The Now/ledge

A Guide to the 'Now' Revolution in News / by Alan Soon

The attack of the algo editors


If you thought the lines between advertising and journalism are blurred, you haven’t seen anything yet.

According to the Wall Street Journal, AOL is putting together a new workflow that aims to cut costs by simply outsourcing editorial interest to algorithms. This is how it works:

– The “algo editor” automatically assigns stories to freelancers through based on Web searches and sites that AOL users visit;

– The system also figures out how much marketers are willing to pay to advertise alongside such stories;

– AOL’s staffers (human, presumably) will edit the stories as they come in;

– Fees will “range from nothing upfront, with a promise to share ad revenues the article generates, to more than $100 per item.”

This is of course nothing new. Demand Media is already doing it. But it would be interesting to see how the math is done: Surely having to maintain an army of copy editors and fact checkers will outweigh the cost savings — these could arguably be more expensive than the sale of the ads on the articles themselves.

Or maybe it’s just time to leave fact checking to algorithms.


Filed under: Jobs, Publishing, Tools

Two more newspapers may pull out of Google News

This is getting insane.

According to Bloomberg, the publishers of the Denver Post and the Dallas Morning News may pull some of their stories from Google News, heading down the same road as News Corp.

The Denver Post’s publisher MediaNews Group told Bloomberg that it will block Google News when it brings on its pay-wall next year. Dallas Morning News is also exploring a subscription model and will too withdraw from Google News.

This is how EVP James Moroney at A.H. Belo Corp (which owns the Morning News) explained it:

“This is traffic that’s not being monetized to any great degree… It’s akin to a person who drops into town, buys one copy of your newspaper and leaves town again and yet you spend a whole bunch of time building your business around that type of customer.”

It’s obvious that execs are forced to make drastic decisions in a time when newspaper sales are dropping — but really, the question to ask is this: What do companies actually gain by pulling of search engines?

Search is an important distribution point that help sprays traffic in your direction. The problem isn’t with Search, it’s what you do on your end when the traffic arrives. Charge the user when they get there. But don’t kill off how they find you.

Filed under: Newspapers, Publishing

News content is the new frontline in search war

Bing! Microsoft appears to have opened a new frontline in its battle against Google in search.

According to the FT, the software giant has been talking with News Corp about a plan to “de-index” its news websites from Google. Microsoft is putting its money where it matters — by offering to pay News Corp money to do just that, showing the industry that it’s not afraid to use cash to buy search market share.

The story follows an odd but provoking hint by News Corp’s Chairman Rupert Murdoch who suggested he was ready to de-index his content from search engines.

In essence, this creates value for content in the search business where there wasn’t an obvious one. But really, what can Microsoft achieve from all this? Ultimately, the company is merely throwing cash at brands; it can’t buy the news. The move, if true, also creates a huge opportunity for believers in search to continue distributing their content via queries. And they may well thrive.

Filed under: Newspapers, Publishing

Live coverage, the civilized way

Twitter has made its mark as a live coverage tool. But let’s face it, in the middle developing or breaking news stories, hashtags can be a mess. You can’t figure out what’s coming or going, what’s new or dated.

Enter a new live micro-blogging tool, Hot Potato.

The concept is simple: Connect people who are talking about a single event in a linear stream. The main idea is that it won’t overwhelm you with updates — you’ll only see stuff that are relevant to you, either because your friends (thank you Facebook Connect) said so, or because people from the event considered them interesting.

There is also a great business model for the company: You can sell ads against the events as well as licensing the technology to companies looking for customization.

Check it out. There’s also an iPhone app coming soon. How cool is that?

Filed under: Social Media, Tools

It’s really about what’s happening now

Twitter’s move to change its question above the tweet box from “What are you doing?” to “What’s happening?” may seem trivial but it reflects how quickly we’ve moved in social media over the past year.

It wasn’t too long ago when status updates were merely about “doing” — stuff that drew a whole bunch of mundane broadcasts of what someone was having for lunch to “I’m having coffee.”

As co-founder Biz Stone explained in a blog post, Twitter is now much more than that:

Between those cups of coffee, people are witnessing accidents, organizing events, sharing links, breaking news, reporting stuff their dad says, and so much more.

The fundamentally open model of Twitter created a new kind of information network and it has long outgrown the concept of personal status updates.

Twitter as well as Facebook have since evolved. And it’s more about what’s happening; it’s what’s happening now.

Filed under: Social Media, Tools

YouTube Direct: Why it makes sense for your newsroom

There’s a new tool in town that will change the way news organizations solicit, review and publish videos on their own site.

The service from Google, called YouTube Direct, has a simple premise behind it: Make it easier for newsrooms to connect with their audiences.

Think about the possibilities: getting video submissions straight from cellphones on the street, right into a YouTube API that shows up on your end. You’ll of course get full control over what gets published — you can still choose to approve/reject the videos based on your editorial policy.

