Steve Earley COM 530 Sept. 7, 2009 Reading Synthesis: “Past & Future: An Interactive Media Chronology” History’s visionaries have done remarkably well foreseeing the what. Franklin Roosevelt was in office when Vannevar Bush formalized an outline for a network similar to today’s Internet. He nor any of his contemporaries, however, could tell you how such a system would come to be or precisely when it would. As increasingly rapid advances in interactive communications turn science fiction into reality, the most successful enterprises will be those that anticipate the how and the when – or better, help shape them – and that react quickly when their expectations turn out wrong. An Open Medium Governments have played a central role in developing or advancing virtually every medium man has ever known. As a result, political and national security interests have influenced when new technologies emerge and what form they take. Even as the Internet has turned top-bottom power structures on their head and empowered a virtually limitless pool of potential innovators, given their economies of scale, nation states will continue to be significant players. Newspapers, for example, are looking to distribute their product on electronic paper pioneered by the U.S. military. Half a century ago, the United States’ work toward “the scientific improvement” of its military laid the groundwork for the Internet we know today. The Advanced Research Projects Agency, created in response to the Soviet launch of Sputnik I, after initially focusing on missile-defense and bomb-test detection, began pursuing the concept of network computers in 1962. As one of the world’s two superpowers, America had the resources to pursue such an initiative. That there was a rival superpower provided it motivation to pursue it. Take away either of those variables, and the dominoes fall differently. Perhaps Japan or Germany creates a more centralized network. Perhaps another, later conflict creates the incentive for a slightly different next-generation medium. That what became the Internet was inspired by pragmatic, inclusive aims – researchers seeking to get their work done more efficiently – and not idealistic, divisive ones – a government seeking to manipulate public opinion – is a big reason it’s been able to grow so fast and take on so many applications. A more restrictive system probably would have fizzled out, delaying the birth of the Internet, but not forestalling it. The organic nature by which the Internet formed further instilled the democratic spirit it continues to exude today. A 1969 memo from computer scientist Steve Crocker to his colleagues, which came to be known as a Request for Comments, remains the accepted format by which networking scientists and engineers suggest, review and adopt new technical standards. Also contributing to the Internet’s openness is that, unlike television or radio, commercialization of the Internet came as an afterthought. The framework was there, Mark Andressen’s Mosaic browser made it accessible to mainstream audiences, and,
boom, businesses said, “We gotta get in on that.” Just as quickly, of course, the dot.com bubble burst and a lot of them were forced out. Growing Up Fast Whether organizations are out to make money, raise money, or shape opinion, they quickly concluded, they have to be on the Internet. A lesson that’s still in progress is how to efficiently use their time and space there. Indeed, individuals are struggling with the same questions. Smart entrepreneurs have exploited this. But society as a whole, some argue, suffers. “We voluntarily let technology enter our lives in the infantile state that it currently exists, and the challenge is to wait for it to mature to something we can all be proud of,” John Madea, president of the Rhode Island School of Design, said in a February 2008 Economist debate on whether technology is simplifying our lives. He added:“To say that technology is failing to simplify our lives misses the point that in the past decade we have lived in era of breakneck innovation.” Comparing the growth of the Internet’s audience to that of other mediums provides an indication of just how fast it’s evolved. Radio was 38 years old when it reached 50 million users. Television was 13. The Internet was 4. Thankfully, those governing the Web are mindful of this. Recognizing that the Internet’s existing structure, as ingenious and adaptable as it is, is not sustainable, the National Science Foundation is funding an overhaul known as Global Environment for Networking Investigations. GENI will improve security, be able to handle more traffic, better handle rich content such as video, and accommodate demands from devices other than computers such as mobile phones, GPS tracking devices and hand-held devices. Accessibility Business people like to say that on the Internet, anyone in the world is their potential customer. The marketplace, however, is only as big as the technology allows. If only a small amount of people are using a particular technology or that technology is unreliable, the potential customer pool shrinks very quickly. The name of the game, then, is accessibility. Online catalogs didn’t take off until intuitive browsers like Mosaic came along. Before then, their only potential customers were advanced users with enough expertise and patience to input manual instructions. Online video didn’t take off until broadband connections started to proliferate. Dial-up’s low video quality and slow download times prevented content creators from offering a marketable experience. This is why content providers and advertisers alike are willing to pay for users’ access. Advertisers are financing public Wi-Fi networks so that they can distribute messages over them. Newspapers are planning to give away e-readers to print subscribers in hopes that they acclimate to the new technology. Poor design also contributes to inaccessibility. Avatar-populated worlds such as Second Life, for example, have not caught on as quickly as social networks like Facebook in part because they are more difficult to use.
Mitch Kapor recognized the importance of usability in 1990 when he authored the “Software Design Manifesto.” While aimed at software designers, it’s relevant to all of interactive communications. Designers, he argued, weren’t respected as co-equals by their programming counterparts, and were brought into the development process too late to be effective. “The entire PC community needs to become sensitized to issues of design,” he said. A key question for organizations is whether they’re better off waiting for marketplaces to develop or taking an active role in creating them. Should newspapers invest research and development money in their own e-readers or e-paper, or, especially considering they joined the search later than other developers, should they let credit card companies, advertisers, cell phone companies or others pursuing the technology iron out the kinks – such as load time and colorization – that are holding it back? Sea Changes Challenging newspapers and other advertising-reliant industries is the shift from broadly targeted ads in mass-market media and public spaces to micro-targeted ads in contextual interfaces like social networks, GPS-enabled cell phones and podcasts. As a case in point, at least one expert predicts that automobiles, one of the most ubiquitous mass-marketed consumer products, will be micro-designed and micromarketed. As the messages we receive become more and more contextual, the shared pop culture many of us love to criticize but nonetheless take for granted is under threat. Even more revolutionary will be seamlessness of tomorrow’s Internet experience. With phones, radio, TV, and, up until now, computers, the user was very cognizant he was interacting with a device. He turned it on and turned it off. He picked up a receiver or a controller or a mouse and put it down. Mobile and embedded networks will give us constant connectivity. We’ll realize were interacting with a network only when something goes wrong. Our clothes will tell the thermostat to go up or down. Our food packaging will tell the microwave how long to cook a dish. Bill Gates, as responsible as any one person for making the computer a household item, told Rolling Stone that he wants computing to be “as pervasive as electricity.” “We’re starting to see the emerging edge of this natural interface where speech and ink and motion and touch all become part of the experience and the computer sort of disappears,” he said. “We're just at the beginning of the impact it's going to have.” What’s truly mind-boggling is the blurring of the real and virtual worlds. Applications of artificial intelligence and virtual reality have already been recognized, and in some cases applied, in all facets of society: from the household, to business, to healthcare and hospitality, to entertainment and social networks. Some people will spend more time in the virtual world than in the real world. Others will count A.I. identities as among their best online friends or favorite celebrities. It will not be uncommon for people to manage distinct identities in the real world and one or more virtual worlds. There will come a point when machines are evolving without human assistance, writing their own software. Mankind will struggle to stretch its mental capabilities just to keep pace.
Sometime within the next century, some futurists say, we’ll reach a point known as “The Singularity,” when robotics, genetics and nanotechnology are altering our world faster than we can comprehend or predict. How soon the singularity will arrive is a subject of debate. Resistance The prospect of smarter-than-human machines, A.I. Nobel Prize winners and a robot Bill of Rights, needless to say, will freak our a lot of people. Like with any issue, advocates will speak out when advancements threaten their pet causes, be it privacy, family values or the environment. There will be a vocal minority that opposes new technology in all its forms. On matters far simpler than the rights of robots, such as technology’s ability to enhance or inhibit productivity, contingencies are already pushing back. Labor is worried that workers who receive company-issued mobile devices are expected to complete off-the-clock work. Of a failed bid to secure overtime pay for television newswriters for tasks completed on BlackBerrys after hours, Lowell Peterson, WritersGuild-East executive director, said, “We don’t want this to grow into a major work commitment that people don’t get paid for. … This is not going to become a 24/7 workplace.” Even as they distribute BlackBerrys and similar devices to their employees, businesses are concerned that the multitude of communication mediums workers interact with – from e-mail to IM to micro-blogs – is dividing their attention to the point of inefficiency or even burnout. To combat this, employers are imposing blackout periods – during the workday or out-of-office time or both – during which workers are asked to restrict or cease their electronic activity. There will be a great number of consumers who are slightly uneasy about new technology but not knee-jerk opposed, To serve them, a market will emerge for making gadgets seem more familiar, and therefore less threatening. Haptics, the delivery of a tactile sensation from a device to a user, commonly used to create the feeling of keyboard clacks or mouse clicks on touchscreen or projection interfaces, is one example. By providing feedback and enabling control though simple movements, haptics also can help make the user experience more intuitive. Getting Ready Change is coming at a rapid pace and, if history is any guide, it’s only going to come faster. After all, Moore’s law, which states that the number of transistors on a computer chip doubles about every two years, has held true for almost half a century. Being ready for what’s next – some experts say teleporting humans and time traveling are merely a matter of solving technical challenges – will require some preparation. Preparing for the future means asking questions and seeking out trends, evaluating when they will start to appear, how widely they will apply, how severe their impact will be and how likely they are to occur. It means making these tasks part of the everyday routine for front-line workers, not reserving them for brainstorming sessions at the annual executive
retreat. It means always considering alternative scenarios and keeping an eye on other industries. As fun as it can be to guess what the next big market or business model is going to be, preparing for the future isn’t a game. It’s not about predicting. It’s about hedging your bets. Organizations should position themselves to be able to quickly react to the greatest number of probable scenarios. Lessons for Print Journalism Print journalism, keep your head up. Reports of your death have been greatly exaggerated. After all, so-called experts said you were finished when radio and TV came along. And, well, here you are; you’re still alive. That’s not to say you won’t have to be reborn. Still, there’s plenty to be optimistic about. While machines can talk to us and immerse us in 3D video, the most efficient computerto-human output method remains text. Your staffs are built around producing clean, accurate, balanced written copy and even with hundreds of new media choices, your readers are likely to think of you first when they’re seeking this type of content. This reputation speaks to your brand power as a reliable news source. Built over decades, this is something new media can’t touch. Leverage this is an increasingly crowded, confusing marketplace. Even as you adapt your content and the way it’s presented to a new model, at all costs, keep your brand intact. Nose-diving circulations and subscriber rolls will make it difficult to finance the transition, but, once new revenue sources are identified, recapturing customers and winning over new ones should be easier than before. Good thing, because a single customer will be far less lucrative than he used to be. The proliferation of mobile devices, embedded networks and social media means you can reach audience members where they are; they no longer have to come to you by purchasing a subscription or newsstand copy. Probably without even thinking, “OK, I’m going to read the newspaper now,” they’ll click through to one of your articles on the advice of a restaurant search application, supermarket checkout kiosk or social network friend. And they’ll experience a customized presentation tailored to their location, past behavior and interests. Such hyper-targeted content will offer users and advertisers more value than the one-size-fits all content you’ve traditionally distributed. Mass-market advertising, of course, was what you did best. Many new sources, not just one or two, will be required to recoup the revenue this provided. Niche publications are likely to attract a healthy share of advertising dollars. However, there are plenty of ways for general readership publications to compete. For one, make local your niche. Your news staff and sales reps probably already know your community more intimately than your closest new media competitor. Well, get to know it better, and reflect what you learn in your news and advertising content. While users will be reluctant to pay for general news content they can get for free from a news aggregator, they’re willing to pay top dollar for quality, in-depth reporting and data on specialized topics, such as business, especially when this information can help improve their job performance. An engaged audience that can afford to pay for content is likely to draw a premium from advertisers as well.
At the same time, don’t lose site of the benefits of being a general audience news source. What subjects your users are gravitating to is invaluable information for advertisers, both in terms of where to place their ads and what types of ads to create. Especially since you got a late start pursuing a new model, you’ll be tempted to latch on to every passing fad. Be mindful that successful enterprises typically adopt trends early and discard them right before they peak. That everybody’s doing it is never a good reason to do anything, yet, this seems to be the primary reason a lot of newspapers are joining Twitter. Used correctly, Twitter can be a valuable tool for media companies. But, if the service isn’t popular among your target audience, or there isn’t a clear way to apply it to your product mix, stay off the bandwagon. An in-house solution or a third-party service still being developed may better suit your needs.
Steve Earley COM 530 Sept. 14, 2009 Reading Synthesis: “An Introduction to Interactive Media Theory” Defining Interactivity Experts are yet to reach a consensus as to what precisely characterizes interactivity. A central point of debate is whether communications not occurring in real time, like e-mail and newsgroups, should be considered interactive. Two popular models argue that there are degrees of interactivity. They offer that, yes, email is interactive, but that it is less interactive than instant messaging. Edward J. Downes and Sally J. McMillan suggested that message dimensions — time, place and direction — and participant dimensions — control, responsiveness and perceived goals — lead to either low levels or high levels of interactivity. A more detailed model developed by Cees M. Koolstra and Mark J.W. Bos, based on work by Downes and McMillan and other researchers, assigns an interactivity score, 16 being the most interactive, based on an 8-point checklist. Each of the eight variables — synchronicity, timing flexibility, control over content, number of additional participants, physical presence of additional participants, use of sight and use of hearing and use of other senses — is rated either 2 (high), 1 (middle) or 0 (low) to determine the overall score. Another scholar, Nathan Shedroff, focused on the process of creating interactivity, which he said was about the same across all platforms. Producers, he outlined, synthesize data into information, which they share with consumers. Consumers, in turn, acquire knowledge and, upon contemplation, process that knowledge into wisdom. Shedroff defined this process prior to the arrival of Web 2.0. As a result, it understates consumers’ role in improving content, or even creating it themselves. Linearity is its chief shortcoming. A circular format, in which producers and consumers move a communication back and forth among the four states, would be more appropriate. Consumers, for example, upon gaining wisdom on a particular topic, may react in a measurable way such as blogging about it, producing data that a producer could in turn mold into new information. Interaction Design Making the interactive experience efficient and pleasurable is the focus of interaction designers. Their field is interdisciplinary by nature, and, accordingly, attracts professionals from myriad backgrounds — from graphic design, programming, psychology and user testing to product design. They are charged with defining the behavior of artifacts, environments and systems; anticipating how use of products will mediate human relationships and human understanding; and exploring the dialogue between products, people and contexts. Accomplishing all of this requires a wider palette of skills than any one person can master, so, team approaches are common. Even so, there are a few core traits,
professionals say, that every interaction designer should have. The No. 1 skill, Robert Reimann said, “is the ability to invent and visualize a coherent solution and be able to effectively communicate it to others.” Another person experienced in the field identified three important characteristics: the ability to conceive ideas, the ability to communicate those ideas and the ability to critique, analyze and judge. A look at the steps involved in interaction design reveals why those skills would come in handy. First, interaction designers conduct research to learn more about users and their environment. As all researchers should, designers should be cognizant of sources of bias. That people tend to remain silent when they think their viewpoint is publicly unpopular, known as the spiral of silence theory, is one potential source. Another, known as the power law effect, is when a system unnaturally reinforces behavior. For example, users’ inclination to click on links to “top read stories” can generate a positive feedback loop that makes a moderately popular story appear more popular than otherwise would be. Second, designers analyze their research to create concepts for new software, products, services or systems. Third, they develop crude prototypes, adjusting or combining various alternatives until identifying a model that solves as many user requirements as possible. Fourth, they test the usability of the refined prototype, focusing on its role, its look and feel and its implementation. Fifth, the product or service is developed by other workers, but interaction designers stay involved in case on-the-fly changes need to be made. Last, the finished product or service is tested for usability and errors. The importance of interactive designers’ work cannot be overstated. Even if the interactive experience is being used to educate an audience about another product, and is not the primary product itself, consumers subconsciously equate the quality of a design with the quality of the product it is communicating. Communication Theories Just as interaction designers apply skill sets from a wide array of fields, popular communication theories also borrow from other industries. Developed in 1948 by Bell Labs scientist Claude Shannon, information theory has its roots in engineering. It produced one of the most fundamental communication concepts, the source-transmitterchannel-destination pattern. In speaking, for example, the pattern elements are the brain (source), voice (transmitter), air (channel) and the person listening (destination). Activity theory, which deals with the broader social processes that affect how tools — physical objects, programs, ideas or languages — are created, used and accepted or rejected, comes to us from the discipline of human-computer interaction. From sociology, symbolic interactionism comprises three core tenets: “Human beings act toward things on the basis of the meanings they ascribe to those things,” “The meaning of such things is derived from, or arises out of, the social interaction that one has with others and the society,” and “These meanings are handled in, and modified through, an interpretative process used by the person in dealing with the things he/she encounters.” Also from sociology is social network theory. Its chief argument, that larger, broader networks with many weak ties are more useful than smaller, closer networks with strong
ties, should be familiar to users of online social networks, especially if they have experience with both an extremely broad network with Facebook and with an extremely narrow network like E2. As illustrated in my suggested revision to Nathan Shedroff’s interactivity process, modern interactive tools allow consumers to be producers and vice versa, encouraging richer, more relevant content. Leveraging this potential requires an understanding of what motivates users to get involved. Online communities theory attempts to answer this. Peter Kollock concluded that users are motivated by three main principles, neither of which relies on altruism or financial compensation: The expectation that they will receive useful information in exchange for their contributions, the desire for prestige and pleasure in feeling they have influence over an environment. Even the best theories are just that. They are theories, not rules. Most communication theories, however, are especially limited, as they were created with the one-way, push communications of the 20th century in mind. For instance, someone who spends their entire weekend playing Second Life may, under the traditional definition, be considered severely isolated. But, to the user, the social interaction the game provides may be more compelling than meeting with friends face-to-face. An appropriate approach for the 21st century may be uses and gratifications theory. To a greater extent than any other, this theory considers the actions of an active audience. Based on Abraham Mazlow’s Hierarchy of Needs, it focuses on how individuals use communication to serve the world around them and even to achieve self-actualization. Gratification, it says, can be gained from a medium’s content, familiarity with a genre, general exposure to the medium and from the social context. Users, it goes on, seek out media to satisfy one or more of five needs: acquiring knowledge, indulging in an aesthetically or emotionally pleasurable experience, enhancing their own credibility, confidence or status, connecting with family, friends and the world and escaping the dayto-day/releasing tensions. Like theories, new mediums and technologies move from being tested by a small subgroup to being widely adopted by a community. How and how fast innovations are adopted in the subject of diffusion of innovations theory. It offers that users are more likely to adopt a new product or idea if it is perceived as better than what it supersedes, as consistent with existing values, past experiences and needs and as reasonably easy to understand and use. It also helps if the benefits of an innovation are readily observable by would-be adopters. Videotex services marketed by newspapers in the 1980s and 90s tanked in large part because they weren’t consistent with users needs and existing values. Publishers falsely assumed users wanted — and would pay a premium for — rich graphical content. Simpler, less expensive text products more closely resembling their print brethren would have stood a better chance of success. With all the bells and whistles today’s technology offers, this is an important to lesson to keep in mind. With regard to usability, Gopher inventor Mark MaCahill prescribed a good litmus test when he reportedly called his Internet navigation system “the first Internet application my mom can use.” While early adopters, whose status gives them sway over the opinions of others, drive which products take off and which fade out, other factors, often price, can create tipping
points that lead to a product’s mainstream adoption. The U.S. personal computer market, for example, attained 50 percent penetration in 1998, up from less than a third just three years earlier. The quick shift was a result of strong sales of lower-priced computers. Business and regulatory factors also influence adoption. That Microsoft was able to retain the marketing and licensing rights for MS-DOS positioned it as much as any one variable to become the operating system market leader for years to come. Later, anti-trust challenges to Microsoft’s bundling of Internet Explorer and other programs created opportunities for creators of alternative Web browsers and other software developers. Clogging the Conduit To be a conduit for truth. For generations, this has been journalists’ credo, even when they knew full well that the mere act of asking sources questions or training cameras at them introduced bias. Interaction threatens to increase distortion — in both incidence and magnitude. Framing is one choke point. Focusing on discrete events out of context leads viewers to blame individuals for social problems, rather than society as a whole. Users who elect to watch a YouTube clip instead of a full program or read a tweet instead a full article, victims of double framing, receive even less context. Even more alarming, the capability of content to go viral faster than traditional gatekeepers can hope to control threatens to magnify biases of all origins. In the interactive age, keeping up with the pace of long-term change is no less daunting. A timeline of landmark technological moments reminds us just how fast the landscape is changing, and just how new all of this is. While other industries focus on teaching best practices, new media is still defining them. Food for thought: Only three presidential administrations have had Web sites. Napster rose, fell, was reborn and faded within a four-year span. Entities as ubiquitous as the iPod, Google and Wikipedia are less than a decade old. Similarly ubiquitous Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are even younger. A Threat and Opportunity The emergence of user-driven networks like those mentioned above makes it possible for consumers to receive content more organically, a threat as well as an opportunity for established media companies as their traditional audiences shrink. “There is real hope in the numbers of people who seek news online, particularly the young, a group that shows scant interest in traditional media,” a 2005 Project for Excellence in Journalism report stated. “The capability of people to get what they want when they want it, and to manipulate it, edit it and seek more depth, could bring a needed revival to journalism.” By revealing trends and identifying potential sources, social networks have also proven to be valuable reporting tools. And, when users scrutinize the work of mainstream journalists, they encourage better reporting.
