Genre Classifications for News Content

Newspapers have sections; magazines have departments; weblogs have neither. All of these publishing forms carry content of interest to readers, yet none use the same name to describe the essential nature of that content.

Resolving Wikileaks

Wikileaks is not out of the woods yet. The full hearing for the suit brought by Bank Julius Baer is scheduled on May 16, with motions, countermotions and briefs due at some intervals until htn (see the details from CNet’s Declan McCullagh, who was the only reporter to pass it along.) [UPDATE 3/6/08: BJB has vacated the lawsuit.

The historic numbers behind the NYT’s October audience increase

Thanks to aggressive pitching, my TimesSelect series got out– mostly from people I personally know. UMass-Amherst's Bill Densmore spoke to me about it for an upcoming podcast;  from Dan Gillmor: "prodigious work"; from Jonathan Dube: "very detailed analysis"; BusinessWeek Blogspotting's Stephen Baker passed it along as well.

Goodbye Inbox, Hello Pitchbox

I read in the Times that the most wired magazine (well, Wired), still has to put up with email pitches. Editor Chris Anderson grew tired of all the PR pitches and announced to the world that he was blacklisting all of the email addresses. They should be

An XML Schema for the News Experience

In an ideal publication, every online article has a consistent URL format, which remain permanent, and every article allows threaded comments. In reality, few major newspapers follow these simple rules. This alone partly explains the popularity of weblog and CMS platforms like Drupal (used here), which support these. (Incidentally, Clark Hoyt announced yesterday that the Times will be supporting comments on every article.)

Online Influence and Buzz

The thrust of this series has been about online influence. Do we even have a good understanding of it? This short concluding piece will raise some new questions for further research.

I'm indebted to Philip Meyer, one of the pioneers of statistical journalism research. In his work on the Quality Project at the University of North Carolina, he has developed the Societal Influence Model. It's a very basic model; the data in his latest book, The Vanishing Newspaper, validates the connections. Societal influence (as opposed to commercial influence, which newspapers also sell) is associated with circulation and credibility. They tend to go up, and down, together. More circulation leads to more profitability, which leads to more spending on staff, which leads to more credibility.

The TimesSelect Reader: Summary

When the New York Times announced TimesSelect in 2005, the merry cynics among the media bloggers asserted that it would lose any or all of the following (1) money, (2) Google referrals, (3), influence, (4) respect in the blogosphere.

Most of those predictions were based on the assumption that TimesSelect would be a permanent change; that's no different from any other prediction. It lasted only two years. Still, many commentators stuck by their original assessments, and few put forth data. This series aimed to extract the data. Here are the findings.

Part 4: TimesSelect, the Business Case

In the last part, I discussed how many of the reactions to TimesSelect were more driven by emotion than anything else. Just yesterday, Morgan Stanley announced that they were selling their 7.2% stake in the The New York Times Company. The reactions piled up ( “Another Grim Milestone,” “Getting out while the getting is bad,” and taking the cake: “Another Bullet in the Old Gray Lady's Ass”). More of the media bloggers have stronger backgrounds in reporting than in publishing, and thus don't naturally delve into the numbers.

Part 3: TimesSelectors and TimesRejectors

In part 1, found that the number of blog references to the Top 7 Times columnists had likely dropped by 20% against their pundit peers. That's not a bad number considering, that new data from shows that Op-Ed readership a month ago (before TimesSelect ended) was 45% of what it is today. Thus bloggers didn't have a neutral effect in conveying the words of the Times Op-Ed stars to the online reading audience. In fact they were helpful; they were brokers of information in demand. Now that all readers can access the Times Op-Ed columns directly, the relative influence of such brokers diminishes.

TimesSelect Pundit Buzz Rankings, Before and During

The following numbers list references to the writer's name in the blog posts. Certain columnists are commonly known by a nickname (Tom, Bill, Nick, Josh), and thus I queried both results and added them together. It is possible these include overlapping pages. In one case (George Will), I had to estimate the number of references to the columnist and not to the coincidental use of his name in a completely different context: from looking at the last 50 blog posts, 20% were constructions where “will” was used as a verb. (USA Today: "Boy George Will Be Picking Up Street Trash.")

