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.”

When did you pitch a friend lately?


I really dislike the word “pitch” in the context of PR. To such a degree that I might soon escape from the the entire PR business. And I’ve got almost the same feeling for the phrase “target group”. But – still – this is precisely the phrases that are some of the most frequently used in this business. And I’m truly shocked about that.


According to Wikipedia – the pitch is a part of “selling technique”; it is “a line of talk that attempts to persuade someone or something, with a planned sales presentation strategy of a product or service designed to initiate and close a sale of the product or service.” In the PR business we’re seldom dealing with products and services but the more information.

Oh, yes, I do understand we all would like to tell boastful stories that’s important for us, to the people that are valuable for us as influential people. Therefore we’re trying to “pitch” our story to these people we use to call “target group”.

But – hey – PR’s is all about relations, because excellent relations will give us great outcome, right? And I thought we’ve learned that it’s quite impossible to establish good relations with your audience by persuading? I thought PR was all about listening, understanding and serving? Focus shouldn’t be what we would like to say, but what we think they would like to hear.

And, from my point of view, it doesn’t matter if your audience is your customers or journalists. They need more or less the same approach in this matter. Everybody does.

I had a small chat with a marketer recently. She asked me: “What would you do with these new people that recently started to follow us (our business, news stream) as followers?

I said: “I think you should treat them in the same way in the virtual space as you would do in the physical space: Get to know them better! Try to figure out their needs and wants. Imagine you have a breakfast seminar and a guy showed up as a registered participant. What would you say to this guy? I would say: “Welcome! I’m so glad you could come. You’re journalist, right? (Listen to his answer) Interesting… What can I do for you? (Listen to his answer)… And so on. When you come to know him better, treat him as a friend. Serve him. Because I don’t think you look at your friends as “target groups” and I don’t think you’re trying to pitch them either?”

It makes me think of when I use to ask communicators who did visit their newsrooms. Guess what? They don’t know! They don’t even know how many they are. Think about that for awhile. If your newsroom was your breakfast seminar, you might would have a great breakfast, excellent speakers, informative whitepapers, etc – but you wouldn’t know who’s been there, and how many they were. You was not even there yourself!

But – as mentioned – pitching and target groups talk, is still hot topic in many discussions in different kind of PR groups in various of social networks. Within a couple of PR professional groups on LinkedIn, there are questions like:

“E-MAIL PITCHING: Given journalists’ overcrowded inboxes, does e-mail pitching work anymore? What are your secrets to achieving success with e-mail pitches?” and “Age-old PR dilemma … contact media by phone first or by email first….”

These discussions is all about how to pitch, not if you should pitch at all.

As an answer on the second question above; most of the members did say they use to pitch journalist by phone, or at least follow up their email pitches by phone. Only one of the answers came from a journalist, who said: “Email please…And don’t call to see if the writer got the email. If every pr person called to followup on every news release we would never have time to write a story!”

A couple of days after I’ve been following these discussions, I read an article (in swedish) by a journalist and friend of mine, who said:

“I have come to hate the phone. Not its functions, but it’s ringing and disturbing features.”

Jerry Silfwer, a PR consultant, but also a blogger, just wrote a post: “How not to pitch”. He says:

“Don’t be afraid to pitch me. Please do, I don’t mind. But make sure you email me as an individual and make sure that you’re not blasting me as a part of some obscure list somewhere.”

He gives us some examples what a pitcher forgot regarding av really bad pitch he got earlier:

  • What’s in it for me as a PR blogger? I need to be told that clearly.
  • Browsing your case studies is not a reward for anyone but your company.
  • Clarity. Why pitch me to participate (note: the pitch was regarding a survey) but not to blog about it?
  • How did you get hold of my address? In what email list am I in right now?
  • I have hundreds of other emails calling out for my attention. Why should I bother about this, when it isn’t even a personal email?
  • Don’t be so sure that 5-10 minutes is short for me and don’t thank me for participating before I’ve participated (note: the pitch said: “It only takes about 5-10 minutes to complete…”)

Honestly – I don’t think Jerry would like pitches as he says; I think he would like to be understood, treated with respect and served with great ideas for stories, but not as one of the target group. And from my point of view – that’s not a pitch.

Court of newspapers – condemn before acquit – too bad


It’s pretty hard to be famous when the media has found indication of criminal act of that person. I of course refer to Ola Lindholm and that he eventually has been taken cocaine. I feel sorry for Ola. I’ve got no idea if he has taken cocaine or not, but even if he had, I still think Expressens behavior is beneath contempt.
Oh, yes, I know, Expressens mission and duty is to present what really has happened. The truth and nothing but the truth. And I appreciate and do respect that. But I dislike when these kind of newspapers angle their stories to such a degree that even if they stick to the truth, you don’t interpret them that way. You would probably got the wrong picture in the bitter end. The sensational picture.
If these media tried to really really understand what has happened, and describe that, instead of just chase sensations, they would have sold less copies, but we would have a much more human and interesting world.

Our court of law use to acquit before condemn, but for these media is the other way round, and that’s too bad.

Please read Ola’s post, the article of Expressen and Expressens editor in chief’s comments to Ola’s posting (all of them in swedish though). What do you think?

Facebook vs Twitter as journalistic tool?


Since I wrote the posting below partly about the brand new Facebook page “Journalists on facebook” and finished that part with the sentence: “I’m pretty sure that many journalist now will take the oppertunity to use this possiblity, to get more out of their daily work.” There’s been a lot of buzz regarding Facebook vs Twitter as a journalistic tool.

Justin Osofsky, Director of Media Partnerships at Facebook, says that 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. And 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 believe he’s spot on, but… I do respect the critics. Among other I got an e-mail from Daniel at Newsy.com who recommended me to see the video about the topic Facebook vs Twitter as a journalist tool.

The news anchor Jim Flink at Newsy, says:
“So, could Facebook challenge Twitter in the battle for reporters’ hearts? One blogger says – probably not:
“Twitter allows you to order the account you follow into lists so you can have all the information about one subject on the same feed while Facebook imposes on you the feed of every journalists you will follow, no matter the subject they are working on or they are specialized in.”

Gigom’s Mathew Ingram suggests the company might have to alter its image a bit to make this work.
“…many users still likely think of Facebook as a place to socialize rather than be informed — a place to play games … not necessarily a place where journalists are active. Those things may not be mutually exclusive, but it’s going to take some work to make them feel like they belong together.”

I do agree. But my point of view is that both services has some left to prove to be kick ass tools for journalists, and their audience in particular.

I would say that the biggest headache right now for both this services, within this matter, is that most people has only one newsstream (or wall) for all their interests, topics, networks, etc (discussion in groups excluded). And most of the people is as a matter of fact interested in several topics and member of many communities. Do you really want the latest news from the revolution in Egypt on the same wall as where my cousins birthday party shows up? I don’t. And these lists feature is too… time-consuming. The same applies for Twitter. Ranking system, like Facebook Edgerank, might make the updates more relevant, but doesn’t solve this problem.

Personally, I love my Google RSS Reader with an extensive but careful selection of sources (social networks included)  in combination with Flipboard.

B t w – what happened to the service “LinkedIn for Journalists”? What I can see is pretty much no more… Or it ended up as a tiny group.  And LinkedIn Today…? Well – we won’t start our days with that kind of news aggregator, do we?

To be continued.