The Now/ledge

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

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, , , , , , ,

The future of journalism: Entrepreneurial

The Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York has embarked on a mission to save journalism. By making it entrepreneurial.

It has received two $3 million grants to create the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism and a Master of Arts degree in Entrepreneurial Journalism.

This is worth celebrating. We’ve finally made peace with the fact that new journalism requires its practitioners to understand where technology is headed, and more importantly, how to build a sustainable news business around it. Kudos.

In a statement, Executive Director Emily Tow Jackson said The Tow Foundation had become “concerned about the fate of print journalism in the digital age and the impact of its decline on the health of our democracy.”

The first graduates are expected in the spring of 2012. Hopefully, that won’t be too late to save the industry.

Filed under: Jobs,

The real threat to journalism

It isn’t as though journalism needed another threat; there are plenty to choose from.

But the rise of paywalls, most recently seen in the UK’s Times, Sunday Times and Rolling Stone magazine, may be the medicine that kills the patient.

Repeat after me: Traffic leads to money and in turn, is far more capable at enhancing the quality of journalism than undermine it.

Putting great stories, photos and video behind a ringed fence only diminish the overall pool of news in the industry. As David Amerland, an SEO specialist describes it:

“The approach threatens journalists, whose jobs will be the next to go as online news readers dwindle and revenue drops even further. This threatens journalism because it encourages the emergence of less professional services that directly, and more successfully, compete with it.”

Is isolation really the best way forward for news organizations? Advertising, long abandoned as a savior for online newsrooms, could be a viable option in the near future.

According to Peter Kirwan, who crunched the numbers in an article for Wired, an ad-supported Guardian could turn off the presses by 2015. Assuming no increase in the cost of operating the Guardian newsroom and a modest 20 percent increase in ad revenue, freedom could be a mere five years away.

Can newsrooms afford to wait? More importantly, will the audience?

(Photo: Jeremy Brooks/Creative Commons)

Filed under: Jobs, Newspapers, Publishing

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, ,

SCMP cuts 30 editorial jobs

South China Morning Post, the English-language daily from Hong Kong, has reportedly cut 30 editorial jobs, apparently as part of a plan to restructure the company.

According to the AFP, which cited an internal memo circulated among staff by the Post’s Editor-in-Chief Reginald Chua, the company wants to remove the reporting teams from the actual production of the paper.

This would be the first big move by Chua, who was appointed to the post in July. He was formerly Deputy Managing Editor at the Wall Street Journal in New York, where he oversaw the Journal’s “computer-assisted reporting capabilities.”

It sounds as though Chua is re-allocating the company’s reporting resources to further support a digital function, which would make sense. So many newspapers are still hamstrung by their “core” product, refusing a great opportunity to lead the audience and dialogue through their online properties. Yes, I get it, advertisers are still paying for newspaper placements and online is merely a “bonus” in the package. But all that is quickly changing — digital is leading the newsflow. And remember, dailies aren’t in the newspaper business; they’re in the news business.

Filed under: Jobs, Newspapers,

Plug: Yahoo! Southeast Asia seeks finance producer

Ok, here’s one more job opening at Yahoo! Southeast Asia. I wanted to get this out the door before we head out for our holidays.

We’re looking for a producer to edit and curate compelling stories for our Singapore version of Yahoo! Finance.

The job is incredibly challenging: Identifying and delivering accurate, reliable and timely information to help our users make the best decisions in their financial investments.

This isn’t an entry-level position; you must have proven experience in producing and editing financial news stories. You may also have to write or commission blogs on finance and investments.

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

This is what we’re looking for in an ideal candidate:

  • A financial journalist with at least five years of writing, editing or production experience at news organizations such as Dow Jones, Reuters, Bloomberg or CNBC
  • Knowledge of the publicly listed companies in Singapore and commonly watched blue chip stocks
  • Reliable contacts in the financial services industry would be helpful
  • An understanding of social media and how to use it to distribute stories and engage a wider audience
  • Able to pitch great ideas for blog posts and articles relevant to the investment community in Singapore
  • Bachelor’s degree, preferably in journalism or communication

    If your experience fits what we’re after, please send your CV to:

    Alan Soon
    Managing Editor
    Yahoo! Southeast Asia
    Email: alansoon@yahoo-inc.com

    Filed under: Jobs,

  • Plug: Yahoo! Southeast Asia seeks Singapore producer

    Here’s the another job I’m looking to fill at Yahoo!.

