An occasional blog by Alastair Otter, writer, editor, hacker, all round geek. Topics are likely to include media, data journalism, gadgets and software. Follow me on Twitter for more: @alastairotter

Media Picks #7 – Automated news, fixing news hyperlinks and radical designs

Subscribe to get the weekly Media Picks email newsletter in your inbox. Missed previous Media Picks editions? View the archives.
Robot journalism: AP’s automated company reports are giving journalists more time to pursue other stories
“Like all media, we are working with limited resources and it’s critical that we maximize the time reporters have to do journalism and break news. We estimate the automation of earnings reports has freed up about 20 percent of the time that we had spread throughout the staff in producing earnings reports each quarter.” – AP’s Philana PattersonGlimpse inside the 2015 digital reporting toolkit
There literally is an app for everything. This list is not so much a toolkit as toy barrel promising hours of fun and experimentation. There’s something for everyone here from finding trends to doing virtual reality to making mobile video.

Six digital journalism tools you need to try
From running Q&A sessions, to visualising data, to making your own memes, this list from The Whip is a good introduction to some of the lesser known digital tools available to journalists.

The Beeb on the future of news
The BBC has released the first report from its Future of News project. The report looks at the various ways journalism will change over the next ten years.

Editors react: Condé Nast enlists its journalists to create ads
Condé Nast, publisher of famous glossies like Vogue and GQ, said it would use its editorial staff to write the ad copy as part of the creation of a new branded content arm, inciting a predictably visceral reaction from journalistic corners.

Emily Bell on the ‘tabloidisation of everything’
“I think this has brought us to a very interesting and challenging moment in the press and in broader society. The ‘too long didn’t read’ version of this speech is journalism needs a lot more journalists who are technically proficient, and the new gods, the platform companies, social networks and search engines, need to hire a lot more technologists who are proficient in news. Because at the moment we have a situation which is not working for either of us.”

Why journalism students need a baseline understanding of coding
“Teaching students about code should be part of a broad liberal arts education. Code is about more than just a shiny new thing; it’s about a better understanding of our world and producing better communication and journalism.”

Online links are broken: how a Dutch publisher is trying to fix hyperlinks
The Dutch publishers of De Correspondent are convinced that hyperlinks are broken, or at least intrude into reader enjoyment. They’ve come up with three ways they think will fix the problem.

Guardian overhauls site in anticipation of publishers selling ads based on time
Aware it needs to prove advertising effectivess beyond clicks, the publisher is increasingly leaning toward time-based metrics to push its inventory. Its site has been relaunched with this shift in mind, blending images, video and text in a “container” format that allows for more flexibility in terms of how content and ads are laid out online.

Constantly tweaking: How The Guardian continues to develop its in-house analytics system
The Guardian wants staffers to use Ophan, its in-house analytics tool, to make even the slightest of changes to stories or locate sources of traffic. Say someone notices an influx of traffic to a story from Reddit or that users are lingering longer than usual on a story, the staff can then tweak the headline to capitalize on that social platform or add in new links to the story to give those users more information and increased exposure to Guardian content.

Joshua Topolsky on uncomfortable news design, new ad units, and why they killed the comments
Bloomberg launched a fresh, new Bloomberg Business this week, to both acclaim and confusion. The new look — inspired in part by the boldness of Bloomberg Businessweek, the print magazine the company bought in 2009 — is fresh, colourful, and not a little bit dizzying.

Until next week
@alastairotterDid you enjoy this newsletter? Please tell a friend of colleague about it: Subscribe.

Missed an edition of Media Picks? Take a look at the archives.

Media Picks #6 – Integrated newsrooms, recycling news, and latte art with a journalism angle

Media Picks #6 – 23 January 2015
Subscribe to get the weekly Media Picks email newsletter in your inbox. Missed previous Media Picks editions? View the archives.

Can you ask for specific questions to be asked? Can you get a full list of questions in advance? What happens if you want to be off the record? All the questions about the questions you might have wanted to ask.

Should you or shouldn’t you: The case for, and against, integrated print-digital newsrooms
In the dot-com days, publishers tended to treat their online counterparts as second-class bolt-ons to their print editions. When it became clear the Web was here to stay, they had to demonstrate they were serious about growing their Web operations. One way to shed their Stone Age image was to eliminate the distinction between their print and Web editorial staffs and combine them into one.

