Tag Archives: Web 2.0

I’m the Trinity Mirror ‘Student Journalist of the Year’ 2008!

I recently won the Trinity Mirror  ‘Student Journalist of the Year’ award, and went to dinner with a few of the local media folk.

I would just like to take this opportunity to thank Paul Bradshaw, for supporting me and guiding me through my final year university project, and making it possible for me to be even considered for such an award.

I haven’t been blogging on this site for a while, mainly due to being frustrated at not being able to land myself a job in the media industry. Even though I have won the above award, I’m still trying to make my first steps in the industry and I’m finding it very difficult.

I recently interviewed David Miliband for Yoosk, which was an amazing experience, and I really hope that I am considered to do such work again.

Other than that, you can follow where I am, what I’m doing, and who with on my Twitter page, which I update more frequently.

Hopefully I’ll have more to tell you very soon!

4iP Pre-launch thoughts

How do I sum up an event that promised so much and delivered so little?

Channel 4 were set to pre-launch their £50 million pound 4iP (Innovation for the Public) fund yesterday (June 27th) at Corbet Place Bar, in London, billed as ‘MiniBar’.

On paper, this was definitely an event that seemed like it wasn’t to be missed, with all 300 allotted spaces being allocated very quickly.

The speakers for the event were:

I arrived at the event over half an hour early, to give myself time to get acquainted with the venue, check for WiFi, have a coffee, and maybe get the chance to chat with Christian, the organiser of these regular monthly ‘MiniBar’ events. Unfortunately he was busy making last minute arrangements to the venue, so this wasn’t possible.

The venue didn’t have any wireless connections, and the only few available were too weak to pick up inside. Of the four people who had bothered to bring laptops, only two had a 3G card – a smart move.

By 6pm, the venue started filling out, slowly but surely. Naturally, I took advantage of the free beer, and waited for the presentations to begin, an hour later. During my free hour I decided to set about networking, and meeting some of the people who were there.

The event listing stated that there would be some big names in the industry. As far as I had noticed, there were none of those people to be seen.

Before the event, I had an eye-opening conversation with Deji, who owns LondonFreeEvents.com. The premise of the site is simple; it is a directory that lists free events in London. The site has been live for three weeks, and has had 5,000 hits each week – not bad going. I naturally asked him if he advertised, and he said no. Fair enough, I thought, as it has only recently launched.

I asked him if he used, or planned to take advantage of social networking, and Twitter. He wasn’t interested in social networking and didn’t know what twitter was – neither did quite a lot of the people I managed to speak to. He didn’t seem to know what the event was about, but he did have strong views about technology and the web:

“I was around at the time of the first dotcom collapse and it’s only a matter of time before all of these social networks and popular websites (like Twitter, and Facebook) die out – Fuck Web 2.0, it’s just a phase.”

I disagreed with his views, and was explaining why they might not be true, when I was saved by the announcement that the presentations were going to begin.

Matt Locke was the first speaker, and because all of the attendees were still networking, all anybody could make from his brief speech was that Channel 4 are about to launch a new £50 million pound fund for public/digital media development. Really?

The second ‘presentation’ can only be described as bizarre. The School of Eveything came to the stage, and it went a little something like this:

SoE: “Who can speak another language?”

Man: “I can, Gujarati.”

SoE: “Right. Who wants to learn how to speak Gujarati?”

At this point, after a weird silence, in which myself and the other attendees there wondering what relevance that had to anything 2.0, Matt Locke, of Channel 4 duly obliged. The following five minutes was more like a stand up act than any presentation of any relevance to the digital media industry (the premise of the site is around teaching others things). Matt Locke learned how to say (in Gujarati) how simple it is to access their website.

The funniest point was when the Gujarati speaking man attempted to translate the word ‘Folksonomy’ – after not realising what it meant, he decided to say it with a very strong Asian accent – something that wouldn’t look too out of place in Goodness Gracious Me.

