These are the early days of digital news alternatives to the mainstream, so any report that surfaces on what seems to work (and not) is welcome. The J-Lab, underwritten by the Knight Foundation, has some early learning
on hyperlocal news sites to share.The summary isn't terribly pretty: The business model depends on grants, the most sustainable models are extensions of someone's personal commitment, and training the public to be citizen contributors is a high-churn, low-return concept.But within its findings is a big revelation: Rather than replace conventional outlets, the hyperlocal sites are adding to the public sphere's information."
They’ve done a bunch of other things as well: They triggered other news stories, helped solve community problems, imparted a lot of political knowledge that empowered voters, and engendered a new level of accountability for municipal leaders," a summary of the report says.
The Web analytics firm, Sysomos, has examined the pathology of Twitter
and determined that it's not quite the social network one thought --- mainly, people use it to broadcast information but the sharing has its limitations.Sysomos looked at 1.2 billion Tweets over the last two months and found 71% generated no response whatever. Some 23% generated a reply, but a very small percentage (6%) were deemed worth sharing with one's followers upon receipt. And perhaps the more startling finding is how Tweets wither on the vine quickly --- if they're not ReTweeted in the first hour, they tend not to be at all.
Some 92% of ReTweeting took place in the first hour, Sysomos found. (It is possible that Twitter streams are so vast that users can't keep track of what they're sent, so they don't dig very far back to look for content to share.)
How deep are conversations on Twitter? Sysomos said not very. The number of Tweets three levels deep --- that is, those that are sent, replied to, replied to again and replied to again --- amounts to about 1.5%.
Canadian commentator David Frum, a notable conservative journalist, spoke this week
to a joint meeting of The Canadian Club and the Canadian Journalism Foundation on trends in journalism. He paints a difficult picture of a craft losing some of its moorings and a public lesser served.
Frum identified five principal points:
1. De-monopolization. Frum doesn't suggest this is bad, but he believes it has become easy to participate.
2. De-professionalization. Or, as he puts it: "Who must worry about journalism ethics? Nobody who doesn't want to."
3. Rising demands on the media consumer. The audience is left to fend for itself more often.
4. Information inequality. The informed are better informed, the ill-informed are more so.
5. The increasing importance of strategic communication and miscommunication. Collectively media are stronger than ever, he argues, but individually they are weaker than before.
A documentary on electronic waste
, produced for PBS' FRONTLINE by a team from the Graduate School of Journalism at University of British Columbia
, won an Emmy award Monday in New York for its investigative excellence over competition from CBS' 60 Minutes and 48 Hours and ABC's Nightline.
It's the first such win for a Canadian journalism school. The project --- Ghana: Digital Dumping Ground --- was produced by professor Peter Klein (a previous Emmy winner and an Emmy nominee in his own right Monday) and financed through a Mindset Media
grant and benefactor-filmmaker Alison Lawton.
Lawton furnished the UBC school with a $1-million fund to produce international documentaries, a key piece in the creation of the international reporting course.
A team of 10 UBC students travelled to Ghana, India and China to chronicle how casually electronic waste is disposed. Along the way they found a hard drive with sensitive American defence contract information, but mainly they discovered a trail of indifference about environmental standards and worker safety.
(Disclosure: I have taught at the school since 2004 and my spouse has been its director since 2008 and an associate professor since its inception more than a decade ago.)
As Malcolm Gladwell
sees it, the revolution will not be Tweeted.
The social commentator and bestselling author has been skeptical of the claims about social media. He recognizes the technological ability to reach people through Twitter, Facebook and social networks, but he takes issue with its larger claims of prowess.
He stops short in his piece for The New Yorker
of accepting social media as activism. He points out that many recent examples of political activism cited by proponents of social media were not actual social media events --- the Iranian calls for democracy were western-based, while the Moldovan expressions of opposition to Communism were without the benefit of Twitter.
Gladwell believes these phenomena bear little resemblance to what is required of real activism. It is participation while lessening the motivation that participation requires, he argues.
"In other words, Facebook activism succeeds not by motivating people to make a real sacrifice but by motivating them to do the things that people do when they are not motivated enough to make a real sacrifice," he writes.
Gladwell believes social networks are a "weak-tie" form of communication, in which your Facebook Friends are not really friends and your Twitter followers are not truly following, not comparable to the strong-tie allegiances that require persistence and selflessness.
"The instruments of social media are well suited to making the existing social order more efficient," he concludes. "They are not a natural enemy of the status quo."
It's an age-old (no pun intended) dilemma: How to reach young consumers and make them media-loyal. Some organizations simply don't bother --- they assume young people will grow into consumption of their products --- while others throw an array of initiatives and pray for uptake.
But someone has been reading the literature, examining the options, and settling in on some proposals. Christopher Sopher, a student at University of North Carolina, looked at a large batch of studies of young people and came away
with some conclusions about what will appeal.
In short they involve:
1. More road maps and context.
2. Wisdom journalism.
4. Improved design.
5. Experimentation with new formats.
6. Expansion of civic journalism.
7. Putting young people in the news.
8. Reinventing the news-in-school programs.
9. Improving sharing features and self-supporting content.
10. Exploring new ways to produce television news.
A Poynter Online post from Matt Baume summarizes the research.
A new report
from the Pew Center for Excellence in Journalism outlines the divided view media provide on the advances of technology. While the overall tone of coverage is upbeat about the improvements in productivity and other functions, very close behind is the concern that convenience also brings risk.
Pew examined mainstream media coverage in more than 50 outlets involving more than 400 stories. When blogs and other social media were examined, though, there was a more positive outlook on technology.
The single-largest technology story concerned texting while driving. But the second-largest story were developments in Apple's iPhone and iPad.
Pew found that technology coverage doesn't comprise much of the overall media menu (1.6%) and that the largest number of stories concerned trends and social change.
"The findings suggest that in the mainstream media, particularly on front pages and general interest programs, the press reflects exuberance about gadgets and a wonder about the corporations behind them, but wariness about effects on our lives, our behavior and the sociology of the digital age," the report says. "Social media, on the other hand, suggests that people who are on the cutting edge of technology are not only more interested in discussing the topics, but more positive in general about specific advancements, like new versions of smartphones or new social networking sites."
Old media have to deliver digital experiences consumers demand. It's as simple as that, says Saul Berman in a post for Forbes.com.
His observation: Media companies leveraging social media's qualities of openness are dialing up greater trust by providing rapid, relevant and integrated messaging.
While digital revenue has not offset the losses of traditional media, social media offer a new foothold for media companies, he argues. A real key is to raise the level of engagement.
In his latest post
for his PoMo Blog, Terry Heaton sounds the concern many publishers have about the drive for page views at all costs.
He vents a little on the tendency by some to chop stories into pieces to improve the number of ad impressions --- the "price of interaction" being high. He takes the view that the effort doesn't take into account the user, then publishers wonder why the advertising isn't working.
"Somehow, some way, we’ve got to figure out that attaching ads to content the way we’ve done it before just doesn’t cut it online. Until that happens, we’ll continue killing the goose that potentially could be laying golden eggs for us," he writes.
Here is a statistic unthinkable a few years ago: More than half of all Internet users read a blog each month.
An eMarketer study concludes
that blog consumption continues to grow as they become normal forms of communication. That said, only 12 per cent of the online population will update a blog monthly.
The study suggests that blogging has grown common enough but that such expressive formats as Twitter and Facebook are encroaching on the blog's position.
Still, the total number of bloggers in America will rise from today's 26.2 million to 2014's 33.4 million.