Thursday, 18 December 2008

Turning the page on turnpages

So Detroit newspaper executives have announced a massive restructure - they're not the only ones!

Part of the restructure will see:
  • The Detroit Free Press (Gannett-owned) printed on Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays.
  • The Detroit News (MediaNews Group-owned) printed on Thursdays and Fridays.
  • A paid digital-replica subscription service on other days.
  • A paid thinner editions sold on newsstands on other days.
Phew ... but it's the "digital-replica" part which got me thinking. You can take a look at the Detroit Free Press version here.

Lots of news(paper) outlets put out e-editions of their print editions, but why?

There's a few reasons that I can think of, off the cuff.

The first is that e-editions are loved by advertising sales reps. What's easier than saying to a customer (advertiser - if you are one of these people who call readers 'customers') that their ad will appear online. Added value for the advertiser, surely. Well, not quite. How long will it be before advertisers start to ask just how effective e-edition advertising is?

The second is that it's fairly easy to do. Why not offer the online reader the chance to see the print edition in all its glory? But while they are getting the print edition online, they aren't getting the benefits of online - ie no interactivity, limited search capability, clunky interface.

And the third reason we use turnpage suites is because they are a comfortable bridge from print to a 'kind of digital' for people who haven't yet discovered the wonders of the web and all it can bring - that includes readers and staff members. Subs get to see their finely created pages online (design is indisputably something we need to see more of online), traditional 'print journalists' see something familiar on screen and the reader can access the pages of their favourite read anywhere in the world.

But the novelty soon wears off when they realise the web is better than that.

The Detroit titles have opted for an interesting interface for their e-edition, while my turnpage suite of choice is Issuu - yes that's right, it's free.

I have plans to upload back-dated editions of some of the titles currently under my remit, to create an archive of pre-web editions. But aside from creating a digital archive, I wonder just how long the newspaper industry will desperately cling on to this print/web hybrid safety blanket.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

BarCamp Liverpool - brilliant speakers, brilliant event

BarCamp's first visit to Liverpool was fantastic.

If you haven't heard of BarCamp (and until a few weeks ago I hadn't), it is described as "an ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment". Social networking in its truest form.

The event attracts movers and shakers and anyone interested in social media, the web and all things digital. And BarCamp Liverpool attracted people from around the country.

The way it works is that attendees are also guest speakers. You then fill your time how you like by choosing which talks/demonstrations/workshops you want to attend.

And I attended some crackers.

Some of the highlights were:

  • Turning an idea into a business - with Andy Brown
  • Setting up a news site on WordPress - with Dave Coveney
  • Won't somebody please think of the users - with Ian Pouncey
  • How to create a killer screencast - with Don McAllister
  • Open source law - with John O'Shea
  • Networked democracy - with Rob McKinnon
  • Public data online - with Julian Todd and Aidan McGuire

All absolutely brilliant.
I'm already looking forward to the next BarCamp.

And while I'm still wading through a packed notebook, I'm sure I'll be revisiting one or two BarCamp themes in future blogs.

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Tip 28:

Try a different search engine

Google is a very useful tool, but it does not always find the pages you want, so it is just as well to keep some alternatives handy. The main ones include stalwarts Alta Vista and All The Web, plus Vivisimo and Teoma. There are also "metasearch" search engines such as Dogpile and Metacrawler, which will send your query to several search engines at once. Google knows you have a choice, and it doesn't hurt to exercise it from time to time.

  1. Graball - Search two different search engines side by side and compare results.
  2. Use 'site search' to search within a specific, individual site or to a particular type of site e.g. UK government sites. Especially useful for sites that have poor navigation or awful internal search engines. Use the site: command, for example site: or use the Advanced Search screens of the search engines.
  3. Use file format search to limit your search to one or more file formats, for example PDF, PPT, XLS. A good way of focusing your search: many government and industry/market reports are published as PDFs, statistics in spreadsheet format, and PowerPoints are a good way of tracking down experts on a subject. Use the Advanced Search screens or the filetype: command, for example filetype:ppt
  4. Intelways - Type in your search once and then run it through individual search engines one by one. The search engines are grouped together by type, for example Image, News, Reference. A useful reminder of what else is out there other than Google and that perhaps you should be thinking of searching different types of information.
  5. Numeric Range Search. Available only in Google and searches for numbers within a specified range. The syntax is 1st number..2nd number. For example:
    TV advertising forecasts 2008..2015
    toblerone 1..5 kg
  6. Alacrawiki Spotlights Extremely useful in providing reviews and commentary on industry specific web sites that have statistics, market research and news. Invaluable if you need to get up to speed on key resources in a sector or industry.
  7. Panoramio. Now owned by Google. A geolocation-oriented photo sharing service with uploaded photos presented as a mashup with Google Earth.
  8. Wayback Machine - For tracking down copies of pages or documents that have disappeared from the original web site. Type in the address of the web site or the full URL of the document, if you know it. Note: this is not guaranteed but worth a try for older documents that are unlikely to be in the search engine caches.
  9. Google Book Search . Useful for searching within books that Google has been allowed to scan, and in particular older text books.
  10. Use anything but Google! For example -,,, . For a day, try out other search tools to see if you can survive without Google. You may go back to Google as your first port of call but at least you will have discovered the strengths and key features of the alternatives.
  11. For current news try Google News and its alert service (it's free!). And don't forget blogs, for example Google Blogsearch, Ask- Blogs, Blogpulse, Technorati.
  12. Blogpulse trends. Click on the graph icon on the results page to see how often your search terms have been mentioned in blog postings over time. Used by many of us who monitor competitor or industry intelligence to see what are hot topics and when. Many of the 'peaks' will tie in with press announcements: it is those that don't that are really interesting. Click on the peaks in the graph to see the postings.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Tip 27:

Syntax Search Tricks

Using a special syntax is a way to tell Google that you want to restrict your searches to certain elements or characteristics of Web pages. Google has a fairly complete list of its syntax elements at Here are some advanced operators that can help narrow down your search results.

Intitle: at the beginning of a query word or phrase (intitle:"Three Blind Mice") restricts your search results to just the titles of Web pages.

Intext: does the opposite of intitle:, searching only the body text, ignoring titles, links, and so forth. Intext: is perfect when what you're searching for might commonly appear in URLs. If you're looking for the term HTML, for example, and you don't want to get results such as, you can enter intext:html.

Link: lets you see which pages are linking to your Web page or to another page you're interested in. For example, try typing in link:

Try using site: (which restricts results to top-level domains) with intitle: to find certain types of pages. For example, get scholarly pages about Mark Twain by searching for intitle:"Mark Twain"site:edu. Experiment with mixing various elements; you'll develop several strategies for finding the stuff you want more effectively. The site: command is very helpful as an alternative to the mediocre search engines built into many sites.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Tip 26:

Use Google's Other Specialized Searches

The Google Directory isn't the only alternative Google offers to its main search engine. Depending on the type of search you're doing, you may get better results by using one of Google's more specialized search sites. These include:

Google Apple Macintosh Search searches the main domain and other Apple-related sites.

Google Blog Search searches blogs and blog postings.

Google Book Search searches the full text of hundreds of thousands of fiction and non-fiction books.

Google BSD UNIX Search searches a variety of sites that specialize in the BSD version of the UNIX operating system.

Google Groups searches the UseNet archives for relevant articles and postings.

Google Linux Search searches a variety of Linux-related sites.

Google Microsoft Search searches the main domain and other Microsoft-related sites.

Google News searches a variety of news sites for up-to-the-minute news headlines—as well as historical newspaper archives dating back two centuries.

Google Scholar searches a database of scholarly journals, articles, papers, theses, and books, as well as select university and research libraries.

Google U.S. Government Search searches a variety of U.S. government websites—which makes it the best place to search for official government forms, information, reports, and the like.

Google University Search searches a database of more than 600 university websites—great for finding course schedules, admission information, and the like.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Tip 25:

Search the Google Directory

Google indexes billions and billions of web pages in its search database - which more often than not produces an overwhelming number of search results. The quantity is there, but sometimes you'd rather have a few quality results.

When quality matters more than quantity, bypass the main Google search engine and use the Google Directory instead. The Google Directory is a relatively small database of web page listings, each of which is handpicked by a team of human editors. The listings in the Google Directory are then annotated and organized into relevant topic categories. You can browse the directory via category, or search for specific terms.

The Google Directory is a useful alternative to searching the massive Google web page index. Google Directory results are more focused and of uniformly higher quality than what you find in the larger search index, and also help you to get a feel of what's available in any given category. Plus, you get the advantage of browsing by category instead of searching, if that's your style.

To access the Google Directory, click the More link on the Google home page and then select Directory on the following page. Alternately, you can go directly to the Google Directory by entering in your web browser.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Tip 24:

Search for Specific Facts

When you're looking for hard facts, Google might be able to help. Google will always return a list of sites that match your specific query, but if you phrase your query correctly - and are searching for a fact that Google has pre-identified - you can get the precise information you need at the top of the search results page.

This includes fact-based information, such as birthdates, birthplaces, population, and so on. All you have to do is enter a query that states the fact you want to know. For example:

To find the population of San Francisco, enter population san francisco.

To find where Mark Twain was born, enter birthplace mark twain.

To find when President Bill Clinton was born, enter birthday bill clinton.

To find when Raymond Chandler died, enter die raymond chandler.

To find who is the president of Germany, enter president germany.

The answers to these questions are displayed at the top of your search results page. You get the precise answer to your question, according to the referenced website. Click the associated link to learn more from this source.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Tip 23:

Fine-Tune Your Search with Other Operators

The related: operator is just one of several operators you can use to fine-tune your Google search result. All these operators work the same way; enter the operator as part of your query, followed by the parameter for the operator directly after the colon (no spaces), like this: operator:parameter.

What search operators are available for your use?

Here's a short list:





Restricts search to words in the link text on web pages (with multiple keywords)

allinanchor:keyword1 keyword2


Restricts search to the body text of web pages (with multiple keywords)

allintext:keyword1 keyword2


Restricts search to the titles only of web pages (with multiple keywords)

allintitle:keyword1 keyword2


Restricts search to web page addresses (with multiple keywords)

inurl:keyword1 keyword2


Restricts search to files of a specified type



Restricts search to words in the link text on web pages



Restricts search to the body text of web pages



Restricts search to the titles only of web pages



Restricts search to web page addresses



Restricts search to a specific domain or website


Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Tip 22:

List Similar Pages

If you find a web page you really like, you can also use Google's related: operator to display pages that are in some way similar to the specified page.

For example, if you really like the articles at
InformIT, you can find similar pages by entering related:

Monday, 1 December 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Tip 21:

Search for an Exact Phrase

When you're searching for an exact phrase, you won't get the best results simply by entering all the words in the phrase as your query. Google might return results including the phrase, but it will also return results that include all those words - but not necessarily in that exact order.

When you want to search for an exact phrase, you should enclose the entire phrase in quotation marks. This tells Google to search for the precise keywords in the prescribed order.

For example, if you're searching for Monty Python, you could enter monty python as your query, and you'd get acceptable results; the results will include pages that include both the words "monty" and "python." But these results will include not only pages about the British comedy troupe, but also pages about snakes named Monty, and guys named Monty who have snakes for pets, and any other pages where the words "monty" and "python" occur - anywhere in the page, even if they don't appear adjacent to one another.

To limit the results just to pages about the Monty Python troupe, you want to search for pages that include the two words in that precise order as a phrase. So you should enter the query "monty python" - making sure to surround the phrase with quotation marks. This way, if the word "monty" occurs at the top of a page and "python" occurs at the bottom, it won't be listed in the search results.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Tip 20:

Search for Similar Words

Not sure you're thinking of the right word for a query? Do you worry that some web pages might use alternate words to describe what you're thinking of?

Fortunately, Google lets you search for similar words—called synonyms—by using the ~ operator. Just include the ~ character before the word in question, and Google will search for all pages that include that word and all appropriate synonyms.

For example, to search for words that are like the word "elderly," enter the query ~elderly. This will find pages that include not just the word "elderly," but also the words "senior," "older," "aged," and so on.

And here's a bonus tip: To list only synonyms, without returning a ton of matches for the original word, combine the ~ operator with the - operator, like this: ~keyword -keyword. This excludes the original word from the synonymous results. Using the previous example, to list only synonyms for the word "elderly," enter ~elderly -elderly.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Tip 19:

Include or Exclude Words in Your Search

Google automatically ignores the words "and" and "or," these and other small, common words in your queries. These are called stop words, and include "and," "the," "where," "how," "what," "or" (in all lowercase), and other similar words - along with certain single digits and single letters (such as "a").

Including a stop word in a search normally does nothing but slow the search down, which is why Google excises them. As an example, Google takes the query how a toaster works, removes the words "how" and "a," and creates the new, shorter query toaster works.

If you want these common words included in your query, you can override the stop word exclusion by telling Google that it must include specific words in the query. You do this with the + operator, in front of the otherwise excluded word. For example, to include the word "how" in your query, you'd enter +how. Be sure to include a space before the + sign, but not after it.

On the other hand, sometimes you want to refine your results by excluding pages that include a specific word. You can exclude words from your search by using the - operator; any word in your query preceded by the - sign is automatically excluded from the search results. Remember to always include a space before the - sign, and none after.

For example, if you search for bass, you could get pages about the type of male singer or about the type of fish. If you want to search for the type of singer only, enter a query that looks like this: bass –fish.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Tip 18:

Conduct an "Either/Or" Search

Google automatically assumes the word "and" between all the words in a query. That is, if you enter two words, it assumes you're looking for pages that include both those words—word one and word two. It doesn't return pages that include only one or the other of the words.

The upshot is that you don't have to enter the word "and" in your query. If you're searching for Bob and Ted, all you have to enter is bob ted. Google assumes the "and," and automatically includes it in its internal index search.

This is different from assuming the word "or" between the words in your query. As an example, compare the query bob ted (which is really bob AND ted, remember)with bob OR ted . In the first query, the results include pages that mention both Bob and Ted. In the second query, the results include pages that mention Bob alone, as well as pages that mention Ted alone, as well as pages that mentioned both Bob and Ted. It's a subtle difference, but an important one.

So if you want to conduct an "either/or" search - to search for pages that include one word or another word, but not necessarily both - you have to insert the OR operator between the two keywords. And when you use the OR operator, make sure to insert it in all uppercase, or Google will ignore it as a stop word.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Tip 17:

Use the Correct Methodology

Whether you're conducting a basic or advanced Google search, there is a certain methodology you should employ. Follow the proper method and you'll get very targeted results; ignore this advice and you'll either get a ton of irrelevant results or a dearth of relevant ones.

While there are many different (and equally valid) approaches to web searching, this particular approach will generate excellent results. It's a six-step process:

  1. Start by thinking about what you want to find. What words best describe the information or concept you're looking for? What alternate words might you use instead? Are there any words that can be excluded from your search to better define your query?
  2. Construct your query. Use as many keywords as you need, the more the better. If at all possible, try to refine your search with the appropriate search operators - or, if your prefer, with the Advanced Search page.
  3. Click the Search button to perform the search.
  4. Evaluate the matches on the Search Results page. If the initial results are not to your liking, refine your query and search again - or refine your search by switching to a more appropriate search site.
  5. Select those matching pages that you wish to view and begin clicking through to those pages.
  6. Save the information that best meets your needs. In other words, it pays to think before you search - and to continue to refine your search after you obtain the initial results. The extra effort is slight, and well worth it.

Citizen journalism - trustworthy local reporting or partisan, dangerous, busy-body ramblings?

A couple of days back I was stood with a bunch of journalists in a newsroom together with a bunch of former hacks who have now gone across to the dark side of PR.

The PR-bods were visiting one of the offices where I work to look at the new system which was installed which has seen the merger of a number of district offices under one roof. I'll come back to this issue at a later date when the system has had a chance to bed in and lessons have been learned.

Standing around the table of sandwiches, snacks, coffee and tea, the conversation meandered to the issue of how local reporting has changed since they left the newsroom - just two, three and four years ago.

I've previously written about local authority press officers producing video (which you can catch up on here), so when the conversation moved on from how many videos they produced in each week, the subject of bloggers and citizen journalists came up.

One of the districts within my patch has a very active online community which boasts at least four or five competition news websites.

While one or two of these sites demands the same access to the movers and shakers of the council as the more established media (ie us), they very rarely get it. Of course I welcome the advantage this provides, but you have to wonder how long this can be the case. As followers of blogs increase then they will become (or rather already are) ideal portals for local authorities to distribute information to a niche geographical community.

But then comes a question which was raised during our informal gathering: How can citizen journalists be recognised as legitimate media when they don't follow any code of conduct, or carry any formal training to identify them as journalists?

One citizen journalist I know will stop at nothing to get the photo, or the story - he really is the archetypal big screen hack, only on a small screen blog.

I've even heard stories of him barging into paramedics to get pix of a dying man at the scene of an accident. His reputation now goes before him and he has in fact tarnished the (already delicate) reputation of journalists in the community.

Should the badge of honour of 'journalist' be reserved for only those who follow the Society of Editors' Code of Practice?
Should access to movers and shapers be restricted to 'legitimate' reporters?

It's a tough one. But I do suspect there will be a rapid shift in attitude to citizen journalists when the movers and shakers realise the bloggers boast the very audience they want to move and shake.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Tip 16:

Google Alerts

Google doesn't give you a feed for search results, but Web Alerts sends you email updates with the latest relevant Google results for a query.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Tip 15:

Similar Pages

Very few people use this option, even though it can be useful. If you found a good page, and you want to see related pages, click on the "Similar pages" next to the search result. Google will show 30 high-quality sites on the same topic.

It's a good way to discover interesting sites.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Tip 14:

Breaking News

You won't find information about a breaking news in Google search, so it's a good idea to try Google News and Blog Search .

If the event is really important, Google will show results from Google News at the top of the page.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Tip 13:

History Search

The order of your keywords is important, so you'll get different results for "search history" and "history search".

Type only the important keywords, in a logical order.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Tip 12:

Simple Questions

Google shows direct answers for simple questions above the search results. When you try to find a simple fact, enter your query this way: "Italy population", and not as a complicated question like "How many people are in Italy?" because you might confuse Google.

If Google doesn't show an answer, try to imagine a page that answers your question. What would the answer sound like for a question like: "What is the fastest animal on land?". Of course, the page might contain this sentence: "[some animal] is the fastest animal on land".

Build your query this way:
* surround it by quotes, to obtain only results that contain that phrase
* instead of the answer, use a star for each word of the expected answer

Example: "* is the fastest animal on land".

Monday, 17 November 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Tip 11:

Word Definitions

If you need to quickly look up the definition of a word or phrase, simply use the "define:" command.

Example: define:plethora

CoverItLive - now that's what I call instant

Back in January I started working with the group sports editor on a project to improve sport content online. From the kick-off (see what I've done there) we looked at how we produce match reports, package them and deliver them to the fans.

One of the primary requirements we focused on, was giving the fans the reports when they wanted it - now.

So inspired by the BBC's live match reports, we set about on a programme of rolling out live updates from one of the main teams in our circulation area - it wasn't Manchester United, but it was a start.

But within the first few games, we discovered a major flaw in the system. Being part of a larger media organisation, the website which was hosting the live updates was subject to rechaching delays, meaning the live updates were far from live.

Around which time the Liverpool Daily Post discovered which they had used for this year's local elections. It was instantly clear that this basic third party app was the platform which could carry our live match reports.

Since then, together with the sports editor we have rolled out the live updates using CoverItLive to three of the main teams in the district.

The success of CoverItLive is its simplicity. It's easy to use, allows truly live reports and, in true web 2.0 style, allows followers to contribute through comments and participating in polls.

The Canadian developers behind the application are constantly working on improving what is already a basically perfect tool. But they have done just that, unveiling new features, the latest of which has seen the integration of Twitter.

Using mobile PC devices as previously mentioned on this blog, reporters who would otherwise be attending the game to produce a post-match report anyway are now able to file directly online.

How can news websites afford not to do this?

The most successful of our current CoverItLive match reports regularly attracts more followers online than the team gets through the turnstiles. In the words of Alan Partridge: Back of the net!

Friday, 14 November 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Tip 10:


The next time you need to do a quick calculation, instead of bringing up the Calculator tool, you can just type your calculation in to Google.

Example 1: 2+1

Example 2: 2-1

Example 3: 2*2 (multiply)

Example 4: 4/2 (divide)

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Tip 9:

Numeric Ranges

This is a rarely used, but highly useful tip.

If you want to find results that contain any of a range of numbers, you can do this by using the X..Y modifier (in case this is hard to read, what's between the X and Y are two full-stops.

This type of search is useful for years (as shown below), prices or anywhere where you want to provide a series of numbers.

Example: president 1940..1950

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Tip 8:

Area Code Lookup

If all you need to do is to look-up the area code for a phone number, just enter the area code and Google will tell you where it's from.

Example: 0151

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Tip 7:

Phone Listing

If someone calls you on your mobile number and you don't know who it is. If all you have is a phone number, you can look it up on Google using the phonebook feature.

Example: phonebook:0151-1234568

Redesigning newspapers for a digital future

The fantastically inspired media commentator Steve Outing (I heap praise on anyone who seems to share my opinion - and also sometimes on those who don't) writes in his blog/column that newspapers should be redesigned to support their companion websites.

His post leads me into an almost seamless follow-up on a previous post in which I concluded: "Instead of companion websites, our websites should have companion newspapers." This turns on its head the existing model which sees media organisations going hell for leather focusing on content for the print title, with the online title being a secondary concern.

Mr Outing suggests that newspapers should be re-created to act as vehicles for primarily promoting the main online offering.
Every story in the print edition should be tied to additional digital content or community. The local feature story in print should point to the multimedia graphic or online database that accompanies it on the Web. Each story should invite print readers to go online and leave a comment or express their opinions. Some stories should ask print readers to share additional information that they may have about the topic or news event online (e.g., eyewitness accounts or photos). Fast-breaking stories published in print should instruct readers how to sign up for mobile news alerts as new developments unfold.
He also suggests that 'newspaper' companies are on the road to ruin if they continue to follow the tried and trusted print path as once loyal print consumers become disillusioned by staff cuts and tighter pagination.

Instead, our newspapers should be targeted at the 'loyalists' who in turn are prompted to go online to read more, to comment, to interact, to watch the video, to see the gallery, to listen to the podcast, to do so much more, that they can't do in the paper.
The print edition as an island model that remains prevalent in the industry even today is a sure way for circulation erosion to accelerate as even the print loyalists abandon ship.
As counterintuitive as it might seem on the surface, genuine print integration with digital is the path that newspaper publishers must take in order to keep the print edition alive and avoid a quickening of print newspapers' slide downward.
The only way to save the title, is by strengthening the brand and shifting the focus.

We already have growing numbers of younger people and silver surfers flocking online, now we need to convert old-school readers into new media users.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Tip 6:

This OR That

By default, when you do a search, Google will include all the terms specified in the search. If you are looking for any one or more terms to match, then you can use the OR operator. (Nb: The OR has to be capitalized).

Example: internet journalism OR advertising

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Why newspapers are damaging the news business

I've said it before (namely here) and I'll say it again: newspapers impede the development of news websites.

While primary focus is given to what for now is seen as the cash cow - newspapers - then madcap debates will still be had about whether a story should be broken online, or in print. The answer of course is always - online!

Holding back only damages the 'brand' ... and it is the brand which will see us through a cold harsh winter [for now].

Would any editor in his/her right mind really consider holding back a match report from Saturday's game until Monday, or even later in the case of weekly newspapers? The answer of course is no (please God, don't let me hear someone say yes).

So why is it that serious consideration is still being given to holding back stories for the best part of a week? It's all in the name of 'exclusivity' and selling papers.

Reality check: readers don't care about the word 'exclusive'. Ok, it may look nice in a reporter's cuttings file, but it is now so over-used, so incorrectly used (just look how many of the Sundays will claim a story, which is carried in every other Sunday, as an exclusive), that the word is now meaningless to the people who matter the most. No not the reporters, nor the editor, but the readers.

