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.


Welcome to the post-industrial journalistic age

Well, would you have believed: Just as you thought the media was becoming more industrialised than ever. Just as the steady stream of cost cuts, lay-offs, consolidation, online traffic partnerships and industrial scale copy-paste-steal practice popularly dubbed aggregation reached new heights.

Just as you thought the media was looking more and more as an electronic herd stuck on the treadmill of doom: 

The new media revival, the post-industrial journalistic age finally arrives. It's just that, as with most future paradigms about to become present ones, the implementation is unevenly distributed. 

The end of big (media) arrives, and news organisations move from brands to platforms for talent (Nieman Journalism lab), and we can finally glimpse what newsroom organisation in a post-industrial journalistic age will loook like (Emily Bell).

One could have been mistaken for writing this development down to how social media, and particularly blogs, forever changed publishing and enabled a revolution in personal brand building - allowing everyone with the skill and inclination to build his or her individual super brand and loyal community.

Except, by now the blog is long dead, The New York Times commits blogicide and The New Republic publishes the umpteenth eulogy for the blog in the history of blogging.  

Pardon me if I sound sarcastic, I actually didn't set out to be: When I started writing this blog post I just planned to collect some really interesting links in one place as a back up for my brain - in true, traditional link blogging style.

But I'm struck by the many ironies and paradoxes here, even if I do think there's lots of thoughts worth pondering in the two first posts I link to.

I'm not so sure about the third: It describes an interesting trend, but I don't think I agree with the conclusions.

I'm more inclined to agree with Björn Staerk (aka Bearstrong), who in a recent history of Norwegian blogging (described here) writes something like this (I'm paraphrasing him slightly):

Personally, I feel that because everything has become blog, nothing is blog, and as a result we should get rid of the word entirely... The blog is dead because today everything online is streams of information, and everything is user friendly. 

And where does that leave the media?

The media has certainly become more blog-like in several respects, and absorbed both some of blogging's best practices and the blogworld's best bloggers (such as Björn Staerk, whom Aftenposten has had the wisdom to employ as a columnist).

Perhaps, and at the moment it certainly looks like, that might lead to a future where media acts as a platform for individual brands and talented curators. Or a future where big media uses the pull of its mass audience to act as a platform for niche sites, entering into partnerships with one-topic-sites on issues ranging from politics to technology, as well as specialist bloggers, rather than employing anything but a skeleton staff itself. 

What do you think?

As implied above, I didn't set out to write this post because I have all the answers here, but these are trends I've found myself pondering recently...

See also:


On bringing about real change (or using disruption management to create innovation)

"You can’t bring about innovation with disruption," a friend of mine likes to say. Luckily, I’ve also gleamed some valuable insights on exactly how to go about changing what I myself like to call dysfunctional organisations from her, or how to disrupt them enough to bring about real innovation.

But first a bit of background for why I’m blogging this post now: Some time ago I was invited to manage the Twitter-account of Corporate Rebels in week 12 this year, in other words the week now coming to an end. Corporate who? You can read more about the concept here, or the short version here.

Their starting point:

"Our organizations no longer serve our needs. They cannot keep pace with a high-velocity, hyper-connected world. They no longer can do what we need them to do. Change is required."

I couldn’t agree more, but how do you bring about the needed change?

 As someone who’s spent most of her professional life working for legacy media, I know that change doesn’t come easy – a fact I’ve blogged about at numerous times, most recently (and with a positive slant) in this post on how to transition from legacy media culture to the digital world.

Now it must be said I had no idea how insanely short on time and focus outside of work I’d be this week (and how much in need of the vacation I started yesterday) when I accepted the challenge to manage @CorporateRebels in week 12. But, now  that my much needed vacation has finally arrived, it offers me the opportunity (and much needed impetus) to sit down and write that post I’ve long been contemplating on disruption management.

As so many good things in life, it started with a great conversation: This particular conversation took place in London in 2010, while visiting my friend Adriana Lukas (who, as it happens, was the woman who set up this very blog for me and told me to get blogging back in 2005). Adriana is, in Jackie Danicki’s words, "a professional disruptor" and the topic for our conversation that evening, was Adriana’s recent thoughts on what she coined ”disruption management”.

