Monday, 28 January 2008

A web/print strategy for emerging stories

The Monte Carlo hotel in Las Vegas went up in flames last week and prompted an interesting analysis by Rob Curley who suggests a web/print strategy for covering developing stories like this.

He suggests:

  1. Throw some resources at it in real-time, becoming the definitive source online for the story as it is happening. Constant news updates. Great background info. Multimedia that is worth looking at — at the very least, some decent photo galleries if you’re not going to do video. I’m talking about web reports that combine speed, accuracy and compelling visuals with overwhelming comprehensive coverage in a way that creates something that shows your readers that your newspaper’s website is the only place to go for information on this story.
  2. At the very least, keep the web site updated. Even if in kind of a half-assed way.
  3. Run a big story in print with a big photo. The next day. After the story is over. Treat it like your print predecessors would have back in 1978, pretending that no one knows about the story until you tell them about it in print. The next day.
  4. Go apesh*t in print. The next day. But in the midst of the overkill print coverage, there are thoughtful analysis pieces that treat the story like a Day Two story. Which in 2008, it is.
  5. Do a mixture of No. 1 and No. 4. Treat the web and print like they’re both important, with print coverage that acknowledges that we live in a world where both CNN and the Internet have been around for at decades.
We occasionally have this kind of story in our markets too - Foot & Mouth or BlueTongue and "incidents" at Heathrow . We tend to deal with them pretty effectively, but it's nice to see a process laid out in bullet points like that. Thanks Rob.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Selling user-generated content

There's a really useful document on Marketing Sherpa called Marketing Wisdom.

In it, "101 [good number!] marketers and agencies share real-life stories and lessons learned."

It contains e-marketing tips based on marketers' experiences such as "short email subject lines achieve better open rates than long ones".

Useful anyway, but the $127 price tag on the front of the document also got me thinking.

Acutally, it's not $127 , it's free to download, but it reminds me what a great source of material UGC is and how people love to see themselves in print.

Print (I reluctantly concede) confers prestige and people love to be in it.

To be featured in a real live book on sale to the world is also alluring. And now that self-published book printing can be achieved cheaply and easily through sites such as lulu, wouldn't it be easy to package and sell UGC collections (with the full permission of the users, of course) - tips, anecdotes, photographs, recipes.

If it flies, it flies. If it doesn't, nothing much lost.

I'm thinking, I'm thinking...

Oh, and you can download Marketing Wisdom here.

The killer widget

No, don't get excited; I don't have one for you.

But we quite often talk about coming up with some killer widgets which is about as useful as people asking you to come up with "something that will go viral". Well, yes, that's a great idea!

The trouble is that we're starting from a point of view of having loads of feeds and stuff sitting around on our websites that could be widgetised so half our work is already done.

But frankly, who wants to put our "latest HR news" or "latest jobs in electronics" feed on their blog or website? This is the trouble for non-sexy B2B publishing.

Forbes has widgets and so does CNET but they are all basically content that was already there and don't deliver much more than an RSS feed would/does. And they sure aren't sexy. I don't think any of them will prove to be the Killer Widgets.

Here's where I am with my thinking on widgets:

1. The easy stuff first

The easy stuff is the stuff we already have to hand (e.g. news feeds). I wonder if for these we should maybe be chasing intranets, not the Internet. The intranet for a road haulage company would probably find a latest news widget a useful addition to their intranet; a blogging trucker less so. Unless your brand is VERY cool in addition to being VERY reliable (which all of ours are, of course).

2. Customise the widget to the widget hoster

So, if you have a social media element such as forums and photos, create a widget that lets them show off their latest forum or blog posts or photos, or top rated photos or whatever. In other words, let people use it to show off their stuff, not yours.

3. Add value to the widget hoster's site

For example, by offering some kind of interactivity to their users to make their site stickier and more engaging.

4. Provide some quid pro quo

Find some way in which their hosting of your widget gives them something backfrom your site. Maybe the widget results in a link from your site or their blog in your blogroll or gets them included in some kind of social competition. Something that gives them their attention.

Reading that back, it's clear that I'm just thinking aloud. Sorry. Ignore this post.

I'm sure my colleague Piers will come up with some better ideas...

When is a video not a video?

When it's a collection of stills, apparently. No, it's probably not the gag to open your next presentation with, but it is an interesting idea.

The Indy Star has been getting round a video ban by putting lots of photographs together.


We wanted to do something special from our Indianapolis Colts football games with multimedia, but hit a wall with the NFL rules against newspapers shooting video on the field. Several of our photographers ... had experimented with time-lapse projects using a still camera and motor drive bursts, putting the images together with Quicktime to give people a video-like experience.

Cunning and it begs the question: "How many frames per second can you use before it becomes a video?".

Unfortunately, I can't find an example on the IndyStar website. Do let me know if you fare any better.

Digital journalism tools: Twitter

Dan Blank has put together a handy summary of how journalists can get real value out of Twitter. Dan has brought together information from various sources so it's worth checking out his post in full .

One of his sources is Darren Rowse who has outlined these nine ways in which twitter helps him up his game as a blogger (but they are equally valid for journalists too)

  • Research Tool
  • Reinforce (and expand) Your Personal Brand
  • Promote Content
  • Extend Audience - Find NEW Readers
  • Networking
  • Previews
  • Speedlinking
  • Story Gathering
  • Find Out What People REALLY Think.
read dan's post for more detail.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Do video mashups necessarily mean copyright infringement?

