Tag Archives: The Guardian

NY Times’ David Carr Pitch to ‘Occupy Newsrooms’ Spurs Comment Frenzy

New York Times media critic David Carr has struck a populist nerve with his latest column.  In his Monday “Media Equation” piece, Carr admonished Gannett, the massive print and broadcast media chain, for an editorial from its own USA Today about the Occupy Wall Street protests. In the editorial, the newspaper decried the Wall Street bonus system, listing it as one of the good reasons for the weeks-long protests.

Carr found this a bit hypocritical. “If you were looking for bonus excess despite miserable operations, the best recent example I can think of is Gannett, which owns USA Today,” he wrote. Thousands of readers were incensed by the column — in a good way. Some 235 people commented on it, many reacting with the same disgust Carr expressed. “I have always been mystified by the rarified ranks of the uber-execs who command these kinds of salaries in any industry. It seems to be some kind of club like Skull & Bones that once you are admitted, you are set for life,” Richard Williamson of Dallas wrote. “it’s disgusting watching these failures award themselves millions for destroying tens of thousands of lives,” Linda from Brooklyn wrote. “but it does speak to the overwhelming corruption of american corporate ‘governance.'” Other media critics, like the Guardian’s Roy Greenslade, chimed in as well: The ever-readable New York Times media commentator David Carr has contrasted what a newspaper says with what its publisher does.”

Carr, who has turned into a media star himself over the past couple of years, is no stranger to going after corporate excess or malpractice – whether he’s exposing the “bankrupt culture’ at Tribune or a history of ethical lapses at News Corp. properties. The problem at Gannett, he argued, is that while the company’s stock price continues to tank and workers lose their jobs, recently departed CEO Craig A. Dubow netted $37 million upon announcing his resignation. And that’s on top of the sky-high salary he has been earning. Yet if most agreed with Carr wholeheartedly, other readers seemed to think he picked the wrong target – keep the focus on Wall Street! Still others felt this was nothing revelatory, that this is rather obvious. And, of course, some had proposals for new targets to occupy. Occupy Wall Street! Occupy Newsrooms! Occupy Everything


Who owns a journalist’s Twitter account?

BBC News political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg built up a large following on Twitter with her mix of news, commentary and colour. Her move to ITV News in September has raised questions over who “owns” the almost 60,000 people who follow @BBCLauraK.

The Guardian suggests that “rather than handing her old account login back to the BBC to start from scratch with a new ITV account, the sensible thing to do is to change the name of the account.”  But it looks like Kuenssberg will be starting from scratch, with the Twitter handle, @ITVLauraK. Ironically, the announcement was made by Kuenssberg on her BBC Twitter account. Social media creates an opportunity for journalists to interact on a personal level with audiences. Even if an account is branded as a “BBC” journalist, it blurs the traditional barrier between the professional and personal as tweets tend to reflect the personality of the reporter.

It marks a further step in the shift from the institutional to the individual brand of the journalist, identified by the State of the Media report in 2009: Through search, e-mail, blogs, social media and more, consumers are gravitating to the work of individual writers and voices, and away somewhat from institutional brand. Social media provides journalists with a way to connect and interact with audiences in a more personal and direct way than through traditional news products. But there is an unresolved tension between the journalist and the institution, especially on Twitter, which as Jemima Kiss points out, is designed for individuals to communicate.

Media institutions may have to accept that they cannot own the Twitter accounts of their reporters.  The journalist may need to switch to a new account, as Kuenssberg will be doing, but they are likely to take their following with them.


