Archive for the ‘social media’ category

Digital Journal offers editorial blueprint for newsroom success

August 16th, 2011

My company, Digital Journal, issued the following press release this morning:

After receiving widespread praise for its Global Editorial Meetings, Digital Journal today released feedback to give newsrooms and editors a chance to hear about the types of content people are looking for.

Throughout the month of July, Digital Journal hosted online story meetings that were open to the public. The live-chat discussions invited reporters, citizen journalists, bloggers and average news consumers into the editorial process to help shape the coverage being produced by Digital Journal. Participants were invited to provide input on the type of content of interest to them.

Participants interacted with Digital Journal editors and management to express their thoughts on stories and topics they believe were under-reported; emerging trends and topics that needed more media attention; and geographies and local stories that were being missed by the press. Readers chatted live and responded to polls and questions, and that feedback was used to assign stories to thousands of contributors via Digital Journal’s content assignment technology.

“We learned a lot about what people look for in a news site, and we were surprised by some of the feedback we got,” said Digital Journal CEO, Chris Hogg. “One of the most interesting things we noticed was that local content matters to people, but those people are also likely to read local content from other regions if the right context is provided. Several people told us they will read foreign news coverage if it’s presented to them through a single content source, and they really enjoy reading about news from other cities.”

Several key themes surfaced in the Global Editorial Meetings, including:

  • Local content is widely sought-out by news consumers, but the majority are also interested in local stories from other geographies when context is provided.
  • Readers are increasingly turning to social media sites to discover new information, following content feeds from media organizations on Twitter and Facebook because they are often curated and timelier than a website.
  • Readers view their social media friends as content sources, often citing their social circles as sources of information.
  • When a major or developing story breaks, a large percentage of online news consumers turn to their social media circles to validate information and to get updates rather than turning to a specific news site. Readers will often follow a story as it breaks on Twitter and Facebook, and then look for validated information from news sources after.
  • Several readers want to see more investigative journalism and original work in the mainstream press and less content from wire services.
  • A large percentage of readers enjoy reading opinion pieces, even if it’s an opinion contrary to their own sentiments.
  • Most readers want to see more editorial coverage from regions such as South America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Several readers said they hope to learn more about these regions beyond the typical headlines that come from these areas.
  • When it comes to content verticals, several readers said they want more business, science, and environmental news, regardless of the geography from which a story originates.
  • Readers want to see more photography with news stories, citing preferences for photo essays and on-the-ground reports filled with high-quality visuals.

In addition to these overall themes, participants also noted that while a lot of the news they read informs them about what’s happening around them, deeper context is often missing in news articles in the mainstream press. That is especially true when it comes to discussions on the debt crisis and global financial markets, readers said. In addition, readers said geographies such as Africa and the Middle East are often in the news because of conflict occurring in those regions, but they believe media outlets need to do a better job of explaining the various sides of a story, such as who is involved, historical context and why the story should matter to them.

“Digital Journal is well-known for giving a voice to anyone who wants to take part in the news-gathering process,” said Hogg. “Learning from our readers, as well as people who are just discovering us as a news source, helps us improve our news offering and I would encourage every newsroom to start experimenting by bringing their readers behind the curtain to involve them in the everyday process of reporting news.”

Full transcripts from Digital Journal’s Global Editorial Meetings are available on request.

About Digital Journal:

Digital Journal is a global digital media network with 32,000 professional and citizen journalists, bloggers, photographers and freelancers in 200 countries around the world. Regarded as a pioneer and leader in crowd-sourcing and user-generated content, Digital Journal is headquartered in Toronto, Canada. Digital Journal also consults news organizations on how to empower their audience to acquire content, drive revenue and increase engagement from digital media properties. For more information, visit digitaljournal.com.

UK government mulls idea of banning suspected rioters from social media

August 11th, 2011

Critics and hacker groups are lashing out at the UK government and at BlackBerry maker RIM after British Prime Minister David Cameron suggested the UK could block social media services and get user data from mobile phones to shut down further riots.

The UK government is debating whether it should shut down social media websites in order to stop further riots from taking place.

