Saturday, October 28, 2006

Private conversation is aim of new blog software

Vox, Latin for voice, is an outgrowth of Trott's campaign to find a more secure way for people to express themselves.

In its private aspects, Vox serves some of the same purposes that e-mail or instant messaging do by allowing friends to hold secure conversations away from prying eyes.

Many features are designed for parents who want to stay connected with friends but do not have the patience or time to maintain a public blog, Six Apart officials said.

Vox is not alone in seeking to carve out private spaces on the Web. Social sites like MySpace, owned by News Corp., and Facebook rely on creating a clubby, members-only feeling, although actual blog writing is secondary to finding new people to meet.

Other social network sites like Piczo or iMeem have made privacy features core to their design, but they largely appeal to younger groups.

"Clubbing every night gets old. You may want to blog, but you may not want to blog in public," Forrester Research analyst Charlene Li said of the appeal of new sites like Vox.

Vox offers hundreds of pre-designed templates, replacing the "blank page" problem of many blogs. A conversational "question of the day" appears on Vox blogs each day to encourage users to get in the habit of writing.

Users can pull in links to other popular sites like, Google's YouTube and Yahoo's Flickr. Mobile phone users can also publish to Vox.

Vox initially is available in the United States, Japan and France, with new markets due to be added early next year.

© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

TOOLS OF OUR TRADE : Campware - free software for a free press

See the following tools you can make use of in your news room
1. Campsite – Open source newspaper/magazine software for web publishing
2. Campcaster - A free and open source automation system for radio stations
3. Cream - A free, open-source Customer Relations Management (CRM) for media organizations
4. Dream - A distribution management system for print publications

Campsite -
Open Source Newspaper/Magazine Software for Web Publishing
Campsite is a web publishing system that can bring your newspaper or magazine content to the online world. It is often used by media organizations who also have a printed version of their publication, and enables them to increase their revenues with online subscriptions and ads. There are many systems that might seem similar to Campsite, but it is the only open-source system designed to work in the same style of newspapers and magazines - for example, with multiple journalists, editor review, issue publishing, and subscription management.

Here are a few of its main features:
1. Journalist/user-friendly. The interface is made to be simple and require as few clicks as possible to get the job done.
2. Supports multi-lingual content. This means you can publish your articles in multiple languages at once - for example, have the same article in English, French, and Spanish. All content in Campsite can be translated.
3. Content management designed for newspapers: issue publishing, exclusive content for subscribers, multi-media content, content categories, subscriber comments, WYSIWYG editor, article locking (so only one journalist can work on an article at a time), and timed release of articles or issues.
4. Subscription management with fine-grain control over what content your subscribers have access to.
5. Total design freedom over the look and layout of your site. Campsite does not impose any sort of predefined "block" layout to the structure of your site.
A free and open source automation system for radio stations
Campcaster is the first free and open radio management software that provides live studio broadcast capabilities as well as remote automation in one integrated system.
A free, open-source CRM for media organizations
Cream is a multilingual customer relationship management (CRM) system for media organizations that features powerful modules for sales automation, customer service, subscription management, incoming and outgoing email, template-based HTML newsletters, and a WYSIWYG editor.
A distribution management system for print publications
Dream is a powerful and user-friendly system for tracking print distribution and circulation. It uses many principles from customer relationship management (CRM) systems, but in a way specific to print publishers

To download your free copy of campsite go to

How to make money on your news content website

How to make money on your news content website
This article is designed to help journalists learn how to make extra money, or even a full-time wage, by publishing independently online. It is not intended to provide an online revenue model for established news organizations. Heck, they've got business managers. They shouldn't need a wiki to show them what to do.
Content websites typically earn money through one of four ways:



Paid content


Affiliate programs, such as's Associates Program, provided the first ways for early solo and small Web publishers to make a few bucks on their websites. In these programs, an online retailer will pay you, the publisher, a percentage on sales made after customers click through from your website to the retailer's site. Links can include traditional banner ads, search forms and links to individual products.
Because you only earn money when sales are made, affiliate programs will work best for you if your site's readers are consistently looking to make high-priced purchases -- for example, if you run a product review site. If you're interested in affiliate program, browse through merchant directories like Commission Junction to find retailers that offer products that fit your site's topic and audience.

