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World Swimming Championships: Litchfield, Scott & Davies miss out on medals

BBC News - 1 hour 4 min ago
Three British swimmers miss out on medals by a combined 1.04 seconds on day five of the World Championships in Budapest.

Amazon founder is briefly the world's richest man

BBC News - 1 hour 5 min ago
Five things you didn't know about the man whose wealth overtook Bill Gates' for a day.

England v South Africa: Alastair Cook makes 82 not out on opening day

BBC News - 1 hour 18 min ago
Alastair Cook hits an unbeaten 82 as England make 171-4 on a rain-affected first day of the third Test against South Africa at The Oval.

Grenfell Tower: Corporate manslaughter considered by police

BBC News - 1 hour 42 min ago
Council chiefs told police have "reasonable grounds" to suspect the offence may have been committed.

Olympic athlete on why she self-harmed

BBC News - 2 hours 27 min ago
British former Olympic bobsleigher Rebekah Wilson tells BBC Sport she self-harmed as she struggled to cope with the demands of elite sport.

Transgender ban: No policy change for now, says top general

BBC News - 2 hours 54 min ago
The US top general says President Trump needs to issue guidance before any changes come into effect.

BBC women let gender pay gap happen, government adviser says

BBC News - 3 hours 27 min ago
A government adviser on equal pay says women are "less proactive" in asking for more money.

Legoland pirate stunt show performer injured in fall

BBC News - 3 hours 48 min ago
The Pirates of Skeleton Bay stunt show has been shut down after an accident during a performance.

Charlie Gard hospice move approved

BBC News - 3 hours 53 min ago
Judges have set a timetable to govern the final period of the 11-month-old's life.

Formula 1: Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso back introduction of 'halo'

BBC News - 3 hours 56 min ago
Leading Formula 1 drivers back the decision to introduce the controversial 'halo' head protection system next season.

Palestinians return to holy site after Israel security reversal

BBC News - 3 hours 58 min ago
Muslims re-enter East Jerusalem site after Israel fully removes its controversial security set-up.

Yarmouth: Winner Mandarin Princess was actually stablemate Millie's Kiss

BBC News - 4 hours 40 sec ago
An investigation will be carried out after Great Yarmouth winner Mandarin Princess turns out to be stablemate Millie's Kiss.

England v South Africa: Joe Root out after Quinton de Kock takes 'unbelievable' catch

BBC News - 5 hours 15 min ago
Quinton de Kock takes an "unbelievable" catch to dismiss England captain Joe Root for 29 on the first day of the third Test against South Africa at The Oval.

Judge writes letter to court battle teen

BBC News - 5 hours 26 min ago
Mr Justice Jackson tells the 14-year-old boy why he rejected his plea to move abroad with his father.

Boy spots Natural History Museum dinosaur gaffe

BBC News - 5 hours 36 min ago
A young dinosaur fan noticed an incorrect image on a museum sign about Oviraptors.

BBC to broadcast live coverage of US PGA Championship

BBC News - 6 hours 18 min ago
BBC Sport will broadcast live coverage of the US PGA Championship in August across TV, radio and online.

Customers 'drugged' at lap dancing club

BBC News - 6 hours 24 min ago
A lap dancing club's licence is suspended after claims of fraud and links to organised crime are made.

DocumentCloud will start asking some users to chip in as it leaves IRE for its own nonprofit

Nieman Journalism Lab - 6 hours 27 min ago

For six years, DocumentCloud has enabled journalists to upload, annotate, organize, and share primary source files with readers and embed them into articles. They’ve also been doing it free of charge, for everyone.

But for some users, that’s about to change.

With just one lead developer, DocumentCloud holds about 60 million pages of 3.6 million documents, stored on 31 servers by 8,000 accounts. Some news organizations have uploaded more than 300,000 documents in the eight years of its existence. For a nonprofit startup with no tangible revenue in a journalism world increasingly reliant on data, documents, and cloud storage, DocumentCloud’s supporters realized this model was unsustainable.

“There was a very real possibility that DocumentCloud would have just simply gone away. It’s not now, thank god, but I think that was a significant wakeup call for everybody,” said Aron Pilhofer, a cofounder of DocumentCloud. “We need to address the sustainability question — like now — and we can’t wait any longer to do it.”

Formerly the executive editor of digital at The Guardian and interactive editor at The New York Times, Pilhofer joined Temple University as journalism innovation professor almost a year ago. Now he’s taking DocumentCloud over again as it transitions out of its long-time home at the Investigative Reporters and Editors and into an independent nonprofit that will operate in collaboration with Temple as of August 1. (There should be no interruption in service to DocumentCloud users.) The Knight Foundation (disclosure: also a Nieman Lab funder) is providing a $250,000 grant to cover the transition as DocumentCloud finds its footing.

