Tag Archives: news

Social News

Pew Internet publishes its latest findings on news consumption.

One of the main findings is that, like everything else in internet-enabled nations, news is now social. Pew’s research found that Americans are increasingly active participants in online news creation and dissemination, as well as keen consumers of mobile news content. For example:

  • 37% of internet users have contributed to the creation of news, commented about it, or disseminated it via postings on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter.
  • more than 8 in 10 online news consumers get or share links in emails.
  • a third of cellphone users access news on their phones.

Pew’s analysis of this situation is that:

People’s experience of news, especially on the internet, is becoming a shared social experience as people swap links in emails, post news stories on their social networking site feeds, highlight news stories in their Tweets, and haggle over the meaning of events in discussion threads.

Locked down, pay-walled content is more or less shut out of this conversation — after all, how many ‘subscription required’ links have you forwarded to your mates or colleagues lately or posted to Facebook? Worse still, the research further reveals that only 17% of Americans read news in a national newspaper on a typical day. So, as physical newspaper reading wanes, many newspaper companies are actively shutting themselves out of the online ecosystem by pursuing a pay-per-view or subscription model. Smart.

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The New News

Pew’s latest research on news consumption in the US.

The key bits:

A sizable minority of Americans find themselves at the intersection of these two longstanding trends in news consumption. Integrators, who get the news from both traditional sources and the internet, are a more engaged, sophisticated and demographically sought-after audience segment than those who mostly rely on traditional news sources. Integrators share some characteristics with a smaller, younger, more internet savvy audience segment – Net-Newsers – who principally turn to the web for news, and largely eschew traditional sources.

Net-Newsers are the youngest of the news user segments (median age: 35). They are affluent and even better educated than the News Integrators: More than eight-in-ten have at least attended college. Net-Newsers not only rely primarily on the internet for news, they are leading the way in using new web features and other technologies. Nearly twice as many regularly watch news clips on the internet as regularly watch nightly network news broadcasts (30% vs. 18%).

Net-Newsers do rely on some well known traditional media outlets. They are at least as likely as Integrators and Traditionalists to read magazines such as The New Yorker and The Atlantic, and somewhat more likely to get news from the BBC.

So, in short, good news for those traditional operators — like CNN and the BBC — who have invested in developing their offerings into video and TV reporting. Also good news for heavy hitters such as The New Yorker – suggesting that good print journalism does, in fact, have a future.

There are also some worrying trends:

In spite of the increasing variety of ways to get the news, the proportion of young people getting no news on a typical day has increased substantially over the past decade. About a third of those younger than 25 (34%) say they get no news on a typical day, up from 25% in 1998.

Believability ratings for national news organizations remain very low. If anything, believability ratings for major online news outlets – including news aggregators such as Google News and AOL News – are lower than for major print, cable and broadcast outlets.

Anyone interested in the media (hello?) can read the full report at Pew’s main site.

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News Hacking

Hackivists in the Czech Republic face up to three years in prison for inserting footage of a nuclear explosion into a live weather report

Six members of the Ztohoven collective, whose aims include “penetrating public space”, are to appear in court this month charged with spreading false information. The artists sent shock waves through the Czech Republic in June last year by splicing footage of the atomic explosion into a live panoramic shot of the Krkonose mountains, in north-east Bohemia.

The fake blast prompted panicked calls to the switchboard of the TV channel CT2, with some viewers fearing that a nuclear war had begun while others suggested there had been a gas explosion. The impact was compared to that of Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds radio broadcast of 1938, in which listeners were led to believe that Martians were invading Earth. Listeners who took it to be a news broadcast panicked, and several suffered heart attacks.

Ztohoven said the aim of its project, which it called Media Reality, was not to harm, but to illustrate how the media manipulates reality. In a statement it said:

We are neither a terrorist organisation nor a political group. Our aim is not to intimidate society or manipulate it, which is something we witness on a daily basis both in the real world and that created by the media. On June 17 2007, [we] attacked the space of TV broadcasting, distorting it, questioning its truthfulness and its credibility.

The group added that they hoped their action would “remind the media of their duty to bring out the truth”.

But Martin Krafl, spokesman for the TV channel, called the hijack irresponsible. “The fake broadcast was really very inadvisable and could have provoked panic among a wide group of people,” he said.

Which brings us neatly to this article in Technology Review where veteran news reporter John Hockenberry bemoans the lack of bravery and empathy in modern news reporting. Maybe he should get in touch with the folks at Ztohoven…

Source: The Guardian.

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Breaking news on Flickr

Flickr user uploads photos that seem to be taken from the viewpoint of an evacuee of the MS Explorer

msexplorer.jpgMany news outlets are currently reporting on the breaking story today that a cruise ship is sinking in Antarctica after hitting an iceberg. Thankfully, this is no modern day Titanic: Susan Hayes, of Gap Adventures, which owns the ship, told the BBC, that 91 passengers and nine crew members have been evacuated to lifeboats and then to another ship.

But what is extraordinary is that either someone onboard the ship, or involved in the rescue, has already managed to upload some photos of the wreck to Flickr. For traditional news outlets this represents somewhat of a problem: users don’t need their platform anymore. We’ve certainly got our RSS feed fastened to Flickr user Keep Left and not the BBC for developments on this story. And yes, we are ambulance chasers – we admit it.

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Al Jazeera and YouTube To Share Ad Revenue

Google and Arabic news channel cozy up

TechCrunch notes that Al Jazeera has signed a commercial agreement with Google last week to share advertising revenue on their YouTube channel:

This comes even as U.S. cable operators continue to shun the 24 hour news service — only Toledo, Ohio based Buckeye CableSystem and the municipal cable suppler in Burlington, Vermont offer the channel to viewers.

