Condé Nast, Hachette Magazines Push into iPhone Apps

Turning a magazine into an iPhone app might seem as simple as shrinking the printed page to about a sixth of its normal size. But as magazines develop iPhone and other mobile applications to supplement their print editions, they're finding that adapting to the new medium is a significant challenge.

Years ago, magazines realized that their websites had to do more than just display the text of articles. Likewise, their mobile incarnations need to offer a unique experience. After being slow to the game, innovative publishers are now finding ways to re-imagine their content and use the mobile platform to its full advantage -- for both users and advertisers.

Reimagining Magazines for Mobile

Mobile apps distribute magazine publishers' content and brands to an audience advertisers want to reach. Making print pages smaller is unappealing, though, so magazines are creating other types of apps that are helpful companions to print content, or that serve up content in an exciting new format.

woman's day app screenshot.jpg"We're thinking of ourselves as brands, not magazines," said Yaron Oren, director of mobile strategy and operations at Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S., publisher of Elle, Woman's Day and Car and Driver, among other magazines.

Oren said the goal of his company's iPhone apps -- which include Woman's Day Cooking Assistant and the Car and Driver Buyer's Guide -- is not just to repurpose content, but to build the app users' relationship with magazine brands by providing useful information or a fun experience.

"That can be [through] an entertainment-oriented app based pretty closely on magazine or web content, or it can be a utility or a location-based service that has content different from anything else we've done," he said.

Similarly, Rodale Inc., whose magazines include Men's Health, Women's Health and Runner's World, has developed iPhone apps to complement their titles. Some of their apps demonstrate the workouts contained in magazine articles and let users track their workouts. Sean Nolan, vice president of online operations and external online marketing at Rodale, said these apps make information more usable than it is in the print format.

"Before we had the apps, we had guys tearing out the workout poster and going to the gym with it," said Nolan. "Now, for a small fee, they can take the app, take their music on the phone, and have the workouts with them."

Condé Nast's companion apps include Wired Product Reviews and the Lucky At Your Service shopping app. Both of these free apps use the magazines' brand recognition and subject matter to provide specialized services. The Lucky app even uses GPS information to provide shopping details. Many publishers said they plan to add more shopping functionality into apps as a way of generating additional revenue.

Birth of the 'Replica' iPhone App

Condé Nast's GQ magazine app, which was released two weeks ago, has ventured into entirely new territory. It's what Sarah Chubb, president of Condé Nast Digital, called a "replica" iPhone app because it qualifies with the Audit Bureau of Circulations as a digital edition of the magazine. That means app sales are included in circulation figures as "digital single copy sales." The app presents the content of the entire December 2009 issue, reformatted and packaged with some exclusive extras, for $2.99 -- less than the print edition's cover price.

"We developed the app in-house, and the team is a group of user interface people and tech and design people together," said Chubb. "They were given the challenge to make the app feel like the December issue, and they came up with a solution that we can use for any of our magazines."

gq app screenshot-splash.jpgThe app allows users to read articles, zoom in on pictures, and purchase some of the clothing and other items contained in the magazine. It's also possible to buy a subscription to the print edition of GQ through the app. Condé Nast may eventually offer an app-based subscription as well. The app was an opportunity to sell advertising deals encompassing print, web and mobile, which Chubb described as "a great revenue driver."

Developing a Magazine App

Recognizing that their content now has to be wherever consumers want it, magazines are adapting their production process to include mobile considerations. Editors, writers and designers all play a role, and some publishers have brought in external developers as well.

"We have people all along the way who have their hands in the content and have ideas that get pushed forward because they make good sense for the device," said Nolan of Rodale.

Some apps, like Rodale's Runner's World Shoe Shop, are also able to track what users read most, and that data can be used to refine the content.

Business-to-business magazines are also branching out into iPhone apps. Texterity is one company that helps B2B publications bring their content to the iPhone. Its first magazine-branded apps will launch next month, pending approval from the iTunes App Store.

"The iPhone app is great for trade magazines and enthusiast magazines," said Wendy Zingher, vice president of sales and marketing for Texterity.

Many B2B magazines have successfully launched websites and email distribution methods that provide frequent updates, so their readers are accustomed to receiving and seeking out fresh information, according to Zingher.

"They will check in multiple times per day and want to know what's going on in that area of their lives," she said.

Texterity considered offering publishers the opportunity to distribute their content visually through a more universal "reader" app that would access numerous titles. Instead, the company decided to develop dedicated, branded apps for each magazine that simulate the familiar look of their print editions. Just like their consumer magazine counterparts, B2B publishers seem more interested in being represented by their unique brands, Zingher said, than in being accessible through a more comprehensive iPhone magazine reading app.

Magazine apps can also include social features that let users with similar interests interact. Texterity's apps will allow mobile readers to add comments that will show up on the magazines' websites. Condé Nast also plans to integrate Twitter and Facebook into its apps to "help friends come together around the content," said Chubb.

Wherever Readers Go, Magazines Follow

men's health workouts app screenshot.jpgThe challenge of bringing magazines into the mobile reading age is just beginning, and iPhone apps are just an opening foray. The need to reach other mobile devices, such as BlackBerrys and Google Android phones, creates a more complex project for publishers, who have to prepare apps for different platforms.

"This is a challenge we share with every content provider in the universe," said Nolan of Rodale. "We hope that all this will get worked out by the customer over the next few years."

