Thursday, September 27, 2007

Web 2.0 to increase online learning

Web 2.0 to increase online learning

By Brenda Zulu
Online learning is here to stay and the increasingly availability of Web 2.0 tools will making e-learning experience more rewarding though some challenges exist.

Making a case for online training of Journalists in Africa, Kwami Ahiabenu II from the International Institute for ICT Journalism (PenPlusBytes) observed that online training was going to become dominant means of training and that there was need to invest time and energy to ensure that it becomes part of a capacity building projects and programmes application.

He noted that though there are costs associated with online training in the long run online training was relatively cheaper and cost effective. An achievement was that online learning provided an opportunity for Journalists to learn about new tools and use them in the process of learning

In overcoming the challenges, Ahiabenu II explained that the course used a group e-mail list as their primary course delivery tool in order to ensure low bandwidth participants are not left out of the course.

Meanwhile, to over come issues of time and commitment, they encouraged the participants to devote more time to the online learning experience in order to derive maximum benefits. They had also developed strategies about coping with change and developing "online" mindset by adapting the course to the learner's environment via flexibility.

"For example when participants could not participate in a session because his or her internet was down, we modify our time table to take this problem into consideration," said Ahiabenu.

He explained that the tools of the online course were skype, blogging, yahoo groups, google groups, wiki's, flicker, like,, flicker, youtube and myspace to allow for participants to comment on content of the web.

In order to facilitate group communication in real time he explained that they asked participants to create a skype account the unfortunate part was that this was not successful because skype was banned in some of the participants' countries.

He said the three months online training organised with the help of partners' course involved research, Web2.0 tools and Knowledge Management for newsrooms.

Some of the online topics included chat forums, reporting ICTs and Content Management System for Journalists.

"Our lecture notes designed for a quick read, straight to the point and written in a narrative format. At the end of each lecture notes reference are provided as well as mandatory further online reading. Links to additional relevant online resources are also provided," he said.

In additional to online content, the trainers encourage participants to buy relevant books as well by providing them with a list of books. They also pointed out to participants relevant articles in magazines and newspapers as they are publish during the course.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

Wikis and real-time maps: now there’s an idea for local newspapers


Wikis and real-time maps: now there’s an idea for local newspapers

Local newspapers looking for ideas to bring readers to their websites could do a lot worse than look at The Wiki City project . This aims to apply wiki technology to the mapmaking process, with the project ultimately permitting "anyone to upload content to a map and utilize Semantic Web principles to cross search multiple layers of information."

"Wiki City Rome, an early incarnation of the project's user-generated maps, used GPS and cell phone data to produce a real-time map during an all-night festival held in the city on Sept. 8. A Web site featuring a satellite image of Rome displayed event locations and the position of buses and pedestrian traffic in real time. Buses equipped with GPS devices fed their locations to the project every minute, while cell phone data was constantly received to show how crowds were moving around the city. An image of the map was also projected in one of Rome's main squares."

"If people know about the state of their environment in real time (as opposed to a static map), they can make better informed decisions about how to move about in the city which in term increases efficiency," Kristian Kloeckl, one of Wiki City Rome's team leaders, wrote in an e-mail interview."

Aside from the use to readers who want to avoid traffic jams and long waits at the bus stop, there is also potential for local advertising:

"Wiki City wants to combine different levels of data that, when searched, provide an answer incorporating each level of data. In Kloeckl's vision of a person using a full-featured wiki city map, a runner would use the map to search for a jogging course based on a city's traffic and air quality as well as the runner's health.

"Now making these layers intersect in a meaningful way should give you a proposal of a jogging path that corresponds to your combined query," Kloeckl wrote.

"Kloeckl also provided another example in which a person would use a map to locate a store with a specific bottle of wine and plot a course from the store to a friend's home."

Years away yet, perhaps, but worth keeping an eye on.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Connect Africa" initiative to be the focus of briefings at United Nations Headquarters, New York, 19-20 September

Geneva, 14 September 2007
What: Press Conference
When: 19 September 2007, 11:15 am EST (1515 UTC)
Where: Room S-226, United Nations, New York

Dr Hamadoun Touré, Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union, Mr Craig Barrett, Chairman of the Global Alliance for Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and Development, Mr Walter Fust, Director-General of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and Mr Mohsen Khalil, Director of Global ICT at the World Bank Group will brief delegates and the media next week in New York on a new initiative to bring ICT connectivity to Africa.

