you how to make some digital use out of your newspaper or magazine.

Allow me to reminisce for just a moment. Years ago, when I was still living in Japan, I was using one of the very first i-Mode phones. The design was elegant: a miniature joystick tool just below the screen for easy navigation, hotkeys for instant email and other access, a camera that even worked well in the dark, a numeric keyboard that worked equally well as a phonetic keyboard (take that, BlackBerry!)...the list goes on. I can remember vividly back in 2001 attending a press conference where some vending machine folks were about to launch a device that would allow mobile phones to pass over a scanner, have money deducted from a designated account, and pay for a can of Asahi beer.

How'd they do that? QR Codes. QR really stands for "Quick Response" and was created in the early 90's in Japan. It's a two-dimensional bar code that stores data that can be reinterpreted. While Denso Wave, that Japanese company, filed the original patent and released a Japanese standard for it, an ISO International Standard was approved and released in 2000.

Now before your eyes gloss over, let me explain how this impacts journalism. If a consumer has a camera-equipped phone and has the right software, which is readily available and typically free, s/he could scan a QR Code using that mobile phone to get all kinds of information: coupons, parts of viral marketing campaigns, serialized chapters...the list goes on. Once scanned, the phone's browser automatically redirects to a URL (again, the web address is part of what gets written into the QR Code). And if you're redirecting to a mobile page within your domain, you're increasing your traffic from your print product!!!

Shall we consider the possibilities? A newspaper could start a point system with younger readers as part of a monthlong promotion. Once a day, the barcode would be hidden within the physical paper. Readers would scan it in and receive X# points towards his/her account. By the end of the month, readers with 25+ days of scanning would receive a free three-month subscription. You can target a younger, mobi audience and bring those circ numbers back up, too. How about a beauty magazine - at the end of your makeup section that month, offer a barcode. Monetize it by attaching a coupon to a featured beauty product sponsor.

Generating QR Codes and developing an overall strategy does require a bit of skill and creativity...but why not get ahead of the mobile phone eight ball? And why the hell not do that right now, as consumers are rushing out to buy data-enabled phones?

I know I'm on a mobile rant this week, but I just can't stop thinking about everything I'd do if I was a publisher right now...and since I have some work trips to Europe and Japan coming up very soon, I'm trying to research how mobile is being used and exploited outside of the U.S.

February 21, 2008

Department of Artifacts

New York magazine is all over the blogosphere with its Lindsay Lohan nude shoot - the site charted 20 million page views earlier this week before it crashed completely. But they also recently republished portions of a Feb. 1968 issue, which for my money is way more interesting.

Here are all the tools of a mobile journalist, from four decades ago. The packaging is different today, but the basic technology was actually on the market before half the folks in our newsrooms were born...

Want an updated list? Have a look at my take on a multimedia journalist's "go" bag here.

January 31, 2008

Pimp My Ride

Lately, our Tivo is full of old and current episodes of Top Gear, a wildly entertaining BBC show about cars. Also lately, I seem to be constantly driving along I-95 to either meet with clients or to get to the airport so that I can get to a meeting. And as it happens, we've recently bought an Infiniti EX, with a fully-loaded tech package.

So between Top Gear and the new car and all the miles I'm logging, I've started to realize just how much work can be accomplished from inside of a car. It doesn't take a million bucks or even a very new automobile to turn your daily ride into a mobile office. So if you're a journalist on the go, a media exec who needs to stay connected or if you're just interested in a weekend project, here's a how-to guide to turn your car into a moving digital suite.

What it is: I don't care if you have the navigational ability of Magellan. With all the congestion on our highways, you've gotta either memorize every country backroad and hidden city alley or get a good GPS system. I'm not at all impressed with the Infinity in-car nav system. Like many cars with a built-in nav, the system is clunky, not intuitive and takes lots of getting used to. And yesterday, it sent me flying the wrong way down a one-way street.

Instead, I recommend the Garmin nuvi, which has a built-in traffic feature. I was coming back from Gannett's HQ yesterday where I'd had a meeting, and the DC beltway was running a 45-60 minute delay. The nuvi connected through the car stereo and rerouted me using streets I'd never seen before - and I managed to make it home in less time than it would have taken me to sit and wait in traffic.

Why you'll need it: First and foremost, you'll get to where you need to be on time. But the nuvi (and other systems, too) offers lots of other extras. Traffic is an obvious perk. It also tells me nearby offices, home addresses, parking areas, businesses and the like. I can take it out of my car, set it to pedestrian mode and walk if I need to.

What it is:
Let's say that you've put together your gear bag and you've hit the road. And three hours into your reporting trip, you're now out of juice. We've all had a laptop or camera die on us in the most inopportune time. For less than $100, you can buy a DC-DC power converter/ adapter set, plug your laptop into your car lighter and continue working.

There are a number of brands and options. The Targus PAPWR200U works for both cars and airplanes.You can find a list of options here, too. Or you can even just search "charge laptop in car" in Google and see what you find.

Why you'll need it: Battery performance continues to be an issue with most devices, and that's not likely to change soon. Better off safe with the option to power up when you need to than out in the bush with a great story but nothing that can be loaded onto your website.

Email To Voice & Vice Versa
What it is: Wouldn't it be safer to listen to your email rather than trying to read it while you're driving? (For those of you trying to figure this one out, the answer is YES.) It's also a hell of a lot easier to speak into your phone and have the text sent rather than trying to text while driving.

Why you need it: Here are some options: SpinVox enables you to speak into your phone and have a message delivered via text, email or even directly to a blog site. Getting your email to talk to you is a bit more challenging, but you can find more information here and here. There's a paid service here that I also like.

Now, what if you're out in the field and you're getting voice mail...but you're either not in a position to call in for messages or can't hear over noise? SimulScribe will take any voice message, transcribe it, and email it right to you. I've been using it for a while now and it's definitely come in handy.

Bluetooth Headset
What it is:
A way for you to talk on the phone while driving that doesn't involve holding your phone.

Why you need it: Because I've seen LOTS of people drop their phones while on a car and literally look away from the road. Just isn't safe. I've been testing a few new prototypes, since I'm not entirely thrilled with what's on the market now. The Jabra and Jawbone both work well enough for now. (I'll post more about the new systems I'm testing in a few weeks.)

Audio Recorder w/ Lapel Mic
What it is:
I'm in the process of testing the Edirol R-09, so I'll write more about that later. I currently use the Olympus WS320 and a generic lapel mic that I found on Amazon. You'll want something small, portable and chargeable both via disposable battery and USB or wall outlet.

Why you need it: This should be obvious. Clip a lapel mic on to yourself and jabber away. If you put your call on speaker, you'll be able to record meetings. You can also more easily record interviews, conversations and even your own notes while out on the road.

Hacked Mobile Device or WiFi Card
What it is:
If you don't have a data plan for your phone, several companies offer WiFi cards that you can buy, pop into your laptop and then pay either monthly or by the day. I happen to think that Verizon and Sprint have the best deals going (domestic only), but other providers offer plans too.

Why you'll need it: My war driving days are over. I just don't have the time or inclination anymore to look for free connections. So either buy yourself a car and a service plan. As for me, I've hacked my BlackBerry to serve as a modem for my MacBook Pro. You can do it too, if you don't want to shell out the dough for a card. Instructions are here.

Car Computer
What it is:
Did you know that you can install a basic computer right into your dashboard and get most of the same functions that you would sitting at your office machine?

We have an in-car computer in the Infiniti, but it doesn't quite go the entire distance. You may be in the same situation. You may also be wondering just what a car computer can do for you... How about:

  • No more war driving! Get connected to the Internet and to your email right there!
  • GPS: You can put your first (or a better) nav system in. Integrate it with a website like and you'll know where not to drive in the city!
  • Video: How about loading that new digital video you just took and viewing it on your car computer?
  • Audio: Play mp3s and other files.
  • Connect via Bluetooth and route all incoming calls (and voice emails) through your car's speaker system.
  • Sensor monitoring: Check all your fluids and pressures, etc.
  • Channel your inner James Bond! Eject a smoke screen, automate special lights, spill fluid out the rear.

Why you'll need it: So what if you never need to fend off Kamal Kahn and his Russian thugs? Being able to work from a computer in your car is tough to beat. For a comprehensive description about setting one up, have a look here. A less DIY-version is the StreetDeck ($1,699 plus $500 for custom installation).

As a side note, Ford and Microsoft have recently partnered to provide some of these functions in '08 and '09 models. We saw a prototype at CES. Impressive as that may be, you'd have to drive a Ford Focus in order to enjoy the computing experience...and who among us would volunteer to do that?!

Important Note: Neither I, nor my company MyDigiMediaGroup, has financial arrangements with any of the companies listed above. We're a vendor-neutral shop, which means that if we're recommending something it's because we've tested the product/ service and been impressed.

January 29, 2008

Check out My New Column...

I'm writing a short weekly column for the International Center for Journalists' partner site, IJNet. They're calling it "Webb On the Web" (why the hell didn't I think of that??) and it's a mini-version of what you're seeing here at MyDigimedia, but intended for a more international audience. Have a look - and while you're there, check out all of the other free online resources they're offering. Good stuff!

January 18, 2008

It's Official: I (Heart) NetNewsWire

I'm addicted to RSS. And I've tried most web-based reader/aggregators out there: Google Reader, Bloglines, MyYahoo...

This week, Newsgator announced that their cross-platform newsreaders are now free. Download and try the newly-upgraded desktop RSS reader for the Mac. It's called NetNewsWire, and so far I'm in love.

