Thursday, November 20, 2008

Like it's 1899...


When asked about his perspective on social issues—gay marriage, abortion— [X] tapped his Bible and said, “God came to earth and saw people sticking it wherever and doing it with whatever, and he just cleared it all out. He was, like, ‘Enough.’ ”

Close the shop, let's take a drive.

The Bare Necessities of Journalistic Life

One of the most significant changes at Arizona State's school was requiring a multimedia class in which each student must write stories, shoot still photos and videos, edit footage and produce Web pages. Lessons from the class will be incorporated into other courses when appropriate.

By Jacques Billeaud of the Associated Press.

Top Tips for Valet Service Journalism?

Talk about a sign of the times in the journalism industry. Staffers at the Longmont Times-Call recently received an internal e-mail inviting them to work as valets at a private Christmas party for the Lehman family, who own the paper. And at least two employees have already accepted the offer.

From the Denvir Westword blog. That's Colorado. Meanwhile in Missouri at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute, Columbia....

You're invited to "Blueprinting the Information Valet Economy," a unique, two-day, action-planning session designed to change the landscape for news and information-service providers, artists and publishers. We'll plan, join and start setting up the Information Valet Economy, where companies compete to provide personalized service to users, and make money referring their users to content - and advertising - from anywhere.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Columbia Journalism Review on audiences and overload - much needed

Acquiring new information requires particularly focused attention, which includes the ability to ignore distractions. In order to absorb the information contained in a CNN newscast, for example, we must not only direct our attention to the person talking, but also filter out the running headlines, news updates, and financial ticker on the lower part of the screen. Torkel Klingberg, a professor of cognitive neuroscience at Karolinska Institute in Sweden and author of The Overflowing Brain, puts it simply: “If we do not focus our attention on something, we will not remember it.” In other words, attention is a critical component of learning.

Bree Nordenson in the CJR. It is always great to read a piece about the future of journalism that's about the audiences, and the sheer terrifying scale of the information sea now.

BNP List & Google Maps are Mashed

I am sure this is everywhere. I found it through the journalist Mike Butcher who wrote (and is updating):

The map is a sea of red pins, indicating that there are in fact BNP members spread pretty widely across the UK. London is barely visible under the map. Zooming out means that the map can no longer render all the data points adequately. It’s worth remembering that Britain is in fact one of the least racist, most tolerant nations in Europe, but the map looks pretty scary covered in these large red pins.

From Techcrunch.

The Information Valet economy conference AKA... models for journalism.

This is what the conference offers. It is:

designed to change the landscape for news and information-service providers, artists and publishers. We'll plan, join and start setting up the Information Valet Economy, where companies compete to provide personalized service to users, and make money referring their users to content - and advertising - from anywhere.

Got to be worth a look, right?

American Press Institute: that secret meeting & the Manhattan Project that may have to follow

The American Press Institute ran a behind closed doors session to kick-start the american newspaper industry last week.

At times akin to group therapy and at other times resembling a business-school class, the summit took shape in three general segments: Specific financial forensics for determining the depth of trouble a company might be in; a discussion of management tactics for leading a company on new paths; and participants trading frustrations, ideas, best practices and suggestions for collaboration.

From the API site.

Here's Steve Outing on what happened:

from what we know so far, this still looks like an industry in denial about how much it must change, with many leaders whose heads are still high on Shein’s crisis curve (below) while their enterprises are much further down.

Here's the graph:

And Steve linked to this from "News After Newspapers."

Six months? What are they thinking? They've laid off more than 10,000 people in the last six months—what will be left six months from now? They need to launch a Manhattan project to blow up their industry and start over. Now, not six months from now.

"We have nothing to lose" is about right, but they may have nothing left to invest in change, either.

Four days on News After Newspapers is even more extreme: it's good to see the unthinkable being said:

Here's my suggestion: drop Monday and Tuesday, consolidate Wednesday and Thursday (for delivery Wednesday), drop Friday, and consolidate Saturday and Sunday (for delivery Saturday). So, a twice-weekly Wednesday and Saturday paper.

