Main

August 01, 2008

Rethinking Your Editorial/ Publishing Workflow

One of the problems I've encountered in working with our clients on digital strategy is that many try to impose the same old workflow patterns they're currently using for broadcast or print.

For example, once a story gets published in a newspaper, that's typically the end. There may be a follow-up, or some letters to the editor. Otherwise, the story - at least in print - gets retired.

In the digital world, things don't happen in such a confined, linear way. Stories online, once published, continue to live. That's partially because with each new link to the story, there's boundless possibility for commentary, feedback, and additional stories based on what originally appeared. It's also because the story becomes part of a broader discussion, whether it happens via Twitter or on someone's blog or even (hopefully!) within the comment sections on your news org's site.

Those producing digital content need to change their workflow habits. Reporters need to get in the habit of multifaceted story development. They should offer hyperlinks and contextual/ related information - not the copy desk. Editors and producers need to feel comfortable adding information as the day progresses, even adding in more hyperlinks or other information long after a story has been published.

Below is our suggested workflow for online editorial content. You'll notice that part of digital content production includes a discussion with your advertising team, a step to republish your content across multiple channels and platforms, and creating meaningful ongoing conversations with your local community. I'm willing to bet that your newsroom is currently doing only half of what's below - and that's on a good day. You'll see that there's no real beginning or end. That's because digital content production is an ongoing process involving folks inside - and outside - your newsroom.

Print this out, bring it to your next managers meeting and start re-thinking how you're going about content development. And please keep in mind we're strategists and coders here at MyDigiMedia- not artists.

 

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 AGGREGATORS



Video aggregator, posting the best of what's currently on Revver.com, a user-gen video site. Requries Quicktime to play.

Magnify.net is a platform allows users to aggregate video from YouTube, Google, Yahoo! and others. Lots of social networking tools as well.

Splashcast.net 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.

 

 

VIDEO PLAYERS

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.

 

 

VIDEO EDITING

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...

 

VIDEO PRODUCTION

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

Blip.tv 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.

 

 

VIDEO SHARING

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.

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 chicagotribune.com, 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 NYTimes.com, 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 NYTimes.com 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?

June 28, 2007

Breaking News in Blogs: Lake Tahoe Fires

If there's any positive to come from the tragic fires sweeping Lake Tahoe, it's LATimes.com coverage.

Under the direction of Times.com Exec. Editor Meredith Artley, breaking news online no longer means publishing a full, 10-inch story with updates tagged on as the story progresses. I heard her say at the NAHJ conference recently that the web isn't a wire service, so why not write out the story as it unfolds?

Have a look at what her team is accomplishing via a breaking news blog. There are maps, video and interactive elements, too - but check out the blog first. Readers are commenting. This is the way newspapers should handle breaking news events.

Listen to this article Listen to this article

June 15, 2007

NAHJ: The converged journalist

Listened to some very insightful conversation about digital storytelling at a panel yesterday. Takeaways:

Katharine Fong, deputy managing editor at the San Jose Mercury News, is leading convergence efforts at the paper... she organized the panel and explained that there are many ways to get started in digital media and that the best way to start is often to just dive right in...

John Moore's team at the Ventura County Star is working towards full convergence. Interesting projects include covering the "Peking to Paris" car race and a multimedia package about an old engineering plant that's now polluting the surrounding area. It is absolutely worth a visit to the Star's home page - content is arranged well and without overwhelming the user. It's a refreshing alternative to the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink model most newspapers use.

Eighteen months ago, Mark de la Vina didn't own a cell phone. Today, he's a one-man multimedia machine for the San Jose Mercury News. Mark covers arts, entertainment and style - also writes a dating column - and taught himself how to report for the web. Again, it doesn't take a million dollars and a crack digital team to get things rolling at a traditional newspaper. Have a look at this video he produced about a ballet set to Elvis music. Also listen to a few podcasts.

Vivian Vahlberg, Director of Digital Media at the Media Management Center at Northwestern, talked candidly about the realities of the evolving journalism industry and about how traditional reporters can begin transitioning. She explained that there are several opportunities at Northwestern.

