Tagged: journalism

Informing and Entertaining Despite Shortened Attention Spans: The Guardian’s NSA Files Decoded

People’s attention spans have shortened. Wait – are you still with me?

I said, people’s attention spans have shortened. For instance, I am no longer able to recite Sophocles from memory. And if I could, who would listen?

A few years ago, when I was writing more frequently about the “future of journalism”, the struggles and growing pains of traditional news outlets were mostly based around a) funding and b) competing for audiences believed to be no longer able to concentrate for long periods thanks to technological changes.

Well, journalism funding models are still primarily stuck in a pay-wall / subscription paradigm, but an interesting shift has happened around content. And you can see it in pieces like the Guardian’s NSA Files Decoded.
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The Medium: Virginia Heffernan’s Final Column for NY Times Magazine

onward and upward

(Onward and upward for Virginia Heffernan)

Last week marked the final time that Virginia Heffernan’s The Medium column would run in the New York Times Magazine. I think it’s a shame that this column has been rendered obsolete by the magazine’s Secular Overlords (or whoever makes the decisions at the NYTimes).

In the four years that her technology column ran, Heffernan was always a moderate voice in an industry full of overblown hype and wide-brush lifestyle marketing. At once informed and curious, Heffernan’s column (along with Randy Cohen’s The Ethicist — also nixed by the mag last week) became a primary reason for me to read the magazine every week.

Heffernan’s final column for the NYT Magazine addressed the changes in the web over the last 2 years, where commercialized add-ons and targeted promotions have overrun genuine culture and idea exchanges. Heffernan presents the Kindle as an example of a consumer space aimed at the pleasures of culture, rather than the business of it.

Fittingly, I found Heffernan’s columns to be the same way – a lucid examination of the (often) ridiculous eccentricities of the net that increasingly come to define how we live and communicate. Heffernan’s columns were always respite from the histrionics that come with emerging digital culture, and while I mourn the loss of her column, I will enjoy reading its archives and following Virginia Heffernan’s upcoming work.

Evolving Multimedia Narratives and Storytelling

I see you...

Anyone with a scroll-mouse, or those technophiles that have harnessed the finer points of ‘page-up / page-down’ technology, can see that I haven’t posted to my beloved Fauna Corporation in quite a while.

There are a number of reasons for this, but what is most important is that I am resurfacing after a deep-thought hiatus.

Which is to say, after much consideration, I have decided to post to Fauna Corp again, but with a slightly expanded focus to the content I highlight, share and discuss.

Over the last several months of working in advertising, and gaining some distance from the harsh realities of freelance journalism in the midst of an economic downturn and an essential breakdown in the fabric of how media works, I have gained a little bit more perspective on multimedia content.

There is no need for someone like me to be wringing his hands about the future of journalism. I’m simply not plugged in enough now to really know what’s happening with the media giants, and far more attuned minds than my own could give you the 4-11 (or even the 9-11) on what’s happening.

Furthermore, at a certain level, I simply don’t care anymore. As countless experts discuss and debate, our digital culture moves forward. People upload their on-the-ground footage, others generate beautiful short films and slideshows, still more develop apps and widgets, while experts deliberate on a functioning media model in a shifting cultural landscape. It is not possible to know where we’re going, and I think my energy is best served elsewhere.

What I am plugged into (and seeing a lot of) these days is unique digital content deployed across the cultural spectrum. This has led me to think a great deal about digital narratives – the ways that we represent who we are (or who we aspire to be) through our digital ecosystem.

Sophisticated tools are becoming cheaper, average people are developing professional skills, and more and more people are using their creativity to represent their lives. It is becoming seamless, natural and, at times, deeply moving.

It is this, then, that I am going to focus Fauna Corporation on – the artists, journos and communities that document the people, places, products, ideas, stories and projects that matter most to them. The digital narratives we create and share, to connect, however briefly, with each other and those quiet parts of ourselves that represent who we truly are.

How this plays out will be shown in the next little while, but I just wanted to give you a heads-up about this shift to Fauna Corporation’s content, and thank all of you who have been regular readers despite a loooooong silence on this little blog.

I think you will enjoy where we are going…

The Gap Between Journalism and Marketing Gets Smaller

Astute readers of Fauna Corporation (or those who simply scroll down) will know that I was working a contract for a digital ad agency before the Holidays.

As it turns out, they liked my moxie so much they offered me a full-time position, which I’ve accepted. I’ve just come through my first week as an official employee there, and boy are my arms tired – or however that old joke goes.

Working in an ad agency is a bit of a weird shift for me (though not outside my employment history), given my heavy focus on multimedia journalism, so I thought I would take a second to try to let you know where this decision came from.

First, I want to confirm that my love of journalism continues, and my interest in trying to figure out (with you all!) where the industry is going remains as strong as ever.

But the reality – for me, at least – is that the technological advances, emerging narrative tools and the unbelievable creativity of multimedia journalists has far outpaced the journalism industry as a whole.

Personally, I had no problem landing writing gigs (for terrible freelance rates, naturally), but I had a lot of trouble landing contracts for my multimedia work, despite genuine interest and positive feedback from the web- and section-editors I spoke to.

