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Rainy days in Brighton

Did I bring an umbrella? Nah, wouldn't have been much use in the wind anyway. A raincoat? Don't own one. Wellingtons? Would've taken up too much of my suitcase...

But Brighton is pretty awesome on rainy days as well: especially when you can sit, safe behind the windows, with your laptop, looking out on the turbulent sea. The storms you get in Brighton are quite unparaIleled my third cousin, who went to a boarding school down here some 30 years ago, often says, but when I lived here, ten years ago, storms were rare, and if it rained it was mostly just a drizzle.


I could go down on the beach, to the Fortune of War, a pub, which' interior gives you the feeling of sitting in a ship, and watch the waves hit the shore (picture below from sunny yesterday, a marvellous day in between two gloomy ones), or make it over to the Grand for some proper afternoon tea.


In the end I opted for the latter: a pleasant walk down memory lane, crap service.


Storm over journalist who joined activists on the barricades

A row has erupted over the journalist who took part in the recent rioting in Copenhagen. His editor has defended and praised the hack's journalistic qualities, while some of his colleagues at Danish freesheet Nyhedsavisen are less than impressed (via

After Jyllands-Posten's Peter Ernstved Rasmussen berated the journalist in question, and among other things called him a 'militant', his editor, Simon Andersen, mounted a passionate blog defence for the stone-throwing journalist (in Danish). Here's a translated excerpt:

René Fredensborg's reporting is norm breaking, innovative and unique. No other reporter in Denmark has been able to give newspaper readers such a shockingly intimate and insightful description of what goes on in the middle of the 'war zones' during the civil unrest which rocked Copenhagen in recent months. No one. While Peter Ernstved Rasmussen and his pretty colleagues have sought shelter among the police, René has crawled over walls, got glass in his eyes and paint on his clothes, he has stood side by side with the city's biggest violence psychopaths. He has looked after his job. Delivered first class journalism with a style that puts him among his generation's best writers....

However, Andersen's praise has enraged some of Fredensborg's fellow hacks, who voiced their strong disapproval in another blog post (one has to give Nyhedsavisen some credit for lively debates, even among their own rank, in the paper's blogs). A short translated excerpt :

René Fredensborg chose, not only to break the law, he chose to become a part of the story. On the activists' side. In doing so, he broke two of the most fundamental rules of journalism... We have to ask ourselves, how are the readers to take Nyhedsavisen seriously, how are they to believe in what the paper writes, when we allow a journalist who so clearly is a part of the story to cover it?

Facebook Fever: do you protect your sources better in the bar?

Are journalists shielding the identity of their sources more by taking them out for a beer, especially in a see and be seen place such as a press club, than by adding them as friends on Facebook? That was one of the key questions Thursday's debate about "Facebook: friend or foe", organised by the Oslo chapel of Norway's journalist union, boiled down to.

'In the case of Facebook, we are presented with two conflicting virtues: the need to protect our sources and the value of being transparent,' said Arne Jensen of the Norwegian Editor's Association, one of the two panellists of the evening. 'Facebook works as an overview of contacts more than anything else, it's not a map of personal relations. It's not any better if I have a pint of beer with a VG journalist or if I add him or her as friend on Facebook,' said John Christian Elden, the second panellist, a well-known barrister whose Facebook connection to glamour model Ayalar and others were 'exposed' in Dagbladet's recent 'undercover investigation'.

It was funny kind of evening: the press club was packed, and there was a lot if buzz about who were Facebook-friends with who, how long they had been there, and how many 'friends' they had. Neither of the two panellists were opposed to journalists using Facebook: both, as well as the chair of the debate, had Facebook profiles, so the strongest opposition came from the audience:

'Is it really okay to post your contact book online? What about protecting your sources? On many occasions you need to take a beer somewhere out of the limelight,' said Trygve Aas Olsen, editor of trade journal Journalisten. He added: 'What if the boss of a whistleblower logs onto Facebook and finds evidence, or evidence enough to suspect, that this person is the source of the story?'

