What the blogs say: building and testing tools for future journalism
Is Facebook a viable platform for journalism? Paul Bradshaw, @paulbradshaw, who runs the MA in Online Journalism at Birmingham City University, decided to find out by forsaking his Online Journalism Blog and writing instead on a Facebook Page (artfully named Paul Bradshaw’s Online Journalism Blog on FB for 1 month).
The experiment ended this week, without too much fanfare: just a little status update from Paul asking: “Hasn’t time flown. My Facebook Page experiment has come to the end of its month. So, what now?”
Three replies were posted, all suggesting he should carry on. The only substantial point made was this:
“I… have read more of what you have written here rather than visiting your blog… sorry ’bout that! It’s just easier to get it here when I’m checking in with everyone else!”
That would be the case for Facebook.
But the page only received 357 ‘Likes’, so it’s not as if Paul has easily tapped into the vast Facebook user-base – at least in his first month. Anyone beyond those ‘likers’ would have to find the Page, rather than seeing its updates on their own Facebook Walls.
About half way through the month, he was interviewed by someone from Facebook’s own Facebook + Journalists Page. At that time, Paul said he was pleased with the traffic his posts were getting, and felt there was more interaction with the audience when he asked a question than he’d have expected on his blog.
He was most concerned that the Facebook Page wasn’t accessible to a non-Facebook audience: “The ‘invisibility’ of a Facebook Page to the wider web compared to a normal blog is a big issue. On the one hand your content is being taken to users in a much more intuitive way than RSS feeds.” The Facebook interviewer added a note here to say that Facebook Pages are findable on Google, as well as on Facebook’s own search.
In fact, if you Google “Paul Bradshaw Facebook” today, the first page in the search results is Paul’s personal Facebook profile (1,339 friends, phew!), with the experiment page coming second.
Paul is planning to write more about what came out of the experiment, but says he’s going to keep the Facebook Page.
Visibility is a big issue for anyone wanting to reach an audience online. In New York academic Jeff Jarvis’ analysis of the new world, there are really only two things to worry about: “The creation of content and the creation of a public – an audience – for that content.”
Jarvis is setting up a research project to come up with a framework for what he calls the “link economy”. The work is kicked off by Jarvis’ treatise on the subject which looks at the significance of links in terms of the creation of content and audiences: “The treatise continues to list questions about each side of the click, from the perspective of the link creator and the link recipient.”
Tools for journalists to work in the world Jarvis is describing will be developed by the recipients of money from the Knight Foundation, which has announced grants totalling $1.5 million for projects designed to help in the analysis of large amounts of data.
Steve Myers, on Poynter, quotes one of the winners, Jonathan Stray, interactive technology editor for the Associated Press: “Access to data often isn’t the biggest problem for journalists these days. The real challenge is being able to make sense of it all.” Stray’s project, Overview, won almost half a million dollars to develop visualisation tools to help journalists explore data.
Overview sounds a lot like a British journalism winner this week. My News Biz is a competition to encourage enterprise among British journalism students. Its winner, of a modest £1,000 (which probably sounds good except when compared to Knight Foundation numbers), is a project called Visualist, created by Ben Whitelaw and Nick Petrie of London’s City University. The judges thought the idea, to provide journalists with ways to do data journalism, had the best chance of working as a business.
For those who didn’t take part, probably most valuable from this competition were the lessons drawn by Adam Westbrook, one of those behind it, about where many aspiring journalist entrepreneurs go wrong:
- No clear market: lots of entries did not really know who they were trying to target with their idea; great businesses (including publishers) work when they help a specific – easily identifiable – group of people with a specific problem.
So, everywhere you look, ideas about new journalistic platforms and business.
Well, almost everywhere. The ramifications of the Guardian‘s strategy which I wrote about here in the last blogs round-up are still being explored.
On the Guardian’s website, Roy Greenslade notes a new note emerging from the ‘digital-first’ strategy announcement. It’s a more sombre note, which he detects in an interview that Guardian executive Andrew Miller gave to the Financial Times. Miller talks more about job losses, and, under the heading “Guardian job cuts – the awful reality of sailng into a perfect storm”, Greenslade concludes:
Will the new world of data journalism tools, Facebook Pages and monetising the link economy be ready before the old world of newspapers with paid ads in them disappears?