content, news, publishing, socialmedia

Facebook not a publisher, but with 1.8bn users comes responsibility

An introduction from a Business Insider article:

“Axel Springer CEO Mathias Döpfner sat down with Andreas Dietrich of the Swiss publication Blick and discussed the issue of fake news and Facebook’s part in it.

“Döpfner believes Facebook should not have to sort out hoaxes from real news because it is a distributor of news — not a publisher.” Read more at uk.businessinsider.com

Facebook is indeed, not directly a news organisation, and clearly dealing with the sources of fake or ‘alternative’ news would be the ultimate solution.

But to ignore the amount of ‘news’ being posted, shared, and commented on by such a huge social network without acknowledging and taking some basic responsibility in blocking factually incorrect stories would be letting down it’s user base to say the least.

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content, publishing, socialmedia

Twitter timeline ch-ch-ch-changes, where are we now?

So the rumours have come to fruition, a big change has begun arriving to our Twitter timelines, where we are shown an algorithm-driven stream of tweets as opposed to the current live feed unsullied by machines. The ‘best tweets first’ view is starting to appear as an option for web viewers, although users need to enable it under Settings for now – this will most likely change to the default at some point, with app updates no doubt incoming.

I’m unsure as to what the outcome will be in terms of use of the service, but #RIPTwitter was/is probably a bit premature.

From a Mashable post on the change:

The company pushed out an update Wednesday that makes its much-talked-about timeline redesign official. The new feature, which is live on Twitter’s app and website now, will show tweets that are sorted based on relevancy, rather than chronology, at the top of your timeline.

For journalists and marketers, there are other ways to view Twitter in a more focused or unfiltered fashion, Twitter lists and Tweetdeck being two solid options, see more here from FirstDraft: 10 ways local journalists can better cover their patch.

It is an inevitable conclusion to the problem of Twitter not drawing enough new users, alongside changes including the Favourites signified by stars morphing into hearts, meaning people were now ‘liking’ updates Facebook-style.

This was much to the annoyance of some (myself included) at the perception and way people had originally been using the favourite option, myself regularly as a means of bookmarking tweets to come back and view later. But we got over it and moved on, we may well do the same regarding the timeline rebirth.

Facebook users still use the service despite being delivered an artificially molded stream of updates based on various parameters. Although, via Mathew Ingram on Fortune.com:

A survey by researchers from the University of Illinois showed that 60% of users didn’t even know that Facebook filters their feed at all.

But as Mathew Ingram points out aboutalgorithms being helpful for some,they come with risks:

By definition, algorithmic filtering means that you are not the one who is choosing what to see and not see… And while this may be helpful—because of the sheer volume of content out there—it comes with biases and risks

It’s never perfect, content of real interest fails to appear high up in people’s timelines, but we survive, and there is the option to view by ‘Most Recent’ under the Settings options.

But more widely what happens if this doesn’t work? A sale on the cards surely, and then a more uncertain future… the danger is, will it kill what makes Twitter ‘fun’ – more from Mashable?:

Twitter’s struggle, though, is that most people are not like me; they never got over platform’s messy nature. I’ve always believed that hashtags, which arrived after Twitter’s launch, were an excellent organizing principle. When Twitter figured out how to display trending hashtags, I thought it was a godsend. But it wasn’t enough for regular people who, perhaps, still associated the hashtag with telephones.

Twitter has been trying for years to make the service more obvious and accessible, right up to the new Moments, a feature they’ve force fed to existing users and one that has failed to inspire new ones.

In theory at least, the timeline change helps authenticated blue-ticked profiles which should benefit from being more prominently displayed (presuming they are tweeting interesting/topical content in the right way, nudge nudge!)

Blue pill or red pill: Which timeline is for you?

I just hope that switching between the algorithm and live timeline view is relatively easy.

Timeline control details from Twitter.com support:

On twitter.com:

  1. Log in to your account on twitter.com and go to your Account settings page.
  2. Under Content, look for Timeline and toggle the box next to Show me the best Tweets first to change the setting.

Twitter for iOS:

  1. On your profile, tap the gear icon  and select Settings.
  2. Tap the account whose settings you’d like to adjust.
  3. Under Timeline, tap Timeline personalization.
  4. Next to Show me the best Tweets first, tap to turn it off.

Twitter for Android:

  1. Tap the overflow icon 
  2. Tap Settings.
  3. Tap Timeline.
  4. Next to Show me the best Tweets first, uncheck the box to turn it off.

