Friday, 29 February 2008

Farmers Weekly MeetsTop Gear

Kind of. Am really pleased with this latest video from Farmers Weekly Interactive who - under the albeit somewhat anti-cliffhanger title of "2CV beats all eggs-pectations in battle with Citroën's new C-Crosser 4x4" present the video below.

The conceit is that in 1948 Citroën's chief designer Pierre Boulanger decreed that their new car (the 2CV) should be able to carry a French farmer and his wife plus 50kg of potatoes and a small barrel of wine along bumpy country roads and that it should be able to cross a ploughed field with a basket of eggs on board and not break a single one of them.

It led them to wonder which was better for the task - the 60 year old design or the new C-Crosser 4x4.

The detailed article alongside the video is from Farmers Weekly magazine. The video tells the story in five minutes and shows you what you would be desperate to be able to see if you were reading the article in the magazine - a great incentive to follow up your magazine reading on the website.

Thursday, 28 February 2008 beats all

I'm completely obsessed by all the info that keeps pouring out of
I've mentioned it here before and it's an absolutely brilliant investigation of the new journalism tools afforded by the Web 2.0 world.

There's a good interview with Janet Kornblum on how she has used MySpace, Facebook, YouTube and Technorati to research stories.

Interesting stuff. And really helpful in boosting our thinking about the tools digital journalists have available to them.

What is a digital journalist? Towards a DJ manifesto

Bizarrely (to those of us focussed on online development, anyway) we often find that new journalists join us with much the same bias towards print journalism as many of the "old school".

It led a gang of us to wonder whether when recruiting new talent we should start advertising all journalist roles as "digital journalists". Although most people work across print and online here, the "digital" prefix might help to shift perceptions for new recruits and, indeed, for recruiters.

That led us naturally to suppose we had better start writing down ideas about what a digital journalist is and does (or at least will be and will do).

Clearly "digital" need not alter everything involved in journalism - news values and skills are arguably mostly untouched (truth, the ability to tell a story, interviewing skills and so on).

But I've been dwelling on how a digital journalist might reasonably be distinguished from a traditional journalist.

So here - without further ado - is my first draft Digital Journalism Manifesto:

  • the digital journalist can distinguish which elements of a story are best told through which media - words, pictures, video, audio, charts
  • the digital beat-journalist participates in his or her beat community through forums, blogs, microblogging etc.
  • the digital journalist uses tools such as RSS feeds to monitor emerging news
  • the digital journalist may also use tools such as RSS feeds to share emerging news with other people
  • the digital journalist is not afraid to link to other people's websites
  • the digital journalist's instinct is to publish news as soon as it happens, not to sit on it to fill next week's front page.
  • the digital journalist has a duty to provide good user experience to his/her readers by linking to further information.
  • the digital journalist can touch type (ha ha ha), take a half-decent digital photograph and point and shoot a video camera if required.
  • the digital journalist never goes anywhere without a laptop (or some means of submitting material)
  • the digital journalist knows how to find wi-fi hotspots
  • the digital journalist willingly (and legally) embeds other people's content (e.g. YouTube videos, Flickr photos, other suitable licensed Creative Commons materials) into his/her story
  • the digital journalist happily joins in online conversations resulting from his/her article
  • the digital journalist can use a range of web tools (including microblogging and social media) to develop stories.
  • the digital journalist can probably cobble a half decent video together and upload it
  • the digital journalist (often publishing without the safety net of sub-editors and editors) has an excellent knowledge of media law (especially libel)
  • the digital journalist (often publishing without the safety net of sub-editors and editors) can spell (or use a spell checker) and string a sentence together
  • the digital journalist almost certainly has at least one professional blog

Goodness knows what the union would say. I hasten to add that these are just personal thoughts off the top of my head and all completely unofficial.

Any ideas for the Second Draft?

Friday, 22 February 2008

Lesson: Why corporations are nervous about blogs and forums

Expanding our Web 1.0 websites (the traditional we-publish-you-read) to embrace blogs (we-publish-you-respond) and user communities (you-do-what-you-like) is not always an easy sell.