Leading Thinkers Seemingly overnight, Richard MacManus’ Web 2.0 blog ReadWriteWeb went from a niche site to one of the top destinations in the blogosphere. In an Aug. 2009 interview with the Business Blogs Web site MacManus explained how this was possible. The key, he said, was being first. He was talking about Web 2.0 on his blog before it was a household term and before its capabilities were widely applied across the Internet. So, when Web 2.0 blew up in late 2005 and early 2006, his blog became a natural hub for learning about it. Successful entrepreneurs, he said, join markets without established leaders, and, by maintaining creative control, building a team of complementary personalities and stressing consistent quality over quantity, become those leaders. An interesting side note regarding MacManus’ success, a commenter on the Business Blogs piece pointed out, is that in an industry dominated by Silicon Valley, MacManus climbed to the top publishing from New Zealand, illustrating in a powerful way the Internet’s ability to reshape markets. In a video interview for The George Lucas Educational Foundation, media scholar Henry Jenkins says schools aren’t coming close to realizing the full potential of new media in learning and teaching and advocates a number of fundamental changes. “It’s not just about access to technology,” he argues. “It’s about access to learning to experiences.” Central to this, Jenkins says, is validating students’ out-of-school participation in video games and social media as productive activities, identifying what can be learned from those experiences, and teaching those lessons in the classroom. This, he says, requires teachers to take the difficult step of ceding some control: accepting that students are going to know more than them about certain topics and that “a conversation’s going to start and you’re not sure where it’s going to go.” Such a shift, Jenkins says, would promote another necessary change: the move from an autonomous learning model to a collaborative one. Unintelligent filtering systems, he adds, are shutting children off from valuable content. One school system’s filtering software, he noted, blocked access to any source mentioning the Herman Melville novel “Moby-Dick.” Like authors and filmmakers, designers express a theme with their work, but instead of using conflict, characters, setting and subplots to achieve it, they use product concept, content choices, layout and interactions. User experience designer Cindy Chastain detailed this point in a May 2009 presentation to Interaction Design Association Members titled “Experience Themes: An Element of Story Applied to Design.” Not only does this approach promote a more cohesive product for the user, she argues, but it also helps focus the design process and unify team members. Flickr’s theme, for example, would be “Define yourself with photos,” Chastain said, and its story premise would be “A playful, fun-to-use site helps people to easily manage their vast store of digital photos and share them with one another.” Theme is important in any design, Chastain continued, but especially so in multimedia campaigns, as the myriad elements need something to tie them together. Narrative, interaction and emotion elements accomplish this.
Designers, she said, should constantly be asking themselves how elements relate to the theme and be considering them from the user’s point of view. Irrelevant features should be discarded and new content should be added to fill in gaps. Leading Organizations In addition to offering tips on achieving effective interactive design, Smashing Magazine applies it to give its audience more relevant content, polling users on what kinds of studies they would like to see it undertake. One recent study focused on the typography choices of 50 popular Web sites, surveying their selections and drawing conclusions concerning best practices. Not surprisingly, sans serif fonts were favored by a 3-2 margin. But, Smashing suggested that this may be less skewed if designers had more Web-safe serif fonts at their disposal. One of three fonts — Arial, Georgia and Verdana — were used for body copy on 80 percent of the studied sites. The most popular heading fonts were Georgia and Arial. Smashing found that sites generally adhered to tried-and-true typographic standards — 1.5 for line-height-to-font-size ratio, .75 for paragraph-spacing-to-line-height ratio — with one glaring exception: characters per line in body copy. The surveyed sites averaged almost 89 characters per line compared with the traditional 55 to 75 characters. With regard to link styling, sites have moved away from the default of underlining links, with a majority, 54 percent, not doing so, either highlighting with another color or increasing weight instead. The Pew Internet & American Life Project is a gold mine for Internet use statistics. A July 2009 report, based on an April 2009 survey, examined wireless use. It reported that 56 percent of adults accessed the Internet by wireless means, most via a laptop. Just under a third accessed the Web via a cell phone or smart phone, representing a one third increase over December 2007. Leading this surge is African-Americans. They use mobile devices to access the Internet more than any other group, increasing this behavior by 141 percent since 2007. A reason this group is so overrepresented in this category , Pew said, is that it’s underrepresented in desktop, laptop and broadband access. Similar trends have been reported elsewhere with regard to locations: places that lagged in broadband access, for example, are leaping directly to wireless.
Steve Earley Oct. 5, 2009 COM 530 Synthesis Three: Reaching Interactive Media Audiences Spreadable Media Convergence expert Henry Jenkins, formerly of M.I.T. and currently of USC, and his colleagues take issue with the terms "viral" and "meme" to describe messages rapidly disseminated by users, suggesting instead the concept of "spreadable media." The other terms, they said, limit users to a more passive role than they actually play or understate the meaning that the messages have to users. Moreover, the theorists added, they wrongly focus on the choices media companies make rather than the choices media users make. Consumers, for example, often adapt slogans in ways the advertiser never intended as a means to express themselves, sometimes to criticize the company behind the ad. It's difficult to tell why certain messages spread, Jenkins and his team said, but, the common denominator seems to be that the messages are easy to pass along. Doing the spreading are groups of interconnected peers. This factor, the audience, is one four that influence a message's spredability. The other three are the media environment, business models and the content itself. LOLcats, one of the most well known Internet memes, is a instructive case study for how the potential for remixing promotes a meme's spread. The structure of LOLcats is specific -- the combination of juxtaposed images and broken English to achieve an irreverently humorous message -- but not overly so. There's no reason cats have to be the subject and what words and images are used is virtually limitless so long as they're derivative of the original LOLcats style. Indeed, the meme has been adapted for pictures of walruses and buckets. A more serious spreadability example is the VW Polo TV commercial spoof, which, never intended for public consumption, featured an Arabic man pulling alongside a cafe in a VW Polo, muttering some indistinguishable words and pressing a detonator. The ensuing explosion is confined to the interior of the car, playing off the tagline "Small but tough." The ad spread like wildfire, alternately hailed as humorous and trashed as tasteless and co-opted by a range of political subgroups. Attention-getting but pre-structured content, which could be generally characterized as Web 1.0, is considered "sticky." Stickiness is seen as at the opposite end of a scale from spreadability in which: Stickiness aims to maintain the focus of users while spreadability aims to pass a communication along. Stickiness is reliant on establishing a common user experiences while spreadability is reliant on a diversified one. Stickiness comes from pre-structured interactivity and spreadability comes from openended participation. Under stickiness, producers, marketers and consumers play distinct roles while under spreadability these roles blur. Amazon or eBay are textbook examples of the stickiness model while a band achieving
mainstream popularity through online communities is an example of the spreadability model. One isn't necessarily better than the other but organizations should consciously choose a model and be able to explain why. Easily adaptable, spreadable messages can also be said to be producerly. At times, achieving this malleability requires ceding some of a message's functional purpose. Promoters seeking a producerly advert, then, might not talk about specific product features or may cast generic characters rather than those representing their target markets. When making specific references, whether to an organization's culture or to popular culture, it's important that, like well-made family films, the content can work at different levels. In this landscape, ambiguity, historically a no-no in any communication, can be a successful ploy. In such cases, users' desire to solve the mystery created by the content does more marketing gruntwork than the content itself. Tags, a common organizational tool on the Web popularized by Del.icio.us precursor Muxway, can themselves become spreadable. Replicated tags create social proof and users create a community around the tags. This happens frequently with hashtags on Twitter. Why Certain Messages Spread Traditional theories can help explain why particular messages spread. Uses and gratifications theory, perhaps the traditional media model that holds up best in the new media age, suggests that users may pass along, modify, repurpose or parody a message for a number of different reasons. Someone may forward a message, for example, because she found it entertaining, because she found it informative, because it advocates a cause she believes in, because she feels it connects her with others or because she was being monitored by her boss and needed to do something to make her look busy. Along these lines, academic Yochai Benkler said: "Human beings are and always have been diversely motivated beings. We act instrumentally, but also noninstrumentally. We act for material gain, but also for psychological well-being and gratification and social connectedness. ... For instance, there are countless explanations for why people might join a particular social network or make the decisions they do when they come there." This list considers the various social factors that motivate the sharing of online content: To bolster camaraderie. To gather information and explain difficult-to-understand concepts. To establish the boundaries of an "in-group." Because the brand expresses something about users or the community. Because the content expresses a deeply held perception or feeling. Because responses to the content help determine who belongs in a community. The quarterly rfintentindex seeks to quantify the reasons people go online. It includes 295 reasons, from connecting and escaping to managing finances and getting health advice. The accuracy of such an index is suspect, however, as users may go online for a number of different reasons or go online intending to do one thing and end up doing another. Also, the advent of dynamic content means that the purpose of an Internet session be ambiguous at the onset, and assume meaning only after a user is presented with
something. It's probably partly a Web app addiction, but, I often log-in to Facebook for no explicit reason other than that I know there's a strong likelihood I will receive something of value. Maybe I'll read a link to news story that's of interest to me. Maybe someone posted a humorous video. Maybe a long-lost childhood friend friended me. The serendipity itself, in fact, could be motivation for many of these open-ended log-ins. More Than Just Consumers The participatory role new media audiences play has led theorists on a search for an alternative to the word consumer. Prosumers, loyals, connectors and multipliers are some they've offered. Andrew Lockhart of the Thinking Interactive blog suggests organizations let users fill in the blank. Allowing users to choose what they're called -- be it a fan, advocate or friend, for example -- helps them more strongly identify with an organization and instructs it how it should market to them. Too often, organizations seeking to build up their online presence are too push-modelminded and expect the audience to come to them or waste valuable resources creating their own versions of popular online communities no one will use because they're not as good as the original community and too narrowly focused. Organizations must meet their audiences where they're already gathering, but must be tactful about entering these spaces. For a public relations representative to just up and comment on an underground blog, other than to correct a blatant factual error, could be considered faux paus. He would be much better received, however, if he authored a blog of his own and had trackbacked to the other blog in the past. In a more specific example, the Web site FanLib sought to monetize fan fiction users wrote for free. A strong backlash ensued from the most ardent fan fiction enthusiasts, who claimed that commercializing their work was against the medium's culture. Still, a sizeable number of less sensitive users did patronize FanLib's site. To this end, communities aren't created, they're courted. And organizations, filmmaker Lance Weiler argues, must court a wide range of communities in order to be successful. This is the basis for what he calls "The Scattershot Approach." "The idea is to be available for your users in whichever way and every way they deem appropriate," Weiler said, "be it through a Web site, widget, RSS feed or embeddable video." As soon as the business world is catching up to Web 2.0, the proliferation of Webconnected smart phones is creating new places and ways to interact with audiences, Mobile Web 2.0, if you will. Only a few companies are truly embracing this opportunity. Search engines like Google and Yahoo are the single most common entry point for Web content and for this reason search engine optimization comprises an entire industry. A relatively new entry point Web site developers should pay attention to is real-time search, which, by culling frequently updated networks like Twitter and Flickr, attempt to deliver results "based on what is happening right now." The relatively nascent medium of Web video is another interaction node that's on the rise. More than two-thirds of U.S. marketers responding to an industry survey said they would focus their 2009 budgets on online video. Web video took off as a result of the confluence of three factors: Flash player technology,
uploadability and embedding code. Futurecasters serve themselves well by continuously scanning the horizon for intersecting variables such as these. Wade Cautiously, But Definitely Get Your Feet Wet It's worth noting that the business community did not establish a significant presence on the Internet until the mid-to-late-1990s, after the invention of the World Wide Web. The Interent was already a quarter-century old by this point. Its unique, sophisticated culture was already well established. Not surprisingly, then, Jenkins and his cohorts advise companies to wade cautiously into the social media waters. At the same time, they say, those who abstain from social media take a greater risk than those who carefully experiment with it. Organizations may want to use spreadable media to empower brand loyals, benefit from online word-of-mouth, to reach niche groups and to communicate with users where they are most comfortable. While viral videos and other Internet memes typically have short shelf-lives, spreadability can be most valuable for building long-term relationships with users rather than short-term ones. The norms that can make outsiders' entrances into online communities difficult are established by what social historian E.P. Thompson called the "moral economy." Of course, there is a moral economy in the traditional business world as well, and this can often conflict with the moral economy of the Internet. The controversy over mp3 file sharing illustrates the moral economy conflict well. Record companies said that downloading pirated music is akin to shoplifting and that users should pay steep financial damages for owning even a single unauthorized song. File sharers counter that they're only practicing the digital equivalent of loaning a friend their favorite record or giving someone a mixtape as a gift and that digital technology merely allows record companies to monitor this behavior on a scale they previously couldn't. This feud is a proxy fight between the commodity culture and the gift economy. Commodity culture, exemplified by capitalist enterprises, places greater emphasis on economic motives. Since its transactions leave no future obligation between either party, it discourages connectivity and tends to isolate wealth, in its context, money. The gift economy, exemplified by collaborative online communities like Wikipedia, places greater emphasis on social motives. Since its transactions are based on relationship building, it encourages connectivity and tends to spread wealth, in its context, knowledge. We don't have to look any further than the file sharing example to see that commodity culture and the gift economy can enjoy a symbiotic relationship if not a fully cooperative one. Western TV shows are enjoying commercial success overseas because of the promotion achieved by their wide distribution via illegal downloads on file sharing networks like BitTorrent. Affinity Spaces
