Author Archives: Daniel Bentley

New York Times readers become beta testers

The New York Times has released a new set of browser extensions that will allow eager readers to try out experimental features on the NYTimes.com website.

The project, dubbed Test Drive, is from the newspaper’s experimental arm beta620. Some of the features of Test Drive include NYT Accessible, which optimises the site for readers with visual impairments and TimesInstant, similar to Google Instant search, that produces results as you type.

The features have been available for a while but on a separate site, the new browser extensions, available for Firefox and Chrome, allow the projects to be viewed in context on their main website.

Marc Frons, the New York Times’ chief information officer, told Nieman Journalism Lab:

We love beta620 — it’s been a great experience and a great way to get our innovations in front of the public before they’re fully baked.

Recognising that people who install browser extensions are not your average sample, he adds:

It’s not like a traditional A/B test where you’re actually just throwing something else up on unsuspecting readers and measuring your clicks.

I think the quantitative data will be less important here than the qualitative, where people’s comments and our own understanding of how we’re using these tools and experience will be more important than measuring clickthroughs or that sort of thing.

Full story at Nieman Journalism Lab.

CoveritLive switches to paid-only service

Popular liveblogging platform CoverItLive has announced the end of its free usage tier, becoming an entirely paid for subscription service.

In an email to current subscribers the company wrote:

CoveritLive is introducing new monthly subscription plans based on active usage. These plans provide customers full access to all of CoveritLive’s Premium features – previously unavailable to Basic plan customers — including event feeds, event groups and homepages, live webcam and access to the CoveritLive API. Additionally, we have released several new features including a new dashboard with enhanced metrics, simplified Facebook event implementation and improved user management tools.

With the availability of the new plans and features, we will transition all CoveritLive Basic customers (including your current account) to a new Trial plan on July 1st 2012. The Trial plan will still allow you complete access to CoveritLive functionality for free and with no time limit, but it will now place a limit of 25 event “clicks” (active users who click into or engage with an event) per month on your account.

CoveritLive’s ‘Starter’ subscription costs $9.99 per month and allows for 250 viewers per  month, their ‘Standard’ tier costs $149 per month and allows for up to 10,000 viewers. The current Basic plan for the service will end on 1 July.

How important are ‘tweet’ and ‘like’ buttons to news publishers?

 

A conversation was sparked on the effect of social media sharing buttons by the designer Oliver Reichenstein on his blog informationArchitects. In the post titled Sweep the Sleaze he writes:

But do these buttons work? It’s hard to say. What we know for sure is that these magic buttons promote their own brands — and that they tend to make you look a little desperate. Not too desperate, just a little bit.

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If you provide excellent content, social media users will take the time to read and talk about it in their networks. That’s what you really want. You don’t want a cheap thumbs up, you want your readers to talk about your content with their own voice.

The Tweet and Like buttons, followed by their lesser rivals Google’s +1 and LinkedIn share buttons are now ubiquitous on news websites. Visitors to the Huffington Post in January 2008 would have been given the option to share an article via Digg, Reddit and Delicious. Now they are given up to 20 ways to share an article just via Facebook alone. Users are certainly being bombarded by myriad sharing options, they are not always that pretty and Reichenstein is approaching the issue as a minimalist designer.

But is Reichenstein right?

Joshua Benton at Nieman Journalism Lab did a little digging into the effectiveness of the Tweet button for a variety of news publishers. Using a Ruby script written by Luigi Montanez , Benton analysed the last 1000 tweets from 37 news sites to find the percentage of tweets emanating from the site’s Tweet button.

The analysis comes with a few caveats so it’s well worth reading the full article but the take-away is that people are using the Tweet button. Of the news sites analysed most had 15 to 30 per cent of their Twitter shares come via their Tweet buttons. Importantly, they act as a starting point to get content onto Twitter and can lead to further retweets or modified retweets.

Facebook Likes are a different story. They are far less visible on another user’s news feeds, especially after Facebook changed the amount of output its Social News feed spits out.

