April 12, 2013

Can hashtags #hurt?

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Daniel Victor, a social media editor with the New York Times, wrote an interesting piece for Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab exploring the idea that hashtags can be, well, useless.

According to Twitter, #SuperBowl was used 3 million times over about five hours on Super Bowl Sunday this year. Look at all those people who might be interested in our jokes about Beyonce! And yet getting any single person’s attention is just short of impossible, like a single Niagara droplet screaming for notice as it shoots down the falls.

Though there were peaks and valleys, 3 million tweets over five hours comes out to an average of 167 tweets per second. To say that someone would have to search for “#SuperBowl” in the split-second you sent it would actually be a little generous; assuming they’ll notice your tweet if it’s in the most recent 10 tweets, users would have a window of 1/17 of a second to find you.

And things are even worse if you don’t already have a huge following:

Compounding the problem is how the tweets are displayed when you do perform a hashtag search. The default view will show you the “Top” tweets, which is based on a formula that favors tweets and users that have already gained a following. This is a smart effort by Twitter to deliver more relevant tweets, but it also decreases the likelihood that the average user will find a new audience. Average users are buried under another click, as you’d have to toggle over to “All” to find them.

Click through to the story to find his insight on where they might actually be counter-productive (as in, lessen the chance of a retweet), and when/how to best use them.

Photos by Quinn Dombrowski used under a Creative Commons license.

January 16, 2013

Reporting data now has a name: Data Journalism

The fruits of a 2011 workshop has spilled over into an international, collaborative effort involving dozens of journalism’s leading advocates and best practitioners – including from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the BBC, the Chicago Tribune, Deutsche Welle, the Guardian, the Financial Times, Helsingin Sanomat, La Nacion, the New York Times, ProPublica, the Washington Post, the Texas Tribune, Verdens Gang, Wales Online, Zeit Online and many others – to define and refine the practice of reporting data trends. Coined “data journalism” the emerging practice now even has a handbook published by O’Reilly Press.

What is data journalism?

Your career history, 300,000 confidential documents, who knows who in your circle of friends can all be (and are) described with just two numbers: zeroes, and ones. Photos, video and audio are all described with the same two numbers: zeroes and ones. Murders, disease, political votes, corruption and lies: zeroes and ones.

What makes data journalism different to the rest of journalism? Perhaps it is the new possibilities that open up when you combine the traditional ‘nose for news’ and ability to tell a compelling story, with the sheer scale and range of digital information now available.

…Using data the job of journalists shifts its main focus from being the first ones to report to being the ones telling us what a certain development might actually mean.

We use these tools every day on behalf of clients: the compelling infographic, the quarterly data report, the latest statistic or compelling piece of ROI. But when used effectively, it goes well beyond just reporting a single piece of information to letting the data itself, properly analyzed, tell a larger story. Some compelling examples, both in and outside tech, are here. 01-YY

The whole book is worth a read.

January 11, 2013

The future of interactive media

For content marketing, there are two primary questions: What’s your story? And how do you tell it? The latter query can be as fascinating as the former, and involves discussions around information presentation, data modeling, graphics, animation, video, etc. For years, Flash animation has been a part of that conversation. Yet a new(ish) technology called HTML 5 has been moving out of the technology back room and slowly gaining steam in design circles. And it’s powerful.

All of which is a long winded lead into this: want to see what a compelling story and strong HTML 5 design can do together? You need look no farther than a recent piece put up by the NEW YORK TIMES called, simply, Snow Fall. It’s the moving story of a 2012 avalanche that happened in our backyard, but beyond that, it’s possibly the most compelling, tour-de-force showcase of interactive media design you’ll see. As you scroll through the story, different pieces of information come to the fore, from video clips to interactive graphics. Images fade in and out. Back stories crop up, begging to be read.

In short, if you’re ever in a discussion about the value of electronic media over paper, you can point to this. Be sure to use a modern browser and visit the actual NYT site (don’t use a reader) to get the full effect. Enjoy. And then think how this could inform your next white paper, case study, investor presentation, etc.

September 28, 2012

Google media slam

On NPR’s market watch this morning the team did a piece under the heading “Another loss in the tech industry…” about the impending shut down of Apple’s little used Ping service on iTunes. According to the reporter, Ping is survived, for now, by Friendster, Myspace and Google+.

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April 23, 2012

iPhone-ification of the mobile industry

We often work with clients in the mobile industry in one way or another – and have for many years. So of course we’re aware of how much the industry has changed in the last 5 years, driven in large part by the introduction of the iPhone. Still, it’s not always easy to see the change. Except, well, I guess it is… if you take the time to compile a graphic showing phone form factors. (image via my nephew, who works for AT&T)

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February 29, 2012

TechCrunch flames out

PaidContent.org has a post up regarding TechCrunch, and it isn’t pretty.

The site has lost almost every one of its top writers and traffic has fallen sharply, dropping by 35 percent from a year ago.

The included graphic says it all. Read the whole thing for the gory details.

