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.

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Number 10 hands out Twitter exclusives to favoured journalists

UK Prime Minister

A discussion topic in episode 701 of the FIR podcast, published today, looks at a question asked in the Metro newspaper last week: should British politicians take notes from Barack Obama’s campaign team?

The Metro’s excellent report looked at the key role social media played  – especially Twitter – in both of the US president’s election campaigns in 2008 and 2012 in enabling direct engagement with reporters and opinion-makers as well as with voters in communities across the United States (see detailed analysis of 2012 from Pew’s Journalism. org).

The discussion that guest co-host Stephen Waddington and I had in the podcast considered key elements of Obama’s campaign as described in the Metro story by Obama’s deputy campaign manager, Jennifer O’Malley Dillon. Her conclusion:

[…] Summing up the lessons of 2008 and 2012, Ms O’Malley Dillon said: ‘If there’s anything to be learned from our campaign, it’s that we made it a priority, we believed in it from the top to the bottom, we ensured the resources were there and we allowed it to help dictate for us in some ways the type of things we were doing based on how people use these forums.

‘We weren’t trying to recreate the wheel, we were trying to be part of the dialogue and I think that’s one of the many ways we were able to be successful.’

Keeping that in mind, Wadds and I broadly concluded in  our discussion that a) yes, British politicians would benefit from studying the role of social media in US election campaigning; and b) there’s little to suggest that they are or have done so – certainly at a central-government level that seems isolated from grassroots ‘social politics’ – even though the next general election in the UK is only two years away at most.

So The Guardian’s report yesterday on the role of Twitter in how Downing Street aims to secure goodwill from journalists by revealing news before its official announcement by ministers had me thinking about what looks like a chasm of a difference in how American politicians see social media channels like Twitter and how UK ones do.

There, it looks more open and inclusive. Here, it seems to be secretive, selective and controlled.

That’s a great pity if it does turn out to be how my cynical view of the political communication landscape appears. The way in which social media channels can galvanize political engagement with and by those who have the final word on who gets elected, as evidenced by the US experience, clearly is firmly understood by government communicators:

[…] “We’re getting to where people are these days,” said Anthony Simon, the head of digital communications in the prime minister’s office.

“Increasing numbers of people are on Twitter – journalists, stakeholders and professional groups – and to be part of that conversation is vital for any government department. It’s democratic because it’s open to anyone and we don’t go on it for the sake of it or over-rely on it – it’s a means to an end.”

I hope that the ‘means to an end’ becomes a great deal more honest- and authentic-looking than the current situation that The Guardian describes.

(The Guardian’s report below is published with their permission via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.)


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Number 10 hands out Twitter exclusives to favoured journalists” was written by Josh Halliday, for The Guardian on Sunday 28th April 2013 21.07 Europe/London

Asked in 2009 why he didn’t use Twitter, David Cameron famously responded “too many twits might make a twat” . Four years later, Number 10 is attempting to move more rapidly into the digital future with a Twitter strategy that includes handing out “Twitter exclusives” to favoured journalists for release before they are officially announced by ministers.

In a tactic reminiscent of the BBC satire The Thick of It, Twitter is also being used to try to quash negative stories before they gain currency in a news cycle where every second counts.

“Every minute that passes the poison is spreading into the system to all sorts of roots and you need to find a way to cauterize that very, very quickly,” said a senior No 10 source.

The Twitter exclusives aim to secure goodwill from journalists who are often under pressure to break news online before rivals, but will irritate those who believe announcements should be made in parliament.

Many of Downing Street’s new media strategies were introduced by Craig Oliver, the prime minister’s communications director, who insisted on moving a Twitter monitor into the No 10 newsroom when he assumed his role in January 2011.

According to colleagues, Oliver likes to describe the social network as similar to fire: a useful tool in the right hands, but massively destructive if it is misused.

The analogy might leave some scratching their heads, but Cameron’s inner circle wants all his MPs to take Twitter seriously – even if the 2015 general election is, in internet time, light years away.

One example of using Twitter to “seal” a negative story came after the Evening Standard mistakenly broke George Osborne’s budget embargo on the social network last month. A mortified journalist promised to tweet a swift apology but Oliver ordered a pre-emptive tweet from the Tory press office account, to ensure the reporter’s promise was met.

Conservative party headquarters brief MPs on good talking points for Twitter, using them to “tweet as a muscular force” about a single topic or news item to hammer home the message. Some 418 MPs have joined the tweeting fray, according to the news wire Tweetminster, up from 176 in 2009.

