Thursday, 17 September 2009

Links for today on blogging and Twitter

  • Blogging doesn't have to be extra work. I'm down with the sentiment but in actual fact it depends on what your work is. So taking myself as an example with which I have some familiarity, I note that some aspects of my PhD - like reading loads of stuff on the Web - translates well into blog posts. Other work like actually writing the thing doesn't really - it would be extra work to reword PhD chapters into blog posts. Though in the case of the article at the end of the link, the 'work' is journalism which probably does translate well into blog posts a lot of the time.
So was that post extra work?

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Future of Journalism Notes 3: Swedish business journalists and blogs

Just rounding up the notes on the Future of Journalism Conference in Cardiff last week - a short piece on this paper on Swedish business journalists and blogs.

Blog-Journalist Relations: Business News in Transformation

(Maria Grafstrom and Karolina Windell)

This study looked at the use of blogs by business journalists in the press in Sweden.
- used content analysis and a survey
- 187 business journalists, 79 replied. Response rate 42%.
- Covered all the main business news outlets in Sweden.
- 0 articles in 2001 mentioned the word blog.
- Over 1,000 articles containing 'blog' in 2006.
- 61% of the articles mentioning the word blog were stories about blogs.
- 16% of the articles include a direct quote from a blog.
- 23% of the articles referenced a blog.
- 63% of journalists strongly disagreed with the statement 'I reference blogs in my work'.

One Swedish business journalist said: "I have simply no time to read blogs. I have not yet seen any reason as to why I should prioritise something factual oriented less in favour of the more opinion oriented blogsophere".

The Swedish researchers said that journalists are referencing blogs but at the same time they are quite hesitant to admit that they do so. They claimed that there seems to be a difference between blogs and other online sources.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Future of Journalism Notes 2: Second Life and Twittering the news

This is part two in a series of catch up posts about a selection of the papers at the Cardiff Journalism conference. Part one was here last time I looked. In this instalment we have two different views of Twitter - ambient journalism and promotional tool. But first a look at 'virtual' journalism.

Journalism in Second Life

(Bonnie Brennen and Erika dela Cerna)

Just in case you haven't come across it yet, Second Life users come from all over the world to construct virtual representations of themselves known as avatars. They also create the virtual environment they participate in. Brennen told us it's a Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG).

The resarch looked at three newspapers in Second Life.

1. Metaverse Messenger, "A real newspaper for a virtual world". Metaverse is formatted as a traditional tabloid and uses journalistic standards.

2. The Alphaville Herald, "Always fairly unbalanced". Brennen said the sarcastic and acerbic tone of the paper meant it 'read more like blog entries' than journalism. (Slightly dangerous comparative line to go down if you ask hard questions about what a blog is but we know what she means!)

3. The Second Life Newspaper - "The Easy way to understand the Grid". Reports on happenings in Second Life in a blog format. Part of its content is user-submitted.

Brennen and dela Ceran draw on postmodernism to frame their analysis; in particular the work of Baudrillard and the concept of hyperrealism where virtual reality becomes as real as actual experience. Second Life's media blur distinctions between truth and artifice although there is critical reflection on this phenomenon within the virtual world. A column in the Metaverse Messenger called 'The Line' interrogates the line between the virtual and the real.

Second Life Newspapers pursue interactive strategies. In May 2009 Alphaville Herald celebrated its 50,000th reader comment suggesting that journalism in Second Life is flourishing.

There's more on this paper by Axel Bruns here.

Twittering the News: the emergence of ambient journalism
(Alfred Hermida)

Hermida noted the rapid adoption of Twitter by journalists provoking something of a media frenzy.
  • UK National newspapers (Sept 09) had 131 official accounts with 1.47 million followers.
  • Sky News have a Twitter Correspondent.
  • Muckrack aggregates tweets from journalists.
This led to a) bewilderment on the part of some journalists and b) concerns about verification: how do you judge the veracity of online comments and navigate inaccuracies, rumours and misinformation?

Ambient journalism: Twitter as awareness system
Hermida described Twitter as a multi-faceted, fragmented news experience. But he drew on computer-mediated communication research to argue that Twitter acts as an 'awareness system' in which the fragmented tweets could be seen together as part of a system rather than in isolation. This makes it possible to construct and maintain an awareness of other people's activities as individual tweets do not require the same cognitive attention as other forms of media.

(Just wondering to myself where Twitter would fit on McCluhan's continuum of 'hot' and 'cold' media...This person has already had a go. I've just had a go but need to spend more time thinking about it...)