(This presupposes, of course, a completely kickass 24/7 online news operation, and a staff that totally gets that online comes first. The web operation should have plenty of blogs, plenty of databased local information, a wiki, social networking features, Twitter feeds, you name it. And it should be ready to evolve and adapt as even more tools and features come along.)

Steve's update: press conference cancelled...

The Golden Notebook project, leader already at page 201

"To show a woman loving a man one should show her cooking a meal for him or opening a bottle of wine for the meal, while she waits for his ring at the door." This paragraph has been on my mind for the days since I first read it; it is a moment again where Lessing reaches to film for a way to apply layers of complexity to a single image (in this case, orange slices). Anna makes this sound melodramatic (he looks the other direction, thinking of something else) but the idea that affection is expressed through everyday chores seems both sad and lovely. It strikes me that the examples Anna gives are all practiced in isolation - the women are alone doting on the men, waiting for doorbells to ring or peeling oranges (while men ignore them). These are very concrete expressions of an abstract capital-L Love.

A sample from the Golden Notebook reading project. Catch up with the live read here.

I'll shortly post a piece about some of the ideas behind this site, and my chats with Bob Stein and Chris Meade about the Future of the Book.

When your Tennis opponent is an ocean away: social gaming & social operating systems a social operating system, it [Facebook] enables people to build connections in digital space. Unbounded by physical distance or the increasingly imaginary construct of four walls that isolate us, social games on Facebook are bringing people together in new and fun ways like never before.

Shervin Pishevar on Social Gaming, via the Facebook blog.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Travel & Trust: Why the Technorati Founder Went Personalised - and in print

I built this for me. I built this because I travel a lot. The other people at Offbeat Guides, we travel a lot. We have been pretty disappointed with the gap between the information that is out there in the internet- if you know where to go - and the information that shows up in traditional travel guides. I think that what has surprised me from a business perspective was that there are so many places, conference and visitor bureaus, meeting and event organizers and sponsors, people who want to promote themselves related to travel that were interested in this idea as well.

Part of a great piece from PSFK. Above is a quote from Technorati founder, David Sifry, about his new public beta Offbeat Guides.


Even though Wallcharts are so Guardian 2004, this one is quite good

How to Bluff your Way through Obama's first 100 Days. Zeitgeist Stuff.

An etiquette question: do you say Bamelot? Or is that too Mad Men Retro?

Or just old?

Speak of the Devil: Woodward & Bernstein are back and predicting the return of the investigation

"You get the truth by not working an hour or a day on something. It takes a long time," said Woodward before the appearance. "There's a tradition in newspapers of digging into things. It's a part of their culture. It's a part of their belief in what we call accountability reporting — really making every power center accountable for what they're doing. I think that's going to live on."

Woodward & Bernstein together again: investigative reporting will be back, once media works out how to make it pay. From the Mercury News.

And even more glamourously: Woodward and Bernstein on Screen (with Ben Bradlee too).

On being less literal about the virtual

Camden, London, September 2008
Robin Hunt

The media’s morbid fascination with the “Second Life divorce” reveals how most media -especially newspapers, even if they also have an online presence- is still trapped in a mentality that understands “the virtual” as opposed to “the real”. (”Second Life affair leads to real life divorce,” said The Guardian). A Second Life affair is no more virtual than flirting over txt messaging, handwritten letters, telephone calls or even a club’s bar. (All flirting is virtual). The “alter-egos” of people on so-called “virtual worlds” or “environments” are still determined by those “outside” the machine. We are those alter-egos, we are the machine.

From Never Neutral. [It's down the story...]

