Hoping to Posterous my way to active blog

posterousmeSo, as you may have noticed, this blog has become less active – which isn’t the end of the world, nor is it all that uncommon. But I’m playing with Posterous, first to try to breathe some life into this thing, and second, because I’m thinking it (or a tool like it) could be a great way to get some breaking news onto our current or future NECN.com.

If you haven’t checked out Posterous – its key feature for me isn’t its ease of posting to the Posterous site, which can be found in Tumblr and other platforms that allow you to quickly make short posts and share images, video and more with great ease. Don’t get me wrong, that in itself is cool.

But what is cooler is the ease with which someone can email an entry to Posterous, and have it autopost to numerous other platforms, including WordPress. NECN’s blogs are all done through WordPress, and I (try to) update many of them with news and more. I also have a number of reporters who would post more if they didn’t have to log into a new mobile app to make basic posts, or who get intimidated by having to handle images and video files.

And as we think out parts of our new site, this could be something quite user-friendly for updating blogs or even parts of the site – although that could take a little coordination and effort beyond what we can pull off. But I can see it – there’s breaking news. We have four crews on the scene, but they’re in different places, getting photos, interviews and video, and we either can’t get a live truck to them or get some of them to the truck. If I can use Posterous (or use something like it) to get them all to email back their photos and info – presto! Instant live blog. Supplement it with information being gathered at the station and citizen journalism and you could have a heck of a service.

Playing with the iPhone yesterday, I had video shot, trimmed and posted to Posterous in four minutes. I’ll be playing with it more in the coming days, so while you might see some experimentation and test posting on here, I’m hoping you’ll find it worthwhile.

What are your thoughts? Is there a place for these not-quite-full blog services? Or better question – how do you see them best being used?

Plotting a future for NECN.com

I have been woefully neglecting this blog for too long. But I’m hoping a new project I’m working on will inspire me – and you.

Over the next couple of months, we will be doing some major reworking of NECN.com, and I want your input.

Here’s the basic question: If you were to build a new news site – what kind of site would you want it to be?

A few limiting factors – I have a handful of staff (3 full-time equivalents), and I’m not getting a windfall from somewhere to add tons of people or other resources. What I do get is a sort of clean slate to tweak things, and an opportunity to have a discussion with people who might be interested in news, have an interest in New England and have ideas. If you’re reading my blog, you likely fit all three.

Let’s start with a basic question – what’s your favorite site for news, and in a sentence or two, why?

I’ll be adding questions regularly, and maybe this will be a discussion that goes beyond the timeframe for the NECN.com work. While there are a lot of “news people” who are having this discussion, I wonder how many of those discussions go down to the level they should – to you folks who actually read the stuff.

Thanks for sharing, and we can see where we can go from here.

Trying to build a more community-driven look at news – myself

I have been busy on other blogs, but absent from my own of late… for a number of reasons. Let’s see… among them:

1) my wife and I are buying a house, which has been something out of Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink” – really, we weren’t planning on it, but it did, and now we’re in the process of purchase and sale, and inspections, and oh yeah, selling our own house. All very cool – but not very convenient.

2) at work, at NECN we have launched a few new blogs, including New England Gardener (the name is pretty self-explanatory) and Biz Day Buzz (the blog of our “Business Day” show, plus we are trying to play with a little new technology, maybe finding a way to incorporate simpler video blogs via Flip cams into our daily work.

3) I’m trying to get some bike time, because I have decided to ride in the 2009 Pan Mass Challenge. Considering in March my back decided to protest and went out for about a week, I’m a little nervous – but the PMC has two great motivators. One is its noble and important mission – the other is that once you commit, you’re in for the minimum donation of $4200. That’s wonderfully inspirational. You can follow my progress there on yet another NECN blog, teamnecn.com.

and 4) Despite my relative inexperience in the blog development world, I am trying to dip a toe in the water of giving NECN community members a chance to look at news in a different way, with a blog called News Chowder. The business-minded side of me knows that I should actually turn over the development to people who know what the heck they were doing. But I want to try to figure this out, both because it is a good learning experience and because it serves as an important measure of just how easy it is to build a New York Times “TimesWire”-like site for a news operation, but one which could incorporate story ratings and comments where it makes sense. It’s definitely a work in progress, and not quite ready for public rollout yet. (A visit to newschowder.com brings you to a site maintenance page that I will take down soon.)

Reality – the more I work on it the more I feel like I’m not really breaking too much new ground. But I am hoping that setting up a news stream will give people an easier way to check back on a regular basis and see what is new, plus give us a much simpler way to post developing news in a more appropriate place. NECN.com as it stands now is a finished product site – driven by video, which makes sense for us as a TV news operation. But its design doesn’t do as great a job for text-only or short updates of stories.

But at some point soon, I’ll take down the curtain and let people peer inside. I’ve got NECN stories feeding into the blog, as well as posts from the NECN blogs. Still working on things like tag clouds and image imports – but I’m getting there.

You’ll also note a certain similarity to Yankee 2.0 – I mean, hey, I found a theme I like in StudioPress’ Streamline theme. So I’m running with it again. It’ll evolve, I’m sure, as I figure it out.

But while I build – a question. What would you like to see from your local news site? Pick a suggestion. Any suggestion. Let me know in the comments. I can’t promise everything – but I promise I’ll try.

Or if you don’t have just that much inspiration – throw some site suggestions out there. Pick a site you like and say why you like it. Then we’ll see if a guy with minimal skills can create something you want to visit.

Mmmm… investigative journalism pie

I do my best to keep up with Jeff Jarvis over at Buzz Machine, although he writes so prolifically that I always fall behind.

Good post from him today – on the Huffington Post contributing $1.75 million to fund investigative journalism efforts around the country. It’s an interesting concept, as is Jeff’s sense that this can be one piece of a pie through which some form of news organizations can emerge. I believe strongly in his theory that the news organizations of the future, rather than monopolizing the ability to gather news (which we can’t), will be important as aggregators and curators of that information.

But give his post a read.

Where actual livestream history was made

With all due respect to the New York Times headlines about President Obama making history with a live internet chat, we quietly made history of our own with Gov. Deval Patrick last night at NECN – taking live questions for a sitting Governor via Twitter during his town hall meeting at the JFK Presidential Library last night in Boston.

Well, it was a little history. There were a number of good questions submitted to the hashtag #townmeeting during the hour-long event, but in the end, only one was used. The problem? With a live audience eagerly waiting to ask questions and dozens of quality email questions to choose from, there was a wealth of great possibilities. From the behind the scenes standpoint, we had a number of questions ready to go, but then the conversation would shift to a new topic, and rather than revisit the old ones, the producers and moderator R.D. Sahl went in the new direction.

The tweeted question, from Twitter user @jdvarlaro, is about 9 minutes into this clip.

The disappointment at only getting one question in there aside, if I do say so myself, I felt like we were on something here way more innovative, engaging and interactive than George Stephanopoulos’ “twinterview” of John McCain (which was a gimmick, let’s just say it) or even the President’s meeting. I saw a lot of potential for an engaging Q and A combining Twitter as an avenue for concise thoughtful questions and video for thoughtful, engaging answers. Governor Patrick seemed at ease with the technology (although I don’t think he has caught up with the rest of his office as far as using Twitter goes), and I for one would love to do this again – and let Twitter drive more of the discussion. Or Seesmic.

We will do this again – with whom remains to be seen. And next time, I hope not to have another bit of history repeat itself. I ran the livestream while flat on my back with back trouble in my bedroom, so I couldn’t be as big an advocate for the Twitter questions both before and during the event as I would have been in the control room. Of course, the fact that I could lie in bed in my house, taking a feed from Boston running through a control room in Newton and get it on the web using Mogulus is pretty amazing in its own right.

Fear and closings (and opportunity) in lost papers

As part of my segment today (after the obligatory iPhone update mention), I quickly discussed the online future of two more publications to stop the presses in the last three weeks. The demise of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in print today and that of the Rocky Mountain News on February 27th has cost hundreds of jobs and silenced a historic voice in each of those communities.

But they also provide two very interesting and divergent models for a possible future in online news. Both come to the table with relative strong numbers – the Rocky had a circulation advantage over the P-I, but the P-I has a notably larger online base – and with a century and a half of history in their cities.

But while the new seattlepi.com will apparently rely on an advertising-driven model (as evident in the fact they are keeping 20 news and 20 sales positions in the new P-I), a group of Rocky staffers are making a noble – and perhaps futile – effort to attract a paid subscriber base.

