1000 Heads

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Posts Tagged ‘journalism’

Welcome back to the coffee house…

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011

A certain little scandal in the UK right now involving The News of the World has left the nation’s journalism reeling, and posed some serious questions for the industry. How was this level of unethical behaviour allowed to happen? How do we prevent it from happening again? What are the standards of journalism now that anyone can blog news and opinions?

With freedom of speech vs regulation at the heart of the debate, some leading writers have touted word of mouth as the force that will evolve and transform the industry.

The Economist has written both a provocative leader and a full special report on the topic of how conversational culture is transforming news, from WikiLeaks to comments on online newspaper blogs.

Their basic premise? That

“…as news becomes more social, participatory, diverse and partisan, it is in many ways returning to the more chaotic, freewheeling and politically charged environment of the era before the emergence of mass media in the 19th century. And although the internet has proved hugely disruptive to journalists, for consumers—who now have a wider choice than ever of news sources and ways of accessing them—it has proved an almost unqualified blessing.”

According to new media author and columnist Jeff Jarvis, crowdsourced fact-checking will now be our only real way to achieve real accountability and reassure readers; “rather than enabling government and media to become even more entwined, we must explode their bonds and open up the business of both for all to see”.

The implication is that for the first time since mass media gained hegemony, we once again live in a public sphere which has regained its power to challenge closed systems and call bullshit. This affects individuals, governments, brands and previously untouchable media conglomerates.

All of them need to start learning how to harness it for good, rather than fearing, suppressing or ridiculing it.

If you’d like some ideas, get in touch ;)

Personality matters more than platforms

Thursday, March 24th, 2011

When I say the phrase ‘social recruiting’, what do you think of?

Agencies putting job roles on Twitter? HR building relationships through LinkedIn and trawling blogs? Or even unscrupulous recruiters creating Foursquare ‘places’ near competitors advertising new jobs? All this and more was discussed a few weeks ago at the #trulondon Social Recruiting Unconference, and very interesting it was too.

But this just blows all that out of the water.

screen-shot-2011-03-24-at-105837

We want to add some talent to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune investigative team. Every serious candidate should have a proven track record of conceiving, reporting and writing stellar investigative pieces that provoke change. However, our ideal candidate has also cursed out an editor, had spokespeople hang up on them in anger and threatened to resign at least once because some fool wanted to screw around with their perfect lede.

We do a mix of quick hit investigative work when events call for it and mini-projects that might run for a few days. But every year we like to put together a project way too ambitious for a paper our size because we dream that one day Walt Bogdanich will have to say: “I can’t believe the Sarasota Whatever-Tribune cost me my 20th Pulitzer.” As many of you already know, those kinds of projects can be hellish, soul-sucking, doubt-inducing affairs. But if you’re the type of sicko who likes holing up in a tiny, closed office with reporters of questionable hygiene to build databases from scratch by hand-entering thousands of pages of documents to take on powerful people and institutions that wish you were dead, all for the glorious reward of having readers pick up the paper and glance at your potential prize-winning epic as they flip their way to the Jumble… well, if that sounds like journalism Heaven, then you’re our kind of sicko.

For those unaware of Florida’s reputation, it’s arguably the best news state in the country and not just because of the great public records laws. We have all kinds of corruption, violence and scumbaggery. The 9/11 terrorists trained here. Bush read My Pet Goat here. Our elections are colossal clusterfucks. Our new governor once ran a health care company that got hit with a record fine because of rampant Medicare fraud. We have hurricanes, wildfires, tar balls, bedbugs, diseased citrus trees and an entire town overrun by giant roaches (only one of those things is made up). And we have Disney World and beaches, so bring the whole family.

Send questions, or a resume/cover letter/links to clips to my email address below. If you already have your dream job, please pass this along to someone whose skills you covet. Thanks.

Matthew Doig
Sarasota Herald-Tribune

This (which I found via the awesome FleetStreetBlues) has unsurprisingly spread like herpes through a newsroom, being retweeted and posted to Facebook pages and blogs by journalists worldwide. But what’s great is that that happened not because of some convoluted social strategy but because the copy itself is simply so ballsy, personal, disruptive and refreshing.

As Matthew Doig’s own surprise at the reaction attests, this was so successful because it so obviously authentic to his team’s style and attitude. That’s being social – being interesting, individual and honest.

If you achieve that, the platforms will largely take care of themselves.

Have you seen any other job ads that *really* made you talk?

Digital Storytelling: comics, heroes, symbols and myths

Monday, March 22nd, 2010

Last Friday I got to combine my lit-geek and WOM-geek selves at Digital Storytelling 2010, “an afternoon of inspirational speakers and events for journalists, academics, entrepreneurs, digital experts and students” created by not on the wires and the BBC College of Journalism.

