Sep 10

Twitter Tips Via Sara Gregorgy

Tip of the hat to the Innovation in College Media blog for pointing out this fun presentation by UNC Daily Tar Heel’s Sara Gregory.

Twitter tips

Aug 10

Where are comments and Twitter on NY Times?

This morning, I was reading the New York Times story on why location-based services might be a hard sell for mainstream users. This echoes some of my own thoughts, which I wrote about recently here: Telling the world you’re here, there and everywhere. And here: Location services show the way to the next great Internet bubble.

I was curious what kind of reaction their story was getting from readers. But I couldn’t find the comment section. So I’m wondering: Is that standard? It seems there are comments on some stories, but not others. Does anyone know the Times’ policy? I couldn’t even find a place to post a comment.

The other thing that surprised me: I wanted to tweet the article out. But there’s no Twitter button. That seems like such a standard feature, I find it odd that it’s not there. There’s a Facebook button right on the article. And when I click “share” I get a choice of six social media buttons, but not Twitter.

Does anyone else find that to be a strange omission?

Aug 10

Cautionary lessons on innovation for newsrooms from Digg

Digg, the crowd-sourced news aggregation site that was once a Web 2.0 darling, is on the cusp of a dramatic overhaul of its site.

I’ve been playing with the “new” Digg for a few weeks now, which is still officially in an invite-only alpha. And I think it offers up two important lessons for people working in newsrooms of all shapes and sizes.

The first is that innovation must be a continuous process. Digg took its eye off the ball, and has lost significant momentum.

The second lesson is that the new Digg places more value on what our friends are doing, rather than a larger crowd of strangers. Digg is embracing the notion that our social networks are increasingly the most valuable way we discover news and information.

Let’s take the first lesson. Too often, I hear people in newsrooms say they need to reinvent what they do. But often it’s put in terms that are singular. Like, if we just create a newsroom optimized for today’s digital world, we’ll be fine. The problem, as we can see from Digg, is that the Web continues to evolve at a rapid pace that is accelerating. And that means that the ideal service or process today needs to be constantly changed and reinvented, not just re-thought once.

In Silicon Valley, we can see that in the rapid rise and fall of any number of companies. Just a few years ago, everyone thought auctions were the way we wanted to shop online, and eBay was king during the first few years of the last decade. Yahoo also fell quickly from a lofty perch. And then, MySpace got slapped by Facebook. In each case, the company in question got too comfortable with its core service, and assumed incorrectly that it would endure. That’s not just a trap that newspapers fall into, it’s a larger problem with the culture of successful organizations.

To avoid that fate, newsrooms need to develop the capacity to continually innovate. Once is not enough. If  that process stops, they’ll inevitably find themselves being left behind by the way the Web changes.

Just a couple years ago, everyone in the news business was in awe of Digg, and it’ ability to drive traffic, the lessons it taught us about the way game theory could be incorporated into news discovery, and the power of the crowd. There was the infamous 2006 Businessweek cover story on Digg founder Kevin Rose: “How this kid made $60 million in 18 months.”

Digg was revolutionary, until it wasn’t. See this chart from the Nielsen Company:

Digg has lost over half its traffic in the past two years, and it’s an ever steeper fall from a year ago. It’s probably no coincidence that those were the years that saw Facebook and Twitter come to dominate the social Web. Digg stood still, and paid the price.

Thus, the new Digg. The company is attempting a radical shift. Is it too late? We’ll see over the next year.

The second lesson goes to the heart of the way Digg is changing, and what it says about the Web. The new Digg focuses much more on the things your friends are reading and “digg-ing” and the news brands that you choose to follow on Digg. The rankings of what the whole mass of Digg users are reading is still there, but very much de-emphasized.

The new Digg makes it clear that the first thing it wants you to do is “See what the people you follow are digging.” There is still a “top news” tab to see what is now called the “classic Digg.” (Are Classic Coke jokes inevitable?) But that is very much secondary.

Whether it succeeds or not, I think this is the right move for Digg for now. Unfortunately, there aren’t many second acts. And Digg is in a downward spiral that most never manage to escape.

Are you using the new Digg? If so, share your thoughts below on how it compares to, ahem, “classic” Digg.

Jun 10

Current TV at crossroads: Another makeover or sale?

Reuters reported today that Current TV, founded by Al Gore and Joel Hyatt, is undergoing another big shakeup:

“Forget bite-sized clips created by anonymous viewers; the new Current will consist of full-length series from the usual suspects in unscripted production who are getting the word that Current is open for business.”

Gore started the channel five years ago in an attempt to democratize television. The idea was to create a channel driven by user-generated contributions. The channel started about the same time as YouTube and looked to catch the growing wave of citizen video making. But that model proved troubled for several reasons.

First, the channel vetted contributions for the highest quality. They wanted documentary level short movies, and not just someone’s cat playing the piano. Makes sense, but it turns out that there simply wasn’t enough content at that level, even with the widespread adoption of digital video, to fill 24 hours of programming.

And next, the channel originally started off by running those short segments one right after the other. But that wasn’t appealing to viewers, who liked having things broken into clearly defined programs that ran at set times (Yes, even in this era of time-shifting television).

So Current began moving to a hybrid model a couple of years ago, while continuing to experiment with new ways to include the community. It started a co-branded program with Digg where users submitted and voted on questions to ask prominent guests. And back in 2008, Current worked with Twitter to stream tweets on the screen during one of the presidential debates.

Unfortunately, none of this seems to have translated into a robust business, the Reuters says Current is profitable. That likely comes from the fact that it has a baseline income from its agreements with cable channels that is up for renewal. And so, the company has apparently been shopping for a buyer while also moving away from its user-generated content routes to full on programming:

“Now the focus has shifted to fixing Current, perhaps with an eye toward a sale down the road. Last July, Hyatt was replaced as CEO by Mark Rosenthal, the former MTV Networks COO who is rebuilding the channel in the traditional mold Gore avowed to avoid, only to suffer the consequences.”

I’ve had a chance to visit Current, which is based in San Francisco, a few times, and met a lot of thoughtful folks who really believed in turning the broadcast model on its head. I hope the channel retains that spirit no matter which way it goes in the next few months. But that’s looking less and less likely.

I wonder then, if such a revolution is even possible when the station is tied to cable or the airwaves? Or whether such an effort would have more luck if it was Web based? Is there a better way for broadcast or cable stations to include the community in its work?

Sep 09

American Press Institute Economic Meetup

The American Press Institute is hosting an invite-only Newsmedia Economic Action Plan Conference today. Only about 50 or so folks are attending. However, they did allow live blogging of one session. That liveblog can be found here.

In additon, folks are tweeting. The hashtag is #apinewsmedia.

And you can follow the tweets above.