For as little as $4.99 per month, people can subscribe to the new In Denver Times, which will feature original content and probably not look all that much different than the new P-I. Both sites will presumably supplement their own content by linking out and by aggregating blog content. But for the Times to even see the light of day, it needs 50,000 subscriber commitments by April 23, which would be the 150th anniversary of the Rocky Mountain News.

But if the build it, will people come? Will fans of the old Rocky sign up for a monthly fee to get access to the new Times? If it was your town, and your former newspaper, would you? And more importantly, would your less-media savvy friends and neighbors? And will the seattlepi.com be able to retain the paper’s advertisers? (Scott Karp of Publishing 2.0 says it’s hardly a guarantee).

I’d love to get your thoughts. And we can all sit back and see what happens in two major cities where publications are trying to make the switch.


NECN’s new Tweetgrid application

I’m not much a code guy, but I do enjoy learning, and I am excited to watch NECN’s embrace of Twitter grow stronger over the past few weeks.

This weekend, I decided we had the critical mass to take our various streams to the NECN.com site. Using Tweetgrid and some tables work, I built a series of four grids, one for news, one for sports, one for weather and one for behind the scenes people across the station.


It’s the latest in a continuing series of efforts to make things more transparent at the station. I am also mentally promising to do more tweeting of the editorial process during the day, even as we sign up more and more people at the station to tweet on their own.

Twitterfallin’ in love again…

Sing along with me.

Fallin’ in love again,
Never wanted to.
What am I to do?
I can’t help it.

The world of search on Twitter is growing again, giving Twitter the ability to be an even stronger news source.

Twitter has updated its own web interface for most users (the rest will get it soon) to let you search tweets and see the top trending topics right from your home page. Simply look for the search box in the upper right corner of the page.

It is a great tool for anyone who wants to find the latest information on topics, the latest news or follow an event where people are tweeting. Search ‘stem cell’ later on Monday as the President announces his new stem cell research plans, and you’ll no doubt find a lot of information streaming through the Twitterverse.

A couple of other programs put a different user interface on the trends. Twitscoop was one of the first. It puts the top 30 or so trending topics in a tag cloud and lets you mouse over to see some of the most recent tweets on a topic. You can also create an embeddable Twitscoop cloud for your blog or site.

But the hot new kid on the block is Twitterfall. The site delivers you a live stream of Twitter talk, where you can control the speed of the flow to as fast as a seizure-inducing 10 tweets per second. You can also check off a box for any of the top trending topics and Twitterfall will give you a stream for that specific topic, or you can set your own search Twitterfall, to give you the most recent tweets on any topic of your choosing. it’s a great interface, and mind-numbingly engaging. You can’t help but watch. It’s tweet crack. Twit-nicotine.

Cue the music again.

But the growth of these services highlights one big difference between Twitter and Facebook, and a difference that suggests there is room for both in the wacky world of web. Even after Facebook rolls out its update this week, it is a walled garden. You approve your friends (or companies) that you want to follow, and only then do you see their real-time updates. For many people, that’s a perfect solution.

But if you’re someone who wants to get the pulse of the general public on topics, Twitter (and all these search applications) let you reach a wider world that you don’t already know. Different audiences – different platforms.

So check them all out, and the next time you are looking to be hip and ummm, trendy, you might want to give search and Twitterfall a try.

@rdsahl + @massgovernor twitter Q + A ok!

Yesterday’s announcement that the Massachusetts Governor’s office was setting up a Web portal to let taxpayers see how any economic stimulus money that comes to Massachusetts is being spent is just the latest effort by the Patrick Administration to get ahead of the governmental curve on technology.

Things are far from perfect, but the Governor’s office has stepped up its efforts to reach out with personal and office pages for Governor Patrick on Facebook, frequent video updates of Governor’s events on YouTube, and most recently, a stronger social networking presence on Twitter, as @massgovernor.

NECN’s R.D. Sahl put that presence to the test on Twitter last week, and got some interesting results.

Gov. Patrick: WashPost blog floats your name for HHS. Are you in the mix? Would you take if offered. Thanks.

(He also DM’d the Governor’s office with this question.)