Once registered with a merchant's program, you can create an ad or product link on your site using a snippet of Web code downloaded from the retailer. Some merchants go further and allow you to create virtual storefronts that match the design of your site, but where the retailer still handles all the inventory and commerce. Be careful setting up such arrangements -- unless you want customers coming to you for return and refund questions instead of to the retailer.

You'll want to note what percentage of a sale the retailer pays back to you, as well as the length of time after a sale that you get credit for the purchase. Some retailers limit credit to sales made on the initial click-through, but others will give credit for any sales made within a day or so. Also, some retailers will pay a commission on purchases you personally make after clicking your own links; others may kick you out of the program for doing that. Check a retailer's affiliate agreement and shop around for what you consider the best deal before putting links on your site.

Many publishers have found that links to individual products return more commissions than banner ads going to a retailer's home page. But the additional money those links earn might not be enough to justify the extra time that selecting and maintaining them requires.

Most news websites earn the bulk of their money through advertising. But you don't need a sales staff to attract advertisers to your site. Ad networks can handle the sale and display of ads on your site. All you need do is drop a few lines of code into your Web pages where you want the ads to appear.
The most popular ad network for independent publishers is Google's AdSense program. AdSense is a "pay per click" (PPC) program, where you earn money each time one of your readers clicks on a Google-served ad. Since you earn money on clicks, rather than completed sales, PPC ad networks can provide a more reliable source of income for sites whose readers are not looking to make a purchase right away. Other notable PPC ad networks include the Yahoo! Publisher Network and Ad Voyager.

Most PPC ads are text, but some PPC networks also sell image and Flash ads. Ads are sold and displayed based on an auction system, where advertisers bid on selected keywords and phrases that appear on network websites. The ad network looks for webpages displaying its ad code, then matches what it determines the content of a webpage to be with the most appropriate keywords and phrases that advertisers have bid upon. The network then automatically weighs several factors in determining which ads to serve on the page, including the value of those bids; advertisers' remaining budgets for those bids; what percentage of readers have clicked on those ads in the past; and, in Google's case, the percentage of those readers who have made a purchase or read a designated number of pages on the advertiser's site.

Google's "Smart Pricing" program will adjust the amount paid to you for each click based on your readers' track record of making a purchase, or viewing a certain number of pages, on that particular advertiser's website. So if your site attracts motivated buyers, you remain in the best position to earn money.

Since PPC ad networks target their ads primarily by topic, rather than geography or demographics, that makes these networks work better with niche topic websites than with sites that target their readers by geography or other demographics, such as gender, education, income or political affiliation.

For the system to work well for you, the PPC network's spiders must be able to determine a topic for each of your webpages and then must match keywords or phrases that advertisers have bid upon. That means the advantage goes to websites where each page covers a distinct and easily identifiable subject. So if you have a blog that covers a mishmash of topics on a single URL, you won't elicit the targeted ads that lead to high-paying clicks.

If you want to use PPC ad networks, organize your content to limit individual URLs to a specific topic. Break long blogs into individual entries. Archive old posts and stories by subject matter, not just by date and author. Stay active on discussion boards, keeping threads on topic and directing folks to more relevant pages should they stray toward other subjects. Use keywords in headlines, decks and URLs whenever possible. And spell out keywords, phrases and proper names on first reference, rather than using acronyms throughout the piece. (See, old fashioned copy editing rules *can* help you make money!)

Well-organized pages on individual topics also show up better in search engine results, attracting Web surfers curious about a specific keyword, who are more likely to click on a targeted ad. Publishers who create evergreen articles that are likely to attract a high number of links and clicks over time will do best in attracting search engine traffic to their ad-supported webpages. If you publish time-sensitive articles, which are not likely to have a long-enough shelf life to attract significant search engine traffic, consider swapping out or archiving articles on the same topic to a single URL, so that URL can get linked to and picked up in search results.