For all this talk of online communities, community, some observers say, may not be the best word. Games scholar James Paul Gee is one of them. He prefers "affinity spaces," arguing that while users may be pulled together by common interests, engaging with each other is a secondary objective. For instance, do recording artist fan clubs people sign up for to get the latest news on the band or to receive exclusive songs truly represent communities? Technology leader Mitch Kapor presents a similar argument, saying collaborative filtering services like Digg and TiVo are "valid and interesting, but people are not connecting." To accommodate for this, Lara Lee of growth strategy firm Jump Associates offers three tiers of group interaction: Fans clubs are an example of hubs, which typically form around dynamic personalities -- think Bill Gates and Richard Branson -- but can also form around brands. Webs are decentralized groupings organized through individual social connections. Relationships among users are strongest here. Pools are when users have a loose association with each other but strong associations with a common endeavour such as a brand or political organization. If a media company such as a news organization knew certain target markets gravitated toward one group type over the others it could use this typography to offer them content they're more likely to respond to. Pools, for example, are likely to favor content that supports shared activities, like the Washington Post's annual Peeps diorama contest. Webs, meanwhile, are likely to favor content that sustains social connections, like The New York Times' TimesPeople application. Agency, the degree to which a user is invested in an experience, can go a long way toward making Web 2.0 campaigns successful. Campaigns that let users participate in the creation of the message are the height of agency. Wikipedia is as successful as it because of a small group of highly engaged users. Five hundred people, or 0.5 percent of users, account for 50 percent of the edits. But it could not possible without micro contributions from millions of people from across the globe. In this respect, it achieves a massive degree of collective intelligence via many, many low-threshold contributions. Contributing to a Wikipedia article in any respect, however, is an activity the average Internet user doesn't engage in. Digg, then, is more emblematic of leveraging low-threshold participation. There, one click is all it takes to contribute, no log-in required. Measuring And Presenting Data Statistical analysis is required to evaluate the effectiveness of a social media campaign. Different on-site analytics programs offer wide ranges of functionality but virtually all track these five core pieces of data: Bounce rate -- The percentage of users who leave a site very early on in their visit. Time on site Visitor location Visitor search terms Traffic source -- How did the user get to the site? Search engine? Referrer site? Typed
in the url? Clicked on an ad? Even technologically savvy organizations should stick to one on-site analytics tool as having more than one can complicate data management in subtle ways. Off-site analytics, or the quantification of a site's potential audience, share and buzz, is a discipline onto itself. In addition to analytics, site developers can gather audience data through polls, surveys, comments, e-mails and social media activity like Twitter tweets. For audience data to offer organizations any long-term value they must be able to track changes in the data over time. This requires regularly collecting identical or very similar variables using identical or very similar methods. Personas seek to get beyond numbers and into the personalities of site visitors. These archetypal representations of user types "describe user characteristics that lead to different collections of needs and behaviors." Personas experts recommend not pre-defining the number of personas and basing persons on real-life people. Surveys are a dominant method in any research and they are often used to help develop peronas. An intrinsic flaw of surveys is that they describe what users say they do, not necessarily what they do. Ethnographic research, or contextual observations, is a way to compensate for this. Eyetracking and heat maps are examples as they measure actual user behavior. Focus groups, best for emotive issues, too have their flaws, as they can be compromised by groupthink. Information visualizations are wonderful tools for efficiently communicating data, whether in-house or with an external audience. Successful visualizations require data munging, or "the painful process of cleaning, parsing, and proofing one's data before it's suitable for analysis." Usability and Accessibility Usability research requires similar discipline. It is essential to prove that previously identified issues have been resolved as well as to check whether any new problems have been introduced. Here, the intangible -- aesthetics, how users emotionally respond to the design -- are as important as the tangible -- how long it took a user to complete a particular task -- as poor intangibles can negatively influence users' perception of the content and overall experience. Also crucial is to continue testing after a site is launched. Web sites as much as any product are works in progress. Strong usability is characterized by four factors: Self-evidence -- Intuitive interface and big reward for minimal investment. Consistent and predictable. Speed -- Fast load times and clear, concise navigation. Feedback -- Messages and sounds guide users through the interaction, make it rewarding. Accuracy -- No errors in content or interactivity. Accessibility should also be an ongoing concern. Color is commonly used to aid navigation but 10 percent of males exhibit color blindness. About 8 percent of U.S. users
have some type of disability that complicates Web access. An excellent resource for learning about accessibility is the World Wide Web Consortium's Web Accessibility Initiative, online at www.w3.org/WAI. It includes best practices on creating accessible sites. Interactivity is all about giving users options, but there is such a thing as two many options. Research has shown that adults, like children, like some decisions made for them. They "feel most comfortable in an environment that is neither confining nor infinite, an environment explorable, but not hazardous." Indeed, a study showed that people working in hazardous environments work a lot slower than those in more comfortable environments. Interestingly, though, the hazardous environments did not increase the incidence of errors. Creating a line of least resistance for novice users or users in a hurry and more complex routes for advanced users or those who want to explore is one way to master this balancing act while maintaining usability and functionality for a diversity of visitors.
Running head: THE FUTURE OF THE INTERACTIVE NEWSROOM
The Future of the Interactive Newsroom Steve Earley Elon University
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Purpose To be a newspaper journalist in America today is at once terrifying and thrilling. Technology is threatening journalists' professional existence while also arming them with powerful tools their predecessors never could have imagined. Interactive databases enlist the audience in computer-assisted reporting. Mobile networks increase the reach and safety of journalists within authoritarian states. Social media facilitate a real-time conversation with audiences. For all journalists have accomplished without these tools — exposing corruption, uncovering human rights abuses, moving citizens to act when their government or peers will not — there is no telling what they will accomplish with them. Arguing for public and philanthropic support for independent journalism, Leonard Downie Jr. and Michael Schudson offered that digital technology empowers journalists to "research much more widely, update their work repeatedly, follow it up more thoroughly, verify it more easily, compare it with that of competitors, and have it enriched and factchecked by readers (Downie & Schudson, 2009, p. 3)." Journalists rightfully observe that they are working in an "exciting," "extraordinary" era (Project for Excellence in Journalism, 2008, p. 3). They are also on point when they say it is a "nerve-wracking," "tumultuous" one. The race is on to find a new model before the old model implodes. Monetizing Web and mobile content is a crucial part of this. So too is reorganizing human resources. Reporters and editors have more to do: producing fresh content several times a day instead of just once a day; publishing audio, video and interactive presentations instead of just pictures and text; communicating with their audience across a range of electronic platforms instead of just via phone, fax or snail mail. And there are fewer of them around to do it: The number of editorial employees at U.S. newspapers sank to 40,000 in 2009 (Downie & Schudson, 2009), about the same number as 1971, when there were both about a third fewer residents and about a third fewer newspapers (Newspaper Association of America, 2009b). Reorganizing efficiently is essential to newspapers' economic and journalistic health. Yet industry leaders lack clear direction. Only 5 percent of U.S. newspaper editors surveyed in 2008 by the Project for Excellence in Journalism said they could confidently predict their newsroom’s organizational structure five years hence (Project for Excellence in Journalism, 2008). This paper seeks to provide clarity to those editors and their peers by summarizing and analyzing best practices identified by researchers and practitioners and anticipating what may lie ahead. Best practices are organized into four areas: organizational structure, physical newsroom layout, workflow and corporate culture. Literature Review New Models As plummeting print advertising revenue — it has fallen more than a quarter since 2005 (Newspaper Association of America, 2009a) — leaves newspapers fighting for their
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survival, technically readership is at a record high. Sites of U.S. daily newspapers receive 75 million unique monthly visitors on top of the 51 million print copies they sell every day. (Price, 2009) The catch, of course, is that papers have yet to find a way to substantially monetize the Web. One approach gaining currency among executives is the cable TV model, in which the cost of gathering and delivering news would be built into Internet access fees. (Price, 2009). More frequently mentioned are the freeminum approach, in which basic content is made available for free and premium content is put behind a pay wall, and micropayments, like those on Apple's wildly successful iTunes music store. If newspapers find a way to sustain the traditional advertising model online, technology may increase their bargaining power with advertisers as Web analytics help them quantify what they have long been saying: that strong editorial content not only attracts readers but also attracts the type of educated, engaged readers advertisers most covet (Project for Excellence in Journalism, 2008). On the editorial side, some of the nation's most competitive papers are learning to get along so as to make more efficient use of their dwindling resources. Among them are Ohio's eight largest newspapers, four south Florida dailies including the Miami Herald, and The Baltimore Sun and The Washington Post (Price, 2009). Others are eyeing nonprofit status or educational partnerships. Meanwhile, innovative online competitors, some profitable, some not, are constantly emerging. GlobalPost, whose experienced editors coordinate more than 60 freelance correspondents in more than 40 countries, is among those turning heads (Price, 2009). On a smaller scale, the Fort Myers, Fla., News-Press is one of the many local papers supplementing professionals' work with that of citizen journalists. Producing smaller publications is another way papers are trying to stay afloat. Generally, both in terms of editorial space and newsroom positions, international and national news is shrinking and local news is growing. Some two-thirds of both large- and small-paper editors told the Project for Excellence in Journalism that they had increased the space devoted to local news (Project for Excellence in Journalism, 2008). Prognosticators see a future for watchdog and niche journalism, but worry true general-interest publications may be dying. The American Press Institute's four-step Newspaper Next approach contended that attempts at reinventing newspapers have been too traditional. It suggested nurturing core products while offering content that goes beyond news such as online communities; tailoring new advertising models to non-traditional clients; and investing â€” both financially and culturally â€” in innovation. Though budgets are tight, paying more now can save money later, suggested the print and online news veterans behind the 2007 book "News, Improved: How America's Newsrooms Are Learning to Change (McLellan & Porter, 2007)." The one third of newsrooms who recently increased training budgets in many cases reported increased productivity and retention, the authors said, noting that newspapers have historically under spent on training compared with other industries. Newspapers spend about one half of one percent of their payrolls on training, nearly two percentage points less than other industries, they said, citing an Inland Press analysis. With the pace of change as quick as it is and the stakes as high as they are, if newspapers are ever to commit to training, the authors argued, now is the time.
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New Attitudes Even when all the players in an organization agree on the end goals and they are technically and intellectually equipped to meet them, whether they do still rests on the attitudes that change is built around. Indeed, a 2008 study of four converging British newsrooms stressed that cultural issues, as well as training and logistical challenges, can impede change (Saltzis & Dickinson, 2008). A common obstacle in competitive, time-sensitive news environments is journalists' fear that by breaking news in a Web update, blog post or tweet they are scooping their core product. This issue concerns broadcast news organizations as well as print. TV news managers told Broadcasting and Cable that overcoming this means going beyond changing department names and job titles and "making the Web part of every staffer's workday" and embracing that Web and traditional products "are feeding off each other, instead of cannibalizing each other (Malone, 2008, p. 23)." Increasingly workers are being brought in from outside the news business to fill specialized technological roles, such as aggregating blog posts (Malone, 2008). Bringing in non-news nativists, who are also often younger than traditional staff, can lead to culture conflicts. That said, newcomers' lack of attachment to traditional models might be considered healthy friction for organizations so dependent on change. Younger, more tech-savvy staffs can be a double-edged sword in other ways. They exude an infectious energy but lack the institutional memory of the veteran journalists they replaced (Project for Excellence in Journalism, 2008). The new newsroom is also forcing journalists from rival mediums into the same space. Mixing media cultures can be like mixing oil and water. Take print and broadcast. Their narrative styles are inherently different. Print journalists do not reflexively view images as driving a newspiece. And it is generally more acceptable for broadcast journalists to let their personality into a story. (Singer, 2004) Perhaps because their professional identity is so closely linked with a single medium, journalists tend to believe skills are not readily transferable to other platforms and may distrust colleagues rooted in other media (Saltzis & Dickinson, 2008). Shattering this distrust can be as simple as allowing workers to interact with each other, whether sitting them in the same area of the newsroom or promoting collaborative workflow, case studies of four American print newsrooms suggested (Singer, 2004). They added that managers pursuing convergence can mitigate journalists' resistance to change in general and to the professional norms of specializations other than their own through transparent decision making that makes clear the motivations behind changes and explicitly identifies the desired end result. If multiskilling wins out, tomorrow's journalists will have no native medium. The approach has its champions and its critics. Proponents say that re-learning the craft of journalism within an unfamiliar medium makes one a better reporter on all platforms and that contributing to different storytelling forms promotes a greater sense of ownership of the content being produced (Saltzis & Dickinson, 2008). Opponents counter that while all media may belong to the
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same genus, they are different species. A BBC experiment with convergence is thought to have failed in part because of a consensus within the newsroom that "a good radio journalist is not necessarily a good television journalist and vice versa (Saltzis & Dickinson, 2008, p. 221)." Video, whose learning curve is steeper than other media, is especially linked to specialization. Getting employees and management on the same page is also critical. To avoid a disconnect between workers' and managers' attitudes, front-line employees should be involved in the decision-making process and managers at least exposed to ground-level production (L. Smith, Tanner & Duhe, 2007). Also, it is important for supervisors to exert confidence during the reorganization process and to anticipate hiccups endemic to sweeping workplace changes (Garcia, Alberto & Carvajal, 2008). Managers would too be wise to practice what they preach. For all the hype that journalists earnestly want to turn the old model on its head and fears they will be out of a job if they do not, by certain measurements, change is coming slow. There is a significant gap between the importance journalists assign to interactivity and the degree to which they actually apply it. The inertia of traditional journalism values, a study of online newsrooms in Spain found, is impeding progress (Domingo, 2008). The emphasis on immediacy, for example, can lead journalists to view interactivity as a distraction instead of an opportunity. And, a majority of so-called interactive elements were designed not to give audiences meaningful control but merely to get their attention. Reorganization Case Studies Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Frequently referenced in newsroom reorganization research is the Atlanta JournalConstitution's sweeping 2007 overhaul. Realizing that traditional print sections did not reflect the Web's information architecture, nor, increasingly, that of the print edition itself, the AJC started from scratch when building its newsroom of the future. Seeking a model that exploited its competitive edge, knowledge of metro Atlanta, it organized its newsroom into four autonomous but interdependent departments (McIntosh, 2007): ●News and Information, the largest, produces hard news, columns and information content. It is staffed dawn to midnight seven days a week. ●The Digital department is News and Information's first client. Digital prepares content for the Web and selects content for various channels such as sports and business. Its main job is to keep the site fresh. ●Enterprise produces watchdog, investigative, explanatory, narrative, criticism and other enterprise content. ●The Print department is Enterprise's first client. With the assistance of copy editors and designers, Print's presentation specialists assemble the best sections they can with the content produced by News and Information and Enterprise. The AJC's model abandoned conventions print newsrooms have relied on for decades. There is no metro editor, no sports editor, no features editor. No one person, in fact, sees a single section through start to finish (Stepp, 2007). In a Web-first world, there is no formal late-afternoon budget meeting.
