The Australian startup that bought OJR.org says a rogue SEO consultant is responsible for the zombie spamblog version of the site. They’re ready to give it back to its original owner, which let the domain expire.
Spark Camp is a future-of-news conference, I guess, if you want to be loose with that definition. But it’s a different animal than ONA or SXSW or NICAR or ISOJ or any of the other big names in the space. It’s a small, curated, topic-focused gathering that tries to build community as it builds content (I’m sure they’d hate that word in this context, but it fits). I’ve been to a couple, and we’ve hosted two here at the Nieman Foundation; we even published some of their work last fall. They’re compelling events.
There’s also some info on how Spark Camp will be evolving:
We envision Spark Camp evolving into a next-generation collective — a pop-up think tank that fosters creative thinking and sparks real-world action.
Starting in 2014, we’ll begin iterating new formats, such as one-day Spark Summits. We’ll also be collaborating with companies, foundations and nonprofits to host discussions on specialized topics, such as reinventing education, reimagining how cities work and the future of work. We’ll also look to extend the impact of Spark Camp itself, hosting more Camps and adding alumni gatherings and ongoing alumni services. As we expand, our mission will remain the same: cultivating multidisciplinary professional experiences that produce both deep personal enrichment and powerful outcomes.
For many people, Google News is the page of choice for a quick sweep of the headlines. Today, with an eye towards the increasing number of readers coming to Google News on mobile devices, Google released a new look for the more than 10 year old site.
“Over that time period, consumption patterns have changed. What people expect from news has changed,” says Mayuresh Saoji, product manager for Google News.
The new web app, which uses the increasingly popular card navigation to chunk information, is focused on enhancing personalization while making the user experience consistent across platforms. For example, “gadgets” which previously existed only on the desktop version, like weather and Editor’s Picks, will now appear on mobile.
That said, while videos are available on the desktop version, for now they won’t be on mobile. “We’re still in two minds about whether to bring that to the smart phone. On the one hand, it is very bandwidth heavy, and if you’re on the go, unless you have headphones, its going to be difficult to watch video, especially in a public place,” Saoji says. “On the other hand, people are consuming news in this fashion.”
In addition, personalization will also be more consistent. While some of the options for users are merely surface level — for example, you can view content in a light or dark background — others have more weight. Users can decide if they want to see more densely packed headlines, or article cards with a more extensive preview of stories. The basic idea is to let readers decide “the amount of information at [their] fingertips,” Saoji says. “It’s all about giving people more choice and control,”
For publishers, Saoji says the app stays much the same, with the goal being to provide a diversity of sources and drive traffic to other news sites.
“We hope that the one side effect of this is that people read more news,” Saoji says.
Paywalls aren’t just for newspapers any more. As a Cincinnati station gets ready to start charging online, there’s a big potential opportunity for stations to move into the void left by shrinking newspapers.
The past decade has mostly seen the retrenchment of American news organizations’ reporting staffs abroad. As BuzzFeed moves more into international news, it’s trying to mix up how its reporting resources are structured.
The Freedom of the Press Foundation launched a crowd-funding campaign to support secure communication tools for journalists this morning. In its first year, the foundation has raised more than $480,000 to support investigative journalism projects “focused on transparency and accountability.”
This new campaign, which will last two months, is aimed at making communication technology more accessible to journalists by open sourcing tools for encryption in newsrooms, including:
— The Tor Project, the organization conducting extensive research and building technology solutions, including the Tor Browser Bundle, used by journalists around the world to anonymize their web browsing habits and physical location. The Tor Project is passionate about bringing technology, training, and greater awareness in digital security for journalists around the world.
— Tails, a ground-breaking operating system that can be started on almost any computer from a DVD or USB stick and never touches your hard drive. Tails provides a platform to solve many surveillance problems by “doing the right thing” out of the box by default—from browsing the web anonymously, to using state-of-the-art cryptographic tools to encrypt files, email, and instant message.
