Archive | July, 2012

Speed of Bytes – the conclusion

31 Jul

The Walkley Foundation has published a report: Journalism at the speed of bytes – Australian newspapers in the 21st century‘.

The 44-page report concludes that:

Daily newspaper journalism in Australia is changing dramatically. This study is anything but a lament for the demise of print media (“dead trees”), rather we set out to systematically examine the implications of current economic and technological pressures for news delivery, newsroom structures, workflows, editorial priorities, media standards, and interactions with readers. Our underlying concern is how Australians will keep themselves informed or be able to participate in democratic politics if there is a significant drop in the current supply of original news content produced by professional journalists. That question takes on new urgency now that the next phase of the commercialisation of news – paywalls – has started to be rolled out, heralding further audience fragmentation, increased competition for audience attention, and new demands for reader engagement. The results of our investigations, outlined above, combine to provide a rich picture of an industry in rapid transition as well as insights into what newspaper journalists are doing to renew their values and practices, and maintain the trust of the public, at this challenging time. The views of newspaper journalists provide the key findings for this study. We draw on them in this concluding discussion, which is arranged as a response to the research questions.


What do we know about quality journalism?

We know the term “quality journalism” is hard to define and not universally accepted; for some, it is code for resistance to change, while others see it as the keyword that will unlock journalism’s digital future.
No one talked about quality journalism in Australia, 20 or even 10 years ago, and past journalism research tended to focus on what was bad not what contributed to good journalism. Even today, studies about tabloidisation or “the dumbing down” of news far outnumber investigations of the concept of quality or journalism standards. The term has garnered increasing prominence in the past five years in the context of newspapers seeking to “monetise” online news content. In purely commercial terms, then, the focus on quality can be seen as a by-product of efforts to raise the reputation of newspapers’ print products to attract consumer and advertiser support for their websites.

Journalists, for their part, have taken up the issue of “quality journalism” in relation to two key challenges facing their profession: first, job cuts, increased workloads and re-jigged routines and, second, the exponential growth in competition from non-professional news providers (aggregators, bloggers, and social media). Journalists have publicly questioned how the quality of news reporting can be maintained when they are asked to produce multiple story versions, for multiple platforms, aimed at multiple audiences (often without training). Moreover, they have disputed the idea that “everyone is a journalist”, insisting that Australian society still needs a workforce of salaried professional journalists who know how to produce accurate, credible, public interest news.

We know from this study that journalists are now using the term “quality journalism” as shorthand for the news content they hope readers will pay for. This begs the question of whether readers appreciate or notice changes in news quality, or if they stop to consider the economic and technological constraints under which news is produced. One key finding of this study is that journalists need to talk to readers about journalism standards and values if they want them to take an interest in the future of quality journalism.


What does the transition to digital journalism mean for news quality?

The jobs of professional journalists working in large newsrooms are at risk as the industry moves to “digital-first” editorial models, print editions of major titles are being downgraded, news production is outsourced, and staff are laid off (again). Employment in newspapers has become more uncertain, less rewarding and more intense. Workloads have expanded as news delivery platforms multiply. Three years ago, there was print and online; now there is print, online, mobile phones and tablets.

As news moves into the next phase of commercialisation, the trend in freely available multiplatform publishing is toward breaking and continually updating stories, as well as re-versioning and recycling them across platforms and titles, while longer and more deeply researched news stories will likely end up behind a paywall.

Experienced print journalists are learning audio/video production and other digital journalism skills, either through employer provided on-the-job training or, more likely, through individual initiative. They have to. Across the industry, the trend is toward hiring new staff with digital media skills, to work on the digital platforms.The newsroom-training deficit, described to us in detail by both editorial executives and journalists, is bewildering. Many of the journalists we spoke to wanted to know about best- practice digital journalism, not just how to use the latest content management system or software package. As one journalist noted: “I know myself and my colleagues are crying out to be taught multimedia skills, and to actually have control of our own websites for the area we work in, where we can put up our stories, and put out our documents, and engage with readers, and hold forums whenever we have particular interests or stories in the paper … we see that as utilising all the tools and changes that are here … and there is frustration that we are not being given the training or resources to do that.” The lack of employer-provided professional development opportunities in this area, documented in this study, arguably amounts to a form of de-professionalisation of the workforce. This is another key finding.

What could journalists do – perhaps in league with readers – to renew and extend their standards in this transition period?

A third key finding is that more work is needed to define excellence in digital journalism, explain what it looks like and identify the criteria that can be used to evaluate what it does best.

