Playing to the audience

…in which I mangle a metaphor in search of a thought about the relationship between journo and audience.

Time was that when I was asked about the value of social media platforms like twitter for journos, amongst the reasons I would give is the capacity to build audience.

The value of the individual journalist as a brand in a networked world (in contrast to the large media org) is something I repeatedly bang on about. But the truth is that there will always be some intersection between the sole trader and the big media hubs. In fact the prevailing model seems to be that apart from a tight core of full-time staff, most big orgs will have a steady stream of freelancers in their orbit to keep their mass.

In that respect having an audience that already follow ‘brand you’ rather than ‘brand x’ is just as attractive to the big media orgs as it is your own work.

I used to liken this to the idea of being in a band.

Record companies, even venues, wouldn’t look at you without some proof that you had audience. Signing mailing list sheets, following on myspace and now twitter and Facebook are ways that bands tried to do that.

But a chat with my excellent colleagues clarecook and Robert beers and the recent blogging about guardian local got me thinking about the danger of taking that idea too far.

How long would a band have an audience if they didn’t listen to those fans? If they didn’t tell the fans where they were playing next or what they were up to?

Many journos still stick to the idea that communication with an audience should only be one way. Some will tell you it’s because of the problems with managing the flow (busy, busy people journos) whilst others will happily tell you that they have no interest in the dribbling rantings of a few nut jobs ( because anyone who uses the web other than them is a nut job).

Truth is that if the audience isn’t behind you, you have nothing.

You could argue that the best musicians do what they do regardless of what the audience wants. They are artists. I’ve got news for you. When it comes to the web you’re not an artist. You can’t create in a platform or hack away in a garret.

If you don’t nurture and talk to the audience then, in a world of pay-to-play journalism you’ve got nothing.

Increasingly the opportunities are there for those who look out in to the audience rather than those who point their sites in a singular dash for a job with the media mothership. The crowd is not just a means of getting you there. They are the measure of your success and integrity (not just other journos)

It’s a lesson that big media orgs could learn too. Stop thinking like a record company think more like a concert promoter. The days of being the big media ‘stadium acts’ are fast becoming numbered. Maybe there is room for a few headliners at the festival but the vast majority of people are here for the rest of the bill (the long tail!).

So maybe, in future, when I’m asked about the value of social media, I’ll still be talking about the value of audience. But maybe I’ll put the band metaphor to bed. Truth is the dynamics are being rewritten everyday, just like the opportunities, and they are being written on an individual level – no band required.

I’ve been reading…

This is some of the stuff that’s crossed my eyes between  October 10th through October 14th:

I’ve been reading…

<li><a href=””>Web Journalism’s rules of tech engagement</a> – I really like the list but I’m not sure that we it moves anything on. It’s kind of assumes that journalism is some how resistant to technology. One informs the other and the ‘basic j101’ argument suggest that it stands alone. Do we need to be less ‘basic’?</li>
<li><a href=””>Chilean miners trapped in San Jose mine: infographic – Telegraph</a> – A neat, visual, story.</li>
<li><a href=””>Growth of a meme: how a mobile lawsuits visualisation evolved | Technology |</a> – “Started by the New York Times, knife-and-forked by @charlesarthur, then made increasingly beautiful by graphic designers: how the view of the patents bunfight improved</li>
<li><a href=””>My top ten datasets</a> – Guardian Data blog guru Simon Rogers picks his favorite data sets at</li>
<li><a href=””>Newsrooms vs. the Volcano</a> – Suw Charman-Anderson develops her thoughts on from a comment she left on Charlie Becketts radio post and goes on to round up a lot of the great Eyjafjallajökull coverage</li>
<li><a href=”″>Think Audio Networking, not Radio: debating networked journalism</a> – Charlie Beckett, ponders why radio is missing the new media boat and finds that it may be the last bastion of cumudgeons.</li>
<li><a href=”;tstart=0″>Export Notes out of a Keynote presentation …</a> – You can use Automator to extract presenter notes from Keynote presentation and put them in a text file. Really handy (if only for me!)</li>
<li><a href=””>Press Complaints Commission &gt;&gt; News &gt;&gt; PCC research: Public concern about social networking and privacy</a> – “42% of web users aged 16-24 know someone who has been embarrassed by information uploaded on to the internet without their consent. And 78% of the entire adult online population would change information they publish about themselves online if they thought the material would later be reproduced in the mainstream media.”</li>
<li><a href=””>2010 Social Journalism Study | CisionUK</a> – Cision Europe’s Social Journalism study conducted among UK, French and German journalists in July, underscores that Social Media have become standard tools for journalists supporting their daily workflow. Today, journalists in all three countries use Social Media to source stories as well as to promote their own work.</li>