In his opening statement during a Commons debate on Thursday, Cameron told parliament the government is looking at banning individuals from using sites like Twitter and Facebook if they are believed to be plotting criminal activity.

“The prime minister did not go into specifics about how such a block could work, what evidence would be needed to trigger it, and whether it would apply only to individuals or could see networks shut down entirely — instead saying only that the government was looking at the issue,” Metro reports.

Cameron recalled MPs from summer recess to address the increasing violence and riots happening throughout London.

According to the Guardian, Cameron also said the government will hold meetings with Facebook, Twitter and Research In Motion (RIM), makers of the BlackBerry, to discuss “their responsibilities” in this area.

As the BBC reports, under UK law, police are legally allowed to request data from someone’s mobile phone if the information relates to criminal activity.

“Everyone watching these horrific actions will be stuck by how they were organised via social media,” Cameron told Parliament. “The free flow of information can be used for good, but it can also be used for ill.

“So we are working with the police, intelligence services and industry to look at whether it would be right to stop people communicating via websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality.”

Cameron has also told broadcasters such as the BBC and Sky News they should turn-in unused footage to help police. That request has been met with opposition from broadcasters who say handing over unused footage would damage their editorial independence.

While the UK government continues to put the blame on social media websites for playing a role in the riots, Metro reports evidence has yet to show Facebook or Twitter played a significant role.

That said, technology has played a part; the uprising in the UK has been dubbed the “BlackBerry riots” by media because several reports indicate people are using the BlackBerry’s instant messaging features to plan and organize riots and looting.

Earlier this week Labour MP for Tottenham, David Lammy, went as far as asking RIM to shut down its BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) service on Twitter. “Immediate action needed,” he Tweeted. “[Londoners] cannot have another evening like last night tonight. BBM clearly helping rioters outfox police. Suspend it.”

RIM raised eyebrows when it confirmed via Twitter it was indeed helping police. “We feel for those impacted by the riots in London,” the Tweet reads. “We have engaged with the authorities to assist in any way we can.”

RIM’s move to help police has caused outrage among hackers and a BlackBerry blog was hacked in response.

The hack was sent as a warning by a group calling itself “Team Poison.” As Computer Weekly reports Team Poison has threatened to publish personal data of RIM employees if the company cooperates with police by handing over user data.

“Team Poison said it did not condone innocent people or small businesses being attacked in the riots, but said it supported attacks on police and government,” Computer Weekly reports. “The hacker group said it was opposed to Blackberry giving user information to police because it could lead to the wrong people being targeted.”

Meanwhile, Cameron says the government continues to use social media and technology to its advantage, publishing photos of people accused of looting online. “No phoney human rights concerns about publishing photographs will get in the way of bringing these criminals to justice,” Cameron said.

Jim Killock, executive director of online advocacy organisation Open Rights Grouptold the Guardian Cameron’s requests attack free speech.

“Events like the recent riots are frequently used to attack civil liberties,” he said. “Policing should be targeted at actual offenders, with the proper protection of the courts. How do people ‘know’ when someone is planning to riot? Who makes that judgment? The only realistic answer is the courts must judge. If court procedures are not used, then we will quickly see abuses by private companies and police. Companies like RIM must insist on court processes. Citizens also have the right to secure communications. Business, politics and free speech relies on security and privacy.”

Facebook launches dedicated app for messaging on Android, iPhone

August 9th, 2011

Facebook has announced a stand-alone mobile app called Messenger. The new app allows users to send messages to friends or groups of people, positioning the company to compete more directly with traditional email and group-messaging services.

Note: Scroll down to see screenshots of the app

Facebook Messenger launches today and apps will be available for iPhone or Android. The new app allows users to send messages to their friends on Facebook, or by SMS to mobile phones. Users can send messages to one person or a group of people and attach photos and location data along with their message.

Messenger works just like the existing Facebook Messages, only it will be a separate application on mobile phones. Facebook says a large portion of its users send messages from the company’s iPhone and Android apps, as well as from Facebook’s mobile website, so it saw an opportunity to pull out a feature that is widely used and launch it as a stand-alone entity.

