Posts Tagged ‘SXSWi’
12 Mar

My proof, my metrics, my ROI on Social Media: #WJCHAT

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It happens on occasion (okay, with this friend it happens a lot), but I battle with a friend over Social Media’s role in our lives and relationships.

I’m not a fan of the outsider, knee jerk reactions to Social Media that say we are getting dumber, we can’t focus and we are so lonely.

All those things may be happening, but it’s not because of Social Media… not solely anyway. These are, in fact, the same claims that have been preached about with every new development ranging from radio, TV and, I believe, even books.

So, I’m not a fan of those re-occurring, blame-the-newest-thing-for-our-bad-thing argument.

Nor am I a blinded super fan of Social Media… there’s crap out there (lots of it) and “gurus” making money by ripping people off.

I am, however, a fan of the true connections that have been made possible because of platforms like Twitter and Facebook. These platforms are just the latest evolutionary step from mail to telegram to telephone to Internet to e-mail, etc.

And, as you may have guessed, I am a SUPER fan of communities like #WJCHAT, that support and educate each other by harnessing these platforms.

The two-year anniversary of our little community was in February and, in my hopes to gets some attention to it, I asked a couple journalism sites to do a write up on us. To be honest, I didn’t really make a hard pitch.

Naturally, as good journos, the question led to why… but more importantly, what has #WJCHAT done? Where’s the proof?

I don’t have those metrics.

While we often talk about analytics, ROI and such, for me, I don’t really care about those when it comes to #WJCHAT.

All I care about is that people know that they are not alone in their struggle to find their place in journalism, that they are getting educated on how to improve journalism and that they are sharing their knowledge and experiences so we collectively “save” journalism.

My latest reminder of this was today’s ONA featured member piece on Tauhid Chappell.

I remember Chappell popping into the #WJCHAT stream and meeting him IRL at an ONA event. But I didn’t know that our little community played a role in his journalistic development… but it was enough that he felt compelled to mentioned #WJCHAT in his profile piece.

That is my proof. He is my metric.

Tonight I will be meeting “strangers” for the first time IRL at our now annual #WJCHAT meetup at SXSW.

I will be seeing old friends and making new ones (once we get over the awkward oh-yeah-I-know-you moment after we connect the avatar or handle to the face and name).

That is my proof. They are my metric.

Do you know that I have only met, maybe, half of the people who volunteer each week to run #WJCHAT. Never meet them outside of email, a collaborative document or Twitter chat.

These folks are my colleagues. They are my friends. They, too, are my proof… my metric.

Everyone in this diverse community is my argument proving that Social Media is an undeniably positive element in our modern lives.

And, my goal when Twitter life and real life merges later today, is to be present with this community of friends… and, on occasion, awkwardly look at my phone to see if I need to tweet out something.

Thank you for being part of this community. < cheesy >It’s been a positive element in my life.< /cheesy >

12 Mar

Tips and tricks for a successful SXSWi 2010

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NOTE: Originally published on Online Journalism Review:

Robert Hernandez: Well Pekka, we are just a few days away from the SXSW / SXSWi 2010 conference … aka Geek Spring Break. We’ve both been to the festival before and, for this post, are going to interview each other to share tips, experiences, goals, etc. as we do final preparations for the week. Let’s start with sharing our experiences. What number is this one for you? How many times have you attended?

Pekka Pekkala: This is my number three, did first one back in ’96! I was a starving student, so no Interactive tickets for me, just free music… You?

RH: For me, this is going to be my second. I was a n00b last year, a rookie. And, boy, did I learn a lot … and think I’m ready for the coming week.

How would you describe the conference to people? Mainly SXSWi.

PP: Best place to meet people like you who are not journalists. It’s really a good way to mingle with programmers and business-savvy people who understand content. And a total 5-day hurricane of seminars, meetups and parties.

RH: A ‘hurricane’ is a great way to describe it … tech, smarts, hipster glasses and more. I was really overwhelmed last year, attending so many different, random sessions and meeting great people. I have really started to prepare for this year.

For me, I think it’s an international meetup of innovative minds that mashup technology, business, art, culture, news and information. The Future of Journalism has been officially added as a track this year. I got inspired last year and hope that happens again.

PP: What did you pick from the Future of Journalism track? Is it all the same people that you’ve seen in journalism seminars before?