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Death Knocks

IMG_3176 Door Knocker
A really, really good post from Alison Gow recalling her first ‘Death knock’.  Not something you would look back on fondly but:

Today I contributed a content strategy, with particular emphasis on what sort of feeds we should consider aggregating and the level of showbiz news a user might require. Which might explain why I’ve been reminiscing about reporting days.

As Alison points out, the knock is an inevitability for reporters.

I’ve never done it (thankfully) but it was on my mind this week as well.

I was talking to the second years about using pictures from facebook as part of a chat around communities and the content they create (social media). One student said it would be better to ask the parents for a picture they could use rather than ‘steal’ one.  Of course the reality of that is ‘you have to go and ask them’. I asked them “Which would you rather do. Take the picture off facebook or go and do a death knock?”

In the intro to her post. Alison notes:

There are a few set questions anyone applying for a job in journalism gets asked at interview – among them is a request to summarise what they would do if Newsdesk sent them out on The Knock – which usually means a death knock.

Just to be clear. ‘Avoid it by getting the details from facebook’ is probably not the answer they would want.

Image from marlambie on Flickr

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I’ve been reading…

&lt;li&gt;&lt;a href=””&gt;Headlines and Deadlines: My First Death Knock&lt;/a&gt; – Alison recalls her first successful death knock&lt;/li&gt;
&lt;li&gt;&lt;a href=”;amp;utm_medium=feed&amp;amp;utm_campaign=Feed%3A+oneman+%28One+Man+%26+His+Blog%29″&gt;Dead Man’s Shoes won’t save journalism – One Man and His Blog&lt;/a&gt; – Adam thinks “Greg Hadfield was spot on when suggested that editors need to assert themselves more over the commercial and technological sides of the business – but there’s a caveat with that. They do need to surround themselves with people who do understand the digital environment, and trust their advice. In essence, they need to trust in their own judgement on news values, but be prepared to see those expressed in wholly new ways by those who report to them”&lt;/li&gt;
&lt;li&gt;&lt;a href=””&gt;My Twitter Community Grabbing Code – « OUseful.Info, the blog…&lt;/a&gt; – Code to help generate all kinds of cool stuff with Twitter&lt;/li&gt;
&lt;li&gt;&lt;a href=””&gt;Yahoo Pipes Code Generator (Python) « OUseful.Info, the blog…&lt;/a&gt; – Convert a Yahoo pipe to Python.&lt;/li&gt;
&lt;li&gt;&lt;a href=”;amp;utm_medium=feed&amp;amp;utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Techcrunch+%28TechCrunch%29″&gt;comScore: Facebook Passes Yahoo To Become The Second Largest Video Site In The U.S.&lt;/a&gt; – Should you be putting your video on Facebook?&lt;/li&gt;
&lt;li&gt;&lt;a href=””&gt;How to Get Past the Fear of New Technology with Ushahidi | PBS&lt;/a&gt; – Don’t be afraid to try stuff like Ushahidi. It’s not as hard as you think&lt;/li&gt;
&lt;li&gt;&lt;a href=”;amp;utm_medium=feed&amp;amp;utm_campaign=Feed%3A+LostRemote+%28Lost+Remote%29″&gt;Study: What works for hyperlocal news sites – Lost Remote&lt;/a&gt; – J-Lab has published a solid study that examines what works — and what doesn’t — for community and hyperlocal news sites.&lt;/li&gt;
&lt;li&gt;&lt;a href=””&gt;How The Guardian is pioneering data journalism with free tools » Nieman Journalism Lab&lt;/a&gt; -&lt;/li&gt;

