Cornell University in the US has some excellent resources for checking the quality of information: http://olinuris.library.cornell.edu/content/skill-guides
Google offers a range of tools for doing better research. All are designed for journalists. Navigation is via the left-hand column: http://sites.google.com/site/aujournalists/smarter-search
Fake photos from 2004 “Boxing Day tsunami” can be found at: http://www.snopes.com/photos/tsunami/tsunami1.asp
Miller internet data integrity scale
Credibility and a reporters’ ability to attribute information to web sites decreases as you move down the hierarchy, according to Steve Miller, recently retired from The New York Times:
Government data (.gov /.govt)
Military (.mil / .mod)
University material (.edu /.ac)
Special interest groups (.org & .net & .asn)
Business and others (.com /.co)
Web resources about convergence
china daily wine column #19
Monday November 22nd 2010, 12:38 pm
Filed under: wine
Brookland Valley is considered a benchmark winemaker in the world-renowned Margaret River region of Western Australia. It was named “winery of the year” in the 2009 edition of the highly regarded Australian Wine Companion. Editor James Halliday described the quality and consistency of the wines as “awesome”.
The vineyard’s portfolio consists of three levels: Verse 1, premium and reserve wines. Last year eight Brookland Valley wines received 94 points or above in Halliday’s book, including three chardonnays.
Constellation Wines Australia, owners of Brookland Valley, supplied samples of the newly released 2009 chardonnays. The Verse 1 is greenish-gold in colour with a nose of peaches and a palate that I found slightly sour but refreshing. The oak component is subtle with hints of vanilla. Tasted a day later, the acidity had softened and the aromas had intensified. This wine would best be paired with chili dishes such as seafood. It retails for $22.
The estate wine is defiantly chardonnay, with loads of fruit and oak. The oak charges forth like the Man of La Mancha while the fruit follows soon after like his devoted servant, Sancho Panza. The wine tastes creamy with complex flavours of grapefruit and melon. It won a gold medal at the 2010 Sydney wine show, one of Australia’s more prestigious events. It retails for $40.
The highlight was the reserve chardonnay. It received the royal treatment: it was hand picked, pressed as whole bunches, and kept on yeast lees for nine months. This last technique imparts bready and toasty flavours. The nose is flinty with minerally echoes and the mouthfeel is creamy and luscious, almost buttery though lean at the same time. The taste develops and the length continues in one’s mouth for ages – a sign of quality. This is a wonderfully attractive wine. It retails for $60 but you need to pay for this kind of quality.
Ross Pamment, who won the first Qantas young winemaker of the year award in 2001, said Brookland’s winemaking philosophy was simple. “Select the best fruit from the best vineyard sites, don’t interfere too much during the winemaking process and allow the regional and varietal characteristics to shine through.”
Brookland Valley winery and cellar door are in the Wilyabrup sub-region in the heart of the Margaret River. The Indian Ocean is two kilometres to the west and ocean breezes influence the ripening of the fruit. The vineyard started in 1984 with plantings of cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, semillon and sauvignon blanc. It currently sources fruit from five of Margaret River’s six sub-regions, offering the winemakers a wide palette of flavour options with which to craft wines. The chardonnays are certainly worthy of note.
* “Brookland Valley chardonnays that are a class apart” in China Daily, 4 December 2010, 12.
china daily wine column #18
Monday November 22nd 2010, 12:20 pm
Filed under: wine
We remain in New Zealand’s Central Otago region this week, to look at some lesser-known but excellent pinot noirs. New Zealand has emerged alongside Oregon and northern California in the United States and Australia as the home to some of the best alternatives to red Burgundy.
Pinot noir plantings in New Zealand more than doubled in 2009 to 4,824 hectares. It is New Zealand’s second most exported variety – about 6 million litres a year – versus the dreaded sauvignon blanc (91 million litres). New Zealand sauvignon blanc has flooded the market with sour-smelling acidic dross. Where I live in Australia it’s possible to buy 20,000 litres of this white wine for about 12 RMB a litre.
Pinot’s success is a much more pleasant story. Grasshopper Rock is one of the more promising pinot makers. Indeed, they only make this most difficult of wines. Its home page says: “A single vineyard wine producer dedicated to production of quality pinot noir”.
The 2009 is dark cherry in colour. The bouquet is restrained at first but later reeks of raspberries and violets. This is a wine to savour with duck and a fruit sauce – cherries, perhaps? – but ideally should be cellared for three to five years. The tannic backbone offers a dusty note to the palate.
The vineyard takes it name from a rare grasshopper, sigaus childi, found only in Central Otago. Grapes come from the Alexandra sub-region. The site gets a high number of hours of sunshine. The climate is harsh and the vines work hard to produce good fruit.
The 2006 vintage achieved acclaim when Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate magazine rated the wine as outstanding in 2008. The 2007 vintage received three gold medals at the Hong Kong international wine show. The 2008 vintage was awarded two gold medals at London’s International Wine Challenge.
The 2006 and 2007 are sold out but the 2008 and 2009 can be purchased from the web site. The vineyard does not appear to have an outlet in China.
Another small producer with big wines is Mondillo. The 2009 vintage was one of only 10 pinots to win a gold medal at this year’s Romeo Bragato wine awards held in Blenheim in August.
The 2009 pinot noir is dark cherry in colour with soft tannins. The flavours are restrained at first but open up to offer a luscious combination of spice and plums. Soft and seductive tannins give the wine structure.
Michael Cooper, author of the Buyer’s Guide to New Zealand Wine, described Mondillo as “an emerging star”. Rudi Bauer, the international superstar of wine making based at Quartz Reef vineyard, makes the wine.
* “Back to quality pinot noir” in China Daily, 27 November 2010, 12.
china daily wine column #17
Monday November 22nd 2010, 11:56 am
Filed under: wine
The newly released 2009 Felton Road Block 5 pinot noir is only available through a mailing list. Currently the vineyard has a queue of people waiting to join the list. So this wine, which retails for about $70 at the cellar door in New Zealand, is probably not available in China.
Yet wine lovers will pine for this wine. It is one of the most elegant pinot noirs I have tried from Bannockburn in the Central Otago region. The wine comes from a special part of the vineyard known as The Elms, with 14 hectares of vines. About half is pinot noir, with the rest chardonnay and riesling.
The area appears well suited to the production of complex pinot noir. The Elms, the first Felton Road vineyard, was selected by Stewart Elms in 1991 and planted the next year. It is a gentle valley, and one of the few in Bannockburn to escape the attention of the miners who sluiced many of the Bannockburn slopes during the gold rushes of the 1860s.
Bannockburn in Central Otago is on latitude 45 degrees south, similar in location to the Willamette Valley in Oregon and some of the fine wine regions of Burgundy in France. The vineyard is in one of the most southerly wine-growing regions in the world. It has north-facing slopes and deep loess soils. Loess is fine-grained silt or clay. Much of the land in the region was damaged during the gold rushes, and some areas of Central Otago look like the moonscape.
Winemaker Blair Walter said the wine was a result of farming without chemicals and observing the “natural rhythms” of the region’s eco-systems. Walter studied at Lincoln University and Oregon State University before working vintages in New Zealand, Australia, Oregon and Napa in the United States, and Burgundy.
The various Felton Road vineyards exhibit their own macroclimates, and are surrounded by high mountains. Many of the mountains are capped by snow all year. Some critics suggest the location is on the edge of sustainable viticulture. But these macroclimates combine hot days, cool nights and long dry autumns, which makes them ideal for creation of fine pinot noir.
All barrels for Felton Road pinot noir are coopered in Burgundy. Each vintage typically has 30 per cent new oak, selected for its ability to extract subtle flavors over time. The Felton Road 2009 Block 5 pinot noir is dark cherry in color, restrained at first, but with flavors of plum and sour cherries. Ideally it should be cellared for a decade.
* “An elegant pinot noir to pine for” in China Daily, 20 November 2010, page 12.
Thoughts on the future of journalism
An earlier version appeared in Quadrant magazine, September 2009.
The numbers do not look good for print-based media companies. On 4 June 2009 a Moody’s senior analyst in New York, John Puchalla, criticized the American newspaper industry for its “distorted” cost structures. Similar cost structures operate at newspapers in Australia.
