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Ten ways journalists can use Google+

Since Google+ (plus) was launched a week ago those who have managed to get invites to the latest social network have been testing out circles, streams and trying to work out how it fits alongside Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Here are 10 ways Google+ can be used for building contacts, news gathering and sharing:

1. As “a Facebook for your tweeps”

This is how Allan Donald has described Google+ in an update. And it is pretty good way of understanding it. A week on from its launch and it seems you are more likely to add and be added by Twitter contacts, many of whom you have never met, than Facebook friends or even LinkedIn contacts.

2. As a Delicious for your Twitter contacts

As the Google+1 button takes off and your contacts recommend articles (Google +1 is like Facebook’s like button), you can keep track of what they like by taking a look at what they are +1ing and use it like a bookmarking service to flag up articles to read later.

Reading what others are +1ing relies on users changing their settings as the standard set-up does not allow +1s to be viewed by others.

3. To check Twitter updates via Buzz

If you signed up to Google Buzz, you will find tweets are included in your profile. It is another way you can read the most recent tweets from your contacts.

4. To create and share in circles

One of the foundations of Google+ and how it differs from Facebook is the circles function. There are suggested circles such as ‘family’, ‘friends’ and ‘acquaintances’ but you can add your own. For example, you could have a ‘journalists’ circle, a ‘contacts’ circle and categorise others by a specialist topic or a geographic area you report on. You can then choose to share updates, photos, videos and documents with particular circles.

5. To crowdsource circles

You can ask a question to those within one or more of your circles. For example, I might want to ask those in my ‘journalists’ circle a question without my ‘family’ circle being included.

6. For searching and sharing content using sparks

Search for any word or phrase in sparks and you will find news items. Google+ uses Google+1 recommendations and Google Search to influence the items that appear in your sparks list. After searching you can then share content with the people in your circles and therefore read and share news without leaving the Google+ site.

7. For promoting content and discussing it

“Automated spewing of headlines likely won’t be effective, but conversing will,” journalism professor and media commentator Jeff Jarvis has predicted in a post. Content is shared and users comment like they would on a Facebook post.

8. For carrying out and recording interviews

Google+ includes the option of instant messaging, video calling and voice chatting with your contacts, similar to Skype. It may well be found to be quite a handy tool when you can see your contacts online and call them. Contacts do not need to be members of Google+ as you can chat with your Gmail contacts.

One option is recording the chat for your notes or for audio and video content for a news site or podcast. One way to record audio is download Audio Hijack Pro (Mac), select the Google Talk plugin (you may find you need your Gmail open to find this as an option) and record. A quick test has proved this provides podcast-quality audio that can be easily edited.

There are various recording options for Windows.

9. For collaborating on Google Docs by circle

This nifty feature which marries Google Docs and Google+ is really handy for those working on a big story or organising spreadsheets with work colleagues. For example, you can create a circle of your work colleagues, go to Google Docs, check the tick box to select the relevant document, go to share in the black Google bar along the top of your window, and share the document with your relevant circle.

10. For wider collaborative projects

Okay, so you cannot yet but it is included as it is likely that Google+ will adopt some of the functions of Google Wave which would allow you to comment and collaborate on articles and projects.

 

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Google+ launches to rival to Facebook: a round-up of reports

Google has launched a social network with some Facebook-like features. Google+ (plus) is open by invitation only to a very limited number of people while it is in the field test stage but Google has released details on its blog as to how it works.

One of its features is called ‘circles’, which allows users to categorise contacts and only share items with particular groups such as close friends and family but opt to exclude work contacts.

According to the New York Times, this is the “one significant way” in which Google+ is different from Facebook and the way “Google hopes will be enough to convince people to use yet another social network”.

It is meant for sharing with groups — like colleagues, roommates or hiking friends — not with all of one’s friends or the entire web. It also offers group text messaging and video chat.

A post on Poynter points out the most interesting area for news organisations are the ‘stream’ and ‘sparks’.

The stream functions a lot like Facebook’s news feed — a flow of information shared by your friends. If Google+ grows to critical mass, news providers could find it very important to get their content into the stream.

The ‘sparks’ section is a bigger innovation. Essentially, sparks are topics that users designate an interest in. Google uses Google+ sharing activity and +1s, as well as its famous search algorithms, to recommend personalised content for each spark, according to Mashable.

