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‘.

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.

Tyranny of the expert summariser

I wrote something grumpy for last week’s New Statesman about football, the BBC and pun-soaked platitudes. Here’s how it began:

In the early Noughties when broadcasters still bothered to find new uses for the interactive red button, the Beeb began offering viewers of live football three audio options – the TV commentary, the Radio 5 Live commentary or the sound of the crowd. Public service broadcasting at its best and, naturally, I chose the crowd.

Now that there’s no such choice, I press mute instead. Anything to escape the reverse alchemy that invariably results when middle- aged men with lip mics share commentating duties. Tell me I’m not alone.

It’s certainly not this column’s role to do anyone out of a job – especially in these recessionary times – but surely football-watching would remain undiminished if we did away with the odd commentator or co-commentator, sometimes laughably referred to as the “expert summariser”.

Where we crave insight and analysis, we get platitudes and pre-prepared, pun-soaked soliloquies to fill the dead air. (Really, what’s wrong with dead air?)

You can read the full thing here.

 

Sir William Garrow And The Power Of BBC Prime Time

sir-william-garrow-hostettler-brabyA new entry in Amazon’s Hot Future Releases in Business, Finance & Law.

In at number nine, and likely to rise and rise in the coming weeks, is Sir William Garrow: His Life, Times and Fight for Justice by John Hostettler and Richard Braby.

In other news, a BBC drama set in the 18th century and featuring the life, times and fight for justice of an  idealistic young barrister began last night.

Garrow’s Law stars Andrew Buchan (he of ITV’s The Fixer and BBC4’s short-lived Party Animals) and is written by Tony Marchant (The Mark of Cain, Holding On etc).

As Buchan and Marchant take hold of Sunday evenings between now and Christmas, expect Hostettler and Braby’s book (not published until 1 December) to scale the pre-order charts.

Just like that upstart Twitter, the BBC has the power to shift units.

Related:
As Print Dwindles, can Amazon Re-Kindle?

How ‘Nutter’ Griffin Matched Nobel Obama

daily-star-nick-griffin-bnpWhile much of the Nick Griffin / Question Time chat was happening on Twitter, some people went straight to the source to express their views.

The BBC reported 10,000 comments were left on the Have Your Say section of the corporation’s website (normal activity: a few hundred) while, by mid-morning today, 2,000 posts were viewable on a specially created message board.

The figures come via the Online Journalism Blog’s Paul Bradshaw who put a few questions to Matthew Eltringham from the BBC’s UGC Hub.

Eltringham notes that the Have Your Say numbers were recently matched in volume by responses to President Obama’s Nobel Prize win.

But in that instance the traffic was global in nature whereas last night it was a more parochial affair.

Related:
BNP on Question Time: The BBC should be applauded
Daily Mail Ends Moderation. Will Anybody Notice?

‘I Have No More Proof Than Anyone Else,’ Says PM-On-Pills Blogger

Ever since Andrew Marr put the medication question to Gordon Brown yesterday, the media has turned the spotlight on the political blogosphere.

Was Marr guilty of indulging in some web-based tittle-tattle, on the BBC no less? Had he fallen for another right-wing conspiracy in cyberspace? Or was the question of the PM’s state of mind a legitimate area for discussion?

Opinions are naturally divided – Charlie Beckett at Polis and Benedict Brogan writing on his Telegraph blog provide some of the more insightful analysis.

Meanwhile, the hunt was on for the blogger that had originally put the idea of the PM-on-pills into the public domain.

Some mistakenly thought it all started with Guido Fawkes, but the UK’s most renowned political blogger soon put them right.

The author of the original was in fact John Ward who blogs at Not Born Yesterday.

Earlier today, Ward told Channel 4 News:

The fact of the matter is I still have no more proof, and I stress proof, than anyone else that Gordon Brown is actually taking anti-depressants.

All I can say is that I was given a verbal list of foods he allegedly cannot have by a very senior civil servant at a social gathering. And as an occasional depressive myself in the past I recognised the contraindications immediately from many years ago to be those of an anti-depressant of the MAOI type that I have taken.

So no proof and a Downing Street denial, but an educated guess backed up by a verbal tip off from a “very senior civil servant”. It’s probably enough to legitimise it as a story out in the blogosphere.

But at the post-Gilligan BBC? I’m not so sure.

Related:
 – Sorry Guido, the BBC did for Duncan

Lehman Collapse Showed Power Of Print

daily-telegraph-meltdown-monday-lehman-brothers

A couple of years ago the BBC revamped its news website so when a major story came along it could push aside all the detritus and devote the top of the page to a single story – larger headline font and bigger image.

It was an admission of sorts that template-driven websites were all very well but come a big event (think 7/7, 9/11, Blair’s resignation etc) there was a need to make a visual impact.

Implicit is the power of print. Despite the onward rush of digital, no where is a splash quite as effective than on the front page of a newspaper.

The Daily Telegraph’s coverage of the Lehman Brothers’ collapse last September is a vivid reminder of that. Appropriate then that one year on Google has unveiled  Fast Flip, digital’s latest attempt to ape that power.

Related:
News websites 1990s-style
What’s Wrong With This Telegraph Front Page?
The Express Fiddles While The Mail Earns

Robert Peston: ‘My Blog Lets BBC Own The Story.’

rober_peston_bbcHat tip to Robin Hamman for highlighting some particularly pertinent parts of Robert Peston’s Edinburgh TV Festival speech that had passed this (un)observer by.

Perhaps it was the BBC’s business man’s bust up with Murdoch junior that was the distraction but Peston’s speech is well worth another read, especially for his take on blogging, and being in competition with the press over here and with the plethora of outlets overseas.