But phones aren't the only mobile devices today, and certainly won't be in the future.

"The definition of mobile is already evolving -- soon everything will be connected," said Oren of Hachette Filipacchi. "So when we think about the services we're creating for mobile, we're not just thinking about what's relevant for a phone, but for any device that's portable."

Further broadening this project, Condé Nast also announced an exclusive joint effort with Adobe to develop a magazine software template for tablet computers, which will be prepared first for Wired. It can then used for the company's other magazines.

"We're trying to work with anyone we think will have a viable product that will be attractive to our kind of consumer. If those readers are moving toward all digital, we'll sell it to them," said Chubb. "We need to be where they want to buy us."

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Merging Online and Broadcast Cultures to Reinvent ‘NewsHour’

This is the first of a series of posts by Anna Shoup, the local/national editor for the program that will soon be renamed "PBS NewsHour." She will provide an insider's look at how the broadcast is changing, including the recent merging of its broadcast and online teams.

The "NewsHour with Jim Lehrer" is re-incarnating itself as the "PBS NewsHour" on December 7. There are a lot of behind-the-scenes details involved in creating the new program, and chief among them is a complete reorganization of our editorial teams to create a merged newsroom for online and broadcast.

I've worked here for more than four years as part of a smart, and often experimental, online news team. Since 1995, the NewsHour's website has tread a path familiar to other legacy news organizations in that it was growing, yet often separate from the central news operation. The online team would write, edit, produce, blog and post our own reports. Not many of us knew the details of how the broadcast team put the program together every night. And, as I have since learned, the broadcast folks were just as confused by what web staffers did to make the site work.

I've had people ask me where I learned HTML (I know very little), if I can scan something and make a PDF (yes, but so can most people), and why we can't get their video up faster (it's not magic, it takes time). In the end, we were all committed to the core mission of serious journalism that is the hallmark of the "NewsHour." This reorganization is trying to bring these teams together.

Bridging Divides

We've worked to bridge physical and psychological divides. The "NewsHour" teams are in two buildings, and the online newsroom was tucked in a corner where people tended to stash chairs that didn't match and archive beta tapes. We literally had to cross a creek to get to the building where they tape the program. We called the rest of the staff "non-liners," and we had a slogan for our somewhat hidden newsroom: "Big Room, Big Ideas."


Soon after we received our company reorganization charts, it became clear that the old online team was going to have to break up. I was convinced that this meant the end of our scrappy, "make it up, but make it good" creative team. In a way, it was. Our reorganizers successfully ripped up a hub of multimedia reporters, designers and editors and planted many of us in the center of the broadcast newsroom. Most of the reporter-producers that were formerly online staffers are now in a reporter's bullpen. Our online art director now sits next to the broadcast's graphics team. We're now part of one team.

Different Tools, Different Languages

So Step One is complete in that we're sitting next to each other. But our cultures are still different. This is true in the way we communicate, and the way we approach the day's stories. Broadcast uses a newsroom communication tool called iNews to instant message and share scripts; onliners use Gchat and share story ideas via Google Docs. They ask: "talk or tape?" We ask: "audio, text, video, photos, slideshows, an interactive, or all of the above?"

In my case, I've been traveling the country with a broadcast team for our Patchwork Nation reporting project, and shooting footage that I'll use for online-only videos. On my first day in the new newsroom, I tried to book a guest. Tried, but failed. The second week, I tried to get footage I shot in the field onto the program and again I failed. It's going to take time. Luckily, some of my colleagues have had more success, and this is a result of everyone working together.

simon marks.jpg

Our associate executive producer, Simon Marks, promised there would be "cross-pollination" between digital reporter-producers and broadcast reporter-producers. There's already evidence of that becoming reality, with ideas now being shared over cubicle walls instead of across a creek.

This reorganization is enabling us to better serve our viewers and readers. We can now live encode an interview and get excerpts online within a couple of hours. Improving our speed is a big priority. To give you an idea of how far we've come, during the primaries the online team was once sent a cassette tape of an audio interview with then-candidate Barack Obama. We had to find a way to turn that into online content.

My co-worker and Global Health Watch reporter-producer Talea Miller has been traveling the world with an integrated reporting team. She reports to a senior producer while other people, including website editors, are also asking her to produce content.

"Because our unit already worked together closely, the reorganization has not changed that dynamic much, but we are now integrated into the foreign affairs beat so we can better coordinate all our international efforts," she said. "As with any transition, that has meant trying to feel out what our new roles are, and [learning] how to balance new and existing responsibilities, which can be a struggle at times."

(Re)Training the Teams

Now that we've cross-pollinated teams, we're all getting trained on the relevant technology. For example, the broadcast team uses Avid for video editing, while the online group favors Final Cut Pro. We now have four Final Cut suites in our newsroom and we've launched intensive training for onliners and broadcasters. I recently received an email inviting me to a breakfast session to learn how to produce a broadcast segment for the program. We plan to have people learn the different skills, figure out who's the best at what, and work from there.

This process is all to set up for the real work, which comes when we launch the new website on December 3 and the new program on Dec. 7. In my next post, I hope to share more about the broadcast, and offer reactions from my new friends in broadcast.

Anna Shoup is the local/national editor for PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. She coordinates with local stations to develop collaborative editorial projects, such as Patchwork Nation, a partnership to cover the economy in different types of places. She also helps out with daily news updates, multimedia stories, and social media projects.