— RedPhone and TextSecure, the encrypted phone and texting apps created by renowned security expert Moxie Marlinspike and his project Open WhisperSystems. Both RedPhone and TextSecure are designed to implement end-to-end encryption, while simultaneously making those advancements as invisible and effortless as possible for the user.
— LEAP Encryption Access Project, a new non-profit founded by long-time experts in the field of communications security, focuses on adapting encryption technology to make it easy to use and widely available. They have created an open source email system that automatically handles key management, decryption, and encryption, along with server software that allows any provider to offer email service that is compatible with the application.
You might have heard that paying for good reporting and quality journalism is not easy.
Today many pixels were spilled over Jessica Lessin’s new attempt to do just that. This morning, she launched a long-awaited tech news site called The Information, which will be available to subscribers only for the cost of $39 a month or $399 a year. Jokes of all stripes were made about the wisdom of such an enterprise.
Carlson, for his part, went on to write that, though he believes Lessin’s project will most likely end in profit, he himself had no qualms about republishing the work of her reporters and making it freely available to readers via Business Insider. Not everyone found this sentiment charming.
Meanwhile, across the Internet, another fight about journalism, capitalism, and the right to information. Writes The New Inquiry’sMal Harris:
Taking money from JSTOR and publishing their sponsored content is fucked you guys @Awl
The ensuing debate focused on the ethics of JSTOR, a company that charges for access to scholarly papers, with Harris arguing that putting academic output behind a paywall is inherently unethical (therefore making it unethical for The Awl to accept money from them) and Sicha arguing that it was universities that “enclose” academic work (and therefore not his problem).
Overall, another day in the how-to-pay-for-news debate.
Don’t miss this insightful post by Skift founder Rafat Ali just because it was published on LinkedIn (where Ali has over 13,000 followers). He highlights a group of companies that he thinks illustrate a new business model, one that turns data and data literacy into a revenue stream. Some examples of media entities already leading in this area, according to Ali, include Bloomberg and FiveThirtyEight.
These companies are also riding a few other intersecting megatrends enabled by digital:
— The blurring of personal and professional lives of users, because of ever-accessible digital devices, pervasive connectivity, and always-on social media mean users want more and more information, when they want it, and in more atomized ways than their predecessors.
— Millennials raised on intuitive, open-web services — media among them — demand more from the business information companies they rely on for their professional lives. If everyone’s coming in as an informed user driven by web-research, how should mediata companies service this generation of users?
— The rise of the prosumer, or to use a more lay term, the rise of fanboy. If everyone’s an expert, what does it do the the potential userbase these companies can build? Mediata companies are rethinking the traditional userbase and casting a wider net, and going beyond industry-defined silos, to build a larger brand.
— The traditional silos in almost all industries are collapsing because of digital –media, tech and finance are best examples of it — and that creates opportunities for new ways to look at industries, and build new digital-native information brands.
— The ubiquity of embed code — YouTube’s under-appreciated contribution in making it mainstream — and widgets as a precursor to it means any kind of media, including data and its visualization finally gets unlocked from its proprietary containers, and can freely flow in any kind of environment.
Back in April, we told you about De Correspondent, a new Dutch news site backed by a remarkable $1.3 million in crowdfunding. Jay Rosen declared it the most interesting startup he’d read about this year:
That's it. I'm declaring De Correspondent the most interesting journalism start-up I have read about in 2013. http://t.co/LSPpQrkAem
By now, we have a staff of 7 full-time and 19 freelance writers, a website that adjusts itself to every reading device, and almost 24.000 subscribers who have a year-long subscription of 80 dollars (60 euros). To put that in perspective: with The Netherlands having only 16,8 million citizens, this would be the equivalent of 450,000 subscribers for an American publication. We have a physical home in the offices of a former Shell laboratory on the shores of the river IJ, in Amsterdam…
Therefore, De Correspondent aims for its authors to report on themes that transcend classic beats: themes like energy, privacy, or the economy of the future, to name a few. This reporting takes place in their own ‘gardens’ — sections of the site they can call their own, and in which they can build a relationship with readers who choose to ‘follow’ them. The main goal of this approach is to establish a lasting and meaningful relationship with our readers. Conceived of as ‘members’ rather than ‘subscribers,’ readers are asked to contribute their expertise on specific topics. While vigilant about its editorial independence, De Correspondent believes that a unidirectional, one-to-many relationship between a news medium and its readership is wholly of the past, and that active audience involvement is crucial for maintaining a healthy, thriving platform.
