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#news2011: ProPublica model ‘not feasible’ as commercial venture, says editor-in-chief

November 29th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Business, Events, Investigative journalism

A commercial version of ProPublica is not “feasible at present”, its editor-in-chief told the Global Editors Network news summit today.

The US investigative news site, which relies on funding from philanthropic donations, was launched in 2008.

Giving a keynote speech to the event in Hong Kong via video-link Pro-Publica’s Paul Steiger, a former managing editor of the Wall Street Journal, said he did not think a commercial organisation would be able to do as ProPublica does and “concentrate on doing nothing but investigative reporting”.

“It is possible that news organisations can have investigative reporting as part of the menu of reporting”, but not to the same extent.

The industry has gone from a high profit margin business model to one with much tighter margins.

As a result news organisations are “much less able to take the risk of sending reporters out on a project that might not produce a viable story,” he said.

I don’t think it is impossible at to make it happen in places outside of the US though. It just requires energy and ingenuity.

Click here for more on ProPublica and how it is funded.

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#news2011: ‘Public responsiblity’ of journalists under spotlight in ethics debate

November 29th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Events, Journalism

The phone-hacking scandal at the News of the World has prompted numerous debates about ethical practices in newsrooms in the UK and abroad, as well as a public inquiry in Britain and calls for a new regulatory framework in Britain.

So it was under the frame of the News of the World closure that the Global Editors Network news summit today held a session on ethical journalism.

But board member of the Stiching Democracie en Media in the Netherlands Adriaan Stoop warned that governments “feeling the need to regulate media” given “developments in technology” is a “big threat”.

The problem is if we do not decide to do it ourselves, then somebody else is going to do it and that’s the last thing you want.

Interestingly in opening the session Francois Dufour, editor-in-chief of Play Bac Presse in France had already taken a first step in the DIY approach, by proposing 10 “world journalism principles”.

These included keeping certain things separate, such as the roles of editor and publisher, journalism and advertising and facts and opinion.

Other points include double checking of facts, respecting privacy and where “people are presumed innocent it is respected”.

Other panelists also shared their ideas on good and ethical journalism and their views of best practice in the media.

Bambang Harymurti, CEO of Tempo Indonesia, and also a member of Indonesia’s press council, said the question is whether mistakes are made with “malicious intent”.

It’s very important that society has that understanding … A good journalist is not a journalist that never makes a mistake, but when they make a mistake, before anyone complains, they make a correction and tell the public.

He said that journalists should say to themselves: “When I write something I truly believe it is the truth and if later I find I made a mistake I will quickly correct it and tell the public”.

The issue of standards and ethics also moved to the online environment, with standards editor of the Associated Press Tom Kent asked to comment on the fact journalists who tweeted about the arrest of fellow reporters covering the Occupy Wall Street protests were told to stop doing so.

He said this was not considered “a competitive news situation”.

It was about the welfare of journalists. We told them to cut it out and I feel comfortable with that.

He added that when it comes to reporting generally on Twitter, the news agency has “an obligation to people who support AP” to preserve exclusives for the wire.

As for reporting online generally, the rules are “largely” the same, he said.

Do not have different standards. I think that one thing that has changed in the landscape is the existence of bloggers and they do play very important role in press coverage in lot of countries. We are very interested in helping to protect bloggers and not in providing tools that can be used against them.

Summing up, GEN consultant Aidan White said the question to be asked is:

How do we in journalism try to make sure the person producing the information, editing the information and putting it out has got a sense that they’re doing something as a part of public responsibility. That is the challenge.

As a result, he announced that GEN will launch a coalition for ethical journalism which will “bring in partners from the online industry, print, broadcast etc” and another debate on the topic has already been scheduled for GEN’s next summit in Paris next year.

He also shared the following links as useful resources on the topic of ethics and standards in journalism:

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#news2011: ‘Content is king, efficient delivery is King Kong’ and ‘experience is queen’

Media consumers today have the options of numerous screens when accessing content, but a session at the Global Editors Network news summit today focused on building a “four-screen strategy: mobile, tablet, PC and IPTV”.

The session opened with a powerful speech from former director general of Al Jazeera Wadah Khanfar, whose comments embodied the standpoint of content being “king”.

Concentrate on content. People demand accuracy and credibility. Content is the king, platforms and distribution should be there to service, but the strategy is always to integrate the content in a centralised location then redistribute the output.

