TL;DR: a selection of articles for the Guardian Media & Tech network

Thirteen articles from the last couple of years, starting with the most recent:

Facebook’s dominance in journalism could be bad news for us all
Could it be that the short-term high from socially distributed content – greater reach – inevitably gives way to symptoms of dependency: loss of control and financial damage?

From digital to print: the publishers bucking the online-only trend
The march of technological progress moves in just one direction. From analogue to digital. From standalone to connected. From print to online. That, at least, is the conventional view. The reality is far messier. And far more interesting.

How can publishers inspire trust in an era of distributed media?
Where once publishers used social media as a promotional tool to pull users back to their own websites, now social networks and messaging apps have morphed into content hosts – think Facebook Instant Articles, Snapchat Discover, Apple News, LinkedIn Pulse, Google AMP and, even, Twitter Moments.

What is Twitter’s real reach?
Regardless of the stalling active users and top line numbers, perhaps Twitter still matters. Perhaps it still has influence, albeit indirectly.

Cosmo and Lad Bible reach new audiences through social
Nobody owns the audience, Facebook will change the rules of publisher engagement to suit its needs and the benefits of using social platforms controlled by others outweigh the disadvantages.

Current affairs magazines are defying the death of print
As it is with long-form broadcast so it is with current affairs magazines at their best. By taking a longer view and by devoting more time and space to key events, current affairs magazines can help readers marshal their thoughts (shape them, even) and separate the signal from the noise.

From Bloomberg to Quartz: five attempts to tackle our attention deficit
In a world of finite time and apparent infinite choice, how are publishers encouraging readers to stick around? And how, especially, are they persuading them to stay for the longish reads? One answer is to provide visual or text-based cues to indicate how much time readers will need to invest in a particular article. Here are five innovative approaches.

 TLDR: so just how short should your online article be?
In a world of 140 character tweets and five to six inch mobile phone screens, long is bad. Right? Well, maybe.

News UK, the Guardian and Outbrain on the labelling of sponsored content
If the problem is transparency and trust, is the solution better labelling? That was one of the questions a panel on native advertising wrestled with at the Changing Media Summit last week.

BuzzFeed to NME: a publisher’s masterclass in producing online video
Too many videos play as if they have been produced for company bosses. Brevity, focus and the ability to teach viewers something new are key ingredients

What kind of blogger are you?
From the polemicist to the magpie, here are four blogging archetypes worth exploring.

i100 and Quartz prove homepages are increasingly irrelevant
Homepages are a product of journalists who came from print and thought in print terms.

From Google to Buzzfeed: seven moments that shaped digital media
Seven milestones have marked radical change in the digital media in the 20 years since newspapers began publishing online.

Does the short-term high from socially distributed content – greater reach – inevitably gives way to symptoms of dependency: loss of control and financial damage?

My latest piece for the Guardian Media & Tech network is on the changing nature of social channels, the growing dominance of Facebook and the impact of distributed content on creators and publishers of content.

A couple of questions run through the piece. There’s the one above (long, I know) and there’s this one from the beginning of the piece:

Do the benefits of allowing social platforms to host your journalism outweigh the disadvantages? Most publishers, however reluctantly, will say yes and adopt the “we are where we are” argument. Others put a more positive spin on things, maintaining that publishers should go where their audience is, share what advertising revenue is available and trust that they can turn passing interest into loyal (paying) readership.

Continue reading Facebook’s dominance in journalism could be bad news for us all

Some thoughts on #DigitalJournalism

Several weeks ago Nasser Sahool, agency leader at DAC Group in Toronto, invited me to take part in his podcast series on digital strategy.

The conversation that followed made me think again about the changing role of digital journalism over nearly two decades. Here are a selection of those thoughts – a few fully formed, most partially constructed…

On the skills journalists need in the digital age
“Some of the advice never really changes. Read widely, read well, read good journalism whether it’s the New Yorker or the Financial Times or it’s a brilliantly crafted tabloid newspaper. Learn to deliver lean and concise and effective copy… Then combine this old stuff with a bunch of new skills. So, for example, as as digital journalist you’d need to learn how to open a spreadsheet and understand the data that you are seeing … Then familiarise yourself with the newish tools of the trade – do you know how to put audio together? Do you know how to use video? Do you understand how to use social networks?”

