Jan Schaffer: No free lunch in new info-structure

Jan Schaffer points to three community sites that exemplifies the new info-structure:
1. Placeblogger.com,
2. GlobalVoicesOnline.org,
3. BlogHer.org

The three sites aggregate other community sites, set a platform for diverse voices to be heard, and become greater than the sum of its parts.

She warns however that news organizations need to be wary of thinking they can draw a community under their fold and brand without renumeration:

“Remember, though, there is no free lunch. News organizations that think citizens will freely contribute to their citizen journalism pages need to think again.

“While citizen journalism may well be a new form of volunteerism – something baby boomers do when the finish coaching their kids’ baseball teams – it’s a fragile dynamic.

“There must be a high degree of equilibrium, a balance between the giving and the getting, in these initiatives. Money is not the only motivator. People contribute for a reason – either because of a personal passion, to effect change, to learn something, or even to get smarter about technology.

“Be clever in juicing that equilibrium. If you have to pay the high school that uploads the most robust content on your hyperlocal sports site, like the Orlando Sentinel does, consider it an investment in your info-structure.

“Use your Big-J journalists where they can really add value. Professional journalists should focus their expertise and skills on doing investigations, identifying trends, building databases, holding public officials accountable and articulating the master narratives in their communities.

“Ultimately, the marketplace will decide what is news. News will be whatever adds value in a noisy information landscape, whatever helps people get their jobs done, whatever imparts wisdom, and whatever elicits gratitude.

“To figure this out you also need some new players in your info-structure. They include:

1.“Can do-ers” instead of those who whine about what they can’t do.

2.Computer programmers who will be the architects of searchable databases or news games in your info-structure.

3.Collaborators, people who have the sensibility to see the possibilities of working together instead of moving into kneejerk competitor mode.

4.News analysts who will trawl incoming information looking for Big-J opportunities. Minnesota Public Radio uses these para-journalists to analyze information coming in through its Public Insight Journalism network.

5.Tribe expanders. Journalism in the future will come from many places. We should contribute to the momentum of the best and most responsible efforts and recruit them for the info-structure.

For those who embrace these challenges, there is cause for a great deal of optimism.”

MORE

Teaching students to blog

[via Robin Good]

Howard Rheingold on teaching students to blog:

For the past several years, I’ve experimented with teaching students a blogging rhetoric that leads them to exercise public voice.

For example, the first post is to be aimed at a clearly imagined public – people known and unknown to the author who might reply, learn something, debate the blogger’s assertions – who could, potentially, join the blogger in some kind of collective action.

First, I asked students to provide links that would educate, inform, persuade, or motivate that public, and to write a post that gives enough context to the link to enable readers to decide whether or not to click it.

Then I asked them to experiment with connective writing by offering two links and their contexts, as well as an overarching description of what connects the links. Analytic and critical posts follow, taking issue with, contesting, debating posts made by others on their blogs. Finally, student bloggers were asked to make posts that advocate a position and provide links to support their assertions.

MORE (pdf).

Ten ways to use your blog to teach


Interesting post relevant to lecturers and trainers from EduBlogs:

1. Post materials and resources

The web is a fantastic tool when it comes to distributing resources – all you have to do on your edublog is upload, or copy and paste, your materials to your blog and they’ll be instantly accessible by your students from school and from home. What’s more, you can easily manage who gets to access them through password and plug-in safety measures.

2. Host online discussions

If you’ve ever struggled to create an online discussion space – you’re going to love what edublogs will do for you. Students can simply respond to blog posts and discuss topics you’ve set them without the added complexity of using a bulletin board – commentators can sign up to receive emails when their comments are replied to and you can easily manage and edit all responses through your blog’s administrative panel.

3. Create a class publication

Do you remember the good old days of class newspapers? Well, they just got a lot easier with your edublog – you can add students as contributors, authors and even editors in order to produce a custom designed, finely tuned and engaging collaborative online publication by your class.

4. Replace your newsletter

Always enjoyed photocopying and stapling pages and pages of newsletters on a Friday afternoon? Thought not! It’s ridiculously simple to post class information, news, events and more on your edublog.

5. Get your students blogging

It’s all very good sending your students off to blog sites, or even creating them for them, but you need to operate as a hub for their work and a place where they can easily visit each others blogs from. Your edublog can be used to glue together your students blogs, and besides which, if you’re asking your students to blog. You should certainly be doing it yourself.

6. Share your lesson plans

We all love planning and admin, right? Well, using an edublog can turn planning and reflection on classes into a genuinely productive – and even collaborative – experience. Sharing your plans, your reflections, your ideas and your fears with other educators both at your school and around the world using an edublog is a great way to develop as a teacher, and a brilliant use of a blog.

