Category Archives: social media

Hyperlocal blogging: News Where You Are

Not necessarily the most interesting type of news it is true. Sometimes you don’t need to hear about the neighbourhood kids vandalising some trees, or the little old lady who is missing her cat. But beat blogging has brought local news back in vogue.

Glyn Mottershead outlined two strong examples based around South Wales. The first is the South Wales Argus from Newport. The most popular story in the last year was not to do with sport, or redevelopment or even the New York/Newport parody song.

It was regarding the information about school closures during the period of heavy snow. It was acting a local service to Newport people to inform them about important news in their area. It was there for them when they needed a community centre and they needed it instantaneously.

The second is the Guardian’s local Cardiff blog, run by Hannah Waldram. The blog displays news, details of upcoming council meetings, the opportunity to contact your councillors and the ability to report any problems.

These are the details that people really want to know and discuss with other local people. In a time when many complain that our sense of community is dissolving due to a growing global network online, these local news blogs are proving exactly the opposite.

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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.


Blogging: it’s journalism Jim, but not as we know it

In a lecture this week with Adam Tinworth, Editorial Development Manager for Reed Business Information, publisher of magazines such as the New Scientist, Farmers Weekly, and (my personal favourite) Poultry World discussed how blogging has become an increasingly useful tool for journalists.

Although there is much talk in the industry of online journalism cannibalising print journalism, Adam Tinworth put forward the idea that the two are in fact very different models and should be used for very different things.

A blog is not a collection of opinion articles as many journalists believe, but actually a tool for sharing ideas with an interested audience and creating a discussion around that topic.  Blogs rely on group discussion and participation; they are a two way experience about giving and receiving information.

Print journalism on the other hand is about informing your audience and/or presenting an opinion. Adam Tinworth put forward the comparison that print journalism could be described as a lecture to an interested audience whereas a blog could be a dialogue with interested friends.

He also pointed out that while print journalism relies very much on appealing to the widest possible audience, online journalism is about appealing to the niche.

Adam Tinworth cited the Farmers Weekly blog Taking Stock as an example. The site is incredibly popular and this is because it concentrates on the niche of livestock shows and sales. When people go online the are looking for something specific and the further you can narrow down their interest the more likely they are to  become regular readers and indeed contributors to your blog.

Search Engine Optimisation: What the Lady Gaga Megan Fox Edward Cullen is that all about then?

In a lecture by Glyn Mottershead last week he examined search engine optimisation, or SEO as it is more commonly known and the process of encouraging web browsers to your blog or website.

Studies have shown that really the only links that matter on a search engine site are the first five links, or certainly only the first page. Users rarely sit and click through the pages and if your site doesn’t rank highly than it becomes like the proverbial tree falling in the forest; if there is no one there to read it, does it even exist?

A key message from the lecture was to use practical keywords in your title and introduction as this will ensure that people looking for the information contained in your article will be able to find and read it. Puns and a clever plays on word will not work as every bit of the title needs to be relevant and therefore searchable.

These facts have led to some unscrupulous methods by online users. Dropping in some of the most-searched-for words in titles, stand firsts and HTML boxes has become commonplace. This is undoubtedly effective at driving web views and online revenue, but incredibly annoying for the reader who has to wade through irrelevant material.

This is one of the processes known as “black-hatting” and is something that is being carefully monitored by the search engines with the hope of blacklisting anyone taking advantage. However with the unlimited amount of information being churned out daily on the web it is a difficult process to monitor and unfortunately looks likely to continue.

Social Media with Claire Wardle (or how I learned to stop worrying and love my aggregator)

As a member of the Facebook generation I thought I knew something of the social media world, but I have to admit, after signing up to various sites for our first online task that blogging, tweeting, netvibing, flickring, audiobooing and linking-in had left me a little bit lost. However in this week’s lecture Claire Wardle explained that to successfully utilise the internet you need to control and harness the constant wave of information that it provides (“like Tom Cruise but without the Scientology”) and let the key material filter down to you.

By getting up-to-date information from all around the globe not only can you find the best stories, but you can also have worldwide communication. Just glancing at the BBC news website shows requests for information and photographs from people who are near the scene of a story. The news now needs to embrace its online sources as they are the quickest way to get the most informed responses and therefore the most accurate stories. Wardle reminded us that the audience are experts and there will always be someone out there who knows more about a subject than you. These same people are becoming increasingly likely to comment online and they may either be an excellent source or a very harsh critic.

With this in mind I aim to untangle my RSS feeds and improve my aggregator. I do wish I had an iPad though; the touch screen would make me feel much more Tom Cruise.