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Profiles in Courage: Social Media Editors at Big Media Outlets

During a recent trip to see an editor I work with at The Globe and Mail, a national newspaper in Canada, I passed by the newspaper's cafeteria. My editor looked in and pointed at a man who was sitting with his back to us.

"There's Mathew Ingram, doing his office hours," he told me.

Ingram is the Globe and Mail's communities editor, a job he took on after being a technology reporter, columnist and blogger for the paper. My editor explained that Ingram's "office hours" consist of him making himself available in the cafeteria so that anyone can come see him and talk about Twitter, user comments, blogging, or anything thing else that falls under the social media/community banner.

Five years ago, there was no such thing as a community manager or social media editor at large media organizations. Today, this role exists at places such as the New York Times and NPR, among others. To get a sense of the role of these new social media editors at big media organizations, I spoke with four people currently filling these positions.

Mathew Ingram

Name: Mathew Ingram

Title: Communities editor, The Globe and Mail.

Time in the Position: Close to a year.

Previously: Technology reporter, columnist, blogger for the paper.

What the Job Entails: "There was never really a job description so we have been making it up as we go along," he said. "The general idea was to have someone who was thinking about how we interact with readers online, and all the ways of doing it and ways we could be doing it."

Biggest Challenge: "To be blunt, complacency is the biggest danger, the biggest risk," he said. "The biggest challenge is raising awareness of these tools, and convincing people that they are worthwhile. That's something that has been easier with certain people than with others. There's a wide spectrum of awareness and openness to trying new things. Let's face it: being a newspaper reporter hasn't really changed in a huge amount [over the last few decades]. You use a computer rather than a typewriter. So the change taking place right now is maybe harder to deal with if you've been doing that for a long time."

Best Initiative So Far: Using CoverItLive for discussions and liveblogging. "For certain things, like our swine flu discussion, we have gotten 10,000 or 15,000 people, and hundreds and hundreds of comments, along with interaction between editors and writers and readers," he said. "To me, that is a magical thing that never would have happened if we hadn't used that tool. We can also wind up making what we do better. In the swine flu discussion, we were feeding news into the live discussion and we had a Google Map that an epidemiologist had created. Someone said in the discussion that the map was not up to date. Our editor asked if anybody knew of a better map, and three minutes later a guy posted a link to a better map that we never would have found."

Lesson He's Learned About the Globe Community: "We get surprised daily by the things that people are interested in, and the things they want to read about or talk about," he said. "...For me, the big benefit of using these tools is getting a better idea of what readers want. Before, we kind of just had hunch and found out long after the fact. Now we can watch in real time."

Biggest Mistake: "I'd love to say we haven't made any, but I wish we had gotten involved in Facebook earlier on, and built an audience there or made better use of it."

Final Words: "Focus on the small victories. It's quite easy to get overcome and disillusioned when people are not interested in what you think is valuable, or when the things you try don't work."

Shirley Brady

Shirley_Bradysmall.jpgName: Shirley Brady

Title: Community editor, BusinessWeek.

Time in the Position: Close to 18 months.

Previously: Editor of the Cable360.net website, and a reporter at CableWorld magazine. Previously held editorial positions with Time Inc., among other media organizations.

What the Job Entails: "I spend a lot of time in the comments observing the trends, featuring people across the site, and trying to connect with our writers and say, 'Hey, there's this really interesting conversation going on, you may want to chime in.'" She also works on their blog, "What's Your Story Idea?": http://www.businessweek.com/blogs/whatsyourstoryidea/, and was brought on to help manage the magazine's Business Exchange community.

On Interacting With the BusinessWeek Community: "We've done things that feature our readers on the site by using their comments or contributed articles," she said. "Our audience is business professionals and they are on the front lines of all the stuff we're writing about. They are doing what we're just observing."

Best Initiative So Far: "We had a reader dinner and invited 10 really avid readers to come in and tell us what they like and don't like," she said. "The big takeaway was that our comment system, which is pretty basic, needs to get better... We got to sit face-to-face with these people, some of whom we only knew from their user names."

Biggest Lesson Learned: The need to manage expectations for new initiatives. "It's been interesting watching our Business Exchange platform launch because there were very aggressive expectations for it internally," she said. "As a user, I know the demands on people's time are really intense, and to expect people to adopt another social network is a lot to ask."

Next Big Challenge: Integrating with the magazine's new owner, Bloomberg. "We've been acquired by Bloomberg and are waiting to find out what their strategy is," she said. As this article was being finalized, Brady announced on Twitter that her "role isn't continuing with Bloomberg," and her last day at BusinessWeek will be December 1.

Andy Carvin

andycarvin.jpgName: Andy Carvin

Title: Senior strategist for NPR's social media desk.

Time in the Position: He's been the social media/community guy at NPR since September 2006.

Previously: Ran the non-profit Digital Divide Network.

What the Job Entails: "I work with a team called the social media desk, which is an editorial unit that focuses on ways for our reporters to interact with the public," he said. "The way I look at it is NPR has this large, loyal community of more than 26 million listeners around the country who tend to see us as more than just a content producer. In some ways, being involved with NPR is almost a lifestyle choice for them. We've had a long history of reaching out to the public and having hem contribute ideas and content. But there's never been a platform before social media that enabled us to interact with the public and give them tools to interact among themselves."

Biggest Lesson Learned: "The key thing is to come up with a variety of ways that people can interact and work with you," he said. "On one end you might have people contribute long stories and put together thoughtful narratives, whether in text or video or audio. At the other end, you may have some who are just wiling to share a quick snippet and move on."

