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October 24, 2007

Can media really make the world better?

At a summit in Washington D.C. for part of the day to talk about the future of journalism, globalism, technology and how all those things collide. Trying to wrap our heads around ways that media can change the world and make it better. It's a small gathering at the Ronald Regan building - less than 200 people. We're talking now about the changes in "citizen journalism" and about our current system of publishing. Listening now to Jan Schaffer, Solana Larsen (Global Voices), Tom Rosensteil (Project for Excellence in Journalism), Michael Tippet (NowPublic), Alan Webber (Fast Company) and more...

Says Webber: Media really can't change the world because you must challenge the status quo. To do that is to risk your financial well-being. There's a problm of finance. To change the system, you can't be in the system... The media is a newsgathering organization - Fast Company was in part "edu-tainment." The media isn't going to be in a place to change the world. Report on news, yes, but not raise questions that will significantly change the status quo.

Says Mike Hughes (Creative Director, Martin Agency): Citizens must change behavior. (We're talking now about Al Gore and climate change and the media response to him/ it.) The responsibility of the journalist is to tell the truth regardless... More environmental reporting, more honest climate reporting. We're facing a partisan lockdown. The backlash against Gore is unwarranted. Journalists should listen to the science and try to weed through the politics. Sometimes, in pursuit of balance, journalists are working against the spirit of telling the news and affecting change.

Says Schaffer: There are very different definitions as news. We don't see news as conflict, we' don't see scorecard journalism. In citizen journalism, we don't see these definitions in that space. Cit-jurnos challenge journalists to do their jobs better.

Says me: We should be differeniating advocacy journalism from American-style reporting and storytelling. There are many folks from international publications here - I'm wondering why, if we're going to have a discussion about the purpose of journalism, we're not discussing the historic purpose of reporting in America. I think journalists should engage the public in having discussions about current events and world conflicts...and I believe very strongly that technology enables this conversation to happen. It's not about creating a culture of anyman reporters or creating superfluous information - no, it's about communication on a grand, global scale. Hell, at least people are interested in news, no? I remember growing up and listening to my parents bemoan the lack of awareness people my age had in the state of the world.

October 12, 2007

ONA 2007 Conference

Very excited about the ONA Conference that kicks off next week in Toronto! I planned this year's Business Track sessions and helped organize the Super Panel, and I'm really excited to see what folks like Katharine Fong (Mercury News), Erik Schwartz (foneshow), Brian Gruber (Fora.tv), Wendy Warren (Philadelphia Daily News and TheNextMayor.com), Steve Rubel (Micro Persuasion and Edelman), Stuart MacDonald (founded Expedia Canada), Ian Clarke (Thoof), Anil Dash (SixApart), Dorian Benkoil (consultant),
Hosam Elkhodary (The Web Analytics Co. Ltd.) have to say. There are many, many others and more than 700 who will be in attendance.

If you plan to be at ONA, please let me know. While we're there, John Havens (BlogTalk Radio) will be recording and streaming live interviews starting next Thursday. You can call in to ask questions (347) 215-7814, too. You can listen to a 30-minute chat about some of the things we've planned for the conference here. Ongoing live coverage will be available here, and you can also subscribe via RSS.

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!

October 05, 2007

Is My Mobile Anti-Semitic?

So my colleague and MyDigiMediacollaborator in Manhattan, Ian, just messaged me about some very neat technology. Two new tech tools, actually.

The first is still under tight wraps until Monday, when it's set to launch. It's a project he's been involved in for the better part of the year - I'll fill you in more after it goes live.

The other was an unlocked iPhone. Ian unlocked his without any difficulty and wanted to know if I'd also be interested. I considered it...but for many reasons, the least of which is using my BlackBerry as a modem while I'm in an area with no Wi-Fi coverage, I'm sticking with what I have.

Anyhow, I decided to ask my other half if he'd be interested via SMS text. As I was typing "carrier agnostic" the text became garbled. You see, BlackBerries have a nice autotext feature that finishes words on the fly. And I just could not get that word entered without constant deleting and starting over. Yes, I could go into the BlackBerry menu and add "agnostic" as an autotext word. But the phone is supposed to be programmed in such a way as to self-select the next probable letter as you type, even if it's not on the autotext list.

And that got me thinking. In the past, I've tried to type in "ass," "fucking" and "bastard" (not in that order, mind you) and have had the same problem. The words just won't appear.

So just now, I tried the following words, and here's how my BlackBerry insisted on showing them:

atheist = atguest
asshole = sashple
fucking = ducking
agnostic = ahboativ

Oddly enough, these words showed up a-ok:

kike
Shylock (that one self-capitalized)
Jesus
Christ

(If you ask me, the "k" word above is way worse than the "a" or "f" words.)

I like to think of my necessary tech and gadgets as companions. Now I find out that my best pal is...well...a four-letter-word-averse anti-semitic?

Interested to know if you've had similar experiences...

September 10, 2007

Jott Worked...

Ok, so it worked. I don't know about posting really long entries or trying to use it in a loud area. To be fair, I tried it sitting at my desk in my (mostly) quiet Baltimore office.

I'm kinda sorta thinking about trying to liveblog during our holiday services this week...how upset would my family be if I pulled out my Blackberry and started a running commentary? Speaking of holidays, this is a busy week. Apologies in advance - blog posts will be sporadic. Family is in town...and looking in our kitchen this morning, it seems that I'll need another batch of chopped liver...

Jott Test

I'm sending a test message to see if this really works.

audio

How to Cover Breaking News...Without a Computer

Let's say that tragedy strikes. That you're en route to your office or on your way home and a bridge collapses. Or a hurricane strikes. Or worse.

I've long thought that the best way for newspapers and broadcast stations to use blogs is for breaking news - some organizations are doing this very well. See LATimes.com's fire coverage for a good example.

Now let's say that it's difficult to find a WiFi signal or that the power is out on your computer. Maybe you want to phone in your reporting, but your newsroom isn't quite as big as the Times - and all available reporters and editors are slammed with getting stories written for the paper.

Enter Jott. It's a phone-to-digitext service that transcribes voicemail and posts directly to your blog, to Twitter, a Yahoo Group, email or even to a group of cell phone numbers (via SMS). I've been playing with Jott the past few days and I'm impressed. I've found that most folks are using it to enhance their social networks...but why not adapt this technology for journalism?

I'll create my next post using the service...should include audio, too. There's a lot of benefit in skipping an intermediary - much faster posting, much faster response time. And the transcription is pretty darn accurate.

Other ideas: Earlier, I published an entry with audio and photos using only my Blackberry and the data service I currently subscribe to. Also hacked my Blackberry a long time ago, and we used it (connected to a Jordanian network) plus my laptop to send pics and an email from Petra, Jordan (I'd just gotten engaged).

I'm interested to know if you've been experimenting with alternative publishing methods...anyone hacked anything lately? Found other creative ways of pushing content without relying 100% on your computer? Leave your comments here...If you have pictures of your work, email them to me and I'll post.

 

August 15, 2007

Why Is Data Visualization Popular?

A few days back, I posted this question about data: Why is it suddenly so popular?

