Archive for Media

Crowdfunding: Put your money where your mouth is

Crowdfunding is going off in Australia right now… here’s why I’m supporting New Matilda, and why I’m not funding Youcommnews or Elsewhere… at least not yet.

One of my passions, as a longtime journalist, publishing employee and more recently, a digital media lecturer, is finding new ways to fund writing online. In fact, I spoke at the Sydney Bloggers Festival on this very topic only last week.  This is why I’m so excited to see so many different crowdfunding initiatives being launched or mooted in Australia right now.

The highest profile, and most ambitious of these is New Matilda. Here’s why I’ve chosen to support New Matilda, and why I’m chosing to pass on the other crowdfunded projects on offer – at least for now.

New Matilda has a track record as a web publisher. We have seen their team, led by Editor Marni Cordell, produce New Matilda over the past few years. They’ve (finally) taken the bold and bloody steps of paring down to a skeleton team, and seeking funding for that team. We know what we’re getting. And I’m confident that they”ll deliver what they promise.

They’re also being quite smart – they’ve resumed their email service during this fundraising period. The website is showcasing their new content, as well as prominently promoting the progress of their fundraising activity. They’ve giving their audience something to talk about and share with others, who may in turn become financial supporters. This is crucial.

I believe it was Cory Doctorow (@Doctorow) who tweeted the other day something along the lines of ‘I like your ideas but if you haven’t run a mag before, giving you $100,000 to do it isn’t going to make it work’. Bingo.

Show the proof, show you can do it, start to build an appreciative audience around that, then the money will follow. Not the other way around.

The recently launched Australian version of, Youcommnews has a couple of wildly expensive story pitches up there at the moment. Mumbrella points out that while they’ve gotten one story published, overall they seem to be struggling to attract funding. Seems crazy to go out to the public (even the civic-minded, monied public) asking for $9,500 for an investigative piece on forestry policy on the Solomon Islands, when you are are a new and green publication (or community, if they’re styling themselves that way) in the scheme of things. Surely you need to have built up a strong community of readers/funders to ask for that much? I hope that Youcommnews does build up such a community. But in the meantime, hopefully they’ll do a good job of promoting successes with smaller, cheaper articles, to start building a community which trusts them.

If I ever get my life back from the two (no wait, three if we count freelance!) jobs I’m doing at the moment, I’ll be tending to my new baby, the Digital Writers Festival. This will be a crowdcreated, and hopefully crowdfunded event. But it’s going to start as free media. There’s no way I’d *start* building this festival by going out and asking for $40,000 (or whatever it will end up costing). Show the proof, show you can do it, start to build an appreciative audience around that, then the money will follow. Not the other way around. I’ll be curating the Digital Writers Festival blog, and a Digital Writers podcast. This will help build a participating audience, and show people what kind of event we want DWF to become. Then, I think, we’ll have earned some trust as well as some interest. Then, hopefully, financial support will follow.

So, although I would love to read more from Clem Bastow, and suspect she does have a cool creative team working with her, I won’t be signing up to her newly launched Fundbreak application, to set up a print magazine called Elsewhere magazine. Putting aside the fact that I’d rather be paying writers, artists and photographers for their work rather than for printing a paper magazine, I would just like to see some smaller Elsewhere productions first. I don’t even mind if you want to charge me something for it.  Give me a taster first, please. A website? A fundraising evening at the pub a la Cherchez La Femme?

I wish all these initiatives the best of success. If this post offers up even one small idea for how to make this projects more successful, then I’m really glad. And, I’m still looking for one other person to join me in becoming a New Matilda supporter (they emailed me asking me to find two friends to join up, and I took the request seriously). So if you’re of a mind to join up to support New Matilda, please do so. And, if you’re in Melbourne, I’ll cook you dinner as an added incentive. 🙂

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Old Spice: Social Media interaction done right

The explosion of interest in Old Spice this week is a great example of social media interaction done right. It’s also a great example of how to build on and extend a popular video. You may have seen the original “The man your man could smell like” ad (which I believe was shown on American TVs during Superbowl as well as online).

