Posts Tagged 'blogs'

What every regional journalist needs to hear about their industry…

In this Seesmic post Kevin Anderson, Blog Editor for The Guardian and co-author of Strange Attractor, pretty much covers many of the things I’ve wanted to say, but better:

Kevin Anderson on Seesmic

Kevin Anderson on Seesmic

He is answering a question posed by Birmingham City University’s Paul Bradshaw – with recent job freezes/cuts at UK newspapers, is there any point in universities running journalism degrees training students for the newspaper and broadcasting industries?

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Looking for a host to call home

On September 23 2007 I started this lil’ol blog claiming that I would “tentatively” look to the future of local and regional newspapers.

How things can change in six months!

Now, and I hope this doesn’t sound too cocky, I feel like I’m pretty much immersed in looking at the future of regional newspapers in the UK.

It has been a rapid education. For example, things that I did for the first time at SXSW include:

  • Access Twitter over mobile internet.
  • Interview people on a camcorder.
  • Live stream video over a mobile phone.
  • Blog via live streaming.
  • Upload a video to Youtube.
  • Speak on a podcast.

I know, I know, these are things I should have been doing already. Well… you’re right. In my defence, it’s taken me a while to build up the right kit in order to do much of the above.

Anyway, now I’m getting to grips with new platforms, I thought it was about time to get a host for this blog. I’ve been doing on the cheap by having it hosted free by WordPress, but I would like to have more freedom to play with the blog and I’ve been told the best way to do that is get me a host and download the lastest version of WordPress. Plus, I kinda need to learn how to manage my own website.

If this is right, then I could really do with some advice on hosts. I’m looking for something that is relatively cheap and reliable. Any ideas?

Newspapers suck at SXSWi

GGRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!

*Sigh*

Right, well I have just wasted 20 minutes of my last day at SXSW watching what was the most dire representation of the newspaper industry I could have possibly witnessed at a world-leading conference on interactivity.

I will have to come back to who was the speaker and what was the title, because right now the need to rant overtakes the need to Google for that particular information.

The talk was by a 36-year-old US journalist who is trying to help his colleagues embrace new platforms and get to grips with the power of the social Internet.

The executive summary (before I walked out) was:

“Print is dead.”

“Time is running out.”

“It’s real hard to get journalists to blog.”

“Change isn’t happening fast enough.”

“I don’t know what the solution is.”

Well… that’s useful. I can think of at least half a dozen people who could have produced a more insightful assessment of the industry as it currently stands. I might even be so bold as to say I could have done better.

First of all, let’s stop saying that the Internet is the death of print. It is not. The Internet is the death of some print. There will always be a need to place words in places where screens can’t go. Plus text is harder to read on the screen so, for long articles, print is always going to be a more comfortable experience.

But t’s true that a large swathe of news is being repackaged into a sharper, more condensed form making it easier for busy people with busy lives to learn what they need to know quickly. This is the sort of news that needs to be taken out of print and put onto the Internet, rather than print.

The other thing is that “time is running out”. Running out for who, exactly? Running out for newspaper groups? Well, I suspect they are well aware revenues are declining and, if they don’t get their income from newspapers, then they’ll get it from elsewhere and dispose of or wind up anything that makes a loss. Running out for newspapers? Maybe… Running out for some journalists? Yes.

Yes it is really hard to get journalists to blog – mainly becuase they are tied into the busy regime of producing an outdated newspaper and see a blog post as extra work. The hard part is finding the space for them to take time out of that treadmill to realise they need to look at their work in a new way. Once you do that, and once you explain how blogging can connect you directly to readers, most are pretty open to the idea of using the platform.

I simply can’t understand all this negativity associated with the change that is happening to the newspaper industry at the moment. There are lots of things to feel positive about: blogs can help you improve your stories through reader feedback and contribution, video can help you build trust between you and the reader, mashups can help provide readers with richer data and information on the areas and topics that they are most interested in.

Those people that get this stuff right, have a bright future. I wish we’d start looking forward rather than constantly peddling the message of doom and gloom.

Max Gogarty: A Warning?

Poor Max. Just 19 years old, fresh out of college, a summer trip planned and a writing career on the cards. Landing himself a blog on The Guardian website must have been the icing on the cake:

Hello. I’m Max Gogarty. I’m 19 and live on top of a hill in north London.

At the minute, I’m working in a restaurant with a bunch of lovely, funny people; writing a play; writing bits for Skins; spending any sort of money I earn on food and skinny jeans, and drinking my way to a financially blighted two-month trip to India and Thailand. Clichéd I know, but clichés are there for a reason.

Alas, Guardian website readers were not inclined to share in the clichés of the skinny jean-clad young-un. Even less so when it was revealed that Max was the son of occasional Guardian travel writer Paul Gogarty.

