FTW Media

Thoughts about New/Social Media

Archive for May 2009

The NYT E-Reader: What’s the point?

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So the New York Times launched its Times Reader 2.0 . Big Whoop. Frankly, I don’t understand the obsession with media companies trying to emulate the print experience online by creating an E-reader. There have been numerous efforts to launch these e-publications — Monkey Magazine, Wired, and PC Magazine are just three examples — all of which have yet to become used on a regular and widespread basis.

I remember being impressed when Monkey Magazine — a digital lad’s mag — was launched by Dennis Publishing,  immediately signing up the day after. As a concept, it was great: I could turn the pages like I could a regular magazine, there were embedded video clips, the ads were interactive, content was media-rich, etc. But I ended up ditching it after two weeks because it felt like a gimmick and didn’t justify replacing the conventional web-browser. Essentially, I felt like browsing through an all-flash website. Read the rest of this entry »


Written by John Lim

May 29, 2009 at 1:28 pm

Posted in New Media

Blogola blues

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In America in the 1950s, the music industry had the Payola scandal where DJs were paid by record companies to play certain records.

Now, we have Blogola. It’s inevitable that companies would start paying bloggers to write glowing reviews about their products. But is it wrong?

It could be if the American FTC has its way:

… such back-scratching endorsements could become tougher under a coming set of Federal Trade Commission guidelines designed to clarify how companies can court bloggers to write about their products. This summer, the government agency is expected to issue new advertising guidelines that will require bloggers to disclose when they’re writing about a sponsor’s product and voicing opinions that aren’t their own. The new FTC guidelines say that blog authors should disclose when they’re being compensated by an advertiser to discuss a product.

My personal view is that it’s fine to receive payment or products from companies as long as you disclose it. Over the years, I’ve received sponsorship in various ways (usually in the form of products) from different companies and I’ve always disclosed such cases, whether I’m writing for print or for my blog.

Full disclosure is the way to go to avoid a conflict of interest situation.

Written by Oon Yeoh

May 26, 2009 at 3:00 am

Posted in New Media

Rupert shows his true colours

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They say you can’t teach an old dogs new tricks, and for several years now Rupert Murdoch has been seen — rightly or wrongly — as  a forward thinking media maven with a bag o’ tricks, especially after the $580 million dollar purchase of MySpace in 2006. If there was someone with a New Media plan, it had to be Murdoch, so went the thinking.

As it turns out, however, the truism about dogs and tricks still holds true. His plan to save newspapers going online has been revealed, and the answer has turned out to be as anti-climactic as it gets: “Micropayments“. Not the innovative, ground-breaking, industry-shattering solution most were hoping for at a time when newspapers are at a loss of where to go next. So Murdoch decided to turn back the clock to a time when the New York Times was thinking, “Hmm. Pay walls. Now that’s an idea!”. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by John Lim

May 22, 2009 at 8:22 pm

Posted in New Media

Lessons learned from the FIPP

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Everything old is new again, as Rupert Murdoch, often looked to as the Warren Buffet of the publishing world, aims to once again charge for online content. “That it is possible to charge for content on the web is obvious from the Wall Street Journal’s experience,” Murdoch said two weeks ago, adding that moves to carry out this paid content model could be done within the next 12 months.

This move — a complete U-turn from the decision to remove the paid-subscription model of the New York Times in 2007 — is not surprising, given the crashing advertising dollars brought upon by the global economic crisis. “Eyeballs”, once a golden word cherished by publishers, have now become a tainted word that alludes to publishers’ naivete in making content freely available on the Web.

“Pay for content” was also a running theme at the International Ferderation for Printed Periodicals (FIPP) World Magazine Congress, which ran on May 5 and 6 in London, which addressed the concerns of magazine publishers in moving onto the Web. MediaGuardian summed up the key talking points of the event, including a point made by Roberto Civita, chairman and chief executive, Abril Group, Brazil. Civita emphasised that it wasn’t enough to just put print articles online and charge for them.

“I insist that we are going to have to end up charging for our content wherever we possibly can,” Civita said in his address, but advocated that websites concentrate on content that cannot be replicated online. “The content that sits there and does not make any noise just doesn’t work anymore.”

That statement is obvious to many, but a quick glance through the websites of major magazines and you’ll notice that many of them still rely on putting the print product online, rather than creating new content.  That the “new content” focuses on rich media is a given — readers expect audio and video-enhanced stories from Web publishers — but what many local publishers miss out in the rush to keep up with the times is the emphasis on socially engaging media, where users use websites as platforms to form communities.

The Internet is not an escape

Among the more insightful comments at the Congress were given by Didier Quillot, chief executive of Lagardere Active, the digital arm of Lagardere, the French owners of Elle. He accepts the fact that the Internet won’t be a main revenue generator: “The internet is nice but it will stay small, it will do somewhere between 5% of our business at worst and 20% at best, but no more. Internet, at best, will just compensate for the decline of revenue to me from banner circulation. Internet is not an escape,” he said.

He also stressed on the need for publishers to have joint print/web publications, develop new mobile platforms and branch out into events, B2B businesses and customer publishing brand extensions. Though the online version of Elle France has about 2.5m unique users each month , the audience was not enough to sustain the title, he said. This caused them to create a blogging network around the site to increase user engagement.

He also said that Elle has partnered with local specialists in Japan to develop an e-commerce business, he said, and would look to forge partnerships with mobile service providers to generate revenue through phones and build applications for iPhones and similar devises.