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Even though his paper's model is frequently hailed as an exemplary approach, Shawn McIntosh, the AJC's then-Director of Culture and Change, said he was "certain that our newsroom won't continue to look the way we redesigned it. (McIntosh, 2007)." Pocono Record. Next to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's reorganization, the Stroudsburg, Pa., Pocono Record's is among the more radical mentioned in this report. Journalists from all mediums and market sizes reliably complain that simultaneous technological growth and revenue declines force them to do more with less. They have to do what they have always done plus readapt it and add to it for the Web. Well, managers at the Record argued, "we don't necessarily have to do everything we've always done (American Press Institute, 2008, p. 62)." Filling valuable print space with national and regional stories readers preferred to get from other sources was out. As was devoting an exorbitant portion of reporters' work weeks to attending public meetings. The Record upped local coverage by almost half and entrusted stringers to alert editors to any important goings on at meetings, freeing up reporters to focus less stenographic, more forward-looking pieces. What really differentiates the Record's transformation is its shift away from traditional reporting beats in favor of subject areas whose content reporters manage both in print and online. Reporters choose what stories to focus on, produce multimedia packages, monitor Web analytics, e-mail readers about new features and develop their own mission statement. Subject areas are determined through ongoing audience interviews, the first round of which indicated high demand for education, outdoors, crime, growth and infrastructure content. The approach, managers said, promotes a sense of ownership and entrepreneurial thinking, and creates opportunities to engage audiences who do not typically read newspapers (American Press Institute, 2008). Essentially, instead of trying to be all things to a core group of people, be a lot of little things to a lot of people. One example of this is the Record's expansion of its commuter news and traffic reports. And rather than just creating new sections in print or online, it is reaching commuters where commuters are — in their cars — via mobile text alerts. The Spokesman-Review. A reorganization model developed by The Spokesman-Review of Spokane, Wash., is remarkable less so for what it proposes than for who proposed it. Figuring that 20- and 30-somethings had more familiarity with the new media he was trying to rebuild his paper around than the veterans typically consulted about restructuring, then-Editor Steven A. Smith empowered a group of mostly young journalists — who internally came to be known as the "Gang of Eight" — to lay the foundation for a new organizational model (S. Smith, 2008). If that was not extraordinary enough, he scaled back the group's regular duties and granted them "subpoena" power over anyone in the newsroom. The Gang of Eight both reaffirmed veterans' thinking — stressing watchdog reporting — and challenged it —
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recommending a stronger copy editing system. The structure that emerged, which shifted priorities to add five local reporters, beef up the copy desk and establish a breaking news desk, was never tested, however, as just before it was to be implemented the publisher announced additional layoffs (S. Smith, 2008). Among its recommended changes was streamlining workflow, namely by adopting afternoon-paper style deadlines and creating a centralized editing desk comprising representatives of all departments. These changes, the group's report said, would allow fresh Web content to be posted throughout the day and promote higher quality print and online products (The Spokesman-Review, 2008). Moving away from traditional newspaper beats, the report divided labor according to type of reporting, independent of geography or topic. For example, there are reporting groups for breaking news, watchdog journalism and hyperlocal coverage. The task force embraced generalization in parts â€” combining photography and videography responsibilities â€” and specialization in others â€” keeping videography and other alternative storytelling methods voluntary among reporters. When Change Attempts Backfire. Within a complex, constantly-moving system, well-intended actions can produce negative results, either instead of or in addition to their stated goals. Occasionally, a management initiative can completely backfire, producing the exact opposite behavior it was intended to induce. This happened to the editor of the mid-sized urban paper when he instructed his reporters to produce more enterprise stories and less daily news, as detailed in a case study by scholar David M. Ryfe (Ryfe, 2009). While a number of communication and cultural issues were at play, the editor's biggest mistake, perhaps, was his assumption that daily news and enterprise reporting are mutually exclusive. Other research cited by Ryfe and his interviews with reporters from the anonymous publication offer that the beat reporting routines they were instructed to avoid are worth more than the immediate news they produce. They are where a reporter nourishes the relationships that enable him to uncover and investigate engaging enterprise topics. Furthermore, when reporters face uncertainty like that created by the editor's mandate, they tend to fall back on these routines because they are what they know. On a deeper level, the beat structure, on which decades of journalists have based their career advancement and professional reputation, is closely linked with reporters' personal identity. The editor, for his part, blamed the failure on reporters' inability "to think in a sophisticated way about the news (Ryfe, 2009, p. 677)." To avoid new policies from backfiring so severally, Ryfe suggested, managers should cultivate a sense of belonging before initiating radical change. Original Interviews Methodology To obtain first-hand recommendations for organizing the newsroom of the future,
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I e-mailed managing editors, online editors or executive editors from 13 newspapers seeking interviews with managers. At one of those papers, I asked to talk to front-line staff as well. Of those 13, six responded, and of those six, three granted interviews with themselves or other personnel. I also e-mailed officials from four state or national newspaper associations seeking suggestions on publications for me to contact. None replied. In selecting the initial 13 papers, I aimed for a balance of newspaper market sizes and sought out publications that were cited either in research, trade press or contests as having innovative approaches. Of the 13, six are based in North Carolina, as I suspected managers at in-state papers would be more likely to have familiarity with my university and therefore more likely to grant me interviews. Supporting this hunch, all three of the publications that granted me interviews are North Carolina dailies. Still, they ended up representing a reasonable diversity of paper sizes and organizational approaches. I conducted 30-minute phone interviews with online news managers from the 176,000-circulation Raleigh News & Observer and 16,000-circulation The (Shelby) Star, asking each seven questions aimed at eliciting best practices for organizational structure, physical newsroom layout, workflow and corporate culture plus one question specific to each paper. I interviewed the Greensboro News & Record's Director of New Media content, video producer, online editor and a reporter during a two-hour visit to the 78,000circulation paper, asking them similar but, given their diverse roles, more open-ended questions than those I asked personnel at the other papers. Paper Profiles News & Record. While its Web content is managed by its Interactive division, technically a separate entity from the newsroom, the News & Record of Greensboro, N.C., encourages all of its editorial employees to be proficient in new media, offering training seminars, posting how-to videos on an internal blog, allowing reporters and editors to post their own Web updates and inviting staff to try out tasks not part of their traditional duties such as recording video voiceovers. But it does not force such skills upon workers. "To be honest, I don't care about that person," Director of New Media Content Mike Grossman said of any employee opposed to new tools. "Let's work with the people who really want to learn (Grossman, interview, October 14, 2009)." Resistance has been light, according to employees, who said that fear, not opposition, explains most uneasiness. While a few reporters may consider Web updates a burden, others see them as a blessing. "It kind of prompts us to follow the story as it happens instead of just kind of waiting. It's a great tool" said Ryan Seals, a criminal justice reporter who previously handled evening Web updates. "I know a lot of reporters don't like it. They'd rather have all the details when they sit down to write. But in today's multimedia environment, you got to get the information out there (Seals, interview, October 14, 2009)."
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In any case, without much prodding, reporters have made a habit of promptly filing a Web version for breaking stories and events they covered in-person. Journalists who take on more advanced Web-related duties, such as acquiring video or audio or producing slideshows, learn to better conceptualize multimedia content, Grossman said. They also free up his staff to focus on its core goal of generating Web traffic, he added. Even among employees who cross over between print and online, the distinct orientations of the two realms are clear. "It's a different mission statement, print versus online," said Online News Editor Mike Fuchs, who in addition to writing early morning hard news items for the paper's Web site authors a blog and print column about the retail industry (Fuchs, interview, October 14, 2009). Playing to their audiences, online assumes a regional focus, and print a local focus. This was made plain in mid-October 2009 when a story one city over about the death of a police officer wounded in the line of duty led the paper's homepage but ran inside the print edition. Confusion among readers prompted an explanatory note on the editor's blog (Robinson, 2009). News & Observer. Mapping out a Web strategy at the dawn of Web 2.0, two decisions at the Raleigh, N.C., News & Observer went a long way toward winning the hearts and minds of potentially reluctant print nativists: Hiring a 20-year print veteran as its online managing editor and stating in no uncertain terms that online is important as the flagship product. "It went remarkably smoothly," said the editor, Eric Frederick. "There was no resistance other than the sort of back-of-the-corner grousing you get that you have to do so much (Frederick, interview, October 19, 2009)." Outside of reporters and editors writing Web updates and blog posts, crossplatform work is rare, said Frederick, a former front page editor who got his start in sports. His six-person Web team, which sits near the center of a newsroom organized according to traditional print sections like metro, sports and features, is behind the vast majority of other Web-only content. Virtually everything that runs in print also runs online. After merging photojournalists and two Web workers into a cross-platform team, the paper has gravitated back to a more compartmentalized approach, Frederick said. Still, the News & Observer has proved it can be flexible. Two successful Web initiatives, a political blog and parenting microsite, were the brainchildren of staff reporters. The Star. When it comes to breaking news, The Star of Shelby, N.C., has its foot on the accelerator. Literally. Where big stories are happening and on its homepage banner, you will find its Star Car. Developed and financed through a partnership with the University of South Carolina, the four-wheel-drive newsroom has its own wireless signal, laptop, Web cam and an extra battery for charging equipment.
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Perhaps because the paper covers a close-knit community where crime gets people talking, breaking news fundamentals have long been a part of The Star's culture. The Web, Online Editor Emily Killian said, merely lets them shine through (Killian, interview, October 22, 2009). Almost as soon as the paper's reporters know something big might be happening, Web site visitors do. "Say a reporter goes out to a [car crash], we go ahead and post what we know so far, saying we've got a reporter on the way," said Killian, one of 11 full-time newsroom employees. "We want to let people know we're following up on this — we're on the ball." Once a reporter confirms the basic details, the paper e-mails an alert to breaking news subscribers. Subsequent Web updates are serialized on a single page, blog style, enabling readers to see the evolution of a story no matter when they pick it up. If it is an especially big story, the paper will stream live video from the scene using the Star Car's Web cam. While such unpolished content may go against what print audiences typically want, it is what online audiences crave, said Killian, noting that identifying content as "raw" increases hits. Research Questions Research Question 1: What are best practices for the corporate culture of an interactive newsroom? ●Firmly established in the News & Record's culture are that beyond filing midcycle updates for time sensitive stories, Web-related tasks should be widely encouraged, but not forced upon the print newsroom, and that print and online have two distinct audiences. Even in a newsroom that includes journalists who started their careers writing on typewriters, resistance is low, according to Grossman. That does not mean that burying the "gatekeeper mentality that we could monopolize the news" did not take some time, Fuchs said. At first "There were a lot of 'Aren't we scooping ourselves?' questions," he said. "Now people get it. We're not seeing it as scooping ourselves if we get it to readers first." ●The News & Observer wanted to make clear that the Web was on equal footing with print. It did so through actions — hiring a print veteran as online editor — and words. "There was a nice sort of a statement of mission — not a written statement but sort of an emphasis made from the very top, from the executive editor on down that this is now your job — it's as important as anything else you're doing," Frederick said. ●All of The Star's journalists, even feature reporters, who are unlikely to regularly cover breaking news, are trained on how to use the Star Car's mobile newsroom, Killian said. In such a climate, workers quickly grasp the importance of the Web without having it shoved down their throats. "We've never been all that formal about it," Killian said. "If a reporter is going to a scene and I see they don't have a camera, I say, 'Hey, grab that camera.' It's just kind of a shared effort. We've not had significant resistance."
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If employees want to learn a more advanced multimedia skill, someone will train them; if they want to stick to the basics, that's accepted, too. Research Question 2: What are best practices for the organizational structure of an interactive newsroom? ●Even though the News & Record's five-person Web content team is stationed in the newsroom adjacent to news reporters, on the organizational chart it is one group of the paper's Interactive division, which also includes advertising and production teams. Interactive staff will sit in on relevant print meetings, but there are no formal crossplatform teams. The Interactive division's ultimate mission is to generate Web traffic, and, to that end, its editorial and advertising employees maintain a closer relationship than seen on the pint side. For example, editorial might pull more business stories from the wires if advertising thought it could generate sales. Advertising considerations would not influence the subjects or placement of those stories, Grossman said. ●While the Raleigh News & Observer has encouraged print journalists interested in taking on Web tasks and experimented with a cross-platform team, it maintains a traditional print-section-based organizational structure supplemented by a six-person Web desk (Frederick). ●With an 11-person newsroom, The Star can accommodate a flat organizational structure easier than its larger counterparts. "In terms of structure we're really quite flexible," Killian said (Killian, interview, October 22, 2009). Crosstraining is common. This ensures someone can pick up the duties of a coworker who's sick for a week and promotes camaraderie. The goal, Killian said, is to give workers ownership of their domains but encourage them to get to know the domains of others. Research Question 3: What are best practices for the physical layout of an interactive newsroom? ●Interactive content employees sit adjacent to reporters in the News & Record's main newsroom, whose cubicles are arranged according to the print production process: reporters are in the back, editors in front of reporters, the copy desk in front of editors and production in front of the copy desk. Interactive’s video producer works down the hall, next to the division's multimedia studio. ●Online workers sit near the center of the 125-employee News & Observer newsroom, a prairie dog cubicle arrangement organized by print sections. Preferably the Web staff would be directly in the center, Frederick said, as this best promotes communication with other journalists. Economic considerations can get in the way of what is ideal, however. As its workforce shrinks, the News & Observer is consolidating workers into one building of its downtown complex so that it can sell or lease the space it is not using, Frederick said. "There's no philosophical concept behind the structure of the newsroom," he said. "It's more of a necessity."
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●The Star's open newsroom encourages synergy between old and new media projects, Killian said. "We don't even have cubicles. We just have desks, and for me, that's important," she said. "We don't have much privacy, but I think that's something I would give up 100 times over just to holler out to the other side of the room." Research Question 4: What are best practices for the workflow of an interactive newsroom? ●Responsibility for a story might be passed among multiple News & Record reporters, starting with online staff and shifting to print, over the course a work day. If something big happens overnight, Fuchs is the first on it. He rises at 5 a.m., flips on the morning shows and reads public safety press releases over breakfast and posts summaries of anything newsworthy (Fuchs, interview, October 14, 2009). Whatever Fuchs does not get to is inherited by the morning Web reporter, who also checks the wire and makes cops calls when he arrives at 6:30 a.m. Updates ideally are published by the 8 a.m. Web traffic rush that comes as readers arrive at work. The day cops reporter and, if a story has especially long legs, the night cops reporter, may assume guardianship from there (Seals, interview, October 14, 2009). Throughout the day, reporters are encouraged to post their own Web updates as soon as they learn of something significant. Sometimes updates are not copy edited until after they are posted. Web journalism is about more than just articles, of course. It is also about video, audio and interactive presentations. Logistical or technical demands mean that a specialist often produces multimedia content. A reporter may still conceive the story, however, especially if the multimedia is supplementing a text piece. Video Producer Michael McQueen said that an internal multimedia request form the News & Record recently introduced has encouraged stronger content and increased efficiency. It forces reporters to evaluate the likely value of the finished product and to consider logistical issues like whether they have allotted enough time for a video to be edited, he said. It also creates a paper trail, promoting accountability. Previously, reporters would request multimedia content orally or through less formal written communications. ●Reporters at the News & Observer aim to file a Web update anytime there is a significant development to a timely story. The print version of the story is generally expected to go beyond the five W's of what happened and explore the context or what is likely to happen next (Frederick, interview, October 19, 2009). Online staff handle the actual uploading of stories to the Web except for blogs, which are published by their authors. ●At The Star, the process of updating breaking news for the Web is leveraged to produce a current, complete version of the story for the next morning's paper, according to Killian, who said that thanks to the newsroom's breaking news focus, updates are usually frequent enough that little or no changes are made to the print version.
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Analysis Reorganization Best Practices Corporate Culture. On the gridiron, a high octane offense or a stingy defense can get you to the Super Bowl just the same. Indeed, recent title games have showcased some vastly different styles. Building the newspaper of the future is not any different. If it works, no one approach is better than another. Every successful team, and every successful company, however, shares at least one thing: a winning culture. This was manifested throughout my research. Get the culture right, and changes to organizational structure, newsroom layout and workflow have a much better chance of succeeding. Get it wrong, and they are likely to fail. The other variables are easy enough to change on the fly, culture much less so. Crafting a culture means asking how process and personnel changes will complement or contradict existing attitudes, then nurturing the connections and pacifying the conflicts. Process changes can include adding tasks to — mid-cycle Web updates — or removing tasks from — gavel-to-gavel meeting coverage — workers’ routines. To nurture connections, managers can portray the 24-7 news cycle as a means to more aggressive reporting. To pacify conflicts, managers can insulate fundamental areas, like investigative reporting, from cuts. Personnel changes can include bringing in workers from rival media — hiring a broadcast veteran to produce Web videos — or from outside of journalism — hiring a Web developer with a background in e-commerce. To nurture connections, managers can demonstrate that changes advance the public interest values common to all media platforms. To pacify conflicts, managers can promote collaboration between journalistic and technical workers and honor their contributions equally. Once managers decide on a direction, they have to decide how aggressively to pursue it. Do they force workers to reapply for their jobs and become multimedia proficient? Or do they encourage workers to modernize their traditional roles at their own pace? An organization with a relatively young staff whose short-term survival is dependent upon finding a new model might choose the former; an organization with a core of veteran journalists whose short-term survival is not under threat might choose the latter. Organizational Structure. That no single best organizational structure emerged from my research underscores the need to be flexible. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution put a lot of thought and effort into its 2007 reorganization and received its share of praise for it, yet one of the model's principal architects readily admitted it is likely to be replaced sooner rather than later. These are experimental times and managers should accept them as such. Perhaps
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the only inherently wrong organizational structure is that which is overly rigid. The News & Observer, on its face, has a very traditional structure. Yet, it has bent it when it saw innovation opportunities. When a political reporter's blog took off, the reporter was moved to that platform full time. A metro reporter was freed from some of her regular duties for a year to run a parenting Web community. Likewise, on paper, the News & Record's Web staff form a distinct division. But they interact regularly with the print newsroom, attending many of the same meetings. Opportunities for print journalists to test the Web waters are virtually limitless. They are not only allowed to but encouraged to post their own Web updates, shoot video and even record voiceovers. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution manager's admission, and The SpokesmanReview's experience, in which it invested considerable resources in a reorganization plan only to see further staffing cuts render it inoperable, should give managers pause. In this light, though none of the papers I studied made extensive use of them, less permanent team models seem worth considering. Physical Newsroom Layout. To the extent that a newsroom has specialized Web employees, they should be interspersed among the general newsroom population or situated near the center of the newsroom. Subjects in both my original interviews and literature review could not have spoken highly enough about the value of informal, face-to-face conversation. Proximity encourages employees to ask questions they otherwise would not and enables them to overhear information they never would have thought to ask about. It also gets employees interacting socially, essential to overcoming distrust between new and old media workers or workers from rival media. This area may not be worth obsessing over, however. Several indicators suggest that tomorrow's journalists may spend little of their time inside a newsroom. The Star's Star Car shows what is already possible in the realm of mobile journalism. As mobile technology becomes more reliable and less expensive, entire fleets of mobile journalism cars, or kits journalists use in their own cars, may become commonplace. A mobile journalism push is already well under way at Gannett, America's largest newspaper chain, where "mojos" continuously upload stories and videos via carbased laptops and audio and video equipment (Birckner & Reddig, 2009). Furthermore, outsourcing traditional tasks to non-newsroom employees â€” as the Pocono Record did when delegating meeting coverage to stringers â€” is becoming increasingly attractive as newspapers' resources and roles evolve. And, as the News & Observer's consolidation of its multi-building complex highlights, capital overhead is, ask any brick-and-mortar business, an enormous drain on revenue, and one that many of newspapers' new media competitors don't have. Workflow. There is ample of opportunity for synergy between old and new media workflows. Continuously updating stories for the Web encourages more aggressive reporting that can form or inform the next day's print piece. Learning, or least being exposed to, a new
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medium can make one a better storyteller across all platforms. Print stories can be adapted into multimedia pieces. Multimedia pieces can be adapted into print stories. Maximizing opportunities for such efficiencies can go a long way toward addressing probably the mostly common complaint among journalists about these transitional times: that they are being asked to do more with less. A crucial realization, however, is that papers do not necessarily have to do more, or at least not as much as they think. Yes, there are innumerable new Web-related tasks a paper has little choice but to take on. But, it doesn't have to — and in many cases would be better off not doing — everything else it has always done. The Pocono Record embraced this in its reorganization, thumbing its nose at some of print journalism's most entrenched practices. National and regional news, it decided, were taking up too much space in its local newspaper. News beats developed decades ago, it ruled, were not producing the types of content readers were interested in. Amid such rapid change, newspapers must not lose sight of their core strengths. The best technology, the best organizational structure, the best business model, are only as strong as the reporting they are built on. "In this media age, in this age of the iPhone, it's still blood, sweat and tears, getting sources, checking paper trails," the News & Record's Fuchs said. "You still have to do all that tedious investigative journalism to get to the bottom of something (Fuchs, interview, October 14, 2009)." Looking Ahead Forecasting the future means purposely getting ahead of oneself. Before doing that, consider that the Web is less than 20 years old. Everyone is new at this. Beware of anyone overly assured of what is going to happen next. Also consider that the reports of newspapers' death have been greatly exaggerated. Yes there will be fewer newspapers. Yes they will play a diminished role. But they are not going to vanish overnight. The newspapers that survive, and yes, even proposer, will be the ones that best figure out not just what to do, but what they can afford not to do. Driving these decisions will be technology, social media, the mobile Web and electronic paper in particular. While social media enable news organizations to spread information quickly, their greatest value to news organizations is their ability to collect feedback from audiences. Recognizing this, the News & Record is considering hiring a social media ombudsman. "I think that will be a focal point," Grossman said (Grossman, interview, October 14, 2009). If social media is Web 2.0, the fast-growing mobile Web is Web 3.0. It is only a matter of time before always-connected, all-in-one mobile devices — whose worldwide penetration grew 400 percent the first eight years this decade (Birckner & Reddig, 2009) — become as ubiquitous as traditional cell phones. The opportunities this creates for media companies are enormous. Mobile devices will be, and for many already are, a users' alarm, train ticket, banking client, concierge service, games console, TV, mp3 player, and, yes, newspaper. Because they depend on them for so much, users develop an intimate relationship with their mobile devices.
