Newspaper Comments: Forget Anonymity! The Problem Is Management [Scott Rosenberg]

From Scott Rosenberg’s Wordyard: “The great mistake so many newspapers and media outlets made was to turn on the comments software and then walk out of the room. They seemed to believe that the discussions would magically take care of themselves.

If you opened a public cafe or a bar in the downtown of a city, failed to staff it, and left it untended for months on end, would you be surprised if it ended up as a rat-infested hellhole?”

More at Wordyard

At Snopes, A Quest To Debunk Misinformation Online [NYTimes]

From the NYTimes: “The popularity of Snopes – it attracts seven million to eight million unique visitors in an average month – puts the couple in a unique position to evaluate digital society’s attitudes toward accuracy.

After 14 years, they seem to have concluded that people are rather cavalier about the facts.

In a given week, Snopes tries to set the record straight on everything from political smears to old wives’ tales.”


5 Must-Read Online Media Books

As I stared at my bookshelf this evening, I got to thinking about the books I most often recommend to online journalism colleagues and workshop participants. I figure my pals in the blogosphere might find such a list useful as well. Each of these five books either fundamentally changed my outlook or gave me incredibly useful knowledge in my daily work. You can visit this historical blog for the best history knowledge of the book.

And please, tempt me into spending some book money by sharing your favorites in the comments! On to the list:

SEO for Dummies by Peter Kent

seofordummiesPeter Kent’s book can help any beginner make huge strides in optimizing content for search engines. When I teach workshops, I often hand out a list of links to practical online resources; ‘SEO for Dummies’ is the only dead-tree resource to make it on that list. Read this thing at least twice. This book is not only spectacularly useful, it’s also one of the most enjoyable technology books I’ve ever read. Knowing this book inside and out can result in many, many new readers coming to your news site.

One More Time: The Best of Mike Royko

mikeroykoIf you’re a journalist wanting to learn a thing or two about blogging, skip the e-book by this week’s online marketing flavor of the week. Instead, read this collection of columns by longtime Chicago columnist Mike Royko. Royko wrote his columns five days a week, a schedule many bloggers are hard-pressed to keep. He was a master at interacting with his audience, sometimes even poking fun at them (read his czernina columns). He knew how to pick topics that got people to react and care.

And, Royko unknowingly discovered a secret to building a successful community around a web site: getting people together in real life. Royko was famous for his rib cookoffs, ugly dog contest and other events.

Read Mike Royko through the lens of a blogger, and you’re bound to gain a new appreciation for the lessons that can be learned from journalism’s past.

Myths of Innovation by Scott Berkun

myths of innovationI still remember the day at the 2007 ONA conference when fellow journalism geek Lisa Williams told a group of online editors that the journalism industry was beginning to mirror the technology industry with its rapid development cycles and webby culture. Consequently, fostering a culture of innovation is key to growing a successful news site. Scott Berkun’s ‘Myths of Innovation’ will challenge your ideas on how new concepts succeed in the marketplace, as well as give you some insights on fostering innovation in your newsroom and personal life.

Don’t Make Me Think! A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug

don'tmakemethinkSteve Krug’s ‘Don’t Make Me Think!’ is THE bible of web usability. Anyone involved in working on a web site should read this book. ‘Don’t Make Me Think!’ can help keep you from making costly mistakes when putting together your site on a daily basis. What kinds of links work best? How do people navigate your site? Why aren’t my promos working? This book holds many of your answers, my friend. Even the layout of this book is an example of great usability.

Spring into HTML & CSS by Molly E. Holzschlag

springintohtmlcssThis is the HTML/CSS book upon which I was weaned as a newbie HTML slinger –or rather, as a standards-compliant HTML slinger. You see, I first learned to design web sites by my lonesome using Adobe GoLive and its accompanying manual (go on, laugh and get it out of your system). It wasn’t until I used this book in Mindy McAdams’ multimedia class at the University of Florida that I really started to learn to design using modern best practices. This book is still my go-to recommendation whenever I’m asked about a good book for learning HTML and CSS.

Now go on, tell everyone in the comments what five books you most often recommend to colleagues.

Not-to-Miss Florida Online Media, Technology Events

barcamp-orlandoA group of online technology enthusiasts listens in on a presentation at BarCamp Orlando in 2007. The event is now in its third year. [Photo by Josh Hallett ]

In the next few months, yours truly’s calendar is jam-packed with all sorts of great online media and technology events in Florida –events you should really think about attending!

A few weeks ago, I wrote about 10 things online editors can do to save their jobs. Well, attending these kinds of events is Number 10 on the list. And best of all, most of these cost the princely sum of zero dollars. You can also subscribe to One Click Power for continuous updates on technology.

