Browsing articles from "August, 2011"

Murdoch’s News International faces new inquiry

Aug 31, 2011   //   by admin   //   Media blog  //  No Comments

by Lynn Herrmann (Guest Contributor/Digital Journalist)

Rupert Murdoch’s scandal-plagued News International is undergoing a new inquiry over its journalism standards, a probe which began several weeks ago and includes The Times of London newspaper.

Sources familiar with the probe say lawyers for News International are handling a broad inquiry into the company’s journalism practices, including personal interviews with certain journalists and reviewing email and financial records, Reuters reports.

Linklaters, the legal firm heading the investigation, is also looking for information which investigators for the US government might use as evidence of violating America’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, a 1977 law pertaining to the bribery of foreign officials.

News Corp has confirmed the inquiry, although the corporation has released few details. “As is widely known, a review of journalistic standards is underway at News International with Linklaters assisting in the process,” a company spokesman said, according to Reuters.

The latest probe began “a number of weeks ago,” the spokesperson added, and is being controlled by News Corp. executive Joel Klein, a former assistant attorney general at the US Justice Department and independent director Viet Dinh, who has also worked at the justice department.

Included as well in the inquiry is Murdoch’s Management and Standards Committee, a unit formed by Murdoch in charge of corporate response to the phone hacking scandal and alleged illegal payments by some of the company’s journalists, a scandal which led to the demise in early July of Britain’s leading tabloid, News of the World.

At least a dozen News of the World executives and journalists have been arrested in the scandal, on allegations they gave illegal bribes to police for tips and intercepted mobile phone messages. To date, none have faced criminal chargesSince then, allegations of wrongdoing and misconduct have spread throughout the UK’s media institution. Publishers for the Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror, competitors of Murdoch’s empire, have also announced separate probes of journalism procedures, the Globe and Mail reports.

Additional interviews with journalists from London’s The Sunday Times are set to begin in September, and another independent inquiry is set to begin next month as well, led by a British judge.

According to the Telegraph, the Royal Courts of Justice will hold an inquiry over the scandal. Murdoch, his son, James and leading senior politicians, including Prime Minister David Cameron are likely to be questioned over political ties to News International.In another blow to Murdoch’s empire resulting from the phone hacking scandal, Wireless Generation, the software education branch of News Corp, has had a $27 million contract with the state of New York returned over concerns of “vendor responsibility.”

“In light of the significant ongoing investigations and continuing revelations with respect to News Corp., we are returning the contract with Wireless Generation unapproved,” said Thomas DiNapoli, NY State Comptroller, The Telegraph reports.The computer system was being billed as helping track pupil’s test scores, an issue teachers’ unions have protested, as a result of the hacking scandal.

Murdoch bought Wireless Generation last November for $360 million, and just weeks before the purchase, Klein, a former New York schools chief, joined News Corp.

Why ESPN should continue to allow its reporters to break news on Twitter

Aug 26, 2011   //   by admin   //   Blog  //  No Comments

by David Silverberg

This week, ESPN’s new social media policy orders its reporter to “not break news on Twitter.” The decision runs contrary to how media should operate in a digital age where people flock to Twitter for the latest news from their favourite reporters.

The new policy goes on to say: “…sourced or proprietary news must be vetted by the TV or Digital news desks. Once reported on an ESPN platform, that news can (and should) be distributed on Twitter and other social sites.” In other words, ESPN reporters can only tweet about news after they’ve written about it for an ESPN.com site. What era are ESPN brass living in?

Let’s say New York Yankees star Derek Jeter is suddenly injured during a game. ESPN’s Yankees stringer Andrew Marchand captures the moment perfectly on his cellphone, snapping a Twitpic of the downed fielder, clutching his leg. Under the new policy, Marchand can’t tell the world about this breaking news via a tweet, but must instead wait to post his story on ESPN.com and then later link to the story on Twitter? That delay could be as long as an hour, which is a lifetime with breaking sports news. ESPN is shooting itself in the foot because people follow Marchand on Twitter for these kinds of updates; not to only read his ballgame recaps.

ESPN must be confident it has enough of a hold on sports journalism to risk alienating its social media fans. Or maybe they’re so hungry for traffic to their dot-com properties they don’t care about delaying breaking news on social media platforms. But they should be considering the chilling effect this may have on their reporters; instead of reporting on important news via Twitter, reporters might just give us boring stats and Twitpics of home runs (wait, is that breaking news?), thus making Twitter a bullhorn for things we don’t really care about. Breaking news makes Twitter what it is, but ESPN doesn’t seem to care.