The Connect Africa Initiative will bring together governments, the private sector and other partners to carry out projects aimed at developing the continent's ICT infrastructure. The Initiative will be launched at a Summit of leaders in Kigali, under the patronage of H.E. Mr Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda, and the Chairman of the African Union and President of Ghana, H.E. Mr John Kufuor on 29 and 30 October.

A press conference on Wednesday, 19 September at 11:15 am EST (1515 UTC) will feature Dr Touré, Mr Barrett, who is also the Chairman of the Board of Intel Corporation, Mr Fust and Mr Mohsen Khalil. The press conference will be webcast live here.

On Thursday, 20 September from 11 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., in Conference Room 8 at the United Nations, the Kigali Summit and the Initiative will be introduced to delegates and NGO leaders during a high-level briefing by the Secretary-General of ITU, followed by a question and answer session.

The Connect Africa Initiative will function as a partnership to mobilize the human, financial and technical resources required to bridge major gaps in ICT infrastructure, with the aim of supporting affordable connectivity, applications and services. Investment in ICT will fuel economic growth and employment in the region and help fast-track targets to achieve broader development goals.

Connect Africa will promote the private sector investment required for sustainable network infrastructure development. It is designed to build on current public and private ICT projects by targeting major gaps, mobilizing resources and enhancing coordination in support of national and regional activities.

At the Global Alliance Steering Committee Meeting in Silicon Valley last February, participants agreed to support the Connect Africa initiative to accelerate broadband and wireless connectivity in Africa, with the goal of providing high-speed, low-cost connectivity to all regions of the continent in the next few years.

The Initiative is organized by the International Telecommunication Union, the African Union, the World Bank Group and the Global Alliance for ICT and Development, in partnership with the African Development Bank, the African Telecommunication Union, the Global Digital Solidarity Fund and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

For information, please click here or contact:


Sanjay Acharya
Chief, Media Relations and Public Information
Tel: +41 22 730 6135
Mobile: +41 79 249 4861

At the Global Alliance:

Enrica Murmura
Tel: +1 212 963-5913

At the World Bank Group:

Henny Rahardja
Tel. +1 202 473 4857

About ITU

The WoW Factor: the ethics of online communities

The WoW Factor: the ethics of online communities

Associate professor Douglas Thomas of USC's Annenberg Program in Online Communities explores what is to come for the ways we meet, greet and treat each other in the virtual realm.

By Noah Barron

Just last week, I created a Facebook discussion thread for USC gamers who want to join a Trojan clan for the upcoming release of Halo 3. According to Douglas Thomas, this action is a tremendously significant one: I've taken the first step towards creating an online space where like-minded gamers exchange knowledge and knowledge resource locations.

If that sounds like jargon, it probably is. Monday's presentation at Annenberg, "Understanding the Gamer Disposition: What gamers can teach us about learning in the 21st century" was largely an obfuscated statement of the obvious... that gamers like those who play World of Warcraft (WoW) are early adopters of online communities and use them in unexpected ways.

Thomas has managed to create a research field for himself that allows him to do what he obviously loves: put in lots and lots of gaming hours. "At this point, I've played so much Warcraft that I feel like I should introduce myself as a level-70 warlock who plays a university professor on the USC server," he quipped.

Thomas argues that WoW, Star Wars Galaxies, SecondLife and other massively-multiplayer online games (MMOGs) of their kind aren't terribly useful as teaching tools of actual facts, but rather have a secondary market that teaches players how to learn and teach other players. Translation: secondary player-created resources, like ThottBot, a forum of quest strategies for WoW, spring up to allow players to share their experiences in game and synthesize new ways of playing.

"Players pass knowledge around, teaching others how to find information for themselves."

However, Thomas seems to hold the belief that these objective-driven game environments give rise to an ethical community system. "Games can't necessarily work as teaching tools, but they can teach ethics and civic engagement," he said.

That's the case in WoW, where the game design--by virtue of being an RPG (role-playing game)--has collaboration at the core of its architecture, but what about online games that don't reward collaboration?

"The social life of a game exists outside the game," he says. "The gamers define what constitutes citizenship."

Fine for World of Warcraft, not so pleasant for online first-person shooters or games like Grand Theft Auto. Thomas believes that games are a "transitional phase" of massive online communities, with games easing our culture into the realm of the future, where online avatars represent us and interpersonal relationships are forged in a virtual space.