There has been much discussion lately about the virtues of a web-based reader vs. one strictly for the desktop. (Adam Pash has a thoughtful analysis posted over at Lifehacker.) One key problem I've had with web-based readers is that you have to be online to see your feeds. And because I'm constantly en route to client meetings, I can't easily do my reading while commuting via plane/ train/ car. Another key issue is that web readers aren't very customizable - it's hard to clip and read stories later on.

NetNewsWire is a stand-alone application, so my feeds show up in one window. If I want to click and get to an outside website, I can do that (as long as I'm online) - and NetNewsWire will also save a copy of the page I'm visiting for easy access later on.

I enjoy getting and reading my news this way... And in a way, it reminds me a bit of Amazon's Kindle. A portable way of carrying all of the news with me that I want to read in a day.

Again and again, aggregation is the next frontier. I'd really like to see news organizations getting into the research and development of content aggregators. Doesn't just have to be news stories... I'm thinking aggregated relational databases, interactive maps, public records...

January 16, 2008

Wireless Tap

When I was still reporting, I used a mini recorder controller from Radio Shack, that allowed me to record and play back phone calls either to/ from minidisc or cassette tape. It worked beautifully - as long as I was on a land line. They don't make a model for mobile phones, and for a while I was searching extensively for something that might work instead.

Have a look at You can record audio from your phone and save it as an mp3. From the site:

Each drop has a phone number and custom extension (just like each has an email address). Dial the number, wait for the prompt, enter your extension and start talking. Whatever you say we will convert to an MP3 and put on your drop in a matter of a few seconds…for you to listen to, download, share, use however you want.

The obvious question is this: How to record a two-way conversation? Now assuming that you're in a one-party state (click here for a state-by-state guide), or that you're in a two-party state and have the permission of the person on the other end, and that your newsroom policy allows you to record converstaions, you can simply enable the three-way calling feature that now comes standard with most cell phone packages. So on my mobile phone, I'd first call, start recording, then I'd click over and call the source.

Once you're finished, you can download the mp3 at They offer 100MB storage for free than $10 to upgrade to 1GB.


December 07, 2007

2007: The Year of Online Video (Part Two)

I've described this list in the post below. Please have a look at that for more information. This list isn't meant to be comprehensive, but instead a great way for newsrooms to get started with video...


Video aggregator, posting the best of what's currently on, a user-gen video site. Requries Quicktime to play. is a platform allows users to aggregate video from YouTube, Google, Yahoo! and others. Lots of social networking tools as well. is an aggregator that allows users to create channels to view offerings online. See more here.

AJAX-based app that enables users to download streaming video content from YouTube and Google Video. Requires Flash video player to view downloads.




VLC Media Player is an easy-to-use, cross-platform multimedia player. Works beautifully on virtually any operating system.


MythTV is a Linux-based open source tool that allows you to watch TV using a tuner card. Sort of like TiVO for your home computer.




Windows Movie Maker comes free with the Windows operating system, which means that if you're using a PC you already have it installed. Easy to create photo-audio slideshows and basic video.

iMovie is part of the iLife suite on a Mac, however strive to find and use the '06 version. The recent update (iLife '08) is among the absolute worst I've ever seen - the new program lacks the features and power of the original. (Don't worry - if you've installed the update, you still have iMovie '06 on your machine.)

There are other video editing tools: Nero, Adobe Premier, Pinnacle Studio, PowerDirector, Final Cut (Pro, Express), Avid...



Shoot and share videos, limited to one-minute for teh free version. Requires a web cam to use. Pre-shot video cannot be uploaded.

A free service allowing users to shoot and share videos. Currently no limit on time or bandwidth.

Online video service that enables users to record, upload, encure, edit and share their videos. Platform-agnostic web tool that uses Flash video. Videos are limited to five minutes each.

Embed and display clickable tags within an audio or video file. Allows users to create chapters and to embed information - also enables search engines to crawl video content.


Syncro allows users to add lots of elements to online video: ads, external links, images, navigation, menus, tags, etc. (Free trial, but this is a white-label service.)


VIDEO HOSTING is a popular vlogging and podcasting service. Free, and includes unlimited (for now) hosting.


Brightcove is an enterprise-level web video service that offers social networking tools, hosting, advertising possibilities and more.


Hosting service that also allows users to share video via blog accounts and mobile devices (iPod). Right now, the service is in Alpha, and users are given a year of free basic service with unlimited bandwidth and 100MB of storage.

Hosting service for multimedia files. Uses Flash to encode and distribute.

Hosting company, allows users to share videos via email. Long-term storage options available.


Similar to YouTube, however it also allows for downloads to various devices. Premium content is priced starting at $0.99.


Hosting service that also includes a playlist system. The unreleased white label version is supposed to support hi-res video once it launches.


Link hosted media to your site or create online storage for your own video files via channels. White label private channels are available as well.


Upload, edit and host videos. Also allows for mashups. Various pricing plans available, however there is a free version (maximum of 5 hours of video or 500 photos).


YouTube is the now ubiquitous video hosting/ social network site owned by Google.


Hosted streaming video service offering user-generated content only. Limited to 100MB per video.


Hosting site. Free for small files, however files more than 10MB require registration. Primarily a user-generated video/ community site.




P2P platform for users and publishers to share content. Requires that you download the Azureus client.

Transmission is a multiplatform, opensource BitTorrent client (for Mac). Easy to use and free.

Aggregator sites to look for files: Torrentz, IsoHunt.


Download legal copies of movies to a variety of devices. Part of the Starz Entertainment (cable) network. Attempting to compete with Netflix and iTunes.

Important note: My company, MyDigiMediaGroup LLC, its partners and I remain vendor-neutral. This list is intended to provide information for journalists and others seeking to learn more about online video.

November 20, 2007

Promo Alert: How to select a Content Management System

So one of the projects that's kept me so busy the past few weeks is a white paper that we've just finished. It's a 70-page report detailing how to select a content management system, how to self-assess your newsroom's technology and what options are out there, regardless of your size or budget. Included is a comprehensive evaulation of 14 vendors using 56 criteria and access to a mega-list of more than 100 cms products.

I partnered with Adam Glenn and Dorian Benkoil to research and write the paper, and we're finally finished. You can download an excerpt here (PDF). If you'd like to know more or to purchase a copy, details are on the last page...

November 02, 2007

WaPo Launches Facebook App

...well, a second Facebook app. A newstracker with feeds from the Post and other sources...

November 01, 2007

Tutorial Happy Place

Have a look at just-launched Tutsbuzz, which searches and aggregates instructive tutorials from elsewhere on the web. You'll find how-to's on 2D and 3D graphic creation, video and audio editing, and some light database programming (looks like mostly SQL).

The site just launched in the past month or so, and content is still coming in. I especially like the options to watch the tutorials as video rather than reading through text and photos. Here's one on how to create a preloader in Flash.

I posted a cheatsheet of cheatsheets a while back too - a megasite listing instructions on how to do thousands of web-related things.

October 24, 2007

Convergence - Following the Content Money

Ok - I keep trying to add my two cents to the conversation here but there are too many commenters. Merrill Brown, media consultant/ chair of the NowPublic board, keeps harping on that traditional journalists aren't in the business of new product development. That newsrooms aren't creating new digital tools. I could not disagree more! Look at what's being done at At Half of my staff at Dragonfire was tasked with building and implementing aggregators, automated Flash applications... Were we inventing and licensing new technology? Not exactly - but we were developing new content vehicles. And we were managing to still do journalism at the same time.

I hear this a lot at conferences, and I'd like to come armed next time with more examples. If you're in the business of product/content vehicle development at your news organization, please let me know. I'm going to compile a list, send it around, and use it at future events.

October 11, 2007

How to Build a Multimedia Go Bag

Often when I'm leading seminars on multimedia reporting in the field, one of the first things I do is offer up my bag to participants and urge them to rifle through it. This helps to relax participants, especially during hands-on sessions when folks may feel a bit nervous about learning a new tool. (Go through a woman's purse? I can still remember my mother asking me to bring her the purse with her wallet inside rather than reaching in myself if I needed lunch money for school.)

More importantly, I like to show everyone how easy it is to carry all the necessary tools of a digi-reporter. (You can download a copy of my multimedia gear buying guide here.) After I finally found a bag to my liking (it took serious research and lots of misses), I stocked it with the following:

  • laptop (I have a MacBook Pro)
  • additional protective cover for the laptop (I use the Axio hardsleeve)
  • power supply
  • extension cord for power supply
  • iPod + case
  • USB cable for iPod
  • additional power supply (wall unit) for iPod
  • two sets of cheap earphones
  • Shure noise canceling earphones
  • five additional USB cables (varying sizes)
  • BlackBerry Pearl + case
  • BlackBerry car/ wall power adapter
  • Canon Powershot SD1000
  • 3' crossover ethernet cable
  • Targus retractable ethernet/ USB/ phone cord with converters
  • Garmin nuvi 750 (car/ bike/ pedestrian navigation unit)
  • Canary Wireless Sniffer (no longer manufactured)
  • three Mac video adapters (for projectors)
  • extra 6' projector/ video extension cord
  • S-Video cable
  • mini plug splitter
  • bluetooth headset (I use Jabra BT 250v)
  • Olympus WS320 audio recorder
  • Lavalier mic (generic - brand unknown)
  • Four AAA batteries
  • Four AA batteries
  • Sony Handicam (DCR-HC21)
  • Two blank mini-DV tapes
  • mini stapler
  • mini staples
  • wallet
  • house keys
  • business cards
  • vitamins (I take Flintstones - more powerful doses make me sick)
  • eyeglass cleaning kit
  • sunglasses
  • small notebook
  • three multicolor pens (I use the Pilot FEED GP3, but you can only get them in Japan)
  • two Sharpie permanent markers
  • Listerine mint strips
  • Tums

The bag weighs about 16 pounds fully loaded. Want more ideas? Lifehacker today has a photo gallery with dozens of "go-bags" from lots of different people. Have a look through...and stop making excuses about why you can't carry gear!

