News for Digital Journalists

Posts tagged with: Knight Foundation

November 29, 2011

Crowdsourcing meets crowdfunding: Spot.Us merges with Public Insight Network

Today the journalism crowdfunding platform Spot.Us announced that it’s merging with the Public Insight Network.

Spot.Us founder David Cohn said that ultimately the combination of these two services might form a kind of “community operating system…”

Spot.Us launched in 2008 after winning a Knight News Challenge grant. Since then this platform has helped fund hundreds of reporting projects. American Public Media’s Public Insight Network is another platform that has helped over 50 public radio stations and other organizations interact with and take cues from the public by giving ordinary people a way to inform journalism.

The first hurdle for integrating these platforms will be technical: Spot.Us is coded in Ruby on Rails, PIN in PHP. Cohn says work on this integration will begin in early 2012.

The combined platform will be an intriguing option for news organizations and other venues and institutions seeking ways to engage communities around news—for creating, informing, and supporting coverage. It will help individuals build relationships with both news venues and specific projects or reporters.

In a blog post, Cohn wrote: “All of this is under the backdrop of my new gig at UC Berkeley’s J-school which is a blast. Spot.Us is my baby, but just as it is time for it to grow up and move out of the house, it was time for me to tackle new problems. Through this merger both are happening. ...It is high time for Spot.Us to grow wings and move beyond what any small team can accomplish. I believe under the PIN leadership of Joaquin Alvarado, Spot.Us can grow to accomplish much more—and I intend to be there as we reach for higher goals and aspirations.”

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

November 30, 2011

New Brunswick, Canada: No more free local news

Today the Canadian Journalism Project reports that the province of New Brunswick is “about to become the first place in Canada where readers must pay for local news.”

As early as next week, the family-owned chain Brunswick News Inc. will end free access to the websites of 26 of its papers: 18 English-language and eight French. This comprises all but one of NB’s English-language papers.

BNI’s paywall will be absolute: No free online content at all. “According to those familiar with the new system, every single scrap of content will have a price. No one will get free access to any part of the newspaper websites run by the Brunswick News subsidiary,” reports CJP.

This is different from the “metered paywalls” implemented at the New York Times, the Baltimore Sun and several local papers owned by MediaNews Group—which allow free access to a limited amount of stories, and beyond that visitors must pay for further content.

In terms of print dailies, BNI doesn’t have much competition in the province, and it has more reporters in NB than the CBC. So it’s possible that, at least for awhile, it may have a captive paying audience for local news. But this move could create a market opportunity for digital news startups in the province.

Hat tip to GigaOm’s Mathew Ingram

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

January 10, 2012

Want better comments? Allow pseudonyms

Anonymity is often blamed for the poor quality of reader comments on many news sites. But new data show that allowing people to comment under a pseudonym may yield the highest quality of comments—even more so than requiring real names…

This week, Disqus (a popular third-party commenting platform used by many mainstream news sites) released data comparing the quality and quality of comments made anonymously, under pseudonyms, or using a real identity (which in this case was tracked via the Facebook login feature of Disqus).

Disqus gauged the quality of comments on its platform by positive signals (how often a comment was liked, or responded to) and negative signals (how often a comment is flagged, marked as spam, or deleted). They found that pseudonymous comments yielded the highest-quality comments—by far.

Over 60% of pseudonymous comments were rated as positive. In contrast, only 51% of real identity comments were positive, and 34% of anonymous comments were positive.

Not only do pseudonymous users contribute better comments; they also contribute more often, thus raising both the quality and quantity of discussion on the site. Disqus found that pseudonymous commenters contribute 6.5 times more than anonymous users, and 4.7 times more that real identity users.

What are pseudonyms and why would people legitimately want to use them? Disqus defines a pseudonym as “a fictitious name chosen by a commenter ...often used because they are more expressive than a name on the birth certificate! A commenter may use a pseudonym because it better fits her persona in a community. ...Someone may use a pseudonym to leave behind personal ties (e.g., job, relationships, privacy) without sacrificing personality.”

Last summer I wrote about why news sites should allow pseudonyms in comments.

For more analysis of the Disqus findings, see Pseudonyms, trolls and the battle over online identity by Mathew ingram of GigaOm

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

January 11, 2012

Nielsen: Consumers don’t mind ads in (free) mobile apps

If your news app for smartphones or tablets contain ads, will your users hate you? Probably not, according to new research from Nielsen—at least, as long as your app is free…

The new Nielsen State of the Media report on media consumer usage for 2011 offers a key finding for the news business. Just over half of consumers said that they are okay with advertising on their devices as long as that means they can access content for free.