Listen to this article Listen to this article

May 08, 2007

Fora.tv - Finally, a good web video model.

Yesterday, Russ Roberts introduced me to Fora.tv, an exciting still-in-beta information resource. To be frank, the site blows me away.

Fora aggregates video from a variety of sources (World Affairs Council, Hoover Instruction, C-SPAN, Heritage Foundation, Politics + Prose, Council on Foreign Relations...) and enables you to search based on institution, subject or person. For example, I typed in "poverty" and the search yielded more than 60 videos, including:

  • James Manor talking about third world countries at the U of London
  • John Edwards stumping in front of the South Carolina Democratic Party
  • Mayor Ray Nagin talking about how Hurricane Katrina has ravaged the economy of New Orleans

I selected the Nagin video, originally from C-SPAN, which includes a descriptive introduction:

Mayor Ray Nagin
National Association of Black Journalists - Indianapolis, IN

News Coverage of Hurricane Katrina

New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin speaks about devastation to New Orleans created by Hurricane Katrina and on-going recovery and reconstruction efforts in the city. Prior to his remarks a panel of award-winning journalists and officials who were in New Orleans and South Mississippi during and after Hurricane Katrina speak about their experience covering the storm and the societal issues the storm uncovered. The discussion was moderated by Michelle Norris.

Video launches in the Fora player, which so far, carries no ads. It's not the video that compels me, it's the options available in the player. I have the ability to share and get code to embed the video on my site...but I can also visit a forum where people are discussing the video. I can view links related to the topic and speaker. I can view a transcript! There are chapter markers allowing me to skip ahead or to review particular content. The list goes on and on.

 

I'm typically not a proponent of web video - most of what I've seen on news sites isn't produced well, or isn't carried by enough bandwidth or seems superfluous.

This is a model that resonates with me. It aggregates rather than strives to create original content, which for many reasons is a winning model. It provides rich supplementary material related to the topic and/or guest, making this an effective site for research. It enables sharing and viral marketability and never loses its branding.

If I had any complaint, it would be that the font is too small - but I'm willing to deal with a little eye strain to get access to all that's on Fora. On the site, Fora is also soliciting for freelance videographers to record events...I'm hoping that Fora doesn't try to turn itself into a newsgathering outfit, because it's done a tremendous job of aggregation. Also looks like Fora is about to accept "sponsorships" for video feeds - I'm not sure how that would work, redistributing content from a public source with an outside ad attached.

For now, the site is near-perfect as is. I'd encourage those publishers eager to launch video on their news sites to have a look.

April 05, 2007

Faking It: Digital photos from news organizations

A colleague shared this with me last night. It's a fascinating (and short) Flash movie exploring ways in which traditional media have altered digital photos to make them seem more dramatic.

The movie is originally from aish.com, a site about Judaism and was republished on ZoneZero.com, a site about analog/ digital photography. And I'll preface it by saying that it has a very clear political agenda.

Still, when all of these examples are strewn together, it makes interesting fodder for discussion... Mentions photos and multimedia slideshows from Reuters, the New York Times and more.

Seed Newsvine

April 01, 2007

Multimedia Highlight: A tale of two Planets Earth

Here's a tale of two multimedia projects and a rare glimpse into how the exact same copy can render in two completely different ways.

The subject? Planet Earth, the new(ish) series on Discovery. We've been TiVoing it because we never seem to be home when shows originally broadcast. I'll say this right off the bat: the footage is stunning. Amazing. Memorizing.

Planet Earth is an 11-episode series, coproduced by the BBC and Discovery Channel. It took five years and millions of dollars to create. Monday night we watched a snow leopard that was captured in the wild for the very first time. Then we watched strange and beautiful fish living in the deep ocean. Sigourney Weaver is narrating, and the whole bloody thing is shot in high-def.

The series has been touted as a "multimedia experience," so naturally I was looking forward to the same level of innovation online.

