Friday, April 18

Local News, Off College Presses

Journalism schools and student-run newspapers across the country are operating a variety of programs that are not just teaching students to be journalists, but embedding them in the media industry and allowing them to produce content.

Read more in the New York Times

Thursday, April 17

Are Touchscreens Melting Your Kid’s Brain?

The American Academy of Pediatrics is unequivocal: If your kid is under 2, no screens. For older kids, two hours a day, max. But the AAP doesn’t differentiate between activities; education apps, base-jumping videos, first-person shooters, ebooks, Sesame Street, and The Shining are all thrown into the same bucket. It’s all just screen time.

Trouble is, they’re not all the same.

Read the article at Wired

Sunday, April 13

Drones often make news. They have started gathering it, too

In the past few months drones shot the most revealing footage of the protests that toppled Viktor Yanukovych, its corrupt president. They have also offered a bird’s-eye view of civil conflict in Thailand, Venezuela and elsewhere. They let journalists capture scenes that previously would have put their lives in danger, and made it harder for governments to lie.

Drones are helping journalists overcome logistical hurdles, too. They have recently been used to cover fires raging in the Australian bush, and floods in southern England. “[Drones] give you a unique, airborne perspective that you can’t get any other way,” says Thomas Hannen of the BBC’s Global Video Unit. Their relative cheapness (basic models cost a few hundred dollars; fancier ones a few thousand) means that shots that once required a helicopter or a complicated set-up of gantries and wires are now achievable on a tight budget. And their usefulness will only grow as cameras get better and batteries last longer.

Read more at the Economist

Friday, April 11

The Front Page 2.0

There will always be a demand for high-quality news—enough demand to support two or three national newspapers, on papyrus scrolls if necessary. And the truth is that if only two or three newspapers survive, in national or global competition, that will still be more competition than we have now, with our collection of one-paper-town monopolies. A second truth is that most newspapers aren’t very good and wouldn’t be missed by anybody who could get The New York Times or USA Today and some bloggy source of local news.

Read more of Michael Kinsley's piece in Vanity Fair.

Profanity in Newspapers

CAN a newspaper cuss? Jesse Sheidlower has written in the New York Times calling for an end to that newspaper’s total refusal to print swear words.

Read more at The Economist

Saturday, April 5

Why local TV runs the same news stories

In terms of dollar value, more than 75 percent of the nearly 300 full-power local TV stations purchased last year were acquired by just three media giants. The largest, Sinclair Broadcasting, will reach almost 40 percent of the population if its latest purchases are approved by federal regulators. Media conglomerates such as Sinclair have bought up multiple news stations in the same regions—in nearly half of America's 210 television markets, one company owns or manages at least two local stations, and a lot of these stations now run very similar or even completely identical newscasts, according to a new report from the Pew Research Center.

REad more here

Tuesday, April 1

Can streaming slow the music industry’s long decline?

A report on March 18th by IFPI, a record-industry group (finds) music labels’ worldwide revenues fell by 4% last year to $15 billion, a reversal of 2012’s slight rise. But much of the fall was due to Japanese consumers finally giving up on CDs, as much as the rest of the world had already done. A closer look shows that streaming services are starting to bring the business back into profit in countries that have suffered steady declines, such as Italy.

Streaming now has around 28m paying subscribers, and several times as many who use free versions. Last year subscription-based versions like Spotify had combined revenues of more than $1 billion, up more than 50% from 2012. That figure does not include online-radio firms, which last year had revenues of $590m in America alone, a rise of 28% from the year before. In America, the largest music market, 21% of the industry’s 2013 revenues came from streaming, whose growth more than offset declines in CD sales.

Even so, only 4-5% of music consumers in America and Britain have so far signed up for subscription streaming, says Mark Mulligan of MIDiA Consulting.

Read more at the Economist

Sunday, March 30

Companies Turn to Social-Media Coaches Consultants to Avoid Online Flubs

The need for social-media crisis management has spawned a cottage industry that has firms like HootSuite Media Inc., SocialOomph.com, and Weber Shandwick offering monitoring software and services to deal effectively with online critics, react to events of interest to their markets and provide a positive glow to their brands.

Read more (or watch video) at the Wall Street Journal

Friday, March 28

These are the world's finest (fake) news sources

Wherever there's news, there's fake news. That's why it shouldn't surprise you to hear that The Onion — and your very own GlobalPost — are far from the only websites turning international crises into LOLs. There are dozens of satire sites out there, rewriting current affairs, making the cynical snigger and duping the global gullible.

