Archive for the ‘journalism’ Category

Yesterday on Reddit, user NoFlag posted an obituary he wrote for himself as part of a project for his journalism class:

John X. Noflag was pronounced dead at the age of 225 this Thursday at the Mons Olympus Medical Combine, following complications with a voluntary nanotech experiment.

Observers say a procedure to fully immerse Noflag within a nanotech swarm ended abruptly as his body dissolved before their eyes. Due to the failure, most of the nanotech was collected and deactivated, although some escaped. The escaped sample is not believed to be self-replicating, but it could not be confirmed.

Born on Earth in Somecity, California, Noflag was one of the later immigrants to Mars after the Earth ban of age enhancement technologies and strict regulation of nanotechnology, being commonly heard to say “Earth will pay for its lack of vision.” He is survived by two fully mature clones and a youngling.

A public funeral and ceremonial burial is planned on the grounds of the Noflag Estate.

In lieu of flowers, mourners are asked to send money or weapons to the Nanotech Defense Front.

He’s seems like a pretty smart kid, and I’m sure  he can probably see far enough into the future to know that he probably won’t be a journalist when he graduates.

-Parker

 

When I was in University, a lot of my classes had a supplementary reading list. You didn’t need to read these articles or books to pass, but they were related to the subject matter and might help your understanding of it. As I’m reading more and more about Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, I’ve become reminded of some great articles or stories that I’ve read over the past few years. Below are a few of them that I think anyone interested in WikiLeaks might also be interested in:

The Cypherpunk Manifesto – “Privacy is necessary for an open society in the electronic age. Privacy is not secrecy. A private matter is something one doesn’t want the whole world to know, but a secret matter is something one doesn’t want anybody to know. Privacy is the power to selectively reveal oneself to the world,wrote Eric Hughes in 1993 as the opening lines of The Cypherpunk Manifesto. And while that was almost 20 years ago, it feels incredibly relevant in the context of the Wikileaks case breaking now. As the text continues, I can’t help but feel it must have very influential on a younger Julian Assange:

“Cypherpunks write code. We know that someone has to write software to defend privacy, and since we can’t get privacy unless we all do, we’re going to write it. We publish our code so that our fellow Cypherpunks may practice and play with it. Our code is free for all to use, worldwide. We don’t much care if you don’t approve of the software we write. We know that software can’t be destroyed and that a widely dispersed system can’t be shut down.”

Anything about Sealand - While I haven’t been following the Wikileaks case closely enough to know where exactly the information is being hosted these days, the talk of finding an independent data haven reminded me of the brief obsession I had with The Principality of Sealand. This off-shore platform was built in international waters during World War II and has had a colourful history of pirate radio stations, pretenders to the throne, secessionists and so on ever since then. For a while, I remember there being talk of it being used as a data haven by online gambling (and more nefarious organizations) wanting to keep their information safe from the prying eyes of government.

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson - While it is a work of fiction, the plot of this lengthy tome is about a group of people trying to set-up a data haven somewhere in the South Pacific. Its got historical adventure, techno-babble and the type of writing you can’t put down. If you want to have a taste of some the research that went into writing this book, I strongly recommend also reading “Mother Earth Mother Board,” an epic article that Neal Stephenson wrote for Wired Magazine in 1996 about the business of laying undersea fibre-optic cables across the world. In the age of Wi-Fi, it can feel a bit dated at times but is still a top-notch read.

Assassination Politics - I feel like there have been a couple of calls for the assassination of Julian Assange, and the whole thing got me thinking about Jim Bell’s concept of Assassination Politics (an article I read about the same time as The Cypherpunk Manifesto). The concept is basically that with the right type of cryptography, the type that would allow us to exchange information and money without either side of the exchange knowing the identity of the other, you could set up a sort of assassination market that would easily collapse governments. Jim Bell’s article is a great thought experiment, particularly when combined with some of the other articles in this list.

What would you add to the Wikileaks Supplementary Reading list?

