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

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Related ad fail of the day

Posted by Kevin Anderson

adfail.jpg

Suw is flying back from a week in San Francisco after going to O’Reilly’s Social Foo Camp. When she flies, I sometimes track the flight live on Google Earth or sites like FlighAware or FBOWeb. Now, do I really want to watch a video of a fatal Russian plane crash that left nine dead as I track my wife’s flight home? I think not.

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

What’s missing from the Google/newspapers discussion

Posted by Suw Charman-Anderson

It seems to have become fashionable recently for members of the media to rail against Google, claiming that the search giant is significantly to blame for the demise of newspapers. The arguments appear to include:

  • Google is a parasite that makes money off newspapers content through aggregating it
  • Google, by acting as a middleman, deprives newspapers of control and therefore income
  • Visitors from Google are of low value because they do not stay to explore a site and therefore are not exposed to enough ads to make their visit worthwhile to the news outlet

In my opinion, these arguments are all wrong, but rather than debate them here (other people are already doing it), I’m curious to ask why two key parts of the problem are being utterly ignored.

Google enables existing behaviours
Before newspapers started publishing on the web, newspaper readers had a limited number of choices if they wanted to read what the paper had printed: read someone else’s copy, or buy and read their own. Once someone has bought a paper, the tendency is to read substantial portions of it, or even read it cover-to-cover including the bits one doesn’t really care about.

I am sure that there are psychological forces at work here, perhaps cognitive biases such as ownership bias. After all, who hasn’t felt the desire to get the most value for money out of a newspaper or magazine purchase by reading as much as one can manage, even when one has run out of any real interest?

That behaviour, and the forces that encourage it, is absent online. Instead of feeling obliged to oneself to make the most of a newspaper purchase, people are now searching for only the information that they need or want. They become promiscuous browsers, instead of dedicated readers.

Google facilitates that behaviour, a behaviour which was present before Google existed, and which will continue after Google is gone. The news outlets, however, are fixated on the idea of a dedicated reader and I’ve heard some journalists get positively indignant at the suggestion that promiscuous browsing is not just a normal behaviour, but rapidly becoming the default. They think that dedicated reading is the one true way to absorb news, and look down upon anything else.

This prejudice is damaging the news industry badly, because if your whole revenue generating mechanism, not to mention your metrics for success, is built upon the idea of people spending lots of time on your site, reading lots of articles, then your business is built on sand. Instead of working from a set of assumptions that are no longer valid, how about the news industry learns how their readers’ lives, attitudes and behaviours have changed, and uses that as a basis for developing a more robust business model. After all, people aren’t going to go back to their old habits. Ever.

Advertising innovation can be done by companies other than Google
Whilst Google News runs no adverts, news content does make its way into the general search results where advertising does very well for Google. This, for reasons unclear to me, is seen by some in the news industry as a grave assault, to be fought and destroyed.

Yet Google, alongside Craigslist, Gumtree and their brethren, are ripe for advertising disruption. The sites that were the disrupters can themselves be sideswiped, by the very sort of clever innovation that appears to be almost entirely lacking in the news industry. Why have news outlets not put together their own versions of TextAds and AdSense, allowing advertisers to buy text ads on certain topics, categories, or keywords? Can I go to a major news website and buy a keyword directly from them? Why are news organisations, who have been in the advertising game forever, relying on third party tools to spread excess ad inventory across their extended blog network? Why give away that slice of the pie to someone else?

Where is the advertising innovation? And no, annoying pop-ups, rich-media ads and irritatingly loud audio ads do not count. They are about as innovative as a slap round the face with a wet haddock - they are old school, scattershot, relying on interruption instead of relevance, and worst of all, they infuriate the visitor so much that even if the ads had been of interest, their childishness is terminally off-putting.

It feels like the news outlets have abdicated responsibility for finding new and better ways for their advertisers to buy space, time and keywords, to manage their own accounts, make their own decisions on where they want their ads to appear and manage their own budget.

It’s time for the news outlets to reclaim advertising, to learn from Google, Craigslist and Gumtree and beat them at their own game. Railing away at Google or any other site that’s eating their lunch is, however, a waste of time and a distraction that the industry can ill afford at the moment.

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

Conventions, journalism workflow 2.0 and Chrome as a Web OS

Posted by Kevin Anderson

Suw and I are still bedding in, so to speak, with the brilliant new WordPress-powered Strange Attractor, and one of the things that I haven’t quite set up is Del.icio.us auto-posting (although ‘auto’ might be a stretch seeing as the feature seems to work when it wants to). Until we get it working again, I’ll just have to post some of the things that catch me eye.

