Category Archives: media

Bloggasm’s Simon Owens Talks Citizen Media, Blogging

Bloggasm is a site that really shows the way of modern journalism. Run by Simon Owens, a 25-year-old former newspaper journalist, it hits today’s media issues with Owens’ special style.
Owens is no slouch when it comes to journalism. He writes on a regular basis for PBS’s Media Shift. The blog, Bloggasm was named in 2008 as one of PC Magazine’s favorite blogs. Focusing on media subjects Owens recently tackled the rumors about Sarah Palin divorcing and questioned the ethics behind repackaging news articles. Mr Owens took the time to discuss his views on citizen journalism, his site and online journalism. KJ- Why did you go digital journalism from print? SO- Well in many senses I was immersed in the online blogging world well before I became a print journalist. I started my first blog when I was a freshman in college and then launched one that began conducting original interviews when I was a junior, and even as a print journalist I secretly maintained Bloggasm, staying sometimes up until 2 in the morning after work interviewing sources and trying to break stories. Eventually it got to the point where I had made so many contacts within the blogging world that I got some job offers and jumped into the digital realm completely. KJ- Digital Journal is comprised of both professional and citizen journalists. What do you think of citizen journalists? SO- I find myself between the new media evangelists and the old media curmudgeons. I think that citizen journalism has a fascinating role in how information spreads and yet being immersed within the blogosphere daily I get frustrated with the sheer amount of misinformation and shoddy blogging that goes on — I think the traditional journalism filter does do something to battle that, though traditional journalism has its own problems that citizen journalism helps counteract. KJ- Bloggasm is a really cool site, I see you launched it prior to graduating. Has the focus changed since that time? SO- Oh yes, it wasn’t a very good site when it first launched, I had an idea that it would just feature Q and A interviews with prominent bloggers, and so they were just conducted via email and weren’t very specific or interesting. But as I began working as a print reporter and learning how to break news, conduct good interviews and weave them into a narrative, I thought: “Why couldn’t I do this for my blog?” I also got incredibly adept at getting my stories to spread using blogger outreach (I now do digital PR utilizing these skills) and so I began publishing feature-length stories, getting really good scoops and interviews having to do with online media. KJ- I read that you do marketing articles at times. Would you write a positive piece for something that you completely disagree with? SO- I’ve done digital PR outreach for clients that I wasn’t 100% behind. I doubt I would do anything on my blog along these lines without any kind of full disclosure, I tend to not ever write about clients on my blog anyway. Maybe “not 100% behind” is a bad phrase, more like it was a political issue I was somewhat indifferent on. KJ- Are you able to support yourself as an online journalist? SO- That’s the plan. Basically my blog is a “loss leader,” in that I don’t make much direct revenue on it (I do sell ads, though I don’t think I’ll make much that way). My blog is basically an advertisement for my online media and digital PR skills. If I can get a lot of people to come to it, then a certain percentage of them will need my skills to help spread the word about their product/media outlet/issue and contact me to hire me. KJ- That makes a lot of sense. Last question. What advise do you have for people just starting out in the field of online journalism? SO- Keep your blog layout simple and easy to read. Make your contact info readily available (you’d be surprised how many don’t do this) in case some kind of scoop lands in your inbox. Don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and actually pick up a phone and call a source, because 99% of your competition will take the easy route, giving you a leg up. That’s good advice from Mr. Owens. As traditional media moves closer to digital media the old tricks of the trade like confirming sources are as needed as much they ever were. Pulling up your sleeves and doing the hard work will in time see citizen and digital news have the same weight as old school print journalism.
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What the Public Wants From News Media

What do the masses want when it comes to a news sites? Is it the hard news that takes time to collect or quick jots to keep everyone updated in one place? A small survey was done for DigitalJournal.com to discover those answers.
News is happening everyday all around us, but what is it that the public wants? Do we want to be informed or do we want to be entertained?

Does what we want depend on our age, career or social settings?

Setting out to find the answers I asked 100 men and women from around the globe what they wanted in a news source. My goal was to have at least 1/5 of the surveys returned.

The survey was taken by 25 participants. The age of participants was from 19 to 72 with being the median age of 44.

16 males and 9 females answered the survey.

