Posts Tagged ‘New York Times’

ISOJ logoA couple of weeks ago I spoke about mobiles, metadata and the future at the International Symposium on Online Journalism in Austin, Texas.

One of the other speakers I met was Seth Lewis, an assistant journalism professor at the the University of Minnesota, who gave a presentation on the ways in which organizations like The New York Times, NPR, and the Guardian have created and used their own application programming interfaces (APIs) to work with outside developers.

His talk struck a real chord; I’m still at a loss to fully understand why the BBC closed Backstage, the community it brought together back in 2005 for people to get creative with its content.

Seth has now posted a piece on the Nieman Journalism Lab blog which gives a good overview of the merits of tapping the wisdom of the developer crowd and the learnings to be had from taking such an approach.

Snaptu home screen on cell phone

Image via Wikipedia

The burgeoning growth of Facebook has been given another boost by the social network’s acquisition of mobile start-up Snaptu for an undisclosed sum.

No big deal, you may think, but as Paul Butler points out at ReadWriteWeb, the people accessing Facebook via their mobiles are twice as active as those who engage via PCs.

It was Israeli outfit Snaptu who earlier this year built a feature-phone app for Facebook, extending social network access to thousands more devices and into markets where smartphones are less prevalent.

If you add to that purchase, the acquisition of group messaging company Beluga and a location-based advertising start-up, Rel8tion, it’s plain to see Mark Zuckerberg’s intention to capitalize on the mobile space.

The other big beast in that battle is the subject of David Carr’s excellent New York Times piece – The Evolving Mission of Google

Despite its insistence that it is not a media company, Carr makes a good case that it is and why it’s more than a matter of semantics.

The gravitational pull of Google and Facebook has already had a huge impact on the way news is distributed and they’re both attracting vast sums of advertising cash that would otherwise have gone to the traditional newspaper and magazine businesses.

At the same time, Google acknowledges that it depends on high-quality content and has “a responsibility to encourage a healthy web ecosystem”.

For newspapers and magazines struggling to make money from the link economy that assertion might ring hollow, especially if the ledgers show their days in the eco-system might be numbered.

Planets Google and Facebook have pulled money from their grasp on the traditional web and now it’s slipping through their fingers in the mobile world too.

According to the folks at Guy Kawasaki’s Alltop, Google’s algorithm has “had more impact on the shape of the web than anything or anyone since Tim Berners-Lee” and this infographic attempts to show how.

The casualties of this shift in fortunes will be replaced, of course, hopefully by something better, but as we’ve seen with recent natural disasters the consequences will be traumatic and restoration will take a long time to effect.

oscarappThe sycophantic slush of another Oscars ceremony is already a fading memory but there are some learnings from ABC’s two-screen, Backstage Pass coverage that are worth further reflection.

The 99 cent app for iPhone and iPad users gave users access to live streams from more than 25 cameras dotted around LA’s Kodak Theatre – TV gallery-type command in the palm of your hand – plus access to additional content.

ABC’s acknowledgement of the multi-tasking tendencies of TV audiences allowed people to flit away from mainstream coverage to the likes of the unruly paparazzi cam, another one focused on famous faces and one on fashion.

Alessandra Stanley writing in the New York Times said the extra feeds gave viewers “an all-too-vivid look at how the air leaves the theater and the night starts to drag.” Miaow!

She was talking about how the streams showed winners celebrating backstage while TV was left with losers “smiling tightly through their rancour and disappointment”.

Sounds to me like TV had the best of that carve-up, but it depends whether schadenfreude or success is your preferred measure of enjoyment in such things.

Stanley also queried whether advertisers would be happy about a network inviting viewers to spend commercial breaks watching backstage camera shots of stars.

Probably not, but the world of advertising, like journalism, is having to react to profound change and the Superbowl has shown that compelling ads can hold and engage audiences if they’re good enough.

Update: The Chrysler Born of Fire ad featuring Eminem that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago has been seen 8.8m times on YouTube.

The benefit of a fully integrated two-screen production is that it keeps viewers tuned in rather than turning off or going elsewhere when the televised action flags.

