Recent posts in my Digital media Category

December 27, 2012

The Guardian publishes stats on the size of their commenting community

I don’t want to unnecessarily poke the hornet’s nest that is user reaction to the Guardian’s introduction of nested comments, but Chris Elliott’s recent column about it contains one fascinating stat, which I don’t think has been made public before. It has implications for the amount of time and effort you might care to expend on the community on your news sites.

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December 14, 2012

A culture hack for London’s schools

This week I got to participate in a day-long “Culture Hack” with a range of people representing some of London’s biggest cultural institutions. Here is what I made of the day.

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December 6, 2012

“Curating social media during Hurricane Sandy for the Guardian” - Katie Rogers at news:rewired

At news:rewired the Guardian’s Katie Rogers was talking about how the US arm of the paper used social media to cover Hurricane Sandy as it landed on their New York doorstep. Here are my notes from her talk.

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July 25, 2012

Is Godzilla destroying journalism?

I recently appeared at an event entitled “Is social media destroying journalism?”. Here is the essay version of what I said on the night. Featuring a certain B-movie favourite...

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July 4, 2012

“New digital divides” - Martin Belam at Hacks/Hackers Canterbury

On Monday night I spoke at the inaugural meeting of Hacks/Hackers Canterbury. Here is an essay version of my talk.

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July 3, 2012

“3 tips for working with programmers and journalists” - Nicola Hughes at Hacks/Hackers Canterbury

Nicola Hughes, aka @DataMinerUK, was talking at the first meeting of the Canterbury Hacks/Hackers group, giving her ten top tips for working with journalists and “proper” programmers if you were just starting down the road of being a datajournalist. Three things struck me as particularly important, and applicable to a wider circle of activity.

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June 26, 2012

Of course “The Newsroom” gets bad press. The reviews are written in a newsroom.

I haven’t seen “The Newsroom”, but I have seen the reviews, and it hasn’t been pretty. Likewise “The Hour” didn’t win many rave write-ups either. The unfortunately unique thing is that when writing a show about journalism, your reviews are posted by the very people whose activity you are trying to dramatise.

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June 21, 2012

Behind the scenes at the ITV News redesign

Design agency Made By Many hosted a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes of the digital relaunch ITV News this week. Here are my notes on how they didn’t just redesign a website, they redesigned a newsroom.

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June 20, 2012

A Euro2012 victory for the Guardian’s live blogging tools

The Guardian hit an exciting milestone last night with our Euro2012 coverage - the first time that an England game has been live blogged using our new system.

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June 13, 2012

My quick opinion of the Times Opinion on Tumblr

The Times new Opinion Tumblr doesn’t signal a retreat from the paywall - if anything, it potentially raises the “value for money” that customers think they are getting.

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The not-so-hidden cost of publishing ebooks on Amazon’s Kindle

There is a graph doing the rounds on the internet at the moment claiming that Amazon are giving independent publishers a raw deal over the cost of delivering books on Kindle devices. I’m perplexed. Amazon are very clear about the charges.

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June 6, 2012

Forcing Hari to link only shows up how much the rest of the news industry doesn’t

The rehabilitation of Johann Hari continues apace with the publication of a column from him in GQ. The fact that he is being made to link out in footnotes is being seen in some quarters as a punishment. If only it was just normal best practice.

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May 23, 2012

Platforms not pages - solving problems with The Atavist, n0tice and

Three very different things I’ve spotted this week have illustrated a nagging thought in my mind that if you are purely focused on publishing web pages into the desktop environment, you’ve probably taken your eye off the ball.

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May 15, 2012

Google Currents - a system for publishers, not journalists

I always like to play around with new toys, and so as soon as the Google Currents production system was released to the public, I set about making an edition for myself - and discovered that it is a system for publishers, not journalists or individual authors.

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May 7, 2012

What are the “cheat codes” for the news industry?

Games developers have monetised the existence of “cheat codes” by morphing them into in-app purchases that raise extra revenue. What “cheat codes” doe the news industry have?

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May 2, 2012

If even Google and Facebook are struggling with the pace of change - what chance media companies?

Reading pieces by Eric Jackson and Peter Kirwan yesterday leaves an awkward question hanging in the air. If Google and Facebook are really struggling with the impact of disruption to their business models from changes in trends on the internet, where does that leave media companies, many of whom haven’t really got to grips with web 1.0 yet?

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April 27, 2012

Marketing newspapers like it is 2003

Small details can tell you so much, can’t they? The Newspaper Marketing Agency haven’t updated the copyright notice on their website since 2003. Presumably because it is a GIF file.

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April 26, 2012

“Wannabe Hacks - finding a route into UK journalism” - Nick Petrie & Ben Whitelaw at Hacks/Hackers London

Last night was the monthly Hacks/Hackers London meet-up organised by Joanna Geary and Jonathan Richards. Here are my notes on Nick Petrie and Ben Whitelaw talking about Wannabe Hacks.

