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

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.

fastFT

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:

fastFT

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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Guardian to launch new platform to streamline access to web content

History of guardian.co.ukNews that The Guardian newspaper is planning to aggregate its presence on the web under a single entry point, theguardian.com domain, is an interesting milestone for a mainstream medium whose innovation in extending its presence and brand beyond its traditional printed newspaper origins in the UK makes it a stand-out among mainstream publishers.

A web address change may not seem like that big a deal. But if you’re a content publisher putting out the type of content online that attracts millions of people every day to visit you on the world wide web, having a single entry point to all your content that reinforces your brand name and presence makes sound commercial sense.

And sooner rather than later. The latest readership figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations, released a few days ago, show that nearly 82 million unique browsers accessed the newspaper’s website in April 2013 – a record high, says The Guardian – from all over the world.

It seems clear that the evolutionary shifts in the newspaper business are gathering steam from the big milestones we saw last year.

In December 2012, Newsweek magazine ended nearly 80 years in print, becoming an online-only publication. Quartz, a digital-only business magazine from Atlantic Media, launched in September. In July, the Financial Times said that worldwide digital subscriptions surpassed those for print for the first time. We also saw an interesting experiment on Christmas Day when the Telegraph in the UK published a digital-only edition on a day that traditionally sees no newspapers at all.

The Guardian’s arch online rival, Mail Online – the digital stable mate to the printed Daily Mail newspaper – has poured resources into developing a digital presence that has made it the world’s most-visited news website with more than 112 million unique browser accesses per month, according to its latest ABC certificate – most of those from people elsewhere in the world than the UK.

The stakes are high in a global marketplace where your competitors today are brands, social media publishers and others. Getting attention to your content requires a lot more than just being a newspaper publisher with a tradition of great journalism behind you.

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Guardian to launch new platform to streamline access to web content” was written by Mark Sweney, for theguardian.com on Friday 24th May 2013 08.08 Europe/London

The Guardian is to launch a new global web presence, theguardian.com, in recognition of the newspaper’s increasingly international digital appeal.

The move will streamline access to Guardian content – amalgamating the main entry point Guardian.co.uk, mobile site m.guardian.co.uk, US homepage guardiannews.com and the soon-to-launch Australian digital edition – into one core web destination.

In the last five years, the number of monthly Guardian digital browsers has grown from 20 million to more than 80 million, with much of that growth coming from international markets.

“Every month, our online content is accessed from almost every country around the world,” said Tanya Cordrey, chief digital officer at Guardian News & Media, in a blog post called Going global on our digitaljourney. “In fact, UK users now represent just a third of our total audience.”

The home of the newspaper’s content has been guardian.co.uk, which is the only non-“dot com” domain suffix in the top 10 Google News list of digital news outlets.

“This may be a small URL change, but it marks a big step for the Guardian and reflects our evolution from a much-respected national print newspaper based only in the UK … to a leading global news and media brand … and an ever-growing worldwide audience accessing Guardian journalism every minute of every day,” said Cordrey.

Cordrey added that the move to theguardian.com will make for a simplified user experience, but will also be more appealing to major advertisers in international markets, who are perhaps not drawn to the idea of running campaigns on a UK-specific website, despite the reality of the Guardian’s global digital readership.

The move, which will take place later this year, will involve the transition of millions of URLs attached to the Guardian’s websites and about 15 years of archived content.

• To contact the MediaGuardian news desk email media@guardian.co.uk or phone 020 3353 3857. For all other inquiries please call the main Guardian switchboard on 020 3353 2000. If you are writing a comment for publication, please mark clearly “for publication”.

• To get the latest media news to your desktop or mobile, follow MediaGuardian on Twitter and Facebook.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

Published via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

Unfiltered social reporting from Boston

mitshootingrm

Hot on the heels of the Boston marathon bombings last weekend comes another frightening event in the United States, this time a fatal shooting at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) campus in neighbouring Cambridge late on Thursday night US time.