(Where was I now? Ah yes...) Hermida highlighted the difficulties journalists face in identifying, and verifying valuable information. He described the extraordinary immediacy and velocity of tweets during the Iran Election. No individual journalist could go through them all and the event emphasised the importance of selecting and filtering. He suggested that journalists should be developing systems to help them filter the information on Twitter.

Hermida also saw potential in Twitter's ability to make visible the communities that share news through the trend of retweeting and the 'following' feature.

The Future of Twitter?
Social media services are vulnerable but suggested the concept of real-time, searching, linking, and follower structure would be here to stay. Challenged journalists to design the tools that can analyse and interpret Twitter as an awareness system.

Twittering the News: how U.S. traditional media adopt microblogging for their news dissemination
(Marcus Messner, Asriel Eford)
  • Analysis of 180 newspapers and TV stations with Twitter accounts in the United States.
  • Observed Twitter feeds in action on April 4 and 5 2009.
  • Analysed tweets: number of tweets; news value of the tweets; hyperlinks.
Percentage of news outlets with Twitter accounts
  • 90.9% of newspapers, and 91% TV stations
  • Average of about 7,000 followers.
  • But only 2% had more than 10,000 followers.
Twitter Use
  • On the days of analysis 65.6% of the news outlets tweeted. There were 1568 tweets. 94.3% of tweets were news related; 5.7% were personal. 93% of tweets contained hyperlinks. Newspapers tweeted about twice as much as TV stations.
Messner concluded that traditional media use Twitter as a promotional tool through extensive internal linking. He suggested that more attention needs to be paid to community formation and the active recruitment of followers. Tweets need to go beyond shovelware and Twitter should be approached as an online social network, not merely another publication platform.

(But it's important to note that this study only looked at what you might describe as official news accounts, not the Twitter accounts of individual journalists. I would hypothesise that they use Twitter in a completely different fashion. And if they don't why on earth not!?)

More on this paper here by Alfred Hermida and by Sarah Hartley in The Guardian.

Future of Journalism Notes 1: Journalists' views of news practice and US Newspaper websites

This is the first in a series of catch up posts with my notes from the Future of Journalism Conference in Cardiff. Here's some of Wednesday's papers that I found interesting.

Exploring the political-economic factors of participatory journalism: A first look into self-reports by online journalists and editors in ten countries.
(Vujnovic, Singer, Paulussen, Heinonen, Reich, Quandt, Hermida, Domingo).

What are the motives of journalists and editors for using UGC and citizen journalism?
  • Building a community around a newspaper.
  • Citizen journalism is a necessary tool for attracting and maintaining an audience.
  • 'We exist if we have a lot of hits.' There is a need to encourage users to stay on the site with a variety of features. This is a survival strategy rather than a way to foster debate.
  • 'Everyone is doing it - we have to do it.' There's been no thought about why journalists are doing some things with the Web. This is just a case of new tools, experimentation and the fear of not being left behind by competitors.

The Form of Reports on U.S. Newspaper Internet Sites, An Update.
(Kevin G. Barnhurst

Taking a long historical view, U.S. journalism has become more interpretative and less denotative. Barnhurst argues that U.S. journalists have increased their influence in the United States by taking greater control of public discussion. Barnhurst looked at the websites of the New York Times (national), Chicago Tribune (regional) and Portland Oregonian (local) comparing the 2005 results with those from 2001.

Length of Stories
Between 2001 and 2005 news has got shorter rather than getting longer for the first time since the 1950s. In 2001 only 1 story out of 8 appeared on the home page. By 2005, almost half the stories appear on the front page.

Links were three quarters of a page closer to the home page in the 2005 compared to 2001. A reader required less mean clicks to reach a story. But once the reader arrives at a news story there is more scrolling and screens to get through to read it, aiding traffic stats and advertising revenue.

More images and links in 2005, but external links remain rare. Barnhurst suggested this might be due to time pressures as well as a desire to keep readers on the site.

Print vs Online content
In 2001, content online was almost identical to what was printed in the paper. In 2005, only two thirds of print and online articles were the same. There was an increase in discussion forums, chat pages, and controlled feedback forms in 2005.

Barnhurst highlighted a 'sensational drift' whereby accident stories have moved closer to the front page. Stories about politics and jobs required more clicking and scrolling.