The Walkley Foundation is already taking the lead in this area and Laurie Oakes, chair of the Walkley Advisory Board, has announced a major review of all the Walkley Award categories in 2013. The idea is to adjust the prize system so that it more directly encourages professional journalists to produce “highly differentiated, boundary-pushing digital story-telling”. In this way, the Walkley Foundation hopes to boost the profile of innovative digital journalism and at the same time encourage the consumption of professionally produced journalism by readers, viewers and listeners. We agree with this strategy.

A complementary initiative might be to open a public dialogue about digital journalism standards, with wide-ranging input, including from journalists and readers engaged with web- only news sites – for example, Crikey, mUmBRELLA, Business Spectator, Global Mail, Inside Story, The Conversation, and New Matilda.

The US-based Online News Association’s (ONA) award system provides another reference point for developing criteria to judge excellence in digital journalism. The ONA gives prizes in 13 categories, including innovative investigative journalism, data visualisation, community collaboration, technical innovation, blogging, and non-English online journalism. The last category raises the important issue of how to better reward cultural diversity in journalism, a further challenge, beyond the remit of this report, that nevertheless needs to be addressed to achieve a more balanced news representation of Australia’s multiculturalism.

David Craig’s recent book, (Excellence in Online Journalism, 2011), commends the ONA approach. He argues there are four key features of quality online journalism that deserve to be reflected in awards: speed and accuracy with depth in breaking news; comprehensiveness in content; open-endedness in story development; and the central place of conversation. Craig says these features marry print journalism traditions with evolving digital journalism practices. He argues the discussion of excellence in online journalism benefits from an ethical framework that specifies the purpose or rationale for good practice. He also defines journalism as a social practice (rather than an individual enterprise), which enables democracy by providing citizens with the information they need. In sum, he argues that journalists who are interested in excellence need to pay more attention to these particular features of online journalism. We agree with this approach and recommend that the Walkley Foundation take it into account in the 2013 review.

As we go to press, journalists are waiting to see whether the Gillard government intends to leave the newspaper industry to self-regulate via the Australian Press Council – recently cashed up, with a new national advisory panel, and on a mission to provide its members with “practical” journalism standards – or to introduce some form of mandatory standards regulation via a News Media Council, as recommended by the Finkelstein Inquiry, or some other statutory body. We welcome the debate that will follow either decision. The lesson we draw from this investigation is that robust public argument about the future of journalism is a thousand times preferable to a slow, silent newspaper deathwatch.

Mumbrella has some further comment here:

Sixty-two per cent of those asked said the most difficult challenge they face is coping with tighter resources, while 56% said it was proving difficult to keep staff motivated.

And this is impacting on the quality of journalism in Australia, the report found.

Sixty-two per cent of respondents said that the quality of newspaper journalism in Australia was “average” or “poor”. Only 34% said it was excellent.

Two-thirds of respondents described the quality of online journalism in Australia as “average” or “poor” while only 14% said it was “excellent”.

The survey follows in the wake of troubles at Australia’s top newspapers, which have claimed 1,500 jobs, according to the Alliance.

The report also found that journalists are slow to embrace digital techniques.

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Attention social media marketers: Don’t be lured by large numbers online

31 Jul
GUEST POST BY IAN LYONS
Web and Social Media Advisor
Occasionally I bet briefed to “increase Facebook fans to 100,000” or help make something “viral”. Each time I cringe and tell this cautionary tale about a Sydney based shoe company …
In March of 2010, an online shoe company Shoes of Prey ran a promotion with a popular 16 year old video blogger. Sanity warning – I don’t recommend it!

