Thursday, 25 September 2008

Something lighter. But still a bit scary.

Historic "Blockbuster" Store Offers Glimpse Of How Movies Were Rented In The Past

Is news too important to be left to the market?

I don't get involved in the news side of our operations very much other than to try and seduce journalists into spending time interacting with their audience but I do, of course, see the doom and gloom every day about the future of newspapers in particular and especially in the US.

The ding-dong going on at Roy Greenslade's blog over the alleged declining news values of the Telegraph (among others) is interesting. As his mole describes it:

"To paraphrase, comment is cheap but facts are expensive. And I don't trust many media organisations to make the investment required to uncover new facts, which I believe should be the currency of journalism, when there is so much cheaper content available to them."

Among the accusations flying around is the notion that the Telegraph has a policy of recycling news from other papers. I have mixed feelings about this as a criticism (after all, it works quite well in the blogosphere). From the point of view of a Telegraph journalist it must be pretty depressing, but from a Telegraph reader's point of view it's probably neither here nor there - but on balance it's probably better to hear about something interesting that was reported in the Daily Mail (probably a bad example) the day before than not to hear about it at all.

Of course, even what we take to be quality journalism isn't always as good as it should be but as the economic pressures and online migration and the rise of free newspapers take their toll, you do wonder where it's all going to end.

For all its faults, thank goodness for the BBC. Is the news too important to be left to the free market? Or does the market just need to re-think - perhaps reinventing wire services and developing more co-operation between competitors (as local papers have done in the US).

But when I think about all this to much I get depressed. I refuse to accept the free papers in London (Metro, London Lite and whatever the other one is called; none of them noted for their incisive journalism) for what I grandly like to think of as ethical issues mostly do do with the waste. But the vast majority of the travelling public take them and at the end of the day the public gets what the public wants and the market delivers it. If they (in viable numbers) don't really want news, then what's the future for news?

Update: forgot to mention that this happened to day too.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Passion Points

Oops. I coined a new piece of jargon yesterday. Didn't mean to. It just slipped out.

I was looking for a way of describing both the people who are excited and the things that are exciting in our markets.

And out it came: Passion Points.

Let's look at the second instance: things. The Passion Points are the things that excite our audience. This isn't generally the day to day stuff of their business lives (our sites are all b2b remember) - it's the stuff that generates real passion and excitement.

In agriculture we refer to it as "tractor p*rn"; in road transport, it's big lorries. Boys and their toys, I suppose.

When encouraging user contribution or engagement, these passion points are the way to go - best return for least effort.

Of course in some cases, people are passionate about their jobs - it's a vocation. Our CareSpace community for social workers has taken off really well because these people are passionate about what they do (I'm reasonably sure they don't do it for the money).

The other application of Passion Points is people. Who are the journalists in our organisation that are really passionate about what they're covering? This is important because the biggest "threat" to our business as publishers comes largely from bloggers who are often passionate non-professionals. It's their passion that's makes them exciting and makes it difficult for "career journalists" (those who are journalists by trade and move from market to market writing about different things) to compete with them.

Luckily we have many impassioned and dedicated journalists working for us but I confess that when I was an editor here some years ago I would have failed the passion test; in those days we were only competing with other trade magazines.

But what about the people we employ who - although diligent and skilled - are not passionate? How do we help them compete?

I'm reminded of the late Bob Monkhouse's observation about success in showbusiness: "The secret of success is sincerity. Fake that, and you've got it made."

If only it were true.

The HRSpace Photo Poll and XpertHR recently launched their new community space aimed at HR professionals.

HRSpace is already building very nicely but while they the team are at the CIPD conference in Harrogate they wanted to take the opportunity to draw attention to it through something a bit different.

The result - a "photo poll". They're asking people to jot down the HR priority for the next 12 months on a card and have their photo taken with it.

Simple but effective on so many levels - real people, a smattering of text, easy to do and quite engaging.

View the slideshow of responses so far here.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Wall Street Journal builds walled community

Community 2.0 drew my attention to this article on ComputerWorld about the Wall Street Journal dipping a toe into the web 2.0 waters with a walled community which does the usual stuff - 0rofiles, form groups, add photos, interact with others - but only to paid subscribers.

As the article suggests, there are several reasons why this seems to be a bad idea - when you're playing a numbers game (which community is - the hard part is getting critical mass) you can't really afford to be too picky. Plus you can't invite your friends to join you there unless they too are (or become) subscribers.

On the other hand, the exclusiveness of such an online community does have its merits - keeping out the internet nutters, interacting with your peers in a safe environment.

We have some plans for experimenting on the edges of this approach in a couple of our markets so I'll be interested to know how WSJ's initiative fares. embraces chogging

The big event in the HR calendar is the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development's annual conference which for yonks has been held in the spa town of Harrogate.

This year's (currently running) will be the last in the Yorkshire town so it's something of a milestone (Harrogate, on the other hand, transport-wise was always something of a millstone).

Anyway, I'm delighted to see that are chogging (live blogging) some of the sessions using They're doing a great job with it - here's an example.

CoverItLive made released quite a few enhancements this month and amazingly it is still a free service. New features include (I quote from their own email):

Private backchannel messaging for you and your Panelists/Producers: Now you can send a private message to the other people running your live blog without your readers knowing about it. In the past, many of you have had to use a separate messaging product or email to say things to each other like:
"Let me handle the questions today"
"I need to take a break for 10 minutes"
"Are you ready to go live with that Qik interview?"
This feature is particularly useful for covering a conference where someone is coordinating several contributors throughout the day.

Cosmetic changes that make a BIG difference:
- Pictures now come with a 'zoom' feature if there is a larger or higher resolution picture available (Gawker Media...that was for you)
- Pictures are now shown in the body of the live blog; not as a popup window (Liverpool Daily Post...that was for you)
- Polling questions are now shown in full in Replay mode; not as a popup window (No one asked for this, but it looks much better)
All they need to do now to make it fantastic is to introduce a feature which enables you to suck out the results into a text file so that you can offer an edited text version to your users (and to the search engines)...

Online tools for journalists

We had a meeting this morning to come up with a plan for helping each of our websites to move forward in whatever direction they want.

One of the proposals was for us to "give ourselves" to anyone who wanted us to help them make use of online tools in their journalism.

Happily there have been quite a few posts on the subject recently such as this one and this one to keep me up to date.

But every time I read of someone raving about something I've not heard of before, something inside me wants to cry out, "Stop! Please stop creating new social media tools! Please." I can't keep up. Never heard of dipity before, for example. Please don't make me get my head around any more.

Maybe I need a holiday. Oh, hang on, I just had one.

Oh dear.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

IT superheroes

I've been away for a while but I'm back. Lots of exciting progress here and things to report, but for the moment, here's a rather charming initiative by the search for an IT Superhero and some rather good video to promote it: