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Teemu Henriksson

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With the current atmosphere among Western newspapers being apocalyptic at worst and only carefully optimistic at best, it is easy to forget that things aren't quite as bad everywhere. Quite the contrary: newspapers in India and Latin America seem to be doing remarkably well.

The Globe and Mail reported on Indian newspapers, which are currently seeing an extraordinary rise in readership numbers. For example, NaiDunia (Hindi for "new world") has increased its circulation from 500,000 to 800,000 copies a day - in two years.

Meanwhile, newspaper circulation is also growing sharply in some Latin American countries, most notably Brazil (29 percent), MediaShift reported, noting the palpable sense of dynamism in the industry, mentioning the effective newsroom of El Tiempo, Colombia's leading daily, in particular.

One reason for the growth lies in the economy. Although Western newspapers were gravely affected by the 2008 economic downturn, the effect on Latin American nations in general was much lower. India has seen a steady economic growth for some time now, and one of its consequences has been a rise in literacy. Its adult literacy level is 74 percent, up 9 percent from a decade ago.

In India, the newspaper still has value as a status symbol, making it appealing for people who can afford and read one. "As soon as a person becomes literate, what they get is a newspaper - even before they buy a phone, it's the first luxury a man affords," said A.S. Raghunath, a veteran editor.

The emergence of the Internet has been the single event that has probably had the biggest effect on Western newspapers in the last decade or so. Not so in India or Latin America. Only seven percent of Indians are regular Internet users, as computers, cable connections and electricity are still outside the reach of many, despite the economic surge.

Also in Latin America digital is arriving more slowly than it did in the West, allowing news organisations to learn from mistakes made in other markets. Moreover, they are able to claim bigger shares of online advertising space before search engines and aggregators take over.

MediaShift also commented on the rise in quality in Latin American journalism, as several newspapers have expanded their foreign coverage and investigative journalism.

Sources: The Globe and Mail, MediaShift


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Teemu Henriksson

Date

2011-05-13 18:52

Personalization is quickly becoming a key concept in the world of online news. A new study discovered, however, that most readers are reluctant to actively personalize content, preferring to let someone else do the editorial selection.

The Guardian's Roy Greenslade highlighted a recent study by journalism academic Neil Thurman, titled "Making 'The Daily Me': Technology, economics and habit in the mainstream assimilation of personalized news." The key finding of the study, which was preceded by two years of research, was that readers are far less enthusiastic about news personalization than many think. The whole study can be read here.

According to Thurman, "active personalization," such as homepage customization, grew only 20%. Meanwhile, "passive personalization" in the form of news sites filtering and recommending articles based on browsing behaviour, grew by 60% over the same period. The research also suggested that readers are generally unable to accurately predict their news preferences.

Thurman also noted that during the research, The Washington Post, The Sun, The New York Times and The Daily Telegraph all stopped marketing their "My Page" services - a confirmation that readers have been slow to start using the possibility of personalizing their news.

According to Steve Herrmann, the interactive editor of BBC News and one of the editors interviewed for the study, the "time and effort to personalise something" would put off all but a "relatively small number of people".

Thurman singles out Trove, The Washington Post's endeavour in news personalisation, and predicts hard times for it and other similar services. Trove is only one of many news personalization sites that have lately launched. In light of the study's findings, it will be interesting to see how well they fare.

The study's results would confirm the suggestion that there are two groups of online news consumers forming. There are those who appreciate the effortlessness of a news organisation doing the editorial selection. And then there are heavy news users, who know what kind of news they want and like to choose their news sources themselves. According to Thurman's study, the latter group seems to be smaller than many believed.

Sources: The Guardian


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Teemu Henriksson

Date

2011-05-12 17:02

Longreads has gone a long way during its two-year history. It began as a Twitter profile and got a website only last October. Now, Longreads is making further use of its active community of 23,000 Twitter followers, TechCrunch reported.

The service posts links to new, long articles and stories (typically between 1,500 and 30,000 words) every day, making it easy to find substantial reading. The site's new area, "Community Picks," features most tweeted about Longreads articles. This adds a new way to finding reading material, as previously Longreads's suggestions were picked by editors.

