Online journalism: Why MSM still doesn’t get it

Alfred Hermida suggests that editors and journalists in the mainstream media still see themselves as the gatekeepers and the people “formerly known as the audience” is still the audience to them:

“The space for the audience to participate in journalism is, by and large, clearly delineated. The public can send in their news tips, photos and videos, but the journalist retains a traditional gatekeeper role, deciding what is newsworthy and what isn’t. There is little room for the public to be involved in the actual making of the news — in deciding whom to interview, how to frame the story and how to produce it. Once the story is complete and published, the audience can freely comment on the final product.”

Some valid points:

1. No change in old media: “A growing body of research suggests that the advent of participatory journalism, or user-generated content (UGC), has done little to change the way the media works.”
2. Journalists still too controlling: “Journalists are seeking to maintain their position of authority and power, rather than create a more open, transparent and accountable journalistic process that seeks to work with readers.”
3. UGC seen as just as a tool for newsgathering not collaboration: “BBC staff see UGC as a part of newsgathering operations; basically, it’s a way of obtaining photos and videos, eyewitness accounts or story tips. Researchers did find some examples of BBC journalists that view it as a way to collaborate on stories, or as a shift towards networked journalism. But these views existed at the edges.”
4. Comments are seen as more work: “Comments were seen as a way to attract more visitors and increase loyalty, but these benefits were counterbalanced by problems with abusive comments, a lack of contributions, and the cost of moderation.”
5. Audience free to comment but not take part in creating: “There are very few signs that news organizations are reinventing their relationship with the audience and tapping into the participatory potential of the web to re-imagine journalism.”

Hermida’s commentary contrasts with former chairman of Dow Jones & Co Peter Kann’s piece in WSJ recently lamenting the “decline of democracy” and that “Quality Reporting Doesn’t Come Cheap”

Kann’s assertions are typical of old media titans still wanting to suckle on the cash cow of old media even while it heads to the abattoir.

Kann’s Martian analogy makes his case even more ridiculous. He says: “Indeed, a business analyst landing here from Mars logically might question why an unwieldy newsprint product, stale as soon as it rolls off the press and not updated till another sun rises, should not be free whereas the new Internet product, offering all the same news plus more and evolving as does the news around the clock, should not be worth a pretty price? An even wiser Martian might conclude that customers should be given a choice, or offered a combination, but that they should be expected to pay for both.”

Hah. I am sure any alien of superior intelligence arriving here would wonder why it took us so long to figure out that printing ink on flattened trees was far more destructive to our planet, regardless of the business considerations of setting up paywalls to supposedly save “the future of news.”

Mr Kann’s belief that the public is “the loser” from the rise of the Internet and blogs – which, in his narrow view, is all about “comment” – must be reading a different Internet. The net has brought more diversity to news as content than any other single news organisation or indeed collectives of news publishers.

And the public, Mr Kann, is now the winner on many counts – more access, interactivity, better viewpoints, clearer visuals, richer content, and the immense capacity to add, share, mould and re-distribute the news as they see fit.

The net is empowering us as a whole new generation of citizens of the world. News should be what we make of it, not what a few people want to dictate it to be behind their walled gardens and ivory towers. And this is why your empire will continue to crumble, with false prophets like Mr Kann preaching about “saving democracy”, when in truth, they only want to marginalize the many to enrich the few.

Note: Alfred Hermida blogs at Reportr.net.

Mack Collier’s Top Company Blogs

Mack Collier reviews company blogs and came up with a scoring system to rate them.