I went first to the BBC's site, and I got most of what I expected. I often say that the BBC has the best online news site in the world, and Planet Earth certainly reflects that. There are interactive maps, lots of background on animals - the breadth of information is as fierce as the leopards we saw on the show. My only disappointment came when I realized that some of the streaming video is restricted to UK visitors only because of bandwidth allocations and because the BBC is funded as a public trust.

I went to the US site next, and I was completely blown away by the opening screen. It's gorgeous with what seems like pages and pages of content. The interface is slick, and I instantly thought I'd be spending the next several hours exploring Planet Earth digital.

Then I started clicking. That stunning landing page is just a cover - all of the other pages are disjointed and designed to fit with the main Discovery page templates. The experience reminded me of walking into a bakery because of a rich, delicious smell...only to take a bite into a disappointing, subpar baguette.

Interesting, though, that both sites had the same content to work with - and finished with dramatically different results.

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).

Seed Newsvine

March 14, 2007

State of the News Media: New report

The Project for Excellence in Journalism released its fourth annual report on the state of the news media on Monday. This is a lengthy, detailed analysis of how our media is evolving - and more importantly, how people are reading/ viewing/ listening/ browsing/ sharing/ collaborating with us in journalism.

From the Digital Journalism chapter:

What are those news sites like that are original on the Internet — sites that were not added on to some legacy TV network or newspaper? Do they have a personality profile? Do they have different emphases and strengths from those connected to another media? Or are they varied among themselves, an emerging platform with no fixed traits yet?

To try to help users sort through all that is available, the Project conduct a close study of 38 different news sites, those from different media sectors, and those that are Web only, including some with a distinct citizen-media-based flavor.

Researchers looked at six criteria, including customization options, multimedia, branding, depth of info, interactivity and business model success.

I'd be interested to learn more about how the 38 sites were selected, since at least two were aggregators rather than providers offering original content.

You can view the report at stateofthemedia.org. Also see:

Digital Journalism: A Topography of News Websites
Newspapers
Online
About the study...

More about the Project for Excellence in Journalism

Seed Newsvine

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 diverse...so 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 are...how 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.

Seed Newsvine

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!

Seed Newsvine

Apple iTunes

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 21, 2007

Philly Inquirer decides on Clickability CMS

It's official: Philadelphia Media Holdings, the parent company of The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News and Philly.com, is using Clickability cmPublish as its new cms.

Clickability issued a press release (HT: PRWeb) this morning with the details:

Philadelphia Media Holdings, the parent company of The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News and Philly.com, has selected Clickability cmPublish to provide its software technology for content creation, publishing and hosting for Philly.com, the newspapers' web site, Clickability announced today.

Philly.com is the Philadelphia region's #1 web site with over one million page views daily. Following the installation of Clickability cmPublish this quarter, philly.com will redesign the site, taking advantage of cmPublish to augment successful sections and add new Web 2.0 interactive features for readers. These enhancements will provide advertisers with unique opportunities to connect with readers online.

"Philly.com is the #1 website in the greater Philadelphia area for online readers and advertisers who engage with them," said Brian Tierney, publisher and chief executive officer of Philadelphia Media Holdings. "Adopting innovative technology such as Clickability cmPublish is a key part of our strategy to lead our market with new forms of online media that readers and advertisers embrace."

From what I can tell, Clickability is a hosted environment cms solution, which means that the company will likely host philly.com in addition to providing its platform. Clickability is behind About.com, the WSJ, CNN Interactive and Time.

This means that -- at long last -- a site redesign is afoot at philly.com. I can only hope that special attention will be paid to forward-thinking interactive strategies: mapping, smart databases, realistic blogging, shared content, and for God's sake better ad placement...

PS: Official Bill Marimow Watch is now at 83 days!

Seed Newsvine

February 13, 2007

Will Sing For Search! Try this Web 2.0 voice-based search app

Ok, I know this isn't exactly journalism. I recently found Midomi, a very Web 2.0 audio search engine.

And by audio, I mean you can literally hum a few bars of a song into it and it'll return likely results.

