News for Digital Journalists

Posts tagged with: Publishing

December 28, 2011

How publishing changed in 2011: O’Reilly’s take

Yes, right now every media outlet is adding to the incessant flood of 2011 wrap-up stories. But today the O’Reilly Radar blog published one that’s actually pretty important to everyone in the news business: how publishing changed in 2011, and how it’s still changing.

Here’s a quick recap, plus takeaway lessons for news organizations and journalists…

Publishing isn’t only about books. All news organizations and journalists are involved in the publishing business. In fact, back in July, Robert Niles posted in Online Journalism Review a three-part journalist’s guide to e-book publishing.

Today in her O’Reilly post Five things we learned about publishing in 2011, Jenn Webb observed: “Many of publishing’s big developments from 2011 will continue to shape the industry in 2012.”

She pointed out these trends:

1. Amazon is, indeed, a disruptive publishing competitor. “The wave started out small, with a host of expanding self-publishing tools for authors, but it grew to tsunami proportions as Amazon launched imprint after imprint.”

Webb also noted that “Amazon may be encroaching on feature magazines like the Atlantic and the New Yorker as well,” with the launch of Kindle Singles. Journalists eventually may find these and similar publishing options to be more lucrative than writing for magazines.

2. Publishers aren’t necessary to publishing. This is the year self-publishing started to go mainstream, wrote Webb, thanks to the influence of Amazon and other players.

Also: “Another trend emerged this year to further sideline the publisher’s role: the rise of the agent-publisher. This controversial and contentious business model allows agents to step in to provide expanded publishing services to authors.”

This development might increase options for writers (including journalists), while threatening the business model of publishers (including news outlets).

3. Readers sure do like e-books. Citing a number of statistics about sales of e-books and e-reader devices and apps, Webb noted: “The conclusion is clear: e-reading is now mainstream.” Which indicates that journalists and news publishers should be aggressively pursuing this market now.

4. HTML5 is an important publishing technology. This basically boils down to the role that responsive web design and utilizing the capabilities of different device types can play in creating a seamless user experience that bridges devices—key points that mobile design expert Luke Wroblewski mentioned in his recent KDMC interview.

5. DRM is full of unintended consequences. News sites that are trying to build a business model based on restricting access to content—via paywalls, digital rights management, or other means—should take note of why Webb finds this approach short-sighted and ultimately bad for business.

Webb quoted a recent blog post by author Charlie Stross, who wrote:

“DRM on e-books gives Amazon a great tool for locking e-book customers into the Kindle platform. If you buy a book that you can only read on the Kindle, you’re naturally going to be reluctant to move to other e-book platforms… If the big six [book publishers] began selling e-books without DRM, readers would at least be able to buy from other retailers and read their e-books on whatever platform they wanted, thus eroding Amazon’s monopoly position.”

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

March 14, 2012

Federal court backs fair use, punishes copyright troll

The principle of fair use just got a significant legal boost. Last week a federal judge ordered the controversial firm Righthaven to forfeit all of the copyrights it had been enforcing on behalf of publishers…

In their detailed analysis of the decision, the Electronic Frontier Foundation noted: “The judgment—part of the nuisance lawsuit avalanche started by copyright troll RighthavenDemocratic Underground did not infringe the copyright in a Las Vegas Review-Journal newspaper article when a user of the online political forum posted a five-sentence excerpt, with a link back to the newspaper’s website.

“Judge Roger Hunt’s judgment confirms that an online forum is not liable for its users’ posts, even if it was not protected by the safe harbors of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s notice and takedown provisions. The decision also clarifies that a common practice on the Internet—excerpting a few sentences and linking to interesting articles elsewhere—is a fair use, not an infringement of copyright.”

Previously, MediaNews Group entered into a deal with Righthaven that allowed Righthaven to sue infringers of content from the Denver Post and other MNG papers, and the two organizations would share the proceeds. Last summer, when Digital First took over management of MNG papers, CEO John Paton severed ties with Righthaven—calling it a “dumb idea.”