-Parker

Chris Thorpe, Developer Advocate for The Guardian presented one of my favourite sessions at Mesh this year. He spoke about The Guardian’s open platform program which opens their API, data, and content to developers. This is a stark contrast to the many newspapers in North America that have started charging for content, placing it behind pay walls and forms. Chris believes this will ultimately decrease their influence, reach and engagement, leading to lower traffic and ad revenue. He explained that the longer people spend browsing on your site, the more pages they view and the more likely they are to click through on ads, increasing revenues overall. If you block off your content, you can kiss those extra eyeballs and advert dollars buh-bye.

Before you get the wrong idea, Chris and The Guardian aren’t giving away the farm for free. They are implementing developer agreements (revenue sharing, syndication, etc.) on data and API codes to build businesses with developers. The four stages of newspaper production are creation, production, monetization, and distribution. Chris says to put a “co-” in front of each stage. Involve the public and the audience in the process.

Why is this a good thing?

First, it gets people engaged in the journalistic process, using the engagement of the audience and the readers to bring out more information and news. He cited the example of G20 “protester” Ian Tomlinson who was killed by police. The police told one story, but the pictures and video sent in by other protesters told quite another. Time has come for the public to take back some of its power in bringing truth and justice to the forefront. By empowering the world’s citizens and bringing them into the process, trust in mass media as a source, and newspapers as a medium, can be restored.

Second, it allows developers to use The Guardian’s data to develop new websites, microsites, and apps weaving The Guardian into their fabric. This will put The Guardian in front of new audiences and increase traffic to the newspaper’s website. It will also increase ad revenue and provide information needed for more targeted ads both on the partner sites and The Guardian’s own website.

Third, most developers are creative and entrepreneurial. By working with, instead of against, developers The Guardian will reap the benefits of new and innovative business models.



Chris sees The Guardian as an online business, not a print business, and he believes that in order to survive, news entities must restructure their business models to work with the online shift, not against it. He believes that by opening up their content and data, The Guardian can one day be the world’s leading liberal source. With already more than 40% of their traffic coming from outside the UK, this certainly seems to be within their grasp.

What do you think?

A few days ago, I wrote a post about the case of a journalist that had posted a copy of my friend’s news release as if it was his own article.

This got me thinking:

The smart newspaper editor (or whatever the title of the guy who is in charge of the copy on a newspaper’s website) might see this and start to look at his website traffic more closely. If he was really smart, and had the right information, he’d begin to find out whether it was the articles written by journalists or the news releases written by PR pros and simply posted by journalists that got the most traffic.

The smart editor would also have to pay attention to the types of traffic he was attracting. 1000 visitors that don’t click on ads or otherwise generate revenue are worth less than the one visitor that buy’s a print subscription to the newspaper, clicks on an ad or otherwise helps them keep the lights on and server running.

The smart PR pro might then realize that they could tilt the balance of things in their favor by writing news releases that can be easily re-purposed by journalists, and that will also result in revenue-generating traffic. It is probably easier said than done, but that doesn’t mean it is impossible.

And is it a slippery slope, as Todd Defren writes? Definitely.

-Parker

I remember that when I was in high school and university, people still smoked in bars. When going to a restaurant, the hostess would ask you two questions: how many people in your party, and whether you wanted to sit in the smoking or non-smoking section.

When I speak to student groups these days, I tell them that when I was in university, I didn’t have a mobile phone. They’re shocked by this, and don’t really understand how I got in touch with my friends. (And c’mon, I’m not even that old: I graduated in 2004, which was right on the cusp of when university students started using mobile phones.)

Ten years after 9/11, and the security theatre at airports is part of our culture and threat levels of various colours are part of our vocabulary.

In all three of these cases, we almost look back at the recent past and laugh about how we used to live our lives. “I can’t believe people used to smoke in restaurants!”, “How did I ever meet up with friends without a cellphone in university?”, or “Remember when you only needed a driver’s license to cross the Canada-US border?” are all pretty common comments about “the good old days”.

Is our current state of pandemic panic going to persist as well? Will I be telling future generations that they used to send out memos to people reminding them to use hand sanitizer?

-Parker

PS: If anyone has suggestions for a brand of swine-flu preventing face masks that look good with a suit, let me know.