Why is this important? In another life I was a musician, classically trained in piano. I don't play anymore. I do have a great appreciation for music, but I have a horrible time remembering the names of songs. I used to hear something playing in the background or at a party and then would have to call my sister, a professional opera singer, hum a few bars and then beg for info as she berated me, American Idol-style.

So far, Midomi has found Alcohol (Barenaked Ladies) and Let Go (Frou Frou). I tried singing in some Japanese songs I know well but they didn't pop up.

Anyhow, as amused as I am by this gem I'm more excited about all of the voice-based search possibilities this implies:

Reporters might play back part of a press conference tape to get the material they missed...
Copy editors could use voice-based search as a means to check stories before they're published...

Imagine this:

A reporter could be doing a phoner interview with a source about a very complicated medical subject. While she's sitting at her desk, she's running a voice-based search app in the background on her desktop. As she mentions breast cancer, the voice-based search engine pulls up a picture of cancer cell mitosis from the National Institutes of Health as well as some recent data on the cancer rates in America... all without her having to type a thing.

So very, very exciting! Even if it only means in the interim that my sister won't make fun of me anymore...

 

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, and...here'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 My.BarackObama.com.

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 My.BarackObama.com, 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 Fundable.org), 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 philly.com. 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: http://blogs.phillynews.com/inquirer/weather and http://blogs.phillynews.com/inquirer/roadwarrior. 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.



February 10, 2007

Newspapers, meet Yahoo's multimedia journalists

This is why the current ballyhoo about media reform doesn't concern me all that much. While traditional journalists and indy media activists are consumed with Clear Channel buying up radio signals or News Corp snagging Newsday or Tribune Company breaking up into little pieces, the smart folks at Yahoo are doing the kind of innovative journalism that's online users have come to expect. Click on the picture below to see how the info graphic works...but you gotta read what's below it first.

Newspaper editors, now hear this! By all means, have the stuffy academic discussion about media consolidation and ownership. But you'd best look over your shoulder to Google and Yahoo, who are in the process of forming partnerships with the companies your reporters are covering for your business and tech sections. You may not understand the significance of Yahoo Pipes or even how the damn thing works. You may not have a clue about how Google uses Ajax to enable users to stick with its suggested sites. That's okay, as long as you know that big things are happening at digital media companies...the kinds of things that might make our current media reform discussion irrelevant in the next few years.

Do me... hell, do yourselves a favor, and type in "Google buys," just like that, into Google. See the company names Applied Semantics, Keyhole, PageRank, dMarc Broadcasting, Measure Map, JotSpot and so many others?

Believe me, YouTube ain't the biggest news story here.

You're about to miss the last train from Clarksville, newspaper editors and publishers. But don't say you never saw it coming.



Lingo

February 09, 2007

Lingerie, Lapdances and Lapdogs: Now at the Arizona Republic!

Someone convince me that this feature story would have run in the print edition of Gannett's second-largest daily newspaper, the Arizona Republic. I'm referencing, of course, the "Latest Lingerie" slideshow/ column which is featured on the front door of azcentral.com, right next to a woman in a black leotard arching her back over a piece of gymnastic equipment.

From the slideshow:

Sometimes lingerie is just for you.
It makes you feel pretty, feminine, deliciously indulgent.
This Valentine's Day, Yes encourages you to treat yourself to a leisurely morning of lingerie and literature.

Because for me, spending a breezy morning wearing expensive underwear and reading The Grapes of Wrath really indulges my senses.

And guess what? You can click from the slideshow to the products and shop online. Is this advertorial content? Did it come from the sales desk? Jill Richards, who has the byline, isn't listed as part of the newsroom staff.

So is this a desperate plea for traffic? (You'll notice that the slideshow has been engineered so that you have to manually click to get to each picture.) Is it advertising? To me, this is one more indication that newspapers aren't taking their web products seriously enough. Why apply a different standard to something that would run in the print edition from what would run online?

If newspapers want more eyeballs on their web products, they should innovate creative tools and adopt a different attitude towards content. Not run a Fredericks of Hollywood style peep show on their home pages...