In essence, too much of each dollar is spent on printing and distribution, and too little on what sells newspapers – the content. Puchalla noted that 70 cents in each dollar were spent on paper, printing, distribution and corporate functions. Only 14 per cent of American newspapers’ operating expenses were spent generating editorial content. The other 16 per cent of costs were related to advertising and marketing.
The New York Times is one of the best newspapers in the world. It has won 101 Pulitzer Prizes, more than any other newspaper. Its annual editorial budget of $245 million is the largest of any newspaper. Yet that figure is less than a third of the yearly cost of printing and distribution – $795 million. It is a common story around the world. In Australia, for example, The Age in Melbourne had an annual budget in 2008 of $315 million. But only $58 million of that, about 18 per cent, was spent on editorial. Under a fifth of the staff at a typical American newspaper produce editorial. The New York Times employed about 1300 editorial staff in mid 2009 but the New York Times Company had 9,346 staff, according to the December 2008 annual. The Age had a total staff of 850 in 2008. Editorial numbers were about 350, or 41 per cent of the total. Anyone who works in a newspaper newsroom knows that only about half of the editorial staff reporters. The rest spend their time processing content from wire services, checking reporters’ stories, attending meetings, designing pages and a host of other jobs.
It is expensive to produce a printed newspaper. Staff ratios are changing as newspapers restructure but an industrial-age product like a printed edition requires a lot of people beyond the editorial staff. So we must confront a key question: Is it time to ditch print as the principle platform for written news, and focus on digital? We think yes, over time. The issue is when.
Many factors need to be considered. These include the impact of fragmenting audiences, the influence of social media, the need for innovation and new products, and the potential for new revenue as print editions become niche products. Before any change happens we need to deal with limiting mindsets. Some media executives talk fondly of the “romance” of print. Journalists have surrendered manual typewriters and landline telephones for word processors and mobile phones. But old ideas hang around longer than old tools.
Marc Andreessen founded Netscape and sits on the boards of Facebook and eBay. He told Charlie Rose on Rose’s PBS program earlier this year that everything about the online experience was better compared with print newspapers. “If you are the guy delivering ice to people’s ice boxes at a certain point you gotta get into selling refrigerators.” Journalism will thrive when media companies free themselves of the shackles and mindset of print, and focus on online, wireless, interactivity, and whatever new platforms emerge for digital delivery.
Tomorrow’s journalism will appear on a variety of platforms designed to reach as many people as possible at all times of the day. Some older news consumers will prefer to read news on paper, and media houses will need to satisfy that demand. The average age of newspaper readers in Australia is 50, while the median age in the country is 36. Within two decades news will primarily be delivered via wireless devices and online.
Print will be a niche product, depending on the needs of advertisers and audiences. Generation Y will not replace Baby Boomer print readers as the latter die. Gen Y and related groups are too wedded to online and their mobile phones. They consume news, but not in print. One of the authors surveyed journalism students at a Victorian university in March 2006. The survey received 74 replies, a response rate of 52 per cent. Only two of the 74 respondents said they bought or read a newspaper on campus, despite a marketing drive by The Age, the Herald Sun and The Australian that allowed students to collect free newspapers on campus after buying a card for $20. In March this year Professor Alan Knight, in a survey of Australian journalism students, found 90 per cent of aspiring journalists did not read newspapers, preferring their news from commercial television or online. Yes, even journalism students are forsaking printed newspapers.
Americans already favor online as their main source of news and information. In June 2009 polling firm Zogby International published reports of two major polls on how Americans got their news and what sources they most trusted. Zogby asked which of the four primary information sources was most reliable. More than twice as many people chose the Internet (37 per cent) ahead of television (17 per cent), newspapers (16 per cent) and radio (13 per cent). Ironically, most of the news Americans consume online comes from traditional media sources. Zogby offered two explanations: “The Internet allows people to seek information from thousands of blogs, aggregators and social networks, and to migrate to those that share their point of view. The information received may originate from the same old media, but it is wrapped in designer packaging that matches personal tastes and ideologies.”
Technologies such as electronic-readers, often abbreviated as e-readers, offer a platform that cuts the cost of non-editorial operations. They maintain the metaphor of the printed product. But they are a limited option because they lock people in with proprietary software. Amazon’s Kindle DX is being trialed in New York and Washington to deliver newspapers. The New York Times and The Washington Post cost $17 a month and $12 a month respectively, but content only appears in black and white. News is downloaded wirelessly while people sleep. But Kindle’s wireless option is only available through one telecoms company in the United States.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said the Kindle DX would change the economics of the newspaper business. But all e-readers work on proprietary software, meaning customers with different devices such as the iRex iLiad, the Sony Reader or the host of un-named e-readers due out early next year can only access books, magazines and newspapers in the format designed for each specific device. Would you buy a music player that forced you to buy songs from only one label? Or a car that forced you to use one brand of petrol? Journalism will be liberated and ready for a commercially viable future when it embraces interactivity and involves the audience, and focuses on delivering content to standardized mobile phones and online platforms.
Why wireless and online? Because consumers already pay for mobile phone content, so a payment mindset exists. Audiences will not pay for online content they have received for free for more than a decade. That issue is discussed later in this article. In June 2009 the head of digital operations at the New York Times Company, Martin Nisenholtz, said his company was likely to begin charging for access to news on mobile devices before it did so on the web. “Mobile offers a better opportunity for paid content,” Nisenholtz said. Publishers could charge for micropayments in the sense that audiences were already accustomed to paying for individual items on their mobile phone. People in the Nordic nations and Europe already pay for cans of soft drink or parking with their mobile phones. It is a short leap to pay for news as well, if it has added value.
Mobile phone ownership in Australia had almost reached saturation point by early 2009, with 92 per cent of the population owning a mobile phone, according to Nielsen data. A range of functions such as mobile Internet boosted the uptake, particularly for users aged 16 to 29. Australia’s telecoms market continued to grow in 2009 despite the economic crisis, driven by demand for mobile Internet and broadband, IDC analysts said. Despite having less than 1 per cent of the world’s population, Australia ranks ninth in the world in terms of data downloads onto mobile phones. Smart-phones, which are effectively small computers that allow people to access the Internet wirelessly, will always be more popular than e-readers because people can do more with them than read black-and-white text.
As smart-phones evolve they will become one of the main delivery mechanisms for news and information. Media houses need to prepare for ways to charge for that content. Three in five iPhone owners in America already use the mobile web more frequently than they read print newspapers, according to a survey by metrics firm comScore published in July 2009. Only one in 10 of the world’s 4.2 billion mobile phones are smart-phones. In July 2009 Morgan Stanley Research predicted the proportion could reach half in the “next few years”. They described the migration to Internet-connected mobile devices as “one of the biggest opportunities in the history of the technology industry”. Newspapers in developing nations Printed newspapers are thriving in countries with low broadband penetration.
Newspaper executives in these countries should not be complacent, because demographics and technology will produce rapid change. India represents an example of how profound the change will be. In 1976, when the country’s population was 775 million, one copy of a newspaper appeared for every 80 people. A quarter century later, as the population passed 1 billion, one newspaper was available for every 20 Indians. By mid 2009 India had 68,000 newspapers, with more expected to emerge. They sell for a few cents per edition. Unlike online, print does not require electricity and Internet infrastructure. Power shortages still occur in some parts of India. Broadband penetration in 2008 was a mere 3.7 per cent, and concentrated in major cities.
Some pundits have suggested that rising literacy in India will mean an audience for printed newspapers well into this century. In 1976, 35 per cent of Indians could read. By 2008 the figure was 70 per cent. Rising youth literacy, at 82 per cent in 2009, does suggest plenty of potential readers. But those youngsters are more likely to seek their news and information online, just as their counterparts do in other countries. As cheap broadband inevitably becomes available, newspaper circulations will decline. A July 2009 report from Forrester Research estimated that about 2.2 billion people worldwide would be online by 2013 – a global increase of 45 per cent. Almost half of those new users would be in Asia, with 17 per cent in China alone. This year the United States had the most Internet users followed by China, Japan, Brazil, and Germany. Within five years China will be in first place, followed by India, and then the United States, Japan, and Brazil. “Per capita online spending is likely to remain highest in North America, Western Europe and the developed markets of Asia throughout the next five years,” Forrester senior analyst Zia Daniell Wigder said. But shifting online populations and growing spending power among Asian consumers mean that Asian markets will “represent a far greater percentage of the total in 2013 than they do today”.
