I was in Boston all weekend, cut me some slack

  1. I was in Boston all weekend. First time really walking around in the city. It felt a lot like New York, except that people in Red Sox hats kept popping up everywhere. Where do these people think they are? Is that guy wearing a Patriots shirt? WTF?
  2. Every time I go to a new vegetarian Asian restaurant, I eat too much. When they say “large platter,” they mean it. But still, nothing is as good as VP2 in New York. No contest, and I’ve tried places in San Jose, San Francisco, and Boston now.
  3. Um, everyone was friendly in Boston. And it was clean. And I saw fewer homeless people than I see in Santa Cruz. And the subway was efficient.
  4. Before I left for the weekend, I helped throw together a podcast and an audio-free week-in-photos Soundslides bit at work. It’s exactly the sort of work I’ve been trying to get around to. I’ll have more time for multimedia shortly.
  5. I’m working on a redesign of this site. Yes, another one. It’s been a few months after all, and I’ve been enjoying developing WordPress blogs for work on top of Chris Pearson’s Cutline theme, so I figured I’d try it out myself. It’s in the works.
  6. I’m making progress with thesis-related bureaucracy. I’m supposed to turn another draft of my proposal in to my adviser tomorrow. It’s not going to have all the additions done, but it should have all the right language in it. Human subjects paperwork is ready to be re-submitted again. I promise not to ask anyone’s boss for permission to speak to them. Sheesh.
  7. Speaking of my thesis, Dana Hull of the Merc has a good newspaper blog round-up in the American Journalism Review. If you’re wondering what your paper should be blogging about, how to come up with guidelines, and whether you’re supposed to edit the darn things, then give it a read.
  8. Am I the only one who saw CNN Headline News this morning showing video of what was clearly not a 757 hitting the Pentagon on 9/11? Um, shouldn’t this be a bigger story? Hoping something about it pops up tomorrow…
  9. Speaking of airport security, my ID got scanned by the TSA at Logan airport this morning. I’m wondering why I got picked. Beard? Last name? Were they checking every tenth ID? I felt a little weird about it, but mostly I just don’t like handing over my ‘papers’ to a guy in uniform with a machine on his lap. Maybe he knew I was a Yankee fan.
  10. Yes, I was in Boston and I didn’t call you. I flew in late Friday to meet my wife there for the weekend, spent all day Saturday walking around town, then flew back with her this morning. And I’m exhausted. So cut me some slack.

How to juggle multimedia and Digg interactivity

In two back-channel online news discussions this week, folks have been debating how newspapers should be gathering video and how they should handle comment moderation.

The video discussion among Howard Owens, Mindy McAdams, and others, is notable because the question is no longer IF newspapers should be running video online (Yes) or HOW they should be presenting it online (Flash), but How they should be gathering it, Who should be doing the shooting, and What sort of video should they be offering viewers?

On a theoretical note, this could be an indication that newspaper video has taken a step out of the early adoption phase and toward take-up — but that’s not what my thesis is about.

My thesis (still in the way-early stages of paperwork and preliminary data gathering) is about the adoption of interactivity.

A quick primer:

  • Multimedia journalism uses more than one communication medium to tell a story. (Go figure.)
  • Interactivity in a technical/graphical sense gives your readers buttons to push and click to navigate their way through a story.
  • Interactivity in a participatory sense gives your readers/viewers/users a space to talk back to the newspaper and each other.

On the online news e-mail discussion list that Jay Small pointed to, there’s a mention of Slashdot-style comment moderation, and I’ll speak to that by pointing my colleagues over to Digg, where they’ll find a variation on Slashdot’s moderation points theme.

Pick a post on the front page of Digg and click on the comments link:

Now take a look at those little thumbs up and down on the right of each comment.

Close up of Digg Comments page

Readers participate in comment moderation by “digging” or burying comments. You can only do this when registered and logged in.

No need to assign points, moderate the moderators, or worry about coming off as censors.

Instead, you let the readers most authoritative and passionate about the topic (registered users bothering to click through to the comments on a particular story/message board posting/blog entry) do the work for you.

They’ll be happier, and you’ll be happier.

I’m planning on taking a closer look at Pligg, an open-source CMS tool based largely on the Digg interface.

What are some other ways we can harness the wisdom of the crowd without muzzling it?

I just checked in to see what condition my condition was in

My thesis proposal was conditionally approved yesterday, which means I can go ahead and start navigating the murky waters of the human subjects paperwork required by IRB.

Once that’s in motion, I’ll make the expected changes that the committee wants, and submit the updates to my primary advisor.

Meanwhile, the Sloan/McCune New Media class and anyone else who shows up are all about to get Scobleized. Drink the kool-aid, my friends, drink the kool-aid.

I highly advise anyone just sitting around campus tonight to walk down the hall and see Scoble do his thing. He always seems to show off whatever he’s the most excited about at the moment, which makes for good repeat viewing. I’ll be in the middle of my commute from the East Bay to Monterey Bay, so I’ll catch the podcast when Steve posts it.

Deadline Day, v1.0

Today I turn in 12, count ’em, 12 copies of my 33-page thesis proposal. (The first draft was longer, believe it or not.)