On data journalism
“Data gets to the heart of a truth and if journalism is about getting to the truth data journalism is really important.”

On the new tools of the trade
“I’m not sure all journalists realise how easy [the tools] are to use. I run workshops on social media and what I spend a lot of time doing is getting people over that hump of fear, fear of the technology – ‘I can’t possibly use Twitter because I don’t understand how to use it.’ Well, it doesn’t take very long learn how to use it. And once you understand how to use it – once you understand the lingua franca, the code of Twitter, Facebook or any of these other tools – then you are into the world of communications. It’s then about how you apply the technology not the technology itself.”

On the impact of smartphones
“The medium impacts consumption habits. We see that most obviously with the growth of the internet-enabled smartphone … which has made the internet day and the internet week longer in terms of consumption … If lots of people are consuming our content at 7.30 in the evening via a smartphone what does it say about us as a publisher in terms of what we deliver, when we deliver it, how we resource our staff, how we push this stuff out on to our website but equally through social media.”

On the dangers of infinite online space
“Just because you’ve got infinite space doesn’t mean that your reader has got infinite time. In fact they’ve got less time than they ever had because they are reading more words from more sources than ever before. So some of those old world skills of being concise – writing short and sharp and to the point – absolutely apply still.”

Read more: Episode 18: The Role Of The Digital Strategist In Journalism – A Conversation With Jon Bernstein

Resist the ego bath. Some thoughts on online video

In my latest piece for the the Guardian Media Network, I look at examples of good online video in action. My experience is that most video on the web is “long, self-indulgent, rambling and shambling – video for bosses (internal stakeholders, if you must); not video for viewers.”

By looking at those that (mostly) get it right – from the NME to WSJ, The Atlantic to Channel 4’s The Last Leg – it’s possible to learn some useful lessons that are applicable in most circumstances. Lessons such as these:

1. Answer the question. Explainers work.

2. Keep it short. Brevity takes times. But it’s worth it.

3. Repurpose, repackage, reuse. Better 10 well-targeted one minute videos than one 10 minute grand tour.

4. Think discoverability. Headlines matter.

5. Text and moving images, a perfect partnership. To liven things up, aid understanding or create a brand new strand.

6. Leave them wanting more. And tell them where to go.

Read: BuzzFeed to NME: a publisher’s masterclass in producing online video

 

Writing for the Web workshop: sample agenda

I’ve just started running a Writing for the Web training workshop. To get a sense of the topics covered see the Slide Share presentation below.

7 lessons in mobile publishing

Following the Press Gazette’s excellent News on the Move conference last month, I’ve written a piece for the Guardian Media Network pulling out the key lessons shared on the day.

In short, what does the move to mobile mean for publishers of all stripes? These seven things at least:

1. Plan for the extended internet day – and week

2. Think format

3. Remember, the web still rules

4. Use apps to upsell

5. Don’t forget the role of social media

6. Viral hits don’t happen without mobile

7. It’s the content, stupid

I expand on each over at ‘From BBC to BuzzFeed: lessons in mobile publishing‘.

Writing for the web: a (short) reading list

I’m running a series of ‘Writing for the web’ workshops at the Frontline Club in the coming months, starting on 14 November (others are slated for 6 March and 6 June 2015). As a taster, here are some recent posts I’ve written for Press Gazette, the Guardian and Content Desk on the subject:

  1. How to make journalism work online: Five writing tips (Press Gazette)
  2. What kind of blogger are you? (Guardian)
  3. How to write headlines for the web? (Content Desk)
  4. Online headlines are different, and here’s the proof (Content Desk)
  5. What George Orwell can still teach us about writing and readability (Content Desk)
  6. From BBC to Buzzfeed: lessons in mobile publishing (Guardian)