Links on Twitter: AOL fires freelancers, Examiner.com pays more for quality

Hyperlocal network Examiner.com will use incentive pay to make content, um, not content-farmy http://nie.mn/gHOAbj »

NY Post issues correction after incorrectly attributing crazy quote to Toni Braxton (but doesn’t say who said it) http://nie.mn/et8qh7 »

Elisabeth Murdoch makes a cool £153 million selling her TV production company to her dad http://nie.mn/f4dkpH »

Mark Oppenheimer: Save NPR, kill PBS http://nie.mn/hkT4T0 »

The FCC reboots its website and its mission. @digiphile previews: http://nie.mn/h09vBi »

An interview with David Plotz, “founding father of online journalism,” on @Slate at 15 http://nie.mn/elBmwl »

After switching to Facebook Comments, TechCrunch saw commenting plummet. BUT: http://nie.mn/gP0G7I »

Matt Thompson: 19 ways to promote your content without being smarmy http://nie.mn/gzJqWb »

AOL fires freelancers, Huff Post doesn’t pay, and Paul Carr approves http://nie.mn/ek6lwF »

Links on Twitter: AOL fires freelancers, Examiner.com pays more for quality

Hyperlocal network Examiner.com will use incentive pay to make content, um, not content-farmy http://nie.mn/gHOAbj »

NY Post issues correction after incorrectly attributing crazy quote to Toni Braxton (but doesn’t say who said it) http://nie.mn/et8qh7 »

Elisabeth Murdoch makes a cool £153 million selling her TV production company to her dad http://nie.mn/f4dkpH »

Mark Oppenheimer: Save NPR, kill PBS http://nie.mn/hkT4T0 »

The FCC reboots its website and its mission. @digiphile previews: http://nie.mn/h09vBi »

An interview with David Plotz, “founding father of online journalism,” on @Slate at 15 http://nie.mn/elBmwl »

After switching to Facebook Comments, TechCrunch saw commenting plummet. BUT: http://nie.mn/gP0G7I »

Matt Thompson: 19 ways to promote your content without being smarmy http://nie.mn/gzJqWb »

AOL fires freelancers, Huff Post doesn’t pay, and Paul Carr approves http://nie.mn/ek6lwF »

Is Righthaven the copyright enforcer news needs, or the one it deserves? How its suits could affect journalism

Could Righthaven be the enforcer publishers deserve, but not the one it needs right now? Yes, I’m shamelessly co-opting a line from The Dark Knight — partly out of love for that movie, but also because the controversial firm is viewed as both a defender of content and an Internet villain.

Righthaven’s business model is to buy up and then enforce copyrights at the behest of newspapers like The Denver Post and the Las Vegas Review-Journal. It’s a goal they’ve undertaken with a remarkable urgency: more than 260 lawsuits, according to the Las Vegas Sun’s Steve Green, who’s been tracking them.

Rather than sending cease-and-desist letters to alleged copyright infringers, Righthaven’s strategy has generally been to proceed directly with lawsuits, seeking monetary damages or even ownership of the defendants domain name. Many of the suits have been against small blogs and sites whose threat to the online traffic or revenue of newspapers is unclear. That’s led to no shortage of criticism.

“We understand that the infringement community are not great fans of Righthaven,” Righthaven founder Steve Gibson told me. “We believe that the creative community is.”

The role of copyright and fair use is evolving in an age of sharing buttons. Gibson makes the case that tracking and resolving copyright cases is a full-time job that would prove difficult for a publisher that should be focused on producing new work.

But with one of their most recent lawsuits, Righthaven may have triggered a ruling that could have a broader impact on journalism and copyright law. On March 18, U.S. District Judge James Mahan ruled that an Oregon nonprofit was covered by fair use when they posted the entire text of a Review-Journal story on its site.

“Righthaven might not be thinking through what the legal ramifications are of losing these cases,” said David Ardia, director of the Citizen Media Law Project.