Read more here

Pew: Online news organizations have created 5,000 jobs

The center's annual State of the News Media report, released on Wednesday, includes a first-of-its-kind tally of jobs at 30 big websites, like Buzzfeed and The Huffington Post, and 438 smaller startups.

Read more from Money Magazine

Wednesday, March 26

Professor: 90% of News Stories to be Written by Computers by 2030

Professor of Computer Science Dr. Kristian Hammond predicts that by 2030, 90 per cent of all news stories will be written not by human reporters but by computer algorithms. Hammond, co-founded of Narrative Science, helped develop a program with reporter and programmer Ken Schwencke that relies on a fusion of statistics and journalistic clichés to write simple news stories.

This is how the L.A. Times was able to publish an article about last week’s earthquake just 3 minutes after it happened, because the whole story was artificially generated by Schwencke’s computer algorithm.

Read more here

Sunday, March 23

Tracking Social Media Trends

BuzzSumo offers a dashboard showing hot social media topics from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google+. You get a few free searches each day or unlimited if you sign up for an account with an email address. A paid BuzzSumo Pro service is in the works.

Read more at Cnet.

Saturday, March 22

New Pew study shows the value of direct web traffic

The study looked at three months of data from comScore and finds that readers that enter a news website directly spend about three times as long on that site as those that come via a search engine or though social media such as Facebook.

According to the report, visitors to a news website tend to enter that site the same way every time – in other words, if a visitor tends to find a site through search, this is the way they will regularly enter that site.

Read more here

Google and Viacom end YouTube lawsuit

Google and Viacom announced on Tuesday morning that they have resolved a long-running legal dispute over unauthorized TV show clips posted during the early days of YouTube.

The case, which began in 2007 when Viacom demanded $1 billion from Google, has been seen as a landmark test of copyright law’s so-called “safe harbor” rules, which can protect website owners from copyright infringement committed by their users.

Google has won a series of major victories in the case, including last April when a court threw out the case for a second time on the grounds that Google did not have “red flag” knowledge of the infringing shows. The judge had initially dismissed the case in 2010 but an appeals court partially reinstated it, leading to the second dismissal in April.

Read more at Gigaom

The problem with data journalism

The recent boom in “data-driven” journalism projects is exciting. It can elevate our knowledge, enliven statistics, and make us all more numerate. But I worry that data give commentary a false sense of authority since data analysis is inherently prone to bias. The author’s priors, what he believes or wants to be true before looking at the data, often taint results that might appear pure and scientific. Even data-backed journalism is opinion journalism. So as we embark on this new wave of journalism, we should be aware of what we are getting and what we should trust... Data analysis is more of an art than a science.

Read more at Quartz

Friday, March 7

Can you tell a human poet from a computer?

How good are you at telling the difference between words written by a human and words written by a computer? Maybe after taking the Bot or Not test, you'll understand how research publishers Springer and IEEE managed to miss gibberish papers.

Read more at CNET

Saturday, March 1

5 lessons from Buzzfeed @ Harvard

BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith spoke to fellows, students, and a few curious onlookers at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center.. five takeaways from the discussion:

headlines sure look a lot like tweets these days... For optimal social growth, publishers must entice users to share their content..competition for the best (reporters) is getting tougher as both traditional and newly-monetized internet media compete for top talent.

Wednesday, February 26

LinkedIn opens its publishing platform to its members, raising lots of questions

LinkedIn (says it) is opening its "publishing platform" to all its 277 million members, beginning with a test group of 25,000. The move essentially means providing a juiced-up blogging tool to LinkedIn users, but with a twist. Adding the ability to post long-form professional information, he says, "helps to ensure someone can stand out and look better in their career." LinkedIn's "publishing platform" looks more and more like a media property.

Don't be surprised if LinkedIn's next moves include hiring real journalists to complement its amateur-writer contributors. Another natural extension of the LinkedIn "media" offering would be hosting live events around its Influencers.