Poynter’s post suggests the Google +1 button, which has received a less than lukewarm reception from news sites, could now come into its own.

Suddenly the +1 button makes more sense. Google announced +1 in March as a way for users to express approval of any web page. Now it seems the +1 button will infuse not only search results, but also sparks, with social recommendations. TechCrunch interviewed Google officials about Google+ and reports: “You’ll see a +1 button on all Google+ content — the +1 button clearly ties deeply into all of this. It is going to be their Facebook ‘like’ button.”

So Google appears to have released its tweet or like button before the social network to share it. A case of the cart before the horse?

Poynter’s post goes on to assess the potential usefulness of Google+ and how it could affect news consumption and delivery. It also states that there has been much scepticism about its success, following less successful attempts with social projects Google Buzz and Google Wave, but author Jeff Sonderman suggests there is hope for Google+.

It’s fair to say that Google+ appears to be different, more comprehensive and more well-planned than any previous effort. The design is great, the ideas sound good and the company is making a large commitment to success.

Marshall Kirkpatrick from ReadWriteWeb has tried it out – and he is impressed, describing it as a “smart, attractive, very strong social offering from Google”.

It is well worth reading his post after he spent a night with the new social network.

But the New York Times argues its Google+ project, which has seen huge investment, may have come too late

In May, 180 million people visited Google sites, including YouTube, compared with 157.2 million on Facebook, according to comScore. But Facebook users looked at 103 billion pages and spent an average of 375 minutes on the site, while Google users viewed 46.3 billion pages and spent 231 minutes.

Advertisers pay close attention to those numbers — and to the fact that people increasingly turn to Facebook and other social sites like Twitter to ask questions they used to ask Google, like a recommendation for a restaurant or doctor.

The article goes on to explain why Google+ has now come at this time, long after Facebook’s creation.

Larry Page, Google’s co-founder, regrets Google’s failure to lead in this market and has spent time working with the team since he became chief executive in April, people at the company say. He promoted [Vic] Gundotra to senior vice president this year, placing him on an equal level with the heads of Google’s core products like search and ads.

Part of the blame, analysts say, falls on Google’s engineering-heavy culture, which values quantitative data and algorithms over more abstract pursuits like socialising.

The consensus of blog posts seems to be another positive cultural shift for Google is strong design, as the Next Web reports.

Google+ and all that falls under its umbrella looks good — really good. The trademark minimalism is still present, but it’s been done with style (is that contradictory?) and is something to be appreciated.

That’s because interface designer Andy Hertzfeld, member of the original Apple Macintosh team, was given free reign over design decisions, AppleInsider reports.

Despite the headline, Hertzfeld is quoted in the piece describing the process and it seems he was not so much given free reign as he took it. “Better to ask forgiveness than permission” and so on.

Hertzfeld was worried that Larry Page wouldn’t like it with its animations and drag-and-drop fanciness, but “he loves it”.

A video overview from Google explains how Google+ works

What other news outlets have reported:

Telegraph: Google+ explained

Telegraph: Google+ takes on Facebook

Mashable: Google+: first impressions

Mashable: Google launches Google+ to battle Facebook [pics]

Gigaom: Why Google+ won’t hurt Facebook, but Skype will hate it

Guardian: Google+ launched to take on Facebook

Poynter: Google+ sparks interest in new system of news discovery

TechCrunch: That was quick: Chrome extension adds Facebook, Twitter sharing to Google+

The Drum: Google+ launched as fresh rival to Facebook

ReadWriteWeb: First night with Google Plus: This is very cool

NY Times: Another try by Google to take on Facebook

TechCrunch: While we await the native app, the Google+ iPhone mobile web app is pretty solid

The Next Web: Wondering why Google+ actually looks good? Thank Andy Hertzfeld

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Hitwise: More traffic going to content websites than transactional sites

August 14th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Traffic

Hitwise’s Robin Goad takes a look at trends in UK internet visits over the last three years. The figures suggest that traffic to social networking sites, news and media, and entertainment sites is outpacing that to transactional sites e.g. shopping and classifieds sites.

“[J]ust because people are using the web more, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are spending more money online,” he writes.