'Well, if he hits the town, and especially the press club, he'll see lots of journalists drinking with their sources, said Sigvald Sveinbjörnsson, news editor of business news site NA24, sardonically. He found it strange that the organisers had managed to fill up the entire press club to discuss Facebook, while a lot of journalists for a long time had had a substantial share of their contacts on MSN messenger.

'Aren't you worried about how you can be suspected of being a source because you're friends with someone on Facebook, if people can think you are the source from a closed court hearing?' the chair of the debate asked Elden. ' Well, they think so anyway,' was Elden's laconic reply.

'I think it's important to realise that just because we face a new reality, journalists won't abandon their reason,' said Jensen: 'Any innovation that eases communication between people is positive. We have to have that as the starting point and then consider problematic aspects as they occur. Every new communication technology through history has been met with calls for regulation.'

If you have powerful friends as your real friends it's not problematic if you reveal this on Facebook, quite the contrary. But on Facebook you lack the nuanciation: you're either a friend or not, not an acquaintance or graded according to how close a friend. If you get the impression that Elden is a buddy of the people who cover his cases – then you get a credibility problem.'

'You have to be conscious of what you post online, said Elden: 'You shouldn't post information you wouldn't be comfortable with putting up on the wall of your local supermarket. We're currently seeing that information posted on Facebook becomes the basis for many a story in the gossip press, in Se&Hör etc [publications equivalent to Now, Hello, News of the World]

However, using Facebook as a source for stories should perhaps raise a question or two, especially when we know that all the people who've befriended the well-reputed Norwegian foreign correspondent Hans Willhelm Steinfeldt on Facebook has befriended an impostor, someone asserted.

Which brought us to the fact that Per Edgar Kokkvold, secretary of the Press Association, has said that journalists should not interview people they have as friends on Facebook. To which Jensen replied: 'Kokkvod is very close to press ethics, and very far away from Facebook.'

Now, Kokkvold is a sensible man on most issues to do with press ethics, but this post from Lene Johansen, a close friend, really puts it all in perspective:

The secretary of the Norwegian Press Association, Per Edgar Kokkvold is on the warpath: Real journalists aren't on Facebook, because we all know that real journalists get a dog if they want a friend... You see, when Kokkvold was the age of the people he is now criticizing for being reporters and being on Facebook, reporters used a non-digital Facebook. This forum is called Tostrup Kjeller'n and is a closed private club in Oslo where you have to have a press card, or a membership bestowed by the owner, to get in [not the case anymore, think the admittance card disappeared somewhere between the introduction of Norway's ban on smoking in bars and the move to a new location]

That was, and still is, where members of Norwegian industry and politics whispered in the ears of reporters. That’s where older male reporters picked up the young female politicians and reporters they would bed. That’s where the elites would be able to network...

First Montgomery, then Berlusconi – Murdoch or Forbes next?

Only Berlusconi or Murdoch could have received worse press than former Mirror-boss David Montgomery, wrote Börsen, the Danish financial daily, sometime at the height of the Orkla-Mecom debacle which saw former Orkla Media, the Scandinavian based newspaper group, sold to Montgomery's British investment vehicle Mecom.

Well, wouldn't you know, foreign media moguls seem to be moving in on Scandinavian media from all directions these days. After Spanish Telefonica agreed to sell Endemol, the international TV-production company, to a consortium that includes Berlusconi's Mediaset last week, the former Italian prime minister looks set to join Schibsted in the boardroom of Nordic TV-production company Metronome.

Those damn foreigners
With all the outcry over the prospect of having a foreigner like Montgomery own Norwegian and Danish papers, and bring those dreaded British newspaper values to a Scandinavian media company, one would have thought that the arrival of an Italian media mogul, accused of sleaze, corruption and worse, would cause a stir, but, perhaps because the deal still is subject to regulatory approval, the usual suspects have refrained from commenting.