At least one publisher has found positives to removing the Facebook Like button from their site, claiming it increased referrals from Facebook:

Jeff Sonderman writing at Poynter hypothesises there is a strange tension created by having a sharing button on news articles:

One argument in favor of sharing buttons is the psychological phenomenon of “social proof,” where a person entering a new environment tends to conform to the behavior demonstrated by others. How does that apply? The tally of previous shares on a given article could offer social proof to the next reader that it is indeed worth reading and sharing — “just look at all these other people who already have!”

But in this case, social proof is not the only force at work. We also know that many people share content because it makes them look smart and well-informed. Part of that is being among the first to have shared it, and thus not sharing something that’s already well-circulated. In this way, a sharing button could limit the potential spread of your best content.

These buttons are being used but news publishers need to think about how they are being used and how engaged the users of them are. Sonderman thinks Reichenstein gets close to the mark when he states:

If you’re unknown, social media buttons make you look like a dog waiting for the crumbs from the table … That button that says “2 retweets” will be read as: “This is not so great, but please read it anyway? Please?”

If you’re known and your text is not that great the sleaze buttons can look greedy and unfair (yes, people are jealous). “1280 retweets and you want more?—Meh, I think you got enough attention for this piece of junk.”

Data journalism competition open to entries

The Knight News Challenge has entered its second phase and is now accepting applications concerned with the ‘collecting, processing and visualising of data’.

The competition aims to promote innovation by funding new ideas in news and information. Winners receive a share of $5 million in funding and support from Knight’s network of influential peers and advisors to help advance their ideas.

They write on their blog:

The world has always been complex, but we are now challenged with making sense of the rapidly increasing amounts of information that we are creating. According to IBM, nine-tenths of the world’s data has been created in the last two years. Cisco predicts that information generated by mobile devices will hit 130 exabytes in 2016 –  that’s the equivalent of 520,000 Libraries of Congress in one year. A report from McKinsey anticipates that the amount of data we generate will increase 40% annually. Facebook users alone add a billion pieces of content every 24 hours.

Knight News Challenge: Data is a call for making sense of this onslaught of information. “As data sits teetering between opportunity and crisis, we need people who can shift the scales and transform data into real assets,” wrote Roger Ehrenberg earlier this year.

Or, as danah boyd has put it, “Data is cheap, but making sense of it is not.”

The Knight News Challenge is accepting applications from any person or organisation, anywhere, of any age. For more information visit their blog.

NESTA director ‘very pleased’ with number of applications to hyperlocal project

A hyperlocal initiative from the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) has seen over 165 applications made for its pot of £500,000 in seed funding. Applicants face stiff competition as only 10 will receive the money and guidance from the charity and its partners.

The Destination Local project aims to stimulate the hyperlocal media sector with innovation in mobile and location technologies. As Journalism.co.uk reported last month the charity produced a 15,000 word report on its vision for the future of hyperlocal media in the UK. The report highlighted the penetration of GPS capable smartphones as a key innovation opportunity for hyperlocals.

NESTA say it is encouraged by the number of applications received for the project. Director of creative economy programmes Jon Kingsbury told Journalism.co.uk:

We are never really sure (of the the level of interest) when we have a call for funding but I’m really pleased with the number of applications. It demonstrates that there’s some demand and willingness in hyperlocal to be innovative and sustainable.

He said he is also pleased by the range of applications they have received:

What we are looking at is a broad mix of hyperlocal services. There is the provision of news and information but also other ways of benefiting communities with mobile and local technology such as local service provision.

One of the applicants, Simon Perry of VentnorBlog, says the competition has created a lot of interest among hyperlocals:

It has stimulated a lot of thought, people had to think a lot when putting their bids in. I know when we were going through ideas we went through various iterations before we decided on the one for our bid. I think it has really stimulated the market just by having the competition. It’s got people thinking ‘ok, what are we going to do with mobile?’