September 11, 2007

WSJ Interactive 911 Map

This morning, has a wonderful map of the World Trade Center, past and future. It shows the original sites of the subways, buildings and streets before the terrorism attacks six years ago. It also shows the plans and mockups for future development, including artist renderings of new memorials and buildings.

The map is meant to illustrate how far behind construction projects are, and it certainly does.

At the same time, it was a simple online project to produce: one map, a few picture inserts here and there and some pictures. It wasn't a project that demanded huge resources or folks with intense knowledge of coding. The same could be accomplished using Google Maps API or even Mapbuilder, a free, web tool that'll allow you to build a data-driven map in minutes. This interactive map is good digital storytelling. I have context and information, and I get to participate. is subscription-only, but for an idea look below.



August 16, 2007

Rant: The Ken Burnsification of News

Two significant events occurred yesterday that've had me thinking. (Three, actually, if you include the fact that after losing my copy of Getting Things Done four times I finally found it in my office and was able to start reading...)

First - I started testing the Apple's new iLife and iWork '08. As much as Katherine Boehret (via Walter Mossberg) recently gushed platitudes about all the spiffy improvements, there are some very irritating - and potentially dangerous - bugs associated with each program. The new iWeb '08, for example, will overwrite some important files and without strategic fixing, you'll be hard pressed to open projects you'd created in the last version. The graphics and features in iMovie, an easy app to create web-ready video, make things more cumbersome (but yes, the program looks a lot more sleek on your desktop).

In the older (and current) version of iMovie, there's something called the "Ken Burns Effect," which means that you can zoom in or out of pictures as you narrate a voice over. The result is a modern moving picture, reminiscent of the work that characterizes a Burns documentary. I created a super quick example using pics from a recent Cubs game we attended back home in Chicago last month - have a look below.


Second - I spent a few hours watching video from various news outlets online yesterday. For example, at, I sat through a video about the trial of mobster Joey Lombardo. (I'd link, but there's no way to share.) A reporter read a script and showed either court sketches or photos of folks mentioned in the story as each was being quoted. The Greensboro News and Record had a video up about a local high school preparing for the fall football season. (Again, no sharing.)

And at the, I watched video stories about nuns in Hollywood, Brooklyn artist Duke Rily and Karl Rove's resignation. In all cases, the photography used was very, very good (hell, it is the New York Times). The content was solid, too.

But the videos weren't that spectacularly compelling. And there weren't opportunities to embed or share those videos on other sites.

Meantime, someone uploaded a C-Span video to YouTube that had a brief intro voice over (this video is five minutes and it is Karl Rove's resignation speech) before offering straight footage of what happened. While the video was slick, it missed something that I was promised in the title: Rove's speech. To be fair, the user who uploaded this particular video clip also inserted an unflattering picture of Rove at the end - but the video is what I'm talking about here...

Point is, what is the initial result of the recent video push at newspaper websites? Yes, yes - I know there's an argument to be made for traffic. On the other hand, most newspaper reporters and photogs aren't trained documentarians. Lots of the newspaper-produced video out there looks, well, Ken Burnsified. Like someone locked themselves into a dark room, went on 24-hour Civil War and Jazz bender and emerged as the "multimedia guy" for his newsroom armed with the Ken Burns Effect button.

As much as I disagree with Murdoch - more to the point, as much as I take issue with the disproportionate coverage he's getting compared to Google and Yahoo - his WSJ action plan calls for grand integration. And that's a good thing. TV news video is done best by TV news teams, and that video content doesn't necessarily translate well to the web. Newspapermen and women are used to writing copy for a print product - again, cutting and pasting doesn't resonate online.

Murdoch has talked about integrating systems in a comprehensive way. I think that idea has a lot of merit, and there's no reason other news orgs can't learn a little something from all this.

If a newsroom is going to offer multimedia training - and they all should - why not start out with the fundamentals of what makes for good web content? A journalist already knows what makes a good story. The trick is to train folks on what content from that story is best suited for the web. Don't just arm your reporters with sets of high-def cameras and audio recorders... Learning the technology is a piece of cake. But there's a shift in perception and understanding that needs to precede a big change...

...the Ken Burnsification of news isn't a bad thing, necessarily. After all, the man tells a damn good story. But there's a difference between a trained documentarian and the "Effect" button on iMovie, no?

August 15, 2007

Mobile Advertising - Without a phone

This made me stop. I was getting off of a train in DC recently and this interactive billboard caught my eye. It was a shelter area not unlike one you'd see waiting for the L in Chicago or for the subway in NYC.

Difference was the interactivity - this particular ad was for Target, and I could plug my headphones right into the damn thing and listen to a new CD the company was trying to sell.

Here's how something like this might apply to journalism. A news org might rig an interactive billboard with a handful of jacks, each offering a sponsored news clip. You could feature the bloggers/ columnists you're trying to promote, and the beginning could be a 10 second "this newsflash is sponsored by ### company" so that you could monetize while you market. Brilliant!

And now here's where I think it could really be neat - make that billboard wireless by sticking a receiver in. Could be as simple as wiring it with a Verizon card - and then offer streaming audio content from your website, or send updates to it throughout the day.

Since I'm on a mobile audio kick, here's another thought. We were visiting the King Tut exhibit at the Franklin Institute over the weekend and found an area at the end for our iPods. If we wanted more audio commentary on the exhibit and on Tut, we could plug in, download from iTunes and take home an mp3 souvenir for free.

Turns out that I wasn't impressed with either the exhibit or the audio (Egypt didn't let out some of the better artifacts - you'll have to visit the Egyptian Antiquities Museum in Cairo to see the flashy stuff). Still, it seems like a good idea to make downloadable video or audio content available to folks when they'll likely already have gear on them...

August 11, 2007

Data Visualization: Prez. Bush's favorite words

Here's a great tool - especially for political reporters - that will enable you to upload a creative digi-feature to your news organization's website. It's called Many Eyes, a project by IBM, that enables extremely interesting data visualization. Not unlike Data360 and Swivel, Many Eyes will translate numbers into a pretty chart... it'll then be made public for commenting and sharing.

Many Eyes also has a feature that allows you to upload speech (transcripts, interviews, articles) and will create a tag cloud visualizing the number of times a particular word is said and showing the references. This could potentially be a great reporting tool (upload your transcript, learn more about the subtext by analyzing which words were said more often). Below, I compared the transcript of Bush's 2003 State of the Union to his 2007 iteration. Interesting to see which words changed...

[State of the Union 2003]

[State of the Union 2007]

And dig this - the damn thing works in foreign languages (well, at least the ones I speak). I pasted in the transcript of a recent speech made by Japanese Prime Minister Abe and it worked...kinda sorta worked. It visualized sentences and phrases rather than words - impressive, nonetheless!

One drawback: Right now, you have to upload data in order to create visualization charts, which means that your data (or interview, or transcript) is made available for public consumption.

I wonder why social data has become so popular suddenly... Many Eyes is a fantastic program, yes. But so is Data360 (if you haven't yet tried it, Tom Paper and crew were one of the very first to develop an online data visualization/ sharing tool). Swivel is cool as well...and there are lots more. Thoughts on why we're excited about socializing data?

Thanks to data guru Aron Pilhofer who introduced me to Many Eyes...


August 10, 2007

Convert Text to MP3

The past few months, I've had several questions from folks about converting text-based documents into audio - and vice versa. I haven't found a fantastic voice to text solution just yet, but I did stumble upon this script to convert virtually any text into an mp3. (And it's easy!)

I know that I never get through everything I'd like to read during the day - this script will turn articles, blogs, documents, etc. into an audio file that you can take with you to the gym or on your commute. It works beautifully - if you want proof, I converted the script instructions below for you. Download here. This is for Mac users only and comes via Liana Lehua at Apple Phone Show. She also has instructions for Windows, though neither of us has tested to see if it works...

First, convert the file to .txt (plain text) . If you're on a web page, for example, you can simply copy and paste the story into Text Edit (this application comes standard on all Macs).

1. Make sure the document you want to use is converted to plain text and that your document is saved with the .txt extension.
1. Open Automator.
2. Add an action by searching for and dragging “Get Contents of TextEdit Document” from the menu on the left to the blank box on the right.
3. Add action: “Text To Audio File” and complete the fields: System Voice, Save As, and Where.
4. Add action: “Rename Finder Items (Make Finder Item Names Sequential)”. In the first drop down box, select “Make Sequential”. Select “Add number to existing name”. Place number “after name”, and separated by “dash”
5. Add action: “Import Audio File”. Select “AAC Encoder” and check the “Delete source files after encoding.”
6. Save the Automator workflow as “Text to Speech”. Go to File - Save as plug-in, and select Script Menu to save.

Now you are finished with Automator and only have a few more steps to complete. Continuing with the process:

7. Open the document in TextEdit.
8. If needed, make any modifications to the text at this time.
9. Select the Scripts menu located in your menu bar. It looks like a scroll or curly “S” and choose the “Text to Speech” workflow.

August 08, 2007

Tooting Horns...

Congrats to sometimes MyDigiMediaGroup contributing team member Sarah Ruddy (and former employee at Dragonfire), who just launched a fairly impressive online catalog for the New York Times Syndicate this morning. Have a look - I like how the pages move using multiple directions...

August 04, 2007

Liveblogging the CapitolBeat multimedia panel...

I'm at the CapitolBeat conference in Philly, where I gave a presentation on using web-based tools to deliver content online. (If you were there and didn't get a software CD before they ran out, give me a shout and I'll drop a copy in the mail to you.)