Best Initiative So Far: HurricaneWiki.org. "Last fall when Hurricane Gustav was approaching, we asked for volunteers on Twitter to come together and list hurricane-related resources. Over 48 hours we had over 500 people signed up to build a wiki called HurricaneWiki.org," he said. "They built Google Maps with evacuation routes and shelter information, and some people listened to ham radio and scanner traffic for information and transcribed that." He also notes that Scott Simon and the team at NPR's Weekend Edition have done a good job using Twitter.

What He's Learned About the NPR Community: "These are communities that love us and our mission and what we do, they want to help us succeed and prosper -- and we ignore them at our peril," he said. "Thankfully, we are not ignoring them. It's about understanding that people who use social media and are fans of NPR are our most powerful supporters. They can be advocates, soldiers, messengers. They can assist in editorial matters as well."

Final Words: "There's no edict here saying that every person has to be on Twitter or Facebook. We do it somewhat organically because we want to make sure the staff that are using social media understand why they are using it, and have editorial goals in mind."

Jennifer Preston

jennifer_preston.jpgName: Jennifer Preston

Title: Social media editor, New York Times.

Time in the Position: Close to six months.

Previously: Edited the Sunday suburban section of the paper. Has also held other editing and reporting roles at the paper, along with jobs at other media organizations.

What the Job Entails: "I don't really have a typical day. I would say one of the challenges is not doing things on a piecemeal basis, and I'm sure my colleagues would share that concern. We know we have to put effort into getting more people to begin using these tools."

What She's Learned About the Times Community: "Surprise, surprise they like us. I tell anybody who is having a bad day around here just to go to the Twitter search field and look at what people are saying about our work," she said. "People are sharing and recommending the work... One of the really cool, fun, powerful things about social media is that, through the power of recommendations, your loyalists can share the stuff they like. We produce a lot of great stuff, and it's been heartening just to see people share that with enthusiasm."

Best Initiative So Far: New York Times Twitter Lists. "One initiative that helped us move forward quickly, and in an area where there is tremendous potential, is Twitter Lists," she said. "It was an opportunity to go across the newsroom desk-to-desk and talk with different editors and reporters and explain how the feature works and say, 'Hey, how about giving me a list?' I'm mindful that the landscape changes rapidly, and we will change with it. But I do think the Twitter Lists project for the newsroom has helped us get more people interested in Twitter." Preston noted that the paper built new Twitter Lists as reports rolled in about the Fort Hood shootings. "I sit in the middle of the newsroom with the continuous news desk, and so we were all jumping on the story and trying to figure out what was going on," she said. "I walked over to Jenny 8 Lee and said, 'Jenny can you help me put together a Fort Hood list?'"

Biggest Lesson Learned: "One of the most important lessons learned is that much of the best ideas, and the really creative approaches and innovations, come from the developers, many of whom work here in newsroom," she said. "This job is also a public role, and I was unprepared for that. Some people were very kind and helpful and welcoming, but there was a group who were not. I had to figure out what my role is on Twitter because every broken link I sent out was seen as a crime. In any event, you have to be resilient and have a sense of humor."

Final Words: "The New York Times did not discover social media with my appointment, and vice versa," she said. "For the last two years we have had more than a couple hundred accounts on Twitter, and we now have 2 million followers on our main feed. We have half a million fans on Facebook...We're going to be doing something interesting very soon with Tumblr. The really fun part of this whole moment is that you can really play in the space and have fun and figure out what works. And if it doesn't work, that's okay, you can try something else."

Craig Silverman is an award-winning journalist and author and an associate editor at MediaShift and Idea Lab. He is the founder and editor of Regret The Error, the author of Regret the Error: How Media Mistakes Pollute the Press and Imperil Free Speech, and a weekly columnist for Columbia Journalism Review. Follow him on Twitter at @CraigSilverman.

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The Shutdown of UWIRE and the Implications for College Media

Last month, UWIRE.com, an edited college media newswire, mysteriously vanished from the Internet.

"UWIRE, a popular service that aggregated articles from student newspapers across the country, promoting student journalism both within higher education and to the outside world, has disappeared," wrote Simmi Aujla for the Chronicle of Higher Education earlier this month.

Today, visitors to the site receive an error message, and the people running the service have had little to say publicly. As a result, there has been intense speculation about the site, along with complaints from student editors who say they are owed money by the service. (To read some of the online discussions taking place about UWIRE, check out this post and this one.)

As the director for innovation at the Center for Innovation in College Media, I've followed the UWIRE saga for quite a while. I interviewed Joe Weasel of Palestra.net after they purchased UWIRE from CBS. For the past two years, I also helped raise awareness about the UWIRE 100 program by blogging about it (see my 2008 and 2009 posts). While looking into this story, I contacted Weasel for an interview, but he declined to comment on the record.

A Flawed Business Model?

In some ways, the shuttering of UWIRE should come as no surprise. The service did not have a workable business model as a stand-alone entity. Its previous incarnation as part of CBS seemed to make more sense, as a major media corporation would have the resources to leverage UWIRE content for other distribution channels. That said, public comments from UWIRE general manager Tom Orr suggest that the company hopes to resurrect the service.

"UWIRE has temporarily suspended its print wire operations," Orr told the Seattle Spectator. "The company is in the process of trying to get the wire relaunched as quickly as possible and when more information is available it will be made public."

