Tag Archives: CEO

Thoughts from Doha: a Q&A with Al Jazeera’s Tarek Esber

Tarek Esber is senior analyst for Al Jazeera Mobile & New Media and based in Doha. Intrigued by his recent online updates, Journalism.co.uk sent him over a few questions. Firstly, we asked him specifically about the Al Jazeera forum which took place last month, and then asked for more general observations about use of social and new media in the Arab world.

So, we noticed you tweeting from the fourth Al Jazeera forum last month – what was that all about? [TE] The Fourth Al Jazeera Forum was built on the success of past Al Jazeera Forums to debate, discuss, and extend the discourse on the critical dynamics of the Middle East in the context of a globalised world. The forum focused on key topics such as the new players in this emerging multi-polar world, the historical context of the power shifts, and the media’s role in this new political landscape. In addition, two case studies examined the war on Gaza and the instability in the Indian subcontinent. The forum was attended by an international mix of journalists, analysts, strategists, academics, and intellectuals to help bring these issues into focus, as well as leading thinkers and strategists were present to explore the evolving face of the region, its place in the global landscape, and the challenges in reporting it in depth. Speakers spoke in either Arabic or English, sometimes both, and live translation was available in English and Arabic.

What were personal highlights for you? This was my first forum so the whole event was a highlight for me. In particular though was the fact that the Creative Commons Team were there with Joi Ito, their CEO, chairing the first Workshop at the Forum – ‘Building Successful Media Projects in Open Networks’.

That particular workshop had a fascinating discussion about how media organisations can open up their content to their advantage. Our Creative Commons repository came up as an example of this as well as the new US government’s use of CC Licences.

Another personal highlight was the case study about the reporting of the War on Gaza, especially having the opportunity to hear Robert Fisk talk about that conflict. The discussion was particularly interesting to me, given the role Social Media played in the PR battle between the two sides. It was also the first major conflict that we as a New Media team had been able to cover using a variety of New Media tools.

We picked up your comment via Twitter that quoted Al Jazeera English managing director Tony Burman: “Western interest in our [Gaza] content being distributed via New Media shows demand for our kind of message/method” 

What are your thoughts on that, as a member of the new media team? I should add that quote to my list of personal Highlights. Tony Burman was referring to the reaction our New Media initiatives received during the War on Gaza.

I think it’s great and as a New Media Team it’s exactly what we aim to do. A major part of our job is discovering new methods of communication – using the latest tools and services to reach out to and interact with new audiences. Inevitably most of the people using these new services tend to be based in the west.

There was also a huge amount of interest in the Twitter feed we set up just for news about the Gaza conflict. 5,000+ followers from all around the world and for a lot of them it was their first exposure to News from Al Jazeera. The feedback we got was fantastic.

Our Livestation stream, which allows anyone who has an internet connection to watch our English and Arabic channels live for free, also proved very popular. During the War on Gaza viewer figures shot up six-fold and the largest pool of viewers were in North America, a traditional dark zone for Al Jazeera. We’re working on that. Since the War on Gaza we’ve started to make a push to get Al Jazeera English broadcast in Canada and the USA: the IWantAJE.com site gives more information.

Our YouTube channels, in Arabic and English, were just as important. They have always been extremely popular but during the time of conflict we were one of the most viewed channels on there.

Did you find the Twitter activity surrounding the forum useful / something to learn from in future? We hadn’t planned to do anything on Twitter for the Forum this year. It was really a spur of the moment thing – I was at this Forum and a lot of very interesting things were being said. My natural urge was to tweet the most interesting parts especially as this was an invite-only event.

This was a personal reaction rather than a Al Jazeera New Media Team initiative. Some of the other members of the team were tweeting in Arabic as well and we set-up a Hastag (#AJForum09) for people to follow. It was all done using our personal accounts.

In the future, and we already have plans to do this for the AJ Film Festival this month, we might be better off setting up an official channel for the Forum so people can tune in specifically to hear what is going on rather than tweet from my personal account. It’s certainly clear that the interest is there. We’re also thinking about other things we can do for the next Forum such as taking questions via Twitter and trying to get some of the live streams online.

What are the most salient points about new media that came out of the forum? Well we’ve already talked about most of the larger points: The Creative Commons repository and the potential for Open Networks, our work during the War on Gaza and how New Media is helping Al Jazeera reach new audiences.