Here’s his criteria:
35 points for Content, what the bloggers write about
35 points for Comments, how many comments the blog receives, and how the bloggers reply to comments from readers
15 points for Posting schedule, how often and regularly new posts appear on the blog
15 points for Sidebars, the information contained on the sidebars

Here are his Top 10 Company Blogs Overall:

1 – Fiskars’ The Fiskateers Blog(Review) – 89
2 – HomeGoods’ Openhouse Blog(Review) – 88
3 – Turkey Hill’s Ice Cream Journal Blog(Review) – 87
3 – Innocent Drinks’ Daily Thoughts Blog(Review) – 87
5 – Graco Blog (Review) – 83
6 – Southwest Airlines’ Nuts About Southwest Blog(Review) – 81
7 – Dell’s Direct2Dell(Review) Blog – 79
8 – Stacks and Stacks’ Clutter Control Freak Blog(Review) – 77
8 – Coca Cola’s Conversations Blog(Review) – 77
10 – Patagonia’s The Cleanest Line Blog(Review) – 76
10 – Mahindra Tractors’ Life of a Farm Blog(Review) – 76

MORE.

When brands hire bloggers

(from Techdirt and WSJ)

Quote:

“The Wall Street Journal has an article focusing on a blog set up by Miller Brewing Company called Brew Blog. The blog isn’t used as a blog about what’s going on at Miller Brewing. Instead, Miller hired an experienced reporter, James Arndorfer, 37, and told him to just cover the beer industry as if he were a beat reporter.

“In other words, it’s reporting news — and even breaking stories on the competition.

“In fact, it revealed that main rival Anheuser-Busch was planning a new brew called Budweiser American Ale even before A-B was able to make the announcement itself, forcing the trade publications to scramble to cover the scoop.

“This is certainly a recognition of how content is advertising. The blog clearly isn’t ‘advertorial.’ It’s full-on reporting about the industry, in a way that’s interesting and relevant to those in the industry.

” ‘They are trying to aggressively go around the gatekeepers in newsrooms and the trade press,’ says Stephen Quigley, an associate professor of public relations at Boston University. ‘It’s something you couldn’t do five years ago, before the proliferation of blogs.’

“What may be even more interesting, though, is what the article says about journalism. In an age in which journalists are whining that their jobs are disappearing, here’s yet another example of where suddenly there are new types of jobs for journalists appearing every day. But, even more interesting, is a quote at the end of the article highlighted by David Card. It’s from Harry Schuhmacher, the editor and publisher of a fee-based trade publication on the beer industry:

” ‘I tell Miller you’re subsidizing a free publication, and it hurts the trade press,’ he says. ‘But they don’t care.’…Mr. Schuhmacher adds that he writes fewer positive pieces about Miller than he once did because he knows Brew Blog will always publish the same stories.

“Think about this for a bit. People complain that when you have a company-sponsored publication it will inevitably be biased — but the sponsorship of that site is totally open and in the clear.

“The site’s content stands for itself. Yet, at the same time, a supposedly ‘objective’ traditional journalist is admitting that he writes fewer stories about Miller because he’s upset that it’s competing with his own publication.

“From that, it would certainly seem like the Brew Blog is a lot more credible (it’s biases are out in the open), while this fee-based trade pub admits that story choices are sometimes based on personal vendettas.”

MORE.

Blogs are now mainstream media

Conclusions of Universal McCann’s Wave 3 survey of 17,000 active internet users in 29 countries, aged 16-54 (via BizCommunity.com):

1. SOCIAL MEDIA is a global phenomenon happening in all markets regardless of wider economic, social and cultural development. If you are online you are using social media.

2. ASIAN MARKETS are leading in terms of participation, creating more content than any other region.

3. VIDEO clips are the quickest growing platform, up from 31% penetration in Wave 1 to 83% in Wave 3; 57% have joined a Social Network, making it the number one platform for creating and sharing content; 55% of users have uploaded photos; 22% of users have uploaded videos.

4. The WIDGET economy is real: 23% of social network users have installed an application; 18% of bloggers have installed applications in their blog templates.

5. BLOGS are a mainstream media worldwide and as a collective, rival any traditional media: 73% have read a blog. The blogsphere is becoming increasingly participatory, there are now 184 million bloggers worldwide. The number one thing to blog about is personal life and family.

