Posts Tagged 'newspapers'



Trust and UGC

Ever since the coversation about Flickr, there has been an niggle in the back of my mind about some of the arguments out there that newspapers will cut staff to start to rely more heavily on blogs and other user-generated content [edit user-generated content = UGC].

It’s certainly a fear expressed by the NUJ, and by others. I can see their point and have said that, if profit-driven newspapers groups thought they could increase margins by relying more heavily on UGC, then it would probably happen.

But I’ve started to revise those thoughts of late. If the Flickr question taught me one thing it was that while journalists are debating how UGC will be used in the future, we are not at all sure about how the future content generators might feel about it.

Whilst the value of blogs as sources is, I think, beyond doubt, it doesn’t mean that the Internet is an orchard of social networks for newspapers to cherry-pick content at will… even if there is no legal reason why they shouldn’t.

For example, Flickr is designed for photo sharing. From the comments I’ve recieved, there should be nothing legally wrong with a newspaper providing a Flickr feed on its website. BUT just because it can, doesn’t mean it should or that people will like it if it does.

One of the problems is that we live in suspicious times. The media is badly mistrusted and, whilst people are happy to read about others in the newspaper, they are fearful about getting involved with it themselves. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard the lines: “Oh you’re a journalist, so what lies are you going to make up today?” or I’ve had to spend considerable time convincing people that I am, in fact, not going to stitch them up. Personally, it’s insulting, but then that’s the regard our industry is held in.

I suppose, once upon a time, with an army of dedicated readers and no Internet, it wouldn’t have made a blind bit of difference to sales if one reader was upset. Now they are a potential content generator, the situation is different. Not only will a lack of trust make it difficult to obtain content, it could also mean that if a paper appears to be doing something else that fits the untrustworthy stereotype, the news and damage will spread.

For example: A paper develops a Flickr feed without building trust in the Flickr community. It has done nothing legally wrong, but it is tapping into a community that will not all be fully paid up subscribers to that newspaper. Therefore, the default position of mistrust is likely to stand and the assumption may be that the newspaper is trying to profit at the expense of unpaid photogrpahers.

The understandable result is that Flickr members get angry and start pulling their photos from the group. They then replace these with offensive photoshopped versions telling that paper exactly were to stuff its feed. Angry blog posts sprout up all over the place and, within days, you’ve alienated a community and, I imagine, the feed would have been taken down.

I don’t have an example of where that has yet happened, but its seems pretty plausible possiblity.

So if newspapers are serious about UCG, then they might have their work cut out. Unless they start getting out into local social netwoks and communities and start building up trust, they may find their UGC dream backfires.

What I’m going to do with the Flickr feedback

As the flow of comments has started to slow on the Flickr post, I thought I’d let you all know what I plan to do next!

Over the next few weeks (after I’ve finished my first assignment), I’ll start collating the comments. I think what has come out from the discussion is going to be applicable to a lot of the other things I wanted to looking at for the website project.

I had just assumed (naively, perhaps) that because people were happy for bloggers to link to their work (as long as they were credited), they would also be happy for a site like The Birmingham Post to link to it too.

This, however, doesn’t seem to be completely the case. Most of the concern seems to come from the belief that – as we are a commercial publishing operation – any and all the material we link to on the web must be paid for.

I can understand that point, but I think the distinction between commercial and non-commercial spaces on the Internet needs to be looked at in more detail. Not that I’m going to do that right here and now – the comments have given me way too much to mull over!

In my head, I saw The Birmingham Post website as a place to go for news and opinion, but also as a (sorry to use this word) gateway to Brum’s professional and creative communities on the web. I still see it that way, but I now realise I need to look at how I’m going to do that in more depth.

But please keep the comments coming in, I really want to get to grips with this.

Tweeting my stories

Well now I have my shiny new laptop sitting next to me all day (review to come), I thought I’d start playing around with the fun stuff.

I’m going to start tweeting about what I’m working on. When I know what the main story is I’m going to work on each day, I’ll tweet about it. That way it might allow folks who can and want to shed light on the topic to do so.

Will it work? No idea! I haven’t got many followers at the moment. But I’ve already started with today’s job: a story on energy.

Trust, blogging and journalism

So here’s another thing I’m trying to get my head around:

After picking up on “Anyone want to help design the Birmingham Post website?“, journalism.co.uk must have felt that I was a credible source. They wrote a story about The Post website and quoted directly from my blog.

It hit me that, actually, that is quite an interesting thing to have done. So much has been said about the danger of blogs being potentially unreliable. Yet something made me quote-able. What was it that gave me credibility in their eyes? Context?

But, whatever it was, it was not enough to give the blog the same credibility in the eyes of holdthefrontpage.co.uk. Yesterday, they phoned me up to verify what I had written on the web and to ask for more details.

Two interesting points here: One is that I probably would have adopted the same approach as holdthefrontpage. I think I’d be happier speaking directly to the author of a blog, rather than just wholesale lifting what they had said in a post.

Second is that when they phoned me, I clammed up. I took the journalist’s name and number and said I would pass it on to Marc to deal with (which I did).