From Besty Russel of the Spokesman Review: broadcasts its newsmeetings live twice a day. There's a "transparent newsroom" section on the main page with "notes from our daily news meetings" and an "Ask The Editors: We answer your questions about our editorial decisions and operations" section. I haven't seen this - at least not this prominently - on other news websites yet, and I think the transparency section is a fantastic idea. Also great for jurno students who want insight into how newsroom managers' meetings go... They have a "mo-jo"... a mobile journalist.

Mark Binker of the Greensboro News & Record is talking about blogging. Says to use blogs for short takes of stories you're currently reporting on. Include links to source info.

Next up is Chris Krewson, Online Editor at the Morning Call in Allentown, Pa. Says he doesn't want any more reporters blogging by themselves... wants instead topic-based blogs with multiple contributors. Wants updates at least three times a week, not necessarily throughout the day, every day. Says that online, other newspapers aren't your competitors. Says that news orgs should certainly link out to every other media publishing that story online. Audience wants as much information as they can get online.

Aron Pilhofer (NYT CAR team), Tiffany Shackelford ( and I had a frank discussion about the use of blogs in a newsroom during our panel. We tried to explain that blogs aren't the place for jurnos to post snippets of newspaper stories. That they can't be published the same way that a newspaper is published...a one-way communication street. Doesn't work that way.

I don't understand why journalists have jumped on the blogging bandwagon without understanding fundamentally how and what blogs are. Blogs are about community. They're conversations that happen in the comments section. They're collaborative. There's no point in having a newspaper produce a hundred blogs if reporters are just repurposing what either didn't make it into the paper or wasn't ready for a full story.

Meredith Artley, new Exec. Ed. at the LAT is using blogs for breaking news...and they're doing a fantastic job of it.

August 01, 2007

Interactive Timelines Made Easy

I've been playing with xtimeline, a new digital tool that enables anyone, regardless of coding ability, to create and share an interactive timeline online. Comes from Famento Inc. - not able to see who's in the group, but on paper they've incorporated in Delaware.

Using xtimeline, you can upload a spreadsheet (year, event) and a timeline will automatically be generated. Later, you can add pictures and links. Famento just announced that users can now automatically create timelines from RSS feeds.

Have a look at a timeline about newspapers in the Twin Cities:


A few problems: you can't really customize the layout of the timeline template, which means that white space can be a problem if multiple years separate events. I also resized the timeline to embed wihin MyDigimedia - and it doesn't look pretty. The original (and fixed size) is 928 wide - which can pose problems for some newspaper sites. See the full version of the Twin Cities timeline here.

Timelines posted on the site include data from other sources around the web - so accuracy is a problem, as it has been for another data tool, swivel. But using this xtimeline within a newsroom and running numbers through the copy desk should protect data integrity.

On the other hand, timelines are easy to create, easy to share, and you can include lots of contextual information ... all without knowing a lick of code. Since you create a timeline on the site, it's automatically shared with the rest of the users/ site visitors. Slap some corporate branding inside the template and publishers may see a spike in traffic - especially if the timeline is creative. Pretty neat.

July 26, 2007

Self-destructing emails!

Here are a handful of online tools that will allow you to send an email that will literally self-destruct the moment after it's read. Will this enhance your journalism? If nothing else, you'll be able to send a nasty note to your editor without leaving any proof...(not that you should). Via Tech[dot]blog.

See all 10 picks at Tech[dot]blog: Allows you to send email from webmail by adding to the end of the recipient’ email address. They also provide a free plug-in called ActiveTracker for desktop email clients such as Outlook, Thunderbird, Opera Mail, Outlook Express and even Webmail [link]

WillSelfDestruct: This site enables you to create a one-time secure web page for a recipient. You can create a secure anonymous email message to a friend or colleague by entering their e-mail address and the message. The recipient will receive an e-mail with a link to a one-time secure web page which they will be able to view once and only once. Once the url has been accessed the message is deleted.

KickNotes: Allows you to create an email message that will self destruct based on how many times the message is read or the age of the message.

BigString: BigString is a free service allows a user to easily send, recall, erase, self-destruct and modify an email after it has been sent. BigString users have unprecedented control over all of their email, whether they choose to send it through the website or an email client such as Outlook.

Kablooey Mail: Kablooey Mail offers features similiar to BigString such as recalling or “retract”ing a message after it has been sent, self destructing based on number of times a message has been erad or age of the email, and blocking the recipient from copying the message, forwarding the message, printing the message. A plug-in is being developed that will allow using their service through any email client.

July 16, 2007

Yes - I did it all on the 'Berry

Some of you have asked whether the audio was also taken on the Pearl. Answer is yes. Audio, photo and web were all used. Now I obviously didn't do any editing, but in terms of raw reporting and material, this worked. It doesn't necessarily have to cost thousands of dollars to start a multimedia newsroom, folks...

July 15, 2007

Reporting Live from Wrigley

I've decided to push my Blackberry to the limit. With all the iPhone hype, I wanted to prove - at least to myself - that sticking with my Pearl makes the most sense right now.

I'm at home in Chicago, and we're at a Cubs game right now. After a horrible, terrible two innings, we're finally up a run against the Astros. Wrigley is completely packed - there are 42,000 people here. I managed to score a set of tickets right between home and 1st.

And I'm attempting to report and write an interactive story using my Blackberry.

This will be short, as the Pearl has limited keyboard functionality. Also, the guys behind me are ticked that I'm wasting perfectly good seats.

Photos and audio were taken on my Pearl. I took notes and then wrote and published this also using my phone. Message to reporters: This may not look pretty, but it can be done!

Listen to crowd cheering.

Listen to Take Me Out to the Ballgame, with Jeff Garlin leading the crowd.

July 12, 2007

Ultimate Cheat Sheet of Cheat Sheets

New to a gig and not quite sure what CPM means? Have no idea how a blog works? Need to remember random ASCII codes to impress a hot date?

Worry no more! I've just stumbled upon this fantastic interactive cheat sheet. There are tutorials, tipsheets, how-to guides and more all available on one site. They're all free, organized exceptionally well and have been vetted to ensure accuracy. Bookmark it!

Listen to this article

July 05, 2007

More Reason To Love Swivel

I first wrote about Swivel back in February. At the time, they were still in "preview" mode and hadn't yet released a public beta. The idea was that users could create charts and graphs online using data and then share their charts with others. They could also collaborate on data projects with colleagues.

Last month, they introduced Swivel G, which offers data-driven maps. Have a look at their mockup of world Muslim population:

One problem facing Swivel from the beginning has been data and sourcing. The Muslim data comes via Wikipedia, which is an obvious problem. While I wouldn't necessarily use this as a reporting tool, I would absolutely use this on my website to feature reporting that I've done.

This is a fantastic idea for smaller news organizations who either don't have ArcView experts on staff or can't afford to buy software or hire code monkeys. Seriously - have a go at Swivel G. And by all means, share what you create - just click on the link.

Listen to this article

June 28, 2007

Thoof...Now In Public Beta

Thoof, the Digg-like automated news service, is now in public beta. Have a look at what I said about the service a few weeks back. Give it a trial run here.

Listen to this article

June 21, 2007

Notable European Web 2.0 Startups

Some recent European Web 2.0 startups... (via Robin Goode). Descriptions are either from Goode or from the startup site. My comments are indented below...

Photo-sharing of geolocated photos. Panoramio offers 2 Gb of free storage for photos. The site has 330,000 registered users and 1.1 million geolocated photos.

Amy Says: A lot like Flickr. Lots of storage.

"A real-life" where you can remember and share with your friends all kind of places (from business to sculptures) around the world using comments, tags, photos and videos.

Amy Says: This is actually pretty innovative. You might consider using this as a digital, virtual beatnote/ sourcebook - especially if you travel frequently. Or an entire newsroom might use it for collective reporting.

Anywr is a web and mobile system that offers simple, yet powerful services for managing contacts, calendars, events and communications virtually from anywhere: using browsers, mobile devices or any other of the over 750 million compatible devices available today.

Amy Says: This is another possible reporting/ newsroom sharing tool.

Tupalo is a social mapping network for local and independent culture, allowing members of elusive niche cultures to add, rate, review, search and tag their favorite local businesses in major cities around the world via PC or Mobile devices.

Amy Says: This is like an interactive Craigslist. I'm starting to see opportunities for editorial content embedded within interactive maps - and advertising (local biz) to go along with it. What about a map - rather than a newspaper or magazine or even full-fledged website - as the publication medium?

More notable startups to try:

Properazzi - the property search engine - is a crawler-based web 2.0 property search engine for all of Europe. We launched in March 2007, and currently list 1.8 million sale and rental properties in 45 European countries, in all European languages and currencies. We're backed by Mangrove Capital Partners (Skype, Quintura, Nimbuzz). We've got a highly international team and are based in Barcelona, Spain.

Menéame is the leading Digg-like website in Spanish. It helps anybody promote news from any source by creating new pages according to users's votes. It was launched in 2004 from Mallorca.

SlideBurner allows you to share and discover easily slide-shows/presentations (Power Point or OpenOffice files). Upload your files and they can quickly be viewed online in any web browser on any platform. You have full control on the security of your slide-shows; you can select precisely the person who can access your data. You can also create groups around your fields of interest. Moreover, the site is multilingual; for the moment it is available in French and English.

5min is a place to find short video solutions for every practical question, and is also a place for people who want to share their knowledge. 5min's vision is simple: any solution can be visually explained in 5 minutes. Users of the 5min platform will benefit from a visual illustration of any solution through a Smart Player. Unlike all of the video sites on the net, 5min created a video player that is adjusted specifically to the instruction field.

