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Journo-Inspired Beach Reads: What Are You Reading?

Lthe last magazineong weekends call for good reads. This summer I’ve already devoured two journo-inspired novels: Sarah Cahalan’s Brain on Fire and Michael Hastings’ The Last Magazine. 

You might have already read Brain on Fire, so forgive me for coming late to the party. It was on the NYT’s Bestseller List  in 2012 and it was just announced that Dakota Fanning and Charlize Theron will be starring in the film adaptation. It’s a compelling memoir chronicling Cahalan’s “month of madness,” while working as a reporter for the New York Post. While the book focuses on mental illness, there’s also little love letters to journalism and what’s its like to be a young reporter scattered throughout. Good prose and an honest voice.

Then, there’s the scathing look at the publishing industry and the state of mainstream journalism — fictionalized, of course, in Hastings’ posthumous novel The Last Magazine. It’s sort of Bonfire of the Vanities, but for journalists. It’s literary merits may be questionable, but the navel gazing and trying to find the real life inspiration for the characters makes it a perfect summer indulgence.

What are you reading? Any good non-fiction tips? Journo-inspired novels and memoirs? Keep us in the loop @10,000Words.

3 Symptoms of the Summer Newsroom Blues

summersky.jpgComing upon a three day weekend — and living through summer in general — it’s easy to make mistakes. We’re lucky, we can post and promote our stories from anywhere. Recently, I’ve seen some summer haze missteps. Don’t let this be you.

1) The post about a post that’s really a round up of other people’s posts.

Come on, guys. I know there is nothing to write about sometimes (I’ll wait for sarcastic comments about this post, too, it’s only fair), but did you really need content there, that badly? It wasn’t even noon yet and they had all but given up. Have another iced coffee and try again.

2) Overuse of social media cliches. 

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ICYMI. Winning the internet. Or worse, emojis. I’ve suffered from newsroom delirium. You stop caring, you think it’s funny, and let it rip. Once is allowed. Twice? Take a ten minute tanning break in the parking lot, come back, and try again. Ariana Huffington would approve. Read more

Which Tweet Wins? See If You Can You Out-Predict A Computer

If you work in social media, or any online media site really, for very long, you learn that it’s hard to predict which post or piece of content will go viral. That doesn’t stop people from trying.

The latest attempt? The New York Times has the details on a collaboration by three computer scientists who developed an algorithm that, with relative accuracy, can tell you which of two tweets to the same content by the same user will more likely be reshared. This is how those developers explain their project:

… [W]e take advantage of the surprising fact that there are many pairs of tweets containing the same url and written by the same user but employing different wording. Given such pairs, we ask: which version attracts more retweets? This turns out to be a more difficult task than predicting popular topics. Still, humans can answer this question better than chance (but far from perfectly), and the computational methods we develop can do better than an average human …

How is that possible? A huge body of data to pull from. In A/B tests, it predicts which tweet will be more popular correctly 67 percent of the time, compared to the 61 percent of tweets more likely to be retweeted that humans guess correctly, according to the NYT. Before you get too depressed, read the full article to see why your computer won’t be replacing you or your social community manager anytime soon.

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Then just for fun: The NYT’s The Upshot takes this idea one step farther and put together this fascinating 25 question gut check to see if YOU can beat their algorithm and predict with more success whether one tweet will go viral or one tweet will go silent.

It’s harder than it sounds! I got 15 vs. the computer’s 19. So what do you get?

Best World Cup Coverage Around the Web

nytwc14.jpgIf you don’t have soccer fever yet, I feel sorry for you. It’s the one sport I can actually tolerate, and thanks to an extended overseas stint, know how to watch. With the World Cup playing on every television screen I walk by, it’s hard to not feel like there’s a extended holiday (and if the U.S. advances, it will only get more interesting).

Because I am a soccer geek, I’ve been consuming every bit of content I can find. Explainers that I don’t really need, background on Brazil, and listicles of the most attractive goalies from Ghana to Chile. Here are some of my favorite outlets for the game.

1) The New York Times. The New York Times has made downtime between the noon and three’o'clock games much more informative. Not only is their World Cup homepage clean and easy to follow — you don’t have to fight to find rankings and schedules —  they have great interactives like these diagrams of the clubs that national players come from. There’s also a great collection of essays about how different countries play the game that’s enough to make even the most skeptical soccer fan swoon a little for the game.

2) Vox. True to their mission, Vox does a lot of explaining and curating the World Cup. There’s the primer for those who want to care, but don’t really. And this collection of GIFs that not only shows some of the most popular (or infamous) players, but also has enough stats to fake a conversation with someone about Messi’s performance in past Cups.

3) Slate. By far, I have found myself tweeting and clicking on Slate’s coverage the most. Covering all things cultural surrounding the games, they take taje World Cup to another level with  this explainer about how Mexicans cheer, the ultimate defense of objectifying  soccer players, and my favorite: the Jerk Watch.

How are your favorite news outlets covering the games? Share your favorite World Cup content with me in the comments or @10,000Words.

News On Paper Towels? Yeah, It’s A Thing Now

Like a throw back to the days of ripping the latest headlines off the wire, one newspaper in Mexico has come up with a fun and unexpected way to put the paper back in newspaper — with paper towels!

Check out this video from agency FCB Mexico about the fun campaign by free newspaper Más por Más, which according to the video literally prints the latest headlines ON paper towels as they come out of the dispenser. They put a QR code on the sheets, and report a significant increase in visitors to their website from the novel hand wipes (which were made with a special ink that didn’t smear).

Fun AND functional? You bet!

See more of the details about the creatives behind this idea on Creativity.
(H/T PSFK)

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