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StumbleUpon releases new widget for news sites

StumbleUpon has released a new widget for news sites and blogs designed to help readers find content that is relevant to them.

It will highlight content that millions users of StumbleUpon, a social aggregator, have recommended and can be used by news outlets to “surface content on the site with the best shelf life”, according to a post on ReadWriteWeb.

The widget comes in three sizes and can be added by copying a simple line of code, as StumbleUpon explains on its blog.

ReadWriteWeb’s post explains why web publishers should sit up, take notice, and consider creating a StumbleUpon widget.

StumbleUpon claims to be the largest non-Facebook referrer of social media traffic. The company is not specific, but that would likely include Twitter, Reddit, Digg, XYDO and other similar tools for publishers. As of April 2010, StumbleUpon funneled twice as much traffic to publishers as Twitter. The user base is predominately between 18 and 34 years old and split 54 per cent male to 46 per cent female.

StumbleUpon has a couple of other publisher products as well, including badges (which look like any normal share button) and a URL shortener (su.pr). The company claims that publishers get 20-25 per cent more traffic from StumbleUpon when they institute badges.

There are a few drawbacks for publishers. A lot of publishers choose to self-aggregate content within posts or certain locations within their sites. The StumbleUpon widget would take that control from them and automate through the company’s index. Another drawback is widget/badge/button fatigue. Share buttons and third-party widgets have to be maintained by publishers and the more of them there are, the more of a time-consuming process it becomes. While the StumbleUpon widget takes up space where there would otherwise be nothing (or unsold ad inventory), it is another piece of real estate on the page.

Increasingly, it is hard to justify clutter for the sake of utilising empty space. Facebook and Twitter both have widgets as well, and those ecosystems have millions more users than StumbleUpon does. Sometimes, simpler is just better.

What do you think? Are you likely to install a StumbleUpon widget? Post your comment below.

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#su2011: Forget hyperlocal the future’s hyperpersonal

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Facebook lessons from Paul Bradshaw and PageLever

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Ten pros and cons for Facebook comments

This tweet inspired a conversation:

It is 10 weeks since Facebook overhauled its comments system, which allows websites to install a plugin to enable anyone logged into a Facebook account or with a Yahoo ID to comment.

The comment also appears in on friends’ news feeds on Facebook so has the potential to drive additional web traffic.

So what are the pros and cons?

1. More comments

Denmark-based Thomas Baekdal, founder and editor-in-chief of Baekdal.com, a business magazine about new media, media strategies, and trends, and 42concepts.com, a design magazine, has found the switch from commenting system Disqus to Facebook’s plugin has paid off by increasing comments by 800 per cent. But he has only switched one of his two sites. He added the widget for Facebook Comments for 42concepts.com but not to Baekdal.com.

This is an important thing to keep in mind. I did not change the commenting system for the business section – only for the design articles. There is a huge difference between the two – both on audience, and market.

The design content is also less about creating articles, and more about a “visual experience”. They are specifically designed to tell the story through the images. This makes 42Concepts the perfect target for people on Facebook.

Stories like this lovely example on the ‘yarnbombing’ of potholes.

Facebook Comments resulted in 10,000 comments in the first 30 days for showbiz, entertainment and media news site Digital Spy. That’s an average of 333 comments a day.

Tom Miller, community manager, told Journalism.co.uk that Digital Spy was not using a comments system (such as Disqus) before introducing Facebook Comments and encouraged commenting by directing readers from their forums, which are among the 25 most popular forums worldwide with 50 million posts, according to Miller.

2. Quantity doesn’t mean quality

Baekdal said Facebook Comments works for content that is suited to ‘snacking’.

We all know the Facebook behaviour encourages snacking (while Twitter is far more serious). The quality of comments also reflects that. Most of them are, ‘woooo!!!’, ‘omg!!’, ‘nice’, ‘cute’, ‘g0oo0o00o0od’, etc.

People do not actually comment, they express a feeling. There are no discussions.

But the result is staggering. As I tweeted, I have seen a 800 per cent increase in comments.

3. Increased web traffic

Web traffic is up for 42concepts.com as a result, Baekdal said.

Because each comment is shared on Facebook by default, the traffic from Facebook is up 216 per cent (but still only accounts for two per cent of the total traffic whereas StumbleUpon accounts for 62 per cent).

So have comments driven traffic to Digital Spy? Miller said:

I don’t think we can attribute traffic directly to Facebook Comments, but we did just have a record month with 9.84 million unique users in April.

4. Comments are attributed to a person

One big difference from using a system like Disqus is that Facebook comments are always attributed to a person, weeding out spam but also potentially reducing commenting from people who like to hide behind anonymity.