Read more at Fortune

Saturday, February 22

CNN’s transformation says a lot about what is working today in television

Last year median prime-time ratings for Fox News, CNN and MSNBC declined by between 6% and 24%. The picture is not much brighter for business-news networks, such as CNBC. There is a “ceiling” to how many people are getting their news from television today, says Amy Mitchell of the Pew Research Centre’s Journalism Project. More people are turning to the internet. CNN's critics point to its weak ratings but it remains immensely profitable. Last year it made an estimated $340m on revenues of $1.1 billion, according to SNL Kagan, a research firm.

Read more at the Economist

New web domain names hit the market

Over 1,000 new generic top-level domain names (gTLDs) are set to join the 22 existing ones, such as .com and .org, and the 280 country-specific ones, such as .uk, that now grace the end of web addresses. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the non-profit organisation that manages the web’s address book, reckons this will boost competition and innovation. It will also increase the cost to businesses of protecting their brands.

Read more at the Economist

Friday, February 14

The first step to understanding big data is to define it

The first step to understanding big data is to define it. Many people think big data just means a lot of data. That’s only partially true. It is generally accepted that big data “refers to data sets whose size is beyond the ability of typical database software tools to capture, store, manage, and analyze.” Yet, at its core, big data is really about data analytics — sophisticated algorithms that are being applied to incomprehensibly large volumes of data. We create a staggering amount of data each day. For several years, computer scientists have been developing more and more powerful ways to harness the incredible volume of data for all sorts of purposes, such as marketing, medical research and business intelligence. They are figuring how to combine and review these immense data sets together. The result is that they are finding patterns in human conduct and nature that would have never been found without the ability to analyze these large data sets.

Read more here.

Facebook’s groundbreaking news app

Facebook is rolling out a new, stand-alone iPhone app called Paper. But it’s “much more than just a news-reading app—it’s a complete reimagining of Facebook itself.” Paper starts with the regular Facebook News Feed and “re-creates it as an immersive, horizontally scrolling set of screens.” The new app relies on touch gestures “to make every status update, photo, and news story appear full-screen.” By creating Paper as a stand-alone app rather than a new feature bolted onto the flagship, Facebook is embracing today’s trend “toward more, smaller apps.”

Read more at The Week

Thursday, February 13

The Facebook Effect on the News

In the last twelve months, traffic from home pages has dropped significantly across many websites while social media's share of clicks has more than doubled, according to a 2013 review of the BuzzFeed Partner Network, a conglomeration of popular sites including BuzzFeed, the New York Times, and Thought Catalog.

Facebook, in particular, has opened the spigot, with its outbound links to publishers growing from 62 million to 161 million in 2013. Two years ago, Facebook and Google were equal powers in sending clicks to the BuzzFeed network's sites. Today Facebook sends 3.5X more traffic.

Facebook's News Feed, a homepage built by our friends and organized by our clicks and likes, isn't really a "news" feed. It's an entertainment portal for stories that remind us of our lives and offer something like an emotional popper. In fact, news readers self-identify as a minority on Facebook: Fewer than half ever read "news" on the site, according to a 2013 Pew study, and just 10 percent of them go to Facebook to get the news on purpose

Read more at the Atlantic

Saturday, February 8

In 3.5 Years, Most Africans Will Have Smartphones

Worldwide, according to Gartner, smartphone sales exceeded feature phone sales in 2013, for the first time — but Africa remains a different story. Informa UK’s terrific Africa Telecoms Outlook (PDF) projects 334 million African smartphone connections in 2017, maybe 30% of the continent’s population. IDC is more pessimistic yet; it figures smartphones are currently 18% of the African mobile phone market, but they expect their number to “merely” double in volume by 2017. The available data seems to indicate that the penetration rate feature phones shot from 6% to 40% of the African market over a five-year period, and I still see no reason to believe that smartphones will do worse, and many to believe that they will move faster.

Read more at Tech Crunch

Wednesday, February 5

Hyper-Local Search

As the world grows increasingly mobile in its computing — and advertisers grow increasingly demanding about how they target prospects — the giants of the net are intent on tailing people around town. Google captures location through its Android phones and various mobile apps, while Facebook includes a Foursquare-like service within its ubiquitous social network. With this deal, Microsoft gets extensive access to Foursquare’s brand new tracking system.

Read more at Wired

Saturday, February 1

The Movie-making Billionaires Club

Lionsgate has achieved a level of success no one predicted. American box-office figures for 2013 are now in, and they show that the second “Hunger Games” film helped Lionsgate to overtake Paramount and Fox. Other than the surviving six “majors”, all dating from the age of Gloria Swanson and Rudy Valentino, the young challenger, founded only 17 years ago in Canada, is the only studio to have grossed more than $1 billion in a year, as it did in 2012 and 2013.