In the lawsuit against the Center for Intercultural Organization, the judge ruled the nonprofit was able to publish a 33-paragraph story under fair use because the group was using it for informational purposes. Ardia said 33 paragraphs stretches the known boundaries for established practice in fair use. Though Ardia thinks it will be some time before any broader conclusions can be drawn from the case, he said its time for news organizations to take notice.

“There is good reason to be concerned for media companies that a decision like this case involving the nonprofit weakens the position of news organizations arguing that some copyright infringements are not fair use,” Ardia said.

Gibson told me it’s premature to worry about copyright law being altered. Given the number of cases Righthaven has in progress and the appeal of the CIO suit, Gibson said the state of copyright is far from settled. “We’re either going to reform copyright law or we’re going to uphold and enforce it,” he said.

Righthaven’s strategy, as much as it is about protecting copyright and generating revenue, is also about sending a bright flashing message to potential infringers. That’s why Righthaven’s strategy favors lawsuits over cease and desist letters, which Gibson said create no disincentive for someone already breaking copyright law.

Ardia — former assistant legal counsel for The Washington Post — said newspapers approach to addressing copyright has typically been more quiet, ranging from emailing someone to take down a story to official cease and desist letters. That’s partially out of a sense for public relations — no newspaper wants to be seen as bullying its readers — but also because often the copyright infringers are not drawing significant traffic away from a newspaper’s site, Ardia said.

“I think that the blunderbuss approach to litigation, without careful thought of who you are suing and how the public will perceive such a lawsuit, raises important concerns for the public image of newspapers,” he said. Ardia said Righthaven’s goals and those of most news organizations may be quickly diverging as the lawsuits pile up.

Gibson says that, while 260-plus cases may seem like a lot, he doesn’t see it as outsized: “It’s a molecule in the drop of water relative to the ocean of infringements out there.” He said the web and new technology create new urgency for copyright cases. “As the economy becomes more sophisticated, more and more people’s livelihoods will be associated with the protection of information that information technology is allowing them to produce and publish,” he said.

When I asked Gibson if Righthaven has a method of measuring success, either through cases won or damages and settlement costs received, he said they have internal goals they use, but their interest is largely in advancing case law for copyright. What’s important, for publishers and writers at all levels, is that these cases will result in copyright law being clarified in many respects, Gibson said. “The fundamental question we face as a society is are we going to be a society that respects copyright law or not,” he said.

Image by John W. Iwanski used under a Creative Commons license.

Decline, plateau, decline: New data on The Daily suggests a social media decline and a tough road ahead

While the news industry looks at smartphone and tablet apps as a chance to build more engaged readers — and maybe even get people to pay! — for those of us who watch the business, apps are frustratingly opaque.

With sites on the open web, there are any number of ways for outsiders to estimate the size of audience a news outlet is reaching. They’re imperfect, but they’re out there. But for, say, apps sold in Apple’s App Store, the only data available is pretty poor. For top sellers, you can see where they rank among other free or paid apps, but those numbers flit around from day to day. The number of ratings or reviews tell you something, but not a lot.

And some of the most interesting work in the future of news is happening in these apps — for instance, in The Daily, which is trying to both create an iPad-native experience and get people to pay 99 cents a week for it. Information about The Daily’s success (or lack thereof) has been hard to come by; external guesstimates have gotten “no comments,” and the closest thing to a hard number to come out of The Daily so far is its publisher’s statement that the app has been downloaded “hundreds of thousands” of times.

So I set out to see if there was some way to use publicly available data to try to understand at The Daily’s readership. If I can’t know how many readers it has, perhaps I could find something that at least showed the broader trend line.

That’s how, with major help from the social media firm PostRank, I came up with the chart above, which suggests — at least when viewed through the lens of Twitter sharing — The Daily is losing audience over time rather than gaining it.

Watching sharing activity through Twitter

No one outside News Corp. and Apple has a reliable way of knowing how often people read The Daily. But there is one way in which The Daily’s app interacts with the public web — through Twitter sharing. On nearly every page in the app, there’s a sharing button in the top right that allows the reader to share a link to the story on Twitter or other social networks. (A few pages, like the table of contents and user-customized pages, aren’t sharable.)