Convention opportunity costs

I’ve already written about my views on the excessive coverage of the US political conventions. It doesn’t take 15,000 journalists to cover a four-day informercial by the political parties. I would be thrilled if the 15,000 journalists actually cut through the stage-managed crap and told the American people and the world what these candidates actually planned to do, but they don’t.

Jeff Jarvis has much the same view and put it excellently both on BuzzMachine and his weekly column at the Guardian (my day job):

The attention given to the conventions and campaigns is symptomatic of a worse journalistic disease: we over-cover politics and under-cover the actions of our governments. We over-cover politicians and under-cover the lives and needs of citizens. . . .

We don’t need the press to tell us what the politicians say; we can watch it ourselves on the web. We don’t need pundits to tell us what to think; we can blather as they do on our blogs. The rise of mass media - primetime TV - ensured that conventions would never surprise again: they became free commercials. The internet then took away the last reasons to devote journalistic resources to the events - there’s nothing we can’t see and judge on our own.

Brooke Gladstone at On the Media flagged up the childish behaviour of the on-air ‘talent’. At FoxNews, Bill O’Reilly petulantly complained about a newspaper that had insulted him, and MSNBC’s Chris Matthews had a go at colleague Keith Olberrmann for making a ‘yackity-yack’ hand gesture for whittering on. I agree with Ms Gladstone when she says:

After Obama’s speech, true to form, the pundits told us how to feel about it. This week, the cable news talkers told us that Obama had to reveal himself, but so did the news channels. They all saw this week as promotion for themselves, as much as Obama, and they tried to tell us how to feel about them.

But I don’t feel that good, frankly, because they got in the way of the story, because they made themselves the story. Because if this truly was the historic event they kept telling us it was, then they all talked way too much.

Pundits are getting in way of the story. They think we need them to tell us how to feel or think. I don’t think I’m alone in resenting when people try to tell me how to think or feel. Besides, now if I feel the need to entertain myself with anchors behaving like children, I can always watch it the next day on YouTube.

‘Lifecycle of a New Story’

Alison Gow wrote an excellent post of how the journalism work flow differs now in the age of the social media. She expertly and succinctly walks journalists through traditional reporting and how things can be. (I originally wrote have changed, but this is a work in process.) Every step of the reporting process can draw on new social media tools and tap into a broader range of expertise. I’ll flag up one of her five steps:

Step Two

Reporter researches story (Web 1.0)

Phones/meets contacts to verify information; searches Google for background/experts; finds expert and emails questions; includes response in article; sets up photo opportunity with picture desk; writes article and sends to newsdesk.

Reporter researches story (Web 2.0)

Crowdsources idea using social networks; uses blog searches and blog translators to find posts and experts worldwide; uses own blog to post developing and ask for input and suggestions from readers; sets up online survey and poll (promotes these using links to it from own blog, Facebook page and online forums); posts links and questions on specialist messageboards; searches social bookmarking tools for related issues; uses video discussion site to seek views; records telephone interview for podcast; collates findings and discusses package with print and digital news editors; films video report; begins writing detailed, analytical article for print product, accompanied by quality images - some found by picturedesk searching photo-sharing websites’ Creative Commons pool.

It’s a great post. Keep it handy. Distribute it to your staff, and flag up her conclusion. “I had no idea when I started doing this how thin the ‘old’ opportunities for investigating stories would look compared to the tools at our disposal now; it’s quite stark really.”

Read the comments. Alison talks about the tools she uses.

I’ll be writing more about the tools that I plan to use to manage all the work I will be doing on my upcoming US Election road trip, mentioned in my post about how to geo-tag photos. The blog launches next week, but I’m already reaching out into the social networks that I am part of.

Chrome as a web operating system

Steve Yelvington consistently writes insightful posts about new media, the newspaper business and community. Steve is a journalist through and through, and he also has an excellent grasp of the web and technology. Last year, he told me over dinner how he wrote a Usenet news reader for the Atari ST in 1985.

Steve sees Google’s Chrome not simply as a web browser but as a ‘Web operating system’.

The vision for Chrome, as documented in a 38-page Web comic, is to create an environment that optimally manages and coordinates Web-based applications. That sounds a lot like the classic definition of an operating system: “An operating system (commonly abbreviated OS and O/S) is the software component of a computer system that is responsible for the management and coordination of activities and the sharing of the resources of the computer. The operating system acts as a host for applications that are run on the machine.”

He sees Chrome as a game-changer.

NOTE: People have taken issue with the EULA, saying that by using Chrome you give Google “a perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide, royalty-free, and non-exclusive license” to do what the search giant wants to do with content submitted using the application. Gizmodo says that Google is updating the EULA to ‘be less creepy‘.