Sports reporting is a cutthroat business. ESPN is taking a hardline approach by hampering its social media position, something we rarely see in media today. Let’s hope they reverse this decision once they see the many complaints and more than one #ESPNfail

Survey: News site’s comment tools can attract young readers

Aug 22, 2011   //   by admin   //   Media blog  //  No Comments

by David Silverberg

A new survey found younger news readers are three times more likely than those 55 and older to say that engagement tools will make them more likely to visit a site. Overall, though, a third of those surveyed said they never comment on sites.

News sites continue to push for engagement features to make their content “sticky”, but what kind of response are they getting from commenters? According to a new survey, it depends on the demographic.The Ad Age/Ipsos Observer American Consumer Survey reports “fully half of the 1,003 households that took part in our online survey said that adding more tools for engagement would have zero impact on the likelihood that they would visit a news site.”

Also, 37 percent of respondents said they never comment on news sites, while nine percent say they often comment.

The survey went deeper to find out who engages most on news sites. Readers aged 18 to 24 are three times more likely than readers 55-plus to visit a news site based on its engagement tools. Close to 20 percent of younger readers comment on news sites compared to four percent of the 55-plus crowd.

The survey offers some advice: “If media want to attract the readers who will be reading them in some media or another in five, 10 and 15 years, they’d better be investing in the tools to engage them the way they want to be engaged now. And then they’d better be ready to re-invent as needed.”The survey didn’t specify what kind of news site (or articles) the survey respondents had read recently.

In July, media expert Anil Dash wrote a popular blog post calling out publishers for having shoddy commenting guidelines. He said deplorable comment threads are the responsibility of news publishers. “When people are saying ruinously cruel things about each other, and you’re the person who made it possible, it’s 100% your fault.”

His advice for publishers? “You should make a budget that supports having a good community, or you should find another line of work”, and he adds, “Fix your communities. Stop allowing and excusing destructive and pointless conversations to be the fuel for your business.”

This article was originally published on Digital Journal [Link]

Curation Nation: The Rise of Content Entrepreneurs (Part 2)

Aug 18, 2011   //   by admin   //   Blog, Media blog  //  No Comments

The following is the second of two excerpts from Curation Nation by Steven Rosenbaum, CEO of video site Magnify.net. Curation Nation tracks the growing use of human filters for the daily info deluge overflowing our lives. Rosenbaum believes computerized curation is on its way out, and human curators are the future of media.

We are publishing two excerpts from Curation Nation over the next two days, and today media trailblazers such as About.com reveal how they enriched the user experience by curating the news. Also in this excerpt, find out how the brightest digital minds manage the staggering amount of data flooding our inboxes. Yesterday we looked at how News Corp’s Jon Miller became a news curator. From Curation Nation by Steven Rosenbaum. Copyright (c) 2011 by Steven Rosenbaum. Reprinted by permission of McGraw Hill.


Let me save you the suspense and tell you that Scott Kurnit ended up inventing the forefather of curated Web content, now called About.com. But how he discovered and developed About is worth a bit of background. You know that show on cable TV called Mad Men about the drinking, smoking, snappy dressers of Madison Avenue in the 1960s? Well, Kurnit grew up in a family with a “Mad Man” as a head of the household. His father was an advertising executive during the golden age of Madison Avenue. Kurnit was born in 1954 and experienced firsthand the transformative power of TV. “Wow, this changes everything,” he remembers thinking. But while most folks thought of TV as a one-way medium, the young Kurnit quickly moved from local TV programming to being the head of programming at a Columbus, Ohio, experiment called Qube. This was the first test of interactive TV from a company known then as Warner Cable, long before Time and Warner merged, and longer still before TimeWarner merged with AOL. Which is to say a very long time ago.

We’ll just have to wonder what the world would have been like if Qube had been given more than the relatively tiny $40 million in R&D money that it was given. It might well have been what we now think of as the Internet, but on two-way TV. But, as Kurnit tells it, Warner owned a game company called Atari. Atari made a billion dollars one year and lost a billion in the next. The year that there was a billion-dollar loss, Warner Cable pulled the plug on the interactive experiment known as Qube.

But the young Kurnit didn’t forget what he’d learned at Qube: People wanted choice, but they wanted curated choice. They wanted a clear set of options and both data and information in a digestible but interactive form. Kurnit was hooked on narrowcast interactive media. Only there was really no such thing in 1983. Kurnit left in search of the holy grail: interactive TV. After a seven-year stint at the pay cable network Showtime, Kurnit arrived somewhat skeptically at Prodigy, an early Internet service provider. “Prodigy, I think, recruited me, but it is a terrible, terrible, terrible service. I’m fascinated by interactivity because of my early Qube roots. I never unpacked my boxes.”

In 1994, instead of staying with Prodigy, Kurnit, at age 38, saw the future and understood that the Web was going to be a game changer; he decided to dive in headfirst.

