For the next few days I will be in Kiev to report from the World Editors Forum (and possibly also from sessions at the World Newspaper Congress).
Articles and blog posts will be published on Journalism.co.uk, and I will be tweeting from @journalism_live, with headlines also tweeted out on @journalismnews. You can also follow the hashtags #wef12 (forum) and #wnc12 (congress) to see live updates from those at the conferences.
There was a fascinating session at the World Editors Forum today titled ‘looking beyond the article’, which saw a number of speakers discuss the news game, and the ways news outlets are using gamification methods to offer wider context and understanding to news stories, events and scenarios.
One of the first speakers, Bill Adair, who is founder and editor of PolitiFact said he felt there was “a tremendous lack of imagination” in the industry in how to take advantage of new publishing platforms.
It’s like we’ve been given a brand new canvas with this whole palette of colours and we’re only painting in grey. We need to bring all the other colours to this new canvas.
He later said:
Many of us are slaves to our content management systems, which are slaves to the old way we were publishing. We have to think beyond that.
Scott Klein, editor of news applications at ProPublica, shared many examples of news apps which are doing just that. Klein’s presentation of these examples can be found at this link.
He told the conference that as well as adding context a news app has the ability to personalise and place the user at the centre of the story and offer them the ability to see the impact on them, “it doesn’t just tell a story, it tells your story”, he said.
You can hear him speak more about this in the audio interview below:
Another member of the panel was Bobby Schweizer, co-author of Newsgames: Journalism at Play. He said video games give the opportunity to look beyond the traditional news story and called on conference delegates to try and “make something”.
And he himself is trying to help make this happen, working on the development of new software called the Cartoonist to help journalists produce their own news games, a project which won Knight News funding last year.
In the short audio clip below I ask him more about what this software will offer journalists:
When asked about the implications of news games being able to be created quickly and potentially running alongside more breaking forms of the story, Schweizer said news outlets and journalists need to ask themselves why they are making the game.
You have to ask what do you have to gain over a written article? If you only need to answer who, what, when and where maybe you don’t need a game. This has to be a balance that each organisation will have to find for themselves.
Are we witnessing the beginning of the end of the newspaper crisis?
And his answer:
We are starting to see hopeful signs we’re starting to pull through.
Specifically, he said, social media has begun to pay off, circulation is rising in developing countries, advertising is stabling, people are beginning to pay online and there are high profits in “decent economies”.
We have used the crisis to clean up our houses. Cut down a lot of the fat. We’re running operations that are as lean and mean as ever.
We’re abandoning volume for value. We want to have better audiences. We want to be more enaged and interact with them. Finally, we are reclaiming our content and putting a price on it.
Free is very expensive and ultimately unsustainable. Open does not need to mean free.
It is not about whether we should pay anymore, he said, it is about what people will pay for.
If you go into a bar and ask for tap water, it’s free. If you ask for champagne you have to pay for it. Peanuts are free in the bar, but if you ask for caviar you have to pay.
The problem is 80 per cent of the content we produce is peanuts. Only 20 per cent is caviar but nevertheless we want people to pay for everything. We need to produce caviar news so people will pay. You can still give peanuts to get people to come in and sit with you.
You can get the full report at this link, which offers a number of examples of innovations within news from across the world.
“Don’t be afraid” – this was just one of many messages given by a panel of publishers at the World Editors Forum today, who shared their experiences of erecting “paywalls” or what came to be termed by the panel as “leaky walls”.
The panel featured three news outlets which have all established paid-content systems in their own ways, although the general approach appeared to be the same, leave holes in the “paywall”.
Dirk Nolde, managing editor of Berliner Morgenpost Online in Germany spoke first, outlining the site’s paid-content model which is free for print subscribers, or 4.90 euros a month. Only some content is placed behind the wall, including local news and sports, which are charged on different models, such as by day or month etc. “Make the assets paid”, he said.
The site also offers a “first-click-free”, such as via Google or social media, which works three times a day. ” We are trying to be leaky with the paywall,” he added.
The results so far is that we have 11,000 digital subscribers which includes print subscribers who can register for free. We thought it would be horrifying but we were wrong, visits went up.