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

August 09, 2012

Review: RCFP “first aid” app for journalists

Recently the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press launched a free “first aid” mobile app to give reporters in the field immediate access to legal resources, especially when encountering obstacles to newsgathering or access. Here are some reasons why anyone who commits acts of journalism should have it on their smartphone—and what news publishers can learn from this type of publishing project…

This app is basically an e-book which you download as an app and customize with information specific to your state—and which RCFP periodically updates with fresh information. For resource guides where information changes often, this is probably a better approach than publishing a traditional e-book, and certainly much more mobile-friendly (and user-friendly) than publishing in pdf or print format.

The app covers these six legal topic areas:

  • Newsgathering
  • Court access
  • Public meetings
  • Public records
  • Confidential sources
  • Libel


When you first download this app, select all the states where you do reporting. For instance, if you report even occasionally from one or more neighboring states—and especially if you cover courts, where venue changes can carry local cases into another state’s courts—it’s a good idea to select all the states you may be reporting from. You can add or remove states from your list at any time.

With state customization, when you access relevant sections of this guide to get answers you’ll see a short overview of the topic at hand followed by state subheadings with additional info, including citations for relevant state laws. This can be helpful if you need to, say, press for access to a closed meeting that should be public. Knowing which law to cite can help persuade an official barring the door who may not be as familiar with legal requirements.

You can also search the text of the app’s content.

The RCFP app also has also a “hotline” feature, where you can place a call or send an e-mail to RCFP for immediate legal answers and assistance. And soon this app will connect journalists to RCFP’s new hotlines for both the Republican National Convention (Aug. 27-30, Tampa, FL) and Democratic National Convention (Sept. 4-6, Charlotte, NC). Presumably the app will also add convention-specific content as well.

This guide is a great example of how to deploy a useful mobile resource that communicates a body of knowledge and actionable tips. There are some opportunities for improvement, of course.

First of all, it would be helpful if users could create text, voice, photo, or video annotations to relevant pages in their copy of their apps, and then have the option of saving them offline, sending them to others, or sharing them back to RCFP. This could enrich the body of knowledge RCFP has amassed, and also provide useful feedback and case studies to further improve and promote this app.

Also this app could (and probably should) also be implemented as a mobile web app—a mobile-friendly interactive web site that can be viewed through a browser on a mobile device. This would offer the significant benefits of search visibility and direct linkability.

For instance, imagine that a reporter who never heard of this app is unexpectedly forbidden access to a courtroom. She would probably call her editor, or reach out to colleagues or social media, or quickly search Google for fast answers and options. If all this content was available on the web, the Google search would deliver relevant pages—perhaps even state-specific info from RCFP, since Google mobile search results are inherently weighted by location.

Similarly, if this apps content was simultaneously deployed via a mobile-friendly website (and if both versions were served from the same content management system to keep them synchronized), the reporter’s editor, colleagues, or social media contacts could send her a direct link to the relevant information. She then could view this in the web browser of her phone, tablet, netbook, or laptop without having to download or install anything. These pages also could advertise and facilitate the download of the mobile app.

A joint downloadable/web app deployment would enable another possibly popular and useful feature: the ability to share links to relevant pages of app content via e-mail, text message, social media, and more.

Still, making all this information available first as a freestanding downloadable app is useful, since you might easily end up reporting from a location that lacks good (or any) wifi or cell signal.

Community publishers might consider this app not just as a useful resource for their own reporters and community members, but also as an example of how to deploy a mobile-friendly resource for your community.

For instance, if your news venue often covers topics such as the school system or harassment by local law enforcement, a mobile guide that offers current context, law/regulations, resources (including phone numbers and e-mail addresses), tips and advice, and your recent or important coverage could prove quite popular with community members. This approach might help promote your news brand—and perhaps also provide new direct or indirect revenue options.

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