Don’t try too hard to please Twitter — and other lessons from The New York Times’ social media desk
“On the Times social media desk, we work to maximize the impact of our journalism on Twitter. But we aren’t alone in this work. Our colleagues on copy desks around the newsroom are excellent wordsmiths. And we can often rely on their judgments that what makes good headlines in print or on NYTimes.com will also be powerful on Twitter.”

Why it’s risky business for publishers to build their own CMS
2014 was a crazy year for news technology. A new wave of publishers running custom software gained traction, while established news organizations continued to embrace open-source technologies. The overall awareness of the humble content management system (CMS) grew substantially and became an even bigger part of the “future of news” conversation. And building your own CMS is in style again, except now we sometimes call it a platform, especially in front of investors. But building your own CMS is still very risky business. Technology is strategy, and culture eats strategy for breakfast.

+ That’s one side of the story. Here’s another:

Building an open source newsroom CMS
“If I could, I would ban the term “news CMS” for its glib disingenuity. A CMS is OK if you’re a corporate or a small business. If, on the other hand, your business is news, you need something more than a one-size-fits-all box. Even as news media continue on the path to convergence, the tools to handle each media type retain the need for specialism, and the expertise of specialists to design them.”

Recycling the news: Vox experiments with re-publishing old stories
“For one week, we asked our writers and editors to update and republish a number of articles — one each day — that were first posted more than two months ago.”

+ a cartoon from the Columbia Journalism Review 1963 when recycling the news was hilarious (via Jim Romenesko)

How deep is the newspaper industry’s money hole?
Forget keeping up with the economy — what would it take for the newspaper business just to keep up with inflation? Even the “growth” areas are slowing down. If you like some numbers with your doom and gloom then there’s no-one better than Ken Doctor.

Building journalism with community, not for it
At so many publications, journalists are rebuilding their newsrooms around new technologies from smartphones to social networks. But for the most part, the community is left on the other side of the screen. In 2015 there is a huge opportunity to engage communities in the work of helping build powerful journalism.

Fight! Fight! Mathew Ingram kicked this one off with his post titled:
How much work the NYT has to do on social sharing, in one chart​
To summarise: a lot. Ingram’s premise was that The New York Times’ social lunch was being eaten by the likes of Buzzfeed and others.

Naturally, others responded:
Who cares if Buzzfeed has more social shares than the New York Times?
“We’ve found effectively no correlation between social shares and people actually reading.”

And one more, albeit earlier, perspective here:
No, BuzzFeed isn’t “beating” the New York Times
The New York Time’s 875,000 digital subscribers are worth many times their number in web visits to BuzzFeed – not only are they producing more direct revenue, but there’s also an argument that you can sell advertising to them at a higher premium. This is why comparing website traffic between BuzzFeed and the New York Times is largely apples to oranges.

How The Guardian became the most tweeted UK newspaper
Stories from The Guardian are tweeted on average 392,358 times per week making it the most popular newspaper in the UK on Twitter. However that’s not to say that The Guardian creates the most shareable individual stories, that win does in fact go to the Daily Mail.

Lessons from 2 months of a newspaper’s daily WhatsApp newsletter
When a Finnish paper noticed a drop-off in activity on Facebook among young people they turned to WhatsApp to reconnect with these readers. Two months on and the project has opened up a direct line of communication with its target group.

Tough love: How best to move forward after newsroom layoffs
We don’t like to talk about it but layoffs in the media world are real. And responding to layoffs can be difficult both for management and staff. After studying newsrooms that had been through layoffs Professor Brian Ekdale identified four types of reactions to layoffs.

This is not just pretty cool latte art but also the subject of a fantastic step-by-step guide to shooting iPhone video
The video is titled “King of Coffee,” and tells about Seivijus “Elvis” Matiejunas, who has been training around the clock as he prepares to represent Ireland at the World Latte Art Championships in Australia. This news report was shot on an iPhone 5S and broadcast on RTÉ News, Ireland’s national broadcaster.

And finally,

Don’t try to be a publisher and a platform at the same time
Publishers seeking new business models are often tempted to become more platform-like by enabling their audience to post user-generated content; they hope to increase revenue by selling ads on this “extra” content. Sometimes, they also hope to develop a content management system that other publishers can license and use to distribute their content.

Until next week
@alastairotter

Did you enjoy this newsletter? Please tell a friend of colleague about it: Subscribe.

