Posts Tagged ‘google’

AdWords not known for its sensitivities

January 19th, 2009

For those of you who read my website using RSS (Feedburner tells me there are 100 of you or so… hi!), you may have come across this faux pas at the bottom of my last post about the Hudson river air crash:


I can only apologise. No doubt the word’s ‘crash’ in this post will mean the same occurs on this post instead. Perhaps if I write VIAGRA it’ll even the balance. Or at least boost my Google rankings.

Huff Post: How Google can help journalism

January 8th, 2009

Here’s some more Google-themed newspaper bailout ideas from Dan Froomkin writing for the brilliant Huffington Post.

I guess calling it a bailout may be a little harsh. It’s an investment. An investment in good journalism. Dan offers seven great ideas, including:

“‘Adopt’ a handful of newspapers, and help them build technologically-sophisticated Web sites, with an emphasis on micro-local and business-to-consumer relationships. For instance, local papers need ways to database local advertising, local content, and information on local readers — then serve up ads based on psycho-graphic and geographic information. Newspapers can’t seem to figure this out by themselves. Then make the technology available to others.”

Adopting just a handful could make this sound unfair. But if this was to happen in the UK, Google could perhaps adopt some groups. My friend works for the Scunthorpe Telegraph, part of the Grimsby and Scunthorpe Media Group, which is in turn owned by Northcliffe. Now, funding a design/functionality/advertising overhaul of the Grimsby and Scunthorpe Media Group would be a mere blip on the Google budget. Heck — doing the whole of Northcliffe wouldn’t cost Google that much, especially since most of the technology has already been created.

For Google, they get the added benefit of Google ads — of which they’d share revenue — on a load of UK regional sites. The regionals would enjoy being optimised for Google, leading to more readers. And, the brilliance of Google Adwords will mean advertisers would love it: Think how useful — on a story about, say, icy roads — an advert for the local garage selling good de-icer would be? If owned a small business, I’d be all over that.

Here’s another of his suggestions:

“Create an open-source journalism wire service, hiring excellent laid-off reporters to do great narrative and investigative work that’s free for the picking.”

I like this. But this would be a massive challenge. Should this be a success, it’ll lead to a helluva lot of jobs lost at the likes of the PA, AP and Reuters. This would roll over to many people — a huge amount of photographers make their money from pictures sold to the wires, and then sold on again — for cash.

And here lies the problem: Dan is looking at journalism from the point of view of the organisations. His open-source newswire idea forgets the journalists that make the world go round — the freelancers, the independents.

With the exception of Al Jazeera, no MSM organisation has a presence in Gaza. And, now Israel has issued a media lock down, no-one can get in. The reason why we’re getting footage is independent journalists, risking their lives by reporting.

Assuming Google wouldn’t pay for the content, and assuming by ‘free for the picking’ Dan means free to use, then who exactly is paying the independents? No-one, by the looks of it.

It’s a good start though. I’m starting to believe that Google is perhaps the only company that can save journalism.

Google’s Eric Schmidt on saving newspapers

January 8th, 2009

Adrian Monck pointed me in the direction of this interesting interview with Google CEO Eric Schmidt. In it, he offers some matter-of-fact wisdom about the future of newspapers, and the role Google has in their survival.

Google can’t make the cost of newsprint go down. We also can’t materially change the way consumers behave, and consumers are in fact moving their lives online. We have been able to send clicks to their Web sites, which they can monetize. So that provides some revenue. The problem is that doesn’t provide enough revenue to offset the loss of the other revenue.

It’s logic like that which makes me wonder why so many French papers are annoyed at Google for linking to them on Google News. Google gives them traffic. For free. Why complain?

This is an interesting thought, too:

One scenario says newspapers become part of larger companies. [The Washington Post, for example, is part of a company that makes a considerable portion of its money in the education business]. They’re clearly not going to fold because their value is too large.

I like this idea. Newspapers should be like games consoles. Microsoft makes a loss on the Xbox 360. But it makes a killing by selling games. If newspaper owners are desperate to keep their console — the print edition — alive, perhaps they should working on some better games. What are those games? I don’t know. Sorry.

