Charlie Beckett On BeatBlogging In A Networked World

getimageIt’s a safe bet that Charlie Beckett, online media aficionado, director of POLIS at The London School of Economics and the author of Super Media: Saving Journalism, knows a hell of a lot more about the media than most of us. If his credentials aren’t convincing you, check out this interview. Somehow, he sums up the current state, ongoing failures and legitimate potential of beatblogging in a networked world in three questions. Plus, he’s got a British accent and it makes him sound super authoritative. Continue reading

Breaking Tweets Organizes Endless Twitter Stream, Making Investigating Less Expensive

Anyone with reporting experience knows what an expensive pain in the ass it can be to find good quotes for a story. Put the event up for discussion around the world and watch as “difficult” turns into a full fledged nightmare. It’s part of what makes the shrieks about losing original reporting on the under-funded web so loud.

DePaul University grad student Craig Kanalley wants to make opinion quotes and eyewitness accounts easier to wrangle. His site, BreakingTweets.com, uses Twitter and a group of editors to format news stories in an unusually interactive way that provides quotes forpicture-1 other journalists.

It starts with an editor, who writes a one or two paragraph explanatory intro about the story, then come the tweeters, who send opinions, analysis and eyewitness media. Editors cull the best and most insightful tweets from the bunch, as well as occasionally interjecting with their own updates.

“I think a well done Breaking Tweets story can be just as valuable as a longer form traditional news story on the same subject,” Kanalley said.

More importantly though, it’s a model you can use for your own blogging. Whether your blog is geographically anchored or just subject-specific, the Breaking Tweets method translates to hyper-local blogging easily. Use it to enmesh your own authorship with reader opinion, to collect media and organize the endless comment stream that is Twitter.

Below you’ll find an interview with Kanalley about where Breaking Tweets came from and how his team is making it work: Continue reading

The Three Pillars Of Future News

b_holpx2News as we knew it is in the crapper, we get it. Why people keep writing entire articles about that now obvious fact is unclear. Less common are new suggestions for fixing the problem. Walter Isaacson revived the micropayments concept in TIME and anyone and everyone who wants to sound like they know what they’re saying is still latching on. Nothing new there.

Mark Josephson’s suggestions weren’t particularly shocking, either. But they are fairly astute and all in one place, so let’s give it a look. Josephson puts all his hope in three pillars: aggregation (duh), curation (well, yes) and networking (shocker!). I’ll reserve my bitchiness for a moment though for an analysis of what Josephson means by each pillar. His explanations are less trite than his single word pillars would imply.

Aggregation– not just linking, copying, all that crap. It’s all about “dynamically sourcing every single local piece of content and organizing by discrete neighborhoods — or even specific addresses — gives the kind of targeted and timely local coverage that print newspapers never dreamed of attempting,” says Josephson. This should be obvious, but clearly isn’t when you look at the often random junk that so many blogs link to.

Curation– Kind of like aggregation, but classier. Don’t just link to any related post, make every link count. The Times has been practicing this linking method for a while, at first far too stringently, linking only within The Times site to maintain their editorial voice. Everyone on the web knows that you need to be less stingy with your links, but you don’t need to go giving them away for free to every fast and loose blog that occasionally agrees with you.

Network– I almost don’t even want to talk about this one, because the thought of touting the importance of social networking feels passe to the point of death by boredom. I will say only this: new media is about individuals developing ridiculously specific networks like never before. Without the contacts that these groups bring, things will fall apart.

NYU Local In NYMag Print Edition!

picture-11And my mom always said I’d never amount to anything…

The 125 Year Old Start Up Paper

The Cedar Rapids Gazette, founded in 1883, is in start up mode.

Steve Buttry, the paper’s former editor, has relinquished that role in favor a more ridiculous sounding title: Information Content Conductor. This is more than merely an overblown title, it’s a sign of the massive newsroom reaorganization that the Gazette plans to undergo over the coming weeks and months.

In an interview with post by Harvard’s Nieman Lab, Buttry explained how the new Gazette will function:

  • “We will have an independent organization which I lead focused exclusively on developing content from our professional journalists as well as from the community. We will publish this content digitally without editing and without the limitations of products. Another organization will plan and edit products, such as The Gazette and GazetteOnline, using content from my organization as well as others.”

