Read All About It … some links of interest 3 November 2011

A few interesting pieces that are worth reading:

First up, anyone working in a media organisation should read remarks made by the chairman of the New York Times, Arthur Sulzberger, earlier this week at LSE. He talks about the digital transformation taking place.

Next, a summary of guardian.co.uk’s new community forum called Notice. HuffPo’s Garrett Goodman outlines the eight key things you should know about it.

Finally, the Guardian Technology Blog tackles a question I too have wondered about: Will HTML5 replace native apps?

 

Advertisements

Interview with New York Times lead tech writer Nick Bilton

Nick Bilton being interviewed by Blathnaid Healy at the Dublin Web Summit

I was reporting for RTE’s digital platforms at the recent Dublin Web Summit. One of the interviews I did was with lead technology writer for the New York Times Nick Bilton. A shorter version of the interview was put out across RTE News Now, RTE.ie etc, but I transcribed the full interview here.

Nick talks about a range of topics including why video games are good for you, what makes tablets so desirable and why big media organisations need to get their heads our of their asses.

Blathnaid Healy: Your book is called We Live in the Future and Here’s How it Works, so tell us how does it work?

Nick Bilton: It works in a lot of different ways but one of the things that I talk about in a very positive light is what the future looks like with technology and devices and how social media is going to create this world of hyper personalisation and all these devices we have are also going to do that. So you can imagine a world where you can watch television with your friends where they’re a thousand miles away and actually comment with them. Or an experience where news starts to follow you around so you have a tablet and an iPhone and a computer and the news is aware of what you’ve read on devices and then can actually distribute the news to you differently. So it’s really this look of having personalised experiences that are really catered to you.

BH: We’ve had a lot of conversation recently about tablets and the mobile market. Where, first of all, are tablets going? Is there a lot of hype around it? Is that hype deserved? And, second of all, we’re all going mobile, where’s it going next?

NB: Well I think one of the things that happened with the computer was that it didn’t really work for a lot of people. Computers were not really designed for most consumers. Even though there were all these analogies between a mouse, a trash can and a desktop it just doesn’t make sense, it’s not intuitive. So when Apple brought out apps and the iPad, and so on, it gave them an opportunity to reach an audience that was scared of computers and is not scared of these devices because there is nothing they can really mess up with them. So that’s why you’ve seen this huge rise in people that have purchased these things and are using them the way they are. They’re replacing their newspapers, they’re replacing their televisions, they’re replacing their radio players. A big part of it is the simplicity. I think when you look at the numbers and the patterns and the research these things are not going anywhere. They are here to stay. And another aspect of that with the mobile side of things, is that companies like Facebook and Twitter they don’t consider themselves services or companies they’ve said in the next couple of years they’ll consider themselves mobile companies.

BH: The web has been blamed recently for people’s lack of concentration, but you disagree with this, you think it’s something that we’ve had for a long time. Can you explain your theory on this?

NB: Well there’s a couple of things. One is when we say kids who play video games – it’s bad for them. I think it comes down to the amount of time people spend on these kind of things. If I literally read just print books every day and didn’t go outside, that would be bad for me too. But if I read books for a couple of hours a day that’s fine and if I play video games for a couple of hours a day that’s fine too. A lot of the neuroscience research show video games are very very good for kids and for their brains and for adults too. A perfect example is around research that was done for the game Tetris, where you drop these cubes and you have to line them up. Researchers in the US actually followed people who had played Tetris before and after. And after playing for a couple of months their brains re-wired themselves in completely different ways where they had better hand-eye coordination, better long-term and short-term memory, a whole list of things. Another really fascinating research project that happened at NYU was the students who were studying to be surgeons, they found that half the students were 60% faster and 40% more accurate than the other half and they couldn’t figure out why. After months and months of research they finally realised that the group that was better had played video games as kids. So video games are actually very very good for us and not bad for us and you can see that all this research that applies to every different type of technology that we use.