If you know of any others, please drop me a comment. On to the list:

DrupalCamp Florida – Saturday, Feb. 7
Altamonte Springs, Fla. (just 10-15 minutes north of Orlando)
Cost: FREE
Central Florida is getting its first-ever DrupalCamp, a day-long series of presentations revolving around the free, open-source content management system that is changing the face of online media. Drupal is being used by major media sites such as The New York Observer, Morris Digital, the Miami Herald, as well as hundreds of thousands of small companies and hobbyists.

BarCamp Miami and WordCamp Miami – Sunday, Feb. 22
Coconut Grove, Fla. (near Miami, Fla.)
Cost: FREE
Happening in conjunction with FOWA, listed next
If there’s one thing journalists often lack, it’s an understanding and appreciation for Internet and tech culture. Well, you can get a big heap of it at BarCamp, a technology and online media “un-conference” distinguished by it having absolutely no schedule! The joy of BarCamp is that everyone is encouraged to make a presentation or lead a discussion. It’s totally open to everyone in the spirit of the day. The workshop schedule is set that very morning as participants sign up to lead discussions and give presentations. While BarCamp can get uber-geeky, it’s a great place to learn from other techies, meet innovators, share your knowledge with others and get some great ideas. BarCamp will also forever change your perspective on conferences.

BarCamp is partnering with WordCamp, a workshop similar in style to BarCamp but centering around WordPress, the insanely popular and powerful blogging platform that has become the tool of choice for many bloggers, including Journalistopia. Participants will sign up for presentations on everything from how to become a popular blogger to how to hack the code that powers WordPress

Future of Web Apps Conference – Monday, Feb. 23-24
Miami, Fla.
Cost: $395 (I know it’s pricey, but super early bird tickets were available for $100)
The Future of Web Apps Conference is THE premier web development event in the Southeast. FOWA will feature luminaries such as Winelibrary.TV’s Gary Vaynerchuk, 37Signals’ Jason Fried and many more. I attended last year, and it was worth every minute. This event is geared toward web developers, so it can be techy, but I truly learned a great deal about how the web is changing at this event.

Megacon – Friday, Feb. 27-March 1
Orlando, Fla.
Cost: $22/day or $52 for 3 days. Plus $10 parking/day
Er, this is a comic book convention. But who cares if it’s not about online journalism! I’ll be there! Onward…

Florida Society of Newspaper Editors Multimedia Workshop – Saturday, March 21
Tampa, Fla.
Cost: TBA
FSNE is planning a low-cost multimedia workshop for the Tampa Bay area similar to the one they recently planned in Miami. The workshop is a great opportunity to learn about blogging, online ethics, data projects, Flash and much more. I’ll be there reprising the workshop I led in Miami on new online media tools. Mark your calendar!

BarCamp Orlando – Saturday, April 18
Orlando, Fla.
Cost: Free
Now in its third year, BarCamp Orlando is the Central Florida flavor of BarCamp, explained above under BarCamp Miami. The last two years were a great success, so I’ll hopefully see you there this year!


Now I’m wondering when I’ll get to spend time with my lovely wife. At least she got in some great crossword puzzle time the last time I dragged her to BarCamp. (Such a good sport. Love you, dear!)

See you in Miami, Orlando or Tampa!

GateHouse Lawsuit vs. New York Times Co. has Dire Implications

GateHouse Media filed a lawsuit Monday against the New York Times Co. alleging copyright infringement after the NYT-owned Boston Globe frequently posted links containing headlines and the first sentences from articles on GateHouse’s community news sites.

View the Document: The 25-page lawsuit [PDF]
-View the Document:  Request for an injunction [PDF]
to stop the Globe from posting GateHouse links. [UPDATE 12/23, 10:02 p.m.: A judge denied the temporary injunction]
View the Document: 35-page support document for the injunction [PDF]
View the Document: Affidavit by GateHouse Media Metro Editor-in-Chief Gregory Reibman [PDF]
Your Town Newton, one of the Boston Globe’s community sites that sparked the lawsuit. See the news links in the center content gutter.

The lawsuit, if successful, could create a monumental chilling effect for bloggers, news sites, search engines, social media sites and aggregators such as Topix and Techmeme, which link to articles, display headlines and use snippets of copyrighted text from other sites. Initiatives such as the Times Extra, which displays links to related articles from other sites, could be shut down for fear of copyright lawsuits. It could lead to a repudiation of one of the fundamental principles on which the Internet was built: the discovery and sharing of information.

In its complaint, GateHouse called the article links “deep links” because they do not link to the home page of the site. The “deep link” language in the complaint is meant to invoke cases such as the case, wherein a motorcross news site was successfully prohibited from deep linking to a competing site’s streaming video file, which bypassed the site’s advertising.