According to his statistics in December 2009, the year in which the “paywall” was set up, visits stood at 2.4 million. In September 2010 this had risen to 3.3 million and last month, in September 2011 it was at 5.1 million.
It didn’t really hurt us, we were able to tell the readers and our users there’s quality behind this paywall.
But he said the site is looking to move to a more metered model.
We will give away more stuff, use a softer approach. It is about being able to accommodate users with the fact we think you should pay for content. That’s our mission.
Fellow panel member, Matus Kostolny, editor-in-chief of SME in Slovakia, discussed how they joined up to the Piano project, a group paywall used by nine news outlets in Slovakia.
The paywall was erected in May this year. On SME it costs 2.90 euros a month or 29 euros a year and, just like Berliner Morgenpost Online, is free to print subscribers. Also similarly only some content is behind “the wall”, such as opinion and political news, the wall is removed for big stories and SME is also considering a more metered wall.
But he added that is is important to remember that “behind stories are real human beings doing real jobs that are worth paying for”.
Public opinion is one of the things we want to influence and we believe it’s so important people pay for it, but if we don’t pursuade enough people then we’ll lose our inflence. We are thinking of different ways to change the structure of paid content and still think that in the end the journalism is worth to pay for and we will pursuade our readers to do it.
Revenue for the first month across all nine sites was 40,000 euros, “which was successful story for our market”, he added.
We were afraid we would lose readers but in the end we didn’t lose anybody, there is an increase of five per cent in unique viitors. We were afraid we would lose readers in locked sections but not losing them so much.
Later he added that one of the biggest lessons is not to be afraid to experiment.
The final speaker was assistant managing editor of digital content at the New York Times, Jim Roberts, who shared some interesting details on the Times’ model, which we reported on here. He told the conference the Times’ pay model is “based on number of principles”.
We try to strike a very delicate balance betwee keeping as open as possible to news junkies, but also really wanted to instill a sense of value for our loyalists who continue to consume quality journalism.
We wanted our regular users to pay. They came to our site and still do, frequently. We felt they understood the sense of value and they would want to pay for it as many of them had done for their print subscription.
Concluding the panel the speakers were asked to share their main lessons. Dirk Nolde gave three which nicely rounded off the session:
Communication, communication, communication – you have to tell users what you are doing
This is no supermarket. We’re not selling everything, they don’t have to pay for everything. You have to give things away to accomodate readers.
Produce online content that’s really worthy of being paid for. That convinces readers and makes them say “wow that was good”.
At the World Editors Forum today editor-in-chief of German news site Zeit Online, Wolfgang Blau, discussed the company’s decision to build a html5-optimised site to present the website on the tablet instead of a native app, which is instead used alongside its print products.
Some of the advantages for this model, as cited by Blau included having shorter product cycles which are better suited to the web environment, lower development and maintenance costs and the opportunity for higher advertising revenue.
I spoke to him after the session to get more detail on Zeit Online’s approach:
During our conversation I mention Apple’s new subscription rules and the concerns this raised for some publishers about lost revenue and the lack of a direct relationship with the audience and related data.
When Apple first announced its new subscription plans in February they states that “customers purchasing a subscription through the App Store will be given the option of providing the publisher with their name, email address and zip code when they subscribe”.
Today’s session on tablet applications at the World Editors Forum featured a fantastic presentation by Mario Garcia, CEO and founder of Garcia Media, who ran through 10 incredibly useful lessons to learn when creating news apps.
1. Tell stories across platforms. “We must think in terms of a media quartet”.
2. What the tablet is. “A tablet goes beyond, to create an immersive experience, not a newspaper, not an online edition, not television, yet has the abilty to fulfil the role of all these platforms together”.
3. The lean-back platform. “You have got an audience that’s relaxed, but not that relaxed. At any point they want to know what’s happening now”.
4. What the tablet is not. “It is not a replication of the print/online experience”
5. Covering three tracks. “Users want their newspaper tablet apps to have the three main tracks of curated edition, news updates and e-readers”.