The (Ben) Bradley Effect on Journalism

I've been trying for ages to uncover why journalists and journalism always score so badly in surveys and polls about trust - and yet so many of us oldsters continue to read, view, comment and get involved with journalists and journalism. The answer is because, of course, we have either grown up with an expectation that the outputs of journalism will fill part of our day; or we've seen journalism do powerful things. For those of us who grew up with a paper being delivered it's hard to throw off the idea of news (and particular news makers) being part of our mental social network. Friends, almost. Yet now we have the tools to build far closer relationships with those "friends" (rather than the shady yoofy "brand") it's clear - if you talk to a dozen journalists or editors over 40 - that the majority of news makers now running the show really would rather audiences didn't exist - except to pay for the journalism - and certainly the idea that they might become part of the social network of news is genuinely hateful to many of them. Try this editorial conference from the Daily Beast:

I'd say that was a pair of traditionalists. Here's a rough breakdown from Pew (and the ever interesting Rich Gordon) on US news sectors:

Traditionalists (46 percent of American adults) rely almost exclusively on traditional media sources (TV, newspapers, radio). This is the biggest audience in terms of population, and also the oldest (with a median age of 52). They make up half of all the adults who read a newspaper yesterday and an even greater share (60 percent) of adults who watched TV news yesterday. They are the most likely group to be poor, retired and not to have completed high school or college.

Integrators (23 percent of adults) name a traditional medium as their main news source but also go online frequently for news. This group is younger (median age of 44), highly educated (almost half have college degrees compared to just 19 percent of the Traditionalists) and affluent (4 in 10 have household incomes greater than $75,000). They get news from many sources and spend the most time with the news of any of the segments. While using online news sources frequently, they also watch TV news as much as the Traditionalists and are even more likely to read newspapers. The core of this group is made up of Baby Boomers, now 44 to 62 and in the prime of their careers.

Net-Newsers (13 percent of adults) say the World Wide Web is their main news source and use it frequently. Not surprisingly, this is the youngest group (median age of 35) and the best-educated (more than half are college graduates). While almost a decade younger on average than the Integrators, they are comparably affluent. They are the most likely to have online access at work and are slightly more likely than the Integrators to have access to the latest technology (home broadband, digital music players and smart phones).

The Disengaged (14 percent of adults) basically express a lack of interest in news. They are disproportionately young, poor (35 percent have household incomes under $30,000) and poorly educated (seven in 10 have a high school degree or less).
(If you do the math, you will find there is another 4 percent of the population who did not name a primary news source or named the Internet as their main source but rarely go online. In terms of their news behaviors, they are probably similar to the Disengaged.

The issue, I suspect, is that however rich the rhetoric, and How to Spend It the threads, those that run, edit or teach the future of newspapers are integrators. They are Generation Betwixt. And all of us in Generation Betwixt suffer from the (Ben) Bradley Effect. Not that we vote for elected officials in a different way than we say we will (in polls). But that somehow we cannot quite throw off the idea of journalism as good for society. The idea that there are still Ben Bradlees out there. That is to say brave editors who go out on a limb (and a budget) to find big stories. Editors (and not single columnists) who don't belong to GroupThink, that Gentleman's Club where the Lists never close. Once it was called Inspiration...
...And even though we suspect that the edict: "follow the money" now means move into PR, we also suspect there are still trusted investigative reporters doing their best if we but knew. So we keep buying journalism in search of this increasingly mythical beast.

There comes a time soon when the Ben Bradlee Effect won't matter.

I guess Obama knows that already.

This is the layercaking of journalism: the world that now bridges professional group citizen journalism and Paul Dacre. The centre cannot hold.

Future's Bright, the Horizon's Orange

London, November 16, 2008
Robin Hunt

In research the horizon recedes as we advance, and is no nearer at sixty than it was at twenty. As the power of endurance weakens with age, the urgency of the pursuit grows more intense... And research is always incomplete.

Isaac Casaubon, genius and scholar. He met Tom Coryat in Paris in 1608.

Crime Writer Kevin Wignall on the E-book

Crime writer and fellow Nomad...

By the same token, and proving the prescience of Douglas Adams, I think e-book readers will revolutionize the travel guide sector, particularly as the e-readers develop more functions, and the line between them and hand-held wireless PCs blurs. When Adams was writing, the idea of a single hand-held device that contained all the known information about the galaxy was a flight of fancy - yet things are advancing so quickly now that, rather than being impressed, we’re all given to wondering what’s taking them so long to develop the next generation of software.

