A model for local leaks: localeaks.com

A while ago I was thinking how a every region should have a WikiLeaks style service so people could leak information about their local councils and government. Localeaks.com seem to have a good system set up to do just this.

localeaks.com

Using Localeaks, you can send an anonymous tip, including a file, to over 1400 newspapers in the U.S. through one online form. Choose your state. Choose the newspaper. Enter your information and submit your anonymous tip.

Each drop-box consists of a secure web connection and a form that encrypts both files and the text submitted (then destroys the originals) as well as removes identifying metadata from documents. The system also makes every effort to leave no traceable remnants from the transaction, such as identifiable session cookies on the client side or logging of any IP addresses on the server side.

via Localeaks: A Drop-Box for Anonymous Tips to 1400 U.S. Newspapers – readwriteweb.com

Proof that paywalls don’t always have to drive readers away

Journalism Online says that pageviews fell between 0% and 20% and unique visits fell between just 0% and 7% (neither figure a huge disaster when you introduce a paywall), while advertising revenue didn’t fall at all for any of the titles.

It’s worth noting that the newspapers concerned didn’t block all content completely from non-paying visitors. Instead, only readers who view more than a set number of pages per month, usually between 5 and 20, have to pay.

The policy is stark contrast from the most high-profile recent paywall launches – those by Rupert Murdoch in the UK for his Times, Sunday Times and News of the World titles. In those cases, all content is completely blocked until you stump up some cash (or at least sign up for a free trial). We’re still to hear exactly how successful this policy has been. Publisher News International released some vague figures that weren’t very enlightening, while the unofficial word is that the policy didn’t start out well.

(via Proof that paywalls don’t always have to drive readers away – thenextweb.com)

Perhaps a paywall like this could work for community sites too.

If you set this meter conservatively, which we urge people to do, it’s a nonevent for 85, 90, 95 percent of the people who come to your Web site,” Mr. Brill said.

(via Journalism Online Examines Pay Model – nytimes.com)

What a brilliant name!

So you found something cool on the internet…

So you found something cool on the internet...

Loldwell and Rosscott created this handy “So you found something cool on the Internet” comic flowchart to help encourage proper attribution of people’s work found on the Internet.

“See Something? Cite Something.” Amen brother!

Help support these awesome guys by buying one of their t-shirts or posters.

(via Comic Flowchart That Encourages Attribution of Work Found Online – laughingsquid.com)
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European news agenda

More than one million news articles in 22 languages have been analysed using the latest technology to pinpoint the factors that influence and shape the news agenda in 27 European countries. 

Every day hundreds of news outlets across Europe choose which story to cover from a wide and diverse selection. While each outlet may make news choices based on individual criteria, clear patterns emerge when these choices are studied across many outlets and over a long period of time.

They discovered that chosen news content reflects national biases, as well as cultural, economic and geographic links between countries. For example outlets from countries that trade a lot with each other and are in the Eurozone are more likely to cover the same stories, as are countries that vote for each other in the Eurovision song contest. Deviation from ‘normal content’ is more pronounced in outlets of countries that do not share the Euro, or have joined the European Union later.

Professor Lewis said: “This approach has the potential to revolutionise the way we understand our media and information systems. It opens up the possibility of analysing the mediasphere on a global scale, using huge samples that traditional analytical techniques simply couldn’t countenance. It also allows us to use automated means to identify clusters and patterns of content, allowing us to reach a new level of objectivity in our analysis.”

Professor Cristianini, University of Bristol added: “Automating the analysis of news content could have significant applications, due to the central role played by the news media in providing the information that people use to make sense of the world.”

(via European news agenda – cardiff.ac.uk/news)

Sadly though, there is no elaboration on exactly which shared interests countries have, and exactly what kind of issues outlying countries are more interested in. (Most likely, news about non-EU countries’ that share their other borders.)

The big potential use I can see for all of this is the automated discovery of potential stories of interest – a feed of ‘stories my local media are not reporting’. It would be interesting to see if the same techniques could work for the entire news output of a single country, so we could get an analysis of stories across the UK.

