So what about the contact book?

If I were a smart journalist just making my way in the industry, I’d be trying to find a way to distinguish myself from my peers – something to give me a competitive edge.

With all this talk about journalists embracing digital media, I’d start having a look at where – up to this point – technology hadn’t much impacted on what I was being told about journalism. By finding this, and by exploiting it with new digital ideas, I might find a good way to make a name for myself.

So… what would I choose if I was a reporter now?

Well, I think it would be the contact book. We are all told when we’re starting out that one of the most important thing for a journalist to do is build up their contact book. Nowadays, we’re also told about building up our social media profile too.

But, whilst it’s immensely useful having a lot of interesting people following you on Twitter, the most effective thing about a contact book is that you can contact the right people directly when you need them.

So, if I were a smart journalist trying to build up my contacts, I’d first read up on the basics of the Data Protection Act.

Then I’d start trying to understand how to use a database. I’d develop a way for both me and other people to add to it. If I’ve had a great conversation or got information from someone on social media, I’d politely ask if they give me their email address so we could stay in touch. I’d also ask them if I could drop them a line every so often to let them know what I’m working on.

I’d try and add fields of key words that would mean I could search for relevant people later (even if I’ve forgotten their names).

I’d also figure out how I create email lists out of this database, so when I need to I can contact a range of people who may know something about a topic I’m writing about.

I’d realise this whole process was an utter pain in the arse but, in the long term, what i’m doing is establishing long-term direct contact with potential sources. It would also give me something that a lot of journalists don’t have and brands will potentially pay a lot of money for: a large, direct-contact database. That’s something that could give me the competitive edge in tracking down the right person for my story in the future. It could, done right, also give me one of the most organised, useful contact books in the industry.

Which has to be useful… right?

Rupert Murdoch quotes

Over the years I’ve read an awful lot of things about the future of newspapers in a digital age… and I mean an AWFUL lot.

Every so often though, someone utters a nugget that chimes so clearly with me that it lodges in my brain and becomes part of the structure of my own arguments and thoughts on the topic.

I realised today that two examples of these are from Rupert Murdoch.

They are:

“I can’t tell you how many papers I have visited where they have a wall of journalism prizes – and a rapidly declining circulation. This tells me the editors are producing news for themselves – instead of news that is relevant to their customers. A news organization’s most important asset is the trust it has with its readers – a bond that reflects the readers’ confidence that editors are looking out for their needs and interests.”

— Rupert Murdoch Before the Federal Trade Commission’s Workshop: ”From Town Crier to Bloggers: How Will Journalism Survive the Internet Age?” [PDF]
December 1, 2009

and

“What I worry about much more is our ability to make the necessary cultural changes to meet the new demands. As I said earlier, what is required is a complete transformation of the way we think about our product. Unfortunately, however, I believe too many of us editors and reporters are out of touch with our readers. Too often, the question we ask is “Do we have the story? rather than “Does anyone want the story?”

— Speech by Rupert Murdoch to the American Society of Newspaper Editors
April 13, 2005

Arduino-powered subscription bell

It chimes every time someone buys an online subscription to The Times.

It was built by Peter MacRobert from News International‘s R&D Lab. Peter explains a bit more about how it works in the video below:

“The subscription ringer is an Arduino circuit developed in the News International R&D lab. The battery-powered circuit polls an API regularly via a Wifly wireless shield. When the daily subscription count has increased it pulses a solenoid against a bicycle bell.”

links for 2011-09-26

Have you ever re-tweeted a link without reading it first?