Not necessarily, according to the American University's Centre for Social Media which has published a report called Recut, Reframe, Recycle (PDF).

This might be some small grain of hope for those of us planning user-generated video projects.

The study points to a wide variety of practices—satire, parody, negative and positive commentary, discussion-triggers, illustration, diaries, archiving and of course, pastiche or collage (remixes and mashups)—all of which could be legal in some circumstances.

The announcement post gives examples of mash-up videos which could arguably lie under the "fair use" harbour - satire, parody, negative and positive commentary, discussion-triggers, illustration, diaries, archiving and pastiche or collage.

These all refer to US interpretation of fair use, of course, but it's an interesting take.

This one, apparently, might come under the heading of "illustration or example":

Monday, 21 January 2008

What are we supposed to do with popularity stats?

Like many aspects of online publishing, information about what people actually do online is both a blessing and a curse. Here is what the photos section of the aviation community looks like today:

Yes, scantily clad women are what our users really look at.

It's always a bit puzzling to consider what one should do with this information - upload pictures of more scantily clad women and fewer aircraft?

Of course, in this case it's pretty self-organising as it is the users who are uploading the photographs anyway and the aircraft outnumber the cheap exploitative calendar shots by about 5000 to 1.

But when it comes to news, it's a knottier problem. If you're chasing traffic, do you respond to popularity or do you continue to make grand editorial decisions based on what you believe is important for people to read.

The answer is "both", of course. The most read article on the BBC news website is currently Paxman to meet M&S over underwear even though the lead story is Darling unveils Rock rescue plan.

Publishing "Most read" also gives an added boost to these interesting-but-unimportant stories.

Should one give readers what they need to know or what they want to know? Who's to say?

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Crap user generated content

Is there nothing people won't share online?. Don't click if you're eating.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Friday fun - human Tetris

Or, of course there is the more traditional Japanese human Tetris

Digital journalism and all things digital

I like this term - "digital journalism". It opens one's thinking to video, pictures, games, maps, mash-ups in a way that "online journalism" doesn't.

Anyway, I came across it in the context of a "goodbye dead trees" post from the wonderfully named Kara Swisher who has been covering digital issues for the The Wall Street Journal's San Francisco bureau since 1997.

She co-produces and co-hosts All Things Digital In her post, Swisher says:

...after almost eight months of daily blogging for this site, I think it is safe to say that I will probably never write another thing professionally for a print publication and will spend the rest of my career – such that it will be – publishing online only.

Incidentally, I really like All Things Digital. I think the home page is a really cool way of combining headlines, people, UGC, "most popular" (although the Top 10 may not actually be "most popular" - it may be an editorial decision - but that's the expectation.

Swisher does a lot of video interviews. They are really quite low-tech (although the sound is better than most one-journalist-and-their-camera video) and they work - six minute interviews with people using what appears to be a handheld video camera (although she clearly has a steadier hand than I have).

And probably quicker to turn around than a traditional written interview-based feature.

Anyway, here is an example:

What a wonderful widget world

My inestimable and resourceful colleague Michael Targett has put together a collection of useful widget links and has invited me to publish it, for which I thank him.

Recommended widgets

News widgets

Images widgets

Video widgets

Apple widgets

Community widgets

Blog widgets

RSS widgets

Map widgets (good one for community build by nation)

Creating your own widget

Further widget reading

Widget marketplaces (see WidgetBox , LabPixies and Widgipedia)
Widget blogs (see WidgetsLab and Widgetoko).
Widget conference (whole conference)

Thursday, 3 January 2008

A video journalism primer

My overseas colleague Mr Blank has culled together some interesting links to stuff about video... And you can find it here..

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Metro MEview UGC video shares revenues with uploaders

Interesting development on the UGC video front at Metro where people uploading video can potentially earn money.

The new service is called MEview and apparently "every time one of your clips gets downloaded to a mobile you earn 20p."

But online views count too apparently:

We'll also ask you if you want to put an advert at the beginning/end of your clip. And every time somebody views your video, you get paid by the advertisers. During the beta phase, you will be paid £1 for every 1,000 unique views from UK IP addresses of any of your video clips. This means that if 100,000 separate people within the UK view your clip, you earn £100.

So far the top video only has just over 1,000 views so I don't think anyone's going to become a millionaire overnight quite yet, but it's an interesting idea.

Also quite open to abuse - one could download Otters Holding Hands (9 million views and counting) from YouTube, upload it to Metro and chance the fact no-one notices.

Of course, someone WOULD notice, but I'm just wondering whether this is going to end up being a moderation nightmare for Metro.

Where I think they've missed a trick is in localising MEview. The paper versions of Metro are distributed in Bath, Birmingham, Bradford, Brighton, Bristol, Cardiff, Coventry, Derby, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leicester, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Nottingham, Newcastle, Wolverhampton and York. These are "communities" which might encourage people to upload videos of local interest. But there's no such regionalisation on the Metro website.

Anyway. I'll be watching with interest(that and Otters Holding Hands again, obviously).