E.B. Boyd

California Watch Editorial Director: Exclusives No Longer That Important

CAWatch-Small.jpgCalifornia Watch is a Center for Investigative Reporting spinoff that’s pioneering a new model for reporting on statewide news. Today, CW’s editorial director, Mark Katches, wrote a post on the site’s blog, spelling out some of the organization’s unorthodox approaches for getting its stories out.

One of the most interesting revelations: The move away from exclusivity. CW’s recent report about California’s shrinking school year ran in nearly 20 newspapers, radio stations, TV stations, and online sites. Even more interesting, some of the outlets released the story days after it first was first published elsewhere.

Says Katches:

In the old days… news organizations… competed fiercely with one another to be first…. [Today,] we’re seeing more pragmatic editors who recognize that it doesn’t really matter if a California Watch story appears in San Francisco a week before it runs in Riverside. Readers in Oxnard probably aren’t reading the Santa Rosa Press Democrat—either in print or online….

That basic reality has liberated editors to run local versions of our stories several days after the embargo date. The extra time allows them to prepare deeper, localized versions for their own market…. In some cases, editors simply want to wait until they have more space to do the story justice. Or they want to release it on a slower news day when they could really use a good story.

Salon Social Media Referrals Up 720% Year-over-Year

Salon-Like-2.gifSalon’s 2010 second quarter traffic increased 20% over the same period last year, and its revenue grew 40%, the online magazine is reporting. More interestingly, though, its social media referrals have ballooned 720%.

Salon CEO Richard Gingras chalks up a significant portion of that traffic to Facebook, more than any other social network, including Twitter. Twitter referrals were up 500% for the second quarter year-over-year. But Facebook referrals were up 740%. And the Facebook base was significantly larger than the Twitter one, Gingras said.

Gingras told WebNewser the site saw a significant jump in Facebook traffic after adopting the network’s “Like” button in early May. The social network launched the button at its f8 conference back in April. Publishers can embed the button on their sites, positioning it, for example, next to individual articles (see image, above). When a user clicks the button, Facebook posts the article’s link directly to the user’s Facebook status updates, thereby letting the user’s friends know this is something worth checking out. In April, before Salon added the button, Facebook referrals were up 270% over the same month last year. In May, after they added the button, year-over-year Facebook referrals jumped 1100%. In June, they were up 875% year-over-year.

Gingras said the magazine is now in the process of implementing Facebook Connect. “The key learning is that social media is a huge potential source of traffic and audience expansion,” he said. “It tells us to continue to evolve to make it even more effective.”

Facebook Wants to Work with Media Companies

FBandMediaLogo.jpgFacebook has launched “Facebook + Media,” a page devoted to helping media companies use the social network to increase traffic to and user engagement on their Web sites. Justin Osofsky, who leads the company’s media and content partnerships, told the San Francisco Hacks and Hackers meetup last night that Facebook hopes the page will encourage media companies to reach out to the social network:

We’re excited to begin a dialogue with media companies on how we best can deliver value. Media companies are great at creating content and delivering it to the right people at the right time. We think Facebook can add a social dimension, to show users the content that friends most care about and most recommend.

Facebook yesterday also released the findings from a recent internal study that looked at how 100 top media sites use Facebook tools on their sites. By now, many news organizations embed Facebook’s “Like” button next to their posts and articles. But, the study found, organizations see a 3-5x increase in clickthrough rates when they also use functionality to embed thumbnail photographs of a user’s Facebook friends who have already seen the item and clicked Like, or that allow users who click Like to also enter a comment about the item.

Full summary of the study findings is here.

Times Builds 'Jargonator' to Help Readers Decipher Wikileaks Documents

jargonators.gifAmong the Wikileaks-related things we saw people talking about on Twitter this morning were the New York Times’s glossary rollovers. Anyone who’s spent any time slogging through military documents knows they’re a sludge of jargon and acronyms. Take this sentence for example: “(SECRET//REL TO USA, ISAF, NATO) AAF MOVE BLUE JINGLE TRUCK VBIED TO SAROBI DISTRICT.” What in the good gracious does that mean?

Apparently the Times Interactive News Technologies team also realized that the two dozen or so documents they were unleashing on their Web site weren’t going to have much impact if their readers couldn’t make head or tails of them. So they quickly developed a nifty roll-over tool, which internally they dubbed “the jargonator.”

As Times INT editor Aron Pilhofer tells us:

It was [journalist-programmer] Alan McLean‘s idea. Those documents are virtually inpenetrable for the average reader. In thinking of ways to make them more accessible, Alan thought about highlighting the key pieces of text that needed some explanation and then have a little popup, so as you read through you can roll over a word, and it’ll pop up a definition. It’s there if you need it, but it doesn’t get in your way at all.

Granted, creating a rollover is not rocket science. But it’s also not every day that you see news organizations going the extra mile to add usability to their online content. The Guardian, for example, went old school and simply compiled a conventional glossary. (On the other hand, they did make a spreadsheet of key incidents available for download, which is also kinda cool.)

'The War Logs' Most Edited Page on Wikipedia Today

Unsurprisingly, perhaps, “The War Logs” is the most edited page on Wikipedia today, according to Wikirage. The article was created at about 6pm ET yesterday, by a user called BDell555, who identifies himself as a Canadian “economist/financial markets guy.”

Many of the edits the article has been receiving concern the inclusion of links to the original documents over on the Wikileaks site. Starting at about 10am ET today, an unidentified user has been determinedly removing the links, first calling them “illegal information,” then, as the links were replaced by other users, saying they were doing so “at the request of President Obama,” then saying the links constituted “copyright infringement.”