Full analysis and charts at this link…

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NowGamer.com takes website to next level

February 23rd, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Magazines, Online Journalism

Video gaming website NowGamer.com was launched by publisher Imagine Publishing on Friday. The site is the first in a series of ‘supersites’ from the company to go live in the next couple of years, according to a release from the group.

NowGamer.com homepage

The clean, easy-to-navigate site was created with Bedford-based technology partner, Evolving Media and, unlike most gaming websites, it avoids a typically overcrowded, hectic layout.

The stand-out thing about NowGamer.com though it allows you create your own personal space of sorts:

NowGamer.com allows you to customise your profile

Users can drag and drop different content widgets around the homepage, ranging from podcasts to previews, and reposition each element according to their interest – or even just delete it if they see fit.

Users can also redefine the content so that it only includes material relevant to the video games platform they use, be it Nintendo Wii or iPhone.

This modern, mature approach is also combined with a wealth of expert knowledge. The people behind the site, from Imagine, have all had a  history in the field of video games journalism, working on titles including SegaPro and 360 in the past. The site is also able to make use of Imagine Publishing’s extensive back catalogue which started in 1995.

Although only formed in May 2005, Imagine Publishing is already responsible for 25 websites and 20 magazines.

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Financial Post apologises for reporter’s Twitter outburst

February 12th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Online Journalism

Canadian title the Financial Post published an apology on its website yesterday for an unnamed reporter’s conduct on Twitter:

An apology
Posted: February 11, 2009, 6:18 PM by NP Editor

Today, a Financial Post reporter responded unprofessionally to another Twitter user on his personal Twitter account.

While the remarks were made on the reporter’s personal Twitter account, the conversation first began when the reporter was acting in his capacity as a reporter for the Financial Post.

We hold – and will continue to hold – all our reporters to a higher standard in how they address anyone, in any forum.

We apologize for the reporter’s conduct.

The reporter in question seems to be @sirdavid (David George-Cosh) who engaged in battle with marketing professional @aprildunford – neatly summed up by Ian Capstick on his MediaStyle blog.

Dunford has drawn a line under the Twitter furore in a blog post, which remphasises why social media needs social awareness – basic manners apply here too.

Interesting to note in the Post’s apology the blurring lines between personal and private. We’ve seen guidelines set out before about journalists and professional/public profiles on social networking sites for example, but the debate seems to be moving onto Twitter.

Most journalists (or other professionals for that matter) would see this as obvious – don’t have an outburst like that full stop. But where does the personal become the public? The Post makes the connection because this conversation started on a work issue – but is it always that easy to draw the line?

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Ten things every journalist should know in 2009

1. How to use Twitter to build communities, cover your beat, instigate and engage in conversations.

2. How to use RSS feeds to gather news and manage them using filtering techniques (basic or advanced).

3. That there is a difference between link journalism and ‘cut and paste’ journalism (aka plagiarism).

4. That your readers are smarter than you think. In fact, many are smarter than you – they know more than you do.

5. That churnalism is much easier to spot online. If you do this regularly, your readers are already on to you – merely re-writing press releases without bringing anything to the table no longer cuts it.

6. Google is your friend. But if you are not using advanced search techniques, you really have no idea what it is capable of.

7. You do not have to own, or even host, the technology to innovate in journalism and engage your readers. There is a plethora of free or cheap tools available online, so there is no excuse for not experimenting with them.

8. Multimedia for multimedia’s sake rarely works, and is often embarrassing. If you are going to do it, either do it well enough so it works as a standalone item or do it to complement your written coverage – for example, add a link to the full sound file of your interview with someone in your article, or a link to the video of someone’s entire speech at an event. The latter will enhance the transparency of your journalism too. Great tips and resources here and some useful tips on doing video on a budget.

9. How to write search engine friendly journalism. Old school thinking about headline writing, story structure etc no longer applies online and there is also more to learn about tagging, linking and categorisation. Sub-editors (if you still have them), editors and reporters all need to know how to do this stuff.

10. Learn more about privacy. You can find a lot of information about people online, especially via social networking sites, but think carefully about the consequences. And bear in mind that it cuts both ways, if you do not do it carefully, your online research could compromise your sources.

