Ada Lovelace Day

About The Authors

Suw Charman-Anderson

Suw Charman-Anderson

Suw Charman-Anderson is a social software consultant and writer who specialises in the use of blogs and wikis behind the firewall. With a background in journalism, publishing and web design, Suw is now one of the UK’s best known bloggers, frequently speaking at conferences and seminars.

Her personal blog is Chocolate and Vodka, and yes, she’s married to Kevin.

Email Suw

Kevin Anderson

Kevin Anderson

Kevin Anderson is a freelance journalist and digital strategist with more than a decade of experience with the BBC and the Guardian. He has been a digital journalist since 1996 with experience in radio, television, print and the web. As a journalist, he uses blogs, social networks, Web 2.0 tools and mobile technology to break news, to engage with audiences and tell the story behind the headlines in multiple media and on multiple platforms.

From 2009-2010, he was the digital research editor at The Guardian where he focused on evaluating and adapting digital innovations to support The Guardian’s world-class journalism. He joined The Guardian in September 2006 as their first blogs editor after 8 years with the BBC working across the web, television and radio. He joined the BBC in 1998 to become their first online journalist outside of the UK, working as the Washington correspondent for BBCNews.com.

And, yes, he’s married to Suw.

E-mail Kevin.

Member of the Media 2.0 Workgroup
Dark Blogs Case Study

Case Study 01 - A European Pharmaceutical Group

Find out how a large pharma company uses dark blogs (behind the firewall) to gather and disseminate competitive intelligence material.


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All content © Kevin Anderson and/or Suw Charman

Interview series:
at the FASTforward blog. Amongst them: John Hagel, David Weinberger, JP Rangaswami, Don Tapscott, and many more!

Corante Blog

Friday, October 16th, 2009

links for 2009-10-16

Posted by Suw and Kevin

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

Requirements for success

Posted by Suw Charman-Anderson

I have been reading over some of the material that I’ve written for clients past and gathering some of the more widely applicable pieces together for a new client. A lot of my advice hasn’t changed from when I first wrote it, other than sometimes the names of tools. Anyway, I’m going to chuck a few bits and pieces up here for your perusal in an act that feels a bit like the blogging equivalent of finding a tenner down the back of the sofa.

There are a number factors that are required for success. These include:

Data safety: Users must feel secure that their data is safe, and that regardless of what happens, their data will be both saved and made accessible. This isn’t just about data recovery in case of fatal server loss, but about knowing that the data won’t be randomly deleted at some point in the future. There must be a guarantee that, even if the tool changes, the data will be preserved.

Service stability: Tools must be reliable and have very little downtime. Scheduled maintenance that requires a tool to be taken offline must be publicised in advance.

Senior management endorsement: Social tools need both grassroots and senior management adoption. Many people take their cues from senior management. Having senior figures both use and approve social tools will provide a sense of security for the rest of the company and will improve uptake.

Peer acceptance: Endorsement from senior managers by itself is not enough to ensure that people feel comfortable spending time learning and using new tools. They must also feel that their peers accept the tools and their use of them, even if those peers are not using the tools themselves to begin with.

Support on demand: Whilst most social tools are very simple to use, there is still a learning curve and users will require some support. Lightweight, on-demand support that can be provided on an ad hoc basis is the best way to ensure users feel able to experiment.

WYSIWYG editing: The closer social software applications are to providing the same editing environment as common word processing applications, the easier it is for people to learn to use them. Software that requires any specialist knowledge, such as wikis that require people to learn wiki mark-up language, will be harder to introduce to a non-IT community.

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

links for 2009-10-15

Posted by Suw and Kevin

  • Kevin: Paul Bradshaw gives an excellent list of plug-ins for journalists for WordPress. He highlights plug-ins that easily pull in other feeds and embed iFrames easily. Postalicious looks like a great plug-in to automatically publish links from a number of bookmarking services. I'll definitely be checking out the WP Web Scraper. That looks very powerful.
  • Kevin: Must read post for journalists about comments. " KNS reporter Jamie Satterfield has taken a the innovative (for the news industry) to walk amongst the trolls. She has posted some 50 responses to comments on those stories in an effort to help readers understand more about the case.