The Internet is a constant stream. It is continuous. Torry Pedersen, CEO of Norway’s VG Company, describes it as a “bubbling brook”. Pedersen was managing editor of the print newspaper VG and later editor-in-chief of the online edition before becoming CEO. Online news coverage was a constant stream “like a bubbling brook” while print coverage was like bottling water, he said. “Both the brook and the bottle contain water, just as both the online and print editions can contain fantastic journalism. But they are two different formats.”
Print content is fixed in time and tends to look backwards because of its reflective nature. Online and print need different kinds of journalists to produce different forms of content for specific audiences. In an era of constantly updated digital content for online, with content offered on a variety of platforms, we need flexible editorial staff. For long-form print content we need a reflective kind of journalist.
Each platform requires a different form of content, which suggests that integrated newsrooms, which combine newspaper and online staff and often expect reporters to work in several platforms, are not relevant for all forms of journalism. Pedersen believes integration should be reserved for specific areas such as sport or culture or lifestyle or travel because reporters can specialize in these subjects. Successful revenue models will involve a myriad of approaches, or what we are calling a “confederacy of models”. The actual number will vary for individual media houses, each with its own unique culture and way of delivering news. The issue here is that all media need to be new media. The key to success in the future will be experimentation, innovation and life-long learning. Those who can adapt the fastest will win. As Darwin famously pointed out, the species that survive are those that adapt most efficiently, not the strongest. This means that innovation and creativity will become paramount.
All of the changes discussed so far will require new forms of leadership and new kinds of editors. A solely print-focused editor is a dinosaur. As John Maynard Keynes, the Nobelprize winning British economist, noted: “The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from the old ones.” Modern media houses need leaders who look forwards rather than backwards, and the industry needs to start grooming the right kinds of people: individuals with flexible mindsets who understand change management.
Frederic Filloux, former editor of Schibsted International, said spotting and nurturing talent should be the “most critical” part of an editor’s job. The past 20 years had revealed a “clock-punching” mentality at too many newspapers that created “multiple levels of inefficiencies”. Newspapers needed people comfortable with the digital world, and not those who sought to push online into the too-hard basket or the periphery of the organization. As part of the future, media organizations must embrace the audience and work with, not against, social media and social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.
Consumers have already embraced social media, and we argue that one avenue to the future consists of building communities through social networking. In the UK, eMarketer estimated that two in five Internet users, or about 15.4 million people, used social networks at least once a month in 2009. By 2013, eMarketer predicted the social networking population would reach 21.9 million, or half of UK web users. Many of these people are members of the desirable AB demographic. Lena Samuelsson, editor-in-chief of Svenska Dagbladet, the major daily in Stockholm, summarized the situation: “Newspapers must genuinely listen to, and interact with, their most important target groups.” Newspapers need to focus on the demographic they seek to reach rather than being mass media. Given that advertising goes where the audiences go, media companies must embrace social media to get those audiences to come to online newspaper sites.
Paul Gillin, a research fellow and member of the advisory board of the Society for New Communications Research, co-chairs the social media cluster for the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council. Ironically, he also writes the Newspaper Death Watch blog (http://www.newspaperdeathwatch.com/). Crises such as those the American newspaper industry face in 2009 demand innovative thinking, fast reaction times and tolerance for risk, he wrote on his blog. “One reason we’ve seen so little of this in the newspaper industry is that the people at the top have no capacity for making dramatic changes. The innovation that we’ve seen comes almost entirely from startups or skunkworks operations.”
The Norwegian media company Schibsted, which owns a range of media houses in Europe, offers an example of a future-focused organization that succeeds because it embraces innovation. Schibsted owns VG, Norway’s highest-circulating daily newspaper, and VG.no, the country’s most successful news and information web site. VG editors believe they need different kinds of journalists to produce news content for each platform, so they have separate structures and companies even though they share the same newsroom. The online news site has 50 journalists compared with about 270 for the print edition. A higher proportion of the online journalists produce original content compared with the newspaper: 40 out of 50 online, compared with 150 out of 270 at the newspaper. As noted at the start, too many staff on a printed newspaper are not focused on the key processes of producing and selling content. And too much of a print newspaper’s budget is spent on printing, paper and distribution.
VG’s Pedersen believes integrated newsrooms might be needed at small media organisations. But not for a large media house like VG. “In my opinion a completely integrated model is so hard to get right that it reduces the chance of success of both editions.” He argues for advertising as the primary business model for online. “Online positions are all about critical mass. If you manage to occupy a leading position, it becomes very difficult for your competitor to take you on. In reality critical mass offers greater protection than actual quality differences in relation to your competitors.” Pedersen also noted that print newsroom costs were higher than for online editions. “If they are merged it is more likely that the higher cost structures of the print editions will infect the online editions rather than vice-versa. If both print and online editions are part of the same company, with the same board of directors, I believe that more time will be spent on the challenges facing the established medium, than on the opportunities presented by the new medium. Both deserve proper attention, but not at the expense of each other.”
The VG media house in Norway has succeeded financially even in times of recession. The online site had earnings before interest and tax of 109 million Norwegian crowns (about $21.35 million) in 2008, on an operating margin of 33 per cent. A huge proportion of its traffic (86 per cent) comes through the home page, which means the site can charge high advertising rates on the home page. In mid 2009 advertisers paid 210,000 Norwegian crowns (about $41,140) for a banner advertisement on the home page, for 24 hours duration. Most online sites around the world would kill for that kind of rate. Google News has struggled to get established in Norway because of the domination of VG.no and the company’s other online sites. The print edition of VG gained about 75 per cent of its revenues from newsstand sales (by law people cannot subscribe) with the rest coming from advertising. In 2008 the newspaper had earnings before interest and tax of 214 Norwegian crowns, or about $41.92 million, on an operating margin of 12.9 per cent. Revenues for online came from advertising and a collection of areas such as the site’s weight-loss club, live video of key football games, and a range of small but important niche areas. Eivind Thomsen, senior vice president for Schibsted, said the future would consist of “many hundreds of business models, all changing over time”. Schibsted’s success also shows the importance of embracing social media and being part of the community. The Norwegian media group came to that realization early. VG.no editors require their journalists get involved with social media. Well-known reporters have effectively become a “brand”. By-lines on the online site include links to each reporter’s Facebook profile and Twitter account. Reporters recommend stories to Facebook “friends” and Twitter “followers”. VG.no’s editor-in-chief Espen Egil Hansen said communication with audiences should make up at least 20 per cent of each reporter’s workload.
How many Australian newspaper reporters welcome that level of personal contact with their audiences? Too many avoid their audiences. The web is the world’s biggest photocopy machine. It is too easy to copy innovations that work. So innovative companies are forced to innovate all the time to stay ahead of competitors. Eivind Thomsen, Schibsted’s senior vice-president, described the process as having a “temporary monopoly” – in other words his company had to continue to innovate to stay ahead. “One of our business models is to get readers to come to us.” VG.no is one of the few online sites with at least two editors, sometimes three, assigned to look after the home page. It is a reflection of the importance of the front page – remember, 86 per cent of the site’s traffic arrives via the home page. VG.no’s traffic is huge – three in four Norwegians visit the site each month – and most of the content is free.
The danger of charging in a world of excess information
In June 2009 News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch said newspapers had to charge readers for online content. American industry heavyweights met in “secret” in Chicago a month earlier to discuss strategies for charging. In an interview on the News Corp-owned Fox Business Network, Murdoch said online content would no longer be free and newspapers would sell subscriptions for premium content, though conceding newspapers would continue to make money from advertising. It had been a mistake for newspapers to rush to the web to try to get a bigger audience, Murdoch said, and all News Corp newspapers would be charging for content within a year. He suggested one of the company’s prime assets, The Wall Street Journal, was proof that paid premium content worked, though noting it was because of the paper’s proprietary financial reporting and analysis.