OK, be honest, who here has ever re-tweeted a link on Twitter based on the headline and without actually reading the article it links to?
timesjoanna
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna may or may not have done that once or twice!
RobChesworth
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna I have in the past, but am now more careful and read before retweeting.
iantilsed
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna nope, never. I only retweet if I think it’s an unmissable article – difficult to gauge from a headline, regardless of source.
CCDigital
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna I will sometimes retweet if I like the look of the article and trust the source before actually reading it in full.
niltiac
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna I genuinely don’t think I ever have. Definitely before fully reading it though
DRMacIver
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna I bookmark many links in twitter favourites file to read later.
garethoconnor
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna I make a point to make sure the link is good before retweeting. And I do either read the article or star them to be read later.
niltiac
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna When training people in writing for social media I always stress the importance of describing the content in the tweet…..
sookio
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna …otherwise they have no reason to open it, read it or share it. People will RT on the strength of text alone.
sookio
September 26, 2011
Do I do it? I admit I have been known to retweet @timesnewsdesk without checking the link – especially if they’re breaking a story.
timesjoanna
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna Matt Drudge – the mother of all retweeters – puts links up much faster than he could have read them
TomWhitwell
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna Never with one exception: opting in to @TheNextWeb’s spread.us function for Twitter news #retweetinglinks
suellewellyn
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna I’ve retweeted more than than once based on a headline!
jackyhood
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna not without at least skimming it
catnip
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna Sometimes, but only if I know the person tweeting has a reliable track record of posting solid stories.
BigTastyBurger
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna I very very seldom retweet without reading (usu. trusted source). Virtually always I’ll read thoroughly before RTing.
ElrikMerlin
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna Yes, sometimes – but only If I’m sure the source wouldn’t link to garbage..
johnhenry
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna I very very seldom retweet without reading (usu. trusted source). Virtually always I’ll read thoroughly before RTing.
ElrikMerlin
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna perhaps once or twice when I was young and guileless.. especially if the comment tickled a funny bone. Or my wife asked me to.
myphonedeals
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna YES! I trust the individual, recognise the validity of the story and happy to endorse their reputation, they posted orig tweet!
MattWarrener
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna No but I have retweeted a quote without checking it was genuine. Felt very embarrassed.
nicgibb
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna Never. No way. I’d always read the link first.
jeremyhead
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna my biggest mistake, only read top part of article, retweeted, end of it had nasty content was notified deleted tweet right away
Mazi
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna I haven’t made the retweet without reading mistake for some time. I’d rather check it over first.
Sarah_Booker
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna I have occasionally if I trust the tweeter and I can read the URL – don’t tend to do it any more though – not good practice
sleepydog
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna very rarely, but I have done it…
patrickhadfield
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna I did it once and that @jonathanhaynes gave me a right telling off.
malcolmcoles
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna all the time. of course.
brianwhelanhack
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna I do it all the time
SophieCam
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna guiltily, perhaps once or twice, from trusted sources. That’s bad I know!
shellbryson
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna Puffles does it all the time, but only frm sources Puffles reasonably trusts & under House Rule 3 – http://t.co/frtDSITz
Puffles2010
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna Yes. I felt shame.
flashboy
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna Yup, definitely guilty of that
katy_bird
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna yeah I have – *shameface* – but from ‘good’ people if you see what I mean. I do generally go back and read after
PatrickRiot
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna yep guilty as charged! But usually know & trust author
LouiseTeboul
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna yes but only from trusted sources (eg newspapers etc)
Petercampbell1
September 26, 2011
I have never done that @timesjoanna – which is why I always end up working late, I spend too much time reading articles!
NeilSmallwood
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna Surely if anyone says they’ve never done that then they’re lying
patrickjpr
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna Occasionally but usually only from trusted friends and with loose prior knowledge of the story, but trying to kill the habit.
alexwalters
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna Genuinely never. Will always at least have a cursory read to make sure it’s what I think it is, or looks a bit silly.
katbrown82
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna I have I fear. #smackwrist
MontagueBrench
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna I haven’t, but I think it’s fairly common.
JosephStash
September 26, 2011
@richardtuffin @timesjoanna Sometimes because by the time I validate the article, I’ve lost the original tweet in my timeline.
Wolfie_Rankin
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna When I first started. Rapidly learned not to. Happens to me all the time tho. RTs happen within seconds of me tweeting.
edyong209
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna I haven’t, but I know many people do since I’ve had a lot of RTs on headlines with broken links on a work account before.
minifig
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna It amazes me someone hasn’t taken advantage and done a rickroll.
carolinehonour
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna You’re suppose to click on the links? ;)
ALEXANDERCLARKE
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna Erm….. ;)
CurrentMartin
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna yup.
TomChivers
September 26, 2011
aye… RT @timesjoanna: OK, be honest, who here has ever re-tweeted a link on Twitter based on the headline an… (cont) http://t.co/cxdRdTFU
richardtuffin
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna you’re supposed to read them before retweeting?
subhajitb
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna guilty in the past, but now i do take time to at least scan-read a linked story before re-tweeting. Am I old-fashioned??
emmagilliam
September 26, 2011
@timesjoanna I try to at least skim read it, but if the text is RT-worthy, I’m more likely to read it in the first place…
lauratosney
September 26, 2011