Listen to this article

SearchCrystal: Pretty cool alt-search engine visualization tool

I've found SearchCrystal, which is an alternative search engine visualization tool. Rather than displaying results as a textual list, you'll get images, videos or both.

You can compare, "remix" and share results from multiple search engines. Still in beta, SearchCrystal is more meta-search engine than anything else, but I gotta admit...the results are pretty cool.

Here's what I found searching on Clive Owen. Notice that I saved this as a widget, embedded it on my site and enabled you to share it via email or embedding on your own site...

Is it necessary? Nah. But lately I'm researching semantic search systems, visualization tools and creative methods of displaying information online. Reminds me of BuzzTracker and KoolTorch. There are many obvious uses in journalism... especially within citizen/ community areas of established msm sites.

Upcoming Multimedia/ CAR Bootcamps...

Three Multimedia/ CAR conference possibilities...

2007 Multimedia News Producers Workshop
Digital Video Storytelling
August 16-18, 2007

Ready to learn to gather sound, shoot video and structure a great story? The Institute for New Media Studies has the workshop for you.

In this hands-on workshop you will learn to:

* Gather and edit audio
* Shoot and edit video
* Tell a great story
* Become the digital storyteller you know is within you!

Three days of hands-on learning and real-world, expert instruction focused on improving audio and video digital storytelling skills starting from scratch. Participants will learn about the latest in gear, how to operate camera equipment, shoot film “on assignment,” and edit video, audio and stills for compelling visual storytelling – all from professionals at the top of their craft.

Journalists charged with producing multimedia content for online publications. Whether you are a complete newbie, have some skills, somewhat trained, or are good and want to get better - this workshop will have something for you.

Minneapolis - University of Minnesota School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Wednesday, August 15 – Pre-Workshop informal gathering Kitty Kat Klub
Thursday-Saturday, August 16-18 – Murphy Hall, University of Minnesota

If you don't know, you probably don't need to come!

We'll combine talking and doing. We'll talk about what we know about digital storytelling use and usability, online storytelling concepts, tools, and training and working with your newsroom. Plus you’ll do hands-on audio, video and editing, putting your assignment together in the digital media lab. We’ll host dinner and critique submitted stories, and finish the last day showcasing the stories participants do at the workshop.

Mike De Sisti – Photojournalist /multimedia specialist, The Post-Crescent, Appleton, Wisc.
Jim Gehrz - Photographer, StarTribune, 2006 NPPA Photographer of the Year
Julie Jones - Award-winning TV photojournalist/producer, University of Minnesota School of Journalism and Mass Communication Ph.D. candidate and visual journalism instructor
Regina McCombs -
Nora Paul - Director, Institute for New Media Studies, University of Minnesota
Brian Peterson - Photo Coach, Star Tribune
Jenni Pinkley - Multimedia Producer, Star Tribune
Ken Speake - Master storyteller and former KARE-11 reporter
Joe Weiss - Soundslides and freelance interactive producer

Hosted by:
University of Minnesota School of Journalism and Mass Communication Institute for New Media Studies and the Minnesota Journalism Center.

$210 includes three days continental breakfast and lunch and Friday night dinner.

Limited to the first 36 completed registrations.

Dos and Tres:
August 5-10 - Computer-Assisted Reporting Boot Camp: This unique seminar will train journalists to acquire electronic information, use spreadsheets and databases to analyze the information and to translate that information into high-impact stories. In addition, the institute will provide follow-up help when participants return to their news organizations. For more information, go to:

August 17-19 - Mapping Data for News Stories: Learn how to uncover interesting news stories by mapping data with geographic information system (GIS) software during an intensive mini-boot camp. IRE and NICAR will conduct this hands-on training using ArcView 9 GIS. We will look at noteworthy stories that have used mapping and point you to stories that you can uncover using census and other data. The sessions will include address geocoding, thematic mapping, overlaying and spatial analysis. For more information, go to::

Questions? E-mail Ev Ruch-Graham at or call 573-882-8969.

June 14, 2007

NAHJ: Digital Revolution

I'm at the opening Plenary session: The Digital Revolution. Speaking are George Lewis (NBC), Meredith Artley (VP and Exec. Editor,, Josh Cohen (biz product manager for Google), Shermaze Ingram (spokesperson for the NAB DTV Transition Team), Liz Lufkin (Yahoo), Susan Gonzolas (Comcast) and Randy Stearns (East Coast deputy editor for MSNBC).

George Lewis started by showing us a piece he did 15 years ago about the then-new San Jose Mercury project to put archived and new newspaper content online. Showed a US News screen dowloading...took several minutes. We all got a chuckle - the change has been dramatic these past years. I've forgotten what it was like before. (Hoping that I'll find a copy of the clip or that George will make it available on the web - it's a must watch for everyone.)

MA: Everyone is still producing online news as if they're writing for a paper. Reporters should start to gather news as if they were producing for the web first. Stories shouldn't just be updated, instead, why not blog?

This is so refreshing...first, I'm more than excited to see an exec position within a major media .com staff go to a woman (Artley is newly hired). Second, it absolutely makes sense to blog breaking news events rather than writing a traditional news story. Why aren't more msm outlets doing this?

See the breaking news blog (fire entries)...

GL: If the new media puts the old media out of work, where will Google get its content?

JC: Simply putting up print on to the web isn't a smart digital strategy. Same goes for video. It's no the best format to stream a half hour of a newscast. Figuring out what works best for print, for images, for video needs to be part of a editorial digital strategy.

I think that George makes a very strong point - as much as I think the new tools and content production opportunities are important, aggregators don't work without content. And until bots can gather and create that for us, we're going to need good, human reporters and editors...

SG: Everyone should tell people about DTV, let minority communities know about gov't-issued vouchers for the converter boxes for their analog TV sets. The people who need vouchers won't be on Google and Yahoo to learn that analog TVs will go dark in 2009.

The last two speakers are talking about the switch from analog to digital television...kind of disjointed, given the previous speakers. I didn't know there was a voucher system.

We're back to journalism now...

RS: It comes down to content. People are hungry for the information, they just want it in different formats...

GS: Are we going to be eating junk food journalism, since people can now pick and choose?

JC: Newspapers were the core of the local community before. Classified ads, everything that comes with the community were a part of that. What's behind Google news is that peole want to be exposed to news from different sources. Yes, they'll search for Paris Hilton, but there are people who are digging much deeper into a variety of sources that may not have been able to with jus ta newspaper. At Google, we're presenting a variety of sources. We're not trying to force feed people. Users should be part of the process.

I really wish that Josh could be telling us about some of what Google's working on...wish that he would also address Street View and how that may or may not impact journalism. Same goes for video and how some newspapers are throwing their video up on YouTube.

RS now says that we (journalists) need to pay attention to data:

RS: If you take away hard news, people get upset. The big drivers at MSNBC are breaking news stories. People get tired of overplaying certain stories (re: Anna Nicole Smith). People continue to care about news because they can go so much deeper to get information.

SG: Content is driven by demand. Comcast has a portal online as well as cable because the public demands content. There's an opportunity for growth...with so many different sources, one story has the opportunity to get your name out there as a journalist.

MA just said that the has been meeting with consultants and wireless providers and that they'll be rolling out mobile content and other mobile services in the very short future. She says that mobile right now is the web of 1993. Amen!

I'm uploading an mp3 of the panel right now ... speed is a little slow. As soon as it finishes I'll post if for download/ streaming.

Listen to this article

June 04, 2007

TextMarks launches Interactive T-shirt

How's this for a vertically-integrated Web 2.0 company? TextMarks, a service I covered in early February, has launched a new service that monetizes content both online...and on your back.

TextMarks is an app that enables a publisher to distribute content via SMS text to a cell phone. Users subscribe with a keyword and instantly receive whatever message you send to them. At the time I first wrote about the company, price points for a monthly subscription were set by the publisher and ranged from $4.99 to $9.99 a month - TextMarks kept a significant portion of all subscription fees collected.

Now, TextMarks has launched Reactee, a clever retailer offering you the ability to create a T-shirt with a logo saying just about anything you want: Obama in '08...Save the Whales...Save Jimmy Wales... The shirt is assigned a code (OBAMA) which is texted to 41411 - the TextMarks short message center - and your preprogrammed message is sent right back.

From the FAQ:

You create a shirt by selecting a slogan, keyword and initial response at the Reactee web site. You then select a color and size for your shirt, enter your cell phone number so that we can activate it, and your billing and shipping information so that we can print and ship the shirt. When someone sees your shirt and sends a text message (SMS) with your keyword to the Reactee short code (41411) they get a text message back that you specified.

You can also receive text messages via your shirt if you choose.

Gizmodo has a shirt, as does Hillary (or a supporter - hard to tell which). They cost between $20 - $27 each, and as far as I can tell you get zero of the sale. On the other hand, you can get texts from strangers without having to divluge your actual mobile number...

A verzion of this could be adapted to a news org's marketing team. I'm not recommending TextMarks specifically, but a hybrid text-promo item model during a sports event or festival could equal fantastic brand awareness both in both digital and analog worlds...

Listen to this article

May 22, 2007

Easy Web Forms: Icebrrg

I've stumbled upon (literally) Icebrrg, a nifty online tool enabling anyone, regardless of programming ability, to embed interactive forms on any website or blog. It uses iframes, not everyone's favorite coding tool, but the web app works pretty well.

The pricing plan is expensive, but you can use it for free for up to three forms per month. I also like the data collection option - what's difficult isn't coding the web form to show others your data, it's collecting information into a database that you ultimately must build. Icebrrg does the collecting and sorting for you, and reports are generated as a file readable in Excel.