RH: Well, I have to be honest… half of the sessions did not resonate with me. Some of same ol’ same ol’ topics … and some things that aren’t really reflective of the topic. That said, there are some that I hope to attend. Naturally, I want to attend a breaking/late addition: Lessons Learned from the ‘Arab Spring Revolutions with Mashable‘s Vadim Lavrusik among other panelists. I’m a super NPR and Public Media fan and see a lot of sessions related to that, so I plan to attend those. I also am thinking of attending The Death of the Death of Longform Journalism, Conde Nast in Start Up Mode, and Hacking the News: Applying Computer Science to Journalism panels. Here’s a link to my SXSW schedule: Here is my event calendar:

Are you attending the journalism ones?

PP: There’s a lot of good stuff there, but I couldn’t help noticing the vast amount of consultants / inspirational speaker types. I’m trying to find the people who are actually making stuff and creating financially sustainable sites. So I’m probably hopping between the Journo and Business tracks a lot. My calendar here:

RH: Yes, I noticed that too. Did you notice the number of advertising panels that suggested storytelling and journalism as the answer? Brand Journalism: The Rise of Non-Fiction Advertising is the session that surprised me. Journalism to save advertising? I might have to check it out.

PP: Umm… yes. That sounds like a trap :D I’m more interested in Free Your Content! Who Really Owns UGC? session. :)

RH: Ha! Speaking of ‘trap’ the beauty of SXSWi is the randomness of some of these sessions. I have a few personal interest ones I hope to attend like, Star Wars Uncut: The Force of Crowdsourcing. Other personal picks are: A panel about an audio-only video game, a TRON session (yes, I’m a geek!), trends in Internet art and hearing from the ad agency behind the Old Spice guy ads. Do you have some random panels that peaked your interest?

PP: Yes. My advice would be to pick some big names you haven’t heard yet. I’m trying to see at least Bram Cohen (BitTorrent), Jason Calacanis (Mahalo), Clay Shirky (NYU) and Christopher Poole (4chan). Secondly, pick some really weird stuff like “Singularity,” “Synthetic Life” or “IBM: What is Watson?” sessions. Thirdly, do some boring stuff just for networking. Which is not really that boring in SXSW atmosphere.

RH: I attended a session last year led by Jonathan Stark, who taught how to do an easy iPhone app … the guy has written several books about designing/building apps and will be a panelist on the Building Native Apps Across Platforms session. Also, I have to promo the Social Network Users’ Bill of Rights session with USC’s Prof. Jack Lerner and Lisa Borodkin, both have spoken to my classes numerous times about media law.

Can you talk about your goals and strategy for SXSW? What do you hope to learn and get from going to this conference? What is your strategy behind what sessions you try to attend?

PP: I always try to get away from the journalist mindset: I’m really scared of the journo hive mentality in every aspect. Mix it up! Trying to find some interesting cases to be interviewed for my Sustainable Business Models for Journalism study. Bootstrappers and small sites mainly. What about you?

RH: Yes, agreed. The session I pick tend to be more techie… I like to go to ones where I learn something new and, ideally, I can find ways to incorporate it into journalism… long before someone else even thinks about that angle. Right now I’m obsessing about Augmented Reality, and there are several sessions on that… mainly on biz/dev side. My goal is to learn more and more coding, building… and that tech constantly evolves. Last year I attended a great HTML5 vs. Flash panel … this year I hope to attend a few of those. Anything that experiments and pushes me to grow and think about the mashup of technology, design and information. Lots to choose from… and, sadly, some are at the same time!

PP: Sounds like a cool plan and something SXSW is really good for! Last year I went to Jaron Lanier speech and right after it (the cyncical journo in me) was saying “blah, another hippie from the Bay area saying you guys spoiled our Internet.” But the stuff he said really haunted me somehow and now I’m turning into a hippie myself. :D Ted Nelson FTW!

RH: He’s an extremely interesting guy. He recommended reading The Machine Stops … a must read for tech people.

Let’s get to some tips … what apps/tools do you use when at the conference? Now and while attending? What tips do you have while there?

PP: Just mark down everything that looks interesting via the SXSW schedule page, download the mobile app and off you go. Having a plan doesn’t mean you have to go according to it but it helps to visualize what is going on. It’s a shame doesn’t sync with SXSW schedule, would be great. Any cool apps you’ve found?

RH: Exactly right, I’ve signed up for a ton of things … who knows if I’ll attend them. But at least I know what’s, generally, out there. Last year’s app was, well, less than satisfying. That said, I’ve download this year’s version and it looks much better. I’ve used the official session selector. But I have to also pass along a great recommendation from SXSW veterans that recommended because it includes *all* events, even the many unofficial ones. I also used SitBy.Us last year and thought that was very cool. I’ll be tweeting and checking in on FourSquare, of course. Mashable has a SXSWi great guide, which has a good collection of apps/tools.

