What can professional journalists bring to the table – part #2


Excellent crowd sourcing gave Expressen journalist a story in a few minutes. Done and published. Added value to their readers. But next time…? I doubt.
I happened to be at  Kungliga Dramaten in Stockholm tonight, to enjoy the theater production “Tre herrars tjänare” with the protagonist Morgan Alling. Great Show… until Morgan suddenly run off the stage to vomit. Well we didn’t know until someone told us. A man from the back stage told the audience that Morgan felt a bit dizzy and it was time for a short pause.But the pause became for quite a while and later people in charge informed us that the show has to be stopped due to Morgans illness. Some said that he went to hospital for examination.Shit happens. But not the end of the story…
I checked in at Foursquare and told my network about the drama. And some of them wonder what’s happening. One of them was a friend and former Expressen employed, who also send me a sms.
He forwarded the tweet to his former colleagues at Expressen, who immediately tried to reach me, including over phone. A few minutes later he got my side of the story. As far as I could understand, he (or her ? because the story in Expressen were written by Marit Sundberg) also get in touch with Dramaten’s press officer, Christina Bjerkander, and got some info and statements from her. The story became short and pretty pointless, but maybe not for their readers?
I’ve got some reflections regarding this specific drama, though.
I guess things like this happens all the time, right? People is sharing their experiences and stories with their friends. A lots of journalists getting better and better at crowd sourcing, after all. They might not be so lazy as the rumour says (personally I’ve never said that journalists are lazy, maybe because I worked my as off as journalist once upon a time). And social media are a must for journalist these days to keep up with the latest.
But – and this is a big BUT –  in the long term I do think journalists in general must add more value than this journalist did in her article, otherwise she’s out of there. In the long term, she won’t be able to compete with the crowd when it comes to deliver stories. When things like this happens, people will tell their side of the story, for an example on twitter with the hashtag #morganalling. That will include the press officer Christina Bjerkander, and even the back stage people, maybe even Morgan himself, on his blog and his Twitter? Because all the info that can be shared – will be shared.  Information that can be digital – will be digital.  Influence indexes and ranking, might edit the story. Your personal magazine will package and distribute it.

This time – it didn’t happened (very few added info to #morgonalling). Maybe not even tomorrow. But sooner or later it will. And by then journalists like Marit Sundberg will got hard time.

What can professional journalists bring to the table?


As citizens we don’t need “journalists”, we need journalism. And journalism is no longer a profession, it’s an activity. An activity that millions of engaged citizens seems to take care of in a much greater extent than ever before. Now days, with help of thousands of web services for researching, editing, packaging, publishing, and distributing.

Still there is people within the industry that claim for the need of professional journalism, among other things, to sustain democracy. If so, I wonder why none is willing to pay for it? Neither consumers nor advertisers or government, as far as I can understand?

As citizens, we would like to know what’s going on, keep ourselves informed. We would like to hear about the latest in the topics we’re interested in. We would like the truth from sources we can rely on. We would like the overview and the details. We want the hard core facts combined with vivid descriptions. And so on.

But we want to express ourselves, as well. Especially in subjects we are engaged and interested in and masters. But we also want share experiences and happenings that just cross our ways or minds, stories we think matters for the neighborhood.

As you well know, the journalists have always been the middleman to meet our needs in this matter, because they’ve been the only ones that got the exclusive opportunities to investigate, refine, edit, produce and distribute stories. And their media have become the gatekeeper or the bottle neck as communication channels. To such an extent that we’ve been prepared (or forced) to pay for it. As consumers or advertisers, each in his special way. But the willingness to pay decreases.

Now days, journalism is a fabulous mix of millions of citizens sharing their experiences and knowledge with each others, via thousands of web services and devices that take care of editing, refining, publishing, packaging and distributing parts, as well. Sometimes in collaboration with professional journalists and media. But mostly not.

