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Posts Tagged ‘newspapers’

The Moment Is Here: News Is Portable

Posted by Jacqueline on October 8, 2007

Jeff Jarvis says that newspapers have reached their “ipod moment” – the moment where something shifts and new technology reaches a critical mass, changing the way that everything works (like ipods changed how people consume music). 

As we all know, the mobile web is becoming increasingly important – and with iphones (and similar devices, including, perhaps, a google phone), we’re no longer chained to a computer.  Instead, we’re connected to the internet all the time and we get our news on the go – and everything you can do on your computer, you can do on your iphone.  The fact that it’s also a cell phone is practically a second thought when you consider all of its web capabilities. 

However, for this to be a real industry-altering ipod moment, media companies have to take advantage of it.  Right now, it appears that old media is much too focused on making the web adapt to their interests, rather than figuring out how to innovate.  And I quote:

“For decades, I’ve watched newspaper industry thinktanks – the too few that exist – try to invent the next medium for news. This usually takes the mythical form of e-paper, thin as a sheet and just as portable, able to display newspapers like newspapers, very Harry Potter. I have also seen too many newspapers and magazines attempting to use painful PDF technology to display their publications on screens exactly as they appear on paper. Why? Ego, I think, and comfort and fear of change. The New York Times recently did a deal with Microsoft to use its new reader, which looks as attractive, if grey, as the Times itself and enables familiar activities like turning pages, but which loses some of the rich linking and interactivity of the web.

I think that’s all driving the wrong way: backwards. These are attempts to mold technology to old media. What we should be doing instead, of course, is molding media to new technology. We should be asking what new we can do on this new iPhone.”

That last paragraph could also be an explanation for why independent bloggers and new media companies have managed to pick up such a large share of the market online – they are working with the technology and embracing the new, instead of fighting change and maintaining the status quo.  Like Jeff says, they should be asking themselves “how do we use this wonderful device to give people the news and links whenever, wherever, and however they want it? How do we do that with incredible efficiency? How do we make it local and relevant? How do we take advantage of the two-way relationship we now have, enabling people with these gadgets to share what they know?

Of course, if you have ideas or projects related to digital technology and journalism, you know what to do.  There’s one week left to enter and hey, you could be the one who rocks the media world.

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Posted in Digital Media, General, Innovation, Journalism, New Media, Technology | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

Reports of Journalism’s Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

Posted by Jacqueline on October 5, 2007

Every couple months or so, it seems that the whole “journalism is dead!  People only want sensationalized gossip and entertainment” story gets trotted out, both online and in traditional.  Maybe it’s a good filler for a slow news week, or the writer had just plain gotten sick of seeing Paris Hilton’s or Lindsay Lohan’s faces everywhere.

However, despite the massive proliferation of tabloid news, there is plenty more “serious journalism” happening too.  For instance, the situation in Burma, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s stateside vist, and of course the events in Iraq are all recent leading stories.  Still, though, there seems to be consistent fear of a widespread journalistic attempt to the throw in the heavyweight news towel against the onslaught of celebrity fluff, according to William Powers at the National Journal.  This is not a new fear:

“Writing in the Los Angeles Times in 1995, under the headline “The Simpson Legacy,” the late David Shaw rued what O.J. seemed to have done to the news business: “When the tabloids clasped the Simpson story to their heaving journalistic bosoms, the mainstream media suddenly found themselves panting alongside.” “

But is it really that bad?  William investigated the extent of celeb-fotainment himself.  The morning after Britney lost custody of her sons (don’t you sort of hate that is considering breaking news?), he checked out a whole bunch of news sources.  And with the exception of the tabloids (who are supposed to cover celeb dirt anyways), it wasn’t really that bad. 

“One day this week, the morning after Britney Spears had lost custody of her children in court, I went through the newspapers to see who was playing up that story at the expense of serious news. Not The New York Times (page A20). Not The Washington Post (Style section). USA Today had a Britney teaser and photo on the front page in the left column, pointing to inside coverage, but its biggest headline was “Report on Blackwater: U.S. Did Little to Restrict Guards.”

In fact, he says, if you were away from the net, the only place to find out about Britney’s kids were the actual tabloids.  Even on the web, international stories and election 2008 coverage outweighed the fluff on the big blogs and news sites.  His conclusion?  It’s all about where you look for your news. 

“I asked Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, if it’s true that serious news is alive and well. He said it’s all about where you look: “The infotainment and tabloid culture still exists in 2007…. But the reality is, stories like Britney, Anna Nicole, and even to some extent O.J. are cable and morning news fascinations much more than the media overall.”

Yes, journalism is currently in a state of flux, but that doesn’t mean that it has died, or even is no longer relevant.  The web might make things look different, and it has definitely altered our news delivery systems, but actual, non-fluffy and sensationalistic news still has an important place in the world, and in our lives.

Have an idea that might help keep the news real and not celeb-tastic?  Know how to get people the information that they actually need and want to hear?  Check out the Knight News Challenge and you could win funding for your ideas and projects.