Newswork Across Europe: Some preliminary findings
Henrik Ornebring)

Parameters of the Study
  • Feb 2007 - Feb 2010
  • Compares journalistic cultures of Europe: UK, Germany, Italy, Poland, Estonia, Sweden.
  • Investigate the emergence of a 'European' journalism.
  • Is there a dominant model of journalism in Europe? What is its effect on different national cultures?
  • This presentation was based on 61 semi-structured interviews with journalists (daily news production, career stage, medium type, work situation)
  • Culture defined as 'working practice' - values, communication, artifacts. What you do when you work.
  • Puts journalism in the changing context of work. General deregulation of labour markets, rise of flexible employment, technologisation of the workplace, changing skill demands.
  • After all, journalism is just a job for a lot of people.
Technology has made many aspects of journalism easier
  • e.g. easier to do research.
  • journalists equated easier with faster. For them, it doesn't mean greater depth, or improved quality, it means they can do things quicker. (Ornebring focussed on journalists who undertake daily news production.)
  • As the potential of instantaneous communication increases, so too does the pressure to produce content.
  • Technologisation is coming from above - blogs and other innovations are inspired by editors and employers who want to do new things.
  • Role of CMS - this is also about streamlining and standardisation. Get in this technology so you can make staff cuts.
  • Young journalists expect to work for free and this acts as a sorting mechanism for the industry. Journalism culture emphasises staying at work as the norm - 'if you want to go home you shouldn't be here'.
  • Freelancing - tends to be a necessity rather than a choice.
  • Journalists say the skills required have not changed that much. First and foremost being a good journalist means being a good storyteller.
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Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Cardiff Future of Journalism Conference 1

I'm here in the sun in Cardiff for the Future of Journalism Conference. Alfred Hermida over at has already done an excellent job of summing up the plenary session.
  • James Curran outlined four perspectives on the future of...(you've got it by now right?) and suggested a possible fifth way forward - 'public reformism' whereby public funding would support journalism, such as levying money through a broadband tax.
The hastag is #foj09.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Three links to sign off the week

  • New York Post: Thou shalt not credit bloggers for doing reporting. (Instead, reporter is required to leave a nice comment on the blogger's work.)
  • "All bloggers are gay" a Westminster journalist tells Paul Waugh. But this is less about the sexuality of bloggers and more about the rise of political blogging in the UK.

Thursday, 3 September 2009

(Shock) 'links on blogging and the BBC' post

BBC bits and pieces
  • In the first part of this BBC World Service documentary Michael Buerk talks to bloggers and commentators about citizen journalism. Includes sections on Burma, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, and Sri Lanka. I remember somebody phoned me about this several months ago, and I can see now why they weren't particularly interested in my hole-picking of the term 'citizen journalism'. Didn't really a fit a narrative in which 'citizen journalism' was a given.
  • Business Editor Robert Peston on the future of the media at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, including a section on his blog:
"For me, the blog is at the core of everything I do, it is the bedrock of my output. The discipline of doing it shapes my thoughts. It disseminates to a wider world the stories and themes that I think matter...It connects me to the audience in a very important way. The comments left by readers contain useful insights - and they help me understand what really matters to people. That is not to say that I give them only what they want. I retain an old-fashioned view that in the end the licence fee pays for my putative skills in making judgements about what matters...the blog allows me and the BBC to own a big story and create a community of interested people around it."
  • I love Rory Cellan-Jones' tweets for little institutional insights. Having a plethora of outlets to prepare material for sometimes leads to this:
"Day in the life of Rory: Madness this afternoon - TV 6, r4 1800, blog - and now tv editor says I'm banned from tweeting in the suite"
  • Radio Five Live Drive Assistant Editor Liam Hanley on reporting from Afghanistan:
"Of course, being on a military airbase, on what's called an "embed" - a trip organised by the Ministry of Defence - gave us a particular perspective on the conflict, not the complete picture.

It didn't mean though that our editorial independence was compromised - we spoke freely to soldiers of many different ranks, and apart from things which may have jeopardised security, nothing was off limits.

Clearly, what we weren't able to do from where we were was to give any sense of how this war is affecting Afghans. That wider context was provided by our correspondents across the country."

  • Bonus update a little later on in the day - Today presenter John Humphrys on Twitter.


  • 'Friends not editors shape Internet habits' - Interesting piece in the FT on how a marketing executive's first port of call is Twitter and Facebook. Though it might be worth pointing out that his friends are probably selecting at least some of their material from material already selected by editors.
  • Brazilian President starts blog. Aides surprised when they discover people want to read it.
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