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Liveblogging the online trouble shooting session

Submitted by on January 14, 2010 – 1:24 pm | 7,998 views

11:55: Judith introduces “a panel of seasoned digital editors” to the room to mark the beginning of the troubleshooting session. Speaking are:

Jon Bernstein – former multimedia editor of Channel 4, now deputy editor of the new statesman
Adam Tinworth – editorial development
Malcom Coles – internet consultant
Robin Goad – research director for Hitwise

To see the liveblog, click below

12:00: Jon Bernstein begins presenting – He discusses his career, from starting in print and going into online in 1997, then his two years building directgov, then beginning at ITN before the 2005 election, leading the online operations for Channel 4 news. Now at New Statesman

12:01: Bernstein says he is re-telling the story of his career to emphasise that print journalism and online journalism were separate worlds, but now less so. Now in a print publication trying to meld multimedia into that. Five points

1) Tools and Resources – you can meld resources
2) Editorial Planning – need to plan for online and offline, how do you get onto the web for weekly magazines (potentially by taking inspiration from the guardian )
3) Social media – can be really valuable for getting stories out, as we say in the Hoon-Hewitt attempted coup last week. It’s input as well as output
4) Merged vs. Colloborative functions
5) Hearts and minds – identify those journalists who really get it and can lead through revolutionary change in working habits – make sure journalists get it

12.06: Not a lot of clapping as everyone is too busy typing.

12.09: Adam Tinworth – discusses what he has learnt at RBI, they have earned more money online than in print. His job is to work out how journalists fit into that and working out how to go forward

1) Learn to love niches – “people are interested in niches” – its about passion and niches and connecting with the readers
2) Learn to love your readers – “our readers are a comment box, a blog link, a tweet, a facebook link away from us” the readers are there, and they know more about your subject than you! E.g. readers tear apart any error in new scientist. Look at what readers say to learn what they want to know.
3) Learn to be mobile – computers are now mobile. so we’re not tied to our desk. If you’ve got a phone and a computer with you, you can be mobile. “Get away from your desk, that’s the only way you’re going to get stories”
4) Learn to be flexible – you might not be a multi-media powerhouse, but sometimes the best way to tell a story is through photo and video. Get journalists to cover their beats and trust them to do it!
5) Learn to market your content – Social media changes how people come across content – be aware of how to get your links circulating. “Get it out there and hope people like it”

12:16: More typing/clapping. Angela Phillips, head of journalism MA at Goldsmiths asks about niche content on farmer’s website. She says “news by itself does not attract money” it has always been cross-subsidised by other things.

12:18: Tinworth says they are looking at cross-subsidy and business models that “rely on us having a wide range of stuff” – building some free content inside some of the paywalled sites that RB have.

12:20: Tinworth “We tend to paywall data” with journalists writing around it.

12:21: Tinworth: “One of the biggest problem is re-shaping the sales teams” to educate people about the potential for advertising online. “If you have niches then you have a better advertising sell, you need to get the right range of people”

12:22: Big problems are time, getting the resources to free up journalists to gain multimedia skills. Tinworth says “We are in an experimental phase… and if you get it wrong magazines close.” Online doesn’t change the idea of finding stuff out and sharing it

12:23: Tinworth: “Reducing the costs of journalism is stupid” there is a bigger question about costs – there are potential dragging costs on the journalism of the wider infrastructure of companies. This is something that we need to address and hasn’t been addressed “this whole thing about getting the balance right, that’s not about cutting journalism, that’s about freeing up journalists” to explore, experiment and grow into their jobs.

12:27: Judith asks whether it would make more sense in a new project to scrap the divide between editorial and advertising. Tinworth replies emphasising how important it is to keep divide so business does not affect editorial content. I’m reminded of Montesquieu

12:28: Malcom Coles starts speaking, reminds us that Which is the largest successful paywell site. Happy to talk about CMS, paywalls etc.