As I write this, it’s still very much a breaking news story with sketchy reporting in the mainstream media, certainly here in the UK.

Yet social media is a mass of reporting from individuals on the ground. Citizen journalists all even if some wouldn’t choose that label to describe their tweets, instagrams, Facebook statuses and more.

They’re just saying what they’re seeing and experiencing right there because that’s the nature of what many people do these days, especially if you’re under 30. And because they can, thanks to being connected online to hundreds and thousands of other people via the social web.

Trying to get a good sense of what’s actually going on from scanning scores of tweets that fill the Twitter timeline isn’t easy. One way you can get a great sense of events in a compelling visual display is with Rebelmouse, a web service that curates content from across the social web and displays it as if it’s a digital newspaper.

You can see a great example of the visual power of such curated content for this breaking new story from the screenshot above and on the MIT Shooting page at Rebelmouse itself.

As I noted in a tweet earlier, this is unfiltered social reporting, content that people share in their moment. This is not verified and fact-checked reporting – that’s what professional journalists and editors do and tend to be quite good at.

But resources such as Rebelmouse are part of the new media landscape, one that’s a chaotic mix of verified reporting such as what you expect from the mainstream media, along with anyone’s opinions and comments. And in situations like this, inevitably there will be misinformation and untruth – some no doubt deliberate but the vast majority accidental or due to other people’s assumptions and misinterpretations.

Welcome to the acts of freedom of speech. The consequences are what we make of those acts.

Compelling content is king for the newspaper business too

How healthy is the newspaper business?

If you look at print, the long-term prognosis is not encouraging overall, certainly not in the UK and to a large extent neither in the US, especially as the declining circulation and revenue of print newspapers occurs alongside a shift in emphasis to online versions.

We’ve seen some radical such shifts this year, notably the closure of the printed Newsweek magazine and its continuation as a digital-only publication. Quartz, a digital-only business magazine, launched in September. In July, the Financial Times said that worldwide digital subscriptions surpassed those for print for the first time. We also saw an interesting experiment on Christmas Day when the Telegraph in the UK published a digital-only edition on a day that traditionally sees no newspapers at all. The print ones, that is.

Indeed, in digital the mainstream media picture looks much more encouraging and interesting as eMarketer reports in assessing which are the top ten newspapers online, worldwide, ranked by the number of visitors.

top10onlinepapers

Top of the list is the UK’s Daily Mail. Or rather, the Mail Online, its digital edition – not at all the same content or focus as the printed newspaper edition.

Quoting comScore data, eMarketer says that the Mail Online website attracted over 50 million unique visitors in October, the most of any online newspaper. It adds that despite a partial paywall instituted in 2011, websites affiliated with The New York Times ranked second, attracting over 48 million unique visitors, followed by two other well-established outlets, The Guardian and Tribune newspapers.

The appearance on the list of People’s Daily Online (fifth) and Xinhua News Agency (seventh) attest to the growing size and engagement of China’s internet news audience, eMarketer noted, stating:

[...] 644 million people worldwide visited online newspaper sites this October, which [comScore] estimates to be 42.6% of the world’s internet users. As their business models continue to tilt away from print and toward digital, newspaper outlets around the world are competing to win the attention of this large and growing audience.

In assessing the Mail’s performance as the most-visited newspaper on the web, eMarketer says:

[...] unlike The New York Times or The Guardian, [the Daily Mail] does not feature much in the way of original reporting on its website. Yet it has managed to grab a bigger share of the online audience than either of those organizations through its relentless focus on catering to the tastes of its global audience.

The Daily Mail’s editor, Paul Dacre, told The New Yorker in April that he thought the Mail Online was succeeding because it had identified a large niche in the news market:

“At its best, American journalism is unbeatable. But the problem with many of your newspapers is that they became too high-minded, too complacent, and self-regarding … They forgot that there’s a huge market out there of people who are serious-minded but also want some fun in their reading.”