Via The Hype Machine’s blog, I came across an interesting round-table discussion on The Morning News among a group of music bloggers.

It’s interesting to hear their thoughts on the relationship music bloggers have with the Public Relations people in the record industry, and there is definitely some take-away for all PR pros there.

Matthew Perpetua, who writes Fluxblog.org, says, “I am glad to get records sent to me because sometimes I get something that I really enjoy.” However, as a hat-tip to the growing importance that PR pros are placing on reaching bloggers rather than traditional media, Perpetua adds, “I work for the regular press too, and aside from my experience with New York Magazine and Pitchfork, the difference seems to be that no one really cares about what I write for money, but they are sometimes very invested in what I do for free.”

When asked if they read other music blogs, the panellists said almost universally that they did not. I feel like this kind of mentality is what has set them apart from other music bloggers and is similar to my suggestion that PR props stop reading PR blogs.

And as great as all that is, I think that this round-table discussion is more important to understand the opinions of these bloggers about giving away content for free and the future of the music industry.

It is slightly depressing to hear Andrew Noz complain that CDs will “be all but unattainable to towns with only one Wal-Mart” without him acknowledging that a) the CD is essentially a dead format and b) thanks to blogs like his, people in towns of all sizes have access to way more music than they would have ever discovered before.

I also disagree with Sean Michaels and David Gutowski, who both think that the future of music is in paying for subscription services packaged with our phone and internet plans. To think that the way for artists to make money off of the art they make (whether it is music or film or writing) by sharing their revenues with wireless and internet providers is ridiculous. All that does is replace one inefficient middleman (today’s record companies) with another.

However, some of the bloggers do seem to get it. “I believe pretty strongly that the next frontier lies in monetizing live performance”, says John Seroff. In fact, his suggestion that perhaps we’ll see something “along the lines of $20 for an album, four live shows and access to ongoing projects” sounds pretty Masnickian and forward-thinking.

Andrew Noz and Oliver Wang seem to support this line of argument by saying that physical products in the form of deluxe or limited editions of albums will help fund artists’ careers.

Later on in the discussion, as the topic veers towards the “free culture” movement, John Seroff does a great job of comparing his writing being shared online with the way music is being shared online: “I figure anything I write or make that ever hits the internet is gone and I don’t resent people doing what they want with it… that’s the internet, and that’s how it works.” He also goes on to say that, although some artists might not like this new way of doing business (giving away their content freely, making a profit on things like live performances rather than individual CDs), “it might not jibe with your professional/creative goals, but thus has it ever been.”

His basic point is that you should adapt to the new internet economy. Things have changed, and artists should change with it.

The whole discussion is worth a serious read, as these guys talk about everything from their favourite music, to their actual blogging process (and how to avoid burnout after 5+ years). Read the Music Blogging Roundtable on The Morning News.

-Parker

@parkernow gets a laugh as he disses the title of his own session at #CdnInst

Photo courtesy of Joe Thornley: @parkernow gets a laugh as he disses the title of his own session at the #CdnInst

A few days ago, I gave a presentation as part of the Canadian Institute’s Managing Social Media conference here in beautiful, downtown Toronto.

As often happens with these things, I agreed to participate in the conference months ago, and I’m not even sure how I arrived at the title of “Integrating Social Media With Traditional Media” for my talk.

As I began to put my slides together, I realized that I’d need some solid examples of organizations that had successfully “integrated social media with traditional media”.

The one that kept coming up was The Globe and Mail, and I think that communicators can learn a lot from the way this organization, which used to be a traditional, print newspaper, has morphed into combination of newspaper and social media portal at TheGlobeAndMail.com.

The main lessons that I think we can learn from them are below:

1.) Make it easy for people to get the information they want in the format they prefer: By this, I mean offer your content across different channels and in different places. The Globe and Mail has a print edition that I can buy at the newsstand, I can download a PDF version from their site, I can subscribe to their news via RSS, or I can read the actual stories on their website. The point is that I can access it in the way that I want.

2.) Embrace multimedia: The Globe and Mail is a newspaper, yet they use audio content in various sections on their site, and they also frequently embed video in their articles. This is similar to point one in that it offers the information in other formats.