Al Jazeera uploads all original programming and unique news to the channel. Interesting to be reminded that the US still has to go to YouTube to see Al Jazeera (whose worldwide audience rivals that of the BBC) while here in the UK the channel is even available via Murdoch’s network.

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Some Hard Truths about Soft News

Is topical satire the way to re-engage with the politically disillusioned?

According to Armando Iannucci, writing recently in The Guardian,

Surveys show that a high proportion of people aged 18 to 36 get most of their information about British politics from [TV panel game show] Have I Got News For You. In America, similar figures show that Jon Stewart’s topical comedy The Daily Show (TDS) supplies a high percentage of 18 to 36-year-old Americans with their main news fix.

In the article, he argues that political comedy fills a void left by the disengagement between the mass audience and ‘real’ news coverage:

There is an emptiness in public argument waiting to be filled. That’s where my lot come in again. If politicians fail to supply politics with content, is it any wonder people turn to other, more entertaining sources?

24showxlarge1.jpgHe’s not the only one thinking this way. We note the New York Times report of the runwaway success Hurry Up, He’s Dead — a home-grown (but Daily Show-inspired) Iraqi current-affairs satire:

Mr. Khalifa [pictured above], the show’s star, is a diminutive comedian who was a well-known theater actor in Iraq during Saddam Hussein’s government. The initial episodes were taped in Dubai because the producers decided it would be too dangerous and logistically difficult to film in Baghdad. Despite its madcap humor, he said, the show has a serious message.

“The purpose of the show is to fix Iraq,” he said. “We want to fix the civil services. We want to fix the government officials. We want to fix the relationships between people. We want to fix the government and stop the corruption.”

All well and good — anything that gets people thinking must encourage engagement, right? Unfortunately the jury seems to be out on that one. University of Toronto Professor Megan Boler — whose work we know from the iDC mailing list — has been researching the online culture around TDS as a focus of her studies into ‘digital dissent’. She told BigShinyThing via email that:

Interestingly, our research (including survey of and interviews with bloggers, meme producers, political multimedia producers and TDS bloggers) indicates that TDS fans are possibly less politically motivated than the other groups we are studying who engage in political online networks. There are some surprising instances as well when an author of a political meme states that his motivation was not political but to produce humor.

Research which backs up Iannucci’s claims about the importance of topical comedy as a news source also indicates that watching TDS actually correlates with increased skepticism about politics as a whole amongst its core youth audience. According to study co-author Jonathan Morris, an Assistant Professor at East Carolina University in Greenville, N.C.:

We are not saying The Daily Show is bad for democracy. I’m a fan of The Daily Show. I watch it very frequently. We’re just pointing out that exposure to this show among young adults is associated with cynicism toward political candidates and the political process as a whole.

It seems that contemporary topical satire may better represent the worldview of the ‘excluded middle’ than do the incumbent news media, yet still not provide a meaningful ‘call to action’ to get them off the sofa and onto the streets.

Read more of Boler’s researches into the transmedial world of TDS in The Daily Show, Crossfire, and the Will to Truth, in Scan Journal of Media Arts Culture. Vol. 3, No. 1 (Summer 2006) — an excellent dissection of a key moment in the development of the show’s mythology.

We tried to find some choice Hurry Up, He’s Dead moments on YouTube, but alas it doesn’t seem to have ‘crossed over’ yet.

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A New Year’s Thought from Artangel

Michael Morris, co-director of arts collective ArtAngel, has some excellent high concepts for media in the New Year.

When asked for his New Year’s wishes by The Daily Telegraph, Morris said,

I’d like to see mini-revolutions in broadcasting. The world’s leading advertising agencies using their expertise and technology to promote complex feelings in between lifestyle products during commercial breaks. Adverts for forgiveness, doubt, hope, envy, attachment and loss. I’d like to see artists (particularly poets) doing the weather. Very subjectively.

If Morris’s ideas sound rather high-minded it’s worth noting that there are already artistic responses to the news in place. A few months back we wrote about ‘art blogging the news’ in Holland where a collective is inviting artistic responses to news published online in the daily paper. Surely an apt response to the daily dark absurdity which the news has become?

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Happy Happy Joy Joy

In a grand gesture of denial, various news outlets are putting a positive spin on world events.

independent.jpgStateside, the right wing news site Happy News will only report on the postitive side of everything. The Happy News credo runs:

“Real News, Compelling Stories, Always Positive” is what you’ll find on HappyNews.com. We believe virtue, goodwill and heroism are hot news. That’s why we bring you up-to-the-minute news, geared to lift spirits and inspire lives. Add in a diverse team of Citizen Journalists reporting positive stories from around the world, and you’ve got one happy place for news.

Some typical headlines read, “The good news about Katrina”, “Brother gets crocodile to release girl”. It will be interesting to see how they cover the “inevitable” Bird Flu pandemic.

In the UK, The Independent ran an unusually upbeat front cover this week: “Multicultural Britain – an unlikely success story.” And weather reports have apparently been ordered to look on the bright side – literally. The Daily Telegraph reports that the Meteorological Office has issued guidelines in an attempt to make the weather more relevant and uplifting. The move could mean that forecasts will predict a “mainly dry” day instead of “patchy rain” or report that it will be “warm for most of the day” instead of “chilly in isolated, coastal areas”. Viewers can also look forward to “a generally clear” outlook instead of “occasional showers” and “isolated storms”.

BigShinyThing of course knows that the British weather sucks and that humanity is doomed. Soon doom-mongers will be able to get a daily fix at our sister site, BigScaryThing. Watch this space.

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