In the ‘Reporting from the Fragile World: Can the Global Media Reconcile with Changes in the Middle East’ session, New Media came up quite often, especially the online PR battle during the War on Gaza came up a few times. The extensive use of social media tools by both sides was unprecedented, especially the amount of preparation the Israeli government did before the conflict started.

In the same session some good points were made by Fahmi Howeidy, an Egyptian columnist and author, about political bloggers in Egypt. He mentioned that in Egypt, people under 30 don’t read papers, they read blogs as it is their method of escaping the government’s oppression of the media.

He also said that, while he didn’t feel political bloggers had much of an effect on government policy in Egypt, what they had done is made people aware of the governments attempts to control the media and dissenting voices.

He said that in the past, when journalists were arrested and imprisoned for speaking against the government, there wasn’t much national or international outcry but when bloggers were arrested, there was. This took away the impression that government officials were ‘Gods’ – it humanised them which means that they can be held accountable for their actions.

How does uptake/use of new media differ in the Arab and western world? Very interesting question, and it’s something I’ve been learning a lot about since moving to Al Jazeera in Doha from the UK. It’s hard to generalize about the Arab world as a whole as it’s really a diverse region in many ways.

Social media, in particular, seems to have really been embraced in the Arab world. There are more and more interesting Arab voices in the blogosphere everyday opening up their cities, their lives and their countries policies to the whole world. There are also a good number of Arab Social Media Services and more are being created every month. There is WatWet, the Arab Twitter and Ikbis which is usually referred to as the Arab YouTube. There are also Arab blogging platforms such as Maktoob.

But I digress from the question: How does it differ to the west? When I think about new media in the Arab world the first thing that comes to mind is constraints. There are technological constrains in some parts of the Arab world – good internet connectivity can be very expensive and might not be widely available. Hosting can also be an issue. Local hosting companies are rare in some parts and are usually expensive. Western hosting can be bought but the cost is still high.

Then there is censorship. In some Arab countries you can’t access services like Blogger or YouTube. In others you might be able to get started but soon find that if your content isn’t acceptable then your site might be blocked.

The biggest difference for me though is the reason people use the services. I feel that in some parts of the Arab world the services are mainly used as a way to escape restrictions in daily life. As with the example above about Egypt, it gives young people the chance to talk about their lives and their governments in a way they can’t do in public. That’s not to say people in the west don’t do the same, I just get the impression that it’s more widespread in the Arab world.

Huff TV: AP meets Arianna on Charlie Rose show

Watch last night’s Charlie Rose show at this link: Associated Press CEO, Tom Curley, and HuffPo co-founder, Arianna Huffington, discuss ‘how journalism will be distributed in the digital age and what new models might emerge’.

Tom Curley may be ‘pleased to have’ HuffPo as an AP subscriber, but he’s adamant that’s it’s time to get a ‘fair deal’ from the people who don’t have licences.

Huffington talks about Jeff Jarvis’ ‘link economy’ theory and focuses on how you monetise journalism today. “Of course you have to monetise your content, as Tom has been saying: but how do you do it?” she asks. “But are you going to do it by creating walled gardens, which is not going to work?”

“It’s not going to work because consumer habits have changed,” she says.

“Any model which creates walls is not going to work,” says Huffington. If you try ‘to just put your finger in the dike and stop happening what’s happening from happening you’re going to lose precious time,’ she adds.

‘Ride the rapids’ and find new ways to reach the consumer, she advises.

FTM: Google’s Eric Schmidt leaves newspaper conference ‘unscathed’

Followthemedia reports on Eric Schmidt’s address to the Newspaper Association of America (NAA) yesterday, in which the Google boss said he believed a mixture of ad-supported free content, micropayments and access-all-areas subscription will have to be included on the newspaper website of the future.

But according to FTM, Schmidt didn’t suggest enough ways for Google and newspaper publishers to work together – but then the publishers in the audience didn’t challenge him enough either.

“He [Schmidt] basically believes a newspaper will have its print and internet numbers right if readership is at least five times higher – preferably 10 times higher – on the web than it is in print,” says FTM.

“But again, he didn’t address, and no one asked him, how print was to stay in business with so much of the advertising spend diverted to the web and how maybe that 5:1 or 10:1 ratio could mean that the print financials were no longer viable.”