He went on to say that “technology sometimes distracts us”.

It should not become central to the extent that the journalist becomes a technician and loses touch with the pillars of the profession. He has to be the journalist, but sometimes he has to be the technician.

We demand too much sometimes for our journalists. It starts from one important departure – from our responsibilities.

… We are here to understand what is behind the surface and what exactly the story means. We need to think beyond the data.

Continuing the metaphor Guido Baumhauer, director of strategy for marketing and distribution at Deutsche Welle, said that “content is king, efficient delivery is King Kong.”

We have to understand what it is people are interested in, that’s where the technology kicks in.

And the delivery of this is determined by their POPE strategy, he said – “plan once publish everywhere”. He described it further to me in an interview after the session:

The idea behind it is if you want to reach different platforms with your content you have to tailor it to the needs of the platform and target groups. It can never be done if you produce once and publish everywhere. So if there’s a television item that you then put on a mobile device or on a similar device, it doesn’t really make any sense.

But if you plan from beginning that there is some part of the content that you have produced that will go to mobile and some that will go to television, it means you plan once then publish everywhere and that does make sense.

During the session he also said “we have to stop thinking in broadcasting terms”.

We have to become part of the dialogue. If [the audience] still stands at the gate, he or she will just walk around us because the gate has no fence anymore. We have to become part of the network.

The BBC’s controller of digital and technology James Montgomery also shared the broadcaster’s approach to multiplatforms, telling the conference the BBC is “trying to move towards seamless coherence between platforms” and offer “access to the same content in different ways”.

By creating a “joined-up experience and content delivered across multiple platforms” he said that “adding a fifth or sixth [screen] in the future wouldn’t be difficult”.

In terms of use across different platforms at different times of the day, he said mobile devices tend to “spike” in the morning while access via desktops is more prevalent at lunchtime. He said the research also showed mobile – and especially tablets – were peaked in the evenings.

On the subject of tablets, the final panel member to present, Patrice Slupowski, vice president of digital innovation and communities at Orange, unveiled for the first time a new iPad app not yet launched called Newsblend, with the declaration that “if content is king … experience is queen”.

The app brings together “videos, drawings, polls and social media” along with news articles, and mixes them together to create a “social magazine”.

It is a smart clustering of news and social media.

The app content is currently in French but there are plans to launch an English version also when it goes live next year.

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#news2011: Lessons from ‘roadmap for news media’

November 29th, 2011 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Events, Journalism, Online Journalism

Consultant Jim Chisholm gave a jam-packed presentation to the Global Editors Network news summit in Hong Kong today.

His presentation (which I will link to here once it is available) offered plenty of facts and figures about the state of the industry across all platforms, but focused on how improving the approach to digital content can also help provide a secure future for more traditional forms.

Here are just some of the messages I took away from his presentation and comments:

1. We have abandoned circulation

“There is no evidence that the internet is the cause of the circulation decline”, he said. According to the statistics for online given in his presentation the rate of ad spend per hour was £8.20 online but £23.50 in newspapers. And the time spent by the audience consuming media was still top for newspapers, although overall this is in decline.

Television is increasing its share but not time, the amount of time internet is consumed is leveling off. People are not spending more time [consuming news] despite all the platforms available.

Print circulation was also said to maintain a key share of revenues, but he said that it “has been forgotten”.

The reason it’s going down is because nobody cares. It is a really serious problem.

2. Mobile opportunities will be higher than predicted

Chrisholm told the conference that “forecasts suggest by 2017 mobile will deliver around 24 per cent of all digital advertising”, but “the forecasts are wrong”, he said, adding mobile use will be a lot higher.

Mobile is a second evolution.

As well as wireless capabilities mobile offers multimedia and location features that can exploit the personalisation trend. Also looking at tablets, he said growth in this area is “absolutely enormous” adding that Le Monde told him “reading times on tablets are as high as those reading print newspapers”.

3. Newsstands could be the way forward, not paywalls

Put simply, “paywalls will not work”, he told the audience. But the newsstand formula could be the answer.

It will work online if everyone works together [and offers content] all in one place. That is a solution that could work. In a competitive market people can choose to go from one place to another.

4. We need to be more obsessive about analytics

He told the audience of editors that journalists may not like to hear it but “the time has come … we have to be obsessive about analytics.”