#longreads hashtag, which readers use to suggest articles, is now also used for creating member profiles. All the #longreads links a member has tweeted show up on a profile page, making it possible to observe what others are reading.

"We hope to feature these individual tastes and continue to serve as a discovery engine for great storytelling and outstanding curators," Mark Armstrong, Longreads founder, said.

In an article on The Independent on digital investigative journalism, Armstrong said that his interest in long articles stemmed originally from his need to have something extensive to read during his commute. It is this kind of need for extensive reading material that Longreads is still serving.

Longreads is only one of the many examples that demonstrate that readers enjoy and seek long-form journalism also on computers and mobile reading devices. Instapaper and Readability, designed to make cross-device offline reading of long articles easy, have become hugely popular. Earlier this year, Amazon introduced Kindle Singles, a series of one-off essays and short stories meant to be read in single sitting.

Moreover, The Atavist, an application designed for distribution and reading long-form journalism specifically, had in March been downloaded 40,000 times.

Following in the path of of Instapaper and Readability, its partners, Longreads also introduced a subscription model. For $3 a month or $30 a year, users get an early access to new services. By subscribing for a year, they also get a Longreads mug. Armstrong notes, however, that subscribing is purely optional as the service will always remain free.

Sources: TechCrunch, The Independent


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Teemu Henriksson

Date

2011-05-10 19:31

When Google changed its search algorithm last month, Demand Media took a serious hit. According to a comparison by Conductor, the search visibility of Demand Media's eHow site dropped significantly, which explains why the company saw a notable drop also in stock value. The rumours around the company were so pessimistic that it was forced to issue a statement defending its finances.

The California-based Demand Media, which according to Reuters has 13,000 freelancers writing to its sites such as eHow and LiveStrong, is now taking measures to step up the content of its sites. In an interview with MediaShift, Larry Fitzgibbon and Jeremy Reed from Demand Media described the course the company is next taking. Some of the changes sound very much like steps towards a more traditional journalistic model.

First, Fitzgibbon acknowledged that eHow, which relied on user-generated content, had had hard time keeping the quality of articles up to the needed level. Much of the material was inconsistent with editorial guidelines, particularly when compared with the content produced by the site itself. In an attempt to improve the user experience, a lot of the site's content will be removed or put through a vetted editorial process. Yahoo! reported that Demand said it plans to hire more-experienced writers to deliver articles of up to 850 words, paying up to $350 for these in an effort to improve quality.

Second, there will be a new emphasis on feature content. Fitzgibbon and Reed saw this as essential in providing a satisfactory experience to all visitors - something they feel the site has not always been able to do before. Feature content is also hoped to attract advertisers, offering more possibilities for brands, for example.

Investors seemed impressed by Demand Media's plans: Yahoo reported that the company's shares saw a significant rise.

The fate of Demand Media is of great interest for many, as the company is, as described by MediaShift, the "Exhibit A in content farming." There have been suggestions that content farming poses a threat to journalism. But in light of Demand Media's situation, a more pertinent question seems to be: can a sustainable business model be built around content farming?

Sources: Conductor, Demand Media, Reuters, Mediashift (1), (2), Yahoo


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Teemu Henriksson

Date

2011-05-09 19:10

The Daily Telegraph launched today an updated version of its iPad app, Financial Times reported. The new edition of The Telegraph for the iPad can be downloaded for a one-off fee of £1.19 or as part of a monthly subscription, priced at £9.99. The previous version of the app, launched last September, was free.

The app's new features include interactive crosswords, picture galleries and a seven-day archive of the paper's cartoons. Also added is the possibility to increase text size by "pinching", a 30-day archive of back issues and a night-reading mode.

The launch follows yesterday's news concerning Apple's deal with Hearst Corp, which saw the iPad manufacturer take a more flexible stance than before as regards its App Store terms. Financial Times's Tech Hub reported that Edward Roussel, The Telegraph's digital editor, described Apple as "co-operative and helpful" during the development of the app.

