Monthly Archives: January 2007

Illana Fox joins MySun as communities editor

Semi-old story this, but Former Liv4Now editor Illana Fox has joined the hugely successful MySun platform.

Read the news as reported by Ewan ‘I still wear braces’ MacLeod, a former colleague of Illana’s at Liv4Now. Illana will be working on integrating user generated content into the Sun’s expanding portal.

Guardian Eat Right – diet website could improve web copy structure

Or ‘How to write for the web #1: Assume users hate reading’
It’s well known that users read text on screens differently to the way they read print.

We all skim text (which is different to scanning) and very rarely read web page copy word for word.

This is one of the basics for web copywriters / editors, but I just had to share this classic example of how web readers skim page text.

Indulge me by doing this little exercise:

    1. Visit this page of the Guardian’s Eat Right website

 

  • Read the text on the page as you normally would (or at least try to) if coming to the page anew.

 

 

  • Come back to this page and read the rest of the article.

 


Okay. once you’ve visited the page…

…scroll down…

How did you get on? What happened when you were faced with the wall of text? Did you skim or scroll down the page until you found something that required less effort to read?

Did you only start reading properly until you got to the first numbered / bolded bullet point?

Each week I get the Eat Well email newsletter (yes, I’m fat as well as being interested in content), I log on and without fail find myself skimming the headline, reading the first few words of the opening paragraph, getting bored and skimming through the article until I get to something I feel I can read in seconds – the numbered bullets. I now purposely read the newsletter because I know I’m going to be able to get a load of information in bite sized chunks.That I do this when the lengthy bullet points are only marginally shorter than the preceding ‘feature’ text only emphasises the weird habits of web readers.

Could it be improved?
No offence to the writers of Guardian Eat Right. It’s a great website, and it’s a commercial sales email newsletter that’s doing it’s job: I’m clicking the link and reading the site’s latest bit of advertorial content, week in, week out, despite not being on a diet, worried about the state of my intestines or paranoid about food (after reading the Daily Mail / Telegraph).
But with my content editor’s head on, I’d suggest reducing the intro text to a paragraph or less, moving the bullets up the page and, once drawn in / suitably engaged in the topic, then present the user with any dense / more detailed text, assuming it’s required.
This technique actually touches on ‘front loading’, but thats a topic for another post.

Sky and Google to create video bloging social networking thingy

Are Sky in talks with Google to create a video blogging website?

Falling video equipment costs meant that citizen journalism wouldn’t be limited to the written word or blogs. But judging by what’s being mooted, we might be looking at something YouTube like with a leaning towards news. Will it be a video version of Newsvine or OhMyNews?

It’ll be interesting to see user reaciton to the new site (assuming it does exist). Sure, the Google and Sky partnership will no doubt make it work, but will it be as near professional an experience as say Newsvine?

Okay, Newsvine writers have it easy. The ability to stamp their authority as a credible source is affected by fewer factors than a video report. A video reporter’s approach will have to deal with quality of video production in adddition to the quality of their news gathering.

Will the majority of video news content comprise of shaky celeb ‘spotted’ material? Or could this be a breeding ground for the next generation of reporters for Panorama / 60 minutes?

Read more about the rumoured website

Brent Hoberman joins Guardian Media Group

Brent Hoberman, founder of lastminute.com has joined the GMG as a non-executive director.

Is there a board in the UK he’s not sitting on? Alan Leighton will start getting jealous…

It’ll be interesting to see what he brings to the party. The web is clearly the Guardian’s primary channel.

Read about Brent’s new role.

Daily Telegraph – traffic argument rumbles on

Another day, another query about the Daily Telegraph website’s claim that it’s the king of quality newspaper websites.

Nothing unusual about that. Only now someone has gone and complained to the ASA about the claim. Who could that have possibly been I wonder?

Read Brand Republic’s full report.

Daily Mail news editor joins Daily Telegraph – will anyone notice a difference?