Kevin in Contemporary Nomad.

Citizen Journalism in Groups - and paid but non-profit: lower costs, serious journalism

“Voice is doing really significant work, driving the agenda on redevelopment and some other areas, putting local politicians and businesses on the hot seat,” said Dean Nelson, director of the journalism program at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. “I have them come into my classes, and I introduce them as, ‘This is the future of journalism.’ ”

From the NYT.

The Voice of San Diego.

Post Office Trials New ATM

London, November 16, 2008.
Robin Hunt

See The Post Office and Trust.

The Semantic Web, Well Explained for Journalists

"In the semantic web, it is not just people who are connected together in some meaningful way, but documents, events, places, hobbies, pictures, you name it! And it is the commercial applications that exploit these connections that are now becoming interesting," John Breslin, the founder of the SIOC project, told

From Part One.

For example, some publishers are feeding their entire historical archive of material through Calais to be tagged which means it can be filtered and searched more easily. Although these tools aren't of immediate use to most journalists, the scale of this project reveals how many content providers are turning to this technology to make sure their content can be found in the new semantic world.

Part Two on the detail.

When the OS was something else - the fight over the "last" space

An Ordnance Survey spokesman told me the real problem was in Google's terms and conditions which allow the search company, in his words, to "reproduce, modify and distribute content that is entered into their maps." The spokesman said talks had been taking place between the OS and Google about changing those terms, but in the meantime, "We won't allow people to overlay our information onto Google maps. We have to protect our information."

Google and the Ordinance Survey fight over the "last" space, the map.

From the BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones.

Bill Hurt and Holly Hunter were the Orwell of the 80s


Asked if he has become a journalistic cynic, he responded, “That, my friend, is the understatement of the year.” He then quoted a line from the 1987 film “Broadcast News”: “You’re lucky if you can get out while you could still cry.“

“The IFC Media Project” gives Mr. Yago a chance to critique what he sees as misleading media practices. Much of the territory it covers is well worn in print and on the Internet, although not addressed as often on television.

NYT on a user's guide to making television news.

Facebook is the wrong way around, says rival, I think the online world, we send our customers to Facebook or MySpace to interact around OUR service; we send them away from our website; we fragment them according to what social network they happen to belong to. That's nuts! The fact that companies DO send their customers off to Facebook is evidence of how important the social networking function is – and of the fact that there is no good alternative.

From the Fractals of Change blog.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Rupert Murdoch: some editors are forgetting the bond with readers

"My summary of the way some of the established media has responded to the internet is this: it's not newspapers that might become obsolete. It's some of the editors, reporters, and proprietors who are forgetting a newspaper's most precious asset: the bond with its readers," said Murdoch, the chairman and chief executive officer of News Corp. He made his remarks as part of a lecture series sponsored by the Australian Broadcast Corporation.

Murdoch on "complacency and condescension" in the newsroom.

I know it's a leak, but it's a good leak

The business editor of a national newspaper admitted: "I love the leaks. Some of the leaks are obviously done to protect insider shares or to manipulate the share price. There is no question in my mind about that..."

A tiny slice of Damian Tambini's What Is Financial Journalism For? Paper for POLIS/LSE.

Full download here.

Can US Right Learn How to Investigate Online?

"You'll see a lot more traffic on conservative blogs now that they're playing offense," said Owens, who also writes for PBS' Media Shift and on his own "This may be the turning point for conservative blogs but they're lacking the investigative side or that community-organizing side. They're much more insular in their self-linking. The liberals are better at using other things online to help promote their causes. It's just a matter of older people coming online, with Facebook opening up beyond college students, etc."

Andrew Ratner in the Baltimore Sun.

How Did We Miss the Crash? Or Why Self-Flagellants Never Seem to Learn

Self-flagellation was in evidence all evening to the credit of the journalists present.