One student responded, two of the participants were disabled, careers ran the gamut from IT techs, web developers, construction consultant,engineer, management in the software industry, editors, writers, journalist, mental health worker and a translator.

Of those offering their social-economic status three are dealing with money issues and the remainder of 12 are in the middle class.

The survey was sent out to people in Australia, Europe, Africa and North America. At least two from each area responded with the majority of responses from North America.

The survey consisted of five questions about news media and then the above information. I did not divide the survey answers into the statistics of which gender wanted what as the results showed that all genders were divided in areas of division and visa versa.

Participants were also asked if they had additional comments concerning the news media. A sampling of those comments are:

I simply believe in the old news values: Audience, Impact, Proximity, Prominence, Conflict, Human Interest. These don’t change, in my opinion. And the story should answer the Four Ws and an H. Some opinion can be included, as long as it is near the bottom and can be seen as such. -CS

In general, I look to the news for facts. Opinions are available everywhere, at any time. Facts are more rare and thus more precious. And you can use my name as long as it’s associated with factual content 🙂

I Like to know what’s going on in the world and if issues are being reported they should be tracked. I like to have an understanding of what is going on with local politics, arts and innovation and I always love a feel good human interest story to renew my faith in humanity.-TB

Now it’s time to examine the results of the survey.

What do you want in a news source?

Overwhelmingly those who took the survey read the news for facts. They expect their news source to be well balanced and the source to be known for accuracy. People wanted their news to be unbiased. While the article can be short readers want more than a few sentences to digest. They also want today’s news and they want it fast.

The need for hard news is also mixed with the need for human interest stories. Gossip is not something that news readers are a fan of.

Readers like a mix of writing styles also. They also expect the articles to be well written, lacking spelling errors, proof read and fact checked. Readers want to be able to trust the information that they are consuming.

Some of the comments from this question are:

I have varying news sources that I go to for varying reasons, I like quick concise reports and the in-depth reporting that some provide.

Good writing is essential. Prompt news-breaking articles are important too, and I am a big fan of science and research articles, particularly space exploration, of which there are not nearly enough in my opinion

A wide range of subjects, well written, fact based, across ethnic and racial lines done with thought and good documentation.

varied, unique, research based,attributable stories that tell me local and international events in more than one 2 sentence paragraph…

A few things. It should be objective & un-biased. It should be comprehensive and broad enough to include news beyond the tiny focus of the typical western media. It should be NEWS – i.e., however much a fan I am of Obama and his adorable family, their pet dog is NOT news to me. Nor is Britney’s latest disaster.

A balanced offering of daily news from around the world. I want to hear both sides of a story (especially in politics) and have every question answered. The “who, what, where, when, why and how” questions are very important.

Adding context, applicable photos/media and building a community is always appealing.

Most of all, credibility.

Do you like opinion based articles?

Survey takers were divided on opinion based articles with 12 in favor, 8 against and one person saying that sometimes they enjoyed them.

One theme that came across clearly was that people do not tolerate news articles are in reality opinion based ones. They also are very much against articles that have an ‘anti’ message.People have very strong opinions on this issue as a selection of the comments show:

Not unless the opinion is the icing on the cake – the bulk should be facts.

If the opinion has intelligence behind it.

I detest out-and-out “anti-something” opinion, aka “I detest Jews/Arabs” when they are written with overtones of violent thought.-MC

With documentation not just shoot from the hip, unless it is done first person with the person someone who has some authority by education or experience relevant to the opinion, for example like a scientist who gives an opinion on the swine flu and whether it will spread and the political implications or a counselor who gives opinions on why people cry a lot and whether or not that is associated with just today’s stress or not, whatever. Again not shoot from the hip unless supported with facts of some sort. -CF

Yes, very much so. Especially if the “news” is as I described above. I enjoy a well-informed, well written article that posits a point of view, especially if it’s different from my own. How else to learn if your own assumptions and views aren’t challenged occasionally?-JO

Do you want long involved reports?

This question was evenly divided with survey respondents. Eleven want long articles, six want shorter articles and six said that it depended on the subject matter.

Reports should be as long as needed to cover the subject. If they are long and involved, that’s fine. It depends again on the subject.
through and to the point.

When issues are ongoing they should be covered for the duration, not just sporadically as other stories deteriorate.

