David Ho on our wired lives and the future of digital journalism

There are now more mobile devices than people on earth: What does that mean for journalism, for digital design and for our lives?

For one, «print newspapers might outlast websites in their current form because websites are changing so fast», David Ho, Wall Street Journal’s Executive Mobile Editor, predicted  during a talk on mobile journalism and responsive design in Oslo this week.

Currently there are more than 7,2 billion mobile devices in service in the world. As of last year, there are more mobile devices than people on earth. There are bout 2 billion smart phones in the world. More than 60% of all US digital time is spent on mobile. Most of that is spent on apps, rather than websites.

Ho said that in a sense every aspect of our lives is now becoming wired and chipped, a trend he described as very cool and very unsettling at the same time: very exciting and a bit Orwellian.

«We are moving towards a world where there’s a chip in everything...  A world with more data collection and less privacy, and if you really want privacy you have to go out of your way to get it,» he said.

We’ve been talking about that privacy challenge for so many years now that it’s hardly news.

But I think it is as if we’ve seen the overall mobile trends for a very long time, while the implications for how we live our lives (and consequently for the news industry) have  only come into full focus more recently. As a result, I found the talk by Ho, organised by the Norwegian Institute for Journalism (IJ), interesting - even though much of the things he talked about were not all that new.

As a former technology journalist and mobile (smartphones & tablets) columnist I’ve been to countless such talks by major players in the industry, but it’s as if five years ago, when many were (wrongly)  predicting how the iPad would bring about a new golden age for journalism, we saw only the blurry outline of the mobile future. But as this picture has come more and more into focus, details have appeared which makes the overall picture much clearer. And Ho’s talk brought a lot of this together, which is why I find it interesting to dwell on and summarise in a blog post.

I am aware that David Ho also was the keynote speaker at last summer’s Newsrewired in London, so I’ve summarised the points from his talk in Oslo I found most interesting in a bullet point list to make it easier to scan for new/old insights.

At the start of his talk, he had everyone in the room, mostly media folks, unlock their smartphones and hand it to the the person sitting next to them: An experiment which had many people in the room feeling decidedly uncomfortable.

He used this experiment to illustrate how «we are our phones». Our smartphones hold our contacts, our family, friends, work documents, email, photos –  they organise our entire lives.

We’ve never had «a technology this personal and this intimate. So when we in the news industry send news to mobile we send it to a very personal sphere,» he said.

Some of the insights Ho shared from his work (in the US):

  • Mobile is now, not the future. If you’re not already embracing it, you’re behind.
  • Mobile is social and social is mobile. The vast majority of Facebook’s revenue comes from mobile.
  • We see a major shift to mobile. At the start of 2015, 39 of the top 50 news websites had more traffic from mobile than from desktop. The vast majority of data traffic on mobile comes via apps, not the web.
  • Mobile news users skip home pages and arrive sideways. One place desktop is still holding on: At work, at the office, a place where people still go to frontpages.
  • Tech companies focus on platforms and app-to-app «deep linking». We also need to think about how apps talk to other apps and go directly from one app to another with no website inbetween
  • Mobile news sites tend to be high traffic, low engagement. People read one story then leave.
  • Apps are different: Lower traffic but very high engagement, people who use apps stay. The time is what’s important on mobile.
  • Mobile is a battle for time. So the challenge is how do you get people to stay.
  • Tech is becoming personal, contextual, aware of behaviour, habits and location. It anticipates you.
  • Interfaces are evolving beyond screens to focus on voice and gesture control.
  • WSJ launched a new responsive news site this year that a lot of work went into. Having a responsive website is a must, a minimum to survive in this mobile world right now.
  • Advertising doesn’t work as well on mobile for most people. Native ads are definitely the trend, definitely working better than traditional banner ads, but advertising is work in progress on mobile.
  • If your content is good enough people are willing to pay for news on mobile, but it has to be unique. Subscriptions are a major part of WSJ’s strategy – but a lot of the news provider's content is stuff people rely on for their work.

Ho also shared his 50 favourite apps for journalists in 30 Minutes, and has later shared those slides on Twitter:  Journalism Apps slide 1, Journalism Apps slide 2, Journalism Apps slide 3 & Flappy bird lessons for news.