Missed an edition of Media Picks? Take a look at the archives.

Media Picks #5 – Smart journalism, crowdfunding, online video and data journalism

mediapicks

Media Picks #5 – 16 January 2015
Subscribe to get the weekly Media Picks email newsletter in your inbox. Missed previous Media Picks editions? View the archives.

Smart move: Australian news site forges new media model by partnering with academics
Australian site The Conversation is not only boosting the quality of its content by teaming up with universities but is also attracting a growing readership.

It’s not about the clicks: the New York Times’ audience development strategy is about loyalty, and no bullsh*t

It was the fall of 2014, and Alexandra MacCallum was filling out her new audience development staff as The New York Times’ newly appointed assistant managing editor for outreach. The timing couldn’t have been more awkward; the newsroom had just learned that the paper was seeking to eliminate 100 jobs through buyouts. And there was MacCallum and her team, unpacking their boxes on the second floor of The New York Times newsroom.

Threat level: newsroom cyber attacks are real and growing
Around 11am on Tuesday, journalists at the Maryland CBS affiliate WBOC noticed that their Twitter password had been changed. Employees watched, powerless, as a string of militant tweets were blasted to the station’s 18,000 followers. A half-hour later, photos declaring support for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria began appearing on their website’s homepage.

Ten tips on using Contributoria to fund your journalism
2014 was the year in which crowd-funded journalism took centre-stage and a number of new sites appeared giving journalists new ways of funding stories close to their hearts. Here Contributoria editor and co-founder Sarah Hartley offers tips on getting the most out of the site.
What I’ve learned about crowdfunding journalism​

Putting a smile on it: How Buzzfeed added emojis to its content management system
What do you do when the boss wants emojis – those little icons that convey emotions – to be installed in the CMS? Naturally you do it by any means possible.

Download deathmatch: compare internet speed worldwide
Before you publish your next HD video it might be worth taking a look at this to get an idea of how long your poor users will take to download it. A great data visualisation and equally good time waster. View at your own peril.

Media predictions 2015 (PDF download)
Wearables, hearables, nearables and payables will be some of the buzzwords of 2015 as the mobile revolution takes the next great leap. Nic Newman has written up an interesting set of predictions worth downloading.

Is data journalism teaching repeating the same mistakes as online journalism teaching?
Paul Bradshaw raises an interesting and important question: “A decade ago teaching online journalism was problematic: few lecturers were able to teach it. Journalism faculties were full of print and broadcast experience, but very few who had worked online. One of the symptoms of this was a tendency to teach ‘online journalism’ as HTML production, in the same way that desktop publishing was taught, leaving little or no space to explore the editorial qualities of the medium.” Are we repeating this problem with data journalism?

Using Reddit for a social campaign
Reddit. Just the name can strike fear into the heart of an editor. Reddit is a thriving community and a potentially massive traffic driver for publishers. But from the outside it looks chaotic, anarchic and overwhelming. NPR’s Wright Bryan shares some tips on navigating Reddit.

How do you get millennials to care about local news? Here’s one idea
Every weekday at 7 a.m., the countdown clock atop the Charlotte Five homepage resets — counting the hours, minutes, and seconds until another batch of five stories are posted.

Do it right: a publisher’s masterclass in producing online video
Too many videos play as if they have been produced for company bosses. Brevity, focus and the ability to teach viewers something new are key ingredients, says Jon Bernstein.

Quartz’s digital media strategy begins to crystallize
“One of the bets that we’re placing is to try to avoid slugging it out in the commodity space, where you need 100 million unique visitors to sell $2 banner ads to make any revenue,”

Tip of the week
Looking for a good Instagram picture? Try one of these tools

Instagram passed the 300 million users milestone in December, and the number of people who actively use the app continues to grow. But finding posts and information on the platform is not that easy, particularly if you don’t know the hashtags you need to monitor or which users are at the scene of a story.

And finally, this is what happened to journalism:

HT: Adam Tinworth

Media Picks #4 – Lean journalism, cooking up an app storm, suggestive headlines

mediapicks

Subscribe to get the weekly Media Picks email newsletter in your inbox. Missed previous Media Picks editions? View the archives.

For many of us the new year is the traditional time to be re-evaluating lives, making resolutions and planning for the year ahead. So, if your new year plans include launching your own media startup then make sure to read the two articles below. They could save you a lot of pain.