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Devices become extensions of their users. Users feel naked without them. For a newspaper's content to be part of this? Talk about access. Media companies users let in to this space will be those whose content complements the devices' other functions. One-size-fits-all content is out. Contextual content based on users' location, purchases, interests and mood is in. Taking advantage of the mobile Web are electronic readers, like Amazon's Kindle, that enable users to view content in a more efficient, easier-on-the-eyes format than a desktop, laptop, or traditional mobile device. Kindle and its contemporaries resemble lightweight tablets, but Massachusetts-based E Ink, among other developers, is working on bringing flexible, more paper-like displays to market (Casatelli, 2009). E-readers offer newspapers several advantages over traditional print and electronic displays. They eliminate ink and paper expenses, accommodate instant updates, enable natural print-style navigation, and, instead of being backlit like customary monitors, they reflect light, reducing eye strain. And, by isolating publishers' content from the Web at large, they decrease opportunities for readers to surf away (Mcginn, 2008). Of course, the most sophisticated technology is only as good as the humans running it. And technology, which alternately displaces jobs by automating tasks and creates jobs by requiring someone to manage it, can force some tricky human resources decisions. Surprisingly often, the News & Observer's Eric Frederick said, managers flip who — humans or machines — should perform a given task. "Don't make machines do what people are supposed to do and don't make people do what machines are supposed to do," Frederick said. "Machines are built to do repetitive tasks quickly. People are supposed to do the creative thinking, the editing, to make the decision as far as what makes sense when you're presenting news to people." He illustrated his point with two examples from his own paper. In the first, relying on print edition positioning, it automated story placement on its home page. In the second, after a staffer who tagged stories for instant Web posting was laid off, it had other workers manually post stories — a two-hour process. As technology gets more advanced, managers also must decide, Do I hire someone grounded in journalism and teach her the technology? Or do I hire someone grounded in technology and teach her the journalism? Editors will generally choose the former. "It really does help to have people on your staff — and they're rare — who have good news sense but also know how the back-end systems work — people who can think creatively in both realms," Frederick said. "If you can find those people — and I have a couple of them — you really need to cultivate those people." Making a case for the latter, McQueen, the News & Record's video producer, warned not to underestimate his medium's learning curve. "Hire someone — even if it's a freelancer or a part-timer — that knows video," he stressed. Suggestions for Further Research My literature review and interviews with six newspaper professionals provided a illuminating snapshot of the state of the industry, where it may be headed and how it all
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informs newsroom organization. Subjects' responses both confirmed and challenged the conclusions of my literature review case studies, revealing patterns but also identifying alternative approaches worth exploring. For newcomers to this topic, this paper can help them quickly get up to speed. For insiders, it is more of a device to frame their thinking. What is worth paying attention to? What is not? To this end, it provides a number of jumping off points for additional research. The groundwork I've laid out here could be leveraged into interviews of a larger, more diverse sample of newspaper journalists. And, even though my most open-ended questions drew some of my most valuable responses, a scientific survey of this larger sample may be instructive, as it could reveal trends more subjective analyses like my own might overlook. In hindsight, my focus may have been too broad. Any one of my four research questions would have been more than enough to support a complete paper. For each research question topic — culture, organizational structure, physical newsroom layout, and workflow — subtopics leaped out at me as worthy of further study. For culture, other researchers might want to examine successful methods of communicating the culture of change. If culture is a prerequisite for the other three areas, communicating that culture is a perquisite for it all. For the most focused, most compatible culture does an organization no good if it is not communicated properly. For organizational structure, other researchers might want to examine new media organizations founded since the emergence of Web 2.0. Legacy media companies like the ones like the ones I studied, and even dotcom-era Web companies, did not have the luxury of designing an organizational model from scratch to serve this new era. They were forced to adapt a model born in a different environment. Pure inertia and the disruption of changing structures on the fly, particularly in a 24-7 news environment, in many cases prevent systems from being as innovative as even the designers themselves would prefer. For physical newsroom layout, other researchers might want to examine the strengths and weaknesses of current and predicted mobile journalism technologies and weigh what is gained — money otherwise spent on overhead — against what is lost — face-to-face collaboration — as newsrooms become increasingly virtual. For workflow, other researchers might want to examine copy editing's role in the era of Web journalism. Amid shrinking staffs and a push to report news in real time, copy editing appears to be losing currency. But as legacy media organizations recruit new audiences, often differentiating themselves from new media competitors based on the dependability of their brands, it stands to reason that quality control should be as important as ever.
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Circulation.aspx. Price, Tom. (2009). Future of Journalism. CQ Researcher. 19(2), 273-296. Project for Excellence in Journalism. (2008). The Changing Newsroom: What Is Being Gained and What is Being Lost in America's Daily Newspapers?. Washington, D.C.: Marshall, Tyler. Robinson, John. (2009). What makes a front page story. News-Record.com. Retrieved from http://www.news-record.com/blog/56184/entry/72755. Ryfe, David M. (2009). Structure, Agency and Change in an American Newsroom. Journalism. 10, 665-83. Saltzis, Konstantinos, Dickinson, Roger. (2008). Inside the Changing Newsroom: Journalists' Responses to Media Convergence. Aslid Proceedings: New Information Prospectives. 60(3), 216-228. Singer, Jane B. (2004). More Than Ink-Stained Wretches: The Resocialization of Print Journalism Converged Newsrooms. Journalism and Mass Communications Quarterly. 81(4), 838-57. Smith, Laura K., Tanner, Andrea H., Duhe, Sonya Forte. (2007). Convergence Concerns in Local Television: Conflicting Views From the Newsroom. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media. 51(4), 555-574. Smith, Steven A. (2008). Adding Young Voices to the Mix of Newsroom Advisors. Nieman Reports. 62(4), 32-34. Spokesman-Review, The. (2008). Reorganizing Task Force Report. Spokane, Wash.: Bose, Rajah, Eaton, Nick, Howell, Parker, Immel, Brian, McElligott, Moore, Emily, Smith, Kathryn, Zahler, Andrew. Stepp, Carl Sessions. (2007). Transforming the Architecture. American Journalism Review. Retrieved from http://www.ajr.org/article.asp?id=4402.
THE FUTURE OF THE INTERACTIVE NEWSROOM Flash presentation online at http://student.elon.edu/searley/presentation
Steve Earley Sept. 21, 2009 COM 530 The Future of the Newsroom: Using Interactivity to Improve News Gathering and Delivery ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY American Press Institute. (2008). Newspaper Next 2.0: Making the Leap Beyond "Newspaper Companies." Reston, Va.: Gray, Stephen T. This smartly designed, information-packed resource, part of a special American Press Institute project to define best practices for the newspaper of the future, includes 24 case studies, examples of innovative approaches and prospective models for monetizing online content. For its scope, it's exceptionally detailed itself, and provides dozens of jumping off points for additional exploration. Throughout the report, authors tie analysis back to API's four-step Newspaper Next approach: Maximizing the core business model, building new audiences by fulfilling "jobs" beyond news, using new business models to fulfill "jobs" of current and new business customers and creating innovation structures and enablers within the company. This report should prove invaluable for quickly getting a feel for what many different newsrooms are doing and for discovering potential interview subjects. Dickson, Glen. (2009). AP's Multi-Platform Shift. Broadcasting & Cable. 139(22), 14. This trade press story briefs newscasters on upcoming updates to the software some 700 of them use to produce, organize and run their programs. By late next year, the article says, The Associated Press plans to roll out a new version of its Electronic New Production System designed to better handle content intended for platforms other than a 30- or 60- minute newscasts. Parent-child content management is at the heart of the overhaul: Each story will have a parent version and optional TV, Web and mobile child versions. Updates to the parent are reflected in all of the children. The new system is also expected to allow editing of multiple children in a single window, sharing of content among multiple stations and use of metadata to make stories more easily accessible outside the context of the traditional newscast rundown. This was one of the few sources I encountered that dealt specifically with information technology, one of the areas I want to identify newsroom best practices for. Domingo, David. (2008). Interactivity in the Daily Routines of Online Newsrooms: Dealing With an Uncomfortable Myth. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. 13(3), 680-704. Case studies of four news organizations in northeast Spain reinforced the observation in the author's literature review that there is a significant gap between journalists' perceived
value of interactivity and the degree to which they actually apply it. The inertia of traditional journalism values, he said, are slowing change. The emphasis on immediacy, for example, leads journalists to view interactivity as a distraction instead of an opportunity. And, a majority of so-called interactive elements were designed not to give audiences meaningful control but merely to get their attention. Other obstacles to true interactivity that were manifested in the case studies: relying almost exclusively on traditional newsworthiness criteria despite access to detailed Web traffic data, developing systems to limit audience contact due to the volume of messages â€” broadly targeted press releases, spam, reprint requests, technical complaints â€” that distracted from news gathering and limiting opportunities for user-generated content. Being cognizant of the disconnect between journalists' enthusiasm for interactivity and the minimal extent to which they practice it, the author said, is an important step for those initiating reorganization processes. Fahmy, Shahira. (2008). How Online Journalists Rank Importance of News Skills. Newspaper Research Journal. 29(2), 23-29. Unlike other surveys of its ilk, Fahmy's poll asked online news professionals themselves, not traditional editors, what skills they value in Web journalists. The 245 surveyed listed ability to learn, editing, reporting and spelling as top traditional journalism skills; shooting photos, imaging production, graphics/layout and multimedia delivery as top digital journalism skills; and accessibility and html/xml/xhtml as top Web coding skills. Knowing what skills practitioners think are important is instructive for setting up an organizational model. Other points of note: Three fourth of respondents said they do not collaborate with traditional editorial staff. Nine in 10 said their Web traffic was rising, but remained a poor money-maker. One editor said that despite breaking even for the first time, his paper's site sill represented a tiny fraction of overall revenue. Historically, the application of interactive storytelling tools have been uninspired. Journalists tend to repurpose traditional content in a non-linear, one-size-fits all manner. Gade, Peter J. (2008). Journalism Guardians in a Time of Great Change: Newspaper Editors' Perceived Influence in Integrated News Organizations. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly. 85(2), 371-392. With regard to their relative influence with non-news departments, newspaper editors appear to think they can have it both ways, Gade's survey of 274 top editors found. The author flagged what he called "an inconsistent optimism:" "Editors think they can be influential voices for journalism throughout their organizations, while being effective at limiting the influence of business interests inside the newsroom." With regard to reforming journalists' relationships with themselves, other researchers have endorsed the use of reporting teams, saying they produce a greater number of stories and more noteworthy ones. Editors told Gade, however, that they dislike the team approach, perhaps because the extra training and planning it requires mean less time for news gathering and production. While my research aims to inform only intra-newsroom
restructuring models, this source suggests that those models should consider the influence of non-news departments and their potential threat to journalistic values. García Avilés, José Alberto, Carvajal, Miguel. Integrated and Cross Media Newsroom Convergence: Two Modes of Multimedia News Production — The Cases of Novotécnica and La Verdad Multimedia in Spain. Convergence, 14(2), 221-239. Whether a news organization favors an aggressive or passive approach to multimedia convergence is less critical to a successful reorganization than the engagement level of their managers, in-depth reviews of operations at two Spanish newsrooms concluded. Managers, researchers said, should exert confidence during the implementation process and anticipate hiccups endemic to sweeping workplace changes. Novotécnica instructed its journalists to gather news with a platform agnostic mindset and let editors pick the best way to deliver content. La Verdad Multimedia maintained distinct print and broadcast newsrooms but kept their respective editors in close contact. Novotécnica's more aggressive stance led to greater immediate turnover, but workers at both companies expressed fears that the demands of feeding multiple platforms would compromise the quality of content. While the researchers don't take a stance on the relative integrity of the two models, since they're so different, they should make for useful reference points when studying other systems. Huang, Edgar, Davison, Karen, Shreve, Stephanie, Davis, Twila, Bettendorf, Elizabeth, Nair, Anita. (2006). Bridging Newsrooms and Classrooms: Preparing the Next Generation of Journalists for Converged Media. Journalism & Communication Monographs. 8(2), 221-262. As with others like it, this study, intended to help journalism schools shape their curricula, tangentially informs my research. While a lot of what it covers isn't pertinent, especially its occasional philosophical musings on the role of a modern university, the data it provides on practitioners' opinions and practices are helpful. Also, given the extent news organizations rely on universities — as an intern talent pool, trainer of rookie hires who in turn train others and direct professional development partner — what schools are doing should be taken into account when developing a newsroom model. The authors' survey of U.S. professors, professionals and editors revealed support for multiskilling — 78 percent said learning myriad skills such as writing, TV production, digital photography and Web publishing was important — but not at the expense of specialization — nearly two-thirds said it's still important to become an expert in one medium. In contrast to other research, an equal proportion of professionals and editors — about four in 10 — reported being concerned that convergence would decrease quality. Malone, Michael. (2008). New Media New Newsrooms. Broadcasting & Cable. 138(2), 22-23. This brief piece provides a snapshot into the attitudes and actions of television journalists as they adapt their operations to new media. Changing the names of divisions and positions is prevalent, but employees acknowledged that changing the culture, "making
the Web part of every staffer's workday," for example, is perhaps more evolution than revolution. One manager spoke of the need to embrace that on screen and online "are feeding off each other, instead of cannibalizing each other." Like their print counterparts, TV stations are trying to accomplish a broader mission with a slimmer staff. Younger workers are being put into decision-making roles. Increasingly, new hires come from outside TV. In some cases, stations prefer that recruits have no broadcast experience. While my research is focusing on the reorienting of historically print newsrooms, it is helpful to examine how another medium is tackling these shared challenges. Indeed, successful reorganizations are likely to be ones where a newsroom visitor can't readily guess the ancestor medium. McIntosh, Shawn. (2007). Strategically Reorganizing the Newsroom. Nieman Reports. 61(4), 50-51. This first-person piece by Shawn McIntosh, director of culture and change at The Atlanta-Journal Constitution, delves into greater detail than other sources about the paper's oft-discussed 2007 reorganization. Perhaps his most telling remark is that he's "certain that our newsroom won't continue to look the way we redesigned it." Realizing that the traditional print sections did not reflect the Web's information architecture, nor, increasingly, that of the print edition itself, the AJC started from scratch when building the newsroom of the future. It wanted to create something nimbler that exploited its competitive edge: knowledge of metro Atlanta. It came up with four new departments: News and Information — The largest, it's staffed dawn to midnight seven days a week. The digital department is the first client for its hard news and columns and informational content. Digital — It prepares content for the Web and selects content for various channels such as sports and business. Its main job is to keep the site fresh. Enterprise — It produces watchdog, investigative, explanatory, narrative, criticism and other enterprise content. Its first client is the print department. Print — With the assistance of copy editors and designers, its presentation specialists assemble the best sections they can with the content produced by News and Information and Enterprise. Since the AJC is so frequently mentioned as an innovative model and it is relatively close to Elon, it is a prime candidate for the in-person interviews planned for my research. McLellan, Michele, Porter, Tim. (2007). Newsroom Training: Essential, Yet Too Often Ignored. Nieman Reports. 61(3), 90-91. As declining print revenues and increasing Web demands ask newspapers to do more with less, newsroom training is being overlooked at a time when it's needed most, the authors contend in an article adapted from their book, "News, Improved: How America's Newsrooms Are Learning to Change." U.S. newspapers spend about one half of one percent of their payrolls on training, nearly two percentage points less than other industries, the article says, citing an Inland Press analysis. Yet, those in charge say more training is needed, especially in new media. Training can pay for itself, the article