The Spectator called UWIRE "student media's AP." That's overstating the case. As near as I've been able to gather, UWIRE was a curator of material gleaned from college news outlets throughout the country.

AP logo.gif

Unlike the Associated Press, which collects fees from member news outlets, UWIRE "affiliates" (meaning college news outlets) never paid to republish the content distributed through the service. UWIRE did sell some content to other media outlets, but that was hardly a major source of revenue.

The reality is that a college media wire service would not be able to charge a substantial sum to college media outlets. More importantly for college media (and college journalists), there was no revenue returning to the people who created the UWIRE content.

Unless and until a wire service like UWIRE is able to figure out a way to return some revenue to the college media outlets that generate content, active participation is always going to be a challenge.

Who was using the content?

A number of college news outlets used the UWIRE material, but solid numbers are hard to come by. UWIRE's "About Us" page claimed that its "...14-year-old Student Media Affiliate Program allows 800+ student media outlets to share content and facilitates inter-school collaboration. This entirely student powered wire service generates more than 500 stories a day, including first rate news, opinion, sports, and entertainment coverage."

Although more than 800 outlets shared their content with UWIRE, there's no accurate count of how many news outlets actually used the content.

Mark Witherspoon, adviser to the Iowa State Daily college paper, said, "Our students used a lot of UWIRE columns for their editorial pages, and those pages have suffered because of UWIRE leaving the scene."

"The UWIRE columns were always nice as good backups when the creative well ran dry locally," said Robert Bortel, adviser to the BG News at Bowling Green State University. "They have historically used some of the straight news, too, but we were able to replace that with AP. Lately, our news hole has shrunk because of fewer ads, so many days we are almost all local with AP world and state digests to complement the content. And as for the goal of being more hyper-local, which we all like to banter around as a catchphrase, that is a good thing, too."

The Daily Eastern News, the college media outlet I help advise, also occasionally used UWIRE content. Yet the disappearance of the site hasn't caused any problems in our newsroom. That's probably the case for many college media outlets.

College News Network

While the particulars of the UWIRE situation get sorted out, what's a college news outlet to do? Certainly, wire services like the AP are available, although the cost of AP content is prohibitive for many in this economic climate. Previous efforts like CSUWire (see my interview with its founders here) have come and gone. There is a need for college media to have access to the college-related content generated on other campuses, so other options might be viable.

The latest option to emerge is College News Network. Ryan Dunn and Dave Hendricks of Ohio University (both of whom are editors at the Post), have so far signed up 14 college news outlets. Hendricks said the inspiration for the site came from a summer internship.

"I'd interned at the Columbus Dispatch this summer, which spearheaded a content-sharing agreement among Ohio's newspapers," he said. "We figured a content-sharing network would help fill space on the Post's opinion page and allow college papers to share big stories, like the out-of-control street parties at Kent State and Ohio University last spring."

He said they are looking to recruit as many sharing partners as possible. "The arrangement should benefit student reporters, who gain access to a wider audience, [as well as] readers at colleges across the country, who will gain access to perspectives and news from other student-run media," he said.

College News Network does not edit the copy it receives. It relies on student editors at the various member news organizations to do that.

Other Options

There are also a couple of other content-sharing options for college media. One is to start using Publish2.

logo_publish2.gifPublish2 allows individual journalists to bookmark specific stories and share those links with the wider Publish2 community, or create smaller groups of people to share those links with. (You can see my Publish2 links here.) Other news organizations can then create widgets on their web pages that link to content they found via Publish2.

There's already been an early example of local newspapers collaborating on a big story through Publish2. My concept is to take that idea a step further and allow college media outlets to publish the linked articles in their newspapers.

It would be relatively easy for college media outlets within a state, or an athletic conference, to agree to share their content via Publish2. Once the content was published, they could use Publish2 to point to their best stories, and allow other newspapers in the "co-op" to use the content.

The main downside to this approach is that there is no centralized editing process, which was UWIRE's bailiwick. The pool of articles available would also be relatively small compared to UWIRE's output, unless a large number of college news outlets signed up.

College media outlets would need to get together to communicate and set up the service with licensing agreements (a headache in itself), and maintain the service by actually linking to the articles -- a dicey proposition come exam time.

creativecommons.jpgThe other option would be for college media outlets to do something that might seem radical: use Creative Commons to license their content for non-commercial use, and thereby let other college news outlets have access to their work. At this point, I'm not aware of any college media outlet that has taken the Creative Commons route, although I've had listserv discussions with fellow advisers about the concept. The usual argument against a CC license is one that's been heard before: The content is too valuable for this approach.

The "value" of articles in a college newspaper is a topic for another day, but the idea of licensing content for non-commercial use so that other college newspapers could access it and use it to supplement their own coverage is worth considering in the Internet age.

*****

Are there other options for college media to share content? Let us know your ideas in the comments.

Bryan Murley is assistant professor of new and emerging media at Eastern Illinois University, where he advises DENnews.com, the Pacemaker-winning online site for the student newspaper. He is also the director for innovation at the Center for Innovation in College Media, where he leads the weblog Innovation in College Media. He is the college media correspondent for MediaShift.

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Young Political Candidates Confronted by Digital Past on Facebook

Last spring Emanuel Pleitez, 26, ran for California's 32nd Congressional seat in a special election to replace Hilda Solis, the new secretary of labor.