 

December 11, 2006

PLUSNews launches

Congrats to my journalist friend, Vincent Giolito, who has just launched PLUSNews in France. It's a sort-of wire service carrying only feature stories (all in French) that will service French magazines and newspapers.

In America, plenty of magazines and newspapers accept freelance material for their print products. I think it'd be advantageous for their websites to also solicit and accept freelance multimedia projects. But we all know that content management systems remain problematic -- without standards or even browsers that are compatible with all forms of code, it'll be a while before we see a multimedia wire service...

October 07, 2006

Netscape's New Look

Definitely check out the new Netscape, which went from beta to slick new design yesterday. Lots of interesting changes. For one, they've gotten rid of the standard online lexicon. There are "anchors" who help edit and moderate the site. Rather than visiting pages, users choose "channels" according to their interests.

Of course, there's a lot of the same adaptation we're seeing elsewhere on the web... tagging, story ranking, user-generated content and lots of voting...

What application might this have for newspaper sites?

 

August 18, 2006

My Digital Diet: A month without print or broadcast media

In June, I embarked upon a Great Experiment: I went on a strict digital diet, spending 30 days without any form of traditional media. I wanted to know which was more important _ the medium (television, newspaper, magazine, radio) or the information itself. I kept a daily journal of my successes, irritations and failures. The story ran in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Sunday, April 20th.

The Rules:

  • No reading magazines, newspapers, etc.
  • No listening to the radio or watching television. Listening to a broadcast online is OK, as is downloading previously aired television shows.
  • No looking at newspaper stands or boxes.
  • Also, no looking at flyers or copies of print stories.
  • No books, unless they can be read or listened to online.

My story is featred in this Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer. Below, I've listed some of the tools that I used, websites that I visited and a handful of pictures... NOTE: Please read my disclaimer about my use of Apple products.

The Equipment:

  • Fifteen-inch PowerBook G4 (Mac).
  • G5 with 20-inch cinema display (Mac).
  • BlackBerry 7105t.
  • iPod Photo (30 gigabytes of memory).
  • Canary Wi-Fi Digital Hotspotter (to find open wireless networks).
  • DSL connection at home.
  • T-1 connection at the office.


 

I read most of my news using an RSS aggregator called Bloglines. It delivers headlines and summaries throughout the day from the 27 feeds I subscribe to. I'm also able to access all of my feeds on my BlackBerry, which means that I'm able to stay on top of the news 24 hours a day... or as long as my batteries are powered. Here's what my "digital newspaper" looks like:


Even before the experiment, I typically work on multiple projects at once so I toggle between Bloglines, various websites and Word documents I'm using for work:


Because I was relying primarily on digital sources for information, I was always on the watch for useful sites. Here are some that I continue to use today...

Web 2.0 Search Engines:

Search blogs: http://www.blogdigger.com
Search for specific feeds: http://www.feedster.com
Crawl through discussion forums for information without actually visiting each one: http://www.omgili.com
Search Google and Yahoo at the same time: http://www.gahooyoogle.com

Fantastic News Sites:

BBC
washingtonpost.com

How I Watched TV...

First, a word of caution: There are laws against distributing copyrighted material. I'm not advocating that you start burning copies of your favorite television shows to share them with all of your friends on the Internet.

That said, there are plenty of ways to download or stream broadcast content -- some legal, some questionable.

Legal TV: I downloaded copies of The Office from the iTunes store.

Questionable TV: YouTube is an easy site to search for video files. Sites offering downloadable torrents are also good resources for video files. I've used BitTorrent as my client.

A note to Mac users: I would suggest downloading a copy of VLC, a cross-platform media player that will allow you to view files intended for PC-only applications.

 

 

 

July 31, 2006

Journalism Salaries...

A new survey by Inland Press explains that journalism salaries are increasing online, but not on the print-side...

"The position of online editor recorded an 8.1 percent increase in base pay from 2005 to 2006, according to the NICS. The position also posted an 8.8 percent increase in total direct pay, which consists of salary and incentives."