12:29: For now talking about trouble shooting. 2009 for Malcom Coles included three libel threats, his site being hacked, and 2010 been easy so far either…

12:30: “It amazes me that people with print background never get into the habit of looking at their stuff online” He said to get into the habit of it – to avoid mistakes, look at URLs to make sure they are not revealing injunctions (e.g. website.co.uk/this-information-should-not-be-disclosed-for-legal-reasons)

12:31: In the same vein, check your website. Highlights problems with newspaper websites e.g. The Daily Express’s truncated text after headlines leading to misleading stories. “Most of the things I’ve just shown you are technical problems”…

12:34: …. But raise hell with developers until they fix these things or he will sit and laugh at you. And make sure that your stories are not appearing wrongly in google – look at your own stories. Even the guardian have html occasionally appearing on their headlines. Check google news and google web – stories appear differently on each

12:37: Look at how you appear in the sort of places customers are likely to find you.

12:37: Check what people are saying about and your stories. E.g. google sidewiki – Set up google sidewikis as an RSS feed, google alerts, backtweets, backtype and analytics data and read your comments “the daily mail is one of the best commenting systems” – and one of the funniest) comments also show you how readers are reacting to your stories and your organisation’s news line

12:41: “People are still taking the trouble” to go onto Jan Moir’s article about Stephen Gately (not linking) and comment negatively about it. Point is comments are “a much more useful and quicker way than in the past to find out what your readers are thinking.” But don’t break your moderation rules.

12:42: Your commenting software will also probably give you IP addresses of those writing.

12:43: Questioner says it is frightening Coles is paying such attention to the Daily Mail’s comment section – Sadly, he’s not the only one

12:44: Hard to liveblog as I have my hand up.

12:46: Journalists from labels and labelling asks: “we don’t allow readers to comment on news stories, should we?”

12:46: Coles says that many news organisations are selective about what comments they allow on, Daily Express turns comments off on any race-related story, it “depends on the context” whether its niche

12:49: Tinworth adds that once comments begin on publications “the community starts building” – but another panellists whose face is obscured by someone in the audience adds that a huge number of comments do not make an article a success

12:50: The conversation is going on somewhere, on linked in, on facebook, on twitter, even if not on websites

12:51: Judith asks Coles about moderating comments: “From the mail’s shift from pre-moderating everything to post-moderating controversial things” they now get 1,000s more comments, but there are spikes in comment moderation – but “it depends what sort of thing people are likely to leave”

12:52: Bernstein: The New Statesman post-moderates. You get some abuse, some topics are controversial and you might want to be careful, or stories about legal issues such as trafigura

12:53: Tinworth says when you have enough of a community you can attribute different spaces to different purposes

12:54: Coles – the best thing is to post-moderate and get your users to root out libel

12:56: Coles “if it’s your own personal blog these sort of things [being sued for libel] can tie you up in knots”. Some organisations do view moderating comments as technical rather than editorial – but Bernstein adds that it takes a while for people to come around to Web 2.0

12:58: Tinworth: As soon as he started talking about blogging people thought he was in IT, not a journalist. Bernstein and Tinworth then go onto emphasise role of web-developers – the subs of Web 2.0

12:59: Robin Goad starts – mentions that 146,000 different phrases around snow were typed into search engines

13:00: Wants to make observations..

1) Now as opposed to 3-4 years ago people are spending more time consuming content driven sites. Growth in social media and traditional news pages. Newspapers doing extremely well at SEO and picking up traffic, what’s also interesting is that the difference between online and offline audiences.
2) “if we thought about a telegraph reader we’d have an image in our mind” but “if you look at where the telegraph gets its traffic from, it’s very different” to the average homes counties dwelling person. The telegraph receives a lot of traffic from celebrity searches
3) Local news sites traffic is stagnant but the amount of people searching for local specific content is increasing. There is an opportunity but no one seems to be taking it
4) Social media – news organisations are picking up huge amounts of traffic from social media – they create the discussion and send people onto content providers.

13:06: Question from an audience member who says “I would argue (question and comment) that the volume of the content that you are getting to the Telegraph is… devaluing their content” and its hard to monetise the SEO given to the telegraph

13:07: Interestingly, there are 5 women in this session. Lots, lots more men. Just a small observation to break up the SEO discussion

13:08: Cole discusses how it’s interesting how few adverts guardian.co.uk has… interesting how Sky managed to monetise its digital services

13:09: Tinworth mentions that it took a long time for Sky to be able to do this

13:10: Audience member says that the Guardian’s iphone app is a good example of a good revenue covering tool which can be monetised. It costs “just enough money to make it worthwhile” and it makes it possible to charge more later.

Session’s over-run, if I manage to grab them and ask questions over lunchtime will update more…

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