The third presentation was of a project being funded by Channel 4, which is still in development. It’s called ‘Phantasmagoria’ – a social network for younger children, of around 13-16 in my opinion. This website is going to be everything it promises it isn’t.

It is aimed at the ‘scene kids’ – or ’emo/greebo’ as we know them. The presenter brought up a slide of the target audience for the website, and stressed to the members of the audience who bothered to listen that the target market for this website was not emo/greebo/rocker kids, even though it had a very depressing, and dark edge to it.

The subsequent slide then showed pictures of young children, dressed in black, covered in black make up, attempting to make sad look cool – if that isn’t the perfect description of an ’emo kid’, then I really don’t know what is.

The final presentation was from Gi Fernando, of Techlightenment – and, as I tweeted, they are one of the companies you have to thank for the ridiculous Facebook application requests, as they create Facebook applications.

Gi demonstrated ‘The Bob Dylan Application’, which was simply an advertising application of what I assume to be a flash version of Bob Dylan holding cards with words on and dropping them – very similar to that scene in ‘Love Actually’ where one of the characters reveals his love for Keira Knightley by showing her a series of messages on cards.

This application has a huge amount of potential, albeit unrealised. There are ten lines of text which are editable, so you are able to make Bob pretty much advertise everything.

Once Gi got to the technical side of his brief presentation, he was very clever with his words. He demonstrated how the words every user types are saved as tags, and then displayed a tag cloud of what people had been using to advertise. It wasn’t glamorous. In fact, his own name made up the two largest words in the cloud, so all 103 users of the application must be advertising Techlightenment in some way.

When asked about the number of users the application had, Gi mentioned that it was popular, and ‘98% of users had used the code on their own sites’ – he didn’t mention how many users exactly. Gi also managed to slip up and admit that a large number of the audience for the application only noticed it because they were searching for a Mark Ronson remix of a Bob Dylan song.

My most interesting conversation of the day was with Olu, of Vigster – A social networking website for computer gamers. He was clearly a man who knew his business, and his market inside out, and explained that he had a solid 5-10 year plan for his website. We exchanged information and tips about advertising on the web, and I made him see sense about using AdWords – my good deed for the day. I also explained to him how strong a tool for advertising Facebook can be.

In my opinion, the event was poorly organised. It had promised so much and delivered so little. The presentations were drowned out by the sound of 300 people networking, and were often interrupted with shouts of ‘be quiet!’, which people ignored.

I only noticed three laptops (not counting my own), but a lot of mobiles. I suspect people weren’t twittering (because hardly anybody I spoke to had heard about it), rather texting friends and telling them how poor the event was. I managed to take a few pictures, but they were nothing special. Expect to see them on my Flickr later.

Overall, it wasn’t a worthwhile event, and I doubt I’ll be attending a MiniBar again. If I do attend a London media gathering, it will most likely be one of the weekly Open Coffee meetings.

Photographs taken at the event can be seen here.

Plurk: The New Twitter?

I’ve joined Plurk today, to add to the growing number of social networking sites that I’m present on.

WikiAnswers defines Plurk as:

“Plurk at the core is a micro-blogging site that allows users to post short messages similar to instant messaging, but charts the messages based on a time-line. The format is becoming increasingly popular with sites like Twitter and FriendFeed becoming more mainstream.”

The format is very similar to Twitter. You have 140 characters to tell the world about what you’re doing, share a link, or a video, and broadcast your life online.

The differences lie in Plurk’s ‘Karma’ system, and ‘Friend Status’.

How Plurk Works

Now, I don’t fully understand how the Karma system works yet, but I assume that it’s another way of boosting your Plurk profile, and your online status.

Every plurker has his/her own karma value. It is recalculated every day and falls within these intervals:

  • 0.00 to 21.00: You are in the state of creation
  • 21.00 to 41.00: You are in the state of maintenance
  • 41.00 to 61.00: You are enlightened
  • 61.00 to 81.00: You are so close to Plurk Nirvana
  • 81.00 to 100.00: You have reached Plurk Nirvana!