June 30, 2006

Video Feed - norgs + Media Giraffe Project

I was at a really interesting conference yesterday with my colleagues from Philadelphia. The Media Giraffe Project is currently hosting "Democracy & Independence: Sharing News & Information in a Connected World," the first summit conference of The Media Giraffe Project at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

From the site:

"Traditional and citizen journalists, political strategists, educators, bloggers, developers, technology and media researchers convenedJune 28-July 1, 2006 at University of Massachusetts Amherst for the first Media Giraffe Project conference. The Media Giraffe Project, a non-partisan, interdisplinary research effort of the UMass journalism program, is hosting the roundtable summit and how-to sessions designed to:

1. Consider and recommend answers to changes to the financing and practice of journalism
2. Bridge the gap between new and traditional media
3. Show and consider the impact of new media technologies on journalism and the "public sphere"
4. Spotlight emerging business models
5. Create new networks of media innovators which bridge traditional carriers among journalism, education, politics and technology
6. Watch and share innovations in media-literacy education."

Part of this conference included a virtual panel discussion by norgs, a Philly-based group of journalists, engineers, programmers and bloggers who are trying to envision what Will Bunch originally called a "news organization of the future."

On our panel were: Wendy Warren (Daily News), Paul Socolar (Philadelphia Public School Notebook), Karl Martino (PhillyFuture.org and Comcast), Carl Lavin (Inquirer), Chris Krewson (Allentown Morning Call) and me.

We talked a lot about the fate of Philadelphia's newspapers and about how to implement multimedia strategies in the newsroom. Here's the Quicktime video (click right to download). You'll see the Philly group and our colleagues at the conference.

 

June 20, 2006

CMS and the Philadelphia Newspapers

Here's the email that prompted me to go through my cms notes again. On the listserv, we were discussing the future of online operations at the two Philadelphia daily newspapers, now that they have new owners

...I was at CNN in Atlanta over the w/e visiting an executive producer friend. Their entire online operations are in a separate side of the (massive) building, and he didn't know how or where they get their content. So I went downstairs to the online folks -- there were only two people working while I was there -- and they were separate from the CNN and Headline News newsrooms.

I seriously think the problem in our industry is one of attitude, not resources or technology. CNN has more technology than I've ever seen and they have a tremendous amount of cash. You should see one of the new production bays they're building -- that room would literally finance Dragonfire for the next decade. And yet no one seems to know what [the online news people] do. They're the abandoned puppies of the newsroom.

Why, then, are the online folks relegated to a different side of the building? Because the digital people are STILL, after all this time, an afterthought. We all know what the web can do, and most journalists now realize that there is no URL for Web 2.0. We're eager to report on technology and the last people to implement it. I was at a conference (E&P's Interactive Media con) listening to the heads of KR Digital, Disney Digital and NPR tell me about about the wonders of cell phones. I was stringing for a US news outlet in 1997, using my digital phone to buy train tickets and check headlines (in Japan) -- and 10 years later after I wrote about what was then the hot new technology, newsrooms are suddenly eager to adopt it. What gives?!?

In my heart of hearts, I believe that the Inky and DN are prime for a digital revolution. Philadelphia desperately needs databases that we can access...ways to showcase political corruption...crime data...etc. There's a tremendous amount of important investigative work that could be done just for the web. What about this city's foodie population? Sports? Environment? There are personal tragedies happening down the street that are best told combining audio, photos and pdfs. This city has top physicians, chefs, artists...PNI's audience could benefit from access to these people via the web product.

I know there are union issues and that changes happen at a horribly slow pace over there. But with some tweaking to some of the systems you're using, a handful of new staffers and some different equipment, you could reemerge as an exciting digital resource. Yes, it'd cost initially. But PNI could also monetize existing reporting and change the way it's selling online ad space to generate new profit streams. PNI's digital hub wouldn't be isolated -- it'd be very much a part of the newsroom, where coders and jurnos could conceive of projects together.

I completely agree that cranking out the daily paper is a monumental task. On the other hand, there's a lot that can be automated, and many of the current staff can be repurposed there for digital work. If they were excited about all of the possibilities and saw a bigger picture where everyone's a stakeholder, they may be eager to get on board...