Al-Jazeera launches new unit to support future leaks

Al-Jazeera launched a new Transparency Unit website parallelly to the release of almost 1,700 leaked documents relating to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The new platform enables the public to submit content to the broadcaster such as documents, photos, audio and video clips, and story tip-offs, to be reviewed by its editorial team for potential coverage. The site also currently houses a database of the Palestine Papers, which can be searched by key words, date, location and participants. The unit said all content submitted to it will be subject to “a rigorous vetting and authentication process” which will include “fierce adherence to our tradecraft commitment of ‘journalism of depth'”. Files submitted will be encrypted while they are transmitted. They are then uploaded and stored on Al Jazeera’s secure servers and only journalists working within the unit will be able to access them. Over the past few months, Al-Jazeera has had access to the cache of almost 1,700 files, which includes memos, emails, maps, minutes from private meetings and strategy papers, and dates from 1999 to 2010. It claims that it is the biggest leak in the history of the Middle East conflict, detailing continuing negotiations involving American, Israeli, and Palestinian Authority officials. The Guardian claims it was given exclusive access to the ‘Palestine Papers’ by Al-Jazeera. The newspaper’s coverage of the leaked documents will be supplemented by WikiLeaks cables from the US consulate in Jerusalem and embassy in Tel Aviv


Guardian announces commercial launch of Open Platform

The Guardian Thursday introduced the second phase of its Open Platform initiative, expanding the content-sharing service to commercial partners. A comprehensive set of developer tools and resources, the commercial launch of Open Platform makes Guardian content available for advertisers and brands to tailor to specific online campaigns. Open Platform provides a content application programming interface, or API, that makes Guardian content searchable and downloadable for use in external applications. A second resource is the Data Store statistics directory – detailed data curated by Guardian editors. Launch partner Enjoy England used Open platform to build an interactive map of England plotting specially commissioned articles on places of interest alongside tips and photo uploads from readers. Part of a wider campaign for Enjoy England, the map features Guardian content but could be published anywhere on the web, according to the plans of the campaign. Access to the service is based on three levels: keyless, where headlines and basic data can be used without registration; approved, which allows full article content to be published; and bespoke, a customised service for licensing content and developing rich applications. The first two allow partners to keep any revenue earned, while the bespoke service offers various revenue sharing deals through sponsorship, licensing and other commercial formats. Guardian News and Media’s consumer media director Adam Freeman said the service benefitted partners by providing access to a global audience of 33 million users each month, while offering an incentive of GBP 50,000 in media spend to the next partner that spends more than GBP 100,000. The Guardian claims that Open Platform, which launched in beta last year, is a first for the newspaper industry. More than 2,000 developers have registered since the launch, creating more than 200 applications and products.


Guardian editor forecasts ‘vault of darkness’ for The Times

Alan Rusbridger and John Witherow sparred over their respective free and paid-for online journalism models last night, but were united in saying their current printing presses will be their last.  The rival editors were participating in a BBC Radio 4 debate staged only weeks before The Times and Witherow’s Sunday Times begin enforcing an online subscription regime of £1 per day and £2 per week

According to Witherow, the new Sunday Times site will be free for a month before the paywall goes up between internet users and the editorial.   Witherow admitted the move, instigated by News Corporation chief Rupert Murdoch, would decimate the Times’ online readership by “easily” more than 90% but argued it would be “perilous” to continue to rely totally on online advertising revenues.

The free model pursued by most newspapers, including Rusbridger’s Guardian, would lead to “poorer and poorer” journalism in the long term, Witherow claimed. “The point of [charging online subscriptions] is to make money so we can invest in journalism. Pay journalists decent salaries, send them places, get better reporting,” he said, having earlier pointed out it cost The Times a million pounds per year to maintain a Baghdad correspondent.   “The danger of this other model is that gradually the journalism will diminish, it will get poorer and poorer, you won’t be able to afford things, you won’t be able to do things and so everybody is poorer as a result.”

However, Rusbridger questioned the significance of the revenues the Times and Sunday Times could make from what he guessed would be in the region of 60,000 to 100,000 online subscribers compared to Guardian.co.uk’s 32 million users. “That’s two or three weeks’ revenue in terms of cover price. That’s useful revenue, I can see why people are trying it, but it’s not a game changer. It will be interesting if it succeeds but we shouldn’t kid ourselves that this is going to be the panacea.”

Rusbridger’s prediction elicited the response from Witherow that he would be “disappointed” with 60,000 subscribers, but the Sunday Times editor refrained from giving his own estimate of the number of future paying users. Witherow later said News International was “going full out to make it work” and did not yet have a plan B if it did not. For his part Rusbridger professed that while staying free was the best way forward journalistically for The Guardian, he welcomed the experimentation from The Times.