BH: So if you’re a kid and you want to be a doctor, what type of video game should you be playing?

NB: Believe it or not, two different types. One is Wii video games like golf and things like that, but the other is first person shooter video games because the reflexes and the way you learn to use your hands and your fingers wire your brain in a way that other experiences can’t. So we assume that they are bad for us, but in reality they’re not. The other thing that I found too with my research, was that we have these fears of technology and we’ve had them forever. We were scared of the telephone, we said people would never leave their homes again. We were scared of trains, we said that people who travelled on trains at over 20 miles an hour, that their brains could explode and we’re now going through this with technology and the internet and I think it’s about finding a balance.

BH: You’ve spoken a lot about the area of newspapers and newspapers being more of an experience, people paying for the experience and not for the paper itself. What do you think it’s going to take for people to pay for that experience online. What type of an experience do news organisations need to give people?

NB: I can go online and find news. Lets just say that Yahoo’s stock crashes tomorrow, I could go read that at the New York Times or I could also read that on a blog or I could read that anywhere. I don’t have to pay for it on the blog. So I can’t say to someone, ‘hey you have to pay for this content’ because it’s available anywhere. I have to create an experience that is better than that. Whether it’s creating a community where I talk to the readers or creating interactivity. Whatever it is I have to be able to say to them ‘this is something worth paying for’.  When you look at the analogy with paper, we pay for that because we know it arrives on our doorstep at six in the morning, we know that the photos are going to look beautiful and that the headlines and the typography, all these things that are going to be there ,that are worth paying for and it’s not just the words on the page it’s the entire package and I don’t think we’ve solved that problem online yet.

BH: What do you think a news organisation can do, to give them that similar experience. Something that you can feel it, you can see it. What do you think they can offer?

NB: The experience of paper that we paid for was the tangible aspect of it. That feeling of sitting there in the morning with your cup of coffee and your sandwich and having this newspaper and developing an experience that flowed around that. Online it is very different because we’re jumping into that experience on different devices throughout the day. But one of the things that I believe you can do is create community. So I know as a technology reporter for the New York Times, my stories have to be vetted and have to go through an editor and they sometimes take a little while to end up on the website. A blog that I compete with like Techcrunch or Mashable or something like that, they can literally post a press release and a headline and that’s breaking news. So what I try to do is create a community with my readers. I respond to them on Twitter, I go on to Facebook and discuss things with them and I also go on to the website nytimes.com and have a conversation. And so it drives people back because we have this kind of rapport with them where we engage with this type of experience together and that’s something that maybe someone will pay for. Creating interactivity and graphics and all these other things. Creating things that your competitors can’t do is creating an experience that people will be interested in.

BH: Do you think the New York Times sees itself now as a media organisation or a newspaper?

NB: It depends who you ask. I don’t tell people, necessarily, that i work for a newspaper. I tell people I work for the New York Times. I write for a blog, I do videos for the Times, I do stories for the paper that end up online. It’s definitely moving to being a fully multimedia organisation. You have multimedia graphics, you have a video department, you have a radio department that creates podcasts, you have writers, you have all these different things, interactive slide shows. So I don’t necessarily think it’s a newspaper anymore. I think it’s a full-fledged news organisation.

BH: It (New York Times) recently announced good results in terms of its digital subscriptions, following on from this metred paywall that it has. Is that a model that can be rolled out to other news organisations?

NB: I don’t know. I think the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and places like that are in a different league but at the same time there are other pathways for news organisations. I think the question other news organisations need to ask themselves is, if I were to start my company today, would I have a printing press? Would I deliver a newspaper every morning? Would I put my video out on broadcast television and have to pay the fees that go along with that? And when you look at blogs that set up they start with a couple of people sitting in their bedroom reporting stories or blogging or whatever it is that they’re doing. So that’s what these big news organisations have to compete with. And I think it’s about finding the balance between how much you should be paying for the content you’re creating and how much you create that is a much less investive experience than you’ve had to in the past. I mean if you think about the New York Times, for example, there’s printing presses there’s delivery trucks there’s literally millions and millions of dollars that go into creating this piece of paper that goes out into the world every day.