Read more in the Economist

Testing, testing

A whole industry of services to help startups tweak their offerings has sprung up, too. Optimizely, itself a startup, automates something that has become a big part of what developers do today: A/B testing. In its simplest form, this means that some visitors to a webpage will see a basic “A” version, others a slightly tweaked “B” version. If a new red “Buy now” button produces more clicks than the old blue one, the site’s code can be changed there and then. Google is said to run so many such tests at the same time that few of its users see an “A” version.

To see how people actually use their products, startups can sign up with services such as usertesting.com. This pays people to try out new websites or smartphone apps and takes videos while they do so. Firms can tell the service exactly which user profile they want (specifying gender, age, income and so on), and get results within the hour.

Read more at the Economist

Tuesday, January 28

California says no to Stephen Glass

The California Supreme Court has ruled that disgraced journalist Stephen Glass is not welcome as a lawyer in the state.

The New York Times reports:
The 33-page ruling was stinging in its portrayal of Mr. Glass’s character, raising questions about his motives and sincerity despite the appearance of character witnesses who testified in his favor. The court said Mr. Glass had not been forthright in a previous application to the New York bar and had not acknowledged his shortcomings in that effort (he was informally notified in advance that his New York application would be rejected). Many of his efforts at rehabilitating himself, the court wrote, “seem to have been directed primarily at advancing his own well-being rather than returning something to the community.”

Read more at the New York Times

Saturday, January 25

You’ll never believe how recommended stories are generated on otherwise serious news sites

Links, which appear on hundreds of news sites, including CNN and The Washington Post, (often at the bottom of news stories) are the work of a “news discovery” company called Taboola. The company acts as a middleman between a Web site, such as Politico, and other sites that want to attract Politico’s readers.

At regular intervals, Taboola’s computers feed new headlines and photos into the “Around the Web” sections from an inventory of articles, photo galleries and videos supplied by these third-party sites. Taboola’s main competitor, another Israeli start-up called Outbrain (both companies are now based in New York). Outbrain and Taboola say publishers can customize their offerings to screen out material they deem inappropriate.

The engines’ recommendations are based on algorithms shaped by a user’s Internet behavior and that of similar groups of people. Thanks to tracking software known as cookies, the companies’ computers can learn whether you like to read about sports or entertainment or prefer to watch videos instead of reading articles. They also do some educated guesswork based on broad categories. People in Washington, D.C., for example, might see more links to political stories than people in Washington state.

Read more at the Washington Post.

Friday, January 24

Pinterest Is More Popular Than Email for Sharing

According to a new study, Pinterest now one of the primary ways that people share stuff online. It even tops email. The company found that in the fourth quarter of 2013, Pinterest raced past email to become the third-most popular way to share online. It was topped only by Facebook and Twitter.

Read more at Wired

Tuesday, January 21

Instagram Fastest-Growing App Among Top 10 In 2013

Facebook was the No. 1 app overall in 2013, but its photo-sharing subsidiary Instagram was the fastest-growing app among the top 10...the growth in social media -- especially among teens -- is shifting to single-purpose or messaging apps, including Instagram, Snapchat, Whatsapp, Whisper and others.

Read more at Media Post

Many Americans don’t recognize top news anchor

In an online survey about Americans’ knowledge about the news conducted last summer, just 27% of the public could correctly identify Brian Williams, anchor of the top-rated NBC Nightly News.

Three decades ago, when far more Americans watched the nightly network news programs, nearly half (47%) could identify Dan Rather, who at the time anchored the top-rated CBS evening News.

Read more at the Pew Research Center

Sunday, January 5

New rules and start-up firms will let people sell their personal data

In 2014 new regulations and start-ups will overturn the traditional approach to privacy. Individuals will be encouraged to place an economic value on their personal data—in effect creating a market for them.

A report by the World Economic Forum called personal data “a new asset class”. A study by the Boston Consulting Group said the market in Europe could be worth €1 trillion ($1.4 trillion) a year by 2020. But the gains to individuals may seem trifling. Most data points—such as age, sex or address—are worth less than a penny a piece per person.

