The Now/ledge

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

China’s Ministry of Truth and the Google affair

Ever wondered what instructions from a government censor sound like?

China’s so-called “Ministry of Truth” was out in force after the Google affair this past week, issuing specific instructions to Chinese media companies about what to avoid in coverage.

According to the China Digital Times, a news service run by the Berkeley China Internet Project, ordered among other things:

  • Not to hold discussions or investigations on the Google topic
  • To remove all text, photos or videos that dedicated flowers to Google or asked Google to stay
  • Not to report Google’s press releases
  • Sure, local media companies will have to comply. But good luck on trying to control the Twitter stream.

    (Photo/Creative Commons: thaths, Flickr)

    Filed under: News, ,

    Plug: Yahoo! seeks online reporter in Singapore

    Yahoo! Southeast Asia (where I work) is looking for an online reporter to gather, produce and present daily news stories for our Singapore Front Page. You must be a dynamic and independent “go-getter” with a passion for what makes news in Singapore. You must also have a wide network of contacts within the industry.

    Traditional news reporting skills such as strong writing and the ability to deliver under tight deadlines are a must. But you must also be comfortable working in a multi-media newsroom, pulling together text, video and audio. Broadcast or newswire experience is a plus.

    You’ll also need a broad knowledge of subjects as diverse as politics, business, entertainment and sports. If you have experience engaging and “shepherding” such communities online, that’s an even bigger plus.

    Technical experience isn’t necessary, but you’ll need to be comfortable with a number of internet publishing tools. The position is based in Singapore and reports to the Singapore country editor.

    Here’s what we’re looking for in a candidate:

    – Fluent in English
    – Mandarin language skills would be ideal
    – Have broadcast or hosting experience in either TV or radio
    – Able to write in a strong, unique and engaging conversational voice
    – Outgoing with excellent inter-personal skills
    – Must have at least 3 years of relevant or related experience in online and/or traditional media
    – Excellent local knowledge and network of contacts
    – A wide variety of subject interests, from local politics to health to local entertainment
    – Prepared to work irregular hours, including weekends
    – Able to work with diverse teams of people from different cultures
    – Bachelor’s degree, preferably in journalism or communications

    If you think you have the skills, we’d love to hear from you. Send your cover letters and CVs to our Singapore Country Editor Jeff Oon (jeffoon@yahoo-inc.com).

    Filed under: Jobs, ,

    Is Twitter really a news firehose?

    There’s no doubt about what Twitter does for many of us — it’s a great, simple way to pick up on what’s happening now.

    So how useful is it in driving traffic to news sites?

    Data from Hitwise shows that Twitter.com (Note: this is the web service and doesn’t reflect traffic from apps like TweetDeck) ranked #39 in the amount of clicks it sends to news and media sites. Surprisingly, Facebook is #3.

    Twitter.com made up a mere 0.14% of upstream visits to news and media sites last week. This compares to 3.64% from Facebook and 1.27% from Google News.

    Where did all that traffic go?

    Filed under: News, Social Media, Twitter

    Reuters tells journos: Don’t break news on Twitter!

    Reuters is in a bit of a bind.

    To protect its bread-and-butter wire service, it’s telling its journalists not to “scoop the wire” by breaking news stories on Twitter. According to the latest guidelines issued to staff:

    As with blogging within Reuters News, you should make sure that if you have hard news content that it is broken first via the wire. Don’t scoop the wire. NB this does not apply if you are ‘retweeting’ (re-publishing) someone else’s scoop.

    “Scooping the wire” must have been a difficult discussion internally. Just a year ago, Dean Wright, the agency’s global editor for ethics and innovation (interesting to see that Reuters has paired ethics and innovation in the same position) wrote in a blog:

    If I don’t beat the Reuters wire with a live tweet because I deliberately hold back, someone else will. If I don’t beat the Reuters wire because I’m slow or inattentive, someone else will. The reason my live tweeting was fast is that it was unintermediated, while the journalist covering the story went the traditional route and had a discussion with an editor about how best to position and play the story. Both methods have important roles. In this case, the editor added value.