That original ad has been on YouTube since February and has clocked up over 13 million views on YouTube. But in the past two days the campaign has been reignited by a new video campaign in which the video team created &  shot personal responses to Twitter messages – in real time. Read Write Web has a good article on how they’ve pulled these ads together in real time. Very impressive & bold work. Kudos to whoever convinced the Old Spice folks to give so much leeway to the creative people putting together these videos!

They’ve done video responses to a number of Twitter celebrities including Alyssa Milano and Rose McGowan, not to mention Digg founder Kevin Rose and tech blog Gizmodo. In fact, the Old Spice official channel on YouTube now has 302 videos on it!

It’s worth noting that they didn’t just rely on the personalised video spots – they also released a new Old Spice guy video, called Questions, which follows a similar formula to the original video. That video was uploaded to YouTube on June 29 and is at 5 million views so far.

They’ve also taken a leaf from the Barack Obama online campaign, (which allowed people to create their own Barack Obama buttons) and released some video footage for fans to remix.  As the Next Web folks pointed out, Pandarr from news aggregator Reddit asked the Old Spice guy to provide some video footage which could be used to create individual voicemail messages – which he did. The result was the Old Spice guy voicemail message which fans can customise & download to use as their voicemail message.

So what we’ve seen is a brand harness the popularity of a viral video to generate another huge wave of interest and views for their content, by using Twitter feedback and filming personalised, on-demand content. Witty, real time interaction. Finally an online campaign impressive enough to knock the Barack Obama campaign guys off the top of the list for tech conference keynotes. I hope you are listening, Webstock folks. 🙂

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Player Three – journalism's latest saviour

Is this anything more grating than a journalist who has just “discovered” something and decided they should be the first person to write Real Objective Journalism about it? Ugh.

I’ve just been reading Patrick Brosnan’s guest post on Margaret Simons’ Content Makers blog. Apparently there was never a real games journalist until Mr Brosnan came along. I hope he’s going to let the readers down gently. Or, you know, he could take some time to actually read up on games journalism.

It may be a shock to Mr Brosnan that in addition to the cheap and nasty sold-at-the-supermarket-checkout games mags that rely on teen gamers to write reviews in return for free games, there are also games sites and publications which value quality writing.

Take a look at Atomic MPC – a PC hardware and gaming magazine which was so well respected internationally that the Heseltine-owned Haymarket Media acquired its small Australian publisher, AJB Publishing, largely to get their mitts on it. I haven’t read Atomic in a while, but at the time I was working for AJB, Atomic had a fanatical audience, and a number of award winning journalists who wrote for it, myself included.

Or Mr Brosnan could take a look at Edge, a UK games publication which also had an international reputation because it did a great job of writing up not just games news, but also covering the technical innovations and business dealings of the games industry. (Let us not speak of the horrible, watered down Australian version. That was just a massive disappointment.)

These publications employed Real Writers – both journalists and reviewers. I’d be surprised if any of them weren’t also gamers. Yes, Virginia, there can be Real Journalists who also play computer games. The notion of the detached, objective journalist was always a lie. People don’t get to know an industry intimately in the way that journalists must, without forming opinions on what’s going on around them. It’s just that they’re meant to write objectively, give both sides of the story, and look cagey when you accuse them of being biased. I’m sorry, but bloggers have taught us that disclosure is a far more powerful means of earning credibility than hiding behind “objectivity”. I don’t want to read games journalism written by non gamers.

It’s not just about whether you’re a qualified journalist, either. Mr Brosnan, sadly, seems allergic to opinion. And snark. Apparently you can’t express opinions, or employ sarcasm and be a good writer, or reviewer (That’s me gone then. That’s ok, Patrick. I just want you to know that we can still be friends). He’d better not watch Zero Punctuation then. Shame, because Yahtzee raised the bar for other reviewers by presenting his reviews as hilarious, fast paced animated movies. I’ll happily watch Zero Punctuation reviews for games I’ve never heard of, because they’re entertaining in their own right. Until Yahtzee came along, I hadn’t enjoyed reviews so much since legendary British music mag Select went down the gurgler.

Mr Brosnan proposes a new journalism (sorry, Journalism!), which will be showcased on his website, Player Three. It has at its foundation, Real Journalists. “These journalists don’t necessarily need a vast general knowledge on the gaming industry”. Yes, I can see how that’s a great start for a niche journalism publication. Tell your journalists they aren’t expected to really know their beat. The truth serum will be applied by the editors, who are the games experts. Because people who play games aren’t qualified to write about them. Only Journalists can do the writing, got that?