NESTA have produced a YouTube playlist of all the applicants’s pitches for the project and have produced a map showing where all these have come from:

[iframe src=”https://www.google.com/fusiontables/embedviz?viz=MAP&q=select+col0+from+1r2Z9WBXoXuhB2cDCc2hcO3zGqUj2uubbUHMysOQ&h=false&lat=54.1045584605061&lng=-3.0414486500000066&z=6&t=1&l=col0″ width=”540″ height=”450″]

 

The Destination Local judging panel have until 28 June 28 to sift through the applications to select the 10 projects who will be eligible for the £50,0000 funding.

Source: Simon Perry via hyperlocal n0tice

Online news startups need help converting readers into supporters

A report by the Washington DC-based J-Lab has found that even though online news startups have access to a wide range of social media tools, they struggle with how to measure their impact. Respondents to the survey, which was funded by the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, said Facebook and Twitter were important for alerting readers to new stories but they did not know how to monitor meaningful engagement.

Nearly 80 per cent of the 278 “digital-first” startups who responded to the survey said they did not have the means to measure whether their social media engagement strategies were converting readers into donors, advertisers, contributors or volunteers.

Jan Schaffer, director of J-Lab’s Institute for Interactive Journalism said:

These small sites can measure interaction with their content, but they don’t have good tools to measure meaningful engagement. This affects both the future of their operations and the impact they can have in their communities.

New analytics tools give news startups some useful data, but survey respondents said their top metric for measuring engagement was still website uniques and page views. One respondent said:

We feel these numbers only give us part of the information we need. We’re interested not just in breadth of engagement but more in depth of engagement.

The report identified a “broadcast” mentality as a weakness in measuring audience engagement. It recommends a number of best practices for news startups when measuring engagement and urged training in the use of currently available analytics tools like ThinkUp, Google Analytics and Hootsuite.

Magazine app developer praises Windows 8, abandons Android

Digital media developer Daniel Sharp has praised the next version of the Windows operating system for its ease of use when programming.

Writing for the Kernel, the Stonewash co-founder states the advantages of developing digital media products for Microsoft’s as-yet-unreleased operating system over Google’s Android OS:

I’ve just come from another testing meeting. Seven of us around a table looking at an Android app that’s in the mid-stages of development. We’ve found unique issues on each device, every device on the table was running a different version of Android, with different resolutions, capabilities and specifications. Getting this right is going to be time consuming…

Meanwhile, for the past seven weeks we’ve also been working on a super-secret project building magazine apps for the Windows 8 launch. In those seven weeks, we’ve managed to create a solid first version, that works across all resolutions, laptops, desktops and tablets, whether they use a touch screen, pen or mouse. Development was easy.

He continues:

The fact that you can develop native applications for Windows using HTML and JavaScript is huge: in our case, it meant that every single engineer in our company already knew how to develop for Windows.

If you’re looking at a smartphone application then Windows 8 isn’t for you; it’s not for smartphones. But if you’re looking at a tablet application, take a good hard look at Android and the figures. I took one look at them and I’m not convinced.

And that’s why I have paused all our Android development in favour of Windows 8.

Earlier this week the Financial Times revealed that it is working on an app for Windows 8, ahead of the autumn tablet release.

Stonewash develop frameworks for news and magazine publishers to create bespoke tablet applications. Their clients include lifestyle magazine Lusso, Investment & Pensions Europe and the Henley Standard newspaper.

Read the full article in the Kernel here

Former Mail and Telegraph health editor launches online magazine

Former Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail health editor Victoria Lambert has launched a new online magazine today dedicated to making health stories accessible to the general public.

Under the Scope features blog posts, articles and features on topics ranging from specific conditions to general health stories and product reviews. The site is published by Lambert’s own media company Dysart Press Ltd.

Speaking of her motivation for the site, Lambert said:

I wanted to set up a website where people could go for information, to talk about health, to discuss what’s going on with their own health, perhaps to discuss what’s going on with the nation’s health. I want it to be a place where people can think about the NHS, what’s happening to it and what they think should happen to it. But I also want to be a resource where people can go and enjoy reading about health stories, find new information, find out about products, find out about doctors, and also find out where to go for more information because that’s really crucial.

