Archive for the 'On-line' Category

Why I like Kickstarter

Jun 21, 2010 in On-line

Kickstarter isn’t anything new but it’s worth a second look because of what it could mean for an ambitious journalist or artist.

The Kickstarter concept combines aspects of the long-tail, crowdsourcing, e-fundraising and micropayments. An artist writes up a pitch and the amount of cash they’ll need to complete it. They then solicit funds for the project. No money changes hands until the target amount is met. Kickstarter takes 5% of the funds to cover their costs.

From their FAQ:

Kickstarter is focused on creative ideas and ambitious endeavors. We’re a great way for artists, filmmakers, musicians, designers, writers, athletes, adventurers, illustrators, explorers, curators, promoters, performers, and others to bring their projects, events, and dreams to life.


Michael Cooke is wrong about bloggers

Jun 19, 2010 in Media, On-line

There was a time in media when professional journalists hated bloggers. They hated their guts and thought they were little more than badly-adjusted, shut-ins who sat around at home and wrote ill-informed (sometimes patently wrong) rants. I thought that time was behind us. Obviously, I was wrong.

Michael Cooke, editor-in-chief, of the Toronto Star accepted an award recently at the Canadian Journalism Foundation and trumpeted the investigative work done by his journalists. Cooke also took the time to slam bloggers and citizen journalism.

“Is journalism one hundred unpaid bloggers all talking and yattering at once, or a city filled with amateur citizen journalists uncoordinated in all their efforts? Those bloggers and citizen reporters are as close to real reporters as karaoke is to Frank Sinatra live and in person.”

He quickly followed that up with a conciliatory comment about how there’s room for both “serious” investigative journalism and yattering bloggers. It was like splashing cold water in someone’s face and then following it up with a handshake and an introduction. You’re not going to get a warm reception.

Cooke isn’t just wrong about this, he’s plain insulting. I wonder how the citizen bloggers who contribute to the Star’s Your City, My City blog feel about Cooke’s remarks? Or what about the bloggers who have their uncoordinated work rewritten by Star staffers feel about this?

Sure, many, many bloggers aren’t worth a second glance but a few show the tenacity, smarts and journalistic moxie that any editor or professional journalist would find enviable.

It’s also patently unfair to compare a Toronto Star journalist, with the resources of Canada’s largest paper behind them, and a nice salary to allow them to work full-time, to a blogger, who more often than not is doing this for exposure, for fun or just for the sheer passion of it. They often have few resources to work with, little or no training and most certainly don’t have the luxury of pursuing their work full-time. It would be like an NBA star badmouthing the guys who play 3-on-3 at their local gym. It’s in bad form.

The journalism ecosystem has changed and bloggers are a legitimate and crucial part of it. A better thing to do would be to figure out how to interact with bloggers and citizen journalists. What Cooke and other recalcitrant traditional journalists should do is try to figure out why, despite the scant rewards and obstacles, so many do take that microphone in their hands and try to do their best Frank Sinatra.

200 moments, 10 years, plenty of change

May 18, 2010 in Media, On-line

Just in case it wasn’t dead obvious that journalism is transforming before our very eyes, Poynter Online has made it perfectly clear with this graphic that looks like 200 moments from 2000-2009 that transformed the industry.

Poynter’s Bill Mitchell talks about the decade that inspired the graphic:

Funny thing about the transformation of media: there’s often no way to tell, in the moment, whether any given development signals a passing fancy, a seed of destruction or a glimpse of tomorrow.

Thus were most of us puzzled, at the time, by the introduction of the CueCat, the acquisition of Times Mirror and the founding of Facebook.

But there’s nothing like a little hindsight to provide some context.

A little perspective, in 2000 U.S. newspapers saw a peak in advertising ($49-billion) but right around the corner was one of the things that would soon level this lucrative market, Google’s adwords. Friendster, founded in 2002 and one of the early harbingers of social media, is now a punchline.

Check out the graphic, or click on the image below:

Can Google help save print journalism?

May 17, 2010 in On-line, Work

If you’re interested in the future of print journalism then James Fallows’ lengthy Atlantic feature about how Google is helping save newspapers is a must-read.

A few things I learned from the piece:

1. Stop blaming Google for your woes newspapers

Blaming big bad Google for “stealing” all that content is a popular past-time for certain news executives. It’s just plain wrong. Google News lifts abstracts from pieces and doesn’t slice, dice and repackage news like other outlets. Also, you can easily stop Google from indexing your sites. Why wouldn’t you do this? The traffic that Google brings to your site is simply too valuable. (more…)

Hey, how do I use this Twitter thing?

Apr 14, 2010 in Media, On-line

One of the skills that people in journalism want to learn is how to use Twitter. Who knew that 140 character updates would be so hard for people who crank out hundreds of words a day?