Services like Many Eyes, Swivel and Data360 have taken off - they all enable you upload your data and then apply different tools to visualize it (create cool charts and graphs) online.

Tom Paper, the guru behind Data360, posted this comment - and I think it bears repeating:

I think it's because knowledge of the current condition, about most issues of social importance, is actually quite foggy. Businesses get good data because they've got money and pay strategy consultants a fair amount of money to figure things out; however, when it comes to issues like education, from the perspective of the parent, or health care, from the perspective of the patient, or global warming, from the perspective of the citizen of the world...there just isn't good data about what is so. Smart people or people who have money figure out what is so, but the rest of us grope along with the herd, knowing that a) something is wrong with education in our country, b) something is wrong with health care, c) something is wrong with global temperatures...but it's not always clear what to do about it besides jump on the bandwagon, join the herd and complain about the problem.

Social data will allow for better understanding of the current condition. If you know where you are and where you've been, it's usually pretty apparent where you want to go. One other factor which adds to cloudiness of current conditions is politics. Lawrence Lessig recently commented: "our government can't understand basic facts when strong interests have an interest in its misunderstanding." So politics by its nature tends to throw additional smoke bombs in the direction of what is so and what has been.

One last thought is an opinion: I believe that we are in the complete infancy of data visualization; there is a pulsating mass of data about what is so (at both very macro and very micro levels) that we are going to uncover in the next five to ten years. People who "get it" are often described as having good instincts; in the very near future, "getting it" will become a lot easier. More people will understand causal relationships, about what happens in their world and what happens within themselves.

I suppose I was thinking back to my college days or to various reporting gigs I've had. I always loved crunching numbers to see what story unfolded, even if the result was a scary-looking Excel spreadsheet. But I think Tom is on to something here...we absolutely want to understand our current condition better. We're fascinated with it, no? Look at Michael Moore's success, our fascination with lifestyle shows on TV (Biggest Loser)...lots of that content relies on some form of aggregated, crunched data that leads to a prophetic conclusion.

Call it practical math or digestible data...but I think that newsrooms ought to spend more energy using these kind of tools on their websites. If you offer "citizen journalism" content in the form of a story or blog, why not citizen data? If you've created an environment to check and vet your citizen video/ text/ audio/ photo content, how about data culled from public records?

August 09, 2007

Who Owns What: Media v2.0

Think Murdoch's acquisition of the Dow Jones properties is scary? Then you haven't taken a look at Google's scorecard lately.

In the past year, Google has been hunting prospects and nabbing some of the most innovative communications tools out there. Among the group: GrandCentral, Feedburner, Panoramio, Tonic Systems, Adscape Media...the list goes on.

A few weeks back, I started compiling lists of major media companies and their acquisitions. I'm usually not surprised to hear that a deal's gone through...the DoubleClick announcement didn't rock the digital media world. But when I look at the companies in aggregate form, that gives me pause.

We're so darn concerned about what Rupert will do to the Journal, what will happened to Times Select next, whether or not reporters should be allowed to blog that we're losing sight of the bigger picture.

The central figure in that picture is Google, which by the way is hedging $4 billion to gain open access to the wireless spectrum.

The future of media isn't only about content, it's about delivery. While jurnos are busy bickering about whether or not to allow visitor comments on their websites, other companies are moving full-speed ahead with radically different business models. They're thinking broadly: aggregator + search + content + mobile + gaming = sustainability.

So strike that paragraph above. It is about content, and content will ultimately save journalism. It seems to me that the smartest thing for us to do is to develop alternative ways to communicate news to consumers - and to think about convergence in terms of broad media consumption, rather than paper-broadcast partnerships.

The Who Owns What v2.0 chart is downloadable here. Pin it to your cubicle wall...then take a few aspirin. It's going to be an interesting few years ahead.

(And if you notice a correction, please let me know. The chart doesn't have every acquisition - there wasn't enough space.)

 

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:

Self-Destructing-Email.com: Allows you to send email from webmail by adding .self-destructing-email.com 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 BigString.com 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 25, 2007

SQL Failed on Yahoo...Inside the meltdown.

Sometimes, technology fails you.

Thursday, mydigimedia had a meltdown. And by meltdown, I mean that the SQL database feeding my blog ate itself. It was a problem with Yahoo, and it's happened before.

I wanted to give a big, big thanks to Kerri at sixuntilme.com. I was trolling through discussion boards and forums trying to find a solution to my problem...at first, the error message and the logs didn't indicate that it was an SQL problem, it just looked like Movable Type had updated its platform and that's why I'd gotten locked out. Anyhow, I found a post by Kerri describing something similar to what I was going through. I emailed her and she was kind enough to send back a detailed report of what was likely wrong - and then checked in throughout the day to see if she could help.

Also a massive, grateful thanks to Ian Halpern, who then spent lots of time helping me to rebuild the damn thing. For those of you who don't yet know Ian, he's an incredibly talented software engineer, game developer, artist and site architect. (His site isn't completed yet, but you can move and drag everything you see on the screen...) We've worked on lots of projects together.

The error message is this:

'mt_blog.MYI' (errno: 145)

If it happens to anyone else, here's what to do. Again, thanks to Kerri and Ian:

Reload MT, rebuild the blogging template, and load up a new post.  DO NOT OVERRIDE YOUR ARCHIVES YET - rebuild to a new URL for the moment until you're ready to push. Keep the URL locked as a test page. Once you're satisfied, push the URL back to your main domain. Everything that was on your domain will be erased and will revert to the rebuild. On theory, the archives of the old blog should remain intact, and you should link to them directly.

A couple of very important notes. ARCHIVE YOUR POSTS before doing any of the above. Go into your FTP and just create a complete copy. I thought that I had and we started a rebuild. Problem was that the connection had timed out and I'd only grabbed two-thirds of what was there. Ian wound up writing a script to rebuild the database from the HTML that was still live online.

If the process goes smoothly for you and you don't have to take the script option, your original blog should be rooted in at mtblog1.  Therefore, your archives rooted at mtblog1, too.  The new blog should be mtblog2, and new posts archive at mtblog2.  Overriding the myblog1 will blow away everything, so don't reset your new blog to your old root or you'll lose what you have.

Kerri also says that she pulled her old indexes by visiting her domain and right-clicking to "View Source."  This pulls up the HTML for the index, which you can pull pieces of to rebuild you new template.

Another quick note on Kerri's site... she was diagnosed with type one diabetes when she was six, and her blog details everything you might want to know about living with the disease. I don't have any connection to diabetes - thankfully no one in my family has suffered from it - but I found what she writes to be compelling. My mother died about two months ago from a battle against neuroendocrine cancer - and I wish that there would have been something like Kerri's site for us to read and to help us relate to what she was dealing with...
 
  

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, LATimes.com), 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 LATimes.com 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 LATimes.com 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.

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June 06, 2007

Shift Happens: Networks opting for widgets

Clearspring is expected to announce that it has been chosen by NBC to be the sole provider of widgets from now on. What is Clearspring and what does this mean for journalism?