Read more at The Economist

Saturday, January 4

Fears that teenagers are deserting Facebook are overblown

There is no mass defection (from Facebook by teenagers) under way. Instead, teenagers are using different social networks for different things, says Lee Rainie of the Pew Research Centre’s Internet and American Life project. They post less intimate stuff to Facebook and more risqué material to networks not yet gatecrashed by their parents. Mr Miller’s research has also highlighted this habit. The danger for Facebook is that one of these newer places starts to attract parents.



Read more at The Economist

Should Tech Designers Go With Their Guts — Or the Data?

For many tech companies, design is no longer subjective. Instead, it’s all about the data. Analytics click and hum behind the scenes, measuring the effectiveness of even the tiniest design decisions. This constant data-stream plays an increasing role in determining what new products we will use and what forms they might take.

When it comes to the future of design and technology, the uncomfortable question we bump into is: do human design instincts even matter anymore?

In the design world, there’s always been a dichotomy between data and instinct. Design departments — think Mad Men – were once driven by the belief that some people are gifted with an innate design sense. They glorified gut “instinct” because it was extremely difficult to measure the effectiveness of designs in progress; designers had to wait until a product shipped to learn if their ideas were any good. But today’s digital products — think Facebook and Google — glorify “data” instead; it’s now possible to measure each design element among hundreds of variations until the perfect outcome is selected.

From my perspective working with over 80 product teams, data is important … but there’s no replacement for design instincts built on a foundation of experiences that include failures. As engineering and design become ever closer collaborators, the biggest challenge is to make decisions through a careful balance between data and instinct.

Read more at Wired

Monday, December 30

FB still #1

Some 73% of online adults now use a social networking site of some kind. Facebook is the dominant social networking platform in the number of users, but a striking number of users are now diversifying onto other platforms. Some 42% of online adults now use multiple social networking sites. In addition, Instagram users are nearly as likely as Facebook users to check in to the site on a daily basis. These are among the key findings on social networking site usage and adoption from a new survey from the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project.

Read more at the Pew Research Center

Saturday, December 28

The Limits of Videogame Storytelling Reveal Themselves in The Novelist

In the PC/Mac game The Novelist, you play a very nosy ghost living in a house the Kaplan family rented for the summer.

Videogames might one day be a great way of telling a story like The Novelist, but before that can happen interactive storytelling in videogames must be more interesting... The truth is videogames are not yet as good as novels or films when it comes to telling stories. The Novelist crashes headlong into that reality by throwing the full weight of a story upon the best storytelling tools games currently have to offer. It doesn’t work, but it reveals something about the medium, and for that reason The Novelist is important.

Read more at Wired

The internet is changing television habits

In 2014 online video will become a more influential cultural force, changing conversations, communities and what people watch. Several factors will speed up television’s move to the internet. Faster broadband will make it easier to watch videos delivered online without having to wait ages for them to load. People will buy more internet-enabled “smart” television sets, bringing websites once accessible mainly from laptops and tablets to bigger screens. In 2014 firms such as Sony and Intel will launch “over the top” services, which deliver television programmes over the internet. Apple’s long-awaited television offering may come to fruition. In 2014 some of the world’s biggest creators of programmes, including Disney, will start to make exclusive programmes for new platforms.

Read more at The Economist

Friday, December 27

Better times for the music industry

Streaming is still a small part of the music business globally, but will bolster it in the years ahead. Like a popular rocker who burns out, only to try to stage a comeback a decade later, the sickly music industry will probably never regain its previous vigour. But even modest growth is welcome news for the industry... It will become more common for bands and managers to use data about where fans are listening to them in order to decide where to tour.

Read more at The Economist

Saturday, December 21

Here's Why Instagram's Demographics Are So Attractive To Brands

Before buying Instagram ads, advertisers need to understand who is on the social network. Over 90% of the 150 million people on Instagram are under the age of 35.. Though it's owned by Facebook, Instagram is a mobile app with distinct demographics.

Instagram is largely made up of urban, youthful demographics, with a significant skew towards women.

Instagram also leans toward urban users; 17% of U.S. adult residents who live in urban areas use Instagram, compared to only 11% in suburban and rural areas.

Instagram is about quality not quantity. Instagram accounts for 7% of daily photo uploads among the top four photo-sharing platforms (544 million daily uploads total). So it's not as much of a heavyweight, in volume terms, as some might believe.

Read more at Business Insider