Your karma score is directly influenced by you and your friends Plurk activity. The more active you are, the more points you’ll get. Using various features of Plurk such as instant messaging or uploading a profile image will also help.

The more you and your friends use Plurk, the more karma points you get.
Karma points then give you access to little emotion icons that are found in popular chat programs such as AIM, or MSN Messenger.

A friend is essentially another word for your fan; basically a two-way connection with someone. A good thing about Plurk is that you can organize your friends into ‘cliques’, or groups.

You can also control which “cliques” can see your messages. This is a feature that many people want twitter to add, Plurk has definitely pipped them to the post.

The time line view on Plurk is also unique, and very aesthetically appealing. It’s a horizontal time line that you can drag around with your mouse to see the different online conversations in real time. It’s very easy to use and get to grips with.

Is it making money?

Jeff Raskin makes a very valid point about Plurk. Raskin believes that ‘Plurk is trying to follow in the twitter footsteps, that is, get as many users as you can, and then worry about the revenue model’ – which does appear to be true, as there aren’t any advertising or premium features on Plurk.

Raskin belives that Plurk isn’t making any money, and as such, Plurk could just be one of ‘several twitter copycats that are going to be springing up all over the place’.

Twitter is quite clearly, leading the micro-blogging world, and any competitor is going to have a tough time tapping into the market.

My life is on the line

In my opinion, I like the interface, but that’s pretty much about it. The Karma system is what separates it from Twitter and other microblogging websites, and this could also be the source of its biggest downfall.

It’s easy enough to sign up to the website but after that, its like being thrown in the deep end of a swimming pool and being left to yourself.

The theme editing features are quite cool, but all they do is make it look nice. The way it bunches conversations together is interesting, you can semi-organise your timeline. I think combining some features of Plurk with FriendFeed might address some of the aesthetic issues that FriendFeed has – I think FriendFeed is a little too ‘messy’.

Seems to me like Plurk is like having a new toy, it’s nice and shiny when you first get it, and the excitement is apparent, but eventually you’re going to forget about it. The stunning thing about it is that it has been live since January, and in the wake of the recent Twitter issues, has come to the forefront. However, Plurk has been known to go down quite a lot recently too.

If Plurk was to take advantage of Twitter’s ‘growing pains’ – then going down doesn’t give a positive appearance to its consumers. Plurk is clearly quite small-scale for now, but it’s definitely something I’ll be keeping my eye on for now.

Plurk – The New Twitter? Not just yet.

What should every company be monitoring?

Just came across a very interesting blog, Started by Cameron Olthuis on his blog, Pronet advertising:

  1. Company name
  2. Company URL
  3. Public facing figures
  4. Product names
  5. Product URLs
  6. The industry “hang outs”
  7. Employee activity/blogs
  8. Conversations
  9. Brand image
  10. Competitors
  11. Images/video like YouTube, Flickr, TVEyes, Google Video and Yahoo Video
  12. Tags and Social search tools like del.icio.us
  13. Social Voting tools like digg.com
  14. Memetrackers like Techmeme.com
  15. “Advanced Listening”
  16. Feedback URL and link threads
  17. “Voice of the Customer” log to track sentiment, instance, and/or voice.
  18. Develop new roles to such “Brand Monitor” or “Blogosphere Watcher”
  19. Self-clipping services like Google or Yahoo alerts for keyword mentions, but also audio and video hits as well…services like PODZINGER for example to ascertain conversational audio levels
  20. Media mentions by news features in search engines such as Google or Yahoo
  21. Relevant media news wires, such as Reuters (Intl.), AP News (U.S.), U.S. Newswire, CCN Matthews (U.K., Canada, Intl.), CNW Group (Canada), Mercopress (South Africa), allAfrica (Africa, general) and HR Net (Eastern Europe).
  22. Utilize RSS and aggregators like Bloglines in order to aggregate, integrate and assimilate all relevant incoming and outgoing moments of truth.
  23. Use wikis like PmWiki to discuss and debate pretty much everything from 1-19 and most importantly attempt to turn all the talk/conversation into walk/action.
  24. Repeat steps 1-20 to look outside of your own circle. Evolve the perspective from yourself, through your direct competitive set to your indirect competitive set and ultimately to your aspirational/non-endemic/non-competitive set. This is where you want to follow the leaders so to speak – Apples, Nikes, Googles or whichever company you admire.
  25. Create a PROACTIVE capability/budget in order to QUICKLY execute against everything you’re monitoring.
    Conversely, have a REACTIVE process in place to comprehensively and compellingly respond, especially when you’re on the bumpy receiving end of the stick.
  26. Search Term Volume
  27. Search Term Rank
  28. Relevant Wikipedia Entries
  29. Third Party Influencers
  30. Key Stakeholders
  31. Press release pickups
  32. Blog pickups using services like Technorati