suggests, as the one third of newsrooms who recently increased training spending in many cases reported increased productivity and retention. Dedicated training coordinators were common in these newsrooms, something for me to consider when developing organizational charts. Also, training should be strongly considered for models that favor multiskilling. Mitchelstein, Eugenia, Boczkowski, Pablo J. (2009). Between Tradition and Change: A Review of Recent Research on Online News Production. Journalism. 10, 562-86. In a wide-ranging literature review intended as a synthesis of online news production scholarship completed this decade, the authors draw parallels between academia and the industry it is observing: Both, they said, are experiencing tension between tradition and change, professionals in executing their tasks and academics in describing them. In the newsroom, a classic example of this tension is professionals' reluctance to cede authority to citizen journalists. Interpreted as a forecast, the authors' review suggests opportunities — a normalization process is occurring as journalists acclimate to new roles, offering hope of combining the best practices of tradition and innovation — and threats — the struggle to monetize Web content is blurring the line between editorial and advertising and the expedited news cycle is reducing the amount of original reporting. Most relevant to my work are the organizational and institutional influences on the adoption of technology. Price, Tom. (2009). Future of Journalism. CQ Researcher. 19(2), 273-296. This exhaustive report is a primer on the state of the industry, including historical forces that led it to where it is, and where it may be headed. It provides essential context for anyone seeking to play a role in it. The collapse of newspapers, punctuated by the highprofile closings of The Rocky Mountain News and Seattle Post-Intelligencer early this year, has led some to fear broad swatches of civic life will go dark. Technically, newspaper readership is at a record high, thanks to online readers, but papers have yet to find a way to significantly monetize the Web. Their backs against the wall, rival papers have formed reporting cooperatives. Others are looking to nonprofit status or government help as a way to survive. Meanwhile, innovative online competitors, some profitable, some not, are constantly emerging. GlobalPost, whose experienced editors coordinate more than 60 freelance correspondents in more than 40 countries, is among those turning heads. On a smaller scale, the Fort Myers, Fla., News-Press is among local papers enlisting citizen journalists. Prognosticators see a future for watchdog, hyper-local and niche journalism but worry general-interest publications may be dying. Project for Excellence in Journalism. (2008). The Changing Newsroom: What Is Being Gained and What is Being Lost in America's Daily Newspapers?. Washington, D.C.: Marshall, Tyler. Although smaller newsrooms are somewhat more insulated from the nationwide gutting of daily newspaper's budgets and staffs, hardly any editors — at papers large or small — are confident about their ability to predict the makeup of their newsrooms five years
hence, suggesting the need for a detailed organizational model managers can adapt as conditions evolve. Among other take-aways from this poll of editors: Content is becoming more localized. Papers are shifting away from a section-specific focus. Editing is being streamlined. The Web is simultaneous a drain on newspapers â€” siphoning away subscribers and advertising dollars â€” and a shot in the arm â€” engaging enthusiastic young journalists and, decades after they ceded real-time breaking news to radio, allowing them to again compete on time. With regard to organizing and running a newsroom, a quote from one journalist with a background in business stood out: "Too many editors are great with anecdotal stories," he said, "but they don't really measure what's working and what's not." In these make-or-break times, newspapers should consider applying metrics to the extent they recently have been by governments and other industries. Ross, Steven S. (2008). Ambivalence Toward Convergence: Digitalization and Media Change. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly. 85(2), 442-44. When discussing news organizations' responses to new media, convergence is a term that gets thrown around a lot. This Research Library brief on the Swedish-published book explains that it can have four different meanings. Technical convergence is what is suggests, dealing with ones and zeros traveling over the same fixed or wireless networks. Organizational convergence is convincing employees "they are working for a converged organization and not simply a newspaper or broadcast outlet with a Web site." Regulatory convergence is formerly distinct utilities such as telephone and cable companies increasingly offering the same products and those products being regulated in the same way. Market convergence is consumers' perception that content, whether they access it online, by mobile phone or at fixed terminal, is part of a single medium. This article is a reminder to be precise with terminology and provides the reader with enough explanation and synthesis to be able to use write about convergence intelligently. Ryfe, David M. (2009). Structure, Agency and Change in an American Newsroom. Journalism. 10, 665-83. Ryfe details a most curious case study. The new editor of mid-sized urban paper The Daily Times mandated that his reporters produce more enterprise stories and less daily news. Eighteen months into the experiment, the exact opposite had occurred. Ryfe attempts to explain why. The strategies' biggest flaw, perhaps, was its assumption that daily news and enterprise reporting are mutually exclusive. Other research cited by Ryfe and his interviews with Daily Times' reporters offer that the beat reporting routines they were instructed to avoid are worth more than the immediate news they produce. They are where a reporter nourishes the relationships that enable him to uncover and investigate engaging enterprise topics. Furthermore, when reporters face uncertainly like that created by the editor's mandate, they tend to fall back on these routines because they're what they know. On a deeper level, the beat structure, on which decades of journalists have based their career advancement and professional reputation, is closely linked with reporters' personal identity. The editor, for his part, blamed the failure on reporters' inability "to think in a sophisticated way about the news." To avoid new
policies from backfiring so severally, Ryfe suggests, managers should cultivate a sense of belonging before initiating radical change. Saltzis, Konstantinos, Dickinson, Roger. (2008). Inside the Changing Newsroom: Journalists' Responses to Media Convergence. Aslid Proceedings: New Information Prospectives. 60(3), 216-228. The researchers interviewed 20 British journalists from four single-medium newsrooms transitioning to multimedia. Due to concerns that multiskilling will erode quality, true converged journalists were rare. Organizations encouraged sharing among online and offline newsrooms but operations were not fully integrated. This piece, which examined newsroom reorganization from a management perspective, stressed that cultural issues, as well as training and logistical challenges, impede change. Journalists, for example, perhaps because their professional identity is so closely linked with a single medium, believe skills are not readily transferable to other platforms and may distrust colleagues from formerly rival media. Changes present both opportunities and challenges, researchers said. For instance, while multiskilling may encourage individual journalists to assume greater ownership over content, it also lessens editorial control, lessening check on rogue or reckless journalists. Singer, Jane B. (2004). More Than Ink-Stained Wretches: The Resocialization of Print Journalism Converged Newsrooms. Journalism and Mass Communications Quarterly. 81(4), 838-57. Case studies of four print newsrooms revealed that managers pursuing convergence can mitigate journalists' resistance to change in general and to the professional norms of specializations other than their own through transparent decision making that makes clear the motivations behind changes and explicitly identifies the desired end result. Specifically, presenting convergence as a means to produce better journalism allays fears that it's merely a cost-saving vehicle and speaks to the affinity for public service common to journalists of all stripes. Shattering distrust among journalists from disparate mediums can be as simple as allowing them to interact with each other, whether sitting them in same area of the newsroom or promoting collaborative workflow. The studies' conclusions most directly address best practices for corporate culture, but also provide support for a horizontal, flexible organizational structure and open newsroom layout. Content management systems, the article added, should be robust enough to handle the newsroom's ambitions. Smith, Laura K., Tanner, Andrea H., Duhe, Sonya Forte. (2007). Convergence Concerns in Local Television: Conflicting Views From the Newsroom. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media. 51(4), 555-574. When comparing a survey of 302 U.S. television reporters and producers from small and medium markets with previous surveys of station managers, the authors found that managers were much for likely than their subordinates to view convergence favorably. Reporters and producers were much more likely to be concerned about a decline in
quality, technological issues, value clashes with print or radio natives and losing their niche. In addition to the disconnect between workers and their bosses, employees rated their peers as having a less positive experience than they reported having themselves. These findings, which the researchers suggested were instructive for all media, highlight the need for increased training, they said. They also suggest a need for front-line employees to become more involved in decision making and for managers to become more involved in production. Smith, Steven A. (2008). Adding Young Voices to the Mix of Newsroom Advisors. Nieman Reports. 62(4), 32-34. Like the Atlanta-Journal Constitution Nieman Reports article, this source provides a firsthand glimpse into a reorganization process mentioned elsewhere in my bibliography. Former Spokesman-Review Editor Steven A. Smith said advice from younger journalists, who, in his paper's experience, at least, had greater familiarity with new media than older journalists, strongly shaped the paper's new model, which was initiated by a forced staff reduction. The Spokesman-Review tasked a panel dominated by under-30 staffers with developing its new model. If that wasn't extraordinary enough, it scaled back their regular duties and granting them "subpoena" power over anyone in the newsroom. The "Gang of Eight" as the panel came to be known, both reaffirmed veteran's thinking â€” stressing watchdog reporting â€” and reversed it â€” recommending a stronger copy editing system. The structure that emerged, which shifted priorities to add five local reporters, beef up the copy desk and establish a breaking news desk, unfortunately, was never tested, as, just before it was to be implemented, the publisher announced additional layoffs. Stepp, Carl Sessions. (Oct./Nov. 2007). Transforming the Architecture. American Journalism Review. Retrieved from http://www.ajr.org/article.asp?id=4402. After interviewing journalists about reorganizations at their own newspapers and elsewhere, the American Journalism Review details how papers are meeting the challenge of producing new media content with leaner staffs. Only recently have papers gotten serious about restructuring, a San Jose Mercury News editor suggests, saying, "We've changed a lot about what people are called over the year, but not what they do." About 2,500 miles east, the Atlanta Journal Constitution has rearranged the newsroom into four departments. The first concentrates on breaking news. The second on enterprise and watchdog stories. The other two hand pick what content produced by these two departments get picked up in print and on the paper's Web site. The AJC, the article said, following a national trend, was increasingly its local focus while scaling back its national and international coverage. Elsewhere reporters are juggling more beats, filing fast for Web and adding depth for print and creating "information centers" geared toward feeding print, online and mobile platforms and. The AJC's innovation and its proximity to Elon make it a prime candidate for the in-person interview portion of my research. Spokesman-Review, The. (2008). Reorganizing Task Force Report. Spokane, Wash.:
Bose, Rajah, Eaton, Nick, Howell, Parker, Immel, Brian, McElligott, Moore, Emily, Smith, Kathryn, Zahler, Andrew. An in-house reorganization study by this 95,000-circulation morning paper suggested streamlining workflow, namely by adopting afternoon-paper style deadlines and creating a centralized editing desk comprising representatives of all departments. These changes, the report said, would allow fresh Web content to be posted throughout the day and promote higher quality print and online products. Moving away from traditional newspaper beats, the report divides labor according to type of reporting, independent of geography or topic. For example, there are reporting groups for breaking news, watchdog journalism and hyperlocal coverage. The task force embraces generalization in parts â€” combining photography and videography responsbilities â€” and specialization in others â€” keeping videography and other aleternative storytelling methods voluntary among reporters. The Spokesman Review's report talks about physical newsroom layout in greater detail than most other sources, seeking to reorient desks to encourage collaboration. Russial, John. (2009). Growth of Multimedia Not Extensive at Newspapers. Newspaper Research Journal, 30(3), 58-74. Russial surveyed a national sample of 210 U.S. newspapers over 30,000 circulation in effort to determine what degree of multimedia training undergraduates should receive to be ready to work in a professional newsroom. Papers did not report a large number of cross-platform jobs, leading him to recommend against extensive interdisciplinary training during college. While my research is not concerned with journalism academics, Russial's literature review and survey do relate useful information about how labor is being divided in modern newsrooms. Larger newspapers have historically favored specialization and smaller papers multitasking, but the Web could change this, the author found. More converged positions are being created, Russial said, but not as fast as stakeholders generally assume. These positions, he added, tend to be in online departments separate from the rest of the newsroom. Suggestions for further research which my work could address included exploring the specific tasks associated with new positions such as multimedia reporter, which can vary widely, and taking additional snapshots of how newsrooms are organizing themselves, essential, he said, to getting a clear picture in a time of such rapid change.
Steve Earley Interactive Media Graduate Student
Analytics Grounded in Goals November 12, 2009
Getting into any business today means getting into the Web business. As an online marketing expert put it in a presentation to my Theory and Audience Analysis class this morning, “It’s sort of weird now if you’re a business and you’re not on the Web.” Look at or listen to any advertisement. Chances are there’s a url somewhere in there. Companies count on the Web to make them money. Show them how to do it, and you’re likely to make some yourself. Enter Web analytics, which is what Mark Tosczak, an account supervisor at RLF Communications in Greensboro, N.C., came to talk about. With its acronym-laced jargon, sophisticatedlooking charts and rapid pace of change, Web analytics can seem intimidating. Smart business people regularly mix up basic terms, like hit, page view and site visit, Tosczak said. Those executives know analytics better than they probably realize, however. At analytics’ heart is Business 101. I’m talking about goals. Specific, measurable, verifiable, achievable goals. Tosczak offered five analytics commandments that revolved around these most fundamental of management fundamentals. He stressed to evaluate results — pay-per-click ad click throughs, for example — not activities — PPC ad views — and added the always helpful reminder to never put all of one’s faith in machines. Settling upon a goal, Tosczak said, can sometimes be the most difficult part. A manager sees that competitors are on Twitter or reads some press about the microblogging service and decides “My company has to be on Twitter.”
Yes, like Hansel in the 2001 comedy “Zoolander“, Twitter’s “so hot right now.” It is in my world. It seems that whenever I need a generic social media example, I go with Twitter, as I did here. Man, that cute little bird really cast a spell on me. Oh well, Flutter will be along soon enough. Anyway, point is, Twitter is not necessarily relevant to company X’s world. And, even if it is, it’s not enough to just “be on it.” It’s a medium. Just like a magazine. No business person would in his or her right mind say “We’ve got to get into magazines” without offering specifics, but some business person somewhere every day says this with regard to social media. After some prodding, a company might decide that it wants to user Twitter to drive traffic to its Web site. OK, that’s a goal, but it’s not specific. How much traffic? What kind of users? What kind of content should users see? What should they do once they get to the site? Analytics advisers can then tell a company whether the goal can be recorded by current software, whether its accuracy can be tested and whether it’s realistic. If the suits need convincing, the consultants should tie it back to money. That’s something business people never have difficulty understanding. Posted in theory and audience analysis | 1 Comment » Tags: analytics, management, marketing, social media
Go From Good To Great, One Half-Hour at a Time November 6, 2009
The Mozarts, Bill Gateses and Tiger Woodses of the world aren’t as successful as they are by plain accident, Malcom Gladwell argues in his 2008 bestseller “Outliers: The Story Of Success.” Yes, such peak performers are naturally talented, and, usually, relatively privileged. But they also invest a tremendous amount of time honing their craft. Try 10,000 hours. That’s the amount of practice Gladwell says the best of the best put in. I’m under no illusions I’ll reach this threshold in my newly chosen field of interactive media.
Extraordinarily few do. That’s Gladwell’s point. But, that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t practice as much as can. To that end, it’s safe to say I’m behind on my hours. To my credit, I’ve kept my head above water in an accelerated master’s program with my physical and mental health in tact. I’ve even taken on extracurricular projects, exercised regularly, and, I like to think, maintained some semblance of a social life — the fact that I’m blogging on a Friday night notwithstanding. Getting in that little extra professional practice, however, that which separates the good from the great, has been difficult. But it doesn’t have to be. Like with physical exercise, short, intense mental workouts can pay large, long-term dividends. In the time it takes to watch a “Seinfeld” rerun, I could be making my way toward great. I envision occasionally completing this routine toward the end of the day, but it could be done anytime: 11:00 p.m. to 11:07 p.m. — Browse a favorite news source. It can online, or off, mainstream or alternative, professional or amateur, about interactive media or about something else, so long as it’s something you’re interested in. 11:07 p.m. to 11:11 p.m. — Pick a story that especially captivated you and share it via social media. It’s fine to just favorite it on Delicious or Tweet a link to it, but try to add value. What did you like about it? What didn’t you like? What did you learn? What were you confused by? How does it relate to another concept? Also, try to favor tools you’re less familiar with. Always Digging your favorite links? Give Reddit a try. 11:11 p.m. to 11:17 p.m. — Pick an interactive media problem that is vexing you — Web site color scheme, advertising tagline, interaction design snafu — or the industry — monetization of online content, information overload, the digital divide. Try to brainstorm 50 solutions. Yes, 50. There are no bad answers. Just keep writing. 11:17 p.m. to 11:23 p.m. — Think of a skill you would like to improve. Ask an expert you know in this area to teach you a bit about it. (E-mail, Tweet, Facebook, text message or call, whatever seems most appropriate.)