    Overall, the guidelines are constructive. Reuters wants its journalists to:

  • Get manager approval before using social networks for professional purposes
  • Have a second pair of eyes to look over the tweets before sending
  • Separate professional and private activity through different accounts
  • Think about whether they’re linking only or mainly to voices on one side of a debate
  • The concern at Reuters is understandable. But it needs to keep two things in mind:

    First, though powerful, Twitter is a very niche product that doesn’t (yet) have the same reach as TV or the wires. Breaking news will be seen by more editors, financial services analysts and investors faster on the wires. When was the last time you heard of a fund manager putting a sell or buy order on a stock because of what he/she read on Twitter?

    Second, in the long run, such a move robs Reuters and its journos of the knowledge of how to build a sustainable and effective news service through social media services. Ultimately, a modern journalist has a personal brand that matters.

    Filed under: News, Social Media, Twitter

    What do you get for $1.99?

    Screen shot 2010-03-07 at 10.16.10 PM.png

    What does $1.99 get you in terms of content?

    The Washington Post this week started an interesting conversation about what consumers will pay for news on the iPhone.

    Instead of building a paywall like the New York Times, the Post is playing with a $1.99 iPhone app that gets you a full year of “customized access and offline reading.

    This marks a major shift in thinking — away from paywall desktop revenue models to the mobile phone, where in the iPhone ecosystem, many consumers are already comfortable making micropayments.

    According to paidContent, the Guardian’s iPhone app was downloaded about 100,000 times from December to February. That’s pretty good for an app that sold for $3.99.

    At $1.99, the Washington Post’s attempt to find a revenue foothold is admirable. “It’s not really so much about this from the point of view of a large revenue stream, but trying to gauge how our readers react to paying for content,” Goli Sheikholeslami, VP and GM for the digital ops at the Post told Nieman Journalism Lab. “It really provides us with a platform for experimentation.”

    So where does this leave the desktop?

    Filed under: Newspapers, ,

    Ok, now I want an iPad

    I recognize that I’ve been quick to dismiss Apple’s iPad; now I want one.

    When I first saw the keynote by Steve Jobs, I thought to myself how lame it was — that really, the iPad is nothing more than a bigger iPod Touch or an iPhone.

    I’ve come around to see that there’s more to that. In many ways, it is just a larger screen, but the iPad will give content publishers a new and far more interesting way to distribute and engage their audiences.

    So what got me going? This video by Wired and Adobe. Check out what Wired wants to do with its articles on an iPad. Then come back and tell me if this doesn’t get you going.

    And if you haven’t already heard, the iPad hits the shelves in the U.S. on April 3. It reaches Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Switzerland and the UK in late April.

    Filed under: Newspapers, Publishing, Tools

    Social media and the TV connection

    A new post by Hitwise analyst Heather Hopkins is highlighting an interesting (but perhaps not too surprising) trend regarding news consumption on Facebook vs Google News.

    Facebook sends news traffic to:

  • The Weather Channel
  • CNN.com
  • Yahoo! News
  • MSNBC
  • People Magazine
  • Google News, on the other hand, sends news traffic to:

  • The New York Times
  • The Wall Street Journal
  • The Washington Post
  • Reuters
  • CNN.com
  • Note the difference and possible conclusion: Facebook is great at directing news to broadcast sites, presumably for breaking news and live events; Google, by contrast, sends traffic to high reputation newspaper sites, presumably for the broader picture.

    This data coincides with what the TV industry already knows: social media is helping to create an online water-cooler conversation, encouraging people to spend time online and on TV at the same time.

    Case in point: NBC showed the Golden Globes on both coasts in the U.S. for the first time this year, in a nod to the symbiotic relationship between TV and social media; ultimately, people witnessing a live event want to be attached to each other.