    To borrow Scripps' mission: Satterfield is shining light in an area of the Web site where rumor and opinion runs wild. And perhaps not surprisingly, when users see that a reporter is responding to their questions, they take notice. It cuts the riffraff and raises the level of discussion. "

  • Kevin: Legislation to save newspapers comes at a cost says Jack Shafer of Slate: "It weakens the enterprises that are rising from below to compete with them to deliver advertising and, yes, deliver news." 'New people with fresh ideas' are going to take media in a new direction.
  • Kevin: James Cridland looks at the various content management systems and the build vs buy versus free discussion, although he's not going to completely tell all in this post. Instead you have to come listen at the Radio at the Edge conference. It is a nice overview of some of the development, mostly in the UK, of CMSes and the technology behind them.
  • Kevin: Dan Blank gives a great list of lessons on building media revenue streams. If there is one lesson from the Great Recession is that many media companies became too reliant on a single, business-cycle sensitive revenue stream: Advertising. Without a diversified business, they are fully exposed to the ups and downs of the economy. Taking lessons from B2B publishing, he lists a number of possible routes to new revenue streams. One of my favourites: "Promise High Value that Solves Problems".

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

Readers must perceive ‘real value’ to pay

Posted by Kevin Anderson

PHD Media, a division of media and ad giant Omnicom Group, has released a new study that feeds into the paid content debate, reports CNBC. Julia Boorstin of CNBC highlights a few ’surprising factoids’.

  • The bottom line: consumers are reading more print content online, but the only way they’ll pay for it, is if they perceive a real value and when comparable free content isn’t readily available.
  • Another surprising factoid: consumers don’t care about the brand, they care about the content. (Except when it comes to sports)

Frankly, I don’t find the last one that surprising, especially when you factor in the study found that 44% of respondents in the study accessed a publication website through a search engine. Search is a fundamental shift in information consumption. People don’t browse for information but use search to seek it out and also rely on recommendations from friends.

As I’ve often said publicly, my reading habits are voracious and promiscuous. My reading habits tend to be subject led, not publication led. I seek out information. I am a little cautious of extrapolating my behaviour more broadly because I’m a journalist. I am paid to read, research, report and write. I’m also very digitally focused. I get most of my information via the internet or my mobile phone. However, recent studies such as this one show that I’m not unique in my habits.

This study reinforces my view that news organisations need to focus on developing services and products that deliver value to readers and not simply focus on building infrastructure to charge for existing content. Another take away from this study is that “just small a fraction of the 2,400 adults polled, read both the print and online versions of the same publication”. That leads me to believe that the products that we develop must serve the needs of digital audiences, and we should be careful about trying to focus digital development on services to appeal to print audiences.

The debate rolls on

The Great Paid Content Debate of 2009 rumbles on. On Tuesday at the Paley Centre, Stephen Brill on paid content services provider Journalism Online LLC said on Tuesday that people had been paying for print content for decades and that they just needed to get back into the habit online.

However, I tend to agree with Vivian Schiller, president and CEO of US public radio broadcaster NPR, when she commented at the event:

To think that we are so smart that we can retrain the audience, that’s an awfully elitist, condescending, and frankly old perspective.

Trying to bully consumers into behaving a certain way, especially in a way that is contrary to their current habits, doesn’t have a track record of success.

To be fair to Brill, he is not advocating putting all content behind paywalls and is working with news organisations to determine what content will become paid. However, I reject his basic premise, which he has stated over and over, that this is a matter of getting users accustomed to paying for content online. I do agree that to continue to support journalism, news organisations are going to have to develop new sources of revenue, digital and otherwise.