Kidding, of course. Fortunately, those of you without a friendly and helpful Twitter expert to nudge can turn to a few great resources.

The blog Twitter Journalism has lots of great hints and tips on how to get the most out of the social media tool. Here’s a great top 10 list of pros and cons for Twitter and journalists. Here’s another one on how to verify Tweets while newsgathering.

The blog was started by Craig Kanalley of Breaking Tweets and the Huffington Post.

There is also the official media blog from Twitter that also points out lots of great practices from journalists and media types.

A Gutenberg counter-revolution?

Apr 08, 2010 in Ideas, On-line

Thomas Pettitt on the Gutenberg Parentheses from Nieman Journalism Lab on Vimeo.

The Nieman Journalism lab has an interesting interview with Danish thinker Thomas Pettitt who argues that the internet might actually mark a return to a pre-Gutenberg society of sorts.

He posits the idea that the 15th-century to the 20th-century marked a sort of Gutenberg Parenthesis, an odd interregnum where print reigned supreme in our information culture.

Of course, prior to mass printing and literacy, information was spread more haphazardly through rumours, songs, poems, oral stories, etc. Printing changed this because books gave a solidity to facts that rumours spread orally didn’t.

From the piece:

And with regard to things like truth, or the things like the reliability of what you hear in the media, then I think, well, in a way we’re in for a bad time. Because there was a hierarchy. In the parenthesis, people like to categorize — and that includes the things they read. So the idea clearly was that in books, you have the truth. Because it was solid, it looked straight, it looked like someone very clever or someone very intelligent had made this thing, this artifact. Words, printed words — in nice, straight columns, in beautifully bound volumes — you could rely on them. That was the idea.

And then paperback books weren’t quite as reliable, and newspapers and newssheets were even less reliable. And rumors you heard in the street were the least reliable of all. You knew where you were — or you thought you knew where you were. Because the truth was that those bound books were probably no more truthful than the rumors you heard on the street, quite likely.

There are, of course, differences between 21st-century information culture and medieval Europe. Literacy and a lack of a central power (i.e. the Catholic Church) being two of them. Nonetheless, it’s an interesting idea and one that could shed a bit of light on our post-print age.

Why are journalists not using blogs and social media for research?

Apr 05, 2010 in Media, On-line

One other face-palm inducing stat that I pulled out of that PR Week study that was published last week:

Among the total respondents, the use of blogs and social networks for research increased significantly in 2010 as compared to 2009; however this spike appears to be skewed by online magazine/news reporters and bloggers. While 91% of bloggers and 68% of online reporters “always” or “sometimes” use blogs for research, only 35% of newspaper and 38% of print magazine journalists suggested the same.

This divergence was also seen when using social networks for research. Overall, 33% of respondents indicated using such assets, but blogger usage (48%) was greater than newspaper (31%) and print magazine (27%).

The emphasis is mine. That figure is mindbogglingly low. Lets flip that around, almost two-thirds of newspaper journalists don’t use blogs or social media when doing their research. I can’t think of many beats where you wouldn’t do some research on blogs or social media. More importantly, print and magazine journalists, need to realize one fact;  your stories are going online. There’s even a chance that your stories are being read by more people online than in print. Whether you like it or not you might just be an online journalist. Maybe it’s time to start acting like one.

Round-up: Why the iPad won’t save media

Apr 04, 2010 in Media, On-line

Update: Buzzmachine’s Jeff Jarvis also expressed his doubts over the iPad.

It’s too limiting,  places too many shackles on sharing, mixing, and content creation. And for what? Pretty pictures and some video? Really?


It’s made both the cover of Newsweek and Time, taken over my Twitter stream and gotten every tech/media/internet geek out there in a froth. And while the iPad might be a gorgeous device that does lots of cool and fun things, gaming is going to be a blast on that thing, there’s a group of media pundits out there that don’t think Jobs’ Jesus tablet will do much for the media.

Of course if you want to see glowing praise for the iPad you can check out this round-up of reviews on Wired.

Jose Antonio Vargas at Huffington Post sees it as desperate delusion borne out of a salvation mentality. Media needs someone, something to save them. Why not the iPad?

“What we’re seeing is a desperate wish — the last gasp of desperation. Editors and publishers and advertisers want to regain control of the media experience that the Internet took away from them. In their minds, this iPad is the magic pill that will make all of this Internet crap go away. Surely, it won’t,” Jeff Jarvis, the veteran journalist and author of What Would Google Do? told me in a phone interview. Upon reading that Time magazine is charging $5 a month for its iPad app, Jarvis tweeted Friday morning: “Mag iPad prices are delusional: In no form, even engraved in gold, is Time is worth $5/issue.” Jarvis followed it up with this tweet, linking to a story in paidContent: “if Time’s iPhone app is free & iPhone apps work on iPad, why would I pay $5 for an iPhone app? Naked newsmakers?”

