For One Night Only: Pop-up Magazine

Lisa Park   May 9, 2012

You had to be there. Ephemeral content takes the stage. (photo by Lisa Park)

The sixth issue of Pop-up Magazine hit the stage at the SF Davies Symphony Hall the week before last, playing to an audience numbering more than 2,700. I was lucky enough to grab a golden ticket for this sold-out, live event that goes unrecorded, showcasing writers, documentary filmmakers, photographers and radio producers — from The New Yorker and Vanity Fair to This American Life and Pixar — in a magazine content format. As soon as tickets went on sale, the online box office promptly crashed due to the avalanche of traffic hitting the site. After dozens of failed attempts to gain access, I finally got through and had my ticket in hand. Success!

Three years ago, Pop-up Magazine got started in the humble 364-seat Brava Theater. It’s since morphed into a grand affair: Folks like me are more than happy to queue up virtually to fork over 20 dollars and change for a chance to be a part of an exclusive club, one that runs for one night only.  The founders have clearly struck a chord with those in attendance seeking to hear, see and experience never-before-aired-or-published stories that are here today, gone tomorrow. Attend one of these literary events (I’ve been to two), and you’ll feel a strong sense of community plus a whole lot of buzz, excitement and goodwill — as if we’re the lucky few going on a great ride.

And a great ride it is, providing plenty of chills and thrills as well as a few lasting memories. Pop-up Magazine covers topics ranging from food and foreign affairs to sports, science and work life. Short pieces kick off the event, with longer features taking up the rear. Most of the stories are good. Some are incredibly well-crafted. Meanwhile, the majority of the contributors — from Pixar director Lee Unkrich to NPR journalist Annie Murphy in this latest issue — skillfully combine oral  storytelling with video and audio to enhance their already robust and engaging narratives.

It’s clear that the key to Pop-up Magazine’s success is a clever repackaging of an age-old art, oral storytelling. The event’s creators/editors have managed to refresh the theme or concept of oral storytelling by renaming it with what’s hot now: a pop-up. And on top of that, they’ve made sure to curate the heck out of the content — with fresh and compelling narratives that speak to their audience.

These winning formulas certainly resonate with content strategists. After all, part of our mission is to find ways to refresh and update legacy content, concepts and themes to make them relevant and engaging for our audience. It’s vital that we understand who our target audience is in order to give them what they want. And if we can give them what they want — in the form of curated content — our business and the bottom line will benefit.

The proof is in the Pop-up Magazine pudding.

Will Drone Journalism Ever Get Off the Ground?

Lisa Park   April 25, 2012

A quadcopter hovering. (photo by esciphul)

“It’s interesting that drone journalism has captured our imagination, when it’s cell phone journalism that’s changed the game,” noted Chris Anderson, Wired magazine’s Editor in Chief, at a recent Hacks/Hackers event on the subject of “Drone Journalism: Reporting from Above.” He’s right. Nothing like a tricked-out, high-tech, whirring object that can fly — and has a multi-thousand-dollar price tag — to thrill an audience. Especially when the audience comprises software developers, journalists, content strategists and a few hardware folks, all eager for the possibility of obtaining shiny, new content — the breaking story. (Just in case you’re wondering, drones are unmanned aircraft either controlled autonomously by computers in the drone or by the remote control of a pilot on the ground.)

Of course, any journalist — or Joe Schmoe for that matter — armed with a smartphone and Internet access can and successfully has delivered valuable and vital news almost as soon as it’s happening. Witness reporting from the Arab Spring and other recent events hit social networks such as Facebook and Twitter ahead of leading news outlets. The overall impact of this ever-increasing connectivity has been positive, in that it’s given voice to and shed light on parts of the world that were once isolated and disenfranchised.

But back to drones. Will they play a part in new media’s future? I’m thinking the odds are slim to none. Drones are not only costly — with pricetags running up to tens of thousands of dollars — but they can also pose a serious danger to the public if you don’t know how to build and/or operate them. Anderson, who’s also the founder of 3D Robotics, an open source robotics company, and website DIY Drones, warned, “Before you get too excited [about drones’ potential, be aware that] the blades can whack off your fingers. Drones are flying lawnmowers.”