This created a rather dramatic response in just one week …

  • 500,000 YouTube views
  • 500,000 Web site visits
  • 90,000 competition entries (requiring shoes to be designed)
The traffic to the web site from this totally eclipsed all previous activity …
There was only one thing missing – sales.
It turns out 13-15 year old girls don’t have the budget to spend $275+ on a pair of custom shoes.
One of the big problems with very large numbers is that they often distract us from the relatively small number of our core customers – the ones who see value in our products and services and are willing to exchange that for their money. Think about how you would feel if a brand that you were loyal to suddenly started spending all its attention on “potential” new customers and ignoring you.
The other big problem is catering for those large numbers – traditionally a web site would simply crash under the strain. The SoP site runs on Google’s AppEngine so could scale up – unfortunately so do the hosting costs.
That’s why the right metrics are so crucial to evaluating the success of any strategy or tactic. The most important metric in this case (for an unfunded startup) was sales. Reach and engagement don’t matter much if you don’t have the cash-flow to make payroll.
Luckily, SoP was able to very quickly see that sale conversions were not happening and the company quickly changed tack. The team realised that they needed to capitalise on the interest and reach the people who could afford the shoes – older friends, older sisters and mothers who form their typical target market.
Within a week they:
1. Changed the web site to make sharing easier in the channels where the conversations were happening (facebook & twitter)
2. Joined in those conversations where appropriate and start steering them towards the target market
3. Wrote a blog post about the experience (not unique) and told the truth about the lack of sales (very unique)
The story was picked up by influential tweeters like @Scobleizer and the business press … including  The Wall Street Journal, Business Insider,  E-Consultancy, The Next Web, Y-Combinator and Sky Business News.
This coverage did reach professional women who form a key part of their target market.
After 2 frantic weeks of doing everything possible to capitalise on the attention, sales did enjoy a sustained uplift of 300%.
How many organisations are able to react in a similar way to convert interest to conversions – rather than just celebrating the large number of views?
Some of the negative fall out:
  • Conversations about the brand became massively skewed towards 13-17 year old girls, away from the traditional market
  • Returns spiked
Lessons:
  • New media can attract a lot of action but you have to be ready for it – both technically and people resources
  • Make sure you are measuring only the important things –
  • Be ready to change tack quickly if the results aren’t what you expect
  • Capture the ability to recontact people (email, FB like, Twitter follow)
  • Never lose focus on your core customers
So, back to the original brief – do you really want 100,000 facebook fans who don’t buy anything but cause an lot of activity. Or would you rather an extra 100 people who not only buy but become loyal customers because the actions required to achieve each one are very different.
The challenge is accepting the smaller number.

Mobile reporting: A field guide

24 Jul

Students at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism have put together a great field guide for mobile reporting. It walks through and rates viddeo, photography and audio apps and iPhone equipment.

It came about when “a small group of students at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism enrolled in an eight week mobile reporting course to experiment to see how far they can go only using their wits, drive and the smartphone in their pocket.”

We attempted find all the accessories that had potential to aid a mobile journalist in the field, then we bought them all. With shipments arriving every week and students armed with App
Store gift cards, we embarked on a quest to put the apps and gear to the test.

Here’s an example of one of the reviews

Image

Multimedia Shooter, Mobile Reporting Field Guide. Worth checking out!

Thou CAN protest too much?

17 Jul

A group calling themselves “Can Do“, described as an opposition to left-wing activist group Get Up, held a short 30-minute protest at Fairfax’s Pyrmont headquarters demanding that Gina Rinehart be given a Fairfax board seat in the interests of free speech.

Gina Rinehart, the world’s richest woman, is a major shareholder in Fairfax and has been demanding up to three seats on the Fairfax board. So far she has been refused. Rinehart then wrote a letter to current Board Chairman Roger Corbett with an ultimatum he lift the current Fairfax share price.

Apparently Can Do believes Gina can save the troubled media company.

The group was created by Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi in 2010 , at the time he said:

“CANdo takes the campaign theme pioneered by the left and combines it with the free ranging grassroots activism of the American Tea Party Movement.

It is built around a social networking platform that will be familiar to many readers. CANdo even links in with other social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook”

It’s no surprise then that the protesters – reportedly eleven of them – have also let it be known that they are anti-carbon tax.

According to the SMH report, the group maintains that Fairfax has a left-wing bias:

Elwyn de Francesco held a placard with examples from the Herald’s letter page, which she said showed the newspaper had a left-wing bias.
Mrs de Francesco said the media would not have let Liberal leaders get away with “lying” about the introduction of the carbon tax.
“If it had been [former prime minister] John Howard or [Opposition Leader] Tony Abbott, there would have been ‘liar liar liar’ all over the place,” she said.

The protest bemused many Fairfax journalists including SMH’s defence and security reporter Dylan Welch:

While the group might not be successful in its demands, it certainly chose the right place to get a bit of media coverage.

NOTE: Top photo via @jonathanvswan

Australian journalists doing it right on Twitter

16 Jul

Some days it seems that everyone loves bagging a journalist or at the very least telling them how they should be doing their job. But some of them must be doing it right. Right?
With the opening of the Walkley’s nominations just last week, there’s sufficient recognition of the good journalism being done out there.
So we thought we’d turn our attention to the best “journalist tweeters”. With 4.4 million Australians using it, journalists on Twitter possibly have a greater combined audience than any of their employers could hope to have.
So we asked “Journalists doing it right on Twitter. Tell us who they are and why.”
Undoubtedly the most popular was the ABC’s Mark Colvin who got a thumbs up for RTing, giving context and engaging with his followers. Comments re some of the other nominations are highlighted below their bios.