Paul Mason, the economics editor of BBC’s Newsnight, hosted a media mea culpa about the Financial Freefall at the Frontline Club on Thursday 7th November. Watch it here. In attendance were: Gillian Tett of the Financial Times, Michael Blastland, a freelance writer, Paul Lashmar, and Ann Pettifor...

...I urged editors not to patronise their readers. People are hungry for a conceptual understanding of economics. Economists I argued were like those tourists on Phuket Beach. Only they were using complex mathematical modelling to measure perturbations on the surface of the water, instead of trying to understand the movement of tectonic plates beneath the waves…

From the Debtonation blog by Ann Pettifor. Pettifor is a political economist and author of 'The Coming First World Debt Crisis' (Palgrave, 2006). This morning at the What is Financial Journalism For? seminar at the LSE she said, quite clearly: "I've lost trust in journalists." She goes to other places for her news. Where, of course, would be the scoop. In the meantime where should we go? How can we trust again? Here is the problem: Pettifor is trustworthy, she predicted this horrible mess, and published a book about it: and she doesn't trust in journalism. How can we?

I like Pettifor's tectonic plates...they fit well with the Rafts of Medusa that are so many newspaper websites.

Does Government think Internet Governable or Not?

It's not so much the reporting confusions as the realisation that the UK is such a long way behind in its thinking about what the voracious, market-snitching, web is doing to every facet of our information society. Including, of course, politics. Obama just announced a CTO America. We so need one.

Describing himself as the 'minister for advertising', Burnham said the industry is facing up to challenging times as old media collides with new media, a release issued by the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) said.

Online advertising doesn't have the 'familiar anchors' that regulation has in the traditional media world, said Burnham.

"Government is moving away from thinking online is ungovernable," he said.

"We are in a period when we need to establish societal norms. I don't think we are there yet; we'll get there in a self-regulatory way. The stakes in the ground are not quite there, that is something we need to address together."

If the industry acts responsibly, it will 'get full support of the government', advised Burnham, who said he could see the benefit of behavioural targetting online, but that this would require 'informed consent' and raises issues of privacy and civil liberty.


Andy Burnham, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, has called on marketers to ensure the internet is safe for children. He says the net is "ungovernable" and web designers and advertisers have a responsibility to the public when creating online campaigns.

Speaking at the Internet Advertising Bureau Engage conference, Burnham says the creative industry must act to allay parent's fears about the content their children view online.

He adds: "Internet advertisers must face up to the challenging and changing world that the internet is rapidly becoming. Children find the internet very comforting and natural. It has fundamentally changed the way we access information. Online advertisers and content publishers must act responsibly to ensure the pages children view are safe and are in the public interest."

From Marketing Week.

Meanwhile, the event organizers themselves:
Rt. Hon Andy Burnham Mp, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Andy Burnham’s afternoon keynote address to the Engage conference emphasised the significance of internet advertising to creative Britain and the wider UK economy, and called for renewed partnership and cooperation in balancing varying demands to ensure the UK remains a world leader.

Having explained that he was not here to talk about X-Factor, Burnham, opened with the famous Saatchi quote on advertising which he saw as being “where art and commerce meet most closely”. Burnham acknowledged that he was in many ways, “the minister for advertising” and pledged to do more for this great “British industry”.

Moving on to talk specifically about the internet, Burnham outlined the “fundamental changes in the way we access information and entertainment” – some of which have of course brought serious issues for Government.

“Safeguarding children continues to be a concern”, said Burnham, pointing out that we safeguard children playing outside and we have a watershed on TV, and saying that the “stakes in the ground” on regulating online content aren’t quite there yet. “That’s something I think we need to work on,” he said.

Focussing now on regulation, Burnham commented: “The Government is moving away from thinking that the online world is completely ungovernable.” The reason for this he said was that the internet was now so much a part of people’s lives: “The online world has moved from the fringes of people’s lives to the very heart”.

Burnham next acknowledged the role of advertising in the online sphere. “The internet wouldn’t exist in the way it does without advertising. Advertising has a crucial role to play”, he said. Online has been an enormously successful business model, he argued, witnessing “phenomenal pace of change”.