As a gamer, however, I find that is not always the case. If the game design rewards cooperation and being nice to one another as in WoW guilds, players will do it--not for altruistic reasons, but for self interest--and if the game does not reward those behaviors, like in Halo 2, where intimidation and threats may help you win, players won't behave that way unless forced to by the threat of banning.

It's scary to think that if games are to be these ethical learning engines that teach us how to act in the virtual space, game design inevitably rests in the hands of major media conglomerates that want to sell as many units as possible, with little or no regard to the kind of meta communities that emerge as a result.

Thomas did present a compelling profile of the so-called "gamer disposition." With more than nine million players logging into World of Warcraft, this is a demographic that is becoming rapidly more important for media folks to understand.

He said that typically, (1) gamers are "hungry to be evaluated and scored" and that improvement and curiosity to see new things keep them playing, (2) gamers quit playing when they stop learning and (3) dissatisfaction with the status quo defines a gamer personality.

In WoW, for instance, players want to get better equipment and level up their guy for two reasons, the first being status, but the second, and more important, being the desire to see new and interesting things built into the game world. "Purple shiny pants let you see new things more quickly," he said, cheekily summarizing the motivation for getting new equipment in MMO-RPGs.

In the end though, none of these attributes amount to altruism or actual ethics, which are the ingredients to real social world-building. But for the business world, the gamer disposition can be novel and advantageous. Thomas told an anecdote about a software exec who, when presented with a new project, instead of recruiting people and hiring resources to tackle it, simply assumed that the resources and people were already in his company and went out and explored the building to find them. When pressed about it, the exec, a gamer, said "Well, it's like a quest, right, and I assume that the solution is built into the game environment." Novel indeed, but not always correct.

Douglas Thomas sees a future where we all lead second lives, with an ethically culpable avatar representing us online. "By 2011, 80% of Americans will have some sort of avatar," he said. He looks to games as the ushers of this new world order. "The first thing many Brazilians do when they log onto SecondLife is set up dance clubs. People hear the music, and start to talk to one another."

The benefits of an altruistic, curiosity- and community-driven online realm seem nearly limitless. But to gamers like me who have heard 13-year-old boys with sniper rifles shouting things that would make a Hell's Angel blush, that future seems a bit overly rosy. The future of the online world will probably look a lot like the present of the real world: there will be nice people, there will be jerks, there will be rewards and drawbacks to being either. Choose wisely.

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

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

2007 Online Journalism Awards - Finalists

New York, (September 11, 2007)  Finalists for the 8th annual Online Journalism Awards, honoring excellence in digital journalism, have been announced by the Online News Association and the USC Annenberg School for Communication.

A total of 70 finalists ranging from small independent sites to some of the biggest brands in online news were selected from more than 700 entries.

The finalists were chosen by a team of distinguished journalists during a two-day event on the USC campus September 7 and 8. Winners in each of the 20 categories will be announced at the OJA Banquet during the 8th annual conference of the Online News Association (ONA), October 19 at the Sheraton Centre, Toronto.

The range of finalists this year demonstrates the remarkable diversity in online journalism and the ever-growing number of sites producing first-rate content, said ONA President Kinsey Wilson. From established brands, to small community start-ups, were seeing great work at every level.

For the second year, the Knight Foundation is sponsoring the Knight Public Service Award. The winner will receive $5,000. "This year's contest proves once again that public service journalism is alive and well in the digital world," said Eric Newton, Knight Foundation's vice president, journalism program. "When news organizations put their minds to it, they can provide news in the public interest in new forms as well as traditional."

Here are the finalists for the 2007 Online Journalism Awards:

General Excellence (Large)

The New York Times
Washington Post
USA Today

General Excellence (Medium)
Des Moines Register
Globe and Mail

General Excellence (Small)

Center for Public Integrity

King 5
New West
Ventura County Star

Breaking News (Large)

AP, Virginia Tech Shootings
CNN, Breaking News of the Virginia Tech Shootings
Denver Post, Christmas Blizzard
The New York Times, The Deadly Rampage at Virginia Tech
Orlando Sentinel, Coverage Of Deadly Tornadoes

Breaking News (Small), Virginia Tech Shootings
The Times and Democrat, The Great Debate

Online Commentary (Large)

Newsweek, Christopher Dickey
NPR, My Cancer
Slate, William Saletan
Slate, Blogging the Bible

Online Commentary (Medium)

Newsday, Walt Handelsman
Delaware Online, Pulp Culture
Tampa Bay, Stuck in the 80s
Denver Post, Al Lewis, Talk Back to Al

Online Commentary (Small)