Whatever you do, do not even think about clicking the ads on your site, or encouraging your readers to do the same. All PPC ad networks prohibit click fraud, and will boot from their program any publisher found to be inflating their number of clicks. Even well-intentioned discussion board participants can get a publisher booted from the program by encouraging other readers to click the ads to support the site. Google, for example, has suggested publishers concerned about their readers' conduct add this disclaimer to their site:

"Your postings to this site may not include incentives of any kind for other users to click on ads which are displayed on the site. This includes encouraging other readers to click on the ads or to visit the advertisers' sites, as well as drawing any undue attention to the ads. This activity is strictly prohibited in order to avoid potential inflation of advertiser costs."
If you don't think PPC ad networks will work for you because your site's target audience is defined by demographics, such as geography or a religious or political affiliation -- don't worry. Traditional ad networks such as BlogAds provide an alternative to the PPC networks. BlogAds sells its ads on a more traditional site-targeted model. Advertisers do not bid on keywords or phrases, but instead pay for their ads to be displayed a certain number of times on selected websites or groups of websites. BlogAds has become especially popular on political blogs, where advertisers can buy across a group of liberal or conservative weblogs.


Where you place ads on a page affects how many of your users see them, and click. According to recent Google research, top performing ad formats include:

Large box ads placed in the middle of your main content column;

Skyscraper ads placed in a left-side column;

Leaderboard ads placed at the top and the bottom of the main content column.
Customize the ads' colors to match the background, type and navigational colors of your site, too, to eliminate "banner blindness" and maximize their visibility to your readers.
Then keep an eye on your ads to make sure that they remain relevant to your site. To a reader, ads -- like anything else on your pages -- are part of the content of your website. If an ad network fails to deliver consistently relevant ads, dump it and try something else. Respect your readers by not bombarding them with irrelevant advertising and they will respect you by continuing to read your site.

Think twice before installing pop-up, pop-under and screen "take-over" ads, too. Many readers steer clear of sites that block their access to the content they're looking for with aggressive advertising. Keep your website a safe haven for these ad-weary readers and you can build its audience over time.

How much traffic do you need?

With advertising, the more readers you have and page views you serve, the more money you can make. But how much traffic do you need to make a living from your website?

To make $36,500 a year, you'd need to earn $100 a day on your site (plus whatever expenses you incur). Let's assume your site is attractive to advertisers and earns $10 in ad revenue for every thousand page views. That would mean you'd need to serve 10,000 page views a day to meet this target. (And more if your site earns less than $10 per thousand page views.)

How can you attract that much traffic? If you are writing one article a day on subjects that will be out of date within 24 hours, it's going to be tough. You'll need to attract nearly 10,000 views each day for that's day article, since few people will bother reading your old, out-of-date work. If you write a fair number of “evergreen” features, which keep attracting page views long after they are written, you'll find the task much easier. If your site naturally deals with “perishable” news content, at least publish each day's new news to the same URL, overwriting or pushing down the old content, so that URL can build the in-bound links and search engine traffic that will help you attract new readers you need each day.

Reader-contributed content can also help you meet your page view goals. Well-managed, thoughtfully organized discussion boards and wikis can add dozens of new content pages a day to your site, with much less effort on your part than writing that many original articles.

Paid content
Given the variety and depth of information available on the Web, you have to provide truly unique content of high value to specific readers to get those readers to pay for it. The fact that a paid journalist wrote an article for you does not mean it's worth paying for to a reader. Detail-oriented publications such as Consumer Reports and Cook's Illustrated have had success selling the results of their independent testing online. And, of course, porn sites have been earning big bucks from paid content since the Web's earliest days. But general-interest publications, such as the Los Angeles Times, have found that walling off content to paid subscribers has generated less revenue than the company could have earned by selling advertising on freely available pages.
If you are certain that your content is unique and valuable enough that readers would be willing to pay for it, you'll need to select a way to handle payments from your readers. The system could be as easy as asking readers mail you a check in exchange for your putting them on e-mail content distribution list -- a method which offers the advantage of not requiring any advanced Web server security set-up. Or you could restrict access to certain folders on your website to readers whom you assign log-ins after they buy a subscription. Such restrictions are relatively easy to set up on Apache webservers. Payment can be handled manually via postal mail or phone, or automatically through an e-commerce storefront. (Many Web hosting packages include e-commerce storefronts.)