What are your thoughts on this list? Would you add/take away anything?

Building an Online Community

An interesting Online Journalism class, (as part of BCU’s journalism degree) yesterday.

I had the pleasure of meeting Nick Booth, aka podnosh – Podcaster, and blogger. We had an interesting discussion about improving Environmental News Online (ENO) as a brand, and improving its community – this is due to the fact that the level of content on the site is steadily declining – something which me and Rachael need to address.

Building an Online Community

The idea of building an online community, and in turn, increasing online presence, centres around a few key points.

  1. Have clear policies, but invite users to build.
    This is a simple point really.  ENO should be making sure that it’s policies are clear – which they are. ENO should also be doing more to invite more users to have more of a say with the website.
  2. Actively recruit new members.
    I think that this is something that ENO could be doing a lot better. As an online community, when a unique user views content on the website, we should encourage comments, and also registration.
  3. Welcome new people.
    Following on from the last point, new users should be made to feel welcome and part of the community instantly. Their online reputation will only increase once they start commenting on other stories, other blogs, and other websites – this will not only help the individual user, but it will also help with SEO, and driving traffic back to the website.
  4. Provide a range of ways to participate.
    This is simple. Users should be able to have endless opportunities to contribute to the website. From filling out a simple ‘contact’ form to get in touch with the webmaster, to commenting on other content, and also being able to upload audio and video.
  5. Highlight the good contributors and reward them.
    Registered users who use the website frequently, and deliver high quality content, as well as commenting on other content should be recognised by other users of the website as a quality source of information, and reliable too.
  6. Anticipate problems.
    This simply means to be aware, and anticipate any problems that may arise so that proper procedures are in place for if/when they do happen. It also means to be aware of subjects or issues that are being discussed on the website that may be a potential minefield, such as high profile stories, or stories around race, or different cultures, etc – the wrong portrayal can lead to problems.
  7. Go where the reader is.
    This involves me knowing what else interestes the users of ENO, and tailoring the website to suit those users needs, and giving them a more personalised experience.
  8. Go offline!
    And finally, spend some time AWAY FROM THE COMPUTER! After all, we are only human – and spending so much time keeping track of what’s going on online isn’t really…healthy, is it?(Thanks to Paul Bradshaw for the resources to write the above points.)

Blogs and their Communities

The team of journalists that write for ENO already have a strong sense of community, with regular traffic coming to their blogs. When asked in the class how they think they could use this to create a more active community around ENO, this is how they responded:

How the journalists who write for ENO might improve the online community around it

So, where does the site go from here? – I’ll blog soon about an update on how the Joomla! SEO is going, as well as improving the ENO online community.

 

SEO for Joomla – The ENO Guide

NB – This is the first time I’m writing a post with the new WordPress WYSIWIG editor, I must say – I’m indifferent towards it.

I have recently been reading up on how to make the ENO site more Search Engine Optimised (SEO) – so that I can try and push the site higher up in a Google search.

The ‘Top Joomla SEO tips’ I found, were:

  1. Using keywords in the Title tag:

    The number one factor in ranking a page on any search engine is the title tag.
    These are the words in the source of a page in <title> and appear in the blue bar of the browser.