Matt Waite, a former journalist and currently a professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, agrees. And yet, like Anderson, he has embraced a possible future with drones used for civilian purposes, having launched a drone journalism lab at the College of Journalism and Mass Communications last year. Waite says he had his a-ha moment when he witnessed a demo at a digital mapping conference in San Diego. The demo blew him away, and opened his eyes to drones being “perfect for any biblical event.” He believes they have real public-purpose applications, particularly in the area of post-disaster coverage: “Imagine what could have been if we had drones following Hurricane Katrina. We could have changed public perception.”

He has a point. Drones, which are unmanned, can fly into the aftermath of a natural disaster without risking the pilot’s life. According to Tyler Brown, who builds drones at Occucopter, you can fly them extremely close to the terrain, getting footage that you couldn’t get via any other aircraft.

The other cool thing is that anyone and their mother can make drones. “Something that was once military and industrial is now within [our] reach,” said Anderson. “We’re having a homebrew computing club moment.”

But here’s the thing: Never mind that drones have a limited battery life of around 10 minutes—meaning you’d have to have a bunch of them to effectively cover a lot of ground. The real problem is that you can’t fly them for commercial purposes—at all. So unless you’re a hobbyist flying them for fun below 400 feet, within visual line of sight and away from populated areas, you’re out of luck when it comes to getting a license to put a drone in the air.

Besides the fact that they’re flat-out illegal for commercial use, Jennifer Lynch, attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, believes that sooner or later the issue of what’s considered in or out of bounds in terms of surveillance via drones will come to a court of law. And based on recent judgments favoring the privacy of individuals (California v. Ciraolo, Kyllo v US, etc.), drones will likely lose the battle.

Is this then a lost opportunity for content creators and consumers of that content? Anderson doesn’t think so. He says attaching a video camera to a balloon and lofting it in the air to cover demonstrations will do just as well. I wholeheartedly agree: Folks will always find other ways to get and create content, if not with drones then with smartphones or some other handy device or contraption.

And so it seems that the rise of civilian drones — with all of their geek appeal — and the lively discourse around them have been mostly about sparking the imagination of a wide cross-section of hacks and hackers. Never mind that drones and new media will probably never mix. It’s kind of like playing the lotto—even if it never comes to fruition, it’s fun to think about the possibilities. Isn’t it?

The Pleasures (and Perils) of Personalized News

Tosca Fasso   April 14, 2012

We tried this ice cream for you. We think you’ll like it. (photo by cybertoad)

Not so long ago, the news arrived through set media channels and at set times. You could read the morning paper at the kitchen table, listen to the morning news on the car radio during your commute, and then watch the evening report on TV before or after dinner. And that was pretty much it.

Whether you cared most about technology, were hungry for more fashion updates, or needed to cram about Lebanon for a school paper, you got the same news everyone else got—and at the same time, too.

The last decade brought technology advances that made it possible to watch and listen to previously aired news broadcasts at any time on a connected device. DVRs, podcasts, and even YouTube lent a new freedom to the consumption of news by making the news available when and where users had time to watch or listen.

The Stones Were Wrong

As we enter the era of personalization—the ability to actively select and refine our personal preferences for the news we choose to expose ourselves to—those once-exciting technology advances are starting to seem quaint. Now, when it comes to the news, you can always get what you want—whenever you want it. So what’s wrong with that?

In a post on Own Local, blogger Jeremy Mims cautions that  “… news personalization inherently creates an echo chamber for bad ideas, reinforces preconceived beliefs, and may actually lead people to believe they’re making informed decisions because ‘everyone’ agrees. It will also tend to radicalize and become even more limited over time, because it naturally funnels down to the news you really like.”

In a direct response to Mims, blogger Evan Willms counters that personalization makes it “…possible to explore the big world of diverse opinions in a gradual way by using the topics you’re already interested in to branch out and provide a variety of viewpoints and subject matter.”

Both use the metaphor of publisher-as-nutritionist to drive home their positions. Mims likens news personalization to allowing children to eat only ice cream, while Willms believes publishers can act as “smart nutritionists” who can “…expand your love of chocolate ice cream with other types of chocolate product.” Culinary metaphors aside, both have a point. So what’s a content strategist to do?

Networked News

In addition to the issue of limitation vs. exploration, we believe there’s another consideration when it comes to the personalization of news: that of tool vs. network.

A tool performs a function for users (think NPR’s Infinite Player). You engage with the interface, enter or select some criteria, and get something back. Maybe you refine your results over a certain period of time, or maybe you’re done in one click. Either way, it’s just you and the tool.

