Archive for the ‘Newspapers’ Category
Restructuring doesn’t just affect paper
I’m a huge fan of time-shifted and downloadable radio. I currently have 12 regular ‘must listens’ on my phone at any one time and they’re brilliant accompaniment for walking to and from train stations as well as drowning out other people’s overly-loud personal music choices once you’re on the train.
But my ‘must listen’ count has just reduced by one. The Guardian has decided to drop its regular business podcast. This is a shame, because at a time when I feel we need more analysis of business, there’s slightly less choice now.
I also feel it’s loss should be noted, as when I looked around last week to see if anyone was noting it at all, I was surprised and saddened to find almost nothing bar the odd mention on Twitter:
RIP The Guardian Business Podcast, you were useful, interesting, and no more bit.ly/ue7xeE
— Mark Hillary (@markhillary) February 6, 2012
This might be for a couple of reasons. The mention that the current episode was the final one came in the final 30 seconds, perhaps people had dipped out before the end and missed it. The second reason might just be that there were few people actually listening at all.
That annoys me because it was genuinely good. But I’m a realist, things change, efforts are put in other places. I don’t read the Guardian’s business pages, so sadly, my contact with that part of their journalism ends here.
It’s worth touching on another change I’ve heard while listening to another Guardian programme, Tech Weekly. Talented long-time producer Scott Cawley left at the end of January.
With the Guardian’s former Head of Audio and presenter of Media Talk, Matt Wells, now in New York, there are clearly changes ongoing to the area he launched and championed.
I’m trying to think what else will be in the pipeline. Media Talk itself has competition now in the form of the Radio 4 Media Show, and I haven’t heard an episode of the US edition of the podcast in years.
Also a loss.
In the meantime, here’s some other business and economics programmes that are worth adding your feeds to replace the Guardian.
BBC In Business/World Business with Peter Day (if you’re not already listening to this, go to the back of the class)
NPR Planet Money – twice a week and addictive
And finally the Economist’s weekly “Money Talks”. Don’t look for it on their site. Due to their hopeless search and out of date RSS feeds (which I’ve mentioned before) you’ll be taken to an episode from October 2011. This is a shame, because the programme isn’t bad, just hard to find.
The Economist, this means you!
If you move home, you can get the post office to redirect your letters so they come to your new address. If you change your internet address, it makes sense to tell your users where you’ve gone too.
So why do websites make it difficult for themselves by not doing this on their RSS feeds?
I almost never visit homepages, they are generally a waste of my time to flick through and find out what the new stuff is. I’ve even set my browser to come up with a blank page. Like most webusers, I begin with a search, or if I’m using some type of internet news reader software, then I’m using RSS.
If you change the address of your feed and don’t tell me, you’ve just lost me and everyone else who used to read you from that source.
Better still if you’ve decided to retire the blog, tell me and suggest alternatives. Don’t just stop updating. Best practice here from the Financial Times.
And the bad practice award also goes to the FT, as that’s exactly what they did almost a year ago when they moved their Tech Blog from
This means my feed just hangs on the last entry, 30 Dec 2010, and my tablet/phone/desktop newsreader stops working.
It’s not just news articles. Media downloads or podcasts depend on RSS. I haven’t had a new piece of Economist audio or video on my MP3 player since the end of October! No reason as to why in the feed. It still works, it’s just got nothing new in it.
So I pop over to their multimedia page. Lots of new stuff on there, so at least they’re still making it. The RSS indicator on the page takes me to http://www.economist.com/rss which oddly mostly contains links back to the main websites, rather than to RSS links and certainly not a working multimedia RSS.
Their (possibly out of date) video portal at http://video.economist.com does have a front and centre RSS link. But that takes me to yet another (possibly even older) list of feeds, none of which is the one I’ve requested.
So, the Economist was making interesting stuff that used to turn up on my MP3 player/tablet/phone.
It’s still making useful stuff, except that now I can only watch/listen when I’m at my computer (which is increasingly irregular). Or maybe I can get it on a more useful device, except they’re making it really hard to find out how.
If you’ve got a working feed for the Economist’s multimedia output, do let me know in the comments!
Don’t write it down, don’t even think it
For some reason at almost 4am on the 28th February I was surfing the Guardian. Right on the front page was a small link to ‘Chlie sausage’ with other links with earthquake coverage.
Intrigued, I clicked, and got this:
(click for the larger size)
This is clearly a case of a mistaken button push. It came down fairly quickly, and it’s not in Google’s cache anymore, but a search brings up the leftover metadata.
I suppose the lesson here is don’t add anything into a news system which you don’t intend to be visible to the public. I can remember this being impressed upon me during early days at Radio New Zealand. Journalists were actively discouraged from adding private notes in the news system, for the amusement of the newsreaders or sub-editors.
It was pointed out that a court request for information could make the comedy slur of a hapless newsmaker very public indeed, and perhaps lead to legal proceedings! Not fun.
The recent addendum to the BBC’s Editorial Guidelines says much the same thing about personal web-presences for BBC staff: If you wouldn’t say it on air, don’t put it on the web.
TVTropes has a whole category of fictional and some real-life ‘Is this thing still on’ moments broadcast on television.