A New Job

As you may have heard, I will be leaving The Times at the beginning of October to start a new role at The Guardian as their Digital Development Editor.

I’ll be based in the newsroom, helping The Guardian team to develop their digital skills further as the organisation moves towards its digital-first strategy (this will certainly be a two-way process given the digital talent at the Guardian). I’ll also be looking at developing new ways to tell stories and new digital methods of working.

The Times

Over the past few years I’ve been fortunate to have worked in the team at the centre of  The Times’ move to a digital subscription model. Developing the social and engagement strategy for the site has given me the opportunity to think about (and sometimes challenge) what we now consider to be integral functions of news sites – sharing, commenting and conversing with our readers. I believe this has given me a far better understanding of just what is possible online.

I’ve enjoyed working with editors and our developers to introduce digital tools and skills into the newsroom – from live analytics boards and data journalism tools, to training on social media and reader engagement. I’ve also benefited from working across departments, developing 24/7 live support with our customer service team and increasing the community engagement roles of our moderators. I’ve also had the chance to help build fun projects such as our Twitter Word Nerd game.

I’ve had my successes and my failures but I’ve always tried to learn the lessons from each. I leave The Times grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given and with immensely fond feelings for the friendly and very talented people I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside. I wish them every success in the future.

The Guardian

The new role at The Guardian is a great opportunity for me and I’m very much looking forward to starting in mid-November. In the meantime, I’ll be at the next Hacks/Hackers meet up on 28 September and you can keep up with me on Twitter @timesjoanna – I’m going to have to update that username!

links for 2011-09-16

  • For all the upsides that social media can bring to your business, there still remains a great deal of uncertainty and misconceptions about what social media can actually accomplish in terms of overall business growth. Far too often, high (read: mismanaged) expectations can lead to disappointment, even frustration with the mechanism.
    (tags: socialmedia)
  • Narrative Science takes key facts and adds in connective sentences so a story makes sense. This college football report (American football, not football) was generated using NS’s algorithms. It’s not Pulitzer Prize winning material, but it’s factually accurate, informative and functionally does the job of creating a short match report.
  • What our poor, overworked, underpaid, technology-crazed editor has completely forgotten is the purpose of journalism. Which is, to make sense of a bewildering array of events for people.

    We're supposed to give them a manageable digest of events — national, state and local, plus some good reading and useful information. Nobody wants to read a whole goddamn city council agenda. Nobody human wants to look at video of residents at a city council meeting, except those who care enough to go.

  • The internet has changed patterns of supply and demand in media businesses in profound ways. We're not going back to the way things used to be. But it's a mistake to assume that the contours of the landscape in the immediate aftermath of the disruption are the permanent contours of the landscape.
    (tags: business)
  • (tags: shared)

links for 2011-09-06

  • We’ve done a poor job, she said, of convincing people of the real benefits of structured content over bespoke digital layout. She compared Condé Nast, who have tripled their workload by needing one print and two bespoke iPad layouts of every article, to NPR who have built an API that makes “Create once, publish everywhere” a reality. A graph she showed of the sales of Glamour suggested that investment in bespoke layouts was sometimes selling less than 3,000 copies of an app – a shockingly poor return on investment.