Absolutely…although it doesn’t always have to be long. I like the idea of “executive summary” type stories, followed-up with more in-depth reporting, so I can choose to read/learn further on particular stories that interest me.

Do you want just the facts?

Of the 21 who answered this question most (15) do want just the facts in an article. The other six wanted a mix of facts and background about the story issues.

It is important to have a balance of facts with flavor.

I think background to the facts would also be needed.

I don’t mind some speculative angles if the reporter has proven he has done his background, or that reporter has proven some expertise. but if they are expressing “facts” that favour an interest they have, I want disclosure…

All news should be based on fact, even the opinion pieces.

If the article has pictures does that bring in more interest?

The overwhelming majority want pictures to illustrate a story with 21 positive responses. People also wanted those pictures to be relevant. While it can take time to find the proper pictures to work for an article it makes sense to seek them out or provide your own photos when writing an article.

Pictures definitely intrigue the viewer. It will stimulate more parts of the brain and that’s what news is all about: stimulation and entertainment-MC

I want to thank those who took time to answer the questions. Hopefully the answers you gave will be reflected in future articles not only at digital journal but from other journalists who read this article. It is my hope that the answers can provide journalists some insight into their audience’s needs.


University Requires Students To Buy iPhones

Columbia University is requiring their new freshman have an iPhone when they start the MU School of Journalism this year. Letters were sent to the incoming class telling them to show up at campus this fall with their iPod touch or an iPhone.
The associate dean of the Journalism Brian Brooks said that the device is going to be turned into a learning device.

The Columbia Missourian reports:

“Lectures are the worst possible learning format,” Brooks said. “There’s been some research done that shows if a student can hear that lecture a second time, they retain three times as much of that lecture.”

The reason for the item to be on the required list is for the students on financial aid. If an item is on the required list a student can list it in their financial need estimate.

Students who can’t afford an iPhone won’t be penalized for showing up without the Apple product.

Not all of the students are happy with the requirement. Elizabeth Eberlin has started the Facebook group, “Rotten Apple” to let her anger out.

“I really like my Apple computer, but I don’t think people should be forced to buy one brand of computer or one brand of anything,” she said. The Facebook group’s description calls into question the School of Journalism’s relationship with Apple, citing a possible conflict of interest.

Lectures will be recorded for all students. The school is installing Tegrity that records the professors lecturing. Lectures can then be downed through iTunes U which is a free content download hosted by universities.

At the end of the year MU will evaluate if the program was successful. That evaluation will determine if it will be offered for students in 2012.


Shaw Communications Picks Up 3 Canwest Stations For A Dollar Each

Talk about a good deal, Shaw Communications bought three television stations from CTV for a dollar each in April 2009. The move is not favored by all.
The deal added two A Channel stations, in Wingham and Windsor, Ont., and a privately owned CBC affiliate, CKX in Brandon, Man. to Shaw’s roster.

That news isn’t setting well with some.

Canadian Press reports that Duncan Stewart, director of research and analysis at DSam Consulting in Toronto is one such critic.

“I don’t believe the primary motivation … is that (chief executive Jim Shaw) really wants to run these three TV stations,” Stewart said

“I think he is doing this to embarrass the broadcasters, weaken their argument and put pressure on the CRTC and politicians.”

The move for Shaw to take on the three struggling stations is a bold one and politically based. The CRTC is caught in the middle of the big networks and the cable companies.

Ivan Fecan, president of CTVglobal wants the government to get back to regulating cable rates. The dispute between the CRTC and CTV got heated when Fecan said that it was willing to sell its three struggling stations for a buck each.

Shaw Communications fired back at Fecan with a full-page advertisement in the Globe and Mail taking CTV up on the $1 offer.

Canadian Press reports:

“We believe television has a bright future,” said Canada’s second-largest cable TV operator, which spun off its former radio and TV assets into a separate company, Corus Entertainment, (TSX:CJR.B) several years ago.

“These broadcasters are threatening to cut local newscasts, cut jobs and close television stations,” Shaw wrote in the letter.

“They are holding you hostage demanding a tax on subscribers as a ransom.”

CTV also ran a half-page ad thanking Shaw for making purchases.

