Monday, January 25, 2010

Journalists use of Social Media

If you have read Malcolm Gladwell's book The Tipping Point, you know that there is a point at which a rolling snowball of an idea becomes an avalanche of thought and majority in its target user-base. And now, if a recent study is to be believed then the use of social media for news gathering has reached tipping point in journalism.

The report from a survey of 371 journalists and editors in the USA states that for their research:
  • 55% use micro blogging sites (e.g. Twitter)
  • 65% use social networks
  • 89% use blogs
However one of the report's authors is keen to make the points that using these sources does not replace a journalist or an editor's function. 49% of respondents also cite social media's "Lack of fact-checking, verification or reporting standards" as the primary reason to question the reliability of news from these site.

Perhaps someone should point out to them the growing story from yesterday's Irish Mail on Sunday newspaper, which apparently took selected quotes from Air Traffic Controller Melanie Dawn's blog to sensationalise a story about sexism in her work place.

This was all done without her consent, which is why Melanie is apparently now seeking legal advice (and probably why the story cannot be found anywhere on the Mail's site.... funny that!

Perhaps before declaring the lack of standards of social media, journalist should look at little closer to home first?

Thanks to the following for the photo:

Thursday, January 21, 2010

New York Times and its paywall

OK, I've not blogged in a few days, mainly because we've been busy here at Ideal Interface Towers on a bunch of new business. But I couldn't let one piece of news go past without commenting on it...that the New York Times is more than just ready to stick up its paywall its going to 'meter' users for reading its content:
Starting in January 2011, a visitor to will be allowed to view a certain number of articles free each month; to read more, the reader must pay a flat fee for unlimited access.

Now I could be wrong here, but haven't they tried this before in 2005?

BTW: yes they did and then they shot it down in 2007:

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Putting a new site live

We've just put our new company website together ( and its been fun to get back to what we do best... building sites that do what they should.

A bit thanks to the following people for their hard work (in no particular order):
  • Sarah (design)
  • Tony (site and CMS development, hosting, last minute changes, putting up with my late night phone calls, etc.)
  • Marc (Information Architecture and copy writing)
  • Ben (design, asset production, content changes, learning Kentico from scratch, etc.)
  • Tim (feedback)

and if I've missed anyone, then thanks to you to!

Monday, January 18, 2010

The iSlate and newspaper distribution

Allan Biggar in his blog posting over the weekend says that the new Apple iSlate is set to be a gamechanger for newspapers and publishers.

Yes, Apple’s proposed introduction of the iSlate (or whatever they call it) is hoped to do for newspapers and magazines what the iPhone did for pocket applications… it gives them a new platform for distribution. However, that may end up being the only similarity between them.

You see the iPhone allowed bedroom developers and small digital agencies to easily innovate. They quickly built new things they thought people might want, need and buy, as well as allowing them to utilise the ‘Freemium’ business model (download and use the basic functionality for free, then pay a small price for an upgraded or full-featured version id you want).

I wonder (and seriously doubt) if the traditional publishers are approaching the iSlate with the same innovation that the iPhone application developers have done or are just thinking they can replicate their existing print offering on a digital device. iPhone applications are not exact replicas of large websites (in fact many don’t even have links to websites at all), they are something that suits the pocket device’s format and portability... they are popular because they are different, not because they are the same as what has gone before. That is part of their appeal and one reason why so many have been downloaded.

I also wonder if mainstream media will have the same approach to revenue generation and consider things such as a ‘Freemium’ version of their product with the option of charging for all of it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

More News International sites block aggregator

Following on from my post last Friday explaining how News International started blocking the news aggregation site, word is now out that other Murdoch-owned sites are following suit.

As revealed yesterday by PaidContent, The Sun and News Of The World were planning to block the search spider of NewsNow. However this has already started and The Sun's site has already implemented this change (Hat tip to Malcolm Coles for checking the robots.txt file on and getting proof)

There is still no reason given by NewsCorp on why NewsNow has been singled out for this treatment. Perhaps this is just the proof-of-concept before more search engines are excluded from their sites. NewsCorp may be looking at the effects on their organic search results and traffic as a consequence of excluding just one player in the news aggregation space......

Tesco thanks its staff and suppliers

The trend towards quicker and more reactive newspaper advertising continues, with this 'Thanks You' ad that appeared today in the Daily Mail, Daily Mirror, The Sun, The Times and The Daily Telegraph.

