Archive | October, 2013

The Neverending Conversation

10 Oct

We’ve reverted to type. News has come full circle and now we’re back to gossiping, spewing forth information we haven’t verified. Pretty quickly, it gets verified. It’s just that now, unlike back in the 18th century, this conversation happens online. And, as the title of this blog suggests, it is never ending.

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It is simply no longer viable for news organisations to employ old, out of touch reporters who were at their prime in the 70s, and are unwilling to alter their practises to suit the new era of online journalism. The benefits put forward by Spencer Howson, Brisbane’s top radio presenter, were pretty fundamental. The internet platform takes journalists from their mass media pedestal and dumps them right down in the thick of it: the dreaded comments sections.

This is how audiences like it, and you’re only going to be able to monetise a service (as journalism must now do) if the audience likes what is being presented.

“Digital is not about putting up your story on the web. It’s about a fundamental redrawing of journalists’ relationship with our audience, how we think about our readers, our perception of our role in society, our status. We are no longer the all-seeing all-knowing journalists, delivering words from on high for readers to take in, passively.” – Katharine Viner, Editor in Chief of the Guardian Australia.

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The benefits of this “open journalism” are neatly set out in this article by Matthew Ingram.

–       Readers often know more than you: who know what kind of expert might be willing to give you their insight. It’s much more likely they will on a simple online discussion, than in a real interview, which as we all know, are odious.

–       Openness brings accountability: as I stated before, regarding the dreaded comments sections.

–       Being open can produce scoops: there are countless examples of stories being stumbled upon during Twitter crowdsourcing exercises.

Whether we like it or not, as journalists we technically work 24/7. Miss out on a key conversation, and you might miss out on your scoop, or a key factoid, and hence your credibility.

Public Twitter = Public Money for Journalists?

3 Oct

It was only a matter of time until Twitter really became in-it-for-the-money. The question arises: can Twitter journos hitch a ride on the money wagon?

Merit in 140 characters?

US Financial analysts (those beacons of foresight, ahem, housing bubble) have all but guaranteed that one inevitable repercussion of Twitter’s floating on the securities exchange is going to spell the end for the ultra- short aspect of users’ messages on the site. To satisfy the incoming companies who are going to be advertising, they’re going to need a bigger boat, or at least a bigger character limit. Probably, no character limit. In a mildly ironic twist, Twitter might have to go full circle to keep itself alive, even though it seems to be doing perfectly well as it is. What started out as the shouting box for the mundanities of celebrity life has morphed into the content curation behemoth of our times. No longer do we just look out for what Ashton Kutcher had for breakfast. We get taught how to use it at journalism school. We are physically made (kind of) to follow politicians and reporters.

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It is now the instantaneous news delivery system. And what made it so viable in that paradigm was, paradoxically, its brevity. Several lecturers in our Online Journalism class this semester – Natalie Bochenski, Marissa Calligeros and Spencer Howson – have all affirmed how the rapid fire, constant buzz that is the Twittersphere has made news updates infinitely more accessible and widely consumed. Unfortunately, it just hasn’t directly made us any money yet.

Is that about to change?

Twitter has 218 million active users. Now, it is following in the footsteps of Google and Facebook, with an initial public offering (IPO), in which it intends to raise US$1bn. The only way they’re going to make a profit in 2013 is with ads. It’s impossible to say at this stage how successful they’re going to be in the venture, and it is likely they will share the problem journalism has had for a few years now: monetising their user base. They’re faring much worse than Facebook at the same phase of their time of publication.

The journalism/ twitter relationship is getting stronger by the day. More of the old oligarchy are signing on, and it is opening up at least ten entirely new avenues to make news better. I’ve previously discussed crowdsourcing; that’s one of them. In this writer’s humble opinion, something like Twitter can easily be a pilot for the new models of monetised journalism that will lead us out of the mire into the inevitable new golden age. Wishful thinking? Perhaps, but it’s a certain thing that Twitter and reporting are really one and the same nowadays.