Why are forms like these important to online publishing? People expect and desire multiple-direction communication, which means interacting with you, the publisher, with words, numbers, opinions and so forth. See an example below - try filling out the forms, it works:

April 06, 2007

See You @ PodCamp NYC

I'm heading up to New York momentarily for the PodCamp NYC (un)conference. John Havens and crew have done a spectacular job of organizing 100 workshops and panels on Podcasting, blogging and citizen journalism.

PodCamp is free and open to the public, but you have to register. Download a complete PDF copy of the schedule.

I'll be presenting tomorrow at 4:00 pm on how to use a journalist's reporting techniques to lend credibility to a Podcast and to ultimately make that Podcast site sticky.

If you're planning to be there, please give me a shout. I'll be at the conference most of the day and then at the Slate media party tomorrow night.


April 05, 2007

Kris Krug on digital photography

Robert Scoble posted a video of Kris Krug talking about digital photography at the Northern Voice conference in Vancouver. Great ideas and tips... (Click below or watch the original video here.)

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March 28, 2007

RadiusIM: Another use for geotagging

Here's an interesting geotag mashup: RadiusIM is a web-based service that displays all currently-online instant message users on a map. (You have to sign up for the free service first, of course, and so do your friends.)

But you can also trace your friends via their mobile phones. For example, when I'm not online, all of my instant messages get delivered directly to my Blackberry. If I had a RadiusIM account, my phone could then be used to help my friends and family locate me as I shopped, went out for dinner, sat at the beach...

I wonder if there's an application in here for news reporters. I'm thinking about Live8 and how that coverage was handled by Philadelphia media a few years back. It might have been interesting to send out reporters to live blog the event. In what should be a contained online space, there could be a live blog, streaming video or audio clips, and a map showing where reporters are to give users better perspective. Same goes for covering disaster reporting, giant sports events, political conventions...

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March 26, 2007

Launched: The MyDigimedia Toolbar

I've cobbled together a digital journalism toolbar that you can install right into your browser (Firefox recommended, though IE 6 or above should also work).

The toolbar will give you access to digital journalism resources, such as professional organizations, how to's, downloadable tipsheets and RSS (blog and podcast) feeds about/ for digital journalism. Just for kicks, you'll also get your local weather. You can customize it to some extent as well...

Once you've installed it, all of the links will be automatically refreshed when you launch your browser. I'll be adding more resources in the coming weeks. Speaking of new resources, give me a shout if you think something should be added!

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March 24, 2007

Heading to New York...

This weekend, I'm in New York at Vision Expo. (This conference is an international confab for optometrists and opthamologists -- and the technology on display is wickedly cool!)

On the off chance that you're at the conference or in New York, give me a shout.

Seed Newsvine

March 22, 2007

News Corp./ NBCU Internet Video Service Just Announced

News Corp. and NBC Universal just announced a new online video sharing service to meant to challenge GooTube for visitors and, ultimately, advertising.

Initially the service, which has yet to be naned, will be stocked with TV shows and movies, and users will be able to modify and share clips with others registered with the service. It's slated to launch this summer.

From the announcement:

“This is a game changer for Internet video,” said Peter Chernin, President and Chief Operating Officer of News Corporation. “We’ll have access to just about the entire U.S. Internet audience at launch. And for the first time, consumers will get what they want -- professionally produced video delivered on the sites where they live. We’re excited about the potential for this alliance and we’re looking forward to working with any content provider or distributor who wants to take advantage of this extraordinary opportunity.”

“Anyone who believes in the value of ubiquitous distribution will find this announcement incredibly exciting,” said Jeff Zucker, President and CEO of NBC Universal. “This venture supercharges our distribution of protected, quality content to fans everywhere. Consumers get a hugely attractive aggregation of a wide range of content, and marketers get a novel way to connect with a large and highly engaged audience.”

This is big news, because News Corp and NBCU have established relationships with Yahoo and Microsoft, and will now be able to feed content directly into AOL and MySpace. Together, this massively multiplayer multimedia partnership claims 96% of the monthly U.S. uniques on the Internet.

At the same time, last week Viacom, Inc., which owns MTV and a host of other networks, slammed YouTube with a $1 billion lawsuit for unauthorized distribution of copyrighted material.

And yet, I think that GooTube will succeed. I pray that you read the following carefully.

Young people are ad averse. The reason for YouTube's extreme populatiry is because of its open nature. People can upload, mash, share and explore video, for the first time, without real control or barriers to entry. It's not just that we want to watch sitcoms online. For God's sake, most of what's available is hard enough to watch on a TV set that doesn't depend on bandwidth or a fast Internet connection.

I'm not going to watch Borat or 24 on my computer as streaming video unless I'm on my T3 at home. And I probably won't even do it then. (To be fair, our house has a killer home theater with a movie screen that's 10 feet wide.)

I may be premature in saying this, but I don't think the News Corp./ NBCU streaming service will necessarily succeed or proliferate in a way that challenges YouTube.

Parental control hasn't been a proven method to herd youth in the past. Control + advertising might equal avoidance, but I might be wrong...

Read what folks are saying at Bloomberg, Reuters, Forbes (but you'll have to suffer through the ad first).

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How To: Install a social networking widget on your site

This little tool is social networking on steriods. The new ShowYourself widget, developed by Dustin Bachrach, allows you to very easily build a widget for your website that will show all your online identities and locations.

Essentially, you tick the services you use, add your username and -- presto! -- code is generated for you to put on your site. Far as I can tell, this should work with any web template, including most content management systems and social networking platforms.

Here's a sample. (Note: these aren't real usernames.)


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How To: Make a dynamic calculator for your news site (using AJAX!)

Have a look at this AJAX tutorial, posted last Sunday by Harry Maugans on his blog. He offers directions, step by step, how to create a simple, dynamic calculator -- and in the process, gives a good explanation on how (and when) to use AJAX (asynchronous JavaScript And XML).

If you have the ability to upload new multimedia files or code to your newsroom website, I'd recommend using this tutorial as a way to get started. You could potentially use this tool to create property tax calculators, income calculators, real estate calculators...useful interactive journalism for your news company's site.


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March 10, 2007

Morning Call's Pet Widget: Finally, a newspaper site enables sharing

Congrats to Chris Krewson (the just-named Online Editor at the Morning Call newspaper in Allentown, PA.) and staff for launching some neat digital tools to accompany an investigative project that's scheduled to run in tomorrow's paper.

Here's what Krewson had to say about the widget in a recent email:

On Sunday we're following in the Inquirer's footsteps and investigating the state's puppy mill reputation. To do that, we used the Right to Know Law and obtained 20,000 inspection reports from the state, and assembled them into a database.

Today we launched that database on our Web site for users to search, days before the story's running.

But that's not the coolest part.

At the bottom of that search widget on our homepage, there's a link that encourages users to put our database search tool on their own Web pages, in the same way YouTube lets people embed videos on their pages or blogs.

What I like best about this project is that the Morning Call has enabled users to replicate and share it on virtually any other website.

Terriffic, I'd like to see this model applied beyond pets (which are cute, yes) to more serious subjects like housing and wage disparities, public employee compensation, etc.

More coverage on the project at: E-Media Tidbits

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March 09, 2007

Girls Gone Wireless!

Girls Gone Wireless!

For those of you too impatient to wait for the the 2007 Spring Break edition of Girls Gone Wild, have a look at Sway's latest project: Spring Break Shots. Users can upload photos directly form their cell phones to the site, which is now playing a continuous slideshow. It also allows you to save any photo to your own computer.

The site launched hours ago, and I've been passively watching it since I got up to work this morning. So far, there are only a dozen or so pics that have been uploaded, and they're very it looks a bit like the site might have been populated with selected photos ahead of launch.

The first thing I found myself wondering is whether 5:30 am is too early for a mojito. (I determined that it is.) The second, and perhaps more obvious, is that Spring Break Shots isn't showing the debauchery that I remember vividly from both my own trips down to Florida during college and the early days of MTV's Spring Break broadcast.

Looks like they're using cellblock to implement mobile-to-web photo slideshows. This is a possibility for newspapers asking users to send in content in crisis situations...

But the question is whether cellblock offers filters. I find it odd that the photos on Spring Break Shots do I put this politely...tasteful.

Sway is a company that works with corporate marketers to create social media campaigns. They offer a Social Media Map, which is a "research based plan that outlines our recommended strategies for delivering results on client expectations and goals. We determine where your targeted audience 'lives' on-line, how they behave, and what influences them." They're using all the standard Web 2.0 protocols (blogs, podcasts, etc.) to accomplish this, according to company site.

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March 06, 2007

AuctionAds: Gannett, McClatchy and Tribune Co., I've got an idea for you...

AuctionAds just launched and combines two elements now ubiquitous with the Web 2.0 frenzy. First, it's a meta-ad program, meaning that it aggregates content on one site and automatically serves it to another. Second, it solves the "how else might I monetize my content" quandry for which we're all desperately seeking an answer.

Mostly, it's the first player (and still ahead of Yahoo!, no less) to deliver a keyword-based service since Google - and that has some folks out west talking.

AuctionAds works the same basic way as Google's AdSense program. Users register, denote a space on their websites and formats a set of code that generates an ad within a certain set of size and color parameters. Except that all ads are about current eBay auctions.

For those of you who've sold items on eBay, especially the newbies, you've likely been roped in by the for-less-than-a-dollar add ons such as a colorful border or prioritized listing position on the page. I say this because a few years back, I attempted to sell relics from the Republican National Convention I was covering and, thinking the swag would harness untold riches, I enhanced my listing with just about everything available. It wound up costing me $14 to list an item that never sold...but I was caught up in the fantasy of my RNC program going for hundreds of dollars. Would I have purchased an eBay ad to raise the possibilities of a sale? Absolutely.