Digital Spy said Facebook’s commenting system is partly self-policing in nature. “People aren’t too controversial as they know mother-in-law will be reading what they write,” Miller said.

Baekdal told Journalism.co.uk that he’s only deleted one comment so far.

5. Comments with bad language are hidden

Facebook Comments has a language stalker tool which immediately hides comments with bad language. You can also opt to apply a grammar filter to add punctuation and expand “plz” to please and dont to “don’t”.

6. Moderation can take time

Digital Spy has found that moderating 10,000 comments a month takes time with four administrators taking half an hour whenever they can to post-moderate. Baekdal, on the other hand, only occasionally checks comments and spends an average of  just 30 seconds a day scrolling through.

Larger organisations like MTV and ITV outsource a service such as eModeration to cope with the number or comments.

7. It lends itself to post-moderation

Both Miller and Baekdal post-moderate and many news sites prefer pre-approval of comments to offer more content and legal control

8. You can enter the discussion

“Another advantage is that you have your Facebook page linked to your account,” Miller said, so that if two people are having an argument you can add a post. “It’s amazing, people do listen,” he added.

9. The backend system of Facebook Comments not user friendly

Miller said the backend of the Facebook system is “a bit of a mess” but believes Facebook will improve. “You can’t always see what article the comments have been posted to,” Miller explained.

“That is certainly true,” added Baekdal. “Administrating Facebook Comments is not a usable experience. It’s engineered, it is not designed to fit into people’s workflows. It’s very hard to see where a comment goes. It hard to track, it takes a lot of steps to moderate.”

10. It is suitable for ‘snackable content’ but not for all types of site

Baekdal has this advice based on thinking about his two websites:

I would advise people to test it. But as a strategy, I think Facebook comments fits well with “snackable content” and content that invokes feelings. I do not think it would work well for a site like the Financial Times.

Find out how to add Facebook Comments here.

To install Facebook Comments into WordPress click here.

Related articles:

Facebook: Our Comments Plugin Increases Publisher Traffic up to 45 per cent [STATS], from ReadWriteWeb.

Disqus has this month revealed it is doubling in size with investment of $10 million despite Facebook Comments, according to this article on the ReadWriteWeb technology blog, and its CEO is not worried about the threat of Facebook, says a Venture Beat article.

In the same way as you can @mention and refer to someone on Twitter, you can now do so on Disqus. It has since released @mentions, which “allows you to pull people into new conversations by mentioning them in your comments”, according to the Disqus blog, and follows Facebook @mentions, released in 2009,

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ReadWriteWeb: Twitter to offer brand pages like Facebook’s, report says

ReadWriteWeb reports Twitter has plans to create brand pages, much like Facebook’s, which will provide more space for brands – such as news organisations – to communicate, outside of the structure of 140 character messages and short profiles.

“Branded pages on Twitter could be interesting, although Twitter is more flow-based than page based,” says Rick Mans, Social Media Lead at Capgemini, a technology consulting service based in Paris, France with 110,000 employees across 40 countries.

Would users recoil at increased brand messaging on Twitter? Might it lead to the MySpace-ification of Twitter profile pages? Making customized profile pages a paid product for verified business owners could help prevent that from happening. It may be difficult to imagine how users would react – but it’s very clear that business users would love to take a shot at it.

ReadWriteWeb’s full article is at this link.

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Houston broadcaster trying to do things that ‘only the web can do’

According to a post from Lost Remote, Houston’s Tribune Broadcasting was reported to be planning a pilot change to the format of some of its local newscasts, taking presenters off-screen in order to apparently produce a more modern programme which follows the structure of online news.

This has prompted some concerns over on ReadWriteWeb, where writer Adrianne Jeffries questions the logic behind the proposed “Newsfix” format.

It’s sort of like consuming news and information on the Web, except without the interactiveness that is sort of, well, central to consuming news and information on the Web (…) The newscast will include a segment for user-generated video. But is that enough to engage Web-savvy viewers, who are used to – at the least – being able to comment on news stories? It’s the things that only the Web can do that make getting news from it such a pleasure.

See the full post here…

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Google Wave: Then and now

After less than a year of being available to the public, Google Wave is being phased out as the web giant admits that it hasn’t attracted enough users.

It was unveiled to great fanfare in May 2009, and was heralded by some online tech sites as the future of e-mail and online collaboration, but what are those sites saying now that it’s bitten the dust?

TechCrunch

TechCrunch then (May 2009): “Wave offers a very sleek and easy way to navigate and participate in communication on the web that makes both email and instant messaging look stale”

“It’s ambitious as hell — which we love — but that also leaves it open to the possibility of it falling on its face. But that’s how great products are born. And the potential reward is huge if Google has its way as the ringleader of the complete transition to our digital lives on the web.”