Typically, the routine for reporters would be this:
Pick up the phone.
Call the Governor’s office.
Tell the nice person on the other end of the phone that you need a comment. In this case, on this report that Gov. Patrick might be considered for HHS secretary. The nice person takes a message.
And then, a few hours later – usually after another phone call, or if you don’t call, about 5 minutes after your story airs – get the response in an email.
Total time: A long wait (at least it always seems long), and a little stress.

Instead, because he used Twitter and the Governor’s Office is social media-savvy (@massgovernor), something different happened. Fifty-eight minutes later this appeared in the public Twitter stream:

@rdsahl As the governor has said countless times, he is staying put and running for re-election. - Kyle Sullivan, Press Secretary

OK – I’ll admit now that I didn’t expect a response at all. I’m not sure R.D. did either. But after Adam Gaffin user oddjob60 posed the question on Universal Hub, I asked R.D. why he did it. He replied, “It was the most direct way to ask the question.”

It was also something anyone could have done – it didn’t have to be R.D., or any journalist. It could have been anyone out there.

It was also far more immediate – total time of the Q and A – 58 minutes, and the audience to the discussion had the answer at the same time as the journalist who asked the question. And anyone could have jumped in for a followup @ reply, if they wished. Adam and a commenter on Universal Hub said it takes the media ‘middleman’ out of the equation. But after thinking about it, I give it a little different spin.

What Twitter did in this situation was make the process wholly transparent. R.D.’s job is to be plugged in to what’s going on in the world, and that’s a valuable role. He’s already all over the web, pulling together the interesting tidbits from all over the globe as part of his job. But instead of being solely a media filter, the Twitter set up lets him be a unfiltered purveyor of thoughtful questions.

Now, it should be noted that you might not get as quick a response. If everyone in Massachusetts who is on Twitter submitted a question to the governor’s office (and odds are we could all come up with one), it would be an avalanche that could take months to deal with. But it can still be a great way to build a connection between the state’s people – and it’s chief executive.

You may want to check out the Governor’s office on Twitter. Whatever you think of his policies – it’s good to know there are a few ways to get a little attention.

With this link, I thee offend…

Gatehouse Media’s lawsuit against the New York Times Co.’s aggregation of ‘Wicked Local’ content on its sites could have a wicked big impact on some journalism efforts.

UPDATE: Editor’s note: Or it won’t. The two sides settled over the weekend, but didn’t let anyone know until this morning. On the plus or minus side – that pretty much kills any likelihood that we will get anything precedent setting from the case. Not sure if the fact that there were Wicked Local posts on Your Town: Newton today says anything about the deal.

For a lot of bloggers, getting your stories linked on Boston.com is a dream. Links can drive up traffic and give you exposure. But for Gatehouse Media, publishers of the “Wicked Local” network of sites, the links are unwelcome – and illegal.

Gatehouse is suing the New York Times Company, which owns the Boston Globe and Boston.com, for copyright infringement for posting excerpts and links to Wicked Local content on NYT Co’s “Your Town” sites. The sites are set up to aggregate content from Wicked Local and other publishers and blogs, as well as appropriate content from the Globe and Boston.com. That trial begins today in Federal Court in Boston.

I talked about it this morning (briefly) on NECN.

The case itself can get pretty complicated pretty quickly. But it could have a critical effect on how journalists use links in their work. David Ardia of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society has a long discussion of the case on the Nieman Journalism Lab website. Ardia’s Citizen Media Law Project at the Berkman Center also has a page dedicated to the case, which includes lots of links.

It should be a fascinating case, and hugely important to the future definition of ‘fair use’ of information online.

Meanwhile, if you were wondering what all those political fact-checking sites will do now that there are no campaigns to analyze, the folks at Politifact.com are doing a little follow up. Their “Obameter” is tracking 509 different campaign promises made by Barack Obama in the 2008 campaign, and rating him on a scale from “promises kept” to “promises broken.”

A couple of questions come to mind – is “promises broken” too harsh if there are ideas that the White House tries to push through that get blocked in Congress? There is a category calleed “stalled” that might cover Obama in that case.

And it would be interesting (although painfully time-consuming) for researchers to go back and see how other Presidents have done on the same scale? How did President Bush do in 2000 or 2004? My guess is there is a pretty wide gulf between promises made and promises kept for a number of reasons, and the scale Politifact is using might make any president look like a failure. It would be some nice context.