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Hannah Vinter

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Blog entries

Little Girl Slaps Mom with Piece of Pizza, Saves Life

I Can’t Stop Looking at This Weird Chinese Goat

Penguin Shits on Senate Floor

These are just a few of the SEO-rich headlines that Nieman Lab mentioned a few months ago in an article about Gawker’s strategy to drive more traffic to its site. The ploy isn’t bad; Nieman’s data suggests that these three posts alone generated more than 100,000 page views.

But while penguins and pizza violence might drive a lot of traffic across the web to Gawker, two recent studies suggest that, when it just comes down to Twitter, users prefer plain news from trusted sources.

An article by Megan Garber for The Atlantic reports on a study produced by UCLA and Hewlett-Packard's HP Labs, which suggests that “steadiness -- compelling news expressed in straightforward, not hyperbolic, language -- is actually a component of maximally shareable content.”

Garber writes that the research paper has produced an algorithm, which measures Tweets in four ways:

1) Which news source produced the Tweet?

2) What kind of news does the Tweet contain? (world news, business, sports)

3) What kind of language is the Tweet written in?

4) What famous names (brands, celebrities) does the Tweet mention?

According to Garber, the study found that the perceived trustworthiness of the news source was the factor that “led most overwhelmingly, and most predictably" to a Tweet being shared.

The subject matter of a Tweet was also important: Tweets about "technology" were the most likely to be passed on, followed by those about "health" and "fun stuff." Tweets about recognisable names provoked more sharing too.

But Garber notes that the study found that “even within the tumult that is the Internet, when it comes to framing the news, objective language does just as well as emotional.” By these criteria, “I Can’t Stop Looking at This Weird Chinese Goat” might be a great headline, but it does not constitute an ideal news Tweet (unless it is shared by The New York Times, which seems somewhat unlikely).

A study of 10 British news outlets carried out by Rippla.com supported these findings. Journalism.co.uk reports on the research, which surveyed how 150,000 stories produced by 10 British media outlets were shared on Twitter and Facebook during a six-month period. On Facebook, the Daily Mail – which produces headlines such as “Will it ever end? South East battered by THIRTY-SIX hours of continuous rain... sparking flood alerts in FORTY-SIX areas” and “Good Samaritans shield injured pensioner with umbrellas as he lay waiting FOUR HOURS for ambulance on wet street with fractured kneecap” – was the most engaging news source, accounting for 38.5% of interactions among the outlets that were surveyed.

By contrast, on Twitter, the more objectively-toned BBC News account produced a 55.9% share of all the news stories that were retweeted from among the surveyed news organisations. Journalism.co.uk noted that the Daily Mail was in forth place when it came to producing re-tweeted stories, behind the BBC, the Guardian and the Telegraph –all of which tend to use comparatively less emotive headlines.  

Why this big difference? Megan Garber’s piece suggests that, when it comes to Twitter, “trust is actually much more important than emotion. Shareability is largely a function of reliability.” Garber continues that, as a Twitter user, “I understand, implicitly, that something sent from the Times -- something vetted by an organization that has a lot to lose in getting something wrong -- is more trustworthy than something sent from another person. Even if that person is a friend.”

On Facebook, by contrast, perhaps users are happier to discuss sensationalist headlines or stories from a variety of news sources with their friends. The difference between the types of stories shared on the two social media platforms may come down to what Reuters’ Financial Communities Editor Mark Jones has described as the “fundamental dilemma for journalists -- the news is on Twitter, the audience is on Facebook.”

Users may be happy to discuss penguins and pizza with their friends, but on Twitter they want to know that they’re sharing news they can trust.

Sources: Nieman Lab, The Atlantic, Journalism.co.uk, @NewspaperWorld

Image by Chiot's Run via Flickr (Creative Commons)  

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Hannah Vinter

Date

2012-06-13 09:16

The Guardian correspondent in Athens, Jon Henley, reports that former journalists from Greece’s second-largest paper Eleftherotypia – which, due to lack of money, has only published two editions since December last year – are returning to work unpaid to put out a third special edition of the paper, which will be published the day before the country’s general election. Henley writes that this could well be the paper’s final edition, and notes that former Eleftherotypia journalists have not been paid since August 2011.