11:23 p.m. to 11:27 p.m. — Go to Pandora or grab your iPod and put on some favorite tunes. Now, just think. Don’t read anything. Don’t write anything. Don’t surf the Web. Throw your mobile on other side of the room if you have to. Just let yourself have a uninterrupted stream of conciousness for four minutes. 11:27 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. — On a Post-It write two new things you want to try tomorrow. Sign the bottom and put the note in a place where you’ll see it the next morning. This is a minicontract with yourself. I’m yet to test run this exercise, but will share my experience in this space once I do. If you try it out, let me know in the comments how it went. Posted in theory and audience analysis, tips, writing and design | 1 Comment » Tags: malcom gladwell, outliers, productivity, social media
What Happens to Our Online Lives After Death? November 2, 2009
Death. Taxes. Button rollovers. There are few certainties. But those are three of them. On Friday, I aimed for a fun blog post. Today’s Monday. As good a time as any for a morbid one. Despite its inevitability, death isn’t something online companies and users consider as fully as they should. A reader recently wrote the blog The Consumerist complaining that she had been “asked twice this week to improve the Facebook existence of someone who passed away this summer, despite e-mailing them several times to alert them of this person’s untimely demise.” The Consumerist notes that setting the deceased’s profile to memorial mode would prevent others from receiving such suggestions. But this option is available only to persons close to the deceased. In other online spaces, the bereaved are fighting to access and preserve their loved ones’ online property, which, given how much of people’s lives play out online these days, can hold as much sentiment as material belongings. An article in today’s New York Times detailed how Yahoo, citing terms of service privacy stipulations, prevented the family of a solider killed in Iraq
from accessing his account. The newspaper also interviewed a widow who lost the Second Life island she lived on with her husband — whom she met in the virtual world — after deciding she was unable to afford the maintenance fees. As the line between people’s real world and online identities gets blurrier, it is the shared responsibility of users and companies to adopt procedures to avoid situations like these. Though no one likes to think about death, what happens to their online holdings after they pass is something users will have to confront. And as legally convenient as it is, it’s in poor taste for companies to hide behind their terms of service and deny the bereaved control of their loved ones’ spaces. A technology law professor the Times quoted suggested users name a digital executor to receive their log-in information after they pass. But he cautioned that using this information without the service provider’s knowledge could be considered fraud. As the Times observes, this is a “murky legal realm.” Posted in theory and audience analysis | Leave a Comment » Tags: facebook, futurcasting, second life
They’ll Assume You’re a Social Media Expert. Prove Them Right. October 21, 2009
In no other marketing arena are messages born, spread and adapted as quickly as they are in social media. Reputations can be bolstered or broken in a few clicks. To whom do firms turn to navigate this volatile landscape? Very often, young people. In Elon University’s School of Communications, nearly every summer internship student this year reported completing social media-related tasks such as creating Facebook and Twitter accounts or blogging. Young people, it’s assumed, know social media. That they at least have a better grasp of it than their older colleagues is generally a safe bet. The median age of a Facebook user is 26, a MySpace user 27 and a Twitter user 31, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project. But what exactly do young people know? Do they know how to monitor what
customers are saying and exploit opportunities and put out fires? Or do they just know how to post mundane status updates and write clever captions? The Elon interns, who had already been blogging and studying reputation management in their classes, were better positioned than most. The communication school’s internship director wrote to faculty and staff that in many cases supervisors were impressed enough by students’ skill level to extend to them opportunities not offered to other interns. But what about those without any formal training? Young people who on their face seem social media savvy may in fact be practicing some very bad habits. Friending everyone and their brother regardless of their character merely to increase their own perceived popularity. Posting embarrassing photos of themselves and their friends without regard for what potential employers may think. Not the kind of quality control you want in the business world. Furthermore, behind the technology bells and whistles, strong social media marketing comes down to strong writing. And, while the opposite argument is also made, there is concern among educators that electronic communication’s carefree spelling, lax punctuation and grammar and acronym shortcuts degrade writing quality, also according to Pew. Students or young workers may read this and get defensive. “We can write.” “We can and do use social media responsibly.” And I hope they do call me out. Because, what an opportunity. If you know social media tasks are probably going to be part of your next job — or are part of your job now, why not do a little homework and learn how to use social media to grow a brand, not just grow your friend count? You’ll differentiate yourself from your peers and just might get that promotion a bit sooner. Social media blog Mashable’s How To section is a good starting point. It’s a gold mine of concise primers, some geared toward general social media literacy, but many also geared toward business applications. Posted in theory and audience analysis | 2 Comments » Tags: education, elon, facebook, twitter, youth
Newsflash: Funneh Cat Site Iz Serious Bizness October 12, 2009
Spend enough time on the Internet, and odds are you played a part in circulating a meme. Yes, you probably did, even if you didn’t know that’s what it’s called. A meme (rhymes with theme), Merriam-Webster tells us, is “an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture.” On the Internet, every time you forward, repost or retweet you could be giving life to a meme. YouTube is filled with memes, like the one parodied on last week’s episode of “The Office.” You might know them better as “viral videos.” Media scholar Henry Jenkins calls such communications, which can also take the form of music, still images, catch phrases, even clothing, “spreadable media.” “Meme” and “viral” understate the role of the audience, he says. Whatever you call them, memes can make you a lot of money. The just-
released low-budget horror film Paranormal Activity built a marketing campaign around them. Ben Huh has built an empire around them. He’s the guy behind wildly popular user-generated meme sites I Can Has Cheezburger?, FailBlog.org, spinoffs I Has A Hotdog! and My First Fail and several others. Just over a year ago Huh told a Web 2.0 Expo NY audience (video above, presentation .pdf here) some of the secrets of his success. My classmates and I, it turns out, would have said roughly the same thing. And our speaking fees are much lower. Asked by our Theory and Audience Analysis professor to list qualities that, as Jenkins would put it, make media spreadable, we honed in on many of the same aspects as Huh. Memes, we said, tend to be simple, discussable, brief, relatable and easy to share. Huh, earning his speaking fee, I suppose, captured the first two elements in a single soundbite. “We perceive Web. 2.0 as this complex environment, where there’s lots of filtering, lots of stuff going on,” he said. “But really what it boils down to is there’s two people sharing a piece of content or an experience.” Think of it as the “Hey, dude check this out” test. Brevity, meanwhile, is at the heart of the irreverently captioned cat pictures, known as Lolcats, on I Can Has Cheezburger?, where the goal, Huh said, is “to make people happy for just 5 minutes a day.” The importance that content be relatable explains Huh’s early discovery that many of the submissions to I Can Has Cheezburger? aren’t explicitly about cats. They’re about eBay, drinking too much, everyday annoyances or whatever else users deem topical. Finally, what really helped I Can Has Cheezburger? take off, Huh said, was the lightweight tool that enables virtually anyone with an Internet connection and basic computer proficiency to upload their own captioned photo. It took a part-timer less than a weekend’s work to put the widget
together, but it’s a big reason Huh’s site went mainstream when others like it did not. “We try to lower the bar for content creation,” Huh said, “because the more you allow users to remove the technology… the better content you get.” Some tips from Huh that apply to any Web company are to consistently update your site — I Can Has Cheezburger? features six new posts every day, the first coming as East Coasters are arriving to work, he said — and, this will sound familiar, “Groundswell” readers, to listen to your audience. I Can Has Cheezburger?’s handful of full-time employees spend much of their time interacting with users, Huh said. What’s that? Time for one more Lolcat? I thought so. Posted in theory and audience analysis, tips | 1 Comment » Tags: groundswell, lolcats, marketing, memes, youtube
The Art of Failure October 9, 2009
There’s a grade school art piece of mine, a watercolor, I like to reference to illustrate — pardon the pun — why one should never be afraid of mistakes. The assignment involved using a cardboard edge to paint the wisps of a flower’s stem. Class was winding down and my piece looked nothing like a flower. The more I tried to fix it, though, the less like a flower it looked. Panicked, I frantically swiped the cardboard across the paper. I was close to giving up when I realized what I was painting did look like something: grass. With a new design in mind, I worked with greater care and confidence. What I thought was a lost cause suddenly resembled a scene one might find in nature. It also had pretty brilliant depth of field. It ended up being featured in the student art show at the town center mall for thousands of shoppers to see. My parents still have the piece. I’ll try to digitize it and post it here sometime.
This entry was posted on October 9, 2009 at 12:30 am and is filed under tips.
Tags: education, productivity
Manage Technology Before It Manages You October 7, 2009
“The things you own end up owning you.” Well said, Tyler Durden. Now, keep that lye away from me. “Fight Club” author Chuck Palahniuk’s cultural critique is directed at consumer items, like IKEA furniture, but it can just as easily apply to technology. Yes, technology empowers us. But, if we don’t manage it, it gains power over us. Don’t check your text messages, e-mail or Twitter until you’re done reading this blog post. If your phone buzzes or Outlook or Tweetdeck flashes an alert, ignore it. If the prospect of this bothers you, you’ll want to read on. Browsing the Web, carrying on a text conversation and responding to emails as they come in while you’re typing a paper may make you feel uber-productive. You’re multitasking! Problem is, each of these tasks is going to take you longer to complete than if you tackled it by itself. You’re decreasing — not increasing — your efficiency. Don’t just take my word for it, though. Scientific research — up, up, put your mobile down, this is important — has shown that not only does socalled multitasking reduce your level of engagement with any single activity, you also lose a minute of productivity refocusing your brain every time you switch tasks. Got it? Multitasking is a myth. Just like the well-rested grad student. Here are five more tips — based on an in-class group assignment — on how to manage technology before it manages you: Schedule technology blackout periods during which you forbid yourself from interacting with a computer, television or handheld device. Make time for low-tech hobbies. Exercise (without your iPod,
thank you). Read a book (the dead tree version). Use pen and paper. For all the work that goes into developing slick calendar and to-do-list apps, paper often works best. Face-to-face conversations should take precedence over the buzzing mobile, not vice-versa. Don’t name your devices. It creates an unhealthy attachment. It’s also kinda creepy. I’ll add one more: Get outside! Stepping away from your work and getting some fresh air can be great productivity boosters. Plus, exposure to sunlight has been linked to neurotransmitter activity that elevates mood. This tip is especially important as the number of daylight hours dwindles. This entry was posted on October 7, 2009 at 2:22 pm and is filed under theory and audience analysis, tips.
Tags: e-mail, productivity, twitter
Like Pictures? This Post’s For You. October 5, 2009
If a picture truly is worth 1,000 words, then, I hope my professor forgives me for exceeding the prescribed length for this post. Images, as the expression suggests, can pack a lot of meaning into a small space. This, and that the brain can generally process images quicker than it can text, are why information visualizations are so effective, particularly for illustrating relationships, as the three below do. Even though they’re not labeled, with a little thinking, you can probably guess what’s being conveyed.
This entry was posted on October 5, 2009 at 11:04 pm and is filed under theory and audience analysis.
The World Wide Web, a Wonderland of Words September 23, 2009
The Web was built for conversation. Kind of funny, then, it can be so tricky to talk about. Its lexicon is a mish-mash of new words, repurposed words, and, well, mish-mashed words. Year after year, Web-related terms highlight updates to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. Vlog and webisode are new for 2009. In next year’s update? Who knows? I’m still rooting for specticipants. Such a fluid vocabulary can be difficult to keep up with. Why do those things that keep track of what’s in your online shopping cart have such a tasty name? Cookies, Wikipedia tells us, were named such because, like fortune cookies, they have hidden information inside. How did unsolicited messages, Hormel Foods implores, get to be known as spam? Internet entrepreneur Brad Templeton traces it back to a Monty Python sketch. I’ll let him explain. Sometimes netizens don’t even need words. This makes them : ) and maybe even LOL. Like the government, the Web’s good at making alphabet soup. HTML, URL, CSS, P2P, MMORPG — acronyms are everywhere. Inevitably, celebrities get involved. Or, the Web involves them. If your business conference gets Rickrolled and you don’t have a sense of humor about it, watch out for the Streisand effect. Of course, Web vocab isn’t always so cryptic. Browse, scroll and jump, among the many words carried over from print, should be familiar to even the greenest users. The Web breeds laziness, we often hear. It sure does. E-book, e-
commute, e-commerce, e-mail, e-marketing. E-nough. We’ll forgive Apple for iMac, iPod and iPhone, because, repetition is good for branding. Not to mention, the products themselves rock. Plus, the iPod inspired podcast. What an elegant blend of new- and old-media terms. Words fall in and out of favor. Here are two whose days could be (should be?) numbered: Audience, I’ve mentioned before, seems too passive to describe the modern Web user, who, on his lunch break, is ranking, commenting on and retweeting content from five different sites. Lurking seems too pejorative for what is an accepted and even encouraged online behavior. To avoid being flamed for uninformed content, it can be wise to lurk. Speaking of flamed, fire comes up a lot: Once I’m done this post, think I’ll launch Firefox, fire off a message on Hotmail and burn some downloaded music to a CD. Makes sense, I guess. Fire was man’s first great tool. And, if the doomsdayers are right, it’s only a matter of time before the robots take over and the Internet becomes man’s last great tool. How poetic. This entry was posted on September 23, 2009 at 11:36 pm and is filed under theory and audience analysis, writing and design.
Tags: apple, firefox, hotmail, wikipedia, youtube
Scalpel, Stat! Hold On a Second. September 16, 2009
Last year around this time, the presidential candidates were talking a lot about tools. No, this is not a Joe The Plumber reference. Don’t remember? The candidates were speaking figuratively about reigning in spending. Obama said his opponent’s approach amounted to “using a hatchet when you need a scalpel.” McCain countered that both tools were needed: he’d go in with a hatchet first, then pull out a scalpel. Regardless of whether you agreed with Obama, his metaphor painted a picture. To use a hatchet for a job clearly meant for a scalpel, say brain surgery, would be silly, not to mention gruesome. To use a
communications tool unfit for the task is also reckless. Not three weeks into my fall semester studies, the mantra, “Let the story dictate the tool,” has been popping up a lot. It’s been nearly as ubiquitous as commentary on Kanye West’s VMA outburst. (Heck, even my favorite football team is weighing in on that.) OK, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but, in the iMedia world, this is a kind of a big deal. It’s being reinforced at every turn: By my class readings: Forrester Research’s social media primer “Groundswell” preaches “Concentrate on the relationships, not the technologies.” By my research: Spanish media company Novotécnica, a May 2008 article in the journal Convergence said, instructs its journalists to be platform agnostic: “Reporters are constantly generating news content and the central desk decides each time how to distribute it,” a senior editor told researchers. And by guest speakers: Former BBC journalist Jonathan Halls implored me and my classmates to focus on the story. Individual tools will go out of style, he said. Sound storytelling won’t. Unfortunately, pressure to churn out fresh content and establish a presence in new mediums often leads news organizations to violate the story-first credo. Last year, the now defunct Rocky Mountain News live tweeted a 3-yearold’s funeral. It had his family’s permission, but, a tool favored for posting (often mundane) status updates, sharing shortened urls and firing off witty one liners hardly seems capable of capturing the depth of emotion associated with a young child’s death. “Rabbi recites 23rd psalm,” “family member remembers marten,” “earth being placed on coffin” were a few of the posts. More routinely, news sites will do a video story simply because they haven’t done a video story in a while or merely tweak traditional content to fit a new tool instead of developing material from scratch that leverages its functionality. My former paper, which has recently begun to explore Facebook as a news delivery and marketing tool, this summer had an ah-ha moment with Twitter. After weeks of using the microblogging service as an RSS
feed in different clothes, it saw an opportunity to do something more: give users intimate access to a major sporting event happening in its backyard. All four days of Tiger Woods’ AT&T National golf tournament, a reporter was assigned to file frequent dispatches. It took a while for reporters to get comfortable with the format, but once they did, they really ran with it. Here are some choice tweets: Spotting some of these guys is a Where’s Waldo experience. Steuart Appleby breaks the mold wearing an apple green shirt. ‘Sure you can interview me, but don’t use my name. I’m playing hooky from work.’ Dave, from Burke, Virginia Basically the only clouds over the course are from the cigar smoke What’s more, they found that tweeting, by forcing them to look for rich detail and pithy quotes, enhanced their reporting. So, how can journalists be confident they’re using the right tool? Considering the following factors should get them on their way: Look, listen, and think: Use photos and videos when there are compelling, action-oriented visuals. Use audio when there is rich natural sound. Use infographics or interactive presentations to simplify the voluminous or complex. Audience: Is the format appropriate for the probable audience? A podcast, for example, probably isn’t the best format for a story about the new senior center. It would be an ideal format, however, for a story about a transit line targeting young commuters. Turnaround time: Some mediums have longer production processes than others. Before committing to a format, make sure the deadline allows enough time to create a quality product. What’s gained? What’s lost?: Tools giveth, tools taketh away. Yes, a picture is worth 1,000 words, but what about the “words” that are out of frame? Weigh what’s gained against what’s lost. If a video’s going to end up being all talking heads, you might be better off sticking with text.