3.) Easy URLs: Social media is about sharing. Make it easy for people to share your information (or access it in the first place) by giving them easy URLs. The example I use in my presentation is how The Globe and Mail has done this by telling readers of their print edition that they can access more information about the Toronto International Film Festival at globeandmail.com/tiff09. Its easy to share, its easy to remember and both of those mean that there is a greater chance that people will view it and give it to others to check out.

4.) Do It Live: The Globe and Mail used to print a paper edition once a day (they might have also had an evening edition or something), as most papers did. However, they constantly update their website. They also frequently hold live chats with reporters and cover events live using tools like Cover It Live. Communicators can adapt this kind of strategy by holding press conferences online, or making their spokespersons available for online discussions.

5.) Keyword-rich, easy-to-understand headlines: Admittedly, this isn’t something I learned from The Globe and Mail, but another source. (Props to my friend Michael Allison for pointing this out to me!)

6.) Be part of the community: Inspired by a quote I heard attributed to Mathew Ingram, that “Linking to other sources and reading comments makes journalists stronger”, I suggest that the lesson for communicators is to get involved in the community they are trying to reach. Their messages will be more relevant, and chances are the community will be more likely to accept the messages if they come from a trusted member.

7.) Keep it fresh: The reason people read the newspaper everyday is because it has new information everyday. Stories have updates. The take-away from this is that once a story goes live, you don’t have to forget about it. Follow up on it, provide more information, and keep the story alive in the public eye with a new angle.

8.) Try new things: As I said in a post earlier this week, stop thinking about best practices and case studies and just go out there and do something new and interesting. The Globe and Mail is undergoing all sorts of change, and I’m sure they are the first ones to try some of the things they’re doing. Let’s learn from that.

I’ve embedded the slide show below. Since I’m as much of a student of the Masnickian school of Powerpoint presentations as I am his thoughts on economics, the deck has 103 slides that I covered in just under 40 minutes.

You can also download it at ParkerMason.ca/globe.
Thanks to the Canadian Institute for giving me the chance to speak and to everyone in the audience for listening.

And special thanks to Joe Thornley for preserving on his blog what the Twitter community said online during my presentation. Credit for the photo above also goes to Joe.

-Parker

Like Christie Blatchford before him, David Olive is one newspaper reporter that really doesn’t understand blogs and the internet.

In his recent article on TheStar.com (“Bloggers hitch wagons to the traditional media“) he argues that… you know what? I’m not really sure what his argument is. He seems to be critical of bloggers and seems to be trying to defend traditional media.

The problem is that he doesn’t do a good job of either.

After dismissing bloggers as nothing more than “Internet diarists,” he applauds Newsweek, The Atlantic, Maclean’s, The Nation and even his own Toronto Star for either hiring bloggers or turning their journalists into bloggers.

Just one paragraph later, he says that the reason these bloggers are turning to newspapers is because “there is little ‘stumble upon’ factor in blogs—strangers who come across a website by accident and become fans. You won’t stumble across the website of prolific blogger Mark Steyn at the dentist’s office as you will Chatelaine.”

I find fault with this statement for a couple of reasons. The first is that if the major problem for bloggers is the lack of “stumble upon” traffic, why would writing for a newspaper website get them greater visibility than writing for their own website? Similarly, if blogs result in such little traffic, why is David Olive so happy to let us know about the prestigious print publications that now have their journalists spending time writing blogs on the publications’ websites?

I’d also argue that blogs DO get a lot of stumble upon traffic—both from the fact that they link to other blogs (something David Olive doesn’t seem capable of doing) and because of a little something called StumbleUpon. Most of the blogs I read today I read because I’ve come across them via a link from another blog. Either that, or I’ve found them via StumbleUpon—a tool that plugs into your web browser and lets you stumble around the internet.

I also question the validity of his statement that “the lifespan of the average blog is two to three months.” I don’t know where he got this information, and I’m not doubting it. I’ve got plenty of friends that have thought it was a good idea to set up a blog and given up after only a post or two. However, that’s because the barriers to entry are so much lower for starting a blog than for starting a newspaper. If you honestly want to compare failure rates, how many people have given up trying to start a nationwide print publication after coming up with an initial idea and perhaps drafting one or two articles?

