The Now/ledge

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

News Corp’s “The Daily” fails to find an audience. Surprised?

So how long do you think Rupert Murdoch will keep the Daily going?

According to Bloomberg, News Corp’s “The Daily” is getting about 120,000 readers a week. That’s nowhere close to the 500,000 readers the company said it needs to be profitable.

The iPad-only publication was a big experiment not just for News Corp but the entire industry that is keen to test the value of scarcity in online content. “We believe the Daily will be the model for how stories are told and consumed,” Murdoch said in February.

Just to put it in context, the following newspapers have circulations of 120,000: The Blade in Toledo, Ohio and the Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, New York.

That’s not the kind of scale Murdoch is used to.

Filed under: General

Analytics and the modern digital newsroom

It’s never easy to have a conversation with news editors about the role of analytics in the modern newsroom.

If you were to send an online editor to a traditional newsroom and ask for a deck on a “content strategy” that governs what gets published, where and why, you’d end up with blank faces.

News judgement as we know it is changing rapidly. At the heart of it, the question of “what makes a good story” is constantly re-defined thanks to the use of analytics in online newsrooms.

In a recent survey by Reynolds Journalism Institute, 49 percent of editors polled said they make decisions on what to cover based partially on analytics reports. That means 51 percent of editors are still making decision based on traditional judgement.

There’s clearly room to grow. Newsbeat was launched just a month ago, providing powerful tools to help break down your web traffic.

Here are some other analytics tools for the modern newsroom:

  • Visual Revenue
  • Newstogram
  • JumpTime
  • Publishflow
  • Filed under: General

    Building a community around conversations with Disqus @mentions

    Disqus has taken a big step forward in building communities around conversations.

    In a big update to the popular commenting service, Disqus rolled out new feature called @mentions. It allows users to pull in other users into the conversation by using the @ symbol in front of names. This is something that’s almost second nature to Twitter users more recently, Facebook.

    This is a smart move for Disqus. @mentions are a great way to bring back traffic — an instant boost to page views.

    Disqus explained in its blog post, “Before @mentions, commenting threads were an island. There wasn’t a way to reach out to people who weren’t already participating.” That makes sense.

    The feature isn’t limited to just Disqus users — @mentions also supports pulling in users from Twitter. Brilliant.

    Filed under: General,

    What journalism needs in 2011

    The smartest minds in the business have already put out their best predictions for 2011. So I’ll do mine differently; here’s my list of what I think journalism needs in order to thrive in 2011.

    1. Tablet-only publications and redefining our metrics

    Tablet devices offer the best opportunity yet for us to redefine online journalism/publishing. It’s like hitting the reset button. For one, this is our best chance yet to do away with the obsolete metric of counting page views, which in my opinion represents the worst contamination of online journalism. Story-telling is undermined by numerous “link bait,” all for the purpose of collecting more clicks. More than ever, engagement matters. It’s time we measured that in minutes and not clicks. Tablets, and their more natural way of interaction, offer the best chance to get that right.

    My other hope is that tablets, with increasing competition in the apps ecosystem, will favor niche and curated stories with differentiation. The current Web ecosystem is plagued by weeds — a result of the rise of content farms. It’s time to return to considered curation. Try this analogy: instant coffee didn’t kill the barista profession; in fact, it’s taught many people about the beauty of a fabulous brew. I hope content is headed in the same direction.

    2. Social news

    Storify is the best example of the potential of social news. Think of it as a “news of news” platform. The Washington Post used Storify recently during the U.S. mid-term election to monitor allegations of fraud and irregularities.

    I’d love to see other rivals to Storify emerge. I’d bet that the competition will come from none other than the social media networks themselves. Social updates are already the gold mine of the content age — and there’s no reason why a company like Facebook would leave this lying on the table. How long will it be before Facebook enters the social news business?

    3. Data mining as a news profession

    Yahoo’s country editor in Vietnam Nguyen Tran Ha often reminds me that “information only exists when it is read.” In the age of “leakification” provided by WikiLeaks and its copycats, data exists — but it needs to be interpreted and mined. Like library science, data mining is a profession in its own right and such professionals are needed to pull in and interpret the numbers.

    ProPublica demonstrated with great success this year what some have called “computational journalism” — the marriage of algorithms, computing and investigation. Here’s an example of data they put together detailing which banks received the largest bailouts from the Fed.

    Data is after all, the raw material for investigative journalism. It’s time to see this reflected in a profession created around it. Would someone like to attempt a job description for such a role?

    Filed under: Facebook, General, Jobs, News, , , , , , ,

    AOL loses its top editors amid shift to amateur journalism

    Is AOL’s push toward amateur journalism sending its veteran journalists out the door?