Supporting a website through sponsorship or grants requires the least technical skill of these options, but the most interpersonal skills. You'll need to play the role of a salesperson, in addition to journalist and editor, in convincing a individual or organization to give you money to put up your site.
In either case, you'll need to identify individuals, or individuals within organizations, who might be willing to commit their money, or their organization's money, to your site. You'll need to make a written proposal, and often, an in-person pitch, and follow through until you secure your funding. Grants typically require a more structured application process than sponsorships, which can be sold through a formal solicitation or over drinks at the dinner table, depending upon whom you are working with.

The University of Iowa provides some guidance and a collection of links on grant writing in general, including links to many organizations which grant funds to researchers and publishers.

© Online Journalism Review

From Online Journalism Review,
Annenberg School of Journalism, University of Southern California

Knight News Challenge offers millions for online news innovation

Knight News Challenge offers millions for online news innovation
A new initiative offers up to $5 million in funding this year for new ideas and websites that help improve the quality of life in physical communities.
By Robert Niles
Posted: 2006-09-28
Have you been kicking around an idea for a new community news website? The Knight Foundation has a few million reasons why you ought to give it a go.

The Knight Foundation is putting up $25 million over the next five years to encourage journalists and Web developers to find new ways to use the Internet to help improve the quality of life in geographic communities. The Knight Brothers 21st Century News Challenge will award up to $5 million this year “to fund new ideas, prototypes, products and leadership initiatives that use innovative news methods to help citizens better connect within their communities."

Anyone can apply: individual journalists, news companies, hackers with a dream. The deadline for submitting a letter of inquiry is December 1.

Gary Kebbel is the Journalism Initiatives Program Officer for the Knight Foundation. He spoke on the phone with OJR about the Challenge.

OJR: What kind of thinking, or action, are you hoping to encourage with this initiative?

Kebbel: I think a lot of what we think of as not getting traction is research and development in the news industry. We want to help spur that. But we're also looking at non-news industry companies that are doing research and development and creating new products. But they're not necessarily being created by people who have news values and principles and ethics. We want to make sure that we can help those in the news industry with the values of seeking the fair, accurate, contextual search for truth and to help them develop new products that help them stay strong.

Sort of a genesis for this was looking around and realizing that there was a time period when the publisher of a paper – and we're saying, particularly the publisher of a Knight newspaper – was the glue of the community. In the way that, they not only were good citizens, they participated in community life. But by presenting the news, they helped identify problems, and they helped bring people together for common solutions. Now, as people transfer their news seeking or information seeking to cyberspace, who is doing in cyberspace what a Knight publisher used to do in real space? Who is performing that function of bringing the community together, and helping them solve problems? And improve their lives? So, with those sort of questions in mind, and in the idea that we felt that the news industry needed some help, we created this news challenge.

OJR: One of the distinguishing characteristics of online publishing that we've seen at this point, is that there are a lot of vibrant communities out there. But they're organized around topics, subjects, rather than geography. Talk a little bit about that, and what the implications for that might be for this endeavor.

Kebbel: Obviously the requirement that the communities effect people in physical space in real life, is an addition requirement. Because we don't feel that online communities need our help. Virtual communities spring up every day. But using digital communities to enhance physical communities, we think does need our help. And the reason we're focusing on physical communities is because we simply want to perform the functions that a good news organization should, we think. Which is, to help improve the lives of people where they live and work. And it boils down to physically getting people together and trying to improve their actual, real lives.

OJR: But might it not be possible that some people or organizations putting together these virtual communities might develop some type of technology that then could be applied to the physical geographic community that would then be worthy of consideration?

Kebbel: Oh, yes. If a digital community helps people get together in real life, that qualifies. We're just saying, for example, a community of model railroaders around the world is not one that we've designed this news challenge for. But something that might bring together Detroit teachers, that would work.

OJR: Let's talk a little bit more about specifically who you're looking for to apply for this. Are you looking for individuals in their home office? Are you looking for a corporate IT department, or something in between?

