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July 18, 2013, 11:40 a.m.
LINK: nymag.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Joshua Benton   |   July 18, 2013

At New York, Kevin Roose writes about recent troubles at Pando Daily and pivots into a discussion on what the role of tech blogs should be in the journalism ecosystem:

There has long been a war between those who write for and read tech blogs (by “tech blogs,” I’m referring to a group of publications epitomized by, but not limited to, TechCrunch and PandoDaily) and those who think these blogs are fundamentally compromised and do a terrible job of covering the tech industry in a neutral, objective way. This latter group tends to be composed of people who wish tech blogs contained more criticism — more takedowns of charlatans and frauds, more reports of industry gossip and George Packer–style think-pieces about Silicon Valley’s more pernicious influences. They want Silicon Valley to be covered as if it were Wall Street, or Capitol Hill. And they look at tech blogs, see the funding announcements and uncritical stories that dominate, and conclude that they’re terrible, conflict-ridden, sycophantic echo chambers.

He argues the right frame is to think of them as trade publications, not as mainstream media:

There’s no shame in being a trade publication. Positive, insider-y tech coverage shouldn’t be the whole of tech journalism, but it can be part of it, especially now that more outlets are giving Silicon Valley the oppositional treatment it deserves. And if tech blogs like TechCrunch and Pando want to harness their strengths, they should embrace their insider status, focus on out-scooping each other on industry news, and leave the takedowns to others. They might miss some juicy stories, but it’s better than coltishly trying to both please their readers and satisfy the bloodlust of Silicon Valley’s critics.

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LINK: nieman.harvard.edu  ➚   |   Posted by: Joshua Benton   |   May 15, 2015

The Nieman Foundation (of which Nieman Lab is a part) just announced our 78th class of Nieman Fellows. (For the uninitiated: The Nieman Fellowship allows 24 journalists the chance to spend a year at Harvard, studying the subjects of their choice, and working to improve the state of journalism, in the United States and worldwide.)

It’s a great group, as it is every year. A few of the names will be familiar to Nieman Lab readers — we wrote about Grzegorz Piechota back in 2012, and we’ve written about Mónica Guzmán several times over the years.

You can find the new fellows’ Twitter handles here, and more information about the fellowship is here. Meanwhile, here are the ideas they’ll be exploring at Harvard starting this fall — the Americans listed first, then the internationals.

And if you’re a journalist who’d benefit from a year to step back from your daily work and work on something bigger, the next application cycle is only a few months away.

Debra Adams Simmons, a senior news executive at Advance Local, the parent company of a group of metro news organizations, will study the impact of the digital news transformation on newsroom leadership and diversity, media ethics and local communities.

Mariah Blake, most recently a senior reporter for Mother Jones, will study the intersection of science and U.S. government policy.

Christopher Borrelli, a features writer at the Chicago Tribune, plans to study the decline of regional identities in the United States and the role that income inequality and social policy play in that change.

Andrea Bruce, a conflict photographer, will study the history of democratic theory and new storytelling techniques beyond photography.

Christa Case Bryant, Jerusalem bureau chief for The Christian Science Monitor, will study the technology and international politics of cybersecurity, with a particular focus on cyberwarfare.

Mónica Guzmán, technology and media columnist for GeekWire, The Daily Beast and Columbia Journalism Review, will study how journalists can rethink their roles to meet the demands of online public discourse.

Mary Meehan, a writer at the Lexington Herald-Leader, will examine the impact of the Affordable Care Act and barriers to sustained health improvement among the previously uninsured.

Todd Pitman, Bangkok bureau chief for The Associated Press, will study the causes and consequences of military intervention in emerging nations and examine ways to advance reporting in countries under army rule.

Wendi C. Thomas, a columnist for the Memphis Flyer, will study how to deepen the public conversation on economic justice using a multimedia news website and civic engagement campaign.