The debate has moved over to the article’s “Discussion” page, where a user called Figureofnine asserted: “The Wikileaks documents are widely available, and removing it from Wikipedia would accomplish nothing.” The anonymous user replied: “Even the New York Times refrained from publishing everything. Wikipedia may be one of the easiest sites to access this information for those with little familiarity with the internet.” Another user called Sstrader brought up the publication of the Pentagon Papers and added “This isn’t China. There’s no need to ‘protect’ people from otherwise readily available information.” The anonymous user replied: “The Vietnam war was over before wikipedia was created so including the Pentagon Papers on wikipedia does not put troops in danger.” Yet another user called Shiftchange replied: “We have to be neutral, so even if linking to the material put troops in harms way, it isn’t a factor we should consider…. We aren’t here to consider foreign policy or to be discreet or to take sides, we are here to inform.”

Meanwhile, the article on Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is the 24th most edited page, after articles on singer Meat Loaf, the film Salt, and an article on BBC show Top Gear’s test track.


YouTube Doing Citizen Reporting Experiment with ABC Affiliate

youtube-abc7-275.bmpYouTube’s News team is joining forces with San Francisco’s ABC7 (KGO-TV) to conduct an experiment in collecting video news footage from regular everyday folks.

Writes YouTube News Manager Olivia Ma on the YouTube blog:

ABC7 will use YouTube Direct to collect news footage from people in the San Francisco Bay Area. Residents of the Bay Area are invited to document the news and events happening where they live, work and play, and to submit those videos via YouTube Direct to the producers at ABC7. The team at ABC7 will feature newsworthy videos on television (Channel 7 in the Bay Area), on their website (ureport.abc7news.com), and on their YouTube channel (youtube.com/abc7news).

Looks like over 40 videos have already been submitted, on everything from the Marin County Fair, to the Oscar Grant verdict, to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev writing his first tweet from Twitter headquarters.

TBD to Host 'Office Hours'

TBD.gifIn this day and age when journos can reach out and interact with anyone in the world via Twitter and Facebook (even astronauts), the staffers of the yet-to-be-launched, DC-based TBD.com local news site are going analog. Mandy Jenkins, social media producer of the Allbritton Communications-owned Politico sister, announces on the TBD blog today that the site’s reporters and editors will host “office hours,” where readers, sources, and other such folks can “share your ideas, feedback, criticism or just some company over coffee.”

Here’s how it’ll work. TBD staffers will tweet out when and where they’ll be working outside the office. If you’re in the area or want to escape from the office for a little while, stop by the location and look for the TBD logo. Pull up a chair and chat for awhile.

Starts tomorrow. Java House near Dupont Circle. 10 am to noon.

Digital Component a Significant Part of WashPo's 'Top Secret America' Investigation

WaPo - TopSecret - 3.gif

Politico’s profile today of William Arkin, the co-author of Washington Post two-time Pulitzer winner Dana Priest‘s fresh-off-the-presses “Top Secret America” investigation, reveals that the digital component was a big part of project.

Priest tells Politico that she met up with Arkin in 2008, after the two had been working separately on trying to quantify the scope of the intelligence apparatus that had emerged in the wake of 9/11. “The ‘lightning strike’,” Politico says, “came when they realized that although they couldn’t get inside these secret sites, they could physically represent them through databases and mapping.”

The story quotes WashPo executive editor Marcus Brauchli as saying the paper has been trying to get the paper’s newsroom “more digitally focused” over the past two years. Arkin’s skills and background, which includes a stint as an Army analyst in Berlin in the 1970s, brought a lot to the project. “Bill has a very strong digital sensibility,” Brauchli told Politico, and “a way of thinking about information collection and presentation that was especially useful for this project.”

The online component of the story includes a dedicated mini-site (topsecretamerica.com) where you can search a database of companies with intelligence contracts, view a map of where those companies are located, and peruse a wheel showing the network of relationships between the companies working for the government.

Priest tells Politico they actively worked to make the digital component an integral part of the story. “We really wanted to conceive of a way to make journalism different.”

BP Gets Busted for Alterering Photo of Its Command Center

bpblowup-175.jpgBP is having to eat more crow after a blogger revealed that a photo the company posted online of its command center had been altered.

Last night John Avarosis at AMERICAblog wrote that a picture showing several people sitting in front of a wall of monitors looked like it had been altered. Avarosis pointed out that jagged white edges around the heads of some of the individuals in the image, which could be seen only when the photo was blown up (right), indicated that something had been “faked.”

A BP spokesman subsequently told the Washington Post that a photographer had replaced blank screens on three of the monitors in the original photograph with three images (see below). The spokesman said they would remove the altered photograph and that they had “instructed our post-production team” to “refrain from doing this in the future.”


Hacks/Hackers Expanding to Boston


Hacks/Hackers, the journo-geek confab that started in the Bay Area last winter and moved to New York in June, is expanding to Boston. The group, which brings together journalists and technologists to innovate digital journalism, and which is spearheaded by former AP scribe and Stanford Knight fellow Burt Herman, is having its second meetup in Boston today.

The Boston contingent is being organized by Herman, former New York Times reporter and Knight News Challenge grant reviewer Jennifer 8. Lee, Center for Civic Media outreach coordinator Christina Xu, and Boston Globe reporter Matthew S. Carroll. Their first meeting attracted 60 journos and programmers. Tonight’s meeting is taking place at the appropriately named Microsoft NERD Center in Cambridge.