 


The end of Mecom

War, controversy, public outcry, murder: Now that Belgium’s De Persgroep is set to buy the remains of what was once Monty’s Mecom a very coulourful chapter of European media history is about to end.

Danish employees are, understandably, reported to be relieved, now that the very drawn-out sales process finally seems to be coming to an end and Dutch competition authorities have given the  all clear for Belgian family-owned media company De Persgroep to go ahead with its acquistion of the remains of Mecom, comprised of the Danish media group Berlingske and the Dutch media group Wegener.

However, even though much has been made of the fact that De Persgroep, being family-owned, is a much more "palatable" proprietor than former Mecom-boss David Montgomery (with his reputation as a "consistent cold-blooded cost-cutter")  Villamedia.nl reported a few months back that De Persgroep's rein will start with cost-cuts (though these might primarily affect the Dutch operations where there would be major synergies between Wegener and De Persgroep's existing operations).

As for Mecom's colourful history, that's perhaps worth revisiting later: but it's fascinating to think about how much has happened these last eight media years...


The year of post-it-notes and mindfulness

For a nethead and digerati like myself, 2014 was a year of ironies.

For one, if I was to name the go-to-tool that played the most piovotal role for me at work last year, it has to be post-it-notes -  and then there was that whole mindfulness business.

I guess it’s a occupational injury of sorts that I often (mostly for fun) sum up my personal year in a headline akin to how I used to sum up media or technology years when that was my professional beat.

But most of the time I think I refrained from publising those more personal headlines, though they often corresponded with the work I was doing. E.g. I think I dubbed my 2011 the year of iPad and anti-social sharing because the device became so key to my work and life that year and yet I found my social media use to have become rather anti-social compared to what it had been before because I did most of the sharing via apps like Flipboard and Hootsuite – which created very a different, much less social, communication mode for me in a busy worklife.

And last year, I sort of re-discovered and came to lean heavily on post-it-notes - of all things.

I spent (and spend) a substantial amount of my working hours structuring and re-thinking the sub pages of a university web site, including all its research, by way of mapping the content and content desires of the various departments. And post-it-notes happened to be the perfect tool for doing it. Especially for workshops where the attendees are working in groups, but also when I was/am working on my own.

PostItNotesHome

I did check out a few online tools that could be used for the job, but especially when working in groups I found post-it-notes to be an easy, flexible and useful option.

Besides, over the last few years I’ve found more and more that for certain uses I prefer pen and paper to digital tools because the former give me a very visceral feeling of thinking with my fingers.

So much so that I think my first "work related" purchase this year might be a flip-over for my home (which obviously will come out of my own pocket).

I’ll readily admit that this sense of sometimes "thinking better" when working with pen and paper is an intuitive feeling, but this experience is actually supported by science: Scientist have found that writing by hand does strengthen the learning process, among other things.

But it’s definently not, at least for me, all kind of learning and thinking that is best done by hand – very far from.

I strongly prefer writing blog posts, articles and most other such things, in fact doing most of my writing, on a computer connected to the internet. But I find that when structuring large amounts of information, like when working on the architecture of a big web site or writing a book, pen and paper can come in really, really handy in certain stages of the project.

Until I find less intrusive solutions than FitBit and Moves, I shall also do most of my lifelogging in a good old fashioned notebook (I do of course fancy a smart watch, but rationally I know it will drive around the bend unless I can find one that runs on what Amber Case calls calm technology) .

Talking about life logging, I’ve also worked hard to turn my life around / change my lifestyle in 2014. That’s were that mindfulness business comes in. Now a lot of people will tell you how delightful and calming and all kinds of wonderful taking up meditation or another form of mindfulness practice is, but I must admit I’ve rarely felt more anxiety and pain than for the first year or so of getting into this stuff.

Though the emphasis is on "felt". Turns out I’ve been what therapists call "frozen" (probably since the accident I was in 20 years ago) and not really in touch with all my feelings etc. That’s part of what has enabled me to come through so much adversity and work such crazy hours for much of my life.

And getting in touch with all that stuff again, becoming more mindful if you like, was hardly frictionless: I honestly had no idea I had so much anxiety or so many (mostly minor) physical pains.