 

June 14, 2006

Multimedia Stylebooks: Gotta have it!

The U.K.-based Telegraph is set to launch a stylebook for bloggers. Makes me wonder why more news outlets here aren't doing the same...

Dragonfire uses AP style and does have an in-house stylebook, but we've now decided to implement a multimedia stylebook as well. It'll be written by our interactive team and will include all elements of our digital production. What size should that Flash animation be? What will be our standard template for photo essays? What's the bitrate for audio? How are we tagging stories? This, we'll ponder the next few weeks... We're open to collaboration, too. Have any thoughts on what a multimedia stylebook should include?

Question now is, do we make the guide itself interactive? Guess we'll have to...

Five Words...

Webby's allow for five word acceptance speeches - and it still took five hours to get through them all. Here's a complete list and some of the highlights...

Award: Webby Entrepreneur of the Year
Bill Simmons on behalf of Mark Cuban: Mark Cuban is not here

Award: Best Home/Welcome Page
Two crackers fighting racism,yo!

Award: Blog - Political
Darlings, make blogs not war

Creative Journalism

Just back from the 10th annual Webby awards. (Dragonfire was nominated for Best Magazine -- we lost to National Geographic. Still, not bad for a rookie publication.)

My first impression was this: Where are all the journalists? The Webby's weren't conceived as creative awards, they are meant to recognize digital content. There was a media category, yes - but finalists were from the mega-huge media outlets based in the U.S. and U.K. (Guardian, BBC, washingtonpost.com. Webby's were well-deserved, but what about other regional newspapers or magazines?)

Sitting at our table was a game designer, a marketing exec for Healthline and a reporter for BBC Radio. We had a fantastic time chatting with and learning from these folks, but I was hard pressed to locate representatives from news organizations.

If you look at most of the winning sites, you'll notice that they all have one thing in common: extreme creativity. Maybe that's where we're going wrong. Journalism doens't seem to be a creative pursuit anymore. Some innovative work is being done by Adrian Holovaty...

May 22, 2006

How To Report For the Web

You'll notice that I talk about 360-degree reporting fairly often. This is what we do at Dragonfire, and as more publications place emphasis on reporting for the web, the more you'll have to start doing the same.

The first real change you'll need to make is attitudinal. Don't think of yourself as a newspaperwoman or a magazine features writer. All journalists should start thinking of themselves as what I'll call "Information Brokers." Your job is no different than it has always been: You're in charge of talking to people, reading through sources, filtering information, judging for accuracy, and then ultimately presenting that information in a way that the public can understand and use it.

Information Brokers use lots of different techniques to report a single story. For example, lets say you're a city hall reporter, and you're off to a council meeting. Within the course of that session, you should be able to gather sound for a Podcast or audio archive, shoot a few digital pictures (if you're not there with a photog) and record some video clips for use on the website. If you're on your toes, you'll have lots of leftover color that won't make it into the paltry 10" you've been given to write - and that's information that could easily go into a city hall blog. While you're there, get whatever records you can in electronic format - budgets, agendas, whatever.

Yes, those council meetings can be horribly boring. But a creative Information Broker can come back with a handful of viable projects. And what editor is going to refuse a reporter who can write a story and have enough stuff left over to file an online story, start a Digital City Hall project and add audio clips/ transcripts to the newsroom's intranet for other reporters to use later??

All fantastic ideas, Amy. But all this requires equipment, training and deals with the reporters' union.

Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit.

What's required is an open mind and a few extra bucks.

To start, here's an equipment list. I'm recommending products that you should have in your possession at all times. This is what I use - keep in mind I'm not getting paid by any of these companies to endorse anything below.

Audio
minidisc recorder (I prefer Sony products)
digital XLR cable
microphone
headphones
spare minidiscs

Video
Sony handycam
microphone

Photos
These days, most digicams are pretty decent. If your newsroom is intent on great photographs, they'll send a professional. Otherwise, my recommendation is to visit an electronics store and spend about an hour playing with the different models. See which one you like, and make sure to go through all the functions. I've used Nikon CoolPix cameras since the late 90s, but I recently bought my sister a Canon and I actually like the interface better.

