Filters and trust

Truth-O-MeterAs we get exposed to more and more information online, two elements assume great importance – filtering in the things we want to see; and verifying those things so we trust our filtered-in information along with the purveyors of it.

The former is easier done than the latter: there are apps, algorithms and all manner of technical tools to help you filter in what you want and, thus, filter out what you don’t.

Trust is a very tricky thing. Subjective, emotive and based largely on the things people say to one another, no one has yet come up with a method of automating trust that is convincing, reliable and, well, trusted.

Could PundiFact and the Truth-O-Meter be an answer? According to the US newspaper the Tampa Bay Times, yes, it could.

[…] The new site will have a dedicated staff of journalists who will research claims by media figures and rate them using PolitiFact’s Truth-O-Meter. The fact-checks will be published on and will often be featured on the main PolitiFact site.

[…] “Pundits on TV and radio, as well as bloggers and columnists, are prominent voices in our political discourse, yet sometimes they blur the lines between opinion and fact,” said Neil Brown, editor and vice president of the Times. “Now we will hold them accountable, much as we’ve done with politicians.”

PolitiFact does have a track record of rating American politicians and what they say, presenting ratings in a way that you can, at a glance, see how particular public voices stack up on a truth scale. At least, according to PolitiFact.


Craigslist founder Craig Newmark is quoted in the Tampa Bay Times story with a resonating appeal:

I just want news I can trust, and PunditFact is a real contribution in the direction of trustworthiness and accountability.

The bold’s my emphasis.

Maybe that’s the way to see this idea as one that’s “in the direction of trustworthiness and accountability.” That sounds realistic.

I’d love to see a PunditFact for the UK!

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How ‘social TV’ enables immersive involvement in live events


Audience participation with live TV events via social channels like Twitter is becoming increasingly common and a big part of audience expectations.

I’m thinking of campaign-type events, not spontaneous or serendipitous actions by individual tweeters, Facebookers or Google+ers with their communities.

This is about orchestrated activities: programme-makers and the television broadcasters creating a broader platform for wider, richer and valuable content dissemination where the tweeter becomes an active part  – and, perhaps, influencer – of a broadcast event that embraces true multi media.

And it’s way beyond simply sticking a hashtag on the TV screen.

Nowhere is this more part of the fabric of live TV events right now than in the US with shows like The Voice and – perhaps more significantly – live ‘town hall’ debates with President Obama.

CNET News reports on Mass Relevance, a “social experience platform for brands and media” (says its Wikipedia entry), and how it puts Twitter in front of television audiences, boosting the social network’s public profile and altering its perception as a place for more than pointless babble to being an essential tool that enables and facilitates immersive involvement in live events.

Understand the platform:

[…] Mass Relevance is software-as-a-service for brands, agencies, and producers. It’s a technology platform that instantly scans content flowing through the APIs of social media companies, Twitter in particular, and filters it according to the client’s desires. The rapid filtering piece, which is far cooler than it sounds, is what gives television producers like Nicolle Yaron of “The Voice” the confidence to put viewer comments on display and to let audiences vote live on a song for contestants to sing.

The platform, using real-time filters, sifts through hundreds of thousands of tweets, dumps the retweets and replies, purges the content producers know they don’t want — profane tweets, for instance — and then presents what’s left in a queue where someone manually approves the tweets to go on screen. The system can also collect and analyze data for visualizations and power audience polls […]

And you’ll understand more about what’s coming.

A far cry from the nostalgia of the test card from yester year!

It’s useful, too, to see this aspect of Twitter’s growing role in the evolving media landscape if you have interest in Twitter’s forthcoming stock market flotation.

Full story from CNET News: The secret company behind Twitter’s TV takeover.

(First posted to my Flipboard magazine as a story link.)

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Welcome to the Middle East and have a nice day

Amid the conflict, awful tragedy and human suffering constantly occupying centre stage in mainstream media reporting about the Middle East, one man tries to explain the relationship complexities of, among, between, within and without key countries, states and individuals;  and countries outside the region.

A short guide to the Middle East (photo)

Financial Times reader K.N. Al-Sabah writes a letter to the editor of the FT on August 22 to offer a short guide to the Middle East.

That’s the snapshot view on the day Mr Al-Sabah wrote his guide. It seems to me that solving Rubik’s Cube or finding a cure for cancer would be a breeze in comparison to truly understanding the landscape of conflict in the Middle East.

(Via BuzzFeed Politics)

The Sun’s ‘walled content garden’ brings together print and digital

The Sun

Today, The Sun newspaper becomes the latest national mainstream medium in the UK to erect a barrier to its content on the web where access to that content is only available now if you pay £2 per week.

Switchover to The Sun’s new paywall-fronted site began yesterday evening, and the new site went live overnight. When you land on the website now,  you’ll see The Sun as the screenshot above shows, requiring a log-in before you get to any meaningful content.

It’s similar in this approach to its stable mate, The Times.