It seems the researchers really went above and beyond what should be possible for their study…

[…] the team was able to analyse 1,370,874 articles – a sample size well beyond existing research techniques.

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i is for Interesting

Andrew Mullins, Managing Director of The Independent, said: “Quality newspapers provide a highly valuable audience for advertisers, but recently print circulations have been in decline and the average age of the audience has been increasing.

“Time-poor newspaper readers, and especially commuters, have been telling us for years that they are inundated with information and just don’t have the time to read a quality newspaper on a regular basis. We are creating a newspaper for the 21st century that is designed for people who have a thirst for information and entertainment in the limited time that they have available. i is a reader-led newspaper with broad reach and intelligence.”

via The Independent launches i – independent.co.uk

Blah, blah, blah. Really, do they have to use such boring, stuffy, patronising marketing copy?

Still, it’s an interesting idea to create a paper for generation-ADD. I can see the name being nothing but a burden for them though!

(via @ramskill)

Interesting column about which NY Times stories are the most shared

More emotional stories were more likely to be e-mailed, the researchers found, and positive articles were shared more than negative ones. Longer articles generally did better than shorter articles, although Dr. Berger said that might just be because the longer articles were about more engaging topics.

[…]

Building on prior research, the Penn researchers defined the quality as an “emotion of self-transcendence, a feeling of admiration and elevation in the face of something greater than the self.”

They used two criteria for an awe-inspiring story: Its scale is large, and it requires “mental accommodation” by forcing the reader to view the world in a different way.

“It involves the opening and broadening of the mind,” write Dr. Berger and Dr. Milkman, who is a behavioral economist at Wharton.

(via nytimes.com)

It sounds like a really interesting study. I’ve had a notion for some years now to start a blog on ‘futurology’ or something similar. Now I’m wondering if that could be a hit…

Is there any good reason to use title case?

The convention followed by many British publishers (including scientific publishers, like Nature, magazines, like The Economist and New Scientist, and newspapers, like The Guardian and The Times) is the same used in other languages (e.g., French), namely to use sentence-style capitalization in titles and headlines, where capitalization follows the same rules that apply for sentences. This convention is sometimes called sentence case where a term is desired to clarify that title case shall not be applied. It is also widely used in the United States, especially in bibliographic references and library catalogues. Examples of global publishers whose English-language house styles prescribe sentence-case titles and headings include the International Organization for Standardization.

(via en.wikipedia.org)

I’ve developed the habit of using sentence case for headlines, but now I’m facing a situation where I’m probably going to have to adapt to a new style guide and start using Title Case at work. I’ve developed a strong preference for sentence case, and now find title case to be ugly and tabloid-esque.

It seems likely to me that title case is a hangover from the days of more primitive typesetting, when you would need to distinguish between BIG HEADLINES, Important Headlines, and regular text.

In these days of HTML and CSS, is there really any good reason to use title case?

Britons remain tolerant despite terror outrages

Okay, so I know the Metro isn’t exactly the bastion of great journalism or anything, but they ran a story today based on a Harris Interactive study, that bugged me: METRO: Britons remain tolerant despite terror outrages (the linked story lacks the infographics that accompanied the printed article).

Harris Interactive interviewed 1,296 people, who were asked to rank their strength of faith from 0-10, with zero being agnostic. I’m curious why the Metro used this label. Surely atheist is the correct definition for someone with 'zero faith'? To me, agnosticism implies that some doubt – trace amounts of faith – may remain.

The main issue the data raised for me was completely ignored by the article. Those surveyed were asked which religion was 'best' and which was 'worst'. Sensibly, 65% answered that no one religion was better or worse. Christianity stormed ahead in popular opinion however, with 26% voting it the 'best'. The 'worst', according to 24%, was Islam.

That result, in my view, contradicts the Metro's conclusion that we remain tolerant. Also, there is a very strong implication that it's the Christians that have the biggest problem with Islam. Sadly, the Harris Interactive data hasn’t been published on their site to elaborate on the Metro's assertions.

I left a (polite and reasonable) comment on the Metro post, but it wasn’t published.