Archive for the ‘multimedia’ Category

It was quite entertaining to watch this Sky News interviewer try to tame Jeff Jarvis on the issue of the Times paywalls (the Sky guy looks to be shielding himself with some sort of tablet computer and uses the word “monetarising”, so the odds are stacked against him from the start).

While Jarvis’s language about Rupert Murdoch is a little direct, it is difficult to disagree with his conclusions – the Times is cutting itself off from the rest of the web. Therefore, how will it grow as the web grows? How will it increase its audience and reach online, how will it attract new readers via the new tools the Web is sure to throw up?

The New York Times, which tried a paywall experiment and relented —  partly under pressure from its own columnists unhappy with the lifeblood of links, tweets and comments being tied off — will install a metered model in January, where incoming blog links do not count against a reader’s allotted “free reads”. Given that most of the NYT content I read is via a blog or twitter link, I don’t see how that will raise any extra cash from me,  but at least they’re still in the open.

Malcolm Coles offers up a different problem – the divisions between the paper Times and Sunday Times start looking a lot shakier online:

“Forcing people to subscribe to both sites but keeping them entirely separate, with no cross linking, seems a bit odd.”

The people who work there make an eloquent case for online journalism (although not one of them mentions charging):

We have been here before. When Rupert Murdoch bought the Wall Street Journal, he was very gung-ho about dropping their paywall, until the economics of the situation were brought home to him.

The irony of the situation is the Times website now looks fantastic. With the relentless focus of an operation that must either work or drop somebody in the shit, it has been redesigned. It is clean, there is hierarchy, the vibrant colours are from the Times-branded palette, the use of pictures is great. The interactive graphics and the Spectrum photo galleries are especially eye-catching.

However, it all raises the question that if this was worth doing as a spring clean before the paywall goes up, why wasn’t there this level of excitement and interest in how the website looked when it was officially chasing unique users and advertising money? The FT reports this morning that fewer than 10% of the Times’s unique 21 million-ish users are likely to pay for the revamped content. Would this level of energy and creativity have brought in enough extra unique users to justify staying in the open?

Journalists these days are being constantly harried to find the business model in what they do. On the Times’s and Sunday Times’s new-look websites, (video here, if you can stand the awful soundtrack and a PaidContent slideshow of pages here), the online editorial people have clearly upped their game, the designers have played a blinder and the infographics team – especially on the excellent eureka graphics – have pulled out all the stops. They are more than pulling their weight in trying to adapt to this experimental business model – but where is the commercial side of the operation? What are they bringing to the table?

It would be a terrible shame if, having come up with an elegant, if  newspaperesque, design (almost to the point of the website being a better designed paper than the Times itself), all of this hard work is seen by fewer readers than any other Fleet Street website. If enough of them pay, of course, it will be hailed a success, but for now it feels like Jarvis was right, and this is a retreat into old ideas rather than a striving for new ones.

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A wonderful brouhaha has blown up between some new media heavy hitters over Virginia Heffernan of the New York Times and her ridiculous notion that iPhones, “apps” and “the gated web” will leave “open Web” users shambling around the digital equivalent of Detroit.

Blanket statements such as “open beats closed” are not enough to dispel the blatant scaremongering of a notion of web-based “white flight”. Heffernan has stretched the already perished “web as city” metaphor beyond its snapping point – maybe she has read a little too much William Gibson or Neal Stephenson and not spent enough time playing with mobile phones.

Stowe Boyd demolishes the usless city metaphor here.

Tim Maly has a pop at her for ignoring the obvious fact that it was the iPhone that brought “open web” browsing to the mobile masses in the first place.

Pat Thornton (@pwthornton on Twitter) found the piece worthless and offensive.

The excellent Dave Winer takes issue with the NYT running a story he says is so devoid of fact. (According to her wikipedia entry, Heffernan used to be a fact checker for the New Yorker.)

The most annoying thing about the piece, for me, is that it ignores that Apple’s is not the most used or fastest growing smartphone OS out there, nor is it the largest smartphone handset maker. I am consistently frustrated as an Android user when organisations announce with fanfare that they have had their “app” published only to find it confined to iPhone users.

Certain newspapers have long been accused of being “Dublin-centric” or “London-centric” – ignoring swathes of their countries’ wider populations for a geographically concentrated audience that they better understand. The massively diminished costs of online publishing were meant to do away with it, but we find that this city-centrism has made way for a type of platform-centric behaviour. There are demographic reasons, I am sure, but none can convince me of the wisdom of taking a general interest product like a newspaper and self-limiting its distribution.

Less annoying, but probably more significant, is that most “apps” are rubbish. I like it when Apple fanboys tout the number of “apps”  available at the App Store as some indicator of quality. I like games and fart noise generators as much as the next man, but it’s not really the hook you think it is.

Even the terminology at work here is interesting – iPhone users go to an App Store, like consumers. Android users go to a Market, instantly conjuring up a place, rightly or wrongly, where commerce takes place.

None of which addresses my real interest in “apps” – the notion that  they are seen in some way as a boon for struggling newspapers, a way of selling “content”. I will have to leave why that is total bullshit until tomorrow.

Columbus Dispatch web-only series on death

I came across this web-only series on the wonderful Innovative Interactivity. The music and treatment is a little Hallmark-y for my tastes but I really like the execution  — it’s got video, audio slideshows, data and some slick transitions to show all elements on the screen at once.

Viewers can comment on the whole package and, in a very clever move, each individual interview has its own release date so it has become almost like an old-fashioned three-day newspaper special.

While the Telegraph is offering lots of interesting video, and the Guardian has podcasts and map mashups , I don’t know of any UK media outlet that has used embedded multimedia this effectively to tell and show a multi-layered story with accompanying data.

And the beauty is the idea is so transferrable to other themes.

Added bonus: it shows how effective mono pictures can be online.