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“Supporting public interest business journalism” - Maha Rafi Atal at Hacks/Hackers London

Last night was the monthly Hacks/Hackers London meet-up organised by Joanna Geary and Jonathan Richards. Here are my notes from one of the talks, given by Maha Rafi Atal, about Public Business.

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April 11, 2012

A handful of lessons from beta testing features on the Guardian’s website

If you subscribe to the theory that you should “release early, release often”, and that you want to “fail fast” and learn from those failings, then you end up in a world where you should be regularly testing variations of your digital product on your audience. If you don’t go about it the right way, this can be a bruising experience for all concerned. Today I wanted to outline some thoughts prompted by a recent trial of threaded comments on the site that I was involved in.

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March 30, 2012

The question that would not die. A decade of people asking “Are bloggers journalists?”

I thought I’d fallen asleep and been transported back into 1997 today when I saw a tweet from Media Bistro asking “Are bloggers #journalists?” After from issuing a caps lock ranting frenzy on Twitter, I thought I’d try and pull something positive from the experience, so I tried to find the first time anybody asked “Are bloggers journalists?” on the internet.

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February 28, 2012

“How the FT shifted from native apps to web apps” - Steve Pinches at Hacks/Hackers London

Here are my notes from Hacks/Hackers London meet-up where Steve Pinches from the FT gave a very open and frank talk about their work in the mobile space. He is product manager for that area, and was talking particularly about their move to HTML5 web apps and away from native apps.

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February 24, 2012

Journalist-centred design for the CMS

This is my contribution to February’s Carnival of Journalism. The topic this month, set by Steve Outing, is “What emerging technology or digital trend do you think will have a significant impact on journalism in the year or two ahead?” I’m hoping it might be journalist-centred design for the CMS.

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February 19, 2012

Bad websites ruin the internet, not “Graphic designers”

I had quite a rude awakening from Twitter on Sunday morning when someone contacted me about John Naughton’s Observer column: “Graphic designers are ruining the web”. The users in the comments have done most of my blogging for me...

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February 17, 2012

“Social media optimisation” - Q&A at news:rewired

A couple of weeks ago I was part of a panel session talking about social media optimisation at news:rewired. I was talking about the Guardian’s Facebook app, and the rest of the panel consisted of Darren Waters from MSN, the BBC’s Chris Hamilton, and Nate Lanxon of Wired. Here are some points that came out of the Q&A that followed the talks.

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February 14, 2012

“Social media, investigative journalism, ethics and security” - Nicola Hughes at news:rewired

As part of news:rewired earlier this month, there were workshop sessions on skills like SEO and datajournalism. Leading one of the sessions was Nicola Hughes, aka DataMinerUK, teaching people how to use social media for search. Here are my notes from a session that raised interesting issues of ethics and security for investigative journalists using social media.

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February 13, 2012

“The alchemy of media business model innovation” - François Nel at news:rewired

François Nel’s talk about media business models at news:rewired drew a massive contrast between the fortunes, financially, of the Mail and the Guardian, and sparked a discussion about the Guardian’s digital strategy which made for some uncomfortable listening for those of us in the audience involved in trying to implement it. Here are my notes from that session - including a big disclaimer reminding you that this is a personal blog...

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February 10, 2012

“The Economist’s shift to digital”- Tom Standage at news:rewired

One of the panel sessions at news:rewired last week was devoted to the paid content model. Tom Standage, digital editor of the Economist, gave an upbeat talk about the title’s success in transitioning to the digital era. Here are my notes from the session.

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February 9, 2012

“Great for users. Great for publishers. And great for Apple” - Alex Watson on Newsstand at news:rewired

One of the panel sessions I attended at news:rewired was devoted to the notion of paid content. It featured some interesting insights from Alex Watson of Dennis Publishing and Tom Standage from The Economist, as well as some scrutiny of the Guardian’s business model, which, for those of us who work there, made for some uncomfortable listening. Here are my notes from Alex’s talk about Apple’s Newsstand.

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February 7, 2012

“Did we get something of journalistic value?” - Liz Heron on social media success at news:rewired

Last week Liz Heron gave the opening keynote address at news:rewired, explaining some of the social media work that the New York Times does, and offering some advice for those who are also involved in doing it. These are my notes from her session.

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February 6, 2012

A busy week of hacking and Guardian Beta

A flurry of activity around the Guardian last week as we tried out some new things on our Beta site, and had a two day hack day.

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February 3, 2012

“The Guardian’s Facebook app” - Martin Belam at news:rewired

At news:rewired today I was part of a panel discussing optimising news sites for social media. I talked about the Guardian’s Facebook app. Here is an essay version of the talks.

