30 June 2008
Here is an article on how Big Media is watching bloggers. Well, Big Media should also realise that bloggers are also challenging them, somewhere!
29 June 2008
An article in The Hindu's Sunday magazine says: "A study by the Centre for Media Studies (CMS) says that six channels beamed news and special programmes on the double murder for 39.30 hours out of a total 92 hours prime time — from 19:00 hrs to 23:00 hrs — between May 16 and June 7."
Here is my prediction. In the next six months to one year, there will be a dramatic shift away from crime news.
A lot of this had to do in my opinion/interpretation with the prices of television and cable connections dropping to points where TV sets and satellite TV became affordable for millions. This class, which I call the "neo-TV-literate" was wooed with stuff that turned them on in the TRP game. At the same time, the cost of launching new channels and the imperatives of winning market share generated a cycle of "competitive populism" in the space from the supply side.
The cycle is playing out like an IPO boom in the stock market and something -- as they say -- has gotta give.
I do not expect gross TRPs to rule the roost at all and we will have an ordered play of TV news channels. I am not going into the ethical, social and responsibility-related issues here. Some of them are valid, but I don't believe in rantings passing off as informed discourse.
28 June 2008
Now, the Internet is understood to be less-than-excellent, but its latter-day user-generated encyclopaedia, Wikipedia is often used by journalists, including yours truly. I confess that I use it, though it is a dubious source, but also add that I trust my own intuition, experience and cross-checking to know when to use it. Of course, I have never thus far "cited" it as a source.
Now comes an interesting article in American Journalism Review that discusses the issue threadbare.
As long as publishers don't want to spend (enough) on reportage and research, and as long as editors are not willing to cross-examine reporters and as long as reporters -- either out of laziness, ignorance or indifference -- use Wiki to meet deadlines faster or easier, the threat of information pollution is real.
Which brings me back to my favourite theme: Loser Generated Content.
Few people care to acknowledge that good journalism is both capital and labour intensive. If you are short of time or funds, reportage will tend to suffer. Somebody has to pay for it. Usually it is the reader.
Activists, well-intentioned citizens and affected parties cry foul about bad reportage, but few are ready to pay for good stuff.
I once asked a bunch of complaining folks: Will you pay 10 rupees to buy your paper?
The answer was silence, or some kind of fudging.
I used to like a lot an old VIP suitcase ad. Its punchline, based on an old Arab saying, was just right: You can't get a camel for the price of a goat!
27 June 2008
You can view it here -- though the size seems larger than it should be!
Uploaded on authorSTREAM by madhavan
When I started this blog three years ago, it was with the idea of talking to media students to whom I gave a lecture. Otherwise, I was a bit sceptical/cynical about the media talking to itself about itself, but now I am wiser.
Every industry needs its own vertical, and sites like Exchange4media and Indiantelevision are doing a rather good job in making the community come alive for its own purposes. Medianama and Nikhil's previous employer, ContentSutra fit into this matrix, and hopefully, so does this very blog.
This, I can see now, is not a case of "Mirror, mirror on the wall,..."
There is more to this than incestuous Narcissism. I find Indian companies generally have poor internal communications. This may not be intentional, but it is there. Very often, media professionals rely on stray gossip, hearsay and malicious slander to inform themselves about their own companies or industry trends. Vertical Internet sites can and do step in to clear the air, and should not be confused with blogs with malicious intent or content.
The simple fact is that there is always a market for truth and facts -- though we can quibble on the demand, supply and pricing factors. If you are in the business of facts, accuracy and truth, there are ways to face the competition in the marketplace. Journalists often pursue truth -- without knowing how to market it. Hopefully, they will live and learn. We all do.
26 June 2008
News is out that Orange County Register, a California newspaper, will have some copy editing done in New Delhi by Mindworks Global Media, an editorial services company founded -- incidentally -- by some of my friends and old colleagues. As someone who played a role in Reuters when it began doing global editorial work out of Bangalore in India with the aim of sharing some of the work thus far done in the US and the UK, I have been witness to the term "outsourcing" creeping in to journalism.
But I don't like to call it editorial outsourcing. At Reuters, the official line was clear: This is "product development" because work related to content is a core function, whereas "outsourcing" is a term best applied to "non-core" work done by a company.
Does that sound uncomfortable/inconvenient/confusing? Please read on.
