What Do We Want From Newspapers and Journalists?

There’s an interesting interview at the New York Times between Public Editor Liz Spayd and Executive Editor Dean Baquet.

Most of it is pretty tame and logical, but a couple of answers stood out. For example, when questions about new changes coming to the NYT, Baquet said:

Trying to edit The Times the way we edited it in a purely print era is unreasonable. The layers of editing, the number of people who touch a story. The fact is that we now write so much more. Right now, as we talk, there’s a hearing on Russian hacking. I’ve been in meetings all day, but we’ve probably written 10 posts. All of those posts, and the large print stories done at the end of the day, cannot be edited in the same way. The challenge is how to still be fast and give people a story in a form that is accurate.

But do we want and need 10 posts on the Russian hacking hearing? Is that why people visit a newspaper, or would they actually be better served by longer, more thorough articles which go through an editing process closer to print?

In an era when anyone can be tweeting fiction and presenting it as news within seconds, or live streaming on Facebook, how often do we have time to visit a newspaper website and actually ingest all the coverage of a particular event if it’s spread across so many places?

New York Times Building by Torrenegra on Flickr

It’s a paradox which every publication struggles with. And that challenge comes up just a few questions later, when asked about a way in which The New York Times has failed its readers, and Baquet picks out the use of social media.

I think sometimes reporters and editors go over the line. Or are a little ham-handed in their language in a way they wouldn’t be in the pages of The Times. And I think people think that’s easy to police. It’s not. I want people to interact with readers. I want reporters and editors interacting with the wider world. But I think we sometimes cross the line, and we need to figure out a way to not do that.

It’s almost as if the goal will be to have news coverage which is incredibly fast, efficient and streamlines editing and fact checking as much as possible. But the fastest, most efficient ways for staff to communicate needs to be edited and fact checked to prevent them from doing something wrong.

I’d propose a simpler solution.

Use social media and let staff get everything out as quickly as possible (within legal and grammatical rules, certainly), and use the website as the publication of record when I want 1 or 2 articles that give me a complete, thorough, and accurate report of what has happened in the world.

I’m not going to visit the NYT website 10 times in a day. But when I visit it once or twice (often as a result of seeing something recommended on social media), I want it to be worth the effort.


Image by Torrenegra on Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.


Support the Campaign to Repeal Section 40

How do you feel about having your world shaped entirely by the wealthy in a fake news, post truth world? Because Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act makes that very possible – even beyond what we’ve seen in 2016.

Put simply, any small newspaper or multi-author website/blog can write something true, and prove it in court, but in the process be completely bankrupted by having to pay the costs run up by the person who has sued them.

That also includes campaigning groups.

So basically, it won’t matter if you know about wrongdoing or corruption by any wealthy individual. It won’t matter whether or not you have proof which can be shown in court that what you know is true.

All that will matter is that the majority of people and organisations won’t ever be able to publish it without going bankrupt in the process.


You can support the campaign to Repeal The Gagging Clause by signing the Open Rights Group petition. There’s also probably never been a better or more important time to support somethine like ORG by joining or donating.


Unintentional Marketing Humour

I had to take a screenshot when I followed an article link in an email to land on this.


Right now you’ll either be chuckling, checking your own website for inconsistency, or installing a pop-up/ad blocker.




Torn on Flickr…

Despite the plethora of photo sites that have existed over the years, I still use Flickr quite a bit. If anything it’s got worse for archiving and organising the photos I’ve taken, but it’s extremely familiar to me, having signed up originally in February 2006.

After 8 years, I’ve uploaded around 4,000 images, and around 2,000 of these are public, which have generated 47,867 views in that time. Back in 2008, I bought myself a Pro Account to allow (at the time) unlimited uploads – from memory it was while I was on holiday in Sweden and I had full memory cards to clear. It also followed shortly on from the birth of my son, which I assumed would mean I’d be taking a lot more photos I’d want to share with family and close friends in the future…

Apparently my Pro account is due to expire at the start of February 2014, right about my 8th anniversary of signing up, and 6 years after I originally started paying $24.95 a year.

That’s why I’m now torn. Because I have no problem in paying for services, but I do have a problem understanding what I’m now getting from Flickr, and why they should receive money for it?


Does Flickr have a business model?

Originally when I paid for a Pro account, I signed up for the main reason of unlimited uploads and storage, but it also enabled statistics on my account and an ad-free experience.

But now everyone gets one terabyte of free storage anyway (since May 2013), so I’m left with the choice of renewing my Pro account just for stats and avoiding advertising. I’m pretty sure I won’t be hitting the terabyte limit of more than 150,000 hi-res images anytime soon.

I’m assuming that if I allow it to lapse I’ll lose all my stats, along with the ad-free status – and to purchase a standard Ad Free account is now $49.99 per year.

While I’m happy that Pro account holders haven’t had a price increase, I’m still left wondering whether as a non-professional who uses Flickr partly as an archive, and sometimes to source Creative Commons licensed images, whether it’s worth it? Installing an ad-blocker in my browser and using one of a supply of other Creative Commons image sourcing solutions would avoid any payments. And as a non-professional photographer, does it really matter how many people have seen my photos, or which one has been most popular in the last 24 hours?

(For the record, it’s always this one)

And then it forces me to consider whether Flickr actually has a business model?

If it’s based on paid accounts, then boosting membership by making the free accounts comparable doesn’t work – eventually people do question why they’re paying.