Not a word so far from the great worrier Trond Giske, Norway's culture minister, about his concern for Italian entertainment values seeping into the nation's beloved soap operas. But then, Giske has made it clear that it is infotainment, not entertainment he's worried about, or perhaps that should be shielding infotainment from entertainment.

Murdoch listens, will Forbes pay up?
Meanwhile, Schibsted's CEO was recently invited to Murdoch's digital future conference to talk about Schibsted's successful online transition, but if Murdoch was impressed by what he heard, Kjell Aamot, Schibsted's CEO certainly had some reservations about parts of Murdoch's online strategy. The Murdoch connection, however, is established, and this picture even shows a striking resemblance between the two media execs.

And if Murdoch is content to praise the lessons of Schibsted's CEO, Steve Forbes seems prepared to put his money where his mouth is, at least if we should believe yesterday's reports from Schibsted-owned E24. When asked by E24's reporter if Schibsted was an interesting acquistion object for the American media mogul, he answered: "I'm interested in everything I can get for a good price". The reporter did add, however, that the company's ownership structure would make an acquisition complicated, and, with the recent buzz around its online successes, I'm doubtful of how 'good' a price tag Forbes could secure.

Schibsted's CEO questions Murdoch's acquisition of MySpace

While writing about Norway's recent Facebook Fever, I was reminded of one part the presentation of Norwegian media group Schibsted's 1st quarter results that really stood out for me, which, racing from one job to another as I was, I had no time to blog right there and then:

- In only eight months, Norwegian tabloid VG built what is today the country's biggest social networking site with more than 300,00 users, said Kjell Aamot, CEO of VG's parent company Schibsted, when he presented the media group's 1st quarter results earlier this month.


"When you see what we achieved in such a short span of time with two employees and relatively limited resources, it makes you question Murdoch's acquisition," he said, and added that half (!) of VG's traffic today comes from VG's social networking site, Nettby. 'Obviously, this is something Schibsted will be doing more of,' said Aamot.

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you might remember that I've been curious about how much of the traffic to Norwegian tabloids VG and Dagbladet, is generated by their social networks, readers' blogs etc. Therefore, last time I looked at this, I only looked at unique visitors (UV) to the different sub sections of the online papers. Now the number of UVs for Nettby is radically improved in the three months past (daily updates here), but the fact that half - or at least half, as some guys at VG Nett told me - of the news site's page impressions comes from its social networking site seems to support the recent social networking strategy of certain corporate players, like Cisco and Reuters.

Of course, considering the rapid growth of Facebook, some might say that Nettby's quick success only goes to show how fickle social network trends are, but, as they would, representatives from VG/Nettby have denied that Facebook is a threat to Nettby, arguing that the average age profile of the latter is younger than that of the former.

Facebook Fever

It's been almost impossible to read a paper or news site in Norway without coming across a story about Facebook these last few weeks, so here's a quick look at the key headlines of this recent media obsession:

Propaganda reports that Norway is the European country with the highest proportion of the population on Facebook: over 170,000 Norwegians, or 3% of the population have a Facebook profile. The same media site found that 519 articles about Facebook had been published in Norwegian media since 2005, about 450 (!) of them since the beginning of April. The Norwegian Press Union says it's sceptical to the way Norwegian journalists are exposing their relationships to their sources by befriending them on Facebook, and questions are raised over how several Norwegian journalists are 'facebook friends' with politicians (links via jill/txt)

The media frenzy even gave birth to the big Facebook conspiracy the other week. In the ultimate undercover investigation, Norwegian tabloid Dagbladet revealed the Facebook friends of the rich, powerful and/or famous (a little bird whispered to me that Dagbladet has a particularly large faction of journalists lurking on Facebook, so beware) :



This, perhaps to be expected, is also what the nation's 'Fleet Street' journalists will be discussing at the press club on Thursday: "Facebook: friend or foe?" Can journalists maintain their integrity when they expose all their friends and sources online? These days the press club has even discarded the required membership cards I kept loosing, so I assume the debate will be open...

