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How to publish Twitter streams on news sites?

socialplumeAs covered earlier on this blog, there are various tools for tracking and engaging in conversations on Twitter, especially where hashtags are used. But how do you publish a themed Twitter stream on your news site or blog, and what other issues are there to consider?

We have experimented with various tools on this blog in order to stream hashtag-themed Tweets (a post on Twitter) into a blog post. The last attempt used a heavily modified WordPress plugin from Monittor. None have been completely satisfactory.

But why would journalists want to do this? Well, imagine if there is an event on your local beat like a football match or other sports game. People are already Twittering from these events. If they could be persuaded to use the same hashtag, then you have the potential of creating a live Twitter stream on your website – a live commentary but from the point of view of several fans, not just one reporter.

Similarly, it could be used to cover breaking news events, basing the Twitter stream on keywords, rather than a hashtag.

For this to work really well though, we decided several functions needed to be in place:

1. The ability to place a stream of Tweets, based on keyword(s) and/or hashtag(s), onto a web page and for that stream to dynamically update (ie not require a page refresh). Ideally the output to be called by <div> tags, rather than a Javascript insert, to cope with content management systems that reject JS in article bodies.

2. Access to legacy Tweets using pagination. The current tools we use only display the last 10 or so Tweets, with no access on our pages to what has been Tweeted before.

3. The ability for administrators to tag certain Tweets within a themed stream and create a new output on another page. The purpose of this is to allow an editor to easily create a summary of the best Tweets for archive purposes.

4. The ability for moderators to manually exclude certain Tweets from a Twitter stream (for moderation purposes).

5. The ability for users to login and post directly to a Twitter stream, from the page on which that Twitter stream is published.

6. Threading based on @replies (probably the most complex proposition in this list).

There did not seem to be any existing tools that covered even half these bases, so we put out a call on a local developer’s email list. Amazingly, it transpired that a local company in Brighton, Inuda, is currently working on a tool that will eventually tick almost all of the above boxes.

Called SocialPlume, the product aims eventually to become a modestly priced subscription service. Jonathan Markwell of Inuda was keen to stress that they are still some way off a public launch, but in the meantime they are keen to hear from publishers and journalists who might be keen to trial the service alongside ourselves. DM @journalismnews or @johncthompson if you are interested.

We would also love to hear other ideas and applications for this service that you might have (please leave a comment).

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NPR: ‘Develop content management tools, not web publishing tools’

February 6th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Online Journalism

Media and news organisations should look at building content management systems that do more than just creating webpages, says National Public Radio’s (NPR) Daniel Jacobson.

“In building our CMS at NPR, our goal was to make sure the tool could publish to anything, including NPR.org. If our focus did not consider other platforms, we could have ended up with a web publishing system that binds the content too closely to the website itself.”

Full story at this link…

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Newsquest to axe 12 jobs

October 6th, 2008 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Jobs, Journalism

Newsquest has announced plans to cut 12 editorial positions and make six staff redundant at titles in north and north east London.

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has attacked the proposed changes: “This is a savage cut to the already overworked, stressed and underpaid journalists that work for these titles,” said Don Mackglew, NUJ assistant organiser, in a press statement.

According to a report from MediaGuardian, the publisher is looking to replace some sub-editing positions with multimedia journalists, who would take responsibility for reporting, sub-editing and uploading multimedia content to the titles’ content management systems.

The NUJ is currently in consultation with Newsquest about the changes, which are likely to involve a number of compulsory redundancies, the union said.

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Innovations in Journalism – Zemanta will find the online context of your article

June 16th, 2008 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Online Journalism

We give developers the opportunity to tell us journalists why we should sit up and pay attention to the sites and devices they are working on. In the spotlight this week is Slovenian start-up Zemanta.

1) Who are you and what’s it all about?
We are a young start-up from Slovenia, building a global tool to help online authors with their writing process.

Our product recognises what they are writing about through semantical analysis and as they are writing starts to suggest related pictures, links and articles they can include in their post to make it richer and more appealing.

It currently works for all major blogging platforms, but we envision providers of content management systems and publishers using our service as well.

Click here to see how Zemanta works with WordPress.

2) Why would this be useful to a journalist?
To publish content online today means: after you write your story, you still need to add links and images, and tag it properly.

