How to Blog . . . For reputation, profile and reach

On Friday 24 May I’m running a full-day training workshop at the Frontline Club on social media — broadly, How to Tweet and How to Blog.

Here’s an extract from the agenda for the blogging section of the day:

How to Blog . . . For reputation, profile and reach

In this session we will explore the basics of blogging, the dos and don’ts, reveal who are the masters of the craft, and layout the editorial techniques – as well as the tactics and tools – you’ll need for success.

You’ll cover a range of subjects including:
– Setting up: the basics
– When is a blog post not a blog post?
– What kind of blogger are you? The polemicist, the educator, the analyst, the observer, the magpie and more
– How to establish a tone of voice
– Frequency and variety: defining a rhythm to suit you and the reader
– Ten blogging heroes you should follow
– How to get noticed
– How to grow your traffic

The first half of the course deals, at similar length, with the use of social networks as a journalist or a communicator, in particular Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.

The workshop takes place on Friday 24 May and you can find more details here.

Why it takes a “dose of counterintuition” to properly understand digital

In my piece for the Press Gazette this week, I’ve drawn on an article written back in 2010 (an age in digital publishing) about The Atlantic magazine. Why? Because I think it perfectly captures the challenge and the cultural change required by traditional print publishers in the digital age.

The Atlantic had to act counter intuitively to properly make the transition, according to the original New York Times piece. And here’s an extract from my response:

It does take a “dose of counterintuition” to properly understand digital. Why? Because a lot of what we take for granted in print simply doesn’t translate online. Equally, the assumptions we are making about digital need to be challenged. Constantly.

For example, some of us still struggle with the notion that we should, on occasion, link out to our direct competitors. And if we do we will probably end up with more readers, not fewer.

Moreover, that in order to make money we should consider giving more of our stuff away for free.

We struggle, too, with the notion that digital can aid print, not cannibalise it, at least not at a micro level.

Certainly the internet has been “disruptive”, to borrow a term beloved by technologist, and there is a systemic shift from the older medium to the newer one.

But that’s not the same as believing that your own website will destroy your weekly, or indeed that your app will destroy your website. It might but it doesn’t have to. The New York Times, for one, claims that digital subscriptions have helped stem the decline in print subs.

You can read the Press Gazette piece here.

Digital Media Business Model #543:

From today’s Guardian interview with Lewis DVorkin, chief product officer, Forbes Media on the cash-for-clicks journalism model for‘s 1,000 or so contributors/bloggers:

[N]ot only do contributors self-publish, but they are paid according to the size of the audience they attract … [E]ach contributor gets paid a certain number of cents for every visitor per month.

There is a clear incentive for them to get repeat custom, as they get paid 20 times that amount if the same person reads another of their posts during that month.

According to the piece, last year “two contributors made more than $100,000, several made $75,000 and 25 made $35,000”. And, one assumes, 900+ made not very much at all.

You can read the full piece here.

“Twitter is about leading people to water”

Another day, another former colleague… or two.

Yesterday I quoted my old boss at the New Statesman. Today it’s Jon Snow, Channel 4 News presenter and Charlie Beckett who now runs Polis at the London School of Economics and was previously a programme editor at Channel 4 News.

Both had interesting things to say about the evolution of news in the networked age. Both were talking heads in the final part of Steve Richards’ Making News series on Radio 4.

Here’s Charlie on the ubiquity of news:

The very definition of news is shifting. It’s completely abundant. It’s almost environmental. It’s a bit like the air that we breathe … anyone can get it just about any time … [This] is completely, historically exceptional.

And here’s Jon’s take on what role Twitter really plays in the newsroom:

I think Twitter so far is the greatest asset that the journalist has managed to get hold of. And I think it has deepened the news coverage. I don’t think it has superficialised it in any way.

People think [Twitter] is about 140 characters. It’s got nothing to do with 140 characters, it’s go everything to do with leading people to water. Sometimes the water’s stale and boring, sometimes it’s deep and succulent.

You can listen to the edition in question here.

“There is a craft to making magazines that cannot be replicated online”

A thoughtful piece in the Guardian yesterday by my former boss Jason Cowley to mark the centenary of the New Statesman.

In it Cowley, editor since 2008, touches on the marriage (and separation) of print and online and draws the following conclusion:

There is a craft to making magazines that cannot be replicated online: the joy of an arch headline that would fail all the utilitarian demands of search engine optimisation; the creative use of pictures and cartoons; the juxtaposition of viewpoints.

Little links the New Statesman with the Daily Mail, but they have one thing in common: our print and online offerings have separate identities, each adapted for the form. Our website can be fast, funny, irreverent; our magazine can be reflective, considered and deliberative. And both are thriving.

You can read the full piece here.

How the iPad is extending the Guardian’s web day

Nine out of every ten visits to the Guardian website from tablet devices still come via an Apple iPad. This compares to 98 per cent two years ago and is despite the proliferation of Android-based alternatives since then (Google’s Nexus 7 and Amazon’s Kindle Fire are distant runners-up).

That was just one of the figures provided by Anthony Sullivan, the paper’s group product manager for journalism products during last Thursday’s Press Gazette News on the Move conference.

He also demonstrated how tablet usage was altering web consumption patterns across the weekday. Note the large green peak in the graph below which shows heavy tablet usage during the evening.


