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May 2008
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July 2008

Today's required reading: why media gets community wrong

If you only read one blog post today, make it Adam's musings on why media gets community wrong, I think he's spot on here:


...most media people don't realise that blogging is a community strategy. They think of it as a publishing process and, perhaps, as articles published with a particular tone of voice. They certainly don't think of it as a conversation.


This is clear from our traffic figures. Those blogs that do really well are those that are aware of there being a wider web world outside our sites' confines and which talk directly to the readers. Those whose traffic is abysmal are those who show no awareness of a wider conversation around their topics and who adopt a "wisdom from on high" tone of voice... 


Now, of course, most of you are likely to read much more than one blog post a day, so while you're at it, Jeff Jarvis on 10 questions news organisations should be asking themselves, is a must read if you haven't already read it, and "Beat blogging allows reporters to concentrate on core reporting" (via Hivand) certainly gave me something to think about, a highlight from the latter: "When writing for the print edition, reporters often have to spend large amounts of time getting "man on the street" quotes from random people to flush out stories. Not with blogging. That's what the comment section of each blog post is for"....  

On the streets of Skien

It was raining cats and dogs, not exactly the kind of weather you'd want to be out and about in, but just as I walked into the centre of Skien yesterday, a place I'd never been to before, I was approached by a weary looking guy with a worn leather jacket and an impressive camera:

"Excuse me, could I possibly bother you for just a few minutes. I'm a journalist from the local newspaper and was wondering if you could possibly answer a quick question for this vox pop about today's events," he said, and whizzed out a notepad from his pocket.

Me: "Events?" (thinking hard now, been buried in my deadlines before I jumped on the train in the last minute to get her, events?)

Local journalist: "Well, the minister's resignation, you know"

Me: "Aha!" (yes, I heard something about that, Åslaug Haga finally being forced to step down, on the radio at some point). "Okay, now I'm with you, but we have to strike a deal: you have to tell me where the venue I'm heading for is, and where I can grab some lunch on the way, and I'll try to say something sensible for your vox pop. If you really want to interview a fellow journalist, that is."

Local journalist: "Okay, where are you heading?"

Me: "For a conference at the Ibsen Centre"

Local journalist: "Oh, I thought you were heading for a funeral, all dressed in black as you are. What's the conference on?"

Me:"Open Source Software, it's the biggest conference of its kind in Europe I'm told." (black is actually very handy: suited both for the conference and the prize cermony in the evening, not expecting to find time to change for the latter) 

Local journalist: "Open what?"

Me: "Open Source Software, like Drupal"

Local journalist: "Brutal?"

Me: "Drupal. It's an online publishing platform, but I guess it is a bit techie: for the specially interested."

Local journalist: "Oh, now how about Haga. Do you think this story has been exaggerated and is out of proportion with what she did, or is it justified?"

A few words about practising what you preach rolled off my tounge. I said it wouldn't be such a big story if the Government she was a part of hadn't championed the regulations she violated (how very unoriginal, but my mind was on something else entirely), and I got my directions both to the venue I was heading for and a decent lunch place on the way. Value for value, I say...  


'UK newspapers run the best blogs '

I was struck by this sentiment from a British newspaper executive that Adrian reported under Chatham Rules a while back:

This person had "no interest in UK blog content... didn’t rate UK blogosphere - UK newspapers have already occupied that opinion territory and run the best blogs." It reminded me of Andrew Grant-Adamson's musings and investigations, and the debate these sparked, in the earlyish days of UK newspaper blogs.


It is a long way to have travelled in such a short span of time, from not really getting it (late 2006) to having occupied this niche entirely (spring 2008), I thought to myself. I also thought it was a rather interesting notion to 'occupy' a realm some would liken to the realm of human conversation.


The whole idea of the media industry, especially the publicly financed part of it, using its  financial muscles to 'occupy' all attractive niches is also an interesting one, although, in this brave new world of ours, where everyone with access to an internet connection can be his or her own publisher, it seems to be a bit optimistic to say the least. Especially if you take these stats, that put political bloggers and 'one man bands' Guido Fawkes and Iain Dale ahead of the likes of ITN and Guardian Politics, into account...


There is of course that old adage of "lies, damned lies and statistics" to consider, which Guido Fawkes explores a bit further here. Still, this does seem to contradict the notion that UK newspapers have successfully occupied 'that opinion territory'... 

Of course, it may be that I'm putting too much into one word and getting all obsessed about proprietorial language, but the words we choose can say so much which lenses we see the world through.


