Weekly print publication New York magazine leapt into digital early and now it is reaping the rewards – profits and revenue are at their highest levels since 2003 and it’s growing! It’s also a great example of how localised content can be of national and even global interest online, 80% of NYmag.com traffic is not from New York. But then again, who isn’t interested in what’s happening in New York! It might be a touch harder for a city mag from Adelaide to attract that kind of online traction.
As the print news industry wanes could data-driven journalism create a new way for investigative reporters to be relevant to society in the digital age?
If Tim Berners-Lee is to be believed, the news stories of the future will be found not so much by talking to a source in a bar, but by interrogating relationships in data. Developing the skills needed to understand and manipulate data – to uncover it, interpret it, and then share it with an audience – promises to re-imagine the scope and scale of what journalism can do.
Some journalists have taken to this new means of storytelling with zeal. Others are concerned that it is yet another skill they have to master in an industry where they already feel the pressure of having to do more with less time. Others still are nonplussed by the term itself – after all, isn’t “normal” journalism already data-driven?
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American anchor Anderson Cooper is swift to point out social news website Reddit’s seamier side in this clip, tacitly reaffirming distrust of this new thingie they call the Internet.
But at closer inspection you’ll discover that not only have journalists everywhere been using the online bulletin board to push their stories and headlines, driving masses of web traffic back to their sites, but they are also sourcing a lot of story ideas from it.
Explained simplistically, Reddit is an online space where users post content and vote on what’s worth reading or not. Wildly variable, the content can include anything from costumed cat photos to hard news.
So is Reddit a useful journalistic research tool and platform for sharing information or just another sign that original thoroughly fact-checked journalism is on the wane?
Have journalists become too lazy to find their own stories? Or is it simply cheaper for cash-strapped newsrooms to employ young internet savvy writers to search for and rehash stories from the Internet?
Please ponder and respond!
While “The Grey Lady” remains the stronghold of legacy media and a symbol of traditional newspaper journalism, but the New York Times has worked to (gradually) incorporate new media and fought to survive the digital news revolutionary period. It’s the leading example of the online news metered paywall model and the world is watching, and counting on them.
If anyone has seen the 2011 documentary Page One, it is obvious that the NYT is deeply considering how to move forward relevantly and profitably in the digital media age without alienating its mature demographic or debasing their thorough and trusted news gathering techniques.
But it’s a slow process. How do you motivate a newsroom of veteran print journos to digitise, jump on Twitter, and share their most flippant ideas in 140 characters when many can remember a time when the first computers were invented?
A recent GigaOm article by Matthew Ingram (mildly) criticises NYT’s attempt to harness social media and online community engagement. The recent hiring of a new Public Editor Margaret Sullivan at NYT has motivated Ingram to ask why all news team editors aren’t engaging with their readers in the way Sullivan does – on Twitter, through commentary, hash tags, in the blogosphere – as she works to gauge sentiment and act as the readers’ advocate.
Shouldn’t every journalist be using social media in their day-to-day work anyway?
Great article. Good comments! Worth a read.
Australia’s Radio National offers a substantial interview with NPR’s Social Media Strategist Andy Carvin, who attracted a great deal of attention in journalism and media circles lately for his trailblazing use of Twitter in Middle East conflict reporting.
ABC presenter Richard Aedy delves into how Andy Carvin became an accidental journalist during the Arab uprising and how the mainstream media is slowly trying to adapt to, and adopt social media reporting.
Carvin talks about how he used Twitter to develop contact networks, informants or “subject matter experts.” Carvin utilised his network and broke stories by spreading their viewpoints, he then verified and fact-checked information through them, he explains. Aedy interestingly uses the term “crowd-verification” to describe how Twitter can be used a kind of crowd fact-checking tool.
Just like any traditional reporter would research and verify through eyewitnesses and their own first-hand accounts, Carvin has seemingly brought these techniques into the new media age:
“By having a critical mass of these type of people, these subject matter experts following me on Twitter, I could treat Twitter not as a newswire but as a newsroom with volunteers acting as researchers and producers for me,” Carvin says.