American Prospect Online
New Wild Bill
This I Believe

Outstanding Use of Digital Media (Large)

Detroit Free Press, 40 years of RESPECT
Discovery Channel, Everest Beyond the Limit
Honolulu Advertiser, Wonderful World
Los Angeles Times, Altered Oceans
New York Times, Frugal Traveler: American Road Trip
Star Tribune A People Torn: Liberians in Minnesota
Washington Post, OnBeing

Outstanding Use of Digital Media (Small), The Trial of the Vincent Brothers

Florida Today, Orphans and Angels, Off the Scale
Wisconsin State Journal, Hip Hop 101

Specialty Journalism (Large)


Specialty Journalism (Small)

Council on Foreign Relations
Go Vols
The Next Mayor
Speaking of Faith

Service Journalism (Large)

CBC, News Consumer Reporting
Consumer Reports, Nursing Homes
Orlando Sentinel, Charter Schools
Toronto Star, Lost in Migration
Washington Post, Lean Plate

Service Journalism (Small)

Des Moines Register, Iowa Caucuses
Fresno Bee, Crime Map, Assignment Guatemala
Oakland Tribune, Not Just a Number

Investigative Journalism (Large)

ABC News, Brian Ross Investigates: "The Mark Foley Investigation" An Un-American Tragedy Pat Tillman
Miami Herald � House of Lies
Newsday, Investigating the Gap
Salon, Mark Benjamin--Deploying Sick Troops To Iraq
Washington Post, Walter Reed and Beyond

Investigative Journalism (Small)

Center for Investigative Reporting, Danger On Your Plate
Center for Public Integrity, Collateral Damage: Human Rights and U.S. Military Aid After 9/11
Chitown Daily News, A Man of Two Lives
CorpWatch, David Phinney
East Valley Tribune, A risky game: ASU Sun Devil Stadium

Beat Reporting (Large)

CNETs, Microsoft and Vista
Houston Chronicle Science Guy
Wall Street Journal, The Law Blog, Defense
Yahoo! News' People of the Web

Beat Reporting (Small)

Colorado Confidential, Supreme Court Coverage
Florida Today, Space Beat
Minnesota Monitor

Student Journalism

Atacama Stories
Border Beat
Our Tahoe
The Science of Sex

Knight Foundation Award For Public Service

Chicago Tribune, Teens at the Wheel

The Oakland Tribune, Not Just a Number
Miami Herald, House of Lies, Saving our Springs
Toronto Star, Lost in Migration

The winners will be announced at the OJA Awards Banquet during the 8th annual national conference of the Online News Association, which will be held October 18 and 19 at the Sheraton Centre, Toronto.

The finalists and the winners were selected through a two-step process. First, a group of more than 100 journalists screened entries in each category and narrowed them to a set of five to ten nominees. The OJA judges, a group of 10 journalists with extensive experience in new and old media, who met at USC to pick the finalists and the winners, then reviewed these nominees.

The Online Journalism Awards received 712 English-language entries from Web sites in the United States and abroad. The judges followed a strict recusal policy, leaving the judging room during discussions and not voting in any category in which their own sites came up for review.

The judges for the 2007 awards were:

Lane Beauchamp. Managing Editor CBS Television Stations Digital Media
Suki Dardarian, Managing Editor, News Coverage and Enterprise, The Seattle Times
Jeff Dionise, Design Director, USAToday
Rich Jaroslovsky, Executive Editor, government and economy, Bloomberg News
Sandeep Junnarkar, Associate Professor. The CUNY Graduate School of Journalism
Logan Molen, Vice president / Interactive Media, The Bakersfield Californian
Kim Moy, Managing Editor, Broadband at Yahoo!
Jill Hunter Pellettieri, Slate Magazine
Laura Sellers, Online Director, East Oregonian Publishing Co.
Jonathan Weber, Founder and Editor in Chief, New West

Located in Los Angeles at the University of Southern California, the USC Annenberg School for Communication ( is among the nation's leading institutions devoted to the study of journalism and communication, and their impact on politics, culture and society. With an enrollment of more than 1,700 graduate and undergraduate students, USC Annenberg offers B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in journalism, communication, and public relations.

The Online News Association is a membership organization composed largely of professional online journalists. The Association has more than 1,200 professional members whose principal livelihood involves gathering or producing news for digital presentation. The membership includes news writers, producers, designers, editors, photographers and others who produce news for the Internet or other digital delivery systems, as well as academic members and others interested in the development of online journalism.