Not happy with having screwed up spellings and grammar in the English language, the US political culture is adding fuel to the fire by usurping the term outsourcing to describe any work done somewhere outside the West.
I mean, does India "outsource" the manufacture of Boeing jets to the US? Does India "outsource" the manufacture of a search engine to Google? (Never mind that large parts of the search technologies are now developed in Bangalore -- and Google News was developed by an Indian, Krishna Bharat, who used to be based in Bangalore and played a key role in Google's R&D work there, as you can see here)
In the age of globalisation, it is considered good business to do work or source products and services from where it is most optimal. I use the word "optimal" consciously, because price, quality, detail vary from customer to customer and it is for the customer to decide the issue of "value" that takes into account all factors.
Outsourcing is/was used by management theorists to describe farming out of work by a company to another when the nature of the work was "non-core" -- for instance, a bank may hire a security agenty to supply guards, when it believes that its core function is lending and borrowing money in the form of loans or deposits.
Somewhere along the way, shifting of work to India or China began to be called "outsourcing" whereas the correct reference should at best be "offshoring." Ideally, it should be simply called what it is: globalisation of services, aided by new technologies like high-bandwidth telecoms and computer networking.
Now, there is a more subtle, sophisticated opposition like this one to shifting some editorial work to India, on the grounds that it kind of takes a sacred work outside its home base.
But surely publishers know better? And surely global competition is part of the business for the whole of the editorial value chain?
When an Indian newspaper editor can use an Associated Press copy on Chilean politics meant essentially for readers in the US Midwest, is that not a kind of a less-than-sacred warp?
Cultural presuppositions are a part of journalism and publishing. As a schoolboy, I grew up reading Enid Blyton and all sorts of stuff about British culture and later, I devoured the works of US writers. There were those in India who called all that "cultural imperialism". And now we have 21st Century Luddites who oppose globalisation of editorial work.
Young recruits at AOL's Bangalore office learn about Hollywood movies to serve American customers better. It is called training for business -- and usually involves cultural compromises, both for service providers and those who source them.
So I leave you with a simple question: If Indian newspapers can use AP copy, why can't American newspapers get some editing work done in India?
Do I miss Reuters, people ask.
Of course I do. A dozen years in a world class news agency is not something I am going to forget in a hurry, though the company has changed a lot, including the recent Thomson merger that takes it to a new level in financial pursuits. Beyond the pennies and pounds lies ye olde agency that encourages good writing. There are days when I see a great story that makes me long for those days. I saw one today on Bill Gates leaving Microsoft to focus on philanthropy.
First, I don't like the headline (OK, I began praising the story, but my job here is to critically appraise the story)..it kind of leaves a bland, newsy touch on what is essentially a personality profile.
But what I love about this story, in the best traditions of good agency journalism, is that it paints an engaging picture of the man without sounding opinionated. The trick is to capture through a sheer use of facts and imagery the essence of a personality whose character traits are revealed in the process.
Bill Gates played poker, dropped out of Harvard, had the gut feel to spot a big technology trend ahead of its times, played hard ball as a businessman, was born into a privileged family, hired his pal with a similar flair for cynical humour (Steve Ballmer) as fellow leader in a breathtaking career -- and after all that is ready for a philanthropic binge at the young age of 52.
If that does not inspire a movie, what will?
This is the kind of story that takes journalism to the doorsteps of literature. It is a challenge for the reporter! I love it.
I have my doubts on some issues. I am concerned about misuse of blogging but you cannot stop it anymore than you can stop abuse of conventional media. It is more difficult. But it is clear that blogging, or what I call "micro-publishing" is a fact of life.
I have said this many times: Random writing is not blogging -- and certainly not the type media or PR practitioners should take seriously
Here below is the release from Text100 on the issue.
APAC bloggers call for PR people to get online and blog
Text 100 asks 153 predominantly business, technology and news bloggers across APAC what they want from PR and corporation
Text 100 today announced the results of the Text 100 APAC Blogger Survey a new survey aimed at helping the PR industry and its clients better understand bloggers in the Asia Pacific region.
In what is believed to be the first survey of its kind conducted in Asia Pacific, this survey highlights the similarities and differences between bloggers across APAC and their preferences for working with corporations and PR agencies.
In a positive sign for the communications industry, 84% of respondents welcome contact from public relations practitioners and the corporations they represent.
Electronic communication is king for APAC bloggers: 58% preferred email, followed by online comments on their blogs, as the preferred means of contacting them.
