Abandoned blogs and one-Tweet wonders

Debate rages about how “sticky” social media are. While it’s one thing for the average person to abandon a blog or Twitter account after an entry or two, that’s a practice that journalists should not emulate.

Writing in Salon.com, John Swansburg and Jeremy Singer-Vine look at the phenomenon of Orphaned Tweets:

After examining some 300,000 Twitter accounts, a Harvard Business School professor reported last week that 10 percent of the service’s users account for more than 90 percent of tweets. The study dovetails with recent analysis by the media research firm Nielsen asserting that 60 percent of Twitter users do not return from one month to the next. Both findings suggest that, thus far, Twitter has been considerably better at signing up users than keeping them.

Meanwhile, the same thing happens in the blogosphere, as Douglas Quenqua notes in “Blogs Falling in an Empty Forest.” He writes:

According to a 2008 survey by Technorati, which runs a search engine for blogs, only 7.4 million out of the 133 million blogs the company tracks had been updated in the past 120 days. That translates to 95 percent of blogs being essentially abandoned, left to lie fallow on the Web, where they become public remnants of a dream — or at least an ambition — unfulfilled.

Judging from conversations with retired bloggers, many of the orphans were cast aside by people who had assumed that once they started blogging, the world would beat a path to their digital door.

The take-away lesson for journalists here is that persistence and engaging writing are the only ways to make your blog or Twitter feed a success.

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Hostage situation raises question of withholding information

The EditorsWeblog considers the question of when news media might be right to withhold information from their audiences. The case in question concerned a New York Times reporter, his driver and another reporter who were taken hostage by the Taliban in Afghanistan. The blog reports that “Thanks to the efforts of New York Times executive editor Bill Keller, for seven months news of the kidnapping did not enter the public domain. Fellow newspapers understood that lives were at stake and nobody was willing to compromise Rohde’s safety by breaking the media silence. In addition, the Times attempted to keep information about the kidnappings from their reporter’s page on Wikipedia:

Within days of [David] Rohde’s abduction, attempts were made to edit Rohde’s Wiki page with the news and so it was that a virtual tug of war began between the NYT and the online encyclopaedia. For seven months, unidentified individuals tried to update Rohde’s entry with the information only to have this erased. Eventually, a joint effort involving Catherine J. Mathis, chief spokeswoman for the NYT and Wikipedia CEO Jimmy Wales, among others, led to a temporary freeze of Rohde’s page, making editing impossible. No sooner was the function reinstated that new efforts were made to add the details.

The blog asks an important question about the Times’ efforts:

The media blackout that took place is probably to be credited for delivering Rohde to safety, but what does it say about the media’s lack of partiality? Keller and his colleagues thought long and hard about their options, ultimately concluding that a hostage as currency is worth less without the exposure. Yet, did this decision represent a disservice to other reporters in the region? Were their lives at risk because of NYT’s choice to look after one man? A reasoned answer is that if news organisations were able to keep the news from spreading, they were very likely able to inform colleagues on a need-to-know basis, particularly if any employees were operating in the same area without risking any leaks.

Of more concern is the inconsistency of news outlets when it comes to dealing with kidnappings when a terrorist organisation is at the helm, as the Poynter Institute’s Bob Steele points out: “Would a news organization apply different standards in the case of a government diplomat or a business executive or a tourist than they would one of their own?” asks the ethics instructor. Invariably the answer seems to be yes, insofar as non-media hostages make the headlines, although often with the support of the relevant families. In this particular case, the NYT made the best decision it was able to under the circumstances and perhaps saved their man in the process. After all, a human life is always worth more than a newspaper’s quest to remain impartial.

Blogger ruled ineligible to use shield law

Bloggers may find themself with no protection when they are asked to name anonymous sources, if a recent case becomes precedent. Techdirt reports that blogger Shellee Hale “tried to claim that she was protected under New Jersey’s shield law, which allows a journalist to protect sources.”However, the judge in Hale’s case “ruled that Hale is not protected by shield laws because she has ‘no connection to any legitimate news publication.'”

The Techdirt posts notes that

This is troubling for a variety of reasons. First, it leaves open entirely to interpretation what exactly is a “legitimate news publication.” The judge seems to think it only applies to old school media, saying: “Even though our courts have liberally construed the shield law, it clearly was not intended to apply to any person communicating to another person.” Sure, but that doesn’t mean that an individual who posts something in the pursuit of reporting isn’t media as well. It looks like Hale will appeal this decision, and hopefully other courts will recognize that you don’t have to work for a big media organization to be a reporter any more.

Washington Post unveils new mobile site

The Washington Post goes mobileThe Wall Street Journal reports that The Washington Post has started a new mobile version of its Web site. The Journal notes that “Besides extending the Post’s core areas of coverage onto a new platform, the new mobile site is designed for maximum utility for locals, with customized information on things like public transportation, weather and entertainment. Post executives say ‘in the very near future’ the mobile site will let readers make restaurant reservations, buy movie tickets and get real-time traffic routes.” The site does not look like much on a computer screen, but works well on the much smaller real estate of an iPhone or BlackBerry.border

YouTube starts Reporter’s Center channel

In yet one more sign that journalists no longer have a monopoly on gathering and distributing the news, YouTube has started a Reporter’s Center channel. According to the channel

The YouTube Reporters’ Center is a new resource to help you learn more about how to report the news. It features some of the nation’s top journalists and news organizations sharing instructional videos with tips and advice for better reporting. If you have experiences on reporting the news yourself and would like to share your tips, feel free to submit them for inclusion on this page.

(Thanks to Stacy Spaulding for the link!)

Reuter posts handbook of journalism online

The internationally known news service Reuters recently posted its Handbook of Journalism online. The handbook covers a range of topics, and is broken down into six main sections:

  • Standards and Values
  • Guide to Operations
  • General Style Guide
  • Sports Style Guide
  • Specialised Guidance
  • Links

(Thanks to Stacy Spaulding for the link!)

Associated Press crackdown could spell end of blogs as we know them

In A.P. Cracks Down on Unpaid Use of Articles on Web,” The New York Times reports that The Associated Press was planning to “add software to each article that shows what limits apply to the rights to use it, and that notifies The A.P. about how the article is used.” According to the Times, AP President Tom Curley “said the company’s position was that even minimal use of a news article online required a licensing agreement with the news organization that produced it.” Given that much of the content on many blogs — including this one — summarizes current news stories, such licensing restrictions could make for a vastly different blogosphere in the near future. “