AFP writes that former British Prime Minister John Major has directly contradicted Rupert Murdoch’s assertion before the Leveson Inquiry that he had "never asked a prime minister for anything." John Major told the inquiry today that, during a dinner in 1997, Murdoch had demanded Major change his policy on Europe, reports AFP.

Mathew Ingram at GigaOm writes that news organisations may have something to learn from a student newspaper at the University of Oregon, named the Daily Emerald, which chose to go digital first, “not because it has to, but because it sees that as the future, and ultimately a better way to serve its readers.”

Steve Myers at Poynter reports that layoffs have begun at the New Orleans Times-Picayune, where the printing schedule is being cut back to three days a week.

For more industry news, please see WAN-IFRA's Executive News Service.

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Hannah Vinter

Date

2012-06-12 17:20

With print advertising revenues steadily falling, there is no doubt that this is a tough time for the news industry. By extension, a few recently-published articles have argued that it is also becoming an increasingly tough time for news readers, as the pressures on newspapers are harming their ability to serve communities.

The first is an article by Dan Mitchell for CNN Money, which criticises Advance Publication’s decision to reduce printing of the The New Orleans Times-Picayune to three days a week.

Mitchell suggests that Advance is making a decision without regarding the needs and habits of the Times-Picayune readers. “The Times-Picayune's penetration — the proportion of the potential audience that actually reads the paper — is among the highest in the country, at more than 75 percent,” he writes, “And although Advance spins its plans as a bold step into the digital future (it promises more emphasis on its typically terrible Web site), more than a third of New Orleans' population has no Internet access.”

Mitchell is especially critical of the decision, because, although he doesn’t cite figures, he contends that “the paper reportedly is profitable — it's just not profitable enough for Advance.”

The second danger to newspapers’ role in serving the public is suggested by New York Times journalist David Carr in an article titled “Newspaper as Business Pulpit”. Carr writes that, “there is a growing worry that the falling value and failing business models of many American newspapers could lead to a situation where moneyed interests buy papers and use them to prosecute a political and commercial agenda.” He goes on to argue that this scenario has already become reality for The U-T San Diego, a paper bought up by the developer Douglas F. Manchester, which often “seems like a brochure for his various interests.”

Carr suggests that public figures or agencies opposed to Manchester’s plans “have found themselves investigated in the news pages of The U-T” and writes that “the newspaper has published front-page editorials and wraparound sections to promote political allies who share its agenda.” Carr writes that the paper’s CEO, John T. Lynch, who also owns part of the business, fired a sport reporter named Tim Sullivan, who held different views to Lynch and Manchester about the construction of a new football stadium, although he adds “Mr. Sullivan has since entered negotiations over his departure and would not discuss the specifics of his firing."

A third danger represented to news reporting from cuts is suggested in an extract from Paul Marsden’s book “What do we mean by local,” reposted by Guardian journalist Roy Greenslade on his blog a little over a month ago.

Marsden writes that cuts to the local news media have simply resulted in lots of important local news either not being covered or being covered badly. He quotes a district council affairs reporter, who said that as a result of cuts "[The] quality is getting worse and worse… This is bad for society and the industry as a whole in terms of a lack of reporting of current affairs and politics. The shocking level of inaccuracy also gives an inaccurate perception of events to society."

Nevertheless, the articles do not suggest easy solutions to these problems, and there are important objections to be raised to their arguments. To take one example, although Mitchell says that the Times-Picayune is currently profitable, these is no doubt that print revenues overall are in decline. An article by respected media analyst Ken Doctor about the Times-Picayune noted that although the paper was “profoundly a print habit” for New Orleans residents, “newsprint is going the way of the steam engine, to be visited in theme parks. US newspaper companies are using only a little more than half of what they consumed, in newsprint, a decade ago.” More importantly, none of the articles are intended to address the growth of public interest journalism in new, digital forms.

Yet although this is the case, these articles still all highlight that, as the news industry thinks about the future of its profits, it is fundamental that it thinks about the future of its readers as well.

Sources: CNN Money, New York Times, Guardian, Newsonomics

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Hannah Vinter

Date

2012-06-11 19:17

Renowned newspaper designer Mario Garcia profiles a new African tablet computer named Way C – meaning “light of the starts.” The device has been designed by a young entrepreneur named Vérone Mankou, whose company VMK is based in Brazzaville, Congo.