Disclosure (23/5): unexpectedly, an op-ed I wrote for DN (behind subscription wall) on the increased use of social networks for commercial and political purposes was published the same day I posted this.

On bad moods and blogging

Spent today trying to figure out what I did with my money last year so I could hand in my accounts for 2006. Swallowed the bitter pill and decided to cut my losses with a client who's defaulted on his payment promises, almost bankrupting me in the process, on Friday: just get what I could get and focus on all fun and exciting work things that require my attention. Why is it I can't bring myself to blog when I'm in a bad mood?

Blogs: a terrible one-way street channel of communication

Hans Kullin has generously blogged his notes from a debate on 'citizen journalism – threat or opportunity', hosted by the Swedish journalist union, and once again one of those issues where parts of the Swedish press is seriously confused raised its ugly (or ridiculous) head: the controversy over Sweden's blogging foreign minister, who has been likened to Hugo Chavez for using a 'one-way street' channel of communication.

Kullin reports: Pnina Yavari Molin from the new media section of Swedish tabloid Expressen "was worried that journalists are losing their 'monopoly' as opinion leaders and told of an example from Göteborgs-Posten where Sweden's foreign minister Carl Bildt refused to answer questions from a journalist and instead wrote a comment to the article on the site [his blog]."

I guess that is somewhat reminiscent of the recent debate about A-list bloggers who'd rather blog answers to journalists' question, or conduct the interviews via email. Should disintermediation be the sole privilege of bloggers?

A few interesting (media) links from this past week

Food for thought...

Californian newspaper outsources covering city hall - to India! (via Editor&Publisher)

Newspapers use open-source software to engage readers online (via A growing number of newspapers are turning to open-source software Drupal, in the race to build engaging news websites.

Craig Newmark: This is a time of creative destruction (via Editor&Pulisher) Newmark told an all-too-knowing audience at Newspaper Association of America's annual convention that this is a time of "creative destruction" and that he has a "great deal of sympathy for people who run the printing presses. They are screwed." It's not that journalism is becoming obsolete; rather the delivery methods are changing: "Even the kids realize news is important. The problem is paper is too expensive," he said.

Shift happens - powerful slide show about our changing world Originally entitled Globalisation and the Information age (via JP Rangaswami)

Which are closest to journalism: blogs, twitter, social networks? I think journalism itself is a dated concept. We are now in the world of conversation. We are talking to ourselves...

P J O'Rourke on Internet and Adam Smith:
I wonder if the know-it-alls at Wikipedia realize that the Internet was fully described and completely understood more than 200 years ago by Adam Smith...

Contrarian viewpoint on the future of newspapers from Lightspeed Venture Capital (via David Black)
I don’t think that news has become a commodity because newspapers make it free. Rather, I think that news is free because its a commodity. In a world of wire news, where you read the story hardly matters.... The important thing that allows papers like the WSJ, and like the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, to continue to charge for subscription is that the content that they have is NOT a commodity. The journal covers business news to a depth and breadth that no other US paper does. It adds insight and analysis. What you read in the journal you often CAN’T read elsewhere. Similarly, I imagine that readers/subscribers of the Democrat-Gazette online are not turning to it for news on Iraq or the election, or topics that are well covered elsewhere, but rather news about local issues in Little Rock and in Arkansas that are NOT covered elsewhere. Its the local paper’s coverage of local news that allows it to hold its audience - not its coverage of commodity news.

The Changing Role of Journalists in a World Where Everyone Can Publish

There's a lot of media buzz around citizen journalism these days : some see it as cheap or free labour lowering the standards of journalism, others as a vital tool to reengage a disengaged audience – leveling the playing field in the process.

In her White paper for the Freedom of Expression Project, social software consultant Suw Charman looks at how citizen journalism is changing the face of news: "Unlike some, I don't think that citizen journalism is going to replace traditional journalism, but rather that journalists are going to have to adapt to take into account the needs of not just their readers, but also their community and the citizen journalists alongside whom they work," she says.

