Category Archives: online

Is the tablet computer the cure for online journalism?

In a lecture with Robert Andrews editor of paidContent:UK the future of online journalism in a recession hit world was discussed.

paidContent:UK is an essential website for those in the digital media business. Founded in 2002 by Rafat Ali and now now bought by Guardian media, it covers the UK’s digital media economy. At the moment it isn’t too rosy with many newspapers losing about a third of their advertising income.

The Problem

The most common way to make money from online journalism is advertising, however online advertising is a lot cheaper than analogue  and as NBC Universal CEO Jeff Zucker puts it we are “trading analogue dollars for digital pennies”.

As a result newspapers such as The Times have implemented a paywall as a way to get money from their readers for quality journalism. Unfortunately a PCUK/Harris poll in 2009 found that newspaper paywalls were not the answer and the general public were not willing to pay for content.

When asked what they would do if their favourite news site started charging for content:

– 74 % would find another site

– 8 % would read the headlines only

– 5 % would pay to use it

– 12% were not sure

The Solution?

Many people including Rupert Murdoch are claiming that the iPad and other tablet computers are the way forward for online journalism. Indeed, the Apple apps are incredibly successful, and are repackaging content in an easy, portable system that people are willing to pay for. Robert Andrews said that it was “allowing publishers to conceive a post print world”.

However it is still very early days for the tablet, with only 2% of the population owning one. Whether it will cement itself as the turning point for online media or  be just another fad remains to be seen.

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Data Analysis: the heart of a good story

In a talk from Glyn Mottershead this week we learnt about data analysis. I thought doing a journalism course I would have safely got away from the nightmare of GCSE mathematics and analysis of journal sales from my previous job, but unfortunately no, it seems data analysis will follow me wherever I go.

It is not all bad though, turns out that in between nursing wounded soldiers Florence Nightingale was doing some pretty impressive data analysis, recording the soldiers causes of death.

Nightingale knew that data analysis was an excellent resource for looking at the bigger picture.

And that is exactly what data analysis allows us to do as journalists.

A more recent example of data analysis  is the MP’s expenses scandal. Hundreds of people were slaving away over data to find the gems of expenses claims such as duck houses and moats. A fantastic story that caused wave upon wave of uproar and controversy, that wouldn’t have materialised without data analysis.

Online journalism: You can’t always get what you want

This week Joanna Geary, Community and Web Development Editor at the Times spoke on the importance of engaging with the reader.

In some respects her views were similar to those of Rory Cellan-Jones, the reader is not always interested in the most news worthy story. Online journalism is often measured in how many views or hits a story gets – the assumption being the more hits, the better the story. But Geary reminded that if we continually wrote to get reader hits all our stories would be about  poker, porn and kittens.

These searches are only representative of the gossipy, human-interest strand of the human psyche said Geary, that, although important to recognise, is not representative of the reader as a whole.

Geary also noted that this strand of of the psyche is not something readers will usually want to reveal and may even be ashamed admit. Therefore if you ask a reader what they would like more of on a news website they may say more hard-hitting political writing, when they would actually rather read about Will and Kate’s upcoming wedding.

The solution that Geary presented, and what they are aiming to do at the The Times is to strike a balance between what the reader says they want, what they actually look at and what the brand stands for.  But how do we do that? Perhaps as Geary suggests:

“We need people experimenting right now”

Blog comments: terribly interesting or just plain terrible?

In a lecture last week Rory Cellan-Jones spoke about blogging for the BBC. The BBC has been mentioned a lot in the online community recently as journalists Andrew Marr and Nick Robinson have both famously said that they do not read any of the comments on their articles as they are invaluable.

The BBC has been criticised for it’s online snobbery, but Cellan-Jones  explains their position. He cited that the most read story on the BBC website is ‘Man Marries Goat‘ and the most commented on story is the ‘9/11 Conspiracy Theories’ these results suggest that the BBC readers may not always be interested in the most news worthy stories and therefore may not be informed enough to comment.

Originally uploaded by Tambako the Jaguar

I remember for a week at my old office the most read story on the BBC news website was ‘Great tits cope well warming‘. It was an ornithological article, but obviously the title, had a possible double meaning and was too intriguing for some. There is even a website called speak you’re branes which shows the most hilarious, ridiculous and sometimes worrying comments from blogs.

However despite the fact that there are many harmful, offensive and uninformed comments on blogs, I still believe that many comments are of value and can create an interesting discussion around a particular niche. To not read any comments on the basis of a few (or even of a majority of) ignorant comments is to deny the conversation which has become available to journalists since the arrival of the internet. As a result journalism cannot fully embrace and move forward with technology.