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Aug. 11, 2014, 3:50 p.m.
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LINK: jezebel.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Justin Ellis   |   August 11, 2014

Continuing its tradition of airing its internal discussions outside the office, the staff at Jezebel today called out the higher-ups at parent Gawker Media today over some pretty disgusting trolling at the site.

Dealing with commenters of all stripes is a issue at many media companies, and foiling trolls is a constant problem. Online harassment has become sadly commonplace for female writers online, but at Jezebel things have gotten pretty egregious:

For months, an individual or individuals has been using anonymous, untraceable burner accounts to post gifs of violent pornography in the discussion section of stories on Jezebel. The images arrive in a barrage, and the only way to get rid of them from the website is if a staffer individually dismisses the comments and manually bans the commenter. But because IP addresses aren’t recorded on burner accounts, literally nothing is stopping this individual or individuals from immediately signing up for another, and posting another wave of violent images (and then bragging about it on 4chan in conversations staffers here have followed, which we’re not linking to here because fuck that garbage). This weekend, the user or users have escalated to gory images of bloody injuries emblazoned with the Jezebel logo. It’s like playing whack-a-mole with a sociopathic Hydra.

Banning and blocking is typically the last line of defense for staffers who have to deal with comments. This is where Kinja, Gawker’s publishing and discussion platform, has a strength that is also a weakness: The system is built for — and in some cases encourages — anonymity. “Burner” accounts were envisioned as the next evolution of the tip line, a way of surfacing information from readers who don’t want to leave a trace of identity.

That feature seems to be what is causing the ongoing GIF abuse on Jezebel:

During the last staff meeting, when the subject was broached, we were told that there were no plans to enable the blocking of IP addresses, no plans to record IP addresses of burner accounts. Moderation tools are supposedly in development, but change is not coming fast enough.

To say that Kinja is important to the future of Gawker would be an understatement. The publishing/discussion/tipster platform, or something like it, has been a white whale for Gawker founder Nick Denton.

Denton has said repeatedly that Kinja is a vehicle for putting readers (and their writing) on equal footing as writers. The most recent example of that being Disputations, which opens a window into the day-to-day conversations of Gawker staff.

As recently as June, Gawker staff were still bringing up issues with Kinja, and Denton reportedly said he underestimated the time and resources it would take to build out the platform. Not surprisingly, this caught the attention of Groupthink, a Kinja blog spun off by Jezebel readers, who have been trying to find workarounds for the troll campaign.

According to Business Insider, Gawker editorial director Joel Johnson acknowledged the problem, but said a solution isn’t available just yet. Johnson told the site he’s not sure the anonymity Kinja provides is the issue:

We want to make sure that all readers can submit tips anonymously; security and anonymity are import to our vision of Kinja. I don’t know that this boils down to that exactly, so much as it boils down to my as-yet inability to figure out how to filter image-based posts without at least one human seeing them. (Other sites or apps use hired proxies to sort through those submissions, which also seems suboptimal.)

Nevertheless, I agree with the Jezebel staff that I haven’t done enough to figure out a solution to this problem (a problem I don’t have to deal with on a daily basis, while they do) and I’m proud to work with people who aren’t afraid to call out my mistakes in public.

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The New York Times Style section published a story this week on This.cm, the Atlantic Media funded social platform we wrote about this summer. While there’s no doubt the platform has grown since August, not everyone agreed with the headline.

Meanwhile, independent media journalist Simon Owens had a story on his website that took a slightly less rosy view of the network. Owens points out that a network meant for sharing high-quality, longer pieces of journalism is most likely to be used in the evening hours, when users are looking for the lean-back experience associated with mobile devices. The problem, Owens pointed out to founder Andrew Golis, is that right now This.cm is optimized for desktop and clunky to use on mobile. Here’s what Golis had to say to that:

“All the decisions about how to approach it were premised on what is the most flexible and inexpensive way to test the idea,” he said. “There are a few problems that go with launching something as an app. One is you live and die by the Apple App Store. Secondly, it’s very hard to originate sharing inside of a mobile app. There’s tons of resharing inside mobile apps, but if you look at Tumblr, Pinterest and Twitter, a lot of the original sharing has to start somewhere else, because it’s so hard to copy a link, leave the app, go into another app, and then paste it.”