Top five digital media launch mistakes
It’s one thing when large organisations, with dozens of stakeholders all needing a voice, make bad decisions, says Elizabeth Spiers. “It’s actually more frustrating to me when smaller, more agile companies make mistakes because I think they’re better set up to learn and adapt.”

It doesn’t matter where people read your articles, and other lessons in lean journalism
Sarah Marshal looks back on her time at Journalism.co.uk, an online-only publication, and draws out ten things she learned about making quality journalism out of limited resources.

Naturally, as you’re launching your startup, you’ll need money and as I mentioned in the final newsletter of last year, Kickstarter is one of the go-to places for funding journalism and publishing:

Kickstarter publishing projects raised $22m in 2014
Publishing was the third most common type of project on Kickstarter, with 2,064 successfully funded ventures worldwide, after music (4,009) and film and video (3,846). Another six categories – art, design, food, games, technology and theatre – had more than 1,000 projects.

Why aren’t more newspapers cutting the number of days they print each week?
This is certainly not the first time the question has been asked but it’s worth asking again, especially if you’re going to put some real numbers into the equation, which Martin Langeveld does in this piece.

+ In the long run, news will be an unbundled product

Five trends for nonprofit news in 2015
Investigative News Network’s Kevin Davis is not just upbeat on the future of non-profit news organisations, he says 2015 is going to be the year of the non-profit news org. “What Serial [podcast] proves is that people will go out of their way for good stories that they can discover and share.”

The hidden cost of annoying ads is fewer page views
Many ads are annoying. It doesn’t take a scientific study to figure that out. But could annoying ads online actually cost more – in lost, irritated or disengaged readers? One study says yes.

NYT Now may not be popular but readers are gobbling up the New York Times’ cooking app
The NYT Now app might not have been as successful as hoped, says NYT editor Dean Baquet, but its cooking app is selling like hot cakes. The NYT cooking section has attracted more than 8 millions readers on the web and the app has been downloaded more than 300,000 times.

Read with caution: How headlines change the way we think
We all know that headlines are especially important in the digital media world, but have you considered that headlines shape the way readers view an article and in some cases might actually affect what they remember from the article.

The mobile ad industry knows more about us than publishers do. Could they use this inside knowledge to spin off a data business?
“There’s a ton of interest [in our data] from others, and clearly, there are opportunities to develop ways to break these things off and make them stand alone businesses that could be monetized independently of media,” says McCall. “But one of the biggest problems is that companies often do not have the budgets for data. They may have budgets for media with data, but not data on its own.”

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t: Aggregator apps: Friend or foe to publishers?
People are turning to news aggregate apps for a curated and personalised experience. But publishers are concerned about losing front-page readers and control of advertisement placement as third-party providers take over the distribution role.

How do online publishers get more women to participate in the comment section?
“We should also consider the algorithms used to recommend articles to readers. The New York Times, like many websites, recommends articles that are similar to those a reader has previously read. This can perpetuate gender divisions if, for example, a woman is recommended primarily articles on the Parenting Blog simply because she read a few articles there in the past.”

Resource

The Sandbox mega list
The Sandbox is NPR’s Tumblr blog that documents its online work. Before leaving NPR Melody Kramer set to indexing the vast array of information on the blog and the result is a fascinating (and time-sucking) list of how-tos and ideas. From finding decent journalism Facebook groups, to running Twitter searches around breaking news, to tips on using Facebook, Instagram and Reddit, it’s a treasure trove of ideas and tips.

Tip of the week

The fastest way to search Twitter, Facebook and Instagram​
Of course you could open the Twitter, Facebook and Instagram websites and search from there, but if you’re running Google’s Chrome browser you can search all of these sites (and any others you use regularly) firectly from the Chrome URL bar. Nice tip.

Until next week
@alastairotter

Missed an edition of Media Picks? Take a look at the archives.

(New) Adventures in Ubuntu

There was a time I was a Linux and free software evangelist. Over the past few years, however, work and life have conspired to make me a Windows user, albeit a reluctant one.

Screenshot from 2015-01-07 18:31:08A few weeks ago I bought a new cheapie laptop (an Acer Aspire V11 Touch) to mess around on. It’s far from high-spec but looks good, has a decent touch screen and solid battery life. After a couple of days with Windows 8.1 (not bad, but not my thing) I wanted to install Ubuntu Linux on the Aspire. Which I did and in the main its been pretty painless.