6. CHINA has the largest blogging community in the world with 42 million bloggers – more than the US and Western Europe combined.

7. Social media impacts your BRAND’s reputation: 34% post opinions about products and brands on their blog; 36% think more positively about companies that have blogs.

MORE.

For the full report, download PDF, 3.98MB

About-turn on blogging in Malaysia

Malaysia’s ruling party, United Malays National Organisation (Umno), has made it a requirement for future candidates to have blogs.

Abdul Rahman Dahlan, Umno secretary general of the party’s youth wing, told AP all those vying for national youth posts “must have blogs to introduce themselves and their programs ahead of party elections in December.”

“All candidates must have blogs, if not, they are not qualified to be leaders. The last election showed that we lost the cyberwar. We need to embrace the technology now,” Abdul Rahman said.

Abdul Rahman’s comments follow in the wake of shock losses by Umno and its component parties in the National Front (BN) coalition in the recent general elections. The losses were partly attributed to the growing influence of new media on the Malaysian political makeup.

In 1999, an article exploring that very possibility by me, was dismissed even by local pioneers of new media.

Back then, one interviewee commented that the incumbent government, and Malaysians in general, were not ready for the kind of transparency and accountability that new media brings to the democratic process.

But just two weeks ago, the chief secretary to the government indicated the winds of change have begun to blow:

“Gone are the days when public officials could choose to ignore the media, complaints, telephone rings or even letters to editors. The Public Service today has to respond not only to the conventional media but the alternative media. In the past the alternative media was associated with ‘young punks’. This no longer holds true as the alternative media, you know, knows no limit: be it age, time, geography. Everyone and I say almost everyone has a blog to his or her name. The speed of information is such that countries and companies today need web based crisis management plans to address effects of negative blogging in times of crisis. Even the Prime Minister himself has initiated a website where the public can write directly to him on any and all issues. The website warkahuntukpm.com.my, which was launched on 1 March 2008, enables the Prime Minister of Malaysia to interact directly with the civil society, the public at large and all of Malaysia’s stakeholders. If the Prime Minister is taking and making all efforts to engage the public individually and directly, surely this clearly sets the standard of service for the public and private sectors.”

This sharply contrasts with some reckless comments from other government leaders that incensed local bloggers prior to the elections.

Exhibit A: “Bloggers are liars. They use all sort of ways to cheat others. From what I know, out of 10,000 unemployed bloggers, 8,000 are women. Bloggers like to spread rumours, they don’t like national unity. Today our country has achievements because we are tolerant and compromising. Otherwise we will have civil war. Malays will kill Chinese, Chinese will kill Malays, Indians will kill everybody else,” then Tourism Minister Tengku Adnan Mansor in reaction to an Indonesian blogger/tv journalist Nila Tanzil as reported by Sin Chew.

Exhibit B: “The government will not be affected by blogs and other Internet forums that may be created during campaigning for the upcoming elections. While the younger generation are tech-savvy, they tend to believe newspaper reports over comments made on the Internet. The Internet is used mainly to book budget airline tickets or to get entertainment news. My children are young professionals and enjoy surfing the Internet. But they don’t read blogs,” former information minister Zainuddin Maidin as told to China Press.

Exhibit C: “There are no laws in the cyberworld except for the law of the jungle. As such, action must be taken so that the ‘monkeys’ behave,” Umno Youth deputy chief Khairy Jamaluddin, who has since taken a new tack.

Adding fuel to the about-turn enthusiasm by the National Front government for all things Internet-ish, one academic in his post-election analysis went so far as to suggest “70 per cent of the results were influenced by the new media, especially blogs”.

University Malaya’s Media Studies Department lecturer Dr Abu Hassan Hasbullah said the findings were based on a survey of 1,500 respondents from all states.

“We must be more open (to new ideas) as the opposition was already using the new media since 1998 with 45 bloggers, rising by 50 percent in 1999 and reaching 7,500 bloggers by the middle of 2004,” he told Bernama.