Kim Tingley, a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine, will study the history and philosophy of science, specifically the science of navigation and its relationship to memory and sense of place.

Christopher Weyant, a cartoonist for The New Yorker, will study the repositioning of editorial cartoons as a critical asset to journalism’s digital business model.

Christine Willmsen, an investigative reporter for The Seattle Times, will study emerging toxins and chemicals that impact the health and safety of our workforce.

Wonbo Woo, a producer for NBC News, will study the way major media events impact communities and examine the collateral effects of competitive news coverage on towns and residents after the spotlight fades.

Cansu Çamlibel (Turkey), a writer and senior diplomatic correspondent for Hürriyet, will study the rise of political Islam and how religion shaped contemporary Turkish political discourse.

Naomi Darom (Israel), a writer at Haaretz, will study the relationship between feminism and the messages about gender conveyed by popular culture.

Tim de Gier (Netherlands), head of digital and a staff writer for Vrij Nederland,will study the intersection of modern leftist theory and the political and economic challenges of digital technology.

Fan Wenxin (China), a reporter for Bloomberg News, will study how China’s domestic politics and economy impact its relations with other countries.

Olivia Laing (UK), a writer and critic for The Guardian and New Statesman, will study literature and the crosscurrents between art and trauma.

Hamish Macdonald (Australia), international affairs correspondent for ABC News, will study the intersection of traditional international affairs reporting with innovative, contemporary modes of storytelling to develop new models for collaboration and delivery.

Stephen Maher (Martin Wise Goodman Canadian Nieman Fellow), a political columnist at Postmedia News, will study the use and abuse of surveillance in the absence of effective civilian oversight.

Fabiano Maisonnave (Knight Latin American Nieman Fellow, Brazil), a senior reporter and editorial writer at Folha de S.Paulo, will study the impact of social and economic policies on inequality and the environment in developing countries.

Grzegorz Piechota (Poland), head of the Innovation Lab at the Warsaw-based Gazeta Wyborcza, will study patterns in digital news content engagement to identify best practices.

Anastasia Taylor-Lind (UK/Sweden), a documentary photographer, will study the ways women are portrayed in ancient and modern conflict.

Fungai Tichawangana (Zimbabwe), managing editor of Zimbo Jam, Zimbabwe’s leading arts and culture website, will study digital storytelling techniques, the development of interactive media and online security.

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LINK: www.nytco.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Justin Ellis   |   May 11, 2015

The latest version of NYT Now, The New York Times’ aggregation-fueled smartphone app, is out today and, for the first time, it’s free to all users.

Though rumored and discussed for some time, it’s still a significant shift for the company, which originally launched the app as a cheaper alternative to a full Times subscription, specifically focused on younger, more smartphone-centric readers. At $8 a month, it was about half the price of the cheapest digital subscription to the Times.

But even that price was too high to attract a substantial paying audience. The Times captured a reported 20,000 subscribers, and a majority of NYT Now users were full Times subscriptions who had the app thrown in as a benefit. And so Paywalls 2.0 shifts to NYT Now 2.0.

Inside the company, the app was seen as a creative and technological success, if not a financial one. In a January memo to staff, Times executive editor Dean Baquet wrote:

We have made clear that NYT Now was not a financial breakthrough. But it has been a tremendous journalistic success, showing up on almost every ranking of best new apps. We learned many significant lessons from building NYT Now. We realized we could be more visual, and talk to readers in a different, less formal way, and still be The New York Times. We are exploring how we can make NYT Now a financial success.

That exploration has turned it into a ad-supported model that could let the app — which has been consistently well reviewed — reach a broader audience of phone-heavy readers. Some of those might eventually graduate up to the full Times experience, but there’ll be ads to serve to those who don’t.

NYT Now 2.0 collapses its first two tabs — a selection of Times stories and a curated assemblage of stories from elsewhere — into one stream, with the Times stories on top. (Who’s getting link love from the Times? This morning the app featured Vanity Fair, Quartz, BuzzFeed, Jezebel, Slate, Pacific Standard, Rolling Stone, and Deadline, among others.)

