Tag Archives: Medium

Journalism Technologies 4: The Facebook Effect

For the fourth week of this year’s Journalism Technologies module at the University of Huddersfield, I was in Dubai for a work recruiting trip and so my colleague Caroline Pringle not only did the lecture, but also led all six workshops. Thanks Caroline!

I’ve embedded her lecture on Facebook at the top of this post. And even since the lecture was delivered last Thursday, the Facebook Effect on the media has become even more pronounced. Tests of a different form of news feed, with all non-friends and sponsored posts hived off elsewhere, has prompted panic among news executives in the six countries where the trial has been taking place. This Medium post by a Slovakian journalist reports a drop in post interactions to just a quarter of previous levels, virtually overnight.

The days of Facebook being a simple firehose for traffic aren’t quite what they once were, and occasional tweaks to the algorithm have from time-to-time prompted similar palpitations among social media editors, but this appears to be another step closer to a ‘pay to play’ regime, with only publishers and others willing to pay for the privilege getting real estate in your news feeds. This may be superficially attractive to Facebook as a way of tackling arguably its biggest ever challenge – fake news – but would have an immediate and serious financial impact on publishers which have spent years trying to build traffic through Facebook, in turn using that to raise advertising revenue.

Facebook’s head of news feed, Adam Mosseri, has used this blogpost to try to reassure nervous publishers. The key line is: “We currently have no plans to roll this test out further.” But ‘currently’ doesn’t mean forever.

Journalism Technologies 3: The People Formerly Known As The Audience

This week in Journalism Technologies at the University of Huddersfield, I enjoyed telling the first years the story of blogging. In some ways it’s a bit of a rise and fall of blogging, from the very earliest experiments with personal blogs (before they were even called blogs) in the mid-1990s, through the rise of Blogger and WordPress, to its gradual decline in the era of social media to become just another part of the media landscape. The title is from Jay Rosen’s memorable 2006 article about all this published on – what else? – his blog.

When considering the impact of blogging on journalism, there’s still only one place to start: the publication by Matt Drudge in 1998 of the fact Newsweek had dropped its investigation into President Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky. When I asked the room whether the name Monica Lewinsky was familiar to everyone, there were quite a few shaking heads. This was all before most of the new first year students were even born, after all.

In the practical workshops we’ve been setting up blogs for the students to use in their first assessment of the module, in which they write a series of posts about the tools we’ll be using in future weeks. Once again I gave them the choice of Blogger, WordPress or Medium, the latter having the continued benefit of being extremely user friendly indeed, despite the various pivots and changes taking place with its financial model.

Even though blogging is far from being the most exciting part of today’s media landscape, it’s still worth students doing, I think. In part because you quickly pick up how to handle a standard CMS, as well as other associated skills born from running a website (moderating comments for example, and tweaking the layout). And also because a decent blog might well be the top result on Google for some students, or at least those with less common names. I still like blogs as a way to have a professional showcase for the right audience, even if the days of traditional personal blogs getting big traffic are receding into the distance.

Journalism Technologies: 3. The People Formerly Known As The Audience

It’s blogs week on our new Journalism Technologies module at the University of Huddersfield. And that means setting students up with their own professional blogs – from a menu of WordPress, Blogger and Medium – as well as the above lecture tracing the recent history of how the audience turned into something a bit more than that.

Putting the lecture together a few weeks ago, I was struck by how old hat it all seemed now. I made Web 2.0 the week’s key concept, but even as I was discussing it during Monday’s class, I was struggling to remember the last time I’d even had cause to say the term out loud. Blogs have been around long enough to have passed from flavour of the month to workmanlike part of internet furniture.

I actually spent the lecture and the practical workshops posing the question: why blog today? Basically as a way of justifying why I’m making each of the students do it for their first assessment this term. I still think blogging is hugely valuable, in particular for journalism students. It allows them to learn straightforward tools of online publishing and sharing, gives them a professional-looking online home, and even offers the more ambitious the chance to tinker with a bit of html around the edges of their customisable templates.

