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widgets

What a good widget looks like

For the uninitiated, a widget is a piece of a website that can be integrated into another website, blog, social network and often onto a computer desktops. Widgets are a great way to drive traffic to a site by providing continually updated links in a place where the user is more likely to see them. Like RSS, users can access content without actually having to navigate to a site to check for updates. Click here for a more detailed primer on the technology behind widgets.

There widgets for everything on the web, including news. Here are some of the best.

NBC Nightly News

The Nightly News widget, adorned with a photo of news anchor Brian Williams and available through Yahoo! Widgets, pulls stories through the site’s RSS feed.

CNN

CNN’s podcast widget makes the audio shows available instantly and provides a link for downloading

Yourstreet

Yourstreet’s news widget is customizable: users can input their zip code and receive news from a variety of local sources.

MSNBC

The NewsScroller is the word in customized news widgets. Users can set the type of news they want, the colors that it appears in, expandable story items and more.

delawareonline

Delaware has a number of widgets available, but the standout is its video widget that makes the online news site’s video content embeddable in any site or blog.

WMBB

At last check, Hurricane Fay hadn’t made its way to the Florida panhandle, but if it does, or if any storm system should hit the area, anyone with this widget will be the first to know.

The clear winner when it comes to widgets is National Geographic. The site offers 11 different widgets for everything from the Photo of the Day to a U2 widget.

Photo of the Day Widget

Daily News Widget

Place of the Week Widget

The cream of the crop is the Mysteries of the Ancient World Game widget which does what every good widget should do: it encourages interactivity by providing content (in this case a game) that the user would be interested in; it has a stellar and exemplary design that separates it from other online clutter; and it promotes brand identity.

You’ve seen some exemplary widgets, now check out this post to find out how a good widget gets made.

Olympics 2.0(08): The ultimate guide to online coverage of the 2008 Games

There have been a number of technological advances in journalism in the four years since the last Summer Olympic Games so this year promises to be a breakthrough in how the Olympics are covered. News organizations, citizen journalists and corporations have been gearing up for some time now to present the best in multimedia, print and online coverage as well as advertising and social networking. Here is some of the best of what to expect:

Blogs

One of my biggest dreams is to attend the Olympics games, but I opted out this year for two reasons 1) I was concerned about the restrictions on journalists and 2) I have a strong aversion to Chinese food. That said, I’ll see you in London in 2012. In the meantime, there are a number of other media and interested parties that will be covering the Olympic Games:

Google also has an interesting way of keeping tabs on the Games. Just enter the name of the event you are interested in plus the word ‘olympics’ in the search field and Google will return a schedule of upcoming events. You can also get updates from a number of Twitter users.

For those journalists reading from Beijing, PopPhoto has some advice for navigating around China and the Olympic atmosphere.

Video


In addition to offering more than extensive coverage of the Olympic Games in the US, NBC will make an additional 2,200 hours of streaming video available online at NBCOlympics.com. On the other side of the world, CCTV.com and Adobe have partnered up to offer more than 5,000 hours of streaming video to mainland China and Macau via CCTVOlympics.com

In countries where NBC doesn’t have exclusive rights to Olympic video, the games will be broadcast online on YouTube. This includes 77 territories in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

US residents who are unable to watch the Games either on television or online have the option of downloading Olympics on the Go, a Tivo-like service that will download selected events straight to their computer. Best of all, the service is free.

Multimedia

The New York Times, that stalwart exemplar of multimedia, has some pretty comprehensive coverage, including two awesome Flash-based interactive projects: Olympic Medal Count Map, which uses expanding circles to illustrate the number of medals won over the years by various countries, and Passing the Torch, a visual history of the Olympic torch.


The Chicago Tribune’s photo gallery “Olympic athletes you can root for” is a compelling look at Olympians who may not be household names. Some of the venues where the athletes compete and visitors will tour, including the Olympic Sports Centre and Tiananmen Square can be viewed in 3D by clicking here.

Print

Text is the foundation of journalism and there have already been a number of feature stories published online that are worth a read.

From BBC News: The Olympic torch’s shadowy past

From Sportingo: The top ten greatest Olympic moments

From mental_floss: What happens to Olympic facilities after the games are over?

From WebUrbanist: 8 Pivotal Olympic Villages And Venues Then And Now

Widgets

    

    

Left to right: USA Today, NBC , Google Gadgets, Widgetbox

Mobile


When you just got can’t make to the television in time to catch your favorite Olympic event, be sure to turn to any of the following mobile sites offering Olympic coverage:

Yahoo!