In the end, I’m reminded of the time I saw the Guardian’s mis-publish, nearly 4am. And surreal things happen in the wee small hours, as the poet, Rives, points out in this cleverly written piece at TED in 2007. Enjoy.
If Twitter, why not the news media?
Did you spot an item just before Christmas that Twitter is now supposed to have pushed into profit?
There’s comment on whether they are actually in profile, whether this will be enough to sustain Twitter and lots more on what else it might have to do, but I want to point out just one thing.
Twitter is (possibly) profitable because Google and Bing are between them giving Twitter $25m to access data which will then go into their search indices.
The data is mostly provided free by Twitter’s millions of users.
Contrast this deal with Google taking data from newspaper websites and putting that into its search engine. But not giving the newspapers any money.
The news data comes from fairly expensive journalists who investigate stories, check facts and sometimes put their lives in danger.
Twitter, free data = $25m. News, expensive data = Zero.
Now I’m no fan of large news organisations some of whom may be confused about user behaviour on the web, but you know … this state of affairs seems a little strange.
If anywhere can, Japan can/can’t
Even as I was about to start writing this post about Twitter Japan’s announcement that they’re going to start a pay-to-read tweet service, the news changed. They’re not.
The new strategy seemed to have been announced last week. In the report on Twitter payments I read, one sentence worried me:
…the plan will allow audiences to view some text on all tweets but will charge a fee to unlock access to certain images, external URLs and text.
I can’t think of why I might pay for a service which simply redirects me to other pages on the internet. Maybe that’s just me.
What might work? Maybe economic data? Share tips? But the trouble with any kind of real-time information is that if I’m paying, I want to ensure veracity. But maybe that’s just me.
But now it’s not happening at all. A ‘misunderstanding’ apparently. This is a shame, a commercial service has to make money somehow and limited trials are exactly the place to test new business models.
I would have thought that Japan or South Korea would be a natural place to innovate in this way. Both countries have form. Japan is home to I-mode, a technology that was ahead of its time. 10 years ago it was giving the same kind of browsing experience I get now.
Compare this with Johnston Press’ paywall experiment which begins today. The publisher is hoping to show that because regional news has more value because it’s not available everywhere.
These strategies are cyclical though, as this 2003 Guardian article shows. Here we go again.
At least not in this form
The Sun have started up an online radio show, Sun Talk and it’s now been running just over a week.
I can’t see it lasting.
Let’s qualify this. I applaud any newspaper’s efforts to meet the challenge of winning new audiences in digital spaces, but you don’t do that by merely matching what your analogue competition does. To stand out and stay ahead, you need to leapfrog your competition.
Sun Talk sounds like a standard analogue radio format pushed on the web.
It’s very linear. Three hours realtime, and the ‘listen again’ is one big block of three hours too. There’s no way to skip to bits that might interest you specifically, even though the Sun list some highlights text in their player console.
The audio-drag bar doesn’t even give you any timing so you can’t see how far along the programme you are, even if you knew where to jump to.
Given that this is not traditional radio, part of the online effect is that you tend to get more people listening on-demand than live. But the show isn’t structured in a way that means the Sun can take advantage of this, by packaging segments up and offering them discretely.
The show needs to have the podcast listeners in mind, more than the live ones, but this is currently round the wrong way.
The jingles are fun, but again very old radio and I think they’ll get on your nerves after a while, particularly as there doesn’t appear to be any dynamic compression, so the levels constantly jump up and down.
Amazingly there’s no interaction between the website and the audio show, witnessed by the fact that Jon Gaunt references stories in the paper … (actually *in* the paper, you can see him pick it up in the studio and read it)
“Did you see that story in the paper? Go out and get it if you didn’t!”
I don’t need to go out and get it Jon, I’m on the internet. I can surf to the story, if you send out some data streams with the audio, or just stick a link to the story on a page, or in the player perhaps?
Equally I smiled when Jon broke into a guest’s answer to remind people who he was and what they were listening too, as if I’d just been tuning up and down the dial and happened across him.
There’s a huge banner on my screen with that information!
Who’s listening? Internet chatter is strangly muted. There’s a spike on launch day and then very little. Apart from a great wrap of the first programme from John Plunkett, the blogs are quiet – this can’t be good.
What it good about this project is it gets the Sun journos used to producing, regularly, more than just a newspaper and website.
However, listening to columnist after columnist gets a bit boring, particularly when the Sun, the paper, is positively alive with interesting and fun material. The Sun in audio format, this is not.
Radio’s a great medium to experiment in because it’s so cheap, but hugely competitive because there are so few barriers to entry.
It’s daring because many of the core group of Sun readers wouldn’t be online radio listeners, so maybe there’s a new audience to attract here.
Yes, it’s a good exercise in brand extension, but it’s not a way to make money, and in this form, it’s not really doing anything innovative … yet.
It starts at the niche
The 100 year old, and Pulitzer prize winning Christian Science Monitor will no longer be a daily newspaper in 2009. It’s enhancing web production and will publish a weekly digest instead.
The paper is funded by the church, but loses nearly $20m a year. It’s definitely a niche publication, I doubt many outside the states who are not in journalism have heard of it. But I can guarantee more mainstream publishing peers will be closely watching how it handles the transition.