The experience he had at Prodigy told him that the Internet was going to be transformative. To him, the analogy was the impact that individual cobblers and metalworkers had in the 1600s and 1700s—that same spirit was being exhibited by young entrepreneurs working out of their garages to build software companies and Web sites.

Kurnit took the metaphor of pickaxes and shovels to heart, and formed the Mining Company, a human-curated Web service that was dramatically different than companies like Yahoo that were building huge Web catalogues by hand. For Kurnit, even back then, it was all about curation.

The Prodigy model was expensive centralized curation. Kurnit wanted to adopt a decentralized workforce so he could take advantage of people working out of their own homes. His plan was to get better talent at a lower price and cover a wide range of topics. While he launched the Mining Company, his main competitor, Look Smart, had 100 employees.

“I didn’t like their model—it was inefficient. I liked our model for any number of reasons,” Kurnit says. “If we had a hundred people and they cover all the topics, then I wouldn’t get that, so I wouldn’t get the passion, I wouldn’t get the knowledge, the expertise, the quality of the service wouldn’t be good, the way you talked about it to consumers wouldn’t be as powerful.

“The plan from the beginning was to harness the passion of the guides; we’d call them curators today. The original plan was to cover everything. We set out to dig up the gems, polish them, and present them. That was the metaphor of the Mining Company. Our original taxonomy was 4,000 guides. So we had a guide for white wine, red wine, Spanish wine.” But as the company started   to hire, even with low-cost remote guides, Kurnit knew he had to focus the vision. “I remember the meeting when it became clear the economic model isn’t going to work; we have too many people, for too little revenue, to motivate the people to both stand out and be stars and to make enough money,” he says. “We need to have wine. So we went from 4,000 to 750 guides. Had we stayed at 4,000, we would have probably broken the business.”

As the Web was taking shape and the early leaders were forming, Kurnit invented what would become About.com. The model was pure from the beginning: the idea was that with a distributed workforce, an individual could handle only so much work. But Kurnit didn’t want personal politics or friction. So core to the model was one passionate guide per topic.

For example, the person at the helm of a site about anesthesiology was—you guessed it—an anesthesiologist. As a result, About.com guides had both passion and sector expertise. Kurnit and his team curated the guide selection—curating the curators, if you will—but then he let them manage their own content verticals. If you think it sounds like blogging before the advent of blog tools, you’d be half right.

“The beauty of guides is that they were passionate about their areas, so we went and found them, we recruited them, we trained them . . . These people were and are independent contractors, which is a very careful line you can’t cross,” Kurnit says. This relationship works well for both parties, according to Kurnit. His company doesn’t need to have the guides on the payroll as full-time employees, and the guides feel ownership over the content they create and are compensated very well. “The market was built to ebb and flow with the Internet,” Kurnit says thankfully, so when the dotcom industry went bust in 2000 and 2001, he reduced his staff from 600 to 100 and let about 300 of his 750 guides go. “People made less, but they could afford it because we weren’t, for most of them,  everything—like I’m still an anesthesiologist, so I can do this,” Kurnit says. “So we were able to ride through the Internet winter of 2001 and then grow back to where we have about 800 guides.”

Kurnit describes a small but critical shift in the company’s focus that happened when it changed from the Mining Company to About.com. “On day one we didn’t have any articles because we just started, so the job was if the U.S. government had weights and measures data, we’d use it,” he says. “Then you’d see your traffic increase, and then you think we should probably produce our own weights and measures page and then we would get the traffic on our pages.” In other words, the company realized that people valued information on things that were already relevant to them, rather than a general survey of the Internet, and adjusted its content to reflect that fact.

One ironclad rule Kurnit implemented was that each and every About.com page has the same look, feel, and color scheme. Kurnit says, “So it’s only if you’re the CEO and you’re a product guy that you can say no no no no no. Red, three shades of gray, no purple, no blue, no green. Red and three shades of gray, cuz when these get found in search engines you need to know what it’s about, even if it’s subconscious. Number two: consistent tools across the sites, so that when we roll out something new, we can roll it out across the system. So there’s consistent user experience—so when a guy comes home and he’s used the composite material site, he can show his wife the pregnancy site and he instantly knows how to use it.”

The Future of Content

For guys like Miller and Kurnit, who started their careers in the television business but were already looking past it to what would come next, curation isn’t a buzzword or a trend; it’s the future of content and nothing less.

Says Miller, “I believe that there has to be curation, which by the way can run the gamut from traditional media like magazines and newspapers to bloggers like Michael Arrington. The social systems will do it with friends and your social graph. And the volume of content will continue to explode, which will create more content than advertising can support. So advertisers will need curation. In the end specialists win, the greater the specialization, the greater the win.”