On the other hand, a network offers the functionality of a tool but also connects you to other users, and, by extension, to their ideas and preferences. The thought is that a network should offer a “stickier” experience—if your friends are on there, inspiring you and stretching your interests, you’ll be more likely to stay. Additionally a network can also act as a sort of community police for our better selves. Who wants to broadcast that they’ve just read another article about the Kardashians?

But what if your friends aren’t on your news network? Smart editorial strategy can help. The Washington Times’ news personalization service Trove doesn’t make connecting with friends, coworkers and influencers as seamless as it should be. But through “this or that” functionality, editors’ picks, and a smart search box, it does do a nice job of suggesting and encouraging content I wouldn’t otherwise have thought to request.

Personalization can be used to either reinforce our existing beliefs and interests, or it can expand our exposure through influence and encouragement. In other words, it can be reactive (and allow us to limit ourselves) or predictive (and inspire and encourage us to expand our horizons).

Extra, Extra!

It all comes down to strategy. Why limit news personalization to what I’m looking for right now? In a post on disambiguation for Contents Magazine, Rachel Lovinger, Content Strategy Director at Razorfish NY, states “Traditionally, one obstacle has been that sites like the New York Times didn’t have access to as much data…as sites like Amazon or Netflix. But that’s changing with deeper social integration. Now, if you sign in with Facebook, the Times will have a better idea what articles you like, share, and comment on. So, why aren’t they making use of that data to provide their readers a more engaging experience?”

Indeed. Why not use my current interests to preview and suggest what I consider “stretch” content—essentially what I asked for and more (e.g., my love of Spanish shoes may suggest an interest in Spanish food, and if I click on that content, I may also be intrigued by Spanish economics on a subsequent visit).

Of the options for news personalization I’ve tried so far, Zite is probably the frontrunner. I logged in with Twitter, and the iPad/iPhone app pre-filled my feed with Social Media, Technology, Content Strategy, Strategy, and Marketing. Pretty accurate for taking just a couple of seconds with a single input. Zite also offers “Featured” content types from which you can add more topics.

It’s a great tool, but as a network it ultimately falls short, only including your Twitter friends’ news posts and also which articles are getting the most buzz in its algorithm for external influence. Additionally, Zite gets “smarter” as you use it, learning from your behavior, so it’s unclear whether this perpetuates the echo chamber effect, or if it’s somehow more nuanced and helps you explore more interesting content.

When a news personalization service—tool or network—develops an algorithm, who are they catering to, our current selves or our ideal selves? I’m hoping they’ll start to do both. A primary goal of a news organization is to make us care about things we didn’t think we cared about.

As content strategists, we can help. By understanding the limits and possibilities of a tool vs. a network, we can better guide our clients and co-workers to choose the more effective option for their goals. Our editorial expertise can help inform a smart editorial strategy that is built on something bigger than showing “what’s hot right now”. And of course, our experience with metadata and taxonomy can help teams design sophisticated algorithms that do more than just serve up what the user wants right now. In other words, with the influence of content strategy, news personalization services can start to show us not just who we are, but also who we want to be.

A blog post about a movie about a newspaper

Rachel Lovinger   July 28, 2011
Don’t let the tombstones deceive you. (image via istorija)

Breakdown: Earlier this week Lisa Park wrote a post on the power of giving an editorial voice to the larger community. Rachel Lovinger counters with thoughts on why the social narrative alone might leave news lovers hungry for something much more substantial. Get in on the conversation and read below >>

This past weekend I saw “Page One: Inside the New York Times,” a documentary about one of the preeminent newspapers of our time. And – let’s face it – our time is not a great time for newspapers. Page One is a high-drama, must-see film for anyone who’s interested in “the future of print media,” because it shows that, whatever happens to newspapers and magazines, we will still need journalism.

Page One tells its story primarily through the NYT Media Desk, which was established in 2008 to report on the state of the media (including the Times itself). They report on phenomena like Wikileaks, Twitter, news bloggers, and mobile devices, even as they participate in them. As a result, they’re an extremely self-aware group of reporters. When one reporter, David Carr, looks into a bag containing a new iPad he proclaims, “Is that a bridge to the future? Oh wait it’s a gallows!”