Kevin Charman-Anderson on the Strange Attractor blog looks at the price and strategies for some apps on the iPad (hint: they’re more expensive) and calls shenanigans. He notes that the WSJ iPad app is a whopping $17.99 a month. A weekly online subscription sets you back $1.99. I’ll let the sheer lunacy of that sink in.

MarketWatch’s John Dvorak agrees that old media is expecting way too much from the iPad and, more importantly, calls out traditional media outlets for swooning over the device:

The reviews came out this week for a device the public will buy on Saturday. We see these written up by Apple’s hand-selected core of tech journalists who are known to be friendly to the company and soft with reviewing its products.

It’s the usual suspects plus the emergence of the two major news weeklies, Time and Newsweek, to out-and-out promote the iPad as the future of, uh, well, everything!

No mention that their future will be dependent on the success of the device.

Mike Masnick at TechDirt also takes a jab at old media and their almost unquestioning devotion to the iPad:

The media has been making a huge deal about how the iPad is supposed to “save the business,” because suddenly everything will return to apps, and people pay for apps, and toss in a big dose of “Steve Jobs!” and there’s some sort of magic formula which includes some question marks and inevitably ends in profit! Now, the iPad does look like a nice device, and I have no doubt that it will do quite well for Apple, and many buyers will be quite happy with it. But it’s not going to save the media business in any way, shape or form. It’s just the media chasing a rainbow in search of gold that doesn’t exist.

I’m going to leave the last word to Boing Boing’s Cory Doctorow, because I’m sure he’d want it that way. To him the iPad is not unlike AOL and multimedia enhanced CD-Roms. Anybody remember those?

A quick tip of the hat to the Flickr Commons

Apr 02, 2010 in On-line, Photos

If you’ve been checking out my Sunday Image blog posts regularly you’ll notice that the Flickr Commons is one of my favourite sources. The Flickr Commons is a great resource if you’re into vintage photography. It invites institutions with large photo archives (museums, libraries, national archives, etc.) to upload parts of their collections to Flickr so the public can access them.

From time to time the museum crowdsources for annotations on photographs. So when a museum curator is unsure where a photo was taken they ask the crowd. Sometimes the crowd comes back with great and very accurate responses.

I’m also going to give a very jaunty tip of the hat to the blog Indicommons which explores the growing Flickr Commons by pointing out interesting content and new additions. I will also note that one of the editors of the Indicommons blog is Toronto editor and fellow book nerd Stephanie Fysh.

Photo: Possum with camera. From the Australian War Memorial Collection.

Wordcamp 2010: Jeremy Wright on social media failures

Mar 27, 2010 in On-line, Uncategorized

Update: Jeremy’s entertaining and informative presentation is available.

Karaoke-pal Jeremy Wright gave the keynote at this year’s Wordcamp on how and why social media can fail.

He’s promised to post his camel-filled slides online and I’ll update that soon. For now, here are my rough notes.

Social media failures

Believe it or not social media can’t do everything. It often fails. Jeremy Wright outlines a few reasons why below:

Overinflated sense of self-worth

Because of hype social media practitioners feel like they’re the shit… but there is an echo-chamber effect. Not everyone is on Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, etc. Not everyone cares about how good at it you are.


Comment spam, DM spam, etc. are all a pain in the ass and cheapen the value of social media. It’s very easy to be overwhelmed by it too.

Mob mentality

Social media can amplify a backlash (i.e. Motrin, Nestle).

Some people go out of their way to be “social media terrorists”

Twitter interns

Big companies try to do this on the cheap. Lame

No strategic direction, no support

The drive for followers

Some people get “follower envy” and want to accrue followers by sometimes annoying and idiotic ways (auto-follow, spamming, etc.)

@aplusk vs. @cnnbrk

The Social Media cult…

“If you don’t use Twitter, I’m sorry but you’re an idiot” - @unmarketing

The social media community can be a bit of an echo chamber. Sometimes the community aspect is great, but other times it shuts out divergent views.

Acting like we deserve it

Are we owed anything? Uhm, no. Stay humble and respectful.

Automation is EVIL

It’s deceiving. Autofollow, etc. SUCKS!

Broadcasting is NOT engagement. It’s SOCIAL media not social MEDIA.

Assholery as insight

Being a jerk doesn’t make you right…. it just makes you an asshole


Don’t be a hypocrite. People will call you out on it.

Stay away if…

  • someone is talking more than listening
  • you’re being more media than social
  • more tweets than eye contact
  • leading with a business card…
  • watch out for the word “leverage”


  • Listen more than you talk
  • SOCIAL media, not social MEDIA
  • Give more than you get
  • Don’t paint the old as new
  • Don’t steal
  • Things look easier from the outside