I did and do benefit from mindfulness training and meditation, I’ve found some very useful tools in it, but I also think it perfectly sensible of whichever part of me who acted to want to be "unmindful" for long periods of my life (I’ve written more on stuff related to this process in Norwegian here).

So: Onwards. For me, the year of post-it-notes and mindfulness has definently meant progress. That may sound counterintuitive, but essentially the year has made me a more balanced person - or a better version of myself. 

BrightonBeachMeditation

 


The last edition of The Journalist

This Friday the very last edition of The Journalist’s 98 year old print magazine was published, thereby ending a chapter in Norwegian press history.

Due to the general decline in media advertisement and an increasingly difficult financial situation, the trade journal for Norwegian journalists, owned by the Norwegian Journalist Union, will cease to exit and the news organisation Journalisten BA will stop operating as an independent organisation and become a division of the union. The website journalisten.no will keep on covering the media industry, but with a reduced staff after two of its full-time and one of its part-time journalists have accepted redundancy deals. This leaves the website with an editorial staff of three full-time journalists and one writing editor.

The Journalist is the last of two Norwegian media magazines throwing in the towel, with media and marketing magazine Kampanje publishing its last edition in November after 50 years of publishing.

The Jounalist is a former employer of mine (and Kampanje a former client), and though I’m not sad, it just makes me feel nostalgic, to see the print magazine go, I am very sad to see The Journalist’s staff reduced and its independent status diminished.

The last edition of the Journalist to be printed, and to have its pages displayed on that office wall pictured:

Obituary in the last print edition of The Journalist by Drupal developers Ramsalt (journalisten.no runs on Drupal and is a client of Ramsalt):

PapiravisDødsannonseJournalisten

Is 2014 the year of Buzzfeed copycats?

In Scandinavia, one of this year’s most talked about and controversial media «innovations» has been the surge in new sites copying key aspects of Buzzfeed’s self-dubbed «art of social publishing».

This week Nieman Journalism Lab has an interesting piece on how this trend, traditional newspaper companies starting competing Buzzfeed imitators, has been playing out in Sweden. But the same is true for Norway, and on a smaller scale Denmark – though the players differ.

In Norway, the media market I know best, Amedia-owned regional newspaper Nordlys has been leading the pack with the launch of Buzzit.no in June – followed by NHST Media Group-owned financial daily DN.no’s Bisbuzz.no and Egmont’s Superlike. In Denmark we’ve seen sites like Egmont’s tickl.dk / superlike.dk.

Why? According to Anders Opdahl, Buzzit-boss and editor-in-chief of Nordlys, «Desperate times breeds desperate measures».

At a meeting of the Norwegian Online News Association (NONA), which I’ve blogged about in Norwegian here and Kampanje has written a good summary of here, he explained:

“The backdrop for the Buzzit launch was, to be completely honest, the dramatic fall in print revenues. We were not able to fit skilled digital employees into the budget for 2015. We had to cut costs and do this based on the seniority principle, and we could not defend keeping these young people. Incidentally, this happened just when the New York Times Innovation report was leaked - on BuzzFeed.”

So Buzzit.no was launched as a new, separate organisation and site with the intention of trying out a new form of distribution for journalism. The site has a staff of six: five journalists working shifts and one business developer.

Opdahl said the current focus of the site is on building position and distribution, though it is a long-term ambition to be able to also do investigative journalism once the site has built enough traffic. Like Buzzfeed, Buzzit is primarily a mobile site, not a desktop site - very little of the site’s traffic comes from desktop. When Buzzit started out, a lot of its content was stories taken from Amedia’s many regional newspapers and subbed or “optimised” for social media.

A key aspect of the site’s ambition is about understanding how social media works: How does one maximize organic proliferation, what role does segmentation and fragmentation play?

And though the site has been far from immune to controversies similar to those affecting Buzzfeed, with  accusations of plagiarism, copy theft etc, it has obviously not stopped other Norwegian media companies from launching similar sites.  

I must admit I feel a bit depressed to see these sites lauded as major new media innovations, or to suggest, as I do in the title, that this media year could be dubbed the year of Buzzfeed copycats. But two points made towards the end of the above-mentioned NONA-meeting, bears repeating here:

«These sites have innovated the distribution model in a way many can learn from, but it is not a good thing for everyone to copy it for that reason. What we really need is innovation on the business- and revenue side of the media industry, where there really is a crisis. This “social publishing innovation” is a microscopic innovation and microscopic progress,” said Arne Krumsvik, a former media executive turned media academic (and my comrade-in-arms building NONA in its early days).