During the campaign, one of Pleitez's opponents, California State Sen. Gil Cedillo, discovered photos from Pleitez's Facebook profile that showed Pleitez hanging around with various women at parties. The Cedillo campaign used the photos as the basis for a mailer that was sent to homes in the district. The mailer presented Pleitez as a partier, drinker and womanizer, among other smears.

Pleitez admits the negative attack probably cost him some votes. However, instead of shying away from the photos, Pleitez said in a phone interview that he used the incident to reinforce the transparency of his campaign.

Emanuel-Pleitez.gif

"I didn't take any pictures down," Pleitez said. "Everything is up on Facebook. If anyone questioned me after, I invited them to my Facebook page so we could go one by one through all my pictures and I could explain where I was and what I was doing. I have nothing to hide."

Social Media's Influence on Politics

Pleitez didn't win the election, and neither did Cedillo. But their race, and its use of Facebook photos, is yet another example of how social media profiles are increasingly becoming a major part of the political process.

Political candidates used to hide embarrassing photos in a shoebox in the closet. But many of today's younger candidates came of age with social media technologies. As a result, their large online footprint -- replete with status updates, videos and photographs -- often becomes a political football.

"It is astounding and sort of scary the amount of information that is out there now," Claire Viall, president of the Cal Berkley Democrats at UC Berkley, said in a phone interview. "But it doesn't prohibit anybody from using social media. It's become a part of our lives."

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Viall, 21, joined Facebook when she was in high school as a way to interact with friends before heading off to college. She said that while there are some privacy controls on who can see her profile, it's really a false sense of control because anybody can post just about anything they want about people on the Internet.

Social media technologies have made it very easy to publish -- and find -- embarrassing photos online. C.J. Pascoe of the Digital Youth Research project at Berkeley suggested that young people are more willing to put personal information online because they are exposed to social media at a very early age. This can have big implications for those who aspire to political office.

The Election of Audra Shay

In July, Audra Shay ran for chairman of the Young Republicans, a Republican Party organization for 18- to 40-year olds. During her campaign Shay, 38, was accused of endorsing racism as a result of a reply she posted on her Facebook wall. When the story went viral in the blogosphere, Shay immediately scrubbed her Facebook page clean of other potentially damaging items. (She ended up winning the chairmanship.)

Tommy Jardon, executive director of the College Republican National Committee, called the incident a perfect example of how anything posted online can get picked up and sent around the Internet.

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"Someone took a screen shot and even though you take it down or delete it, it now lives forever," Jardon said in a phone interview.

Running for a national organization seat is certainly different than running for Congress, because the Young Republicans, like any similar group, is governed by internal politics. The public at-large does not have a say. Overall, Jardon, 25, suggested that what young people post online should be considered in context.

"What you did in college or what you did five years ago or even five minutes ago, all has some context and an explanation and merits one interpretation or another," Jardon said. "The glory of it is that it is still up to the voters to decide."

Becoming a Public Figure

At age 19, Jason Overman was elected to the city of Berkley, Calif.'s Rent Stabilization Board in 2004, and in 2006 led an unsuccessful campaign for a city council seat. He said that young people considering a life in politics need to recognize that running for office is a choice to become a public figure. They should therefore be cognizant that what they post online is public.

"I think there is a fear of what is going to pop up, but I think it is sort of akin to a fear that anyone has in an elected office," Overman said. "It's the same sort of fear that older politicians would have had every morning opening the newspaper. I think that's just sort of a part of public life."

It may be just a matter of time until social media is widely understood and accepted outside of young generations who consider being online as second nature. Emanuel Pleitez, now a special assistant to President Obama's economic advisory board at the U.S. Treasury Department, said that, despite the way his Facebook photos were exploited in his last campaign, he would still like to run again. For him, the attack was akin to being baptized by fire -- and that people running for office have always been targeted.

"If I were to advise future political candidates, I would say don't be afraid of what's on Facebook, and don't be so paranoid," Pleitez said. "Just be aware and be ready. It's better to be transparent, open and humble about whatever your past is than it is to hide things."

Steven Davy is a freelance journalist, and freelance radio reporter/producer. He regularly covers the defense industry and security related issues for UPI. Additionally he hosts a current affairs news magazine radio show called the Nonchalant Café Hour which broadcasts live in Kalamazoo, Mich. Steven is a second year graduate student at Michigan State University in the School of Journalism. His research has covered news media bias and framing issues, censorship during war, urban revitalization, renewable energy and climate change.

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DigiFest Examines DIY to Big Budget Special Effects for Films

Apocalyptic visions and alien invasions descended upon Hollywood earlier this month, to the collective delight of the digital media industry. At the American Film Institute's DigiFest, which was produced by the AFI Digital Content Lab, attendees experienced two days of presentations and screenings focused on new media platforms and creative storytelling using digital innovations. The event spotlighted advanced productions from digital artists, as well as groundbreaking efforts from unknown content creators that are pushing the boundaries of what we perceive as big-budget effects.

The Purchase Brothers and DIY Filmmaking

On day two of the event, Suzanne Stefanac, director of the AFI Digital Content Lab, introduced two of the most talked-about innovators in do-it-yourself filmmaking: Ian and David Purchase, a.k.a. the Purchase Brothers. They created the low budget, but visually rich, short, "Escape from City 17." This film combined existing digital assets (videogame backgrounds from Half-Life and photos from Wikipedia) with guerilla filmmaking (on-the-fly dialogue and trespassing on a local train depot), and three months of post-production work.