Here's some of my favourite quotes from the White paper, but there's lots of interesting stuff here, so go read the whole piece:

...We have plenty of information. What is scarce is attention..

...Algorithmic filters can only ever be a small part of the story. We need human beings to act as curators of information, to help us understand the wider context of the story, provide analysis, make connections, and explain complex stories using metaphor or analogy...

...the web is built of hyperlinks, and there is a valuable opportunity for the media to deepen their coverage of the news by linking to the sources used in an article's preparation, plus background reading, watching or listening. Instead of simply republishing content in a flat unlinked form, news organisations should be considering how they can use hyperlinks to create richer, more informed, and more nuanced coverage of every type of news. This is particularly important in complex areas such as geopolitics, conflict, and globalisation, where context is required for full understanding....

...The empowerment of the public has undoubtedly resulted in increased civic engagement. Political apathy occurs when citizens feel disengaged from the political process, so it is essential to democracy that people are able to take part in public discourse: the ability to speak out, to be heard, and to make a difference is of vital importance in modern society. Citizen journalism plays a key part in this process, but with massive proliferation of information sources, we risk overwhelming ourselves, thus stifling instead of nurturing the conversation...

Some musings on the nature of blogs

I'm frequently exasperated by the all too common misunderstandings about the nature of blogs, eagerly restated by columnists and editors at regular intervals, like here and here, and recently given an alibi by Andrew Keen's forthcoming book on bloggers as parasites and what have you (sometimes I wonder if he's just link baiting).

Part of me, the commentator/campaigner, wants to go out there and readdress these issues, to say that it's missing the point altogether, that it's about conversation: the day someone stops talking about your newspaper THEN you have a problem - and that, by the way, most bloggers don't want to become journalists, don't see their blogging as journalism and many blog about everything but the media. But then I broach these issues online, and am told something like: actually, why can't bloggers be journalists, why can't they replace that whole archaic MSM-model - cluttered as it is with uncritical, ignorant and incompetent journalists? So for the moment, I just thought I'd leave you with some open-ended musings on the nature of blogs:

Three definitions of blogs from Stephen Tall (via Iain Dale):
Blog (n.): an online journal written by publicity-hungry politicians and self-opinionated journalist manqués, commenting on current political affairs with scant regard to fact or fairness, and accountable to nobody save their small band of obsessive readers.

Blog (n.): an online journal written and/or read by anyone in the democratic world, providing them with a platform to address issues of concern to them, and which is transforming the relationship between modern citizens and the traditional governing and media elites.

Blog (n.): my space to write about whatever’s delighted or annoyed me that day, forcing me to arrange half-formed thoughts into something semi-coherent for public consumption, keeping my thinking fresh and up-to-the-mark.

I'm quite partial to the middle option here, though I would perhaps rephrase it a bit. For one, I think social media, like blogs, is transforming the way we understand, and gain knowledge about the world, as well as our expectations to it. But enough about me - here's a bit about the ups and downs of blogging:

Brian posts this excellent quote from Squander Two about why the latter is blogging less:... I’m going through one of my periodic bored-of-the-news phases. I mean, is there really any point in blogging all this crap? Someone in a position of power has done something inefficient and/or counterproductive? Really? Well I never. Must tell the world.

However, says Brian: Blogging enables you to live a sort of double life, but without having to buy alcohol. In real life, you. In the blogosphere, You With Church Bells, shouting at the world, barking at the moon. The blog-life makes the real life far more livable and more fun. The mundanity of the real life becomes far more bearable, and, when it ever deviates in any way from mundanity, it then counts twice, for itself, and for its blog potential.... (read the full post here)

Mecom set to expand in Holland

The buzz around today's announcement of Mecom's takeover plans for Dutch regional newspaper group Wegener started ticking into my newsreader this morning via Dutch twitters, blogs and newspapers. Monty continues his march across Europe, wrote Charles Pretzlik in his FT business blog around noon.