Does it get along with other content?: If producing sidebar content, does it complement the mainbar? Or does it repeat it or distract from it? Staff expertise: Does your staff have enough technological and strategic familiarity with a tool to use it effectively? If not, wait until they do before playing with it. Is it searchable?: If a lot of people are likely to be searching for the content, know the limitations of video and Flash and how to work around them. Is it shareable?: If a lot of people are likely to want to share the content with others, does the format make it easy for them to do so? This entry was posted on September 16, 2009 at 8:36 pm and is filed under research, theory and audience analysis, tips, writing and design.
Tags: groundswell, rocky mountain news, twitter
Interactive Media Top 10 Lists Thinkers Gerd Leonhard Perhaps best known for his writings on the distribution of music in the digital age but also a student of social media, journalism and telecommunications, Leonhard brings an entrepreneurial spirit to the field of media futurcasting. He's influential not only for the information he presents but for how he presents it, leveraging an arsenal of new media tools to promote his brand.
Richard MacManus Seemingly overnight, Richard MacManusâ€™ Web 2.0 blog ReadWriteWeb went from a niche site to one of the top destinations in the blogosphere. The key, MacManus told the Business Blogs Web site, was being first. He was talking about Web 2.0 on his blog before it was a household term and before its capabilities were widely applied across the Internet. So, when Web 2.0 blew up in late 2005 and early 2006, his blog became a natural hub for learning about it.
Charlene Li Li is a co-author of Forrester Research's "Groundswell," a mustread for any organization interested in marketing itself through social media. Counted among the leading women in technology, Li is also a thought leader in the areas of search and portals.
Mark Luckie Luckie covers journalism trends through a multimedia lens on his popular 10,000 Words blog. He is noteworthy both for his mastery of the blogging craft as well as for the substance of his synthesis and insights. Luckie's writings are valuable daily reading for news producers and news consumers alike.
Claire Boonstra As a co-founder of the augmented reality browser Layar, Boonstra is at the forefront of one of the most-hyped technologies of 2009. The onetime civil engineer has a diverse portfolio, however. She is also known for her branding and crossmedia marketing talents.
Clay Shirky Shirky is probably best recognized from his 2008 book "Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations." A professor, consultant and writer on the economic and social effects of Internet technologies, including on newspapers and book publishing, he was hailed by Tim O'Reilly of O'Reilly media for his knack for alternately "articulating something we've never thought of" and "telling us something many have thought, but never so clearly and so compellingly."
Henry Jenkins The media scholar is a leading thinker on the ramifications of an active audience, as reflected in "If It Doesn't Spread, It's Dead," his 2009 white paper on viral media. Convergence has been a dominant research focus of his, as have networked computers games, online fan communities and interactive education.
Arianna Huffington The blog she co-founded, The Huffington Post, and Huffington herself are among the most recognizable, most influential brands in the blogosphere and in new media in general. She made Forbes' 2009 list of the Most Influential Women in Media. In 2006, a year after starting the blog, she made Time Magazine's list of the world's 100 most influential people.
The author of "The Design of Everyday Things" advocates that the user experience should be considered above all other aspects of design. His work focuses on the psychological principles behind good and bad design, promoting simplified interfaces that allow for user error.
Mari Smith Another social marketing leader, Smith consults clients on monetizing networks like Facebook and Twitter. She has developed her own set of branded social marketing methods. The current president of the International Social Media Association, Smith focuses on leveraging networks to drive traffic and spread positive word of mouth.
Readings The Next Great Media Company Won't Have a Web Site http://www.steverubel.com/the-next-great-media-companywont-have-a-web This is a concept I've come across in several places that I expect to only hear more of. That is, with the Web 2.0 push to meet customers where they already are â€” on social networks â€” and embedding social media chicklets and widgets becoming standard practice on traditional Web sites, why even have a traditional Web site? This seems especially logical with the rise of the mobile Web, where, consuming content on the go and on small screens, users are likely to favor bite-sized posts like those in social media feeds over longer-format content endemic to standalone sites.
Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies http://www.forrester.com/Groundswell/book.html Forrester Research's "Groundswell" is a must-read for any
organization interested in marketing itself through social media. It explains common mistakes companies make when adopting social media and offers a step-by-step blueprint for doing it right, breaking down best practices into five areas: listening, talking, energizing, supporting and embracing.
Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable http://www.shirky.com/weblog/2009/03/newspapers-andthinking-the-unthinkable Hailed across the Web as a must-read for those in and studying the newspaper industry, Clay Shirky's 3,000-word essay provides the clearest synthesis of the current state of newspapers, how they got there, and where they may be going you're likely to find in one place.
If It Doesn't Spread It's Dead http://www.futurelab.net/blogs/marketing-strategyinnovation/2009/03/if_it_doesnt_spread_its_dead.html Virtually everyone on the Internet has watched a viral video or consumed some other type of spreadable message. Yet, very few can pinpoint just what makes certain messages go viral. In this white paper, serialized on his blog, Henry Jenkins provides thoughtful academic analysis of this Web phenomenon, whose implications are far more serious than skateboarding dogs might imply.
As We May Think http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/194507/bush Vannevar Bush's oft-cited essay, published at the end of World War II, stressed the importance of turning his day's explosion of information into an explosion of knowledge. The tool he envisioned to help do that, the memex, shared many qualities with the World Wide Web.
http://www.alexwright.org/glut Tackling some of the same issues Bush wrestled with more than a half century ago, writer and information architect Alex Wright takes readers on a wide-ranging journey of information organization through the ages and across disciplines, jumping from libraries, to insect colonies, to medieval monasteries. He seeks to apply lessons from the past to future challenges.
How TalkingPointsMemo Beat the Big Boys on the U.S. Attorney Story http://www.cjr.org/behind_the_news/how_talkingpointsmemo_b eat_the.php This case study, detailing liberal blog Talking Points Memo's leadership on one of the biggest political stories of President Bush’s second term, illustrates how interrelationships among legacy media, new media and audiences combine to place issues on the public agenda. TPM noticed patterns among firings reported in local newspapers from around the country and advanced the story through uniquely new media tactics like crowdsourcing reader tips and old-fashioned journalism gruntwork, pushing the controversy onto the radar of mainstream outlets.
The Elements of Style As communications become more visual and intuitive, the importance of writing well should not be overlooked. Poor writing, whether in published content, business communications or planning documents, can still sink a company fast — arguably faster — in the digital era. Strunk and White's essential guide still belongs on every writer's bookshelf — or saved on his Kindle, if that's what he prefers.
Free: A Future at a Radical Price As publishers watch their business models implode with the wide amount of freely available content on the Internet, "The Long
Tail" author Chris Anderson argues that with a little ingenuity companies can thrive without directly charging for everything they produce. He details freemium services, like photo sharing site Flickr, where users can access basic services without charge but pay for premium access as well as innovative experiments like Radiohead's name-your-own-price model for its 2007 "In Rainbows" album.
Born Digital Those entering the workplace today and all those who come after them are digital natives. They don't know life without computers. Today's high schoolers don't know life without the Internet. John Palfrey and Urs Gasser explore the legal and social effects of the online lives of these generations, concluding that most youth do not appreciate the risks associated with cultivating an online identity.
Issues Net neutrality Net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers should treat all traffic equally and not alter infrastructure or pricing models to make certain content easier or harder to access than other content. Proponents suggest net neutrality is essential to the free exchange of ideas that the Internet and Web were founded on. Opponents counter that it addresses a problem that doesn't exist and could interfere with efforts to improve the quality of services.
Trust For individuals and organizations, building trust is at the core of cultivating an online brand. Already presented with more information than they could possibly handle, audiences will increasingly turn to shortcuts, such as how much they trust a given entity, as the information explosion continues.
Reality With the advent of virtual worlds, virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, online identities and hyper-real displays, what is real and what isn't is a fundamental question society will have to confront.
Information overload How much more information can humans handle at one time? Scientists have suggested that the notion of multitasking is a fallacy and that alleged multitaskers are actually within a stream of continuous partial attention, and actually waste time readjusting each time they shift between activities. There are ample business opportunities in helping people manage this. But, will there come a tipping point where people push back in favor of a simpler existence?
Who's considered a journalist There are downsides to the professional culture that has formed around journalism. It perhaps is partially to blame for a distancing between media and their audiences and a lack of innovation. On balance, though, it's been a positive development, for the industry and the public at large, promoting the institutional authority of journalism as the fourth estate. Will the rise of citizen journalism have a positive, negative, or mixed effect on this culture?
Energy The world at once faces an energy crisis and rapid technological growth. It's hoped that the latter can improve energy efficiency fast enough to compensate for the power-hungry infrastructure it adds. But what if it doesn't?
Cyberterrorism Given the extent that modern society relies on digital networks,
industrialized nations are fortunate to have avoided a significant cyber terrorism attack. The disproportionate disruption caused by simple failures in older systems like the United States' air traffic controller network have exposed systems' vulnerabilities should terrorists lodge an intentional attack.
Privacy The free flow of information on the Internet, while presenting many benefits to users, is a concern as well because of its threat to privacy. It's become almost a foregone conclusion that personal information posted online will leak out even from allegedly protected containers. This has led some to concede hope of keeping their information private and instead focus on controlling it.
Copyright Intellectual property law has always lagged behind the pace of technological change. As that change accelerates and challenges fundamental assumptions of the rules on the books, it falls even further behind. This uncertainty harms both content producers and users. Some nations, like Canada, are more progressive than others, and their attention aids other nations. But it works the other way, too. With online content accessible from anywhere in the world, protections are only as strong as the weakest link in the chain.
Digital divide Since all interactive communications are limited by the audience's skill set, it's important to remember that only one fourth of the world is online. Even among the connected, there are degrees of access and engagement. Some users, for example, are still experiencing what amounts to a Web 1.0 Web. To the extent new media are empowering new groups of people, who, if anyone, are they disempowering? The most connected tend to be younger, richer, more educated and live in more densely populated areas. Knowledge gap theory suggests that those not participating in the new media sphere, many due to
socioeconomic disadvantages, will fall even further behind.
Theories Uses and gratifications theory An appropriate approach for the 21st century may be uses and gratifications theory. To a greater extent than any other, this theory considers the actions of an active audience. Based on Abraham Mazlowâ€™s Hierarchy of Needs, it focuses on how individuals use communication to serve the world around them and even to achieve self-actualization. Gratification, it says, can be gained from a mediumâ€™s content, familiarity with a genre, general exposure to the medium and from the social context. Users, it goes on, seek out media to satisfy one or more of five needs: acquiring knowledge, indulging in an aesthetically or emotionally pleasurable experience, enhancing their own credibility, confidence or status, connecting with family, friends and the world and escaping the day-to-day/releasing tensions.
Cognitive dissonance theory Cognitive dissonance theory, which states that inconsistencies make people uncomfortable, leading them to gravitate toward information that reinforces their beliefs, suggests audiences will become even more fragmented as communications become more personalized, as those on tomorrow's mobile Web are forecasted to be.
Agenda setting theory McCombs and Shaw's 1972 study establishing agenda setting theory found a strong link between voter attitudes and mainstream media coverage, suggesting that while the media may not tell people what to think, they tell them what to think about. McCombs and Shaw reviewed print and broadcast sources within a media environment that did not include two of today's most influential media, nationwide cable television and the World Wide Web. One of the researchersâ€™ underlying assumptions is
directly challenged by the proliferation of these and subsequent alternative mediums: "For most, mass media provide the best â€” and only â€” easily available approximation of ever-changing political realities."
Online communities theory Peter Kollock concluded that users are motivated by three main principles, neither of which rely on altruism or financial compensation: The expectation that they will receive useful information in exchange for their contributions, the desire for prestige and pleasure in feeling they have influence over an environment.
Diffusion of innovations theory Like theories, new mediums and technologies move from being tested by a small subgroup to being widely adopted by a community. How and how fast innovations are adopted is the subject of diffusion of innovations theory. It offers that users are more likely to adopt a new product or idea if it is perceived as better than what it supersedes, as consistent with existing values, past experiences and needs and as reasonably easy to understand and use. It also helps if the benefits of an innovation are readily observable by would-be adopters.
Moore's law Has held true since the invention of the internal processor. States that the number of processors on a single chip doubles about every two years.
Page's law In a way, the opposite of Moore's Law. Proposed by Google's Sergey Brin, it offers that software tends to get twice as slow every 18 months.
From sociology, it comprises three core tenets: “Human beings act toward things on the basis of the meanings they ascribe to those things,” “The meaning of such things is derived from, or arises out of, the social interaction that one has with others and the society,” and “These meanings are handled in, and modified through, an interpretative process used by the person in dealing with the things he/she encounters.”
Spiral of silence Suggests that people who perceive they possess an unpopular opinion will cease to express it out of fear of being ostracized by their peers. Already a disputed communications theory, the anonymity offered by online communications may further challenge it.
Power law of participation
Offers that users do not have to participate heavily in social networks to substantively contribute toward a collaborative intelligence that benefits all users.
Visualizations The New News Cycle http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2462/3928425197_f60ec33e11_o.j pg Accessible illustration showing how interactivity is changing the news gathering and news consumption processes.
New York Times — Faces of the Dead http://www.nytimes.com/ref/us/20061228_3000FACES_TAB1.ht ml Oft-cited as an example of top-notch online visual journalism, it communicates the scale of war causalities while illuminating the human stories behind each.
Mid-Atlantic Homicides http://burgersub.org/murders2k9.htm One of many excellent examples of online map mashups, presents basic details about Mid-Atlantic homicides in an easily accessible way. Since this citizen-produced site launched, professional outlets have implemented similar visualizations.
Media Diet Pyramid http://flowingdata.com/2009/08/14/balance-life-with-the-mediadiet-pyramid Wired adapted the familiar food pyramid to suggest how "highly evolved humans" should be allocating their media use.
Bytes visualization from the information design handbook http://www.amazon.com/Information-Design-Handbook-VisockyOGrady/dp/160061048X From page 16 of the Information Design Handbook. Conveys the relative size of data units in easily understood terms by comparing them to familiar objects. A terabyte, for example, is roughly equal to half the information contained in the typical research library.
The Conversation Prism http://www.briansolis.com/2009/03/conversation-prism-v20/ Visually pleasing chart compresses the social media universe into a single page.
Scaleable, customizable to users' individual needs. Invaluable for explaining relationships in times of accelerated change.
History of the Internet http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hIQjrMHTv4 Animated video is several visualizations rolled into one. Design is powerful in its simplicity.
The Me Model http://paulrwagner.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/memodel2.jpg? w=300&h=300 Original model by Elon University interactive media master's students that seeks to explain how communications are processed in the new media environment.
Web Trends Map http://informationarchitects.jp/web-trend-map-4-final-beta Like The Conversation Prism but illustrating the big players on the Web at large and applying a subway map metaphor. The latest iteration is based on the Tokyo subway system.
Resources Smashing Magazine http://www.smashingmagazine.com A leading resource for tips, trends and examples to inform Web designers' and Web developers' work.
Inland Press http://www.inlandpress.org
Portal for news and research on the local newspaper industry as it reorients itself for the digital future.
Poynter Institute http://www.poynter.org Site for the journalism think tank providing industry news, professional guides, links to external resources and details on the institutes learning opportunities.
Alexa.com Describing itself as the Web Information Company, Alexa is one of the major trackers of Web traffic and Web page rank data.
Nieman Journalism Lab http://www.niemanlab.org A project of the Nieman Foundation at Harvard University. Provides content about and related to the lab's activities and findings as it seeks to define journalism's future in an Internet age.
Journalist's Toolbox http://www.journaliststoolbox.org Daily roundup of online resources intended to assist journalists with various steps of the news gathering, news production and news delivery processes.
Lynda.Com Paid site offering an immense collection of online video tutorials and exercise files for mastering multimedia software packages.
Ted.Com Video library featuring presentations by leading thinkers in a wide range of industries. Slogan is "Riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world."
Media Bistro http://www.mediabistro.com Portal for media professionals, job seekers and employers. Focus is on job listings, salary information and professional development.
Wired http://www.wired.com The voice of Silicon Valley. Owned by publishing giant CondĂŠ Nast Publications but enjoys industry cred and maintains distinctive voice.
FOCUS To master SOCIAL MEDIA
LAECIR by Steve Earley Elon University
Pick usersâ€™ brains for actionable ideas or just to take their pulse on an issue. Track what users are saying about you, your competitors and your industry.
Leverage communities to advance your brand for you.
Build trust by highlighting contributions from others.
ACTIONS not APPLICATIONS
Educate users about your activities and values.
Acknowledge mentions and act on what you learn from users.
Collection of work I completed for my Theory and Audience Analysis class in Elon University's interactive media master's program.
Published on Dec 8, 2009
Collection of work I completed for my Theory and Audience Analysis class in Elon University's interactive media master's program.