The Daily does this by posting on the open web an image of what its stories look like inside the app. (Since Andy Baio stopped indexing each day’s issue, there hasn’t been an easy way to find out about most Daily stories unless someone first shares it from within the app.)

It’s easy to think of a tweet as just 140 characters, but there’s a lot of metadata around that little snippet of text: when it was tweeted, who tweeted it, how many followers she has, what date she joined Twitter, and more. Amidst all that data is information about where each tweet was generated. Did it come from Twitter’s web interface, or from the official Twitter BlackBerry app, or a third-party app like Echofon or TweetDeck? That’s in there.

And thanks to Twitter’s requirement that app developers register with its API to allow in-app tweeting, that means you can track every time someone tweets from within The Daily.

To get at that data, you need to have access to the full, massive Twitter stream — or know someone who does. In my case, I reached out to PostRank, a Canadian social media firm that does interesting work analyzing how individual webpages get shared in social media. (We’re a customer of theirs — 15 bucks a month.) They were willing to help, for which I’m very grateful. PostRank provided me with a database of every tweet generated by The Daily’s iPad app from launch day (February 2) to March 31.

Caveat tweetor

Before I get into the findings, a caveat. We’re measuring the number of tweets generated from within The Daily. We’re not directly measuring the number of readers of The Daily. Only a small fraction of readers are going to choose to tweet something they see in the app. The idea here is that that the number of tweets should generally go up when the number of readers go up — and vice versa.

It’s possible that there might be some reason why those would diverge. Social media and Twitter are getting more popular all the time, so it might be that tweets could increase even if usage remains steady. Or the app could make its sharing button less prominent and lead to fewer tweets (although in reality the layout remains the same since launch). It’s not a perfect match — just evidence of a general direction. Got it?

Decline, plateau, decline

The data doesn’t look good for The Daily. Its activity on Twitter seems to match my own perceptions of how they’re doing — an early rush of excitement; a decline as people lost interest and the app struggled with technical problems; a plateau once the tech got sorted out; and then another decline once the app started charging users.

In the nearly two months we’re looking at, only 6,026 tweets were generated within The Daily app. But much more discouraging is the trend. Here’s the raw data:

You can already see the broad decline. On its first full day of release, Feb. 3, The Daily generated 387 tweets. A week later, the number was 209; a week after that, 104.

The trend is clearer if you look at a 10-day moving average — that is, each point on this chart is the average of the previous 10 days. (For that reason, the first point is marked Feb. 11 and covers Feb. 2-11.) A moving average smoothes out the noise.

There’s a steady decline from the early peak until around Feb. 25. On Feb. 26, The Daily released version 1.0.3 of the app, which fixed some of the crashing and slowness problems that it had suffered from since launch.

From that point on, tweets from the app stayed fairly steady for almost a month. But you can see another inflection downward starting around March 21. That’s the day The Daily stopped being free and started charging 99 cents a week. (I’m actually a little surprised that that decline isn’t steeper. That’s a good sign — that the readers most likely to share their stories are paying up.)

While a certain amount of decline would be expected after the initial rush of attention, the fact that there’s never been an appreciable, sustained uptick in sharing isn’t cause for optimism. (Also remember that, in the middle of this stretch, Apple released the iPad 2 — literally millions of new iPads have been purchased in this narrow window, creating millions of new potential Daily customers who might want to download one of the platform’s most promoted apps.)

All in all, this doesn’t tell us how many people are reading The Daily — but it’s pretty good evidence the number has shrunk rather than grown.

But there’s more interesting info in this data set than the general trend line. Tomorrow, in part 2, I’ll look further into who’s sharing The Daily stories on Twitter, when they’re doing it, how in-app sharers differ from out-of-app sharers, and much more.

Decline, plateau, decline: New data on The Daily suggests a social media decline and a tough road ahead

While the news industry looks at smartphone and tablet apps as a chance to build more engaged readers — and maybe even get people to pay! — for those of us who watch the business, apps are frustratingly opaque.

