Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Putting out the lights

This blog tailed off rather, didn't it?

How so?

Well, first of all Yammer became the preferred way of sharing information and ideas with colleagues which was always the primary objective of this blog.

Then I decided to take voluntary redundancy from RBI and left its cosy bosom of employment at the end of June 2009.

I had planned to spend a relaxing July and August before looking into options for the next phase of my working life. However the traditional British summer has meant more time sitting inside than I planned, more time talking to people and more time at my computer.

And so as much as I have tried to stop them, ideas have begun to form and I'm following up a few of them already. Yes, they will almost certainly involve the Internet and so they had better be engaging but, that aside, this blog will probably not be the place for talking about them. I may decide not to pursue them at all and hurl myself back into the bosom of employment at some stage. Time will tell.

So if you're interested in keeping up with What Andrew Did Next then do feel free to follow me on Twitter.

Either way, thanks for reading Engagement 101.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Cash for news

Our corporate Yammer channel is abuzz with amusing discussions about whether or not it would be possible to charge people to read our news content.

Some people are quite excited because if Mr Murdoch thinks he can (and Rob Grimshaw at the FT is bullish about it too) then that should be good enough for us.

Interestingly most of the debates seem to polarise the question between two business models: advertising vs pay-to-view/subscriptions.

But newspapers, magazines and websites are more complicated than that and so is life:

  • When I buy my newspaper to read on the train in the morning, am I paying for news? Well, yes, partly.
  • If it stopped containing the news would I still buy it? Probably not.
  • If it only contained the news would I still buy it? Probably not.
But news is very much part of my paper's brand (it's not a red top, obviously).

The polarisation of the arguments is misleading too. I might not pay for online news but I might pay for something else from the place I get my online news. Telegraph readers stump up to play Fantasy Football and do the crossword, for example. Sun readers pay to play bingo.

Generally speaking business magazine revenues have been in decline for years but other revenue areas - face-to-face (conferences, exhibitions and events) have been a growth area for many. So too have paid-for non-news services and in some cases, news brands have to some degree become a cross between a marketing medium and the badge of trust for these other services.

If you took the murderously expensive news content out of the magazines , how powerful a brand would you have left? I don't know.

Monday, 27 April 2009

User Generated Content: Understanding its Impact Upon Contributors, Non-Contributors and the BBC

This is just too tantalising for words:

The main findings of the research were that:

  • There are 5 main types of "UGC" and they fulfill 6 different roles within the BBC
  • Journalists and audiences display markedly different attitudes towards the five types
  • Technology is changing the volume, ease and speed of gathering news material and sources, but traditional journalism practices still important
  • "UGC" at the local level is particularly interesting
  • Overall there is support from the audience for the ways in which the BBC has been using "UGC"
  • Specific calls to action are most useful for news gathering and when eliciting high-quality relevant comment
  • only a small, select group of people submit "UGC"
  • UGC should never be treated as representative
  • significant barriers to participation: digital divide, social economic background, lack of impetus, and - most interesting for me - negative perceptions held by general audience of contributors
  • contributors want a real world impact for the contributions - eg. "If it was going to be read by Gordon Brown, then of course I'd submit it..."
The study also identified a typology of audience material:
  • audience content
  • audience comments
  • collaborative content
  • networked journalism
  • non-news content ("photos of snowmen")
I hope we find out more.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

On what's occurring

Long time since I've posted. What with Twitter and Yammer and Facebook there seems to be less of an imperative to blog.

But for the record some recent highlights include

  • The soft-launch of three new online business communities in the last few weeks - TravelHub, TableTalk and OpticianSpace.
  • Farmers Weekly Interactive live-blogging today's budget
  • Our series of weekly editorial development sessions ("Elevenses" because they are at 11am) are going really well. Topics so far: Twits, Tweets and Hashtags: The quick guide to Twittering, Investigative Journalism, Using Polls & Surveys, Exploiting the power of RSS, Live blogging, Features Without Words
All worth doing.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Elevenses: twitter for journalists

Standing room only at this morning's Elevenses workshop on TwitPicExcitingly, we ran our first weekly editorial development session today.

The idea is to run an event every Thursday at 11am for 3/4 hour. The topic will be different every week but it's all about helping people develop new journalistic skills.

As there are four of us involved in Elevenses we each only have to curate one a month.