Microsoft Loses EC Anti-Trust Appeal; $680 Million Windows Media, Server Fine Upheld

Microsoft (NasdaqGS: MSFT - News) has lost its appeal against the 2004 European Commission ruling it abused its dominant market position with respect to Windows Media Player and its server products. A case first brought 14 years ago snowballed when, in 2004, the commission charged Microsoft, in bundling the player with the operating system, had disadvantaged rival software makers. It fined the company EUR 497 million (£340 million), ordered it to sell a version of Windows without the player and commanded it to release server source code.

But, in a ruling (pdf) that name-checked RealNetworks as a competitor, the European Court of First Instance this morning rejected Microsoft's appeal, stating: "The Court finds that the Commission clearly demonstrated in the contested decision that the fact that Microsoft offered OEMs only the version of Windows bundled with Windows Media Player had the inevitable consequence of affecting relations on the market between Microsoft, OEMs and suppliers of third-party media players by appreciably altering the balance of competition in favour of Microsoft and to the detriment of the other operators." More on PCUK.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Highway Africa 2007

Highway Africa 2007

Highway Africa is an annual ICT conference hosted by Rhodes University, situated in Grahamstown with more than 500 delegates from across the globe in attendance.

Each year, more than 500 delegates from across the globe attend the conference to discuss issues relating to Internet governance, ICT policy and media for democracy.

1. Conference training workshops:

* NiZA-Digital journalism workshop - 2-12 September (sponsored by Netherland Institute of Southern Africa ;
* MISA Zimbabwe-Digital journalism workshop 9-14 September ;
* Community radio workshop 9-14 September (sponsored by Serongwanyane Technologies);
* Visual design theory course - 10-14 September (sponsored by Open Society Institute of West Africa - OSIWA)
* Future journalists programme - 9 - 14 September (sponsored by Open Society Foundation - OSF)
* SAMTRAN digital journalism for media trainers - 10 - 12 September (sponsored by NiZA)
* Free and open source software (FOSS) workshops: 10 - 11 September, workshops will cover Campcaster, Campsite, Scribus, Chisimba

2. Digital Citizen Indaba (DCI): 9 and 10 September (supported by NiZA and OSISA)

3. Associations meetings: The African Editors Forum (TAEF); Southern African Editors Forum (SAEF); and South African National Editors Forum (SANEF), 8 and 9 September

4. Conference proper: plenary sessions; keynote addresses; seminars; training workshops; book launches; live broadcasts (radio and TV); multi-media newsroom (training and production)

5. SABC-Highway Africa New Media Awards Ceremony: 11 September, 1820 Settlers Monument at 19.00hrs;

6. Book launches: Books by Geoff Nyarota ( Against the Grain); Charlene Hunter-Gault (New News from Africa); Elizabeth Barratt and Guy Berger (50 Years of Journalism); UNESCO (Media Laws in Africa); Gender Links Journal on Tabloids

7. Networking dinners: ABSA Africa Night Dinner (Monday 10 September); SABC Awards Gala Dinner (Tuesday 11 September); Makana Municipality closing reception (Wednesday 12 September)

8. Conference workshops: there will be many of these and will mostly be on open source and free software (Campcaster; Campsite; Scribus; Chisimba; RSS feeds and Yahoo Pipes). The workshops will run every afternoon on 10th, 11th and 12th September (supported by OSISA and MTN).

9. Seminars/Roundtables/Debates: There will be robust debates on a variety of issues including professionalism in journalism; internet governance; and columnists and bloggers: communities speaking to whom? About what?

10. Multimedia production: newspaper (open source); conference blog ( or; audio podcasts; video podcasts; photo gallery. Paper and blogs to be in French and KiSwahili. (Supported by OSISA, NiZA, and Absa)


Date: 10 September 2007 to 11 September 2007
Location: Rhodes University, Grahamstown

New tools to crack your media consumption

Guy Berger: CONVERSE

Last week was World Press Freedom Day on May 3 -- a good occasion to create and share some cool online research tools about South African media.

There are 10 listed below, ranging in complexity as you read. But spending 30 minutes on getting to grips with them now could save you days' worth of online search time in the future. True.

And here's the best tip of all -- switch to the free Firefox web browser if you haven't already. The foxy one lives up to its name. It lets you save key tools, like most of those below, to a bookmark toolbar that's always visible and instantly ready to use at the top of your page. Much better than Internet Explorer.