Sky

NBC

New York Times

Sports Illustrated/SI.com

USA Today

Times Online

Advertising


Coca-Cola wasn’t yet invented at the first Olympic Games, but the beverage corporation and a number of other companies are making up for lost time by plastering their image all over Beijing and the web.

Lenovo, a similarly ubiquitous sponsor of the Olympiad, has put together Voices of the Olympic Games, an online site in which real Olympic athletes share their stories and experiences. Olympians like Peter Lopez, a member of the Peruvian taekwondo team, seem genuinely excited to blog about Beijing, and — good news here — he and others are blogging in their native language.

As Panasonic will gladly tell you, the electronics giant has been sponsoring the Olympic Games for 20 years. This year is, of course, no different. It’s Japanese site offers Olympic-themed video/ads and other goodies like desktop wallpaper. In the U.S., the Panasonic Mobile Tour is already underway. A huge rig equipped with the latest in television technology is traveling around the country to show off the Olympic Games in high definition.

McDonald’s will be feeding many visitors to Beijing in the Olympic Village, and, in some selected countries, will offer its “China Menu” which includes a burger topped with sesame seeds, chop suey and ginger sauce. And finally you can catch Olympians in all their glory in a visually arresting set of ads for Powerade by clicking here (SFW).

You can check out my personal contribution to Olympic fever at Entertainment Weekly. How are you covering the Olympic Games? Or, if you are a fan, how will you be following them? Share your plans in the comments.

How newsrooms are using Facebook apps

Not too long ago, very few media companies had invested time in creating Facebook applications. But with the millions of registered users visiting the site every day, there has been a rush to be a part of Facebook profiles everywhere. Examples of great Facebook apps include Time Magazine’s Quote of the Day app, The New York Times News Quiz (which has roughly 1,500 unique users a day), and InStyle.com’s Hollywood Hair Makeover (about 3,300 daily users). All of these infuse an element of fun into journalism and have an element that keeps Facebook users coming back.

Building a Facebook application is still very much for those with technical knowhow, but there are a few third party applications making the process easier. First, start off with this post from Tony Hirst that details a few of said applications, including Dapper Facebook AppMaker.

It’s never to late to create a winning Facebook app, according to Stanford instructors Dr. BJ Fogg and Dave McClure. Some of their other musings: “simplicity and clarity are the key to app success” and “copying success is a cheap/fast way to succeed.” I couldn’t agree more.

Facebook and MySpace are of course two of the hundreds, if not thousands, of social networks floating around the web. But what other social networks are popular around the web? According to this map Orkut is popular in Brazil and India, hi5 is popular in Portugal, Mongolia and Peru, and Blogger is a hit in France and Pakistan.

How to take Twitter to the next level

So you’re tweeting. Now what? It’s time to take a look at sites that are making the most out of Twitter’s ability to instantly transmit the news.

Instead of waiting for traffic updates online or via radio, some internet users are turning to Commuter Feed. The site lets Twitter users send updates about local traffic around the country directly to the site, where the feeds are searchable by city or metropolitan area.

Politweets tracks the political discussion happening in the Twitterverse by aggregating tweets about political candidates. The most recent tweets about Democratic candidates are on the left and Republicans are on the right. In the middle is a list of candidates positioned by how much they are being discussed (Barack Obama is currently at the top of the pile).

Because the web is all about citizen journalism, truemors is made up of news submitted by the average Joes and Janes of Twitter. It’s kind of like a micro social news networking site that aggregates the content that people care about from a variety of news sources. Twemes is also a great way of indexing what people are talking about online. The site is useful for searching tagged tweets on any subject, like, for example, John McCain.

Twitterers are already discussing major news events, including Super Tuesday and Sunday’s Academy Awards; it’s just a matter of major news organizations grabbing the opportunity and creating their own news hubs.

Did you know Twitter isn’t just for sending text? TwitPic and Twixtr both allow users to send photos either online or via mobile phone through Twitter. So instead of simply including links to new stories, anyone can add photos to accompany their tweets (and we know photos are a great visual attraction).

Twittervision combines Twitter and Google Maps to create a real-time visual idea of where tweets are coming from. The only requirement to appear on the site is a location and an image defined in your Twitter post. The 3D version is also worth a look, if only for the coolness factor.

Twittermap creates a visual display of geotagged tweets and can also be used to find Twitterers by location. Those familiar with data mashup editor Yahoo! Pipes can use geo twitter to get a geotagged feed of your Twitter posts, which can be displayed on a Yahoo or Google map.

There are a lot of interesting and useful sites based on Twitter and with the Twitter API up for grabs, there is no reason that journalists can’t be a part of the next evolution in news.


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