    Filed under: Facebook, Social Media, Twitter,

    Hashtag journalism: A study of Twitter in Australian political news

    Ahead of an expected election this year, a core group of influential journos in the Canberra Press Gallery have been tweeting their way on the campaign trail.

    Julie Posetti at PBS’ MediaShift has a great post on the use of Twitter by Australian journalists to cover the ins and outs of what happens in Canberra. As part of her investigations into how Twitter is changing journalism, she’s found that:

  • Twitter is a new dissemination point for breaking political news
  • Collegiality is being fostered between tweeting political journalists
  • Journos are linking to long-form stories on their own companies, but more interestingly, also to their rivals
  • Journos are posting photos to illustrate the mood and feel of the situation

  • This is a fascinating prelude if you will, to the other upcoming election in the region — that of the Philippines on May 10th. It would be interesting to see how the coverage plays out on traditional media and social news. I suspect Twitter will play a large part in that.

    I was recently at a Purple Thumb conference organized by Yahoo! (where I work) to discuss the changing media landscape and how social media could change the way this election is covered. One point that came up over and over again was that despite the variety of new social tools, traditional values are more important now than ever. That means the basics like getting the facts right, great story telling and covering both sides.

    I can’t wait to see what political journos in the Philippines do with Twitter. If you’re a reporter in the Philippines, I’d love to hear from you.

    Filed under: News, Twitter

    Is the internet really that bad for you?

    Worries about information overload are apparently as old as information itself.

    According to Vaughan Bell, a clinical and neuropsychologist at the Universidad de Antioquia, Colombia, and King’s College London, the alarm on information overload was sounded way back in — guess what — 1565.

    He wrote in an article for Slate that the Swiss scientist Conrad Gessner commented almost five centuries ago about the overabundance of data, concluding it was “confusing and harmful” to the mind.

    Hindsight, with a bit of humor, reveals that:

  • Socrates warned against writing because it would “create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they would not use their memories”
  • French statesman Malesherbes railed against getting news from the printed page as it socially isolated readers and detracted from getting news from the pulpit
  • In 1936, the music magazine Gramophone complained that radio (then called “wireless”) distracted children from their homework and disturbed the balance of excitable minds
  • Media historian Ellen Wartella noted how “opponents voiced concerns about how television might hurt radio, conversation, reading, and the patterns of family living.”
  • The always-on ‘now’ generation has its own problems, with Twitter and Facebook harming moral values, and of course, how could I forget — Facebook addiction ruining relationships.

    Perhaps the best one so far: How Facebook use may lead to cancer.

    I can’t wait for the next big media frenzy. Will the iPad be bad for your love life?

    Ultimately, the point here is that our approach to new media technologies — though not unjustified — have always been exaggerated. Take a deep breath. Understand what’s changing in society, and deal with it. You won’t be the last to complain about how the internet is changing lives.

    Filed under: General

    Surprise! The news consumer isn’t as predictable as you may think

    A new survey from the Pew Internet & American Life Project and the Project for Excellence in Journalism is shedding more light on what Americans do online. Some of the trends are surprising (the parts in italics are mine).

    1. 61% say they get some kind of news online. That’s seven percentage points above radio. So, are online ads doing as well as radio’s?

    2. The majority of consumers (57%) say they rely on just two to five sites for their news. It would be good to see how aggregator sites do on this trend.

    3. The weather is still the most popular online news subject (81% of users) followed by national events, health and business. Notice how “local” isn’t on that list?

    4. News consumption is a social activity. 75% of those surveyed said they get the news forwarded via email or posts on social networking sites. 25% have commented on stories, but only 3% have Tweeted about news.

    5. News is pocket-sized and portable. The biggest use of mobile news: Weather (26%).

    6. The personalized “Daily Me” news. 40% of users say an important feature of a news site is the ability to customize the news they get from it. Oddly, only 28% have actually done so.

    Are you just as surprised by this report as I am?

    Filed under: News