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The Lines Between New Media and Old Media are Disappearing

Posted by Jacqueline on October 2, 2007

The times, they are a-changin’.  Traditional companies are adding some new media flavor to their pages (How many big newspapers have added blogs to their websites in the last year or so, for instance?) and websites are adding some of the positive characteristics of their print counterparts, such as clearly defined sections and easy front-page navigation.

No where is this more obvious then at the popular liberal news and opinion site, the Huffington Post (it seems a little wrong to call it a mere blog, although technically it is a group blog in the most sense of the word – content organized in reverse chronological order, and readers can comment on the articles).  Begun by media mogul Arianna Huffington two and half years ago, today the site has forty-three employees and a reach of 3.5 million unique visitors a month.  Most newspapers would love to have that kind of readership.

Characterized as an “an online version of a sprawling dinner-party conversation with a global crowd of more than a thousand well-connected friends.”, the Huffington Post currently sits at #5 on the Technorati Top 100.  However, the site is shifting towards a more traditional media model, as they’ve made a “recent move to hire a handful of well-known journalists to do old-fashioned reporting. “Our goal,” Ms. Huffington says, “is basically to become an online newspaper”.”  In addition, the company has tapped Betsy Morgan, former general manager of CBSnews.com, to be their chief executive officer.  Obviously, the Huffpo, as it is sometimes casually referred to, is not exactly a typical blog.

“Getting somebody like this to come to our site says a boatload about where the industry is going,” said Kenneth Lerer, who has been acting as the chief executive of The Huffington Post and will move up to chairman. He founded the site along with Arianna Huffington, the political commentator.”

-From the CBSnews article about Betsy Morgan’s move.

Although many writers and traditional media types have slammed the internet as the home of dilettantes, amateurs, and hacks, that is simply not the case when websites like this exist; besides, the future belongs to those who can adapt to the changing media climate, not those who try in vain to preserve the past.  In the end, there is room enough for everyone on the web – it’s not as if there is an end to the internet.

Have your own ideas for how to use the web and other digital technology to deliver the news?  Check out the Knight Foundation’s news challenge and you could make them a reality.

Posted in Blogging, Digital Media, General, Journalism, New Media, Web 2.0 | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Old System Can’t Last Forever: The New Media

Posted by Jacqueline on October 1, 2007

You can’t visit a journalism-related website lately without reading about how traditional media is suffering from money woes thanks to the web, or how bloggers and other forms of online news are forcing the “real journalists” out of their jobs.  And you’ve probably heard how advertisers and marketers are flocking to the net in growing numbers.

So what’s the old media to do?  Obviously newspapers and magazines are not going to pack it in and say “game over, you win” to the web, but clearly something has to change if they want to stick around.  Today, Jeff Jarvis of Buzz Machine wrote about how reporters were calling for government support and funding from foundations or wealthy business moguls.  Basically, they need a steady influx of cash to replace advertisers and customers lost to the internet, or as Jeff says, “fairy godmothers who will swoop in from government or foundations or rich families to provide magic money that lets them continue to do business as they have.”  To put it succinctly, they are aiming for self-preservation, not innovation.

But the old ways of doing business can’t last forever, and trying to maintain a status quo that is tinged with nostalgia of the days before the web could be the end of many newspapers.  An artificial financial boost is not the cure for the illness that is ailing old media right now – learning to adapt to the web, working to innovate and striving to move forward and reinvent journalism as it works within all the amazing technological developments that have occurred in the recent past (and of course, looking to the future as well) – this is what needs to happen, instead of companies just burying their heads in the sand, ostrich style.

While support from the government could possible bail a struggling paper out, this seems very dangerous.  How will freedom of the press be affected when the government is funding it?  It’s tough to imagine a scenario in which a certain level of objectivity isn’t sacrificed, and the ability of journalists to criticize the government and to hold politicians accountable for their actions has always been essential for democracy.  Or do they plan to just leave the freedom of the press to bloggers?  And how do they plan to maintain the trust of the general public when they are bankrolled by the very organizations they criticize and discuss in their pages?

What about funding from foundations?  Clearly, this blog supports the Knight Foundation and their news challenge, but that encourages change and innovation.  It’s about changing things for the better, not sticking with the status quo.  Yes, sometimes foundation funding can mask a media outlet’s actual problems (because tossing money at an industry that can be hopelessly behind the times is a little like putting a band-aid on a bullet would), but if a foundation truly wants to foster innovation and growth, they can.  However, relying on outside sources for cash is also risky, because it’s a quick fix for a bigger, more fundamental problem. 

To conclude, I can’t say it better than Jeff:

“So rather than trying to find money to support the old ways artificially, we need resources to invent the new ways, the ones we don’t know yet. We need to take advantage of all the opportunities we have to gather and share news in new ways while preserving the best and most valuable of the old (and sloughing off the waste of the old). We need to explore new products and new business models and new relationships and we need to show that they are good investments, not charity cases.”

Posted in Blogging, Digital Media, Entrepreneurship, General, Innovation, Journalism, New Media | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Techmeme Leaderboard: Does It Matter What Kind of Site a News Source is?