“The truth is that nobody knows – John doesn’t know, I don’t know – how this is going to end up. It’s a good thing that he’s experimenting so we’ll try different models and end up learning something from both.” However, though claiming it would be crazy to be “fundamentalist” about staying free if The Times succeeded, the Guardian editor went on to nail his colours to the mast by saying “if you erect a paywall around your content you kind of go into a vault of darkness”. He believed openness to and collaboration with the wider internet “ecosystem” were key assets in future journalism.

Rusbridger bolstered his argument by claiming The Guardian’s digital advertising revenues were up around 100% in a year, in contrast to Witherow’s admission of falling revenues. The Guardian editor warned The Times faced competition not just from other newspaper websites but from specialist free websites such as News Corporation’s own Book Army.

“The competition isn’t from the bundled newspaper sites, it’s from the people who have a much lower cost model who are going to do it for free,” he said. “The moment we get behind a paywall, they’re going to say ‘thanks very much, that’s what we were praying for’.”

Rusbridger also noted that Murdoch’s Sky News website would still provide free news competition, memorably saying: “Rupert Murdoch is having it both ways at the moment and he would as readily stab you in the back as the front.”    

One issue the two men did agree on is that neither newspaper group will need new printing presses. Rusbridger said: “I would miss print … but if it means that print goes and Guardian journalism continues digitally, that’s not the worst thing in the world.”

“Our last printing presses [which were installed in 2005 with the switch to the Berliner format] – I had a feeling in my bones that they might be the last printing presses.” Pushed by host Steve Hewlett for a date by which The Guardian will not exist in print, Rusbridger said: “I was thinking 20 years at that point. I think that might be telescoping quite dramatically now.”

Witherow seemed to suggest a longer timescale, albeit a similar sentiment: “We’ve got new presses [installed in 2008] that were supposed to last 30 or 40 years. We rather assumed the same thing, that these would be the last. Things are speeding up now and for us to predict how long print will be around is very difficult.

“My theory is it’s going to be a considerable time, especially with something like the Sunday Times, which has magazines and is a tactile experience.” An edited version of the debate can be heard today on Radio 4’s ‘The Media Show’ at 1.30pm


Random Guardian offers users a new way to browse online news

Procrastinators now have a new tool to help them postpone their to-do list while gaining a wider grasp of the daily news: Random Guardian. The browsing tool offers users a chance to check out a random page from that day’s Guardian with the click of a button. Visiting the website http://random-guardian.appspot.com/ brings your browser to a random Guardian page with a toolbar at the top which offers the clickable option to “view another” when you are done with your current page. The app’s creator, Guardian software developer Daniel Vydra, was inspired by the idea of a “chatroulette for news” mentioned at a presentation on new media. The result is a way to browse the online version of the Guardian as one might do with the paper version. With the advent of searchable, indexed newspaper websites, no longer do consumers have to flip through each page of articles until they arrive on one that they were specifically looking for. Now, readers can gain a wider grasp of the news and perhaps a newfound interest in surprising topics or articles.


Guardian Zeitgeist filters news by ‘attention of users’

The Guardian is experimenting with a new feature on its website to show trending news, topics and articles from the website in an innovation beyond typical “most read” and “most commented on” lists. The stories appearing on Zeitgeist and the order in which they appear on the page is driven by “the attention of users”, rather than by editors, like the site’s front page, or by metadata, such as showing blog posts in chronological order. To create the visualisation the behaviour of Guardian.co.uk readers is being analysed to determine the attention different articles and content has received from readers, including: what sites they come to the Guardian form and go to after; how long they stay on a page; if they share links to a page on social sites; and the number of comments on a piece. “It’s different from “most read” or “most commented” lists, because it draws on far more data, and analyses it in a sophisticated way to generate more meaningful results,” said developers Meg Pickard and Dan Catt. The feature will also be of use to Guardian journalists and web teams: “The data produced by this can provide additional insight about what captures people’s attention and how that attention and engagement evolves over time, which may lead to a deeper understanding of how people consume, transfer and engage with content in a medium which is still (relatively) young and always changing.” Work is still being done on Zeitgeist and the current version is described as “functional”.