Update: see Ten things every journalist should know in 2010

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‘Trust and integrity in the modern media’ – Chris Cramer’s speech to Nottingham Trent University

This is the full transcript of a speech given by Chris Cramer, global head of multimedia for Reuters’ news operations, at Nottingham Trent University last night. Journalism.co.uk’s report on the address can be read at this link.

So I accepted this invitation shortly after I retired from CNN international – where I was managing director and where I’d been for 11 years or so.

I became a consultant for Reuters news in January and now, in the last few months, have become their first global editor for multimedia.

So, I’m talking to you today as a working journalist, broadcaster and manager for 43 years now and what I would like to talk about is ‘trust and integrity in the modern media’.

I also want to ask the question of you whether the media has maybe lost the message somewhere along the way?

More »

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Naming Baby P is not about giving into a Facebook campaign

November 18th, 2008 | 12 Comments | Posted by in Press freedom and ethics

Naming Baby P and his mother is not about giving into a hysterical Facebook campaign group; this is about confronting the reality of the online age.

I can’t link to it here, because it would be breaching reporting restrictions, but I know Baby P’s name, the baby’s mother’s name and the name of her partner.

So does anyone with even a little bit of Google cache savvy about them: it’s on a BBC report from 2007. Google cache preserves a page even if, as the BBC has done, original articles have been removed.

As the Independent reported, Facebook groups have published the details, despite the court order not to.

My argument is not about revealing the names for justice, it is about having a law which can actually be enforced.

If it had been reported abroad, on non-UK websites, they would be not be held accountable under the UK Contempt of Court legislation. Court orders, such as the one in this case protecting the names of the defendants, are simply not feasible in the web age.

I believe that whatever ensures fair trials without prejudice, protects the innocent people involved in the case (other people connected or in the family, for example) is necessary, and if keeping the names secret does that, then that should be done: I certainly won’t be joining any Facebook group to force their disclosure.

But it should be done in such a way where they really are secret, which has not happened in this case:

Jason Owen’s name is known; the mother’s name has also been previously published and is reachable with a quick search; the baby’s photograph is in the press.

One of the Facebook groups has a description reading: ‘For sum [sic] reason the press have seen it fit not to reveal the sick people who killed this poor helpless child.’

The press has not chosen to keep quiet (they certainly would print the names if they could); they are bound by law not to. But what happens when the wider community who have not been taught about reporting restrictions and contempt of court choose to publish, using blogs and social network sites?

I imagine that most people in that community, and wider geography, knows who the family are. Last night’s BBC Panorama showed that the research team were able to access things the mother wrote on social networking sites.

Yet the names cannot be disclosed by the British press without contravening the Contempt of Court Act. This means that disclosures are made through people who aren’t necessarily so concerned about, or even think about, media ethics or face any kind of editorial process.

As I reported in September, Bob Satchwell from the Society of Editors believes the legislation is out of date and redundant, as do many others.

Orders, such as those under section 11 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981, for example, allow a court to ban publication of specific information, in addition to statutory reporting restrictions. But how on earth to enforce this in an online world?

This is starkly proven in the case of Baby P.

It’s time to readdress our laws, as Satchwell has urged the Attorney General, and make trials really fair.

Postscript: I’ve just found Martin Belam’s blog post, which makes a similar point, and also focuses on the ‘sheer scale of useage of the internet’ in the UK as compared to 2000 when Victoria Climbié case was reported, for example.

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Tip of the day from Journalism.co.uk – publicise your blog

September 1st, 2008 | No Comments | Posted by in Top tips for journalists

Blogging: Don’t just publish on your blog – spread the word on forums, social networking sites, Twitter etc. You can even create a Facebook page just for your blog. Tipster: Neil Macdonald

To submit a tip to Journalism.co.uk, use this link – we will pay a fiver for the best ones published.

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Spleak launches new online communities

July 22nd, 2008 | No Comments | Posted by in Social media and blogging

California-based startup Spleak Media Network has launched three new online applications for fashion, TV and gaming communities.

StyleSpleak, TVSpleak and GameSpleak will work in the same way as the company’s existing sites by providing short-form news and gossip updates alongside comments and contributions from users, and content from partnered media organisations such as Hearst Digital.

The Spleak applications are available on instant messaging platforms, social networking sites and mobile phones.

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