Watch the Purchase Brothers' "Escape from City 17."

"We thought they were among the most important new filmmakers to hit the scene this year," said Stefanac. "What they did that set them apart was to teach themselves to meld live action cinema with a robust 3D game world. The resulting footage looks as though it cost many hundreds of thousands of dollars, perhaps even millions. But, in truth, they spent less than $500. Totally self-taught, they are among the new stars emerging from a moribund landscape."

If the Purchase Brothers represent what's possible on little or no budget, Digital Domain's visual effects work on Sony Pictures' "2012" represents the deep-pocketed end of the digital creative process. This is where large teams of specialized animators spend years creating jaw-dropping footage. Marten Larsson, CG effects animation lead at Digital Domain, demonstrated how they used a combination of open source tools and experimentation to layer, simulate and construct the apocalyptic scenes where buildings smash into each other, and cities fall into the ocean.

While Larsson wouldn't reveal how much the two-minute scene he previewed cost to create, he did mention that 100 people spent a full year to develop it. That kind of expense would be truly apocalyptic to DIY filmmakers and indie film producers.

DigiFest presenters emphasized the myriad opportunities to create content and tell stories in ways that haven't previously been done before, mainly due to technology or budget limitations. "The most exciting development on the digital tool front has to be the fact that all of the tools for conceptualizing, shooting, editing, distributing and promoting are becoming so democratized," said Stefanac. "All of these tools can reside on one modest laptop."

For Humans Only: The World of District 9

Laptops represent just one of many screens on which filmmakers and marketers are trying to engage and excite potential ticket buyers. Trigger, an entertainment and brand marketing agency, built the iPhone game and website for "2012," and they also spearheaded the digital marketing initiatives for Sony Pictures' "District 9."

At DigiFest, Jason Yim, president and executive creative director of Trigger, walked attendees through the integrated marketing campaign for the movie. This included an augmented reality component and online game, as well as blogs and Twitter profiles from different perspectives (MNU: Multi-National United and @MultiNationalU | MNU Spreads Lies and @MNU_Lies) that were written in English and in an alien language. The campaign also included a MNU mobile marketing vehicle, and the ubiquitous bus bench sign that declared, "Bus Bench For Humans Only."

"We started this campaign 18 months before the movie came out [and worked] based on the initial treatment, and before they started shooting," said Yim. "So keeping the content updated and still on message even as the actual film evolved was a challenge. I think this speaks highly of the Sony team for creating a strategy that started within the confines of Comic-Con, but could grow and broaden over the next 14 months into an international campaign."

Film Discovery and Anywhere Engagement

Discovering the next great film from self-starters like The Purchase Brothers or developing integrated, global marketing campaigns such as the one for "District 9," are ongoing challenges for digital innovators.

"With the explosion of new content hitting every size screen, we need new filters, new ways of discovering stories that make us smarter, happier, better humans," said Stefanac.

Yim draws inspiration from social media platforms and location-driven opportunities. "The iPhone, social media, GPS and augmented reality represent an evolutionary leap for digital marketing," he said. "Combined, these innovations multiply the effectiveness of marketing by providing relevancy."

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He said the rapidly evolving nature of technology and online networks means marketers have to constantly adapt.

"Digital marketing has become exponentially more challenging and interesting because the tools are changing so quickly," he said. "We are constantly asked to develop on new social networks around the world, and while our mobile programmers were busy delivering six iPhone apps this year we still had to staff and start prototyping on Blackberry and Android devices."

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What do you think are the most compelling digital opportunities for filmmakers or marketers? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Nick Mendoza is the director of digital communications at Zeno Group. He advises consumer, entertainment and web companies on digital strategy, distribution and engagement. He blogs at The Social 7 and is the film correspondent for MediaShift. Follow him on Twitter @NickMendoza.

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Media140 Brings Old and New Media Together, With Explosive Results

Over 300 people gathered under the Media140 banner in a concert hall at Australia's national public broadcaster ABC in Sydney last week to consider the future of journalism in the social media age.

Media140 is a newly formed global collaboration of journalists, academics and social media practitioners that is staging conferences around the world. The goal is to examine the impact of the real-time web on news and media industries. It was founded in the UK last February by media worker Andrew Gregson. (Disclosure: I was the editorial director for Media140 Australia. Profits from the event will be donated to The Big Issue, a magazine designed to empower the homeless.)

Our conference at the bottom of the world rose to No. 4 on Twitter's trending topics after just a few hours. Issues on the agenda included the role of Twitter in reporting the Iran uprising; professional and ethical guidelines for journalists using social media; and how political reporting is being changed by journalists' adoption of social media platforms.

The gathering tested some professional journalists' assertions about the threat to quality reporting allegedly posed by Twitter. It also challenged claims on the territory made by social media experts. In the end, we established that Twitter is the platform propelling Australian journalists into the social media age, while also broadening the base of the movement to reinvent journalism.

The line-up featured some of Australia's most respected and prolific journalists, academics and bloggers. Tensions arose on stage and online during the conference between old rivals, over newly contested territory, and in pursuit of redefinitions of journalism. While hundreds mingled at the ABC, hundreds more participated online via Twitter, a live ABC webcast, a Ustream video feed, and live blogging.

The ABC of Social Media Guidelines

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The ABC's managing director, Mark Scott, was the first keynote speaker. He used the event to launch the most progressive social media policy that I've seen from a large media organization.