The Economist asks whether non-profit-funded journalism will be enough to make up for a decline in the commercial news industry in this thoughtful article.

In a new blog post, the editor of data and innovation at Thompson ReutersRegChua, takes a step back from the heated debate around the merits of paywalls vs. free online content and addresses some broader issues about how news should be funded.

Felix Salmon, also at Reuters, has written a blog post about the merits of syndicating blog content. There can be real benefits for bloggers, he argues, but the attitude to syndication may be poisoned if there is not enough communication between those on the editorial side and business/sales staff.

For more industry news, please see WAN-IFRA's Executive News Service.

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Hannah Vinter

Date

2012-06-08 16:17

Israel’s attorney general has announced plans to prosecute an investigative reporter who received a trove of classified documents from a whistleblower inside the military, the AP reported yesterday.

Reporter Uri Blau, who works for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, received more than 2,000 military documents from the former military conscript clerk Anat Kamm. Kamm copied the material from military computers between 2005 and 2007, the AP says.

Kamm, who previously also worked as a journalist, was prosecuted last year. She was sentenced in October to four and a half years in prison for collecting and distributing secret information. The online magazine +972, which writes about issues affecting Israel and Palestine, has constructed a detailed timeline of events around her prosecution and the case involving Blau.

The documents received by Blau suggested that military authorities had authorised the killing of Palestinian militants when they could have been arrested, in defiance of an Israeli High Court ruling.

Before Blau published stories relating to these issues, his articles were submitted to the military censor (standard practice in Israel for security-related material) and they were approved.

Haaretz reports that the justice department has said that the decision to indict Blau was made “after taking into account all of the relevant considerations, including the need to restrain the enforcement policy in order to maintain the Israeli press as a free press which fulfills its duty."

A statement from the state prosecutors office, also quoted by Haaretz, says Blau had knowingly been in possession of thousands of secret documents, and that he had “betrayed his duty – and later his commitment before the state – to cease possession of them." The statement continued, “the potential damage of possessing the documents… was immense."

However, the move has been widely criticised by press freedom advocates and journalism groups. Roy Greenslade at the Guardian has quoted Reporters Without Borders, who have called the decision to charge Blau, “a worrying sign for freedom of the press in Israel.” RWB continues, “We repeat our request for the charges against Uri Blau to be dropped."

+972 quotes the chairman of the International Federation of Journalists in Jerusalem, who says “The decision of the attorney general to file an indictment against Uri Blau brings Israel back a generation, and casts into doubt its definition as a real democratic state. The decision joins a string of legislative moves designed to harm the status of journalism and its critical role in ensuring the existence of a democratic regime."

+972 writes that the case against Blau has dragged on over several years. When the leaks made by Kamm began to be investigated, Blau spent time in exile in the UK, while his lawyers brokered a deal with Israeli officials so that he would not be prosecuted. The deal involved returning certain classified documents, but although Blau handed them over, the state later demanded that he return the entire collection, and then pushed ahead to prosecute him anyway, writes +972.

The AP states that formal charges against Blau are expected in a few weeks. If he is convicted, he may face up to seven years imprisonment.

Sources: AP, Guardian (1) (2), Haaretz (1) (2), +972 (1) (2)

 

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Hannah Vinter

Date

2012-06-04 18:18

Google has added a new feature that will notify its Chinese users if they search for a term that has been blocked by the country’s “Great Firewall” and will advise them to change the wording of their search, reports the AP, reprinted in the Washington Post.

The Italian reporter Gianluigi Nuzzi, who has published a book about corruption in the Vatican said to be based on information provided by 10 whistleblowers, has defended himself against Vatican accusations that he is a criminal, reports Reuters, in this article reprinted by the Chicago Tribune.

In an article for paidContent, Ben Elowitz, CEO and co-founder of the web publisher Wetpaint, advises news organisations to spend more time focusing on ways to reach and grow their audience. “Content is just a means to an end. The end – and media’s greatest asset – is audience,” writes Elowitz.