On that point, I’ll just re-iterate something that I’ve said before. In the Great Paid Content of 2009, some journalists and news executives have been playing fast and loose with facts (gasp, shock, that never happens), and one thing that I’m hearing with too much regularity is that newspapers can’t make money online, that digital is just some money pit that will never support quality journalism. I’ve heard this before in the late 1990s. To which I would say, just because your news organisation isn’t making money online, it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to make money on the internet.

Suw and I were in Norway recently, where media conglomerate Schibsted has an online classifieds joint venture with several local newspapers. In a prescient move, Schibsted launched the site, Finn.no, in 2000. It has grown into Norway’s largest classified site, and it’s a money spinner for Schibsted. The newspapers that will survive will realise that they are in the news not the newspaper business.

Progressive, forward-thinking news organisations made the shift from print to a diversified, multi-platform business before the Great Recession, and there are examples of  information products and services that news organisations could sell to help support journalism. Sadly, most news organisations didn’t make this transition. From the Financial Times:

Alarmingly, the industry has also so far “failed to make the digital transition”, according to a report last month from Outsell, a publishing research firm, which found that news organisations’ digital revenues were just 11 per cent of their total revenues, compared with 69 per cent for the broader information industry, which includes legal and financial data providers such as Reed Elsevier and Bloomberg. 

When we were in Norway, one of the comments that really struck me was a comment from a member of the Norwegian Online News Association who said that there had been plenty of editorial innovation in the last decade but not enough commercial innovation. To support the social mission of journalism, journalists will need to overcome their professional distate for the business side of the operation and lend their creativity to developing products and services that readers value. It’s not only possible but essential that we do this.

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

links for 2009-10-13

Posted by Suw and Kevin

Saturday, October 10th, 2009

links for 2009-10-10

Posted by Suw and Kevin

Friday, October 9th, 2009

AP’s Curley v Curley and News Corp’s Rupert v Rupert

Posted by Kevin Anderson

The newspaper industry has woken from its slumber, and they have realised the enemy is not the internet. The enemy is actually you and me, those of us who use the internet. According to the CEO of the Associated Press Tom Curley, “third parties are exploiting AP content without input and permission”, and:

Crowd-sourcing Web services such as Wikipedia, YouTube and Facebook have become preferred customer destinations for breaking news, displacing Web sites of traditional news publishers.

I’m linking to this on one of these third parties sites, Google News, which has a commercial hosting agreement with the AP. Those bloody paying parasites!

Curley was speaking at the World Media Summit in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People. Does Curley know who added those links to Wikipedia, shared those stories on Facebook or uploaded those videos to YouTube? Internet users, you, me and millions of others around the world. For Mr Curley, the internet is a “den of thieves“, says Jeff Jarvis.

Jeff offers his argument against this view of the world. However, I’d like to stage another bit of a debate, one possible through the virtual time travel of the internet. Let’s get ready to rumble! In this corner, we have the Curley of 2009, who argues:

We content creators must quickly and decisively act to take back control of our content.

With that jab, a slightly younger, slightly more optimistic Curley of 2004 lands a right hook: “The future of news is online, and traditional media outlets must learn to tailor their products for consumers who demand instant, personalized information.” The Curley of 2004 instead sees this future from his own past:

the content comes to you; you don’t have to come to the content so, get ready for everything to be ‘Googled,’ ‘deep-linked’ or ‘Tivo-ized’.

Ouch Tom 2009, that looks like it hurts. Next up in our virtual cage match is a spry 78-year-old, Rupert Murdoch! Let’s start with the Rupert of 2009:

The aggregators and plagiarists will soon have to pay a price for the co-opting of our content. But if we do not take advantage of the current movement toward paid content, it will be the content creators — the people in this hall — who will pay the ultimate price and the content kleptomaniacs who triumph.

Fighting back is the fighting fit Rupert “The Digital Immigrant” Murdoch of 2005:

Scarcely a day goes by without some claim that new technologies are fast writing newsprint’s obituary. Yet, as an industry, many of us have been remarkably, unaccountably complacent. Certainly, I didn’t do as much as I should have after all the excitement of the late 1990’s. I suspect many of you in this room did the same, quietly hoping that this thing called the digital revolution would just limp along.

