Friday, September 27, 2019

Is six hours a day on my phone too much?

This is the third year I have done an unscientific survey of my students in Media Economics about how they use their smartphones.

"WhatsApp Redesign" by Ayoub Elred is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0
The point of the exercise is for them to do their own assessment and make observations. In previous years they simply counted how many notifications or alerts they received on their phones in one hour or a class session. An alert is any ping, buzz, vibration, or lock-screen flash that tells them they have a message or news update from their various applications.

The distraction industry is getting ever more sophisticated in finding ways to get us to pay attention to their messages, because time, or attention, is money. Specifically, it allows tech platforms and news services to deliver targeted ads and make money from our attention.

An alert a minute

This year, 27 students counted notifications received in a 60-minute period. The average was 58, almost an alert a minute. The median --with half registering more, half less-- was 36. (The total alerts received was slightly more than last year and roughly three times the year before, although the unscientific methodology was slightly different each time.)

Friday, September 20, 2019

When it comes to reputation, news media brands have been missing the boat

Cees van Riel is an internationally known scholar and consultant who has spent much of his career studying how to measure the reputation of organizations and use the data for better decision-making.

Cees van Riel. Photo from Reputation Institute
During a recent chat with faculty at the University of Navarra, he talked about how a growing body of research links the financial performance of a company with its reputation as corporate citizen and community leader.

Leaders must speak up
Companies whose leaders and employees specifically say what they stand for, and back that up with their behavior, emerge as leaders in their industry by all sorts of tangible indicators, including but not limited to financial performance.

"You have to say yourself what you stand for," Cees said. "If you don't, no one will believe you."

Cees's observations made me realize that news media have done a terrible job at informing the public about the importance of what they do, namely investigating deeply to discover the truth and informing the public in a democratic society.

News media organizations should be taking this insight to heart, but often they view it as unseemly self-promotion. They assume everyone views them as an authority, as the purveyors of truth and guardians of the public interest. And, of course, they're wrong. Almost everywhere in the world, news media have low credibility. (Trust explored in more depth here.)

Plagiarism: Someone is publishing my blogs under their byline

Someone named Chris Lynn at the blog Worldwide News has taken dozens of my blog posts and put his own byline on top of them.

Evidently the sole purpose of the blog Worldwide News has been to kill the online version of an investigative report about official corruption published by the Mail & Guardian newspaper in South Africa.
Both of these blog posts were published by me. Chris Lynn's byline is on them now. Click to enlarge image
It's a clever scheme in which this Chris Lynn (whoever that is) copy-pasted the Mail & Guardian article onto his own blog, then claimed to have been plagiarized by the original publisher and got the Mail & Guardian's internet hosting site to remove the supposedly plagiarized original article.

Update: The people behind the plagiarism

The original investigation, which describes the activities of a man in Africa posing as a U.S. Congressman, appears among dozens of other articles on the Worldwide News blog, most of which are my blog posts. Evidently the thinking was -- and this is a humbling thought -- that search engines would see a blog with mostly academic content by an obscure American professor and not call attention to an article about scandal hidden in the academic weeds.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Manage your operation with the language of numbers

IJNet has recently launched its Media Entrepreneurship Toolkit to help journalists make their own projects financially sustainable.

My contribution was an introduction to some of the basics of accounting and budgeting.

Some of the key points to keep in mind:

  • There are some free online budgeting and accounting software packages that can organize your financial information for you.
  • If you are just starting out, make a list of all the monthly expenses you think you might incur.
  • Consider the possibility that you might use inexpensive or free digital tools at the beginning to keep costs down. 
  • Make sure you know how much you are spending each month. This is called the burn rate. If you don't bring in any more money, how many months do you have before you run out of cash?
  • Digital advertising is unlikely to produce much revenue for a small startup. Consider sponsorships, native advertising, donations, and other sources. 

There's nothing to be afraid of. Even English majors can learn how to do the basics.

Versión en español

Other articles in the Toolkit are by Jeremy Caplan, Director of Teaching and Learning at CUNY's Newmark Graduate School of Journalism in New York City:

What to do if your startup fails
5 ways journalism startups can engage an audience
7 challenges to overcome in launching a startup
Qualities of successful entrepreneurs