(The Sun is part of News UK, Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper business in this country previously called News International that includes The Times and The Sunday Times. The relaunch of The Sun is clearly part of the company’s ongoing efforts to move on from the phone hacking scandal that erupted in 2011 and that led to the closure of the News of The World newspaper in July of that year; and to the Leveson Inquiry, whose findings and recommendations continue to be matters of lively public discussion.)

The relaunch of The Sun website is part of a brand repositioning known as Sun+, a bundle of content that embraces three elements:

  • Sun+Digital, content not only on the new website but also via free apps for mobile devices.
  • Sun+Perks, comprising freebies, deals and promotions worth more than £200 each month.
  • Sun+ Goals, video clips of every Barclays Premier League goal via a free app for iOS and Android smartphones and tablets.

All that for £2 a week, even less if you pay for a year in advance.

It’s an interesting mix, offering a range of content and experiences that should be an attractive proposition to many existing online Sun readers as well as appealing to new ones (especially with the launch offer of one month of access for just £1).

But what about those who read The Sun in print every day? There are 7.3 million daily readers, according to News UK – what’s in it for them?

A press release on July 30 includes details of how print readers can take advantage of the three ‘content pillars’ if they wish to:

[…] customers who buy the paper but also want to enjoy this fantastic bundle of benefits will be able to collect special codes that will be printed in each paper every day from Sunday August 4.

These codes will initially unlock one month’s worth of digital access and from then onwards, by collecting 20 codes each month, members will receive continuous access to The Sun’s unrivalled digital content and perks. This is possible using the latest InkJet printing technology supplied by Kodak, which has been fitted across all The Sun’s presses in the UK and Ireland. Each press will print a unique code on every single paper every single day.

The bold text is my emphasis. Imagine that – millions of copies of the newspaper printed every day, each one with a unique one-time code individually printed on each copy as the presses run. That’s pretty neat technology.

Yet, I wonder if this includes Band-Aid – employing digital coolness and some clever tech to keep an old business model going in the face of evidence that shows traditional print is continuing to decline just about everywhere as newspaper circulation figures for June 2013 strongly suggest.


At the same time, readership for all things digital continues to rise, even digital content that you have to pay for (the Financial Times being a good example of that) – surely good signals for The Sun’s digital bundles if not for the printed newspaper?

It’s not a view News UK CEO Mike Darcey wholly agrees with.

Yesterday morning, I was part of a group of invited bloggers in a meeting with the News UK CEO and members of the company’s senior team involved in the launch plans including Derek Brown, The Sun’s digital editor.

Darcey believes in the content bundle. It’s the start of a new journey for The Sun, he said, following the success of The Times, broadening the bundle, adding distinctive content, exploiting new technology, getting into video, focusing on subscription.

Paid-for content works against free, he believes, just as in TV (he was with satellite broadcaster BSkyB for 15 years, over six of them as COO: that’s all about paid-for content). In news, he says, “our formula is curated, filtered, world-class comment and opinion, delivered with authority.”

He says that newspapers have always been a bundle of content – a bundle that keeps expanding, which is now expanding to take advantage of new delivery platforms, notably tablets and smartphones.

It’s an optimistic view of a marketplace that seems to me to be in a near-constant state of disruption as we continue a transition not only to those new delivery platforms Darcey mentions but also to new content creators and consumers. That would include The Sun itself – not only is it a newspaper publisher, it’s also a video content creator and publisher as it will produce daily programmes that will be available in the Sun+Goals digital content offering.

It also includes anyone with a story to tell, whatever label they wear, be they citizen journalists, brand journalists, content marketers, whatever and whoever.

The information landscape is vast, it’s growing all the time, and the content choices facing consumers and businesses are equally exciting and confusing. Information overload is just a breath away.

In the midst of all that, if The Sun has a compelling proposition – the print-plus-digital content bundle Darcey speaks of – that its target markets and advertisers recognize as such, and that translates into a willingness to pay, then the prognosis is good.

Today’s Sun+ launch is just a first step, a fact Darcey was at pains to emphasize. That seems quite clear, especially with regard to Sun+Goals, the exciting-looking mobile app. Right now, it’s a purely content-consumption vehicle, as it were: you get the content – near-live video clips of Premier League football goals – that you consume.

Where things will get really interesting is when you have the opportunity to comment, connect and engage with others, share your thoughts… In essence, be part of a dynamic Sun+ community. There are interesting ideas that might be worth exploring over time. For instance, a corps of passionate football fans who are also great communicators who could create match content as it happens.

Look at what sports broadcaster ESPN in the US is doing with hiring bloggers to cover every NFL game, for example. It could lead to niche communities to which you wouldn’t necessarily devote professional journalism resources.

As I’ve said before, if you offer content plus a great experience that people are willing to pay for – no matter how complex, difficult, changing, disrupted and competitive your market is – then the chances are very good indeed that you will have a viable business opportunity.