It’s a shame to see this come to blows. These guys should really talk to each other. With Rupert 2009 on the ropes, Rupert 2005 delivers this shot:

What is happening is, in short, a revolution in the way young people are accessing news. They don’t want to rely on the morning paper for their up-to-date information. They don’t want to rely on a god-like figure from above to tell them what’s important. And to carry the religion analogy a bit further, they certainly don’t want news presented as gospel.

Instead, they want their news on demand, when it works for them.

They want control over their media, instead of being controlled by it.

Ouch. Can’t you guys make up your mind? Has the Great Recession changed consumer internet behaviour and media consumption trends? Or did the industry’s complacency finally catch up with it?

Friday, October 9th, 2009

links for 2009-10-09

Posted by Suw and Kevin

  • Kevin: Yang-May Ooi looks at Google's Sidewiki. She says that businesses always are nervous about blogging because they don't want the negative comments. She takes a different point of view from media reviews of Sidewiki and says that businesses need to pay attention to this tool. "My own view is that whether Sidewiki in its current form stays or goes, the trend is towards an open-source approach to commenting and discussions and we will be seeing more public, free-for-all (in all sense of that phrase) spaces for everyone and anyone to throw in their tuppence worth."
  • Kevin: "When longtime newspaperman and Web entrepreneur Alan Mutter started his blog, "Reflections of a Newsosaur," in 2004, he did so on a lark — thinking that he'd just experiment and learn about the technology. But after posting a few thoughts about the state of the news industry and the coming wave of new media, and then posting a few more, and then a few more, he was hooked. In the five years since, his blog has become a staple in the media world, a regular voice in the ongoing conversation about how the the media will somehow monetize content and save quality journalism."
  • Kevin: Headshift's Robin Hamman looks at the law surrounding marketing, PR and transparency. "Just about everyone I speak to in marketing and PR these days is talking about using blogs and social networking services to engage directly with consumers and other audiences, with many actually doing it - blogging or tweeting for the brands they support. However, before you go down this route, or try to enlist bloggers and social networkers to do it for you, there are several little known laws and regulations you should be aware of," Robin says.
  • Kevin: Is your site ready for success? It's not just about having the servers in place but also about social functionality design. "At the Future of Web Apps conference Kevin Rose (Digg, Pownce, Wefollow) gave a cool presentation on the top 10 down and dirty ways you can grow your web app." In terms of social, Kevin Rose urges people to engage, connect and interact with your community.
  • Kevin: Good tips from Alison Driscoll on how to set up a Facebook group. Events, messages and adding keywords to improve search will all help in creating a successful group.
  • Kevin: "This chapter is part of a new book, 'Playing Footsie with the FTSE?' edited by John Mair and Richard Lance Keeble, a collection of 20 articles by leading journalists and academics that asks why leading financial journalists and commentators failed to predict the biggest economic crisis in 70 years." I might just buy this book. I think the hindsight is not necessarily 20/20 when it comes to journalist failure to foresee the financial crisis and write credibly about it. There were many writers in the business press raising warning flags. The problem is that general interest newspapers and magazines didn't spot it. I read an article in Bloomberg magazine in July 2007 warning of the danger of CDOs. Still this book might be interesting as a post-mortem and better ways to cover the complex world of international finance.

Friday, October 9th, 2009

The curse of social media jargon

Posted by Suw Charman-Anderson

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about jargon, especially in the field of social media. As someone who’s watched the social media market grow up over the last seven years, I’ve also watched the field-specific terminology flourish and I’ve seen it frustrate and flummox people too.

Early in my social media career I had a client who could not explain what their company did without using huge amount of what was then brand-new terminology. It was a problem, because if you can’t explain to potential new clients what you do and how you do it in words they can understand, it can make it difficult to close new deals.

On the other hand when you are talking about new technology, ideas and concepts, sometimes you need new terms. There was no way to get around using the word “blog” (or “weblog”), for example, because existing terms like “website” or “web page” do not mean the same thing - a blog is distinctly different from a website or web page.