Abu Hassan said the National Front had only two websites and one blog in 2004, while the opposition had “thousands” of websites allied to the opposition. He added the opposition had “indirectly trained” some bloggers to become politicians and who eventually won parliamentary seats, an obvious reference to bloggers-turned-politicians Jeff Ooi and Tony Pua.

An independent election media monitor initiative, organised by the Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ)indicated that despite the obvious mainstream media bias, voters had rejected the propagandist approach.

CIJ Executive Director Gayathry Venkiteswaran recommended that the Malaysian media change along three lines:
1. Return to the ethical and professional standards of fairness, objectivity, balance and accuracy;
2. Have more competition in the form of more media being allowed;
3. Do away with the laws that restrict the media.

(Under Malaysia’s onerous Printing Presses and Publications Act of 1984, all publications in Malaysia must apply to renew their publishing licenses annually. The Home Ministry oversees publication permits, and there is no judicial review of its decisions.)

Whether the current cold embrace of new media by the incumbents will eventually win over Malaysia’s most caustic online critics remains to be seen. But at least some change, however paltry, is better than none.

(Picture credit: Funny Images 4, weblover, slideshare.net)

Blogging Till You Drop

From the NYTimes.com:

Two weeks ago in North Lauderdale, Fla., funeral services were held for Russell Shaw, a prolific blogger on technology subjects who died at 60 of a heart attack. In December, another tech blogger, Marc Orchant, died at 50 of a massive coronary. A third, Om Malik, 41, survived a heart attack in December…

To be sure, there is no official diagnosis of death by blogging, and the premature demise of two people obviously does not qualify as an epidemic. There is also no certainty that the stress of the work contributed to their deaths. But friends and family of the deceased, and fellow information workers, say those deaths have them thinking about the dangers of their work style.

The emergence of this class of information worker has paralleled the development of the online economy. Publishing has expanded to the Internet, and advertising has followed.

Even at established companies, the Internet has changed the nature of work, allowing people to set up virtual offices and work from anywhere at any time. That flexibility has a downside, in that workers are always a click away from the burdens of the office. For obsessive information workers, that can mean never leaving the house.

…All that competition puts a premium on staying awake. Matt Buchanan, 22, is the right man for the job. He works for clicks for Gizmodo, a popular Gawker Media site that publishes news about gadgets. Mr. Buchanan lives in a small apartment in Brooklyn, where his bedroom doubles as his office.

He says he sleeps about five hours a night and often does not have time to eat proper meals. But he does stay fueled — by regularly consuming a protein supplement mixed into coffee.

But make no mistake: Mr. Buchanan, a recent graduate of New York University, loves his job. He said he gets paid to write (he will not say how much) while interacting with readers in a global conversation about the latest and greatest products.

“The fact I have a few thousand people a day reading what I write — that’s kind of cool,” he said. And, yes, it is exhausting. Sometimes, he said, “I just want to lie down.”

Sometimes he does rest, inadvertently, falling asleep at the computer.

“If I don’t hear from him, I’ll think: Matt’s passed out again,” said Brian Lam, the editor of Gizmodo. “It’s happened four or five times.”

MORE.

80 Useful New Media Tutorials

Here’s a list of tutorials for those who want to get started in new media:

SEARCH
01. Google Advance Search Tips
02. 10 Most Amazing Google Search Tricks
03. Top 10 Obscure Google Tricks
04. 7 Clever Google Tricks Worth Knowing
05. 4 Google Tricks

ALERTS
06. Customize Google Alerts to your email box
07. How to create a Yahoo Alert

RSS
08. RSS In Plain English
09. How to use Google Reader
10.How to subscribe to feeds in Google Reader
11. How to add feeds to Bloglines
12. iGoogle Set up by Ryan Wade
13. Using RSS 101 by Alex Barnett
14. Netvibes Tutorial
15. Yahoo Mail RSS Reader