Further reading: 5 facts you need to know, from Heavy.com

content, news, publishing, socialmedia, tools

Pablo: your new favourite social media friendly image tool

I had briefly used Buffer’s Pablo social media-friendly graphic creation tool Pablo in 2015. It has options ready for best dimensions for using on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or Instagram.

But with the addition of the new Pablo (sadly only) Chrome extension, getting a tweet+pic with overlaid text was roughly 1-2 minute’s work.

Find an image (or upload your own/use from stock images within Pablo), then let the extension open it inside Pablo (no need to login at this point).

Inside Pablo’s tidy interface you can add/edit text and tweak the graphic layout using a few options. But it all looks professional and works well.

Once you are happy, you can share immediately or embargo using Buffer’s algorithm, logging in to Buffer with your Twitter login.

You can also download the final image for use later.

A couple of examples:

A story via The Scotsman, a tale of flooding in Scotland

And an Bronze Age archaeological find in Cambridgeshire, via the Peterborough Telegraph

 

journalism, mobile, news, publishing, socialmedia

The newsroom strategy of the now

Never mind a vision of a newsroom of the future, here’s The Telegraph’s latest digital strategy, via @theguardian.

Regardless of anything else the Telegraph has done or is doing, the strategy as described makes sense in a stripped-down newsroom environment.

It highlights a streamlined approach to production and workflows, moving “beyond the concept of “digital first”:

“The engine driving the content decisions is the 80 million worldwide unique users per month. But readers of the newspaper will not notice a difference, the paper is still a crown jewel.”

Staff have been told to embrace a new editorial ethos with five main elements:

  1. One integrated print/digital newsroom.
  2. Two shifts worked each day, one from 6am and one ending at midnight.
  3. Three speeds to work at, from fast for breaking news to slower for a feature.
  4. Four key skills for each journalist: social, video, analytics and search engine optimisation [SEO].
  5. Five deliverable ideas required from each desk each day: including one video, one shareable and one interactive

Overall, I don’t see an issue with this as a set of guidelines on how a newsroom should be forging forwards in 2014.

The shift patterns – an open-ended discussion, dependent on news publication/resource etc. – apart the rest appears a realistic appraisal of how news content should be produced in reaction to how news consumers are hungrily consuming. So my take on the above list, in order:

  • 1. Content creation shouldn’t be split between teams, content is content regardless of publishing platform, seems inefficient to have multiple teams working independently on content.
  • 2. Technically you could argue journalists are somewhat on duty 24/7 in the social sphere – clearly unworkable and unmanageable long-term, but flexibility in working practices has to be acknowledged. The news cycle doesn’t/shouldn’t revolve around print deadlines any more – at least as little as possible given legacy media production needs.
  • 3. Different types of story need a different set of technical skills, quicker reaction to in depth research, all clearly underpinned by journalistic standards, ethics and quality, see @martinbelam on this: Oh my word the Telegraph has given up on reporting the news!.
  • 4. Four key skills:
  • Social is a given for news publishing, both as a means of finding, searching for news, engaging with the audience and pushing out content and links to content;
  • video  is an accessible means of content and can’t be ignored, but tools and quality control important;
  • analytics are vital, even simple page view figures give an idea of the potential audience or interest or success of publishing process;
  • SEO follows as a basic requirement, understanding how to write for digital platforms, be it hard news, features, and sharing on different social platforms – all require SEO understanding.
  • 5. Targets are always decisive for content creation outside of print, the digital world can take endless content, but some sort of guide for journalists even if not 100% strict is required.

Following up on the issue of targets:

Further reading:

Jasper Jackson at The Media Briefing asked: Can the Telegraph build a digital business model to match its new editorial focus?

These editorial changes look set to put the Telegraph on the right path editorially, but it will be interesting to see if the newspaper can come up with a healthy digital business model to match.

community, news, publishing

Using Google Forms for shopping habits survey

As part of JP-wide campaign to highlight and encourage independent retail in print and online, “championing our independent businesses with our Shop Local, Eat Local, Play Local campaign“, there was opportunity to engage our local audience and gaining some real insight into Peterborough shopping habits.

For the Peterborough Telegraph I put together a story linking through to an online survey to find indie shopping habits in Peterborough.

I had great collaborative input and feedback on the survey questions from Rachel Parkin, Nyree Ambarchian and John Baker.

The survey has had over 100 responses so far, we will publish the result findings soon.

I kept the survey – produced using using Google Forms (very easy to produce and manage in my experience) – fairly generic and succinct in content to encourage users to finish it, and so that it could potentially be replicated elsewhere across our group.

The key I felt was making it long and detailed enough to gain qualitiative data, but short enough not to put people off completing it.

I also created a unique Bitly link for the form, so I know that 253 people have to date (8 April) visited the survey, and 113 people completed the form, so not a bad response rate.

