This is a just a quick note to congratulate my friend Om Malik and his team at GigaOm for launching a new service called GigaOm Pro — a for-pay research site that pulls together analysis on industry trends across a number of verticals, including mobile, green technology and so on. I think this is a very smart move (like most of the things Om has done), and there is more about the rationale behind the subscription service in this post. In the interests of full disclosure, I have written for GigaOm in the past, and hope to be able to do so again at some point in the future.
Chris Brogan’s vision of a new media entity
Chris Brogan isn’t — and as far as I know has never been — a journalist. He’s a new-media marketing consultant and the founder of Podcamp (his bio is here). When I saw that he had written a blog post about what a “new media” company of the future might look like, I confess that I was expecting something with a focus primarily on marketing (perhaps that was unfair, but there it is). What Chris came up with, however, is very similar to what I see when I think about the future of the online media business — a business that takes advantage of what the online world allows, rather than treating it as an afterthought. Among other things, Chris says such an entity would realize that:
- Stories are points in time [and] don’t end at publication.
- Curators and editors rule, and creators aren’t necessarily on staff.
- Media cannot stick to one form. Text, photos, video, music, audio, animation, etc.
- Everything must be portable and mobile-ready.
- Everything must have collaborative opportunities.
- Advertising cannot be the primary method of revenue.
Be sure to read the whole thing. A good debate is already emerging in the comments.
The golden age of data journalism?
Computer-assisted reporting or CAR has been around, well — ever since there were computers. Even when I was in journalism school (which was longer ago than I care to remember), we learned about databases we could search, etc. But the explosion of Web-based tools and ways of sifting through and sharing data has created something approaching a revolution, and the potential benefits for journalism are only just beginning to reveal themselves. If this movement has a patron saint, it is probably Adrian Holovaty, who gained renown while working on data-driven features at the Washington Post, then created the amazing Chicagocrime.org as one of the first Google Maps mashups, followed by his fellowship-financed Everyblock, which aggregates local data about an area.
Another recent example of how data can drive reporting, and how Web-based tools can extend and enhance that reporting, comes from several British newspapers — primarily The Guardian — and their coverage of an emerging expense scandal involving British politicians. One of the really interesting things that The Guardian has done is to publish all of the expense info they have through a laboriously detailed and publicly accessible Google spreadsheet. As Paul Bradshaw points out at the Online Journalism Blog, this structure actually allows reporters (or in fact anyone who is interested in the info) to extract useful data simply by changing the URL. Someone has even created a page where you can run queries on the database with a simple click.
(please read the rest of this post at the Nieman Journalism Lab)
See Adrian Holovaty’s definitive, two-part answer to the question “is data journalism?”
Newspapers and rules about Twitter
This is an update to a recent post about the Wall Street Journal and its policies on Twitter use by its staff. In that post, I essentially agreed with a post by Jeff Jarvis in which he argued that the WSJ policy “missed the point” of social media in general by trying to lock down the behaviour of reporters too much — by restricting them from discussing their stories, being too personal, etc. Both Steve Buttry of Gazette Communications, in a post at his personal blog and Gina Chen at Save The Media agreed with Jarvis as well, saying the rules were too restrictive and that the newspaper was in danger of missing out on much of the value of social media. Similar thoughts were posted by Pat Thornton at BeatBlogging.org.
Pat, who also writes at Journalism Iconoclast, quotes a Twitter post from John Robinson (editor of the News & Record in Greensboro, North Carolina) that also caught my eye, in which he said:
Twitter rules: I trust the staff to report the news. Shouldn’t I trust them enough to tweet? Is twitter that much harder than reporting?
Bill Keller, the executive editor of the New York Times (who recently joined Twitter himself) put it very similarly in a quote he gave to Editor & Publisher magazine:
“I have asked people to use common sense and respect the workplace and assume whatever they tweet will be tied to the paper. Even when they are tweeting personal information to their followers, they are still representing the New York Times.”
As both the Editor & Publisher piece and this piece in the New York Observer make clear, there has been a bit of controversy within the NYT about tweets that staffers (including @jenny8lee and @michaelluo) were making during a strategy briefing at the paper. I wondered at the time whether what they were broadcasting was an internal meeting or not, but assumed it was not. As it turns out, some editors were of the opinion that posting such things to Twitter should always be out of the question, and that even posting positive things from the newsroom shouldn’t be done by Times reporters.
(please read the rest of this post at the Nieman Journalism Lab blog)
Note: Fred Wilson has some worthwhile thoughts on this topic as well, although he isn’t a journalist. And be sure to check the comments, which feature a response from Peter Kafka of All Things Digital (which is owned by the Wall Street Journal) and — as usual — some excellent responses from Fred himself.
WSJ rules on Twitter: too restrictive
Staffers at the Wall Street Journal recently received an updated corporate conduct policy, including sections on how to behave when using social networks such as Twitter and Facebook. The response to the new rules of engagement, however, has been far from positive so far, with Jeff Jarvis saying the Journal was guilty of “missing the point.” Jarvis says the new rules don’t allow reporters to “make their reporting collaborative,” and that one of the benefits of such social networks is that they “provide the opportunity for reporters and editors to come out from behind the institutional voice of the paper … and to become human.”
The need to have a conduct policy is a reality for major newspapers, and it makes sense to deal with new areas such as Twitter and Facebook — the paper I work for is developing a similar policy. But I have to agree with Jeff about the Journal’s restrictions on reporter behaviour. Obviously, a newspaper doesn’t want to give away the store and tell everyone what stories it is working on, or tip its hand in a variety of other ways, and probably doesn’t want to go into detail about how certain stories emerged (especially if it was a fortuitous accident). But Jarvis is right that talking about stories that are under way can also have tremendous benefits.
The biggest point, however, is that Twitter is inherently personal — that’s why people use it, and why they enjoy it and become loyal to those they follow. The idea that you can maintain a strict division between the personal and professional just doesn’t jibe with the way social networks (or human beings) operate. Naturally, a newspaper like the Journal doesn’t want its reporters discussing every detail of their personal lives on Twitter, and no one would argue with that. A little taste of the personal can have a tremendous impact, however, and can build loyalty with readers. Media outlets like the Journal ignore that at their peril. Steve Buttry of Gazette Communications in Iowa has a good take on the new rules as well, and so does Gina Chen.