Adam curated today's which was all about Twitter. Four of our most enthusiastic Twitter users talked about how they use it to find stories break stories, build relationships and build their brand.

This is a hot topic but even so we were amazed when over 50 people turned up.

To be fair, some of this may have been thanks to the publicity generated on the letters page of our corporate intranet regarding whether or not the word "curate" may be used as a verb. Perfectly cromulent in my view.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Sky News realises news breaks first on Twitter, not TV - Creates a Twitter Correspondent

Sky News realises news breaks first on Twitter, not TV - Creates a Twitter Correspondent

It's here to stay.

For now, anyway.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Whatever happend to Web 2.0?

It's still here, of course: flickr, Facebook, twitter etc. But I was surprised today to read something which referred to Web 2.0 and I realised I hadn't heard the term for ages. It's just normal now; it's just the web.

Friday, 27 February 2009

Misc thoughts: Silverlight, Flash and Twitter

I've been on a Flash for Beginners course for the last two days. My hope was that learning the basics that way and spending some time with Mindy McAdams book Flash Journalism would result in some skills and ideas for interactive multi-media storytelling I could spread around our business. We shall see. I think the main lesson so far is that Flash is very complicated and it would take huge commitment on the part of a journalist to master it.

Anyway, early days. I was quite pleased with the animated bug I made on the course but I don't think it will be winning a Pulitzer Prize.

Meanwhile alerted me to something I had missed in the whole Obama overload thing - it's a multimedia Silverlight thing which stitches lots of photographs together and lets you freely navigate through them (if you have the will). But the one that caught my eye was the UGC set which is basically composed of photographs from people around the world which show them watching the Obama inauguration on television. I found myself moving from scepticism to compulsion quite quickly. Nice use of UGC.

Finally, Twitter. It's gone mad of course. It's great that so many of our editorial people have suddly taken the plunge and hopefully the n00bs1 will start talking to people in their markets rather than just to each other any day now. Meantime, I'm finding Twitter rather overwhelming. It feels like ambient noise rather than ambient intimacy. I may switch it off.


1. For definition of n00b consult 140pedia which is dedicated to providing definitions no longer than 140 characters for the Twitterati.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Twitter: proving the value to journalists

My US colleague Dan Blank has done some interesting work on The ROI of Journalists and Magazines Using Twitter.

Dan looked at the 277 tweets from the School Library Journal during January. He concludes:

So, at the most basic level, how much exposure did this bring to School Library
Journal. It’s a difficult metric to pinpoint for a variety of reasons but a conservative estimate is: A few thousand page views.
Dan analyses the kinds of tweets and identifies three further areas that Twitter has delivered beyond merely traffic:
  • Engaging the Top 10% of Your Audience
  • Improving Editorial
  • Marketing across more networks
Highly recommended it and I'll be adding it to my "Must Read" list for journalists:

Friday, 13 February 2009

Roy Greenslade and the West Seattle News

One must walk on eggshells here of course but Roy Greenslade's Subeditors: another attempt to explain why they are becoming redundant nevertheless makes for interesting reading (although the subtext can be reduced to: we have to save money somewhere; where else are we going to save it?).

Meanwhile over in the US of A arrogance or desperation leads the West Seattle News to publish an editorial explaining why their newspaper is vastly superior to the local bloggers who can offer more detail and faster along the way containing gems such as:

Professional journalists don't waste your time. [...] Instead of 3000 (sic) words about a community council meeting that was 'live blogged' with updates every seven minutes, wouldn't you honestly prefer 300 words that tell you what happened and what was decided?
which, of course, is an utterly pointless question. As the blog herald responds:
Let’s say I’m really interested in local politics but can’t attend, then the live blog is a great way to keep up to date as it happens. Is it the perfect way to cover a council meeting? No, of course not, but it is live and happening right now.
Another question (presumably intended to be rhetorical):
Do you seriously want to simply be referred to a series of links where you must delve deeply into issues spending hours of time to glean the facts?
Ummm. Yes. Of course. I always want the option to go and get more information elsewhere.

Anyway, the connection to the Greenslade piece is this comment attached to the WSN editorial from a reader which made me lol.
"Professional journalists don't waste your time"
Yeah, but the blogs can use a spell checker, and have a basic sense of grammar. Have you even read your own paper? It looks as if it was written by a 3rd grade special ed class.
Whether the West Seattle News rcently jettisoned all its sub-editors I do not know.