Posted by Jacqueline on October 1, 2007

Bloggers and other news outlets have been posting about the new Techmeme Leaderboard all day today, and one of the main topics of discussion has been how the site’s ranking system does not differentiate between blogs and other websites.  For instance, Techcrunch, Scobleizer, and the New York Times are all on their list, and it’s based on how many times a site has been linked by Techmeme in the last thirty days.

Some bloggers have been trumpeting about this will replace the somewhat ailing Technorati, but while this list is definitely useful for those who are interested technology developments and news, it cannot replace the universal reach of Technorati’s ranking systems.  After all, Technorati tracks blogs on every topic, not just the ones in the techno-sphere, and although it doesn’t include non-blog sources, it generally does its job pretty well.  And anyways, there really isn’t any competition other than Google’s Blogsearch, and that only searches blogs – it doesn’t index, rank, or otherwise organize them.  Perhaps the reports of Technorati’s death have been greatly exaggerated.

Much of the other discussion has been about this list doesn’t discern what is a blog and what is not – but does it really matter what the source of a story is if it is viable and/or interesting?  It’s not like Techmeme’s Leaderboard purports to be a blog ranking system anyways, and really, perhaps it is time that popular blogs go head to head with traditional news sources in terms of respect, page views, and links.  And as bloggers gain increasing amoutns of credibility, do people really care if they are reading a blog or a news outlet as long as it has the latest scoop?

However, the Techmeme Leaderboard and the Technorati Top 100 are all about measuring the biggest players, they just do it in different ways (and Techmeme sticks to a single niche whereas Technorati’s based solely on the amount of backlinks – it doesn’t matter what language a blog is in or what it is about).  What would be more interesting, and potentially much more compelling to those who aren’t as into technology as the Techmeme crowd, would be a way of applying the Leaderboard concept to individual niches –  a foodie leaderboard, a football leaderboard, a fashion leaderboard, and so on.  Each subject could have it’s own Techmeme-style site, even, if there are enough dedicated bloggers.

Another way to take the concept to the next level would be to make a localized version of Techmeme – when bloggers, journalists, photographers, videographers, and anyone else in a specific geographic region post something, link it on the front page.  The most prominent citizen journalists could be ranked on a leaderboard (because people seem to love to compete for rankings), and readers could subscribe to the RSS feeds for different categories.

Yes, this wouldn’t be easy to construct, but once the site was built and the content is seeded, it would be an invaluable service to the area’s residents.  It would even be possible to run ads from local businesses to help keep the site afloat, if necessary.  Do you have any ideas, business plans, or projects that would fit the bill?  Enter the Knight News Challenge at www.newschallenge.org.

Want to read what others are saying about the Techmeme Leaderboard?  Check out Techcrunch, Read Write Web, Ben Metcalfe, Problogger Darren Rowse, Media Metamorphosis, and of course, there’s more on Techmeme’s homepage.

Posted in Blogging, Digital Media, General, Innovation, New Media, Technology, Web 2.0 | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

RSS Woes: Many Top News Sites Aren’t Taking Full Advantage of Feeds

Posted by Jacqueline on September 30, 2007

From Yahoo News:

 A new study from the International Center for Media and Public Agenda, looking at 19 top news sites, released today concludes that RSS feeds work very poorly for anyone who uses news for more than infotainment.

Cited as among the best users of RSS: The Los Angeles Times, ABC News, Christian Science Monitor, BBC World Service and Fox News.

Among the worst: Al Jazeera, The Guardian and The New York Times.

This is interesting because while these major news sources have plenty of readers, they are not taking full advantage of technology like RSS (or really simple syndication), a way of syndicating content that allows an individual to subscribe to a particular section or blog and read new posts/articles in a feed reader, also known as an aggregator.  By using RSS instead of pointing your browser at each individual website or page, the news comes to you.  Clearly, it is a very efficient method of staying informed on all sorts of topics. 

The problem that the aforementioned sites are having with RSS?  They don’t want to deliver all their content with feeds – they want readers to visit their actual site.  Why?  Well, according to the Yahoo article,

“One reason may be that such stories, such as those by AP or Reuters, don’t carry the ‘brand’ of the news organization. But without those stories, many RSS feeds are not truly delivering news 24/7 and, in addition, lack the breadth of news their home sites deliver.”

Why is this such a problem?  Because an increasing number of people are using RSS to keep themselves updated on news ranging from local happenings to international events; in addition, without going to the actual website that is the source of the feed (and really, part of the point of using an aggregator is that you don’t have to go a bunch of different places for your info), RSS users are not even aware that they may not be getting the whole picture. 

So what could be a possible solution to this problem?  Should news outlets have to (and/or other websites) publish all their content with RSS whether they want to or not?  If so, how could that be enforced, if it is possible at all?  Should there be some kind of standardized system, and again, is that even possible on the web?  Do we want such a system anyways, or should people just have to sift through the various news sources and locate the feeds that best suit their purposes?  How does this relate to smaller news outlets or community sites, or bloggers, photographers, and videographers who function as citizen journalists?

Of course, if you have an idea or a website that purports to solve the problems that traditional media have with publishing their content with RSS, especially if it has to do with a specific community and how they receive their news, you should check out the Knight News Challenge.  It may be possible to implement your plan sooner than you think.

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