Peston’s point that his blog enables the BBC to “own a story” is particularly interesting and it is the one big lesson all media, but especially broadcasters, need to heed.

The newsroom notion still persists that you should save your best lines until transmission.

In truth, by getting the story out early it not only becomes your story but readers, viewers and users help knock it into shape, help spread the word, and are a more-than-committed audience come TX. As usual, new media doesn’t cannibalise your market, it enhances it.

And, no, I never knew that Peston’s blog started life as an internal email for editors and staff.

Anyway, here are some key extracts from the speech:

Blogging for the BBC

For me, the blog is at the core of everything I do, it is the bedrock of my output. The discipline of doing it shapes my thoughts. It disseminates to a wider world the stories and themes that I think matter. But it also spreads the word within the BBC – which is no coincidence, because it started life as an internal email for editors and staff. It gives me unlimited space to publish the kind of detail on an important story that I can’t get into a three minute two-way on Today or a two-minutes-forty-seconds package on the Ten O’Clock News.

On ‘owning’ the story

Most important of all, the blog allows me and the BBC to own a big story and create a community of interested people around it. Sharing information – some of it hugely important, some of it less so – with a big and interested audience delivers that ownership and creates that committed community.

On the competition

Now because of my own indifference to how I communicate a story, whether by video, audio or in writing, I regard the competition as the Telegraph, the Times, the FT, and so on, just as much Sky and ITN. And what’s more for much of my output the competition is not just from UK-based organisations with UK audiences. The Wall Street Journal, CNN, the New York Times and the Washington Post are very much direct rivals.

Also, it is increasingly clear that much of the audience doesn’t care whether they receive their information via the blog, some other internet channel, the TV, newspapers or radio.

Related:
Five Ways News Organisations Should Use Twitter
News websites 1990s-style
Robert Peston’s Singular Failure

News websites 1990s-style

Telegraph.co.uk is indulging in some digital nostalgia with its How 20 popular websites looked when they launched piece published this morning.

An enterprising member of the online team has raided the WayBackMachine and dug out screengrabs from big web names including Google, YouTube, Amazon, Drudge and Flickr.

The piece is doing great business on Delicious, Digg and co, although I’m sure that wasn’t the editorial driving force behind it.

BBC_News_website_1997

Among the news sites featured are the BBC (from 1 December 1998) and the New York Times (from 12 November 1996).

There some aspects of the design and implementation that immediately date these sites. The BBC’s use of the words ‘Front Page’, for example. Presumably that’s so everybody knows they are on the, er, front page.

It’s not quite as big a 1990s sin as the Flash front-door but it’s redundant and wasteful nonetheless.

New_York_Times_1996

Over at the New York Times, the direct aping of the newspaper front page – masthead and all – actually holds up quite well, and although the lack of multimedia now seems odd, the use of a large image and grabby headlines stand the test of time.

Compare and contrast with the uninspired copy writing over at the 1998 BBC site.

Nevertheless, there are two print hangovers on the New York Times site that feel anachronistic.

First there’s the use of a ‘Late News Update’ strap over the air crash story – there’s no such thing on the web.

Secondly, there’s the Times’s famous strap line – ‘All The News That’s Fit To Print’.

As we now know, finite space is a thing of the past. Or to borrow Clay Shirky’s phrase: ‘publish, then filter’.

Related:
The Independent Adds Video. Why?
What’s Wrong With This Telegraph Front Page?
The Express Fiddles While The Mail Earns
The Guardian, Daily Telegraph and BBC: Lessons in Crowdsourcing

Why Ashes 2009 Really Was A Shared National Moment

According to Mark Lawson writing in today’s TV Matters column in the Guardian:

These Ashes felt less like a shared national moment because fewer of the nation shared it.

There’s no doubt the numbers are compelling – Channel 4 averaged three million viewers when it broadcast the 2005 series while this time around Sky Sports had just 850,000.

Even allowing for the two million that tuned into Five’s terrestrial highlights on Sunday night, millions of TV cricket fans have gone missing this summer.

There’s little doubt too that TV does matter, as the column’s title insists, which incidentally is why live events – not just sport but news too – represent the TV industry’s most robust challenge to a time-shifted, platform-shifted, fragmented future.

This aside, England’s 2009 cricketing success was a “shared national moment”, perhaps even a shared international moment.

Witness the spikes in traffic specialist and generalist sports sites enjoyed on Sunday. More importantly, witness the conversations that were happening on the truly social parts of the web – #Ashes was a regular in the Twitter trending topics top 10 throughout July and August.

And most unexpectedly, the BBC’s Test Match Special became the social hub. With some five million listeners sharing the experience.

As Christopher Martin-Jenkins – the TMS veteran who was given the microphone at the game’s denouement – noted in Monday’s Times:

Emails had poured in to Test Match Special from all quarters of the globe yesterday, including Mozambique, Ghana, South Georgia and the base camp at Everest.

Many were describing where they were and what they were doing when Andrew Flintoff threw down Rick Ponting’s stumps. But the one from Ghana demonstrates best how a broadcaster can become a social conduit in the digital age.

Suitably, this story was recorded on the TMS Facebook blog:

We had a text from one listener tuning to TMS via his mobile phone on a beach in Ghana. His message was that his wife had forgotten to pack a phone charger and he was desperately searching for a listener who would just happen to be also on the same beach and could help.

A few seconds later, Josh Grainger contacted the programme to say: “Hello, I heard the e-mail you’ve just read out, and i have got two spare phone chargers, i’m in Halloway beach in Ghana, hope it helps. I’m wearing a fluorescent yellow top, so I’ll be easy to see!”

Welcome to the new shared experience.