The Telegraph ran a story today suggesting that, before they were sacked, the editors of the Daily Mirror and Sunday Mirror had secret plans to take over the papers’ parent company Trinity Mirror Group, with the backing of a wealthy individual. However, Roy Greenslade at the Guardian is unconvinced by the report. “With the greatest respect to the correspondent and the paper, I just can't see how this can be true,” he writes.

For more industry news, please see WAN-IFRA's Executive News Service.

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Hannah Vinter

Date

2012-06-01 18:59

Plenty has been written about a shortage of women in the newsroom.

Last December a study by Guardian journalist Kira Cochrane suggested that 78% of articles that appeared in British national dailies were written by men.

Last February a group of German journalists got together to complain that, in the German newspaper industry, just 2% of editors-in-chief were women.

The same month, the group VIDA: Women in Literary Arts published a study suggesting that the overwhelming majority of articles in major literary magazines had male authors.

Now, a fresh study has been published, which indicates that women are also being severely under-represented in op-ed writing as well. Poynter reports on a byline survery conducted by the OpEd Project, which suggests that although there have been significant improvements in the proportion of women authoring opinion articles, the subjects they write on still continue to be stereotypical female – food, family, furniture and fashion.

The study notes that, even including these subjects, many more men that women are still publishing op-eds: women wrote just 20% of opinion pieces published in traditional media, 33% of those published via new media and 38% of those in college publications. As Poynter reports, the study looked at more than 7,000 articles, published between September 17 and December 7 2011 in 10 US media outlets.

Despite the still large proportion of men authoring op-eds, the study found that the proportion of women publishing opinion pieces has improved. Poynter notes, for example, that the number of op-eds by women in The New York Times was 17% in 2005, and has now risen to 22%.

Nevertheless, there is clearly still a long way to go, and different publications have been discussing how to get more women to start writing op-eds on a diverse range of subjects. The Atlantic Wire reports on an event organised by a group called Her Girl Friday, named “Throw like a girl: pitching the hell out of your stories.” The event brought together a panel of journalists and editors to discuss why fewer female journalists were being published. As The Atlantic Wire reports, the group seemed to agree that the gender gap was “not purely based in sexism or gender bias” but was also tied up with a lack of confidence from female journalists.

Poynter reports on the same event, and quotes the panel’s host, Amy O’Leary, a reporter for The New York Times, who said she would spend weeks or even months trying to get her pitches just right, while her male colleagues would throw together a story pitch in a day.

“I was afraid to take the leap,” says O’Leary, quoted by Poynter, “Early on, I lacked the confidence to pitch as much as I wanted.”

However, The Atlantic Wire rejects the idea that the low proportion of female bylines is entirely to do with a lack of confidence: “surely there are guy journalists who are crushed by rejections, too?” writes author Jen Doll.

The Colombia Journalism Review points out the lack of diversity in the newsroom is by no means limited to gender. “Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), showed one-half of one percent of op-eds in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal were written by Latinos; in The Washington Post, it was 0 percent. Asian Americans authored an average of 2 percent; blacks roughly 5 percent (though that rate was lifted by the Post’s 10 percent),” notes the article.

Sources: Guardian, sfn blog, VIDA, OpEd Project, Poynter (1) (2) The Atlantic Wire

Image via The OpEd Project

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Hannah Vinter

Date

2012-05-31 18:21

Good news for royalists and for fans of free content. Press Gazette reports that The Times and Sunday Times of London will be dropping their paywalls this weekend in honour of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. The Sunday Times app will also be available for free trial period over the weekend, notes the article.

Will Bunch from Poynter weighs the arguments about the New Orleans Times-Picayune’s decision to cut print publication to just three days a week and go digital first. In this thoughtful article, Bunch suggests ways to move beyond the conflict between print-first and digital-first advocates, and create better and more inclusive news reporting in New Orleans.

The Guardian reports that Israeli investigative reporter Uri Blau is facing trial in Israel for possession of classified information that was leaked to him by a former soldier. The secret documents revealed members of the Israeli military and security forces had "authorised the killing of Palestinian militants", in operations in which they could have been detained, writes the paper. The Guardian notes that the ex-soldier who gave Blau copies of the documents was given a four-and-a-half year jail term in February, after being convicted of collecting and distributing classified information.