The predictions of the demise of newspapers in general (and of the New York Times in particular) are a constant theme in the movie and a hot topic in the media biz in general. But if you look beyond the business models and the distribution metrics, there’s a deeper question being explored here: What is the fundamental purpose of news journalism? Do the new modes of digital media have the ability to fulfill that purpose? And what would it mean to our culture if the standards and practices of journalism were allowed to dissolve away?

Sure, news blogs and citizen journalism make many promises that are hard for traditional media to compete with. News blogs get information to us more immediately, where traditional media has to do research, analysis, fact checking, editing, and other time-consuming activities. Citizen journalism uses distributed sources, so they don’t have to worry about sending people to places to investigate a story, as long as someone who was there at the time reports in to them. News aggregators like Huffington Post and some other startups mentioned in the film can bring us news on a wide range of topics from a wide range of sources with very little overhead, but where would they be without mainstream media providing the bulk of their content?

But newspapers like the New York Times bring expertise, perspective, and journalistic standards. When the film touches on events that have hurt the credibility of the Times, like Jayson Blair making up stories, it’s notable that the reason these incidents are so scandalous is actually because the paper has such a dependable reputation. They take the time to consider “Is this a story? What is the story? How do we tell this story?” while news blogs may just put the information out there and let you decide.

And that doesn’t mean those other sources are neutral and objective. As the Times media reporters demonstrate in the deconstruction of an edited Wikileaks video that was widely distributed on YouTube, there’s often an agenda. It’s just not stated explicitly. When asked if he considers himself a journalist, Julian Assange says that he does, but if he had to choose between the values of journalism and the values of activism, he would choose activism.

Of course, there’s a place in this world for activism, and modern media and digital communications have made it easier than ever before to be an activist. And certainly the planet would be better off with fewer trees being cut down, printing plants running every day, and trucks carting the papers to your local store. We can afford to lose newspapers, but can we afford to lose journalism?

If Page One is any indication, the people at the Times are doing their best to make sure that doesn’t happen. Check out the film and see if you agree with their choices. And if not, what do you think is going to get in their way? What do you think they should do differently? And do you think any of this matters?

A Content Calendar to Build a Dream On

Elizabeth S. Bennett   June 24, 2011

In search of a content-tracking tool to love. (Image via smemon)

If someone had told me a year ago that I would be fantasizing about editorial calendars, I would have let out a good snort.

Yet, here I am, daydreaming about a digital handmaiden that would help me realize what have come to feel like flights of organizational fancy.

It really shouldn’t be so difficult to track content development and approvals and easily communicate progress with a team dispersed across the globe.  It’s been done a million times before, but I have yet to encounter a system that goes beyond adequate.

Some background: In the last few months, my team has helped to establish an editorial governance board with our client. The group’s members work across business groups and continents. The board meets regularly to coordinate content needs and sourcing and in the next few months we’re going to be creating a greater volume of content, necessitating a more robust tracking and management system.

Hence, my figurative fever dreams in which a single super-light tool is just beyond my grasp, a tool that would allow me to map out content requirements months in advance and assign the various components to different people – the video production to the communications group, let’s say, the accompanying text to a copywriter and the promotional image to a designer. Wouldn’t it be grand? And when the time comes, they could register their assets as complete within this wondrous piece of software, at which point the content would automatically move into the tracking flow where it could easily be pushed along to its next editor/approver.

In my calendaring reveries, I can easily view which content creators are at risk of a deadline slip because they can use the tool to log their impediments, triggering an email alert to relevant parties.

Versioning concerns would fly out the window as there would simply be a single instance for viewing and editing.

In this planning candy land, I can upload content to the tool and it would all be neatly associated with its sibling content. Just picture that video landing in the same place as its supporting copy). Yes, just picture it.

Alas, two additional constraints make my thorny case even more challenging:  Security is of prime concern, so a tool like Google Docs has been ruled out. And our groups don’t share a content management platform, which is why being able to post assets to the tool would be super extra special!

Colleagues in content strategy and publishing have been supportive but not particularly optimistic about my pursuit. Most accept the sufficient but limited functionality of the software they’re using. And if they ever did once yearn for better tools, their passion has long since been quashed by what appears to be the harsh realities of the editorial software market.

(Note:  Basecamp launched its calendaring tool as I was completing this post. At first blush, it could meet some of my needs when combined with the tool’s other functionality, but the content tracking and approvals remains a sticky wicket. I’d be interested to hear if any readers have dived into the new feature.)