SOCIAL BOOKMARKS
16.Social bookmarks in Plain English
17.Digg basics
18.Del.icio.us Tutorial

BLOGGING
19. Blogs in Plain English
20. How to set up a blog on Wordpress or Blogger
21. How to set up and install Wordpress
22. How to install WordPress
23. Chris Abraham Wordpress Tutorial
24. 3-minute intro to WordPress features
25. How to add a photo to your WordPress post
26. Create a blog with Blogger
27. How to customize your blogger header
28. Adding photos in Blogger.
29. The five types of blog posts
30. 25 types of blogs

DIGITAL PHOTO
31.Picasa tutorials by Chris
32.How to download and install Picasa
33.How to import photos from camera to Picasa
34.How to Use Adobe Photoshop
35.How to use Picasa
36.Editing photos with Picasa
37.How to use Flickr

DIGITAL AUDIO
38.Audacity Tutorial for Podcasters by Jason Van Orden
39.How to download and install Audacity
40.Audacity: Recording set up
41.Audacity: Editing tools
42.Audacity: Basic editing and trimming
43.Audacity: Adjusting levels
44.Importing audio and exporting the MP3
45.Audacity: Saving your project
46.Basic Audacity 1.2 Tutorial
47.Mixing with Audacity
48.How to embed an MP3 audio player

PODCASTING AND VIDEO BLOGGING
49.How to podcast by Jason Van Orden
50.Podcast hosting
51.Where to upload videos for podcast.
52.How to set up videoblog from Freevlog
53.Free video hosting companies
54.How to use Feedburner for video blogs
55.How to submit videos to iTunes and Fireant
56.How to set an account on YouTube
57.How to upload video to YouTube
58.How to easily create video on Windows Movie Maker
59.How to make a good quality video for YouTube
60.Windows movie maker tips for YouTube

AUDIO SLIDESHOWS
61.Getting started with Soundslides
62.Preparing photos in Photoshop for Soundslides
63.Create first photostory using Microsoft Photostory 3.0
64. Jake’s Photostory Tutorials

SOCIAL NETWORKS
65.Social networks in Plain English
66.Customizing your privacy in Facebook
67.How to post photos and notes on Facebook
68.Adding photos to Facebook
69.How to upload videos on Facebook
70.MySpace set up tutorial
71.How to upload photos to your MySpace profile

MICROBLOGGING
72.Twitter in Plain English
73.Ten Ways to Use Twitter
74.How reporters use Twitter
75.Twitter: A Beginner’s Guide
76. Download and Install Adobe AIR and Twhirl, a Twitter client

WIKIS
77.Wikis in Plain English
78.How to edit a wiki page
79.PB Wiki – Getting Started
80.Add and edit page in MediaWiki

HuffPost – the model for new media?

via HowardOwens.com

“Out of Print” is an 6,623-word New Yorker story on the rise of Huffington Post as the ninth most visited news site.

Here are some nuggets:

In the Internet age, however, no one has figured out how to rescue the newspaper in the United States or abroad. Newspapers have created Web sites that benefit from the growth of online advertising, but the sums are not nearly enough to replace the loss in revenue from circulation and print ads.

Most managers in the industry have reacted to the collapse of their business model with a spiral of budget cuts, bureau closings, buyouts, layoffs, and reductions in page size and column inches. Since 1990, a quarter of all American newspaper jobs have disappeared…

…the newspaper companies’ solution to their problem was to make “our product smaller and less helpful and less interesting.” That may help explain why the dwindling number of Americans who buy and read a daily paper are spending less time with it; the average is down to less than fifteen hours a month. Only nineteen per cent of Americans between the ages of eighteen and thirty-four claim even to look at a daily newspaper. The average age of the American newspaper reader is fifty-five and rising…

…Many newspapers, in their eagerness to demonstrate a sense of balance and impartiality, do not allow reporters to voice their opinions publicly, march in demonstrations, volunteer in political campaigns, wear political buttons, or attach bumper stickers to their cars.

