Teaching Examples

New aggregation idea catches my attention
June 21, 2007, 12:44 pm
Filed under: ideas, journalism, news

I’m going to keep my eye on Thoof, an upcoming news aggregation site, now in beta. It might end up getting taken over by technology wonks (like Digg) or being gamed (also like Digg) — but if not, it could be really useful.

Thoof’s founder, Ian Clarke, is:

obsessed with the fact that even when accurate information exists on the Internet, it often does not have the political impact that it should.

“I’m concerned that most Americans still believe that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,” he said. “All of the information is there, but people are still ill-informed.”

He believes Thoof will provide a way to make sure accurate information can spread, and that he can profit in the process.

That’s from John Markoff, writing in The New York Times on June 18.

This is an interesting twist:

Based on data from comScore, which measures Web traffic, Mr. Clarke estimates that about 1.3 billion pages are viewed daily on news and information sites, generating advertising of roughly $51 million a day. But sites based on user submissions account for only about half of 1 percent of all news viewing on the Web, he said.

Thoof is negotiating with an advertising syndicator to put ads on the site based on demographic and behavioral data that the Thoof system will provide about its users.

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Social networking and the news habit
June 20, 2007, 3:14 pm
Filed under: culture, future, socialnetworks

At my university, we are playing host to 17 journalism educators from 17 countries, most of which are “developing” rather than “developed.” We have arranged six weeks of lectures, workshops and travel for them with the goal of increasing their understanding of how we practice and teach journalism in the U.S.

Of course they all use the Internet, Google and e-mail (they teach at universities in their home countries). They have all seen YouTube before. But yesterday we learned that very few of our participants are familiar with Facebook, MySpace or Second Life. We have also learned that in some countries, LiveJournal or MSN Spaces (now renamed Live Spaces) are far more popular than they seem to be here. (Last year two of our students from China told me that MSN Spaces is by far the most popular social networking site in China, and Baidu far outstrips Google in search engine usage.)

Who Participates (Business Week, June 11, 2007)
So while this was fresh in my mind, I saw this excellent information graphic (via the MultimediaShooter blog).

It’s a pleasure to stare at this graphic — the data are so clearly depicted, and the information is fascinating. (It represents U.S. users only.)

What you see in the graphic might not surprise you — Americans ages 18 to 21 use social networking sites more than any other age group — but think about what this might mean for the future. We don’t know whether this group will continue to use these sites — or similar sites that emerge later — to the same extent, or in the same ways. But use of such sites is spreading around the world. In countries where access to the Internet is low, and/or literacy rates are low, we won’t see the same patterns emerging. At least not yet.

We do know that mobile phone use is higher than Internet use in many countries, however, and it’s clear that Internet-capable phones are getting better — and cheaper. People in developing countries already create ad hoc networks for text messaging, through which they disseminate news and gossip that often is censored from the news media. This cool chart would be different in other countries.

The Digital Youth research project offers a lot of interesting stories coming out of ethnographic research under way in California. Researchers are studying how kids play, learn and socialize “in virtual places and networks such as online games, blogs, messaging, and online interest groups.”

What I’m pondering is the implications for civil society — modern democracies — social networks in real life, which keep us from devolving into chaos.

As Steve Yelvington has said more than once:

Media consumption patterns are set early in life, and tend to persist. The change that endangers the newspaper business model is not one that involves readers losing the habit. It is, instead, a generational change that involves losing the actual readers from the population pool.

In other words, these 20-year-olds who do not read a printed newspaper are never going to become newspaper readers.

Most of the news industry in the Western countries has recognized this already. We see different patterns in some other countries, such as India, but I think the trend of the Internet — especially via mobile phones — will continue indefinitely.

What I’m thinking about today (and I do apologize for taking so long to get to my point) is that the habit young people in the U.S. do have — now, at that crucial age when patterns are set for life — is the pattern of interacting in social networks.

Their interpersonal networks might well reconfigure over time. The software or sites they use might well change or be replaced by others. But their habit of staying connected digitally, checking for updates, making plans, sharing gossip, getting information — this will likely remain their habit, their means of keeping in touch with the world around them, for the rest of their lives.

That’s why we need to understand these spaces where young people interact. I don’t know if it really requires setting up a bureau in Second Life, but it certainly does demand our attention — immediately, today.

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Multimedia flashback: Black Hawk Down, 1997
June 20, 2007, 4:12 am
Filed under: future, journalism

Mark Bowden relates how an enterprising online producer at the Philadelphia Inquirer transformed his 29-part series (!) “Black Hawk Down” into a Web site — in 1997. Early days indeed. It’s a fascinating site to look at today — imagine how much work went into this package. Tons of audio, lots of great contextual links …

In the case of Black Hawk Down, apart from all the multimedia razzle-dazzle, it opened up a global dialogue with readers, including men who had fought in the battle. They corrected my mistakes, pointed me to better information, and offered to be interviewed, allowing me to improve greatly on the story before it was published as a book in 1999. Mine may have been, thanks to Jennifer [Musser-Metz], the first book that ever benefited from this new journalistic tool. In a sense, the story was edited by the entire world.

But little has happened in the 10 years since. Surprisingly, the site Jennifer created is still in the vanguard of Internet story presentation.

Bowden provides nice commentary on where we’re headed — especially considering he is a self-proclaimed “old fuddy-duddy” who still wants to pick up his newspaper in the driveway every morning.