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January 30, 2012

Frictionless or not, on Facebook or not, people love to share on the web

The release of 60 new apps that employ Facebook’s “frictionless sharing” has sparked another round of internet debate about the value of the functionality. Here’s my take.

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January 29, 2012

Online newspaper metrics? The grey lady doth protest too much, methinks

There’s been quite a fuss around the latest set of usage figures for news websites, with comScore suggesting that Mail Online has overtaken the New York Times as the world’s leading online newspaper. The Times has taken the odd step of both disputing the figures and the relevance - saying the inclusion of thisismoney distorted the number by adding an extra million or so. Spokesperson Eileen Murphy added: “a quick review of our site versus the Daily Mail should indicate quite clearly that they are not in our competitive set.” The grey lady doth protest too much, methinks

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January 27, 2012

Do you hunger for stories, or hunger for sales?

In this month’s Carnival of Journalism, Michael Rosenblum asks why journalists can’t get themselves together and charge more for their work, or take on more of a business and entrepreneurial role. I think the desire to do journalism and the desire to make money may well be mutually exclusive.

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January 21, 2012

Ebook strategy article for TheMediaBriefing

I’ve written a piece this week for TheMediaBriefing site about ebooks - “Why your news brand should take part in the ebook publishing revolution

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January 17, 2012

Digital literacy for all - still a long way to go...

I’ve been wholeheartedly behind the Guardian’s digital literacy campaign. But how do we stop looking like nerdy zealots - who who would give up programming contractor rates for a teaching salary?

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January 10, 2012

Even if we can’t legally define journalism, we should at least define our journalistic principles

An Oregon judge has inadvertently sparked a wider debate about the nature of journalism, as Cleland Thom reported for the Press Gazette. I think a public set of principles is one key way for publishers to set themselves aside from the general hubbub of the internet.

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January 9, 2012

Social media stories with happy endings

Everybody loves a social media story with a happy ending - by which I don’t mean that PR stunt about that other Martin guy. Here are two that have caught my eye over the last few days, involving a student trying to get an internship, and the Muscatine Journal in Iowa.

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January 8, 2012

Dear Patrick Pexton, innovation is not a synonym for new

The Washington Post’s ombudsman Patrick B. Pexton has claimed that the paper is “innovating too fast.” I should imagine it will be news to many observers of our industry that news organisations are innovating at all, let alone too fast. “I want The Post to continue to innovate” he says, ignoring the fact that many of the things he lists in his post are simply “new”, rather than innovative. And many of the problems he raises have nothing to do with technology.

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December 14, 2011

UXmas at the Guardian

Last night we threw open the Guardian’s door for “UXmas” - a chance to meet people from the UX and design teams, hear a couple of talks, and eat some mince pies before retiring to the pub.

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December 9, 2011

“Presents for all!” - my festive #jcarn post

I’m hosting December’s “Carnival of journalism” on the Guardian Developer blog, so it would be a bit remiss not to join in myself. As neither a hack nor a hacker, I thought I'd take the liberty of answering both variations of the question...

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November 29, 2011

“Hacking the rendition flights” - Stephen Grey at Hacks/Hackers London

At last week’s Hacks/Hackers London meet-up, Stephen Grey was talking about the journalistic process behind his work to uncover the CIA’s network of rendition flights. Here are my notes from the session.

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November 26, 2011

December’s “Carnival of journalism” is on the Guardian’s Developer blog

I’ve only joined in the Carnival of journalism once this year, back in March, when I wrote “News innovation isn't just about writing code, it is about how we use that code to tell stories.” I'll be much more involved in December though, as I’m helping to host it on the Guardian’s Developer blog.

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November 21, 2011

“Who’s Who: The Resurrection of the Doctor”: Doctor Who ebook confidential

The Guardian has just published the latest in our Guardian Shorts ebook series - “Who’s Who: Ressurection of the Doctor”. I edited the collection. And just as every episode of Doctor Who these days has a behind-the-scenes “Doctor Who Confidential” to go with it, here is the story behind the editing of the book.

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November 9, 2011

An A-Z of journalism Twitter etiquette

There are a limited number of letters in the alphabet, and so, with the suggestion that journalists should be using “NT” to demonstrate a neutral point of view when retweeting, I thought we should just go ahead and define the entire alphabet of inept journalistic use of Twitter etiquette all in one go.

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November 6, 2011

Template-free publishing tool Scroll debuts on the Guardian website

At the weekend the Guardian became the first major publisher to experiment with Scroll, a new tool from a New York based start-up which promises to allow users to build magazine-style layouts for the web without having to know any code at all. Benji Lanyado put together a version of the weekend’s lead travel section article using it, and we published that in our new Guardian beta section, as well as publishing the more conventional version.