Full story at this link…

Also, a full but unofficial transcript of the Q&A at PoynterOnline (with removal of incomplete sentences, Julie Moos notes): Transcript of Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s Q&A at NAA

Audioboo debuts in Guardian article

The Guardian’s inventive use of mobile application Audioboo during last week’s G20 news coverage isn’t the end of the paper’s experiments with the audio recording service.

According to a tweet from Guardian journalist Matthew Weaver, who was posting sound clips or ‘boos’ frequently during the summit, today’s article on the Tamil protests in London is the first time a recording from Audioboo has been embedded in a news article on the site.

Nice.

Extra nice is a Twitter update from Audioboo CEO Mark Rock suggesting that a version of the service for non-iPhone users is near at hand…

Huffington Post: Gannett execs net nearly $2 million in bonuses

As Gannett’s US and UK staff at Newsquest prepare to take a week’s unpaid leave, executives at the parent company have been asked to justify bonuses of nearly $2 million in a statement to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

According to the HuffPo report, CEO Craig Dubow will receive $875,000, while four other executives will pocket $300,000, $270,000, $245,000, and $260,000.

Full story at this link…

DNA09: Livestation and ‘people aggregation’

Speaking to Journalism.co.uk at the Digital News Affairs 2009 (DNA) conference, Matteo Berlucchi, CEO of Livestation, explained why building participation around live news is the next step.

A live channel next to Al Jazeera programmes on Livestation has been used by the channel’s producers to get audience questions and feed these back into the live show, said Berlucchi.

“Live TV news online isn’t perceived as a premium product. Live content is perfect for aggregating people, because we’re all watching the same thing at the same time,” he said.

Participation is where the value and potential revenue streams can lie, he added.

[audio:http://www.journalism.co.uk/sounds/livestation.mp3]

The Business Insider: Is the party over for MediaBistro?

MediaBistro owner WebMediaBrands, formerly known as Jupitermedia, has laid off 60 employees – about 25 per cent of its total staff, Nicholas Carlson of The Business Insider reports.

The remaining employees will get a 5 per cent pay cut.

Jupitermedia recently completed its sale of Jupiterimages to Getty for $96 million, about half the original bidding price that prompted protracted negotiations last year, according to Photo District News (PDN). Things look non too rosy for Jupiterimages staff either, with Getty similarly poised to make swingeing cuts.

In a memorandum to WedMediaBrands staff (reproduced in full by The Business Insider), CEO Alan Meckler blames the cuts on a major downturn in jobs board revenue for MediaBistro (which Jupitermedia bought for $23 million in 2007), plus a decline in general advertising and event registrations.

Full story…

DNA09 – Economically distressed but making the most of it

It started off bleakly, but the talk got more positive as the participants warmed up. These are four digital leaders, driving forward ambitious online projects in their respective countries:

  • Eric Echikson, Google’s senior manager for communications in Brussels
  • Katharina Borchert, chief editor of the online newspaper DerWesten.de and also the managing director of WAZ NewMedia
  • Pierre Haski, president of the society and editor-in-chief of the online French newspaper, Rue89

In a discussion led by Richard Gizbert, the panel discussed their hopes for opportunism in a dire economic climate.

Starting with a gloomy video reminder of the demise of the Rocky Mountain News, the panel were then probed on their own thoughts and experiences.

Katharina Borchert, from WAZ media, said the last 3-5 years have been a real opportunity, despite the fact they’re currently laying off a third of their staff.

To be using user-generated content in the way they are would have been unthinkable three years ago, she said.

Web is no longer an add-on, she said. There’s ‘more freedom to create content for the web’.

Video is the most popular content on their site, she added.

Pierre Haski, who left his job at Liberation newspaper to set up the independent French newspaper, realised the opportunity for different types of conversations with readers.

“Through blogging you reconnect with your readers. We tried to develop a model of participative news website, where readers could contribute to news process,” he explained.

After failing to sell the idea to Liberation, he and other colleagues left to launch Rue89.

“Not only will we survive the crisis but we will make money next year,” he said.

Then, Munthe, who set up his agency Demotix in a bid to source citizen journalism from around the world to counter what he perceived as a lack of original foreign news content.

“The flip side of the doom and gloom there are all sorts of opportunities out there,” he said.

He’s not worried about the content control, as editing happens within the process. “Who figured out three columns of smoke was wrong? Bloggers. That’s exactly what Demotix is trying to replicate.”

Demotix tries to bring together collaborative voices to self-correct stories and content, Munthe explained.