In Adriana’s words (via this blog post by Jackie): "Disruption is not about destruction. It’s about putting things off-balance in order to change them, so you can sneak something new and better in between the cracks."

Here’s how (again, in Adriana’s words, as she explains this much better herself than I do):

The challenge for anyone looking to change the old ways is to:

  • avoid existing and mostly dysfunctional processes
  • connect to the outside where the shifts are being defined
  • bring the change inside and apply it to their sphere of influence
  • find people to set up a loose and cross-functional network of allies who end up building alternative ways

The first three apply to those who have had their OFM. The forth is the hardest and involves co-operation, conversations, reaching out and most of all willingness to face the stigma of a disruptor. There rarely is innovation without disruption…

 This, in short, is the recipe for disruption management if I’ve understood Adriana correctly. She also has this very useful (and funny) post on what kind of persons within any organisation who might be persuaded to become your allies in bringing about change.

After having that late night conversation with Adriana about disruption management back in January 2010, it felt like I had found an important, missing link that tied so much of what I had been thinking about the previous few years together.

See, I’ve always felt that companies, and especially media companies, are very much like more or less dysfunctional families (please note, I say this with almost as much love as I have for my own weird and wonderful family), and I’ve sometimes observed how dysfunctional managers create co-dependent employees. In general,  I’d long been contemplating how there's so much that is true about individual psychology that's also true about companies: "As above, so below"  - macro cosmos mirrors micro cosmos.

And journalism has at times felt like one of the most dysfunctional industries ever, dysfunction being the norm and not the exception - something that's even eulogised at times. As a journalist, hearing eulogies like this about other media folks is not uncommon: "He was a right old crook and bastard, mercurial and just plain impossible at times, a heavy drinker whose wife long since left him: But he was a hell of a journalist to the end of his times". Crook, bastard and heavy drinker often being honorary words when used by journalists and editors about journalists and editors.

This is a type of mythology I’ve always detested, and why I’ve repeatedly talked about how journalism needs new heroes, new myths: And as I’m passionate about the opportunities online media holds for transforming and expanding journalism, I’ve often talked about the way new online tools and services can help bring about more open, more transparent, more social, more informed, more service-oriented journalism - and sought to point to "heroes" and positive "myths" from that field.

It’s easy to point out how tools such as Twitter of Google Maps have created new opportunities for lazy journalism and celebrity stalking, but there’s also tons of examples on how such tools have created a more transparent, more informed journalism that wasn’t quite possible in the same way before.

So when you bring the change new tools represents into media organisations, it changes journalism as well. Also, if you can identify, educated and network the people who have the passion, and the skills or willingness to learn them, for bringing about change, that can also help bring about new solutions, new alliances – and affect change. Which all, might help bring about small, loosely organised, doses of disruption management, though perhaps not enough? Perhaps, the change is only incremental as the old school still is in charge?  (Kevin has posted some reflections related to this here)

Again, I do know how hard it can be, or seem, to bring about substantial change in the industry I’m most familiar with as we’re always chasing deadlines, always fighting the daily chaos (which I written about here, here, here and here – to mention a few posts). So these tips come in handy:

A few tips for those who find themselves in a situation where the organisation is their worst enemy:

  1. Don’t try to change the system from within – i.e. trying to bring a change by going through established and outdated processes.
  2. Find people inside the organisation who understand both how important and good such change is and the original reason behind processes that are stopping it.
  3. Increase their knowledge and understanding of what you are trying to bring about, share tools, passion, ideas, frustrations.
  4. Gradually connect these people in a network that will amplify their ability to make things happen ‘under the radar’, i.e. bypassing the dysfunctional processes and in effect creating alternative ways of doing things.
  5. Make sure the ‘alternative ways’ are not grabbed by the system’s people and turned into their version of inflexible and ossified processes.
  6. Rinse, lather and repeat – 2 or 3 times helps but once already feels good.
  7. Wave good bye to ‘business cases’ and say hello to ‘case studies’ i.e. ‘this is how we have done it and all we want is to enable everyone else to do something similar if they wish’.