"I wanted to title my talk 'Making This Up as We Go Along'... because to a degree that's what we're doing," he said.

Essentially, the simple guidelines empower ABC employees to freely use social networking sites and tools for professional and personal purposes, with the rider that they be careful not to undermine their professional practice, nor their employer's reputation. The policy outlined four key rules:

* Do not mix the professional and the personal in ways likely to bring the ABC into disrepute.
* Do not undermine your effectiveness at work.

* Do not imply ABC endorsement of your personal views.

* Do not disclose confidential information obtained through work.

"We need to experiment and we need to give our staff the space to experiment," Scott said.

The new ABC guidelines strongly contrast with the position adopted by the Australian Financial Review, which recently banned its staff from using Twitter professionally. (In a forthcoming MediaShift post, I'll analyze Australian media outlets' attempts to negotiate ethics and professionalism in this new territory).

Scott has dragged his staff -- some kicking and screaming -- into the social media age. He acknowledges that these new platforms are part of the public broadcaster's future. In his Media140 address, he pointed out that Twitter is just another "t" in a progression from telegraph to telephone to telex, and so on. He also showed how Twitter could easily fit within the realm of breaking news by offering tweet-length posts for some of the major stories of the past century.

Nevertheless, skepticism remains. The ABC's most senior political reporter, Chris Uhlmann (christened by the ABC chief the "Harpo Marx of Twitter" for his virtually mute state in the sphere), said, "I just don't see how I could verify sources from Twitter."

There were pockets of internal resistance to the ABC's involvement in Media140. But as the conference progressed, I heard that many journalists at the public broadcaster were watching the feed from their desks. Some of them eventually ventured onto the conference floor, while others contacted me after the conference was over.

The challenge now for progressive industry leaders like Mark Scott is to adequately support journalists so they can use social media as an integral part of their beat. As the ABC radio's chief political correspondent Lyndal Curtis blogged during the conference, many already over-laden journalists are simply "too tired to tweet!"

Tweeting Politics and the Clash of the Titans

As I reported earlier this year, there has been a veritable explosion of Australian journalists in the Twittersphere. Today, Twitter is changing the way political reporters interact, and has broken a century-long tradition that prohibited live reporting from the Australian parliamentary chambers.

As the Sydney Morning Herald's Annabel Crabb told the conference, reporters are tweeting the daily Question Time sessions. Journalists are using Twitter to interact with each another and a broadening base of engaged civic tweeters. People are even challenging politicians via tweets as debates play out on the floor of the House.

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While some journalists and organizations move forward, working on building new audiences by engaging through social media, conflict is emerging between publishers like Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. and public broadcasters such as the ABC and the BBC. Mark Scott recently compared Murdoch's last grasps at control -- re-erecting pay walls and, as of this week, musing about blocking content from Google -- with the desperation of an emperor experiencing the fall of Rome.

On stage at Media140, the award-winning author and journalist, Caroline Overington expressed genuine alarm at the rising, monopolistic power of public broadcasters like the ABC in the new media landscape. She launched into a strident defense of Murdoch (whom she described as "benevolent") and his vision for newspapers.

She also revealed a hint of company strategy by indicating News Corp.'s plans were also linked to the development of a media consumption device, which is now facetiously being referred to in Australia as the iRupert or the Ru-pod. Overington also challenged rival, Annabel Crabb, with assertion that the Sydney Morning Herald, a Murdoch competitor, was in very dire financial straits.

That drew the retort from Crabb: "I think it is wonderful that your survival strategy depends on the robust genes of a 78-year-old... We are not in as much trouble as you will be once your great leader drops off the twig." Cue peals of laughter. (You can view the entire panel on Social Media and Political Reporting here.)

The Mass Media as the Masses' Media

One academic speaker told the conference that "the hoards are at the castle gates." I took this analogy further in my closing remarks at Media140. From my perspective, the masses aren't just threatening to storm the castle -- they've overrun it. Mass media has become the masses' media. Unless the mainstream media wants to be left behind to starve, it needs to join the revolution and figure out new ways of funding, filtering and curating stories to ensure the hard work of journalism -- shining a light in dark places -- can continue to be done.

"For the first time in human evolution we are co-creating the human narrative, never again will our histories be held hostage to the victors, our stories forgotten, unwritten, unscribed," said social media activist Laurel Papworth.

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This point was driven home in the question-and-answer session that followed a presentation delivered via Skype by NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen. During his talk, Rosen outlined a clarion vision for journalism in the social media age via 10 key points. Then a journalist in attendance got up and expressed fear about giving the "audience" the reins.

"If you don't have a democratic heart, you don't belong in journalism in the first place," Rosen said.

Media140 Sydney was an attempt to bridge the gap between the mainstream and the fringes, to negotiate change, and to provide a platform for the collaborative reinvention of journalism. Thousands of tweets, many new connections, and a few minor brawls later, the global conversation -- in newsrooms, on Twitter and blogs -- continues to reap dividends for journalism's reinvention.

In the coming weeks I'll outline more of the lessons learned and the progress being made in the wake of Media140. But, for now, the last word should go to SBS online news and current affairs editor, Valerio Veo, who told Media140 "I am the bastard child of old and new media... like a child of a broken home -- [I] care deeply for both my divorced parents, despite their temporary differences."

Images by neeravbhatt via Flickr

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