First thing on the agenda? “We said from Day One that at some point we would ask news organizations who use DocumentCloud to support DocumentCloud. We’ve always said that. We just have never gotten around to actually doing it,” Pilhofer said. With the grant, “the singular objective that we have is to make DocumentCloud sustainable — forever.”

DocumentCloud has never been a for-profit venture. Its humble beginnings were backed by a two-year, $700,000 Knight News Challenge grant to The New York Times and ProPublica, when Pilhofer collaborated with ProPublica’s now-deputy managing editor Scott Klein to pitch the idea as the future of document-based journalism. Former Nieman Lab staffer Zach Seward described the problem the team was trying to solve in 2008, barely three weeks into Nieman Lab’s existence:

At the moment, when a reporter gets her hands on paper documents, the best she can typically do is post them online as scanned PDFs, where they often can’t be searched and will likely be forgotten by the end of the day. Worst of all, it’s a one-sided experience: The reporter drops a dead tree in a forest and has no idea if it ever makes a sound.

DocViewer, which is the technology behind DocumentCloud, promises several features that would address the current failings of the PDF model. It would allow users to run their documents through an OCR (optical character recognition) service that would enable full-text searches of otherwise impenetrable material. Then DocViewer relies on OpenCalais, a web service developed by Thomson Reuters, which can tag documents with the names of known people and places found within the text. Any reporter who has ever attempted to wade through a thick stack of paper on deadline will immediately realize how helpful this would be.

DocumentCloud signed up 20 investigative journalism outlets as a consortium of testers in 2009 and became part of IRE two years later. While the partnership was called a “win-win” by the Knight Foundation at the time, it wasn’t exactly a perfect match. Pilhofer said this was brought to his attention when he moved back to the United States from London last November.

“While IRE had been in many ways a good host for DocumentCloud — in terms of IRE being sort of the core audience — it was clear to everybody that IRE wasn’t actually the right place for DocumentCloud,” Pilhofer acknowledged. “IRE isn’t set up to run a technology platform.”

Doug Haddix, IRE executive director, said the board of directors voted unanimously in favor of the transfer. In a statement, he said:

IRE has full confidence in Aron’s leadership and technical expertise to continue enhancing DocumentCloud as a critical tool for investigative journalism. Aron and I have worked closely together to ensure a smooth transition, with no disruption in service or features for the journalists who rely on DocumentCloud.

During IRE’s stewardship, DocumentCloud has dramatically expanded the service’s technical capabilities, added numerous features and optimized it for mobile devices. Journalists have uploaded more than 3 million documents comprising an estimated 52 million pages.

Moving forward, IRE trainers will continue to promote DocumentCloud as an essential service for journalists — especially its powerful tools for deep analysis of documents.

IRE is grateful to the Knight Foundation for its financial support of DocumentCloud and its endorsement of this new home for the service.

Three people are listed on DocumentCloud’s website as IRE employees, but lead developer Ted Han will be the only staff member to carry on with the project, at least initially. Pilhofer said he personally won’t be taking a salary from the nascent nonprofit as the “bare bones operation” of DocumentCloud adjusts — and starts asking heavy users to pitch in. The team is looking to ramp up staff numbers, build out features to help reporters verify documents, and defray the costs of those 30-plus servers as DocumentCloud continues to grow globally.

“You can’t just put stuff up in a cloud, turn a key, and walk away. You need to have a team working on it to maintain it and keep going, but also to respond to changes,” Pilhofer said, though he noted DocumentCloud’s platform is still “rock solid” and secure. These changes include both technology and scale: “If we have a bunch of documents sitting in servers on S3 in Virginia and you’re trying to access a document in Australia, you might as well get a sandwich before the document is going to load for you.”

The 501(c)3 nonprofit will invite participation from students at Temple University, though it isn’t technically a program of Temple. It won’t receive distinct financial support aside from Pilhofer’s time as an in-kind donation and other resource needs as they pop up. (Remember, the goal of this move is sustainability through DocumentCloud itself.) Pilhofer will lead as executive director and the nonprofit will have board members from DocumentCloud’s past, with cofounder Scott Klein signing on, and its future, with representation from Temple.

“With so many journalists now becoming entrepreneurs, product managers, designers, technologists…[it is] an absolute gift [for Temple students] to be able to learn within a real-world laboratory like DocumentCloud, a platform used by journalists around the world every day,” said Pilhofer, who came to Temple as the first professor in a $2 million endowed chair of journalism innovation at its school of media and communication. “There are lots and lots of labs out there doing very interesting theoretical work on how technology can improve the practice of journalism. Temple will have something 1,000 times better: a production platform that has already scaled to thousands of newsrooms.”