«In the same way that Buzzit is moving towards more traditional formats, the more traditional media is moving towards Buzzit. Social media skills must be increased, social media is important in the same way as newspaper distribution used to be important before,» said media columnist Sven Egil Omdal.

Buzzit.no (screengrab):

BuzzitScreengrab

Update 15.02.2015: Schibsted-owned VG joined the fray and launched Tldr.no a few days after this post was written. More about the launch here (in Norwegian)


Get your users hooked: How to design addictive products and services

Negative emotions are the most powerful inner trigger for habit-forming actions: «When we're depressed we go to Facebook. When we’re bored we go to YouTube. When we’re stuck, we Google it – these are all responses to internal triggers.»

So, how can we design for it?

The sentiment above belongs to behaviour design consultant and author Nir Eyal, who opened the show at this year’s Webdagene, an annual Norwegian web conference organised by Norwegian UX-company Netlife Research.

In his talk, Eyal went on to to provide a step-by-step guide to how to design what he calls «habit-forming products» (addictive is my term) – such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

At the start of the conference I instinctively started taking copious notes, but then I had to remind myself I was there to listen, as a paying member of the audience, not to report, and I promised myself to only blog about what really stuck, what really stood out for me after the conference was over (I've blogged more about the conference here, in Norwegian).

And Eyal's talk certainly gave me lots of food for thought.

During the talk he quoted Ian Bogust that «our technology is quite possible becoming the cigarettes of our time», admitting that designing habit-forming products is a form of manipulation, but saying we should use the psychological insights that allow us to create habit-forming design as a force for good.

You can check out the highlights from his talk on Slideshare here  or see his talk on video here.

At the start of the talk, I must admit I found myself wondering how far we’ve travelled from the days of Cluetrain (when social media very much were portrayed as tools for democracy, creating a new more democratic public sphere), to Gluetrain (an excellent parody on Cluetrain) to social media as some kind of addiction machines.

Was that development inevitable? Describing Eyal's book Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, Forbes writes:

«Making products habit-forming, and the behaviour design that makes it possible, has gone from being a nice-to-have to a need-to-have in the ultra-competitive world of apps and digital services. There are so many things screaming for users’ attention that only the things that they whisper to themselves about have a chance of sticking around for a while.»


Malmö, Limhamn, police violence and Facebook: How news find you anno 2014

I’ve been pondering how news find us anno 2014 for a while and will blog more in-depth about this later, but I just had a very interesting experience which illustrates how things are changing:

So, I catch up on the news stream from my friends on Facebook early in the morning, as I often do. I see an American friend who lives in Malmö, Sweden, but currently is vacationing in Portugal ask what this story on violence and Nazis in Limhamn, Malmö, filling up his FB-news feed is about, asking his friends to fill him in (which they do).

This makes me visit Vg.no and Nrk.no, the Norwegian news sites I think of as being the most likely places to be quick to cover breaking news.

Yet I find nothing, so I go back to reading Facebook – and lo and behold, a story on the demonstration and police violence in Limhamn finds me.

Published by Aftenposten.no, which wouldn’t normally be the first place I’d look for breaking news as I’ve sort of got Aftenposten.no down as better on analysis and in-depth stuff than on breaking news.     

So maybe things are changing at Aftenposten.no  also, as the news comapany recently (end of last year) nicked its top boss from Vg.no.

In either case, an anecdote which will inspire more thought.

It must be said though, that it might have read very differently had I been working in news (which I currently don’t), and had I not run out of coffee, which I had this morning, my first point of call might have been Swedish rather than Norwegian news sites.

In other words: Better go get some coffee.


On coming full circle

"You know, we really prefer to talk to people who’ve come full circle," a magazine journalist who interviewed me last summer told me (or something to the tune of this).

The story still made the cover of the magazine in question in September, but  at the time I had by no means come full circle, and have been pondering that concept at regular intervals ever since.