Clearspring is a cross-platform widget service based in Arlington, and counts ex-AOL staffers as top management. The theory is that content can be syndicated and monetized in a much more efficient way using a widget rather than a stand-alone dynamic site. I've covered this issue in the past, showing how widgets can be used effictively for advertising, to make a site stickier, to engage users from their desktop and to enable widespread viral marketing in order to increase audience loyalty and site traffic.

The deal with NBC comes just as the company is set to launch a new social site this month. Since early spring, NBC has been saying that it intends to launch "the NBC.com social network, allowing all of our fans to connect with each other and interact with our shows in exciting new ways." Features are set to include personalized profiles, video and photo galleries, blogs, groups, message boards and...yes...widgets.


Clearspring widget for the NBA.

No word yet on what exactly the widgets will do, but Clearspring founder Hooman Radfar explained why widgets are now so important to traditional media on Read/WriteWeb:

...he emphasized the shift he is observing in media companies. He says that these giants are recognizing that broadcasting/silo approach is not going to work for much longer. Instead, the companies are looking for platforms and channels to access the users, to get people's attention anywhere online (this is something NBC rival CBS has also been doing -- in fact, CBS is another Clearspring partner). And this is where Clearspring comes in.

When NBC starts building on Clearspring's platform, it will get a solid platform for delivering widgets to both its internal sites and anywhere else online. The scalability of Clearspring platform has probably been the first major factor in choosing to work with the startup. The second major factor was probably comprehensive metrics. According to Radfar, these metrics are critical in order to be able to monetize the content outside of the typical network portal environment. He explained that context and user interaction numbers will help NBC determine the right monetization model.

I have to absolutely agree. Again, it isn't a particular platform that we crave. It's information - and our unfettered ability to get it, process it, share it and contribute it on our own.

As a side note, CBS has aquired streaming music service last.fm and NBC is making a move towards greater platform diversification. Makes me wonder where FOX and ABC stand...

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May 31, 2007

Mobile Search - "Will Sing" Part II

Not too long ago, I extolled the virtues of Midomi, the incredibly smart voice-activated search engine:

...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.

Then I found a press release in my inbox from Verizon. They've launched V CAST Song ID, which essentially mimics the same kind of search:

With Verizon Wireless' exclusive new V CAST Song ID, you can now hear a song, hold the phone toward the music, watch it capture
a sample of what you're listening to and within seconds V CAST Song ID will identify the music, and allow you to purchase a matching full-track song, Ringtone or Ringback tone -- all right over-the-air from your phone.

Verizon has supposedly indexed 4 million songs and a quick search should produce a display with the name of artist, song title and, because this is a commercial enterprise, a note about how to download the track as an mp3, a ringtone or a ringback tone.

ed

Midomi, and now Verizon...

Our industry should, in the very near future, capitalize on what we do best. We aggregate (reporting). We sort, verify and analyze (writing and editing). And ultimately we make content available to the masses (publishing).

I know that citizen journalism is the latest, hottest trend now, but I wish that we could branch off into the direction of smarter aggregating and publishing. We should be in the business of innovating tools like Midomi.

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May 30, 2007

Upcoming Online News Association Events

Lori Schwab just sent this around. (Disclosure: I'm a member of ONA and also in charge of the 2007 international conference business track sessions.)

So. California ONA Event:

News at Internet speed: How the velocity of buzz affects traffic,
accuracy and how we work

The Los Angeles Times and the Online News Association invite you to the
second in a series of events addressing issues of importance to
the Southern California online news community. The focus for this
panel discussion will be how the speed of the online medium shapes
the way news is delivered. Topics include:

-What is the "shelf life" of a story online, and how do you measure it?
-What strategies are being employed to deliver news on a compressed
schedule? (breaking news blogs, live video, etc.)
-How does rumor and misinformation spread online? How much skepticism
is required of reporters -- and online news consumers?
-How can you compete in a 24/7/365 marketplace if you're just one
person?
-How does the growth of user-generated content change how news
propagates across the internet?

Panelists:

-- Meredith Artley, executive editor, latimes.com
-- Andrew Breitbart, publisher, Breitbart.com
-- Robert Long, vice president and news director, KNBC-TV
-- Anthony Marquez, Los Angeles bureau chief, The Associated Press

When: Thursday, June 7, at 6:30 p.m. Reception to follow.
Where: The Los Angeles Times building downtown at 202 W. First St.
Who's invited: Anyone interested in the practice of online journalism
in Southern California

RSVP here (by June 6): http://latimes.com/onapanel/

*********************

ASNE Seminar, June 28 at the Boston Globe

Want to increase traffic and loyalty to your newspaper's Web site?

Newspaper Web sites are experiencing explosive growth, especially among
the young, affluent and those leaving print behind. We all know that a
Web site won't succeed if it's just an add-on. Explore strategic
options including how it complements the print operation. Media
companies must drive compelling content and user experiences that
motivate usage and return.

Participants will learn:
-Key online experiences for Internet users.
-How online experiences are different from print.
-How online staffs can best utilize creative tools.
-How to meld theory and best practices.

Return home with tools to teach your colleagues and quickly apply to
the Web and more traditional platforms.

The seminar is for those who work online or influence content, whether
in editorial or business.

When: June 28, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Where: The Boston Globe
Registration is $150.
The cost of instruction, material and meals are borne by the ASNE
project, which is funded by the McCormick Tribune Foundation.
Registration is limited.

Applications can be downloaded at
http://www.asne.org/files/ASNEGrowingYourOnlineAudienceForm.pdf.

For additional information contact Cristal Williams, ASNE project
director, 703-453-1138 or cwilliams@asne.org.

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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.

May 04, 2007

Obama: More techie than mainstream media

Just read the recent letter from Obama to Dean asking that "video from any Democratic Presidential debate be available freely after the debate, by either placing the video in the public domain, or licensing it under a Creative Commons (Attribution) license."

Looks more to me like Obama's camp is attempting to broadcast a certain amount of "we're hip and we get it" to a young and/or techie audience.

This ain't a politics blog, so I'm not going to comment on Obama, the DNC or what this letter means for the election.

But I will say this: the presidental election is, outside of the Olympics, the biggest marketing to-do in our popular culture. And to elevate his status, the Obama folks are using a lexicon still, sadly, unfamiliar to many traditional media outlets: CCL, participation, fair use.

(via Slashdot via Brian, my other half.)

Chairman Howard Dean
Democratic National Committee
430 S. Capitol St., SE
Washington, DC 20003

Dear Chairman Dean:
I am writing in strong support of a letter from a bipartisan coalition of academics, bloggers and Internet activists recently addressed to you and the Democratic National Committee. The letter asks that the video from any Democratic Presidential debate be available freely after the debate, by either placing the video in the public domain, or licensing it under a Creative Commons (Attribution) license.

As you know, the Internet has enabled an extraordinary range of citizens to participate in the political dialogue around this election. Much of that participation will take the form of citizen generated content. We, as a Party, should do everything that we can to encourage this participation. Not only will it keep us focused on the issues that matter most to America, it will also encourage participation by a wide range of our youth who have traditionally simply tuned out from politics.