The app previously allowed only 10 free stories a month to non-subscribers; now users will be able to read 10 selected Times stories at any given time and 20 or 30 stories over a 24-hour period, Times spokeswoman Linda Zebian said.


The stories themselves are still basically unchanged, what you’d see in a smartphone mobile browser or the Times’ full app. The app now lets readers know how many new stories have been added at launch, and the bullet-point-centric morning and evening news roundups now come with optional push notifications when they’re ready.

As the Times marches closer to 1 million digital subscribers, the company has spent the last few years trying to find ways to diversify its paid offerings. NYT Now, along with the short-lived NYT Opinion app, were supposed to be the next phase in generating more revenue from readers. But slow subscriber pickup pushed a switch in models, including a greater reliance on brand advertising. As app team leader Cliff Levy put it to Ken Doctor last fall:

…we realized that perhaps we went too fast toward monetizing NYT Now and NYT Opinion. Maybe in the future, a better path is to first do audience development and then do monetization.

When NYT Now debuted, one concern was that existing Times subscribers would find the app was “enough Times for them” and downgrade from a full print or digital subscription to eight bucks a month. Making the app completely free would seem to be an even greater potential risk.

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LINK: www.washingtonpost.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Joshua Benton   |   May 5, 2015

Last year, The Washington Post debuted a new app for the Kindle Fire with an intriguingly distinct user interface. Jeff Bezos was quite involved in its development, “Project Rainbow” — not surprising, I suppose, considering that it was the most meaningful crossover yet between his day job (owning Amazon) and his side gig (owning The Washington Post).

Now, the visual metaphors of that Kindle Fire app are crossing over to the web:

“Based on the success of our new tablet app, we decided to experiment with different ways to carry that experience to the Web,” said Martin Baron, executive editor of The Washington Post. “We think it could be an excellent way to both provide users of the app a seamless experience as they navigate to the web, and to continue expanding our national and global audience, particularly among Millennials, whose readership of The Post is growing steadily.”

Starting today, a subset of mobile readers who click on a shared link will be taken to a new version of The Post’s site (Washingtonpost.com/rweb), which will evolve over the coming months, based on their feedback.

washington-post-kindle-fire-web

Reviews on Twitter have been mixed:

It is awkward when viewed on desktop. But while it’s available on the open web, it’s really targeted at mobile web only. And, I have to think, tablets, because it also looks pretty goofy on a phone:

washington-post-kindle-fire-web-iphone

There are some appealing ideas in the design, which tries to recapture some of the leafing-through-the-paper feel of print. With every story getting big visual presentation, and scrolling story-by-story as the default navigation, you do get a sense of the sweep of a newspaper. But, like the spiritually similar Today’s Paper from The New York Times, I have a hard time imagining it’ll ever be anything but a niche point of entry to Post content.

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LINK: knightfoundation.org  ➚   |   Posted by: Justin Ellis   |   April 30, 2015

The Knight Foundation is awarding more than $700,000 to a new round of technology projects, with a focus on storytelling, data, and community building. Twenty projects will each receive $35,000 as part of the Knight Prototype Fund, which is aimed at offering early seed investments in ideas focused on information needs.

The projects in this round come from the world of technology, media, and civic engagement and include media companies like Chicago Public Media and The Lens, as well as content recommendation service Contextly and a former Knight-Mozilla OpenNews fellow.

Like many Knight-backed projects, the Prototype Fund winners are designed to address community-based problems focused on increasing access to information, building tools for reporters, and improving participation in elections. (Disclosure: The Knight Foundation is a funder of Nieman Lab, though not through the Prototype Fund.)

Some of the projects include an app that uses games to helps voters identify what candidate they agree with, a tool for curating science stories based on credibility metrics, and a platform to help news organizations verify photos from users. Along with the funding, each project will go through a six-month program from the LUMA Institute that will take teams through human-centered design and prepare them for a demo day later this year.