And if it’s based on ad revenue, then the more content driving more page views is important. And being able to get a feedback loop on the pictures I upload is vital to encouraging me to upload more. That’s how almost every social site elicits a Pavlovian response to getting a Like, a Retweet or a comment of agreement. Losing stats that I do occasionally browse out of casual interest means Flickr becomes even more of an dusty archive into which copies of my Instagram and Facebook photos are sent but rarely seen.

It becomes even stranger when you look at the clarity of rival 500px. Free with 20 uploads, Plus for $25 to add stats and a Personal Store, and $75 for Awesome with themes, subdomains, portfolios etc.

Oddly you don’t actually get any more for the same price – Flickr has an easy option for licensing photos through Getty anyway, although it’s much less explicit, and separated off as a Getty responsibility. In fact to find the info, you have to hope a photographer has signed up for that scheme, or contact a member directly.


What should Flickr do?

It’s hard to solve Flickr’s issues without following the approach of 500px, although having just read about the closure of photo startup Everpix, it does seem like there is an approach and technology there which would give Flickr a much needed boost.

I’d suggest the Free account is pretty much fine, but I’d overhaul the way licensing is currently implemented to make Creative Commons and Getty licensing an intrinsic part of the package, and offer a SemiPro account for around $20. That’s not a huge expense if there’s a chance of selling a couple of photos a year, and you could offer some extra functionality.

For instance, Flickr has finally rolled out ‘Creations‘, a willfully obscure service for creating Photo Books which can be ordered as print albums. Which is currently US only. And just books – no calendars etc. Give me the options to create a range of products for the brands I run or manage, and there’s another justification for a paid account.

And finally, do a proper account for Professionals – even those with an expensive DSLR and a photography business aren’t necessarily going to have 200,000 images available. But they do want to be able to sell their work, accept commissions and probably lots of other things that wouldn’t occur to me as a non-professional. Certainly with photographer friends, they always seem to struggle with photo management on whichever CMS and web service they use to advertise their businesses and sell their images.

Then Flickr might become a viable asset for Yahoo, instead of feeling like a forgotten image archive in a dusty basement somewhere, filled with filing cabinets hidden behind an endlessly scrolling homepage which makes it harder to actually use.


Ironically, I couldn’t embed the above image from Flickr, because then WordPress wouldn’t pick up a Featured Image for the blog post. Another niggling technical annoyance which I’m sure could be solved somehow.


Update: On publication, I spotted the new Flickr embed now seems to allow you to scroll through a user’s images. That’s an annoyance if I’m embedding an image from another user to illustrate a blog post (Am I going to vet all their images in case a reader gets distracted?), as well as making me question whether I’ve set all personal family images to the right privacy setting, or if I can see them just because I’m logged into Flickr. Basically a reason to encourage people to download images, and then re-upload with the opportunity to forget to credit them.


Buzzfeed use one of my photos (With permission…)

Quite nice to see a picture I took earlier this year end on on the Buzzfeed site. Their listicle compiles 18 magazine and print layout disasters from 2013.

And the contribution I made was from a local paper earlier this year, which I blogged about here.

It’s always interesting to see the coverage you can get by making a £20 or so investment in a domain name and some basic hosting…


The rise of the ‘fake hacked’ Twitter accounts….

Mexican food chain Chipotle appeared to have its main Twitter account @ChipotleTweets hacked around a week ago, but has since revealed it was faking it as part of a publicity stunt.

Apparently it added more than 4,000 followers on the day of the hack compared to the normal rate of around 250 per day. By the same token, the ‘hacked’ tweets were retweeted around 12,000 times compared to the usual daily figure for the account of around 75.

At the start of the year, the accounts for @MTV and @BET also appeared to have been hacked, but were faked in a much more obvious way in that the two accounts claimed they had hacked each other.

Accounts which were really hacked, such as Burger King back in February, 2013, actually gained around 60,000 followers following the event.


Is faking a Twitter hack worthwhile?

So whether your account has been hacked or not, the appearance of hacking apparently gains you followers at a much higher rate. That’s obviously a great thing for any brand, right?

Well, if I crash my car, a lot of people will slow down to see what’s happening, but hardly any will stop and help. So how many of those new followers are just taking a look at what they presume is a disaster, and will unfollow in the next few days, weeks and months? How many will actually engage in some way by following links or actually purchasing a product from a company which has claimed to have been hacked?

It’s an example of looking at the most basic measurement of social media, the follower count, by both companies and media reporting on these events, and not getting the details that actually matter.

Have you actively engaged with a brand after you’ve heard it was hacked? Or did you follow to just see what was going on?


Cool video explains the beginning of the universe. A bit…

A lot of people, particularly those with a vested interest in traditional media, have claimed that blogs are all rubbish, Twitter is just people saying what they had for breakfast, and Youtube is all skateboarding cats.

It’s a little cliched to pull out a TED video at this point, but how often can you get a CERN physicist explaining in a charming animated video the basics of how the universe appeared, and what cosmologists and particle physicists do?




So true…

Martin Belam, on making changes to community sections such as commenting systems:

My own take is that opposition or love of nested or threaded comments is a religious issue — akin to top-posting/bottom-posting in emails. Not only are you fully committed to your preference, you simply can’t see any justification for doing it the other way.

I totally agree. And not only can you not see the justification for the alternative, it’s also impossible to isolate why one approach just ‘feels right’ to you, and not the other.

Although potentially your tastes can change over time, subconsciously influenced by what you repeatedly see around you…


You need to own your media creations…

First, read ‘Read this and re-think your LinkedIn usage‘.

Then, read ‘Portrait of Twitter as a Young Media Company‘.

Then realise how important it is to have a central location for yourself, or for you business, which you have some control over – particularly around licensing.