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The right tool, the right approach, for video
June 19, 2007, 11:28 am
Filed under: journalism, newspapers, online, video

Chuck Fadely, who shoots video for the Miami Herald, posted a long rant about boneheaded attitudes toward video:

The internet audience is growing and you want your staff — from the janitor all the way up to the M.E. — to contribute to the web product. Video! Let’s do lots of video! There was some guy at the publisher’s association meeting who said all you need is a point-n-shoot; let’s get ’em for everyone. How ’bout the photogs? Nahhh, they care about silly quality…. we won’t ask them about doing video… We’ll get the web people and reporters to do video.

So the reporters start doing video. All of a sudden the story they used to be able to write blindfolded, in five minutes while doing the office football pool, takes ’em six hours of work to get the video into their computers, figure out why Movie Maker keeps crashing — I’ve got 128 megs of ram, fer krissake! — and finally re-compress the file into the right size on the third try.

Now, to be fair about this, Chuck is a newspaper photographer. And he’s got a lot of experience, so you ought to listen to what he says. But he’s also lumping all those reporters who shoot video into one mushy basket. And that’s NOT fair.

The truth here is that video has a heck of a lot of facets. It’s like TV — you gotcher Planet Earth (pure awesomeness) on one channel, and on another channel, you have Cops, from that bastion of quality journalism, Fox.

Newspaper publishers, editors and owners who think video online has one easy solution are totally kidding themselves. Wishful thinking — that’s all it is. And simplistic. Fatally simplistic.

It’s exactly the same mistake so many newspapers made on the Internet when they started out, whether that was in 1993 or 2003. Looking for a cheap fix, a turnkey solution, listening to some consultant who’s just blowing smoke out of a place far south of his mouth.

Link via Angela Grant at News Videographer.

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Good news for newspaper Web sites
June 18, 2007, 7:55 pm
Filed under: business, future, news, newspapers, online

Double growth rates — according to a Nielsen//NetRatings study, “the audience for newspaper Web sites is growing at nearly twice the rate of the overall online audience.” The study was described in a press release from the Newspaper Association of America.

“An average of more than 59 million people (37.6 percent of all active Internet users) visited newspaper Web sites each month during the first quarter …” This number set a record, according to NAA, and “represents a 5.3 percent increase over the same period a year ago.” The overall Internet audience grew 2.7 percent during the first quarter, NAA said.

If you’re familiar with the elegant and easy-to-understand diagram of how innovations are adopted, you probably realize that Internet adoption in the U.S. has slowed to a near standstill. That means almost all of the people who are going to use it are already using it. Unless we have a gigantic baby boom, the number of Internet users will probably maintain a very low rate of growth from now until the next big thing (whatever that’s going to be).

According to the NAA, the Nielsen//NetRatings data show that, compared with other Internet users, visitors to newspaper Web sites:

  • Have higher household incomes.
  • Shop online more frequently.
  • Are more likely to hold professional or managerial positions.

Newspaper Web site visitors also “use the Internet more frequently during their daily lives, and are more technologically savvy than the general online audience,” the study found.

Copied from the press release:

  • Nearly 73 percent (72.6 percent) of newspaper Web site visitors go online every day (compared with 57.8 percent of the Internet population as a whole).
  • Nearly 42 percent (41.8 percent) of those who have visited newspaper Web sites have viewed streaming video on their computers in the last 30 days (compared with 27.4 percent of the overall Internet audience).
  • More newspaper Web site visitors read blogs in the past month than the overall Internet population (28.4 percent vs. 16.7 percent).
  • More than one in five (23.3 percent) newspaper Web site visitors have read about politics or political campaign information online (compared with 10.8 percent of the overall Internet population).
  • Nearly 3 in 10 (28.9 percent) newspaper Web site visitors have sought out or posted a product review online in the past month (compared with 16.1 percent of the overall Internet population).

Many more details are in this post at the Digital Edge blog (dated May 7, 2007).

One of the goodies there: “More newspaper Web site visitors had broadband Wi-Fi access at home or at work than the general Internet-using population.”

Well, yeah — they have higher incomes and better jobs than the general population, and that is the demographic that has broadband in the U.S. (Did you know that 53 percent of all U.S. households subscribe to a broadband Internet service at home? That’s where they are watching YouTube!)

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Something amusing for the weekend
June 17, 2007, 3:53 pm
Filed under: Flash, interactive

Brought to you by Current TV.

Link via Seth in my del.icio.us network.

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New — Soundslides Plus
June 15, 2007, 1:32 pm
Filed under: audio, journalism, photojournalism, slideshows, tools

The fabulously popular Soundslides program is now available in two flavors: regular and Plus.

The regular product is still $40. The Plus version is $70. Both flavors are available in Windows and Mac versions.

Plus provides a bunch of extra visual features that photographers have been clamoring for, but which beginners probably do not need. If you’re an educator buying Soundslides for 100 workstations, for example, you might be okay with the regular version. (Make sure you contact Joe for education pricing if you’re buying that many licenses!)

If this is all new to you, here are some great examples of what the regular old Soundslides can do (my current favorites):

  • Guitar Lessons at the Central Area Senior Center: An 81-year-old Seattle woman loves taking guitar lessons. No narration, nice story, several interviews skillfully edited together.
  • Cockfighting in Puerto Rico: Awesome photos, wonderful audio that puts you at the scene.
  • Nutcracker: A fresh photojournalism grad tells us the story of a production of the Nutcracker ballet. She produced this while on an internship at The Gainesville (Fla.) Sun. Notice the variety in shots, scenes, lenses, etc. Notice too the excellent editing of the pictures to match the content of the audio.
  • After the Riots: A Soundslides about the housing projects in Paris, by the British newspaper The Guardian. Exceptional storytelling and great use of sound.

Some people will tell you that Soundslides are boring. I offer these four examples to prove that it’s all in the storytelling.

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