With sites on the open web, there are any number of ways for outsiders to estimate the size of audience a news outlet is reaching. They’re imperfect, but they’re out there. But for, say, apps sold in Apple’s App Store, the only data available is pretty poor. For top sellers, you can see where they rank among other free or paid apps, but those numbers flit around from day to day. The number of ratings or reviews tell you something, but not a lot.

And some of the most interesting work in the future of news is happening in these apps — for instance, in The Daily, which is trying to both create an iPad-native experience and get people to pay 99 cents a week for it. Information about The Daily’s success (or lack thereof) has been hard to come by; external guesstimates have gotten “no comments,” and the closest thing to a hard number to come out of The Daily so far is its publisher’s statement that the app has been downloaded “hundreds of thousands” of times.

So I set out to see if there was some way to use publicly available data to try to understand at The Daily’s readership. If I can’t know how many readers it has, perhaps I could find something that at least showed the broader trend line.

That’s how, with major help from the social media firm PostRank, I came up with the chart above, which suggests — at least when viewed through the lens of Twitter sharing — The Daily is losing audience over time rather than gaining it.

Watching sharing activity through Twitter

No one outside News Corp. and Apple has a reliable way of knowing how often people read The Daily. But there is one way in which The Daily’s app interacts with the public web — through Twitter sharing. On nearly every page in the app, there’s a sharing button in the top right that allows the reader to share a link to the story on Twitter or other social networks. (A few pages, like the table of contents and user-customized pages, aren’t sharable.)

The Daily does this by posting on the open web an image of what its stories look like inside the app. (Since Andy Baio stopped indexing each day’s issue, there hasn’t been an easy way to find out about most Daily stories unless someone first shares it from within the app.)

It’s easy to think of a tweet as just 140 characters, but there’s a lot of metadata around that little snippet of text: when it was tweeted, who tweeted it, how many followers she has, what date she joined Twitter, and more. Amidst all that data is information about where each tweet was generated. Did it come from Twitter’s web interface, or from the official Twitter BlackBerry app, or a third-party app like Echofon or TweetDeck? That’s in there.

And thanks to Twitter’s requirement that app developers register with its API to allow in-app tweeting, that means you can track every time someone tweets from within The Daily.

To get at that data, you need to have access to the full, massive Twitter stream — or know someone who does. In my case, I reached out to PostRank, a Canadian social media firm that does interesting work analyzing how individual webpages get shared in social media. (We’re a customer of theirs — 15 bucks a month.) They were willing to help, for which I’m very grateful. PostRank provided me with a database of every tweet generated by The Daily’s iPad app from launch day (February 2) to March 31.

Caveat tweetor

Before I get into the findings, a caveat. We’re measuring the number of tweets generated from within The Daily. We’re not directly measuring the number of readers of The Daily. Only a small fraction of readers are going to choose to tweet something they see in the app. The idea here is that that the number of tweets should generally go up when the number of readers go up — and vice versa.

It’s possible that there might be some reason why those would diverge. Social media and Twitter are getting more popular all the time, so it might be that tweets could increase even if usage remains steady. Or the app could make its sharing button less prominent and lead to fewer tweets (although in reality the layout remains the same since launch). It’s not a perfect match — just evidence of a general direction. Got it?

Decline, plateau, decline

The data doesn’t look good for The Daily. Its activity on Twitter seems to match my own perceptions of how they’re doing — an early rush of excitement; a decline as people lost interest and the app struggled with technical problems; a plateau once the tech got sorted out; and then another decline once the app started charging users.

In the nearly two months we’re looking at, only 6,026 tweets were generated within The Daily app. But much more discouraging is the trend. Here’s the raw data:

You can already see the broad decline. On its first full day of release, Feb. 3, The Daily generated 387 tweets. A week later, the number was 209; a week after that, 104.

The trend is clearer if you look at a 10-day moving average — that is, each point on this chart is the average of the previous 10 days. (For that reason, the first point is marked Feb. 11 and covers Feb. 2-11.) A moving average smoothes out the noise.

There’s a steady decline from the early peak until around Feb. 25. On Feb. 26, The Daily released version 1.0.3 of the app, which fixed some of the crashing and slowness problems that it had suffered from since launch.