From a technological standpoint, Your Town Newton’s article links would likely be considered deep links. However, that does not necessarily mean the links are a violation of fair use principles. The links to the articles, which contain as many as six advertisement positions, are rather different in nature from the links to streaming audio and media files in the case, which were unable to contain advertising.

GateHouse’s assertion is that the Boston Globe community site’s use of the headlines cannibalizes GateHouse’s content and causes it financial harm because readers gather news from the links and snippets on the Globe’s site rather than visit GateHouse’s sites. Although not explicitly stated in the complaint, this means GateHouse likely believes the loss of readers from possible increased use of the Globe’s site will not be offset by the readers brought in by its competitor’s links.

If GateHouse were to have its way with its deep link argument, it would create a legal precedent that makes the act of linking to a copyrighted article illegal. It could mean a crippling of sites such as Romenesko and the Drudge Report, which can bring in enormous amounts of readers while being primarily built upon links to someone else’s expensive-to-create content. But, if enforced, it would also cut off the voluminous flow of readers who arrive to news sites via search engines and aggregators. That, too, has an effect on the bottom line.

In the end, we could see a long list of media companies flinging short-sighted lawsuits at each other, while suicidally pushing their content into black holes guarded by copyright law.

[UPDATE 12/23]: Here’s some commentary on the lawsuit from other media bloggers:

How the GateHouse suit looks from both sides – Media Nation
GateHouseGate – Mark Potts
A danger to journalism – Jeff Jarvis, BuzzMachine
Gatehouse sues NYTCo over aggregation: But do they have a point? – Tish Grier
Aggregation aggravation – PaidContent
Dying Newspapers Suing Each Other For Content Theft – Silicon Valley Insider

2008 Knight-Batten Award Winners Announced

J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism has announced its 2008 winners and honorable mentions, which include a site that tracks the source of edits on Wikipedia, an  imaginative political fact-checking site and a site that tracks reports of violence in Kenya.

Here’s the quick list of winners:

$10,000 Grand Prize: WikiScanner Coverage – WIRED, San Francisco
$2,000 Special Distinction Award: PolitiFact – St. Petersburg Times, St. Petersburg, Fla.
$2,000 Special Distinction Award: Ushahidi – Crowdsourcing Crisis Information – Ushahidi, Inc., Orlando, Fla.
$2,000 Citizen Media Award: – Jacqueline Dupree, Washington

Honorary Mentions:
Hope: Living and Loving with HIV in Jamaica – Bluecadet Interactive, Philadelphia
Iowa’s Deadly Tornado – The Des Moines Register, Des Moines, Iowa – CNN, Atlanta
U.S. Congress –, Berkeley, Calif.

[2008 Knight-Batten Award winners]

BlogOrlando Schedule Posted, Registration Open

If you’ve been waiting to see who’s coming to BlogOrlando this year before you decide to make the trip, well wait no further! The schedule is now posted and features some of the smartest blogging minds around — all for the fabulous price of nil.

The unconference, which is now in its third year, features expert speakers who tackle blogging from various perspectives, be it community organizing, public relations or software engineering. BlogOrlando’s main day will be held Saturday, Sept. 27 at Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla. not far from downtown Orlando. There will be other receptions and events going on as well (see the schedule). For the higher diploma in the mechanical engineering Click here.

If you check out the attendee list, you’ll see folks are coming from all over Central Florida, Tampa/St. Pete and South Florida, as well as from the rest of the country. Last year, more than 250 people attended and got tips on how to integrate blogs in the newsroom, podcasting, blog design and how to organize community blogs. Did I mention all this doesn’t cost you a penny for registration?

I’ll see you there!

[BlogOrlando official site]

Audio from Future of Web Apps Miami available

fowa-thumb.gifJust got an e-mail letting me know that audio from the Future of Web Apps Miami conference is available. Woot!

For us online news types, these talks are a great chance to get exposed to what’s happening in web technology and to think about how we can apply it to our situation.

These were the talks I thought were the best IMHO:

Cal Henderson from Flickr talks about the software development process and gives boatloads of excellent advice you need to hear if you’re developing applications.

Gary Vaynerchuk from Wine Library TV talks about the importance of passion in growing a community (this one really applies to news sites).

Kevin Marks from Google talks about Google’s OpenSocial and the future of social networking.

Blaine Cook from Twitter talks about the future of Twitter and its architecture.

Leah Culver from Pownce talks about opening your web app to the masses (something news sites need to get better at, without jeopardizing their revenue that is..)

Gary Vaynerchuk bares his passion — for communities

Kathy Sierra talked about creating passionate users earlier today, but Gary Vaynerchuk talked about creating passionate OWNERS.

Vaynerchuk, host of the popular Wine Library TV online video show, worked his way into the hearts of the crowd here at the Future of Web Apps conference by sharing his passion for his community (and boozing us up with a little wine passed out to the crowd).