TechCrunch now: “Maybe it was just ahead of its time. Or maybe there were just too many features to ever allow it to be defined properly.”

ReadWriteWeb

ReadWriteWeb then (June 2009): “Once you get into the flow of things, regular email suddenly feels stale and slow. ”

“Like any great tool, Wave gives its users a lot of flexibility and never gets in your way.”

ReadWriteWeb now: “Why did Wave fail? Maybe because if you don’t call it an ’email-killer’ (and you shouldn’t) then you’d have to call it a ‘product, platform and protocol for distributed, real time, app-augmented collaboration.’ That’s daunting and proved accessible to too few people.”

“Maybe this failure should be chalked up as another example of how Google ‘doesn’t get social’ in terms of user experience or successful evangelism. After an immediate explosion of hype, it never felt like Google was really trying very hard with Wave.”

Mashable

Mashable then (May 2009): “Our initial impression of Google Wave is a very positive one. Despite being an early build, communication is intuitive and not cluttered at all. User control is even more robust than we first expected (…) [I]t’s not as complicated as it seems at first look. It’s only slightly more complicated than your standard email client.”

Mashable now: “The product might’ve been more successful had it been integrated into Gmail (basic e-mail notifications weren’t even part of the launch), though Google hasn’t had much success with Buzz in that department either.

“In any event, Wave represents another disappointment in Google’s long line of attempts at social, an area in which the company is now reportedly eyeing a completely new approach. Shutting down Wave, it would seem, is a logical step in moving on.”

Pocket-lint

Pocket-lint then (October 2009): “Google Wave in its current state is an impotent, stunted, stub of a web service, which is functional at best, and buggy at worst. But it’s also the future. Consider the state of Twitter in 2007 – it was just a website with little messages that people pushed out via SMS. No one was terribly impressed.”

Pocket-lint now: “Although the web at large hasn’t embraced Wave in the way in which Google would have hoped, it is a sad day for its users. But it is a platform that would have only really worked if it reached out to a mass audience, and disappointingly, it never did.”

Techie Buzz

Techie Buzz then (September 2009): “Wave is an awesome real-time service for sharing docs, sending emails and much more. In-fact it is the most anticipated product of the year and people are already desperate to get their hands on a invite.”

Techie Buzz now: “I still believe that Wave deserved all the attention it received. It truly was a revolutionary service. Unfortunately, Wave might have been too different for its own good. Many failed to grasp the concept of Wave and struggled to get started, while several others grew frustrated with the chaotic nature of an open ended communication platform like Wave.”

Finally, from Lifehacker’s Gina Trapani, who wrote a book on Google Wave with Adam Pash, an elegy for the beleagured platform:

Wave is a tool I love and use daily, and this announcement makes Adam’s and my user guide essentially a history book, an homage to a product that I believe was simply ahead of its time.

I respect any product that shoots as high as Wave did, even if it misses in the market.

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Barack Obama on Twitter and Chinese internet censorship

Barack Obama answered questions on internet censorship and Twitter in his (live-streamed) talk to Chinese students yesterday:

ReadWriteWeb was shocked to learn that Obama has ‘never used Twitter.’ It turns out that someone else in his office is responsible for the 2.6 million followers… “But I’m an advocate of technology and not restricting internet access,” Obama said.

Meanwhile, the UK nationals have picked up his comments on internet censorship. The Times, for example:

Mr Obama was asked whether he knew of the ‘Great Firewall’ – the popular term for the blocks that China’s Government imposes on the internet to keep out content its censors deem inappropriate for its citizens. Mr Obama said: “I have always been a strong supporter of open internet use. I am a big supporter of non-censorship. I recognise that different countries have different traditions.”

It was the answer in which he came the closest to subtle criticism of his hosts, saying he believed the freedom to reprove a country’s leaders helped to strengthen democracy. “I should be honest, there are times when I wish information didn’t flow so freely, then I wouldn’t have to listen to people criticise me all the time. People naturally when in positions of power think ‘How could that person say that of me? That’s irresponsible’.”


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ReadWriteWeb: Don’t throw out the baby with the old journalism’s bathwater

‘A personal, blog-style view of the journalism profession by somebody who cares about the outcome,’ authored by ReadWriteWeb’s COO, Bernard Lunn.

He uses his experiences to explain why we should be careful not to throw out the baby with the journalism [1.0] bathwater.

