New Model Journalism

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Want to profit from internet journalism? Here are three golden rules

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In Practice by Tim Dawson.

For the past six months, I have been teaching a course entitled Making Internet Journalism Pay.  After the last session that I delivered, I received some of the most complimentary notes of thanks of my professional career – and they came from over half the people taking the course.  It makes me think that I must have got something right.

It is a full day’s course, of practical instruction and looking at successful self-publishing examples in some detail.  There are, however, a few simple principles that I thought might be worth sharing here.  So, for the benefit of those of you who are unable to spend a day in a training suite in central London, here are my three top tips.

If you are relying on advertising for revenue, then there must be a close fit between content and purchasing decisions.

As many people know, it is childishly simple to add Google ads, or other affiliate advertising to a website.  However, unless readers are either drawn to the website in spectacular numbers, or there is a close connection between what you are writing about and imminent outlays of cash – the publisher will make almost nothing.

Sites that cover tech developments, for example, are generally read by people who like to buy tech.  If the stories are surrounded by attractive retail propositions, then at least some are likely to respond. 

By contrast, a website devoted to the history of medieval churches in Suffolk might be a work of brilliant scholarship that introduces a whole new world to knapped flintwork and the perpendicular tradition.  It is unlikely, however to make a bean from advertising, unless the publisher can think of some common buying interests shared by their readership.

Devoted as most journalists are to the brilliance of their stories, unless they give a little consideration to the web audience that they are able to deliver to advertisers, they will be giving their expertise away for free.

For a web site to fulfil its potential, at least as much time and resources must be devoted to promotion as to the editorial package

This is a nostrum that is as true today, as it was in the days when the press was king.  Journalists, by professional inclination, love the product but hate acting as salespeople.  Deep within them lies the belief that a brilliant product will sell itself. 

There is no better demonstration of this that Beehive City.  The media site bumped along, being read by friends and those who accidentally alighted upon their stories – until they adopted a programme of highly active promotion.  They have spilled the beans about just how they did it here.

If you want to make a living from self-published internet journalism, you need to develop a brand that can deliver multiple income streams

Advertising and subscriptions are grand – but both are vulnerable to factors wholly beyond your control.  The more ways that you can exploit your content and the brand that it creates, the more secure you will be. 

Those streams might be enormously diverse, from Guido Fawkes selling his best stories to the tabloids, to Indus Delta organising conferences for which readers pay to attend.  Some sites sell merchandise, others package premium content into pay-for products. Unless you are willing sweat your work for all that its worth, your sweat will be worth very little.

There endeth my moment as Samuel Smiles.  Suffice to say, if I were much good at taking my own advice, I would have retired to the Bahamas years ago.

Written by Tim Dawson

April 18th, 2011 at 1:37 am

Is it payback time for the free culture?

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By Alex Klaushofer.
Signs of a growing backlash against the journalism-for-free culture come from – yes, you’ve guessed it – the States.

Like many others who have been supplying the Huffington Post with free material, Visual Art Source is disaffected with the translation of their goodwill into the $315 million that the sale of the HuffPo’s to AOL has made its founders. The publishing company is calling on the HuffPo’s other unpaid writers to join them in a strike until their demands for payment for all contributors are met.

News of the sale has inspired much comment about the HuffPo’s business model, which has been described by Tim Rutten in the Los Angeles Times as a ‘galley rowed by slaves and commanded by pirates’. Adrianna Huffington responded to accusations of exploitation in an interview in the Media Guardian with a blithe: ‘We’re hosting people who express their ideas and if they want to write, fine, and if they don’t, fine.’

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that the New York Times is to start charging for content soon, using a model close to that of the Financial Times.

Written by Alex

March 3rd, 2011 at 7:15 am

Ad server goes hyperlocal

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Rvolve, which serves location-specific ads to a site, launched in beta this week.  Created by West Midland’s based developer Peter Abrahamson, it claims to allow advertisers to control where their ads appear to post code level. It is targeted at publishers of hyperlocal news sites.