While editors try to preserve print sale through a print over web policy, they damage their websites, user confidence in the site diminishes and the longterm future of the brand is jeopardised.

So you see why newspapers are damaging news websites.

Just this week, when Kevin Maney of asked Marc Andreessen what he would do if he were running the New York Times, the Netscape founder said:

Shut off the print edition right now. You’ve got to play offense. You’ve got to do what Intel did in ’85 when it was getting killed by the Japanese in memory chips, which was its dominant business. And it famously killed the business—shut it off and focused on its much smaller business, microprocessors, because that was going to be the market of the future. And the minute Intel got out of playing defense and into playing offense, its future was secure. The newspaper companies have to do exactly the same thing.
The financial markets have discounted forward to the terminal conclusion for newspapers, which is basically bankruptcy. So at this point, if you’re one of these major newspapers and you shut off the printing press, your stock price would probably go up, despite the fact that you would lose 90 percent of your revenue. Then you play offense. And guess what? You’re an internet company.

Good advice - but one step at a time hey Marc. The future is online, and while we don't kill off our print titles, we need to shift focus from the short-term to the long-term evolution of our industry.

Instead of companion websites, our websites should have companion newspapers.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Tip 5:

Specific Document Types

If you're looking to find results that are of a specific type, you can use the modifier "filetype:". For example, you might want to find only PowerPoint presentations related to internet journalism.

Example: "internet journalism" filetype:ppt

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Tip 4:

Similar Words and Synonyms

If you want to include a word in your search, but want to include results that contain similar words or synonyms, use the "~" in front of the word.

Example: "internet journalism" ~professional

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Tip 3:

Site Specific Search

Often, you want to search a specific website for content that matches a certain phrase. Even if the site doesn't support a built-in search feature, you can use Google to search the site for your term.

Simply use the "site:" modifier.

Example: "internet journalism"

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Tip 2:

Include and Exclude Words

Let’s say you want to search for content about internet journalism, but you want to exclude any results that contain the term advertising. To do this, simply use the "-" sign in front of the word you want to exclude.

Example Search: internet journalism -advertising

Why newsrooms should be run like a US election campaign

My God the Americans know how to do politics.

It's got drama, excitement, intrigue, in-fighting, out-fighting, personalities, Bruce Springsteen ... oh and a dash of issues too.

If you thought it couldn't get anymore like a season of The West Wing, then there's a high profile death in the campaign to cap it off.

And apart from all that, American politics has found a way of really engaging with people.

Neil Kinnock and the 1992 "Alright" shenanigans aside, can you imagine Gordon Brown or David Cameron filling a football stadium?

Gannett digital development director Ted Mann writes in his MoJo DoJo blog on, how Obama has capitalised on social media to really get down and dirty with the voters.

Among the weapons in the Obama armory are: text messages (SMS), email, mobile sites, Facebook and you could even follow Barack on Twitter.

Mr Mann makes the point that newsrooms could learn a lot from how the Democrats in particular have run their campaign.

But there's nothing too mind boggling, it's just about newsrooms demolishing their ivory towers and communicating with the people they are trying to reach.

Simple really. Who needs a $400m+ budget?

Monday, 3 November 2008

Quick tips to search the web like an expert - How to use Google

Earlier this year I was tasked with drawing up a training day for a group of journalists and photographers to show them how the web can benefit their work and how their work can benefit from the web.

Fresh from a week at UCLan and a session on using Google with Markmedia, I drew up a session which ripped off Mark's top tips. I also did a little delving online to find out if there were any other little gems of information on how journalists can get quick wins from the web.

I drew up a presentation and compiled a worksheet of tips under the title: 'How to use Google like an expert.'

From here on in, I'll post a tip each day. And if you have any tips which you'd like to share, just leave a comment and I'll include them in the list.

Tip 1:

Explicit Phrase

Let’s say you are looking for content about internet journalism. Instead of just typing internet journalism into the Google search box, you will likely be better off searching explicitly for the phrase.

To do this, simply enclose the search phrase within double quotes.

Example: "internet journalism"

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Things I would like to see in every newsroom, some essential tools for the multimedia journalist ... oh, and err some toys I would like to play with

#5: Compact mobile PCs

Immediacy is - or at least should be - the byword for the multimedia newsroom. News as it happens and where it happens.

To do this, the news team must be given the tools to enable them to report from the scene of news stories. With this in mind, I've had the chance to try out two portable machines which do allow reporters to do just that.

First up was the Asus Eee PC.

What a great little machine. It's an office which can fit in your purse (if you're that way inclined). While it's small, it has all the basic functionality that a reporter needs. Using a dongle, you can connect to the web to send back reports from the field (or beach - see the pic above of one of my colleagues filing copy from Southport beach), while there's enough ports and sockets, as well as card readers to ensure you can connect your camera and send them back to base, or even upload directly to the web.
The keyboard is compact, but well designed and fairly easy to use - after you get used to it. The only problem I had with it was the low resolution screen which means that some websites can't be displayed in full, requiring horizontal scrolling. But this is a very minor grumble for a machine which is perfect in design and almost perfect in execution.