So journalists nominated were (in no particular order):

George Megalogenis (@GMegalogenis)
Author, journalist, Tigers fan. Latest book = The Australian Moment.

Jonathon Holmes (@jonaholmesMW)
Host of ABC MediaWatch (Australia). ‘Everyone Loves It Until They’re On it’)

Samantha Maiden (@samanthamaiden)
National Political Editor Sunday Telegraph, Sunday Herald Sun, Sunday Mail & Sunday Times.
– “Accessible and informative”

Nick Leys (@leysie)
Media Diarist. Author of Broadcast Wars II: The Revenge. Love your journalism.
– “Entertaining”

Chris Kenny (@chriskkenny)
Writer/columnist @Australian. Host SkyNews #SatAgenda. Rationalist. Lucky husband. Dad of 2 fine men and one baby boy. National/foreign affairs, music, #Crows
– “Fighter”

Ben Cubby (@bencubby)
Environment Editor at The Sydney Morning Herald.
– “Engaging and conversational”

Stephanie Peatling (@srpeatling)
Stephanie Peatling is the political correspondent for the Sun Herald.

Jessica Wright (@jesswrightstuff)
Political journalista for Fairfax’s National Times.

Katharine Murphy (@murpharoo)
National Affairs Correspondent for The Age

Amanda Meade (@meadea)
Senior Media Writer for The Australian and mum of one)

Nic Christensen (@nicchristensen)
Journalist with The Australian.

Latika Bouke (@latikambourke)
Political and Social Media Reporter at Parliament House Canberra but that’s just one piece of my life.

Mark Colvin (@colvinius)
Presenter of PM & Friday Late, ABC Radio. Lifetime Lance-Corporal in the Awkward Squad.
– “On the pulse, relevant, interesting”
– “Great anaylsis in few words, history presented, not just relaying press releases”

Bec Fitzgibbon (@BecFitzgibbon)
Journalist, editor, ghettotastic all-rounder. Arts, opinion and culture columnist for @themercurycomau, writer and sub-editor for @warp_magazine.
– “Fearless and fights for what’s right”

Ed Tadros (@edmundtadros)
Data journo at The Australian Financial Review

Tammy Mills (@TammyMills1)
Journalist @sheppartonnews who is always won over by a dog story. Views expressed are my own.
– “One of the best”

Annabel Crabb (@annabelcrabb)
[No bio! None needed?]

Ben Eltham (@beneltham)
National Affairs Correspondent for New Matilda. Arts columnist for Crikey. Fellow of the Centre for Policy Development.

Andrea Hamblin (@AndieHamblin)
Geelong Advertiser journo. Beer enthusiast. Twitter hack.

Phil Dorling(@ausflatfish)
Australian journalist (RT not endorsement, rather pointer to things of interest.)

Helen Tzarimas (@Tzarimas)
ournalist who reads the news on ABC @702Sydney @RadioNational & ABC Local Radio across NSW. I tweet mostly news. I avoid #DadJokes. RTs are NOT endorsement

Zoe Daniel (@seacorro)
South East Asia correspondent and former Africa correspondent, ABC Australia http://www.facebook.com/ZoeDanielABC

Sally Sara (@sallysaraABC)
Rural and regional affairs reporter, Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Nick O’Malley (@npomalley)
United States correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. Opinions largely my own, retweets rarely endorsements.

Paul Wiggins (@paulwiggins)
(Sub)editor, designer, news writer (boring bits), producer Australia lat. and long. follows.

Melissa Hoyer (@melissahoyer)
Commentator on news & pop culture for Mediaweek, Sunrise, The Morning Show, radio, online & mags. Host. Presenter. Single mother-to-one. Happy & content soul

Lisa Wilkinson (@Lisa_Wilkinson)
Today show co-host, mum of 3, taxi driver, with a tendency to hang around men wearing red bandanas, or nominated for Gold Logies!

Renai LeMay (@renailemay)
Publisher of Australian technology media outlet Delimiter. Sorry, I don’t really use Twitter any more

Greg Jericho (@GrogsGamut)
Blogger on politics, movies, books and sport. Was a public servant, now am doing this and that.

Possum Comitatus (@Pollytics)
The snarky polling marsupial and Crikey blogger. Doesn’t play well with others.Economist for Together Queensland, Qld’s Public Sector Union.Views are my own

Simon Thomsen (@SimonThomsen)
Eat, therefore I yam. The Daily Telegraph restaurant critic; Dad for 2; half-decent husband; willing to change my mind if your argument rises above abuse.

Jess Hill (@jessradio)
Middle East correspondent @TheGlobalMail. Tweet mostly about Middle East/North Africa. Collaborate with people to investigate global stories.