PP: looks cool, have to try that one. Being from Finland, I have to plug @dittoapp! Any tips how to survive the physical aspect of SXSW, meaning the walking, not sleeping and forgetting your gear in the cab at 1am? (I’m still pissed I lost my FAIL book with Ben Huh‘s autograph last year!)

RH: Oh yeah… I learned you have to ditch the laptop! I have a shoulder that is about one inch lower than the other because I’ve carried a messenger bag with my laptop for years. Skip that! This year I’m rolling with just my iPad and iPhone. I also bought an external battery to charge them both :) I’m still traveling with my laptop, in case my plan backfires. Also, wear comfortable shoes, ’cause these will be looooong, fun days. I just downloaded Ditto (but it keeps crashing).

PP: iPad 2 I hope, it’s SXSWi! I find it hilarious when people take iPhone, iPad and MacBook out in a seminar: tech is supposed to make your life easier, not _literally_ harder :D I’m taking my Droid 2 Global (physical keyboard is still WINNING) + charger. Travel light.

RH: Let’s end with this question… how will you know you’ve had a successful SXSW 2010 experience?

PP: I fall asleep in the plane before it takes off from Austin. And when I’m home, I notice my brain is a mess of weird ideas and my pockets are full of business cards with hastily written notes on them. You?

RH: Ha! Well said. For me, if I feel like I’ve learned some new things and expanded my network of smart innovators, it’s been a success. I want to walk away energized and ready to go try some new tech experiments.

Well, sir, it was great chatting with you and I’ll see you in Austin!

PP: Same here, can’t wait! Let’s keep in touch via Twitter! @pekkapekkala

RH: Yes. I’m @webjournalist

16 Mar

For many, Clay Shirky’s doomsday scenario is already here

NOTE: This piece is also running on OJR: The Online Journalism Review: “For many, the local newspaper isn’t dying – it’s already dead

The dooms day scenario has been on everyone’s mind, including some at SXSWi, since the revenue/circulation has dropped through the floor and the brilliant mind of Clay Shirky articulated “thinking the unthinkable.”

The scenario, in short, is what will happen to a city when the last major newspaper dies?

Who covers our city? Who becomes our watchdog? What happens to our community? Who tells our story?

I would propose that this scenario, in many aspects, has already happened.

NOTE: I’m not saying this to offend or be rude or for shock value or to make anyone feel guilty… I just felt that someone should state what seems obvious.

Okay, here goes: If you are white, and probably a male, you may not have noticed that we’ve been living in this doomsday scenario for years, if not decades.

For African Americans, Native Americans, Asian, Latino… or gays… or under 25… or female… they know that their communities have been, and continue to be, routinely left out of their newspaper. They typically make the news for holidays, crime or food.

For many of them, newspapers aren’t dying… they’re already dead.

At SXSWi, attendees of the Online News of Tomorrow session couldn’t help but notice that all the panelists were white males.

Look, here’s the reality. If your news gathering staff does not reflect the diversity of your community, then you made it nearly impossible for them to accurately cover that community. That’s the thinking behind NAHJ’s Parity Project.

Let me give you an example:

I worked at a small newspaper in a agricultural town that was predominately Mexican. I believe something like 80 percent. The staff was 95 percent white at the time… they knew the diversity of their community and did everything in their power to try to report/reflect it in their pages… this included hiring translators.

When I joined the staff for the summer, my “ability” to speak Spanish easily open doors that they often could not. And, to be less than modest, I think my stories beat the snot out of the competition by the simple fact I could relate to the community and do better reporting.

So, if the community doesn’t routinely see itself in the paper, why would they bother to read it, let alone buy it? For that community, again, newspapers aren’t dying… they’re already dead.

Think about this:

Let’s say the great Seattle paper and my former home, The Seattle Times, decides to reach out to the large Latino community. Many people know that diversity is highly valued at The Times.

Let’s say that for one day, to reach out to the Latino community, The Times publishes an all Spanish-language edition. Hell, let’s say five days.

In addition to pissing off its readers and getting a ton of canceled subscriptions, the experiment would be a total failure. Why? The Latino community would never know The Times was publishing in Spanish. The community already knows they haven’t been in the paper’s pages before the five days, and probably won’t be there after the five days.

To the Latino community, the largest city paper isn’t dying… it’s already dead to them.

So what does that mean? What has happened in this scary scenario?

The last time I visited a local taqueria in Seattle, I found about four Spanish-language newspapers chock full of ads. That’s not including the one mailed to me in a plastic sleeve.

The community didn’t wait for the newspaper to tell their stories or cover their struggles, they did it themselves. Throw in the Web, and you’ll see more coverage pop up.