The papers aren’t signed on the deal yet says Canwest spokesman John Douglas.

‘We have not heard from them,” said Canwest spokesman John Douglas.

‘It’s interesting that we’ve had a public process to sell our stations – Shaw expressed no interest. But if now they’re prepared to do that, we look forward to receiving an offer from them.”

Shaw couldn’t be reached after the deal was done according to the Globe and Mail. He’s said to have offered to buy up any other stations at the same price that Canwest needs to unload.

“Good for them,” Mr. Fecan said of Shaw. “I’m sure they will live up to the existing conditions of licence placed on these stations, which is wonderful news for the employees and for the people of Windsor, Wingham and Brandon,” Mr. Fecan said.

Station manager Don Mumford from Windsor was caught by surprise with the deal according to 2Canada.

“I’ve seen the various reports in the media as well. I’ve had some conversations with CTV, and — at this point in time — we’re just trying to confirm the seriousness of Shaw’s offer,” Mumford said. “I’m not quite sure where the report from Shaw originated.”

“I’m really not going to be saying anything. I know nothing on this,” he said. “This is beyond my scope, at this point.”

Shaw Communications is based out of Calgary. The company provides transmission of more than 200 television channels.

This month Shaw Communications posted $128 million in profit on continuing operations, including internet provider and digital phone services.


Tracking H1N1 Influenza A Online

The last time a pandemic type flu hit the globe the public had to rely solely on public health officials. The times have changed with the Internet. It’s possible to track the spread of disease fairly easily with the right tools. The question is should we?
There’s a reason the experts are called expert. They have years of training that all the twits and online buzzes mean something to them. That’s not to say keeping aware of potential cases of H1N1 flu A isn’t something that the general public should stay away from either.

What the public should know is that many sites aren’t giving a real picture. Some are doing what they say they are such as Veratect. If you want to track the disease make sure the sources you are using are on the up and up. If they aren’t just supplying facts and offering opinions it may be a good idea to steer away from them.

Because I have been covering the story for Digital Journal I am tracking the cases and scope of the illness with a few Twitter sites. WHO, the CDC and Veratect appear to have the most up-to-date information on the social network Twitter.

Another source is healthmap a Boston company created by Clark Freifeld and John Brownstein that is tracking the virus. It is offered in several languages and is easy to read and navigate. The company is funded by google.org and has the support of CIHR, NLM and the CDC. The system collects reports from 17 sources, which extract information from
over 20,000 websites, every hour, 24 hours a day. The system collects an
average of 300 reports per day.

Healthmap works with local health departments, government agencies and multi-national agencies to give an up to day view of the world concerning this outbreak.


CTV’s Fecan Asks Government For Cable Regulation

Is it time for the Canadian government to step in and regulate cable rates? CTVglobal media Inc.’s chief executive Ivan Fecan thinks so.
Fecan spoke in front of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission seeking a renewal of its TV licence on a one-year basis instead of the typical seven-year term. The request is a result of the financial crisis.

CTVglobal has a three point reform plan that they are presenting to parliment.

1. The immediate implementation of fee for carriage. “Fee-for-carriage
does not need to impact the consumer nor will it invoke undue harm to
the cable and satellite industry,” said Mr. Fecan. “This is an
industry-to-industry matter”.

2. Satellite carriage for local TV stations. “We simply would like the
CRTC to uphold Parliament’s clear statement in the Broadcasting Act
that calls for priority carriage of local television stations.”

3. A hybrid digital transition strategy. “We cannot justify an
investment of several hundred million dollars to reach 9% of the
marketplace, particularly when this investment produces no additional
revenue in a business that is already teetering on the edge.”

The economic crisis is forcing private broadcasters to write down their value of assets by billions. CTVglobalmedia is planning on closing to stations by August in Windsor and Wingham, Ontario. Earlier this year in March it announced that 118 newsroom jobs were being cut and that morning shows at A Channels had been canceled. The company is not seeking licence renewal for a station in Brandon, Manitoba.

Financial Post reports:

“Please understand this is not a cash grab or greed from a private broadcaster. This is real. We are not bluffing,” Mr. Fecan said, adding that unless the CRTC introduces relief CTVglobemedia may be forced to shut down additional stations.

He’s not alone with the concern.