Features in a nutshell:

– A YouTube API, easily integrated into your site
– Customized look and feel
– Your audience can upload video without ever leaving your site
– Moderation panel to approve/reject submissions

Filed under: Tools

Plug: Yahoo! Southeast Asia seeks Commissioning Editor

Newsrooms may be cutting staff and expenses, and there’s no denying the fact that more than ever, content is king. Content is coming at us in old and new ways through blogs, photos and videos.

Yahoo! (disclosure: I work for Yahoo! and I’m the hiring manager for this role) is looking for a Commissioning Editor to work with content providers. Not the big newsrooms out there (we have plenty of strong partnerships across the region) but with individual writers, bloggers or any other self-publishers. We’re looking to scale up our production of micro-sites that cater to the growing need among advertisers for rich, engaging and compelling content. So we’re looking for someone to help us bring it all together. Here’s the job description we posted:


Yahoo! Southeast Asia is looking for a Commissioning Editor to help support the production of custom-branded micro-sites.

You’ll be required to identify and commission bloggers/writers to produce a variety of articles ranging from finance to event guides. That means you’ll need both an extensive list of contacts as well as a broad knowledge of various subjects.

The role also requires you to have strong editing skills to draw out a distinct and engaging editorial voice to satisfy the Yahoo! audience. Just as important — you need to be able to recognize this quality in other people’s writing.

Given the high expectations of our users, the role requires a professional with at least five years in an editorial role.

The job will also involve:

– Identifying strong bloggers and building a strong relationship with them
– Assessing pitches from bloggers
– Editing article submissions
– Commissioning photographers and illustrators
– Issuing contracts to bloggers
– Paying bloggers

The ideal candidate will have the following skills:

– More than 5 years in an editorial role, preferably in the magazine industry
– Strong relationships with prominent bloggers
– Ability to write and re-write in an engaging style
– Strong copy editing skills, knowledge of AP style is preferred
– Strong attention to detail
– Nurturing skills to help develop bloggers

In terms of personality, we’re looking for someone who is able to juggle multiple assignments and roll with the punches. You must be able to work independently. You need to be comfortable with technology and internet publishing tools, and if not, you should at least be a quick learner.


Please send your resume and a cover letter to:

Alan Soon
Managing Editor
Yahoo! Southeast Asia

Filed under: Publishing,

Murdoch and the garden walls

Screen shot 2009-11-10 at 10.25.06 PM

Has Mr Murdoch lost his mind?

Rupert, in an interview with Sky News, suggested that he wants to de-index all of News Corp’s articles from search engines.

“The fact is there isn’t enough advertising in the world to make websites profitable. We’d rather have fewer people coming to our websites, but paying.”

In his mind, search engines are plagiarists who are ripping off his company and the way to actually make ‘serious money’ is to build a wall around the Garden of Content.

Who do you think will be the bigger loser in this — the search engines (who are already aggregating thousands of other content rivals), or News Corp itself? Or consumers?

Discovery is a key element in the News Journey (Discovery -> Consumption -> Re-distribution). Closing yourself off from search engines removes any chance of you pulling a new and wider audience. Will Murdoch also curb re-distribution via social networks?

Stay away from the walled garden, Mr Murdoch.

Filed under: Social Media, , ,

Modern journalism and the Sorkin Way

The Sorkin Way

Love him or hate him (and there are plenty of both out there), Andrew Ross Sorkin has paved the way for modern journalism — build a personal brand, and be everywhere.

The 32-year-old financial journalist at the New York Times is a bit of an oddity in the newspaper world; he is his own creation. I won’t get into the accusations leveled against him, I’ll leave that to his recent writeup in New York Magazine. But what is worth pointing out is how he built that personal brand, which most ‘classical’ journalists detest (‘It’s about the news, not the messenger’).

At a time when the newspaper is cutting jobs, Sorkin has already demonstrated that he is capable of delivering a profitable business with DealBook on the web. The blog was one of the NYT’s most ambitious online ventures when it launched in March 2006. Sorkin’s goal was in fact an online newsletter that he would email Wall Street execs every morning — with the hope that it would enhance the paper’s ability to break news. It was a paradigm shift for the NYT. Since then, he’s made multiple appearances on CNBC and of course, you’ll also find him on Twitter (73,000 followers) and Facebook. And oh, he has a book to sell you. Sorkin everywhere.

Here we are 3 years later. Are journalism students and professionals still arguing about the need to build a personal brand? Ultimately, the best way to protect your job in journalism is to build that name online.

What is your brand?

Filed under: Newspapers, Social Media

‘We have listoff!’


And so the listoff begins.

Listorious has put together an A-list of top lists on Twitter. The goal is ambitious but completely necessary: make it easier for the rest of us to find the best lists out there and for list creators to get the word out.

For those who haven’t yet discovered the merits of Twitter List, be prepared — the joy of new tweets will only mean you’ll be spending more time following the topics you love. For companies and influencers, getting ‘listed’ will be an important footprint on the social web.

Back to Listorious. Here are the top three lists on Twitter:

1. Team by Twitter
2. Mashable by Pete Cashmore
3. Most Influential In Tech by Robert Scoble

Filed under: Social Media, ,

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