Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

Journalism posts: a summary IV

Posted in Fresh eyes series, Ideas for the future of news, Journalism by Adam Westbrook on March 31, 2010

It’s the end of the first quarter – here’s a wrap of all the highlights you might have missed on the blog so far in 2010..

Future of Journalism

10 resolutions to make you a better journalist in 2010

On snow and innovation

The one question journalists need to start asking

The newspaper doing multimedia journalism…in the 1950s

Three ideas for news businesses which will never work (and why)

Ideas for the Future of News: 006 – geo tagging

Ideas for the Future of News: 007 – the revolutionary search engine

Fresh Eyes: what can journalists learn from a musician?

Fresh Eyes: what can journalists learn from a web coder?

Fresh Eyes: what can journalists learn from a branding expert?

Why the BBC cuts are a call to action for Next Generation Journalists

Multimedia Journalism

My new ebook for hyperlocal websites is published

Book review: The Digital Journalist’s Handbook by Mark S Luckie

Five myths about shooting video

The TV news package is ripped to pieces…and how you can make it better

Five quick tricks to add spice to your storytelling

Three amazing films – shot on a DSLR camera

…and why the DSLR is changing video journalism

The digital magazine pushing the boundaries of online storytelling

Previous summaries from 2009 are right here!

Idea 007: breathing new life into old content

Posted in Ideas for the future of news, Journalism by Adam Westbrook on March 19, 2010

In Ideas for the Future of News I’m collecting positive, tangible, practical examples of business models, products and content which could pave the future.

To catch up on previous ideas, head to the Ideas for the Future of News page.

Idea 007: The Independent’s News Wall

By: UltraKnowledge, The Independent

Headlining today’s Digital Storytelling Conference in London is Andrew Lyons from UK company UltraKnowledge. He’s introducing the company to more than a hundred journalists and showing them the work they’ve been doing with the Independent newspaper.

I met up with Andrew earlier this month, and it seems while many journalists have been worrying about the future, Andrew and his team of coders have been coming up with solutions. They’ve got a very forward thinking mindset, and what they’re doing could breathe new life into old content.

So, introducing the Independent’s new “News Wall.”

It’s accessible by going to http://search.independent.co.uk and is essentially a visual representation of the Independent’s big news stories on a given day.

Rolling your mouse over any of the thumbnails, puts it into the larger window on the right hand side and gives you a preview. It is, in its most simple terms, a visual way of searching the days top stories, and gives the user a much more interactive experience.

A real boon for subs, reporters and editors everywhere, this software does not require any manual SEO or tagging work. It’s all done automatically.

It goes beyond this though.

Firstly, you are able to search for words, people, events using the box at the top. And when you do, you are presented with a visual representation of your search results, which is nice too. What makes this approach clever is the search results page generated automatically becomes a permanent static page on the Independent’s website.

The result? Without any extra work by journalists, the Independent’s website has grown exponentially – this search I did this week pulls up more than 100,000 new pages since News Wall’s launch a month ago. These pages have been created by visitors to the site using the News Wall.

Thirdly, the News Wall is also searchable by date. You’ll eventually be able to type in any date since the Independent launched and get a graphical search result. And what does that mean? Thousands of articles, currently consigned to history, will have new life breathed into them. New sponsorship, new ad revenue.

Imagine if this was done with historical archives.

The people at UltraKnowledge are busy doing some other awesome work which I’m able to mention yet. But keep an eye on them: they’re a great example of how anyone can play a role in the future of news, and unless journalists change their mindset, it won’t be them.

Idea 005: the digital magazine

Posted in Ideas for the future of news by Adam Westbrook on December 17, 2009

In Ideas for the Future of News I’m collecting positive, tangible, practical examples of business models, products and content which could pave the future.

To catch up on previous ideas, head to the Ideas for the Future of News page.

Idea 005: Mag+ concept

By: Berg London and Bonnier R&D

Magazines have a value above newspapers: people don’t just read the words, they buy them for the amazing photographs, lifestyle statements, and sometimes just because it looks great on the coffee table.

Magazines will be revolutionised by technology – but in a really positive way. For proof, see the work of Berg London and Bonnier R&D.

They’ve had a really good think about how future e-readers (like the much mooted Apple Tablet) could work with magazines – and crucially they have started with the benefits of magazines and worked from there. As the creaters explain:

“The concept aims to capture the essence of magazine reading which people have been enjoying for decades: an engaging and unique reader experience in which high quality writing and stunning imagery build up immersive stories.”

They’ve looked not at the e-readers themselves, but how magazine layouts should adapt to them. They have created, I think, a very enjoyable reading experience, which will add huge value to magazines.

“We don’t want to interrupt the core reading experience,” says Jack Shulze from Berg, “we’re very keen to make sure the UI doesn’t get in the way of the experience – it’s not covered in buttons.”

It’s 8 minutes long, but I highly recommend you watch this video, a demo of Mag+ in action.