“We don’t need print or TV to deliver news. Throw out the bathwater. But the baby is cute. Let’s keep the baby. Let’s keep all the good things about journalism, the things that inspired me as a kid and that have inspired countless journalists.”

Full post at this link…

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This post is embargoed until 12:55pm (GMT), Dec 18 2008

December 18th, 2008 | No Comments | Posted by in Journalism

TechCrunch’s announcement that it will break every embargo it agrees to has caused something of a stir amongst PR and journo bloggers alike.

TC’s Michael Arrington explained the good, the bad and the ugly side of embargoed news releases:

“A lot of this news is good stuff that our readers want to know about. And we have the benefit of taking some time during the pre-briefing to think about the story, do research, and write it properly. When embargoes go right, we get to write a thoughtful story which benefits the company and our readers.

“But there’s a problem. All this stress on the PR firms put on them by desperate clients means they send out the embargoed news to literally everyone who writes tech news stories. Any blog or major media site, no matter how small or new, gets the email. It didn’t used to be this way, but it’s becoming more and more of a problem. As the economy turns south, PR firms are under increasing pressure to perform and justify their monthly retainers which range from $10,000 to $30,000 or more. In short, they have to spam the tech world to get coverage, or lose their jobs.”

Increased competition in the journalism industry is causing more and more embargoes to be broken, argues Arrington, creating ‘a race to the bottom by new sites’ and a climate in which, he says, TC can’t operate.

Certain ‘trusted’ companies and PR firms will continue to have their embargoes honoured by the site, but the hope is that by disregarding the rules firms will have to be more selective with who they break news to and clamp down on those repeat offenders breaking embargoes.

Arrington will also be posting a blacklist – now topped by TC – listing all firms and publications involved when an embargo is broken.

ReadWriteWeb has come back on Arrington’s decision, saying it will honour embargoes. While the site agrees that the press should get better at respecting them, RRW says embargoes give more outlets a chance to cover a story, providing multiple perspectives for readers.

“They give multiple blogs a chance to review a technology in depth, instead of making it a race (…) Embargoes lead to more total coverage than exclusives (…) Exclusives are the tactic of people with weak products and of reporters who compete better in bullying than in writing.”

Journalism.co.uk receives its fair share of embargoed news and releases – and has never knowingly broken any, because we want to cultivate good relations with tipsters, companies and PR firms.

This doesn’t mean we’ll cover everything that gets sent our way. We also know other journalism news sites will be getting much of the same info and agree this can make it more of a race to get the news out.

But from our perspective: we have two full-time journalists, so having good contacts with companies and PR is vital to our expanding our newsgathering.

However, as a twittered reply from @Daljit_Bhurji, founder of Diffusion PR, suggests, does the old-fashioned embargo model really work for online?

Reporting on our specialism – as I’m sure is the case with many other subject-specific publications – it’s increasingly apparent that the organisations/titles/companies we write about are becoming their own news sources. e.g. have their own press office, press release feed, blog/write about their own developments.

Sending an embargoed release about this info to us later isn’t a great help. Most of the time I’d rather learn about it if it’s covered in a blog-style like the BBC Editors blog or Guardian’s Inside blog.

We’re then free to dig deeper into that news if needs be and are given a direct line to the people behind it; or pass it on through another of our channels like Editors’ Pick.

Holding back the news tide with embargoes seems to go against the way information and news spreads online through links, official ‘leaks’ (as referred to above), blog networks etc.

What’s more it’s not just quote-unquote journalists covering news releases any more – is the industry expecting other writers and bloggers online to respect embargoes? It goes against the grain of the web.

Are embargoes redundant in the online age?

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NYTimes.com will stream content from three technology sites ‘very soon’

September 24th, 2008 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Online Journalism

In the latest of the newspaper site online deals (it’s difficult to go a day without one it seems), Readwriteweb, GigaOM and VentureBeat will supply the NYTimes.com newly re-designed technology section with content.

ReadWriteWeb announced on its blog yesterday that over the coming weeks we will start to see ReadWriteWeb content appearing on the section’s front.

“This is great news for us”, ReadWriteWeb’s founder Richard McManus writes, “because it brings our brand of web technology news, reviews and analysis to a much wider audience.

“It also means that the innovative and often little known startups we write about daily get a chance to be seen in a mainstream publication. The New York Times has a reputation for quality and in-depth journalism, attributes that we strive for on ReadWriteWeb – so we’re excited about this partnership.”

Beet TV produced a video interview with Vindu Goel, deputy technology editor at the NY Times.

GigaOM have written about it here, while Vindu Goel blogs about the decision on the NY Times site: he promises ‘a steady stream of content from three of the most respected tech blogs on the Web’ very soon.

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