David Olive might declare that the war is over and that the mainstream media have won it, but I disagree.

I don’t think there was a war in the first place. I think there was an evolution, and that the media everywhere is changing. Bloggers are thinking more like journalists, while traditional journalists and editors are thinking more like bloggers. If anything, the borders between the two are blurring.

For a guy writing an online article with a comments section (despite the lack of links), he’s doing a pretty good job of not understanding what a blog is or how it works.

-Parker

CNW Group has always been committed to getting our clients’ news in front of journalists and the media. For years, the only way to really do this was via the news wire. When fax machines became an accepted way to send and receive news and information, CNW Group embraced that technology to reach members of the media. Similarly, when email became a popular form of communication, CNW offered interested parties the ability to subscribe to our clients’ news via portfolio email. The same, too with our categorized RSS feeds.

The point is that as technology has changed, CNW Group has changed with it in order to make it as easy as possible for both members of the media and the general public to get news and information from our clients.

That’s why I’m excited to announce that we’ve officially launched hundreds of unique Twitter accountsto distribute our clients’ news over Twitter. The accounts are based on our existing news categories, and all releases posted on our website and over the wire will also go out on anywhere from one to four of these accounts (depending on how the release is categorized).

By breaking the news into these seperate categories, we’re making it easy for interested parties, be they members of the media or the general public, to find and follow the type of news they are interested in. Similarly, by offering news via the traditional wire, by fax, by email, by RSS and now by Twitter we are making it as easy as possible for people to get news from us.

Read the official news release from CNW Group about this, or check out the full list of accounts at http://newswire.ca/GetNews.

-Parker

(note: Although I am an employee of CNW Group this post, like all my posts on BlogCampaigning, reflects only my own personal views and opinions and not those of my employer)

I recently came across outside.in, a self-described “hyperlocal news and information service” that helps you “get news for the places and neighborhoods you really care about.”

The site tracks 35,312 towns and neighborhoods. You can either enter a post code or the name of the neighborhood you want to get stories about. Results are sorted by date and tags.

Neighborhoods can also be searched by categories such as ‘Arts and Culture’, ‘Bars and Clubs’ and ‘Education.’ This will result in an alphabetically sorted list of places with news and blog posts about them.

If you want to get even more local, you can use the radar function. It’s customized to exactly where you are and what’s going on right around you. Enter a location and you’ll see everything happening right around you: Blog posts, news stories, discussion posts, and Twitter updates.

The site can be a bit messy. You can’t search local places by tags, just by categories. Why, for example, isn’t there simple search for a ‘news’ tag? The category search also needs be refined, e.g. the robbery of a pharmacy was listed under services…

These little issues aside I think the basic premise of the site is great: Being informed about wherever you are.

Why rely on the local press when you can utilize a multitude of information? All the more, given that some local markets are completely dominated by one media conglomerate and its products. Breaking monopolies on information is certainly a good thing.

To utilize the site’s potential even better I’d suggest the implementation of a democratic catalyst – aka a voting system a la Digg – as this would bring noteworthy local stories to the attention of more readers, a function the traditional press still excels in.

The site should also be optimized for mobile devices to exploit its potential best; another possibility would be an app for the iPhone which instantly let’s you know what’s happening in your hotel’s/ business partner’s/ friend’s neighborhood. Wherever, whenever. GPS detection would even make make entering a post code redundant.

You could combine the service with a program like Calibre. Calibre has built-in ‘recipes’ to download articles from news outlets’ RSS feeds to present them in a much more streamlined e-book type format, and can then transfer this information to mobile readers. By this, the articles can also be consumed offline.

Imagine customized RSS-feed turned into your own personalized local newspaper complete with all the sections you’d normally expect from a press outlet. From politics to sports, complete with illustrations, except with more updates.

The potential of sites like outside.in is tremendous. No wonder the future looks tough for the traditional press.

-Jens

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