The question is what the professional journalists really can bring to the table? And who’s willing to pay for it? No light in the tunnel, what I can see. The news business seems to be broken. And “the owner of the media fumbles in the dark” as Fredrik Strömberg and Jonas Nordling says in Mediavärlden (in Swedish)

A few weeks ago I attend to Berlingske Media international conference about – What Professional Journalism Means for Democracy – as a speaker.

Lisbeth Knudsen, the Chairman of The Berlingske Foundation, wrote in the invitation letter:

For decades, professional journalism has played an important role in our democracies. It still does. But the traditional commercial media business is challenged in its traditional publishing role. The old business model is dead, and the new ones are still not profitable enough to support the same number of professional journalists that the old model could finance.

Being the DNA of our democracy as public watchdogs and creators of the local and national forums for debates, the traditional media business needs to find new ways of financing the expensive part of their business: producing original, investigative, indept journalism.

Can we generate a political debate, political awareness and political involvement on news snacks, news copies and entertainment media?

In Denmark newspapers provide 70% of all original journalism reporting. What are the consequences for our democracy, if professional journalism continues to shrink?

Does it matter at all? How important is quality journalism to our society? Can companies, individuals, institutions, governments, WikiLeaks and others inform us directly? Does our democracy need professional journalistic filtering?

With speakers like Dan Gillmor, Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, Anne McElvoy – the discussion became truly hot. But we never agreed on whether professional journalists are needed or not.

From my point of view, I’ve hard to believe that Denmark’s newspaper is providing 70% of all original journalism reporting. And I don’t think the traditional media is the DNA of our democracy as public watchdogs. I do think, though, that the wisdom of the crowd are the “new watchdogs”. Or as the New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen says: “the more people who participate in the press, the stronger it will be.

One of millions great example of that is Maria Hägglöfs trip with the subway a couple of days ago.The wagon she were sitting in caught fire, and people got scared. She began to report from the scene; shooting photos and videos, writing tweets, etc.

After some time professional journalists of all kind found her tweets and contacted her. And the story got coverage all over.

No big deal, just crowd source that it use to be, right? But what did surprise Maria was that none of these professional journalists actually brought anything new to the table. Maria wrote in her blog post:

“I would say that if journalists today weren’t so incredibly lazy, if they actually strive to do something more than what I’ve already done….”
“… today’s journalists often don’t do more than what citizens have already done via Twitter.”

Ironically, this happening took place on her way to one of the first unconferences about journalism in Sweden, where one of the topics were about who would pay for the  “professional journalism”.

What happens when journalism is everywhere?” does Mathew Ingram wonder in his post in Gigaom. He writes:

“We are beginning to find out. And while it may be a frightening prospect if you are a traditional media company, there is a lot to be optimistic about if you are just interested in the news. A world where everyone is a journalist may be a bit more chaotic and a bit more complicated than the one we are used to, but it will also be a bit more free, and that is clearly a good thing.” Because: “Freedom of the press becomes a lot more important when everyone is the press — or rather, when the internet itself becomes the press.”

To be continued…

To add… a slice of media history 😉

How Tumblr is changing the PR industry


Well the original title from the Read Write Web is “How Tumblr is changing journalism”. But it doesn’t really matters. I think content curation activites, and related tools for that, already has, or for sure will change, the way we share stories with each other, as information junkies, as journalists. as PR communicators, as people.

A few month ago I wrote a post about “Why Marketers Should Care About Content Curation”. As a matter of fact I didn’t write it. I just curated another post by Derek Edmond from Search Engine Land with a similar headline “Why B2B Search Marketers Should Care About Content Curation”. And he wrote it from a SEO perspective:

“B2B search engine marketers realize new content creation is a critical tactic in an effective SEO strategy. But it is also realized, as illustrated in the Marketingsherpa chart below, the level of effort required to successfully develop new content may be significant, in comparison to other tactics. Therefore, with limited resources and immediate lead generation goals, it is not surprising when we find that new content generation falls behind other SEO initiatives on the priority list. Enter content curation. While not a substitute for new development, content curation can help B2B organizations provide important information to their market.”

Since Google launched the Panda I don’t know If this matters anymore? Because as you might know, Google Panda is the “filter designed by Google to spot low-quality content”, as Catch Pope from the Australien “Curated Content Agency” put it.