Similarly, emailing of press releases and interviews or discussions ranked in the top two as the preferred formats for receiving content (67% and 60% respectively).
APAC bloggers are not particular about who they engage with, but prefer to talk with active bloggers and whoever is closest to the story – not necessarily the traditional spokespeople.
Two thirds (67%) of respondents spend less than 8 hours of their working week on blogging.
Bloggers concerns included receiving unsolicited spam from PR agencies, and were frequently critical of the content they received, feeling it was inappropriate and unusable.
While most bloggers ignore traditional press releases, 88% were aware of so-called Social Media Releases and indicated they were in favour of using elements such as videos, quotes, pictures and links from these releases in their posts.
Text 100 surveyed bloggers it knew and those referred by friendly bloggers, not wanting to spam people it didn’t have a relationship with. Text 100 feels the views of the survey’s sample pool are a fair reflection of influential news, technology and bloggers across Asia Pacific.
Text 100 intends to conduct this survey annually across Asia Pacific and to potentially involve other regions over time.
Note: 153 mainly business, news and technology bloggers from eight countries across Asia Pacific responded to the survey. 125 bloggers completed the full online survey, and results were analysed by Hong Kong-based research company, Aha! Research.
"The survey showed that effective PR agencies need to make social media part of their DNA. Understanding the nuances of bloggers, for example, should be part of every PR person's toolkit, and not simply relegated to a 'digital group' or 'online team'. To succeed, PR professionals must increasingly become grounded in social media." "It was also interesting to see two quite distinct 'flavours' of bloggers across Asia: those who took a commercial, publisher-like mindset to their blogging, and those who proudly retain their amateur status."
—Michael A. Netzley, PhD Practice Assistant Professor of Corporate Communication Singapore Management University
"The survey was well conducted and is representative of bloggers from across Asia. It's interesting to see Malaysia appears to be ahead in terms of PR/Corporate and blog collaboration. The salient points are distilled and valuable; know your audience, be well informed, be familiar with their blog and blogs in general and most importantly - respect bloggers."
“This survey showed that though bloggers in Asia Pacific have some parallels with their counterparts in Europe or North America, there are some differences that communicators should consider. Encouragingly, Asia Pacific bloggers on the whole welcome interactions with PR companies and their clients. But they are mainly part time bloggers, so agencies must take care to contact them outside of business hours and ensure content is relevant. The key learning is to get to know the bloggers and their blogs before picking up the phone or sending that email.
“If I was to use this survey as a baseline as to where the PR industry is at in terms of its success and relationships with bloggers, I would hope that the results of next year’s survey show a far deeper and more connected PR industry that is using the social media tools far more effectively to listen, prepare and engage with the APAC blogosphere.”
—Jeremy Woolf, APAC Peer Media Lead, Text 100 APAC
“The ‘perfect storm’ of technological, business and societal change means the way corporations must communicate has changed forever. At Text 100 we have worked hard to stay ahead of these changes and interpret what they mean for our clients.”
“This survey was designed to provide our teams and clients with greater insight into what is fast becoming one of Asia’s most influential media groups. To me, the results show a community that wants to engage with corporations in our region and presents a great opportunity for PR agencies and the companies they represent to forge very powerful relationships.”
—Ava Lawler, Regional Consultancy Director, Text 100 APAC
19 June 2008
I didn't see any Indian name in the management, but I do wonder if the name came from the Hindi word for cobbler!
I love those forecasts. Everybody from Goldman Sachs to your friendly neighbourhood IT consultancy was making predictions in 1998-2000 about the way the Internet will grow and grow and grow. And then came the Dotcom Bust that saw startups and listed companies alike go belly-up!
Take forecasts with a pinch of salt-- but like your teenage crushes, they always make you feel good, even if they take you nowhere.
This week comes PricewaterhouseCoopers' forecast about growth in the media industry.
Media revenue is globally set to rise 6.6 per cent a year to $2.2 trillion (A trillion is one billion and one billion is 1,000 million) by 2012, says the forecast. The 6.6 number does not sound unrealistic to me, given the single digits, but I am once-bitten, twice shy.
The Hollywood Reporter's despatch mentions Brazil, Russia, India, China (BRIC) as the major growth driver.