Part 1: TimesSelect Buzz Rankings

Three weeks ago, Jeff Jarvis wrote on his blog: "TimesSelect cost the paper much more in the internet age: It took the Times columnists out of the conversation and reduced their influence in America and worldwide."

This sentiment was echoed by many and challenged by few. We'd like to look at the data, but first we must understand the terms.

TimesSelect Pundit Buzz Graph, 2003-2007

This chart visually illustrates the number of mentions from blogs to columnists in the previously-defined “punditsphere” in each of the last four years up until September 17, 2007 (see the source data). Each year is illustrated by a different color:

TimesSelect Pundit Buzz: Annual Growth

Continuing our analysis, we want to get a better measure of the annual growth. The first column takes the blog popularity from the 12 months ending 9/17/2005, and compares it to the prior 12-month period. As noted before, we are using the odd cutoff date of 9/17 to roughly correspond to the TimesSelect period (see data). 

Part 2: Times Readership Numbers

What happened to the audience during the two years of TimesSelect?

Google reports that there were 4.8 million references to "New York Times" in the blogs over the two years. If we assume that these posts generally referenced  one of the 350,000 published articles over the two years (at least, to the same degree that a reference of "Frank Rich" referenced a particular column– a BlogPulse trend graph tends to confirm a weekly spike for a weekly column), then we conclude that the averages references per article is 14. One can infer that the columns, at least to the opinionators in the blogosphere, are ten times as popular. Still, the 177,169 references only represented 3% of the blog buzz to the Times. Suppose we double this to account for the TimesSelect columnists in the Other sections, and then apply our 20% loss, we then conclude that the perceived audience drop for as a whole was 1-2%.

Meet the Punditsphere

Our interest is the influence of the New York Times columnists. Let us propose that they inhabit not just the blogosphere, but the punditsphere, comprising the top political columnists of the day. The blogosphere at large links to the much smaller punditsphere with much more concentration than the other way around. Combined, the pundits receive a fraction of the total references or links on any given day, but because the pundits individually get the most links, people pay them the most attention. It is within the punditsphere that the Times columnists compete especially for attention.


Over the last year I’d learned through my work on compliance software about the Global Rules Information Database (now organized under the Object Management Group’s Governance Risk & Compliance Roundtable).

Paper Trust

The New York Times, like other media publications, faces two major challenges today regarding the relationship with their readers. First, the newspaper needs to give its readers a reason to keep subscribing, as news can well be pulled from anywhere. Second, the readers need their newspaper to not magnify or manufacture reports of any alleged misdeeds.

Pitching High and Inside

I was busy on a follow-up of my Talking Points Meme research, and then the bloggers code of conduct story hit me like a Dice-K gyroball. Granted, the gyroball is a media creation, just like the bloggers code of conduct, but the ball was in the air and I had to find my bat. I did some deep thinking and deep linking, and churned out 3,000 words on the larger picture about comment management responsibility.

MemeGate Studies

The concept of a meme was coined by the eminent biologist Richard Dawkins in his book The Selfish Gene. Dawkins suggested that it one can view genes as propagating through organisms, and not the other way around; similiarly, a meme propagates through minds and media.

iTrust: Millions of iPod users can’t be wrong…

When life gives you apples…

Sunday’s Times amplified the story of one Melanie Tucker, whose suit against Apple Computer, Inc. last year must now be updated to reflect that the defendent has shed the "Computer" appellation from its corporate name. Apple is now quite solidly in the media business, and it is for this Ms. Tucker complains in her suit. To wit: the Apple iPod can play music from only one electronic music store, Apple’s itTunes (as well as, it should be noted, music files from the owner’s collection). And music from Apple iTunes can only be played on an Apple iPod and not any other device. What is fairly convenient for the Apple, Inc., and to millions of users, is apparently some gross inconvenience to a few. To Tucker, this is "crippleware" a product tie-in which violates United States and California antitrust laws.

Incivilities: Finally, a place to dump those letters to the editor

An ex-girlfriend of mine once mentioned that her father had an idea to create a magazine that featured only letters-to-the-editor (it would be sold next to the coffee-table book about coffee tables, naturally). I’ve stopped trying to impress her now that she’s gotten married (not to mention some years passing) but I can still try to impress her father. Or get revenge by capitalizing on his idea.