The letter does not propose some radical change in copyright law, or an unjustified expansion in “fair use.” Instead, it simply asks that any purported copyright owner of video from the debates waive that copyright.

I am a strong believer in the importance of copyright, especially in a digital age. But there is no reason that this particular class of content needs the protection. We have incentive enough to debate. The networks have incentive enough to broadcast those debates. Rather than restricting the product of those debates, we should instead make sure that our democracy and citizens have the chance to benefit from them in all the ways that technology makes possible.

Your presidential campaign used the Internet to break new ground in citizen political participation. I would urge you to take the lead again by continuing to support this important medium of political speech. And I offer whatever help I can to secure the support of others as well.

Sincerely,

Barack Obama

April 08, 2007

Coming Tomorrow: PodCamp NYC thoughts and feedback...

Check back tomorrow for my thoughts on PodCamp NYC, Journalism 2.0 and reasons to stop talking about the death of newspapers and to get looking for that cheese...

March 30, 2007

Newspaper PDFs: I saw an e-reader, in the wild!

I've seen it! In the wild!

I was just on a flight to Chicago and, sitting next to me, was a guy with a Sony Reader flipping though the pages of The Da Vinci Code.

I've been following the progress of E Ink and other displays/ e-readers without much real enthusiasm. In theory, I love the idea - I read lots of books and would love a practical, iPod approach to filing and using them. In practice, though, the concept of an e-book reader hasn't really caught on Stateside.

So I asked him: Are you using that thing voluntarily?

He handed me his reader and showed me how easily he can change the font and colors to best suit the light. Says there's no eye strain and that he genuinely enjoys using it. I had a problem with the size of the screen, which was big and bright but only allowed me to view one page at a time. I read quickly, and I think that in my case, constantly clicking on the reader to turn a page might get annoying.

In Sony's case, there's an online store a la iTunes called CONNECT where books can be downloaded. True to Sony style, the platform and product are both proprietary, so you can't browse for titles without the Sony Reader.

Still, I was stunned to see someone using an e-reader, after the years of hype and hoopla. He was a very normal, non-techie guy, choosing to read his books electronically... But also says that he'd never flip through PDFs of a newspaper on it.

Seed Newsvine

March 29, 2007

Pirate Bay: Sealand refuses offer to sell island to torrent provider

Many of you, I'm sure, still download mp3 and video files from a filesharing network. (I can only hope that you're not continuing to use Limewire.)

You're likely using a torrent server to get your latest episodes of Lost or hard-to-find tracks off of an old Coltrane album. You would have downloaded something like BitTorrent to connect and then used a torrent search engine such as isoHunt or Torrentz.

Problem is, sharing copyrighted material is illegal.

So one popular torrent site, The Pirate Bay, attempted to move operations offshore. Way offshore to Sealand, a Principality founded in 1967. From the official government site:

Sealand was founded on the principle that any group of people dissatisfied with the oppressive laws and restrictions of existing nation states may declare independence in any place not claimed to be under the jurisdiction of another sovereign entity. The location chosen was Roughs Tower, an island fortress created in World War II by Britain and subsequently abandoned to the jurisdiction of the High Seas. The independence of Sealand was upheld in a 1968 British court decision where the judge held that Roughs Tower stood in international waters and did not fall under the legal jurisdiction of the United Kingdom. This gave birth to Sealand's national motto of E Mare Libertas, or "From the Sea, Freedom".

The Swedish-owned Pirate Bay announced plans to purchase Sealand and to create an island-nation without any copyright laws where users from around the world can upload and download all the Dawson's Creek episodes they want, and watch the sun set to pirated copies of Even Now and Mandy. They had raised USD $20,982.

Sealand recently said no to the plan. Sealand Prince Michael Bates told the CBC that for now, he's keeping the pirates at bay.

Still, the momentum behind Pirate Bay's bid - and the obvious user support - is a sharp reminder that many Internet users still expect their content to be free. They demand it. As we begin to think about new business models for news survival, publishers should keep this in mind...

(Thanks to Sam Benesby for the links.)

Seed Newsvine

Introducing the book...

A reminder that our current move to digital publishing isn't the first time we struggled. Video originally posted on YouTube.

Seed Newsvine

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...

Seed Newsvine

March 23, 2007

Whoisn't: Blocking identities on the Whois database

This past week, a Whois task force met to discuss whether or not to keep registration information private. The current system started back in the 1980s when the Internet was used primarily by a small group academics and government researchers who already knew each others' personal information. (You've likely used Network Solutions, which maintains a slick interface to the Whois database, to search for registrants in the past.)

An international task force is now lobbying for a substantial change that would completely hide registrants' information. Blocking personal information would obviously make it much more difficult for journalists -- not to mention police officers and lawyers -- to contact web site owners.

Hearings are scheduled next week in Lisbon before the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which is the international organization that oversees Internet addresses.

Resources:
ICANN's most recent announcement on the proposed changes
Summary of previous Whois announcements made by ICANN

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 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 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...

GannettAds.com
GanAds.com
McClatchyAds.com

TribuneAds.com is registered to a Howard Goldstein of Trading Dynamics. Oddly enough, TribAds.com 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.

Seed Newsvine

March 05, 2007

Warren Buffett Makes It Official: Print is (mostly) dead

According to Warren Buffett, the halcyon days of high profit newspapering is over.

Buffett's group, Berkshire Hathaway, owns the Buffalo News. And in a letter to shareholders last Thursday, Buffett raised some interesting points about the future profitability of news.

What Buffett has to say will undoubtedly be painful to hear: "Simply put, if cable and satellite broadcasting, as well as the internet, had come along first, newspapers as we know them probably would never have existed...We are likely therefore to see non-economic individual buyers of newspapers emerge, just as we have seen such buyers acquire major sports franchises. Aspiring press lords should be careful, however: There’s no rule that says a newspaper’s revenues can’t fall below its expenses and that losses can’t mushroom."

I say painful because this comes from a man that many look to as a weath-building oracle, and a lot of times folks don't heed warnings until Buffett announces an edict.

Painful? Yes. But I won't say original. Buffett isn't announcing anything I'd call new. In fact, we've been discussing these issues within our industry for years. I do think he makes a compelling case for newspapers moving, potentially, to hyper-local models. As much as I want to know what's happening back where I lived in Japan, I'm not turning to the Baltimore Sun, my local newspaper, for that information. I'll look at the wires or at the Times or even CNN.

Perhaps the newspaper model for the future involves micro newsrooms and hyper-local online communities. If print is still absolutely necessary, rather than one big newspaper, how about micro-sized local editions akin to the Metro?

Buffett is right in saying that sports desks will always drive circulation and online traffic. But I think that news...explained as it affects me, an individual with very specific interests...could easily be monetized.

The challenge, of course, is to change the way we think about the American newsroom.

An excerpt Buffett's most recent letter to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders, dated Feb. 28, 2007 (see pages 10 and 11):

...When an industry’s underlying economics are crumbling, talented management may slow the rate of decline. Eventually, though, eroding fundamentals will overwhelm managerial brilliance. (As a wise friend told me long ago, “If you want to get a reputation as a good businessman, be sure to get into a good business.”) And fundamentals are definitely eroding in the newspaper industry, a trend that has caused the profits of our Buffalo News to decline. The skid will almost certainly continue.

