Monday, April 28, 2008

Has Google canned the Economist in Search Rankings? Blog Platform


    The Google Page Rank figure of the Economist has been reduced from 8 down to 5 - a huge reduction. It may be down to a punishment from Google for the Economist displaying questionable "paid-for" text links as "classified adverts". Here's my take.

    I should say that this article is not aiming to be exhaustive, as Google can adjust published page rank without affecting search engine rankings. My aim is to identify some issues for bloggers to watch.

    What has happened?

    The Economist has had its ranking value slugged by Google. It has gone down from a usual Page Rank of 8, down to a current Page Rank of 5 (The Page Rank is one factor that indicates how much importance Google attaches to a webpage). It seems that they have made a basic mistake of selling text links on the home page, which bear no real relation to the content of the page - and then by leaving simple "links" in place which will enhance the position of those client sites in Google.

    Both practices are resolutely opposed by Google (summary), and have been for some time.

    Here is a screen shot of the bottom of the Economist home page this lunchtime:


    The list of advertisers is areas which are often found trying to gain advantage in the search engines by link buying. As Patrick Altoft puts it:

    My only concern is that this is pretty much a "who's who" of link buyers that Google could use to hand out penalties.

    What they have done

    The Economist is selling home page text-link adverts (terms and conditions as PDF - 200k)

    Here is a screenshot segment of the source code from the page:


    You get the point: multiple links to the same site, a mass of keywords, and they are simple links that pass pagerank.

    Several Basic Mistakes

    There seem to be several howlersmistakes:

    • Text links being sold to advertising Clients not particularly relevant to the page. Bearing in mind that the practice has been under fire from Google for some considerable time, that was asking for trouble.
    • Allowing those links to be visible to search engines. The recommendation is to add a "nofollow" attribute to the links, use Javascript, or to use a redirect.
    • To do this with Credit Checking Services and "Cheap Loan" Finance companies seems - on top of the above - to be like running a red-flag up the flagpole for

    the sake of it.

    But what about Google text-link adverts?

    You may say that Google sells Text-Link adverts? Why is that OK?

    I can think of two reasons:

    • Google aims to serve relevant text-link adverts - which is one of the reasons why I have just put them back on the blog, since we have a diverse range of content and range of audience. Also, Google ads are in Javascript, so are ignored by search engines.
    • It's Google's search engine party and they can make anyone cry if they want to. That is simply the situation when we are living in a world with an effective search engine monopoly (outside China), and we must all just get used to it (at least until there is a regulatory action to rebalance the market).

    And the consequences

    I think that the page rank reduction is probably related to these adverts. I'd expect there to also be a loss of traffic in the next fortnight.

    To see an example of a large company which suffered a reduced priority in the Google rankings, read the case study on over at Hitwise UK. In this case their Google traffic reduced by almost 90% over the space of a fortnight:

    20080427-UK Internet searches for car insurance and traffic to go compare gocompare 2007 2008 chart

    Robin Goad did a further update to show how quickly the traffic (had not) recovered for (in 11 weeks it had recovered only slightly).

    The Economist is one of the most important twenty international English language news and comment sites on the Internet. If it can happen to them…

    The Impact?

    I have no idea yet - I don't have the data to hand, but I have asked Robin Goad to take a look and publish the results in a few days.

    Wrapping Up

    The moral? Take great care when you implement adverts and text links: you are in bed with an elephant.

    And I would not like to be in charge of the Economist marketing or website departments if this turns out to be a real problem.


    Wednesday, April 23, 2008

    The San Diego Union-Tribune Introduces Social Networking and Citizen Journalism Tool: New Social Networking, Citizen Journalism and Reverse Publishing Opportunities for Users

    As user-generated content and social media continue to grow in prevalence and influence, The San Diego Union-Tribune is taking the term "citizen journalism" to a new level in San Diego with the introduction of

    SAN DIEGO (Business Wire EON) April 22, 2008 -- As user-generated content and social media continue to grow in prevalence and influence, The San Diego Union-Tribune is taking the term "citizen journalism" to a new level in San Diego with the introduction of

    From the local Little League to PTAs, Kiwanis Clubs, library reading programs and more, - through the use of consumer-generated media tools that also provide social networking value - is an interactive venue for branding and exposure, and to promote local events from bake sales and car washes to fundraisers and galas.
    The online platform is a free consumer site that combines the best of social networking tools, including the ability to create user profiles and connect with online "friends," community members and groups, with features such as the ability to upload stories, photos, videos and blogs - all with an emphasis on hyper-local content, some of which will be reverse-published in community-based publications. Users will also be able to find, rate and review stories, content and businesses.