Schmidt concludes:

[It] presents a real tragedy in the sense that journalism is a central part of democracy. And if it can’t be funded because of these business problems, then that’s a real loss in terms of voices and diversity. And I don’t think bloggers make up the difference. The historic model of investigative journalists in any industry is something that is very fundamental. So the question is, what can you do about this? And a fair statement is, we’re still looking for the right answer.

I’d like to make a Google Reader bundle

November 1st, 2008

Seeing what RSS feeds other people subscribe to is a little bit like spying a new friend’s music collection for the first time. Seeing feeds you know and love brings out a bit of excitement in all of us.

ScreenShot014Anyhow, was looking at the Google Reader blog just now and noticed this post about the feeds Google engineers are subscribed to.

Very nice! I thought. Even better is the ability they give you to add these feeds as a ‘bundle’. A pre-packaged set of feeds that you can add to your Google Reader list all in one click.

How bloody useful.

Academics out there: Imagine how handy it would be to produce RSS feed bundles for your course. A Web 2.0 reading list, if you will.

Journalists out there: Imagine how handy it would be to be able to create a feed bundle which you could then share with your co-workers.

Publishers out there: Imagine how handy it would be to offer your readers a pre-made easy-install bundle of your publications RSS feeds.

Please Mr Google, allow us to make our own RSS bundles.

Show me the money: It’s make or break time for Web 2.0

October 31st, 2008

Starting any piece of writing with ‘in these turbelent financial times’ is becoming somewhat of a cliché these days, but when it comes to all our favourite Web 2.0 apps, the credit crunch could really be honing in fast.

It seems so long in our memories now, but it was only this summer when the sight of the infamous ‘Fail Whale’ was a regular occurence for Twitter users.

It is to the credit of Biz Stone et al that Twitter didn’t lose its user base as quick as it earned it. Twitter is thriving, but I fear it could be on the verge of a breakdown.

When discussing the BBC coverage of US Election night with a colleague, I brought up the very impressive use of Twitter that I noted from the third debate. Let’s see it again, I said. My colleague agreed, but we both acknowledged that there is a very real possibility that Twitter will slip into temporary coma on Tuesday when the tweets flood in. And for this reason, it won’t be factored too heavily into the BBC’s coverage.

I think this is a shame. Never before have we had such an immediate reporting tool for Joe the Plumber Public to air his views. Brilliantly, Twitter puts information into the hands of everyone who needs it. But on big events, I argue it can’t be trusted to keep on working.

This problem means it’ll never mature beyond its current size, unless it can make money.

It doesn’t take a genius to know that had Google not expanded quickly and profitably, it would still just be a simple search engine, powering the likes of Yahoo to produce simple results based on metatags.

Instead, it’s now the world’s most powerful company. Yahoo isn’t fit to shine its shoes.

Silicon Valley Insider has this brilliant post about how some of the most widely used Web 2.0 tools are considering paid models — including Twitter.

The theory is thus:

  1. Create a service/network for free
  2. Build a thriving userbase
  3. Come up with a pro option with added benefits
  4. Hope that the userbase loves your service that much it’ll want to pay

I don’t think it’s such a bad idea. It’s certainly worked for Flickr, whose upgrade package offer enough bonuses to make it worthwhile, but the core purpose remains intact.

But is Flickr making money? This page seems to think the revenue generated by Flickr pro accounts is in the region of $2 million. Flickr have yet to release the number of pro users. I took a look through Yahoo’s 2008 revenues, and while it tells of Yahoo’s overall revenue ($1,786 million for Q3), it does not break down how much of that is solely from Flickr. But I think it’s safe to say that Flickr is getting there.

Could Twitter do the same? The pro upgrade possibilities are not difficult to think of; expanded text messaging services, audio/video tweets, expanded features for integrating Twitter with blogs (the badges just don’t do it for me). I’d pay for those — particularly the text messaging. It was a sad day indeed when you could no longer receive updates by text, but it was clearly a great expense that Twitter couldn’t afford.