See also: commentary by others at yesterday’s meeting with Mike Darcey:

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Remembering 7/7

July 7 remembrance

Eight years ago on this date – on July 7, 2005 – suicide bombers killed over 50 people in London in  a series of terror attacks on  buses and tube trains during the morning rush hour.

More than 700 people were injured, many severely.

While 7/7 wasn’t of the magnitude nor horror of 9/11 four years earlier, it was very much our 9/11 moment.

I was in London on that day  – the day after the celebrations of the news that London had won the bid to host the 2012 Olympics – and was in a meeting when the first news came of the bombings. I lived in Amsterdam at the time and was due to return there later that day. I managed to do that although caught up in the chaos and panic of unfolding events when it wasn’t really clear exactly what had happened.

Those were the days when ‘social media’ meant blogging – there was no Twitter, no Facebook, no pervasive wifi or cellular data networks and connectivity; not even the mainstream awareness of what you could do even if you had the means to do it.

If you wanted to know what was going on at a time of very fast-moving events, you looked to the mainstream media especially TV and radio (and has that really changed even today?)

There was podcasting, still in its infancy – Shel and I had started FIR at the beginning of that year. I remember recording some thoughts on my digital audio recorder about what I’d experienced that day that, while unquestionably nothing compared to the experiences of those actually caught up in the killing fields on buses and trains, nevertheless was a shocking experience.

Here’s that recording – one person’s snapshot impressions from a terrible day eight years ago.

In memoriam.

The FT’s digital revolution bears fruit with fastFT


An intriguing-looking package arrived at my house on Saturday, delivered by special courier.

"fastFT Markets Survival Kit," said the little pink card tied with red ribbon to the top of the square box. I knew immediately who it was from – the Financial Times: the combination of the pink-coloured card and that "FT" logotype were instantly recognizable.

Opening up the box revealed some rather nice goodies (more on those in a minute) accompanied by a letter from Lionel Barber, the FT’s editor.

"Dear Neville," the letter began. Personalized marketing, that’s for sure.

Barber’s letter introduced me to fastFT, "a groundbreaking service coming soon from the Financial Times that will provide market-moving news and views, 24-hours a day."

This is actually a big deal, and it’s coming tomorrow. It’s something Barber outlined a few months ago in an interview with The Guardian talking about editorial and business changes and restructuring at the FT as part of his ambitions for a "digital revolution" dominated by online news rather than ‘print’ news.

His letter on Saturday explains what fastFT is and how the new service will work:

[…] fastFT will deliver up-to-the minute reporting and comment in short, sharp and informed dispatches – giving FT readers the edge they expect and the agenda-setting analysis they rely on. When 140 characters doesn’t cut it, fastFT will go beyond the headlines, providing context and opinion in quick, authoritative reports with a level of transparency and personality that isn’t available elsewhere.

Staffed by a dedicated team of journalists around the world, fastFT will be live and updated 24-hours a day, Monday to Friday, and supplemented with exclusive content from the FT’s renowned network of journalists and guest contributors. It will expand on the FT’s existing offerings – from breaking and investigative news, opinion and analysis to blogs, interactive journalism and videos – by adding a live and dynamic layer of reporting and commentary.

I’d describe it succinctly like this: it’s a live 24×5 online breaking news service tailored to the news and information requirements of the FT reader wherever he or she is located in the world.

If you go to the fastFT section on the FT website today, you’ll see just a digital timer counting down the hours and minutes to the launch of the service on May 29, tomorrow.


There’s also the hashtag #fastFT that I’d expect to see lighting up with tweets at and after the launch tomorrow.

Barber’s letter goes on to explain the advantage of the single-platform that is fastFT:

In an environment where readers increasingly rely on their mobile devices for the latest headlines, fastFT has created a single platform for market-moving news, allowing us to engage more deeply with our readers on whichever device they choose, wherever they are.

That strongly suggests fastFT is more than simply a broadcast news channel, making it a more interesting-looking proposition than it might first appear. If you are able to engage with FT journalists via the device you’re using to get at your fastFT content, rather than just read the news, it opens up opportunities for knowledge acquisition and sharing, far more than you could expect from a traditional news medium.

And what about those goodies I mentioned earlier that were in the intriguing-looking box I received on Saturday?

fastFT Markets Survival Kit goodies

Here you see the two major ones that caught my attention:

Along with a squeeze ball and a Fair Trade chocolate Geo Bar, the "Markets Survival Kit" is a nice approach to introduce fastFT to people the FT wanted to reach out to in an unusual way. Works well for me!

Check out fastFT from 10am UK time on May 29.

[Update May 29:] fastFT went live at 10am UK time this morning, with content available to FT subscribers (and registered users within their metered page-access allowance).

To get a sense of what it looks like – what type of content you’ll see there plus a range of information on journalists’ contact info – here’s a screenshot:


And the FT has published a short video that describes the new service.

(if you don’t see the video embedded above, watch it at YouTube.)

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