Understandable objections include the risks of libel, but there are also (mostly) unspoken concerns about loss of control.

So yesterday's announcement that our parent company Reed Elsevier is to "divest" itself of Reed Business Information has meant that controls over the message going out are much more difficult to manage than they would have been 10 or even 5 years' ago.

Of course, all our bloggers know their contractual obligations but it's interesting to see who has mentioned the news and where. There is one on Kieran Daly's aviation blog; another on the ICIS Chemicals Confidential blog.

Given the somewhat emotional nature of the news and the ease with which a blogger can publish his or her thoughts, they are quite restrained really.

As we get further down the line towards a sale or a floatation or whatever from the "divestment" is, I imagine guidelines on what can or can't be said may become rather more explicit. Not least for legal reasons.

But you can't stop people asking. An eagle-eyed American farmer picked up that RBI was up for sale and posted on the Farmers Weekly forums, worried that "if this is true and comes to pass, the forum will be much changed or even deleted??".

This is rather touching but then another forum regular posts some speculates about who might buy RBI.

Editor Jane King does the right thing and explains that it just business-as-usual here at RBI, and it is. Surprisingly, it really is. You wouldn't believe just how usual business here is.

The art of discussion forums

London-based readers who are interested in social media might like to drop into the Science Museum to see a new art installation.
Called Listening Post, it's a constantly changing display based on real-time posts on the Internet:

Listening Post is a ‘dynamic portrait’ of online communication, displaying uncensored fragments of text, sampled in real-time, from public internet chatrooms and bulletin boards. Artists Mark Hansen and Ben Rubin have divided their work into seven separate ‘scenes’ akin to movements in a symphony. Each scene has its own ‘internal logic’, sifting, filtering and ordering the text fragments in different ways.

By pulling text quotes from thousands of unwitting contributors' postings, Listening Post allows you to experience an extraordinary snapshot of the internet and gain a great sense of the humanity behind the data. The artwork is world renowned as a masterpiece of electronic and contemporary art and a monument to the ways we find to connect with each other and express our identities online

Sounds like a bit of a busman's holiday for me, but I suppose it's art, so I should drop in.

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

The Reading Evening Post's News in 60 Seconds

Do organisations such as The Guardian and the Reading Evening Post (stick with me on this) offer counselling support for their contributors?

My god, the Internet's a rough place. First there was the whole Max Gogarty flame wars thing which - whatever you think of the Guardian's wisdom and or Gogarty's writing "style" - must have been pretty crushing for a 19 year old. He's probably sh***ing himself even now.

Anyway now the Online Journalism Blog is slagging off the Reading Evening Post whose admittedly rather lame News in 60 Minutes video earns his scorn.

Says the blog:

The 1980s-era production style remains, with the same stock music, garish graphics - and this time, some appalling spinning, zooming, transition wipes.

Stuart’s challenge: to read out the day’s headlines “in just 60 seconds“. Yes, that’s some challenge. Perhaps someone should suggest that idea to BBC3.

One problem: when you take out the credits it’s not actually 60 seconds, which may be why Stuart is drowned out by the closing music at the end, just as David Wright was before him. Do they ever watch their own videos?

I’ll be more barbed: Stuart has the flat delivery of a 12-year-old reading ‘What I did on my summer holidays’, while his eyes flit below the camera like he’s checking his emails as well as reading the headlines. Presumably he’s reading a script. Doesn’t he know what the news is?

All of which may be true, but is it kind? We're trying to get our journalists to experiment with video and forms of video and when you're just starting out you've just got to tell them it's great even if it's complete Gogarty. They are learning, exploring with trepidation. The book (or video) on this kind of journalism isn't written yet and most young hacks have been ill-prepared for this kind of thing for this kind of activity.

Yes, Stuart White - how shall I put it - isn't quite yet in his stride as a video presenter, but I say "good for you for giving it a go, Stuart".

I hope that Surrey and Berkshire Newspapers Limited are doing what we are doing: patting him on the head, encouraging him, training him, pointing out how he might improve his videos. But not flaming him.