I'm all for media organisations joining the conversation, and applaud those who have journalists who succeed in leading it - I can think of a few who do exactly that, or come very close - but occupy? That's what you do with hostile territories, right?

The challenges of hyperlocal

There's a lot of buzz around hyperlocal journalism these days; it's one of those new ways of doing journalism the media industry hopes will help it adapt to the changing world and its changing news habits.

Certainly in Scandinavia, it's where many news organisations are hoping to make up for the dwindling revenues from national newspaper sales. But for hyperlocal to succeed it has to be relevant to the community it serves and perhaps draw on its resources. We heard a bit about successful hyperlocal ventures during the World Association of Newspapers' Congress in Gothenburg last week, but the current debate around the 'failure' of Washington Post's, has thrown up a lot of interesting perspectives on what it takes to succeed with hyperlocal journalism in particular, and innovation in general.

I was particularly struck by this line from Michelle P B Ferrier, writing for Poynter's E-Media Tidbits (a hobby horse of mine, I have to admit):   

I've found that "What do you want?" is not the right question to ask your community. Instead, I ask "What do you want to do?" I also look for ways to use existing functions or build new ones to service my neighbors and new friends. And that takes a listening posture, without agenda and with humility, that many mainstream journalists and sites lack.

Also, check out Journerdism on "Innovation at newspapers won’t succeed if the organization doesn’t support it" and Pat Thornton on Innovation is a bumpy road but journalism needs it (last two links via Martin Stabe)

WAN/ WEF 2008: A Very Swedish Party

Since I had to leave this year's WAN Congress/ World Editors' forum on Tuesday to cover other events, I do not know how the show progressed from here, but this was by far the most surreal party I have been to for a very long time:


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It kicked off with fiddlers in national costumes performing drinking songs, while the waiters served herring, aquavit and salmon...


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an act which was followed by an ABBA look-alike band playing around with fake guns and singing cover versions of old ABBA and Grease songs..


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As the music filled the restaurant tent, and the world's editors and publishers started dancing to old ABBA tunes and the light from a big advertisement screen for Volvo, I thought it safer to steal away with a few Brits and Norsemen to have beer in a less psychedelic setting... ( by which point my camera batteries were starting to go out, hence the darkness of the last two pictures)....


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What made me feel very uneasy through most of this spectacle was knowing all too well that had this been Norway, it would probably have been fiddlers and an A-Ha look-alike band, and only the time of the year would have saved the guests from being served Lutefisk (cod in lye) or something even more exotic....

WEF 2008: So much FUN with mobile journalism...

Now, you may fault me for this, but it didn't strike me how awkward the abbreviation for a Mobile Journalist (mojo) sounded in Norwegian until I read this post by Eirik Newth.

Only then did it hit me that in Norwegian it sounds very much like a kid trying to say Moro (Norwegian for FUN) while struggling to pronounce the R: "skikkelig Mojo" = real fun, or a real Mojo, depending on the context and interpretation:-)


Still, I guess you could say there was a lot of childish pleasure about the opportunities offered by Mobile Journalism at the World Editors' Forum (WEF) in Gothenburg earlier this week, as this picture I snapped illustrates.

The gentlemen who discussed these opportunities do not look quite as amused in the picture below, but Robert Andrews, in the middle, did come up with one of the better sound bites from the conference, about having moved from backpack journalism to pocket journalism (link in Norwegian).

Now, when I wrote about this debate, several people pointed out that Norwegian media had been using these kits for a while, to which I can only say it's not the first time we've covered this issue, nor will it be the last. Newth, on the other hand, suggested Lojo (short for Lommejournalistikk = Pocket journalism) might be a less awkward title for Norwegian journalists excelling in this particular brand of journalism (click on the picture for full size)

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WAN 2008: The Future belongs to the geeks

After having recently returned from covering The World Association of Newpapers' (WAN) Congress and World Editors Forum (WEF) for - where we were presented with a mix of interesting, insightful and utterly benighted views on the media future - I must admit this cartoon by Hugh MacLeod (via Jackie Danicki) struck a chord with me:   


John Thompson has a delightful perspective on certain aspects of the conference here: "A mystery blogger enjoys the comforts of the press facilities at the World Editors Forum in Gothenburg, Sweden, where there was much discussion and dismissiveness about that fly-by-night phenomenon known as the internet" (click through to see the video). Not sure my employer is going to be all that delighted when I present my mobile broadband bill...