BH: Massive legacy costs make it difficult to compete with a start-up companies. Looking to the future for big media organisations, do you have much hope for them?

NB: No, I have a hope for them, but I think they kind of have to get their head out of their ass. Look at some of these organisations that refuse to put their content online still. Look at Simon and Schuster, for example, which is a book publishing company. They do this thing call windowing. When they get a big author that they know people are willing to … you know they really want the book, they will actually hold the book in digital form for three to four months because they want people to go to the store and buy the print copy. It’s ridiculous. It’s like telling somebody ‘here buy this digital camera but we won’t let you see the photos for three months later’. It doesn’t make any sense. I think that these organisations, rather than trying to push consumers in the opposite direction, have to embrace what the consumers want and figure out a way to work with them because they can’t control what they are going to do, they’re going to do it anyway.

All about the NYT’s paywall

Nieman Journalism Lab has been offering up excellent analysis on the New York Times paywall/fence (it went up earlier this week in Canada and it will be in place later this month in the US).

To get acquainted with the complicated metering approach, learn about the gaps already found and take a sneak peak at what it looks like, check out some of Nieman’s coverage.

-Blathnaid

Read All About It – some links and news (23 July 2010)

First up, a rather wonderful guide to digital storytelling, which is designed for educators. However journalists with little exposure to these types of skills could benefit greatly from it. The guide is compiled by Sylvia Rosenthal Tolisano – I found it via Twitter but cannot find the original Twitter link!

Next, a fine round-up of relatively inexpensive multimedia equipment from Adam Westbrook. Great for those starting out or adding to their repertoire.

Hyperlocal alert! Will Perrin has a very nice slideshow, which provides an action plan for free and effective local journalism based on local authority data. Pay particular attention to the final slide (slide 18).

Excellent post from Advancing the Story called the ’10 laws of multimedia’. Quick, relevant and to the point. A must read.

There has been plenty of discussion about this article in the New York Times on reporter burnout – but here’s the link just in case you missed it.

Finally an amusing link from 10,000 words on journalists learning programming skills.

Festival bound with Clockwork Noise, have a good weekend,
B

Limber up news organisations

Once upon a time the equation for funding a news organisation was a lot more straightforward. Most of the budget came from a combination of advertising (inc classifieds) and either cover price or subscriber fees and sometimes tax-payer’s money.

Things have become more complicated recently. These days organisations, through trial and error, are attempting to come up with new ways to fund journalism.

Today, the new ready-for-a-paywall Times and Sunday Times websites launched. Later this year the New York Times will try out a metered pay model.

However, Silicon Valley Watcher’s Tom Foremski has another less-straighforward suggestion dubbed the ‘Heinz 57’ model, which I think is very interesting.

I’m sometimes asked what the new business model for media will be. My answer is that it will be a “Heinz 57” model. The Heinz food brand often has “57 varieties” in its promotions. And that’s a good metaphor for the emerging media business model.

He highlights the case of Australia’s Fairfax Media, which media consultant Frédéric Filloux looked at in February.

Filloux says Fairfax Digital (the part of Fairfax Media that runs hundreds of publications, websites and more than a dozen radio stations) has ‘no less than 15 revenue streams’ and it has an ‘entire team devoted to strategic advertising’ to react fast to changes and maximise ad money.

Filloux lists seven lessons to take from Fairfax Digital, which he expands in his post.

1. Accept the coming digital domination
2. Focus on reader engagement
3. Be an online company. Period.
4. Bet on multiple business resources
5. Capture readers and users one group after the other
6. Control your advertising innovation
7. Stay awake

The launch of the two News International sites today has put a spotlight on how news is funded and it’s going to be fascinating to see whether it can work. But I think there’s something in what Foremski and Filloux are highlighting.

