Damon Kiesow


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Google’s new +1 social search could be a vote in favor of news publishers

Google’s integration of social recommendations into its search results, rolled out Wednesday, could have a significant impact on the way publishers work to attract Web visitors.

Google’s +1 tool will add a recommendation button next to every search result.

Google’s new +1 initiative places what amounts to a “like” button next to each of its search results. Voting up a result (by hitting the +1 button) will help Google further refine its search results to favor popular pages.

Those +1 votes will be directly visible to any friends signed in with a Google Profile, and in aggregate the ratings will be used to help improve overall search results by including user preferences.

For publishers, the result is that pages given a +1 by readers will appear more prominently in Google searches, and will be highlighted as recommendations by friends within the reader’s social network. That network only extends to Google products currently, but it is expected to include Twitter and other services in the future. Read more

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Replica editions dominate recent newspaper iPad apps

In the newspaper tablet app race, the replicas are winning.

My informal review of news iPad apps released in March reveals that the majority are PDFs or PDF-like recreations of the print edition, dominated by a few vendors and newspaper groups.

Tecnavia developed apps released by four different newspaper chains this month, while Presteligence, NewsSynergy and Paperlit backed another handful of offerings. Among the apps I found, only the Tulsa World and The Daily developed their apps in-house.

The Daily is an outlier because its new Elizabeth Taylor Tribute Magazine paid app is meant as a one-time offering and was built using the framework of the daily publication.

Among the other 20 apps I found, the trend toward vendor-supported replica apps is both promising and troubling. Only the Greensboro News-Record and the Brainerd (Minnesota) Dispatch could be classified as “interactive” — resembling a traditional Web experience as opposed to a static representation of a printed page. Read more

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Cost, subscription process irk users of New York Times iPhone, iPad apps after paywall

Judging by early reviews, The New York Times subscription plan is not a hit with users of its iPad and iPhone apps. At least, it’s not a hit with users motivated enough to leave comments in the iTunes App Store.

A flurry of comments have been posted for the Times’ iPhone and iPad apps in the last 24 hours. Most of them are negative, and the vast majority assign a rating of one star out five.

If you pay attention to app reviews (like app developers do) you know that it’s not unusual for people to respond negatively to an app update; unhappy consumers are more likely to leave comments than happy ones. (There was an increase in comments for the iPhone app after it was updated last week, but reviewers started to focus on price once it went subscription-only yesterday.)

Still, the comments do tell us something about consumer response. Read more

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New York Times rolls out paywall for mobile apps

The New York Times has begun rolling out changes to its website and mobile apps in advance of its digital subscription plan, which launched Monday afternoon.

Unlike the metered Web paywall, which provides 20 free articles per month and allows linking from search and social media, content on the mobile apps is more tightly controlled.

A house ad at the bottom of the Times’ iPhone app takes readers to the paper’s March 18 letter explaining the changes:

“On our smartphone and tablet apps, the Top News section will remain free of charge. For access to all other sections within the apps, we will ask you to become a digital subscriber.”

On NYTimes.com, several FAQs concerning the paper’s stable of mobile apps have been updated to reflect the new subscription requirement. (Times subscriptions on the Kindle, Nook and Sony Reader e-readers are covered by separate subscriptions.)

Top News, videos and most emailed stories are still available to non-subscribers on the Times’ iPad and iPhone apps. Read more

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In Kansas, Twitter puts court reporter in touch with the community

In an elevator in a Wichita, Kan., district court in 2008, Ron Sylvester realized Twitter was changing how he practiced journalism.

Sylvester, a longtime court reporter for The Wichita Eagle and Kansas.com, had just finished covering a murder trial. It was the second time Sylvester had covered a trial live, and the first time he had used Twitter to do so.

As they rode down in the elevator, the mother of victim Chelsea Brooks turned to him and asked, “How is your knee?”

It was not a random question, and it showed Sylvester how he had changed the way readers viewed him in the community.

Sylvester posts professional and personal updates on Twitter. One of those personal tweets mentioned his need for a post-trial knee surgery.