1000heads were very proud to be Headline Sponsors of such an eclectic and intelligent event. Sadly I couldn’t stay for long, but I did catch Ben Chesterton‘s moving presentation of the work he’s doing with Duckrabbit, mashing up audio and photography in the Condition Critical slideshows for Médecins Sans Frontières, which tell some pretty important and powerful tales.

For my braindump I chose to look at how – and if – social media is changing the way we tell our own stories, brands tell their stories, and how the two collide. I hooked my thoughts on four key themes; here’s a quick précis.

1. Comics

I’m a comic geek, and I’ve written before at the Guardian about how I think social media encourages a architectural, multi-media way of storytelling similar to graphic novelists. I find this most powerful when fewer words are used (we’re all fighting for space and attention in the online world, after all), but they are deepened and complexified by their link-rich context. The next level of this 3D storytelling will be mobile-driven augmented reality – the real world glossed with information, irony, images and opinion.

2. Heroes

In social media, we’re all the heroes of our own stories, and we’re uploading fragments of our stories all the time. That’s why gaming is such a natural fit for the space,; the newly released Heavy Rain is the first in a new generation of games where our own decisions and characters determine the plot. Brands are recognising this shift from consumers to creators, from personalising their offerings to put our preferences at the core (from Nike to Mountain Dew) to, in the words of Chris Brogan, ‘making your audience feel like a superhero.’

3. Symbols

Time was, it felt naff to see specific brand names used in a story; a sell-out of the grander symbolism, somehow, But truly the evil queen’s red apple has become the Apple; the purity of the lily has become use of Crème de la Mer; Penelope’s tapestry has become a Moleskine. We constantly and shamelessly use brands to express our identity online – the general has become the specific.

4. Myths

When we don’t have face to face instincts to rely on when building trust, only digital words and images, what do we rely on to capture our attention or empathy? Stories. Brands are realising the importance of building and sharing their own creation and evolution myths, and making sure they feel authentic to consumers. Moreover, they are starting to appropriate our myths – to include our stories in their own, by listening to us and engaging us to join their journey.

A nice example which ties these themes together is that of Isobella Jade, a New York model who tweeted me a couple of weeks ago.

Isobella had read a couple of my online articles, felt a connection, and offered to share her own story, a memoir she wrote on the free computers in the Apple store, and which became a cult success after they invited her to give a public reading in the store and the press picked up on it. We had a digital conversation, and last Tuesday she sent me a copy, alongside clippings and a card – which I duly talked about on Friday.

This little encounter exemplifies ‘the social media tale’. Isobella is the hero of her own grassroots story. The book is written in graphic, scenic chunks. She connected with me through my stories. She uses brands like Apple and Walmart and Vogue throughout the book to define what she is and isn’t; and Apple in turn uses her to reinforce its myth as an inclusive, empowering company. And that story, inherently conversational and emotive, spreads.

There’s so much here to dig into and discuss – there were some great questions on the day we barely got a chance to get into – but I just wanted to throw some conversation starters out there. These kinds of insights are central to 1000heads’ tactics in helping brands to share stories and become part of the stories their consumers share.

What’s your take?

Internal authority drives WOM

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Who would you rather trust – the BBC or a blogger? asked Nick Cohen in yesterday’s Observer, concerned at how the broadcaster is cutting journalists and pouring resources into its presences online. Of course, newspapers must adapt to the space when mobile and citizen journalism is becoming so powerful, but as Clay Shirky has noted, objective and authoritative journalism is also more valuable than ever before. Cohen summarises the Beeb’s problem:

“The paradox of the BBC’s strategy is that the more it spends on expanding into cyberspace the less it has to say.”

So how does this relate to brand word of mouth? It’s a timely reminder that companies looking to develop real relationships in the space must invest in two streams of activity. The first is certainly the ‘empowerment of the consumer’ by encouraging peer to peer creation and conversation around the brand with a collaborative and open source approach – see the Guardian’s successful and The NY Times’ less successful strategies to encourage embedding, manipulation and discussion of their content. However, a second stream is equally important: continuing to improve the quality of the product and the core beliefs of the brand.

As my post about brand blah hinted, although we now require transparency and two-way communication, we’re also still attracted to the brands that maintain the intrinsic quality and consistency of their products and principles. For a brand to  open itself up to a conversation, it needs to have an opinion – and a belief in its expertise. Building evangelists is not about sycophantic people-pleasing, which is as irritating in a brand as it is in a person; yes, brands must use peer to peer WOM to help direct their progress, but they should also nurture their own sense of identity and integrity.

Internal authority lends brands the confidence to be flexible and collaborative – and makes them interesting to us consumers, too. ‘Engaging’ is not just about diffusing and reaching out, but strengthening within.