Whatever becomes of the services mentioned in the Valley Insider blog — and I think Twitter has it the easiest — it is clear that the typical start-up mentality has had to change.

Before, budding social-networking entrepreneurs had to produce something that a) worked b) was cool and c) attracted investors. Option D would then pop up some time later: when will this make money?

But now, option D comes right in after option A. Investors won’t be willing to depart with huge amounts of cash on the off-chance they’ll fund the next Google monster. They’ll only want to know how much money it’ll make, and how quickly it’ll make it.

For social sites like Twitter, it’s make or break time. Either prove you can turn your successful free model into a successful paid one, or consign the history of Twitter to a pursuit of the tech-loving minority.

The utterly brilliant fail whale animation at the top of this post was made by Flickr user somenice. His site is here.

Full text on Guardian RSS feeds

October 25th, 2008

The Guardian has become the first major newspaper to post their articles in full in their RSS feed. Glorious news.

It’s a move that’ll delight readers, but even more importantly, it’ll delight Google. From the Google Reader blog:

This is a huge first step in making more content available in more places, and we applaud the Guardian for taking it.

There is no more important a relationship that an online presence can establish than one with Google.

Now come on, all you others, keep up.

Introducing NewsWire: If you run a journalism school, you need to do this

July 8th, 2008 is the new news website for the Whitireia Journalism School, New Zealand.

I built it. And, aside from the fee for hosting (pennies) and my own personal wage, we did it for FREE. And what’s more, it’ll stay free.

We created and launched the site within THREE WEEKS. That includes setting up the hosting, domain name, content management system, design, editorial structure, promotion and publishing software. Oh, and lets not forget that students creating the content have been training as journalists for less than six weeks.


The simplicity of the operation is staggering. Using a series of free, open-source tools, we have created a multi-media news website that is already involving the community.

Now, when I was putting all this together, I constantly referred to the work of Mindy McAdams. Her how-to guides have meant some very tricky aspects of the teaching — setting up Audacity, for example — were made a lot simpler.

Now it’s one thing for Mindy to create those sorts of guides for her own students, but it’s another thing altogether to put those resources on the web, for free, for everyone to learn from.

So, inspired by Mindy’s example, I’ll explain everything that went into Maybe some other journalism schools can follow Whitireia’s lead.

» Read more: Introducing NewsWire: If you run a journalism school, you need to do this

Web 2.Much!

June 1st, 2008

(image from Flickr, by premiardiego)

Can you ever be too Web 2.0? I’m starting to think so.

Zac Echola posts this brilliant list of tools for streamlining reporting in the modern newsroom. I say ‘brilliant’ with a hint of unease, however, as the list is as long as your arm — and then some.

I worry that with all these great tools, we’re going to get wrapped up in user accounts, feeds and social media. While some of these methods make reporting easier, more efficient and, you’d hope, better, we’re hurtling towards Web 2.0 meltdown.

So, I’d like to streamline the streamlining list into some essentials. For the sake of clarity, I’m going to write why I decided to ditch the other ones too. Of course, feel free to disagree. I change my Web 2.0 allegiences more often than I change my socks (so that’s alot… you cheeky buggers).

Here we go:

Firefox – YES

I agree. Firefox is far quicker, and can be customised beyond belief. It’s not just about saving time, it’s about putting all the tools that I’m about to write about in easy reach. I didn’t know about the portable version which Zac mentions, but it seems a good idea for all of us who are blocked from installing anything by frightened IT technicians.

ADrive – NO

I’ve had a look around, and this seems clunky and unreliable. If you’re a professional outfit, you’re far wiser to use Zac’s second suggestion: A private FTP server. – YES YES YES!

I first saw in full swing when I observed Martin Stabe at work. His use of the social-bookmarking super-tool was to collect links that might be of interest to other people, and then to privately save links that are of use to him. I’d urge every journalist to do this. I hate how MSM sites don’t bother to actively acknowledge other MSM sites exist. You should, as a provider of news, send your readers to wherever is important. The best bloggers are the ones that are trusted by their readers to steer them in the right direction — even if it means sending them to a ‘rival’. (Sidenote: Do bloggers have rivals?)