How it works

Users launch the application and can type messages to friends, similar to sending an email or the way current messages work on Facebook. The app pulls your friends list from Facebook, and you can also add mobile phone numbers and send to people who are not on Facebook. The app is designed to function like an instant message service so messages can be sent quickly and easily to anyone.

When someone replies to the message, everyone else receives a copy of the reply. If your recipient is not on Facebook, you can provide a mobile number and the message will be delivered as a text message. The recipient is notified who else is in the conversation, and in the event a recipient wishes to opt out of a conversation, he or she can simply reply “mute” and Facebook will stop sending replies.

Launching a stand-alone app

While group messaging is not new to Facebook, the strategy of pulling out one feature and launching it as a stand-alone app is a step in a new direction for the company. Facebook says Messenger was built from the ground up by the same people who developed Beluga, a company Facebook acquired in March. Messenger incorporates a lot of the learning and features from that company.

“At the end of the day, messaging is different than any other part of the Facebook mobile experience,” Peter Deng, Director of Product, said in a phone interview. “It’s one of those things you need really quick access to. “Messages are sent instantaneously and the app feels really fast. We’ve removed a bunch of clicks and made it a separate application for speed.”

Deng says Messenger was born from looking at Facebook data and seeing how people use its applications. “An astounding amount of Facebook messages are sent via Facebook mobile right now,” said Deng. “It was surprising to us to see how many people use iPhone, Android and [our mobile site] to send messages.”

Web-mobile integration & features

The mobile experience is heavily embedded into the Web experience, so whenever a message is sent via Messenger, it’s also added to the user’s Facebook Messages inbox. This allows users to have a single copy of conversations no matter what device they use.

Facebook says Messenger gives users added functionality above what traditional text messaging offers, letting anyone opt-out of a conversation that isn’t of interest.

Deng says Messenger can be especially useful when you’re planning an event and you need to quickly put together a conversation with people who are attending, be it a ski trip, a bachelor party or dinner at a restaurant.”Mobile messaging has been one-to-one traditionally,” said Deng. “But now you can attach a location with a message that will only be visible to people you send message to.

“Location data is pulled from GPS so recipients can view a map and see your location.With the launch of a separate messaging app, there are questions around how it could impact usage within Facebook’s existing app, but Deng said the company is not concerned.

“We expect people to use the Facebook app exactly how they’re using it today,” said Deng. “It’s the same system in the Facebook app but the separate app has a few extra features. The conversation between you and friends will be accessible everywhere you go and we don’t expect too big of a change in usage in the Facebook app.”

Deng said the company will continue to watch how people use its applications and iterate as it gets more feedback about what its users’ needs are.

“Right now, we focused on sending and receiving quickly and keeping the user interface simple and minimal,” said Deng. “We as Facebook just want to get out of the way.”

Messenger will launch on iPhone and Android in Canada and the United States today. Apps will be made available in other geographies in the coming weeks.


Twitter launches ‘Twitter for Newsrooms’ resource guide

June 27th, 2011

Twitter For Newsrooms

Twitter today introduced a new portal for journalists called Twitter for Newsrooms. The resource is similar to Facebook for Journalists, in that it offers best-practice advice and tips on how reporters can use the social media outlet in their day-to-day job.

The information portal offers a number of sections relating to various journalistic tasks: reporting, engaging, publishing and a section called “extra.”

  1. Under the reporting section, journalists learn about using search to its fullest potential. You can learn about in-depth advanced searching techniques and finding sources; Tweetdeck and Twitter for Mac; mobile tips; and how to use Topsy to find older tweets.
  2. Under the engage section, users can learn how to use Twitter to connect with audiences, share news and build community. This section includes case studies, tips on how to brand your Twitter presence and a glossary.
  3. In the Publish section, journalists are given tips on everything from a toolkit called Web Intents, to a WordPress plugin for Twitter, to official display guidelines on using tweets in media, and an image gallery of Twitter logos.
  4. Finally, in the Extra section, Twitter provides links to blogs, support/help items, DMCA issues and Twitter in other languages.

While a lot of these tips may be familiar to Twitter veterans, Twitter for Newsrooms offers a wealth of information for journalists who are just starting out on the social platform.

What do you think about Twitter for Newsrooms?

