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.

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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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Curating Leveson

levesoncoverI’m experimenting with getting to know Spundge, a content curation and publishing platform (which Craig Silverman talks about at length in the latest FIR Interview podcast I posted yesterday).

Spundge is a lot about finding and filtering relevant content that matches topics you’re interested in. You do this through creating a Spundge Notebook, a sort of virtual filing cabinet, that is where the content found by Spundge’s algorithms and APIs in response to the key words and phrases you’ve defined is presented for you to determine what you do with it.

To help me learn how Spundge’s curation process works, I created a Notebook called Leveson and What’s Next, on mainstream and social media coverage of the Leveson Inquiry and all the hoo-ha and kerfuffle that began the moment the report and recommendations were published on November 29.

If you’re not sure what the Leveson Inquiry is about, its Wikipedia entry is a good place to gain a concise overview:

The Leveson Inquiry is a judicial public inquiry into the culture, practices and ethics of the British press following the News International phone hacking scandal, chaired by Lord Justice Leveson, who was appointed in July 2011. A series of public hearings were held throughout 2011 and 2012. The Inquiry published the Leveson Report in November 2012, which reviewed the general culture and ethics of the British media, and made recommendations for a new, independent, body to replace the existing Press Complaints Commission, which would be recognised by the state through new laws. Part 2 of the inquiry has been deferred until after criminal prosecutions regarding events at the News of the World.

Among all the news and opinion items I’ve seen so far,  two that are very related struck me as highlighting the scale of the task facing everyone in this country, not the least those in positions of power who will make decisions about press regulation on behalf of all of us.

If you’ve been following reports and opinion, you’ll know there’s huge polarization. That’s no better illustrated than looking at online petitions that have been set up, one pro Leveson’s recommendations, others anti.

So far, the pro-Leveson petition set up by the Hacked Off pressure group has gathered over 140,000 signatures.

levesonpetition-pro

(As an aside, I signed Hacked Off’s petition last week when it had less than 14,000 signatures, just 10 percent of what it has attracted in less than a week as I write these words.)

In contrast, anti-Leveson petitions set up on the government’s e-petitions website have managed only tens of signatures let alone hundreds or even thousands, with the most popular one attracting just over one thousand.

levesonpetition-anti

It looks quite clear that the ayes want it. Whether they’ll have it remains to be seen. What’s equally clear is that the clock’s ticking on self-regulation.

I’ll continue to curate content on this in Spundge. And, as Spundge is a collaborative platform, if you’d like to participate in this with me, you’ll be welcome. Good on-the-job learning.

Let me know if you would like to.

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Getting a grip on the lurching crisis at the BBC

georgeentwistleWatching events this weekend that make up the still-unfolding crisis at the BBC has been an experience of mixed emotions, ranging from bewilderment to despair to resignation (in two senses of that word).

Much of that surrounds the (now ex) Director-General George Entwistle, pictured, an honourable man whose short tenure in the job did little that demonstrated that BBC leadership had a firm grip on matters.

At the heart of this crisis right now are two specific investigations:

  1. A police-led criminal investigation into allegations of child sex abuse by the deceased BBC entertainer Jimmy Savile – and possibly (probably) BBC staff and others – since the 1950s that burst into public light in October following the broadcast of an investigative report by ITV’s current affairs programme Exposure. That followed a BBC editorial decision not to go ahead with its own investigative report on the BBC’s Newsnight current affairs programme.
  2. An investigation into allegations of child abuse in north Wales children’s homes in the 1970s and 1980s, ordered by the Prime Minister, following broadcast of a BBC Newsnight programme on November 2 that alleged involvement by a prominent Conservative MP from the 1980s; he wasn’t named in the programme but his identity subsequently emerged. He denies such allegations and there’s a lot of talk about legal action against the BBC.

See these two Wikipedia entries for detailed accounts of these awful events:

In the midst of this poisonous mixture has been mounting criticism and questions over the leadership of the BBC, how the editorial processes and procedures work, even the very structure and future of the organization as an independent public service broadcaster.

All of that came to a head on Saturday evening when the Director-General George Entwistle resigned in the face of insistent criticisms of his leadership and growing calls for his resignation. He’s been replaced in the interim by Tim Davie, a BBC man with a marketing background who’s due to be CEO of BBC Worldwide, the BBC’s commercial enterprise, on December 1 – less than three weeks’ away.

What seems to have been the final straw for Entwistle was his disastrous performance in a 15-minute interview on the BBC’s flagship news and current affairs radio show Today on Saturday morning.

The interviewer was the show’s co-host John Humphrys, a veteran journalist with a reputation as one who takes no prisoners in his hand-to-hand combat style of interviewing on live radio he brings to bear at times, especially with politicians and business leaders – and it was on full display on Saturday morning.

I listened to the interview and it was a painful experience. It became clear to me, if it hadn’t already, that George Entwistle – an honourable and decent man, facts of which I have no doubt – was woefully out of his depth. Not only in participating in an interview of this type but also on the fundamental and far more critical issue of leadership and knowing what was going on – and with the latter, it became clear he didn’t seem to know much.

As I listened, I wondered how on earth the man at the top of this organization could come to such an important interview so seemingly unprepared. My thoughts focused on a specific aspect of Entwistle’s leadership behaviour, all to do with his apparent detachment from fast-moving events.

Take this segment, for instance, from the transcript of the interview, in which Humphry’s asks Entwistle when he knew about the north Wales abuse report and whether he’d seen a tweet that was posted before the programme was broadcast, which flagged up that it would be making some serious allegations:

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