Its structure is similar to Google’s Adsense, with advertisers paying per click, and publishers receiving 66% – 75% of revenue generated. 

“For advertisers, Rvolve gives new options to target around a series of shops, for example. Because the ads are distributed on multiple sites, there is an opportunity for large numbers of highly targeted local customers, which is the kind that actually purchases.” says Abrahamson.

The service works by having a latitude and longitude coordinate for the publisher’s content, and a coordinate for every advertisement. Using geographic search technology, which was developed by Rvolve’s author, the most relevant local adverts are shown.

Although clearly different to Addiply, it is evidence of the growing interest in effectively serving homebrew and hyperlocal sites with ads.

Written by Tim Dawson

February 22nd, 2011 at 3:40 am

Sheridan Trial Blog is a ratings hit for court reporting

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The trial and jailing of the former leader of the Scottish Socialist Party for perjury has provided some of the most dramatic legal scenes in recent history. It has also spawned a new form of journalism that has generated an unprecedented level of interest for a short-lived publishing phenomenon.

Started by former SSP activist, James Doleman, The Sheridan Trial Blog averaged 13,000 unique visits a day, and generating around 250 comments every 24 hours – a level of interest for which many newspaper websites would kill.

At the start of the trial, court staff tried to prevent Doleman from taking notes ‘because he was ‘not a real journalist’.  By the time Sheridan was found guilty, the blog’s author was being invited onto TV news panel-discussions of the case.

It was the quality and comprehensiveness of Doleman’s output that elevated his blog. And while Doleman made no secret of his political sympathies, he reported proceedings reliably and without inflection. The traditional press afforded just a few inches to the case each day, focusing on the wealth of salacious details – The Sheridan Trial Blog was a close as you could get to watching the case without actually being in the public gallery.

Doleman, who had neither journalistic nor legal training, describes his motivations and experiences of running the blog here.  The blog has now come to an end, but will remain available to view for archival purposes.

Trials involving a heady brew of sex, politics, big media businesses and a newspaper editor agreeing to strip to his pants to watch a video might be few and far between.  But Doleman has shown that, in the right circumstances, a significant audience can be attracted to a kind of factual reporting that is becoming increasingly rare.  Pollok’s proletariat may have lost its messianic militant, but civic duty and sound reporting have found a new champion.

Written by Tim Dawson

February 15th, 2011 at 11:01 am

Posted in Blogging,News

Jury out on Twitter- consultation about court reporting launched

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A consultation on the use of Twitter in court reporting has been launched this week.

The consultation is primarily concerned with the risk of prejudice to a case posed by live reporting from court.

‘The use of live, text‐based communications from court may fuel the potential for jurors, whether accidentally or otherwise, to encounter prejudicial or inaccurate material online,’ writes the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales. ‘Live, text‐based communications from court may be used by witnesses to find out what has been said in court before they give evidence themselves.’

As www.journalism.co.uk points out, the consultation also raises questions about the definition of a journalist which could result in bloggers and other non-accredited reporters being prevented from using social media in court.

Legal commentator Joshua Rozenberg is firmly on the side of Twitter in court.

The deadline for responses is 4th May.

Written by Alex

February 10th, 2011 at 4:59 am

Has the Huffington Post hit the big time?

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Is the surprise sale of the Huffington Post to AOL a sign that blogs can make the big time? Or is it more a case that comely newcomer of modest means hopes that getting hitched to a struggling media tycoon will help her to face an uncertain digital future?

Following the money leads to no clear conclusions. On the one hand, the $315 million deal – the highest price paid to date for a blog-based website – is a tidy sum for a pet project started by Arianna Huffington and Kenneth Lerer just five years ago. At first sight, it seems to be a sign of a trend that everyone wants to see: where innovative journalism leads, the finance will follow.

Yet, with each party struggling in different ways, the union is clearly a gamble for both sides. Despite having 25 million monthly visitors, the HuffPo only went into profit last year, while AOL has been struggling to maintain its revenues and credibility for some time. It remains to be seen whether combining HuffPo’s reach with AOL’s corporate infrastructure will translate into a digital media model that is sustainable in the long term – and one that doesn’t compromise the liberal, internationalist stance that has made the HuffPo what it is.