The touch screen worked straight out of the box (I wondered how well that would work) but there were a few other things that didn’t work exactly as expected:

  • Screen brightness keys didn’t work
    A quick search turned up this post and adding acpi_osi=Linux acpi_backlight=vendor to Grub sorted this out quick enough.
  • Shutdown from the top menu bar didn’t work and the system would appear to hang while shutting down 
    This was a little more challenging and I eventually opted for the ugly-but-effective option. I tried dozens of things to get shutdown/suspend to work properly and eventually happened upon this post. Right at the end is the seemingly odd advice to delete “quiet splash” from the Grub options. I did that and suddenly shutdown and suspend worked as expected, except that at startup and shutdown you also get a scrolling list of startup and shutdown messages. Effectively “quiet splash” hides the internal workings from the user but also seems to be causing the hanging shutdown. It’s not pretty but I’d rather have a laptop that suspends and shuts down properly than one that has a pretty splash screen but doesn’t.
  • Suspend didn’t work
    This is related to the shutdown issue above. Once I had the shutdown problem sorted, suspend worked as well.
  • Wireless card wasn’t recognised
    This was the one I was most worried because almost all Linux installs I’ve done have some sort of wireless problems. As expected the Aspire wireless connection didn’t work straight away. Running lspci showed that the Aspire had a Broadcom BCM43142 card which has a relatively easy fix. To get the Broadcom wireless device going I installed the bcmwl-kernel-source package as described here.

Things I’m still working on:

  • Bluetooth seems a little flaky
    There are some issues with Bluetooth discovering devices but because I’m not a big Bluetooth user this hasn’t been a significant challenge. I’ll get to it later.

 

Media Picks #3

With the end of the year in sight retrospectives and predictions abound, headed up by Nieman Labs’ Predictions for Journalism for 2015. If you haven’t already checked this out it is definitely worth putting on your holiday reading list.

Subscribe: If you’re keen to join the exclusive Media Picks club you can subscribe to the weekly newsletter here or by using the form at the end of this post.

Smart (news) filters on the rise
The old challenge was often phrased as getting it first or getting it right, but in the knowledge-first era journalists face a new mandate — getting it to make sense.

The fall and rise of the news bundle
The notifications from news apps that make it onto that lock screen are in prime position to capture attention. The lock screen is the new bundle.

One of the big media moves locally over the past month has been the appointment of Andrew Trench as the News24 editor. Trench has a reputation for pushing the boundaries of storytelling as well as having an appetite for finding new ways of doing news. In From print trenches to digital forefront Trench talks about his plans for SA’s largest news site.

Mobile tools for data collection
Mobile is big news in the news industry as publishers do their best to get their content in front of an increasingly mobile readership. But what of using mobile devices as news and data collection tools? Joachim Mangilima has put together a great introductory list of mobile data collection tools.

There’s never been a better time to run a niche media business
It’s easy to look around the media houses making waves (think Buzzfeed, Vox and company) and think that the news industry is all about the big players while the small fry get, well, fried. There is some indication, however, that that’s not the case and there is a growing opportunity for niche players to thrive in the market.

And what about the nano-publishers?
Felix Salmon has been one of the voices championing the role of niche publications in the face of the media giants. In an intriguing piece on medium Salmon talks to one of the current leading examples of niche publishing, Ben Thompson, about the role of the nano-publisher.

10 funding options for journalism that blossomed in 2014
There’s no shortage of great journalistic content being produced right now. From video interviews to longform writing to entirely reimagined storytelling vehicles, journalistic creativity and heft are at a high. But how do you pay for it?

The beginning of the end of Facebook’s traffic engine
In a provocative piece Felix Salmon argues that the age of Facebook as a major driver of news traffic is starting to unravel. “The losers are going to be external websites who have become reliant on the Facebook traffic firehose. That traffic is going to start falling, in 2015, for the first time.”

VIDEO: Jeff Jarvis on journalism as a service
You may have heard that journalism professor Jeff Jarvis is publishing his latest book, Geeks Bearing Gifts, for free on Medium. It’s worth a read but if you want a short(ish) summary of some of the concepts in the book it’s worth watching this interview with Jarvis in which he expands on some of his ideas.

Tool of the week
Kimono Labs
There are a fair number of web scraping tools around but Kimono Labs’ tool is one of the easiest to use. It’s literally click-and-scrape: load up a website with the data you want, select the elements you want too scrape, and save. The scraped data can be downloaded in a variety of formats, including an API if you want to continuously scrape the data as it gets updated.