1. Customised search of South African news sites

Find it here

Everyone online has used Google to find info. Now you can use a version that is tailored to cover just particular websites. With this model I've built, you can search South African news websites only, and with just a single query. It covers all the key locations -- including of course, the Mail & Guardian Online, as well as other sources such as the New York Times and Reuters. Your research just got focus.

2. Customised search for media news of South African sites

Find it here

This instrument has specialised "labels", and within them, specific keywords that relate to the media: Things such as "journalist" and "broadcast", and acronyms such as "SABC". This tool helps you find these terms on South Africa's news sites as well as those of media commentators and NGOs -- 30 in total. The search results you get can be refined via four labels. For example, clicking on "media organisations" brings up those media stories with words such as "Icasa".

3. Get email alerts on specifics

Find it here

Suppose you're concerned about the nefarious Film and Publications Amendment Bill. You will want to know when something new about the controversy goes online. Easy -- you just visit Google Alerts and enter your data. But be careful to put quote marks around phrases. Forget them, and you'll get a flood of emails pointing to stories that may mention "film" and "publications", but that's not the same thing as "film and publications". You can try it with names of people, organisations or companies on which you want to keep tabs.

4. RSS feeds to a newsreader

Find it here

The beauty of a Google alert is that it comes to you. The same happens when you subscribe to an RSS feed. It saves you from typing in scores of web addresses that you frequently visit, or going to them by clicking on interminable bookmarks. Instead, you get everything in one fell swoop.

Plus the info comes in a supremely convenient format -- just the headlines, if you like, and you can then decide if you want to click on them to go to the original.

To use this hugely time-saving tool and scan large volumes of information in a jiffy, you can build a list of your RSS feeds on a dedicated internet page. This is really easy to set up, and you can check, at a glance, at any time to see if any of your favourite sites have been updated. Besides Google's reader, there are lots of other newsreaders. Some like give you the option of a filter for a keyword -- a bit like a Google Alert within your RSS feed.

5. Converting a non-RSS website into an RSS feed

Find it here

Not all websites have RSS update capabilities yet, although it's an escalating trend. Yet a lot of sites can also be converted into RSS format for delivery to your RSS reader. You visit, pump in the address and with any luck you get an RSS-feed address you can use.

6. Reading your RSS in your web browser

Find it here

It's now become even easier to read RSS -- the latest Firefox and Internet Explorer can act directly as RSS readers. If you have them, all you need do is keep your eyes open for a site that invites you to subscribe to its RSS feed. Click on the RSS icon -- -- and it gets saved in your bookmarks (or favourites) on a single page alongside your other feeds.

The result: they are then all dead simple to access and scan (but easier with Firefox's bookmarks toolbar described above!). Some folk still prefer a separate reader, like those described in number four above, but the browsers are very convenient.

7. Get your RSS feeds delivered to your email

Find it here

The tag line of this tool is that it lets you read RSS the way you already read your emails. Yes, it can be convenient to get your RSS feeds as a message in your mail box, but use this tool sparingly or you'll start experiencing it as spam.

8. Aggregating your RSS feeds into a single one

Find it here

This tool I built using Yahoo! "pipes" -- you join the "plumbing" together to create a single funnel. In this case, 12 South African media sites that can be received as RSS feeds were welded together into one -- and the latest headlines display at the top of the feed. It's like being spoon-fed.

Whereas the Google search tool described in number one above lets you dig into the past, this Yahoo! facility keeps you abreast of news as it happens. They are complementary. If you save this feed on a Firefox (live) bookmarks toolbar, you can mouse over the button any time to be kept up to date with online news updates.

9. Aggregating RSS feeds into one -- with a media filter

Find it here

Here you have the same thing as number seven above -- except that you now get only those stories on RSS feeds that include keywords related to media. (Excuse those that are not about media, but have phrases like "a newspaper reported" -- the Yahoo! filter don't work too well at screening these out.)

10. A chance for you to help build another tool via Swicki

Find it here

This instrument, still rather experimental, is a mix between a search engine and a wiki. It's based on a listing I did of websites with news and other content about South African media. The software involved invites you rank the results of a search, and to add new websites for particular findings. This tool could as easily fly as crash.

Life gets easier
To sum up, the tools here give you options to search much more specifically and get alerts thanks to Google. And, instead of ad hoc schlep and searching on the web, you can have defined information coming to you through RSS feeds -- which you get in a reader, on your browser or by email. Lastly, you can streamline these feeds thanks to Yahoo! pipes, and you play around with Swicki.