The Telegraph was allowed to make its app free for existing print subscribers, for example. Moreover, it seems that Apple is loosening its tight grip on customer data. The Guardian reported that new iPad subscribers to The Telegraph are asked to share their personal data with the newspaper in exchange for an additional seven-day period to the subscription.

Many publishers have criticised Apple's policy of taking a 30 per cent cut of all App Store subscriptions. Roussel, however, saw this as a reasonable compensation for the user-friendly distribution and payment method Apple has created, comparing it to the costs that print publishing entails.

The Telegraph's iPad app imitates the newspaper's print cycle: after the content is downloaded onto the device's memory (new issues are downloadable at 5:00 UK time), it is fully accessible anywhere, except for video, which requires an Internet connection. The Guardian reported that The Telegraph is understood to be developing a new version of its iPhone app as well, but no information of its features is currently available.

The Telegraph's move to make its iPad app paid-for could pave way for a more comprehensive scheme to charge for its digital services, as the newspaper is rumoured to start charging for its website content later this year.

Sources: Financial Times (1), (2), The Guardian (1), (2)


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Teemu Henriksson

Date

2011-05-06 14:28

As the battle between native and web apps rages on, newspapers and magazines wanting to expand to digital publishing have to make some tough decisions. Fortune seems to have faith in web apps, as the magazine launches today, May 5th, its web app Fortune500+, AdAge reported. At first, the app will run on computers only but will soon work on tablet browsers as well.

The appeal of web apps is easy to understand: unlike native apps, built for a single platform, web apps work cross-platform as they run inside the web browser. Opting for a web app, thus, makes it possible to reach the maximum number of readers with only one version of the app.

AdAge's article notes that the list of web apps is growing, albeit slowly. Although many magazines have chosen to publish exclusively for the iPad, few have so far developed web apps. "I think you'll see that more and more apps will go this way," said Daniel Roth, managing editor at Fortune.com. Despite the slow pace, HTML5 powered web publishing seems to be gathering momentum, the people behind OnSwipe, for example, being very strongly in favour of web apps.

Fortune is also planning on releasing "native" versions of Fortune500+, expected by the end of the year. The magazine decided to start by focusing on the web app rather than developing apps for different systems at once, as it allows the app to reach the widest possible audience simultaneously. There is also one obvious benefit of not publishing for the iPad: Fortune now avoids dealing with Apple's App Store and giving Apple a cut of any sales. Lately, Apple's treatment of app developers has been a couse of discontent for some publishers.

The free version of Fortune500+ is described as a Fortune 500 dashboard and toolkit that will provide company descriptions and ranks, details on financials and management, customizable stock charts and live related headlines. A premium version, priced at $9,99 a year, offers further features.

Some warn that although developing an app that works on all of the tablets in the market is a compelling possibility, there are drawbacks. "The problem is it doesn't take full advantage of each individual platform. You end up with a mediocre product across all platforms as opposed to a superior product on individual platforms," warned Raven Zachary, president of Small Society, an app developer for iOS devices. He estimated that it would take years for web apps to catch up with dedicated ones.

The results of the ongoing struggle between native and web apps will have a profound impact on the future digital media landscape, and the outcome is hard to predict. In February, Nieman Journalism Lab reported one technologist saying that the picture of the direction of digital publishing should be clearer in one years time. But as experience is everything, the option of starting to build up expertise as soon as possible seems also reasonable.

Source: AdAge, Nieman Journalism Lab


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Teemu Henriksson

Date

2011-05-05 15:58

One of the most obvious features that makes online news publishing stand out from paper reporting is its ability to present video. According to a new survey by D S Simon, reported by SocialTimes.com, news websites are increasingly taking advantage of this feature; 85 percent of online media websites are now using video to cover the news. The growth has been immense: 33 percent more media outlets are now using online video than a year ago.

The report identified two main reasons for this development. Firstly, news consumers, with shorter and shorter attention spans, often prefer videos to long articles. Secondly, from media websites' point of view, online video adds another dimension to monetization: it is possible to sell pre- and post-roll adds, for example, to go with video content.