The London Evening Standard reports on the UK Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s appearance at the Leveson Inquiry today, where he answered questions about his involvement with the Murdochs and his handling of News Corp’s controversial BSkyB bid. The paper reports that Hunt is under pressure over a text message that he sent to James Murdoch after Vince Cable was made to stand down from his position presiding over News Corp’s BSkyB bid, which read “Great … just Ofcom to go.”

For more industry news, please see WAN-IFRA's Executive News Service.

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Hannah Vinter

Date

2012-05-31 17:40

In countries like Syria, where the authorities make it nearly impossible for professional journalists to operate, citizen journalism has become crucial to keeping the world informed about what is happening on the ground.

To facilitate this difficult, dangerous and frequently deadly work, the live video streaming service Bambuser announced yesterday that it will start giving citizen journalists free premium access to its product.

Citizen reporters who want to apply simply have to email info@bambuser.com with their Bambuser username and a short description of the content they produce. In return, the video streamer promises to give them an ad-free service with unlimited viewing hours and storage, as well as access to statistics about their videos and special customisation options.

Normally premium access costs between €99 and €499 a month and, even at the top end, viewing hours are not unlimited.

The company, which is based in Sweden and Finland, explains the decision on its blog, saying, “at Bambuser we truly believe in free speech and democracy. Over the past years we've seen more and more activists and citizen journalists use Bambuser to broadcast real-time information about activities and events when they happen,” The blog continues, “we believe videos from areas with unrest should be ad-free and we also think you should have the opportunity to learn more about your viewers.”

Bambuser has been critical to helping citizen journalists publicise the events of the Arab uprisings. As the Bambuser blog reports, the livestreaming service was used by citizen reporter Rami Ahmad Alsayeed, whose footage of the shelling of Homs was broadcast by major news outlets including the BBC, Sky News and Al Jazeera. Alsayeed was killed in Homs in February.

Bambuser has a deal with the Associated Press, which lets Bambuser users choose to give the AP access to their videos and distribute them to other news organisations. The AP can contact Bambuser citizen reporters who decide to make their content available. When the agency distributes their work, it gives these users credit.

Bambuser has previously reported being blocked in Egypt, Syria, Bahrain and Kazakhstan. Earlier this month the service reported that it had suffered a Distributed Denial of Service attack, which it said appeared to be aimed at its Russian citizen journalist users.

As Bambuser announces its offer of premium access to citizen journalists, the company’s Executive Chairman, Hans Eriksson, tells The Next Web, “We think it’s particularly important in terms of the context that videos are viewed by a global audience. We don’t believe ads combined with protests, demonstrations and war-like situations are proper. We know ads are also an issue for the broadcaster as he/she wants the cleanest possible video out. To us, these people are important users and if we can help them to a better total experience in what they’re doing we’re very satisfied.”

Sources: PR Watch, Bambuser (1) (2) (3) (4), The Next Web

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Hannah Vinter

Date

2012-05-30 18:20

The Russian radio presenter Sergei Aslanyan has been hospitalised, after being lured out of his house and stabbed 20 times in the arms, neck and chest, says the Guardian. The article reports that Izvestiya newspaper has suggested that the attack may be linked to a recent radio appearance made by Aslanyan, in which he said disparaging things about the prophet Mohammed. However, it also notes that the attack may be connected with reporting that Aslanyan has done on the Russian car industry and corruption among traffic police.

The Guardian’s Datablog and Datastore celebrated their third birthday last April, at the same time as clocking up an an average of more that 1 million monthly users over the past year, writes Journalism.co.uk. The article quotes Simon Rogers, editor of the Guardian’s data content, who says, “For us, what started off as an exercise for developers has proved really successful with the general readership too.”

In an article for Nieman LabDan Kennedy, assistant professor of journalism at Northeastern University, argues that the value of online advertising is declining all the time. However, the end is not necessarily nigh. Kennedy goes on to suggest four things that news organisations can do to make money, despite the disappointing outlook for digital ad revenue. 

Poynter reports that the CEO and President of Media General Marshall Morton told Richmond Biz Sense that the publisher didn’t realise drops in newspaper revenue were not just due to the recession until the second quarter of 2011.

For more industry news, please see WAN-IFRA's Executive News Service.

 

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Hannah Vinter

Date

2012-05-29 18:42

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