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NPR: Be fair to the truth

NPR has released a new ethics handbook entitled “This is NPR. And these are the standards of our journalism” that’s getting a tremendous amount of attention in media circles, and for good reason. Here’s a key paragraph:

At all times, we report for our readers and listeners, not our sources. So our primary consideration when presenting the news is that we are fair to the truth. If our sources try to mislead us or put a false spin on the information they give us, we tell our audience. If the balance of evidence in a matter of controversy weighs heavily on one side, we acknowledge it in our reports. We strive to give our audience confidence that all sides have been considered and represented fairly.

As we discussed in an earlier post regarding The New York Times editorial that asked “Should the Times be a truth Vigilante” (answer: yes!) — there is an insidious slide in journalism toward what’s known as “He said, she said” reporting. Jay Rosen at PressThink describes it this way:

* There’s a public dispute.

* The dispute makes news.

* No real attempt is made to assess clashing truth claims in the story, even though they are in some sense the reason for the story. (Under the “conflict makes news” test.)

* The means for assessment do exist, so it’s possible to exert a factual check on some of the claims, but for whatever reason the report declines to make use of them.

* The symmetry of two sides making opposite claims puts the reporter in the middle between polarized extremes.

The result, of course, is a reader who’s left to guess where the truth lies. In short, an uninformed reader. And we think this is lazy journalism. The new NPR handbook strives to get the balance right, and in the process coins a new phrase: be fair to the truth. In fact, they are now very explicit about this at the very start of the handbook:

Our Mission.

The mission of NPR, in partnership with its member stations, is to create a more informed public, one challenged and invigorated by a deeper understanding and appreciation of events, ideas, and culture within the United States and across the globe. To this end, NPR reports, produces, acquires and distributes news, information and other content that meet the highest standards of public service in journalism and cultural expression.

Bravo.

(via DF and PressThink)

February 9, 2012

Common grammar mistakes

Grammarians, take note: here’s a great article from a magazine editor that identifies 20 common grammar mistakes. I’ve seen all of these. Hell, I’ve probably made all of these at one time or another.

Fewer and Less
“Less” is reserved for hypothetical quantities. “Few” and “fewer” are for things you can quantify. e.g., The firm has fewer than ten employees. e.g., The firm is less successful now that we have only ten employees.

Since and Because
“Since” refers to time. “Because” refers to causation. e.g., Since I quit drinking I’ve married and had two children. e.g., Because I quit drinking I no longer wake up in my own vomit.

January 12, 2012

Truth and the media

Arthur Bisbane, Public Editor of the New York Times, has an article up today asking “Should the Times Be A Truth Vigilante?” The question at the heart of the matter is whether journalists – specifically beat reporters – should “challenge ‘facts’ that are asserted by newsmakers they write about.”

…on the campaign trail, Mitt Romney often says President Obama has made speeches “apologizing for America,” a phrase to which Paul Krugman objected in a December 23 column arguing that politics has advanced to the “post-truth” stage.

As an Op-Ed columnist, Mr. Krugman clearly has the freedom to call out what he thinks is a lie. My question for readers is: should news reporters do the same?

If so, then perhaps the next time Mr. Romney says the president has a habit of apologizing for his country, the reporter should insert a paragraph saying, more or less:

“The president has never used the word ‘apologize’ in a speech about U.S. policy or history. Any assertion that he has apologized for U.S. actions rests on a misleading interpretation of the president’s words.”

I have long been a critic of the news media’s current approach to coverage. It had its birth in journalism schools decades ago when, as a natural extension of “objectivity” in journalism, these soon-to-be reporters were taught to remove themselves entirely from the story and let the article speak for itself. When taken to its logical conclusion, this school of thought dictates that any statement by the reporter disputing one side or the other re-inserts the journalist back into the news, and should thus be avoided.

This also has the side benefit of being easier, as the reporter does not need to be an expert on the subject matter. One could attribute this to laziness, and there is certainly some of that, but more realistically it’s a by-product of news organizations that are stretched way to thin to do justice to the news – a result of years of cost cutting. And so you get he-said, she-said articles, and the reporter calls it a day. These issues – a mis-guided effort to achieve objectivity and a steadily decreasing pool of quality reporters employed by news organizations – go hand in hand.

The problem is that there are such things as facts and truth. Merely reporting what each side says without any effort to point out that one side is either ill-informed or lying is not doing the reader a service or justice to the news.

At its heart, the question is: what is a news article? If it is a conduit to pass along talking points, then the current system works. If it’s a tool to provide the reader with a better understanding of the world, then it must offer context, scrutiny and analysis.

The media establishment regularly fails at the latter.

(via Steve Benen, Washington Monthly)

October 7, 2011

And thats when I knew my heart was not proud.

In possibly the most interesting piece I’ve read since Steve Jobs’ passing, Brian Lam writes a tribute, reflecting on the whole iPhone 4/Gizmodo blowup. And apologizes for being an asshole.

I was on sabbatical when Jason got his hands on the iPhone prototype.

An hour after the story went live, the phone rang and the number was from Apple HQ. I figured it was someone from the PR team. It was not.

“Hi, this is Steve. I really want my phone back.”

He wasn’t demanding. He was asking. And he was charming and he was funny.