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Media release: AP supplying Super Tuesday results on a Google map

March 6th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Multimedia, Politics

The Associated Press is supplying feed of Super Tuesday vote results to a Google Map which subscribers to the news agency will be able to embed on their news site and other platforms.

In a release, AP said it is working with Google are to make the mapping application available to subscribers of AP Election Services for today’s Super Tuesday results, when 10 states cast their votes to select a Republican candidate to challenge President Barack Obama in November’s election.

Brian Scanlon, director of AP Election Services said in the release:

Our subscribers have always had the option to create these maps on election night, but some of them faced cross-platform challenges. Now, we have a turnkey mapping solution. Its an arrangement that not only makes sense for AP and Google, but also our customers and ultimately the end-user.

Eric Hysen of the Google Politics & Elections team said:

Google is excited to work with the Associated Press to help visualise and distribute the state-by-state results for Super Tuesday. Our Google results maps will show statewide and county level AP results in real-time at google.com/elections. AP subscribers will also be able to embed the results map on their own websites. We look forward to a successful and exciting Super Tuesday.

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Times web app brings tablet newspaper experience to browser

The Times has unveiled an experimental new web application that aims to bring the “newspaper-like” tablet reading experience to ordinary web browsers.

The app, which currently works on Google Chrome and Safari, will be available for a two-week trial from today. Described as “like reading the newspaper, but with all the interactivity of the web”, it features enhanced graphics, picture galleries and videos.

Times web development editor Lucia Adams said on Twitter: “Readers told us they loved the linear reading of our tablet app, so we made it for the web too.”

Existing Times subscribers can test it out here.

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Arianna Huffington: ‘Enormous opportunities’ for online video channel

February 7th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Multimedia

The Huffington Post has announced the launch of a new online video channel this summer, at a conference to coincide with the site’s first anniversary under AOL ownership.

The HuffPost Streaming Network will launch this summer and feature original programming and debates, produced from studios in New York and Los Angeles. Editor-in-chief Arianna Huffington said the project would launch with 12 hours of daily programming and would eventually go to 24 hours.

Beet.tv’s Andy Plesser spoke to Huffington at the press conference.

She said:

It’s going to be really produced, not in any way thrown together.

The opportunities are enormous from the point of view of advertising. More and more of our readers want to consume video. It is completely interactive.

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Tool of the week for journalists: Tableau Public, for data visualisations

Tool of the week: Tableau Public

What is it? A data visualisations tool, allowing you to create interactive graphs, charts and maps.

How is it of use to journalists? Tableau Public is a free tool that allows journalists to upload an Excel spreadsheet or text file and turn the data into an interactive visualisation that you can embed on your news site or blog.

Here are five examples of how Tableau has been used by news sites to tell stories. A quick browse will give you a sense of how the tool can be used to explain news stories.

One of Tableau’s real strengths is providing the reader with the opportunity to move a slider or select a drop down and see how the visualisation alters when a variable changes.

In order to create a visualisation you will need a PC (or a Windows environment on your Mac) and to download the free software.

I was able to upload an Excel file and within less than two minutes had produced a map showing what are predicted to be the most-populous countries in 2100.

I had previously used this data set to create a visualisation in Google Fusion Tables and Tableau was equally easy to navigate.

For those who have not tried creating data visualisations, Tableau requires no technical ability and is easier to use than the wizard options that allow you to create graphs in Excel.

There are options for sorting and reordering data, plus changing the colours and view options.

Tableau also has a paid-for option. The difference between the free tool and the premium option is that Tableau Public requires you to publish your visualisation to the web.

Tableau launched version 7.0 a couple of weeks ago and will soon be adding functionality allowing you to create a map using UK postcodes, according to Ross Perez, data analyst at the US-based company.

Disclaimer: Tableau Public is a sponsor of the Journalism.co.uk-organised conference news:rewired. This relationship did not influence this review.

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Tool of the week for journalists – Spool, an Instapaper for video

January 17th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Multimedia, Tool of the Week

Tool of the week: Spool

What is it? Spool is like Instapaper or Read it Later for video. It allows you to to save videos to watch later.

How is it of use to journalists? How many times have you come across a video on a news site or YouTube when you don’t have the time to watch it?

Spool allows you to save videos you’ve found during the day for viewing later. And what is great about it is that it records the video, allowing you to watch it offline, perhaps on the train home from work.