Implied by this finding is the possibility that presenting ads in a paid app may be a turnoff for mobile users. This could be an issue for News Corp’s subscription-based, iPad-only publication The Daily: subscribers pay $1/week or $40/year, and the app also displays advertising with the content.

Specifically regarding news apps, Nielsen found that in the past 30 days 14% of mobile consumers had downloaded only free news apps, while 16% had downloaded a combination of free and paid news apps. Only 3% had downloaded only paid news apps.

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

January 18, 2012

Knight Community Information Challenge 2012: Apply by Feb. 27

Once again, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is challenging community and place-based foundations to play a leading role in meeting the information needs of their communities…

This year’s Knight Community Information Challenge has three simple rules:

  • Applicants must be U.S. community or place-based foundations (community partners also are welcome).
  • Projects must meet a local information need.
  • Foundations must match Knight’s investment.

Deadline for applications: Feb. 27
Apply now

ALSO: Registration is now open for the Knight Foundation Media Learning Seminar 2012. Held Feb. 19-21 in Miami, this event brings leaders from community and place-based foundations leaders together with with journalism and technology experts to explore the topic of community information needs. Register now.

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

February 01, 2012

Live chat Feb. 8: Knight Community Information Challenge

Looking for funding for your local news or information project? Consider approaching local community foundations and applying for the Knight Community Information Challenge. This contest offers matching grants to community and place-based foundations for community information projects. And in one week, there’s a great opportunity to ask questions about KCIC…

KCIC is now accepting applications, which must be submitted by a foundation.

Learn more and apply now!
Deadline: Feb. 27

Ask questions about KCIC in a live chat:
Feb. 8, noon EST, at

More context, see Michele McLellan’s recent posts:

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

February 09, 2012

Knight News Challenge 2.0: applications open Feb. 27

For five years the original Knight News Challenge stimulated innovation in news, information, and community engagement. Today the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation unveiled the revamped program…

The new Knight News Challenge will comprise three smaller, more focused competitions. Each Challenge will last 8-10 weeks, beginning to end.

  1. The first Challenge opens for applications Feb. 27, deadline March 17. First-round winners will be announced in June 18 at MIT.
  2. The second contest (an open competition, casting a wide net for new ideas) will launch later this spring.
  3. The dates and topic of the third contest have not yet been determined.

This year’s first News Challenge will focus on the concept of networks. John Bracken, director of journalism and media innovation for the Knight Foundation, explained what Knight means by networks:

“In the course of our work, we often come across proposals to ‘build a Facebook that connects X and Y.’ We want to move away from that. There are a lot of vibrant networks and platforms, on- and off-line, that can be used to connect us with the news and information we need to make decisions about our lives. This challenge will not fund new networks. Rather, we’re asking you to describe ways you might use existing platforms to drive innovation in media and journalism.”

Knight News Challenge 2012 from Knight Foundation on Vimeo.

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

February 16, 2012

Knight Media Learning Seminar: Livestream, Feb. 20-21

Next week, community, foundation and tech leaders are gathering in Miami to explore trends in news and information, as well as the best ways to invest in media. It’s the 2012 Knight Media Learning Seminar, and you can watch the livestream online…

Watch the livestream beginning Monday, Feb. 20, 10 am EST. Full schedule and more info.

The program includes keynotes by:

Other sessions include:

  • Monday 11:45 am EST: Achievements. Foundation leaders discuss their successful local news and information projects.
  • Monday, 3:45 pm EST: What’s now, what’s next. A look at emerging technologies, with Knight VPs Michael Maness and Paula Ellis, and Amy Webb of the WebbMedia Group.
  • Tuesday, 10:15 am EST: Partnerships. Tips on how to find the best partners for your news and information project, based on the new Knight Foundation report.

Follow the conference hashtag on Twitter: #infoneeds.

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

February 21, 2012

News sites on the mobile web: vast room for improvement

Many news publishers focus their mobile strategies on platform-specific apps—but the mobile web may actually be more important, since a mobile website is easier to discover, link to, and share from a mobile device.

Damon Kiesow, senior product manager for the Boston Globe, recently examined the mobile websites of over 100 U.S. newspapers. Here’s what he found…

In this spreadsheet, Kiesow compared the desktop and mobile websites for the top 50 U.S. newspapers by circulation, plus an additional randomly selected 53 news sites. Here’s what he found:

Automatic redirect. Some news sites automatically redirect mobile traffic to a mobile-optimized version of the site, instead of displaying the full version of the site, which then requires a lot of pinching and zooming to navigate. About 85% of news sites do automatic redirection—but 13 do not, including some major sites such as and

How good are these mobile news sites? Across the 103 sites he reviewed: “Overall, not great,” Kiesow tweeted. Many were “missing content, have poor design, broken features etc.”

