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#J30: How to use online tools to report national strikes

Some news outlets are reporting that today will see the biggest day of industrial action for 30 years. But the news landscape and tools used in reporting the strikes are a world away from the 1980s.

Here is a quick round-up to inspire ideas for coverage.

The nationals are providing an overview and inspiring debate, but many readers will be turning to local news sites to find out which schools are closed and which services disrupted.

  • A simple list is perhaps the most accessible way of accessing information, as created by hyperlocal Uckfield News;

For more tools and guidance on how to use Storify, Audioboo, OpenHeatMap, Many Eyes and Qik, check out this guide to livening up local election reporting.

For ideas in adding audio, follow these 10 tips.

Related content:

How to: get to grips with data journalism

How to: liveblog – lessons from news sites

How to: get started using Google Fusion tables

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News sites can remove YouTube logo for embedded video

News sites and blogs no longer have to display YouTube’s logo on embedded videos.

YouTube announced the change on its blog, where it has published a full list of player parameters.

To remove the YouTube logo from the player when displaying a video on your site just add the code ?modestbranding=1 to  the end of the URL. For example:

<iframe width=”425″ height=”349″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/IytNBm8WA1c?modestbranding=1” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

A small YouTube text label will still show up in the upper-right corner of a paused video when you hover over the player.

The video-sharing site has also introduced ‘As Seen On’ YouTube pages. These pages bring together videos from news sites which regularly display YouTube videos, such as the Guardian, which now has its own As Seen On page.

A YouTube blog post explains how it does this:

By crawling web feeds of sites that have embedded videos, we’ve built dedicated pages that highlight your embedded videos. This means that there is now a place on YouTube to find videos mentioned on your favorite blogs & sites. We think these pages provide a way to find new and interesting content while helping you dive deeper into the conversation around a video.

A third recent development is HD preview, the option to add a high-quality placeholder image to a YouTube video in the hope of encouraging more viewers to be tempted to click play.

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Review: Pressjack, software to create digital magazines

Pressjack allows users to turn RSS feeds and online content into a page-turning digital magazine within minutes, which can then be shared by email or social networking sites.

What is it?
The best way to answer that is to view an example. Here is one we made earlier. You will need Adobe Flash to view it.

Pressjack joins Flipboard and Zite the category of social magazines. But unlike Flipboard and Zite, which are for iPad and designed to tailor make a magazine based on content flagged up by people from your social networks, Pressjack is designed so you use your own web content – which includes text, photos and video – to create a digital magazine for your customers or readers.

The current version is Flash-based so cannot be viewed on the iPad or iPhone but a HTML5 version is in development and due to be released this summer.

PressJack

Three ideas of how Pressjack could be used by news organisations?

1. Local newspapers offering regional print editions of jobs and property supplements could produce tailored, more localised digital versions using Pressjack;
2. Create an weekly newsletter and email the link to the magazine to your subscribers, as we have done here;
3. Create a special supplement – such as after an election or event – to be emailed out and posted to Twitter and Facebook.

What you need to know about Pressjack

Pressjack is currently in beta and users can register to download the free software. Later it will be possible to upgrade to the enterprise or pro versions, which will have additional features such as the ability to add your own advertising (instead of Pressjack’s advertising) and host the magazine on your own site.

Developers hope Pressjack will be out of beta by mid-July. Paul McNulty managing director of Trinity Innovations, the company behind Pressjack, told Journalism.co.uk:

We took the decision to release the product and start engaging people. We made a lot of assumptions but we’re now including the user in the next step.

The product came about as a way to promote Trinity Innovations’ main product, page-turning eBook software called 3D Issue. “Eloquent organisation is what this tool is all about”, McNulty said.

Pressjack has a few limitations but developers are improving it all the time. When I first tried it, just three weeks ago, the user interface and the customisations were not a patch on what they are now.

The verdict: Pressjack is great at doing what it sets out to do: allow you to easily create a digital magazine. It is quick – it took me less than 10 minutes to download the software and create this example magazine – and the end product is nicely designed.