7. Integrate multimedia of all descriptions

With a couple of clicks you can embed online video, multimedia presentations, slideshows and more into your edublog and mix it up with your text and static resources. No CDs required, no coding necessary – just select the video, podcasts or slidecast you’d like to use and whack it in your blog to illustrate, engage and improve your teaching toolbox.

8. Organise, organise, organise

You don’t only have to use your edublog as a pedagogue, you can equally easily use the tools to organise everything from sports teams in your school, to rehearsals for the upcoming production. You can set up as many edublogs as you like, so don’t be afraid to use a dedicated one for a dedicated event – your can even use it as a record to look back on down the line.

9. Get feedback

There’s nothing that says you can’t allow anonymous commenting on a blog (although you’re also entirely within your rights to put all comments through moderation!) but why not think about using a blog as a place for students – and even parents, to air issues, leave feedback or generally tell you how great you are.

10. Create a fully functional website

One of the great things about edublogs are that they are much, much more than just blogging tools. In fact, you can use your edublog to create a multi-layered, in-depth, multimedia rich website – that hardly looks like a blog at all. So, if you’d rather create a set of static content, archive of important information or even index for your library – you can bend an edublog to suit your needs.

Transcript excerpts with Espen Hansen, VG, Norway

Here is the transcript of the talk by Espen Hansen, Managing Editor, VG, the biggest newspaper and website in Norway, on rise of integrating online journalism, user-generated content, online ad campaigns and mobile video.

EXCERPTS FROM AUDIO RECORDING OF ESPEN HANSEN, MANAGING EDITOR, VG MULTIMEDIA, NORWAY

4.00: Today information travels very fast, it’s global. Eg: The controversial Prophet Muhammad cartoons. There was an outcry for boycott of Danish products not by newspapers or TV stations but by SMS and within days, it was very effective.

We don’t even know who the editors are anymore. In a sense we are all editors. Within minutes a (rioter with a handphone) will have his own audience.

5.33: Today information is much more complicated. It is not one-way. And this is important – the readers communicate with each other.

6.20: Cites Rupert Murdoch’s buy of MySpace for US$600m: Power is moving away from editors, the chief executives and the proprietors. Power is moving away from us. A new generation of demanding consumers who want content delivered when they want it. They want to decide.

7.30: Growth on Internet is from sites that have user-participation: Blogger growth : 520 percent and MySpace 318 percent. Something is happening.

In VG we don’t think about it as “Internet vs paper.” This is not the big difference. We think it is going from “telling the readers” to “creating arenas where people can come with their content, communities”.

We think from “deciding what they should read” to “making content available when it is convenient for them.” From “delivering our content”, to “creating content with the readers.” Everyone seems to understand this except us (newspapers). Search engines, aggregators and communities are the biggest websites. Where are the newspapers? No English newspapers are on the Top 10 worldwide. In Norway, No 1 and No 2 are newspapers.
VG is the largest Norwegian newspaper, the largest website and largest mobile site.

10.40: Going from analog thinking – printing once a day, to digital thinking – printing all the time for many platforms.

11.05: More than 1 million readers everyday on the Internet, together with newspaper we reach half the population of Norway. Rev: 121m Norwegian Kroners (Only Internet, profit about 25m ringgit). The newspaper makes a lot more money. It’s real money now.

12.24: We deliver news when it happens – not once a day. We get our Internet users to go to read our newspapers and vice versa.

13.50: In newspapers we talk about deadline.I have banned the use of the word “deadlines”. We talk about BIRTH of the story Deadlines are when you work until a certain time, and you can’t get the story better. When we have story confirmed we print a few lines and then we ask “What can we do more”. The most important words we use:” We will be back shortly.” It builds expectations.

16:00: We are reporting near real-time of a major court-case currently in Norway. When the verdict is about to be announced, we had ( series of mugshots with flippable graphics on the final sentences for each accused).

18:26. All this happens before the TV News. Our goal is not to let our readers wait for TV news anymore.

19:10: Big ship capsized on Norwegian west coast. We figured there are houses nearby. And we called these houses. Within minutes, people were helping us about the incident, reporting what was happening and sending us digital pictures that they had taken.

We decided to systemize this and have a four-digit number 2200. Now we can receive SMS, digital photos, video.

21:40: Stabbing on the tram via SMS. The news battle is about being the first to know. We could be the first to break the story online. We publish as fast as we have the story confirmed. Because we could be early, we could have exclusive pics. People were on the way home during rush hour, people wanted updates on their phones, because there was a manhunt and he was on the run. People were frightened. Our reader with a mobile camera transmitted the capture, and it was the first pics of his arrest on our website

24:38: Tsunami. 10,000 Norwegians involved. We discovered from this that our greatest assets was not the money to fly to Bangkok, our hire a helicopter or satellite links, but ou greatest assets is we know our readers and they have mobile phones in their pockets. Our readers, SMS us first. Our reader sent us the first pics. He was sitting on a rooftop documenting and transmitting to 2200.