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October 27, 2011

Hacking, live blogging, and launching “Guardian beta”

I’ve just about recovered from last week’s Guardian Hack Day, where at one point I found myself desperately trying to live blog the event, finish my own hack, and get Guardian Beta launched.

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October 20, 2011

Journalism archaeology of the internet - Wendy Grossman on copyright, Scientology, and a world without search at Hacks/Hackers London

I wasn’t able to make last night’s Hacks/Hackers London, which is a shame, as it is always a great night, I’ve always enjoyed seeing Heather Brooke speak, and it would have been brilliant to catch up with the BBC’s George Wright who I used to work alongside in Bush House many moons ago. George has published his slides about the BBC’s R&D department. Seeing all the tweets reminded me that, for one reason or another, I never got round to posting my notes from last month’s Hacks/Hackers. So here they are...

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October 17, 2011

How the Guardian’s iPad app changed the way that I consumed news

We’ve had a lot of products launch over the last few weeks at the Guardian, including Android and Windows phone apps and our Facebook app, but none have been as high profile as our iPad launch. With a design team of Mark Porter, Andy Brockie, Barry Ainslie and John-Henry Barac, you wouldn’t expect it to be anything other than beautiful, and using it has changed the way that I consume news.

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October 12, 2011

Reaction to the Guardian’s Facebook app

It is just over twenty days since we released the Guardian Facebook app. I’ve been engaged with a lot of conversations with people about it on Twitter over the last couple of weeks, and I thought I might put down a few thoughts on the app, and some of the reaction to it.

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September 18, 2011

Comment is free...but trolling is sacred

This week I braved the potential troll hordes of the interwebs with a piece for Comment Is Free about the trolling phenomena, commissioned as part of our coverage of the prison sentence given to Sean Duffy for some unsavoury internet posts mocking the deaths of teenagers. Given the subject matter and the potential audience, I think I got off quite lightly in the comments, especially after it ended up with the headline “All you trolls out there – come out and explain yourself”.

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September 13, 2011

Guardian Shorts ebooks: Paying for curation, not content

I spotted an interesting blog post via Twitter this morning: “Guardian Shorts: The Guardian regurgitates articles on Kindle”, written by Jeroen Kraan on his “My Digital Newsroom” blog. On Twitter he described them as “Not really worth buying, but good effort”. Here are my thoughts.

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September 6, 2011

How the Guardian’s custom CMS & API helped take content strategy to a traditional publisher

This is the essay version of a talk I gave this morning at the Content Strategy Forum in London - “Taking content strategy to people who already think they have one”. It covers how the Guardian has shifted from traditional to digital publishing, and talks about our CMS, our metadata, our API, and gives my advice for those entering the content strategy field when dealing with traditional publishers.

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“Making sense of the (new) new content landscape” - Erin Kissane at Content Strategy Forum 2011

Continuing my series of blog posts from the sessions I have been attending at the Content Strategy Forum, here are my notes from Erin Kissane’s talk about “Making sense of the (new) new content landscape”

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September 2, 2011

How digital transformed the news cycle - and what you can do about it

This is an essay version of a talk given at last week’s Hacks/Hackers meet-up in London. I presented eight things that I believe news organisations need to stop doing, start doing, or do better, in order to cope with the way that digital has transformed the news cycle.

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September 1, 2011

“Don’t be a dick” - the golden rule of news website comment threads

I happen to think that if you take most community management guidelines or blogging and commenting guidelines for staff, they basically boil down to “Don’t be a dick”. In fact, I think there is quite a simple flow chart to follow if you find yourself on the wrong end of a moderation decision on a news website.

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August 24, 2011

Let’s train journalists for the future, not for the past

I’ll be speaking tonight at the London Hacks/Hackers meeting, and one of the points I’ll be making is that the digital publishing revolution is a perpetual revolution, one that requires constant learning. That section of my talk is partly fuelled by how angry I was made yesterday by a piece in the Press Gazette, which suggested that editors do not value digital media skills.

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August 12, 2011

Riots are an opportunity for long-form data journalism

It is easy to think of “data journalism” as being about automatic computer analysis of large datasets, but good data journalism has story-telling at the centre. Over the coming days, weeks, and months there is a lot of data journalism to be done about the riots and looting in the UK. It is an opportunity for long-form data journalism, and the responsibility of the media to use this data in a way that helps us understand the riots, not in a way that prolongs their negative impact.

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August 5, 2011

Help me finish my talk on digital content strategy in a print business

Last night I spoke at a London Content Strategy meetup entitled “Perspectives on Content Strategy”. Normally I’d publish my slides and an essay version of the talk, but this one was a little different. I’m presenting “Taking content strategy to people who already think they have one” at the Content Strategy Forum in London next month, and this was a first run for some of the material.

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