It says: "Growth in the roaring economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China -- the so-called BRIC nations -- will outpace the more mature markets of the U.S. and Western Europe, with PwC forecasting 13.6% average annual growth in BRIC compared with just 4.8% annual growth in the U.S. media industry and 5.4% in Western Europe.
By 2012, the report predicts that the media business in BRIC will total about $250 billion, compared with $759 billion in the U.S., about $633 billion in Western Europe and $166 billion in Japan."
Oh, I really love that. And given that newly affordable TVs and exploding mobile handsets will drive new kind of content and games and entertainment, it sounds plausible.
But then, I am reading all this amid a sub-prime crisis in the US (and ergo, global) economy. With crude prices and food prices high in many parts, I need to also worry about the price of salt. If all of us take a pinch of it with such reports, I am sure the price of that grain will go up as well!
18 June 2008
Hmmm, that's neat money for Indian budgets, and also a nice sign that startup success is travelling outside the tech domain, though it must be said that this is technology-driven ad biz that we are talking about.
In the past, it is technology and softtware companies that spawned crorepatis, as companies like Infosys and iflex went public.
I think public recognition of the kind of money the staff made is also a nice way of luring scarce talent into the startup environment. Otherwise, people who do not make that kind of money are not the kind that talk about it.
Now, what does all this mean for content companies? I wonder.
17 June 2008
Phew! If this is an alternative to journalism, I am not sure if it will work.
Technorati is commendable for its work, but I do believe some kind of an organization of content going beyond tags and keywords and automated software will be needed. If academic PhDs and Nobel prizes need citations by well-regarded people, I presume the same might apply for blogs. Or at least, the better blogs will be paid for, either by subscribers or advertisers -- and there must be real "blogamediaries"
I am sceptical about a democratic soap box oratory on the Net passing off as "citizen journalism!"
I spoke to the Delhi Bloggers Bloc on June 7, and taking a media-centric view, wanted the men/women among bloggers to be separated from the boys/girls of the Blogosphere.
Why should a good blogger be different from a good newspaper columnist or journalist? In the end, I see good blogs as an extension of good journalism -- not an alternative. At the presentation, I referred to many blogs as "Loser Generated Content": if the blogs are useless, the bloggers are losers anyway; and if they are useful and not compensated for in a meaningful way, even good-quality bloggers must be losers!
I can't wait to see more credible organisational and business models to honour the better blogs. Of course, you cannot ban or ignore the mass of blogs anymore than you can ban or ignore random letters to the editor. But I plead for sense and sensibility. Surely technology and tagging must have their limits?
16 June 2008
If any proof was further needed that blogs can mean a whole new world, it is here. Bollywood director Ram Gopal Varma (didn't realise he was a blogger!) is now talking straight to fans, and what's more, giving point-by-point rebuttals to some of the biggest names in film criticism!
Here is how he is going about it.
Ramu has an interesting, non-moralistic, devil-may-care approach to movie-making and it seems, blogging as well. He kind of lambasts two of India's most respected, or at least, followed, critics, Khalid Mohamed and Deepa Gahlot (Disclosure: I count them both among my friends, but not sure if this blog entry will make a difference) and others as well -- for ripping apart his latest work, "Sarkar Raj." He questions their credentials, the way they question his work. This is like a game of cricket without umpires.
The wars between movie makers and critics, columnists and politicians, sportswriters and sportsmen are all as old as the hills, but people like Ramu can now just give vent to their feelings. Somewhere along the way, the film critic of the types mentioned above became sort of upper-middle-class, leaving the space wide open for film-makers to reach out to the "ornery" people, like they always have done. Blogs have come to the rescue of those whose letters to the editors will never be published in full!
I see a new kind of divide, very much akin towhat one sees in politics, where the populist lot loves to hate the "value-based" kind of criticism. Deepa is dead serious most of the time, and Khalid loves to mock. Ramu hates them both! (Deepa also says Ramu has got FACTS wrong...and that is for RGV to rebutt!)
My own views on the issue are quite warped: Is the critic supposed to take a personal view of the film, or is the critic representing the average movie-goer's sensibilities to decide whether one should go and watch a flick or not? Given that English language newspapers in India are fast matching Bollywood audiences in getting patchy and becoming what a high-end critic would call "dumber" in sensibilities, I only have to say that the answer is blowing in the wind.