Having more options shows the audience you’re working harder to give them a better experience, and it doesn’t have to be confined to big set-piece event like the Oscars.

Imagine, for instance, being able to rate in real-time the performance of panellists on Question Time via a second screen, to see the results on the TV, distinguishable by location, and then to share them with friends.

Imagine watching Click and at each mention of a device or a technology getting a back-catalogue of reviews, features and stories on your second screen.

And imagine news packages being amplified with information – the assumed knowledge the audience is expected to bring – because there simply isn’t time to recap everything in a two-minute piece: What’s a Green Paper? How is inflation measured? What is the Monetary Policy Committee and how does it work?

Now it’s true that all the information is already available on the web if you’re prepared to search. But this is about tethering, about extending the leanback ease of television to make extra material available without effort.

In this same vein, there’s a much bigger body of work being undertaken by colleagues over at BBC R&D which is set out here by Stephen Jolly.

Do read it; it holds clues to the future of television.

Well done the Washington Post – it’s putting upwards of $5m into a personalised news product that will scoop up content from thousands of sources.

The site’s still in private beta so I haven’t been able to get a first-hand view but I like what I’ve read and hope to be able to report back soon.

Called Trove, the site is a mix of what editors think you should know along with material you’ve indicated you’re interested in, and is due for launch in March.

From a starting point of “What do you care about?” readers are shown a topic and a story example and they can select one, or both, or neither. Selections are then used to build channels of content and to suggest related material.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the New York Times’ personalisation engine called Recommendations which surfaces additional content it thinks might be of interest based on which Times stories you’ve read.

The Post’s version differs because it skims content other than its own – a smart move if they can pull it off and deliver relevant, interesting material. The danger is that by making a broader trawl they simply net more material that doesn’t appeal.

The winners in this game will be the masters of metadata. Those who can intelligently filter based on nuanced choices from one individual to another while surprising and delighting with the occasional unexpected gem.

The news environment has never been so rich or varied. It used to be pagination or airtime that limited consumption, now it’s the time and interest level an individual can expend.  We have to use it wisely.

The more I read about Rupert Murdoch’s pet project “The Daily” the more intrigued I become.

With all the properties at his disposal the American media magnate has rich potential for his proposed digital “newspaper” for the iPad.

But the nomenclature is troubling: A “newspaper”? On a digital device?

Is that just shorthand to reference something new against something familiar, or is leaning towards replication of the printed product in electronic form?

If it really is the latter it’s akin to putting coaching lamps on a horseless carriage – not very illuminating and not much use – but that’s the way it looks.

According to the New York Times’ David Carr, “The Daily” will be produced in the evening and “printed” for the next morning.

“There will be updates — the number of which is still under discussion — but not at the velocity or with the urgency of a news website.”

Oh dear, oh dear. Has he not understood Eric Schmidt’s concept of “nowness” – a world of real-time data, blended with location and context.

And iPad only? Surely not, not when a wider, burgeoning tablet market beckons?

There’s also the question of content, the vast majority of which is supposed to be original.

The Guardian’s Edward Helmore in New York says the paper is intended to combine “a tabloid sensibility with a broadsheet intelligence”.

With only 100 journalists assigned to the project at News Corp’s Manhattan offices that’s a big ask

Salon cofounder and commentator Scott Rosenberg thinks 100 staff is plenty – provided they’re the right people and the aim is not to be a matter-of-record publication.

How might that look? Well, with video from Fox Sport and Sky, travel and lifestyle material from The Times and Sunday Times, scandal and sleaze from the New York Post and The Sun and even tech and gadgetry from the WSJ there’s plenty of light and shade to choose from.

Rosenberg argues that the biggest weakness with the proposition is the narrowness of its scope. Like a paywalled website it won’t be linkable or shareable and therefore won’t be part of the conversation around news.

For that reason he reckons the Murdoch tablet will be Dead on Arrival.

For all the unanswered questions – and we won’t know the answers until its launch early in the New Year – the commitment to try something new, that makes use of rich media, incorporates original content and sells for 99 cents a week, has to be applauded, flawed though it may be