It's a march that no doubt will leave prospective and existing employees with mixed feelings at best. Employees at recently acquired Mecom newspapers are particularly worried about increased profitability demands and the company's highly geared business model:

"We are most worried that Mecom's profitability demands will mean that we won't be able to develop the newspapers the way we have to in the face of today's competitive media landscape. Orkla was like Uncle Scrooge's money bin. Now we have been sold to a company financed by loans, which creates a much more unstable situation," Olav Skjegstad, an employee representative and board member of Mecom Europe, told me in a previous interview.

This does not seem to worry Mecom-boss Montgomery, who recently launched a £570m share issue to fund further acquisitions in continental Europe. When Montgomery was in Oslo for a debate at the annual conference of Norway's journalist union, less than two weeks back, he said: "We have £65m in debts. We're a very well funded company. In fact, we don't have enough debts at the moment."

More about the reactions among Dutch Journalists here (in Dutch). About the Dutch newspaper war and crowded freesheet segment here (in German).

DIY Journalism

"It's no longer news to anyone that the Internet makes everyone a publisher. But does mainstream media fully understand the implications, and that alternative sources are becoming the news provider of choice -- especially when there is no choice?" asks Steve Klein on Poynter Online. He offers this compelling example, which I suspect is a kind of coverage we will see much more of:

The Washington Capitals, a National Hockey League team, plan to send four reporters to Moscow to offer hockey fans unprecedented coverage of the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship now underway through May 13... "Our local media -- either because of lack of interest or lack of budget due to declines in circulation, ad revenue decreases and newsroom layoffs -- are not covering the World Championships of Hockey in Moscow," Leonsis wrote May 3 on his blog, Ted's Take.

"The tournament is big news around the world so we have decided to invest and send four people to cover the event and then put all coverage on the Web for free. We will share the news with new and traditional media outlets and syndicate it far and wide.

"Web 2.0 makes it possible for us to get our coverage out to millions and millions of people, promoting our sport, our team and our players. Our coverage on the Web and in the blogosphere is starting to look like a well heeled major media enterprise compared to many traditional media outlets that must curtail their coverage due to lack of budget based on the fragile state of their old business model."
Read the full article here.

How bloggers beat the big broadcasters to UK Election News

A follow-up post from Mike Rouse on my post about UK bloggers vs broadcasters:

As one of those trawling the blogs I can assure you that we were indeed ahead because of the priceless information posted on blogs very quickly. Some bloggers had contacts within counts, others posted from mobile devices while it seems others used their crystal balls. Either way, it meant we got the news quickly. I was using feed readers and live bookmarks to keep up-to-date and made use of the Firefox extension that automatically refreshes pages for you (full post here).

As BBC Parliament is showing the entire 1997 election night, when Blair came to power, today, Mike also recounts his whereabouts on that particular night: "Without trying to make any dear readers feel old, I was but 13 turning 14 when Blair came to power in 1997."

Nah, that just makes me feel ancient. I was some eight months past 19 (going-on-90) on that night, when I found myself in a Scottish-Independence-supporter stronghold in Queensferry with Scottish sci-fi writers, Ken MacLeod, Ian Banks, a poet, whose name I can't remember, and my friend Solan (whom, like me, I suspect wasn't too impressed with either political alternative).

What I remember best from that night was fighting a desperate battle to stay awake, since some drunken football hooligans had kept me awake on the night coach from Brighton to Edinburgh (!) the previous night (what I wouldn't suffer for brilliant conversations and company in those days, even eleven hours on a coach – it was worth it though). So when they announced that mudslide victory for Labour I was just delighted by the prospect of finally getting some sleep...

Bloggers plea for funds comes close to raising 10000 Euros in five days

Who said readers aren't willing to pay for good online content? Early this month Swedish blogger Dick Erixon asked his readers to contribute money to his time-consuming blogging efforts. He said he'd close down his blog if he didn't raise 100,000 SEK (about 10900 Euros) in a month, but now, five days after the announcement, he has already raised 90741 SEK (about 9900 Euros) (via Dagens Media).