If you’re not sure what “low-quality content” is, maybe Amit Singhal, Google’s head of search, explanation on the official Google blog, make sense? He says:

“Below are some questions that one could use to assess the “quality” of a page or an article. These are the kinds of questions we ask ourselves as we write algorithms that attempt to assess site quality. Think of it as our take at encoding what we think our users want.

  • Would you trust the information presented in this article?
  • Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
  • Does the site have duplicate, overlapping, or redundant articles on the same or similar topics with slightly different keyword variations?
  • Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
  • Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
  • Are the topics driven by genuine interests of readers of the site, or does the site generate content by attempting to guess what might rank well in search engines?
  • Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
  • Does the page provide substantial value when compared to other pages in search results?
  • How much quality control is done on content?
  • Does the article describe both sides of a story?
  • Is the site a recognized authority on its topic?
  • Is the content mass-produced by or outsourced to a large number of creators, or spread across a large network of sites, so that individual pages or sites don’t get as much attention or care?
  • Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
  • For a health related query, would you trust information from this site?
  • Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
  • Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
  • Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious?
  • Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
  • Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?
  • Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
  • Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?
  • Are the pages produced with great care and attention to detail vs. less attention to detail?
  • Would users complain when they see pages from this site?”

And as you might see, some of these bullets seems to criticize the curated content; or at least some of the curated content seems to be “low-quality content”. And Google might punish your site for that, seen from a SEO perspective? But… I still think marketers (and others) should care about content curation, because that’s a great way to share interesting stories etc with your stakeholders, the people you care about. And not to forget – it’s not just about sharing, it’s about contribution and reflections as well.

Therefore I was not surprised when Richard MacManus recently wrote the article “How Tumblr is changing journalism” for Read Write Web.

As you might know Tumblr is a super easy and smooth blogging tool, but also a sharing tool, or a content curation tool. Becuase that’s pretty much how people are using it. Tumblr themselves says the tool “lets you effortlessly share anything”.

And I don’t know if the curation trend is one of the reasons why Tumblr, with it’s 12 billion page views per month, just hit knockout on WordPress, which is not a curation tool?

So I think it was just a question of time before the journalists, who are already experts on rewrites, would start using the tool (or others) “to power” their news websites, as Richard MacManus put it.

He mention the Tumblr-powered news service, ShortFormBlog, as an example.

“The concept behind ShortFormBlog is very simple: to publish really short posts throughout the day. The site publishes over 200 posts per week, an average of about 30 per day.”

Pretty successful as far as I know.

So now we’re waiting for the trend to really take off in marketers and PR staff’s newsroom.

As a matter of fact, IBM were using Tumblr when they already in November, 2008, launched the Smarter Planet project to help people grasp IBM’s Smarter Planet initiative. The site “uses frequently updated, “microblogging” entries to illustrate how the Smarter Planet vision is unfolding across IBM and across the world.”

First radio reporter using iPhone as primary field recorder


Journalism has truly turned up side down. And I think that’s just great. I just ran into a few great examples of that:

First of all check out the WTOP reporter Neal Augenstein, who has replaced his heavy radio equipment on an iPhone. He’s writing about this interesting change in MediaShift. And it’s truly inspiring. In particular for those who want to go out on the field to cover, create, and distribute remarkable stories direct to their audience. It hasn’t been easier than now.

Neal describes himself in his Twitter bio as follows:
“Believe I’m first major market radio reporter using iPhone as primary field recorder.”

And he says:
“Now, with the Apple iPhone 4 and several apps, I can produce intricate audio and video reports, broadcast live, take and edit photos, write web content and distribute it through social media from a single device.”

“With the VC Audio Pro app from VeriCorder, I can quickly pull cuts, edit and assemble audio wraps, and adjust volumes on a three-track screen similar to the popular Adobe Audition used in many newsrooms. The amount of time saved by not having to boot up the laptop and transfer audio has been my single greatest workflow improvement. The finished report that used to take 30 minutes to produce and transmit can now be done in 10.