This is something Burnham is keen to build on he says, outlining proposals for building what he called a network of “strong systematic support” around the creative industries which would result in the creation of apprenticeship schemes and the like. He further acknowledged that there is “a bedrock of support I need to put in place.”

From the Internet Advertising Bureau site.

The Press Complains Commission, advertising, trust and a bit of Google

The Press Complaints Commission (PCC) has named Baroness Peta Buscombe as chairman.

Buscombe, who was made a life peer in 1998, will succeed current chairman Sir Christopher Meyer, who leaves the post in March 2009.

From Buscombe is currently chief executive of the Advertising Association.

Other parties attracting her ire [Baroness Peta Buscombe] include consumer groups such as Which? and Sustain, and charities and non-governmental organisations such as the British Heart Foundation and British Medical Association.

"They build trust in themselves by destroying trust in others. I constantly tell politicians that when they are talking to Which? or Sustain, they're not necessarily talking to the consumer," she points out. "They are so good at lobbying and you get such an influx of information from these groups, most of which is rubbish."

From Brand Republic earlier in the year.

Bumped into Baroness Peta Buscombe at the bar in the Imperial Hotel last night - Peta is the CEO of the Advertising Association. She told me that last week she had attended the Labour party conference, for business purposes only I hasten to add.

I asked her how it had compared to our own conference. "No where near the number of delegates" she said."No real activists as such, a very corporate affair, focused, driven and very smart - so glad I wore my Armani" Priceless!

From last year's Spectator coffee house blog of the Conservative party conference.

Command the Web?

I don't know if this is cool or not: it's in beta and it feels interesting.

A search "command" approach: Kwyno.

Thinking About Newspapers Creatively: the Guardian

This really is very interesting: amid the gloom of so many newspapers' forecasts here is R&D of the best kind. I'm guessing it's also quite cheap to do.

Several hacks focused on visualising data supplied by Simon Rogers - for example a map of where people in the UK were claiming jobseekers allowance. As the map scrolled across the screen the hacker in question announced "So you can see that rural areas are fine, but surprise, surprise, Birmingham is f*&$%d".

Visualising data is fine, but one of the prototypes was concerned with getting people to understand the real value of the big numbers announced by Governments and businesses. "Won't someone please think of the numbers" added a panel to The Guardian website which allowed you to change any monetary sums in the stories into useful comparisons like what % of the salary of Jonathan Ross this represented, or how many tons the sum would weigh in pennies, or how many Wispa bars you could buy with the money.

Currybet's Martin Belam with a great post about being at the Guardian's Hack Day. [There are still people that think the word hack means: journalist btw]. If Martin's piece reflects the mood accurately, as I'm sure it does, then the Guardian's online future will be both fertile and visual.

Here, for instance, is a Charlie Brooker only Guardian, the

In another post I'm going to consider R&D and newspapers: where is the rest of the cool stuff; and how can journalism claw back some trust? I have been at the POLIS "What is Financial Journalism For?" seminar at the LSE all morning. Which was great, but no hack. More on that soon too.

Net Neutrality, coming soon?

Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota and Republican Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine have announced plans to introduce a bipartisan bill addressing the controversial topic of net neutrality. The Internet Freedom Preservation Act, expected to be introduced in January 2009, will make it illegal for ISPs to block or slow down specific types of Internet traffic.

From Boy Genius Report.

And this is a bit of Wikipedia on the idea. Does this happen in Europe?

In a June 2007 report, America's Federal Trade Commission urged restraint with respect to the new regulations proposed by network neutrality advocates, noting the "broadband industry is a relatively young and evolving one," and given no "significant market failure or demonstrated consumer harm from conduct by broadband providers," such regulations "may well have adverse effects on consumer welfare, despite the good intentions of their proponents." In turn, the FTC conclusions have been questioned in Congress, as in September 2007, when Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., chairman of the Senate interstate commerce, trade and tourism subcommittee, told FTC Chairwoman Deborah Platt Majoras that he feared new services as groundbreaking as Google could not get started in a system with price discrimination.