Your readers expect rich content, next generation semantic web applications require it, and we want to make it simple and fun to produce this high quality web content.

Our service utilises the power of advanced machine-learning and natural language processing algorithms, so that you don’t have to do repetitive tasks and can just be creative.

3) Is this it, or is there more to come?
We will be adding a lot of new releases, such as personalization of suggestions, linking to own old posts and tools for additional media formats. [Since this interview Zemanta has added a reblogging function allowing bloggers to quote from others' sites with correct attribution]

4) Why are you doing this?
We want to solve the problem authors are facing trying to create interesting online content that their readers will appreciate. It is becoming increasingly hard to produce rich, web articles as the amount of content available is rising.

5) What does it cost to use it?
It’s free for non-commercial use and for a reasonable amount of requests per day. We will keep it free for bloggers.

6) How will you make it pay?
We will be suggesting affiliate links and earning commission on them. We will also offer our extended API for commercial applications.

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Social Media Journalist: “The problem with most news organisations is a lack of editorial understanding of social media” Kevin Anderson, Guardian blogs editor

Journalism.co.uk talks to reporters across the globe working at the collision of journalism and social media about how they see it changing their industry. This week, Kevin Anderson, Guardian.co.uk.

image of Kevin Anderson

1) Who are you and what do you do?
Kevin Anderson, blogs editor at Guardian.co.uk.

My title is misnomer seeing as desk editors handle most of the commissioning.

My role is two-fold. I spot newsworthy items bubbling up in social media – blogs, social news sites, Twitter, etc – and report on that or pass it along to the appropriate site editor.

I also seed and develop strategies to promote Guardian content in those social networks. My current focus is what I call real-time innovation. I use emerging tools for editorial purposes and feed back lessons we learn into our editorial development process.

2) Which web or mobile-based social media tools do you use on a daily basis and why?
People ask me how I stay on top of it all, and I say that my network is my filter. I have Twhirl and IM on constantly, sitting in the background. New media professionals and contacts around the world pass me things I need to read or stories I need to follow up on through Skype, Twitter, IM and Del.icio.us.

Popurls.com is a great one-stop site for buzz, especially for the US elections, which I’m following right now. NetNewsWire, Flock and Ecto are my blogging tools of choice.

The Flock browser is good in a number of ways. Its Flickr uploader is great – better than Flickr’s until recently. It also allows you to add sites to multiple Del.icio.us accounts.

You can go from reading your RSS feeds to blogging instantly in Flock, as it pulls NetNewsWire functionality into the browser too.

For publishing, a combination of Ecto and any good blogging platform creates the best multimedia journalism tool that I’ve ever used.

I recently got a Nokia N82. With its stellar camera and integrated Flickr uploader it has a lot of promise , but it’s hampered by poor data plans in the UK.

The mobile carriers are focusing on USB-based data plans to link computers to the mobile web, which maybe a good start, but there are still too few good data plans for phones.

I end up relying on WiFi, which on the N82 is much better than on previous phones.

3) Of the thousands of social media tools available could you single one out as having the most potential for news either as a publishing or newsgathering tool?
I think in terms of editorial objectives and then find an applicable tool. In 12 years of doing online journalism, I’ve had to learn hundreds of desktop tools, content management systems and now a dizzying range of social media tools.

You have to be aware of them to work effectively. Knowing about the tools allows me to do something on deadline without worrying whether it can be developed on time.

However, the problem with most news organisations isn’t a lack of tools or technology but a cultural lack of editorial understanding of social media, internet media and internet culture.

Most news organisations continue to try to force their existing editorial strategies into the social media space instead of considering editorial strategies that are appropriate for the space.

Online video isn’t television on the internet, just as blogs are not about publishing a newspaper with comments.

I can use Twitter both as a newsgathering and promotional tool, or I can just use it to broadcast headlines at people.

Social media can increase loyalty from visitors to a site and increase the time they spend on the site, but it’s not about the tools but the way that journalists use them.

4) And the most overrated in your opinion?
I hate to sound like a broken record because others have said this before, but I really think Facebook is overrated for the majority of our audiences.

Traditional journalists who had never seen, much less used a social network before, hyped it because it was a revelation to them.