Its also interesting to note the store locator URL put at the bottom of this advert, which makes me think that it will also be appearing as an online ad anytime soon (if not already).

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

URL shorteners and search engine optimisation

I've just upgraded my Google Toolbar on Internet Explorer 8 and have found the Google URL shortener http://goog.le/ integrated within the 'Share' functionality.

So, does the Internet need another URL shortener? Possibly not.
But is there any harm in Google doing one? Possibly not. It was likely cheaper developing their own one than buying up or (the default URL shortener for Twitter), but not that Google needs to worry about money.
Here's Google's blog post from December on the launch of this service:

Coincidentally I was having an interesting conversation with one of my clients yesterday about the SEO (search engine optimisation) implications of URL shorteners. A check with this URL shortener article by Danny Sullivan does corroborate the fact that a lot of these services allow shortened links to add to your SEO efforts (by correctly using 301 redirects) .

On top of this, its my belief that creating a bespoke URL (e.g. could further add to your SEO efforts by including your required keyword(s) into the URL as we know that keywords in hyperlinks can increase the relevance and therefore the value of each link.

Monday, January 11, 2010

France wants to tax online

This world gets crazier & crazier the more you read ("so read less" I hear you say), but those daft Frenchies have taken things to a whole new level by commissioning a report that proposes a tax on online business. Aready being called the "Google tax", this report suggests that each time an ad is clicked, online firms should be charged a between one to two percent of the revenue generated, thereby raising between €10m and €20m a year.

Said Olivier Esper, senior policy manager for Google France "
We don't think introducing an additional tax on internet advertising is the right way forward as it could slow down innovation"

So what worthy cause will benefit from this taxation? A college, a hospital or some other public-spirited initiative that will improve the quality of life in France?

Errr... no! .The report suggests that this money would be used to compensate media and content owners such as recorded music or print media. So... those mainstream media companies who have not fully found a way to benefit from the Internet are to be compensated by those that have?

And which level-headed and informed individuals did they find to author this report? Why none other than Guillaume Cerruti (president of Sotheby's auction house in France), Jacques Toubon (former French Minister of Culture) and Patrick Zelnik (owner of the Naive record label, which could end up being the very beneficiary of this tax revenue).

Now far be it from me to criticize a government of bias, but I can't help but wonder if Carla Bruni-Sarkozy being signed to the Naive record creates some conflict of interest here.....?

Friday, January 8, 2010

News International starts blocking search engine spiders....

.... but only the ones it can afford to set its lawyers on.

Today we have had a further development in the ongoing battle between news aggregators and Rupert Murdoch's News International company. In fact its one that aggregator NewsNow has felt strongly enough to issue a Press Release about today.

For those who aren't familiar with NewsNow's service, it spiders news sites in a similar way to other search sites such a Yahoo and Google News. It then builds links to these articles from its own site, thereby sending traffic off to the content it finds (helping them build visitor traffic, which sells more adverts, which makes the sites more money).

News International has previously stated that it will delist itself from search engines in 2010. We're all watching for them to make themselves invisible to the search spiders of Google and others (but not, assuming News International and Microsoft get into bed together as rumoured).

So as I've stated before, the easy way to do this is to make changes to a simple file called a robots.txt which sits on the server displaying the content. If you use this file to tell the spider not to index the specific site it won't, its as simple as that. You can even go so far as to tell the spider (e.g. Google's Googlebot) that you specifically don't want it to look through all or part of your site.
I have done this in the past when I've had a particularly fragile site that could not take all its pages being indexed at once and some site owners do this when they don't want their content read & stolen... which is fair enough.

So what have The Time Online done? Well, if you look at their robots.txt file you will see that they have entered the line:
#Agent Specific Disallowed Sections
User-agent: NewsNow
Disallow: /

Now for those who don't speak fluent search engine spider, I'll translate...
"Dear NewsNow spider, go away"

I'll leave you to decide if The Times are playing fair in this matter. However NewsNow's boss Struan Bartlett is fairly clear on the matter:
“The question remains whether News International, in arbitrarily blocking individual search engines, is trying to use its muscle to gain unreasonable control over the public’s freedom to choose the way they access information and news online."

I personally want to know why The Times has not done the same to block the Googlebot. Could it be it brings in far too much reveue for them right now?

The battle continues!