It saves it in HTML5 so videos or documents that started as Flash can be viewed on an Apple device.

Spool is not just for video – it allows you to save any webpage – but it is video that sets it apart from similar platforms for saving news articles.

You can also add the option of saving the videos, articles and documents to Dropbox or Evernote.

Spool has iPhone/iPad and Android apps to access your saved videos and to allow you to save more.

It is still in private beta and requires you to apply for an invitation. These appear to be sent out almost immediately.

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Wired.com gets playful with cow clicking interactive

January 4th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Funny, Magazines, Multimedia

Wired.com has published a feature about tongue-in-cheek gaming, adding a playful twist by turning the article into a game.

In a feature called the curse of Cow Clicker: How a cheeky satire became a videogame hit, Wired.com reports on how a “cow-clicking game” (FarmVille), inspired another cow clicking game (Cow Clicker), by adding a cow clicking element to the feature – perhaps a first in digital storytelling.

Every time a reader clicks on the word “cow” – repeated 97 times within the feature – a graphic of a cow appears, with the “cownter” keeping track of how many cows have been clicked on. The cows in fact obscure the text therefore making it more difficult to read the article.

Readers can also click on the graphical cows to send them to their Facebook friends.

The feature is intended to “echo the theme” of the Cow Clicker Facebook game discussed in the feature, Shannon Perkins editor of interactive technologies at Wired.com told Journalism.co.uk. “It’s an intentionally trivial experience obscuring a more content rich experience,” he said.

Cow Clicker was created by Ian Bogost, a game developer, academic and co-author of Newsgames: Journalism at play. The game, which peaked at 56,000 players, was inspired by popular Facebook game FarmVille.

The Wired.com featured includes an interview with Bogost.

… This thought popped into my head,” Bogost says: “Games like FarmVille are cow clickers. You click on a cow, and that’s all you do. I remember thinking at the time that it felt like a one-liner, the kind of thing you would tweet. I just put it in the back of my mind.”

He developed Cow Clicker with “transparently stupid prizes—bronze, silver, and golden udders and cowbells—that people could win only by amassing an outlandish number of points. (A golden cowbell, for instance, requires 100,000 clicks.)”

On one level, this was all part of the act. Bogost was inhabiting the persona of a manipulative game designer, and therefore it made sense to pull every dirty trick he could to make the game as sticky and addictive as possible. But as he grew into the role, he got a genuine thrill from his creation’s popularity. Instead of addressing a few hundred participants at a conference, he was sharing his perspective with tens of thousands of players, many of whom checked in several times a day.

  • Shannon Perkins, editor of interactives at Wired.com, who is behind this interactive will be speaking on newsgames at news:rewired. Also presenting in the session is Bobby Schweizer, Ian Bogost’s co-author of Newsgames: Journalism at play.
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The Economist’s future of news debate (and a nice example of online video)

December 16th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Multimedia


The Economist created a short video following a discussion earlier this year and online debate on “the future of news”.

It was first posted on YouTube in October but makes some good end-of-year viewing. It is also worth watching as a nice example of storytelling in online video.

The news industry debate put forward the motion that “this house believes that the internet is making journalism better, not worse”, with author, blogger and journalism professor at New York University Jay Rosen defending the motion and author, blogger and writer-in-residence at the University of California, Berkeley Nicholas Carr speaking against the motion.

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Ten examples of games used to tell news stories

December 16th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Multimedia, Online Journalism

One of the sessions at news:rewired – media in motion will look at how newsgames and gaming mechanics are being used in journalism.

Shannon Perkins, editor of interactive technologies at Wired.com and who created Cutthroat Capitalism, a game where the player puts themselves in the position of a Somali pirate, will be coming over from the US to speak at news:rewired. In a Journalism.co.uk podcast he said a reader should “develop a deeper sense of the underlying themes of a story” by playing a game.

Another speaker presenting in the newsgames session at news:rewired is Bobby Schweizer, a doctoral student at the Georgia Institute of Technology and co-author of Newsgames: Journalism at Play. He will also be joining us from the US.

Here is a list of 10 newsgames to give an idea of how games can be used in storytelling.

1. The world at seven billion (BBC)

This BBC interactive, which uses gaming mechanics, is proof that newsgames go viral. The world at seven billion was the most shared and “liked” news story on Facebook of 2011 with 339,149 shares, comments and likes. It was also the most clicked story on Facebook this year and was the fourth most popular news story on Twitter in 2011 with 73,783 tweets.