Because of our reluctance to take on board the concept of analytics, that’s what’s holding back our ability to develop digital. We are not exploiting the medium in the way it is meant to be exploited.

… The reality is unless traditional news media adopt scientific approach to customer retention and intensity, they’re dead.

In conclusion on the topic of analytics he told the audience of editors “you can all do this,” and added that “tailored content will dramatically transform the industry”.

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#news2011: Paywalls – ‘the solution is going to be unique and individual’

November 29th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Business, Events, Journalism

In one of the first sessions at the Global Editors Network news summit today the panel discussed paywalls and paid-for apps.

One of the speakers was Frederic Filloux, general manager of ePresse Consortium, the “digital kiosk” or newsstand from ePresse which launched in July this year after just six months of development by a two-man team (the catalogue section of the iPhone app is shown in the screenshot on the left).

Filloux gave an interesting insight into the model and the online challenges of the industry in which it performs.

He said the kiosk has a “news DNA”, leaving the leisure magazine market to other outlets.

“It is highly selective. It had just eight publishers at start, and might have grown to 12 in January. It is capturing an 85 per cent reach, the market is quite concentrated.”

I spoke to him more about the platform after the session, when he also discussed how ePresse would be working with Google’s One Pass system

Frederic Filloux of ePresse by journalismnews

During the session the speakers also called on editors to experiment with numerous revenue streams, and find their unique market.

Filloux told the conference “the company that will survive will be the one able to have not two but 15 different revenue streams and be able to test, experiment and find out what will be most valuable … It will have to test a lot and try many formulas.”

Fellow speaker Madhav Chinnappa, head of strategic partnerships for Google News, added that “the solution is going to be unique and individual”.

In my personal opinion the most successful paywall has probably been the Financial Times, but they have a unique set of circumstances. It took them years to develop their paywall, trying different things. They spent a lot of effort around customer data. They come from unique position. I don’t know any human who pays for a subscription to the FT, it’s companies, so that’s going to be different from most newspapers in the audience.

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#news2011: Bringing animation into news content: ‘provides fuller picture of events’

November 28th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Events, Journalism

An interesting part of the visual journalism session at the Global Editors Network summit in Hong Kong today looked at where animation can work with news, by hearing about the work of Next Media.

The company, which is based in Taiwan, produces animation clips based on news events. One of their clips, which depicted a story relating to golfer Tiger Woods has so far received seven million views.

Content and business development manager Mike Logan told the conference the animations aim to offer a “fuller picture of events we believe happened at the time”.

That’s how we use animation at Next Media, animating the missing action. Doing news reporting you have an interview but it’s missing a crucial piece of video and that’s action not happening.

He also discussed News Media’s distribution platform News Direct, which offers –free of charge – “more traditional animation to help supplement video”.

This can simply be downloaded by news outlets and added to their own video work. Next Media’s own animations are also embeddable, such as this one Journalism.co.uk posted on its blog in February to illustrate the sale of the Huffington Post.

Find out more on Next Media here.

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#news2011: Editors need to ‘enable journalists to step back and go beyond the wires’

November 28th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Events, Journalism

In this morning’s sessions at the Global Editors Network summit an interesting discussion took place which aimed to look at the lessons from two major events in the past year: the Arab spring and Fukishima.

Focusing first on the Arab spring, Al Jazeera English’s head of online Mohamed Nanabhay told the conference that social media “amplified” the voices of those involved and helped citizens “reach out”, and once the media started reporting “people felt braver” to do so.

Once mainstream media came in it reached 90 per cent of society, this provided an effect … people felt braver because the media were covering it, and they felt if the media are covering it hopefully there are checks and balances on power.

Moving to the issues in Japan, fellow speaker Joichi Ito, director of the MIT media lab, accused the mainstream media of “not digging very deep” in its coverage of Fukishima.

Today people are very disillusioned. There is a huge loss of confidence in media and official sources.

He also called for greater integration of programming, data analysis and statistics in the newsroom.

I don’t think most media has the practice of doing data analysis … in Japan need journalists to look at the data and not at the experts.

Nanabhay added news outlets need to “inspire curiosity in journalists”.