This, to my mind, is brilliant advice, and applies not only to companies but to all kinds of organisations. This, I think, is also why all kinds of networks of change makers, change hungry or change curious people, such as Norwegian Online News Association and Girl Geek Dinners, can be so powerful when it comes to connecting the right people with each other and with powerful ideas…


Book launch, blogging and content analysis

Add meetings, presentations and report-writing that title pretty much sums up my week.It's been a week with a slightly dizzying pace, very intense, but, although I started it in the doctor's office, I got a lot of important things done, learnt some valuable new things and received some good news.

At work, I was very pleased to attend the first of three full-day workshops I've organised on web content analysis, expertly held by Netlife Research - which turned out to be extremly useful, and taught me many valuable things about our content and how various parts of the organisation approach it.

At this stage I should perhaps explain that I'm writing this post as much for myself as anybody else, because I was so nackered at the end of this week I really have to remind myself about all the good things it contained.

In addition to learning the secrets of web content analysis, I was delighted to learn that an author-to-be I've been working with for close to two years now, finally has signed a book contract with a publishing house I work for. To say "worked with" is perhaps a bit of an overstatement, but this project all started with a features idea I had back in August 2011 or so, and we've talked about the project and project brief, which quickly evolved into a book idea, for about a year now. Perhaps needless to say, I think it may turn into a great book - and a very important one.

And then there was that anthology on Norwegian blogging I mentioned here recently, which was launched on Tuesday - another project long in the making - with a big debate on the future of blogging, which I moderated.

I should be over the moon about all this, as those two book-related bits of "completed" are kind of milestones, but right now I'm just looking forward to a long Easter holiday - when I might even find some time to blog some reflections from that before-mentioned debate - and more web content analysis' workshops coming up this week.

Oh, and I'm looking forward to all the good books I plan to read this Easter (this weekend saw me mid-way through "The Secrets of the Lazarus Club", an uncomplicated, riveting crime novel set in London in the 1850s, exactly what I needed after a week like this).

In the meantime, here's a hard copy of that book on blogging:

GiMegEnSceneBok


Paywall success for "Ål inclusive"

After introducing a "hard" paywall in November 2011, tiny local newspaper Hallingdölen in Ål, Norway, boasts  of its best financial year ever in 2012.

The name of its businessmodel? "Ål inclusive" (the term refers to how only paying subscribers can access the paper on all platforms).

Fascinating. And if you know that "betalingsmur" is Norwegian for paywall, Google does a half-decent job if you try running this Kampanje-piece on the story through Google translate.

As I wrote about for Journalism.co.uk, Scandinavian media was hit by a bit of a paywall craze last year, so a lot of people will be watching this and the early results from other recent paywall-projects very closely. Hallingdölen also claims, in the before-mentioned article, to have been the inspiration for another recent and much talked about paywall-project, that of Norwegian regional Faedrelandsvennen (which I blogged about here).

What makes this extra interesting, is that this story comes in the same week as Facebook introduced it latest revamp and with re-newed vigour made clear its ambitions to become "the world's best personal" newspaper - or position itself as your (hyper)local newspaper if you like.

So where does this leave local newspapers long-term? How long before Facebook will conquer the (hyper)local ad market? Or will Facebook's hübris and blantant disregard for its users privacy have killed it off before it ever can conquer such a positon in a rural part of a country on the outskirts of the world such as Norway (albeit a country with a very impressive broadband penetration)?   


New Book: A history of Norwegian blogging

Here's a book I just discovered is hot off the press today, a book I've been working as a bit of a backstage assistant for, and am delighted to finally see published.

It's a history of Norwegian blogging, and the book's title roughly translates to something like "Give me a stage! Norwegian blog history - ten years of terror, trauma and today's outfit".