In the meantime, I’m left to wonder if the content-tracking chimera I’ve been describing does or will one day exist. I haven’t yet seen it, but I’m putting this out to the content community with the hope that you, reader, can prove me wrong. If you use or know of a genius calendar/tracking/approvals tool, I implore you to comment on this post. Maybe together we can make the editorial planning world a better, cleaner and more secure place.

A Bah-Bah-Bah Blog Blunder?

Robert Stribley   July 22, 2010
It didn’t take long for contributors to ScienceBlogs to discover the wolf among them. (Image via pierre_tourigny)

The Breakdown: Rob Stribley highlights a recent exodus of bloggers on the popular site ScienceBlogs and discusses the consequences of when you really don’t know your audience.

A visit today to the web’s most popular portal for sciences lovers, ScienceBlogs, reveals something is amiss. Bloggers, many of them well-known and respected scientists, are abandoning their posts and the site is sloughing off blogs like buildings sinking into the sea in Christopher Nolan’s latest mindbender Inception. And what of PZ Meyer’s Pharyngula, the most provocative blog on the roll and arguably the cash cow for the entire ScienceBlogs enterprise? As of yesterday: “On Strike!

The reason for these departures hinges primarily upon Scienceblogs recent addition of a new blog, Food Frontiers to their blogroll. The blog was ostensibly about food nutrition, but it was soon revealed to be sponsored by a large corporation, PepsiCo. As word spread that PepsiCo had indeed paid for this prominent space on ScienceBlogs, the header for the blog was altered to clarify the sponsorship, but the damage was already done. The bloggers and their readers were almost universally outraged and Seed Media Group, who manage ScienceBlogs, pulled the blog within 36 hours.

Know Your Audience
It’s important to note that many of the bloggers and their readers explicitly stated that they did not have a problem with PepsiCo the company, specifically. They were perturbed by the perceived intrusion of a biased corporate presence on principle (the whole point of science is to examine the known universe with strict attention to avoiding bias, right?). So it didn’t matter the company: it could’ve been KFC, Mrs. Field’s Cookies, Toys”R”Us, or ahem, BP (OK, the last would’ve been most egregious at this moment). The point is, it’s utterly remarkable that ScienceBlogs didn’t know their audience, didn’t understand the perception that making this move had the appearance of letting a wolf in with the sheep, however genteel the intentions of the wolf.

Be Transparent
The situation, of course, is also complicated by the fact that ScienceBlogs did not immediately reveal that Food Frontier was being written by PepsiCo employees. It was presented as a blog like any other within the fold, until the sponsorship was revealed. This move engendered an even greater level of distrust for Seed Media and quickly lead to other bloggers coming forward to confess their distrust for the editorial process, not to mention Seed Media’s ethics. One blogger, David Dobbs, framed it well:

“With the addition of Food Frontiers, ScienceBlogs has redrawn the boundaries of what it considers legitimate and constructive blogo-journalism about science. In doing so they define an environment I can’t live comfortably in.”

And that was his last post on ScienceBlogs. If Seed Media wanted to experiment with a sponsored blog, they should have done so transparently and labeled it as such from the get go. Instead, they launched the blog unlabeled and without warning their writers, a brief survey of whom would have lead them to question the wisdom of the endeavor anyway.

A quick visit to ScienceBlogs this morning reveals PZ Meyers is still very much on strike. He’s taken to Twitter for now, grappling with the limitations of 140 characters. Whether ScienceBlogs survives this debacle remains to be seen, but bloggers like Meyers have offered some lessons learned, sharing their thoughts on how ScienceBlogs could best move forward. There’s plenty we can learn from their situation, even if they don’t.

Announcing the Nimble Report

Rachel Lovinger   June 1, 2010

Nimble Report

The Breakdown: Announcing, Nimble: A Razorfish report on publishing in the digital age. Rachel provides a description of the report that she wrote for Razorfish’s Media & Entertainment practice, with support from research partner Semantic Universe.

Last week I mentioned being busy. One of the things that has been keeping me occupied for the past several months is writing and producing a report called Nimble. It’s aimed at content producers that are moving from traditional media distribution to digital, and finding themselves facing new challenges.

Most magazines, newspapers, TV shows, etc. have a website at this point, but it doesn’t mean that they’re making the most of the digital experiences that they’re creating for their audience. The report looks at three major areas of interest to content companies – how they attact and retain their audience, how they deliver content across new channels, platforms, and devices, and how they remain profitable in the new digital economy.

