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.

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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.

Digital Storytelling: It is not always about Cheryl Cole

“Do you want to make a kind of media that is to do with listening rather than telling?”

This is the key concept that I will take away from Daniel Meadows’s lecture.

I am only in the fourth week of my Magazine Journalism course at Cardiff and I have already experienced the frustration of trying to find a suitable quote. I have the story and I know what I want to write, all I need now is a credible source to back up what I am saying. I hunt the down the person who is most likely to say what I need, I contact them and I ask them the questions that I know will get the answers I require. This is not scripting the source exactly, but essentially they are only a back-up, an added piece of proof to a story that has already been created.

Meadows questions this and asks ‘what if the audience were the story?’. His digital stories certainly prove that inside everyone there is a deeply touching, funny, heartbreaking experience and they suggest that maybe media should shift to follow the ordinary man/woman on the street, rather than just the people in the public eye.

Meadows’s projects focus on highly personal experiences; sometimes of the general public sometimes of his own (Polyfoto) and as a way to get me thinking before I create my own digital story, I have mapped out some of the places in the UK that hold a story for me.

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.