Activate geolocation for mobile visitors. Nearly 36% of news sites ask permission to do this, often to localize weather information. “Geolocation was noted if it occurred automatically upon site load,” Kiesow clarified. “Many offer it manually or elsewhere within the app.”

Prompt visitors to bookmark the mobile site. This is an easy way to encourage repeat visits from mobile users—yet just four mobile news sites Kiesow examined do this.

Attempted to upsell a mobile app from the mobile website. Strikingly, only one of the mobile news sites Kiesow visited do this. “A fair number of sites had links to their apps, but only one did an overlay or interstitial on site load,” said Kiesow.

He also clarified that he did not check how many of the sites offer mobile apps at all. However, it’s likely that nearly all of the larger news outlets offer apps.

Linking from the mobile website to the mobile apps is a good start, but the lack of app upsell still is rather staggering, given how heavily many news organizations have invested in building their mobile apps.

Kiesow also noted whether the desktop or mobile web site had some kind of restricted access—either “metered” (where the site requires login or subscription to view content) or has some kind of paywall. This data may be less reliable, said Kiesow: “The registration/paywall info may not be perfect, it is really difficult to figure out the business rules on many sites.”

Bearing that caveat in mind, Kiesow found that about a dozen of the desktop news sites were “metered,” while only one mobile news site was (that of the Worcester, MA Telegram and Gazette). Slightly more desktop news sites (about 20) appeared to have an actual paywall in place; compared to only two of the mobile news sites. So even though this may be a small sample, frugal news consumers might be able to save a little change by checking out news sites on their mobile devices.

Again, Kiesow’s review of these sites was admittedly quick and cursory, so some of his data may be incorrect. Still, this initial data does seem to indicate that many news outlets may be discounting the potential of the mobile web—including overlooking some basic best practices. There’s definitely ample room for improvement on this front.

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

February 22, 2012

Revenue watch: Advertisers getting more interested in mobile

New research indicates that advertisers may be overlooking mobile ads in favor of print—for now. But that appears to be changing…

According to a recent report from Flurry (a mobile analytics provider), currently U.S. consumers currently spend nearly a quarter of the total time they devote to all media to mobile. This is second only to TV (which commands 40% of consumer media experience time), and is slightly ahead of computer-based web usage.

Yet major U.S. advertisers currently spend the least on mobile advertising—just 1% of total ad dollars spent in 2011, Flurry reports. In contrast, nearly 30% of all ad dollars currently flow to print media, which commands just 6% of consumers’ media time.

But advertisers appear to be catching on. In July 2011, an Interactive Advertising Bureau survey found that 63% of brand marketers reported that their companies’ mobile advertising spend increased over the past two years—and 29% reported an increase of over 50%.

Why the disparity between mobile ad dollars and time spent with mobile media? Flurry speculates:

“We believe the main reason for this disparity is that the mobile app platform has emerged so rapidly over such a short period of time. With the iOS and Android app economy only three-and-half years old, Madison Avenue and brands have yet to adjust to an unprecedented adoption of apps by consumers.

“Further, the mobile advertising ecosystem remains nascent, without sophisticated platform tools. Concepts of audience measurement and segmentation on mobile are still forming, and mobile lacks the kinds of systems that agencies take for granted on the web. For instance, mobile inventory is difficult to buy in volume, ad networks have yet to be integrated into Demand-Side Platforms (DSPs) and common standards for ad serving, tracking and settlement are yet to be defined.

“Just consider that large publisher properties like Facebook have yet to monetize their mobile properties, with many still needing to hire media sales organizations to position themselves to do so. As the mobile platform matures, and these problems are addressed, mobile advertising is poised to take off in earnest.”

As news venues and other publishers update their operations for the 21st century, they’ll need to reconfigure the revenue side of the business as well as the editorial side. On this front, they may want to focus more on mobile revenue opportunities, especially mobile advertising.

In the Washington Post’s Wonk Blog, Ezra Klein observed of Flurry’s report:

“I take this graph as fundamentally optimistic. There’s a lot of money to be made in advertising online and on mobile platforms. And since the future of advertising is also the future of how we’ll fund mass information, that’s likely to mean that there’s a lot of information that we’ll be able to fund online and on mobile platforms. The business model behind printed news might be dying. But the business model behind information is just transitioning. At least, I sure hope so.”

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

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