There are plans for a series of web-only video interviews with world experts on a range of medical conditions:

I’ve just been speaking to Professor Lord Ajay Kakkar who is director of the Thrombosis Research Institute and professor of surgery at UCL and he’s been telling me about thombosis, he’s one of the world’s experts. To get the chance just to have five minutes with him is so fantastic and I just think it’s great to be able to share that.

Lambert insists her readers and Twitter followers will have a big part to play in the future of the site:

Everyone who knows me knows I like a chat, I love a conversation. So I’m encouraging people to chat to me across the forum, keeping chatting to me on Twitter. We’ll be blogging every day, if not me, somebody else will be having a shout about something. I really want people to join in, that would be good fun.

In the long-term I’d like to think that it’s going to a place not only where the public come but also health experts and also become a place where other health journalists want to put their stories.

Lambert’s work has featured in the Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and the Guardian as well as Woman & Home and SAGA magazine. In 2011 she was recognised as Best Cancer Writer by the European School of Oncology.

Bambuser offers free premium accounts to citizen journalists

Bambuser, the live-streaming smartphone app, has announced it will be offering its premium service for free to citizen journalists and activists.

Their premium usage tier usually starts at €99 per month and can cost up to €499 per month. The new premium for citizen journalists will offer unlimited hours of streaming, unlimited storage and an ad-free player. There is also an option to allow Associated Press to make footage available to their media outlets.

Posting on their blog, they said:

At Bambuser we truly believe in free speech and democracy. Over the past years we’ve seen more and more activists and citizen journalists use Bambuser to broadcast real-time information about activities and events when they happen. We think that user generated content broadens the overall picture of what’s actually going on, and is needed to complement professional news reporting.

When traditional media has little or no possibilities to have journalists on site, user generated live streams are essential.

Speaking to The Next Web, Bambuser’s executive chairman Hans Eriksson explained the decision:

We don’t believe ads combined with protests, demonstrations and war-like situations are proper. We know ads are also an issue for the broadcaster as he/she wants the cleanest possible video out. To us, these people are important users and if we can help them to a better total experience in what they’re doing we’re very satisfied.

Bambuser has been used heavily by citizen journalists and activists around the world and came to prominence during the Arab Spring last year. Since then it has been used to monitor the parliamentary elections in Egypt and cover the Occupy Wall Street movement. After footage from the violence in Homs was used by broadcasters around the world the Syrian government blocked the service on its 3G mobile networks.

Citizen journalists and activists can apply for the premium account by emailing info@bambuser.com with their username and a brief description of what they do.

Bambuser is a previous Journalism.co.uk app of the week.

Bitly launches ‘bitmark’ social bookmarking service

Bitly, the popular link shortener used by the BBC, Independent, Daily Telegraph and many other news websites, has today announced its ‘bitmark’ service.

Anyone who uses social bookmarking sites like Delicious or Pinterest will be familiar with the idea of saving and sharing articles they find interesting. Bitly has added this functionality to its already popular link shortening service.

As Bitly explains on its blog:

So, what are bitmarks? It’s a better name for bookmarks. Bitmarks are the interesting links you collect across the web — a hard to find recipe, an article, an awesomely hysterical video. It’s anything that you find and want to save and maybe even want to easily share. You can organise them into bundles based on a theme or share them with your friends via Facebook, Twitter, and email. You decide whether each bitmark gets published to your public profile or saved privately, so that only you can see it.

Since Bitly started in 2008 more than 25 billion links have been shortened on the site, according to the company. More than 80 million links are shortened on Bitly every day and they are clicked on 300 million times. Its easy-to-use analytics makes it popular with publishers that want to track their social media reach.

Until now it has been used a tool rather than a destination page, but the company hopes the new focus on social bookmarking will foster a community around the site.