    News Image " embraces the growing trends of user-generated content, social networking, citizen journalism and social media by giving users the tools to create and share content online, with the added benefit of reverse publishing some content into a print product," said George Bonaros, marketing director for the Union-Tribune. "It's the best of both worlds and utilizes our expertise in publishing, while demonstrating our evolution from a newspaper company into a multimedia company."

    Bonaros also said consumers have an ever-increasing demand for social networking, social media and hyper-local content. Because of the demand for hyper-local content, the site asks users to register according to geographic location within the county. This information is used to offer stories, groups, businesses and more that are tailored to the user's location. At any time, users can also search for content from other areas of the county.

    "The unique geographic targeting allows small businesses, nonprofit organizations, clubs and other community groups opportunities to promote themselves in print and online," said Bonaros. "From the local Little League to PTAs, Kiwanis Clubs, library reading programs and more, through the use of consumer-generated media tools that also provide social networking value is an interactive venue for branding and exposure, and to promote local events from bake sales and car washes to fundraisers and galas."

    Weekly print publications, built off the user-generated content created and the online social networking tools, will be distributed on Fridays through a combination of home-delivery, packaged with the Union-Tribune, and free distribution at select retail outlets. The first print zone (consisting of Rancho Bernardo, Rancho Penasquitos, Poway and Scripps Ranch) will be launched in June, with the launch of two additional print zones toward the end of 2008. Additional print zones may be launched at any time, pending the amount of content generated and interest received within specific communities.

    The Union-Tribune Publishing Co., established in 1868, is San Diego County's leading local media company, with products reaching more than 60 percent of all San Diegans each week. The San Diego Union-Tribune, serving San Diego County, has Late Week circulation of 333,917, with more than 759,000 readers; Sunday circulation is 394,248, with readership of more than 935,000. The newspaper's Web site,, is the leading online source for local news, entertainment information and classifieds in San Diego, with more than 35 million page views and 2.5 million unique users in a typical month. Other products include Enlace, the weekly Spanish-language news publication with the largest distribution in San Diego County, and Today's Local News, which distributes more than 70,000 copies in north San Diego County.

    Trackback URL:

    Tuesday, April 22, 2008 launches PressGo, a new press release repository has today launched PressGo, its new service for targeted distribution of media releases to the journalism community.

    PressGo enables journalists to subscribe to RSS feeds spanning 37 different subject categories and create their own customised feeds based on keyword searches.

    By purchasing a subscription public relations (PR) companies and other organisations are able to publish an unlimited number of media releases directly on the PressGo areas of They can also tag or keyword their releases to aid search engine optimisation and smart filtering.

    Links to the latest press releases will also appear in's daily email newsletter.

    Each press release page features viral social bookmarking tools and with the aim of highlighting the best examples of PR craft, has introduced a feature that enables journalists to rate each individual release.

    "PressGo is an obvious move for, given that we have one of the largest online journalism communities in the UK, including a substantial community of freelance journalists," said John Thompson, publisher of

    "We understand that journalists do not want to be bombarded with badly targeted material. PressGo puts journalists back in control, allowing them to filter the noise to suit their needs.

    "That also means organisations can get their stories across in a much more targeted way, while at the same time taking advantage of our high visibility online to reach journalists and publications they might not have otherwise been aware of."

    Over the coming months, aims to further build bridges between the PR and journalism industries by publishing guidelines on best practice from both sides of the fence.
    "That also means organisations can get their stories across in a much more targeted way, while at the same time taking advantage of our high visibility online to reach journalists and publications they might not have otherwise been aware of."

    Over the coming months, aims to further build bridges between the PR and journalism industries by publishing guidelines on best practice from both sides of the fence.

    Wednesday, April 16, 2008

    How to create an automatically-updating Twitter account for your newspaper

    I encourage you to work with your staffers on finding ways to interact on Twitter, but since most staffs don't have much time for social networking, starting with this auto account is a good way to get your feet wet with social content syndication.

