From The Sydney Morning Herald in Australia comes Storm Chasers, a tightly constructed package with incredible photography of massive thunderheads, lightning and even tornados in the U.S.
Four sections compose the package: Two are slideshows with audio (and they are very cool); one is a section about the photographer; the last is related links. According to the credits, three people built this: Nick Moir, who shot all the photos and video; Jano Gibson, journalist and producer; and Carolyn Mills, designer and Flash producer. That’s a good mix of skills!
The navigation in this package really works well. It is simple, but it avoids a lot of the bad practices that drive me crazy as a user. First, the nav is easy to find, and it’s easy to see how it works. No mystery. Second, it is clearly available to you no matter where you go in the package. Once you leave the intro, the nav stays in the same place. Third — and here’s the mark of a real design professional — when you are in a particular section, the link button for that section is not functional. (It is so sloppy to leave the nav activated for a section that the user is already inside!)
The physical structure of the package is also smart. Each section has its own URL. This makes it possible for users to bookmark, blog, or send e-mail about an individual segment that they particularly like. This is not really necessary for a four-parter like this — but it’s still nice.
(Where you would really like to see this framework is in a huge package such as washingtonpost.com’s Being a Black Man. It’s really sad that we can’t bookmark individual segments in that one.)
In Storm Chasers, make sure you go into “About Nick Moir” and check out the sub-section navigation. Nice! The only flaw is the (slightly) blurry text. You’ve got to use pixel fonts or disable anti-aliasing (Flash 8 only) for text that size in Flash!
Students at Swarthmore College are using Skype, a Web site and MP3 audio to provide original journalism about Iraq. Interesting journalism. Journalism with some depth to it. Their Web site is called War News Radio. Apparently NPR covered the story a year ago — must have been a day I didn’t listen.
I found War News Radio because Juan Antonio Giner loves — just LOVES — IraqSlogger. I’m not sure what I think about a one-issue news site, but in this case, it’s a hugely important issue, so it seems worthwhile. Giner has a lot to say about it.
I was thinking about writing about what motivates people to contribute photos, stories, etc. You can call it citizen journalism or whatever, that’s not the point.
Limor Peer (research director for the Media Management Center and Readership Institute at Northwestern University) saved me the trouble. She wrote a thoughtful, intelligent post (but it’s not overlong) that covers just about everything you should be thinking about when you try to set up the kind of environment (or community) that encourages people to share stuff. Like YouTube. Or MySpace.
(2) Yochai Benkler, in his 2006 book, The Wealth of Networks, discusses extrinsic and intrinsic motivations in Chapter 4. Extrinsic motivations are imposed on us from outside (“Be good”), while intrinsic motivations come from inside (“I believe this is right”). Payment can have a negative effect on intrinsic motivation: You might not want to do it, because taking money for doing it seems “wrong” to you.
Payment can increase or create an extrinsic motivation (“I would not normally do that, but if they pay me, I will do it”).
We should not ignore social relations as a form of “payment.” If I gain face (or social standing) by doing something, then that might motivate me to do it. If I lose face (or social standing), then that might motivate me to avoid doing it.
There are probably some things you will only do for free.
Bottom line: “Money-oriented motivations are different from socially oriented motivations” (p. 97).
I posted a presentation about Benkler’s chapter on this topic on SlideShare. (This provides a really clean, easy way to share and view a PowerPoint presentation online without a big download. It employs a cool little Flash-based viewer on the Web page, and it’s free.) This is an example of social sharing. What is my motivation? I think what Benkler says in this chapter is very important. I think people should be able to get the gist of it in a relatively quick and painless way. And I had the PowerPoint made anyway, for my class. SlideShare is free. So all it cost me was about 15 or 20 minutes of my time.
Newspapers are the slowest, most hidebound, head-in-the-sand businesses in the world. The people who work for newspapers are good people, smart people (I love them; they are my people) — but they keep looking back when they should be looking forward.
I see evidence of that in the stats for this blog. I write about Craigslist (yesterday) and the post gets clicks like crazy. I write about mobile data (here, here and here) — which I have a feeling is the next big thing — and almost no one clicks.
The time to look at Craigslist and adapt, evolve, was 1995. The thing to look at today? Mobile data.
Any responsible journalist does not let popular taste prevent her from running the news you need. So, in that tradition, I would urge you to look at this post about Understanding Mobile 2.0:
What we mean by ‘mobile 2.0′ is another (r)evolution, already started, that will dramatically change the web and the mobility landscape that we currently know. The idea is that the mobile web will become the dominant access method in many countries of the world, with devices that become more hybrid and networks that become more powerful – everywhere in the next decade to come.