I haven’t been a tech or games journalist for a couple of years now, which is why my examples are a few years old. There are plenty of examples of rubbish games magazines and websites, granted. And I’ve been highly critical of sycophantic games writers who are in it for the free stuff and don’t think twice about being gladhanded by PR folk in return for breathless  “10/10!…” reviews. The Pollyanna grin was wiped from my face pretty early on when it came to games journalism. PlayStation 2 was launched in 2000 when I was working on a tech news magazine in London. A game reviewer we knew was given a weekend to review 30 games. 30. How many minutes did he get to spend playing each game then, even assuming he didn’t sleep? As a punter who always consulted games reviews before dropping 90 quid on a game, I was horrified.

So no,  I don’t expect “objectivity” as Mr Brosnan describes it, because I want my games writers to *be* gamers. But I do expect knowledgeable and fair reviews, and journalism. And you can get it, when you look around. What a shame Mr Brosnan didn’t actually do that, before jumping on his white horse and riding in to save us.

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CoPress – cool web tips for journalism students (of all ages)

I wrote this post for my students over at our class community on Ning, then realised I really wanted to share it here too. 🙂
I think I’ve mentioned CoPress before, but I’ve just been reading a few of their latest posts, and they just have so much useful info I wanted to mention them again.

CoPress is “a non-profit organization dedicated to providing college news outlets with the technical resources and support network they need to innovate online.” Among other things, they’ll host your student publication for you! And yes, before you ask, they’re happy to work with Australian unis, I already asked them. 🙂

The CoPress blog is awesome, packed with useful info and links. Here are two recent posts I thought you’d find helpful:

A awesome walkthrough of a multimedia “deep journalism” website put together by the Amherst Wire. You’ll see they even show you the flowcharts they drew to help them design their site. 🙂

A recent “link sharing” post they made looked at the recent big changes in newspaper publishing including the closure of the Seattle PI but it also has some really handy links about how student publications are using WordPress (and some recommendations of good plugins).

If you browse recent posts on the blog you’ll see they constantly mention new web tools (or how to get the most out of existing ones) – this post made me want to check out BlogTalkRadio – a way to record podcasts and then let listeners ‘call in’ with questions.

Hopefully at least some of those links will be helpful to you. 🙂

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Stephen Mayne's non-compete clause with Crikey has expired

Interesting. I got an email from the Mayne Report overnight which revealed that Stephen Mayne’s 4 year (!) non-compete clause with Crikey has expired (he founded Crikey and  sold the biz to Private Media for $1M some time ago).

Stephen has continued to contribute news stories to Crikey since the sale, but I’m not sure if that arrangement will stay in place or not. The expiring of the non-compete clause means  he’s free to increase his subscriber base from a cap of 500 people, and he can start covering politics and media for his own project. Here’s what he said about it in the email:

The 4-year non-compete agreement with Crikey expired on Monday so we’re now able to write about politics and media, plus send emails to more than 500 people at a time and freelance material anywhere we like. However, the focus will still very much remain on delivering a strong weekly corporate governance newsletter and this latest edition has plenty of juicy material.

The Mayne Report, for those who don’t know, is where Stephen does business reporting, with a large focus  shareholder activism. It includes a fair amount of video reporting too.

Will be interesting to see what he does with the politics/media stuff now he’s off the leash from Crikey. 🙂

(I also notice that he’s selling subs to The Mayne Report for $55 until June 30, in case you’re interested. Thought it was worth a plug.) 🙂

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Laneway Festival responds to critics of its Melbourne event

Just a quick one to point out that Laneway Festival has published a response to criticisms of its Melbourne event on the website here. The piece discusses the problems in some detail, and while it stops short of an apology, it “acknowledges” issues and is “deeply disappointed” that the experience was marred for some festival goers.

I liked that it ended by saying “We would also like to acknowledge that we have had personal letters and we will respond to them all next week when we return from the last three dates of the festival.”

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Smokers welcome at the Laneway Festival, brought to you by Quit Victoria?!