“We have cut every conceivable cost,” said Richard Gray, head of national news at CTVglobemedia’s A Channel chain.

The National Post reports that Fecan criticized the federal regulator.

“What I’m telling you is you are playing chicken with the studios, and the consequence may very well be the end of broadcasting as we know it in Canada,” Mr. Fecan told Mr. von Finckenstein at a special hearing into the state of the industry.

“What are you trying to achieve? I’m at a loss to consider why you, Mr. Chairman, who have no skin in this game, why you would play this kind of risk with our business.”

Fecan’s comments are in contrast to those made last week by Phil Lind, Vice Chairman of Rogers Communications Inc. before Parliament’s Heritage Committee. Lind said that the Canadian television industry is not in a crisis and believes that the call for fee-for-carriage was simply an unneeded tax on consumers.

On Thursday Canwest is expected to speak about their need to apply for a one-year licence.


Canadians watched 3.1 billion videos online in February

One of the leaders in measuring the digital world, comScore released their findings on the Canadian online video market based on findings from February 2009 comScore Video Metrix data.
In February, 21 million Canadians viewed more than 3.1 billion videos online. The average Canadian spent 10 hours in front of their monitors watching videos during that month. This figure is up 53 per cent over last year.

“Canada’s high broadband penetration and tech savvy Internet users make it an optimal environment for online video to flourish,” said Bryan Segal, vice president of sales, comScore Canada. “The combined forces of reach, high engagement and ‘sight, sound and motion’ make online video a particularly attractive brand-building vehicle for online advertisers.”

Google Sites ranks first place for Canadian online video consumption with 1,625,244 hits. Other sites fell far below the hit volume of Google.

In order, the top ten video sites that Canadians tuned into are:

Google Sites-1,625,244
Microsoft Sites-55,645
Yahoo! Sites- 45,697
Megavideo.com- 36,828
CTVglobemedia- 25,200
Dailymotion.com- 20,930
Facebook.com- 19,470
Viacom Digital- 18,190
Turner Network- 12,368
Fox Interactive Media- 11,694

With 21 million Canadian viewers watching an average of 147 videos during the month of February, it’s clear marketers need to understand their viewing habits.

In a telephone interview with Mr. Segal I asked why Google Sites had so many more hits. The answer was YouTube.

YouTube is the biggest reason for the Google hits. Canadians have highest usage of YouTube, more so than any other of the 35 countries that we monitor.”

The average time on each video was 4.1 minutes which is also up from last year’s 3.3 minute average.

Nearly 88 percent of the Canadian population watched videos online. Canada has the highest penetration of the five countries that are currently being reported by comScore Video Metrix (France 82 percent, Germany 82 percent, U.K. 81 percent, U.S. 76 percent).

It seems that Canadians not only watch more videos but are at their computers for longer stretches of time. In February on average the Canadian video viewer consumed 605 minutes compared to the U.K. viewer at 540, the German viewer at 466 minutes, French viewers at 390 minutes and the average United States viewer’s 312 minutes.

For the website clients this information is vital. Knowing that their sites are getting heavy media viewer traffic is important not only for the front end of the business but the back end as well. As Segal told me:

“This knowledge not only increases the information for advertising but also in terms of what back end tools are needed to keep up with the traffic. The more views a site is getting the better the tools have to be. For instance the higher volume traffic sites have to have a prime media player that can handle the amount of traffic. It helps keep the clients and consumers happy with their viewing time.”

comScore, Inc. is one of the highest ranking sources of digital marketing intelligence with more than 1,100 clients including AOL, Microsoft, Yahoo!, BBC, Carat, Cyworld, Deutsche Bank, France Telecom, Best Buy, The Newspaper Association of America, Financial Times, ESPN, Fox Sports, Nestle, Starcom, Universal McCann, the United States Postal Service, the University of Chicago, Verizon Services Group and ViaMichelin. There has been a Canadian presence in Toronto for the past 10 years.

“You see, there are two major services that evaluate the size of a Web site’s audience, comScore Media Metrix and Nielsen Netratings … Only comScore, however, offers reporters access to an apples-to-apples comparison that measures the entire network of sites owned by each major player,” saidTed Leonsis, Vice Chairman of AOL