Do we ever come full circle, as in "arrive"  or "completely reverse your original position" while still alive? It seems to me that whenever I feel like I’ve come full circle in relation to one phase another phase starts – and more often than not they overlap and run parallel each other for a while.

At the time of the interview,  I’d just completed a stay at Sunnaas rehabilitation hospital, Norway’s largest specialised hospital in the field of medical rehabilitation, about 20 years too late.

A stay which took place less than two weeks after I’d moderated the keynote session at the annual conference of The Norwegian Online News Association, the organisation I co-founded and headed for several years.

This to me, felt full of contrasts and emblematic of my conflicting identities - or perhaps they’re just slightly conflicting to me. Because, as a former school-friend reminded me, I’m also the girl whose dog saved her life. I’ve used that phrase before, but it sums up so much – especially the gap in how people who know me from different parts of my life see me.

And this year (since last June/July) has really belonged to the girl whose dog saved her life. Not the commentator, journalist, blogger, science communicator or any of the professional identities I have held or hold (despite all the hours I’ve put in at work this year).

Sunnaas was a major turning point for me: At the time, it was perhaps the scariest, and probably the best thing I’d done in a long time. 

The Saturday before I left for Sunnaas, I had been photo copying parts of the documentation from the worst period in my life: 41 pages about the time immediately after my dog ​​saved me from certain death after I, as a  pedestrian, was hit by a car and left for dead: unconscious and in a critical condition - and of the gloomy forecasts the hospital doctors gave me when I started regaining consciousness at the hospital some time (about a week or so) later.

Those gloomy forecasts, which I interpreted as my life as I knew it being over at 17, have haunted me ever since, and I’ve spent most of my life since in a state of constant emergency, trying to prove those doctors wrong.

So confronting all of this, which I’d in some respects so effectively run away from for so many years, was very scary and challenging, but ultimately very rewarding. Because the doctors were wrong back then, 21 years ago. The thorough medical and neuropsychological examination at Sunnaas proved I’ve recovered and coped magnificently.

Except for some of my coping, or survival, strategies, that is.

Some of those, such as living in a constant state of emergency (which could also be dubbed stress addiction), are not so sustainable (to say the least).

So, even though the stay at Sunnaas lifted something big, heavy and soul-destroying from my shoulders, and the examination results were good, it only heralded the start of a lot of hard work. It definitely did not herald the end  of struggles - as Sunnaas provided me with a big to-do list regarding how to change my life (or those survival strategies which dominated it) around.

And even though I got top scores on my progress with that to-do list after my control stay at Sunnaas in February (I always work  hard at the things I dedicate myself to), that was not the end of that chapter either. Neither was any of the hard work I, and even my family,  put in the months since. Although I feel I’ve come a very long way,  I cannot say that I’ve come full circle even though some of the hardest work is done.

Being a journalist myself I do understand the quest, or desire for a story with a clear beginning and a clear end, and the appeal of a story about some sort of final victory or of coming full circle. Except that feeling of final victory in the story of my life keeps evading me, as does the clear beginning and end of various chapters.

"In the media we like black and white stories with obvious heroes and villains a cartoon-like script treatment of the issues ," my friend Tom Burroughes once said. And then there’s life: messy, complex and often non-linear (at least in terms of challenges and life lessons).

Actually, the best journalists do come close to describing it, and sometimes do manage to describe it perfectly, but it’s not run of the mill.

Neither, I suspect, are those necessarily the stories we would prefer to read if we’re honest. I know I at least would prefer for dramas to have clear and achievable solutions, and happy and finite endings. I’d prefer wars to end, policy struggles to be resolved successfully and for all people to beat their personal demons once and for all.

Likewise, I would like to be able to say that I’ve now finally and once and for all got rid of all the negative aspects of those deeply ingrained survival strategies and come full circle.

Instead, If I’m truthful , I’ve probably just come a bit further along the road less travelled…

NB: No new age meaning implied when I use that term, "the road less travelled". However, it is often said that the brain pathways of our habitual thinking and reactions easily can become "superhighways to hell", whereas changing habits is a bit like breaking new ground/creating new brain pathways that, at least to start off with, are narrow and cumbersome to walk. The allegory mentioned in Matthew 7:13-14, about the narrow vs the wide gate, springs to mind, even though I’m not religious.