The comments were choice:

… As for skinny jeans , Max if ever you eat from the street you may wish you had something a little more baggy and easy to remove, alternatively you could take some nappies.
I’m not sure that the street vendors take Amex though.

You can have your first ladyboy experience in Thailand, but maybe you won’t journal that one, just look out for the adams apple.
Is this for the gold or silver DOE award?

Where are quentin, rupert and tiggy going to be? i’m sure the blackberry will keep you all in touch. (rowanblades)

and:

That clears that up then. I was initially baffled as to why Guardian Unlimited (a website/publication that I thought had a reasonable amount of integrity) would produce this dollop of crud. But it turns out that ol’ chesnut is to blame; nepotism. Ah sweet, sweet nepotism…how would society function without you?
(calleprofunda)

After the travel editor tried to placate the angry hoarde, moderators eventually decided to switch off comments altogether. The following day, the travel editor posted a defence of Max’s blog. That also recieved some interesting comments.

I think it is a good warning to newspapers to keep tighter control over the type of subjects and people that write for them in their blogs. Just because blogs are relatively cheap to publish doesn’t mean you have the freedom to publish anything and everything. Readers still expect to see something that makes sense in terms of the newspaper’s brand. Doing a “Max Gogarty” may be a way to encourage reader comments, but it’s not going to do your reputation any favours.

[This topic is dong the rounds on t’internet. Other posts include:
Emily Bell – The week that was – football links and other problems
One Man And His Blog – When Mainstream Media Goes Bad
Bete de Jour – Max Gogarty: The Ugly Side of Travelling
Travel Weekly: Guardian’s teenage travel blogger gets flamed
Wayne Type, 19 Hits the Road
and Pete Ashton: Oh, Max… which explains it all better than I.]

No items unread

No Items Unread

OK, so I did use Shift A quite a number of times, but I’m still feeling pretty proud of myself!

Blogs on the brain

I have been bad! Twelve whole days without a single post!

Would it surprise you that I can blame my lack of blogging entirely on… well… blogging?

Over the last two weeks I have been immersed in the creation and organisation of http://blogs.birminghampost.net. It has been a fantastic thing to get stuck into – if not a little hair-raising given the time schedule!

The brief has been to create a blog section for The Post that links into the sectors that we hope to cover. But, within that brief, there was quite a bit of flexibility. Would we just have staff writers? Would we ask for volunteers from outside of The Post? Would we have one blogger per sector, or more?

I had one big aim for the blogs – to get a bigger blogging presence in the West Midlands. My attention has been drawn to the BBC Manchester Blogs Project (thanks Craig and Francois), which includes guest bloggers (some who blog already, some who do not).

It’s an interesting and innovative approach and I like the way it draws people in and allows them to test the water. But, when some only post once and do not have their own blog, it seems to limit the conversation that can build up.

I also looked at some of the approaches that other newspapers have taken to blogging.

Many seem to have labelled blogs as online columns, choosing one or two people to be their “voices of authority”and sticking to them. It has always been an approach that has annoyed me, there’s something quite dictatorial about it.

Newspaper blogs that take this approach also often end up covering rather predictable topics which are probably more interesting to journalists than their readers: an editor spouting forth his wisdom in a “I know better than you” kind of way, a grumpy old man talking about how things aren’t as good as the old days… of course, I’m generalising here, but I think it’s a pattern others might recognise.

Another approach newspapers seem to take to blogs is to open them up to all their staff as an ultra-niche publishing platform for their interests. While many hobby blogs can be great, you can often end up with a collection of blogs that have nothing to do with anything else that appears on the newspaper’s website

So, I’ve been spending the last two weeks putting together a plan and doing a spot of recruiting both inside and outside of the paper. I wanted us to have a mix of experienced bloggers and complete beginners and I wanted them to be covering issues that loosely made sense within the context of The Post. Those who are completely new to the platform will be given help and guidance when and where they want it.

The response has been great… actually better than great. We have a mix of young and old from journalism, business, academia and the creative and cultural sectors. We’ve even had to start a waiting list!

I am under no illusions, however, that everyone who launches a blog with us will stick with it. Blogging is not for everyone, but I’d rather people had a go to see what worked for them. Because we want to keep things flexible for our first wave of Post bloggers, we’ve (hopefully) designed the blogs in a way that factors this in. If they post once or twice and never again, so be it, although I will be working very hard to get them as hooked as I am!

I hope too it’s something that can grow and change as it develops. If we have a demand for niche hobby bloggers, then we can cater for that, or if our site gains a substantial following for a particular topic, we can deal with that too.

Obviously I’ll be relying on you all to tell me what you think when we launch!

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.


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