When Charlie and I were young, the newspaper business was as easy a way to make huge returns as existed in America. As one not-too-bright publisher famously said, “I owe my fortune to two great American institutions: monopoly and nepotism.” No paper in a one-paper city, however bad the product or however inept the management, could avoid gushing profits.

The industry’s staggering returns could be simply explained. For most of the 20th Century, newspapers were the primary source of information for the American public. Whether the subject was sports, finance, or politics, newspapers reigned supreme. Just as important, their ads were the easiest way to find job opportunities or to learn the price of groceries at your town’s supermarkets.

The great majority of families therefore felt the need for a paper every day, but understandably most didn’t wish to pay for two. Advertisers preferred the paper with the most circulation, and readers tended to want the paper with the most ads and news pages. This circularity led to a law of the newspaper jungle: Survival of the Fattest.

Thus, when two or more papers existed in a major city (which was almost universally the case a century ago), the one that pulled ahead usually emerged as the stand-alone winner. After competition disappeared, the paper’s pricing power in both advertising and circulation was unleashed. Typically, rates for both advertisers and readers would be raised annually – and the profits rolled in. For owners this was economic heaven. (Interestingly, though papers regularly – and often in a disapproving way – reported on the profitability of, say, the auto or steel industries, they never enlightened readers about their own Midas-like situation. Hmmm . . .)

As long ago as my 1991 letter to shareholders, I nonetheless asserted that this insulated world was changing, writing that “the media businesses . . . will prove considerably less marvelous than I, the industry, or lenders thought would be the case only a few years ago.” Some publishers took umbrage at both this remark and other warnings from me that followed. Newspaper properties, moreover, continued to sell as if they were indestructible slot machines. In fact, many intelligent newspaper executives who regularly chronicled and analyzed important worldwide events were either blind or indifferent to what was going on under their noses.

Now, however, almost all newspaper owners realize that they are constantly losing ground in the battle for eyeballs. Simply put, if cable and satellite broadcasting, as well as the internet, had come along first, newspapers as we know them probably would never have existed.

In Berkshire’s world, Stan Lipsey does a terrific job running the Buffalo News, and I am enormously proud of its editor, Margaret Sullivan. The News’ penetration of its market is the highest among that of this country’s large newspapers. We also do better financially than most metropolitan newspapers, even though Buffalo’s population and business trends are not good. Nevertheless, this operation faces unrelenting pressures that will cause profit margins to slide.

True, we have the leading online news operation in Buffalo, and it will continue to attract more viewers and ads. However, the economic potential of a newspaper internet site – given the many alternative sources of information and entertainment that are free and only a click away – is at best a small fraction of that existing in the past for a print newspaper facing no competition.

For a local resident, ownership of a city’s paper, like ownership of a sports team, still produces instant prominence. With it typically comes power and influence. These are ruboffs that appeal to many people with money. Beyond that, civic-minded, wealthy individuals may feel that local ownership will serve their community well. That’s why Peter Kiewit bought the Omaha paper more than 40 years ago.

We are likely therefore to see non-economic individual buyers of newspapers emerge, just as we have seen such buyers acquire major sports franchises. Aspiring press lords should be careful, however: There’s no rule that says a newspaper’s revenues can’t fall below its expenses and that losses can’t mushroom. Fixed costs are high in the newspaper business, and that’s bad news when unit volume heads south. As the importance of newspapers diminishes, moreover, the “psychic” value of possessing one will wane, whereas owning a sports franchise will likely retain its cachet.

Unless we face an irreversible cash drain, we will stick with the News, just as we’ve said that we would. (Read economic principle 11, on page 76.) Charlie and I love newspapers – we each read five a day – and believe that a free and energetic press is a key ingredient for maintaining a great democracy. We hope that some combination of print and online will ward off economic doomsday for newspapers, and we will work hard in Buffalo to develop a sustainable business model. I think we will be successful. But the days of lush profits from our newspaper are over.

References:
Read the 1991 Letter to Shareholders.
Wikipedia on Berkshire Hathaway

(Thanks to Andy Cassel for sending me the letter.)

Seed Newsvine

.Mac (Apple Computer, Inc.)

March 03, 2007

Widget Wonderland: Another example of alternative content delivery methods

Another customizable, downloadable, platform agnostic widget was released yesterday, WootAgent, which "sits nested in the user’s system tray and will automatically pop up as Woot places a new item for sale on their website."

(Woot is an online store that started out selling pre-market electronics and is now hawking limited numbers of gadgets at discounted prices. I haven't ever shopped there, but from what I understand, new items come and go before many prospective buyers have a chance to see them, which is why they released the widget.)

So now, WootAgent offers alerts, product specs, prices, etc. The interface isn't as slick as some I've seen, but users can customize it. I do like the tabs and the graphics, and I can see various applications for this on a news website.

Again, I ask, why aren't newspapers taking advantage of this concept? It's been tried. It's been tested. And people like it...

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 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 story...video could be thrown in, too.


Seed Newsvine

February 15, 2007

How to use YahooPipes...

Franticindustries just posted five intriguing ways to use YahooPipes. (HT: Lifehacker)

For example, number three:

News in English

What is it and how it’s done? Reddit, Netscape, and Digg are not enough for you? Aching to read what the Europeans are voting on, but you just don’t have the language skills? No worries. In this pipe, I’ve taken the top 10 items from Spanish site Meneame.net, as well as German and French versions of Wikio, and created a single feed in English.

How useful is it? Well, it’s not bad. I’ve taken a silly example, but being able to take feeds in many different languages and turn them into one feed in a language of your choice will surely be very useful for many users.

Link: http://pipes.yahoo.com/pipes/2E8akQO62xGrchCW0kqv4w
RSS: http://pipes.yahoo.com/pipes/2E8akQO62xGrchCW0kqv4w/run?_render=rss

I'd love to see newspapers harness a technology like this so that their online readers can have access to rich context surrounding a single subject. Here's one user-generated pipe aggregating blogs relating to 2008 presidential candidates. (You'll have to login with a Yahoo password to get access to YahooPipes.)

One problem would be that newspapers would have to allow multiple inbound strings of information outside of their own brand, wire service or media partnership...

...course, I don't see that as an impediment.

(Also see related Yahoo story in MyDigimedia)


SeeqPod: Innovative new search engine

I've been experimenting with SeeqPod, a unique search engine. I'm not exactly sure how the thing is powered or how it works. Also not sure who's running the show or where its funding comes from.

I can tell you this, however. You can use one of SeeqPod's features to search for music in a really cool user interface. Search for songs online, add them to a playlist, save it, email it to friends and even add your own songs. It'll also suggest related videos, ringtones and other music. It's an iTunes/ Pandora/ 80s mix tape mashup. You can't download anything (at least not easily), and SeeqPod offers a lengthy copyright notice on the music search site.