Owens story has This.cm’s membership at around 4,800 users, a figure which undoubtedly increased with the Times story. (I can say for certain that my remaining six invitations to the platform were quickly snapped up.) But it’s not clear whether the exclusive vibe of the boutique platform will be enough to propel This.cm to the heights Golis has planned.

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Andrew Sullivan — perhaps the archetypal news blogger, one of the earliest traditional-media journalists to embrace the then-new form — is calling it quits. The reasons: burnout, stress, health issues, and a general desire to do something else.

…I am saturated in digital life and I want to return to the actual world again. I’m a human being before I am a writer; and a writer before I am a blogger, and although it’s been a joy and a privilege to have helped pioneer a genuinely new form of writing, I yearn for other, older forms. I want to read again, slowly, carefully. I want to absorb a difficult book and walk around in my own thoughts with it for a while. I want to have an idea and let it slowly take shape, rather than be instantly blogged. I want to write long essays that can answer more deeply and subtly the many questions that the Dish years have presented to me. I want to write a book.

Sullivan, editor of The New Republic back in the 1990s, blogged on his own, for The Daily Beast, Time, and The Atlantic, and most recently under the independent brand of The Dish, launched two years ago as a test of his anti-advertising, pro-paid-content ideas for supporting online journalism. He got about 30,000 people to pay up, which generated around $1 million a year in revenue.

To understand Sullivan’s place in the blogging firmament, you should check out the lengthy interview he gave the team behind Riptide in 2013, in which he dove deep into his history with the medium, his views of its strengths, and why he (at least at that time) was still doing it. There’s a transcript on the Riptide site; I’m embedding the two-part videos below.

I knew it in an intellectual sense by the end of the ’90s. You just saw. At the same time, the ’90s was a time when there was this huge crash. I wanted, as a writer with a bunch of materials, to have a website. I thought I should have a website. Everybody else has a website. I had a good buddy. I didn’t know anything about it, so I said, “Would you please put my pieces up on the website so that there’s a resource I can build up?”…

Every time I called him up to say, “Could you post a new piece of mine?” He would be, “Fine,” but it wasn’t his day job. Eventually, he said, “Here’s this new platform called Blogger.com. Why don’t you put up your own pieces?” Politely. I was like, “Cool, sure!”

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LINK: reporterslab.org  ➚   |   Posted by: Joshua Benton   |   January 20, 2015

A new census from Duke’s Reporters’ Lab says that fact-checking sites are on the rise worldwide:

The 2015 Fact-Checking Census from the Duke Reporters’ Lab found 89 that have been active in the past few years and 64 that are active today. That’s up from 59 total/44 active when we did our last count in May 2014. (We include inactive sites in our total count because sites come and go with election cycles. Some news organizations and journalism NGOs only fact-check during election years.)

Bill Adair, who runs the Reporters’ Lab, used to run PolitiFact — hence his interest.

The survey also found that the use of true/false ratings scales was on the rise, though “Pants On Fire” hasn’t become the universal synonym for lying:

Many rating systems use a true to false scale while others have devised more creative names. For example, ratings for the European site FactCheckEU include “Rather Daft” and “Insane Whopper.” Canada’s Baloney Meter rates statements from “No Baloney” to “Full of Baloney.”

There’s also True to Huckster Propaganda, True to Rubbish, Verdadero to Ridículo, and an array of Pinocchios.

The full list of sites is here.