Lionel Barber, editor of the Financial Times, told the Media Standards Trust in London in July 2009 that “almost all” news organizations would be charging for online content within a year. “How these online payment models work and how much revenue they can generate is still up in the air,” Barber said. Building online platforms that could charge readers on an article-by-article or subscription basis was one of the “key challenges” facing news organizations. Barber said quality news was expensive. The Financial Times had 100 foreign correspondents in an editorial staff of 600 worldwide. By mid 2009 its website, FT.com, had more than 1.3 million non-paying registered users worldwide, with another 110,000 paying subscribers. The print newspaper had a circulation of 411,988. Business people with expense accounts are willing to pay for newspaper content, as are people who consider paying a small amount for information to use that information to make more money.
But business-to-business audiences represent a small segment, relative to the amount of free online content around the world. Charging for online content for general news is folly in societies where audiences have access to high-quality free services such as the ABC or BBC or CBC. Vast amounts of English-language news is available free on the Internet. Charging can only work in small and affluent markets where people want local information, or within unique language groups like Norway.
Vivianne Schiller, head of America’s National Public Radio (NPR) and a former head of NYTimes.com, told Newsweek in July 2009 that people would not pay for online news in large numbers, describing proposals to charge as a “mass delusion” in the newspaper industry. “In other words, they [executives] think that wanting it so badly will … change the behavior of the audience. The world doesn’t work that way. Frankly, if all the news organizations locked pinkies, and said we’re all going to put up a big fat pay wall, you know what, more traffic for us [NPR].”
Americans have a phrase that is apt here: You cannot put the toothpaste back in the tube. People will not pay for general news content they can get elsewhere for free. And only a tiny part of the content of a local daily newspaper, as they are currently configured, is worth putting behind a pay wall. But people will pay for a variety of services they value. The free-pay hybrid model – often called “freemium” – or the free model will grow stronger as world economies pull out of the recession, as long as that content is distributed digitally.
We have already seen that print production and distribution consumes upwards of 70 per cent of costs, eating into resources that could be devoted to the digital product. Quality free content online will attract advertising. Other revenue sources will emerge, depending on what is delivered along with free news content. Successful examples include online crossword puzzles from The Times or Schibsted’s weight-loss program.
The future will also see a world of niche advertising – lots of slivers of content, all waiting to be monetized, and all based on the free or “freemium” model. With the latter, basic content is given away and a premium charged for advanced or special features. News Corp was looking at bundling content, chief digital officer Jonathan Miller told the Editors’ Weblog in mid 2009. This could include putting all the media group’s New York-based content into one subscription package. In June 2009 The New York Times was looking at different ways to charge for online content. One was similar to a model the Financial Times used, where readers could surf the site without charge until a pageview or word limit was reached. Then a metered device would start running and it would charge the user for the rest of their time spent. At the time of writing the Financial Times allowed ten free articles a month per user, then required a subscription. The other option involved a “membership” scheme where readers would donate money and then be invited into a community that would offer free merchandise and other benefits.
Many people find their news through search engines such as Google. But articles behind a pay-wall cannot attract a good Google ranking, making the content nearly invisible. So newspapers need to find a solution to this when they start charging. The Wall Street Journal currently allows its paid content to be accessed free via Google. Is this fair to paying customers? Could this knowledge deter potential subscribers?
Rupert Murdoch was right when he said the print editions of newspapers would look “very different” in the future. In the interview on Fox Business Channel mentioned earlier, Murdoch said it would probably take 10 or 15 years for the public to “swing over” to accepting news on mobile phones or panel devices such as the Kindle DX. We need to distinguish here between changes in print forms of media, and changes in news distribution via mobile phones or panel devices. Print will become a niche product. Within a generation most news will be delivered to mobile phones and newer versions of personal data assistants, as well as online.
It will be much more interactive than we currently know, constantly updated, and make better use of the strengths of online and mobile technologies. Smaller and less frequent newspapers Printed versions of newspapers will still exist, but in significantly modified forms. They will be full color, smaller in size, and appear a few days a week. Their content will focus on the future rather than telling audiences what happened yesterday. Think of a bi-weekly version of The Economist. In other words, print will play to its strengths. Media houses must move away from shovelling print content online. That is the way of the dinosaur.
The daily newspaper will get smaller – the size of an A4 magazine. They will be edited to cater for busy people, and not the bloated publications we got when broadsheets moved to compact size and tried to replicate all the content from the broadsheet. Print editions should focus on what audiences can expect today and later in the week rather than yesterday. Perhaps a fifth of the content should reflect on the significance of yesterday’s major events. People appreciate an overview of what was important yesterday. But it must be combined with analysis of what will happen today and tomorrow.
A print journalist who focuses on yesterday is a stenographer or secretary. A journalist who tells people what to expect later in the week is a “journ-analyst”. (Journalism education, incidentally, will also need to change to produce these analysts rather than secretaries.) Print needs to focus on backgrounding the news, and giving people insights into why things happened rather than merely telling them what happened yesterday. Audiences have already read and heard what happened today on web sites, and on radio and television news.
Juan Senor, director of the Innovation International consulting company, said newspapers had to move from being a heavy to a light industry. Senor used the analogy of the circus that Phineas Taylor (“PT”) Barnum introduced in 1871, at the time the “greatest show on earth”. The prime performers then were the elephants. But circuses have changed. By the twenty-first century live entertainment such as the Cirque du Soleil have become vastly more popular. Cirque du Soleil has been credited with re-inventing the circus. It has no animals, and relies on human ingenuity. Senor said it was time for newspapers to “get rid of the elephants”. This involves significant format changes and a need to understand different audiences, as well as build communities. “We need to think of newspapers as service platforms that create profit.” Traditional news that covers the “who, what, where and when” were a commodity available free online around the world, he said. “But how, why and what’s next are worth a premium.”
Disclosure: One of the authors is a consultant with Innovation International. The death of the newspaper: exaggerated One of the great exaggerations of the recession in 2009 involved reports of the death of the print newspaper industry. Yes, some will die. But most others will modify themselves, and some will prosper over time. Roger Fidler’s “mediamorphosis” theory tells us that new media do not kill old media, provided the old media learn to adapt. Remember what we said earlier about Darwin? Gavin O’Reilly, president of the World Association of Newspapers (WAN), acknowledged newspaper managers needed to embrace change, and echoed Fidler’s words: “When new technology is launched, it usually finds its place alongside an existing technology,” he told a Power of Print conference in Barcelona in June 2009. O’Reilly was confident about the future of newspapers because advertisers wanted to reach stable and reliable demographics. WAN noted that worldwide newspaper circulation in total had risen in 2009.
A close look at the figures shows that rises in Asia boosted the total, despite falls in Europe and North America. At this stage we need to distinguish between debt-ridden media companies versus recession-hit companies. Many debt-ridden companies – those that borrowed hugely during good economic times – will perish because they cannot manage high levels of debt and interest repayments. But media companies that ride out the recession will flourish again. Earl Wilkinson, executive director and CEO of the International Newsmedia Marketing Association (INMA), said recession-hit companies were in pain because the recession of 2008 and 2009 was worse than the combined impact of the previous two global recessions. But that pain was bearable, he said. INMA is a non-profit organization with more than 1,200 members in 82 countries worldwide. In an article published on the INMA web site in April 2009 headlined “Separating truth from fiction about newspapers in this recession,” Wilkinson said many debt-ridden companies could not transform themselves fast enough and were in trouble. Some of the corporations that owned newspapers would disappear, but the newspapers they owned would survive, Wilkinson said. “These corporations own newspapers that remain operationally profitable, but must restructure debts amassed in a business culture that encouraged highly leveraged ownership consolidation on the back of a harvesting strategy that may have gutted newspapers as much as today’s recession.”
For a recessionridden company, the downturn was irritating “but business will return and the only mystery is about how much cash to conserve and for how long”. Wilkinson offered a schematic to distinguish newspapers whose business models meant they would be “less affected” or “more affected” by the economic downturn. Less affected newspapers were subscription-based; paid newspapers; distributed in a tight geographical area; received less than 60 per cent of revenues from advertising; had low reliance on classifieds in the advertising mix; had low debt; were non-union; had capital expenditures not tied up in print operations; and operated in cities with low broadband Internet penetration. More affected newspapers were the opposite. They produced only single copies; were distributed for free; operated in a broad geographical area; received more than 60 per cent of revenues from advertising; had a high reliance on classifieds in the advertising mix; had high debt; powerful unions; major capital expenditures tied up in print operations; and high penetration of broadband Internet. Many of the newspapers that closed in the United States in 2009 were the weaker publication in two-newspaper markets, bogged down with huge debt.