There's also a whole bunch of other tools available as "Web 2.0" social-networking resources. Maybe that's your gift for South Africa's specific press freedom day -- coming up on October 19.

We're probably the only country to mark two media-freedom occasions each year, so let's push the technology that lets us be even smarter consumers of our content -- not least, that about the media itself.

Friday, September 07, 2007

WSJ Merges Print, Digital Sales

WSJ Merges Print, Digital Sales

First Reorg Under New CRO Rooney as Regional Managers Gain Responsibilities Across Media

New Chief Revenue Officer Michael Rooney says not every media company can integrate print and digital sales without some experimentation and probably occasional failure, but that the Journal is in the right spot to get it done.
New Chief Revenue Officer Michael Rooney says not every media company can integrate print and digital sales without some experimentation and probably occasional failure, but that the Journal is in the right spot to get it done.

Print, digital specialists
Effective tomorrow, regional sales managers will assume responsibility for working across both print and digital properties of the brand; the sales representatives who report to them will remain specialists in print or digital. The marketing and business development department will continue the paper's relatively recent commitment to expertise in various advertiser categories.

Joe Gallagher, for example, was named VP-New York and Southeast multimedia sales; he had been national sales director for The Wall Street Journal Digital Network. Jessica Sibley was named VP-New York and New England multimedia sales; she had been VP-financial advertising and agency relations at the Journal. The integrated sales group, which had helped coordinate multimedia campaigns, was dissolved as its staff were sent into the standard sales or marketing teams.

Five staffers' positions are being eliminated in the move.

It's the first reorganization under Michael F. Rooney, who came from ESPN in May to become chief revenue officer for Dow Jones. But it's only one of many for the Journal or its parent since January 2006. That's when Judy Barry, then the senior VP-sales and marketing, started seriously emphasizing advertiser category expertise over the sales staff's old regional focus. One month later, new Dow Jones CEO Richard Zannino organized the company into three business units, one of which unified the print and online editions of The Journal under Mr. Crovitz.

"Michael Rooney became the first chief revenue officer in May with the goal of creating a highly integrated sales and marketing structure," Mr. Crovitz said in an interview. "The reorganization we're doing today reflects the structure under Michael, which includes not just the print Journal but online, international and our integrated sales."

Hoping to improve ad sales
The executives hope the reorganization will improve ad sales at the Journal, whose print edition saw ad revenue fall 7% in July while online ad revenue from The Journal Online, sibling MarketWatch and others rose 24%.

But print publishers in general have been trying to figure out the best way to operate their sales teams in the new-media age, with some advertisers and agencies demanding platform-agnostic contacts while other media buying agencies remain distinctly un-integrated. Answering the question right is worth it: The Journal, for one, estimates that advertisers that engage across media platforms wind up spending 20% more with Dow Jones properties.

Mr. Rooney allowed that not every media company can integrate print and digital sales without some experimentation and probably occasional failure, but said The Journal is in the right spot to get it done. "The reason it's going to work here, and why so many people are challenged here, is we have one brand, one franchise, to all rally behind and we have one customer to focus on," he said. "The larger companies have different brand names with different audience segments. We have that opportunity so we should take advantage."

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Highway Africa begins next week

Over 500 delegates from across the continent are expected to gather at the 11th Highway Africa conference, in Grahamstown, from 9 to 12 September, says conference organiser Chris Kabwato.

This year's conference will look at issues relating to Internet governance, ICT policy and media for democracy affecting Africa and the globe.

The three-day conference will follow the theme of  "Quality and professionalism in Journalism and the media", with a focus on new media and technology.

Highway Africa is a partnership between Rhodes University (School of Journalism and Media Studies) and the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), with the support of other partners, including Absa, MTN, Telkom, development agencies and sponsors.

The conference hopes to contribute to the fundamental transformation of how media uses technology in production and dissemination of news and information. To this end, the conference is a mixture of presentations, debates and hands-on training workshops  all related to Internet, mobile and satellite technology and the media, said Kwabato at the media briefing held last week at the Market Theatre, in Newtown, Johannesburg.

Phumelele Ntombela-Nzimande, chief people officer at the SABC, said the conference will feature the sixth Highway Africa awards, which was initiated by the public broadcaster in order to recognise  innovative use of new media in Africa�.

According to a release, the awards will be given in three categories:

* Individual and non-profit category: recognition will be given to communications which find innovative ways to overcome the limitations of the existing African infrastructure;
* Corporate category: judges will be looking for creative adaptation of global technologies in an African media context; and
* Other broad criteria: the use of new media to benefit press freedom in Africa.

SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said: The conference comes at a time when there is a lot of discussion around the Electronic Communications (EC) Act. Boardrooms are buzzing with business discussions on who to partner with to exploit this new space where content can be delivered on any platform at any time.

We believe the EC Act also opens spaces to engage on how we can make access to ICT for development a reality.�

The conference will be broadcast on various SABC radio and TV stations.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Google Begins Hosting News on Its Site

Google Begins Hosting News on Its Site

By MICHAEL LIEDTKE Associated Press Writer

Aug 31st, 2007 | SAN FRANCISCO -- Internet search leader Google Inc. on Friday began hosting material produced by The Associated Press and three other news services on its own Web site instead of only sending readers to other destinations.

The change affects hundreds of stories and photographs distributed each day by the AP, Agence France-Presse, The Press Association in the United Kingdom and The Canadian Press. It could diminish Internet traffic to newspaper and broadcast companies' Web sites where those stories and photos are also found _ a development that could reduce those companies' revenue from online advertising.

Mountain View-based Google negotiated licensing deals with the services during the past two years to resolve disputes over whether the search engine had been infringing on their copyrights by displaying snippets of their content on its Web site.

The new approach won't change the look of Google News or affect the way the section handles material produced by other media. Google also said it isn't altering its formula for finding news, so the material from the AP and other services won't be elevated in the pecking order of its search results.

Although Google already had bought the right to display content produced by all four services affected by the change, the search engine's news section had continued to link to the sites of other Web publishers to read the stories and look at the photographs. For example, a Google News user who clicked on an AP story about the latest developments in Iraq would be steered to one of the hundreds of Web sites that also have the right to post the same article.

That helped drive more traffic to the Web sites of newspapers and broadcasters who pay annual fees to help finance the AP, a 161-year-old cooperative owned by news organizations.

Now, Google visitors interested in reading an AP story will remain on Google's Web site unless they click on a link that enables them to read the same story on other sites. Google doesn't have any immediate plans to run ads alongside the news stories or photographs hosted on its site, but company officials aren't ruling out the possibility in the future.

AP and the other news services already receive an unspecified amount of money from Google for the rights to their content. Google said it isn't paying anything extra to host the material.

Although the change might not even be noticed by many Google users, the decision to corral the content from the AP and other news services may irritate publishers and broadcasters if the move results in less traffic for them and more for Internet's most powerful company.

A diminished audience would likely translate into less online revenue, compounding the financial headaches of long-established media already scrambling to make up for the money that has been lost as more advertisers shift their spending to the Internet.

Google has been the trend's biggest beneficiary as its search engine emerged as hub of the Internet's largest advertising network. In the first half of this year, the 9-year-old company earned $1.9 billion on revenue of $7.5 billion.

Several other major Web sites, including Yahoo, Microsoft Corp.'s MSN and Time Warner Inc.'s AOL, have been featuring AP material for years within their sites. Google has an even larger potential audience because its search engine handles more than half of the online search requests in the United States.

However, despite Google's dominance in search, its news section lags behind the industry leaders. In July, Google News attracted 9.6 million visitors, trailing Yahoo News (33.8 million visitors), MSNBC (24.5 million), AOL News (23.9 million) and CNN (22.5 million), according to comScore Media Metrix.

Echoing a familiar refrain, Google believes its users will be better served if the content from the AP and other news service stays on its site.

With the new approach, Google reasons readers won't have to pore through search results listing the same story posted on different sites. That should in turn make it easier to discover other news stories at other Web sites that might previously have been buried, said Josh Cohen, the business product manager for Google News.

"This may result in certain publishers losing traffic for their news wire stories, but it will allow more room for their original content," Cohen said.

For its part, the AP intends to work with Google to ensure readers find their way to breaking news stories on its members' Web sites, said Jane Seagrave, the AP's vice president of new media markets.

In recognition of the challenges facing the media, the AP froze its basic rates for member newspapers and broadcasters this year and already has committed to keeping fees at the same level next year.

That concession has intensified the pressure on AP to plumb new revenue channels by selling its content to so-called "commercial" customers on the Web. Those efforts helped the not-for-profit AP boost its revenue by 4 percent last year to $680 million.

"AP relies on its commercial agreements to help pay the enormous costs of covering breaking news around the world, ranging from deadly hurricanes and tsunamis to conflicts like the war in Iraq," Seagrave said.