NesoddenFerryFogFilter


Tyepad DDoS-attack: change of design, no change of heart

Finally picking up blogging here again, after a six month hiatus, regular readers might notice my blog has a new design (if you’re not all reading this blog via RSS-feed only).

The reason? April’s DDoS-attack on Typepad, which, as I wrote on Facebook was "a really interesting story - worth at least a blog post if not my blog was down".

On a superficial level, it prompted me to change my blog template as my former design template looked really weird, loading sidebars before main content, in the periods when Typepad was struggling to keep its blogs online/ starting to bring the blogs back online.

 But the DDoS-attack was of course interesting for several more profound reasons:

 1) On a macro level: if it had been Facebook an not Typepad suffering about a week of downtime it would have been on the front page of (all?) national newspapers. The way people talked about the downtime was indicative of both a) Typepad's dwindling influence & b) its decent customer service - the impressive amount of good will expressed by frustrated users=impressive)  

2) Have we truly come to this? Attempts at ransoming (almost-)major internet services with a DDoS-Attack?

3) On a micro level: this would have completely ruined my weekend six years ago, when I guess I was fairly addicted to blogging. As it happened, the DDoS-attack meant I finally got around to cleaning down that gas grill I've recently inherited and doing all sorts of other practical things.

You see, I had been planning to finally pick up blogging here again that weekend, it was Easter I believe, and a welcome holiday from a demanding life (work and stuff).  

Life’s demanded every little morsel of energy I could muster recently, involving a job I love and some other stuff which I might get around to blogging about eventually, so I’ve ended up being a somewhat passive consumer of social media as a result of it – using social media to relax (reading, surfing, listening) rather than contributing all that much myself.

So I was longing for some proper blogging time again, and Easter seemed to provide it – if only my blog hadn’t been down.

Sort of. That’s not entirely true as I do have a Norwegian Wordpress blog I could have used, where I mainly blog about more personal stuff, but the DDoS-attack on Typepad put me sufficiently off blogging that I got around to cleaning down that gas grill instead (while keeping a watch on the DDoS-attack via Twitter. So, I’m not entirely cured of  that slightly obsessive interest in blogging and all things internet-related, but my approach to social media seems to move in phases – a bit like life and my approach to other things).    

In fact, blogging seems a hard habit to break. During those weeks and months of non-blogging, I found myself mental blogging a lot – writing sketches for blog posts in my mind whenever I came across things I felt like, but didn’t find time to, blog about .

So this summer I’m hoping to do a bit of back blogging  as one of the most useful uses of my blog for me has always been as a backup brain /backup of my own mind, which, in light of the recent DDoS-attack, really should prompt me to find a way of creating a back up of my blog.

Especially since I’ve also been told that Typepad has messed up the coding of its blogs in a way which makes it really cumbersome and time-consuming to move a Typepad-blog (as opposed to e.g. a Wordpress-blog to a new blogging platform).  So any ideas on this, efficient ways to back up my blog, are very welcome.  

#backblogging


From journalist to factory worker

Food for thought from high profile Norwegian news presenter Odd Reider Solem (from interview with regional BT via Thor Bjarne Bore, in my hasty translation):

- You were one of the first journalists to graduate from DH Volda in 1973. What is the difference between being a journalist then and now?

- This is a big question I can say a lot about. Back then we evaluated all our broadcasts thoroughly. I was working for NRK Radio making radio reports that we put a lot of effort into. Now we just produce, as quickly and as much as possible in as short a time as possible. Journalism has become a factory where it is quantity and not quality that matters.

- What is the most dramatic broadcast you have contributed to in all these years?

- Oh, that is not an easy one to answer. I was on holiday 22 July 2011, but was called back on duty. I had to read out all the names of all those who were assassinated that day. That was an assignment I can never forget.

Full interview here (in New Norwegian)

See also my former colleague Martin's interviw with Solem for Journalisten.no in which he explains himself more in-depth and adds more nuance (in Norwegian).


New paywall for Norway's newspaper of record

Schibsted-owned Aftenposten raises the paywall. From 12pm today (about now) non-subscribers can only read eight online articles a week before they have to pay for online access.