Editing Software
I recommend ProTools to edit audio - it's really easy to use and fairly cheap. I've been editing video using iMovie on my PowerBook, but there are a host of applications available for PC.

Ideas for multimedia projects:
...blog...
The mention of a blog will send some reporters into a tizzy, but I think they can be very effective tools. (If you report a story and don't have information left over, you're not doing a good enough job.) Why not take that extra reporting - especially the color - and flex your writing muscles in a blog? Your editor can put a refer at the end of your print or broadcast story, and the rest can go online. If your media organization doesn't have a website (GASP!) or allow for blogs, you can easily create one of your own, FOR FREE, on blogger. If I were you, I'd check it out with your editors first.

...audio archive...
How cool would it be for you to type in Hillary Clinton and a subject, such as election, and be able to pull up a 5-10 second quote? It'd be great to have a newsroom intranet audio database for use in future stories, wouldn't it? And from a news consumer's perspective, this would be a great addition to any media organization's website.

...video archive...
See above. Insert "video" where you see "audio."

...rich media template...
How's about combining citizen journalism with a little reporting and a snazzy rich media template? Have a look at one of our previous Dragonfire projects for an example. This wasn't hard to do - took us about an hour to put together the graphics - and I'd be happy to talk to you about how you can create one of your own. Rich media templates should work within most content management systems.

...web-only audio content...
This will take a little training and more equipment, but you could start a series of Podcasts for your beat. They could be sections of interviews plus some narration, or just outtakes from your story. Podcasting is fairly easy to start doing on your own, as long as you have a recording device, some editing software and a lot of patience.


May 18, 2006

Convergence: Inane discussion, same result as before

I'm listening to a discussion about convergence, but this time we're not talking about how to pool broadcast and print resources. Greg Mitchell (E&P; Editor), Rajiv Chandrasekaran (AME/ WP) and Jim Brady (VP & Exec. Ed., washingtonpost.com) are talking about convergence between print-side and online.

Take notebook computer. Thrust against forehead. Repeat.

Why in the hell are we still talking in terms of separate departments? There should be no distinction between online and print-site reporting, and the longer that we perpetuate the notion that newspaper and online versions should remain separate entities, the longer we're going to suffer.

Once again, the change will need to be abrupt, and it will require a serious attitudinal change. News organizations should no longer speak in terms of print-side and online. They should consider themselves news gathering and disseminating groups that bring information to users via newspapers and the web.

This discussion is bad, bad, bad for journalism.

PS: Still no women talking or pontificating. The lady at the reception table was really nice, though.

May 14, 2006

Welcome to My DigiMedia

Welcome to My DigiMedia, a site dedicated to bridging the gap between traditional and digital journalists. My name is MyDigiMedia, and you can find out more about who I am under the About section on your right.

The basic background is this: I'd been working overseas in my 20s, and I was reporting on the tech industry from Asia. It soon occurred to me that my field, journalism, was already way behind the curve. Somehow we'd managed to break news about all this cutting-edge technology, but we were making no effort to implement all the neat tools we were writing about in our articles.

Things got worse, and fast. The dot-com bubble burst, and journalists were left wondering what would come of newspapers and magazines.

That was 10 years ago. While I see large news organizations, flush with cash, embracing the Internet, I don't see many hometown newspapers following suit. And when publishers ask their editors to cut budgets, money for training becomes even more scarce.

The result? Most publications in North America now have an online presence. Many are using RSS feeds. Lots are announcing to the universe that they're Podcasting and blogging.

But really, multimedia allows traditional media to do so much more.

I'll be sharing my observations about our industry on this site, and my reporting will come from meetings and conferences I attend as well as from my colleagues. My intention is to provide background and information, useful tips to help traditional journalists get started and brainstorming on what we might accomplish in digital media...before it's too late.

Questions? Comments? Post what you think...I'll look forward to an ongoing conversation about digital media.