As consumers are getting more and more used to online video news coverage, it also puts pressure on YouTube, the web's most notable video resource, to present its content from the news' point of view. As Nieman Journalism Lab reported, CitizenTube, YouTube's news and politics channel, partnered in January with Storyful, a start-up focused on curating the real-time web to improve its content.

The collaboration began as an experiment, which the Nieman article saw as a positive sign: it shows that forward-looking media companies are coming together out of their own initiative to work and experiment on the new ways news is reported.

Speaking about CitizenTube and the partnership in an interview with Beet.TV, Olivia Ma, YouTube's news manager, mentioned Storyful's work on covering protests in Egypt as an example of the results of the collaboration. In addition to having plenty of raw video footage uploaded onto the site by regular users, Ma highlighted the fact that over 300 mainstream news organisations actively upload content on YouTube. The site, therefore, features news material from both amateurs and professional news outlets.

YouTube and Storyful's collaboration seems to reflect the growing trend of curation. It was recently reported that Storify, an online tool designed for social media curation, became available to the public. YouTube has noted also earlier that people are curating its video content.

As for the future, it appears that video is here to stay. Douglas Simon, CEO of D S Simon, described the survey's results as illustrating "the shift from textual or static communications to video communications by media websites." And based on the fact that nearly four-fifths of respondents said that they would watch even more videos in the following year, it seems that the trend's pinnacle has yet to be reached.

Sources: SocialTimes.com, Nieman Journalism Lab, Beet.TV
Image source: Viralblog


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Teemu Henriksson

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2011-05-04 14:33

When the iPad was released a year ago, it was immediately clear that the device offered enormous possibilities for news organisations and publishers in general. With Apple promoting its App Store heavily, it seemed natural to turn to apps as a way of publishing on the iPad. Now, however, as the limitations of that approach are becoming apparent, other options are increasingly discussed.

The buzz around HTML5 has been growing for some time now. Jason Baptiste, CEO of OnSwipe, is one of the advocates of HTML5: in a recent interview with GigaOM, Baptiste noted that HTML5 makes it possible to create web pages that are up to par with native apps in terms of visual appearance and user interface.

Publishing content on the Internet, instead of developing dedicated apps, Baptiste said, would solve one of the main issues publishers have with the current tablet market: to make their publications accessible with all of the devices out there, they have to develop a version for each of the platforms available. All tablet devices naturally have adequate web-browsing capabilities, making HTML5 content free of compatibility issues.

Cult of Mac's Mike Elgan discussed some of the other reasons Baptiste has given for publishing online. Firstly, publishing on the Internet permits a smooth integration with social media, as content can be accessed very easily through Twitter, for example. Secondly, distribution expenses would be lower, as no intermediary is required to distribute content. Putting eBooks and other content online also enables those titles to show up in web searches, resulting in an increase in traffic.

OnSwipe turns websites into a tablet-friendly form, and the process is, according to Baptiste, very quick and easy. It is already available to bloggers on WordPress.com. The company could have licensed its platform to publishers but chose to do something more ambitious: "We decided to give the software away, and have as many people publish in an infinitely customizable way, and we would build a thread that pulls them all together," Baptiste said. The aim is to turn the publishing tools into a kind of ecosystem. Part of it is the function of saving articles for later reading, which makes it possible to provide recommendations based on what people choose to save.

OnSwipe is also concentrating on advertising possibilities, wanting to give advertisers tools to turn their existing advertising campaigns into app-style pages. As TechCrunch noted, OnSwipe has been successful succeeding in arousing investors' interest, and the year-old company seems to be off to an interesting start.

Die Zeit and the Center of Public Integrity, for example, have also utilised HTML5 in creating app-like sites, and many more are expected to follow suit. Could it be that apps are just a phase in how people consume news on tablet devices? Does HTML5 represent the real future for mobile news?