2. Charlie Sheen v Muammar Gaddafi: whose line is it anyway? (Guardian)

A newsgame was also the second most popular news story on Facebook in 2011, with 219,023 shares, likes and comments. It is the Guardian quotes quiz where readers are asked to guess whether a line is a quote from former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi or actor Charlie Sheen.

This one was “produced very quickly”, according to the Guardian, and is an idea that could inspire small news organisations without a budget for big game development.

3. Cutthroat Capitalism (Wired.com)

This newsgame was created by news:rewired speaker Shannon Perkins after reading an article in Wired Magazine. The player becomes a Somali pirate. The game states:

You are a pirate commander staked with $50,000 from local tribal leaders and other investors. Your job is to guide your pirate crew through raids in and around the Gulf of Aden, attack and capture a ship, and successfully negotiate a ransom.

4. Los 33 (Chilean miners) (Chilean design firm Root33)

This newsgame is based on the rescue of the Chilean miners trapped underground in 2010. According to Bobby Schweizer, who will be speaking at news:rewired, the game, which asks the player to rescue the miner, provides an insight into the slow process involved in rescuing each miner.

You perform the rescue 33 times if you want to finish the game – which is impossible really to complete. It’s trying to get across that concept that maybe you can’t explain in a written article.

When you see video clips edited together of each of the miners returning to the surface you have three to five seconds of each of their faces, you don’t get that real sense of how long it actually took. The game was able to express that in the way that other stories couldn’t.

5. How should I vote in the General Election? (Telegraph)

This is a game produced by the Telegraph. It asks users to answer a series of questions to find their values and concerns. The game then cross-checks responses with party pledges and the player is then told how they should be voting. This game received much attention as voters were often surprised by the results the game returned.

6. The budget calculator (most major news sites)

Perhaps the most widely used form of gaming mechanics used in news is the budget calculator. The viewer enters a salary, the fuel-type of their car, amount of alcohol units consumed per week and other details and then gets told how much better or worse off they will be based on the new budget.

This budget calculator from the BBC shows gaming mechanics in online news is nothing new – going back at least 10 years. Here are BBC examples from 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011.

7. Christmas on the high street: retail winners and losers (Guardian)

At the beginning of this year the Guardian produced an interactive based on the Monopoly board. By clicking on each retailer the player finds out how business faired last Christmas.

8. Obameter (PolitiFact)

PolitiFact also uses gaming mechanics, such as with its Obameter, which tracks the US President’s campaign promises, the Truth-O-Meter (which also comes in app form) to test politicians’ and the GOP Pledge-O-Meter to rank political promises.

Speaking at the World Editors Forum in October founder and editor of the site Bill Adair said he felt there was “a tremendous lack of imagination” in the news industry in how to take advantage of new publishing platforms.

It’s like we’ve been given a brand new canvas with this whole palette of colours and we’re only painting in grey. We need to bring all the other colours to this new canvas.

9. Dollars for Docs (ProPublica)

US investigative news site ProPublica regularly uses gaming mechanics in news stories, such as with Dollars for Docs which enables people to find out whether their health professional has received money from drugs companies. Speaking at the World Editors Forum Scott Klein, editor of news applications, told the conference that as well as adding context, a news app has the ability to personalise and place the user at the centre of the story and offer them the ability to see the impact on them. “It doesn’t just tell a story, it tells your story,” he said.

10.  Fix the deficit (New York Times)

Here’s a budget puzzle from the New York Times. The reader is asked to work out where to make spending cuts to balance the books and hopefully get a sense of the financial challenges, tough decisions and the size of the shortfall.

Want to find out more about newsgames? Book a ticket for news:rewired here.

Recommended reading, viewing and listening:

This is a cross-post from news:rewired.

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Beet.tv: Why readers watch video on the NY Times and WSJ

December 5th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Multimedia

Beet.tv has an interview with Ann Derry, editorial director for video and television for the New York Times and Shawn Bender, editorial director for video for the Wall Street Journal online. They explain “why readers click the play button” to watch videos on the two news sites.

Bender feels readers click play in order to feel a connection.

I think that there is a feeling of excitement about the news that you don’t get in the static environment of print that you can get in video.

Derry says that both news sites have had to educate their readers in order to consume news in video form online.

We’ve had to train our users, both at the Journal and at the Times, that if you click on something you get a good experience.