But I also found something else on SeeqPod: SeeqPod Finance, which allows you to search the NYSE and NASDAQ by product rather than by company for related information. This is a very cool application of search technology. I typed in BlackBerry (you should too!) and got Research In Motion's ticker, financials and all of the companies that have a relationship somehow with BlackBerry. Also tried searches for iPod and MacBook Pro, and both worked. I looked up Olympus Digital Voice Recorder WS-320M and Canary Wireless Sniffer but that search didn't work. SeeqPod Finance is still in beta, but once the bugs are fixed, I think this could be a tremendous asset to journalists.

 

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...

 

Radio Free Internet



 

 

Here's an interesting concept: Live radio-style talkshows produced entirely by regular folks and offered as free Podcasts (sortof) online.

BlogTalkRadio launched recently, and the service enables users to record a live show - even allows listeners to call in - with minimal knowledge of audio recording.

From the site's FAQ:

What is BlogTalkRadio?
BlogTalkRadio is a platform that extends the blog, allowing any individual to host a live blogshow online. Our service is free to all users, whether you host a blogshow or listen in. Plus hosts earn half of all revenue generated by their blogshow and Host Channel page.

Where do I get my call in phone number?
As a host, we will provide you with your own dedicated phone number. We will also assign a separate phone number for your callers, which will appear on your host channel page. We provide these numbers free of charge. When you are ready to host your blogshow, you simply call in, dial your host pin (which is automatically generated when you sign up) and begin talking...

So I've spent the past few weeks listening to a handful of recent shows. One problem stands out immediately: Hosts can't edit anything, since shows are recorded live and then archived for everyone to hear. And editing, as we all know, can be a beautiful thing. I heard everything from mucked-up intro music to a host complaining that they couldn't get their computer to work properly.

I've mostly heard bloggers and professional marketers hosting shows on behalf of their products or organizations so far. But some well-knowns have been showing up - Sen. John Kerry was featured yesterday and earlier Congressmen Duncan Hunter (Republican presidential candidate from California) appeared live. And I'm not sure where the ad revenue is coming in - I keep waiting to hear ad placement during the blogcast, but haven't so far. I'm also not seeing any banners on the site.

The concept is certainly interesting. Technology has made it easy enough for anybody to host and promote a call-in talkshow and distribute it to an infinitely large audience. Programs featuring news a la the Daily Show are popping up all over YouTube - and if you ask me, I seem to get more context and content out of a short segment online than I do watching my local broadcast affiliate.

It's not just that more people have computers and know how to use them. We need to keep in mind that innovative companies are capitalizing on our hunger for reaching out to others. Fifty years ago, only a few had access and the means to produce a newspaper, magazine, television or radio broadcast. And without that medium, there wasn't getting any news.

Today, we're not wholly depended on the old news distribution model. Makes sense for the big, traditional media companies to start beta testing completely new ideas right now, doesn't it?

 

 

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...

 

February 08, 2007

Newspapers: One way to save your audiences

According to the Center for the Digital Future at USC: Non-Internet users watch an average of 9.1 more hours of television per week than Internet users. I can tell you that I'm not included in that group. I watch as much television as I can during the week - but I watch via TiVo or downloads onto my computer.

The Center just released its 2007 Digital Future Project Report, which focuses on how we use and interact with technology. Among the key findings:

  • 43% of Internet users who are members of online communities say that they “feel as strongly” about their virtual community as they do about their real-world communities.
  • Almost two-thirds of online community members who participate in social causes through the Internet (64.9%)
    say they are involved in causes that were new to them when they began participating on the Internet.
  • The number of Internet users in America who keep a blog has more than doubled in three
    years (now 7.4% of users, up from 3.2% in 2003).

Here's how this information can help inform those in the newspaper business. If more folks are going online for social reasons - if they're seeking both information and a subject-focused community to discuss and disseminate that information, wouldn't it make sense for newspaper companies to revisit the zone edition model from the late 1980s and 1990s and possibly reapply it to a new online model today?

To wit: the Daily Bugle newspaper in Metropolis might consider changing the structure of its site to a porthole system with different channels. There might be a high school sports channel, where the Bugle's sports reporters and photogs would contribute content just as they would in the newspaper. But there would be an area for parent contributions. Maybe that section would share content with Metropolis' high school newspapers and carry student commentary. Citizens at games would edit and upload their own video (parents, boyfriends, girlfriends and grandparents are doing it anyways - why not capitalize on content that's already available??). On the discussion boards, there'd be gossip about coaches and alternative commentary about what happened at last night's game.

And there'd be plenty to monetize in this model, too. Advertising would come from very targeted vendors - sports retailers, college athletic programs and new movie releases. Game and season stats would be available up until a certain point, and then they'd be available via a database for a minimal fee, either subscription or pay-per-use. It'd be one part news, one part library, and one part must-visit digital social scene for all high school sports fans in Metropolis.

Think of the most successful sites and blogs on the web. Their focus is very specific and targeted. Getting married? Who hasn't heard of theknot.com? Want to know about new tech? Technorati. Celebrity doings? PerezHilton.com.

They're popular because of their content, yes...but because they've effectively captured their market. And in an age of information overload, where thousands of groups are competing for just a fraction of your attention, the ones that succeed capitalize on your personal relationship to a subject matter.

So to newspapers, I ask this: Just how emotionally tied to (fill in your city here) are your readers? Might you capture more of their attention if you started specializing content? You already have an easy place to start: high school sports. Then, move to public schools. Local politics. Hyper-local real estate. The daily commute.

Innovate online products that will compel users to visit and stay on your site...not because you're the local newspaper, but because they feel a social connection to your brand, your reporters and to others who contribute to the site via blogs, discussion forums or multimedia. That's how you'll win back your dwindling audience.

Hell, it'd be a start.

February 05, 2007

Hyperaggregate This!

About two years ago, I was meeting with a group of journalists and bloggers at an unconference in Philadelphia. The group, norgs, got together to try and envision ways to engineer an ideal newsgathering organization of the future.

At the conference, I talked about the role aggregators will play in how and when we get content. Some of that is playing out and has been for some time. Bloglines, for example, is a popular RSS aggregator that delivers me cherry picked headlines throughout the day - and unless I'm moved to click, I rarely visit that feed's website.

Since then, the amount of new content on the web has grown exponentially. It's not enough for me to type a search into Google, even if I do know some nifty tricks to circumvent all the information that I don't want.

What's the Web 2.0 solution? Hyperaggregators -- aggregators that aggregate the aggregators.

Meet SideKlick, an aggregator that combs YouTube and Google for video you specifically request. Popurls crawls through del.icio.us, digg, flickr, newsvine, ifilm (remember ifilm?), news.google, news.yahoo, fark, odeo, furl and a whole bunch of other aggregators to deliver what you want. Other hyperaggregators to watch include Original Signal and Spokeo (slick landing page w/ cute Firefox-esque mascot).

How might this apply to traditional media? Reporters, start using hyperaggregators to cover your beats. Covering city hall? Configure Popurls to search aggregators for you. And to publishers, I say this: find a way to make your content easily tagged, easily crawled and easily viewed either on or off your site.