Amazon's Kindle DX to ship to the UK

The new Kindle DX is now available to pre-order from and is scheduled to start shipping from January 19.

This larger eReader costs $489 and apparently comes with global wireless, which makes it possible for people in more than 100 countries to download books, magazines & newspapers.

But... the device still has to be ordered from the US site and will no-doubt come with an American power adaptor. In addition, that $489 / £305 price tag will then be subject to 17.5% UK VAT (Value Added Tax) plus whatever duties are due.

There is also no word yet on whether the International Kindle DX will suffer the same issue as affected the International Kindle released in October 2009. This had images from subscriptions (such as daily newspapers or lovely photo-rich magazines ) deliberately restricted to keep Amazon's roaming costs down.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Newspapers are biting the Google hand that feeds them

Newspapers continue to blame Google for stealing their business, despite the fact that it is driving visitors to their sites.

John A. Byrne, the ex-editor-in-chief of has now gone on record as stating that:
Search--largely Google--now accounts for some 45% of the traffic at, up from less than 20% in 2006. That simple little box is driving vast amounts of advertising inventory (and therefore revenue) to the site and it's no coincidence. In common with every other media brand, we did lots of things to make our site search friendly. We rewrote headlines, simplified URLs, hired an on-staff SEO expert to lead seminars in search optimization. In other words, we courted Google and the search traffic we achieved. It's a similar story everywhere else.
He claims that publishers, in now blaming Google are biting the very hand that feeds them. The fact that these newspaper sites cannot monetise these visitors is not Google's fault, its the responsibility of the publishers to create a place where visitors will want to stay and return to(perhaps by fostering communities and creating a dialogue, rather than just putting words on a page?).

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

£1 million prize for crowdsourcing voters website

In a move to capture the crowdsourcing Zeitgeist of current popular web applications, the Conservative party last week proposed a competition for the development of an online tool to harness the knowledge the collective wisdom of the UK population.

Quite what the tool will be used for, nobody really knows; as its just an idea as-yet until they most-likely get into power later this year. But then, perhaps that's what the first task for the tool should be... agreeing what it should be used for next!

Given the Christmas success story of social media stopping Simon Cowell's latest X-Factor protege getting to the top of the UK charts, and Mr Cowell's next planned move into Reality Politics... perhaps he should invest in such a service too.....

The most Social Brands of 2009

2009 was really the year that marketers from mainstream brands adopted social media and the percentage of companies not using social media has dropped significantly (apparently eMarketer state that this has gone from 43% to only 9% now, but I can't the link when putting this posting together).

So who were the most social brands of 2009?

Vitrue's survey of over 2000 brands in 2009 showed iPhone, Disney and CNN to be the top 3 (the rest are here on the Vitue blog, with some interesting purposeful omissions such as Google and Facebook).

The monthly social radar by Infegy / Buzzstudy in November 2009 (December should be compiled very soon) includes some personal brands missed from Vitrue's, such as 'Obama'.

I'm not sure I agree with either of these, but its interesting to see brands such as Adidas significantly increasing their social media activity over the last year, probably due to activity such as, a global hub for sportswear video content on

Anti Twitter Tsar campaign gains traction

In my posting yesterday, I mentioned about how Labour MP for Bristol West Kerry McCarthy now has a site set up to campaign against her at

This site seems to be gaining popularity in both the mainstream media and online, with Kerry McCarthy even telling her local Bristol paper The Evening Post:
These people are deeply unpleasant and misogynistic
(Perhaps in reaction to the description about her on that "She constantly mischaracterises her opponents, throws tantrums and when backed into a corner resorts to accusing her opponents of racism or sexism")

Monday, January 4, 2010

Politics and Social Media

The UK over the next few months will be in electioneering mode as we work up to a general election (thought to be most likely in May). We're also currently in political mode as we're working on a social media tool for politicians and as a consequence we've been seeing a growing number of political social media tools and websites emerging.

Thanks to my colleague Marc Ames for pointing to me today. This newly-launched site is an online campaign to remove the Labour Party's self appointed ‘Twitter Tsar’, Kerry McCarthy from her Bristol East seat.

The site has already caused a bit of a stir in Westminster, with an apparent threat (via Twitter) from Mrs Kerry herself to Harry Cole, the editor of Conservative political blog who set the site up.

There's even been a video posted to YouTube to back the campaign:

Is this the future of online campaigning or just the first signs of a dirty battle between the two major British political parties?