What this means: The Gazette is no longer a victim of the paper first mindset, which is costly and, frankly, pretty damn behind the times at this point. I’ve done a lovely (read “really terrible”) illustration of how The Gazette’s new school look at content  could most easily be translated to a larger organization. Check it out below:

content-conduction-diagram

Area of information content conduction: Home for all the journalists and the info that they gather. Information is, admittedly, amassed and packaged very differently for the web vs. print. A central info hub does not mean that nobody knows where their story is going (web or print) until they’ve done their interviews and whatnot. That would be terribly inefficient. Rather, journalists will become very, very beat specific, meaning that each journalist will be wildly and specifically knowledgeable about a specific topic. This deep knowledge rather than subject jumping will make it easy for journalists to determine which area their content is most appropriate for.

WEB: The internet, of course. Primary means of content distribution.

PRINT: Is allowed to continue existing, but not in a postition of primary importance.

INFO SERVICE: Newspapers shouldn’t waste all the specialized info they gather. It’s marketable information, particularly once journalists become uber-niche-y. It’ll also lead to hyper-specialized ads, raising the CPM.

Pay Cuts and Involuntary Vacation at NYTimes

0804homelessThe New York Times has spent the last several months assuring employees that they won’t be instituting massive layoffs. While that’s technically still true– the paper hasn avoided the institution crippling cuts that many of its lesser brethren have faced– this week brought with it a major sign of These Troubled Times.

Writing about itself (in the third person, of course!), The Times said: “The New York Times Company budget plans announced Thursday, including a temporary 5 percent pay cut for most employees, should avert newsroom staff cuts at the flagship Times newspaper this year.” (Notice the rather large loophole for layoffs at other Times Co. papers in saying “at the flagship Times newspaper.”) Also accompanying these lovely pay cuts will be involuntary vacation days for a large chunk of the staff.

Unfortunately, something tells me that exposing your sickly pale journalists’ skin to the sunlight on one of these vacations won’t be so much fun after all.

MixedInk: Collaborative Writing Tool For the Lazy (and Smart)

picture-1

Obama’s inaugural address sounded pretty familiar to frequent readers of Slate.com. Perhaps that’s because 455 of them wrote it.

Well, not quite “it,” but something surprisingly similar in many ways. There was no huge meeting; no conference of the politically-minded, Obama-loving Slate readers. Rather, there was a website, and a fairly new one at that. The site is MixedInk.com and the collaborative writing service it offers is powerful.

picture-3

Here’s how it works: decide what you’re going to write about and allow hundreds or even thousands of interested participants to submit their two cents and comment on others’ contributions. As content comes in, contributors vote for the best, build off one another and end up with a cohesive piece of writing that takes the collective good stuff and leaves the bad behind.

MixedInk’s two most impressive projects thus far — the Slate collaboration and nearly 200 online activists who used the service to create a democratic platform, a small part of which ended up on the actual platform — have been political. But the MixedInk method is also incredibly applicable to beatblogs with active and opinionated readerships.

“It’s not good for five, 10 people collaborating,” acknowledged co-founder David Stern. “But there can be some pretty big niches for beatblogs. As long as it’s a big enough group, I think MixedInk is relevant.”

So if your “beatblog” is you and your sister interviewing your best friends about relationships, MixedInk probably isn’t for you. But if you’re a member of a community — online or otherwise — looking for a way to harness the creativity of the group, it’s your one stop shop.

David called it “a way to process news and summarize what’s happened, analyze it and say what it all means, to opine and take a position as a community.” As far as beatblogs are concerned, MixedInk offers a means of bringing reader interaction beyond comments, forums and Twitter responses. It offers the possibility of a site moderator posing a question and readers’ responses coming together as more than a group of remarks largely isolated from one another.

The site has been up and running since April 2007, but the MixedInk team is currently working to make it more widely accessible. They’ll do this by turning MixedInk into a free widget for smaller sites and a white label service for larger companies who want it fully integrated into the look and functionality of their sites. The widget should be available within the next couple weeks and David says its best for small publishers “who just want to figure out where their community stands — do something more engaging.”

Check out a video demo of the site below. For more specific “how to” info, click here.

MixedInk Demo from MixedInk on Vimeo.