Here’s a tip – if you’re the organiser of a (nominally) smoke free event sponsored by Quit Victoria, it’s probably best not to smoke on the night. Oh, and your staff should probably be trained to be able to give people prompt first aid assistance when required.

The Age ran a story today about disgruntled patrons complaining about the lack of organisation of Melbourne’s Laneway Festival. But I’m surprised it didn’t pick up the smoking angle.  One unhappy punter, jametheil-bane,  posted to the Melbourne Maniacs online community today,  saying that he (I’m assuming gender here) had an asthma attack because so many people were smoking in full sight of security guards.  Worse, he was stuffed around by event staff when trying to find first aid. You can see jametheil-bane’s post about the event here.

The post is a copy of the letter of complaint sent to the Festival organisers and includes the following little gem:

The guard came back and told us that he couldn’t ask the third gentleman to put his cigarette out as the third gentleman was one of the event organizers. Lighting up at a non-smoking event, not 5 metres away from the first aid tent.

Assuming this is true, I’m sure Quit Victoria will be thrilled to hear that.

Update: Ugh, I just had another look at the Laneway website, which proudly proclaims “Leave your lighter at home for Australia’s first smokefree music festival. I think every nonsmoker who attended should ask for their $99 back.

Update 2: The Enthusiast published a detailed story about all the other organisational stuffups patrons experienced at the Laneway Festival including queues and overcrowding. Apparently there’s a petition and a Facebook group for disgruntled patrons to demand a refund. Thanks Angus!

Update 3: Thanks Jason for the link to this awesome Tunebinder photo showing the horrendous queue waiting to see the headline act, Girl Talk. You can read the Tunebinder story here.

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Upcoming class for student editors at NEWS09

There’s a student media conference coming up here in Melbourne and I’m happy to announce that I’ll be teaching a class in web publishing as part of it.

NEWS09 is a conference for student editors being held over the weekend of 6 and 7 January 2009. This cool sounding event is run by Express Media.

There’s not a lot of info online yet about NEWS09 but I suspect the website will be expanded soon as they’re just finalising the running sheet for the day.

My session is about online publishing, and will cover the basics of getting online, from registering a domain name, to creating an effective web publication, and how to promote and network successsfully. All in an hour, so it’s going to be a whirlwind tour. 🙂

I’m really looking forward to meeting some student editors from this century. 🙂 When I was at uni, the student media types were Dave Penberthy, Annabel Crabb and Sam Maiden. See, lots of student editor types go on to be Real Journalists. 😉

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I'm teaching digital media at the University of Melbourne

I’m happy to let you know that I’m going to be teaching at the University of Melbourne this year in the School of Culture and Communications. In Semester 1 I’ll be teaching Advanced Editing for Digital Media, which is basically the web publishing component of the Uni’s postgraduate publishing degree.

This is exciting for me because I’ve been wanting to teach for a while, and it means I get to try to help solve a problem which I became acutely aware of when we interviewing journalism graduates for an online role at Crikey, which was that unis seem to be producing graduates who treat the net like just another publishing platform instead of getting involved with building and interacting with online content and communities. And of course, uni courses tend to lag far a year or two behind what’s actually happening out there in the world – I’ll be trying to overcome this the best I can.

I’ve never taught a formally structured course before – and I’ll be looking around for ideas and inspiration for how to not suck as a teacher. I’ll be drawing lots of inspiriation from Dr Michael Wesch’s Digital Ethnography videos and blog – but any tips, links or suggested reading would be gratefully received. 🙂

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Olbermann on Prop 8: This is a question of love

Olbermann has weighed in on Prop 8 – the vote in California to repeal the right to gay marriage in that state which was only granted in June this year. I only wish he’d broadcast it before the vote, instead of afterwards. 🙁

“You are asked now by your country, perhaps by your creator, to stand on one side or another – not on a question of politics. Not on a question of religion. Not on a question of gay or straight. You are asked now to stand on a question of love.

All you need to do is stand and let the tiny ember of love meet its own fate. You don’t have to help it. You don’t have to applaud it. You don’t have to fight for it.

Just don’t put it out. Just don’t extinguish it. Because while it may at first look like that love is between two people you don’t know and you don’t understand, and maybe you don’t even want to know, that love is in fact the ember of your love for your fellow person. Just because this is the only world we have, and the other guy counts too.


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