Sources: GigaOM, Cult of Mac, TechCrunch


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Teemu Henriksson

Date

2011-05-03 16:29

As a platform, Twitter has become a tremendously useful tool for disseminating information, sometimes being essential in circumventing restrictions on free speech. Its democratic nature makes it possible for any piece of information to be distributed. And as Twitter is used more and more as a news source, it is also becoming the go-to source for information on breaking news. The first news of Osama bin Laden's death, to give a recent example, was first posted on Twitter.

What can be a problem is that Twitter does not have a mechanism to verify the veracity of the information transmitted on it. There is no editorial framework, which makes it possible for any information - or disinformation - to take off and become a trend.

For this reason, AdAge's Simon Dumenco suggested that Twitter create a way to direct its users to most reliable sources of information. In his view, a community of some kind could be tasked with evaluating sources according to their importance, which would make it easier for users to identify trustworthy information.

Poynter's Latoya Peterson does not share Dumenco's views on what direction Twitter should be developed. She argued against the practice of using human intermediaries to choose reliable sources, as she saw it as an old-media way of managing a new-media platform. Peterson pointed out that as a platform, Twitter is used for several reasons: many use it for connections and entertainment, and are probably not interested in trustworthiness primarily. Moreover, the idea of moderating a platform seems problematic to Peterson: for example, did the first on-location information from the Arab uprisings come from "reliable sources," she asked.

Peterson quoted Derrick Ashongh, host of Al Jazeera's recently launched social media show The Stream, as saying that the traditional media follows a top-down model, in which a group of people decide what is relevant news. With free dissemination of information, it is now possible for just about anyone to choose and relay information - to curate.

Twitter can be an immensely useful tool, and people are still finding new functions for it. The trend of curating news based on Twitter content - exemplified by the recent launch of Storify to the public - is a good example of this. On its own, Twitter is only an unrestricted storehouse for information, but its nature is also one of its main assets.

The information on Twitter is undoubtedly best used when someone handpicks the most useful and reliable material. This, naturally, requires a high level of media literacy. But having such a system integrated into Twitter might undermine "less-trustworthy" sources' ability to get their voices heard. Curating is a good example of how vetting information on Twitter can be done outside the platform, instead of interfering with its intrinsic democratic nature.

Sources: AdAge, Poynter


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Teemu Henriksson

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2011-05-02 16:21

When a question that has already been answered keeps getting asked, how should the mainstream media cover it? American Journalism Review's Rem Rieder discussed this in relation to the "birther" movement that has again gained momentum in the United States, causing President Obama to address the topic on Wednesday by releasing a long-form birth certificate.

The main reason the president gave for addressing the issue head-on was the extensive coverage it received in the press. He said that the topic was blown to such proportions that it distracted public debate on real issues that the country is facing. Although it may not have been the dominant topic in the media, unlike Obama mentioned, it is plausible to say that the question overshadowed more worthy discussion.

Rieder wrote that in the old days, mainstream media would not have needed to cover a topic that has already been exhausted - more than two and half years ago, in fact. So why do elite news organisations still pay attention? Rieder sees this as a proof of a change in media industry: "In the world of Web sites, talk radio and cable news, pretty much anyone and anything can find an audience."

And if a topic can be turned into a political issue, somebody will. When a non-story is endlessly repeated in the media, it is going to have an effect: a survey by The New York Times, taken two weeks earlier, revealed that a quarter of Americans believed their president was born in another country. With such numbers, and knowing that the issue has become highly politicised, it is understandable that also respectable news organisations would cover any developments on the topic.

Obama lamented in his speech, however, that the issue is a distraction from the serious problems that should be discussed about in the United States. He also criticised the press implicitly for giving the "birther" movement unproportional coverage.

Obama observed acutely that there is a group of people who will not be satisfied, no matter how much evidence they are presented with. For journalists, this realisation may come as a cold shower: facts can only get you so far. Some readers would rather keep their illusions.

Sources: American Journalism Review, The White House, Poynter, The New York Times
Image source: Bolgernow.com


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Teemu Henriksson

Date

2011-04-29 18:49

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