My fast growing appreciation for Facebook

I always believed Facebook was a great platform for news organisations but even more so following RTE’s social media coverage of the General Election. Analysing the stats post-election was really interesting and revealing.

Neworld Blog reports 77% of all Irish internet users use Facebook, according to recent figures from Comscore.

(The) average Irish person spends 4hours 10 minutes on Facebook per month, well ahead of competitors Google sites (2hrs 51mins), Microsoft sites (1hr 36mins) and RTE.ie (22 mins). (Comscore)

According to Ipsos MRBI, 1.75 million or 50% of the entire Irish population, over the age of 15 years, use Facebook. 175,000 new Irish users joined the site in the last six months.

Facebook’s own figures estimate there are 1,865,000 Irish accounts on the social network.

With 1.8m Irish accounts and growing it’s hard to argue about Facebook’s dominance.

So we know there’s an audience, but what are they looking for?

Vadim Lavrusik over at Mashable has a very interesting post about Facebook’s growing role in social journalism. It even points to a news organisation that is moving its community news website totally over to Facebook. (Note: Lavrusik has just been appointed Facebook’s first journalism programme manager)

CyberJournalist has a post with some nice quick tips for publishing content to Facebook (this link has five tips,  there are eight if you download the document).

After using Facebook successfully during the General Election and seeing the power of the platform first hand – I’m hoping to experiment even more with it soon.

-B

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

Guardian’s News Feed WordPress plugin – a smart move

Last week, the Open Platform part of Guardian News & Media launched a beta version of a WordPress plugin called The Guardian’s News Feed.

Once installed, the plugin enables WordPress bloggers to access and re-publish articles, video, audio, cartoons, polls, tables, quizzes, crosswords and interactive media from guardian.co.uk. In exchange for the content, Guardian serves up an advert and brands the material.

Bloggers must be registered with Open Platform and have an API key to partake in the beta.

When using content, bloggers must agree not to alter it in any way. (Here’s one good example of it being used)

I think this is a very smart move by GNM. Instead of fighting an endless battle trying to prevent bloggers from using content (like the AP has) it is finding a way to get new sources of revenue and readership.

It’s a very clever use of the web and considering it is already making this content available online for free it just adds another spoke leading back to the GNM hub.

This is effectively mass syndication of content by GNM – can’t wait to see how it plays out,

-B

Journalists and smart phones – a good combination

Move over backpack journalism we have entered the era of pocket journalism!

News organisations have been using material gathered on mobile phones for some time now, but mostly it has been photos or videos shot by ‘citizen’ journalists.

However more organisations are equipping their staff journalists with better phones to capture material from the field quickly.

In this interesting article over at Poynter, Damon Kiesow talks to Ventura County Star’s Visuals Editor Ray Meese about using the iPhone to break news.

The paper last year purchased six iPhone 3Gs for the staff and trained much of the newsroom in basic video and audio capture, editing and transmission. Meese said the best approach to making this work is simply to lead by example. “Just go out and do it. If you do that one or two times people see the result and see (the video) on the website 30 minutes after the event happens.” That’s what gets people to buy-in to the concept, he says.

Meese elaborates on the kit being used alongside the iPhone:

Hardware
-Two different battery boosters (the Mophie Juice Pack Air and the Griffin PowerBlock Reserve)
– The Owle Bubo, which lets you attach an external microphone, a cold shoe, a tripod or an interchangeable lense
-Xshot case, which has a tripod adapter

Software (apps)
-PhotoGene for still photos
-ReelDirector for editing video
-ITimelapse for editing video
-Pixelpipe for transferring content (currently unavailable)

So you might need big pockets in many ways for that lot, but as Meese points out smart phones are being improved all the time and many of the items you have to add on or need for improved performance may be integrated into future models.

He goes as far as saying that it is feasible that a smart phone could eventually replace a still camera, video camera and audio recorder. I agree with that.

Now for the results.

Here are some videos recently shot by journalists at the Ventura County Star. They don’t indicate on their site, which videos are shot using an iPhone but after watching a few I’d say these two probably were:

‘Bear rescued from tree in Oxnard’ Video by Staff Reporter Adam Foxman (great part at about 1.40 – easy to see why this has good ratings)

‘Two people injured in Oxnard house fire’ Video by Staff Reporter Adam Foxman

What strikes me about both of these videos is even though the quality is akin to that of any footage taken on a good mobile phone these were produced with a journalist’s eye.

I think the Ventura County Star shows the opportunities that lie in pairing journalists with new technology.

Visual Editor Meese will be taking part in a webinar next month (17 June) called ‘Tools for Mobile Journalists’.

Putting the 17 June in my diary and downloading new apps,
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

Pierre Omidyar’s Honolulu local news site goes live

I’m watching the development of Honolulu Civil Beat with great interest.

Backed by the founder of Ebay, Pierre Omidyar, the online news project was launched earlier this week.

Subscribers will play a key part in the operation, which allows them to discuss issues affecting their communities through a concept called the ‘civil square’ hosted by journalists with different expert areas.

In an article on the site headlined ‘A New Approach to Journalism’, Founding Editor John Temple (formerly of the Rocky Mountain News) explains what it hopes to provide:

We start this news service with the belief that we’re here to serve you. That means our daily work is to ask the important questions citizens might have in the face of the complex issues facing our community. And to answer them in a way that helps members reach an informed opinion, based on our reporting and the discussion that will take place as we together create the new civic square.

You’ll find that our initial coverage is centered around five fundamental beats: Hawaii, Honolulu, Education, Land and Money. For each of these coverage areas, we have identified critical issues – and now that you’re here we hope you’ll help us sharpen our focus.

The monthly fee of $19.99 to use the site is generating the most comment.

Here’s Daily Finance’s take on the pay model:

Skeptics say no one will pay such a princely sum (in Internet terms) to participate in a local journalism site, and a lack of participants could doom the online “civic square” to failure.

But Omidyar’s new startup could be timing the bottom of the paid-content market perfectly. For starters, the subtle reeducation of Web users that not all content is free is well underway. The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times are all on paths to paid content in their online forms. Since these are “must read” publications that drive lots of other news coverage, it’s hard to ignore this trend.

Paidcontent’s view:

If they were aiming for a straight news service, then it makes sense as a business-model decision to let people know from the top that getting a quality product will take their financial support. But a civic-square vision carries a different kind of connotation and a suggestion of more, not less, openness. The implicit suggestion is that only people who pay are worth listening to. That seems to run counter to Omidyar’s description of the richness and diversity of Hawaii and “discussions that involve a diversity of points of view, conducted in a respectful and good-faith search for common ground and meaningful compromise.”

With a billionaire’s backing this project has plenty of room for experimentation, but it will be interesting to see what the people Honolulu make of it!

B

Foursquare – is it useful for journalists?

Journalism lecturer Jeremy Littau’s thoughts on Foursquare and how it might be used by journalists:

Foursquare is a platform full of journalistic potential because adding information to the record is what we do. Did a local business fail a health inspection recently? Right now we put that in the newspaper, which people are reading less, or on a Web site, where people don’t know how to find it among mountains of information. There is value in journalists adding news and verified information to the record (including links for more information) that would enhance a person’s knowledge and ability to experience (or avoid) a place.

Foursquare has been tipped as the next big thing in social media – so it’s worth getting acquainted with it.

Read the full post here