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Archives: July 2013

Make Charts, Not a Mess: Quartz Open-Sources Chartbuilder

Today, Quartz open-sourced the code for their in-house application Chartbuilder on Github, so we can all make charts worthy of our reporting, and without driving the graphics editor insane. There’s a minor learning curve, but you don’t have to be a graphics whiz to make them.

David Yanofsky, a reporter for Quartz and the creator of the application, writes on Nieman Journalism Lab that everyone benefits: reporters become more independant in working with their own data and it makes life easier for our colleagues over at the graphics desk, who can get bogged down with requests for data visualizations.

The charts are easily customizable to match any newsroom’s standards, they provide ‘immediate visual feedback’ so you don’t have to update and preview to make sure you didn’t mess anything up, and you can work on them offline if you download the source code. Most importantly, it’s simple. Yanofsky writes:

A reporter’s understanding of an image file is exponentially higher than a reporter’s understanding of an iframe embed code snippet. Content management systems’ understanding of an image file is exponentially higher than a CMS’s understanding of an iframe embed.

You can get started right now, and if you are one of those reporters who starts zoning as soon as you hear “source code,” bring it to a developer in the newsroom. They’ll probably thank you.


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Media Innovators, Prepare Your Pitches For Matter Ventures

With a vast array of technological gizmos at our disposal, it’s easier than ever to take an idea for a new media tool and run with it.

But what if you had a support group to work around for 100 days, the cash to experiment with your endeavor and Silicon Valley entrepreneurial expertise?

That’s what Matter Ventures wants to give people with fresh media venture ideas. Their team wants to help you scale your startup and give you $50,000 for the design (both front and back ends), hacking and whatever else needs to be done for your media company. Partially funded by the Knight Foundation, Matter says its association with various news organizations gives entrepreneurs access to an audience for product testing and works as a media accelerator.

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Vox Media’s Jim Bankoff: Longform Journalism Can’t Exist ‘In a Vacuum’

Jim BankoffWe’ve written here on 10,000 Words about the great things Vox Media is doing with longform journalism. In Mediabistro’s latest So What Do You Do interview, the company’s CEO, Jim Bankoff, talked more about his strategy for longform and how publishers can make bonafide, meaty content enjoyable for consumers — and advertisers.

“Looking at longform in a vacuum as a standalone is the wrong thing to do. I would imagine that if you had a media brand that is solely focused on publishing 5,000-word stories with beautiful proprietary photographs and highly-produced videos, it would be a tough thing to make that economically sustainable,” he said. “ We have serious investors and we run a serious business, but we believe the key to growing those margins is making sure that we have quality, engaging products. We can allocate investment across a variety of different endeavors, whether it’s longform, shortform or video. It’s the mix that consumers appreciate.”

Read the full interview in So What Do You Do, Jim Bankoff, CEO of Vox Media?

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5 Questions With Michael Shapiro, Founder of The Big Roundtable

There’s a new player entering the longform non-fiction revolution taking place online.

Only, rather than a traditional gatekeeper — an editor — making decisions about what gets published on this digital platform, the readers accept the responsibility. But more on that later.

Introducing… The Big Roundtable. The brainchild of longtime reporter and Columbia journalism school professor Michael Shapiro, The Big Roundtable (BRT) is a site that promises to bring together authors, known or unknown, with readers hungry for good stories. Its name (which invokes such a distinct image, doesn’t it?) was inspired by the old group of New York writers and creatives, self-dubbed the Algonquin Round Table, who lunched and discussed their crafts at the Algonquin Hotel in the 1920s. In the same way that members of the Algonquin group reportedly swapped stories, BRT hopes to do the same on the Web.

Shapiro, founder of BRT, launched a Kickstarter with a $5,000 goal and came away with $19,219 after 28 days, indicating to the folks at BRT that their idea to connect readers and quality stories was popular even outside their circle. As a former National Magazine Award judge, Shapiro told Nieman Storyboard he got tired of reading formulaic writing. A writer’s work should radiate a burning desire to tell his story, Shapiro maintains.

His (small) team’s original timeline slated The Big Roundtable’s launch for late August, but it’s already up and running.

BRT’s site design is clean and elegant, its typography and black-and-white cartoonish story art a bit reminiscent of The New Yorker‘s signature look. Six stories by authors like Anna Hiatt (also BRT’s Product Manager and Managing Editor) and Katherine B. Olson grace the site’s home page, along with the video BRT used to promote its Kickstarter campaign.

Shapiro was kind enough to answer some questions about BRT.

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ifussss: New Video Sharing App and Newsroom for Journos

If you see something, share something. That’s the motto and logic behind a new video sharing app called ifussss. Say it with me now: EYE- FUSS. 

While Twitter and Facebook already have us all gathering images and looping videos, ifuss is targeted to news organizations. Co-founder Edward Brooks explains:

Right now, it’s a ton of effort. Users are looking for good content, they’re interested in things happening in their area. If you know a story’s already broke, you can go to Facebook or YouTube, but even if you find the content, you don’t know if you can use it, if it’s been used before — the whole process in the middle is difficult. 

The concept is the same as, say, Instagram. You see traffic on a bridge, for example. You shoot and upload it to the ifussss network. It’s automatically geo, time, and hash tagged. News editors can search and monitor the ifussss newsroom platform and, this is where it gets interesting, buy the content. 

They still haven’t worked out the kinks on pricing, but it’s going to be a “very low cost” price, says Brooks. ifussss collects that revenue and pays a percentage to the citizen journalists who took the video in the first place. 

Brooks mentions that a contact of his in a local New York City newsroom says they had five or six people combing through user-generated video after Hurricane Sandy. 

It would make that process much easier. We’re not asking you to change that behavior, but now the archive is there, it’s verified content, and ready to use. 

There’s been much discussion around Twitter’s Vine and Instagram video, but both of the behometh’s continue to tell us that they aren’t a media company. ifussss could fill in that gap. The big question is: will newsrooms pay for user generated video content? Brooks thinks they should. 

“It’s about video with value,” he says. “It’s not just about breaking news. I saw a Lisa Liu filming in Washington Sqaure Park the other day… It’s of no value right now, but when that movie comes out or wins awards, the footage could be of value later. It’s in the archives, tagged, and ready to be used.”
The app is set to release in the store in late August, but they are offering limited pre-release access to the app if you sign up now. I’m curious to know what you all think of the concept, so let me know in the comments or on Twitter.