While Knight will provide the initial funding, DocumentCloud’s long-term revenue strategy is currently two-fold. One part involves some news organizations and individual journalists contributing in a tiered subscription-like service. The details are far from finalized, but Pilhofer emphasized that it would be “insanely affordable,” especially compared to the potential expenses of developing and running one’s own journalism-focused document storage system. He also noted that DocumentCloud will always maintain the option of a free account and that news organizations will never have to pay for the documents they make public.

“When you’re talking about a journalist using DocumentCloud once a week uploading a document or two, those people are not going to be impacted at all. If they want to contribute to us, great,” he said. “But if you’re uploading 40,000 documents on a Thursday…we also think that’s fair to ask those organizations to help support what we’re trying to do here.”

The second part turns to sponsorship from other entities — he identified platforms such as Google and Facebook as possibilities, along with “big media companies” — to help the nonprofit break even.

Despite all the changes, Pilhofer wants to reassure users that DocumentCloud will stay true to its open source, transparency-in-journalism roots.

“DocumentCloud was a great platform to help journalists do a thing, but what we actually wanted to change was to make journalism more transparent, full stop…to get journalists to show their work,” he said. “DocumentCloud is one of the few platforms out there where we can tangibly make an impact on how people perceive and trust journalism.”

Obligatory cloud photo by Pattys-photos used under a Creative Commons license.

Two years in, the hyperlocal Worcester Sun questions whether Sunday print is still in its future

Nieman Journalism Lab - 6 hours 57 min ago

The Worcester Sun launched as a hyperlocal news site (and a competitor to the print-and-online Worcester Telegram & Gazette) two summers ago. It promised an interesting twist on the local online model — heavily paywalled, aiming to eventually launch a print weekly newspaper. Since then, many of its founding tenets have stayed the same, but there have also been surprises.

The Sun, covering the second-largest city in New England, is still tightly paywalled. Subscribers still pay $2 a week, whether they want a one-week subscription or a one-year subscription. Two digital editions of the Sun are now published each week, on Wednesdays and Sundays (up from just Sundays at launch). The ultimate goal, said Mark Henderson, the Sun’s president and cofounder, is to publish a digital edition seven days a week.

At launch, the Sun offered exactly zero free content other than a daily, comprehensive listing of obituaries from all Worcester-area funeral homes. Without a preview, it was still able to draw in subscribers — 50 percent of the people who subscribed at launch chose the long-term, most expensive option ($104 for a year) despite never having read a single article (recall that there was no free content at launch). After a while, though, “we had to get around the objection of, ‘I don’t know what you guys are about, I need to sample something,'” Henderson said. So the Sun began offering two free stories a week. That’s now been cut down to one.

“We were seeing that our free-to-reads could drive a bunch of traffic and, in the social space, would eclipse some of the other stuff we were doing,” Henderson said. Hence just one free story, four or so weeks after its original publication, with an email capture at the end. “If we do a Q&A with a civic or a business leader, that kind of thing has a shelf life.” The Sun also promotes just one story on Facebook — sometimes a free story, often a paywalled one — each day. Posting too much “fractures the audience,” Henderson said. He also theorizes (though he doesn’t have data to back it up) that Facebook’s algorithm is more likely to surface the Sun’s content if it’s posted less frequently.

The Sun’s email newsletter, which it sends twice a week on the same days that it publishes, has been surprisingly successful, Henderson said. “We treat our email delivery as a separate product. The teasers are written distinctly for a mobile consumptive audience. The open rates and returns have exceeded what we expected; we’re averaging about 14,000 opens a week.” The email newsletter and social media drive roughly equal percentages of traffic to the site, Henderson estimates, with direct traffic making up a remaining 10 percent.

Over the past two months, 50 percent of new subscribers “had never had contact with us before,” at least that the company knew of: They weren’t already on the email list and “there was no evidence that they were finding us on social,” Henderson said, or “at least on our radar in a way that we hadn’t been reaching them before.”

While things on the digital side have gone better than expected, finding a print partner has been more difficult than Henderson hoped it would be. “Based purely on the numbers and the opportunity, we thought that we would be able to find a strategic partner to help us launch a Sunday print product,” he said. “We’re still hopeful — we still think the numbers make sense — but we haven’t found the appetite for that so far.”

By numbers making sense, Henderson means that the Sun’s team thinks “Worcester is underperforming cities of its size when it comes to purchasing newspapers, enough that we could draw the conclusion that part of this is based on price.” (The single-copy price of both The Boston Globe and the Telegram & Gazette is $2.) “We think we can use our cost and price advantages to create a new product and fill in some of that gap. It could be profitable. Sunday print would act as a marketing vehicle for the rest of our digital products, and allow us to go from a niche digital play to a mass play.”