Shop Local survey story screenshot
Screenshot of a web story for an online survey to find indie shopping habits in Peterborough
journalism, news, publishing, writing

Digital content – making it engaging, findable and shareable

It looks like you're trying...
Clippy: ‘It looks like you’re trying…’

To re-purpose the famous words of an infamous paperclip, “It looks like you’re trying to… write content for a digital audience…?”

Even when I started out in the newsroom over 11 years ago – originally a newspaper focused arena – I’ve always held onto the mantra that a newspaper [publisher]’s digital content should adhere to the same standards any print content does (read Steve Buttry on digital content standards).

Print isn’t web isn’t a liveblog isn’t social etc, in terms of style, the audience and the differing needs of that content. But, it’s all content with an associated journalistic brand and author and as such should adhere to a level of journalistic quality – whether it’s printed on paper or scrolling on screen. Use the appropriate content skills and standards and give it the best chance of getting the widest audience regardless of the platform.

Well here’s my digital strategy from within a multi-platform news publisher, i.e. print, web & social…

A few opening thoughts: Your story could be competing against competitor versions, locally or nationally. Make it easily findable, quickly scannable for the growing percentage of your audience finding content on mobile devices – and potentially not anywhere near your website.

Encourage and make sharing as easy as possible – the headline performs various roles for readers, within social streams and for search engines – neglect it at your peril.

  • Web headlines: find a balance between clever wordplay and selling the story to people in one line one.
    Ideally it must work as an easily identifiable phrase and as shareable as possible (read more about how and why shareability is important) on social media too.
    If from print, must contain at least one keyword – add place name, surname, organisation, event title etc. to ensure getting noticed and avoid ambiguity.
    Above all remember, your headline may well be seen all alone on a small screen, no intro, photo or branding to add context – it has to make people click on it, all on it’s own merits.
  • Intros: all of the above not already mentioned. Titles, sports teams and players should initially be referenced in full before using nicknames. Not everyone will know/understand the reference (including search engines) and ensures being found by either name via web or social searches.
  • Date stamp: I’m a big fan of  a date stamp, don’t leave the article reader wondering when the story was written or last updated, and ‘today’, ‘Monday’ etc should always be followed by ‘(6 March)’.
    A ‘live’ or unfolding story should  always start with the last updated time. Don’t make readers guess how up-to-date story is.
  • Keywords: Always write every person’s name, business, location in full initially, teams nicknames should be used, but the first reference should always be a full team name. Not everyone reading or searching for the story will use or be fully aware of a nickname or common local term. This also helps to give the content a better chance of being, found, read, shared, interacted with.
  • Bylines: journalist should be associated with lead story for everyone’s benefit, adds a point of contact for feedback and interaction. Also benefits search engine ranking assigning known content author.
    Read more on ‘Why bother with Google Authorship?
  • Sub-heads: break up the content for digital readers who will frequently be skimming quickly at various times, and more and more often via small mobile screens, lists are also key ways of ‘chunking’ content more efficiently for a time-poor online audience.
  • Call to action: encourage debate via commenting or social media. Ask a leading question, ask for interested readers or potential experts to engage or contribute – it’s not lazy journalism, it’s opening up the news process in a digital age where the barriers of communication and interaction have come down.
  • Links – related content/sources: if it’s a follow-up to a previous event, link back (and ideally forward from previous), or create a timeline for an ongoing event and link new articles back to. Don’t leave dead ends encouraging users to leave the website, add efficient context – no point re-adding backstory to each online article as might be done in print. People might be put off reading an unnecessarily overlong piece.
  • External links: if it’s important or a focal point of the story, make URLs clickable, ideally not just to a homepage if a specific page (don’t leave users straned on a strange site, not sure where to look), add value to the story and the page in the short and long term.
    You should always link back to sources, let other people see where the facts/quotes/stats came from.
    And why link? Because links are what the Web is built on!
    And, remember the link text should describe what the link is/where it link goes, never ‘click here’ alone. Read: Why is link text so important? from Webcredible
  • Captions: Keep it simple, who, where, when, and credit, always credit as you would any other piece of content or information someone else has provided. And you would expect the same in return…
  • Updates: Always close the story, if a breaking story has progressed or ended at a later time/date, update the intro timestamp to immediately identify new information and alwaystie-up loose ends, don’t leave readers wondering what happened. (Or the story lives on in the archives, forever waiting for closure…)
  • Corrections: As should be an obvious strategy, always correct errors in online version of story, if a serious change, particularly if any legal issue, reference this change and date stamp it at the end of the story.