27:55: Because we were early, they in Thailand was asking us where is the nearest hospital, the embassy. So we made a page to update our readers in Thailand. As our own reporters are still sitting on the plane 15-20 hours away, we got our readers to send us articles, photos, videos, being there and telling us what was happening. We also set up a service of a survivor list. The only thing we checked was whether this was confirmed by close relatives. After four days, the police took over from Foreign Dept. They had 10,000 names and we had 8,500. There were mistakes, but within minutes we had confirmation.

The Foreign Dept had 6 percent right. The police had 30 percent right. We had 79 percent right. And 90 percent right by the time police figures were out. This gives you idea of the force of this approach.

33:25: We got thousands of questions for the government. These were very relevant questions and it made our journalism better. When we posted these questions, we had Ministers really trying to answer questions at length. We asked our Foreign Minister to have a live chat with our readers. For one hour he answered questions. It was a great success.

36:00: Debbie, a victim of tsunami was there trying to reunite lost children. Via satellite phone, we had our readers talk to a young, intelligent, Muslim Norwegian in the middle of the crisis. For our readers much stronger story, much easier to relate than if I told the story. We had a heart-breaking tsunami picture of man being reunited with his child, and Debbie was in the background, someone they could relate to.

38:05: We have developed a lot of tools for user-generated content. We have a whole section called Readers VG. Integrated communication. (Newsblogs stats: In six months, 9,000 readers, 40,000 articles, 350,000 comments, 35,000 photos). I have an editor for this, but all the content is from our own readers. It’s a great success. 10,000-13,000 postings in our discussion forums everyday. This is in a country with 4 million people. We print it in our newspaper everyday, making newspapers more lively. The readers’ letters page was last week news, handwritten by old ladies. But today, we have SMS, and postings right up to the deadline. We let not only our own team of critics, but our own readers to critique movies, food, wine, etc.

40:58: We do live chats everyday – politicians, pop stars, experts in different fields. Very popular. The blogs are the most important thing right now. We have developed a new system for blogs. We tried blog (ware) on the market but we needed to develop a blog (ware) that was suited more for a newspaper. Almost 10,000 blogs, with an incredible amount of content.

Example: A first-time father’s blog of birth of child in the car, before they reached hospital. The happy father documented it via his phone on straight onto his blog telling the world. No deadline. You don’t want to wait with news like that, you just want to get it out. We have a blogger near the North Pole blogging about polar bears. Even the prime minister is blogging with us.

43.18:How did we get the prime minister to blog with us? I wanted the top politicians to blog with us. I went to the leader of the main right wing opposition party, the one who always complains “I never get on TV”. I gave him his own blog, and he accepted. And from then getting one by one of the leaders of the nine parties and eventually I got the Prime Minister. Young readers can write straight to him.

44:40: We pick out one blog every week and print it in the newspaper. On Page 3 our editors have their own blog and it is also published online. We bring readers to the blogs and the other way around.

46:00: We bring news to the blogs. We integrate news on the blogs. That’s why we had to do it ourselves. We needed some kind of control, we needed to be able to kick people out. If they don’t behave, they don’t follow our rules, if there is racism we can kick them out.

46:53: Eg: Story on SIS pilots were on strike. We integrated our users’ comments, blog posts and discussion forum posts on our front page of our website.

49:44: Katie Melua, No 1 on popchart. We did live concerts with artists. We ask readers for questions and we ask the artists. (Katie answers questions) Good questions, good answers. The readers feel we are connected to them.

51:28: ADVERTISING: Started with standard banners. Sold by impressions. Problem was we already big traffic. But advertisers asked “where’s my ad?” because his paid impressions was done by lunch. No one really liked this. Then we did bigger boards and we sold it for 24-hours or for one-week. That was a success. Advertisers liked this, because they are used to it. Much easier to re-use material than a newspaper.

53:00: In 2001, we had to educate our advertisers because there was general feeling that “online doesn’t work”. We gave them dominance on one page, where they are the only ones there. They liked this.

54:30: Developed ad campaigns. (Shows very successful campaign for a movie 37 and half, with individuals that when clicked they would talk one-by-one) We told advertisers to tell their story on the front pae, so users will not go to their sites, but read their story there.

56:27: If you click on the mag ad, you can subscribe there, you don’t have to go to another page.