The danger is that students are encouraged to start a blog, but after they post once or twice, it just sort of withers, unloved and never updated. While it’s important for students to blog, the only thing worse than not bothering is doing so half-heartedly, as it hints at disengagement from the world the students want to enter after their courses. By the end of this first term everyone on the module will have a busy-looking blog with a series of (hopefully) interesting posts reflecting on current trends in journalism and tech. I’ll report back on how they get on.

An Updated Quick Introduction To Twitter For Student Journalists

jointwitter

The screen where you join Twitter.

A lot of people are talking about Twitter these days. Indeed, some broadcasters are so excited about Twitter, they sometimes seem to discuss little else. So you could be forgiven for being a bit put off.

But if you are interested in the news and in becoming a journalist, you have to be on Twitter. More than half of journalists worldwide now use it, and the number is rising rapidly each year. That’s not to say it will be quite as useful in the future as it is now. No doubt something of a scale we can’t grasp yet will come along and supersede Twitter. But right now, in 2013, Twitter is essential for student journalists. This blogpost offers a brief explanation as to why.

What Twitter is

Two common ways of describing Twitter are that it is a “social networking” or “microblogging” tool. I don’t think either of these is particularly helpful as far as journalists are concerned. Although you can certainly use it to stay in touch with your friends, or for issuing brief thoughts about some topic or other, neither function begins to explain the impact Twitter is having on journalism.

Instead, think of Twitter as an information-sharing service. It allows people from all over the world to give information updates, and for these updates to be shared with other people almost straight away. So, not only do we have a lot more information, but that information is available everywhere very quickly.

Most of it (“I♥1D 4EVA”) is not particularly interesting to us as journalists. But, given that Twitter is used by people and organisations in positions of power who make news, as well as by members of the public who may be caught up in events, a lot of the information updates on Twitter WILL be interesting as news. “News travels fast” is an old saying, but it has never travelled as fast as this.

Why you need to be on Twitter

The main reason why it’s important for student journalists to use Twitter is that, well, lots of people in the media do. If you want to be part of that world, then you’d better start acting like it. Learning how to use Twitter and to get the best out of it for your journalism will add to the traditional skills you’ll be taught on your course, giving you an advantage over those who haven’t bothered.

Then there’s the whole question of journalism’s uncertain future. Although this is discussed in academic papers, chances are you’ll have too much other reading to do to spend much time sifting through those. Instead, the debate about the huge changes to our trade takes place every day on Twitter, as links to articles and blogposts are shared and discussed, praised and criticised.

It’s harder now to simply graduate from a good journalism course and get an entry-level position in, say, local radio. There aren’t as many of those traditional jobs around and competition is tough. Twitter is one way in which you can make yourself stand out, showcase your achievements and get tip-offs about the placements or freelance work that can help you get the job you want.

I believe it’s up to all of us who want to have careers in journalism to use new media to try things out, experiment with new ways of working, and to talk about what’s successful and what isn’t. Right now, Twitter is the best forum for the latter. Besides, that well-known journalist you end up chatting to on Twitter is the sort of contact you’d never have been able to make in the old days. You need to get involved.

hootsuite

Hootsuite. Helping us find our way to the good stuff.

The best way to use Twitter

You sign up for a Twitter account by visiting www.twitter.com and following the instructions (it’s free). You can post your tweets of up to 140 characters directly from twitter.com if you want, but it’s much better to use a third-party client. These interact with Twitter so you can see tweets in a more user-friendly way, with columns that display lists of interesting Twitter feeds that you can create.

Tweetdeck is the most popular and best-known client. Personally, I recommend Hootsuite, although this is mainly because I’ve used it for years without any trouble rather than because it’s necessarily any better. Both, along with many others, have smartphone and tablet apps as well as their desktop versions.

The best people to follow on Twitter

In order to see updates posted by others on Twitter, you need to subscribe by ‘following’ them. As soon as you’ve clicked ‘follow’ on that person’s account, their tweets will start to appear in your Home feed.