Talking to (Shiny)Katie post-Shiny: ‘Shiny can turn things around’

Last week saw co-founder Katie Lee aka ‘ShinyKatie’ leave Shiny Media, a departure she announced on Twitter.

shinykatie

As TechCrunch reported, only one of the three original staff members is left, Chris Price. Shiny Media first launched in 2003, with its site TechDigest and then rapidly expanded and in 2007 received $4.5 million VC funding from Brightstation. By 2008 they had six main Shiny categories which split into different sites – 30 in total.

Things didn’t look so bleak for Lee in September last year when Lee discussed her plans for redesign with Journalism.co.uk. But even without Lee, Shiny is still going ahead with plans. This week saw the launch of TechDigest’s new look –  with a ‘new user friendly format’, Chris Price told Journalism.co.uk.

Last Friday, was Lee’s last day as ShinyKatie. She spoke to Journalism.co.uk about Shiny and her plans for the future.

What is the situation for the company now? It seems the 30 blog titles are being maintained, but is this realistic?
[KL] “Many of the sites in our network are key to the deal we have with Glam, and they certainly won’t be closing. In terms of other sites, all I know is that traffic is Shiny Media’s biggest success story and Chris and his team will be working hard to make sure sites aren’t shut down unless they absolutely have to be.”

How do you feel about it? Did things get resolved amicably? Or will you be speaking out like [other co-founder] Ashley Norris?
“Obviously I’m absolutely gutted not to be working with such a talented, brilliant and (most importantly) funny editorial team. I have no plans on ‘speaking out because’ my team left behind in Shiny Media deserve to do well, deserve my respect and deserve the chance to continue doing their job without hindrance from me.

“It’s important to say that Ashley wasn’t in our office working full time for a very long time before that article was written. In fact, while he was working as a freelancer up until it was announced he’d left, we hadn’t seen in him in the office for months and as far as most of the staff were concerned, he hadn’t been a part of Shiny for some considerable time. I think the impression was that he’d been CEO up until it was announced he’d left, but that isn’t the case.”

It’s obviously sad to read about the plight an independent venture that seemed to be going so well: looking back can you see where some things went wrong?
“It’s still a successful network with some good advertising deals in place – such as the Vodafone Live Guy campaign we recently worked on, and a brilliant partnership with the Gadget Show Live.

“In terms of where we went wrong, we’ve certainly made some pretty big mistakes over the years, but with no model to follow over here, I think Shiny is still a pretty impressive success story. I wish we’d sorted out the commercial side of the business from the beginning rather than relying on advertising agencies to sell what are very bespoke advertising campaigns, but we finally have a sales team in house and they’re already making great strides forward.”

You’re still a shareholder – do you still have hope the company can turn things around?

“I certainly do still hope the company can turn things around, yes! I love Shiny Media, love the sites, and love the people that work there. It’s really important to me that the sites keep going. Shiny Shiny was my site that I started when I was 25, and the thought of it not existing anymore is something I can’t ever imagine. I know that Gemma feels the same about the fashion sites, especially Catwalk Queen. And if there was no TV Scoop I wouldn’t be able to geekout on Being Human reviews and the like!”

What are your plans now?
“I’ve got some ideas that have been bubbling away quietly in the back of my mind for some time now. I’m going to take a bit of time to work out which to focus on and where to take it and while I’m doing that I’ll keep myself ticking over with a bit of freelance consultancy and some journalism. I won’t be looking for venture capital funding – I’m more interested in starting small, keeping things simple and satisfying a few creative urges along the way. One idea in particular I’ve been dying to work on for a while now, so I’ve got plenty to think about!”

Neil Thackray: The plight of the business magazine and the rise of the lone blogger

Neil Thackray has 25 years experience in B2Bs, in senior roles at RBI, Miller Freeman and as CEO of Quantum Business. Most recently, he was CEO of Nexus Business Media, before stepping down a few weeks ago.

He gets off to a good start with his second blog post: ‘Starting a discussion about the future of B2B Media’. He looks at the effects of the internet on niche business to business publications. One effect “has been the result of the phenomonen you are reading now” – the rise of the lone or collaborating bloggers.

Meanwhile, far from business magazines being the ‘bible of the industry’, “they are reduced to being one of many sources of information in a world where reader loyalty is as fickle as a click on a Google search result,” Thackray argues.

Full story at this link…