I guess the upshot is that I didn’t feel comfortable being a spokesperson for The Post or for the website project. The daft thing about that though is I already became a spokesperson by having free reign to blog about it!

There’s something illogical going on here…

What Geary said!

My blog post on the new Birmingham Post website is still doing the rounds and has now been picked up by the Journalism.co.uk website. Even if it is just a nib (news in brief), I’m pleased.

Strangely, what tickles me about it the most is seeing myself referred to as simply “Geary”.

Now I know that’s the convention for many papers (not ours), but when you see it used for yourself it seems rather odd and I can’t really explain why.

Is it because it makes me sound like a convicted criminal/football player? I’m not sure. I’m going to have to think this one through!

Regional News: The Future?

Media Guardian writes that Trinity Mirror has announced plans for a single, multimedia newsroom at its regional papers in Wales:

Under the new plan, each print title will retain an editor, who will be responsible for all electronic and print channels carrying his title’s brand.

Deputy editors – re-styled as executive editors – will oversee the hour-by-hour operation of the newsroom, working across all media.

I’ve also heard ten jobs will be lost as part of the changes, but I can’t find confirmation of this at the moment. Thoughts?

[Edit - here is a Press Gazette story about the redundancies. Thanks Martin.]

NUJ is wrong (2)

Another blog post from Greenslade on the NUJ’s attitude towards Web 2.0. Again, I find myself agreeing with him.

He describes the frustrations of X, a journalist on a regional weekly.

I predict that X will, in the near future, find that he cannot square the circle at his paper. Despite his continuing sympathies for colleagues, and his lingering desire to remain faithful to the NUJ, he will realise that the demands of a paper gradually moving from print to screen are inimical to those of a union that, despite its pro-digital rhetoric, is committed only to preserving outdated demarcation lines, defying the need for flexibility and struggling to fend off staff cuts that, in fairness, will be necessary.

Also Suw and Kevin from Strange Attractor provide a fantastic response to some of the anti-Web 2.0 polemic that seems to be appearing out of the NUJ. Their post critiques one of the stories that sparked Greenslade’s decision to leave the union – an article by Donnacha DeLong entitled Web 2.0 Is Rubbish . It originally appeared in the NUJ’s magazine The Journalist.  Suw and Kevin conclude:

Both of us embraced the internet because of the opportunities it presents. It’s the world’s greatest story-telling medium, bringing together the strengths of text, audio, video and interaction. The internet as a communications tool can help journalists tap sources like never before, making their stories richer and more balanced. Why wouldn’t journalists take advantage of the internet?

Yes, the job is changing, and we as journalists need to change with it. The internet may be posing a threat to the business model that support journalism, and it’s understandable that this causes anxiety. But misrepresenting the reality of that change won’t make it go away.

I couldn’t agree more.

Answers: Sly Bailey

Well! I didn’t get an interview with Her Slyness after all.

But we were introduced and I did have a short chat with her (without my notebook).

We chatted about Web 2.0 and my recent rant about Roy Greenslade’s departure from the NUJ.

She said that she realised that there was a desperate need to invest in new technology because without it (nodding her head towards my iMac running OS 9) young journalists will just leave the business and find somewhere else to work.

She was keen to stress she was excited by the explosion of the web but was, of course, keen to find a way to generate the same revenues online as generated from print.

Then she said her plan was that the Post & Mail was going to have a new IT system and websites that would “blow the competition out of the water” and we would soon be far ahead of what any other newspaper group was doing.

I asked her if she thought Trinity Mirror would be able to create sites to rival The Guardian. She said yes, and The Telegraph too.

She said she had been doing a lot of research on what made a good news website. She said she recognised the good stuff that had been done by competitors but that there had been “dead ends” that they had gone up too, that she would like to avoid.

But, she said, the good thing about the web was that there was an opportunity to experiment with new ideas in a way that wouldn’t financially impact in the same way as doing it in print.

Her parting words were that she would “watch my career with interest”, which was unnerving.

As one colleague suggested, perhaps in the current climate the best I can do is to return the favour.

Any Qs: Sly Bailey

Sly Bailey[Answers are here]

Ok, this one is a HUGE longshot and I probably shouldn’t be blogging about it. But… what the hell! I’m excited!

It appears that Sly Bailey, chief executive of Trinity Mirror will be in the Post & Mail house tomorrow (Monday)… and The Birmingham Post has requested an interview with her for the Media & Marketing page. That means I’ll be doing the interview! Cripes!

We’ve not had any confirmation yet on whether or not she’ll do it (I’m not even sure how long she’s going to be in the building). But, if this actually comes to pass, I think I’ll be asking her to outline her digital strategy for the Trinity Mirror Midlands division, now she’s decided not to sell it.

If you have got any others, let me know ASAP!!!

Ill

You might have noticed this blog has been a little quiet over the last week. I’ve been trying to fight off this infernal cold bug that’s going around, but it’s currently winning.

I’m going to write off this weekend and try and get some sleep, but suffice to say there’s tons of stuff I want to write about including new interview subjects, my first Birmingham Post column (which doesn’t appear to be online), the future (or not) of newspapers and the image of Birmingham.


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