The rapid penetration of Wireless Broadband Access (WBA) technologies such as 3G/UMTS, the migration of traditional telecom networks to internet technology, the availability of affordable and functional Wi-Fi and dual mode Wi-Fi/mobile phones… will all boost VoIP over broadband internet and ultimately blur the distinction between fixed and mobile services, since both become wireless and IP based.
With my phone (a BlackBerry with an unlimited Internet package from T-Mobile), I looked at live Google Maps while I was walking down the sidewalk in San Francisco last August. I checked and answered my e-mail multiple times a day while I was in Bulgaria (yes, there were some roaming charges). I checked my BBC headlines as well as my blogs in my room in a hotel that charged 20 Euros a day for Internet access — without using the hotel’s Internet and without paying the 20 Euros.
Craigslist got my stuff back for me after it had been stolen.
The details of the theft (my bicycle panniers and their contents) are not important. I was so mad, though (the theft took place in midafternoon on the major street in town, not 10 feet from the curb), that I wanted desperately to do something. Desperate — I knew the police would do nothing (that was clear when I reported the crime). I felt helpless and very angry. Somehow, the idea of posting a “reward” ad on Craigslist came to my mind.
Craigslist ranks 47th in terms of the number of monthly unique visitors among U.S. Internet properties. But because the average user spends so much time on the site — about five days a month, 20 minutes per day — the site ranks a startling seventh in terms of monthly page views. Its 3.35 billion page views in October were less than a third that of eBay … but were more than double that of Amazon.com … (Source: Newspaper Killer, by Louis Hau, Forbes.com, Dec. 11, 2006)
Tell me who spends 20 minutes a day on a newspaper Web site. Go on, take a survey. (Why does Craigslist work so well? Maybe it is by design.)
One week after I posted my FREE ad, I received two e-mails.
Two young people who live in a part of our town where drug addicts go door-to-door selling stolen goods (which they claim to have found in Dumpsters) had separately bought my bike bags and a collection of the contents. When they saw my ad on Craigslist, they e-mailed me and offered to return my stuff.
I am still amazed by this.
When I met them — separately, at two different times, in front of the same downtown restaurant, I asked the two (one male, one female, both in their 20s, I would guess) how it was they saw my ad on Craigslist. Both of them gave a similar answer.
They go on Craigslist “a lot.” They look at many things there. Not because there is something in particular they are searching for. No, just “to see what’s there.” They just … like it. They like to keep tabs on it. Check it out. See what’s there. They found my ad describing the theft because they were simply browsing.
I paid them each what they said they had paid the thief. I got my stuff back.
From Congo and Angola to the cutters in India, from India to the Diamond District in New York City, a squad of journalists and seven designers and producers created a deep but extraordinarily accessible story package about how diamonds travel from the hands of hardworking miners to the fingers of the wealthy. (Thanks, Seth.)
We all agree that something must change, because clearly newspapers have become irrelevant to many people in the local communities they claim to serve. The solo mojos at the News-Press in Fort Myers, Florida, certainly represent a change, and if they spend all day out in those communities, then maybe it’s a change for the better.
Leonard Witt readjusted my thinking — in a very good way. First, he criticized the superficial events-oriented stories that one Fort Myers mojo was filing. Then he got right to the essence of journalism:
Why not send him into a Ft. Myers neighborhood for a week or a month and make him feel like a member of that neighborhood and meet the people, hear their triumphs and tragedies? I think of my own neighborhood. There is the guy who spends his days cutting other people’s lawns, but with the caveat that he will try to save your soul. The guy who painted his house pink, in a place where no one paints their house pink. And he had a reason. The gerrymandering that separates our white neighborhood from the surrounding black neighborhoods. These are real stories that would smarten up the paper and its website rather than dumb them down by asking some random driver what he thinks of the road repair work on a Ft. Myers highway. Fighting to fill web space because of some preconceived notion that people are clamoring to read about chamber events is dumbing down. Drilling down into neighborhoods to find their real essence is smartening up.
Putting the reporters out on the streets is only the first step. It won’t change anything if reporters are still filing the same junk that no one cares about and writing as if this were all about facts and not about people.
It’s not rocket science, for crying out loud! People like to read stories. No one likes to read a fact sheet, an instruction manual, the minutes of a meeting. And stories have to be about something interesting (usually they are driven by the characters in them). A good writer can turn a dead leaf on the sidewalk into an interesting story.
So I don’t know whether the problem with newspapers is that the reporters don’t know what a story is, or whether it’s their editors who don’t know. But somebody should get a clue.
Witt puts this in terms of dumbing down the newspaper when you ought to be making it smarter. That struck me as a key element that is missing in a lot of these attempts to do new things at newspapers — perhaps too much effort is being spent on putting out stuff that assumes the audience consists of a bunch of YouTube-watching idiots.