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You may remember a year ago I posted this short piece that detailed the decline of free daily newspapers in Europe. (“Remember how, a few years ago, some thought that Metro and others of its free ilk would sweep into the space paid dailies were leaving behind? It didn’t work out exactly that way.”) I included this chart by Piet Bakker, perhaps the world’s top analyst of free newspapers:

free-newspapers-chart-piet-bakker

Another year, another chart: Bakker has just updated with 2013 data:

free-dailies-europe-1995-2013-piet-bakker

In other words, more of the same. WAN-IFRA did a brief email interview with Bakker about the state of affairs:

Since free dailies have only one source of income — advertising — the economic crisis hit this sector harder than other print media. Apart from that, there is a general decline in print circulation, probably because younger generations don’t use print that often. This generation was always rather interested in free dailies but now increasingly uses mobile phones during the time that they used to read a free newspaper. And just before the crisis, many free titles were launched (in 2005-2007), which resulted in fierce competition among free papers, hurting the business model even more.

Bakker is also reviewing the situation for free dailies across the world in a 67-part series — the man has stamina! So far, he’s run through Albania, Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, and Denmark. (Estonians: Get ready!) He expects to finish Europe by mid-February, then move to the rest of the world.

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LINK: betasurvey.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Joshua Benton   |   January 15, 2015

nytimes-logoFor two decades, The New York Times has had a reader insight panel — a subset of its audience that it occasionally surveys to “better understand the reading habits, lifestyles and interests of Times readers. (They’re far from alone in this; here’s The Washington Post’s, for instance.) If you’re on it, as I am, you get occasional questions about whether you read a certain section, whether you’d be interested in a particular new Times product, and so on.

But now the Times is using its reader panel for journalistic purposes. For the first time, the results will be published in The New York Times Magazine. I got an email earlier this week under the name of new magazine editor Jake Silverstein (emphasis mine):

Dear New York Times Reader Insight Panel Member,

Whether you are a new Insight Panel member, or have been with us for years, we want to thank you for the invaluable feedback you provide as valued New York Times reader.

Today we have a very special survey. For the first time, results of this Readers Insight Panel survey will be published in The New York Times Sunday Magazine.

The survey covers a number of topics, but it’s all about you. Please note that some of the questions are very personal. In these instances we have provided a “Prefer not to answer” option. If, at any point during the survey, you feel that the questions are too personal, please feel free to stop and close out of it completely. We understand if you are not comfortable answering any or all of our questions. As with all NYT Reader Insight Panel surveys, all answers are strictly confidential. Answers will be reported in the magazine only in aggregate.

The survey should take about 10 minutes to complete. Just click on the link below or copy and paste the URL into your browser.

[link omitted]

Thank you very much for participating in our survey.

Sincerely,

Jake Silverstein
Editor, The New York Times Sunday Magazine

I won’t spoil the future reveal of this package for the magazine, other than to note that among the questions were “Who is the best American President ever?,” “Do you have any close friends of a different political party?,” “Have you ever had dinner with your neighbors?,” and “Let’s say you are at a party and people are talking about a particular book that everyone has read except for you. Do you admit you haven’t read it, or do you fake it?”

(Oh, and “Do you believe in God?”)

But I did want to note it as an example of a business-side operation (reader research) and editorial working together, in a way that shouldn’t anger any but the most vitriolic church/state scolds. Why engage an outside polling operation to find out what your readers think — when you’ve already built one in house? The Times’ Innovation report specifically called for more of this sort of collaboration:

The very first step, however, should be a deliberate push to abandon our current metaphors of choice — “The Wall” and “Church and State” — which project an enduring need for division. Increased collaboration, done right, does not present any threat to our values of journalistic independence…

We have an army of colleagues who are committed to helping deliver cutting-edge journalism and growing our audience. [For example?] The Analytics groups use data to learn about our readers’ changing habits as well as the effectiveness of our advertising and marketing. They also gather direct feedback from our readers about what they want from our apps and websites. This group translates those needs for Product and Design.

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