Oh and maybe offering him some counselling.

And who knows? Maybe this sort of thing goes down well in Reading.

Anyway, here's his video:

Monday, 18 February 2008

What magazine websites will look like in four years

Very worthwhile reading David Cohn's post on and how it is embracing social media (from user-generated content blogs, to bookmarking, crowdsourcing questions and letting people make business contacts. Cohn's drift is that this is the future for magazine websites and he interviews - at some length - the brains behind, Ed Sussman.

It's more than just about community, it's about changing the relationship between journalists and readers/users, something that we've made some modest strides with ourselves in one of our markets.

Definitely worth reading.

It's the quality of the journalism that counts, not that of the medium

More on the BBC's multimedia experiment with mobile phone video. I'm going to be urging all of our journalists and editors to take a look at the results of the BBC's experiment.

Rory Cellan-Jones explains here the process they used when video blogging from the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

As RCJ admits, opinions are divided over what is the "appropriate" level of quality but that may be mostly about the "appropriate" level of quality for the BBC.

He thinks a tripod and a better mic would probably have worked wonders.

Interesting, though.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

I'm demonstrating using Flickr for photos in blogs

Originally uploaded by Pixel Theif 
Well, I was earlier today, which is why I put up this lovely picture of a dog - to show a group of bloggers how easy it is to find a beautiful and relevant - and legally usable - picture on Flickr that will add visual impact to one's blog.

It's all about using Creative Commons licences of course. These seem to be elegant and simple, but in some ways they are a bit of a nightmare. The more you get into the detail of Creative Commons, the more pitfalls you see - or imagine.

I've been doing a project to look at how people in our organisation can use CC licensed photographs without fear of legal recriminations and with a clear conscience.

One of our directors came up with a fantastic suggestion on hearing me present the project - in return for pictures that we use from CC, we should submit photography from our archives under CC licence so that other people may use them freely.

I thought it was a very wise idea and a good solution to the problem that commercial use of (appropriately licensed) CC photographs may be legally OK, but somehow against the spirit of Creative Commons.

BBC video blogs with mobile phones

Thanks to Trevor Goodman for bringing my attention to this... The BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones and Darren Waters will be video blogging using their mobile phones from the Mobile World Congress.

It's obviously a bit of a gimmick, but for the BBC to be effectively saying the quality of the picture isn't the same thing as the quality of the post should be reassuring to the journalists who still believe that every video report requires expensive kit and technicians. If the BBC is up for it...

Here's the introduction:

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Copyright, fair use and so on - I'm sure you know this already but...

When I started reading this post on the BBC News Editors' Blog about the circumstances under which it would be OK for the BBC to publish people's photographs from Facebook, I was at first completely astounded.

Does the BBC really not know its copyright law? What planet are they on?

With the growth of social networking and personal websites, it has become far easier for the media to get hold of such pictures. If we do use them, can this be justified?

Then I started reading the comments posted under the article and I was rather impressed with the general understanding of photographer's rights.

And then, I'm ashamed to say, I found out something I did not know and should have known about fair dealing. It's referred to by "Robert" who links to an article which explains that:

The UK Copyright Act is in fact very similar to the American one when it comes to news reporting. There is a “fair dealing” exception in the UK for “reporting current events”. The factors which UK judges take into account when applying our fair dealing exception are similar to those applied by US judges for fair use. The UK news reporting exception varies from US law in one crucial respect, however. It doesn’t apply to photographs.

A painting or even a video still can be published without permission in the UK news media, if the publication is “fair”, but a photograph cannot. [...] When passing the 1988 Copyright Act, Parliament made an exception for photographs because it recognised that (a) there would only rarely be cases when a photograph could fairly be used without permission for reporting current events but (b) the media would nevertheless try to rely on a fair dealing defence if it was available, just as CBS tried to rely on fair use, and (c) in practice, this would undermine news photographers’ markets, because the vastly superior economic muscle of the media would make it difficult in practice for photographers to protect their rights.

So, you live and learn. Well, I do, anyway.

Thanks to my colleague Isabel Davies for drawing my attention to the blog entry.