Knight is currently accepting applications for the next round of Prototype Fund grants, with a deadline of May 15. The full list of winners is below.

Ballot by WeVote (Project Lead: Amy Chiou) (Charlotte, N.C.): Making voting easy by matching voters with candidates who share their political views through a free web and mobile app that provides simple quizzes and surveys and uses a matching algorithm to sort candidates by compatibility.

Community Resource Aggregator by Union Capital Boston (Project lead: Laura Ballek) (Boston): Developing a mobile-based loyalty program for low-income families that provides social and financial rewards in exchange for community involvement in schools, health centers and civic programs.

Culture Conversations by Dance Heritage Coalition (Project lead: Imogen Smith) (San Francisco): Helping the San Francisco art community preserve digital arts criticism related to dance through a tool that will make these stories fully searchable using descriptive metadata and linking it to streaming dance videos.

Futurism.co 2.0, The Evolving Knowledge System by Futurism (Project lead: Alexander Klokus) (Brooklyn, N.Y.): Helping readers easily access a collection of top science and technology stories curated through a tool that aggregates and ranks based on source credibility, keywords and social media metrics.

KLRN Virtual Classroom by Alamo Public Telecommunications Council (Project lead: Katrina Kehoe) (San Antonio, Texas): Using PBS LearningMedia and the OVEE video platform to support students who are homeschooled through a virtual classroom experience that allows them to interact with their peers online and take advantage of PBS educational resources.

Metadata Beyond the Open Graph by Contextly (Project lead: Ryan Singel) (San Francisco): Developing a new kind of writing interface that helps journalists and others create stories that include additional context and descriptive metadata, so they can be found and used more easily.

A Metadata Graphing Interface by Chicago Public Media (Project leads: Matthew Green and Brendan Metzger) (Chicago): Enabling content creators to provide audiences with smarter, better search results, story recommendations and the ability to explore content through an easy-to-use publishing platform.

mRelief (Project lead: Rose Afriyie) (Chicago): Helping people in financial need access public assistance resources through a platform that enables them to locate and apply for benefits.

Neighborhood Drawing Tool by The Metropolitan Area Planning Council (Project lead: Matt Cloyd) (Boston): Helping people find information on a wide range of topics specific to their location through a tool that allows users to define the boundaries of their neighborhood or community of interest and crowdsource popular cultural knowledge.

Numina by CTY (Project lead: Tara Pham) (St. Louis, Mo.): Allowing cities and planning organizations to capture more accurate pedestrian and cyclist data by installing a machine learning-based sensor tool in city neighborhoods.

Open Permit by Aecosoft Corp. (Project lead: Martin Maykel) (Miami): Helping citizens more easily access business permitting information by creating a platform that lets multiple jurisdictions present permit data in standard formats and that can be integrated with existing systems.

Perceptoscope (Project lead: Ben Sax) (Los Angeles): Helping civic institutions like museums and historical sites present local information through augmented-reality enabled, coin-operated binoculars that provide immersive experiences in public spaces using interactive art, historical recreations and real-time data visualizations.

Playable Stories by Arizona State University New Media Innovation Lab and Center for Games and Impact (Project Lead: Retha Hill, Juli James and Adam Ingram-Goble) (Tempe, Ariz.): Enabling journalists to produce interactive, mobile-ready news experiences, based on the principles of gaming and journalism, in a WordPress plugin and theme; for example, audiences will be able to interact with stories to choose sides, make decisions and see the outcomes.

Railroad Project (Project lead: Seth Forsgren) (Miami Beach, Fla.): Allowing journalists, governments and the public to foster two-way communications with their audiences, through a video messaging tool that captures both sides of a conversation.

