Archive for September, 2011

Ever see an iPad crease? Maybe it can happen, but I bet you can’t read it after that. But a newspaper crease, sometimes that’s the hand of God at work, perhaps a mischevous God testing to see if we’re paying attention, as when a crease merges an f and a t so that “shift” appears as sometime much more interesting. See more on the above from Charles Apple.

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They buried the lead. You have to read to nearly the end of a press release from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism to get to what seems to me to be the most important element of a new study by Pew’s Internet & American Life Project, produced in association with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, asking about where people get their local information:

“While there are a variety of demographic dimensions that are linked to the way people get local news and information, the most striking is the difference between younger and older information consumers. Simply put, one generation into the web, older consumers still rely more heavily on traditional platforms while younger consumers rely more on the internet. Among adults under age 40, the web ranks first or ties for first for 12 of the 16 local topics asked about.”

That’s not earth-shaking, but it’s “the most striking” demographic breakdown, underlining and confirming that younger news consumers’ habit of getting information online is not changing. (Note also a recent Knight Foundation survey of high schoolers and their news habits.)

Also notable to me was the finding on mobile use:

“Nearly half of adults (47%) use mobile devices to get local news and information. Not surprisingly, mobile is particularly popular for ‘out and about’ categories of information, such as restaurants.”

Perhaps the only thing in the study results that really surprised me, though, was the high percentage of people who reported doing things that Pew calls “participating” in the news — and note here, again, how this group focuses on the Internet:

“And 41% of all adults can be considered ‘local news participators’ because they contribute their own information via social media and other sources, add to online conversations, and directly contribute articles about the community. Both these groups are substantially more likely than others to use the internet to get local news and information on almost all topics.”

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This one feels a little different: the Wall Street Journal has launched a new Facebook app, but it keeps the user on Facebook the entire time while also delivering the Journal’s subscription-protected content (though sponsorships may allow that content to be delivered free within the app). That seems like a huge advance in the current, Facebook-dominated landscape.

But the bigger news, as Megan Garber reports at Niemen Journalism Lab, is the app advances the concept of personalized news, making “every user an editor” and “elevating the role of people as curators of content.” People already have been curating content — that’s the essence of sharing links — but this app seeks to make it a more seemless process, and the fewer clicks needed to do what the person wants to do online, the more pleasing the Web experience. It raises the question, will people be more willing to pay for the news if it’s this easy to interact with it?

9/26/11 UPDATE: The Washington Post also has an app to feed news directly to Facebook, but it’s even broader, including news from partners The Associated Press, Reuters, Mashable and SB Nation. At Poynter.org, Jeff Sonderman sounds a note of caution about such apps — asking, among other things, whether news organizations can trust Facebook as a partner — but I still think the movement of the audience in a fragmented, digital world makes it imperative to find ways to make it easy to stay in front of people’s eyes, and that means only having your own website and linking to it may not be quite enough. We’ll see if people adopt the apps.

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The folks at insidenova.com, the website of the News & Messenger in Manassas and Prince William County, Va., stumbled into an excellent example of how to respond to what you see happening locally in social media. After severe flooding in the region last week, people found themselves without a clearinghouse for information and discussion — but they gravitated to the insidenova Facebook page and were filling it with just such information. So, seeing that, interim managing editor Kari Pugh created a flood information clearinghouse page on Facebook. In just a few hours it had garnered about 250 “likes,” and the community discussion on it was mostly self-sustaining. The community is doing the organizing and exchange of information, but the news organization has facilitated that and put itself at the hub of the conversation.

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You could summarize the results of the new Nielsen Social Media Report as “all the trends you’ve heard about are still happening,” except there are a couple of details that seemed a little surprising. Topping the list: Internet users over the age of 55 are driving the growth of social networking through the mobile Internet. I did not know that and would not have guessed it. Less surprising is social media’s growing ubiquity: Social networks and blogs account for nearly a quarter of total time spent on the Internet, and nearly 4 in 5 active Internet users visit social networks and blogs.

I can’t tell how good or bad some numbers in the report are, such as that Americans spend 22.5 percent of their Internet time on social networks and blogs, and just 2.6 percent on current events & global news. As Steve Myers points out at Poynter.org, blogs could include news blogs, and portals post news stories. And he doesn’t point it out, but many news organizations now make social networks, especially Facebook — where Nielsen says Americans spend more time on than on any other U.S. website — a key part of their efforts to engage the audience, so people could be on social networks and still be on a news-related site.

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A friend and former colleague gets irritated by the way the media in general make big deals of round numbers — the 10th, the 100th, the 500th, the 1,000th whatever — and the 10th anniversary of 9/11 was no exception. He posted on Facebook, “Sept. 11: blow it out every year, or don’t blow it out at all.” I understand his point, but the media attach greater significance to big, round numbers because that’s human nature; if we didn’t do it, people would ask why because they themselves (with a few exceptions such as my friend) do it. So if you look over the Sept. 11 pages archived by the Newseum, for the most part you’ll see attempts to note the weight the date carried. Not all of them attempted to “blow it out,” but many did. At Poynter.org, Julie Moos highlights 25 front pages that she felt convey the power of deliberative design: “By using tower imagery, illustration, flags and iconic photos, they carry the power of the moment.” One that didn’t make Moos’ list but is extremely evocative is the Cleveland Plain Dealer, a very arty design of two arms either reaching into the air or grasping at it, with a person falling between them:

Cleveland Plain Dealer

None of Media General’s pages from the day made the 25, but as you can see below there was quite a range — from pages that look almost like any other day to ones qualifying as keepsakes. What’s most striking may be that there are no two that look very much alike.

Richmond Times-Dispatch Tampa Tribune Winston-Salem Journal Bristol Herald-Courier Charlottesville Daily Progress Culpeper Star-Exponent Danville Register and Bee Dothan Eagle Hickory Daily Record Jackson County Floridan The McDowell News Morning News Mooresville Tribune News and Messenger The News-Herald Opelika-Auburn News Statesville Record and Landmark The News Virginian

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