So where do you draw the line? A good social media consultant keeps specialist terminology to a minimum and explains new concepts when they crop up. In real life, of course, sometimes one can get a bit excited and the odd neologism can slip out, but it should be such that the context provides enough information that the listener can understand what’s going on.

Specialist terminology doesn’t just describe new technology and concepts, it also acts as a community identifier - talking about RSS and blogs and wikis and social networks marks me as a member of the social media community. It creates an “in-group” - people who all understand what I’m talking about because they are part of the same community. Of course, as soon as you create an in-group, you also create an out-group - all those people who haven’t the foggiest what I’m on about.

In-groups and out-groups are everywhere and we are all members of both sorts of groups in different context. I’m a member of the kitten in-group, but the puppy out-group, for example.

The job of the social media consultant is to act as a bridge between the social media in-group (developers, designers, community managers, other social media experts, etc) and its out-group (clients). At my best, I take the ideas, concepts and examples of social media and I express them in a way that I hope out-group members can understand.

Increasingly, I’m seeing social media consultants who are taking the specialist terminology to a whole new level by creating complex jargon to obfuscate meaning. Instead of bridging in-groups and out-groups, they are creating stronger linguistic barriers around the in-group, excluding more people. The people they are excluding aren’t just random strangers, they are clients. One would expect a good consultant to take their clients on a journey from the out-group into the in-group, rather than to park them firmly on the outside of a wall of jargon.

In some ways, this is a sad but reliable indicator that the social media market is maturing. Demand is high, supplier of competent and experienced consultants is low, and companies lack the knowledge to accurately assess the actual level of expertise of the individuals or agencies they are considering engaging. Thus they choose to work with those individuals or agencies who sound most impressive. (I’m sure they also look at track record, but for many that is either absent or not a reliable indicator.) Thanks to a widespread corporate culture that values unintelligible jargon, it’s the talkers who get hired, rather than the walkers.

It seems to me from casual observation that those people who understand social media, are pragmatic about it’s capabilities and who talk about it in plain English are now falling into a new out-group in opposition to the in-group of jargon-spouting charlatans. This is something that’s been coming on for a while. Frankly, I’m surprised it’s taken this long.

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

Follow The Digital Immigrant’s lead at your peril

Posted by Kevin Anderson

Roy Greenslade (who also blogs at the Guardian, where I work) pierces Rupert Murdoch’s air of invincibility.

Now, amid the recession, Murdoch is facing up to an uncomfortable reality. His company lost £2.13 billion last year, doing much worse than analysts had predicted. Most of those losses were directly attributable to his company’s acquisition of the Wall Street Journal and its clumsy move into digital media.

In my view, Murdoch is a 20th Century figure. He understands the mass media models of the 20th Century, but he never seems to have grasped the internet. In fact, Michael Wolff of Vanity Fair says that Murdoch has declared on the internet.

Murdoch can almost single-handedly take apart and re-assemble a complex printing press, but his digital-technology acumen and interest is practically zero. Murdoch’s abiding love of newspapers has turned into a personal antipathy to the Internet: for him it’s a place for porn, thievery, and hackers.

I’ve never seen him make a smart internet move. (Ok, I’ll cede that Hulu is smart and getting smarter.) He was late to the party in the 1990s, and by the time he took the dive it was on the eve of the crash and he dove headfirst into the dead pool. He pulled back with a vengeance, slashing and burning his digital divisions as he went. Rather than using his significant revenues to build for the future, he retreated into the past. After Google’s rise, The Digital Immigrant took another dive with the purchase of MySpace, but the social network was almost old news the moment he bought it. Now, he’s being portrayed as a paid content pioneer by terrified lemmings in the industry. They say: “Rupert has always been right in the past. He must be right now.”

Blindly follow Murdoch’s lead in digital at your peril. He’s a 20th Century visionary who has yet to display any vision in the 21st.