    Here's how to start :

    1. Get yourself an email address, which you'll need to create a Twitter account. You can register a free one with Gmail .
    2. Create a Twitter account at .
    3. Fill in the profile of your news org's account, upload a photo and change the background. Make sure on the profile information you've provided a link back to the appropriate URL for your content.
    4. Get yourself an OpenID. You can use your Yahoo! username or get an OpenID from ClaimID or MyOpenID .
    5. Find an RSS feed from your news org that you want to syndicate.
    6. Login to Twitterfeed with your OpenID.
    7. Create a new Twitterfeed and fill in your Twitter account details and RSS feed.
    8. Start enjoying a Twitter account on auto-pilot!

    Thanks for checking out this quick guide on creating an auto Twitter account. If you're bit by the Twitter bug and want to learn more, check out my ultimate guide to Twitter tools and resources for journalists !

    Are using Twitter for your news org? Point me at it! Here's a couple lists of news orgs using Twitter: Graphic Designr and Red66.

    Tuesday, April 15, 2008

    Online Journalism: Principles and Practices of News for the Web

    Online Journalism: Principles and Practices of News for the Web will help students apply developing journalistic skills to the Internet. The book reviews basic principles of journalism (such as objectivity, fairness and accuracy) while showing readers how to put these principles into practice online. The book—a comprehensive, up-to-date look at the most relevant skills and issues in this field—presents a combination of broad conventions, basic technological information and practical applications. The author shows how the Internet can be used to take journalism in new, more participatory directions. He reminds his readers that technology will be increasingly important in the future and that Web operations will be an integral part of the newsgathering operation, but that journalistic principles and skills will still be at the core of what journalists do.

    Highlights of the Book Include:

  • Four chapters that provide an overview of online journalism and its technical foundations
  • Five chapters that discuss actual practices of online journalism, such as designing Web pages, writing and editing stories online and using links in online stories
  • Two chapters that review the opportunities and challenges that online journalists will continue to confront
  • Numerous screenshots illustrating actual Web sites and reinforcing lessons from the text
  • A companion Web site that provides additional original content and links to references, sources, examples, online tutorials and more. Designed to enhance your students' learning, it will allow them to explore topics in greater detail. The site will be updated regularly with new and updated links.
  • An Instructor's Manual and PowerPoint presentation available on adoption.

  • Read the text of the review that appeared in the Spring 2005 issue of Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly.

    C O N T E N T S
    To the Student
    1 Introduction to Online Journalism
          What Is Journalism?
          Advantages of Online Journalism
          Types of Online Journalism Sites
          Evaluating Online Sites
          Beginning Your Journey into Online Journalism
          What's Next • Activities
    2 Tools and Terminology
          The Internet and the World Wide Web
          Digital Media
          What's Next • Activities
    3 HTML and Authoring
          HTML Standards
          Basic HTML
          Formatting Text
          Using Authoring Programs
          Putting Your Files on the Web
          What's Next • Activities
    4 Working in Online Journalism
          Creating Online Journalism
          Online Journalism Organizations: Three Case Studies
          What's Next • Activities
    5 Using Online Reporting Sources
          The Internet as a Reporting Source
          E-mail Related Sources
          Web Page–Based Sources
          Evaluating Sources
          What's Next • Activities
    6 Web Page Design
          Basic Online Journalism Design
          Principles of Design
          Using Text
          Using Color and Graphics
          Using Tables to Design Web Pages
          What's Next • Activities
    7 Writing and Editing Online
          Writing for the Online Reader
          Text-Based Online Story Forms
          Updating Online Stories
          What's Next • Activities
    8 Using Links in Online Stories
          Creating Links Using HTML
          Linking Issues
          Selecting Links
          Presenting Links
          What's Next • Activities
    9 Multimedia and Interactivity
          Types of Media Elements
          Advanced Interactivity
          Making Media Decisions
          Examples of Interactive and Multimedia Content
          What's Next • Activities
    10 Legal and Ethical Issues
          Obscenity and Indecency
          Linking Law
          Ethical Issues
          What's Next • Activities
    11 Opportunities and Challenges
          The Economic Structure of Online Journalism
          The Role of Online Journalism in Society
          Service to Underrepresented Communities
          What's Next • Activities
    Appendix A Common Text-Formatting Selectors in CSS
    Appendix B Common Positioning and Design Selectors in CSS

    Monday, April 14, 2008

    How to: use RSS and social media for newsgathering

    You're a busy reporter; you have 40 page leads and 132 NIBs to write by lunchtime; but if you're simply going to Google when you need info for a story or a lead then you're missing out on the benefits of the web 2.0-driven internet and wasting valuable time - let that news come to you instead.