The book is an anthology where prominent Norwegian bloggers charts this history in personal essays, focusing on how blogging changed their own lives and what wider impact it has had. More about the book here, in Norwegian. And the launch is set for next Tuesday, more about that event here (also in Norwegian): 

 

GiMegEnScene




Blogging just landed me a new place to live - hence the radiosilence

This might be old news if you follow me on any of my Norwegian social media profiles, but I thought I'd take a few minutes to explain the radio silence on this blog last month:

I was tired of my search for a nice place to rent dragging on and on, wrote a blog post about the flat search, the post got reweeted by lots of helpful souls - and the process landed me the place where I now live.

Success :-)

Except moving is a true nightmare. I worry way too much about everything that may go wrong along the way, and find it hard to stop worrying until everyting is done and dusted.

I saw this place for the first time end of January, signed the contract mid-Feburary, and has been moving ever since next to a full-time job and other work committments. I'm delighted with my new home and how I came to live here, but I've only just managed to unpack all my books (well, save one box) this weekend.

I'll admit I've had a strong inkling to only share lots of house- and moving related stuff online the last few weeks, but thought I'd better abstain for the most part (instead I'm afraid my colleagues have borne the brunt of this temporary obsession).

I hope to get back to blogging about media related stuff, and an exciting book launch coming up, next week.

In the meantime I'm very proud of this mess as these boxes are all empty (finally) and ready to be put away in storage:

Boxes


50 blogs by journalists, for journalists

Now, here’s a really pleasant surprise which really made my day on Thursday: This blog is included on Journalism.co.uk’s terrific list of 50 blogs by journalists, for journalists.

The news reached me when I was at the mercy of a very angry sinus infection, after having covered a ministerial visit to a building site on a freezing Monday afternoon, and I wasn’t even aware of the list being put together – so it was an extra pleasant surprise. 

It must be said though, that this blog never did have journalists as its specific target group.

It just sort of ended up rather quickly as blog on information, social media, traditional media, media acquisitions, journalism and all those sort of things.

Over the years it has very much shaped my career and work, it was almost like this blog took on a life on its own –  by the way it revealed me to be a media nerd, shaped my public persona and created all sorts of wonderful job offers and career avenues for me.

That is a major reason why these days I constantly regret not finding time to blog more here – I write for three different blogs, for a quite a while I was even paid to write a forth one for Norway’s most read news site, and at the moment I’m involved with quite a few book projects next to a very rewarding, full-time job.

Incidentally, one such project is a history of Norwegian blogging, an anthology, which is due to be published in March - so I've found myself reflecting a lot on my personal blogging history recently (I first got acquainted with blogs when I was doing work experience for a print newspaper close to Fleet Street in 2002, and it's so ironic to look back and realise that blogs ended up being much more helpful for my media career than that stint of work experience. I certainly had no idea it would turn out like this at the time).

These days though, I must admit I do more mental blogging than actual blogging. I have all these blog posts almost fully written up in my mind – I just need to find the time to actually sit down and do the writing. I keep promising myself I will do. In the meantime, it seems I’ve at least seen the end of that sinus infection. That’s a start, I guess.


HMV, Blockbuster, Jessops & disintermediation anno 2013

A post about the recent bankruptcies of high street chains HMV, Blockbuster and Jessops - brands which holds a lot of memories with me - made me think back to a a favourite video which bears revisiting.

"Where-ever there is mediation there will be disruption. This is not just the lesson of an economic downturn - it is the structural reality of the networked world - of an Open Economy... The web disintermediates - and retail is mediation," wrote David Cushman following the recent collapse of these household names.

That post, or maybe it was HMV's collapse, I don't quite remember, reminded me of the excellent "Day of the Longtail", which I think I came across in 2006 or thereabouts via Adriana. Back then it was a feeling that this kind of disitermediation was imminent, but it has been a slow, drawn-out process which has far from come to it's end. In either case, the video is worth revisiting:

 


Crowdsourced media accountability - in 20012, 2013 and beyond

What if readers could just add a plugin to their browsers and instantly correct factual or grammatical errors on various news sites? Would they bother? Would news sites ever welcome such an innovation and use it to correct their content? Well, it does exist....