The downside is your magazine is hosted elsewhere (though you can upgrade to give you the ability to host your own publication) and it can’t be embedded.

Will customers follow the link? Do they all have Flash? Are readers’ internet connections fast enough to see the magazines before clicking to close the window? I’m not sure. My main problem though is that I am just not a fan of the format: of page-turning online publications.

How to: create a digital magazine using Pressjack

1. Register for the trial version and download and install the software;
2. In the “content” tab, click “add” and give your magazine a name (Journalism.co.uk’s weekly newsletter, for example);
3. Add RSS feeds by clicking “all feeds” and click the + button to the top right of the screen (I added our “news”, “blogs”, “jobs” and “press releases” feeds;
4. Drag and drop the RSS feeds onto the name of you magazine;

5. Click the “articles” tab. You can now edit the individual stories or delete any you don’t want to include (it is not possible to batch delete, unfortunately). You will be able to see associated pictures, which you can choose to omit. Click “build”;
6. Click the “output” tab and Pressjack will build your magazine. This may take a few minutes depending on the number of stories you’re including.

7. At this point users have the option to customise the colours and the design. There are also options to add Google Analytics ID so that stories read in the digital magazine will be counted in web stats.
8. Click “publish” and the magazine will be uploaded to Pressjack’s site. You will be given a URL, which you can email or post on social networking sites or your own site.

Let us know if you use Pressjack by leaving a comment below or by sending us a message @journalismnews

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Ten pros and cons for Facebook comments

This tweet inspired a conversation:

It is 10 weeks since Facebook overhauled its comments system, which allows websites to install a plugin to enable anyone logged into a Facebook account or with a Yahoo ID to comment.

The comment also appears in on friends’ news feeds on Facebook so has the potential to drive additional web traffic.

So what are the pros and cons?

1. More comments

Denmark-based Thomas Baekdal, founder and editor-in-chief of Baekdal.com, a business magazine about new media, media strategies, and trends, and 42concepts.com, a design magazine, has found the switch from commenting system Disqus to Facebook’s plugin has paid off by increasing comments by 800 per cent. But he has only switched one of his two sites. He added the widget for Facebook Comments for 42concepts.com but not to Baekdal.com.

This is an important thing to keep in mind. I did not change the commenting system for the business section – only for the design articles. There is a huge difference between the two – both on audience, and market.

The design content is also less about creating articles, and more about a “visual experience”. They are specifically designed to tell the story through the images. This makes 42Concepts the perfect target for people on Facebook.

Stories like this lovely example on the ‘yarnbombing’ of potholes.

Facebook Comments resulted in 10,000 comments in the first 30 days for showbiz, entertainment and media news site Digital Spy. That’s an average of 333 comments a day.

Tom Miller, community manager, told Journalism.co.uk that Digital Spy was not using a comments system (such as Disqus) before introducing Facebook Comments and encouraged commenting by directing readers from their forums, which are among the 25 most popular forums worldwide with 50 million posts, according to Miller.

2. Quantity doesn’t mean quality

Baekdal said Facebook Comments works for content that is suited to ‘snacking’.

We all know the Facebook behaviour encourages snacking (while Twitter is far more serious). The quality of comments also reflects that. Most of them are, ‘woooo!!!’, ‘omg!!’, ‘nice’, ‘cute’, ‘g0oo0o00o0od’, etc.

People do not actually comment, they express a feeling. There are no discussions.

But the result is staggering. As I tweeted, I have seen a 800 per cent increase in comments.

3. Increased web traffic

Web traffic is up for 42concepts.com as a result, Baekdal said.

Because each comment is shared on Facebook by default, the traffic from Facebook is up 216 per cent (but still only accounts for two per cent of the total traffic whereas StumbleUpon accounts for 62 per cent).

So have comments driven traffic to Digital Spy? Miller said:

I don’t think we can attribute traffic directly to Facebook Comments, but we did just have a record month with 9.84 million unique users in April.

