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.

Swipe and Porter: two products of a counter factual approach to digital

I’ve just interviewed two people behind print publishing ventures that emerged from digital. I was interested in exploring what struck me as examples of digital reverse engineering.

The piece on Swipe – a fortnightly freesheet that promises to feature “the best of the internet in print” – and Porter – the bi-monthly glossy from online retailer Net-a-Porter – is over on the Guardian. This is how it begins:

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.

During the first dotcom boom, I liked to invoke the counterfactual. What if the physical succeeded the digital? What if the virtual retailer came first, followed by the high street store – how would we have greeted the latter? Surely we would have celebrated our new ability to touch and feel – to say nothing of trying on for size – the clothes we were about to buy.

Carry on reading: From digital to print: the publishers bucking the online-only trend

 

In the course of ‘Politics and the English Language’, Orwell offers not one but three numbered lists. Eat your heart out BuzzFeed

Q. What can George Orwell teach us about language and readability?

A. Quite a lot.

His 1946 essay, ‘Politics and the English Language’ is not to everybody’s taste but as guide to simple and effective writing it’s a great place to start. I’ll be using it in my Writing for the Web workshop at the Frontline Club in November and I’ve written a piece on it for Content Desk.

Among the advice Orwell offers is this:

A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus:

1. What am I trying to say?

2. What words will express it?

3. What image or idiom will make it clearer?

4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect?

And in the course of the 5,000+ word article, he produces not one but three numbered lists. Very now.

Read: What George Orwell Can Still Teach Us About Writing And Readability

 

How can media brands strengthen their relationship with their customers?

Last week I chaired this session at the Guardian’s Changing Media Summit. The contributions from all five panelists are worth revisiting but I was particularly struck by:

– Ashley Highfield, CEO Johnston Press, on engagement (“I don’t think we do engagement well enough”) [26:35 apprx]

– Natasha Christie-Miller, CEO Emap, on how they measure what she calls “customer joy” [12:45 apprx]; and

– Tim Hunt, marketing director, Guardian News and Media, on the lessons from the title’s Facebook app [34:40 apprx]


You can view the discussion here and in due course I’m going to put some thoughts together for the Guardian Media Network.

 

How to use Tumblr

Tumblr is a blogging platform but it isn’t WordPress. If that feels like a distinction so minor that it’s not worth making, I do think the differences between the two platforms, however small, do matter.

Tumblr tends to be more visual, more instant; less of the analysis, more of the bite-sized. Of course all these rules are there to be broken but those truths about the platform most likely explain why lots of people (and by people I mean newspapers, magazines, broadcasters etc) are struggling to work out how to use it.

As a counterpoint, here are four traditional media outlets that are using it well:

  1. Financial Times
  2. The Economist
  3. The Times
  4. New Statesman

In my Press Gazette column this week I explain why they have mastered Tumblr.

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.

“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.