(Hat tip: Hull Digital)

A business model?

Could the e-reader provide a financial saviour for magazines? In short, yes. For two reasons: firstly, as I mentioned they add extra value to the magazine itself. The experience of scrolling through pages on a touch screen is so enjoyable, people may buy mags just for that.

And more importantly people will pay to download an electronic magazine and experience it on these e-readers.  They won’t pay to view the content on a website.

Berg London and Bonnier R&D’s ideas are very new, but magazine owners should waste no time in chasing this concept and making it a reality. Newspapers too need to wake up to the possibilities and ask how the Mag+ concept could help them.

Their success though depends on the readers themselves. Who will make them and how much will they cost? Magazines will need to think about subscription models again, but that shouldn’t be too hard as that’s how many magazines make money anyway. And how will you download the content? Will it take long?

But these creases will no doubt be ironed out over the next two to three years.

As well as keeping current magazines afloat, they could also inspire a new generation of magazines, and most importantly keep journalists in business doing what they do best: writing great content and presenting it with great designs and pictures.

Ideas 003: event based reporting

Posted in Ideas for the future of news by Adam Westbrook on December 4, 2009

I’ve opened up a new category on the blog. It’s called Ideas for the future of news and here I’m  collating good, tangible, positive, innovative ideas on how journalism can move forward.

Previous articles:

Ideas 002: students as investigators

Ideas 001: the news aggregator

Idea: The Berlin Project

By: Alex Wood, Sheena Rossiter, Marcus Gilroy-Ware, Dominique Van Heerden, Marco Woldt

The five people behind the Berlin Project are the perfect example of young journalists refusing to be battered by economic storms, or waiting for journalism to sort itself out. When many recent graduates would have been preparing themselves for another 3-week unpaid internship at some dodgy music mag, or scouring the papers for PR jobs, these guys decided to go do some journalism instead.

It takes a fair bit of chutzpah to fly yourself out to Germany to cover the Berlin Wall anniversary with no real audience and not much financial backing. But they did, and you can see the results on their website.

Under the banner “journalism like you never thought possible” they went into Berlin under the radar covering the unofficial story. The site is a real multimedia mash too with audio, video packages, mobile video and photographs rolled into one.

Something lots of the big boys talk about all the time, but rarely produce themselves.

This aside, I’ve labelled the Berlin Project as an example of event-based reporting, a different angle on journalism, and one perhaps with commercial possibilities?

The Berlin Project was about one event, and offering in-depth coverage of that time defined moment. It is nothing new of course, we’re all used to ‘special coverage’ of the Olympics, elections, and remembrance services in the mainstream media.

But until now, they’ve been an extension of larger broadcasters or papers.

I think the advantage of the Berlin Project is its size (small, nimble) and therefore flexibility. They were also able to work cheaply, getting footage on iPhones and editing it quickly with iMovie. All told, a valuable alternative to mainstream coverage.

And I wonder for a second whether there’s a business model here too? Imagine being commissioned to cover all sorts of awesome events, because its what you do really well. It’s not a traditional niche, but hey- a niche is a niche right?

The Berlin Project team were able to get backing from Reuters  and do some business with smaller sites and Alex reckons they’ll break even, all told. Not bad for a pilot project. And there could be plans for more events coverage in 2010.

And even if you don’t like the idea, these guys have shown what’s possible when you just get off your ass and do something.

Ideas 002: students as investigators

Posted in Ideas for the future of news by Adam Westbrook on November 18, 2009

Idea: the Innocence Project

By: David Protess & Northwestern University

This idea for the future of news has been around for 10 years, but I had never heard of it.

But when I did, just last week, it blew my socks off with its simplicity, and lateral thinking.

Under the leadership of experienced investigative journalist David Protess, students at Northwestern University rake through criminal convictions in their region. They hone their investigation and data mining skills checking the facts.

“Our goal,” writes Protess,  “is to expose and remedy wrongdoing by the criminal justice system.”

They focus on murder cases where the defendant has been sentenced to execution.

And to this day they’ve freed 11 men. Five of them have been saved from the chair.

Now that beats a 2:1 any day.

One of them was Anthony Porter, exonerated just 50 hours before being executed.

This isn’t so much an idea which has any business revenue potential obviously, although there’s a chance it could get a decent grant here and there. But what a way to get students engaged during their studies! And what a way to teach them the most difficult skill of all: investigation.

J-courses around the world: you don’t have to do cold convictions (in the UK for example, that would be – sadly – particularly hard); you could check council finances, plough through rejected asylum applications, fact-check all the decisions involving wind turbines approvals or rejections; the list is endless.

On top of its legal accomplishments, the Innocence Project has “sparked a debate” about capital punishment, and invoked the rath of lawyers.

Freeing Porter in 1999, the governor of Illinois George Ryan said “a system that depends on young journalism students is flawed”. But if, as some fear, a void will be left by the cutbacks at papers over the next 10 years, then this could be one way to fill some of the holes.