Bender goes on to say that concise videos where the reader/viewer can learn two or three points are the most successful. Derry adds that news video should offer the reader/viewer a quicker, more “efficient” way of accessing the story than if they had chosen to read it as text.

The Beet.tv video is at this link and below.

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Ten ways journalists can use SoundCloud

Audio platform SoundCloud has been around since 2007 but it is only this year that it has really taken off as a space for the spoken word as well as music.

Here are 10 ways it can be used by broadcast and digital journalists:

1. Record and share audio. You can do this from a computer or your smartphone or tablet. SoundCloud has apps for iPhone/iPad and Android but consider using one of the third-party iPhone apps that allow you to edit or trim before uploading directly to SoundCloud.

VC Audio Pro (£3.99) (a previous Journalism.co.uk app of the week) allows you to do a full multitrack edit before uploading to SoundCloud.

Try iRig Recorder (free for the basic app, £2.99 for the one with full functionality) and FiRe Studio (£2.99). Both allow you to trim and alter levels before uploading.

At Journalism.co.uk we’ve been uploading audio interviews and podcasts to our SoundCloud account, gathering over 2,800 followers and engaging with a new audience.

2. Search for sources. If you are looking for quotes or audio from a news event, search SoundCloud much in the way you would hunt down videos on YouTube. You will then be tasked with verifying the recordings, facing the same challenges as checking reports posted on Twitter and YouTube.

SoundCloud has an advanced search function which allows you to search the “spoken” category for a keyword. There is also an option of searching for content under a creative commons licence. Try searching for Japan earthquake, Arab Spring or Occupy Wall Street to see the type of content available.

3. Discoverability. As with other platforms, SoundCloud hosts content that goes viral and has an embed option so you can post it to your site. Take this interview with US congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. It is a message to her South Arizona constituents, her first since being shot in the head in January. It’s clocked up over 21,000 plays, and demonstrates the benefits of SoundCloud’s commenting system.

4. Create maps. You’ll need to get some help from SoundCloud, but the team can create a bespoke map to allow you to crowdsource audio or plot recordings from in-house reporters. Ben Fawkes from Soundcloud told Journalism.co.uk how you do this, explaining that all you will need to do is define a location and define a hashtag and audio will then be automatically plotted. Take a look at this example of a map created with audio from Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival.

5. Use the new HTML5 player. If you embed SoundCloud audio in blog posts you should be aware of the new HTML5 player. The standard player is Flash meaning it won’t work on iPhones and iPads. Instead, when copying the embed code click on the “customise player” and toggle through the tags to the HTML5 option.

6. Consider a customised player. There are options to customise the player, including adding photos, such as this example used on the London Literature Festival site.

7. Invite user-generated audio content. Encourage your audience to submit audio into a drop box. You can embed the SoundCloud drop box widget on your site and ask readers to upload their own audio. Here’s an example of NPR adding a widget to encourage listeners to share their summer music memories.

Another option is to consider an embeddable record button on your site. At present this will require some developer assistance but SoundCloud is now working on making an easy option so sites can add a button and encourage user-generated audio content to be submitted directly. Here is an example of a record button being used on a musician’s site. This is a different option, of a mapped audio tour guide of Dorchester, Boston, where readers can submit audio via a record button on the site.

There’s also the option of gathering audio via phone calls, as Chatter.fm has done by using Twilio technology.

Another option for user-generated content (UGC) is to use SoundCloud’s importer tool to allow readers/listeners (or your reporters) to submit audio via email or smartphone.

8. Prepare to add SoundCloud sharing to your news organisation’s app. SoundCloud is working on an iOS and Android sharing kit, which will mean you can submit audio to SoundCloud via your own app. You could encourage readers or reporters to submit stories/field recordings to your app and have the audio uploaded to SoundCloud so that it’s shareable, streamable and has all the relevant meta data.

9. Record a phone interview using SoundCloud. There are easier ways but this is a good option for when you need to record an interview and are armed only with a mobile phone. Make a three-way phonecall by calling this number, dial your interviewee and the SoundCloud line will then record your account. You can then upload the audio publicly or privately.

10. Get your audio transcribed. Speaker Text is a transcription company that is integrated with SoundCloud. It takes 48-72 hours to be transcribed and costs 99 cents a minute.  It’s a way of making audio search engine optimised but you can also link to a certain sentence within the audio, for example referencing a quote or comment.

Related posts: News organisations are increasingly using SoundCloud, says founder

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