It’s very difficult for people to step back and think about the story further than the deadline. Editors need to allow journalists to step back, go beyond the wires and press releases. They need the ability to think critically about the problem, to be a problem solver. The environment might have changed … but if you have curious mind that’s what you really need.

Interestingly, in following his comments on curiosity in journalism, he said that when it comes to traffic Al Jazeera “keep numbers away from journalists”, explaining that the broadcaster does not seek to measure stories based on traffic results, so as not to influence the stories journalists wish to cover and to let their curiosity be decided by the need for stories to be told, rather than those which may appeal to more eyeballs online.

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#news2011: Editors urged to focus on ‘conversation’ and ‘try everything’

November 28th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Events, Journalism, Online Journalism

In the first panel session of the Global Editors Network summit in Hong Kong today, which looked at the impact of personalisation and “pro-sumption”, the overriding theme was for media companies to focus on a two-way conversation in order to meet the needs of their consumers.

Dan Gillmor, director of the Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism in the US, described the ecosystem as “more diverse”, adding that news outlets need to change their attitude “from knowing everything, or pretending to know everything, and imagining their role as more of a guide”.

He cited the Guardian’s open newslist project as an example of community engagement which makes “perfect sense”, but later added that the involvement of the audience in journalism would need to differ based on the specific case or project.

In some cases the audience can vote and make decisions and in other cases they will be part of the process in a different way and in some cases journalists will do the job they are trained to do and then get things from the audience. There are many ways to get the audience into this process. Not all are co-decisions but collaboration in a variety of ways.

He also called on editors to engage in a conversation with those working outside the journalism sphere, urging them to “be very willing to use ideas from people not involved in journalism”.

Fellow panel member Robert Amlung, head of digital strategy at ZDF TV in Germany, also spoke of the importance of community involvement and the development of the conversation in television specifically to a two-way process.

I do trust the audience … We’re not letting the audience decide then dictate. As journalists we have our position, our ethics, all this we bring to the conversation and this will enrich the conversation and I still think journalists have something to contribute. It’s two-way, we will get something back. We get more feedback and when we do it right it will enhance quality.

During his presentation he discussed the array of platforms now being used to access content, but added that while there are these new windows for content to be seen through, “the old world” and its communities must not be forgotten.

New possibilities arise but the old world remains strong. Classical traditional media is still very much used … even newspapers are quite profitable today. It would be nonsense to talk about the demise of other media.

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#news2011: Hong Kong chief executive calls on media to ‘take advantage of what we have to offer’

November 28th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Events

Opening the Global Editors Network summit today, the chief executive for Hong Kong Donald Tsang called on the international media to make the most of its rich technology and business sector, but added he did not envy the job of news organisations as they “find new ways to make their business work”.

In his keynote speech Tsang shared some interesting statistics on Hong Kong’s media, which he said has 50 daily newspapers and at least 100 international media outlets based in the region, in which he said news and information “flows rapidly and freely”.

He also told the conference that Hong Kong has a 201 per cent mobile phone penetration, with many citizens having more than one phone, setting an interesting scene for mobile discussions scheduled to take place later today.

He closed by speaking about the challenges facing the industry, adding that while “information technology was meant to make life easier” it appears that “life gets busier and busier” for both the media and government.

Referring to a law passed earlier this year to establish a communications authority, he said one of its first tasks “will be to review and rationalise our laws on broadcasting and telecommunications” and address “cross media ownership and foreign ownership restrictions”.

I hope that responding to changes and advances … we’ll be able to foster development of the sector.

I hope this will also encourage innovation and investment. As I said earlier the free flow of news and information is of strategic importance to us. We very much welcome more international media to take advantage of what we have to offer in Hong Kong.

… News organisations need to find ways to make their businesses work … We no longer live in 24/7 environment, now it is measured in minutes or seconds and this must create enormous pressures. I don’t envy your jobs.

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#news2011: Follow the Global Editors Network summit in Hong Kong

November 28th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Events, Journalism

Over the next few days I am in Hong Kong to report on the Global Editors Network’s first summit after the organisation launched earlier this year.

The first day of sessions include discussions on topics such as personalisation, lessons from the Arab spring, organising newsrooms with mobile in mind and “the WikiLeaks effect”.

Reports from the conference will be published on Journalism.co.uk. I will also be tweeting from some of the sessions from @journalism_live.

The full schedule for the event is here and there is more information on the planned sessions and speakers at this link.

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