 

February 01, 2007

Hack Your BlackBerry = Wireless Modem

Got a BlackBerry or BlackBerry Pearl? Use it to connect to the Internet from anywhere you get a wireless signal - even overseas. This should enable reporters on the road to blog or file copy to editors while they're on location. And it's the primary way that I'm online when traveling.

1. Download the script here. Right click (control click on a Mc) and Choose ‘Save As’.
2. Copy the script into /Library/Modem Scripts.
3. If you’ve already paired your Pearl with your Mac, open Bluetooth Preferences. Select your Pearl from the list of devices and press ‘Configure…’. (If you haven’t, choose ‘Set up Bluetooth Device’ - the following dialogs will be shown after you’ve paired your phone with your Mac.)
4. Make sure ‘Access the Internet with your phone’s data connection’ is checked. Also, make sure ‘Use a direct, higher speed connection’ is selected. Click Continue.
5. In the Modem Script pulldown on the following screen, Select ‘BlackBerry 8100’. Use the following settings for the other fields, then click Continue:
* Username, Password: leave blank
* GPRS CID: *99***1#
6. Open the Internet Connect application. Select the Bluetooth icon at the top. Under Phone Number, put your APN (for T-Mobile and the BlackBerry Unlimited plan, I use wap.voicestream.com, for Cingular it’s “wap.cingular”). Type a username and password (I use guest/guest, for Cingular you’ll use “WAP@CINGULARGPRS.COM” as the username and “CINGULAR1” as the password) in the appropriate fields.

Special thanks to Ross Barkman, Tim Hatch and then Grant Goodale for the hacks!!!

January 25, 2007

What's the Opposite of Innovation?

Yesterday, LAT Editor Jim O'Shea announced a broad new initiative to shift focus from the LAT print publication to its website. He's just created an "editor for innovation" position.

(Hell, every newsroom is bestowing that made-up title on one of its top suits these days. Why should a three-hour time difference delay what's now ubiquitous on the East Coast from taking a strong hold in Cali?)

Biz Editor Russ Stanton is the new digital guy in town. Here's part of a memo sent from the LAT top brass to its staff when Stanton was named to his most recent role as chief of the business desk:

To: The Staff
From: John Carroll and Dean Baquet

We are pleased to announce the appointment of Russ Stanton as business editor of The Times.

Russ has done a terrific job as deputy editor of the section and as Orange County business editor before that. He is respected by the staff - and by us -- for his deep knowledge of the business world, his commitment to quality journalism and his integrity in dealing with people.

Russ has been a business journalist from the start of his career at the Visalia Times-Delta. He has covered agriculture, aerospace, real estate and manufacturing. Before joining The Times as a reporter in 1997, he was business editor of the Orange County Register.

Russ has a vast knowledge of business and the region, and a clear sense of the stories this paper should dominate in the coming years. But what really drew us to Russ were some other attributes that emerged from conversations with The Times business staff over the last few weeks: He is a leader who commands trust, respect and affection from his colleagues...

Anyone else catch what's missing from this memo? Where's the section about how Russ innovated new, clean multimedia templates to help increase user stickiness? Or the part about how Russ developed relationships with outside bloggers so that he's engendered interest and trust in online communities? So much so that they'll create symbiotic information sharing projects?

From the Times' own story about the move:

O'Shea named Business Editor Russ Stanton to the innovation post and said the "Internet 101" course would teach reporters, editors and photographers to become "savvy multimedia journalists," able to enhance their writing with audio and video reports. He emphasized the need for speed in reforming an operation that he called "woefully behind" the competition.

The Times has just made the same mistake that Philadelphia Media Holdings, Inc., the company that now owns the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, has been making for the past two years. (I'd have linked the Inky and DN, but neither paper has its own website. Instead, philly.com houses content from both and remains a wholly separate entity. Want more? The PMH site isn't even updated and still lists ousted Inky editor Amanda Bennett as the person in charge. Innovative!)

The people leading the digital revolution aren't the business editors, the deputy managing editors for sports or the photogs with a bit of HTML training. They're not the yes men.

They're the code monkeys hacking away in their spare time. They're the true digital journalists, who maybe have less experience reporting the news but a deep knowledge about how and why our Internet works. They understand why you can't just offer an Internet 101 class, send reporters out into the street with a digicam and audio recorder, throw that content on the web and call it a night.

O'Shea has missed a great opportunity here. From what I'm observing, PMH doesn't seem to care about its future or about truly embracing digital journalism and adapting as the Internet continues to change. Why, oh why, are newspapers grasping at video straws? Video is what NBC does. Audio is what NPR does. Newspapers have, at least in theory, the capability of telling all area stories with lots of details and rich analysis. Why not take that concept and digitize it? Vast databases with sleek UIs. Rich historical timelines and an internally-linked bio file for people mentioned in stories. Inviting participation by users - uploading their video feed to accompany a thoughtful reporter's work.

You want innovation? And I mean real innovation -- not some cobbled-together photo slideshow? Visit the BBC site. Have a look at BuzzTracker, a project developed by a student at Penn. Hell, even the guy behind gahooyoogle is changing the way I perceive and hunger for information.

It's those kinds of folks newspapers should be hiring. Why is this concept so alien to the editors & publishers?



January 09, 2007

Helpful OSX Applications

Hung out with some software developer friends last night, and they introduced me to some helpful free OSX applications:

iBackup ... I've used Carbon Copy Cloner in the past, but this looks like a better system to backup and doesn't require imaging the entire disc. You can set preferences to back up as much or as little as you want.

Chicken of the VNC ... A lovely app like PC Anywhere but for OSX.

Journler ... A nifty program that synchs with all the Coco OSX apps and allows you to keep a journal of what you're doing every day. I'm toying with using this to keep track of my consulting work.

DevonThink ... As far as I can tell, this is relational mapping software that will create a database for all things on your hard drive related to a single subject. I'm still not 100% sure how to use it, but I'm experimenting today.

SmartReporter ... Gives you warnings via top toolbar (or it'll generate an email and send to you) if your hard drive is starting to fail.

MacTracker ... List of every version of Macs ever made with complete specs and is constantly updated. I totally don't need this program, but I love having the info at my fingertips.

Transmission ... Torrent client, works nicely. I don't advise downloading music, applications or other copyrighted material without proper permissions.

December 13, 2006

KCRW Receives $600k Grant: Now, how will it monetize streaming audio?

Fast Company's expert blog features an entry about whether Public Radio can monetize its web content.

KCRW, based in Santa Monica, has a massive web constituency - and I count myself among its regular listeners. Been streaming KCRW online since I moved back to the U.S.

According to FC: KCRW generates more than 1.6 million streaming hours per month via partnerships with Real Networks, AOL Radio, Shoutcast, Windows Media and Apple’s iTunes and QuickTime. In January, nearly one million KCRW podcasts were downloaded, and the station’s own website received more than 470,000 connections to its streaming audio service.

So the question is, as it is for everyone, how to you turn those listeners into revenue? KCRW's problem isn't audience size, but catalyzing all those folks to donate and fund all station operations isn't a sustainable option. Because of the regulations governing public radio, the station can't solicit standard advertising.