4. Comments are attributed to a person

One big difference from using a system like Disqus is that Facebook comments are always attributed to a person, weeding out spam but also potentially reducing commenting from people who like to hide behind anonymity.

Digital Spy said Facebook’s commenting system is partly self-policing in nature. “People aren’t too controversial as they know mother-in-law will be reading what they write,” Miller said.

Baekdal told Journalism.co.uk that he’s only deleted one comment so far.

5. Comments with bad language are hidden

Facebook Comments has a language stalker tool which immediately hides comments with bad language. You can also opt to apply a grammar filter to add punctuation and expand “plz” to please and dont to “don’t”.

6. Moderation can take time

Digital Spy has found that moderating 10,000 comments a month takes time with four administrators taking half an hour whenever they can to post-moderate. Baekdal, on the other hand, only occasionally checks comments and spends an average of  just 30 seconds a day scrolling through.

Larger organisations like MTV and ITV outsource a service such as eModeration to cope with the number or comments.

7. It lends itself to post-moderation

Both Miller and Baekdal post-moderate and many news sites prefer pre-approval of comments to offer more content and legal control

8. You can enter the discussion

“Another advantage is that you have your Facebook page linked to your account,” Miller said, so that if two people are having an argument you can add a post. “It’s amazing, people do listen,” he added.

9. The backend system of Facebook Comments not user friendly

Miller said the backend of the Facebook system is “a bit of a mess” but believes Facebook will improve. “You can’t always see what article the comments have been posted to,” Miller explained.

“That is certainly true,” added Baekdal. “Administrating Facebook Comments is not a usable experience. It’s engineered, it is not designed to fit into people’s workflows. It’s very hard to see where a comment goes. It hard to track, it takes a lot of steps to moderate.”

10. It is suitable for ‘snackable content’ but not for all types of site

Baekdal has this advice based on thinking about his two websites:

I would advise people to test it. But as a strategy, I think Facebook comments fits well with “snackable content” and content that invokes feelings. I do not think it would work well for a site like the Financial Times.

Find out how to add Facebook Comments here.

To install Facebook Comments into WordPress click here.

Related articles:

Facebook: Our Comments Plugin Increases Publisher Traffic up to 45 per cent [STATS], from ReadWriteWeb.

Disqus has this month revealed it is doubling in size with investment of $10 million despite Facebook Comments, according to this article on the ReadWriteWeb technology blog, and its CEO is not worried about the threat of Facebook, says a Venture Beat article.

In the same way as you can @mention and refer to someone on Twitter, you can now do so on Disqus. It has since released @mentions, which “allows you to pull people into new conversations by mentioning them in your comments”, according to the Disqus blog, and follows Facebook @mentions, released in 2009,

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Five tools to liven up local election reporting

If you are reporting on the referendum on the voting system, the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish assemblies or from one of the 305 town halls across England and Northern Ireland with local elections, how are you going to present the results?

As a text only story which reports how many seats have been lost or gained by each party? Or are you going to try visualising the results? Here are five free and easy to use tools to liven up the results.

1. Many Eyes

Many Eyes is a free data visualisation tool. If you have not tried your hand at any data journalism yet, today could be the day to start.

A. Create a Many Eyes account;

B. Create your spreadsheet using Excel, Open Office (free to download) or Google Docs (free and web based);

You could follow my example by putting ward names across the top, parties down the side and the number of each ward seats won by each party. You will need to include the total in the end column.

local elections example

C. Paste the data into Many Eyes, which will automatically read your pasted information;

D. Click ‘visualise’. In this example I selected the ‘bubble chart’ visualisation. Have a play with other visualisations too;

E. Copy the embed code and paste it into your story;

2. OpenHeatMap

OpenHeatMap is a way to visualise your results in a map. It is free and very easy to use. You start by creating a spreadsheet, uploading the data and you can then embed the map in your web page.