Digital subscribers have to pay about £20 per month (with today's exchange rate). Most comments I've seen on the story so far are calling for a Spotify-solution that would allow you to subscribe to all Norwegian online newspapers (or at the very least Schibsted's Norwegian newspapers) for one price - akin to what Piano Media operates in various countries - instead of each news site raising separate paywalls.

See also (from 2012): Scandinavian media hit by paywall craze.

Screenshot of Aftenposten's paywall ("You have now read 8 free articles this week. To get unlimited access to Aftenposten you have to be a subscriber." First month for new subscribers: 1 krone (about 10 pence) ):

 

Aftenposten


Newspaper with hyperlocal Facebook success

Hyperlocal news stories, such as "New shelf at Tesco's", shared 50,000 times on Facebook in ten days - despite the news site producing them serving a muncipality of only 2000 and recording an average of 8000 daily unique users.

This story on local news site Salangen News (in Norwegian) is truly a fascinating read (and it doesn't translate too bad to English with Google Translate either).

The news site has recieved quite a bit of attention from national media in the wake of a new book, "Government Minister won cured ham (and other local news)" by comedians Atle Antonsen and Johan Golden, which quotes several news stories from Salangen News (NB: I've translated the supermarket's name, Prix, to a UK one, Tesco's for my UK readers)   

NyhyllePrix


Wenche Behring Breivik: The secret interviews and forthcoming books

Well, what did you know: While journalists all over the world unsuccessfully were chasing interviews with the mother of Norwegian soloterrorist Anders Behring Breivik, she was giving almost daily interviews to NRK's former Russia correspondent Marit Christensen.

That much was made clear in VG's interview with Christensen months ago (behind paywall). But it soon became clear that there had been a fallout between the two, and people close to the late Wenche Behring Breivik were threatening to take legal action to stop the book.

Yet today the book is here, due to be launched at a press conference at publisher Aschehoug's later today. And it turns out Wenche Behring Breivik gave another interview on her deathbed, this one to former war correspondent Åsne Seierstad, who is due to publish her book on the twin terrorattacks in a few weeks (additional reporting here)

Will we get to understand more about her son and what shaped him from all of this?

According to Anders Givæver, Christensen's book is really just as much, if not more, about Christensen and how she experienced meeting, interviewing, getting to know and falling out with Wenche Behring Breivik.

Should be interesting, must read both books. First reviews of Christensen's book:

VG: "A dirty broadside". Dagbladet: "This is not the best book that could have been written with Wenche Behring Breivik as a source. But it is the only one we have." NRK: "This is not the mother's fault"

Update 02.11.2013: Having read Christensen's book I found it painful, important - and rushed. The book could have done with more work and more thorugh editing, and yet it's a moving portrayal of a very painful, tragic life and a mother who has been shamed on many accounts in media stories while never before telling her side of the story.

I find that I agree to a large extent with Kjell Lars Berge's review for NRK though I'm not sure about his final conclusion: The mother's story is an important part of the jigsaw puzzle of understanding Norway's worst mass murderer, but it didn't really give me a clear answer as to who can or cannot be blamed for her son turning out the way he did. If anything, it just made me reflect more on how complex life can be, how many factors contribute to turning us into whatever we become...

 


22/7: The strangest (newspaper) memorial and a heart-warming social media campaign

Yesterday marked the two-year anniversary of the twin terror attack that killed 77 people in Oslo and on Utöya in 2011.

The terror of that day still feels unfathomable, surreal. To some extent, more so now than when the terrible events of the day way were unfolding. In the earlyish hours of the aftermath in 2011, at noon-time Saturday 23/7, I summed up some of the very early impressions for this newspaper analysis.

Today, there’s so much to say, and yet a few media-related things stand out amid all the things that feel too much to go into right now (the terrible losses, the slow progress of improving national security, the difficulties in preventing lone-wolf terrorism, all the implications etc):

  • The strangest newspaper memorial

For close to two years I’ve frequently walked past the strangest of 22/7-memorials.

In the mentioned analysis-piece I detail how huge sections of the glass wall of Norwegian newspaper VG, the one facing the Government headquarters where the bomb went off, shattered on 22/7.

What I didn’t mention was VG’s newspaper display stand, also facing the bomb site, which was just partially broken.