Bloggers beat BBC and Sky

Or did they? At least Iain Dale claims trawling blogs helped 18 Doughty Street web-Tv beat the two broadcasting giants by about half an hour to announcing the results of this week's UK elections.

It's a wonderful illustration of our (ever-) changing media landscape. I vividly remember when I was doing a stint of work experience at The Daily Telegraph online (I was still in Uni back then ) in 2001 and the editor, Richard Burton, was over the moon with beating BBC to publishing some political story – text and picture online. This year, the election coverage of Britain's online newspapers was judged by quite different standards, and Andrew Grant-Adamson was far from impressed by their stabs at using interactive maps.

I've previously written on how I think live blogging is a great way of covering elections, but, even though I had great fun live blogging the annual conference of the Editors' Association this week, faced with the prospect of live blogging the local elections in Norway this autumn (as surely someone should do), I would have to answer as Björn Stärk did when I approached him about the Editors' Assocition's conference:

'I don't think I'd be able to muster enough motivation... but imagine: Live blogging from a second-hand book-shop, 1 weekend, 10 bloggers, 10 000 forgotten books. That I would have joined you in.' (Brilliant idea! Though being freelance, I have to admit that I'd probably live blog the annual meeting of the farmers' association if someone paid me (enough) to do so).

Monetising Blogmonitoring

A recent 'seminar' on blogging by media intelligence company Cision left me somewhat baffled. The talks, by Richard Gatarski and Alexander Mason, were inspiring enough, but Cision used the seminar to launch its plans to offer new, and no doubt expensive, blogmonitoring for its clients.

This didn't make much sense to me: why would I spend a lot of money on something I can do in a few minutes for free with the help of technorati, google, newsreaders etc? As a journalist for instance, I subscribe to technorati searches for all the companies I follow via my newsreader. It takes me very little time keep up with, and could, for one, tell me that there was a lot of Dutch blog buzz around Schibsted's recent launch of its E24 concept in Holland.

So Cision's move puzzled and annoyed me as it seemed to be a blatant attempt to make money on people's ignorance. I was heartened therefore, when I discovered this vibrant conversation around another new blogmonitoring service, this time from PR Newswire and Umbria (via Adriana):

Media monitoring services still play an important role in supporting PR, but this old school model comes from a day before the Internet where national media monitoring via a third party was essential, simply because there wasn’t an alternative, and in many cases, for print, radio and TV there isn’t an all inclusive alternative today. And yet blogs and consumer generated media are the children of a new age, an online age where information is accessible online anywhere in the world at the touch of a button.

Many PR Professionals contact and read TechCrunch so perhaps we can get some answers: is it that some PR Professionals cant type “Insert Clients Name here” into Technorati or Google Blog Search?

How difficult is it to set up feeds from services such as Google News, Yahoo News and Topix which deliver results based on corporate brand names? Isn’t the whole point of engaging with and participating in a Web 2.0 world one to one communications, removing the middle tier of information dissemination?

"Occasionally I come across proposals from such agencies to my clients," writes Adriana: "I always show them how to do it themselves. That's the whole point - disintermediation can work for companies too, not just individuals. Go figure. "

Many of comments on this TechCrunch post are superb (go check it out in full), and gave me many useful perspectives on why we see these new blogmonitoring services popping up. A valid point is of course that blog monitoring can be time-consuming for big companies with products that generate a lot of buzz, but here's a few of my favourite comments which supported my gut reaction to the news:

Comment from Unjournalism
I do the Technorati/Google/Topix/Etc.-to-RSS free monitoring and then — wait for it…THINK about what the results mean. Then spend the savings on gadgets and whiskey

Comment from Kevin Bourke
There are a few reasons why I’m not surprised at the launch of a service like this:
- PR agencies (and even internal PR departments) are often put in the “justify your existence” position; develop a weekly, monthly, quarterly report that demonstrates your value and reminds the executive team why we spend so much on PR. PR people, unfortunately, tend to justify their existence by generating gobs of reports — the more ‘hits’ the better you must be. And in today’s Web 2.0 world, the pressure for more comprehensive results is that much greater. In my view, it’s unfortunate, because this defensive mentality actually devalues PR, and makes PR people forget where their true value lies.