58:00: 17,000 Euros for a top banner ad on front page for 24-hours. Sold out everyday. Sold out for six months. It’s easy to sell the front page, but we have to sell the other sections. Make those sections more visible, more attractive.

1:01:00: Exposure of ads is the most effective for the first four times. It is no point paying for the 5th and 6th and 7th. More effective to show just a few times.

Going back to impressions. Can guarantee impressions, and sell the same space after 5pm-6pm.

1:02:50: Integrate all the newsclips into our site for VG TV. NRK, the national station, did a study we have only three dedicated people for our TV and they have 400-500 people, they see us as a threat.

1:04:40: A schedule. You have to view it then or record it. TV is passive. They decide what when and what I should watch. On VG TV we do active. It’s outside timeline. We just make things available. We decided when to watch. VG TV is not going to be within timeline. Our vision is deliver when news happens. And we make it available for our readers right away. We are trying to set a new standard to present and produce this news.

The Potential: Time spent on Internet versus TV. Internet is 35 percent, but advertisers only use 11 percent of their money on Internet. We analyse how many watch video on web, still only 14 percent. They sell 60,000 downloaded episodes of Lost a week. Why shouldn’t The Star do that? You have readers right?

1:08:30: DumDum Boys, rock and roll band in Norway was away for 8 years and did not ask big stations but came to us. Because they want to reach the young readers. We transmitted a live concert.

1:10:05: This is our new tool. Mobilephones as a video camera. Olympics, weather reports. As a journalistic tool, it’s good enough.

1:11:00: Sometimes no strategy to what we do. Eg: The Edward Munk painting of Scream was stolen. Use your mobilephone and take your own scream, and we had a programme to transmit back a painting of your own scream.

Live blog: Talk by Espen Hansen, VG Group

UPDATE 3.14pm: Have uploaded the entire talk (72 minutes of 192Kbps MP3) onto Archive.org. You can download it here. Note it’s
a 103.8MB file.

Liveblog: 10.50am, The Star, Sec 16, PJ, Malaysia: Attending a talk by Espen Egil Hansen, MD of VG Multimedia. Will blog this is live in next few minutes.

10.52am: Datuk Wong Sulong describes VG has a very proactive publishing company that represents the future of newspaper journalism and VG is the biggest interactive media site in Norway.

10. 54am: Espen: Went scuba diving in Malaysia. Intro: We were speaking to them. One-way communication (before). Today a lot more complicated. Information travels very fast, it’s global. In certain terms we are all editors. Within minutes (anyone with a handphone) has an audience.

Mentions Murdoch: Power is moving away from us (publishers). Users want the information now, the way they want it.

“In VG, it’s not Internet vs paper. Move from ‘telling the readers’ to ‘creating arenas, communities.’ From ‘deciding what they should read’, to making content available for them to consume when they want to.”

11.05am: We started 10 years ago, and we really wanted to do it. Largest mobile Internet site (VG). From analog — once a day, to digital — printing all the time. 121 million NOK (Internet revs), 43 percent profit margin. Newspaper makes a lot more money.

Deliver it, when it happens, not once a day. They can read when it is convenient for them.

11.07am: No more “deadlines”. Print immediately when confirmed – we call it the BIRTH of the article.

Most important sentence: “Come back for more.”

Digital storytelling is about building expectations.

Our goal: people shouldn’t wait for TV news anymore.

11.14am:

19th Jan, 2004: Newsflash: Big ship had capsized. Called the neighbourng houses. Reported on their website within hours. Used their digital pics and videos. We were early, We got exclusive pics. People were reading on their phones for updates, the man was on the run.

Within a short time, we had proper coverage of this major accident.

Text messaging to a four-digit number 2200: MMS pics, sms, video, everything goes thru 2200.

EG: Stabbing of man in tram. The news battle is about being the first to know. Updates to mobile users during rush hour because man was on the run.

Mentioned Tsunami and Norwegian victims were asking them in Norway where was the nearest hospital in Thailand. We updated with info on local maps, hospitals, etc.

Built a service to help victims, photos of survivors, victims. They (polic) had 10,000 and we had 8,500 (victims) and we thot we were wrong.

There were mistakes.

In that we had it 79% correct while Foreign Dept 6% and Police: 30% after four days.

11.29am: (Battery died, uploaded at 12.55pm) Politicans couldn’t brush off tricky questions from victims’ families. Some questions were very, very good.

We had a live chat with Foreign Minister. It was a great success.

Debbie Syahputri (Norwegian who was affected by tsunami) tried to help victims, children. Satellite live chat with her. Much stronger story for our readers. Pic of a heart-breaking story of a man reunited with his child with Debbie in background.

[More excerpts later…]

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