A. Go to OpenHeatMap (you don’t need a login);

B. Create a spreadsheet. The easiest was to do this is in Google Docs. You must name your columns so OpenHeatMap can understand it. Use ‘UK_council’ for the local council, ‘tab’ for the party and ‘value’ for the number of seats. In this example, the tab column indicates the party with the most seats; the value is the number of seats;

C. Click ‘share’ (to the right hand side of your Google Doc), ‘publish as a web page’ and copy the code;

D. Paste the code into OpenHeatMap and click to view the map. In this example you will see the parties as tabs along the top which you can toggle between. You can change the colour, zoom in to your county or region and alter the transparency so you can see place names;

E. Click ‘share’ and you can copy the embed code into your story.

3. Storify

Anyone can now join Storify (it used to be by invitation only). It allows you to tell a story using a combination of text, pictures, tweets, audio and video.

A. Sign up to Storify;

B. Create a story and start adding content. If you click on the Twitter icon and search (say for ‘local election Kent’) you can select appropriate tweets; if you click on the Flickr icon you can find photos (you could ask a photographer to upload some); you can also add YouTube videos and content from Facebook. When you find an item you want to include, you simply drag and drop it into your story;

C. The art of a good Storify story is to use your skills as a storyteller. The tweets and photos need to be part of a narrative. There are some fantastic examples of story ideas on Storify;

D. Click to publish;

E. Copy and paste the embed code into the story on your site.

4. AudioBoo

You can record audio (perhaps the results as they are announced or reaction interviews with councillors) and include it in your story.

The easiest way is to download the free smartphone app or you can upload your own audio via the website.

A. Create an AudioBoo account;

B. Download the Android or iPhone app;

C. Record your short interview. You may decide to include a photo too;

D. Login to the audioboo website and click ‘embed';

E. Paste the embed code into your story.

Listen!

5. Qik

Qik is a free and allows you to live stream video. Why not broadcast the results as they happen?

A. Create a Qik account;

B. Download the app (iPhone, Android, Blackberry – a full list of supported phones is here);

C. The video will be automatically posted live to your Qik profile but you’ll need to add the code to your website before you record (you can also live stream to your Facebook page, Twitter account and YouTube channel).

D. To do this go to ‘My Live Channel’ (under your name). Click on it to get your embed code for your live channel.

E. Paste your embed code in your website or blog, where you want the live player to be.

How did you get on with the five tools? Let us know so that we can see your election stories.

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How to: Create a Tumblr blog for your news organisation

What is Tumblr?

Tumblr is a very visual way of blogging. One of the many beauties of Tumblr is its simplicity and easy interface. You can create an account, choose a URL, select a design theme and create your first post in under five minutes.

It is free and it is social: users can reblog, flag up things they like and engage by asking questions and commenting. Since each Tumblr blog has its own URL, you don’t need to be a member to view posts.

Although it has been around since 2007, over the past year it has been growing at an incredible rate.

“Right now Tumblr serves up 5.7 billion pages each month; this is growing by 400 million more pages every week,” Mark Coatney from Tumblr told Journalism.co.uk.

Almost half the Tumblr pages viewed are from the US, but the UK Tumblr community is growing fast and it now has 4.5 million unique users and 8 per cent of page views making it the third largest country on Tumblr.

The US is first, with 32 million people visiting the site; Brazil second with 5.6 million.

News organisations are joining Tumblr.

.Guardian on Tumblr

Five of the best Tumblr news blogs are at this link.

Tumblr, which was started in New York in 2007, by David Karp when he was just 20, almost became too popular for its own good. In December, rapid expansion led to it being down for eight hours. It has since opened another data centre to cope with capacity.

How does it work?

Tumblr posting options

There are seven post types: text, photo, quote, link, chat, video, plus you can ask or answer questions.

You can post from the web-based dashboard or by downloading the free iPhone, Android or BlackBerry app.

There are also other options including posting links from Bookmarklet, publishing via email and other third party applications (find out more via the Goodies tab on the dashboard).

You can decide to follow people or organisations, much as you do on Twitter. You can reblog (similar to retweet) and “like” a story. Followers can also ask questions or leave messages. You can create a group blog so several members of a team can contribute (go to the dashboard and members).