The key is: Content needs to be free. Not necessarily free-of-charge, but free to be accessed wherever and whenever the consumer wants it. And to truly be free, content needs to be “Nimble.” Content becomes nimble by being well-structured and having meaningful metadata.

The report discusses the types of structure that can set content free, and how this approach will change the role of the editor, the way content companies make money, the way they deliver content, and the way they attract an audience. It also includes information about emerging technologies and tools that can help digital content publishers move into this nimble world.

Read or download the entire report at and follow us on Twitter (@NimbleRF) for interesting developments and updates. I’ll be presenting the report at the Semantic Technology Conference on June 23rd, and we’ll be doing a lot more with this material in the coming months.

News That’s Fit to Tweet?

Robert Stribley   November 13, 2009
News lovers beware. (Image courtesy of the talented Eleanor Rudge)

The breakdown: Robert Stribley discusses how a recent national tragedy was covered in the Huffington Post through a consolidation of local tweets.  What’s the impact of using these Twitter lists on citizen journalism?  Read on to find out.

“Good lord, is this hen scratch they call tweeting REALLY supposed to keep us informed?” – goodog, Comment posted 06:10 PM on 11/05/2009, The Huffington Post

Late last week unwitting citizens of Fort Hood, Texas suddenly found themselves serving as national correspondents, when the news-aggregation site Huffington Post began livecasting their tweets. HuffPo corralled their tweets via Twitter Lists and presented them within a Twitter widget—both shiny, new features the micro-blogging service had released just days before.  The implementation by the Huffington Post was somewhat shoddy. As of this moment, it’s still running.

Some background: On Thursday, November 5th, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan began a shooting rampage at the Fort Hood military base that left 13 service men and women dead and 29 injured. In an attempt to tap into local reactions to the event, The Huffington Post set up the Fort Hood List and began streaming the tweets of people whose profiles indicated they lived in the area. I’m sure it seemed like a good idea at the time.

HuffPo should have considered the impact of posting random tweets simply based upon their geographic location. Instead they let loose with a torrent, and the results, as people quickly noted, weren’t pretty. Don’t get me wrong: There were some poignant and informative tweets. However, many of them weren’t particularly relevant, were inaccurate, or made little sense out of context.

Some examples:

iTraceyRenee: watchin Gucci Mane ft Usher – Spotlight Video

Barbaramagana: Writing blog. hmm what will the topic be!!!

RicoRossi: I’m about to go assist in oral surgery, ill tweet later

sunnylena: @ArmyBarbieGirl do u have children?

One 17-year-old participant mentioned the Fort Hood incident precisely once, before resuming her random, typically sexually explicit tweets. Which are still being posted to HuffPo, as of this moment.

A few issues are at play here. Let’s take a quick look at them.

Security by Obscurity

Ideally, people should be made aware when their tweets are being broadcast in a more prominent venue. Now, arguably, the whole point of Twitter is to disseminate information in a public venue. And, by publishing content to Twitter (and, increasingly, Facebook, too), folks are engaging in a privacy transaction each time wherein they tacitly agree to make their content public. Unless they make their profiles private. For better or worse, people depend on “security by obscurity” where Twitter’s concerned. They realize their tweets are observable (one would hope), but they sometimes depend on their mutterings being lost in the noise. As we all continue living our lives more publicly, we’ll probably adapt and learn that security by obscurity is a myth.

In the meantime, publishing people’s tweets at such a visible level raises some issues. For example, in an internal conversation, Razorfish content strategist Rachel Lovinger suggested that HuffPo did Tweeters an injustice by publishing their tweets out of context:

It makes me wince that the top comment from a local says “Andy Pettitte, Houston misses you!!” I feel embarrassed for the person who said it and is going to be judged as shallow and insensitive, just because she used her Twitter account the way she always uses it, perhaps not aware that she’s now an unfiltered spokesperson for her troubled community.


How to avoid this context problem? Tweets should be curated, of course, at least automatically by keyword, if not manually. When they published their Twitter list, HuffPo claimed, “we’re capturing all the tweeted updates related to the terrible events at Fort Hood. This search is targeted, filtered, and local.”

Really? Targeted and local? Somewhat. Filtered? Not so much.