From that point on, tweets from the app stayed fairly steady for almost a month. But you can see another inflection downward starting around March 21. That’s the day The Daily stopped being free and started charging 99 cents a week. (I’m actually a little surprised that that decline isn’t steeper. That’s a good sign — that the readers most likely to share their stories are paying up.)

While a certain amount of decline would be expected after the initial rush of attention, the fact that there’s never been an appreciable, sustained uptick in sharing isn’t cause for optimism. (Also remember that, in the middle of this stretch, Apple released the iPad 2 — literally millions of new iPads have been purchased in this narrow window, creating millions of new potential Daily customers who might want to download one of the platform’s most promoted apps.)

All in all, this doesn’t tell us how many people are reading The Daily — but it’s pretty good evidence the number has shrunk rather than grown.

But there’s more interesting info in this data set than the general trend line. Tomorrow, in part 2, I’ll look further into who’s sharing The Daily stories on Twitter, when they’re doing it, how in-app sharers differ from out-of-app sharers, and much more.

Come have a drink with Nieman Lab!

Do you ever come to the end of a workday and think: My day would be better — would be complete — if I could share a beverage with the Nieman Lab crew?

Here’s your chance. We’re having our first Lab happy hour Wednesday (that’s April 6) for our Boston-area readers and friends, at The Field.

That’s just a few steps away from the Central Square stop on the Red Line, so anyone near a T station should be able to get there without too much trouble. Here’s a map.

Nothing formal — just a chance for people interested in the future of news to get together. We’ll get there around 6 p.m. and stick around until at least 8, maybe later. The first 10 people to come say hi to me get a free beer. The next 10 get a talking-to about the importance of punctuality. The next 10 get a handshake. Anyone after that: a knowing nod.

Links on Twitter: CPI launches new news site, FT negotiates with Apple over subscribers and photojournalism in the new media age

Agence France-Presse wants to produce three times more video in two years http://nie.mn/eM00aA »

New Twitter.com keyword search breaks out people to follow (Try "journalism") http://nie.mn/ef2Xl4 »

The Great Migration: Lynton Prize winner Isabel Wilkerson on structuring epic stories http://nie.mn/hjAteY »

Tumblr’s Mark Coatney on sharing, engagement and why websites don’t value commenters http://nie.mn/h4lw4D »

ProPublica has made its interactive timeline tool, TimelineSetter, open source http://nie.mn/idntTX »

“Of the web, not on it” – Emily Bell on the success of The Guardian and plans for the Tow Center http://nie.mn/gjaMxq »

Today in Awesome: The Atlantic takes a choose your own adventure spin on the federal budget http://nie.mn/hgC5cK »

Jokes aside, could AOL have a talent problem? http://nie.mn/hVyQEY »

The ubiquity of cameras and the search for verification: Photojournalism and new media http://nie.mn/h4VkyM »

Consider this: More than 1/3 of all online display ads in the US appeared on Facebook http://nie.mn/eIf3AE »

Andrew Sullivan has officially relocated The Dish to The Beast http://nie.mn/hw9dSN »

The FT is trying to negotiate with Apple to keep new subscribers to the iPad app out of the app store http://nie.mn/ijP5KF »

A perceptible shift in mainstream news? @EthanZ analysis shows international news is rising in the US http://nie.mn/fjejfj »

The Knight Foundation has a new guide to help new nonprofits looking to fund journalism http://nie.mn/gAVMtO »

Why Mark Cuban thinks ESPN (and its reporters) aren’t getting the most out of Twitter http://nie.mn/eQ22tH »

The Daily Dot wants to be your hometown paper on the web http://nie.mn/hnwzco »

An app store, ebooks and the cloud drive. Amazon’s role in the new media arms race http://nie.mn/h87fpp »

The Center for Public Integrity is launching iWatch, a new investigative reporting site http://nie.mn/eRK0Nf »

Katie Couric is leaving the anchor chair, an anonymous CBS exec tells AP http://nie.mn/gH1VKN »