Also, this is interesting from a how-to-push-sharing-on-a-paywalled-site perspective:
Apart from promoting some of our articles in Facebook posts, we don’t advertise. We think our readers are our best ambassadors; therefore they can share as many of our articles as they want. When they share an article, a notification bar tells their friends and followers: ‘This article has been shared with you by …’, followed by the member’s name. This strategy seems to work for now, since the ‘New visitors’ and ‘New members’ graphs show similar patterns. Moreover, we can tell that a lot of new readers sign up right after they’ve read an article. Our most popular article (203,676 unique visitors) inspired at least 147 readers to sign up right away.
Ben Smith made me delete a post I did on Axe Body Spray’s ads, titled, “The Objectification Of Women By Axe Continues Unabated in 2013″ (it was initially called something to the effect of “Axe Body Spray Continues its Contribution to Rape Culture,” but I quickly softened it). Get this: he made me delete it one month after it was posted, due to apparent pressure from Axe’s owner Unilever. How that’s for editorial integrity? Ben Smith also questioned other posts I did knocking major advertisers’ ads (he kept repeating the phrase “punching down”), including the pathetically pandering, irresponsible Nike “Fat Boy” commercial.
I of course understand that websites like BuzzFeed need lots of advertising dollars to operate, and that no media outlets—including the one you’re reading this on—are immune to advertiser pressure. I understand that my posts may have pissed advertisers off. I also understand—very clearly—the job I was hired to do because I invented it. I had a longstanding blog that clearly outlined what BuzzFeed was getting into. Turns out Ben Smith didn’t want what he asked for, and I guess I was too gullible to think it could be any other way.
In a level headed response, Ben Smith says he has “never based a decision about reporting on an advertiser’s needs” and illustrates some of the editorial conflicts he and Duffy had.
Carr also admitted that his attitude towards his existing investors — such as his former boss Michael Arrington’s CrunchFund and Zappos’ founder Tony Hsieh’s VegasTech Fund, two of the company’s earliest backers — probably didn’t help increase his company’s lifespan either. As he described it during a discussion of Glenn Greenwald’s new venture, and whether the former Guardian writer would be comfortable reporting on his benefactor, eBay billionaire Omidyar, Carr said:
“You only have to look at NSFW and see that we have been relentless in attacking CrunchFund for its bullshit hypocrisy in investing in NSA-backed [actually CIA-backed] startups, and we have been relentless in mocking the stuff Tony Hsieh is doing in Vegas… of course it has [had an impact on financing], it’s probably the main reason we couldn’t raise any more. It’s the reason why Vegas Tech Fund didn’t invest in the latest round or the round before, and it’s why Mike Arrington hasn’t talked to me in a long time.”
For Carr, whose aggressiveness towards colleagues, friends and pretty much everyone else has achieved almost legendary status in the media community, this kind of attitude may have doomed NSFW Corp. as a financial entity, but it was required in order for the venture to have any kind of journalistic credibility at all. “I’ve never been one to hide behind saying ‘Oh, he’s an investor, I’d better be nice,’” Carr said. “Who cares? We’re f***ing journalists. I’d rather be poor and credible than have $250 million and have to say bullshit like ‘I can’t comment.’”