Archive for October, 2010

Huffington Post partners with Center For Public Integrity to create one of the largest investigative newsrooms in U.S.

October 19th, 2010

Arianna Huffington, photo by JD Lasica

The Huffington Post and the Center for Public Integrity have joined forces to create what they’re billing as “one of the largest investigative newsrooms” in the United States.

The Huffington Post will merge its non-profit journalism division, The Huffington Post Investigative Fund, into the Center for Public Integrity. The aim is to strengthen digital delivery of nonpartisan investigative journalism.

“I’m delighted about this new partnership,” Arianna Huffington, editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post and chair of the Fund’s board, said in a news release. “When we launched the Huffington Post Investigative Fund a year and a half ago, we set out to build a hybrid model for the future of investigative journalism — aligning a nonprofit journalism center with a large publishing platform. It exceeds all our expectations that we are so quickly able to scale up our small investigative fund by merging with a powerhouse like the Center. Too often, important stories are only covered after things go bad, as happened with the war in Iraq and the economic crisis. We need more stories uncovered before disaster strikes. I believe this partnership will help with this great project of uncovering.”

Under the unified umbrella the two organizations’ staff will be merged, bringing the total number of employees to 50. The companies say the new combined editorial team offer a unique mix of journalists, computer-aided reporting experts and digital media producers.

“We are delighted to bring the Investigative Fund under the Center’s umbrella,” said The Center for Public Integrity’s Executive Director William Buzenberg. “This represents a healthy marriage of reporting resources that will strengthen our ability to generate high-impact, independent and unbiased investigations and reach a broader audience.”

The following Huffington Post Investigative Fund staff will join the Center: Executive Director Nick Penniman, Editor Keith Epstein, reporters Ben Protess, three-time Pulitzer finalist David Heath, Pulitzer nominee Fred Schulte, Emma Schwartz, Health Care Analyst Wendell Potter, and Kimberly Leonard.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation will contribute a $250,000 grant to the Center to support the new news operation. The foundation is a current founder of both the Center for Public Integrity and The Huffington Post Investigative Fund.

The Knight Foundation recently committed $1.7 million to the Center specifically to expand its digital media platforms.

- Cross-posted on Future of Media

Toronto Star uses Groupon to drive subscriptions

October 18th, 2010

Toronto Star Groupon

As the debate and discussion about the future of print media continues, the Toronto Star is moving to social media and the Web to promote its printed edition through a partnership with Groupon.

Groupon is the leading deal-of-the-day site that offers group discounts on everything from spa services, to restaurant deals, to discounts at major retailers and more. Deals are offered to members by email and through social media.

Today, the Toronto Star is being featured on Groupon with a deal that offers people the chance to get a six-month subscription to the Saturday edition of the Toronto Star for $15 (regular priced $37).

A two-year-old start-up, Groupon is the fastest-growing company in Web history, generating more than $500 million in revenue this year according to Forbes. Valued at $1.35 billion, Groupon has seen competitors and copy-cat sites crop up in markets all over the world in an effort to cash-in on the group-buying craze.

In fact, the growing popularity of group-buying sites prompted Torstar Digital, the company’s digital arm, to acquire Groupon competitor WagJag recently.

With Groupon’s massive reach and proven track record for selling, it’s no surprise the Toronto Star is looking for Groupon to help drive subscription numbers.

The ironic part of this deal is that companies used to turn to newspapers to get their message far and wide, and now newspapers are turning to a start-up to achieve the same exposure.

- Cross-posted on Future of Media

ESPN taps into power of Facebook ‘Like’ button for follow-ups and targeted distribution

October 15th, 2010

Photo by Prescott Pym

ESPN’s Cricinfo.com, the news site dedicated to all things related to cricket, has announced some new features for its audience that help news get to a targeted demographic easily.

Like countless other news sites, ESPNcricinfo.com has been using the Facebook “Like” button to allow readers to express their interest in certain news stories.

The problem with a ubiquitous Like button is that it’s difficult to segment or target specific users based on their interests. For example, a reader may Like a story because it focuses on their favourite team, or because it’s about their favourite player, or because they hate the team that lost. Editors and social media managers have no real way of knowing what specific element of a story the reader liked, and there is no way to follow-up with that reader with supplementary news. That is changing, however, as the site announced new targeted “Like” buttons for specific parts of each story.

In a blog post, ESPNcricinfo.com social media manager Will Luke announced the targeted “Like” buttons will allow ESPNcricinfo.com to personalize news to offer stories to specific groups of people.