    The combined use of RSS feeds and other social media tools can help bring your way sources and information you might otherwise have overlooked - making it easier to spot leads or put new meat on an article.

    It takes a little time to set yourself up the necessary accounts and alerts and then tailor them to your specific needs - but once you are there then the news will come flooding your way.

    I call it "Passive-Aggressive Newsgathering". But if that sounds too Woody Allen for you, you could call it "Aggregating-Networking Newsgathering".

    Here are a few tools and tricks that might improve your hunt for stories.

    Blog and site feeds/Social RSS readers
    This is a basic requirement for any journalist: know the sources in your area and subscribe to their RSS feeds using any one of the many RSS readers out there.

    The result will be a one-stop page that you check everyday that gathers together any new stories since you last checked.

    Some RSS readers do more than just allow you to subscribe to feeds - they have social elements. Say, for instance, you have found a blog by a local ambulance driver or a feed from the NHS. Google Reader will save you searching for others by suggesting similar feeds (in a panel on the right of the screen) that others also reading these sites use. This is a great way to find new sources of news and information.

    Technorati feeds, fans and tags
    A good place to find blogs is Technorati. You'll see the orange RSS icon throughout Technorati - among other things you can subscribe to results from a particular search or a specific tag.

    A motoring correspondent, for instance, might subscribe to search results for "Longbridge plant" or the tag 'Ford'. You can even subscribe to blog reactions to a particular site.

    Equally impressive are the social features on the site. Search results are presented with recommended tags you might also want to click on (a search for 'Ford' also suggests Toyota, GM, Nissan, cars, etc.); blogs and posts are ranked by 'authority' (numbers of reactions); and you can also see which Technorati members have declared themselves a 'fan' of a blog - then browse through the other blogs they have 'faved'.

    Twitter and twitter tools

    Microblogging service Twitter is a particularly up-to-the-minute source of news, with RSS feeds at the bottom of every page.

    Twitter is by nature social, you choose to follow someone's updates (these are called 'tweets') and people can similarly choose to follow you. You can also see who else someone is following and who is following you.

    Tools like Twubble and Twits Like Me are useful for reporters as they recommend twitterers based on their friends or interests.

    Twitterlocal and Tweetscan are also handy as they allow you to subscribe to feeds based on location or keywords. So if you know an event is coming up that is likely to spark protest (e.g. the running of the Olympic torch) then you can set up this feed in advance and watch the news roll in to you.

    Bookmarking site feeds, networks and tags
    Bookmarking sites like Delicious are a goldmine of information and leads. As well as being searchable, most offer RSS feeds of individual tags and contributors.

    At the very least, a journalist should be subscribing to feeds of keywords in their area (e.g. this is the feed for the tag 'Slough') so that every time some tags a story you might be interested in, you get an alert.

    If possible you should also subscribe to prolific bookmarkers interested in the same topics (here is the feed for my bookmarks) or networks of bookmarkers (here's mine).

    Imagine a report is released on global warming - looking at the first person to bookmark it we might also find other useful sources of information on the same issue. You can see their comments and all the various and related tags they use. You can see what else they're bookmarking. You can also add them to your network so you're kept up to date on what they're bookmarking generally.

    All of these generate more useful contacts (the bookmarkers), more sources of news, and more understanding of your area.

    Social network feeds
    Journalism is all about contacts. Social networks are a fantastic way of finding and managing them. You may however want to join more than one social network to cover all bases as each of different characteristics. Facebook is a good catchall, but there may be specific 'beat' networks you can join - such as one for doctors. Alternatively, you can create your own using Ning.

    One great feature of Facebook is its feeds, which include Friends Status Updates and Friends Posted Items (both in the lower right corner). Again, subscribe to get updates sent to you rather than you having to trawl around to know what's new.

    Google Alerts/'similar pages'

    Google's whole success is built on networks. Every result from a search, for example, will include a link to 'similar pages'.

    This is a great way of refining a search. The advanced search feature includes the ability to search for pages that link to a particular website (also read about advanced search techniques on the web).

    Any search done through Google News, Google Blog Search or Google Groups will give you the option to sign up to email alerts for a particular search term or, for the first two, an RSS feed for a particular search term.