Slate, the online-only news magazine founded in 1996, offers an example of new possibilities for news organisations. Jacob Weisberg was editor from 2002 to 2008 before he became editor-in-chief of the group. In that time Slate moved into profit. In an interview with The Economist published 11 July 2009, Weisberg said web-only journalism was viable because it did not have print’s huge fixed costs. “The marginal cost of distribution is zero. Most of what we spend at the Slate Group goes into creating original content.” Weisberg said web advertising could support big newsrooms if they escaped some of their “legacy” costs. “The test I’d most like to see is of a well-financed, for-profit, web-only “newspaper” with no printed version. The problem is that the leading news organizations have a stake in web-only newspapers not working because they will accelerate the decline of the large, if faltering businesses that revolve around print.” What about future revenue sources? Weisberg said The Economist had become the envy of all serious media because of the way it had developed multiple revenue streams over a period of decades. “Slate’s secondary sources include syndication and licensing, charging for Slate on mobile devices, book publishing, and affiliate fees for referrals to Amazon. I like the model of a free website, but paid mobile applications.” The huge cost of buying a printing press and establishing distribution chains limited the number of newspapers and effectively created a monopoly or duopoly for anyone who could afford those costs. Now the metal and money in those presses has become an anchor that limits development.
Jonathan Knee, who directs the media program at the Columbia Business School in New York, said the high barriers to entry the newspaper business once enjoyed in an offline world simply “did not exist in an online world”. Because digital start-ups have low costs it is easier for them to reach profitability, provided they generate revenues. Knee suggested generations of monopoly profits had dulled newspaper managers’ senses. Many had avoided their responsibilities to force journalists “to think harder about what their readers want, rather than what they want their readers to want”. The recession and economic imperatives have driven the decision to go digital at newspapers such as the Christian Science Monitor and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Editorial managers must seize the future, and choose digital and wireless delivery, rather than wait for outside forces to make those choices.
VG’s CEO Pedersen calculated that at least 55 per cent of the cost of publishing a newspaper could be eliminated by going online. The main issue is the tipping point of the savings from going online versus the loss of advertising revenue. In a speech on the future of journalism at the National Press Club in Canberra on 2 July 2009, News Ltd CEO John Hartigan highlighted the dilemma traditional media faced, anchored by high investments in printing presses. “An online reader generates about 10 per cent of the revenue we can make from a newspaper reader. So, for every reader we lose from the paper we need to pick up 10 online.”
In their June 2009 report Moving into multiple business models: Outlook for newspaper publishing in the digital age, Marcel Fenez and Marieke van der Donk of PricewaterhouseCoopers concluded that print remained the largest source of revenue generation for newspaper publishers. It would “continue to be so for some time” though they did not nominate a time frame. The pair also acknowledged the “huge potential” for growth online, and noted that it was unlikely newspapers in the future would appear either in the formats or volumes seen today.
Clay Shirky, who writes about the social effects of Internet technologies, believes organizational forms perfected for industrial production like the newspaper need to be replaced with structures optimized for digital data. “It makes increasingly less sense even to talk about a publishing industry, because the core problem publishing solves – the incredible difficulty, complexity, and expense of making something available to the public – has stopped being a problem.” It is time for innovation, Shirky said, and each experiment would seem “as minor at launch as Craigslist did”. “No one experiment is going to replace what we are now losing with the demise of news on paper, but over time, the collection of new experiments that do work might give us the journalism we need,” he wrote on his blog on 13 March 2009. We believe people will pay for news and information they perceive will add value to their lives. The “content is king” argument is dead because the web produces so much content.
Valued and quality content are the new royalty. The issue is finding the resources to produce that content, and then connecting that content with the right audience. Success will come to media houses that embrace innovation, creativity and an entrepreneurial spirit, and hire people with those attributes. It is time to go forth wisely into a brave new digital future.
Bernama: New tools for reporting
A course for Bernama journalists, in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on 24-25 November 2010
Blogs for research and story ideas
RSS feeds for managing blogs
Google tools for reporting
Skype and CallRecorder for reporting
Reporting with social networking (Web 2.0) tools
- Twitter (via TweetDeck)
Visual reporting: Panoramas, Soundslides and Wordle
Working with audience-generated content
Assessing information quality
Bio of the teacher
Stephen Quinn was a full-time journalist for two decades until 1995, and continues to practise as a journalist. He has worked for regional newspapers in Australia; the Bangkok Post; the UK Press Association, BBC-TV, Independent Television News and The Guardian in London; the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in Sydney; and Television New Zealand. He was a producer for the Middle East Broadcasting Centre in 2002-03 while running a research centre in Dubai, to re-acquaint himself with new television production technologies.
Dr Quinn became a full-time university academic in 1996. Since then he has written 15 books, scores of book chapters and journal articles, and thousands of pieces of journalism. His most recent books are Funding Journalism in the Digital Age (2010) and MOJO: Mobile Journalism in the Asian Region (2009). The first volume of Asia’s Media Innovators and Australia-UAE: Expanding trade and cultural links appeared in 2008. The second volume will appear in late 2010. In 2007 he co-wrote with Dr Stephen Lamble Online Newsgathering: Research and Reporting for Journalism. He published three books about convergent journalism in 2005 and 2006. In the past decade Dr Quinn has presented almost 160 academic papers in 26 countries. More than a third have been by invitation.
Dr Quinn contributes to newspapers and magazines, consults for media companies, presents at industry conferences, and conducts research and training courses for media companies. In the past decade he had run more than 100 training courses in eight countries. He is a consultant for WAN/Ifra (based in France and Germany) and Innovation International (based in Spain); a member of the Counsel of the Newsplex; and a member of the international committee of the Online News Association.
Journalists adopt technology for reporting if the new tools – remember that technologies are simply tools – are easy and intuitive to use, and help reporters tell better stories. The reverse also applies. Some powerful tools have become available to reporters over the past few years. This course focuses on some of the latest.
Blogs and other related media offer new research opportunities for journalists. Blog is a word combined from web and log. The word “blogosphere” describes all the content built by blogs, moblogs, podcasts and video blogs (these are discussed later). Just as the word “twittersphere” describes all of the content built around Twitter.
Why do people blog? Don’t they have a life?
Blogs come in a wide variety of flavours. Many people have opinions they want to express. Others seek a sense of community. These factors partly help to explain the popularity of blogging. Some people write blogs as newsletters or bulletins for their organisations. Academics use them for teaching. Increasingly, businesses are using them to market their products. Sport or recreation clubs publicise their events via blogs.
But probably the biggest group of blogs are personal diaries where people vent their frustrations and offer their oinions about life and the universe. As with newsgroups, the quality of information in blogs sits on a long continuum from erudite offerings to lunatic ravings, sometimes more often at the latter end of the continuum. So be careful.
In July 2006 the Pew Internet and American Life Project released a portrait of American bloggers, based on a national telephone survey started in November the previous year. It reported that most bloggers used their blogs as personal journals. But according to Pew almost a third described what they did as journalism.
Just over a third (37 per cent) of the people in the Pew survey wanted to stay in touch with family and friends, and a third wanted to share practical knowledge or skills with others. Making money was last on the list, with 7 per cent citing it as their main reason for blogging.
Why do people blog, given the vast majority do not want to make money? When asked to list the main reasons, 52 per cent said they wanted to express themselves creatively and half said they wanted to document their personal experiences or share them with others.
Australia needs the equivalent of a Pew centre so we can discover similar information about Australian bloggers.
Changing media audience demographics
Research from Zogby International in the United States, published March 2008, suggests traditional print and broadcast news are reaching an ageing (and thus ultimately shrinking) demographic. Almost half of respondents (48 per cent) said the Internet was their primary source of news and information, up from 40 per cent who nominated the Internet a year earlier. Younger adults were most likely to name the Internet as their top source: 55 per cent of people aged 18 to 29 said they got most of their news and information online, compared with 35 per cent of the 65 and older demographic.
Interestingly, respondents to the 2008 Zogby survey regarded both traditional and new media as important for the future of journalism: 87 per cent believed professional reporting had a key role in journalism’s future, though citizen journalism (77 per cent) and blogging (59 per cent) were also seen as significant by most Americans.