Think about this:

The industry recently applauded Mission Loc@l, the hyper-local project by UC Berkeley, the Ford Foundation and other donors. In their mission statement they say they “believes that by covering a neighborhood fairly and thoroughly, we can build community and a sustainable model for quality journalism.”

Without a doubt, this is a innovative project and certainly worth supporting. But before we praise them for swooping in and covering this “ignored” community, let’s put it in some context.

For some 40 years, the Latino community in the Mission District has had its stories told, not by the San Francisco Chronicle, but by El Tecolote. The ethnic paper was there before the gentrification of the Mission and hopefully they survive to continue to tell their community’s stories. It’s even possible that they survive the Chronicle.

For many in our diverse community, the newspapers aren’t dying… they’re already dead. And while one can argue whether or not they are missed, it’s undeniable that the community has adapted on its own.


Categories: Journalism Tags: , ,
15 Mar

WIRED on a white horse, FTW? iPad-zines might just work

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OK, there’s been a break in the hype about the iPad, so I’d like to add an additional two cents… you may have read my first post where iPad has incredible journalism potential, but not its savior… well… I’m going to have to change tweak my tune.

Wait, wait… it’s not the savior, but done right it can create an incredible revenue stream for certain print products.

Let me tell you how I got here.

We started with Amazon‘s Kindle. The most transitional, soon-to-be-forgotten product ever… either it was gifted to you or your fit in the I-travel-a-lot-and-read-a-ton-of-books niche. The B&W experience with pauses between page flips was worth it to you (or some sucker) for a couple hundred bucks.

The NYTimes created and released their Times Reader 2.0 that even syncs to your TV or something… I really don’t know the details, because, like many of you, it did not resonate and has been largely ignored. Sorry, Google Reader and many, many others still win.

We’ve heard of the legendary eInk flexible paper that will breathe life into newspapers by dumping the cost of newsprint. And at CES we got a glimpse at Hearst‘s flexible paper. Hearst innovate while trying to please its shareholders? Um, probably not.

And, hopefully by now, we’ve all seen the Sports Illustrated‘s demo video of what their tablet could do. It’s a neat concept, but being jaded from print journalism’s track record, I doubt we will invest in a smart, creative staff that will really take advantage of this new form… shareholders may not understand the potential.

Yes, it’s all pretty much been hype or mediocre at best.

Wasn’t this going to be a positive post? What changed?


I saw the video by WIRED magazine displaying their Adobe Air iPad-zine… it was not a concept, but an actual working, beautiful magazine in all its digital-multi-touch glory. It worked! No clip art, static hand guiding me through the potential interface like SI’s.

But it’s just a video right?

If it were any other magazine, I’d roll my eyes… but it being WIRED this crazy idea just might work.

Look at their print product. Fantastic, insightful content wrapped in elegantly designed and laid out pages. It’s clear that they value and are focused on a reader experience that last more than minutes. Readers don’t recycle their issues or line their bird cages pages… well, normally.

Look at their deadlines. They are not producing the daily miracle or nightly newscast or templated site. They have time to craft a product for every edition. (The only folks with more multimedia friendly deadlines are museums!)

That deadline schedule and WIRED’s creatively is a powerful mix when translating it to a digital, interactive tablet experience… and in the capable hands of a creative staff, it makes iPad-zines worth your time and, more importantly, your money.

The presentation of content in this form taps into two things the Web has not really mastered:

> Serendipitous browsing. Meaning, flipping through pages and seeing what jumps out at you as you scan for stories to read have more going for them that an SEO-friendly headline.

> The beauty of the boardsheet. Print newspapers, but especially magazines, are not tied to templates because they have time to create an engaging layout. The limitations of space for their content, gives them a finite number of pages to work on.

I just finished seeing WIRED present their product at SXSWi (see live stream clips) and they up’ed it even more by demoing their iPad-zine on a Nexus One and iPhone… meaning, it’s not just an iPad-zine, but iPhone-zine, Nexus One-zine and so on… they are still not sure about their revenue structure, but they are hoping to bring life back into the journalism subscription model.

And, with a product like that, I’d pay.

Let’s hope we don’t mess it up! Let’s hope we invest in a creative, smart staff and give them the freedom to do their jobs. Let’s hope the content and vision outweighs the bottomline of the shareholders… or at least hope the shareholders give it a chance.

It’s going to be a big year for digital journalism. The tablets are coming, the tablets are coming! And so is the opportunity to create an engaging experience with our readers. And maybe some money too.


And who is really behind this creative opportunity? Meet Condé Nast. They own WIRED and many other magazines… but don’t judge them by their Web site.

Other tablet demos


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