Future of Media recap: Start-ups, gamification and ‘pay-what-you-can walls’

April 11th, 2011

Future of Media panel on stage at the Drake Hotel in Toronto. From left to right: David Silverberg, Jamie Angus, Jon Taylor, Chris Boutet, Kathy Vey, Mathew Ingram. - Photo by Janusz Überall

by David Silverberg and Chris Hogg

The future for media organizations is not all doom and gloom, and there is more opportunity and experimentation happening today than ever before. That was the overall discussion at Digital Journal‘s Future of Media panel discussion last night in Toronto.

In a meaty conversation that sunk its teeth deep into topics of start-up culture, gamification and paywalls, editors and experts discussed why we should be optimistic for legacy media and start-ups experimenting with innovative news projects.

Jamie Angus, acting head of news at BBC World News, talks with other panelists at a Future of Media event April 6, 2011 in Toronto. - Photo by Janusz ÜberallThe insightful debate included a wide array of media experts: Jamie Angus, acting head of news at BBC World News; Jon Taylor, senior director of content for Bell Media Digital; Chris Boutet, senior producer for digital media at the National Post; Mathew Ingram, a senior writer at GigaOM; and Kathy Vey, editor-in-chief of OpenFile. The discussion was moderated by David Silverberg, managing editor of DigitalJournal.com.

The theme of the night could be summed up by Ingram’s poignant one-liner: “When you’re on Death Row, it’s easy to find religion.” He referred to the important wake-up call many newspapers faced with plummeting ad revenue and an upturned business model.

Boutet of the National Post agreed and said his outlet has adopted a digital-first strategy to allow readers to easily consume online news, while making sure the print product still had strong long-form content. “It needs to start with digital and end in print,” he said.

The conversation often veered into the benefits and dangers of using on-the-ground reporting from citizens in global hot spots. Angus said the BBC had previously ignored social media but now the organization is increasingly incorporating tweets into its reportage. “That could never happen two or three years ago,” he admitted.

Ingram replied, “When Twitter came out, I don’t think anyone would have predicted newspapers would have entire staff devoted to their Twitter account.”

OpenFile editor Kathy Vey laughs as journalist Mathew Ingram tweets from the stage at a Future of Media event in Toronto. From left to right: Jamie Angus, Jon Taylor, Chris Boutet, Kathy Vey, Mathew Ingram. - Photo by Janusz Überall

Vey, who runs the collaborative news start-up OpenFile, said she’s optimistic about journalism’s future, considering how many important news start-ups have made an impact in the U.S. She just wishes Canada could better nurture start-ups and entrepreneurs.

The conversation around start-ups took up a better part of the night, with each panelist discussing how a news organization could benefit by having an entrepreneurial approach to media production. Panelists agreed the lean approach without expensive overhead and the willingness to try new things is an important part of determining media’s future.

That said, Boutet, Vey and Ingram agreed entrepreneurial skills are not something journalism students learn in school, and students don’t enter j-school with the goal of graduating, starting their own company and trying to compete with a big newspaper.

Digital Journal Managing Editor, David Silverberg, moderating the panel discussion at a Future of Media event in Toronto. - Photo by Janusz Überall

Boutet said newsrooms need to create an environment where experimentation is encouraged, and an entrepreneurial mindset helps. He noted how the National Post has designers, programmers, digital media producers and journalists within the same area to facilitate collaboration.

Ingram agreed, saying a news experiment today can happen in an afternoon with $1,500 and a programmer who fires out some code. But that often doesn’t happen because the small numbers and quick turn-around time are not how media executives typically think. “They think in terms of months, not days,” Ingram said.

Some mainstream media outlets are stepping up their online news initiatives and experiments. At the National Post, for instance, the newspaper partnered with GeoPollster to allow people to check-in to venues with Foursquare with their political party affiliation, so a certain restaurant can be Conservative if enough Conservatives check-in to that spot en masse. “We wanted it to be fun,” Boutet said, and many panelists agreed entertaining media projects and “gamification” could benefit news outlets.