The main takeaway from these two keynotes is this: eyeballs alone won’t pay for the price of content, but the definition of “content” has to evolve beyond words, video and audio. It’s about providing a service for readers to interact with each other. Readers these days expect, and want, to be involved and engage with the publication and that includes its writers, producers, and editors.

This is what networks like TWiT, MarketWatch, and The Forum by CNN facilitates in creating its chatrooms and communities — and magazines wishing to go online would do well to follow their lead in developing their web strategies.

Written by John Lim

May 13, 2009 at 6:52 pm

Posted in New Media

Wikipedia is still very good

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Tech author Nicholas Carr hates Wikipedia. I think Carr is a brilliant author (I have both his books) and thinker. And I do share some of his views on how user-generated content is vastly over-rated. But I love Wikipedia. I use it all the time to find out more about topics I’m interested in.

For example, after watching Star Trek, I went to Wikipedia to read the back-story of all the major characters. What better, more efficient place to find that then Wikipedia?

Is it 100% accurate? Nope but it’s usually good enough – certainly for general knowledge.

Is it good enough for journalism? No. It’s good for general background info but you must verify facts because writing an article that’s going to be read by the masses is different from reading something up for fun or for curiousity.

Sociology and economics student Shane Fitzgerald recently put a fake quote in Wikipedia’s entry on Maurice Jarre as an experiment. That quote was subsequently picked up by notable news outlets such as the Guardian, the London Independent, on the BBC Music Magazine website.

Fitzgerald was shocked by the result of his experiment:

I didn’t expect it to go that far. I expected it to be in blogs and sites, but on mainstream quality papers?

He subsequently wrote to the newspapers to inform them of the hoax and they published corrections. The lesson here, of course, is that it’s crucially important to verify facts. Don’t just rely on one source, especially Wikipedia (which is still a favorite site of mine).

Written by Oon Yeoh

May 9, 2009 at 12:55 pm

Posted in New Media

BBC headlines best for usability

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Usability guru Jakob Nielsen rates BBC News as having the best headlines in terms of being

  • short (because people don’t read much online);
  • rich in information scent, clearly summarizing the target article;
  • front-loaded with the most important keywords (because users often scan only the beginning of list items);
  • understandable out of context (because headlines often appear without articles, as in search engine results); and
  • predictable, so users know whether they’ll like the full article before they click (because people don’t return to sites that promise more than they deliver).

Written by Oon Yeoh

May 2, 2009 at 2:23 am

Posted in New Media

The human touch still needed

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One of the reasons Yahoo! was so popular in its early days was that its listings were hand-crafted by a team of human editors (not by algorithm). It’s news section too was chosen by human editors (not spiders).

Of course doing things by hand is neither efficient nor scalable. But sometimes it’s necessary for certain offerings.

Take for example, Breaking Tweets, an attempt to do something journalistic with Twitter. It’s pretty nifty. Have a look at the sample below:

April 30, 2009

Eight-year-old Saudi girl’s marriage annulled

Per BBC, a young Saudi girl who was married to an older man in his 50s has been granted a divorce in an out-of-court settlement.

A judge had earlier rejected the girl’s mother’s appeal in the town of Unaiza. He was replaced by a new judge who decided to nullify the case after the marriage was confirmed illegal by the girl’s husband, per BBC.

Twitterers had these reactions when the legal news first penetrated worldwide:

  1. Donnette Davis
    Donnette (South Africa) a Saudi marriage officiate declared that a girl can be married at the age of one if sex is postponed http://tinyurl.com/cev327
  2. danie_d
    danie_d (San Francisco, Calif.) 8 year old girl married to a 47 year old man in Saudi Arabia. U.S. doesn’t allow it to affect trade. But mention trade w/ Cuba and “OH NO.”
  3. Freddie Zacarias
    quantifyme (Undisclosed) A 8 yr old Saudi girl married to a 50 yr old Saudi man is a shame. Not only is a violation of human rights, it is “child slavery”
  4. Joe Newbert
    newbert (Cape Town, South Africa) RT @geekstats 8: age of Saudi Arabian girl married by father to settle debts. (http://bit.ly/WrvB). This world can be hideous.
  5. Governance Focus
    governancefocus (Undisclosed) A Saudi girl of 8 was married to a man in his 50’s and now they want to annul it. What do you expect from a country without democracy.

Following the most recent media reports, Twitterers noted these reactions today:

  1. Michelle Torres
    michou83 (New Jersey) http://tinyurl.com/cwrmxa– Young Saudi girl’s marriage ended…. THANK GOD. Now they just need a real policy.
  2. Akin
    forakin (Amsterdam, Netherlands) Young Saudi girl’s marriage ended but not by the courts and hidebound religious judges http://is.gd/vEqY
  3. macleans
    macleans (Undisclosed) Out-of-court settlement allows Saudi girl, 8, to divorce 50-year-old husband http://tinyurl.com/cqbcmk

No immediate reaction could be found within Saudi Arabia itself. Tweets were searched for in both Arabic and English.

Eight-year-old Saudi girl’s marriage annulled


Breaking Tweets basically publishes a collection of tweets relating to specific breaking news items. It’s good because it collates and organizes for us interesting tweets about key topics of the moment. The thing is, it’s done by a team of human editors who apply editorial judgment on what should be included and what should not.

Could the Google guys come up with an algorithm to do away with the need for human editors? Probably, but it won’t be as good. Good journalism, whether it involves New Media or social media still requires the human touch.

Written by Oon Yeoh

May 1, 2009 at 4:48 pm

Posted in New Media, Social Media