Patty Huntington (@pattyhuntington)
frockwriter, foreign correspondent, new media douchebag, poodle wrangler

Imre Salusinszky (@Imresal)
Views are those of Rupert Murdoch

Ginny Stein (@GinnyStein)
ABC Africa correspondent who’s life is spent sorting through confusion and trying to understand how things work.

Alan Kohler (@AlanKohler)
Editor in Chief of Business Spectator and Australia’s #1 investment report, Eureka Report, host of Inside Business and finance guy on the ABC news

Matthew Abraham (@KevCorduroy)
Humble public servant dedicated to serving the people. Favorite foods lime & black pepper chips and iced coffee. ABC broadcaster. Journalist. Awake before you.

– Good mix of news, convo and fun

Daniel Wills (@DanWillsAdNow)
Political Reporter, Adelaide Advertiser newspaper and AdelaideNow online.
– “Reporting via Twitter”

Natalie (@girlclumsy)
Journalist. Actor. Improviser. Writer. Traveller. Incredible klutz. My opinions are my own.

Sue Lappeman (@SueGCB)
Gold Coast Bulletin Political Reporter. These are the views of my employers – they just don’t know it yet.

Emma Quayle (@emmasq)
AFL writer at The Age, specialising in draft coverage. Author of The Draft and Nine Lives. Current obsessions: the gym, jelly beans, Glee. Views my own

Rohan Connolly (@rohan_connolly)
Football journalist with The Age, 1116 SEN, rock music tragic … is there anything else in life? Opinions mine … and hopefully a few other peoples!

Paul Murry (@PMOnAir)
On-Air 3-6pm 2UE 954, 9-10pm on Sky News #PMLIVE. Love: Radio, NYC, Tigers, Jets, Yankees, Film, Colbert, Cigars, HBO, Storage Wars & SK. Hate: Fakes.

Carlos Monteiro (@carlosmonteiro)
Web editor. Tech enthusiast. Also @footballstop

Special honours

We asked Mark Colvin if he had any of his own favourites, on deadline and with the disclaimer he would miss a few he listed:
@leysie @annabelcrabb @meadea @beneltham @bencubby @ausflatfish @simonthomsen

Last word goes to Phil Dorling who has this to say about a journalist’s role on Twitter: “Interesting, useful & reliable content most important. Often too much opinion.” Asked whether journalists should engage on Twitter and avoid opinion, he answered:
“No, nor should they. It’s just that there’s ever more opinion swirling around, sometimes at expense of delivering real news.”

NOTE: Please add any more recommendations in the comments 🙂

Hanging out with the PM: An interesting digital experiment

9 Jul

Interesting initiative between the Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s office, Google hangouts, Fairfax and Our Say.

From the promo:

Wanna Hangout with the Prime Minister? Now you can! Go to OurSay.org and get people to vote for your question. The top 3 question-askers will hangout with the Prime Minister in an internationally broadcast Google event on July 21st.

How OurSay voting works:

Go to OurSay.org to submit a question. Then use your email, Facebook, Twitter and Google+ networks to ask friends and followers to vote for your question.

Everyone gets seven votes. You can cast them by clicking on the vote button next to each question on the site.

OurSay previously did some interesting work with The Age, where they asked audiences to vote on climate change questions they wanted answered. The Age then investigated and covered the top questions.

From the OurSay blog:

It is a tumultuous time in Australian politics. A minority government holds the balance of power on a knife edge, its authority threatened by constant allegations of scandal. The country remains divided over issues of immigration, of the legalisation of gay marriage, of the strength and stability of an economy still reeling from the Global Financial Crisis. Despite the constant saturation of political press releases and parliamentary recordings in our newsfeeds, it is hard not to feel disconnected from the politicians who will determine the next stage of our nation’s history. Now more than ever, Australians look to the future of their country with uncertainty.

In response to this, OurSay will be giving the Australian people the chance to address questions directly to our Prime Minister via the latest OurSay forum. The questions can cover any topic that you feel is important to your future, and the future of the country. OurSay is proud to announce that the people responsible for the most strongly-supported questions shall be given a once in a lifetime opportunity: the chance to personally discuss their questions with Julia Gillard in a Google ‘Hangout’.

The Hangout will be mediated by The Age’s political journalist Misha Schubert.

Interesting to see an initiative between Google and local Australian media.

Also worth noting the achievements of OurSay amassing over 12,000 users, over 50,000 votes on user questions, and holding 22 OurSay forums. With an young audience and reach it’s certainly makes it an attractive partner for Fairfax.