    If you're covering, say, Bolton, you'll want to create alerts for new results with 'Bolton' in them, or, say, 'Bolton + event').

    YouTube feeds/related videos

    YouTube is a social beast. Click on any video and you'll be presented with related videos; click on any user's page and you can see which other users, services and channels they subscribe to.

    You can rank results by how users have rated the video or how many times it's been viewed. It's also possible to click on a video's tags to browse through content that way.

    The site also hosts a number of groups under the Community tab. In addition the site offers numerous feeds - a list of the main ones, plus instructions on how to create feeds for individual users or tags, can be found here. Again, subscribe to keywords in your area and have the site alert you when the latest content that's relevant to your reporting area is uploaded.

    Sites without feeds
    Of course not every site has an RSS feed, so to monitor these use or to create feeds for you. Dapper will also alert you of changes by email.

    However you do it, if you want the breaking news in your area to come to you, you can't afford to ignore RSS and social media.

    Paul Bradshaw is a Senior Lecturer in Online Journalism and Magazines at Birmingham City University (UK) School of Media.

    Wednesday, April 09, 2008

    Video on Flickr!

    Video! Video! Video! The rumours are true and "soon" is now. We're thrilled to introduce video on Flickr. If you're a pro member, you can now share videos up to 90 glorious seconds in your photostream.

    90 seconds? While this might seem like an arbitrary limit, we thought long and hard about how video would complement the flickrverse. If you've memorized the Community Guidelines, you know that Flickr is all about sharing photos that you yourself have taken. Video will be no different and so what quickly bubbled up was the idea of "long photos," of capturing slices of life to share.

    Tuesday, April 08, 2008

    No precise measurement for online traffic

    Website traffic is measured by several factors: page views, unique visitors, time spent on a page, etc., but David Cohn of Columbia Journalism Review writes that there is no precise way to calculate web readership or traffic.

    Cohn asks: Why would advertisers choose a news site over one like Google, which obviously garners thousands of viewers, if there is no accurate way to measure web traffic? And how can they agree on rates?

    "This may be the most measurable medium in history, but the measurements all suck," says Steve Yelvington, an Internet strategist for Morris DigitalWorks, which manages websites for more than sixty newspapers and thirty radio stations.

    Most publishers know their statistics through census data from web servers that count how many times a site is visited. However, the data includes "bots" and "spiders" that search engines send out to index content for searchers, and they inflate the number of visitors counted by internal servers, mostly because of "cookie deletion." Cookies allow a page to recognize a viewer, so unique visitors can be counted. But with users constantly emptying their cookies, a site's traffic can be increased by 150%, according to Andrew Lipsman, a senior analyst at comScore Inc., a global Internet information provider. Essentially, 10 million viewers is probably closer to 4 million.

    Organizations such as comScore and Nielsen/NetRatings will share traffic numbers within a plus-or-minus 2% error margin from panelists of randomly selected sites who agree to be monitored. Cohn writes that these sample-based numbers can underreport, especially since these panels don't account for international traffic or traffic from work computers.

    Though the panel and census system aren't perfect, publishers and advertisers can make relative comparisons within their market with the two.

    George Ivie, executive director and CEO of the Media Ratings Council (MRC), wants to reconcile the two systems with his not-for-profit trade association. The council began with TV and radio audience size, but turned its attention to the Internet in 2002 and wrote standards for audience census data, including page views, clicks on a page, and time spent on a site, all new measurements with the Internet.

    MRC requires news organizations that want their traffic counts to be approved by the ratings council to adopt the council's standards, such as counting only content that is accessed through an end browser.

    Only a few organizations have been audited by MRC, such as Yahoo, msn, and AOL and advertisers like Atlas and Doubleclick, giving them an advantage when negotiating advertising rates, according to Cohn.

    In 2006, MRC began auditing comScore and Nielsen/ NetRatings. Nielsen/Net-Ratings had decided that time spent on a site was more important than total Web page views because visitors spend more time on a page when watching videos and new programs allow visitors to interact with a page (like voting in a poll) without having to reload an entirely new page. But, having a window open does not necessarily mean that the visitor is engaged the whole time, thus this measurement is also inaccurate.

    Because the Internet is always changing, there may be new metrics in the future to retrieve more accurate statistics.

    What's this SuprGlu thing?

    SuprGlu is about bringing the pieces of your web content together into one central place for you, your friends, and maybe even your friends to-be.