This is a rundown of all the key ways he’s using on and with his iPhone.

Neal Augenstein hasn’t a journalist page – yet. But Nicholas D. Kristof has. He’s one of the top journalists that might got inspired of the possibilities that Justin Osofsky, Director of Media Partnerships at Facebook, talking about on the brand new Facebook page “Journalists on Facebook”. The page has been created: “to serve as an ongoing resource for the growing number of reporters using Facebook to find sources, interact with readers, and advance stories.”

Justin says that “The Page will provide journalists with best practices for integrating the latest Facebook products with their work and connecting with the Facebook audience of more than 500 million people.

I was actually one of the first to like that page, now one day later, they are ten thousands of journalists. And all of them are now asked to create professional pages on Facebook, for both reach and interact with their audience, listen to them, work with them, get ideas for articles of them, and so on. Some of them might already have done that, like Nicholas D. Kristof, that already has more than 200.000 “fans”. And some of them also bring their page to their newspapers bylines like Robert Fisk at The Independent. Why not?

I’m pretty sure that many journalist now will take the oppertunity to use this possiblity, to get more out of their daily work. Some of them will be CNN journalists if they haven’t already joined “the Facebook revolution”. And the media itself is no exception… Look at NPR or the very small local news blog Rockville Central.

When I talked to Nick Wrenn, vice president of digital services for CNN International, during the conference Social Media World Forum, in London, he said that Facebook is an equally obvious that common source of information and meeting point. But he would rather emphasize CNN’s iReport and Open Stories as the public Forum for meeting, collaboration, and sharing, between CNN journalists and their audience.

Communication a huge and confusing melting pot


Everybody in communication business talks about it everywhere! The new and ever-changing communication landscape has turned the media industry on its head. The confusion is now complete. Much of what we have learned and become accustomed to is no longer valid. This applies particularly to media, journalism, public relations, marketing, and sales. The professionals within each of these fields are either desperately holding on to their old identities, or are groping around for new ones.

The role of journalists is questioned. Previously clear concepts such as “journalist” and “journalism” have become blurred. The same goes for “media”. What is a media today? And “PR” … what is PR? It’s obviously something else today than it was yesterday. And what about “marketing”…

“Markets (and marketing) are conversations” as the Cluetrain Manifesto puts it. Conversations are based on relationships. Just like PR. Because PR’s is all about relationships, right? It’s all about relationships with both the market and those who influence it, including journalists. However, since all consumers now have access to almost exactly the same “tools” and methods as traditional journalists, it seems like the market has in some way also become the journalists. The market represents a long tail of new journalism and new media that perhaps has the greatest influence on a company’s market and might perhaps be their key opinion leaders. “Put the public back to public relations!” as Brian Solis put it long ago.

People have started to talk to each other in social media at the expense of, or sometimes in tune with, traditional media. They’re no longer writing letters to editors. They would rather publish their news ideas directly on the Web. Media consumption, and production, publishing, packaging and distribution in particular, have rapidly moved in to the social web. And both the PR and Marketing communicators are following, or are at least gradually beginning to do so.

As the market moved to the web, and the web has become social, marketing communication has become “social” too. Companies have started to talk directly with their market. And I mean “talk”, not pushing out information. Campaigns with no social component become fewer and fewer. “Monologue” ad banners, with decreasing CTR and increasing CPC, are becoming less acceptable. Google revolutionized with Adwords, Adsense and PPC. Press releases written by former journalists synchronized with Adwords and presented as text ads, turned things upside down.

Aftonbladet has been very successful with advertorials where only a small ad-mark distinguishes the ad from an article produced by journalists. This method is about as successful – and deceptive – as “product placement” in TV and film. That method has gone from small product elements in parts of a program to a complete sellout of the entire series or film. (In Sweden, think Channel 5’s Room Service and TV4’s Sick Sack.) But what can the television business do when the consumer just fast-forwards past the commercials, or worse still, prefers looking at user-generated TV like YouTube?