And for close to two years, until the end of last month, this damaged display stand, with the morning edition of VG on the 22 July - before the innocence of that warm summer day had been shattered – stood right outside VG’s main entrance.  

The broken display stand is a strange record of a morning of summer bliss and innocent silly season news that just barely survived the impact of the bomb blast, a moment of "normalcy", before all hell broke loose, frozen in time. And it remained there outside the newspaper entrance for close to two years:

Reminding every visitor of Norway’s most read newspaper for the last two years of that morning before those dreadful events and what happened later that day. A fact that is even more strange keeping in mind how newspapers dislike old news.

VG22JuliMonter2

At the end of June though, the display stand was temporarily moved across the street, closer to the ghost-like bomb-site and its bombed-out buildings which loom as another strange, uncomfortable kind of memorial of 22/7.

The newspaper display stand will however be removed permanently and turned into an art project, you can hear more about that (in English) in this video (if you skip the ad at the beginning).  

VG22JuliMonter
Photos by me, snapped with my mobile phone camera

  • A heart warming social media campaign

Logging on to Twitter last morning I was met by the hash tag #Venn22Juli (or #Friend22July ) – a bunch of Norwegian Twitterati offering people in need of it a friend, a coffee, a beer, someone to talk to, companionship during one of the many 22 July commemorations etc yesterday. Neat.

However, although I found room for some valuable reflections and briefely catching up with the various 22 July commemorations yesterday, I was busy with other stuff and generally find myself listening more than talking and participating online right now.

Still, I saw lots of talk about 22 July, lots of expressions of grief, offers of support etc on Twitter and Facebook – I didn’t see one 22 July-related story on Google+ yesterday.

That is kind of interesting, as 22 July was THE terror attack where G+ first made a difference and came into the limelight.

For my own part, the photos I took of all that shattered glass after the bomb went off was automatically uploaded to G+ from my Android phone, resulted in lots of media queries and I remember lots and lots of discussions about 22/7 in its immediate aftermath on G+.

VG22July

Now? I wonder…. Though it’s perhaps one of the least important puzzles regarding 22/7, I’m still curious as to what that implies for Google+...


The Internet hereby declared public

Meet the blogger who changed the law, sort of. Or whose case at least prompted Norwegian legislators to introduce legal amendments to allow for the Internet to be treated as a public place.

This story really, truly, beggars belief, but due to outdated computer systems Norwegian authorities have been unable to implement the updated version of the country’s penal code even though it was passed many years ago.

This means that for instance, Anders Behring Breivik, the terrorist behind the worst mass slaughter in modern Norwegian history, could not be sentenced under the terror paragraph as authorities have been unable to implement the updated penal code, which introduces a terror paragraph (I blogged more about this in 2011 here, in Norwegian).

But it also means judges were unable to send a controversial blogger to jail last summer for encouraging people on his blog to kill police officers, as – hang on – the internet, according to the old version of the penal code is not a public place (whereas in the updated version the authorities have been unable to implement the internet is). Read more about last summer’s verdict against the mentioned blogger here (in Norwegian, but this link deals with the legal considerations).

Luckily, that has propelled legislators to amend the relevant paragraph (§7) of the penal code they are stuck with until managing to implement the close to a decade old updated version of it. So now, even Norwegian law considers the internet to be a public place. Aftenposten has a witty comment on the implications here.

But I really needed to file this story to my blog archive of unbelievable but unfortunately true stories from our brave new media/IT-world, so I can look up the details easily whenever I marvel about the absurdity of it.

I interviewed the blogger in question in the aftermath of 22/7, he was then quite sympathetic to some of the things Breivik represented, but we chose to anonymise him as we were uncertain about his sanity in light of some of the things he said. That of course, is just a side note, the bigger, more important story is how outdated IT-structures (the police systems they are replacing run on Windows NT 4.0 !) seriously hamper police work and the outcome of trials - such as in this case, with the blogger who walked free because he made his threats online and not in print .

Btw, Vampus is right of course: even without this mess surrounding §7 of the penal code and IT-systems, it was never the case even in Norway that you could say whatever you liked online without potentially facing legal reprecussions. Recently another blogger has been sentenced for libel due to accusations made in a blog post, but I'm just blown by the absurdity of the above story.