And finally, How we used WhatsApp for storytelling
A German news organisation commemorates the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Heilbronn using WhatsApp, with great success.

This will be the final Media Picks newsletter of 2014. Enjoy the holidays and here’s to a profitable news new year.

Subscribe to the weekly Media Picks newsletter

Your email address:

Media Picks #2

Missed Media Picks #1? Check out the archives.

Podcasting is apparently back and there are dozens of excellent podcasts you ought to be listening to (this american life, serial, startup, radiolab, all songs consideredtwit) but now we have an excellent new home-grown podcast in Jonathan Ancer’s Extraordinary Lives. Check out the episodes on Thuli Madonsela and Arthur Chaskalson for starters.

 

Subscribe: If you’re keen to join the exclusive Media Picks club you can subscribe to the weekly newsletter here or by using the form at the end of this post.

 

From silos to aggregators

Publishers thought mobile devices might let them retake control of the distribution channel. But they haven’t had as much success as they’d hoped for driving users to their single-source apps. As the initial thrill of iPad apps wears off many are now doing revenue share deals with aggregators like Flipboard and News360. In part this is because the appetite for standalone news apps is waning – readers want news from a range of sources – and in part because they are news organisations, not tech companies. Rather leave the heavy tech to the specialists.

 

Someone else saying that news organisations should focus on news rather than building out technology portfolios is Guardian CEO Andrew Miller:

Guardian CEO: “The idea we will survive by becoming a technology company is garbage”

“Why do so many of these technology businesses want to become media companies? We are a media company, we are about breaking news and strong stories and holding people to account and the idea that we will survive by becoming a technology company is garbage.”

 

Which is not to say the Guardian doesn’t invest heavily in technology, it does, but mostly to make its journalists more informed and efficient.

Behind the scenes with the Guardian’s analytics tool

Ophan is the Guardian’s in-house analytics system and Chris Moran gives a fascinating tour of the scope of this homegrown tool and the motivation behind it. “We don’t know enough about the internet as a publishing medium. We know everything about print, pretty much, there’s not many tricks left in the bag, we’ve done it for 200 years and we’re used to it. But the internet’s changing all the time, as much as anything else.”

 

And then there are those going it alone and (some are) living the dream:

Those bloggers earn how much?

A group of bloggers open up about the money they earn from blogging. In some cases it’s jaw-droppingly impressive. Who said it’s not possible to be a one person media company?

Someone else building a mini media empire is Ben Thompson who is proving Kevin Kelly’s maxim that it’s possible to make a decent living with just 1000 fans.

 

Technology trends journalists should watch in 2015

When it comes to predicting the future of news Amy Webb is always worth a listen. Her company just released an annual report looking at trends for 2015. This is a great summary of the highlights. If that’s not enough the full report can be found here.

 

Surviving media evolution

This is what happens when you get some of the smartest media people onto a stage together. It’s a little stream of consciousness like but still some good insights from the likes of Ben Hu and Frédéric Filloux.

 

The toolbox

Pocket

Seeing dozens of things on the internet you want to read but you don’t have time right now? Save it to Pocket and catch up later. Pocket strips the cruft from articles and gives you just the text. It’s also an easy way to collect and organise articles. We use it in our news-gathering process as a way to store articles for review and possible later use.

 

Site of the week

magic.import.io

Import.io just gets easier and easier to use. If you need to scrape data from a website then magin.import.io is a good starting point. And if you’re new to scraping then check out this piece for a good introduction to magic.import.io:

Web scraping in under 60 seconds: the magic of import.io

 

Subscribe to the weekly Media Picks newsletter

Your email address:

 

Media Picks #1

We’re nearing the end of 2014 at a rapid pace. So what better way to kick off the almost-holidays than with a new little side project? I’ve been failing dismally at maintaining my blog this past year so I’ve decided to get a head-start on 2015 with a project to round up the best media and journalism news of the week. I’ll be posting that here and in email newsletter form to my enormous subscriber base of three. Or was it four?

Subscribe: If you’re keen to join the exclusive Media Picks club you can subscribe to the weekly newsletter here or by using the form at the end of this post.

2015 feels to me to be shaping up to be a major year for journalism and media. The slow burn decline in print of the past few years is likely to turn to searing heat next year as digital, particularly mobile, takes centre stage.