The first thing I thought upon seeing the Huffington Post widget was that many of the tweets weren’t remotely relevant. It desperately needed some curation. Of course, Twitter lists aren’t currently set up to do that. Since HuffPo couldn’t do the filtering, they put the onus on us. And why should we take on the cognitive burden of filtering out irrelevant, often inaccurate information? We came looking for signal, not noise.

Accuracy & Authenticity

For a news-oriented site, of course, accuracy should be the weightiest concern of all: by placing those tweets on their site, The Huffington Post amplified some misinformation, a problem more serious journalistic enterprises would be excoriated for.

Some have suggested we shouldn’t expect a high level of accuracy from real-time, citizen journalism. Perhaps. But relying on it is a mistake we’re seeing all too often. A more stringent process for participation certainly would’ve helped in this case.

Maybe we’re entering an age where – more than ever – news needs to be viewed with the admonition Caveat Lector, “Let the Reader Beware!” We should certainly maintain a healthy sense of skepticism when reviewing content, which comes our way. But news practitioners – and aggregators – should also be aware of the damage that the careless use of such information does to their sense of authority.

Unless sensationalism, not authority, is what they’re really aiming for, of course.

Further Reading

Columbia Journalism Review, “Fort Hood: A First Test for Twitter Lists”

Paul Carr, TechCrunch, “After Fort Hood, Another Example of How ‘citizen Journalists’ Can’t Handle the Truth”

Matthew Ingram, “Citizen Journalism: I’ll Take It Flaws and All”

The Elements of Editorial Strategy

Matt Geraghty   October 13, 2009

The Breakdown: I was privileged to participate on a panel at a recent ‘Content Strategists of NYC’ meeting tackling the subject of the relationship between content strategy and publishing.  Leading the discussion was Jeff MacIntyre, principal of Predicate, and joining the panel was Ian Alexander, VP of Eat Media and Craig Bromberg, Editor in chief of AOL Real Estate .

How does a content strategist work with a publisher? What is the unique skill set we bring to the table? Are editors really being replaced by content strategists? What are all the necessary tools of editorial strategy? What problems are content strategists going to solve for publishers? For answers and insight to these questions, look no further. Explore the video panel discussion above, courtesy of the UX Workshop.  Most importantly, let us know what you think.  Comments welcome below.

The Content Wild Child: Your New PR Nightmare

Matt Geraghty   October 6, 2009

The Breakdown: Our own Rachel Lovinger gave a presentation at the MIMA Summit about what can happen when you don’t have a clearly defined content strategy. She showed several examples of common problems, and talked about content best practices that could have helped avoid these problems. The Summit will be posting video of all the presentations soon (including great keynote talks by Jackie Huba and Seth Godin), but for now, explore Rachel’s slides above.

Razorfish Blogs


  • SXSW Interactive

    March 7 – 11, Austin, TX
    Several of our contributors will be speaking this year. If you’re going, say hi to Rachel, Robert, & Hawk.

  • Confab Minneapolis

    May 7-9, Minneapolis, MN
    The original Confab Event. Rachel will be there doing her Content Modelling workshop with Cleve Gibbon. Get details and we’ll see you there!

  • Intelligent Content Conference Life Sciences & Healthcare

    May 8-9, San Francisco, CA
    Call for Presenters, now open:

  • Confab for Nonprofits

    Jun 16, Chicago, IL
    Another new Confab Event! Early Bird pricing until March 7:

  • Content Strategy Forum

    July 1-3, Frankfurt, Germany
    International Content Strategy workshops & conference: Call for speakers now open!

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What is this site, exactly?

Scatter/Gather is a blog about the intersection of content strategy, pop culture and human behavior. Contributors are all practicing Content Strategists at the offices of Razorfish, an international digital design agency.

This blog reflects the views of the individual contributors and not necessarily the views of Razorfish.

What is content strategy?

Oooh, the elevator pitch. Here we go: There is content on the web. You love it. Or you do not love it. Either way, it is out there, and it is growing. Content strategy encompasses the discovery, ideation, implementation and maintenance of all types of digital content—links, tags, metadata, video, whatever. Ultimately, we work closely with information architects and creative types to craft delicious, usable web experiences for our clients.

Why "scatter/gather"?

It’s an iterative data clustering operation that’s designed to enable rich browsing capabilities. “Data clustering” seems rather awesome and relevant to our quest, plus we thought the phrase just sounded really cool.

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