The bold text is my emphasis.

mailonline

And maybe that is precisely the key to the Mail’s success in attracting people to its digital content:

  1. Understand your audience with precision – no guesswork.
  2. Offer them compelling content (see above for a clue to the Mail’s definition of ‘compelling content’).
  3. Make that compelling content relevant (the Mail Online has a specific US edition to cater to a huge market).
  4. Make that content easy to obtain (web, mobile apps, no paywalls as it’s ad supported), consume and share.

Looks like a winning formula.

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Gun control: where there’s a will there must be a way

In the aftermath of the terrible tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, USA, on December 14 that saw 20 kids aged six and seven shot to death along with six adults, much talk has focused on re-opening the American debate on gun control.

An image I’ve seen posted by many people on social networking sites like Facebook and Google+ is this one that contrasts the numbers of people killed by handguns in certain countries compared to the United States.

lastyearhandgunskilled

I saw this one in a post by Virgin founder Richard Branson.

The words say this:

Last year handguns killed
48 people in Japan.
8 in Great Britain.
34 in Switzerland.
52 in Canada.
58 in Israel.
21 in Sweden.
42 in West Germany.
10, 728 in the United States.

God Bless America.

There’s no date nor citations of a source or sources for the statistics. Yet the image is popping up all over the social web.

As for a date, there is a strong clue in the image itself with reference to the country ‘West Germany.’ As that country become simply ‘Germany’ after it and East Germany were unified in 1990 following the collapse of communism in 1989, it’s a safe bet to say the image and the statistics are therefore at least 22 years old.

But does that really matter when the point of the image in current use seems to be that of highlighting the shocking chasm between the numbers of deaths brought about by the use of handguns in the US compared to in the other countries mentioned, rather than the actual numbers themselves?

The small wording in the image beneath the stylized handgun suggests it to be the work of Handgun Control Inc., a lobbying organization that evolved in 2001 into the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence (the Wikipedia entry has detailed information).

It’s an imaginative image, clearly designed as a printed poster. It makes the powerful point of ‘the US versus the rest.’

All well and good, perhaps. Yet a worrying aspect to me is the ease with which everyone tosses around such imagery and metrics, amplified and repeated by anyone with an internet connection, so that it’s becoming hard to separate fact from fiction, genuine concern versus undisclosed partisanship.

What if the numbers or whatever are just wrong?

A similar picture – and clearly on a far more significant scale – concerns how the mainstream media reported on the identity of the shooter who took those children’s and adults’ lives in Newtown, getting it totally wrong at first, thus seeding the repetition of ‘falsehood reporting’ – unwittingly to be sure – that prompted emotionally-charged but ugly behaviour across the social web including death threats against an individual wrongly identified in the media as the culprit.

Yet I think all of this is simply reflective of the society landscape today.

Verification of fact before sharing your news with others used to be a pillar propping up the foundation of mainstream media authority, integrity and respect. The advent of social media and how anyone can report the news tossed that idea into the long grass in many respects.

There seems to be a sea change in how the mainstream media carries out fact checking, certainly in the US, instead taking part in a race to get the news out there before your competitor – which can mean the blogger down the road or the social networker a continent away who’s keeping an eye on what people are talking about online – whatever they’re saying – not just other mainstream media.

While analysis and debate on the media’s role (and responsibilities) over reporting the Newtown massacre goes on, I truly hope all of this – media reporting, 22-year-old images and statistics, repeated and amplified misinformation, the lot – contributes to not only a genuine debate about guns, society and where it all fits together but also action that would make it hard to imagine another Newtown taking place in America.

This is about far more than purely gun control, embracing as it does the behaviours of individuals and society as a whole.

Observing some of the opinions in my Facebook timeline from American friends, I see quite a bit of talk about the US constitution, the second amendment and the right to bear arms.

Indeed, as I commented in a Twitter discussion on Saturday morning, I get all that.

Yet all I see is what happened in Newtown, Connecticut, on Friday, not to mention the other shooting horrors of recent years.

Surely there is a will in America that leads to a way to solve this?

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