    We’re looking for a producer to curate and deliver the best stories on our Singapore front page. This is a high-profile role in guiding and engaging our audience through the most visible section of our Singapore property.

    This is a great job for journalists, but ultimately our best candidate must have strong writing skills and a wide understanding of what makes news in the Singapore context. That means you’ll need a broad knowledge of subjects as diverse as politics, business, entertainment and sports. If you know how to write in a compelling style that delivers the clicks, we’d love to hear from you.

    Technical experience isn’t necessary, but you’ll need to be comfortable working 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
  • Able to write in a strong, unique and engaging conversational voice
  • Must have at least 3 years of relevant or related experience in online and/or traditional media
  • Excellent local knowledge and a nose for news
  • A wide variety of subject interests, from politics to health to the local entertainment scene in Singapore
  • Attention to detail
  • Able to work with diverse teams of people from different cultures
  • An understanding of how online communities work
  • A strong presence in social media networks
  • An appreciation of analytics and numbers
  • Bachelor’s degree, preferably in journalism or communications

    If you’re interested, send your CV to:

    Alan Soon
    Managing Editor
    Yahoo! Southeast Asia
    Email: alansoon@yahoo-inc.com

    Filed under: Jobs,

  • Plug: Yahoo! Southeast Asia seeks Country Editor for Vietnam

    This is by far the toughest position for me to fill as Managing Editor of Yahoo! Southeast Asia.

    After months of looking and countless interviews, I’m still finding it tough to check off all the boxes for this senior role. So I’m plugging this on my own blog; if you (or anyone you know) have the right skills for this fantastic role as Vietnam Country Editor, please drop me an email.

    The job description:

    —–

    Yahoo! Southeast Asia is looking for a driven and passionate leader for the role of Country Editor for Vietnam. This role requires strong leadership and editorial skills to help build Yahoo’s presence in Vietnam. The successful candidate will be based in Ho Chi Minh City and will report to the Managing Editor for Southeast Asia.

    RESPONSIBILITIES

    – Oversee our editorial strategy for the Vietnamese market, ensuring that we deliver fast, accurate and relevant local-language stories for a growing audience
    – Lead, nurture and manage a team of producers in Ho Chi Minh City
    – Work with product managers to improve on the layout of the Front and News pages
    – Engage and grow our relationship with local content partners
    – Engage and work with freelancers and stringers

    MINIMUM QUALIFICATIONS & EXPERIENCE

    – Fluent in Vietnamese with good command of English
    – Must have at least five (5) years of relevant or related experience in online and/or traditional media;
    – Proven leadership and mentoring skills;
    – Experience working in a real-time environment;
    – Demonstrated ability to work in a new technology environment;
    – Bachelor’s degree, preferably in journalism or media.

    COMPETENCIES

    – Must be a self-starter;
    – Excellent local knowledge and a nose for news;
    – Understanding how audiences interact with online communities;
    – Keen interest in global and regional current affairs and pop culture from a local perspective;
    – Able to interact with diverse groups of technical and non-technical people;
    – Must be able to communicate effectively within and outside immediate group.

    APPLICATION

    To apply, please send your CV to:

    Alan Soon
    Managing Editor
    Yahoo! Southeast Asia
    Email: alansoon@yahoo-inc.com

    Filed under: Jobs, ,

    Second take: Is AOL’s algo editorial strategy smart?

    I guess you can’t be too quick to say no to AOL’s rumored algorithm “robot” editorial strategy (covered in the previous post).

    TBI Research has put out an interesting report that says the plan could actually be quite “smart.”

    This is how TBI is looking at it:

    – This is all about Search in what is an increasingly fragmented content market; the move will pull in more referral traffic.

    – It makes sense to give audiences what they want (duh!!).

    – It easily allows AOL to create the custom microsites or “experiences” for advertisers.

    – By dealing with a market of freelancers, the amount of AOL’s fixed costs will decrease.

    I completely agree with the TBI Research report. But it still leaves one lingering issue: AOL will still need to hire an army of copy editors and fact checkers — and that’s costly.

    Filed under: Jobs, Publishing, Tools

    The attack of the algo editors

    Search

    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 Seed.com 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