By cross-referencing the means of access (mobile network, WiFi, fixed network etc) the Guardian is able to make an educated guess that most of that tablet consumption is happening at home rather than on the move.

How? Well, according to Sullivan, 93 per cent is coming via WiFi which strongly suggests sofa/kitchen table/bed rather than train/bus/office.

Anthony intended to show this and four associated graphs during the session I ran at the conference but issues with the audio visual — familiar to any regular conference goer — meant he was restricted to describing what we couldn’t see.

Belatedly, you can see all five graphs over on the Press Gazette.

And you can watch the entirety of News on Move on this Google+ hangout. The panel session in question, starts at around 23 minutes and 50 seconds.

Finally, it is worth revisiting the FT graph I posted last week which shows some really interesting weekend consumption patterns brought about by increased mobile device usage. Both trends are reflected on other news and current affairs websites.

UPDATE: I was alerted to this analysis of tablet activity by the BBC based on access to the iPlayer. It was published a month ago but adds to the overall told above.

How to Tweet: a social media primer

Late next month (24 May) I’m running a full-day training workshop at the Frontline Club on social media — broadly, How to Tweet and How to Blog.

Here’s an extract from the blurb:

How to Tweet: a social media primer

This session will teach journalists – both in-house and freelance – how to raise their profile, extend the reach of their journalism and understand how to integrate social media into their newsgathering.

This interactive session will cover the following and more:
– Social media: understanding the basics
– Stories from the newsroom that demonstrate the power of social
– Six ways social media can help your journalism: crowd sourcing, fact checking, taste testing, finding eyewitnesses and more
– The social media audit: from Twitter to Facebook to Pinterest to Google+ and beyond, which tool suits which occasion
– How to manage your social footprint all in one place
– How to get noticed
– How to grow your follower count legitimately
– Social media: dos and don’ts.

The second half of the course deals, at similar length, with blogging.

The workshop takes place on Friday 24 May and you can find more details here.

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Weekends are the new weekdays: how mobile is changing user habits

There was a really smart piece of analysis by Jasper Jackson over on The Media Briefing yesterday where he looked at the impact of mobile device usage and how it affects “when consumers access your content”.

His findings, based on data from the FT and the Guardian, mirror the experience of the New Statesman and the Press Gazette – specifically how heavy usage of smartphones and tablets at weekends is filling the deep Saturday and Sunday troughs previously typical of news-based websites.

The FT graph also shows clearly the pre- and post-work ‘check-in’ via mobile devices during weekdays.

FT weekly consumption where blue is desktop and orange is mobile

Jackson notes:

A key point here is that the bulk of this traffic is additive – the FT is seeing high levels of traffic to its website during times when there was previously very little, simply because people now have a way of accessing it.

Again that mirrors my own experience.

So what lessons can digital publishers draw from this data? For one answer Jackson quotes Tom Betts, FT’s head of data:

We are starting to see a number of changes to the way editorial teams publish. Obviously having someone working nine-to-five on mobile publishing doesn’t work.

And if you don’t have a weekend operation, perhaps now is the time to start. More over at The Media Briefing.

Memories of a dot com start up:

In the spirit of Tony Hallett’s blog post last Friday here are more memories from life at a late 90s/early Noughties dot com start up. Tony and I were colleagues at Silicon Media Group (previously NMTV) and we worked on the business technology website (previously ‘Project X’).

As another former colleague Graham Hayday (now of the Guardian) will remember, when we launched it wasn’t all about the web. In our (my?) rather clumsy pitch of early 1998 to the great and good of the London technology scene we were a “tri-media operation, incorporating another medium: video”. Yep, we were probably half a decade too early into video on the web.

The screenshots below show the perfect melding of two of the media: CD and video (a quarterly print publication was also part of the pre-launch plan). We did a few – okay, maybe just two – of these Silicon Reports.

CD from Silicon Report ecommerce
The very first Silicon Report CD featuring “up to 50 minutes of high-quality video content”.

Among the alumni on the celebrity squares-style cover are Anna Russell and Sarah Left (appropriately, top left); Sarah Mills (most of the second row); me (with my finger in my ear for some reason); and Ian Jones (second from left, bottom row). Bottom right is regular contributor Rene Carayol but I’m struggling with bottom left. Any ideas?'s Silicon Report CD

The back cover features more faces including — middle, bottom row — a young Nick Clegg*. Below the pictures are the contact details which include an ‘0171’ London telephone number which probably helps to date it.

Back on the front, there’s the added enticement of a Silicon Screensaver.

Finally, and for the avoidance of any doubt, that cover price on the top right hand corner is not £2.95.

*Possibly not a young Nick Clegg

Digital subscriptions can help print circulation. And other lessons from the paywalled New York Times’s Rachel McAthy spoke to New York Times’ Paul Smurl before the Easter break to mark the second anniversary of the paper’s move behind a metered paywall.

The interview is worth listening to in full but here are a few lessons I took away from it:

1. It can be worth trading (some) ad revenue for subscription revenue…

2. …so long as you don’t lose too many readers

3. Digital subscriptions can help print circulation

4. Hostility towards the paywall model has softened

5. Amazon and Apple have taught people to pay online 

You can read more at the Press Gazette and can listen to the whole interview here.