Google Reader – YES!

If it wasn’t for Google Reader, I wouldn’t have learned about Zac’s post. It was recommended by Ryan Sholin — his favourite bits of Web-ness end up in my feeds too.

Google Reader is a terrific bit of kit. ‘Nuff said. Tie it in with the mobile version, the ‘badges’ and the shared item functionality and it’s undoubtedly one of the best tools on this list.

Gmail – Suppose so…

It won’t change your life… but if you’re not happy with your web email client, then Gmail is the best solution by miles. Although, I have to disagree with Zac on the usefulness of the IM feature. No-one pays any attention to it… at least not in my experience. Far better to Twitter them…

Google Docs – NO

It’s handy for quick edits, but I wouldn’t recommend it for much more. Certainly not, as Zac suggests, a cheap alternative to front-end word processing. If you want a free alternative to MonopolySoft’s Office suite, then try OpenOffice instead.

Why the hostility? Well… try opening a formatted document in Google Docs. It’s all over the place. Try copying text from Google Docs into a web-based form, and breaks will litter the page. You’ll need to painstakingly go through each line. Grrr.

Zac notes you can publish directly to blogging software and similar bits and bobs… but is it really that difficult to log into Wordpress? Nah.

Google Calendar – NO (sadly)

You know… calendars are great. I have a good one on my wall. Except it’s from 2003 and stuck on September. I also set up Google Calendar for my student newspaper team — except we didn’t update it. Are we lazy? No. Are we technically backwards? Of course not, you cheeky swine! What we are (were… *sigh*….) is busy journalists who keep on top of their appointments by using personal diaries, and phone-based calendars that vibrate and beep at me if I’m missing anything.

In an ideal world, everyone would use a Google Calendar to organise their time. Diary stories would be placed on there, assigned to different reporters, timed to perfection. But that’s not how a newsroom operates — thank God! They’re manic places, where stories and appointments change at the drop of a twitter. A Google Calendar doesn’t reflect that — so we don’t need it.

The most effective way to manage reporters is that big scribbly whiteboard in the corner.

Grand Central – Oh.. go on then!

I’ve never used or even heard of this before, but it looks good. Especially the WebCall function… unless you get prankers. Which you probably will.

“Do you like scary movies?”


Flickr – YEAHHH!

I love Flickr. Give it time, I reckon Flickr users will have photographed the entire world. Well, the bits we inhabit, anyway. Most useful are the mobile-to-web tools. Imagine a world where your online reporters can post pictures and video to your news site within seconds of it happening? Imagine no more… go and get a Flickr account.

LinkedIn – NO

If you’re more worried about embracing social-networking and the ‘real’ people that use them, you’re far better off getting a Facebook and MySpace account. Facebook for sure.

If you need contacts, you can get them. Don’t waste your time signing up to too much.

Jott – NO

I’m always against technology that makes the user look like a bit of a maniac. Too busy to post to your blog? You’re likely to be in a busy situation then. Imagine whipping out your phone and talking your posts down it. You’ll sound insane, like those blokes who use handfree kits around the supermarket. Show offs.

Remember the Milk – NO

Aside from the fact the cheesy name of it makes me feel like being sick (cheesy… milk… geddit? Ho ho!), Remember the Milk seems like another pointless organisation tool. “Editors can see what you’re working on, while assigning quick tasks and deadlines,” says Zac. Just phone them, says I. It’s amazing how more productive an actual conversation can be.

Twitter/Brightkite – Oooohhh YES!

I love Twitter. I’ve never heard of Brightkite, but Twitter is just fantastic. When it’s working, that is, which at present is a bit haphazard. The thing I love about Twitter is that posting to it is simple — a nice, free text — and it’s versatility knows no bounds. My latest Twitter message appears on the sidebar of this blog. When I was at Sky, Julia Reid used Twitter to great effect, reporting from an aeroplane grounded at the shiny but shit Terminal 5.