The mother had been following his coverage. On the elevator ride, she opened up the conversation based on the human, not journalistic, information Sylvester had shared online. Read more

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The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times compete on newsstands in New York. (Mark Lennihan/AP)

The New York Times subscription plan doesn’t protect print, it promotes the mobile Web

The New York Times’ new digital subscription pricing has been characterized by some as a backward-looking effort to protect print revenue. But after comparing the Times’ subscription prices to The Wall Street Journal’s, I see a different goal: promoting the mobile Web over native apps on digital tablets.

The Times announced last week that it will charge $455 a year for digital-only access to its content, which includes Web access and smartphone and tablet apps. In comparison, a weekday print subscription – which also includes full digital access – is available for $385 a year, and a Sunday-only subscription is just $5 more.

That caused pundits to argue that the Times is creating an incentive for consumers to choose a print subscription (which includes digital access) over digital-only.

There is one problem with that argument: A Web subscription to the Times is $195 a year, and the Times’ website works just fine on the iPad. Read more

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On Twitter’s 5th birthday, users and media consider its impact

Five years ago, according to Twitter, co-founder Jack Dorsey sent out the first tweet: “inviting coworkers.” Ev Stone tweeted for the first time within a minute: “just setting up my twttr.”

Co-creator Dom Sagolla had it right when one of his first tweets that day predicted, “oh this is going to be addictive.”

The anniversary has prompted a number of analyses and retrospectives:

9 Newsworthy Twitpics That Captivated the World – Mashable
> Five years since the first tweet: a Twitter revolution in breaking news – Frontline Club
Happy 5th Birthday, Twitter! 10 Top Tweets of the Past 5 years – ABC News
The history of Twitter, 140 characters at a time – The Globe and Mail
Twitter: tweeting louder than ever – The Guardian
Twitter at Five: Bringing out the worst in journalists – National Post
> How Twitter changed our media habits – The Media Blog
Happy Fifth Birthday Twitter! Read more

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For New York Times paid content, not all digital platforms are created equal

For The New York Times, not all digital platforms are apparently equal. The paper’s long-awaited digital subscription plan, announced Thursday, creates three pricing tiers, with smart phones and digital tablets split between two different packages, each of which also include Web content.

The plan, which begins March 28 in the U.S., limits free access to the NYTimes.com to 20 page views per month, with some exceptions including search and social media referrals.

Beyond those free page views, readers will be asked to pick a digital subscription package, which includes Web and mobile platforms:

  • $15 for NYTimes.com and smart phone app access
  • $20 for NYTimes.com and tablet app access
  • $35 for full access to smart phone, tablet and Web content

While the paper’s website will be metered at 20 page views, its mobile apps will not be metered. But, non-subscribers will be limited to articles in the Top News section. Read more

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Highlights from SXSW: 7 steps to building trust and credibility with an online audience

Doreen Marchionni spent the last four years studying how journalists can boost their credibility and engagement with digital audiences. She found the simple secret: Interact online and be human.

However, she says, it takes more than simply having a Twitter account and posting story links. “When your audience is able to participate and influence the outcome of a story,” that is conversational journalism, she told me by phone last week.

Marchionni, who studied the topic for her Ph.D. at the University of Missouri in 2009, now teaches at Pacific Lutheran University, and is an editor at The Seattle Times. She discusses the findings of her doctoral dissertation Tuesday at SXSW.

Her presentation will focus on practical tips newsrooms can take to increase interaction, trust and audience for news websites. Below are her suggestions for journalists.

Use the tools of the Internet to commit journalism.

Reporters need to be on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. Read more

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State of the News Media 2011: The 3 things people want on their mobile devices and how you can provide them

The Project for Excellence in Journalism’s eighth annual “State of the News Media” includes new survey data that confirms mobile apps need to serve consumers’ immediate needs for local information, including weather and restaurant listings.

The findings reveal that weather and business data, along with local news, traffic and public transportation information, are key interests of the local mobile audience.

The Pew survey, “How mobile devices are changing community information environments,” is based on landline and mobile phone interviews with 2,251 adults. Only a small percentage of respondents rely on a mobile device as their primary news source, but 47 percent say they get some local news from a smart phone or tablet.

The audience searching for local information on mobile devices is significant and that percentage will continue to grow.

The leading mobile needs are “practical and in real time,” the report says:

“Forty-two percent of mobile device owners report getting weather updates on their phones or tablets; 37 percent say they get material about restaurants or other local businesses.

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