In June 2009 Zogby International published reports of two major polls on how Americans got their news and what sources they most trusted. Zogby asked which of the four primary information sources was most reliable. More than twice as many people chose the Internet (37 per cent) ahead of television (17 per cent), newspapers (16 per cent) and radio (13 per cent).
Ironically, most of the news Americans consume online comes from traditional media. Zogby offered two explanations: “The Internet allows people to seek information from thousands of blogs, aggregators and social networks, and to migrate to those that share their point of view. The information received may originate from the same old media, but it is wrapped in designer packaging that matches personal tastes and ideologies.”
Research with blogs
Blogs can be used as research tools, but the quality of information varies hugely (we will discuss this issue at the end). Think of them as a convenient electronic tool for listening to scuttlebutt. It’s like overhearing conversations on public transport or at social events. Sometimes they will stimulate ideas for stories.
Use blogs to discover what people in the blogosphere are saying about local businesses or sportspeople or politicians. But remember that blogs are more influential than they deserve because Technorati, like Google, ranks sites based on how many people link to that site. This produces high rankings for bloggers who link to other bloggers. If you find lots of links to a blog, this might mean the blogger is respected and the blogosphere thinks they know a lot about the subject. They might prove a useful person to interview.
Technorati (http://technorati.com/) is the leading tool for searching blogs. According to Technorati, more than 175,000 new blogs start every day. More than 1.6 million blog posts appear a day, or about 18 a second. As of mid 2009 Technorati was tracking 112.8 million blogs and more than 250 million pieces of social media. Five years earlier Technorati tracked a mere 2.4 million blogs. Now the site simply says it tracks “millions” of blogs. It claims to report within eight minutes of a blog being published.
Google also has a good search tool for finding blogs at http://blogsearch.google.com.au/ though it is still in beta, which is geek speak for still being tested.
Also remember that the same search terms typed into a blog search tool such as Technorati will produce different results compared with using those same terms in a search engine such as Fast or Google. So when casting the net wide for information make sure you search both on blogs and search tools.
A good video about blogs
This video by Lee LeFever called “Blogs in plain English” provides good background information about the concept: http://www.commoncraft.com/store-item/blogs
Choose a subject you plan to research. It might be a local person or sporting identity or organisation. Or for the exercise you could use your own name. Search for the name in a web-based tool such as Google or Bing or Fast or Yahoo! (putting the full name in quote marks tells the technology you only want mentions of the name that are in a phrase).
Then do the same search in Technorati, the blog search tool. Compare the results. You will note these tools search different parts of the Internet. It helps to research something topical because people tend to blog about current events. For example, you would search Technorati for a local sporting identity or coach close to a major game, or a local politician close to an election.
The word “moblog” is an amalgam of mobile phone and blog. People post content to a blog by sending a multi-media message from their phone. An MMS is like sending an SMS, though with more information. The MMS’s subject line becomes the headline for the posting, and the message text the body of the story. Software nestles the attached photograph into the posting as a thumbnail image, itself linked to a full-size image.
WAN/Ifra is a newspaper research company based in Germany. WAN/Ifra moblogs all its conferences. To see examples of what moblogs look like, go to WAN/Ifra’s home page http://www.ifra.net/. The top of the page contains much useful information about newspapers, such as e-reading devices.
A podcast is a verbal blog. Words are recorded rather than written. Ben Hammersley of the UK’s Wired magazine coined the term, which the New Oxford American Dictionary listed as its word of the year in 2005. Dozens of US newspapers and magazines embraced podcasting from that year. Some summarise the day’s news; others provide radio-style programs complete with interviews of reporters and newsmakers.
Listeners download podcast files onto their music players or computers, often via Apple’s iTunes. Podcasting represents another example of personal media, where individuals choose what they hear when they want it, rather than relying on radio stations. Again, convenience is the key.
Here are videos about a new iPhone app called Poddio that turns the iPhone into a broadcast-quality reporting tool: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQ1ZmJMIO2E and
Podcasts offer useful ways to get background information on events and people. You can listen at convenient times while travelling to work or jogging.
To learn more about podcasts, watch this video “Podcasting in plain English,” also by Lee LeFever, at http://www.commoncraft.com/podcasting
Video blogs, known as vblogs, are video versions of blogs. People assemble them with common video-editing software, using footage from digital video cameras taken with mobile phones or portable video cameras. Much free footage is available on the web.
The pioneer vlog was Rocketboom (http://www.rocketboom.com) in New York City. It uses TV news as a model – each bulletin runs for about three minutes – and is set in a studio with a presenter. Many vlogs are created with consumer-level video cameras, a laptop, free editing software such as Apple’s iMovie or Windows MovieMaker, a few lights and a spare room.
One of the best examples of a journalist embracing a range of blogs is the work of New York Times technology reporter David Pogue. As with Rocketboom, Pogue builds his videos using a laptop and a consumer-quality digital camera. You can read his blog, listen to his podcast, or watch his weekly video blog at http://pogue.blogs.nytimes.com/.
Most journalists will be aware of Wikipedia. Jimmy Wales founded Wikipedia in San Francisco. He envisioned it as a way to capture the knowledge of the group rather than the individual. Journalists will have to make individual decision on whether to report based on content found in wikis. Thomson Reuters recently updated their reporters’ handbook and included this advice about Wikipedia:
“Online information sources which rely on collaborative, voluntary and often anonymous contributions need to be handled with care. Wikipedia, the online “people’s encyclopedia”, can be a good starting point for research. But it should not be used as an attributable source. Do not quote from it or copy from it.
“The information it contains has not been validated and can change from second to second as contributors add or remove material. Move on to official websites or other sources that are worthy of attribution. Do not link to Wikipedia or similar collaborative encyclopedia sites as a source of background information on any topic. More suitable sites can always be found, and indeed are often flagged at the bottom of Wikipedia entries. It is only acceptable to link to an entry on Wikipedia or similar sites when the entry or website itself is the subject of a news story.”
The Thomson Reuters handbook on reporting that said: “We want to encourage you to use social media approaches in your journalism but we also need to make sure that you are fully aware of the risks.” Read the full section on social media in the handbook at http://handbook.reuters.com/index.php/Reporting_from_the_internet#Social_media_guidelines
An interesting recent development is an audience-focused search tool funded by the Wiki Foundation: http://answers.wikia.com/wiki/Wikianswers
Want to know more about wikis? Watch this video called “Wikis in plain English” for more information: http://www.commoncraft.com/video-wikis-plain-english
News organisations should consider setting up a series of internal wikis that become resources on specific topics. You could have a wiki for each local government election, or major events such as release of a budget, or for specific high school sports. Here is a video about using wikis as collaboration tools. Journalists in different parts of the country could use them for a project http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7BAU2XX5Ws.
Blogs can help us do better research and consequently better journalism. But blogs are spreading so quickly it is difficult to keep up. A technology known as RSS is available to help us follow the latest blogs. RSS stands for “really simple syndication”. It means you can have information fed to you instead of searching for it. Technlogy “pulls” content to your computer.
A program known as a news reader (sometimes called a feed reader or aggregator) checks a list of sites you nominate, and displays all updated articles. As with email, unread entries are shown in bold.
News readers come in two forms: web-based aggregators that gather feeds for reading in a browser, or desktop news aggregators that can be installed on a computer. The latter can be cross platform, or specific to the Macintosh, Windows or Linux.
Aggregators are being built into portal sites such as My Yahoo! and Google and web browsers such as Mozilla Firefox, Safari and Opera. Apple’s iTunes serves as a podcast aggregator or “podcatcher”. Most aggregators are free.
My favourite is Google Reader because it integrates with other Google tools: http://www.google.com/reader/
This video shows how it works http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VSPZ2Uu_X3Y
Demonstrate Google Reader
Watch this video to understand the concept of RSS. It’s by Lee LeFever and is called “RSS in plain English”: http://www.commoncraft.com/rss_plain_english
Exercise Set up a Google Reader account. You will need a Gmail account to log in.
Google tools for reporting
Google’s mail tool (Gmail) is useful for researchers. The chat option keeps a transcript of the conversation, so you have content to use when you write a story. You can use the same log-in for Gmail as for Google Reader. Google tools inter-connect with each other, so you have access to Picasa, the free picture editing software, from the desktop.