Ning – NO

New to this, too, but it’s not needed. Firstly, the general public aren’t using Ning. So, for that reason alone, it’s of limited use to journalists. Want to build a community of your readers? You’ve already got one in Facebook and MySpace. Want to reach people who don’t use social media? Then your own website should be massaging discussion.

As for the second reason, the art of conversation is the best tool for newsroom communication. You don’t need Ning, and your readers don’t either.

Any good blogging platform – YES

Well this is a no-brainer, really. If you don’t have a good, versatile blogging platform then you’re pretty much stuffed. So get one. I suggest Wordpress.


So there we go. I sense I’m being very dismissive of some of the tools there, so please, get some comments over this way and I’ll happily debate with you until the cows come home.

To sum up, in the ‘yes’ pile:

Google Reader
Blog software

In the ‘no’ pile:

Google Docs
Google Calendar
Remember the Milk

And in the ‘maybe’:

Grand Central

The jury’s out!

Give all journalists their own ‘20 per cent time’

May 7th, 2008

Ever since I first heard about the concept I’ve been intrigued by ‘20 per cent time’. It’s an initiative spawned by Google, who urge all their employees to take out 20 per cent of their day and spend time on something completely unrelated to their assigned jobs.

So, for example, a graphic designer at Google might spend his 20 per cent trying a spot of coding, as he may have had an idea for a new feature on an existing Google product.

The BBC also tried it out, this time giving 10 per cent (stingy buggers) to some of their stuff to try other bits and bobs on the site. Not quite the flexibility of the Google-time, but handy nonetheless — it has so far produced iPhone podcast pages.

All well and good, but how does that relate to journalism? Well let me recall a discussion I had with Jon Grubb, the editor of the Lincolnshire Echo. He very kindly commended me on my efforts with The Linc, and went on to say how it was great that we were out there finding stories. In some cases, we were even making stories.

Now that’s not to say that we were making them up — although there is a University press office that might argue that point — but instead we were bashing our noggins together and saying: “Look, we don’t have a good lead story. What can we do to find something out? Who do we not speak to enough? Who needs a voice?”

It shows: Our last issue was our most successful. Our lead story came as a result of our own research into drugs use on campus. A full-page feature was down to Dan Clough wondering if it’s a ball-ache to get around Lincoln on a wheelchair. It was. So we spoke to a load of people — and Danny even made a short documentary. Another full-page feature came as a result of Sadie Geoghagen speaking to as many single-parent students in Lincoln as she could. None of these stories would have ever come from a newswire. They were all too humble — and nice — to toot their own horns and come to us. Indeed, often the people with the most important stories don’t believe they are important enough. It is up to us to find them.

When I discussed this with Jon Grubb he agreed. But then I stressed that newspapers, particularly regionals, are not encouraging journalists to go out. There is always another press release to get typed up. He agreed. I brought up the example of Andrew Gilligan who is literally given free-reign at the Evening Standard. If he wants to follow up a story for three weeks… he bloody well can. And boy does it pay dividends: the Standard had a triumph with the Lee Jasper debacle (and arguably won the election for Boris), and Andrew won Journalist of the Year.

Gilligan is an exceptional example. I see Andrew’s skill as being rare — you could practice his methods all you want, but you won’t be as good. Just as if you practiced heading a ball for 15 hours a day, you still wouldn’t be as good as Alan Shearer.

What I’m saying is we need to give journalists a chance. If every reporter at every paper had 20 per cent to spend following their own nose on a story, heaven knows what gold we might find. We always hear the phrase ‘more bobbies on the beat’. How about ‘more journos on the beat’? Sounds great to me. If I was a regional reporter I’d want every parent at every school to know my face, and I’d want every copper to know my name, so that if anything happened that the public should know about, they wouldn’t be afraid to call as they’d know me as being an good, honest bloke.

20 percent is roughly one day a week. Is that too much to ask? If newspapers stick strictly to it, I believe the initial stresses of being a person down each day would be over-turned when the lead stories come rolling in by the bucketload.

Let’s see it happen!