Speaking of change here are a couple some thoughts on the changes that are affecting the journalism industry:

 

1- The big trends changing journalism

Jay Rosen has put together a list to the trends that are shaping the news industry, from social, to mobile, to analytics in the newsroom. Rosen’s list, drawn from his digital thinking class, is full of examples and well worth trawling through.

Related: Steve Buttry’s excellent list of revenue streams for news organisations.

 

2 – Media outlets turn to Tumblr to extend reach

We go where the people are. At least that’s the attitude some newsrooms are adopting with many of them turning to Tumblr as another outlet for their content. Naturally pictures are a big part of this move and many newsrooms are using Tumblr to showcase their data visualisations.

 

3 – The dark side of social sharing 

Dark social? Yes, it’s those readers that, annoyingly, insist on sharing our stories in ways we can’t see, like email, or WhatsApp or SMS. Is it important for publishers? The Guardian thinks so, primarily because it affects their ability to provide advertisers with quality data about their readers.

And, this just in: Chartbeat flips the switch on dark social and discovers a high proportion of dark social sharing is not just from SMS and email but also from mobile apps, particularly Facebook mobile. For a more in-depth analysis of dark social read Alexis Madrigal’s Dark social traffic in the mobile app era.

 

4 – What does the future of online commenting look like?

Online comments are the best and the worst of digital publishing. Equally hateful and informative, engaging and alienating, they embody the the best and the worst of human behaviour.  We can’t shut them down – we want readers to engage – and we can’t control them completely because we don’t have the resources. What to do?

RelatedComments under news articles: Is it time to switch them off?

 

5 – Change the culture of journalism, not just what it produces

Obvious but always good to see it stated so clearly.

 

The toolbox
The must-have tools for the modern journalist

Feedly

Most reputable sites have RSS feeds. Take advantage of them with Feedly. Plug your favourite sites’ RSS feeds into Feedly and monitor them in one place. We use Feedly to source most of our news. (We’re not paid to say that).

 

Site of the week

http://nickgarnett.co.uk

Anything and everything you’ve ever wanted to ask about being a mobile journalism is answered here. Nick’s site is chock-full of tips from recording interviews to doing mobile phone live broadcasts, to picking the best microphones, headphones and USB devices for your phone. A great resource.

 

And finally …

The modern beauty of 19th century visualisations

Cast your eye over these beautiful visualisations. They’re reproductions of visualisations from an 1870s statistical atlas.

19th

 

Subscribe to the weekly Media Picks newsletter

Your email address:

 

Hacking education data: a school finder

Earlier this year, as part of another project, I downloaded the South Africa education department’s list of schools. At the same time I had a copy of the 2013 matric results for all public schools (at that stage in PDF format). It occurred to me it might be worth trying to put the two together to create some sort of schools information tool.

Of course, like most things, that is easier said than done. The first major hurdle was getting the matric results out of hundreds of heavily designed PDF pages. Pretty much nothing was up to the task although Tabula did the best of the lot. Eventually I gave up the task and went straight to the education department. It took a day or two but eventually I had a copy of the 2013 results.

With two handy spreadsheets in hand it seemed a simple task to join them together (they both had school IDs which ought to match). Again, not so simple. There were lost of discrepancies between the two lists and they were in serious need of cleaning (OpenRefine to the rescue).

schoolfinderBecause I was doing this as a side project I spread the work over a couple of weeks, picking it up when I had some spare time. Verifying the joined tables was pretty time consuming, as was getting the data into a format that I could insert into a MySQL database. But eventually it was done and I could start building a front end to it.

The current version is a relatively simple School Finder. It includes all of the schools info I could get my hands on, for both public and private schools. For now it only includes the matric results for public schools. I am now looking to see how I can add in private schools data.

The final product is built using PHP, MySQL, JQuery, and Google’s maps. The maps are static for now because I had some issues using the interactive version with a large number of data points.

Instagramming the city

As part of some testing earlier today I was playing around with Instagram. I’ve never been a heavy user of Instagram but I was looking setting up an account for our newsroom. Along the way I got distracted by some of the great pictures I found. To test Instagram’s embed capabilities I put together a small gallery of photos of Johannesburg, one of my favourite photographic subject matters. I even indulgently included one my own photos. Click on my name if you want to follow me.

Continue reading