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Ivory tower dispatch: Nothing is simple anymore

I’m going to try and share a little of what I do each week with the students and now that teaching has settled in a little bit after freshers it seemed a good time to start.

This week I wanted to get all the students thinking about some of the issues that contribute to the ‘changing media landscape’ that we have to function in as journalists.

Process in to content

For my second year, Digital Newsroom students I picked on process.

The lecture was really about how the process has changed because of digital. So I took a very basic view of the process – find, research and report – and looked at where in the process digital had made an impact. Here are the slides from my lecture (a bit cryptic without notes I know – come to the lectures!)

I started by saying that the reporting part was where the real medium specific stuff really made itself known (the mechanics of output for a particular platform). Given that we are platform agnostic, this was not where we wanted to be.  Maybe the first parts where more generic? More about broad journalism.

In truth, the process is no longer that discreet. In a multi-platform world we can’t simply focus on one ‘point of delivery’ when the point of delivery is changing all the time. By rights we are (and should be) generating content all the time; what Robin Hamman called turning process in to content. (I’ve written on that issue before.)

But in stumbling along to that conclusion we looked at how digital allows us to inject input from ‘communities’ in to the early parts of our process. We also started to explore the pros and cons of that involvement – legal, ethical and practical.

As a conclusion and starting point for more discussion later on, I picked out three ‘keywords’ that I wanted them to think about.

  • Community
  • Social media
  • Crowdsourcing

All of which, in some form, have contributed to the changing media landscape in which we practice, regardless of medium.

Where chips go, the nation follows.

I didn’t see the thirds year print students this week as they were putting together their first newspaper (1st. week back. No hanging around). But the time I spent with our post-graduate newspaper students looked at similar issues to the second years.

I started with a little debate. I split the group in to two. One side took the position “newspapers will die in five years”. With the other side getting “newspapers will survive the next five years”. As you can imagine interesting debates ensued. Including the position that newspapers weren’t even used to wrap chips in anymore(and the wonderful statement that headed this section), countered of course by ‘you can’t wrap your chips in an ipad’.

It was great to see that the range of debate broadly mirrored the industry concerns(or you may see it as a sad reflection of the echo chamber!) and that the students took a admirable middle ground. Passionate but realistic.

For them, the list of things to ponder was longer but similar:

  • Community
  • Multi-platform
  • Multimedia
  • Hyperlocal
  • Data Journalism

I also included Profile/engagement on the list but that became a broader discussion of brand and identity.  Something that began to touch on the deeper issues of professionalism and ethics.

Nothing is simple

If this week could be summed up in a nutshell it would be “nothing is simple anymore”. We don’t just simply write for newspapers ( or make TV/radio etc) – we have an eye on multiplatform.  It’s not as simple as just talking to the community anymore – we interact. Everything is made more complex by technology and the influx of digital. Some of it is in our control. Some of it isn’t.

What we can’t avoid is that some of that pressure lands on the journalist, right from the point they engage with a story,  regardless of where it ultimately ends up. It may not be your employer who brings that pressure to bear. It may be the audience…

PS. Just in case you thought that we do nothing practical they also started (or, in the case of the second years restarted) blogs (platform up to them) and google reader.  The postgrads got their beats and patches to play with and got to explore their hyperlocal/patch site.

Image from tim_ellis on Flickr

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I’ve been reading…

These are my links for September 21st through September 28th:

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What I read today…

What I read today…

What I read today…