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.

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‘.

Successful Mobile and Tablet Editorial Strategies for Print News Publishers: The Video

I took part in the Press Gazette’s third News on the Move conference yesterday, chairing one of the three debates on the impact of mobile and tablet on publishing and journalism. As before, it was a really stimulating event with lots of smart ideas, thoughts and people — in the audience as well as on the panels.

You can watch the whole thing here.

The debate I chaired – Successful Mobile and Tablet Editorial Strategies for Print News Publishers – starts at around 25′ 12”. The panel featured:

– Alan Hunter, Head of Digital, The Times & Sunday Times

– Subhajit Banerjee, Mobile Editor, Guardian News & Media

– Martin Ashplant, Digital and Social Media Director, City A.M (and former head of digital at Metro.co.uk)

 

Three ways rising mobile consumption should inform web strategy

I’ve just published a piece at the Press Gazette which explores a significant milestone for the BBC and anyone else involved in the world of fast moving, content-rich websites. For the very first time more people visited the BBC online via mobile phones than via desktop and laptop PCs. It happened on Sunday 14 July. And then again on Saturday 20 July.

As I note in the piece this is merely an extreme case (for now) of a trend that has been apparent for a while:

The direction of travel is clear: more and more people are accessing news-based websites from mobile devices (tablets as well as smartphones) and we have plenty of evidence that this is the case.

In an effort to identify the meaning of this milestone, I suggest that it matters in three ways*:

  1. It should inform web design
  2. It may change newsroom shift patterns
  3. It may make you rethink your app strategy

Anyway, you can read the piece in full here: The BBC passes mobile landmark. And that matters why?

*It probably matters in more than three ways.

Apple’s iPhone and the production, distribution and consumption of news

Earlier this week, I was asked the following five questions by a student researching the impact of smart devices, particularly the iPhone, on news.

1. Why did people start reading news on mobile devices? And when?

2. How has the technology since the first iPhone changed the way we consume news on devices?

3. Why do you think Murdoch’s tablet-only newspaper ‘Daily’ failed?

4. How has the newswriting changed since the first iPhone? (i.e. shorter, punchier, use of images, headlines etc.)

5. We are available, and everything is available to us, at all times. Has this changed how many times people read news each day to keep updated?

They are interesting questions and I offered him my initial thoughts which I published on my Press Gazette blog.

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.

Guardian5

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.

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.

The art of reinvention

A recurring theme of this week’s Digital Media Strategies 2013 conference in London was reinvention.

Here’s the drill: the transition from traditional media to digital media is disruptive and while it doesn’t necessarily destroy it does fragment and when those fragments are pieced together they are often done so in ways completely different from before.

That’s the theory. What about the practice? Here are three examples:

The Economist is now a radio broadcaster. Well not quite but it does deliver 1.5 million audio streams a month, according to Nick Blunden. That presents an interesting opportunity, he argued, because it allows The Economist not just to compete for scarce “reading time” but — given people can listen while doing something else — also to compete for their “free time”.

Auto Trader: the people behind this new-and-used car magazine have turned themselves from publisher to search provider; an obvious move in retrospect for a listings paper but, most likely, brave at the time. That initial move last decade has, said Trader Media Group’s Nick Gee, made the “transition to mobile relatively easy”. Now a third of their traffic comes from mobile phones. And, given the rate of growth, Gee predicted that like Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, he’ll be able to call Trader Media a mobile company by the end of the year.

Computer Weekly, launched in 1966, was the world’s first weekly technology newspaper  and became the UK’s last weekly technology newspaper when it stopped printing in 2011. The transition from print to print-plus-digital to digital-only brought with it new lessons and insights, said editor-in-chief Bryan Glick. For example, “We moved from knowing exactly who was subscribing but no idea what they were reading to knowing exactly what they were reading but no idea who they were.” Online registration has since underpinned Computer Weekly’s business model.

Another insight: the assumption that news was what the reader craved did not quite hold up to scrutiny. “News attracts [readers] but long form is what keeps them there,” he said. Where once the ratio of stories was 70:30 in favour of news the editorial team now produce as many long form pieces as they do news stories.

I’ve written more about The Economist and Auto Trader talks over on the Press Gazette — and plan to flesh out some thoughts about Glick’s very interesting Computer Weekly presentation in due course.

Apple must deliver new subscribers or publishers will walk (and six other thoughts)

I spent this morning at DCM Europe, 40 minutes of which was on a panel discussing pricing models, magazine publishing and tablet computers. In a (possibly failed) effort to marshal my thoughts, I wrote this yesterday — seven random arguments on the tablet opportunity.

Here are those seven thoughts — and even after a pretty robust discussion, I still believe they have a fair amount of merit:

1. The free trial might be the nearest publishers get to freemium

2. The games console model might just work for apps

3. Publishers want to own the relationship with their readers

4. Apple must deliver new subscribers or publishers will walk

5. Responsive design is an opportunity and a threat to paywalled tablet content

6. Android is a good medium term bet

7. The Daily was a success story. Sort of

You can read the full article over at the Press Gazette.