Tag Archives: instant messaging

Jon Bernstein: What MPs’ expenses tells us about the clash between new and old media

The narrative is familiar to anyone who has followed the broader technology industry for any length of time – new triumphs over old.

The reality, inevitably, is more complex, more layered, more textured.

Certainly change is disruptive, but old technology rarely disappears completely. Rather it coexists with the new.

Just look around your office if you want proof of that.

You may not use the fax machine but someone does, and you’ve certainly sent a letter or made a call on the land line. Communication is not all mobiles, email and instant messaging.

As it is with technology, so it is with media.

And nothing demonstrates the laziness of the ‘winners and losers’ legend more than the domestic news story of the year – MPs’ expenses. Here we have seen the best of old and new media, one feeding off the other.

Let’s retrace our steps:

What was meant to be a public domain story, put there by a hard-fought freedom of information request, turned into an old-fashioned scoop.

The Daily Telegraph acquired the data and did a first class job poring over the numbers and putting in place an editorial diary for the drip-drip of expenses-related stories.

The first fruits of this were splashed across the front of the paper on Friday May 8 and, by my count, the story set – and led – the news agenda for the next 23 days.

To this point it was only a new media story in the sense that the Telegraph was enjoying an uplift in traffic – one in every 756 expenses-related searches led to the site.

But what the paper was offering was fairly conventional fare. It took others to do some really interesting things with it.

A fine example was work done by Lib Dem activist Mark Thompson who spotted a correlation between the safeness of an MP’s seat and the likelihood that they are involved in an expenses scandal.

Elsewhere, there were mash-ups, heat maps and the rest.

And then the deluge. Parliament released its data – albeit in redacted form – and for the first time the Daily Telegraph was in danger of losing ownership of the story to another newspaper.

True to type the Guardian offered the most interactive experience inviting readers to: “Investigate Your MPs expenses.”

Wired journalist Jeff Howe, the man credited with coining the phrase crowdsourcing, will nod approvingly at this development.

According to one definition Howe uses, crowdsourcing is ‘the act of taking a job traditionally performed by a designated agent (usually an employee) and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open cal’l.

In this instance the Guardian was taking a task traditionally performed by its journalists (designated agents) and outsourcing it to its readers.

Where the Telegraph did its own number-crunching, the Guardian farmed much of it to a third party, us.

So has the Guardian’s crowdsourcing experiment been a success?

On Sunday the paper boasted that almost 20,000 people had taken part, helping it to scour nearly 160,000 documents. So far so great. But by Wednesday, the number of documents examined by the army of volunteers was still 160,000.

With some 700,000+ receipts and other assorted papers to classify could it be that the Guardian’s efforts were running out of steam?

If they were, this didn’t stop its rival from following the lead.

One Telegraph correspondent may have dismissed those engaged in this kind of ‘collaborative investigative journalism’ as ‘Kool-Aid slurping Wikipedians’, but his paper seemed to take a different view.

By the middle of the week, the Telegraph was offering its far-less redacted expenses documents in PDF form and all its data in a Google spreadsheet, while simultaneously asking readers directly: “What have you spotted?”

Both papers – and the wider media come to that – have enriched our understanding of a complex and sprawling story. What started as a proprietorial scoop is now in the hands of the crowd.

Old media and new coexisting.

Jon Bernstein is former multimedia editor of Channel 4 News. This is the first in a series of regular columns for Journalism.co.uk. You can read his personal blog at this link.

Innovations in Journalism – share your links. Wait, isn’t that Del.icio.us? No, it’s more social – it’s Mento

We give developers the opportunity to tell us journalists why we should sit up and pay attention to the sites and devices they are working on. This week’s ticket comes via Mento – sharing links, real social like.

1) Who are you and what’s it all about?
Hi, I’m Gregor Hochmut. Mento is a platform for sharing links with the people around you. They could be co-workers, family, thought leaders you look up to – or simply friends who send you a humorous video every now and then.

Del.ici.ous and other bookmarking platforms have mostly focused on “saving” links for private use.

Mento, however, wants to focus on the communication and conversation that takes place – beyond the limited usefulness of email and instant messaging – when you share a link.

2) Why would this be useful to a journalist?

In its current version, Mento is most useful as a collaboration tool for journalists. A group of could join together and put links about a shared topic in a common channel. Links in the channel would be visible to the team.

They could comment on each other and have a permanent, searchable archive for their links.

In addition, Mento is a simple communication tool for sending recommendations to people, its careful not to overwhelm with email so you get just one a day with all the links – or you can subscribe by RSS.

3) Is this it, or is there more to come?
Journalists and publishers will be interested in the next expansion of the service. We intend to offer an easy publishing tool where you can create a branded, editorial link channel and publish it.

Imagine an RSS feed of relevant links that your editorial staff gathers on a daily, weekly or monthly basis – but the feed would be a public website (fully co-branded) that’s designed for regular web users who can easily subscribe to your link selection by email and other convenient means.

4) Why are you doing this?
There is more and more noise in our information environment every day and it’s getting harder and harder to filter the meaningful signals.

We’re on a mission to make your daily information streams more manageable and more meaningful.

5) What does it cost to use it?
Mento is free and always will be for the end-user.

6) How will you make it pay?

Along the lines of the branded editorial channels mentioned above, we will consider the economics of offering a professional link publishing service – but we have not finalized the business model for it so far.

In the meantime, we have had surprisingly good results with Google’s contextual AdSense program on the current Mento site since the advertisements are targeted based on the links that the user sends and receives.

Spleak apps deliver politics and sport news to social networks

Spleak Media Network has launched two new applications for delivering short-form sport and political news to social networks.

SportSpleak and VoteSpleak will serve up news headlines and gossip to users on social networks and instant messaging services, who can then comment on the updates to their friends.

Both will function along the same lines as CelebSpleak, which offers ‘tattles’ or short snippets of celebrity news to users including content from Hearst’s digital titles.

Content deals for SportSpleak and VoteSpleak, which have been launched in time for the forthcoming Olympics and US presidential election, will be announced shortly, the company said in a press release.

Spleak’s applications, which currently have over 100,000 active daily users, are available on AOL’s AIM, MSN Messenger, Google Talk, Facebook, MySpace and through SMS alerts.

Hearst in content deal with social network firm

Hearst Magazines Digital Media division has entered into an agreement with instant messaging and social network firm Spleak, Media Week reports.

The deal will see content from titles including CosmoGirl and Teen distributed through the recently launched CelebSpleak application, which is now available on MySpace, Facebook, and AOL and MSN’s instant messaging services.

The app delivers ‘tattles’ – nuggets of celebrity news – and allows users to respond.

“There’s great value in both UGC [user-generated content] and professional, editorial content. Most of the time the two end up in conflict with one another, but Spleak has found the right way to combine the best of both worlds.” Morrie Eisenberg, CEO of Spleak Media Network, told Media Week.

USA Today links up with AOL for instant messaging service

USA Today is hoping to tap into users of AOL’s instant messaging service AIM with the launch of a real-time news alert system for the service this week.

Users will also be able to search current and archived USA Today headlines through the feature, while the keyword alert service will supply a headline, article summary and link back to the complete story in an instant message.

Another means of distribution for the paper’s content and method of reaching new audiences, says USA Today’s publisher Jeff Webber in a press release.