I think this is a very smart idea, a potentially lucrative one. And I'm wondering what application this might have to journalism.

Might there be a way for newspaper conglomerates, such as Tribune Co., Gannett and McClatchy to perhaps steal this idea? If there was a TribAds service created that would do everything Google does - enable tracking on click throughs, serve ads based on keywords, enable users to set color and size - if if that service was offered only online (users could buy Tribune-offered keywords), and if ads were served to websites across all Tribune online properties, wouldn't that be a potential cash cow?

Think of all the revenue Google is making from AdSense. AuctionAds has figured out a way to use the same basic idea to collect and serve ads. So we have three proven factors: (1) People like and use online keyword-based ad servers; (2) This is a system that absolutely generates big returns; (3) The technology isn't out of reach - someone else is doing it too.

I know...I absolutely know that this is a good idea. And here's something else to think about: At least for right now, the following domains are available... is registered to a Howard Goldstein of Trading Dynamics. Oddly enough, is sitting on these servers: CHISUN2.TRIBUNE.COM, LATSUN6.TRIBUNE.COM (you see where I'm going with this...) but there's nothing on the site. It's been registered since 1997 and expires this November, but isn't really being used... Knock, knock, Tribune Company. Anyone home?

In all seriousness, if you're interested in talking about how a localized system might work across a corporate network, email me. Give me a call. I know how to make it work, and you can hire me to show you.

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March 05, 2007

Data360: Makes me want to mine 24/7

This weekend, I spent some time speaking with Tom Paper, who is the Founder of Data360 and is a finance consultant based in San Francisco.

Data360 is one-part Swivel, which I talked about last week, one part and one part global operating report. It's a software tool, available online, that enables users to cull data from public records and databases, arranges that data in a readable format, and updates the data on the fly. According to Tom, it's "Your data dashboard for a democratic society."

Tom started Data360 three years ago as a way to create and share charts about population, interest rates, economic issues, pollution and the like to his network of about 1,500 people. The charts, which he distributed as Excel spreadsheets quarterly, could help everyone gain a better understanding about the interconnectedness of things. As a former CFO, Tom always wanted key metrics for his business, but as a citizen he wanted metrics for what was happening in the world.

Tom says: I have been asked, “Why even try to put together objective information?” My response is that while a person can argue that “objective” does not exist, I continue to believe that responsible citizens must strive for objectivity when thinking about issues. (See his lengthy manifesto outlining the details of Data360.)

Right now, Data360 is being populated and vetted by Tom and a small team in California. In about four weeks, they plan to release an updated version allowing for easier data uploads by users, and they'll have strict rules on sourcing and accuracy.

But that's just the start. He's looking to eventually launch multiple channels, like, and more. He wants to get local - to report on city halls, property foreclosures, performance in schools. Issues they cover so far range from public opinion (belief in evolution) to holidays (Christmas trees in the U.S.) to global economies (perceived most/least corrupt countries).

Tom's hoping to collaborate with journalists, academics, businesses and others to build civilization reports that can be shared and discussed with anyone who's online. (Course, that'll mean incorporating Web 2.0 article tools to enable visitors to share, blog, tag, email and rank the information...but I'm sure site enhancements are also in the works.)

I love, love, love this geek-meets-granola approach to data.

Data360 is only seeing about 1,000 visitors a day right now, but I have to think that will change during the coming months. We all seem to have a voracious appetite for data when it's in print -- otherwise, why would U.S. News, Time, Wired, the Washington Post and others bother with lengthy computer assisted reporting projects?

How cool will it be to contribute, browse and access datasets online? The Asbury Park Press launched Data Universe, and the Center for Public Integrity has been at it for years. Also fun to play with:,

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.Mac (Apple Computer, Inc.)

March 02, 2007

I (heart) Data: My afternoon snuggling up to instacalc

More Data!

I'm in a numbers mood and have been playing with this calculator, which might be a model for a widget. I could see a newspaper site developing something like this, monetizing it with a GoogleAd and inviting users to create new hyper-local calculators and saving them to a shared section.

Meet instacalc: a sharable calculator tool that enables users to enter data and get fast answers. Data can be shared and charted, to boot. As an example, you can use instacalc to figure out your site's bandwidth:

Ideas for hyper-local calculators for use on newspaper websites:

  • Property taxes
  • Tax rates + city services
  • High school sports stats
  • Public employee salaries vs. your salary
  • Body mass index
    • BONUS! Keep track of zip codes, aggregate with a Google map and tally the BMI of your reader area
  • Holiday sales vs. interest rates
  • Diet/ calorie counter
  • Grade keeper (how well you'll have to do on upcoming tests to score a certain percentage)

I like it, I like it!

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Apple iTunes

March 01, 2007

The (New) New Yorker: Portable, digital and chock full of DRM

Here's an interesting concept. The venerated New Yorker, which was nominated for a Best Online Magazine Webby Award the same year we were at Dragonfire, has launched a new product: The Complete New Yorker Magazine USB Hard Drive.

I'm not making this up.

From the site:

In one of the first digital publishing initiatives of its kind, we are proud to announce the release of The New Yorker’s entire archive, February, 1925 - April, 2006, on a palm-sized portable hard drive...Over 4,000 issues of your favorite magazine now sit, ready for you to search and savor, on an 80G incredibly light-weight and travel-friendly drive...Use it at home, on a plane, at the office — anywhere you can find a computer. Simply install The Complete New Yorker program (installation CD provided), then connect the drive to a USB port on your computer and have instant access to every article, poem, short story, and cartoon (and every advertisement) that has appeared in the magazine since 1925.

The announcement was made about six months ago, but I'm now so frustrated with the NYker site that I'm going to comment on what this gadget means.

You've got to be kidding me. The biggest digital leap I've seen on in the past two years has been the addition of (surprise) audio-photo slideshows. And they haven't even managed to pull that off well. I'll reference a recent piece about origami by Susan Orlean which sounds like it was phoned in on a late Sunday morning and looks like it was illustrated by a couple of NYU interns who didn't know how to use the scanner settings properly. I won't even go into how many steps it took me to get there, but I will say this: the slideshow isn't embedded on the site.

So here's what I'd like to know. Why spend so much energy and effort in producing an external hard drive loaded with a limited amount of NYker content (no word on updates post-April 2006) when this magazine, which I love, is suffering so greatly online?

At $299 a pop, I can't imagine that the drive is a fast seller. And here's the kicker: You can't share any of the content. That drive is locked down with DRM code in a way that would make Sony drool. You can't select any text, can't blog it, can't share it...I'm surprised that the damn drive isn't demanding a complete STD check before I stick the cable into my machine.

There are so many problems with the NYker site that are easily fixable: It could, at the very least, use an article toolbar at the end of stories. Link internally to authors, references, performances. Allow users to comment.

I'm not saying that the NYker needs to add YouTube or Flickr user-generated content, but eschewing smart Web 2.0 tools in favor of an encrypted hard drive? I won't cancel my subscription to the print edition, but I'll feel a little less warm and fuzzy when it arrives in my mailbox this week.

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.Mac (Apple Computer, Inc.)

February 28, 2007

Find Hotspots: Will report from anywhere

Here's a helpful site for anyone who travels and needs to get online but doesn't have a BlackBerry to hack. Hotspotr, still beta-ish (they said it, not me), is a very clever Google mashup with community input on hotspots around the U.S.

I clicked on Chicago and found 2958 listings. Some are free, some are paid (someday I'll rant about pay-per-use airport hotspots). A few years back, I bought a wireless sniffer to allow me to see wireless networks, their channels and whether they were open or secure to enable me to get online fast when traveling. I really like Hotspotr because other folks vet the information, rate spots, upload addresses and all that data is spit out as an interactive Google map.

If you're a reporter or blogger, I highly recommend that you have a look.

Seed Newsvine

Data Universe: In case you haven't seen it...

I've been chatting, via email, with Dmitry Dimov, who's the Product Chief & Cofounder of Swivel. Yesterday, he put this question to me:

You have a good point on data sourcing: even if it has the source citation (which we require on upload), no one can guarantee that the data actually came from there unchanged. On the other hand, when you see a graph in a magazine you trust that the data source is in fact where the data came from, but it's impossible to verify it unless you request the source data from the publication and check out the sources on your own.

Dimitry's camp is embracing the crowdsourcing model, which banks on the wisdom of the crowd to correct mistakes of the few. I'm eager to see how Swivel evolves and to see how, and if, journalists start to embrace tools like this.

At least one newspaper has already moved in that direction. And while the data isn't user-generated, the ability to search its homespun databases is easy enough for anyone to get involved. I'm talking about the Asbury Park Press' Data Universe tool, and if you haven't yet seen it, I suggest you do asap.

Data Universe, developed and innovated by Investigations Editor Paul D'Ambrosio, launched back on Dec. 3rd and essentially offers its readers a variety of searchable databases ranging from campaign finance to public employee salaries.

I'll be the first to say that the user interface isn't that sexy. The service has been up for three months now, enough time to enhance and put a better skin over the basic template. And there's a lengthy disclaimer at the bottom of each database explaining that the datasets may not be complete or even completely accurate.

That said, Data Universe couldn't be easier to use. I gave the SAT scores and property sales databases a spin and got exactly what I was looking for within seconds.

The APP is owned by Gannett, and corporate says that in the two weeks after Data Universe launched, that part of the site's traffic grew by 500k page views. And the databases carry banner ads. (Data Universe is embedded within the main site, so I'm assuming that ads are served via a central cms.)