I know at least one former editor of mine whom I’d suspect would relish a tool like this, which would effectively enable him to put a grid over a news site and suggest corrections for any errors, grammatical or factual, in red print – almost like correcting paper pages with a red pen.

I was reminded of this innovation when I attended the Online News Association’s annual conference in San Francisco in September 20012, and media analyst Amy Webb talked about the top ten tech trends for 2012 (I’ve blogged about this talk here, albeit in Norwegian).

The first trend she singled out was #Verification, predicting the emergence on tools and systems bent on verifying content as a result of consumers are getting more sceptical. She even asked, rhetorically: ”What if there was a way to grade the trustworthiness of journalists?”

Well, this is not quite a tool to grade trustworthiness, but it is a tool its masterminds, Tobias Reitz and Kersten A. Riechers, dub a tool to facilitate crowdsourced media accountability.

They believe errors these days spread massively and quickly, like an electronic wildfire, in part due to social media such as Twitter & Facebook, and due to cost cutting in the newsrooms and the demand to do more with less, in addition to the emphasis on speed, they feel we have reason to believe errors happen more and more frequently.

So they invented this tool, called ”Corrigo”, allowing user annotation of news articles, based on their diploma thesis in online journalism.

Corrigo is browser plugin, and people do have to download it, but it helps you flag and correct factual errors, missing links and types in online news articles. With the plugin you can highlight sentences that contain errors. As a publisher you can click on the yellow line on the top of the site to see if there’s anything the Corrigo community wants to tell you.

Corrigo's vision is to fight haste and paste, and if you wonder if parts of an article is copied from a press release, you can check that straight away.

Now, I must admit I got acquainted with Corrigo while listening to Tobias and Kersten talk about it when attending a small media bloggers conference in Bristol as far back as August. So I don’t know if its inventors have forged any partnerships with media organisations since then.

Unfortunately, I picked up a bad strep infection on the way home form Bristol, which put me in bed for two weeks, and then work and life’s been moving at such a frantic pace since I got well that I’ve had no time to blog about it until now.

But it’s a fascinating concept and I’m curious to learn how it would work for a online media organisation and what kind of challenges they might face using it.

I do know, and did mention to Jude Townend, who was there blogging from the conference, that Schibsted-owned VG, a former client, has implemented its own kind of ”crowdsourced media accountability” measure - though very different from Corrigo.

What VG has done is to advertise for people who would serve voluntarily as proofreaders for its news site, which is Norway’s most read. From those who replied to that call they’ve chosen 100 proofreaders, many of them retired teachers, who voluntarily proofread VG.no’s articles.

The proofreading they do is not visible to the readers, but as a journalist you will get an email, or more, from the proofreaders if there are any grammatical errors in your articles. And the number of errors corrected in various journalists’ articles will show up in VG’s internal statistics – as a journalist those stats will enable you to see how many people read your article(s) that day (unique visitors), how many errors were corrected, how many likes it or they received on Facebook etc.

Which is a different way of doing things altogether than what Corrigo offers, but still an interesting and very efficient one. In either case, it’s really interesting to see innovations like these come about and how they work.

Another verification tool for a very different purpose that Amy Webb mentioned in her before mentioned talk in San Francisco, was the Super PAC app – which works much like Shazam, just that it’s for political ads and not for music. The user holds the phone up to a political ad while it's playing to collect information about the ad's funding and other tidbits. That sounds useful, though I’m curious as to how well such an app can work.

In either case, limiting tech trends to such and such a year is rarely an accurate practice – one or more tends tend to be big one year, but more often than not these trends will tend to stretch over many years. And what many experts single out as a trend one year, very often turns into something more like a seed which rather gradually blossom into full bloom, often stretching over many years – sometimes even a decade or more.

So I for one am very much looking forward to see more of these innovations in verification- and crowdsourced verification, correction and accountability tools in 2013 and beyond as well...

A bit more on Corrigo from the founders: