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.

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


Fine without Vine? Think again

For my piece this week over at the Press Gazette, I’ve made the case for using Twitter’s Vine, the app that let’s you film and upload six-second video clips that play on a loop.

Why would you want to do that? Good question:

Just like Twitter, attempts to sell the benefits are not easy. And just like Twitter, when you see some examples you start to get it. Again the creativity comes from working within limits.

There are three examples over on the Press Gazette worth watching and for journalism here are some suggested uses to start with:

Print publications should be using it too – to promote cover art or front page leads; to take readers inside the newsroom, to a press conference or on assignment; to get a word from the editor or the writer of the cover story.

You can read Like Twitter before, Vine is worth your attention here.

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

The Pope, Sarah Silverman and another Google Ads Fail

“Sell The Vatican, Feed The World,” comedian Sarah Silverman urges in a three minute Papal pounding routine currently doing good business on YouTube.

It’s not for the easily offended, replete with the f-word and drawings of male-genitalia. And it’s unlikely to go down a storm in the Catholic community.


“Any involvement in the holocaust, bygone,” she assures the current Pope as part of her would-be deal making. For a finishing gambit she tells him: “If you sell the Vatican to feed the world you will get crazy pussy.”

So when the in-vision contextual adverts include ‘Book Vatican tours’ and ‘Papal audience’ you’ve got to put it down as another Google Ads fail.

Google Ads. FAIL

The 2010 YouTube Election Has Just Begun

Tim Montgomerie and the Conservative Home team were quickly out of the traps on Tuesday night with a video response to Gordon Brown’s “cuts, cuts, cuts” speech at the TUC.

Slickly and quickly made, uploaded onto YouTube and embedded across the right-wing blogosphere (and here!), it’s the shape of things to come – from all sides of the political spectrum.

It’s easy to forget that the digital world looked very different last time around.

But remember that when the 2005 General Election campaign kicked off, YouTube was barely a month old.

Just as significant, it wasn’t until June of that year that broadband overtook dial-up as the most common means of accessing the internet in UK homes.

We just weren’t ready for it.

Fast forward four and half years, throw in the lessons from last year’s Obama-McCain contest in the US and it’s clear that video with bite and purpose – embeddable and spreadable – will become an election staple.