The Ripple Mapping Tool by Allied Media Projects (Project lead: Jenny Lee) (Detroit): Allowing social good organizations and others to measure the outcomes of a particular event through a tool that collects information from participants on what they did or did not learn, whom they met and what, if anything, grew from the experience.

Semantic Timeline Maker by The Lens (Project lead: Abe Handler) (New Orleans, La.): Helping make sense of large amounts of data, such as emails and news articles, via a program that extracts structured facts from free text.

She said, he said by Open Media Foundation (Project lead: Leo Kacenjar) (Denver, Co.): Helping citizens hold legislators more accountable through a video and audio library tool that allows users to more easily access and discover archived video recordings from House of Representatives and Senate sessions.

Troll-Busters by (Project lead: Dr. Michelle Ferrier) (Athens, OH): Addressing cyberbullying of women bloggers and publishers through an online and mobile reporting, notification, and monitoring tool.

Unveillance (Project lead: Harlo Holmes) (New York): Enabling journalists and others to uncover answers and explore datasets through a friend-to-friend file-sharing platform in which users can “drop” documents into a folder have them quickly analyzed and explored.

Verified Pixel Project (Project lead: Samaruddin Stewart) (Daly City, Calif.): Helping news organizations quickly verify photos captured by everyday people through a platform that allows automated testing of the photos through metadata and image analysis.

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LINK: www.buzzfeed.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Justin Ellis   |   April 27, 2015

BuzzFeed wants to find a better way to weigh its viral success, and it wants to convert clicks to Pounds.

At the NewFronts presentations in New York today the company unveiled its new proprietary system for analyzing how content races across the the web — and sharing that information with its advertisers. Specifically, the “Process for Optimizing and Understanding Network Diffusion” is meant to shed a little light into the hidden corners of the social web. BuzzFeed has said that 75 percent of its 200 million monthly users are visiting the site through social media, so it would only make sense the company would want to better understand the patterns and habits of social sharing.

What exactly does Pound do? BuzzFeed publisher Dao Nguyen:

It follows propagations from one sharer to another, through all the downstream visits, even across social networks and one-to-one sharing platforms like Gchat and email.

Pound is the Process for Optimizing and Understanding Network Diffusion.

Pound does not store usernames or any personally identifiable information (PII) with the share events. Each node in the sharing graph is anonymous. We are not able to figure out who a user is by looking at the graph data. Pound data is collected based on an oscillating, anonymous hash in a sharer’s URL as a UTM code.

Instead of roping off social sharing into platform-based categories (how many came from Twitter vs. Facebook vs. Pinterest), Pound is designed to trace the way stories or videos are shared. It builds a pathway that shows all the routes a piece of content can take from being shared by one person over chat to exploding on Twitter.

What does it look like in action? BuzzFeed decided to examine the case of the infamous blue/black/white/gold dress that brought the Internet to a standstill in February. The initial post from BuzzFeed has been viewed more than 38 million times. Using Pound, they broke that down:

buzzfeedpound

Nguyen said they plan to use Pound to gather more granular insights on the type of content that resonates with people and to optimize their sharing strategies. And since Pound made its debut at the marketer-friendly NewFronts, the company will use the tool to give advertisers a better picture of their audience. They’ve already used it to evaluate the effectiveness of sponsored content:

It should not be a surprise BuzzFeed wants to build a better machine for understanding how content performs in the wider world outside its own website, as the company has been laying out its vision for distributed content over the last several months.

In March, it was reported that the company, along with The New York Times and National Geographic, was considering hosting content on Facebook. At SXSW, BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti offered a glimpse of the “cascade” of data that Pound provides. (Indeed, compare Pound to The New York Times’ similar-in-spirit Cascade project.)

Peretti told the audience then: “For us, it increasingly doesn’t matter where our content lives,” he said. “That can actually be a huge advantage.”

One measure of that success has been BuzzFeed’s success with video, reaching 1 billion monthly video views, with only 5 percent of that coming from BuzzFeed.com.

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