You should pay close attention to what he has to say if you operate a news site. Vaynerchuk is not a computer expert (“I built a 15 million-dollar liquor store on Control C and Control V”); he’s a wine expert. And he’s passionate, passionate, passionate about his community:

“I fly all over the country just to drink wine with people.”

“You’ve got to have the DNA of your community.”

“There needs to be a face to your company. You have to take care of those people until your bleeding out of your f***ing g****mn face.”

“You need to love your community more than you love yourself.”

“You’ve got to have someone in the trenches. Someone people can touch.”

I’m going to take a stab in the dark and say that perhaps doesn’t sound like your ombudsman — if your news operation even has one any more, that is. Some news sites have hired “community managers,” usually to manage message boards and community-contibuted content.  But is that person a visible presence on the site? Have people seen his face? Does the person have public conversations with readers? Does that person really love where he works?

And most important of all, are you making an effort to brand that person as being a community resource, or is he just another mysterious byline? Do people know this person exists? Vaynerchuk said it best:

“You always hear ‘content is king’. The fact of the matter is marketing and branding is the queen, and we know who runs the household.”

If people can’t name your community manager, if they can’t relate to that person or get an e-mail returned quickly –then really, what’s the point?

It’s become increasingly clear that tomorrow’s web is going to be shaped by openness — OpenID, open standards, open business practices, etc. Consequently, your news site is going to need someone reliable to whom people can go for answers.

Journalism is becoming a high-tech industry

Live from the ONA conference in Toronto…

Lisa Williams, founder of H20Town and Placeblogger, says journalism is becoming a high-tech industry that is moving toward the way technology firms operate.

“You guys have mooched much closer to me,” said Williams, a veteran of the technology industry.

When Williams began H20Town, she took delight at working faster than the local newspaper and gaining an audience “because I could hit ‘Enter’ first.” But now, she says, the local newspaper is publishing breaking news and implementing more Web 2.0 tools.

Williams offered several strategies for media organizations trying to navigate the online world. Among my favorites:

-Take something that used to cost money and make it free. Why let the next Craig Newmark steal your readers?

-The Web rewards “narrow comprehensiveness.” Create a product that is “everything about something” very specific.

-Limits are good. Because newspapers try hard to be all things to all readers, media organizations subsequently port that same mentality to their online products. Instead, focus on creating great, key features that will gain many fans, such as Twitter has done with their service. Get more info at carrefour-maires .

I think most mainstream media organizations have slurped the Kool-Aid and realized that we need to embrace technology. But how?

Sitting in this room full of journalists from some of the biggest news organizations in the world, I can’t help but realize that we just might be somewhat like the blind leading the blind. Nearly every group of journalists I come across asks the same questions. We desperately need to seek out the wisdom of other industries to help us navigate through the dark.

Let’s be totally shameless and emulate the ways technology companies operate. Let’s start swiping great talent from Apple, Microsoft and Google. Let’s gain some street cred among technology enthusiasts so they can help us evangelize our journalism. Let’s become educated about the techniques used to develop software. And, as many others have said before, let’s nurture real entrepreneurship in our news organizations backed with actual rewards.

Twin Cities Daily Planet rounds up niche papers, takes on the Star-Tribune

Live from the ONA conference in Toronto…

twin cities daily planet A coalition of small, niche community publications can become a premier source of news in Minnesota, says Jeremy Iggers, director of of the Twin Cities Media Alliance at

The Twin Cities Daily Planet –inspired by OhMyNews — “is conceived as an experiment in participatory journalism, built on a partnership between professional journalists and individual citizens. One goal of the Daily Planet is to harness that community intelligence and enable individuals to share information and work together for the common good. [More here.]”

The Planet partners with other small, niche media outlets to cover Minnesota — specifically areas they feel are underserved by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Iggers labeled his former employer, the Star-Tribune, as “the newspaper of the most desirable zip codes” for its giving coverage priority to affluent neighborhoods.

Currently, TCDailyPlanet is receiving an assortment of grants, including a Knight-Batten award and a grant from the McCormick-Tribune foundation. They also plan to hand out small amounts of funds –in $50 to $100 amounts– to assist some of its partner publications in publishing stories that have a broad appeal.

But the question, as always, is whether TCDailyPlanet –and publications of its ilk– can sustain financially in the long run. A call for financial help from the public resulted in only about a dozen donations, Iggers said. He hopes that can adopt the NPR style of public fundraising within the next two to three years.

Will online niche community publication grow to the point where such ventures can be solidly profitable? Or will TCDailyPlanet and the many microlocal blogs remain passion projects dedicated to being an alternative to the big newspapers and TV stations in town? Passion project or otherwise, it’s the readers who likely stand to win.