I recommend Google Alerts and SocialMention. These bring information requests to you.
Demonstrate http://www.google.com/alerts and http://www.socialmention.com/
Online video and multi-media
Over the next few years journalism will transform itself from its current print emphasis to a focus on a combination of print and multi-media, delivered online.
As that happens, newspapers will compete with broadcast companies to be first with the news. Before the spread of the web, broadcast companies owned breaking news. Radio could interrupt programs to announce the latest news. Television could go live if executives considered the situation appropriate, but only if they had a camera crew at the location. Meanwhile, newspapers had to wait until they were published. Now we can break news online, ahead of radio and television.
Much research has shown that breaking news drives traffic to newspaper web sites. The most popular form of breaking news, the kind that builds and holds audiences for web sites, is multi-media: news that is some combination of text, video, still images, maps, timelines, chronologies, slideshows and audio.
The simplest and quickest way to get multi-media news on a web site is via the mobile phone. Reporters can also send news back to the office via text messages from mobile phones and via tools such as Twitter (more on Twitter later).
Enter the mojo, a mobile journalist armed with only a mobile phone and a wireless Internet connection. With these simple tools a reporter can get multi-media breaking news onto a newspaper’s web site within minutes of an event being reported, ideally after an editor has looked at it first. Demonstrate mojo.
Skype and CallRecorder
Skype (www.skype.com) is free software that lets you make free phone calls to anyone who has skype installed on their computer. It works best with broadband. If you put money into a skype account, you can call mobiles and landlines that do not have skype. The cost is low for international calls, compared with toll calls, especially from hotel rooms. I make almost all my international calls by skype.
Read this column by Amy Gahran headlined “Skype: Why every journalist should use it”. http://www.poynter.org/column.asp?id=31&aid=155339
CallRecorder (http://www.ecamm.com/mac/callrecorder/) costs $18. It only works on a Mac running OSX. It links with Skype to record the conversation, using the Mac’s built-in camera. Calls are saved as a QuickTime movie. The local and remote audio tracks of the conversation are recorded on different tracks. So you could select one track to use as the audio for a sound slide.
SkypeRecorder is slightly more expensive. It comes in PC and Mac formats and is available for download from the web at http://www.extralabs.net/skype-recorder.htm.
Demonstrate Skype and CallRecorder.
Reporting with social networking / media (Web 2.0) tools
Web 1.0 was one-way delivery of information to the audience. Web 2.0 involves interaction and connection between audiences, known as social networking (examples are Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn), and audience creation of media, known as social media (examples include YouTube and Flickr). “Web 2.0 journalism” describes the relationship between social networking, social media and journalism.
To learn more about social networking watch this Lee LeFever video on social networking http://www.commoncraft.com/video-social-networking.
Flickr is a great way to generate story ideas. Type in key words in the advanced search section of http://www.flickr.com/ and see what you find.
Facebook is an excellent way to find people to interview and story ideas. It has thousands of groups, many of which are useful for journalists. Join a group that relates to your area of interest. Some journalists have found Facebook a quick way to locate a photograph of someone in the news, especially if people being sought are aged under 40.
LinkedIn is probably the best single social networking tool for journalists at media houses whose audience is the AB demographic because of the large number of that demographic who use LinkedIn. Clifford Rosenberg, the company’s managing director in Australia, said Australian membership passed the 1 million mark in late February 2010. At the time LinkedIn had 60 million members worldwide.
Twitter and micro-blogging
One of the big developments since early 2008 has been the concept of micro-blogging via the web or mobile phone. Twitter was the original tool (http://twitter.com/). Twitter is limited to 140 characters (similar to SMS). A post to Twitter is called a “tweet”.
The Punch (http://www.thepunch.com.au/) covers Question Time live every day Parliament sits. Managing editor Paul Colgan says a “sizeable crowd of readers” joins the discussion. You can teach yourself Twitter by going to Twitter’s help page. It is comprehensive. Find it at http://help.twitter.com/.
You need to set up a Twitter account. I use free software called TweetDeck to monitor Twitter. It has a clean interface and is available for Macintosh and Windows: http://www.tweetdeck.com/. I think TweetGrid is another good tool for monitoring Twitter. It is a good option for looking at trends at http://www.tweetgrid.com/trending/.
Jeff Turner has produced a video about TweetGrid: http://www.vimeo.com/2356559. To find people on Twitter, here is a new tool: http://tweepsearch.com/. But it is still in beta.
Tweetscan (http://www.tweetscan.com/) is like a search tool for tweets. Insert words that you are researching to see who is twittering about these things. Twittervision is a map of the world in which tweets appear from the continent of origin: http://twittervision.com/
Twitscoop shows what the blogosphere is saying. It uses an automated algorithm to monitor hundreds of tweets every minute and extract words mentioned more often than others. The result is displayed in a tag cloud at http://www.twitscoop.com/. Pierre Stanislas, one of the developers in Paris, said Twitscoop crawls 20,000 tweets an hour.
This video “Twitter in plain English,” by the talented Lee LeFever, covers the basics about tweeting: http://www.commoncraft.com/twitter. Lee LeFever shows us how to use Twitter for research in this video: http://www.commoncraft.com/twitter-search
Many news organisations such as the BBC are breaking news on Twitter. In April 2009 a CNN producer ran the London marathon and twittered it: http://edition.cnn.com/2009/TECH/04/26/twitter.london.marathon.runner/.
In June 2009 a Seattle Times reporter also twittered while running a marathon. Details: http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/flatpages/local/rockandrollfor26arunningcommentary.html
American journalism academics Marcus Messner and Asriel Eford of Virginia Commonwealth University looked at Twitter activity at 180 of the top US newspapers and television stations. They presented their findings at the Future of Journalism conference in Cardiff, UK, in September 2009.
Professor Messner said 91 per cent of the news outlets studied had Twitter accounts, but only two thirds of those studied actually used Twitter. Almost all (98.5 per cent) of the hyperlinks pointed to in tweets were to existing website content. In other words, Twitter was being used as a marketing tool.
A journalism graduate student in Buffalo New York, Craig Kanalley, launched a fascinating Twitter project in 2009 called Breaking Tweets. It organises thousands of tweets into a news service. Think of it as “hyperlocal gone global”. Find it at http://www.breakingtweets.com/
For a laugh, watch this mock documentary about a new form of communication called nano-blogging at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BeLZCy-_m3s
And this animated series has become hugely popular on Current TV: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PN2HAroA12w
And here you can locate “celebrities” via Twitter: http://www.celebritytweet.com/
This oddly named site (http://delicious.com/) allows journalists (after they register) to store all their bookmarks in one location on the web. So if reporters are on the road, they always have access to contacts and information.
More importantly, many people make their bookmarks publicly available on the web, which means it is possible to locate ready-made sources of research on specific topics. Search the site using keywords. You can find my bookmarks at http://delicious.com/sraquinn/. More relevant for journalists is this huge collection of links on the subject of Internet freedom: http://delicious.com/internetfreedom/
This Lee LeFever video, called “Social bookmarking in plain English,” is about Delicious and social bookmarking: http://www.commoncraft.com/bookmarking-plain-english.
Visual reporting: Panoramas and Wordle
One new way of combining images online has come to be known as a panorama. A panorama is a series of photographs taken over a short period of time and linked via Photoshop software to produce a continuous single image. Audiences can explore the image by scrolling their mouse around the image. Here is an example from The New York Times. Run your mouse over the image to see some amazing detail: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2009/06/30/nyregion/20090702-page1-pano.html
Many people store their photographs on the web. Many of those photos are copyright free, so they can be used to illustrate your stories. Here is a Lee Lefever video about photo-sharing services: http://www.commoncraft.com/photosharing
Wordle (http://www.wordle.net/) describes itself as a “toy” for generating “word clouds” from text. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak the clouds with different fonts, layouts and colour schemes. A wordle is a simple way to illustrate news stories such as speeches.
A key skill in the newsroom of the future will be the ability to find ways to report news as it happens by involving members of the audience. Smaller newspapers never have enough reporters to cover everything in their community. But many members of the community can take photographs or shoot video with their mobile phones and send text messages to the news desk. Tools like the mobile phone present an opportunity for an enterprising newspaper to develop connections with their various communities. Audience-generated content, when managed well, helps newspapers connect with key members of the community – those people with their fingers of the pulse of the community, such as barbers, school administrators, sports club officials, religious leaders and community workers.