What will newspapers do when consumers ignore their banners? They will convert advertising into editorials. Or vice versa: they will charge for editorial features and charge companies to publish content on their platform, without involving any “investigative” journalism.

IDG calls their version of this “Vendor’s Voice”, a medium where companies publish their “editorial material” (it used to be called press information) directly on IDG.se and its related websites. The service is conceived and hosted by Mynewsdesk. It works pretty much like the Apple App Store; it is possible for any media to set up their “channel” (the media) on Mynewsdesk, promote it, and put a price on its use.

Essentially, when companies publish their information in their own newsrooms via Mynewsdesk, they can also easily select any relevant channels for the information in question. The service still has the internal working title “Sponsored Stories”, which today may seem a little funny when that is the exact same name Facebook uses for its new advertising program, where a company pays for people in its network to share information about that company with their own friends.

Isn’t that pretty much what PR communicators strive for? It’s in the form of an ad, but this type of advertising is simply bought communication – just like some PR seems to be – with the purpose to “create attention around ideas, goods and services, as well as affect and change people’s opinions, values or actions…”

But the press release… That’s information for the press, right? Or is it information that is now a commodity, often published in the media, directly and unabridged, much like the “sponsored stories”? Maybe it is information that can reach anyone that might find this information relevant. They might not be the press, but they are at least some kind of journalist, in the sense that they publish their own stories, often in same media as “real” journalists, in platforms created for user-generated content.

Everything goes round and round: side by side are readers, companies and journalists. All collaborate and compete for space and reach.

The causal relationship is as simple as it is complicated. People are social. People are using the Web. The Web has become social. People meet online. The exchange is rich and extensive. The crowd has forced the creation of great services for production, packaging, processing and distribution. These are exactly the same building blocks that have always been the foundation for traditional journalists and the media’s right to exist. Strong competition has emerged, but there is also some  interaction and collaboration.

People have opted in to social media at the expense of the traditional media. They rely on their own networks more and more, which has forced advertisers to find a place in social media too. Traditional ads are replaced by social and editorial versions that are designed to engage or become “friends” with your audience, talking to them as you would talk to friends.

The media are in the same boat and are becoming more social and advertorial. Users are invited to become part of both the ads and the editorials. UGC (user-generated content) is melded with CGC (company-generated content) and even JGC (journalist-generated content). Journalism goes from being a product to being a process characterized by “crowd-sourcing”, before ringing up the curtain on a particular report or story. As the newspaper Accent writes on their site:

“This is a collection of automated news monitoring that we use as editors. The idea is that even you, the reader, will see and have access to the unsorted stream of news that passes us on the editorial board. Please let us know if you find something important or interesting that you think we should pick up in our reporting. ”

This is similar to how companies today present their increasingly transparent and authentic communication in their own social media newsrooms, where the audience is invited to contribute their own experiences and opinions, and partly acts as a source of story ideas for journalists.

All in all, it’s a wonderful, fruitful, but oh-so-confusing melting pot.

24timmar.se the most remarkable re-launch of the year


I love local news. And I do think there are great possibilities to make something really smart in that area. But 24timmar.se must be the most remarkable re-launch of the year.

You do remember the highlight of local news before the turn of the century? It all started 1997 in Örebro with the great ambition to conquer the local news market in Sweden, and even abroad. Only one year later some of the employees won “Bonniers Stora Journalistpris” which is one of the most prestigious journalist prizes you can get. With funding from Medströms and Intelligence Ventshare, they became like 60 employees at the turn of the century. But no one were willing to save the company when the dot com bubble burst.
Now, 10 years later, one of the former owner, Krister Bengtsson, also known as the former owner of the news agency Sveriges Nyheter, is back in business. But what it this all about? Well – not much? It all look like Sveriges Nyheters news feed, they’re already selling to their customers like Blocket and others. No more – no less.
Krister says:
“The idea is that 24timmar.se will be Sweden’s most simple news site. As Teletext, but for devices like mobile and IPAD’s. A news site as I would like it to be, to keep me posted with the latest news.”
Well – I can’t see the value or the business… But I might be blind?