However, for those who had used social networks before, it was YASN – yet another social network – only shinier, with 20 per cent more Web 2.0 goodness.

I believe in freeing content and making it available where the audiences are, so it makes sense for content to be easily available to Facebook users and for news organisations to have a presence there.

News organisations can learn things from the success of Facebook, but they should also study the life cycle of social networks and learn not only from their successes but also from their failures.

Allowing like-minded readers or viewers to connect and interact using your content as a focus is a good social media strategy.

Hosting and taking an active role in the conversations around your content is also a good social media strategy.

Building a site or service that externalises community and keeps the ‘unwashed masses’ at a safe distance from journalists creates nasty overheads. It also means managing communities and brings nothing to your journalism and very little to your site visitors.

Why would Facebook users decide to move to InsertNewspaperHere-book?

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Innovations in Journalism – Instant Journalist

April 9th, 2008 | No Comments | Posted by in Citizen journalism, Journalism

We give developers the opportunity to tell us journalists why we should sit up and pay attention to the sites and devices they are working on. Today it’s flat-packed news websites ready for easy assembly and use from Instant Journalist.

image of instant journalist website

1.  Who are you and what’s it all about?
I’m Scott Durham, president of Instivate. We’re a small software company in Seattle, Washington building a flexible, scalable platform for powering online communities.

Our first product is Instant Journalist, which makes it easy for anyone to launch their own online news communities where the public can read and contribute news stories and events of local interest with rich media such as video, images, and documents.

2.  Why would this be useful to a journalist?
Since anyone can join and submit content to a site powered by Instant Journalist, it allows the site to cover a much wider range of news events than an individual or team of journalists could do alone.

We have an advanced set of content rating tools, automated algorithms, and editorial controls that makes it easy for the site owner to manage the content from thousands of individual contributors, and make sure that the best content rises to the top of the heap.

In addition, we have a variety of features that aren’t available in traditional blogging or other content management systems.

One key strength is that our product comes with native support for video. That makes it easy for anyone to upload video of a news event and make it available to readers of the site. Our system handles all the complexity of video processing and conversion behind the scenes, and then allows playback on any web browser.

Another key feature includes our integrated mapping technology, where any story can be placed on a map and assigned to a specific geographical neighbourhood, town, or city.

This allows users to quickly visualise the location of a news event and browse and discover other content in that specific area. Users can also subscribe to RSS feeds for specific geographic locations and track the news around them at a very local level.

3.  Is this it, or is there more to come?

Our major focus now is the delivery of a self-service advertising solution that will make it easy for site owners to monetise their site.

It will allow any advertiser to easily sign-up and create ads for the site. Also stay tuned as we roll out more advanced content management features and more interactive ways of reporting news events on the site.

4.  Why are you doing this?

We’re passionate about building systems that make it easy for people to participate in and contribute to communities of like-minded people online.

We picked the news space as our first project because there’s a huge opportunity there to empower professional journalists and regular members of the public to collaborate online and cover a much wider range of news than has ever been possible before.

5.  What does it cost to use it?

We have a range of packages that scale up according to the amount of traffic a site serves, starting at just $18 a month.

It’s designed so that a site can start small, with pricing that grows as the site does and at a very affordable rate.

6.  How will you make it pay?
Our content management system makes it easy for site owners to plug any 3rd-party advertising solution into their site, such as Google ads, etc.  And our forthcoming self-service advertising solution will take that to the next level by allowing access to a wider range of potential advertisers, and providing the site owner a higher percentage of overall revenue than other 3rd party online advertising solutions.

Have a look at Centraldistrictnews.com – it covers a neighbourhood here in Seattle and allows people to communicate with their neighbours about the news that happens right around them.

We’re also working with a major newspaper company to adapt our platform to a wide range of less newsy applications; covering topics from travel to sports and local dining we’re allowing them to quickly deploy niche interest sites and other targeted online communities that will build a rich online ecosystem of websites around their existing newspaper brands.

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Online Journalism Scandinavia: Danish news sites benefit from doing things ‘The Drupal Way’

February 29th, 2008 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Journalism, Online Journalism

Image of Kristine LoweKristine Lowe is a freelance journalist who writes on the media industry for number of US, UK and Norwegian publications. Here she looks at use of open-source software, Drupal, on Danish news sites. More »

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