Second up was the Samsung Q1.

Another nifty little machine, which can come as a standalone touchscreen webtablet style screen which has a split qwerty keyboard for left and right thumb typing, or as a neat foldaway package with USB keyboard which looks just like a purse (again, if you are that way inclined). With this devise you can install a 3G sim card and have the office in the palm of your hand. And like the Eee PC, the Q1 has enough sockets and slots to satisfy all your device needs.

While the touchscreen takes some getting used to and the thumb keyboard is next to impossible to master, the USB keyboard is easier to use than the Asus.

Having used both machines, it's difficult to choose one from the other. Both have downsides, both have plus points. But from the perspective of mobile reporting, both machines are perfect to pick up and go.

On Saturday I had a reporter using the Q1 from the darkest depths of Buxton to liveblog a football match. The results were fantastic, providing better 3G connection than a regular laptop and 3G card.

While reporters don't need to be set up to take on Nasa from the front seat of the company car, they do need to be equipped to capture, process and deliver media in all its format, and both these machines allow them to do just that.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Blogging pays: Focusing in on cash rewards

I awoke this morning to find a letter on my door mat. It was from Ford, and inside was a cheque for £216.

... and it's all thanks to a blog.

It began when the cluster clocks on my Ford Focus failed. All of my display clocks went haywire and I was left driving without a speedo.

The repair bill was over £300. I mentioned it to a colleague who authors the very amusing Driving Passion motoring blog. He then wrote a short entry (Ford Focus Appeal) asking his readers if anyone else had experienced similar problems.

To date 55 people have responded. The problem was wider than Ford were letting on.

But amongst those responders was a researcher for BBC's Watchdog programme who had had a whiff of the case and came across Steve's blog. Following the subsequent broadcast, a previously uncooperative Ford announced they were willing to pay for any repairs, minus £99.

Meanwhile I had already paid over £300 for the repair work. So in went my repair bill and this morning back came my cheque from Ford.

Ford forced into a u-turn, thanks to a blog. Result.

I owe you drink Steve.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Bloggers asking questions that matter - how dare they!

I've just been on a wander through the blogosphere looking at blogs which don't have the honour of having a place in my Google Reader.

What I discovered was bloggers actively (and sometimes viciously) discussing what we do ... and how we do it.

The overwhelming consensus is that not only are we doing it wrong, but we are doing it badly.

These bloggers think regional and local newspapers and websites fail to get to the crux of the stories and issues that effect them, and they also think that mainstream media are far too easily bending to pressure.

There's nothing new in these accusations, but now these complaints are reaching an audience of their own - thanks to the blogosphere. What would once have been a grumble down the pub, is now reaching people, and gathering weight.

Some of the accusations I have picked up on:
  • Reporters are not asking the relevant questions
  • Newspapers are in the pockets of local authorities
  • Newspapers are in the pockets of the main sports clubs
  • At my local paper, journalism has been replaced by churnalism
Yikes ... and this is just a few of the many.

So what do we do? Ignore them and hope they go away? Turn the other cheek? Or do we invite them in to listen to their concerns?

The latter.

There was one time when newspapers could file complaints of this sort in the bin, but now these complaints have a platform of their own.

And to be fair, perhaps some of their points are fair.

For instance is the relationship between sports clubs and media outlets too cosy? I'll stick my neck out and say yes.

If a newspaper doesn't play ball, then it doesn't get access. So can a local paper, which depends on football for sales, really rattle the cage and risk losing the exclusive cosy fireside chats with the ball-kicking star? Or can it really question the latest press release from the club's spin machine?

Yes, and yes. As journalists we have an obligation to ask 'the' questions and we have an obligation to demand 'the' answers. That's what we are there for, and that's why readers return to us time and again. To fail to do this, is to sacrifice our readership.

Our readership is out there talking about what we do, and it's time the newspaper/media industry listened.

Suffice it to say, these blogs now have pride of place in my Google Reader.

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Why we must turn every newsroom into an A.F.Z.

For those who don't know what A.F.Z.s are: Acronym Free Zones.

Ok, it's a bad joke, but so is using acronyms for every single element of multimedia.

Reason: there will always be people in the room who haven't got a clue what you are talking about and will simply switch off.

Not the way to win hearts and minds on the march into the new media frontier.

People use acronyms to prove they are in the know - well done.

Now let's get over your ego and move on with those who speak English.

Code is no way to communicate to an already sceptical team.

So leave the acronyms at your computer screen and cut out the B.S.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Will the most important audience please stand up

With print titles and websites, newspapers are now juggling audiences. Add to that paid-for print audience, as well as free print audiences.

So many audiences - so many needs.