Annenberg gave KCRW a $600,000 grant to develop a brand-new business model to support its webcasting and online music service.

It isn't going to be easy, though. Where else might money come from? This is the fundamental problem we're facing in journalism right now. If not from ads, and if not from donations (or at least not completely)...then from where? What do you think?

Seed Newsvine

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?

 

September 07, 2006

Google's Mobile AdWords

Google has found yet another profit center, this time deploying its AdWords program to mobile phones. Ads will be served as users search Google using its mobile search service.

September 06, 2006

Music Re-revolution

August 21, 2006

Tune In to Talk of the Nation...

I'm a guest on today's Talk of the Nation (NPR), which begins airing at 2:00 p.m. EST. Please tune in - more information is available on the NPR site.

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.

 

 

 

August 17, 2006

Macy's Pulls Advertising...

I read in AdAge this morning that Macy's is planning to pull about $425m in newspaper-side advertising. Clearly this stands to affect several papers around the country -- including my local newspapers, the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News.

What will be the next frontier of print-side revenue? Product placement? Paid advertorial sections?

My concern is that print is inextricably tied to advertising and commerce. If I was at the helm of a big newspaper or chain, I'd monetize certain reporting projects to create pay-per-use data packages and I'd create new digital products that could be turned into profit centers. There are embedded markets for this in every American city, ones with sports teams, high crime rates, blossoming real estate markets... the information that a reporter might get during the course of his or her daily work might be fed into a database that could become a profit center. Hallwatch is a good bare-bones approach.

The market is in mashups, and I believe there is strong potential at newspapers to get creative.

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 21, 2006

Notes for norgs

An asterisk (*) denotes sites/ areas where we’ve spent the most time and done the most research. DISCLOSURE:  I do not have any financial interest in any of the sites or companies listed below.  Dragonfire currently uses the Ingeniux cms.

Before you begin:
I strongly recommend making a laundry list of items that you absolutely want your content management system to accomplish as well as a list of things that you’ll want to do on your site.  Do you want to be able to use Flash in a variety of ways? Do you want to include blogs?  Do you want to have user input automatically display?

Reviews, ways to review cms options, ratings:

  • http://www.cmsmatrix.org
  • http://www.cmsreview.com -- and -- http://www.cmsreview.com/CMSIndex.html#C *
  • http://www.opensourcecms.com  *

Summary:
After doing extensive testing and research, it is my opinion that any newspaper looking for a cms solution invests in a few good programmers and creates their own, in-house system.  I have not found any cms that is designed to meet the publishing demands of a newspaper.

Open Source cms:
If you can create a list of essential tools and functions that you need out of a cms - -and this list needs to be thorough, you can then work with a developer to customize one of the many open source cms options available.  Developers would likely work on a freelance basis, but a better option would be to hire someone outright to have in the newsroom who would both customize and document the open source cms you decide to use.

There are several systems available, and it’s easy enough to work with an existing system, modify it and implement it.  Most of these open source cms require PHP, SQL and XML at a minimum.  However, I have seen cms that are coded in PERL or Python.

Free, Structured Systems
Mambo: *
A lot of people really like Mambo (it’s now called Joomla).  It’s free, more structured than most of the open source systems and there are thousands of pre-made templates.  There’s a WYSIWYG editor, support for CSS and HTML, inclusion of Flash files, popups and more. Assuming that you have a hosting package that can handle (and that you know) PHP and SQL.

We downloaded and played with Mambo, however we ultimately decided that we weren’t going to be able to modify it to meet our needs.

Drupal:
Drupal is a popular cms with lots of great features.  It’s emphasis is on Web 2.0 functions – lots of interactivity and community input.  On the other hand, it isn’t really designed for a robust news organization with lots of content.  Learning curve is steep.  One neat feature:  Drupal allows you to turn dynamic pages back into a static one, and it the cache process is automatic.

Cofax:
There is, of course, Cofax, which was designed and implemented by KR and the PNI.  I don’t have experience specifically with this system…

Pay, Licensed Systems
Expression Engine:
I would not recommend this for a newspaper.

Symphony:
I’ve heard a lot of good things about Symphony.  It uses xslt stylesheets and templates.  It allows you to pull content from Flickr, etc. On the other hand, you have to know how to code xslt stylesheets – not impossible, but cumbersome.

Ingeniux: *
Dragonfire uses Ingeniux.  In many ways it’s a great system – all inputs are in WYSIWYG, allowing any of our editors or writers to easily create static or multimedia pages from a variety of our preset templates.

There are serious limitations, however.  In order to change parts of the site, we must edit our xslt stylesheets.  It’s very difficult to implement blogs, chats, shopping carts and newsletters.  Ingeniux offers these at very high prices, and developer training isn’t included. 

Documentum: *
Formerly Documentum, a new beta with a new name is set to be release by EMC any day now.  Documentum was widely condemned throughout the multimedia and IT communities because it was extremely cumbersome to use.  It was a very difficult system with many bugs.

PHP Cow:
This was released about a year ago.  They offer a free trial, and compared to other systems, it’s not all that expensive.  Obviously, the system is coded in PHP.  We don’t have experience using it at Dragonfire, however it was supposedly designed specifically for newsrooms.

CityDesk:
We looked at this platform but didn’t test it.  One of the features is bringing a Word document right into the cms without weird MS formatting issues, but I never saw that in practice.

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 17, 2006

Incorporating User Tools...

I can't think of a newsroom that doesn't use a content management system (cms) to produce its website. A cms automates much of the process, so that writers/ editors/producers need only dump their text content into a template page and the rest gets updated.

We tested several systems at Dragonfire before deciding on the one we currently use. What we're working on now is identifying tools that allow our site to have more user input -- not citizen journalism, per se, but a way for users to be able to control more of the content they see.

I'm now looking around to see how other sites incorporate user-input tools -- I'm mostly finding tagging and blogging options on sites so far... If you've seen anything interesting, please comment below...

June 16, 2006

Car = Office




Here's an interesting story from FastCompany.com with ideas on how to turn your car into a mobile office.

June 02, 2006

Get Linked


Here's a handy tool for reporters...I've just joined the LinkedIn network, and it's a pretty robust social networking program. Here's my link, and to start a profile of your own (it's free), click here.

May 24, 2006

MS Word Bug...

From Ed Oswald in BetaNews:

Microsoft has advised users of Word to run the application in Safe Mode in order to protect against "zero-day" attacks. The recommendation comes after the discovery of a serious flaw in the word processor that could result in code execution...

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 16, 2006

Speak Geek, Think Geek

When we first started to program Dragonfire, I had a lot of catching up to do. My developers already knew xml and xslt - but I didn't even know what those letters stood for.

One of my colleagues suggested www.w3.org, and I highly recommend it to you. It offers tutorials - really good ones - on a variety of different web tools and programming languages. Hell, even if you're not planning to create new templates for your newsroom, you may as well have the lexicon to understand what everyone's talking about.

Here's a a good tutorial on xml (extensible markup language) and a bunch of information on creating stylesheets.