Organisations must be flexible going forward. There will not be another simple equation, no answer to the 64-million-dollar question. A multiple-revenue model may be more complicated but it would hedge the bets, however organisations, no matter how big or small, need to be limber and able to react fast like Fairfax does.

Lots to think about,

B

Good storytelling links, 6 May 2010

Boston.com has a very powerful selection of more than 30 photographs on its ‘Big Picture’ feature that show the devastation caused by floods in Tennessee. The series of images convey the destruction and loss clearer than most articles or videos could. Take time to look through them if you can.

Boston.com's The Big Picture

Some Irish users could complain about the time it takes to load these large images. But bear in mind most people in the US have faster connections. (Must return to examine how slow connections could be holding back certain forms of storytelling in Ireland).

The New York Times featured a great infographic showing the inter-linking of European debt. To explain this in  written form would have been taxing for the reader but this, quite simple, graphic tells the story so well.

NYT Inforgraphic; Europe's Web Of Debt

Third example comes from The Guardian’s web coverage of the elections. It has a nice feature where it’s asking voters to tweet when they have voted and tag their tweet with their postcode so that it can be represented on a map to illustrate voter turnout. Good interactive way to tell the story even though it’s limited to Twitter users. (When I checked it out it didn’t seem to include Northern Ireland)


Have you seen any good storytelling this week?

B

What’s happening in hyperlocal…

Yesterday, the New York Times announced a collaboration with New York University to cover local news in the East Village.

NYT journalist Richard G Jones will edit the Local East Village site, developed by staff and faculty at the University’s Arthur L Carter Journalism Institute. The site will ‘live’ on nytimes.com.

The Times has already collaborated with another journalism school on a hyperlocal project in Brooklyn, it has a venture in Chicago and an upcoming Bay Area link-up in San Francisco.

Speaking about the most recent announcement, the Editor of Digital Initiatives at NYT, Jim Schachter, says:

We want to continue to expand our network of collaborations, in the New York area and across the country, through associations with individuals, companies and institutions that share our values — foremost, increasing the volume and scope of quality journalism about issues that matter.

The new East Village site is not the only recent development in local news.

AOL is expanding its local news venture patch.com. According to a report last week from Business Insider, the group is planning to grow the number of local news websites from 30 to ‘hundreds’.

Citing an internal communication with employees, Business Insider reports that AOL said it wants to be ‘the global and local leader in sourcing, creating, producing and delivering high quality content.’

Insider says:

Patch is already growing fast. It served just 12 communities in New Jersey and Connecticut as of October 2009, when it announced plans to expand to another 11. It currently covers about 30.

Insider also reports that AOL is out at events (recently in NYU) seeking to hire journalism grads.

Writing about the AOL news, GigaOM’s Matthew Ingram says if patch.com is a failure it will be the biggest blow to hyperlocal yet.

Across the Atlantic, guardian.co.uk took its first steps into the world of hyperlocal with its Leeds website. Sites for Edinburgh and Cardiff are on the way.

Journalism.co.uk says Guardian Editor Alan Rusbridger told Twitter the move was a ‘tiny toe in local web water’.

On her blog, Director of Digital Content for Guardian News and Media, Emily Bell says:

A hugely important part of this project has been the involvement of MySociety, who we’ve collaborated with to provide customised versions of their civic tools, allowing and encouraging local residents to report issues, contact their representatives and generally become engaged in the governance and care of their locality. This is an important partnership for us because we share many of the same values with MySociety, and it has been very valuable to work with them on a project like this.

I think hyperlocal has a big future – I have thought that for a long time.

I find it bothersome, however, that it mostly, at least in the US, remains the preserve of citizen journalists, journalism students and recent grads. Aside from the person tasked with being the editor, it seems the big names or more established journalists tend to be missing.

How do organisations expect readers to take local news seriously if they are not throwing major muscle, including journalists, behind it.

Local news is important. After all it can have the most immediate impact on readers’ lives and could possibly drive them to other parts of a media organisation’s operation.

B