My point is this: As newspapers and other media websites start using new online tools, I think it's a good bet to innovate projects similar to Swivel and Data Universe. Users aren't just interested in video and photo slideshows. At the heart of the Internet's ubiquitous popularity is our desire to harness and distribute information without much hassle. Reporters are already culling public databases for the same information - why not aggregate it on your own news site? If you do it well, and if the content makes sense, you can eventually monetize it.

Ed Goppalt's site in Philadelphia is a perfect example of why it's a smart move to aggregate public data with an easy interface.

Seed Newsvine


Citizen Journalism Redux

So I just found StorySquared, an online tool that allows users to start and write creative stories. It's one-part blog, one-part Netflix and one-part Flickr. (At least I think you can upload photos...hard to tell.) The company is based in, where else?, San Francisco and is a small startup. I'll say up front that what separates this tool from a standard wiki is that no one is allowed to edit or take down previous content.

We've been trying to figure out how to invite citizen involvement in online journalism for at least eight years. I say eight because in 1999, I was applying to graduate school and remember first hearing about Jay Rosen and his public journalism project at NYU.

One of the problems has been whether or not to edit outside content. How much can a citizen journalist be trusted? If that content is labeled as an independent blog, would the paper be absolved of any potential embarrassments? Ok, well how about just allowing folks to upload pictures at the scene of a crime? Or what about video?

Here's what I like about StorySquared, and here's how it applies to newspapers. I like the idea of reporting on a particular topic unfolding, wiki-style, and becoming a living document. Now StorySquared doesn't allow for editing once content is posted, which clearly wouldn't work for a newspaper site. On the other hand, I do like the overall concept if the rules were relaxed a bit.

Once we commit something to print in a newspaper it's there, in perpetuity. We can make a correction, but the only way to add context or to invite more input is to publish more of that story throughout the week. And let's be honest with each other. No one is going to devote that kind of paper real estate without months of "special project planning."

I wonder if the StorySquared concept might help to advance stories online, to invite user content, to encourage accuracy... Reporters, editors and citizen jurnos would be working on a single story all together at once to provide the best possible information, with the most context, for everyone. Unlike a standard wiki, there wouldn't be unlimited access to edit, create or delete content. With a moderator and/ or human aggregator, this could be a highly effective kind of tool to consider.

Seed Newsvine

February 27, 2007

Swivel: Data is cool again!

I've been experimenting the past week with Swivel, a beta (they're calling it a "preview") version of an online graphing tool. For anyone fascinated with data -- and I certainly am -- there are hundreds of charts and graphs with interesting interfaces to look at.

Essentially, users can create charts and graphs online and then upload them to the site tagged with keywords. Everyone else can then browse through such categories as beer, beefy-t, maryland, wars and wine. And as per all Web 2.0 sites, this one also offers areas for discussion and rankings. You can blog available graphs and share original data tables. As soon as someone figures out how to animate her graph, I gotta think there'll be a GooTube partnership in the works...

An example:

While I think the tool is fantastic and easier to use than even Excel's chart wizard, the obvious problem to publishing these things to an open user forum is sourcing. Ain't no telling where the data came from or whether its credible.

Still, based on the popularity of this site and the number of charts and graphs created and saved, I wonder if something like this should be adapted for online news sites. If newspapers are opening their arms to photos and video, why not something like this?

Seed Newsvine

February 22, 2007

Obamarama! Have a look at these numbers...

Want more evidence that newspapers should look beyond blogs to real content sharing? Consider the following numbers:

  • 70,000 newly registered members
  • 4,000 new blogs started on the site
  • 3,000 new fundraising pages created
  • 2,400 groups started

These are first week numbers. First week! Now take a guess at which site I'm referencing. It's the site that I show all of my clients to energize them about sharing content with others online. (Still need a hint? Look below...)

Seed Newsvine

February 20, 2007

Found: Great web development resource for journalists

Just found the htmlPlayground, a still-in-beta XHTML and CSS reference site. You can click on any tag and it will display what that tag does, what the surrounding code should look like and how you can use that tool on your own website. So far, it's genius - and I think a fantastic tool for journalists working on the web side of their newsrooms who might get stuck once in a while and don't have a code monkey to call for help.

And here's another application: It seems to me that this model, a true interactive dictionary, might be used for certain kinds of reported stories. I could see something like this accompanying a health story, a football story, a local politics could be thrown in, too.

Seed Newsvine

February 19, 2007

How To: Different ways to use Google maps...

I've recently been playing mashup with Google Maps, and I still believe very strongly that journalists can use them more effectively as both a reporting tool and as a richly graphic way to display information on newspaper/ magazine websites.

Here are a few ideas after my morning brainstorming session:

Map + Schedule = graphic interface showing travel dates
Applications: sports schedules, personal schedules, political campaigns

Map + Travel information = interactive travel guide
Applications: see NYTimes Travel

Map + Health Desk = maps showing demographic and health information
Applications: obesity charts, spread of disease/ epidemic, hyper-local flu information

Map + Real Estate listings = property value/ taxation survey
Applications: local income:housing cost disparities, neighborhood tax:services disparities

Map + Nightlife Events = ad-driven listings database
Application = monetized nightlife calendar (bonus! add RSS feeds by event category)

For more inspiration, have a look at the unofficial Google Maps Mania site. API detail on how it's done at Craigslist + Google housing price map.

Please note: I'm not commenting here on the integrity of reporting on any of these sites - I just want to show you what's possible.

Seed Newsvine

Apple iTunes



Found: New social bookmark search at Infopirate

Just stumbled upon this bookmark search engine today at A very Web 2.0 way for journalists to dig deeper for information.

Simple How-To: Monetize your content through SMS text messaging

A new service launched today that allows bloggers to monetize content easily. But it has broader uses too: businesses can serve ads directly to their consumers in a process that completely sidesteps classifieds, print or digital.

Meet TextMarks, an exceptionally clever app, so smart that newspapers ought to take notice immediately and begin emulating some of its features.

Publishers select a keyword, such as BALTPOL (Baltimore Politics). Then an auto response would be entered: Mayor Sheila Dixon announces she won't run for office in September. Subscribers to that keyword receive an instant SMS to their mobile phones. Users can also text the keyword to 41411 at any time for an update. (And I'm sure you're noticing that 41411 looks very similar to 46645, which prompts Google to return an answer via SMS to directory searches, sports scores, etc.)

Using TextMarks, bloggers can update their sites via text message and they can broadcast information to subscribers.

And, of course, you can monetize your blog using TextMark's SMS alerts. You set a price point at either $4.99 or $9.99 per month, customize the graphics all you want, and offer text updates to your blog's readers.

Now TextMarks is taking a significant portion of the proceeds, but it also takes away the need for a secure shopping cart system. TextMarks deals directly with the wireless carriers, so bloggers never have to worry about billing.

This model, at least in some form, should (and can!) be applied to newspaper and magazine websites asap.

To wit: I'm not a die-hard football fanatic, but I was at my sister's most recent opera recital last month and missing both of the playoff games. I sat in the audience with my Blackberry on silent texting Google every couple of minutes to get game updates. Then I switched over to mobile. Both were free (and I have an unlimited data plan, so usage was free too). But you know what? I just might have paid $1.99 for a one-night subscription to get the scores. Hell, the sale of commercial ringtones topped $2.5 billion in 2004. Billion! You don't think folks might pony up a buck or two for up to date information?

At last year's Online News Association conference, I sat in on a panel of industry big wigs talking about the challenges and pitfalls to harnessing wap for use with newspaper/ media promotion. The Bakersfield Californian was, an entire year ago, starting to use SMS for stories and also for advertising.

Why aren't more newspaper websites taking advantage of SMS - TextMarks should convince publishers that they need to look beyond videos and podcasts already.

Apple iTunes

February 12, 2007

Newspapers: Meet Barack Obama's web design tea

By now, you should know that the single greatest way to increase web traffic is virally. Say something interesting, deliver your message in a compelling way,'s the most important part...make it damn easy for other people to share your content with others.

And so I present to you the newest features on Presidential hopeful Barack Obama's website. They went live yesterday: BarackTV and

ObamaTV offers an archive of videos - stump speeches, citizen testimonials - the standard campaign hoo-ha that we've all come to expect. But it also makes it achingly easy for an Obama supporter (or detractor, even) to embed that video within his or her personal website. A toolbar below the video allows you to email the clip, link it, or get the code to copy and paste:

This is very, very smart. And I've tried it out below. [NOTE: The Obama site isn't feeding the original video I had posted anymore, so I've removed it.]
I also like the, which is a newly-constructed social network based only on his campaign. Users can create a profile (a la MySpace and Facebook), raise money (hints of, plan and attend events (Google calendar), blog about Obama and even hook up with other supporters (O-Date anyone?).

I would love to see traditional media get out of the business of just blogging. On the norgs listserv over the weekend, we've been discussing the fallout from the Inquirer yanking the blinq blog and what that indicates for the future of Carl Lavin, one of the deputy managing editors wrote that, to the contrary, the Inquirer actually launched two new blogs:

"For example, let's look at two blogs that started this month: and Are these blogs perfect? No. But it's more evidence that the Inquirer newsroom is moving forward, not backward, to embrace the possibilities available in 2007. We have expertise in many areas, including weather and transportation, and we are determined to make the most of that expertise in every format possible."

I guess that what I'd really like to know is why so many newspapers are forging ahead to develop new blogs or even Podcasts. Who's even more desperately competing for an audience than newspapers? Politicians! Even they realize that the best way to build a constituency and to engender support among an audience is to take charge of the technology that's currently available - and to make it simple as hell to get others involved.

I'd really love to see a newspaper develop a widget or stand-alone app on its website that helps users to find headlines that they're interested in, connect and share with others, blog about featured stories, share their own personal histories, publish video and photos on their personal sites...

MyObama definitely has my vote for targeted content delivery and design.