If a print product doesn’t end up working out, the Sun is considering other ways to get mass reach and grow faster. One path is becoming a nonprofit, something that local news sites like The Tulsa Frontier and Honolulu Civil Beat and have done in the recent past. If it goes that route, “we will still have to show a business plan that has us making money over time,” Henderson said.

The site could, as a nonprofit, move from subscription to a membership model. Or, rather than becoming a full-blown nonprofit, it could cover specific areas, like education and health, for other nonprofit outlets.

Going nonprofit would “require educating people in Worcester’s donor community about the importance of supporting quality local journalism as a way of building a vibrant city,” said Dan Kennedy, an associate professor of journalism at Northeastern University and an unpaid advisor to the Sun. “If that can’t be done, I’d consider going in the opposite direction of charging readers more in return for more journalism. Regardless of which route Mark ultimately takes, he has to establish the Sun as a vital news source that civically engaged residents can’t live without, rather than as a supplement to the media that they’re already using.”

There’s another option, too: a free, ad-supported product. “We haven’t built a direct competitor in the marketplace as far as gaining a mass audience,” Henderson said. “That’s something we’re talking about right now. It would be a news product that could really go after the coverage news, and be disruptive in that space.”

It’s good to have choices, Henderson said. And despite the fact that print may not end up being in the Sun’s future, he said he’s heartened by the response the site has gotten. “There were just a lot of people who said, ‘Whoa, whoa, it’s not going to work.’ We’ve been around long enough, and the market has changed, so that’s not something we hear a whole lot anymore.”

Stereograph of the Worcester Soldiers Monument by Boston Public Library used under a Creative Commons license.

What sort of limited Internet does Facebook’s Free Basics offer? Not much local content, but plenty of corporate services from the U.S.

Nieman Journalism Lab - 7 hours 8 min ago

What hath Facebook wrought?

Its Free Basics program now offers free but limited Internet surfing in 63 countries around the world through partnerships with local telecoms communities. (You may also know the initiative by its most prominent setback, in India.) In essence, in regions where Free Basics operates, a set of Facebook-curated websites — including news, health, and employment sites — can be available for mobile users to access without data charges.

But a close review of six countries where Free Basics operates by Global Voices researchers reveals significant hiccups in Facebook’s stated goal of bringing Internet access to developing regions of the world. Technologists and activists with the citizen media and research group conducted research in Colombia, Ghana, Kenya, Mexico, Pakistan, and the Philippines this past spring and found that not only did the app offer a very limited window of local news content and local languages, the “data and content limitations built into Free Basics are largely artificial and primarily aimed at collecting profitable data from users.”

Among the sites that were almost always featured by default in the main page of the app (Tier One) in the regions tested, most were from for-profit U.S.-based companies (e.g., Bing from Microsoft, BabyCenter by Johnson & Johnson).

We do not know why content on Free Basics is offered in two separate tiers, giving users instant access to Tier One, while leaving the other offerings tucked away. While some services featured in Tier One pertained to the target country or region, several of the standard applications featured in the first screen had no special relevance to the regions in which they appear. When we asked Facebook why the app has this distinction, they declined to answer.

The individual case studies conducted by Global Voices researchers revealed other weaknesses. In Mexico’s version of Free Basics available via Telcel, the sole local site available in the top tier on the app is the website of the foundation of Carlos Slim — the CEO of Telcel.

The Philippines case study showed two different main news offerings are available depending on the mobile provider partner. Some Tagalog options were offered, but English was the dominant language of the apps featured (there are no versions of sites in other languages included):

There is no information about the criteria used by Free Basics and its telco partner (Globe or Smart) on how they selected the apps/websites featured on the main menu. Although this can be found on the “For Developers” page of the Internet.org website, this information is really geared towards technology developers, not towards the consumer. BBC is featured on Globe but not in Smart. Reuters is accessible at the main menu of Smart, but not in Globe. Sakay.ph is categorized as a learning app when it is more appropriate to describe it as a travel app. While news written in Tagalog is available, most of the news apps are written in English. Breaking news content is accessible but some apps like GMA News require the user to pay additional charges.

In the case study conducted in Kenya, an East African employment site shown in the Free Basics app main menu wasn’t actually accessible without data charges:

There is no aspect of the service that can be accessed free of charge within the Free Basics app. When one taps on the service on the main menu, the data charges prompt immediately appears. This negates the whole ethos behind the project as this service gives no value whatsoever to Free Basics users.

You can read the full report and the individual case studies here.


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