Thursday, 27 November 2008

Mumbai, twitter and the news

Seems like just about everyone has clocked Twitter as the breaking news-source of the moment.

Techcrunch has some interesting stuff and there's a thoughtful piece by Matthew Ingram about the question of whether or not news organisations should report tweets as fact.

It's something that struck me when looking at The Guardian's (abandoned) live blog which contained the entry:

One of the Australian victims has been named on the microblogging site Twitter.
That's quite a significant statement, especially if you happened to be a relative of the (alleged) victim.

Matthew Ingram argues:
Obviously, no one wants a loved one to be worried by false reports. But at the same time, chaotic situations result in poor information flow — even to the “professional” journalists who are working at the scene. First-hand and second-hand reports on Twitter are no worse. Should anyone take them as gospel, or the final version of the events? No. Obviously, at some point someone has to check the facts, confirm reports, analyze the outcome, and so on. News reporting and journalism are much more of a process than they are a discrete thing. But as I have tried to argue before, Twitter reports are a valuable “first draft of history,” and that is a pretty good definition of the news.
That's true, but I think that what those of us working in new media forget is that millions of people have either no idea or only a vague idea of what twitter is.

If you know what twitter is then you can calculate your response to take account of the cavils and risks; if you don't, and you trust the BBC (for example) as your source of news it's a different story.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Why editors don't like doing podcasts or video

A typically sensitive piece from my colleague across the pond on the fears of speaking and the preference for the written word. A wise starting point for anyone looking to encourage journalists into podcasting or video journalism.

YouTube Contest Challenges Users To Make A 'Good' Video

YouTube Contest Challenges Users To Make A 'Good' Video

Saturday, 8 November 2008

A masterclass in Internet forensics

Utterly absorbing account of how one man's curiosity about mysterious lawn signs advertising dating services led him to appreciate the brilliance of a $45 Million Internet business.

Essential reading for journalists who need to know how to prise information about the Internet out of the Internet.

Friday, 7 November 2008

The mischief of crowds

So, Rick Astley is the Best Act Ever.

The Rick Rollers have succeeded in getting Astley crowned in the MTV Europe Music Awards.

All credit to MTV which has been quite good-natured about it:

"We've been well and truly Rickrolled,” said Richard Godfrey, a senior vice-president at MTV and executive producer of the awards.
Sadly it seems that much of the voting wasn't true crowd-sourcing:
“People set up computer programs to bombard the website. They could be sitting in Croydon, but they made it look like they were voting from the Philippines. We put in all sorts of blocks because we wanted to be as fair as possible, but it made no difference.”
If true, that makes the victory hollow in a way that it wouldn't otherwise have been.

Still, all credit to MTV for taking it on the chin. What a shame that David Bowie didn't manage to summon up the same courage in 1990.

Bowie had announced that the set list for his greatest hits tour would be decided by a telephone vote. NME campaigned for people to vote for Bowie's cringingly awful 1973 hit "The Laughing Gnome"resulting in the voting system being scrapped.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Coming round to twitter

One of the mindsets of the mass media is that we do not understand "small" very well.

Our magazines are geared around substantial (if targeted) circulations and we send the same messages to all of them; our websites are optimised to attract as much traffic as possible.

And, if the truth be told, some of our attempts to introduce "community" have been hindered by our tendency to look for big numbers by using traditionally successful tools such as mass marketing emails.

We currently have the luxury of having three Community Editors who do not yet have communities to run, by which I mean they do not have community sections on their websites.

Together we have been developing what we're grandly calling a "social media outreach programme" which really means becoming part of the communities already out there and linking up with the (relatively few) people in their markets who are already hooked in to the whole social media thing.

It has been a very instructive exercise and the response so far has been positive. Twitter accounts have been set up by Computer Weekly and Contract Journal, both of whom have managed to achieve a tone and a restraint which are alien to our traditional publishing. CJ was even spontaneously applauded by one follower for not making the same mistake as its rival and twittering every article it publishes.

They have relatively few followers compared to the big boys but they are the right people. We've got a few other plans up our sleeves in a similar vein and I'm actually rather optimistic about our ability to think small.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Jeremy Clarkson row: the media will eat itself

Working for a large publishing company one's colleagues pop up unexpectedly all over the media. Cometh the plane crash, cometh the man (usually Kieran Daly or David Learmount).

Other editors pop up less predictably so I was delighted to see one of our folk quoted in the BBC's (non-)story about Jeremy Clarkson upsetting some people.

"Change gear, change gear, check mirror, murder a prostitute, change gear, change gear, murder. That's a lot of effort in a day," said Clarkson, who was test-driving a truck at the time.

So the BBC rings Truck & Driver for the industry view and our man on the ground refuses to teh fan the flames:

Will Shiers, editor of Truck & Driver magazine said "a small number of drivers were offended by the murdering prostitute reference".

"On the whole, I thought the show was really entertaining.

"If anything it succeeded in demonstrating to car drivers just how difficult it is to drive a truck."

Good one Will. The last thing we need is another tasteless overpaid BBC presenter "scandal".

Update: More insight from Will.