In private conversation, reporters and editors concede that objectivity is an ideal, an unreachable horizon, but journalists belong to a remarkably thin-skinned fraternity, and few of them will publicly admit to betraying in print even a trace of bias. They discount the notion that their beliefs could interfere with their ability to report a story with perfect balance. As the venerable “dean” of the Washington press corps, David Broder, of the Post, puts it, “There just isn’t enough ideology in the average reporter to fill a thimble.”

Meanwhile, public trust in newspapers has been slipping at least as quickly as the bottom line…

…Arianna Huffington and her partners believe that their model points to where the news business is heading. “People love to talk about the death of newspapers, as if it’s a foregone conclusion. I think that’s ridiculous,” she says. “Traditional media just need to realize that the online world isn’t the enemy. In fact, it’s the thing that will save them, if they fully embrace it.”

The Huffington Post’s editorial processes are based on what Peretti has named the “mullet strategy.” (“Business up front, party in the back” is how his trend-spotting site BuzzFeed glosses it.) “User-generated content is all the rage, but most of it totally sucks,” Peretti says. The mullet strategy invites users to “argue and vent on the secondary pages, but professional editors keep the front page looking sharp. The mullet strategy is here to stay, because the best way for Web companies to increase traffic is to let users have control, but the best way to sell advertising is a slick, pretty front page where corporate sponsors can admire their brands.”

…At the time he was approached by the Huffington Post, Thomas Edsall, a forty-year veteran of the Washington Post and other papers, said he felt that the Post had become “increasingly driven by fear—the fear of declining readership, the fear of losing advertisers, the fear of diminishing revenues, the fear of being swamped by the Internet, the fear of irrelevance. Fear drove the paper, from top to bottom, to corrupt the entire news operation.” Joining the Huffington Post, Edsall said, was akin to “getting out of jail,” and he has written, ever since, with a sense of liberation.

MORE.

R.O.I of blogging

I found this chart off of Steve Rubel’s Micropersuasion. It’s from research done by Forrester’s Charlene Li and it was useful for a recent presentation on “Crisis Communications in the YouTube Age”.

Click to enlarge

Interesting excerpt:

Many large companies stand on the brink of blogging, yet they are unwilling to take the plunge. Others, having dove in early, now face the challenge of managing existing blogs without the ability to show that they effectively support business goals. While blogging’ value can’t be measured precisely, marketers will find that calculating the ROI is easier than it looks. Following a three-step process, marketers can create a concrete picture of the key benefits, costs, and risks that blogging presents and understand how they are likely to impact business goals. This, in turn, enables marketers to answer the key questions, such as whether to blog or not to blog, or to make smart choices about an existing blog.

Why CEOs can’t blog

David Meerman Scott comes up an interesting theory on why CEOs can’t blog:

“When CEOs are in a meeting, everyone defers to them. At conferences, people clap at CEO speeches even if they suck. CEOs talk about their company, its products, and nothing else. CEOs happily ignore email and phone calls because nobody expects a personal answer back. CEOs direct others to do their work for them.

“These are precisely the things that make for crappy blogs.

“CEOs and executives expect that the world will stop everything and pay attention and The Wall Street Journal will write about them as soon as they put out their first blog post. The posts they do write shout: look at me! CEOs don’t comment on other people’s blogs or link outside their own little world. Yeah, a few ass kissers might comment but unless the CEO is saying something interesting, the blog will fail to gain traction. Then the executive will quit blogging.

“There are notable exceptions like Jonathan Schwartz, CEO of Sun Microsystems.

“Great bloggers participate. They link to other bloggers. They comment on other people’s blog real estate. They blog because they want to, not because they have to. They talk about things other than their own products and services.

“Attention corporate executives: check your ego at the door if you want to be a successful blogger.

MORE. | CEO blog list | Fortune 500 Business Blogs

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