For one, let's see if Cision's wonderful blog search engine picks up on this post....

Where generations meet online


I found this wonderful map over at Confused of Calcutta (the original is here), where JP Rangaswami has some interesting reflections about it. Here's a few highlights, but do read in full:

One, it represents many generations, but the generations are often isolated.

Two, there are some dogs that aren’t barking, and it is worth considering why.

Three, we need to understand more about the places where the generations meet.
Why that is the case. Facebook and YouTube both span multiple generations now, Flickr and have that effect as well, but I find places like DeviantArt far more intriguing. What is it about the communities like DeviantArt that they became ageless from the start? What can we learn from them?

Make the Press Freedom day a Freedom of Speech day

Johan Norberg suggests the Press Freedom Day should be made a Freedom of Speech day. I couldn't agree more. This debate from the Frontline Club in London really illustrates why (thanks to Kevin Anderson for live blogging it).

During the debate, Egyptian blogger Alaa Abd-Fatah summed of the worrying situation for bloggers AND journalists in Egypt: "It looks grim. There are two bloggers in jail. There have been several bloggers taken by security. This is not new. This is normal. It happens to journalists all the time. It happens to activists all the time. We are now worried that the government is attacking the medium itself. With the religious taboos, there are many who are looking to limit freedom of speech. We see people who are being sent to jail. It is difficult to say if this is a trend that will continue. It is having a chilling effect at the moment."

This resonates with a report David Dadge of the International Press Institute gave on the state of press freedom globally on the World Press Freedom day: in many countries the authorites are heavily censoring bloggers and journalists alike - and journalists are increasingly seen as partial, which makes them legitimate targets in wars and conflicts.

So here's a few links to campaigns worth supporting, though there are of course a great many more bloggers and journalists in jail, held hostage or being persecuted than the three mentioned here:

BBC's Alan Johnston held hostage in Palestine
Alan Johnston banner

Egyptian blogger Kareem Amer
(English translations of the writings that put him in prison here)

Abdel-Monem Mahmoud, a prominent member of the Muslim Brotherhood, has spoken out in favour of Kareem, but has himself been imprisoned and, among other things, accused of “associating with human rights organization in an effort to soil the image of the regime.”

(In contrast to Johan, though, I do think the idea that the medium is the message holds some merit)

Press Freedom Day: a few reflections

In Norway, it was the country's relationship to its powerful neighbour Russia that was on the agenda for the World Press Freedom Day. Foreign minister Jonas Gahr Støre and former finance minister Jan Pettersen had been duly invited to discuss this at The Editor Association's spring conference.

I guess I should have live blogged it, but sleep-deprived as I was (I'd been up blogging since 5am the previous day, then working as a journalist in the evening, up in the wee hours to get the article off to deadline, then straight on to more live blogging), had almost lost my will to live after hearing IP's David Dadge grim report on the state of press freedom globally, and failed to find any worthwhile things to report from the debate.

I mean, when you ask a foreign minister if his government is cozying up too much to a powerful neighbour, for fear of destroying business opportunities for partially state-owned companies like Statoil and Hydro, he's not going to say yes, is he?

So he duly denied this accusation and said that Norway's relationship with Russia was as full of dilemmas as the Press Freedom Day (?). Pettersen said his government probably had too romantic a view on Russia when they were in power, and Ann-Margit Austenå, former leader of Norway's journalist union, asked how anyone possible could have a romantic relationship to Russia. That was that. I would much rather have been at this debate....

Here's a pic from the debate, just about
as blurry as my mind felt at the time.
Foreign minister is second from the right.
Not looking too enthusiastic is he?