Could the future of online digital journalism mean the implementation of social media desks dealing with breaking news reporting? Carvin mentions the possibility in this report citing Robert Mackay from the New York Times as one of the best in this very new and niche journalistic field, see The Lede blog.
Obama’s “Ask me anything” online interview puts Reddit in the spotlight and demonstrates that harnessing the power of social media is more than collecting Twitter followers and Facebook fans – it’s all about engagement. Newspaper editors and publishers take note.
Although it has a pretty wide following within a certain community of geeks and web natives, Reddit achieved another whole level of mainstream status recently when President Obama agreed to do one of the site’s crowdsourced “Ask Me Anything” interviews. In the wake of that event, New York Times media writer David Carr looked at how the web community has been able to grow even after being acquired by Advance Publications, the Newhouse-owned media giant that also owns a number of newspapers such as the recently downsized Times-Picayune in New Orleans. Is there anything that Advance or any other media company could learn from what Reddit has done or is doing? I think there is.
Reddit’s success and growth since the acquisition by Advance is unusual, as Carr notes — the history of web-based communities and other similar digital businesses after they get acquired by media giants is not exactly…
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It may only be days into the aftermath of Fairfax’s high profile redundancies, a week when some of the most respected Australian journalists published their last columns, but we are seeing seeds of hope sewn in their wake.
Crikey understands that The Citizen will be staffed by the university’s postgraduate journalism students and will cater for the local general public of Melbourne.
Progressively, The Citizen is said to be inspired by the proliferation of “hyper-local” news sites that are somewhat successfully sprouting across the United States. The online news venture will reportedly trial and tap into citizen journalism resources as well.
Melbourne University is also the cradle of another recent online media masthead, The Conversation.
“Hyper-local”, focused content and citizen journalism
While a detailed outline of The Citizen’s editorial mission is unavailable, two points reported by Crikey have stood out for me as important facets of emerging online news editorial strategies: localised content and citizen journalism.
Nieman Journalism Lab (NJL) recently published an informative piece about the growing success of Deseret News. The Salt Lake City masthead produces specific local content with an inclination for issues on faith and family while their digital department develops online-only products aimed at a wider national audience, bringing in revenue.
As author of the NJL article Jonathan Stray says,
“A focused editorial strategy allows them to compete on the national stage, while a separate digital unit innovates and comes up with unique, web-only products.”
According to Stray, digital revenue at Deseret News was up 50 per cent annually for the past three years. Profits from digital products like online marketplaces, daily deals and user-contributed content now make up more than 25 per cent of total revenue.
Deseret News’ niche editorial focus allows them stand out on a national news level,
“We’re not going to try to compete nationally on political news with Politico and Washington Post. And we’re not going to try to compete nationally on financial news with the Wall Street Journal and so on.” Deseret News editor Paul Edwards said.
Almost simultaneously NJL published another report of how news organisations can benefit from collaborating with citizen journalists and social media to tell a story.
The article by Gina Masullo Chen argues that the recent coverage of Hurricane Isaac demonstrated the promise of a hybrid news model where traditional news organisations – including print, TV, radio – offered regular text reports with elements from Twitter and Facebook. Some news organisations blended the inclusion of apps like Hurricane Tracker to help inform audiences.
The Daily Beast has been using the Storify tool, most effectively with breaking news that garner arresting images, www.storify.com/thedailybeast
Storify allows a user to glue together “social stories” by using bits of social media to create a narrative. Choose a topic, search for it on Twitter or Facebook, and piece together images, quotes and links on your topic page to create a stream of related information.
The downside is none of the information is fact-checked, unless a journalist follows up every single post, Storify must be accepted as unverified. While this draws journalistic tenets of accuracy and trustworthiness into question, the power and usefulness of mixing user-generated content and traditional journalism is compelling.