In order to help you get started, I’ve created a handy list of some notable journalists on Twitter. You can find it by clicking here (there’s another one of sports journalists here). If you become a follower of the list, you will be able to import it into one of the columns on your Hootsuite display. However, you’ll need to follow each of the accounts individually if you want to see their updates in your Home column.

You can send a tweet to someone by mentioning their username. When someone does this to you, the tweet will appear in your Mentions column. All of the tweets are publicly visible, although ones which mention a user at the start will not appear in the feeds of others, unless that person is following both the sender and recipient.

If you want to share a tweet sent by anyone with those people who follow you, then you ‘retweet’ it. You’d usually do this if you think something is interesting or funny, and this is the technique by which news travels fast on Twitter. An interesting update from a newsmaker or a breaking piece of information from a news company is often retweeted hundreds or even thousands of times within minutes, meaning that information is quickly available to huge numbers of people.

You’ll also notice tweets featuring ‘hashtags’ which are keywords relating to particular topics, preceded by the # symbol. Click on the hashtag, and you’ll be able to see every public tweet sent using it. A bit like a search engine that works in real time.

You can also send direct messages to individuals, which can’t be seen by others and are basically the same as private messages on Facebook, by putting a ‘d’ at the start of your tweet. But, as American politician Anthony Weiner discovered to his cost, be careful that you do.

Other things Twitter is useful for

Third-party clients such as Hootsuite are also able to connect to other social media accounts you may have, such as your Facebook or LinkedIn profiles, which certainly makes it easier to keep on top of everything.

Twitter’s not just there for the serious things in life either. Twitter is fun. In fact, it’s particularly worth reading during X Factor and such, for an often-hilarious running commentary on events. And, unlike Facebook, your Aunt Jemima isn’t on there. So you can swear as much as you want.

There are also lots of new tools which are useful for journalists, such as StorifyAudioboo, Medium and many more, which you can log into using your Twitter username. So that’s nice and easy.

But this blogpost is really just the most basic of introductions. There are lots of more detailed guides out there, such as this one from Mashable, which is well worth a look. Another good resource is Twitter’s own Twitter for News pages.

I’ll see you on there. I’m @rlwjones, by the way.

(Note: this is a slightly updated version of a post I wrote a couple of years ago)

What I’m Reading: Jeff Bezos Buys The Washington Post, And More

The Washington Post building. (picture: vpickering on Flickr)

The Washington Post building. (picture: vpickering on Flickr)

This is the first in what I imagine will be a semi-regular feature on this site, with links to things I’ve enjoyed reading.

The biggest media news of the week came from Washington DC, where the Graham family announced it was selling the Washington Post to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos for $250m.

That sounds like a lot of money, but everything’s relative. As Alex Massie points out, that’s basically what Johnston Press paid for The Scotsman as recently as 2005.

Of the American reactions to the deal, here’s the analysis on the Post’s own Wonkblog. It’s worth reading the thoughts of former Post staffer and New Yorker editor David Remnick.

Also at the New Yorker, John Cassidy offers a sceptical view of what Bezos’ motives might be. Back at the Post’s website, read this enjoyable open letter to Bezos from Gene Weingarten.

I’ve been checking out Medium this week, the writing-focused newish social network from the Twitter guys, Ev Williams and Biz Stone. Williams explains it all here.

A couple of things that I particularly enjoyed: Callie Schweitzer on how interviewing director David O Russell for her high school newspaper changed her life, and Dave Harte discussing a presentation on the internet he gave to a class of ten-year-olds.

Some rotten boroughs news to finish. Weep at Leeds Citizen’s account of councillors’ refusal to allow the recording of a council meeting. And, from Private Eye via the Telegraph’s Louise Gray, an explanation of how fracking permission was originally granted in Balcombe (there’s an easier-to-read follow up from the Independent here).

Just goes to show why it’s important to scrutinise even parish councils.