“Twitter used to be seen as tool for the egocentric and verbally incontinent,” said a senior No 10 source. “But the reality is that it’s an extraordinarily useful way of getting talking points out there.”

Downing Street has not always been so fleet of foot – it took hours to respond to the online mockery prompted by Osborne’s first-class train ticket debacle last October – but Cameron’s inner circle now recognises that the case for a clear Twitter strategy is “unanswerable”.

“We’re getting to where people are these days,” said Anthony Simon, the head of digital communications in the prime minister’s office.

“Increasing numbers of people are on Twitter – journalists, stakeholders and professional groups – and to be part of that conversation is vital for any government department. It’s democratic because it’s open to anyone and we don’t go on it for the sake of it or over-rely on it – it’s a means to an end.”

The most popular tweet sent by the government was Cameron’s tribute to Baroness Thatcher, prompting 3,500 retweets. The most divisive was when No 10 tweeted every single reshuffle appointment last September, which led to a mass unfollowing from less devoted users but praise from politicos.

But the jury is out on whether the rest of Britain is as Twitter-addicted as the Westminster Village. “I think the majority of activity comes from a fairly small group and most MPs have fairly small audiences,” said Alberto Nardelli, the founder of the app Tweetminster, pointing out that 1.2m people follow MPs on the site – about the same size audience combined as Beppe Grillo, the leader of Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement.

“I think we’ve gone beyond a ‘should politicians use Twitter?’ phase. It’s now how will it be used,” he added.

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The internet as you like it

A rather good post today by Paul Sawers in TNW Industry assesses the state of the internet as it begins to noticeably evolve from being defined as an English-language network to a more homogenous system embracing other languages such as Arabic, Russian and Chinese.

A big deal, you might say. Except that it is a big deal in a significant area – the use of languages that allow characters beyond those that the English language historically used when defining a domain name: the unique address of a website, for instance.

In practical terms, it means you can define an internationalized domain name in the language of your choice rather than only in English. So the internet address of your website that has a Russian domain name, for instance, can be wholly in the Russian language including the country code (rather than .ru). Or Chinese, Arabic,  Greek – almost any language you care to choose.

idnmap

As Paul explains:

[...] because of technical constraints and the need to ensure domain names remain interoperable around the world, the Domain Name System (DNS) has traditionally been restricted to 37 ASCII characters: A-Z, 0-9 and the trusty old hyphen. Internationalized domain names (IDNs) are domains that support one or more non-ASCII characters, such as www.øl.com and ???????.com.

The permitted character set of the DNS has precluded the full representation of many languages in their native alphabets (scripts) within domain names. However, ICANN did approve the Internationalizing Domain Names in Applications (IDNA) system many years ago, and this system maps Unicode strings into the valid DNS character set using Punycode.

In short, this allows the transliteration or conversion between Unicode domain names and their ASCII equivalents (prefixed with xn--), thus allowing users to navigate the Internet in their own language. The IDNA system is designed to ensure that the Web doesn’t fragment into a number of localized versions separated by script.

So, Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) have been available for registration at the second level for a while, meaning in countries such as Japan you could register a domain using a local script rather than a Latin-based one – however, it would still have been appended with ‘.jp’, rather than a local script equivalent.

And this was the big change that came into effect last year. It became possible to register IDNs for ccTLDs such as ????????. for Saudi Arabia, and .?? for Russia, and this at last meant domain names – including the country code – could contain non-Latin based characters throughout. This opened up the Internet’s addressing system to the majority of the world’s population, who have little comprehension of Latin-based scripts.

This gives the internet truly global potential in how people perceive it and are able to use it in the language of their choice, not just English.

This chart from Swedish internet monitoring and analytics firm Royal Pingdom showing internet users versus population size illustrates the real potential of this development:

In eighteen of the twenty countries listed, English is not the native language.

Paul Sawers goes into a great deal of detail, much of it technical. But his post is worth reading if you want to get a good sense of new possibilities around the world and how use of the internet will likely evolve.

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PCC seeks to regulate press Twitter feeds

twitterppcThe Guardian’s report on plans by the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), the UK’s mainstream print-media regulator, to include tweets made by journalists in its regulatory remit shouldn’t be a surprise to any observer of the contemporary and rapidly-evolving media landscape.

