For Online E-newspaper
The East African : Aug 18th 2014
28 The EastAfrican OUTLOOK AUGUST 16-22,2014 e -AF R ICAN More online publishers let readers fill the space In news o≥ganisations, ‘platfo≥m’ is quickly finding a new meaning By LESLIE KAUFMAN NYT Service T o most English speakers, “platform” is a noun. But among news organisations, it is quickly becoming a verb. For publishers, the new meaning of “to platform” is something akin to: Take a traditional media company and add technology that allows readers to upload digital content as varied as links, text, video and other media. The result is a “publish first” model in which a lightly filtered, or unfiltered, stream of material moves from reader to reader, with the publication acting as a host and directing conversation but not controlling it. If it does not quite eliminate the middleman, it goes a long way toward reducing his role, and some media companies view it as a way to enhance their relationship with readers while increasing content production at minimal cost. Condé Nast Publications, for ex- ample, plans to allow a select group of writers to start posting on its Traveller website in mid-August as part of a series of experiments involving its magazines. At Time Inc, Entertainment Weekly has television fans posting updates on their favourite shows, and at Gawker, readers can engage with each other as well as with writers, completely uncensored. There is a broad range to just how much latitude readers get. USA Today still screens all the posts on its reader-powered publishing platform. People magazine has a feature that lets celebrities post freely to its website but only in an area under their own names. But in whatever form it takes, the trend is seen as unstoppable and full of risks. “Done well, this is both inevita- ble and wonderful,” said Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the American Press Institute. “Technology offers the possibility for a richer journalism today than before. This journalism is what I call organised collaborative intelligence.” Nevertheless: “the challenge for journalists is to organise and triangulate all this input, to vet and verify and translate,” he said. Platforming is not new to publi- cations. Many digital publications, particularly those in niches like food or sports, have woven material posted by their audiences into their business strategy from the start. The cooking and community website Food52 has built a database of 29,000 recipes; about 90 per cent of that there are ways to police comments that are fairly basic. Amanda Hesser, the co-founder of Food52, and a former New York Times reporter, said her site had successfully employed the simple tools of “likes” to ensure that better-quality content was seen by more readers. At SBNation, a sports fan site run by Vox, readers are encouraged to report commentators who are out of line. This and the increasingly tight budgets at publishers have left many feeling that they have little to lose. Pilar Guzmán, the editor of Traveller, said she did not view the new system — which will draw on dozens of selected individuals with large followings on social media to write about travel and food abroad — as more than a variation on the past. The new stringers “I don’t see it as that different HOW IT WORKS It makes use of technology that allows readers to upload digital content as varied as links, text, video and other media. The publication acts as a host and directs conversation but does not control it. Some media companies view it as a way to enhance their relationship with readers while them came from readers. Equally important, allowing readers to post their own description of a college sports game or a favourite recipe for chocolate cake is widely believed to make them more loyal and keep them on the site longer — something advertisers very much like to see. Yet knowing these advantages, established publications, particularly those specialising in news, have flinched at making it possible for outsiders to upload raw content for fear that the publications’ reputations for reliability — which took decades to build — could be undermined easily. Sites that are pure platforms have certainly faced such missteps; Reddit found itself in trouble after the Boston Marathon bombing when some of its users pointed a suspicious finger at someone who turned out to be the wrong man. Longtime publishers have also feared the kind of uncensored vitriol that frequently develops on sites without monitors. The New York Times, for example, screens every comment on news stories for appropriate language before it is posted, but this is costly and timeconsuming. Nevertheless, The Times and The Washington Post announced in June that with money from the John S and James L Knight Foundation and technical assistance from increasing content production at minimal cost. It allows readers to engage with each other as well as with writers, uncensored. However, established publications fear that the publications’ reputations for reliability — which took decades to build — could be undermined easily. Mozilla, the nonprofit open-source Internet developer, they were developing technology that would enable both to have reader platforms. It will be specifically geared for news operations and their concerns about accuracy and civility. The companies plan to start making the technology available free within the next two years to any interested news operation. They have yet to make editorial decisions on who will be permitted to upload material on their sites and whether that content will have any editing. This new commitment is occur- ring partly because technology is improving and can increasingly be used to police commenting; algorithms, for example, can flag particularly pungent words. Moreover, established platforms have shown from working with stringers,” she said, using the news industry term for contract reporters. “We are handpicking every single person because we share a sensibility. Moreover, this is an easy way to cull local expertise from around the world.” Of course, there are two big vari- ations from the past. The new contributors will not be line-edited in the traditional way before they post, and they will be paid in part by how many views they generate. Entertainment Weekly is test- ing a platform called Community where selected fans can review weekly episodes of shows like Sleepy Hollow that have devoted followings or critical acclaim but may not have strong ratings. EW, which laid off staff members recently, has been criticised by some because it will not be paying most of these new platform contributors. But Beth Jacobson, the magazine’s senior director of public relations, said the move was not as much about getting free content as about engaging the audience. “The whole impetus to have the contributor network is because our audiences are rabid television watchers,” she said. It is not by accident that the large magazine publishers are starting their platforms with publications covering lifestyle niches like cooking and entertainment; their readers tend to be less venomous than those of publications that cover rancorous topics. Gawker, an online tabloid that mixes news and gossip, started its platform, Kinja, at the beginning of 2013. Kinja allows its readers not just to comment on articles but also to engage in a sus- tained discussion among themselves and with the author. Joel Johnson, editorial director of Gawker, admits things can get ugly on Kinja. “There are still people who are going to drive by and take pot shots, and we don’t think it is unsolvable, but it won’t be easy and will take time and iteration to figure it out,” he said. BRIEFS Payments via devices to exceed $20b this year The payment of household bills via devices will exceed $20 billion this year, representing approximately 16 per cent of all global consumer household bills. The rise is linked to a growing consumer acceptance of transactional digital banking, and the adoption of mobile banking. A new Juniper Research study shows that payments made via personal computers, tablets and mobile phones will push this growth. In East Africa, banks and mobile service providers have adopted mobile banking as a means of settling bills, including water and electricity, as they compete for the rising digital banking market. Telecom’s planned $6m upgrade targets villages The Tanzania Telecommunications Company is planning to invest over $6 million to upgrade telecommunication links in more than 200 villages with the aim of reaching 300,000 people living in the rural areas. According to TTCL chief executive Kamugisha Kazaura, the project will cover 16 regions in Tanzania, including Arusha, Tabora, Mwanza and Tanga, as the government moves to get the whole country connected technologically. Trading at NSE to go mobile soon The Nairobi Securities Exchange online trading platform on July 15. Picture: Salaton Njau NIC Bank (Kenya) has launched an application that will enable customers to trade in shares on the Nairobi Securities Exchange using mobile devices. The application allows clients to view their account status, access stock prices and receive market updates and tips instantly. According to Catherine Karita, NIC Securities general manager, the application will be available for download to registered customers, who will be required to use security credentials provided by the bank to access it. MTN unveils cloud computing in Rwanda MTN Rwanda has launched cloud computing services in Rwanda targeting professional enterprises, microfinance, health and small and medium enterprises. The companies are expected to save on costs as they narrow down operations. Instead of having separate systems for each section in a company, cloud services enable companies to share a common pool of resources.
Aug 25th 2014
Aug 11th 2014