6. The tablet and design. “You have to make it sophisticatedly simple”.
7. Create those pop-up moments. “This is not a newspaper. When you design for tablet you design for the eye, finger and the brain and all have to be entertained simultaneously.”
8. Pay attention to the essentials. “Start with a good sense of navigation, make sure the user knows how to go from point A to point C or Z and make sure you give people ability to share.”
9. Make it functional. “Remember what people are using it for. They come to read, they come to read long, they come to read short. Need to train people in art to write mini story.”
10. You must consider a curated edition. Have an editor to curate the edition.
At the World Editors Forum in Vienna today there was a session which asked the question: what content should print newspapers focus on in order to survive and thrive?
Members of the panel shared a number of examples of the content which has worked for them, including special editions, building platforms for discussion and greater use of visualisation to explain complicated images.
But the overriding message was for newspapers to know what makes them unique and invest in this content, as outlined in detail by Han Fook Kwang, editor of the Straits Times in Singapore.
While other news outlets are cutting foreign correspondents, the Straits Times did the opposite.
We decided to invest heavily in our foreign correspondents and our ambition is to be the best English-language newspaper covering Asia. We believe we’re uniquely placed to do that.
You need to be clear about your focus and invest resources in it.
He also reiterated the point that in keeping this focus journalists must also make sure they fulfil their basic duty to make sense of the news.
You need to write stories in way readers understand and how it impacts their lives. We struggle with this every day when we report stories out of Europe.
Some papers do this very well. The Financial Times does a terrific job, not just in reporting but commentating, analysing and explaining to readers the complexity of issues.
There is a great opportunity. The world is a much more complex place. There are many issues that affect readers and newspapers should try to capitalise on it but they have to do it well.
In an age when there is instant communication, when everyone wants to be the first, preferably in 140 characters or less, newspapers also need to go back to core skills, to what they do well.
I don’t think newspapers are best are putting out news the minute it happens but we’re great storytellers and the reason why is because we have the tradition and resources to do this. In summary we should focus on good journalism, that hasn’t changed, but to do this you have to invest in good journalists. This starts from knowing your readers well and knowing what you mean to your users and what you represent to them.
There were lots of nuggets of advice to take away from the community building session at the World Editors Forum in Vienna yesterday, from specific tips offered by panellists to inspirations to be taken from the projects they are involved in.
Some of the tips from three members of the panel have been collected below:
Jim Brady, editor-in-chief of the Journal Register Company
There is a difference between “shallow engagement” and “deep engagement”. He says shallow engagement examples are comments on articles which are not responded to, “you’re not really engaging just giving a platform for them to talk to each other”, user photo contests or sharing tools, which “allow the community to recirculate your journalism, but there’s no direct engagement”.
Deep engagement is about spending real physical time with the community, he said, such as through open newsrooms, hosting of events or curating work of community members. “This gives you feet on the ground”, he said.
But you have to give up some control if you want to work with the community, he warned, and you need them to view you as a partner, and then they will come to site more regularly, link to you more, tell their friends about you and “root for your success”.
Anette Novak, editor-in-chief, Norran
“It is about actions, not just words”, she said. Novak gave several examples of how Norran has been productive in responding to the views of the audience, such as starting a campaign about train service. A resulting poll showed 90 per cent of readers “were really happy about it”, she said. “They really felt we were on their side”.
Much like Brady, she also encouraged opening up the newsroom. Norran runs a project called eEditor, an online chatroom people can use from 6am until the newsroom closes to discuss the news list which is put out to the community to enable them to “co-create with journalists”.
Mark Johnson, community editor, the Economist
Johnson told the conference to think beyond the article, offering the example of month-long festivals the Economist ran which were based on themes of special reports.
He also urged the audience not to feel like they need to change who they are or what they do to fit in to the community, or feel the need to dumb down. “Work out what is special and unique and then decide how you can translate that wherever you want to build community,” he advised.
Another member of the panel, Anette Novak, editor-in-chief of Norran in Sweden, also discussed a similar project they run online, called eEditor, which you can find more on here. There will be more tips on building communities from the World Editors Forum session on Journalism.co.uk tomorrow.