Taylor, from the newly minted Bell Media, said the growth of mobile and tablet platforms have also dramatically shifted focus and opened up many new opportunities for media outlets, especially broadcasters. “My job has 100 per cent changed because of those platforms,” he said. “We’re learning with everybody else. It’s constantly evolving.” Taylor said he’s hopeful the rules of the TV game will evolve into a more futuristic model, where it’s not just watching TV on your tablet PC, say, but also being able to swipe something from your tablet onto your TV somehow.

He also spoke about new revenue possibilities for broadcasters, saying there’s “no magic bullet” but that old ideas are becoming new again. “I think the answer is going to be a multitude of things, which include digital sponsorship, we have sponsors we have advertisers,” he said. “In the TV world you can only get so innovative, in the digital space it’s nearly unlimited.”

Taylor said the “This show is brought to you by…” line is something we’ll likely hear more often, but that media organizations have to be careful how they balance sponsorship and production. He said sponsors need to be happy with the presence, but broadcasters have to make sure content is not overly swamped with advertising messages.

From left to right: Jamie Angus, Jon Taylor and Chris Boutet. - Photo by Janusz Überall

Angus agreed that mobile is an integral part of the future of media, noting that rapid adoption of mobile phones in some places such as Africa have replaced more traditional platforms such as radio. Angus said the BBC, and media organizations that reach massive audiences in very rural places, have new challenges because they must think about the medium or platform through which the message is being delivered. In some areas, media is consumed through more than just a newspaper or Internet connection. Angus said organizations who want to reach wide audiences now have to think about how much the end-user will have to pay to consume content via mobile versus other platforms when they decide where to invest and how they want to target new audiences.

On the topic of cost, the panel  discussed paywalls and how they fit in the media’s future. The BBC’s Angus and Ingram were at odds on this issue. Angus suggested the paywall experiment by the Times of London and New York Times could be the harbinger of things to come. ”What if they’re right, doesn’t that change things?” he asked. Ingram shook his head and said “But the Times of London lost a lot of pageviews…and now they’re just an expensive newsletter.”

From left to right: Chris Boutet, Kathy Vey and Mathew Ingram. - Photo by Janusz Überall

After some debate among panelists, Angus went back to the idea and admitted that while it may not be popular among readers it may be necessary for media outlets. He said if it becomes the norm, it may give media organizations enough of a revenue stream to encourage them to invest in the digital media space.

Boutet didn”t like the idea of a paywall because it’s an ultimatum that does not allow the reader to suggest how much they think content is worth. Telling a reader to pay $10 per month or go away, Boutet believes, is the wrong approach because it’s an all-or-nothing attitude. “What about a pay-what-you-can wall?” he suggested, saying some readers may not want to pay $10 per month but would be willing to pay $5. Having the option to let people price a product themselves provides a news organization with the opportunity to market-test various pricing options and determines what people will pay.

The panelists generally agreed a paywall or pay fence would work with specialty content, such as Wall Street Journal‘s financial news or ESPN.com‘s in-depth sports coverage. Ingram was unsure what metric would be used to measure success, though. “Does it look like 200,000 people paying to read your content, or does it look like millions?”

So what’s in store for the future of media? The panelists all seemed to agree experimentation is important and that the news industry as a whole is in better shape today than it has been over the last few years. That said, there are still a number of questions that need to be answered as far as concrete business models that will take shape.

Panelists present door prizes to attendees of the Future of Media event in Toronto. From left to right: Jamie Angus, Jon Taylor, Chris Boutet, Kathy Vey, Mathew Ingram and David Silverberg. - Photo by Janusz Überall

New technologies such as augmented reality provide some really interesting opportunities to media companies, and mobile phones, apps and tablets are a game-changer for how, when and where people consume content.

The overall tone of the night was optimistic, with panelists agreeing wholeheartedly the future looks much brighter than the past. Media organizations now need to focus on experimentation, and partnering with start-ups is a cost-effective way to innovate new ideas.

The panel also agreed newsrooms need to shed old attitudes and get people to talk to their audience in a two-way conversation via social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter, while at the same time remember that every word they say is essentially speaking on behalf of their respective media outlets. What you say, when you say it, and how you say it, are guidelines that media organizations need to quickly decide.

Video from the Future of Media event will be available shortly. Check back next week to see full coverage.