The LetterVox: a proposal for handling letters to the editor

Linking from a published article to a letters-to-the-editor written in regards to it makes sense; it’s the essence of constructive media. Still, with a decade of web journalism underway, why is this not a standard convention by online newspapers?

Constructive Activism, Part VI: The Messengers

At the start of this series, I mentioned the “pinball nature of news” in expressing how I heard about Alaa. Of course, it’s not really random when we walk through the connections. Here they are:

Constructive Activism, Part III: Google Ad Sensibility

Ethan Zuckerman, founder of the Global Voices project and longtime blogger on Africa and development issues, had considered the use of Google AdWords for awareness campaigns in a post some 18 months ago. Several aid NGOs have been buying AdWords– ads that would show up based on a given search term– for different countries, so he wondered what it would really cost to enter this market. By getting involved with the campaign for Alaa through this series (see previous part), I set myself to find out.

Conference Markup — techniques and technologies

It inevitably follows that in becoming a man of letters– a title which should encompass both "personal publisher" and "freelance researcher"– one has to keep in mental shape by going to a conference every now and then to meet and greet. This impulse is checked only by the need to anchor oneself at the home office to actually get some work done. My home office shared my interest in my going to this particular conference, the Gilbane Conference on Content Management, so I ventured to San Francisco for the opportunity to do so.

Constructive Media

When I started the civilities project over two years ago, my aim was to put forth a cohesive theory of communications media to underlie my software work. I called the theory constructive media. The ensuing research has helped me validate it, which, for the passing time, was more important than selling it. I have not till now revisited the original definition, so I will preserve that on its own, and replace it with the definition here.

Patriot Tact — A Better Way to Prevent Crime in Libraries

[This is a letter sent to the Boston Globe in response to the horrid Op-Ed contribution “When Librarians protect terrorists” by Richard L. Cravatts on February 6th, 2006. I called the paper to see what follow-up they planned on this, but learned nothing. This is obviously much too long to be a letter, now. I’ve added some links here for your viewing pleasure.]

Open Source Reporting: The RSS Quest

I’ve been promising this story since Monday, but I must disappoint for now as I’m still waiting to hear on a couple of key source that I only contacted late in the week. If I haven’t contacted you, and you think you need to improve upon the historical, shoot me a message, or post yourself. If you want to scoop me, be my guest, but here’s what you have to reach for: you’re going to need to come up with the particular faults of RSS, and also illustrate a model of how it could be completely re-imagined. And you also might want to deliver something on the order of 5,000 words, which is where I’m at right now. It was longer, but I’ve cut out many parts where I was just quoting directly five-year old quotes– as in years ago, not the age of the quoted person. I’d like [As for this little game? Stephen Baker of BusinessWeek floated such an idea this past Monday. I was skeptical then, but under the circumstances, I accept.] Whatever you got, tag it rss+quest.

Readers, Writers and the New Worders

A guide to the various Worders in the New Media landscape.
It’s no longer just Writers and Readers.
But one term doesn’t fit all.
word ’em up:

the White Swan Consultants

A year ago I had theorized that if you shrunk the blogosphere to a much more compact pundisphere, the majority of people who use the Internet for something like getting political information wouldn’t notice. That was a useless prediction to make as it can’t be test. But what would be useful for the lesser pundisphere to do is to actually track predictions that the greater pundits make. It doesn’t take many people to make predictions, so it’s probably more of a noble calling for the rest of us to keep score. With the A-List, if you can’t join ’em, beat ’em.

In thinking about how to write up a Civilities-style proposal, I started mining the old Brill’s Content magazine– which for a few years at the turn of the millenium was a handy gloss of the information age. Its hundred-and-fifty pages,were news about the news, reviews of the news, and just about everything would look for in a magazine if one weren’t lookinf for advertisements. It had a running gag which took the trouble to actually rate how many of the predictions made by the Sunday pundits came true. For kicks, the magazine also compared them to a prognosticator on loan from a local zoo, Chippy the Chimp. (In his debut in the August 1999 issue, Chippy went 3 for 6 , “good enough to beat George Will and John McLaughlin”).

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