I’ve been mildly concerned / appalled at news selection at the Telegraph over the last year, but my worst fears have now become a reality. The Telegraph is to turn into the Daily Mail.

Rumour has it that the Telegraph has hired Chris Evans, news editor at the Daily Mail, as news editor.

Brace yourselves for even more ‘outrage’ about same sex marriage, immigration and the harmful affects of broccoli / cheese / water (delete as appropriate).

FRONT magazine ditched…well, for December anyway

Greg Casewell, operations manager of SMD Publishing has told the Guardian that it abandoned its January issue of lads’ mag FRONT because of IT issues caused by an office move.

The next issue is now reportedly due for publication at the end of January – dispelling rumours that the magazine was being folded by new owner SMD (website anyone?) after buying FRONT, Hot Dog and DVD World from Highbury House at the beginning of 2006.

It’ll be interesting to see what SMD does to salvage its relationship with its advertisers. And how will its readers react to the missing issue? More importantly, will they have noticed?

For an insight into the SMD team, take a look at this undated/unattributed article by Media Week

Source: Guardian (registration required)

User generated content and video: “the honeymoon is over”

User generated video content exploded in 2006, but revenues have so far proved slow to develop. So says market intelligence firm Screen Digest in its report, ‘User-generated online video: Competitive review and market outlook’.

Stories like this may be as old as my Sega Dreamcast (ie time itself), but it would have been nice to have seen something like this during the Google / YouTube broohaha last year.

The report got me thinking about wider applications of UGC video. Sure, there’s currently limited revenue options available to websites that are positioned as searchable online TV channels (e.g. Heavy.com et al), but what’s happening with sites that feature UGC videos as a means to support a wider function?

Amazon.com’s user reviews generate sales, albeit indirectly. Okay, they’re text based , but isn’t there scope for video based user reviews. A well written review can be invaluable to someone who reads, but what about reviews on DVD or video gaming channels on retail sites? Review a film (DVD) with a film (videod user review).

As long as videos are concise the demographic for gaming may prefer video to text. Okay, it’s sad that reading text may turn off younger users, but video might prove valuable in that: a) its more engaging that the ‘wall of text’ review – which users inevitably scan over or ignore and b) seeing the reviewer in person may help provide a fuller context to someone’s comments.

Guardian Comment is Free and freelance writers

The Guardian may be willing to feature new and unknown writers as columnists on its blog platform Comment is Free.

Yes, that’s right, anyone who fancies themselves as a journalist / columnist can now send in their submissions to the Guardian’s blog platform with a real chance that their work will be considered for publication.

Understandably, some commentators are a little concerned about the precedent this sets – where ‘Content is Free’.

It’s still not clear how / if contributors will be paid, but this has been an age old practice. Most of the journalists I know got their break in the nationals by sending in work to a section editor. If it was good enough, they’d get published (and paid) or get some feedback on how it could be improved. No news or features editor is going to ignore a well written, genuinely engaging article just because the writer is unknown.

So why is this worrying? Well, many journalists are concerned by the proliferation of blogs because they believe freelance fees are being driven down. Content may be becoming commoditised now that editors are inundated with quality blog content, much of which can be published for free in return for a name check or link to a bloggers own site.
This may be the case for a site featuring brand new writers each time, but editors will need to attract, and importantly, keep quality writers, be they bloggers who write in their spare time or those who write semi-professionally.
Sure, the way writers are paid will change (e.g. an editor may agree to feature a prominent link to a bloggers own site as payment – thus increasing traffic and improving the bloggers own chances of gaining more online ads), but they will still have to be paid.
As I, and no doubt other editors have found, output from even the keenest of new writers will begin to slow if they feel they’re being exploited / not getting something in return.
Comment is Free is rarely out of the spotlight. This’ll go on and on.
Click on the keyword ‘Guardian’ below for more stories. You can also try ‘journalism’ or ‘Telegraph’.
Read more about the Comment is Free new writers story on journalism.co.uk