15 June 2008
Now this week, I may formally add IPTV to this list. A huge ad in Hindustan Times (a front-page jacket, in fact) announces the arrival of icontrol, which at Rs. 199 a month is a sort of cable TV-meets-telephony-meets-Internet-meets-broadcasting story. This, in partnership with Aksh Optifibre, is a fibre-driven broadband story. BSNL has a similar thing going across India.
Can't find details immediately on the Net, but here is some slightly outdated detail on the shape of things.
Television rating point (TRP) , that holy grail of broadcasters looking for ad money, is going to be weaker than ever before in less than two years from now.
If I was Ekta Kapoor, I would be sleepless -- or I may be accepting the reality that sooner or later, people will watch something because they want to, not because they have to.
14 June 2008
Ha, ha, ha! General Musharraf seems to have used his diplomatic powers (the only bit of civilian power he seems to officially enjoy now) to stop Geo TV from broadcasting talk shows believed to be "against" him. The trouble with these guys in uniforms is that the only thing they understand is power...and perhaps it is wise to speak to them in the language they understand. Officially, reports have it that Dubai authorities have threatened to cancel Geo TV's broadcast licences if the shows are not stopped.
Now, I have some cute lil points to share:
1) If Dubai Media City wants media business happening out of their wonderful emirate, they must learn to deal with media's half-brother, a.k.a. Democracy. The irony is that Malaysia, Dubai and Singpaore are keen to attract foreign investment in the tech business but now they have to accept the M in the holy trinity of Technology, Media and Telecoms....and it is a package deal, really. Singapore's excellent infrastructure has helped some media companies overlook its less-than-democratic credentials, but it is a tricky business.
2) The Pakistani general, in his glorious labyrinth (to borrow the memorable phrase from the title of Marquez's novel) will hopefully wake up to the fact that political and military powers are not the only forms of the five-letter thing. Technological power is such that you can now convert that Geo TV programme into a podcast and message it across the planet and have it watched in Detroit, Dera Ghazi Khan or Dubai. Okay, that may be a while away, but how about some cheap DVD recordings smuggled on camel's backs from the Balochistan border? Aunties in Lahore can watch it in peace alongside Indian soap serials or Bollywood movies.
Oh, I am not even talking about YouTube here.
Like I said at the beginning of the post: Ha, ha, ha!
13 June 2008
However, I am still not convinced. My suspicion is that if content is created in one place and technology takes care of a good part of the placement of advertisement -- and more important , the pricing of an ad is determined in a measurable, transparent way -- a good bit of fat-cat executives who collect ad cheques may be on their way down -- or out.
I think the last word on how ads should be placed on the Net will take a while to figure out.
I am playing the devil's advocate here, but am keen to find out what is going on in a universe full of gazillion Web pages. Meanwhile, here is a very readable, gossipy, chirpy story on the business, with some great quotes. Loved reading, actually. Be warned, it is part fact, part fiction.
10 June 2008
Here is the big one from the US: Internet is set to become "Medium Number 2" --next only to direct marketing!
This is based on an IDC survey (respected agency, mind you!), which also records that this is despite recession clouds over the United States economy. I only hope such numbers do not go the way of the Web 1.0 hype when B2C, B2B and all that gave way to P2P and C2C in the Web 2.0 way.
Here are the operative parts from the IDC release, and a link to the statement follows:
"During the forecast period, Internet advertising will grow about eight times as fast as advertising at large. IDC finds overall Internet advertising revenue will double from $25.5 billion in 2007 to $51.1 billion in 2012.
"The Internet will go from the number 5 medium all the way to the number 2 medium in just 5 years, making it bigger than newspapers, bigger than cable TV, bigger even than broadcast TV, and second only to direct marketing. Video advertising will be the principal disruptor of Internet advertising over the next five years by attracting the most new marketing dollars"
6 June 2008
YouTube has come up with more ways to measure who is watching its uploaded videos. When media buyers can measure who is watching what, it is much easier to load ads that go with the videos.
If this data is test-driven, I will not be surprised if online video steals a clear march over TV in attracting ads.
Here is the link to the official Google blog entry.
3 June 2008
I came across Alley Insider (http://www.alleyinsider.com), a technology community news service run by Henry Blodget, a former Wall Street investment analyst, which just stops short of telling the reader, "Believe us at your own risk!"
Here is the link and the operative text. I found it funny, but it may not be so!