Who should consider Tumblr?

News organisations and individuals.

There are some great examples of news organisations getting to grips with Tumblr with the Guardian leading the way in the UK. There are some great examples from the worlds of fashion and art.

Tumblr’s Mark Coatney pointed us in the direction of this Short Form Blog, a really nice independent site that does news analysis and curation.

Why use Tumblr?

To engage with the 4.5 million UK Tumblr users.

“Our use of Tumblr is neither a marketing exercise nor a means by which to generate simple click-throughs,” Stephen Abbott, executive producer at Guardian.co.uk told Journalism.co.uk.

“We launched the Tumblr because we wanted to engage with the Tumblr community and we’re always on the lookout for new communication tools which might help to improve or augment our editorial coverage.”

First things first

Get a feel for Tumblr and decide whether it is suitable for you or your news site.

“I would advise any journalists thinking about using Tumblr for their organisation to first get to grips with the nature of the platform and become familiar with the practices and tone used on Tumblr.

“Then they’ll be in a much better position to decide whether they could find a opening or niche on Tumblr which could be filled by their journalistic output,” Abbott explained.

Think about how you can engage without the Tumblr community and what you want to blog.

Perhaps you can use it for fashion and lifestyle, the best photography from your publication or as a way to connect readers with your newsroom. The Economist’s Tumblr blog includes its cartoons and front pages.

News organisations can use Tumblr “as a way into specific niches” of the organisations, Tumblr’s Mark Coatney advises.

“For instance, Washington Post does a very nice Tumblr blog just for their style section; this allows a specific kind of post reader another entry into the paper tailored just for them.”

The second piece of advice Coatney has is for organisations to use Tumblr “as a way to foster peer-to-peer communication between news organisation and reader”: GQ’s Tumblr, for instance, does an excellent job of using Tumblr’s “ask” feature (every Tumblr blog as an ask me a question page) to bring readers inside the GQ’s office.

His third piece of guidance is to use Tumblr “as a way to bring the intelligence of the newsroom to the public: CNN Money Tech has a group Tumblr that replicates the chatter that goes on in newsrooms every day; a cast of seven CNN reporters regularly dash off short notes and observations about stories they’re following throughout the day”.

Think visually. And also in terms of video and audio as Coatney explains.

Tumblr is a very visual platform; of the 25 million posts done every day on Tumblr, half of them are photos.

Posts with striking visuals tend to be reblogged more by other users as well, helping to spread the content quickly throughout Tumblr’s network.

The Guardian’s Stephen Abbott said: “We will often strive to post stories which have striking pictures or video to accompany the text of the post.

“But this doesn’t mean that we only post picture-led stories. As you can see from the variety of posts at guardian.tumblr.com, we like to try to post stories picked from a wide variety of sections on guardian.co.uk to showcase the breadth of content on our site.”

Along with receiving much attention for its use of Tumblr at SXSW, the Guardian has carried out two other experiments as part of its editorial coverage: this Glastonbury 2010 scrapbook and this one on untangling the web.

Think about who will manage it. Large news organisations use community editors.

“The Guardian Tumblr account is managed by our news community coordinators Laura Oliver and James Walsh,” Abbot explained.

“Laura and James work closely with our news desk editors on a wide variety of our coverage – from breaking news to long-form features – and they pick a variety of stories that they feel will be appropriate for Tumblr.”

Ready…

Now you have got a feel for Tumblr blogs you can create your account, which takes a few minutes. All you need is an email address, a password and a username, which will become part of your URL (thenews.tumblr.com)

Upload a picture/avatar. This is probably going to be your logo, perhaps the same as your Twitter thumbnail.

Tumblr themes

Now choose a design. You can opt for a free theme, pay for a premium one (costing between $9 and $49) or you can customise your own (perhaps with the help of a developer).

Look around at other examples and see what is most effective.