Use your newspaper’s web site and blogs to connect with these people. Invite them to contribute to topics you are researching. You will need to word the invitation carefully to ensure you do not give the impression you are seeking rumours or gossip, or just want free content. Many newspapers, for example, invite readers to email story tips. Many major media companies are embracing audience-generated content for a range of reasons.
Take a look at this, I think, amusing segment from the Daily Show about CNN’s iReport: http://www.thedailyshow.com/video/index.jhtml?videoId=127018&title=Headlines—CNN-iReport
Everything on one site
FriendFeed allows you to put all your links and connections on one site. From there links can be shared.
Demonstrate Friendfeed: http://friendfeed.com/sraquinn
If you are unfamiliar with new software you could join www.lynda.com, where you can teach yourself. Lynda charges a fee.
Assessing information quality
Beware of blogs used for “astro-turfing”: that’s the Internet term for blogs masquerading as grassroots coverage, usually to sell a product or push a cause. For example, blogs have reported that teenagers love to eat McDonalds hamburgers or will only wash their hair with Loreal shampoo. Company marketing people wrote those blogs.
Fisking is a common form of fact-checking on the web. Fisking is reportedly named after Robert Fisk, the Beirut-based correspondent for The Independent. Fiskers are people who check stories line by line to find errors, and then publicise those mistakes. Plenty of people in the blogosphere seem to have lots of spare time to “fisk”.
Anyone can put fake information on the Internet, and it’s sometimes difficult discovering who has. To interpret digital information, journalists need to understand the concept of Internet domains and what they mean, and the structure of online files.
The standards we apply to digital information should be the same we apply to other information. Steve Miller, deputy technology editor at The New York Times, has developed the Miller Internet Data Integrity Scale, or MIDIS. He proposes a hierarchy of information, with credibility generally decreasing as you move down the hierarchy.
Government data (.gov /.govt)
Military (.mil /.mod)
University material (.edu /.ac)
Special interest groups (.org & .net)
Business and others (.com /.co)
Most of what appears in blogs comes from Internet domains in the bottom two lines.
Be careful what you report. In July 2006 Sunday Age columnist Terry Lane fell for the Jesse Macbeth hoax. For more details, read the Wikipedia entry for Terry Lane at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terry_Lane and then read about Macbeth at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesse_Macbeth
In July 2009 two UK university graduates, Rory Crew and Knud Noelle, stopped updating the fake Twitter account they created to pretend to be UK foreign secretary David Miliband. Several major news outlets including The Guardian, AFP, The Times and The Telegraph quoted the fake Miliband’s tribute to Michael Jackson: “Never has one soared so high and yet dived so low. RIP Michael”.
In an email to The Guardian Crew and Noelle said they hoped journalists “learned something” about not taking information at face value. “It does highlight the importance of the verification of sources, which is clearly becoming more difficult in the web 2.0 era,” they wrote.
Remember, wrong information placed online has a long life. Early in May 2009 an Irish student admitted he had inserted a fake quote on Wikipedia about French composer Maurice Jarre some months earlier. After Jarre died in March 2009 the quote appeared in newspaper obituaries around the world.
Shane Fitzgerald, 22 at the time, from University College Dublin, said he put the quote on the web as an experiment. The Irish Times said despite corrections and the fact Wikipedia had dropped the quote, it appeared in dozens of blogs and newspapers. See http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gQV2LU_QhL5w_BcPY5B6pvuUUMGg
You need to be careful about what you report, especially if it appears under your by-line. Use the RAP mnemonic to remember how to assess information quality. Ask yourself is the source Reliable? Who publishes the information? Then ask if it’s Accurate. Mistakes in grammar, spelling and punctuation should cause you to question the content. What evidence can you find for assertions made in the text?
Finally, is the information Plausible? What is the tone of the writing? Why has it been assembled? You need to use your journalistic skills to assess web 2.0 content.
Mark Briggs has written a free book about multi-media, available as a pdf. It’s basic but includes a good section on Web 2.0: http://www.kcnn.org/resources/journalism_20/.
Mindy McAdams at the University of Florida, has assembled a series of blog posts about multi-media into a free book, available as a pdf: http://mindymcadams.com/tojou/
This site from the University of California at Berkeley’s graduate school of journalism is excellent: http://multimedia.journalism.berkeley.edu/
The fall 2009 edition of the Nieman Report focuses on social media and journalism: http://www.nieman.harvard.edu/reports.aspx?id=100058
Google have assembled a comprehensive site about using Google tools for journalism: http://sites.google.com/site/aujournalists/
Mark S. Luckie writes an excellent blog about multi-media that should be on your list of regular reads: http://www.10000words.net/
The author’s blog about mobile journalism has a range of information about reporting with only a mobile phone. See: http://globalmojo.org
Jonathan Dube of Cyberjournalist provides an excellent introduction to RSS feeds for journalists. Read it at http://www.cyberjournalist.net/news/001913.php. JD Lasica has written a RSS guide for journalists at http://www.ojr.org/ojr/lasica/1043362624.php.
Journalism academic Paul Bradshaw wrote this useful article about much of what we discuss in this course: http://www.journalism.co.uk/7/articles/531343.php
Donna Shaw wrote an article headlined “Wikipedia in the Newsroom” for American Journalism Review of Feb-March 2008. http://www.ajr.org/Article.asp?id=4461
Here is John Sandvand on Twitter: http://www.betatales.com/2009/01/21/5-great-twitter-tools-for-journalists/. The editors’ weblog has also written about Twitter: http://www.editorsweblog.org/multimedia/2009/07/do_journalists_speak_twitter.php
Daniel Bennett has a useful post on UK journalists’ use of Twitter during the Iranian uprising: http://frontlineclub.com/blogs/danielbennett/2009/09/access-denied.html
Worried about Facebook security? This article helps: http://www.nytimes.com/external/readwriteweb/2009/09/16/16readwriteweb-5-easy-steps-to-stay-safe-and-private-on-fac-6393.html
China Daily wine column #16
Sunday November 14th 2010, 10:43 am
Filed under: wine
We return to New Zealand’s Central Otago, the country’s premier region in the deep south, to talk about wondrous pinot noir. The Central Otago Winegrowers’ Association provided a case of what it considers the region’s best wines, and some of these are reviewed this week.
The 2008 Wooing Tree sandstorm reserve is dark cherry in color and tastes of ripe cherries and plums. Michael Cooper in his Buyer’s Guide to New Zealand Wine rated the 2007 version as worthy of five stars, his top award. At $100 a bottle the price may seem high, but that is what you must pay to access the limited quantities of this special wine. It is made from low-yielding vines at the family-owned estate in the heart of Central Otago, near the town of Cromwell.
The wine is dark, brooding and exclusive. Tasted again after being opened for two days, the wine was still fresh, suggesting longevity. The Wooing Tree name comes from the fact that courting couples used to meet under the tree that features on the label of the company’s best wines.
If you are able to resist its brooding and restrained charms this wine should be cellared for at least five years. The wine is available from high-end hotels in Hong Kong.
Another reserve pinot noir, the 2009 Aurum Mathilde, also developed nicely after being open for two days. Leaving a complex wine open for a couple of days offers a way to get a sense of how it might develop. This may seem a brutal process but exposure to air accelerates how it will taste in years to come. The Aurum is dark cherry in color with aromas of spice and thyme. The finish has hints of dark chocolate.
An image of a golden bowl adorns the label. Aurum is the Latin word for gold. This treasure of a wine is available from New Zealand Wine Ltd in Causeway Bay in Hong Kong.
Grapes were hand harvested from the Lowburn area of Central Otago and given the wine comes from relatively young vines, planted in 2001, it is complex yet approachable. A spine of dusty tannins suggests this wine should be cellared for at least five years to appreciate its full potential.
Mathilde is the name of the first-born daughter of winemakers Brook and Lucie Lawrence. Brook met his wife while they were working at Domaine d’Arlot in Nuit St. Georges in Burgundy. Their creation sells for about $35 at the cellar door. It was matured for 14 months in French oak, a quarter of it new.
* “A little age does wonders for these pinot noir” in China Daily, 13 November 2010, page12.