But which audience is the most desirable? Which audience does a news company want to attract the most?

Which audience's needs supersedes the others?

It's a question which every editor must now ask themselves every single day. Should a story be released immediately online or held back for the print title? Should the latest expose be used in the free title, or held back for the paid-for?

A daily struggle ... for many.

The way I see it, it comes down to another question: Which audience is the most valued?

My answer is they all are. So why risk breaking a trusted relationship with one audience in favour of satisfying another?

That is what an editor does each and every time they decide to squirrel away a story in the hopes they can capture a few more sales. Our audience isn't naive. They know stories don't break conveniently to suit our deadlines. By hoarding stories, we treat our online audience with contempt and damage our relationship with the very people who will allow us to continue in this business.

An audience is an audience. They need to be listened to. They want news now, not next Thursday. Listen to them, or they'll go elsewhere (there's no poverty of choice) and you won't have to worry about which audience is the most important, because you won't have one.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Things I would like to see in every newsroom, some essential tools for the multimedia journalist ... oh, and err some toys I would like to play with

# 4: Multimedia phones

How do you make the most of your reporters?

Step one is to arm them with multimedia phones and turn them into a 24-7 army of multimedia journalists.

These pieces of kit are being used by most people out on the street (aka citizen journalists) so why aren't our reporters kitted up with the relevant tools for the job?

A good phone will have the capability to:
  • take good quality photos (print quality)
  • capture good quality video with even better quality audio (there's no use having Spielberg-esque visuals if you can't hear what is being said)
  • record good quality audio
  • have quick and reliable web access
.. oh yeah, and also make telephone calls.

There's much debate about which phone is best for the job, with many in the industry proclaiming the Nokia N95 as the journalist's tool of choice - and that's not even taking into account the newly launch N96.

But I have a confession to make. I use the Sony Ericsson K850i. It does everything the N95 does, but having played with both I found the image and audio quality on the K850i to be better. But that's just me.

How can media companies afford not to invest? Just think, journalists on the scene, filing copy, photos, video and audio - as it happens.

The future in your pocket.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Let reporters report - not re-write

Here's a radical one.

I attended the Digital Editors' Network in UCLan last week where I was lucky enough to hear a presentation from Jane Singer creatively titled 'Barbarians at the Gate ... or Liberators in Disguise?'.

During the presentation, one of the questions which Jane asks is why do media companies bother to re-write press releases? Why not, she suggests, just put the press release up online as soon as it lands for all to see?

Audible gasp.

Just make sure you label the press release as having come from where it has come from. That way, you can free up talented journalists to do what they do best - report ... instead of re-write.


I've been mulling the idea over in my head since the presentation, and mentioned it to a number of people in the various offices I work in. Without fail, they have all come back with the same response: "Jane Singer hasn't seen the crap we receive."

But the thing is ... she has.

Jane Singer is currently a member of the department of Journalism at the University of Central Lancashire and the Johnston Press Chair in Digital Journalism. And according to her UCLan profile, she was Prodigy's first news manager, in charge of one of the first around-the-clock news products ever to be delivered to Americans' homes through a computer, as well as boasting five years' experience as a reporter and editor at three daily newspapers in the eastern United States.

To be fair to the more talented PR press release writers, some of them used to be where we are. In fact one local authority in my patch has a press office which is made up of all former senior journalists. And what's more, 80% of that team used to work with me! You couldn't get a more talented bunch of writers (and now multimedia producers).

OK, there are varying degrees of quality from authority to authority, and public body to public body, so what do we do, just reproduce the poor quality ones too?

Yes says Jane, then everyone can see what crap is being spouted and by whom.

So while they are freed from having to toil over a badly worded press release, reporters can then question those press releases, question those in power, get to the bottom of the story and do what they are trained to do - cut through the crap and tell people what they need to know.

In his latest blog entry, Paul Bradshaw quotes Philip Meyer, author of the Vanishing Newspaper, whose views on this point seem to tally with Jane Singer's.

Paul quotes Mr Meyer as saying:
The old hunter-gatherer model of journalism is no longer sufficient. Now that information is so plentiful, we don't need new information so much as help in processing what's already available. Just as the development of modern agriculture led to a demand for varieties of processed food, the information age has created a demand for processed information. We need someone to put it into context, give it theoretical framing and suggest ways to act on it.
By letting the press releases appear online, albeit attributed and unprocessed, then we are freeing up reporters to get out and report. They can do what most citizen journalists cannot do and what most bloggers haven't been trained to do. Put into context the events of the day by making sense of things and getting to the core of the story.

So after all that, I'm coming around to Jane Singer's way of thinking on this, although I do still have concerns:
  • If a press release appears unprocessed under one of my mastheads, will the reader be able to separate what is being attributed to someone else and what is being 'reported'?
  • Will my websites be damaged by poorly written press releases?
  • Should we put out someone's messages without questioning them first?

So many questions, and there's countless more. But the more I think about it, the more I find myself singing from the Singer songbook.