“If you actively decide that you like a particular player, or your favourite team, then we feel that’s a strong enough indication to us that you’re interested in hearing more about that person or country,” writes Luke. “So now, if you’ve already liked a certain individual on ESPNcricinfo.com, you’ll receive any related stories which are published on the site, straight to your Facebook wall. It includes a summary of the story and a link, so you can go straight to it or share it with your friends.”

An example of what this looks like from ESPNcricinfo.com:

The ability to personalize news and deliver specific information to readers who have demonstrated an interest in the subject presents a new and potentially powerful way to distribute content.

Outside of just sports, any news organization can customize Like buttons to target specifics on their site. For example, someone who likes something in “Business” may be more likely to care about that subject than Arts, for example. What would be the purpose of pushing an Arts story out to all fans on Facebook if you know a segment of the population doesn’t care about that topic? Why not target?

The same can be done for niche topics or trending news topics, such as the Chilean mine rescue; a Like button on a topic page would allow a news organization to push out updates to people interested in that subject without pushing that content to just everyone on Facebook.

In the age of personalized news, the Like button gives readers the power to select topics or items they enjoy reading, while at the same time providing news organizations with the ability to target specific people who they know are interested in their content.

Cross-posted on Future of Media, Photo Courtesy Prescott Pym

Driverless taxi can be booked, monitored using iPad

October 15th, 2010

Something cool for all the tech and science geeks like me out there:

Scientists in Germany have unveiled a new self-driving car that lets passengers call for a ride via an Apple iPad (video below). The driverless cars locate the passengers via GPS built into the mobile device.

The technology, an autonomous vehicle named “MadeInGermany” (MIG), was designed by computer scientist Raul Rojas and colleagues from Freie Universitat Berlin. According to the developers, the car is equipped with a GPS tracker, three cameras, radar sensors and several laser scanners that lets it “think.”

“[MIG] is equipped with new sensor technology and thus capable of sensing its environment and autonomously navigating in everyday traffic situations,” the developers say. “The vehicle recognizes red lights and stop signs and ‘knows’ how to implement the right of way rules.”

With MIG, passengers use an iPad or smartphone app to call for the driverless cab. Using the GPS capabilities built-into each device, the automated taxi can automatically find the passenger’s location. It then determines the best route to get to the passenger and tells him or her the estimated time of arrival. The taxi then drives on its own, without a driver.

Developers say the sensor technology creates a three-dimensional image of the street so the car can detect pedestrians, bicycles, road signs and markings. It can also respond to traffic lights and come to a halt in the event something unexpected happens.

Once the passenger is picked up, the technology can also be switched off to allow him or her to take control of the vehicle.

Report: BBC spent $320,000 covering rescue of Chilean miners

October 14th, 2010

The story of the Chilean miners trapped in a copper and gold mine for 69 days has captured the attention and support of everyone. Journalists flocked into Chile to cover the dramatic rescue, and images and live video were broadcast around the world.

So what did it cost a news organization to send an entourage of journalists to Chile to cover the rescue? According to the Guardian, the bill was $320,000 USD (£200,000) to send 40 BBC staff to Chile. 

The Guardian says a leaked memo confirms that, as BBC world news editor, Jon Williams, sent a memo to fellow executives indicating the cost of reporting the rescue will exceed $160,000 USD (£100,000).

The bill was so steep, in fact, The Guardian reports the BBC is left without enough money to cover climate talks in Cancun, Mexico.

“We had a very constructive planning meeting this afternoon during which we set out the costs and scale of ambition for the Chilean mine rescue – and some of the consequences for other events in the coming months,” writes Williams. “Tomorrow I’m meeting [name omitted by Guardian] and [name omitted by Guardian] to prepare a paper for newsboard. The financial situation is serious: we are currently £67k beyond our agreed overspend of £500k – newsgathering’s costs for Chile will exceed £100,000.”

Williams notes the over-spend in Chile will mean the BBC will scale back editor deployments to the G20; reduced presence at the Lisbon Nato summit and “much reduced ambition”; one single correspondent will be sent to the Cancun climate summit and no live reporting will be available; and the BBC will look to outsource coverage of Davos;

“I apologise to those of you who’ve already invested time and effort in doing so,” Williams writes. “However, it’s right that we remain flexible and we need to act on the decisions taken today. We cannot afford mission creep later in the year. It marks an important moment in terms of agreeing a way forward between input and output.”

The full memo from Williams can be read here.

- Cross-posted on Future of Media