Kebbel: Everything. We would love it if a brilliant high school kid submits an idea and we get the chance to recognize it for its potential. Typically, foundations give money to other non-profit organizations. And what we're doing that's different with this, is that we're giving money – or saying that we are able to and planning to – give money to individuals, to other non-profits, or to commercial entities or to for-profit companies. It could be a company with two employees, who are trying to get off the ground. It could be an arm of a much more established company, if indeed what that arm is doing is creating a product that helps improve life in physical communities.

OJR: Looking through the website that you've set up for this – one of the first things that struck me is that the criteria here is vague. And, as you say, purposely so. But one of the interesting things I saw in there was, you did get a little bit more specific when you're talking about what you're not looking for.

Kebbel: You know, you're the second person to say that.

Well, what we're not looking for are things that are already there, obviously. A new way to use a blog is probably not going to make it. Or – it's sort of difficult to say what we're not looking for, because overall, the thing is so broad. One thing, though, is the training program thing is important. This foundation has supported journalism training very heavily, since its founding in 1950. And so, we really wanted to point out that what we're looking for here is probably so new that it's not possible to have a training program for it yet.

OJR: Another one of the issues that comes up to this sort of thing is – it's great when you've got something like this happening. You get a little initial source of funding for it, but what about the long term sustainability? Tell me a little bit about the awards process. Will people be able to renew them, or is there an expectation that this will get you up to the level where something is sustainable?

Kebbel: Well, we've broken it into various categories. And let's take the very first one, ideas. And these categories we thought sort of mimicked a product creation stage, or process. Let's say that someone wins the idea award in year one. We would love it if they would come back in year two, and try to get a pilot project award for the same program. And then the thing about the pilot project or field test is that we do want there to be a sustainability plan, as part of that. We don't have any set limit on either the number of grants, or the amount of grants that we're going to make in each of these categories. We're literally going to judge it against the number of the quality of proposals that we have in. And some of these proposals might be for $30,000, and some might be for $300,000. We're not going to say that one is better than the other, until we look at the proposal and what we think it has the chance of accomplishing. But you're right. Obviously, I think we will give preference to those that seem to have the best sustainability possibilities.

OJR: One of the things I saw that was alluded to on the site, that's always interesting, and maybe you can expand on it a little bit, was the concept of, if something looks fundable, that not only could there be an award, but also you could help network to introduce people to venture capitalists.

Kebbel: You're absolutely right. Because we're a foundation, and are legally set up to give money to other nonprofits, there are different legal hoops that we would have to jump through to give money to a for-profit. Now, there are ways to do it legally. That's one possibility: A flat out “we want to invest in your company." Either as an angel investor, or a second-round investor. But we also thought there are other ways to serve this function of bringing new products to the market. When young companies go up in front of VCs—you know, VCs are always trying to hit a home run. And home run usually means the potential for 100 percent profit in three months. Well, we would be fine with 40 percent profit. I think there's a lot of good companies that get dropped off of the VC table because they're not going to guarantee 100 percent profit.

Our interest is in what they call the double bottom line investing. Which is something that will be profitable, and socially responsible, and serve a social need. So in doing that, we would be glad to take the companies that fell off the VC's home run list. And match them up with our financial advisor, who is also a VC, or people that our financial advisors know. We've been talking to various other foundations that do the work of bringing entrepreneurs together. Because we think it would serve the networking not only of an individual to a group of Vcs, but entrepreneurs to one another.

OJR: Twelve of the 24 months after you announce the winners, the initial winners of these awards, how are you going to be judging the success or the failure of this program?

Kebbel: Because what we're doing is so new in the first year, we're actually going to be using it as our guinea pig, and our baseline. So, I'm glad you said 24 months. Because in the year after we're doing this, we don't know precisely yet how to judge this. Depending on how new or unique or creative the ideas are, there may not be traditional measures of measurement, at the moment. So, one thing that we're gonna do is just do it for a year. Let's see what we get. And then use that as a baseline for trying to start judging what's out there after it's been there.

For more information about the Knight Brothers 21st Century News Challenge, or to apply, visit

© Online Journalism Review
From Online Journalism Review,
Annenberg School of Journalism, University of Southern California