Full Disclosure: We own stocks, mutual funds, private investments, and/or checking accounts, some of which are securities of or accounts managed by companies we cover (We do not have a policy against this). We generally prefer that the stock market goes up, not down, and we occasionally write about the stock market. We have friends, colleagues, former colleagues, and valued relationships in the community we cover. Some of us manage or serve on the boards of companies we cover. All of these factors, along with our pre-existing biases, preferences, beliefs, education, knowledge, experience, work ethic, and IQs, may affect our coverage.
1 June 2008
Sent to you by Madhavan via Google Reader:
Just when I thought I’d put the 21st century newsroom to bed, along comes a further brainwave about conceptualising newsgathering in an online environment (the area I covered in part 2: Distributed Journalism). It seems to me that the first stage for any journalist or budding journalist lies along two paths: subscribing to a reliable collection of RSS feeds (and email alerts); and exploring a collection of networks. The first part is passive; the latter, more active. So I’ve called it, tongue-in-cheek, “Passive-Aggressive Newsgathering”. But if that sounds too Woody Allen for you, you could call it “Aggregating-Networking Newsgathering”.
Not quite as catchy, though, is it?
Note: an edited version of this was published in Journalism.co.uk as How to: use RSS and social media for newsgathering
As you can see from the diagram above, each RSS element has a social equivalent. Here’s the detail:
Blog and site feeds/Social RSS readers
This is a basic requirement for any journalist: know the news sources - mainstream and blogs - in your specialist areas, and subscribe to their RSS feed using any of the many RSS readers out there. The result should be a one-stop page that you check into every morning that aggregates any new stories since you last checked. You may want to develop further strategies, such as folders for different areas, or for feeds that you check every day, every week, or less often.
But some RSS readers do more than just allow you to subscribe to feeds - they have social elements. Google Reader, for example, will “recommend” feeds you might be interested in (in a panel on the right of the screen), based on the feeds you already subscribe to (and what their subscribers also read). Bloglines, in addition, allows you to click on any of your feeds and see others who subscribe to that feed - and what other feeds they subscribe to (see image below - although this feature doesn’t appear to be included in their latest beta). Other readers will have similar functions (if they don’t, consider switching reader - you can export your subs across very easily). This is a great way to find new sources of news and information.
Twitter and Twitter tools
Microblogging service Twitter is a particularly up-to-the-minute source of news - again, with RSS feeds you can subscribe to, as well as mobile notifications. Twitter is by nature social - you choose to ‘follow’ someone’s ‘tweets’ (updates); and people choose to follow you. You can see who someone is following, and who is following you. There are also tools like Twubble, which will recommend twitterers based on your friends, and Twits Like Me, which recommends twitterers based on interest. These can lead to useful contacts and sources of news you might not otherwise have come across.
A good way to find Twitterers in your area is to look for links on their blogs and article pages, while Twitter is searchable too. But that’s just the start. You can search Twitter itself for specific people, but if you’re covering a local patch, Twitterlocal allows you to subscribe to an RSS feed of tweets within a certain geographical radius, while specialist reporters should subscribe to results of relevant keyword searches using Tweetscan. If you know an event is coming up that is likely to spark protest (e.g. the running of the Olympic torch) then it’s a good idea to set up this feed in advance.
Bookmarking site feeds, networks and tags
Bookmarking sites like Delicious, Digg and Reddit (plus all of these) are a goldmine of information and leads. As well as being searchable, most offer RSS feeds of individual tags, contributors (anyone who uses the site to bookmark webpages), and networks (collections of contributors). At the very least, a journalist should be subscribing to feeds of keywords in their area (e.g. this is the feed for the tag ’social bookmarking’), and if possible, prolific bookmarkers interested in the same topics (here is the feed for my bookmarks) or networks of bookmarkers (here’s mine).
But to do the latter, journalists need to use the sites themselves - the more active you are, the more you will get out. Every time you bookmark a webpage, you can see who else has bookmarked it (see image below). You can see who bookmarked it first (and is therefore potentially the quickest source). You can see their comments, and the tags they use. You can see what else they’re bookmarking. And you can add them to your network so you’re kept up to date on what they’re bookmarking generally.
All of this can generate more useful contacts (the bookmarkers), more sources of news, and more understanding of your area.