I finished it up last night shortly before 1am, but it’s safe to assume I’ll get it back in September with conditional approval (I hope) and notes on mechanical changes, plus a few pleas for more Rogers and a more detailed explanation of the qualitative analysis I’m planning.

Nonetheless, turning it in now means I get at least two if not three weeks off from screwing around with it, although my preliminary data gathering will continue unabated.

Oh spreadsheet with full little cells, how I pine for thee.

Enough handwringing, let’s get down to business

What’s the future of news? What does the audience want? What will the dead-trees edition be able to do about either?

Lately, it seems like these questions are brought up by newspaper editors and journalism educators fraught with worry over what will become of their medium and of their readership. (And the children! Won’t somebody please think of the children?!)
They write editorials and cluck over how journalism students don’t read the newspaper anymore.

No, we don’t. We read more than that, we do it faster, and we do it at a level of depth that correlates to the amount of time or interest we have for the topic.

What’s far more fun, not to mention useful, is to get down to the research and conversations that are going to lead to real answers.

So enough whining — let’s get to work on brewing up a new business model for the news. Try to lead the experiments instead of following the leaders online all the time. And don’t be afraid of the answers to all those worrisome questions.

For your pleasure reading today, you might take a look at the following:

  • Can the Newspaper Industry Stare Disruption in the Face? – In Nieman Reports, Scott Anthony and Clark Gilbert take a look at the how the newspaper business can keep from being bled dry by the chupacabras of disruptive technology currently nipping at its heels.

    “Too many newspaper companies have replicated their print models online, relying on display advertisements and classifieds, instead of creating new business models. A recent study showed that as few as 10 percent of top print advertisers are top online advertisers in newspaper Web sites.”

  • What does your newspaper’s Integrated Audience look like? We’re talking print-Web integration, here. Scarborough Research released a study (PDF) this week that ranked papers based on their combined print and online market penetration. No suprpise to see The Washington Post at the top, but the San Diego Union-Tribune and St. Louis Post-Dispatch at 2 and 3 aren’t necessarily the first names that jump to your lips, are they? More on the study from E & P. Jemima Kiss at paidContent has some highlights, including this takeaway:

    “The need to understand the distinctiveness of web content is also important. Hyde Post, VP-Internet, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, lists four key audience drivers: urgency, utility, visual energy and community interaction – which is about the most concise and compelling summary of effective web content I’ve read.”

  • Meanwhile, Jay Small tries to reconcile those two pieces of research, and he’s worried about how newspaper execs might read that second one.

    “Establishing mindshare for the Internet as a growth opportunity is not the same thing as consolidating your Internet development, operations, marketing and sales arms into the corresponding printside organizations. But I’ll bet a lot of publishers who read ‘integration of the Web site into the core newspaper business’ think the latter, not the former. And for those publishers who already folded online into offline, whether hoping for innovative outcomes or, more likely, cutting costs, I guess they could look at the Scarborough report and infer a rationale for their decisions.”

    Did you get that, folks? Just because you can meld your print and online staffs into one big happy understaffed newsroom doesn’t mean you should. Oh, by the way, Small is the director of online audience and operations for Scripps newspapers. You may have heard of them.

And now, here’s what you really should be worried about: David Weinberger, Jay Rosen (only in spirit), Dan Gillmor, Mike Davidson of Newsvine, and Jay Adelson from Digg all in the same room talking about the future of news.

In the beginning, newspapers competed with each other, racing to scoop the crosstown rival on the hot breaking news.

After the (still-ongoing) mergers of the last 30 years, newspapers turned their competitive guts toward rival mediums, trying to keep up with local and cable TV, the 24-hours news cycle, and then the continuous updating of online news.

Now that newspapers can shoot, edit, and post video, audio, and text updates nearly as fast as anyone else, they’ve arrived at the next frontier of competition: The Readers.

So how are you going to approach this problem? Are you going to beat your audience to the story, or are you going to compete with your rivals to print their story? Give your readers the attention they deserve, and maybe they’ll be writing for you someday, instead of themselves.

New Media class at SJSU

Journalism 163, taught by Steve Sloan and Cynthia McCune (at least one section – are there others?), opens for business at SJSU this week. It’s hard to give this thing a name, and I don’t want to contribute any more than I already have to the handwringing and head-scratching over what it should be, or how it should be taught, but I’ll just call it a New Media class and leave it that.

I recommend you take it, friends, that I do, and wholeheartedly.


I’ll let Scoble throw a simple answer at you:

“The skills journalists will need in the future are going to be a lot more varied than just churning out good text. The better journalists are going to understand how to do that, create illustrations (or at least rough drawings that an artist will be able to take and fill out), capture audio, photos, and video, and edit all that together to tell a compelling story on the Web.”

Still not convinced?

Had a job interview lately?

At your next one, try telling the recruiter you can shoot photos, video, know html and css, produced a podcast for the student newspaper, and just started learning Flash.

No, I haven’t done all those things either, but this class is a great start.

There’s already a class blog set up for J163, and here’s a short podcast where Steve and Cynthia talk about what they’re up to.