“We looked at many Tumblr accounts before creating the Guardian Tumblr in order to survey the enormous variety of designs and layouts available – but we didn’t copy any of these.

“Our designers came up with a look and feel for the Tumblr which was distinct to the Guardian but which capitalises on the strengths of Tumblr,” Abbott said.

Download the free smartphone app if you want to post from away from your desk/laptop.

Connect with Facebook and/or Twitter if you want your posts to be automatically added to your Facebook and Twitter news feeds (via customise on the dashboard). Bear in mind it will indicate that the post is via Tumblr.

Steady…

Consider other add ons. Tumblr supports short comments but you can also add your Disqus account you can also take advantage of Tumblr’s own back up tool. You can decide whether or not you want to embed the blog into your own website (via Goodies).

Get ready to analyse. Paste your Google Analytics code into your site description in the customize menu.

You’ll also be checking the notes section to see what has been reblogged.

You don’t necessarily have to heavily promote your Tumblr blog.

“We have alerted Guardian readers to the presence of the Guardian Tumblr via our main @Guardian Twitter account but, at present, we don’t promote the Guardian on Tumblr across our other platforms.” Abbott told us.

Go!

Start posting.

  • Go visual
  • Be conversational
  • Keep it short. One, two or three paragraphs and link additional background content
  • Don’t just promote your own content. For example, the LA Times has linked to an Economist article on California; Al Jazeera has posted third party content of a time lapse map of uprisings and protests
  • Tag tag tag. Tumblr is powered by tags
  • Reblog
  • Ask and answer

How did you get on? Let us know when your news organisation has set up a Tumblr account.

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News sites can now add a Facebook ‘send’ button

Facebook has launched a new plugin with great appeal to news sites.

“Send” is similar to the “like” function but allows Facebook users (and there are half a billion of them) to send a news story as a private message to an individual, a few friends or a group.

The “send” button can be added to a site’s sharing options, as the Washington Post has done here:

Send button

 

 

 

Or users can click the Facebook icon or ‘share’ button and they will then have the option to send the story as a private message.

Send as a message

 

 

A Facebook user may come across a gallery of marathon pictures on a news site and decide to “send” the link to everyone who sponsored them. Or a charity may want to “send” a news feature about a campaign to a particular group, which the members can then discuss privately.

Facebook message

According to this Facebook blog post, the ‘send’ button keeps people on your site.

The send button drives traffic by letting users send a link and a short message to the people that would be most interested. They don’t need to leave the web page they’re on or fill out a long, annoying form.

Compared to the alternatives, the send button has fewer required steps, and it removes the need to look up email addresses by auto-suggesting friends and groups.

A small group of news sites and brands launched their ‘send’ buttons yesterday.

Details of how to add the ‘send’ button to your site are at this link.

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Crowdsourcing the perfect press release – an update

July 30th, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted by in About us

We’ve published the results (so far) of our experiment to crowdsource a guide to writing the perfect press release, from the perspective of the journalists who receive them.

Here’s the guide as it stands at the moment – feel free to leave additional comments in the box below the article or email me (laura [at] journalism.co.uk) with your feedback.

The tips were received via a couple of blog posts, which can be read at this link to the first and this link to the follow-up post; responses to our @journalismnews Twitter account; and in direct emails.

Any feedback from the PR community would also be very welcome.

Update (July 31): Some additional comments from:

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Econsultancy: An A-Z guide to online copywriting

A really useful guide for freelance journalists (and the rest of us) looking to diversify into copywriting. The basics here are largely applicable to any online writing in fact, whether it’s F for formatting an article for a web reader to M for metadata standards.

Full post at this link…

[Ed's note - Later today Journalism.co.uk will be publishing its crowdsourced guide to writing the perfect press release.]

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Daily Sentinel: How to use Twitter to break news from the field

The Sentinel’s online editor, Matthew Stoff, and lead developer, David Durrett, have compiled a handy ‘how to’ guide on using Twitter to report breaking news and building a Twitter widget for your site. (via Editors Weblog)

Full article at this link…

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