    “Choose the title of an article very carefully. Joomla will use the title of the article in the title tag (what appears in the blue bar). It will also be the text used in any insite links (see also 5 and 6).”

  2. The Anchor Text of the Inbound Link

    Anchor text is the text that appears underlined and in blue (unless it’s been styled) for a link from one webpage to another.
  3. Global Link Popularity of the Site (PageRank)

    How many pages are linking to ENO is called link popularity, or in Google, PageRank.

    “The more sites link to you, the better. Joomla is a CMS that helps you add content quickly. Create one quality content page per day. Quality content is the most important factor to getting bound links. For a site that will perform well, you eventually need 200 odd pages of content. This is the important point. QUICK SEO IS DEAD. The only way to perform well in SEO now is to have a rich content site.”

  4. The Age of the Site This one is self explanatory – ENO hasn’t been live for very long, so it would be foolish to expect it to be on the first page of a Google search. Sites that have been live for longer will naturally have more content, which means more links, which means they will be higher up in Google searches.
  5. Link Popularity WITHIN the Site This refers to how many pages link to the main website from inside the domain. The more links there are to a particular article will improve its relevance in Google search results. If an author of one article links to another related article on the same website (pretty much as you would with a blog) – then ENO will appear higher in a Google search.
  6. The ‘Topical Relevance’ of Inbound Links, and the Popularity of the Linking site

    To improve the ranking of ENO, it is imperative that the incoming links to the site (i.e. sites that link to ENO) have a high PageRank in Google. This means the links have to be from a site that is topically related to ENO, and one that has a high rank too.

  7. Using Keywords in the Body Text

    This refers to the keyword density of the phrase that you are optimizing for, in the content of the page.
    A German study into this, identified some interesting results:

    Targeted keywords in the first and last paragraphs. There is a simple trick here, write your quality content, and then use the tool of your choice to find the keyword density. THEN, take the top three words and add them to the meta keywords in the parameters part of the page (in Joomla admin). This is somewhat backwards for some maybe, it optimizes a page for what you actually wrote, rather than trying to write a page optimized for certain words (which I always find difficult).

    Keywords in H2-H6 headline tags seem to have an influence on the rankings while keywords in H1 headline tags seem to be getting less valuable. Modify the output of the core content component through a template override file.

    Using keywords in bold or strong tags – slight effect, same with img alt tags and filenames.

Hopefully, using these methods that I’ve found, and asking the Journalists to do the same, I can drive more traffic to the website. I think that I should be more closely monitoring the traffic to the website so that I can possibly tailor particular pages to suit specific users.

Reflections on JEEcamp

Well, I’m sure over the coming days that many of yesterdays attendees at JEEcamp will no doubt be posting their views on how yesterday’s event went.

EDIT: Tom Scotney already has – see what he took from JEEcamp here.

A success

There is no doubt in my mind that yesterday’s event was a success. I personally took a lot of information, and insight from it (more later in the post), and others will have taken their own opinions away from it.

I was part of the blog team, along with a few other students, who were relaying the day’s events to the viewers of a live blog, (via CoverItLive), and others were twittering away as the speakers delivered their speeches and pitches.

An RSS feed of all of the attendees twitter accounts, and anything tagged ‘JEEcamp’, can be found here – some of it makes for some very interesting reading.

436

Rick Waghorn, founder of myfootballwriter.com, began the day’s proceedings with a keynote speech about how his business came to be, amongst other things.

Rick said that his site attracted 33,000 unique visitors in January – and whilst that may be down to the transfer window opening, it is certainly impressive.

The more interesting figures that Rick mentioned are 436 – the average number of seconds that a single user spends on the site, and 3.5 – the average number of visits his site will get in a month.

Laura Oliver of journalism.co.uk has written more about Rick’s keynote speech, which can be found here.

Funding

Once the speech was over, the conference split up into its discussion groups, which included Online News Models, Communities, Legals, Fundings, and Business Models. I covered funding, which was hosted by Rick Waghorn.

Alex Gamela has given a brief overview of the other discussions, and key points to come out of yesterdays events.