The issue seems to be that the larger media structure is still struggling with how to carry multimedia work, how to market it, how to deal with the reciprocal loop it can create with viewers, etc..

Meanwhile the technology still advances, the narratives become ever more layered, and the e-journos continue to produce novel, intelligent work. These developments, coupled with the state of our media, generally, have become a recipe for disaster for freelancers.

When an opportunity came along to work for a cutting-edge digital agency, I realized the potential of working in an industry that was not behind the e-curve (and is, in fact, is often pioneering new communication techniques), and I recognized that I could learn an awful lot about building and deploying online content from creative experts.

So that’s what I’ve decided to do. I hope that doesn’t make my usual readership think I’ve sold out to The Man. Or even, A Man.

In my opinion, the days of journalistic purity are pretty much over, as each journalist increasingly becomes his own brand and entrepreneurial skills become ever more important in getting eyes on your work (let alone be paid for it), as the industry crashes all around us. It doesn’t mean the ethics of a journalist have been or should be compromised, only that the (often fictitious) divide between editorial and marketing is dissolving ever more.

So far, the new job has been very challenging and rewarding, and I think it will benefit my journalism work in the long run if I can continue racing up the (steep!) learning curve. My hope is to bring new insights to the Fauna Corp readership, while still sharing interesting and engaging multimedia journalism content with you all, as we try to figure out where journalism is headed.

2010 promises to be an interesting new year, and I hope you all stick with Fauna Corporation for the ride.

Let me know your thoughts about all this, leave a comment if you have anything to share. No sales agents will visit your home.

The Media of the Future – Reach Out and Touch Your Content

Whew! This whole accelerated world we’re living in has been exhausting lately.

But I must say, the technology finally seems to be catching up to the creativity of content creators, and is also coming in line with the demands of consumers.

As usual, I find the discrepancy between what consumers are looking for, and how journalists & news outlets are talking to them, to be the biggest hurdle facing journalism as a whole.

My accomplice and I recently picked up iPod Touches, and have been experimenting with different ways to use these cool gadgets to actually enhance our lives (rather than just, you know, be cool gadgets). That’s been a fun process, but there have been a couple of videos out lately that show other potentially ground-shifting tools that are coming to market.

These new tools display some creative uses of cross-media delivery by magazine publishers, and seem to really enrich the user experience. Check it out:

First, Multimedia Shooter has posted a great list of sports-related, multimedia journalism pieces which is worth reading. This Sports Illustrated video shows how SI is planning to unveil their magazine in tablet form, and, despite the hokey digital hands, shows how the magazine’s main assets of stunning photography, quality writing and box scores, will be further enhanced by the tablet technology:

Also, I thought I’d include this video from Outside Magazine, displaying their idea of how an interactive magazine feature may work in the near future. I originally found this video from one of my RSS feeds, but now can’t remember which website posted it (apologies for that). Instead, I found the same video piece at the Living Art Media site. It’s a little hyperbolic, but the overall effect is very cool:

Both of these videos are ‘aspirational’, but they show that the technology we are becoming accustomed to on our hand-held devices are now beginning to inform the decisions of media outlets and how they craft the content we’ll be enjoying in the coming year(s).

Short Silence and Three Posts to Check Out

Apologies all around for the longish silence here on Fauna Corporation. I’ve been working a writing contract for an advertising firm and have had less time for posting. The contract goes well, thus far, but I don’t want to forget my Fauna readers so I thought I would put something up.

On that note, while I haven’t been posting, I have been seeing some interesting content for Next-Gen Journos. The following are a few things that I’ve seen over the last few days that I thought you would all enjoy.

First, from Journerdism, a list of the 8 must-have skills for the journalists of tomorrow. The list is a little broad (ie: including programming skills), in much the same way that one could list the top 8 skills for tomorrow’s Olympian and include being multilingual and 12 feet tall. I mean, it can’t hurt, but in reality there are only so many hours in the day, so one must pick and choose what to learn. However, the list is pretty solid on the whole and does mention the ability to focus on experimentation and focus on creating artful, cross-media pieces, which I sincerely believe will be necessary to capture the next wave of web- and mobile-savvy media consumers. Of note, “fundamental journalism skills” comes in at number 8.

Next, 10,000 Words has a great list of gifts for the Journalist in your life, just in time for the holidays. While some are sort of obvious (newsprint t-shirts and boxers), some are totally awesome (CTRL, ALT, DELETE cup sets!), and either way, there is always a good reason to visit to 10,000 Words, so click on through.

Finally, from ProBlogger (a site worth visiting if you haven’t yet), a short list that substantiates the importance of having a product to sell. As journalism changes and freelancing rates remain dismal, this idea of having a product – whether it is your work, a collected series of pieces, an ebook, how-to, or anything else – becomes very important to grow revenue and audience (which in turn grows revenue and audience). While there is an argument to be made against every journalist being entrepreneurial, as technology changes us, we must change with technology. Increasingly, being entrepreneurial is tied to those changes.

Again, my apologies for the relative silence here on Fauna Corp. I am happy that my traffic has not dimished over the last couple of weeks, despite it. I will continue to do my best to keep you all up-to-date with what is happening with evolving multimedia journalism, and as always, I thank you for stopping by.