    The media company, which once boasted of its more than 500 journos (among them nine Pulitzer prize winners), is now seeing its key assets walk out the door. Reuters reports that the company has now lost its Editor-in-Chief Mike Nizza to News Corp. Other departures include World Editor James Graff and Enterprise Editor James Burnett.

    Some ex-AOL execs blame CEO Tim Armstrong — who is said to be taking the company from one chaotic project to another without a focus or strategy. For the editorial teams, emphasis has clearly shifted from “professional” to “amateur” journalism, as seen in AOL’s push toward quick-and-cheap content in projects like the hyperlocal network Patch and freelance content by Seed.

    Preisdent of AOL Media and Studios David Eun told PaidContent that isn’t the case and that the company was building a balance between professional and amateur.

    “If you go to our Travel site, I think you’ll see a very well-programmed experience, that includes articles our staff journalists have written, content from partners and local content from people in our Seed network. We also have videos from our StudioNow network. What we’re doing is creating the largest virtual newsroom of the future. Ultimately that’s run by the people on staff here, who produce our editorial.”

    Eun in another interview (this time with Reuters) defended the company’s strategy, saying it’s still about content.

    “We don’t believe the content on the Web will only be created within our walls, let’s be clear about that… A lot of great content is created originally within our walls… It’s our job to bring the best out there and mix it internally so our audiences get the benefit of both.”

    Filed under: General

    From WordPress to Tumblr… and back to WordPress again

    After a brief, 2-month flirt with Tumblr, I’m back to WordPress again. Here’s why:

    Dashboard: The truth is, I never got used to the way Tumblr was presenting the bloggers I followed. My dashboard was a mess — a bizarre collection of comic photos, serious articles and bits of quotes hanging around. I couldn’t see past the forest; I never got to the trees.

    Discovery: Discovery of new blogs was also poor. The directory of sites wasn’t comprehensive enough and often failed to help me find anyone interesting to follow.

    SEO: Discovery of Tumblr blogs is poor on Google. When was the last time you found your way to a Tumblr blog via Google? ‘Nuff said.

    Short-form blogging: Most importantly, micro-blogging on Tumblr never caught on with me. I use Twitter for all the “micro” stuff. And I’m already connected to a wider community on Twitter. Why change?

    Themes and widgets: Tumblr has a great collection of ready-to-wear themes. These covered 80 percent of what I needed. Unfortunately, I never found a (free) theme that sat well with me. Many themes were also missing important features, such as Twitter streams. It’s the basics that matter.

    Filed under: General

    Finally, as expected — Demand Media files for IPO

    Demand Media has, as expected, filed for an IPO. The company is looking at a maximum offering price of $125 million but didn’t say how much would be up for sale. There was no mention of a date either in its SEC filing.

    The filing itself reveals interesting insights into the company, especially the risks it perceives. In particular, it warns potential investors about “certain material agreements with Google for a significant portion of our revenue. A termination of these agreements, or a failure to renew them on favorable terms, would adversely affect our business.”

    Filed under: General,

    Tudou.com builds out production facilities with new funding

    This is worth watching. Tudou, China’s massive YouTube-like video service, is spending its new-found $50 million cash pool on building out its video production facilities. This is an interesting change of strategy — we aren’t talking user generated stuff anymore. This is professional production. How long before they become a TV media company?

    Also — what’s interesting about the fund raising is that Singapore’s Temasek Holdings bought a stake in the company for $35 million. Hmm.

    Filed under: General

    Has the time come to take photojournalism off life-support?

    After 25 years in the industry, Neil Burgess (whose picture agency represents Sebastião Salgado) says photojournalism is over. He explains that given the cuts in funding for photo projects, it’s time we all admit the worst has arrived, and that photojournalism is dead.

    “Magazines and newspapers are no longer putting any money into photojournalism. They will commission a portrait or two. They might send a photographer off with a writer to illustrate the writer’s story, but they no longer fund photojournalism. They no longer fund photo-reportage. They only fund photo illustration.”

    In his view, photojournalists are the first to go, and it’s the writers next.

    “The photojournalists were the first to go, but once the destruction of the printed media business model is complete and still no-one has come up with a new one, then the writers will have to go as well. So we’ll end up with a couple of sub-editors re-phrasing press-releases and dropping in supplied photos. Hell, that’s happening already!”

    Filed under: General

    Change of leadership at The Jakarta Post

    Meidyatama Suryodiningrat is taking over the top editorial post at The Jakarta Post. According to the paper, Meidyatama represents “a generation of journalist [sic] bred in the whirlwind of ‘new media’ change.” (Sadly, however, I couldn’t locate Meidyatama in LinkedIn or in Twitter for that matter.)

    Meidyatama is the English-language paper’s fifth Editor-in-Chief and replaces Endy M. Bayuni. The Post says Meidyatama graduated from Carlton University in Canada and recently completed his Fellowship at Harvard University’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs.

    Filed under: General