The main things to come out of this discussion, other than a sustained attack on Google’s advertising models were:

  • To be successful, you need a five year financial forecast. Rick uses iReport, for which CNN bought the domain without even giving it a thought, or doing anything with it. Rick hasn’t an idea what his domain is worth. (He paid £16 for his site.)
  • Why doesn’t the Trinity Mirror set up a fund like the Knight Foundation for smaller companies?
  • Some local papers panic and put everything online, in an effort to keep up with the nationals.
  • You have to earn over $50 with Adsense before you can claim your money
    How many sites must there be UNDER that threshold?
  • Demographically, if you took out everybody over the age of 60 in local newspaper circulation, where would you be?
  • The fundamental challenge is to persuade potential investors to invest in your product/site, without OVERspending or releasing too much equity into the project.

Pitches

The most well recieved of the day’s pitches was Nigel Eccles‘ project Hubdub – a news prediction website where users bet on the outcome of certain news stories using ‘play’ money. This clearly has the potential to grow very quickly and Nigel was a man who was most definitely in demand after his speech. (It had 42,000 unique visitors in its first week!)

However, a key point raised during his pitch was ‘Should Hubdub place ethical restrictions on its questions?’ – because currently, a user is able to sign up and pose ethically incorrect questions, such as something regarding a missing child. We posed this question to the viewers of the live blog – 42% agreed that it should, while 58% didn’t).

This was the most well recieved of the three pitches (Which included scribblesheet, and qotz – a project still in development).

Panel Discussion

The day ended with an informal Q&A session with Mark Comerford, Martin Stabe, Kyle MacRae, and Sarah Hartley.

This was definitely where I picked up most of the key points from the day.

The panel believed that advances in technologies, such as mobile, RSS, and broadband – just make people use what was originally present more often. Mark believed that traditional media have no real strategy for utilising output on mobile phones, and as a result “Newspapers aren’t dying – we’re committing suicide”.

The panel then went on to discuss Qik – software for mobile phones that allows users to stream video directly from their mobile phones. They believed that such software changes everything, and anybody can now walk around with a live TV camera in their pocket.

Such advances allow journalists to change the way they tell their stories – and it allows the public to tell their stories back to journalists. Mark believed that journalists are tired of being seen as ‘the voice of the people’, when they are simply A voice IN the field (of journalism).

This raised the age old debate of ‘Do we need Journalists?’ which was quickly answered with ‘Who is a journalist may not be as important as “What is Journalism?’. The panel agreed that it was an issue of trust – and if journalism isn’t transparent, the public will go to a news source that is – which may not neccessarily be a journalist.

If journalists want people to engage with them, they need to bring the stories TO the public, rather than waiting for the public to go to the press. Most news organisations clearly try to get UGC (user generated content) for free, which is detrimental to the medium. What they should be doing is working together to become part of a ‘sharing partnership’ – which would benefit both freelancers and news organisations.

Young Journalists – The future?

Mark’s final point was the one that really drove home with me.

He mentioned that young Journalists are more technically skilled than their older superiors, but they are being put into difficult positions – where they have the neccessary journalistic skills, but not the power or the experience needed.

“It’s the same as leaving a bunch of kids in a car park for long enough and then expecting them to know how to drive.”

Referring to my final year project, and a discussion that I had with Pete Ashton at the end of the event – Initially I was worried that I had to design and run a website and a CMS – and that was my biggest stumbling block.

I realised by the end of the event that I shouldn’t have been worried about how the website might look or how and where I was going to get it online – I should instead place more of an emphasis on how I’m going to drive traffic to the website and keep users coming back to it.

The very last point from JEEcamp was also VERY relevant:

“Now is the best time to be a journalist. The demand is for journalists who WANT to tell a story. All of the contacts, features, etc, are in place to become a great journalist. This is THE time to be a journalist. It doesnt get much better than this.”

And that is pretty much that, roll on next year!

PS – I also gave a video interview to the European Journalism Centre – I’ll link to it once they get it online.