Facebook feeds/Social networks
Journalism is all about contacts. Social networks are a fantastic way of finding and managing them, whether those are existing contacts, contacts of contacts (which you can now see), or members of relevant interest groups (the Online Journalism Blog Facebook group is one you may consider joining ;)). You may want to join more than one social network: Facebook is a good catchall, but LinkedIn is good for more professional networking, while there may be specific ‘beat’ networks you can join - such as for doctors. Alternatively, you can create your own using Ning.
Google Alerts/’similar pages’
Google’s whole success is built on social media: its rankings are calculated (in part) from how many people link to a site. But it’s worth exploring other features too. Every result from a search, for example, will include a link to ’similar pages’. This is a great way of refining your search. Similarly, the advanced search feature includes the ability to search for pages that link to a particular website.
Meanwhile, it’s basic journalism practice now to set up email alerts for particular search terms. You can do this through Google Alerts - the default setting is ‘Comprehensive’, but it’s better to use the drop-down menu to select the more specific ‘News’, ‘Groups’ or ‘Blogs’. Alternatively, any search done through Google News or Google Blog Search or Google Groups will give you the option to sign up to email alerts or, for the first two, an RSS feed.
Flickr feeds, tags and clusters
For anyone who needs images or needs to talk to photographers, Flickr allows you to subscribe to feeds by individual photographers, or to particular tags (you’ll find them at the bottom of each page).
But the site’s real strength is its social features. A simple search will bring you simple results - but click on any tag in those results, and you’ll be presented with a tag cluster (see image below). This draws on user behaviour to suggest other tags you might be interested in, as well as omitting irrelevant results. You can click through to results from the cluster, generate another cluster from another tag, or go to results from an individual tag. From there you can rank results based on recency or - another social feature - “most interesting”.
And of course you can see a tag cloud of the most popular tags at the moment - a good way of getting a feel for the zeitgeist.
If you’re more interested in people than pictures, clicking on any photographer’s profile will allow you to see their ‘contacts’ and groups, while you can browse profiles based on interests and other biographical information (you can also search groups and people).
YouTube feeds/related videos
Like Flickr, YouTube is a social beast. Click on any video and you’ll be presented with related videos; click on any user page and you can see who they subscribe to. You can rank results by how users have rated it, or how many times it’s been viewed. And you can click on a video’s tags to browse through content that way. The site also hosts a number of groups under the Community tab.
In addition the site offers numerous feeds - a list of the main ones, plus instructions on how to create feeds for individual users or tags, can be found here.
Technorati feeds, fans and tags
You’ll see the orange RSS icon throughout Technorati - you can subscribe to headlines and ‘rising posts and stories’, and filter by ‘attention’. You can subscribe to results from a particular search, or a specific tag (a motoring correspondent, for instance, might subscribe to search results for “Longbridge plant”, or the tag ‘Ford’). You can even subscribe to blog reactions to a particular site.
Equally impressive are the social features. Search results are presented with recommended tags you might also want to click on; blogs and posts are ranked by ‘authority’ (numbers of reactions); and you can see which Technorati members have declared themselves a ‘fan’ of a blog - then browse through the other blogs they’ve ‘faved’.
And like Flickr, you can get a flavour of “what’s percolating in blogs now”.
LibraryThing feeds and tags
Finally, it’s worth noting the social and RSS features of books community LibraryThing. As well as the traditional author and title fields, the search facility allows you to search by tags, members, groups and talk messages. You can then subscribe to a feed of results for that search, or to a feed for a particular member, group or tag.
It’ll come as no surprise that the site also offers related tags and members whenever any search is made, while the site’s groups offers one way to find leads and contributors.
coComment feeds, groups and tags
coComment is a service which tracks your comments for you, so people can subscribe to a feed of comments you make on other sites, or communicate with you directly. This has obvious applications for journalists - if you find someone in your ‘beat’ who is a good source of leads, you’re going to be interested in their comments, and what they’re commenting on. If they’re a member of coComment, you can subscribe to their feed. If not, a flattering email suggesting they check it out might be required…
Some journalists might think it’s too early for coComment to be useful to them - at first glance, most ‘conversations’ appear to be in the technological sphere - but getting in there early and spreading the word could give you a significant advantage as the technology spreads.
All this, however, is only laying the foundations for having your ‘ear to the ground’ - saving yourself time through use of RSS, and generating contacts and engendering serendipity through social media.
No doubt I’ve omitted some RSS and social service-providing sites (for example, other RSS readers, while a social podcasting service must be out there) - and overlooked some tricks on the above sites. I’d love to know your recommendations and tips.