As the Guardian reports, the PCC thinks some tweets by journalists would be considered as part of a newspaper’s editorial content and, therefore, subject to existing regulation covering such content. It wants media companies to differentiate a reporter’s "official" tweets and those that are personal comments, and develop policies to help everyone understand what the rules are when using social channels like Twitter

It’s a good idea if it helps to make clear what is editorial and reporting and what is personal opinion. The best example I know of a media organization setting out such policies is the BBC with its comprehensive and continuously-evolving Editorial Guidelines website, which includes specific guidance for journalists (and others, such as editors and programme producers) on usage of Twitter.

For example, in the section on Social Networking, Microblogs and other Third Party Websites: BBC Use:

[...] You may wish to consider forwarding or "retweeting" a selection of a person’s microblog entries/posts or "tweets". This is very unlikely to be a problem when you are "retweeting" a colleague’s BBC "tweet" or a BBC headline. But in some cases, you will need to consider the risk that "retweeting" of third party content by the BBC may appear to be an endorsement of the original author’s point of view.

It may not be enough to write on your BBC microblog’s biography page that "retweeting" does not signify endorsement, particularly if the views expressed are about politics or a matter of controversial public policy. Instead you should consider adding your own comment to the "tweet" you have selected, making it clear why you are forwarding it and where you are speaking in your own voice and where you are quoting someone else’s.

The BBC also has a specific policy on personal use of social networking and other third party websites including blogs, microblogs and personal web-space. As the Guardian notes in its report, journalists like the BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones already maintain multiple accounts in an effort to preserve professional and personal distinctions.

Whatever type of organization you are, media or otherwise, developing clear policies and guidelines about employee use of social tools like Twitter, then communicating them to your employees and helping them understand the rules of the game, make good business sense.

And a good place to get inspired for your organization is to take a look at the BBC’s example.

(The Guardian’s report below is published with their permission via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.)


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “PCC seeks to regulate press Twitter feeds” was written by Dan Sabbagh, for theguardian.com on Friday 6th May 2011 14.14 Europe/London

Reporter and newspaper Twitter feeds are expected to brought under the regulation of the Press Complaints Commission later this year, the first time the body has sought to consolidate social media messages under its remit.

The PCC believes that some postings on Twitter are, in effect part of a “newspaper’s editorial product”, writings that its code of practice would otherwise cover if the same text appeared in print or on a newspaper website.

A change in the code would circumvent a loophole that – in theory – means that there is no form of redress via the PCC if somebody wanted to complain about an alleged inaccuracy in a statement that was tweeted. Last year the PCC found it was unable to rule in a complaint made against tweets published by the Brighton Argus.

Its plan, though, is to distinguish between journalists’ public and private tweets. Any Twitter feed that has the name of the newspaper and is clearly an official feed – such as @telegraphnews or @thesun_bizarre – will almost certainly be regulated.

However, that principle could be further extended to cover a reporter’s “official” work account, whilst leaving personal accounts that discuss conversations over breakfast and weekend exploits as outside its ambit. Some journalists – such as the BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones – already maintain multiple accounts in an effort to preserve professional and personal distinctions.

The PCC wants each newspaper to develop a “Twitter policy”, to tell its reporters which accounts are considered part of its editorial product and which are not. But with many newspapers, including the Guardian, republishing tweets on their site, many journalist musings are likely to be drawn in.

An online working group of the PCC has already recommended that the body undertake a “remit extension”, the formal mechanism by which the self-regulatory body takes on a new area of responsibility, after consulting with the newspaper industry as to how Twitter regulation can be implemented. That consultation is due to finish in the summer and the new rules are likely to be in place by the end of the year.

Publication on Twitter is already subject to libel laws and court orders – the internet, of course, does not exist in a legal vacuum. Last week, for example, journalists at the Guardian were reminded that tweets that hinted at the identity of individuals covered by injunctions would be a breach of the injunction itself.

In February the PCC ruled that information posted on Twitter should be considered public and publishable by newspapers after it cleared the Daily Mail and Independent on Sunday of breaching privacy guidelines.

Both newspapers had reported on tweets posted by Sarah Baskerville, a Department for Transport employee, in November last year. Baskerville, who had around 700 Twitter followers at the time, described a course leader as “mental” and posted links to tweets attacking government “spin” and Whitehall waste.

Baskerville complained to the press regulator, arguing that she could have a “reasonable expectation” of privacy and that the reporting was misleading. The Daily Mail and Independent on Sunday argued that the messages were public and could be read by anyone.

The PCC decided in favour of the newspapers, in what is the regulator’s first ruling on the republication of information posted on Twitter.

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