And Kurnit’s take is clearly in the same spirit: “There’s no question the crowd is more efficient than directed individuals. So it’s interesting that About.com holds core to its 750 guides one guide per topic area, and I think for About, it continues to do very well, that’s a very good idea. If someone were starting About.com today, you wouldn’t do that model. The temptation to let everyone do it and let the best guy bubble to the top would just be so overwhelming that you’d have to do it. Interestingly, it wouldn’t be as good, and we’ve seen that.”

“Specialists win,” Miller says. “They understand their user base. They understand how to connect with them. Typically they’re starting smaller; they have a different cost structure. And they tend to nail it, and that’s the key to success.”

So Jon Miller—who turned basketball games into media assets, who shifted AOL from dial-up to a platform for nichified digital content verticals, and who’s now handing content gathering and organizing tools to MySpace users—says the future is all about gathering and sorting content with new tools, and consumer engagement. As he says, “Aggregation allows people to go after categories. The costs of starting them [targeted sites] come way down. Before, they had to do more than that because   you would have to go through the kind of venture pathing—you know, of multiple rounds of financing that could amount to $20 or $30 million of capital or more—before you could be successful.  Now, you shouldn’t need anywhere near that. So that you can have lifestyle businesses that, you know, for hundreds of thousands of dollars that, you know, could do very well for you.”

For observers who aren’t running the day-to-day meat grinders of big media companies like News Corp., trends that began back at the early days of Qube and the NBA are now very much the future of a curated experience. Says Jeff Jarvis, a well-respected thinker on Web content and author of What Would Google Do: “My über-view here is that the future is entrepreneurial more than institutional and that we’re going to see a whole bunch of entrepreneurial efforts. And those are going to reach critical mass, and those are going to be brought together in networks.”

Rohit Bhargava, the author of Manifesto for the Content Curator, is able to document a job that Miller had remarkably foretold. Bhargava says that in the near future—content on the Web will double every 72 hours. This staggering data explosion will overwhelm the current search algorithms and the search methodologies that have heretofore made the Web discoverable. No longer will people be satisfied with text links and obliquely recommended results. Hungry content consumers will want valid, contextual content on topics we can hardly imagine. This will create demand for the new role of content curator. This will be an act of love at first, but as curators provide value, they will attract attention, and attention is worth money. Already we see the building blocks of this trend as Facebook traffic exceeds the traffic on Google. Facebook users are community curators already, finding links, images, and media that they share with their friends and family. In time, these citizen- editors will become central to helping clarify and validate content on the Web. This change is significant, because it will both help create the new human-filtered Web and open the door to a whole new class of curators and curatorial efforts that will be full-fledged paying jobs.

Photos courtesy of Magnify

Click here to read the first excerpt of Curation Nation

 

Digital Journal launches online project to commemorate 9/11

Aug 18, 2011   //   by admin   //   Media blog  //  No Comments

Our sister site, Digital Journal, published the following press release today:

Digital Journal, a global digital media network with contributors in 200 countries, announced an online editorial project to commemorate the 10th anniversary of September 11. Launching across Facebook, Twitter and the Digital Journal media network, Digital Journal’s “Remembering 9/11″ project aims to provide large-scale coverage and commentary about the anniversary of one of the most important events of modern history.

People from around the world are invited to submit blogs, images, video and comments about how Sept. 11 impacted them, and how they’ve changed since.

“As one of the most respected user-generated content networks in the world, Digital Journal has become a destination people visit in order to get the perspective of the people and to hear the voice of the crowd,” said Digital Journal Managing Editor, David Silverberg. “Digital Journal looked at the upcoming anniversary of 9/11 as an opportunity to showcase the best stories and memories from people everywhere. We wanted to provide a forum for people to tell their stories directly and commemorate a really important day in history.”

Digital Journal’s “Remembering 9/11″ project has been launched in the following places:

  • A Facebook Page called “Remember Sept 11” was created to invite people to post comments, upload images and video and tell their story about how 9/11 impacted them.
  • A Twitter page called “Remember Sept 11” was created to engage with people and hear stories about how 9/11 changed their lives. Twitter users can use the hashtag #RememberSept11 to collectively help commemorate the anniversary and Digital Journal will share stories and content submitted over the next month.
  • The public is invited to submit stories and content directly to the Digital Journal media network; participants can post blogs, upload images, share video, join Groups and publish commentary. More info about contributing to Digital Journal can be found on the company’s announcement.

“As media outlets everywhere look to cover the tenth anniversary of 9/11, Digital Journal will be offering the voice of the public,” said Silverberg. “We want to hear how the day has changed individuals, and we are happy to provide an outlet for people to share their stories with others.”

For more details, check out the Digital Journal announcement here.

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