Highlighting the implications for quality journalism in the Los Angeles Times, Tim Rutten thinks not.

And, with the HuffPo’s reputation built on the labour of unpaid bloggers and a controversial practice of linking freely to outside content, some of the contributors to its success may be quietly wondering when they will get their share in this new media universe. One unpaid contributor declares his hand here. And this prolific New Yorker is positively revolting.

Written by Alex

February 7th, 2011 at 6:30 am

Weighing the role of social media in Egyptian coverage

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Political events may still be unfolding in Egypt, but analysts of the role of social media in the country’s changing fortunes are already coming to some conclusions.

And they’re increasingly nuanced. Matthew Ingram weighs up experts’ dismissal of ‘cyber utopianism’ in which sceptics like Evgeny Morozov reject the idea that social media played a key role in bringing down the Tunisian government.

It’s a view that gains credence from the authorities’ strategy of censoring social media – the internet has been all-but shut down in Egypt for the past few days. But, Ingram argues, while social media may not cause democracy, networked communication remains undeniably powerful.

Broadcasting and Cable follows a better-trodden path, suggesting that social media is playing an even greater role in Egypt than in previous uprisings in Burma and Iran, and is increasingly used by mainstream news providers. And now that the Egyptian government has shut down its Cairo office, Al Jazeera has appealed for help from bloggers

For examples, see New York Times reporter Nick Kristof’s micro-reporting on Facebook, and the 10 must-follow Twitter feeds on the Egyptian protests recommended by UN Dispatch.

It may not be that citizen-led, though. On Al-Bab, one Egypt-based blogger points out sensibly that most of those protesting don’t have the time or the smart phones to tweet about the revolution.

Written by Alex

January 31st, 2011 at 4:47 am

Tweeting ’bout the revolution – the case of Tunisia

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Gwenflickr


The digital revolution has been meeting actual revolution over the past week in Tunisia.

Users of social media are being credited with bringing about the downfall of President of Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, reports National Public Radio in the States.

Meanwhile. the authorities have been extending the usual means of suppressing unfavourable reporting by mainstream journalists, arresting bloggers and interfering with email and social media accounts including Facebook.

But tweeters opened themselves up to accusations of inaccuracy by falsely reporting mid last week that the president had been ousted before he had in fact fled.

However, as the Guardian’s Brian Whitaker points out, online communities’ ability to self-correct quickly means this doesn’t completely undermine contributions’ from citizen journalists.

The BBC reports how the fall of the Tunisian regime is being hailed by bloggers around the Arab world.

For a backgrounder on how citizen journalism is flourishing in the Arab world – where most people are subjects rather than citizens – see here.

Written by Alex

January 17th, 2011 at 5:46 am

Dale departure sparks debate about future of blogging

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The decision by veteran blogger Iain Dale to quit the blogosphere has sparked a debate about the future of blogging

Dale – widely acknowledged as the guru of political blogging in Britain, cited time and political backbiting as the reasons for stopping his daily blog, which attracted 130 000 unique visitors a month.

‘It’s a very aggressive, sometimes macho environment,’ he told listeners of this morning’s Today programme. ‘If you don’t defend yourself in the blogosphere, you get trampled on. Sometimes I’ve gone too far’

Meanwhile his co-interviewer, the blogging MP Tom Watson said Twitter had now replaced blogging as the medium for political debate and policy analysis. ‘I think the potency of blogging has gone.’

Dale disagreed. ‘I don’t think blogging is finished. There’s still a future for blogging.’

Written by Alex

December 15th, 2010 at 5:14 am

Is TBD a new model for regional news?

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Digital expert Kevin Anderson provides a useful case study of the Washington-based website TBD, launched in August. A hybrid operation in partnership with several TV stations, TBD is ‘regional with hyperlocal elements’, and experimenting with multiple revenue streams.

Written by Alex

November 18th, 2010 at 6:05 am