Tag Archives: news

‘Semantic news’ and the rise of the robots: Mario Tascón’s full interview

La Informacion's bizarre process triangle

Journalism.co.uk asked me to write an article about interesting online projects in the Portuguese, Spanish and Brazilian publishing  markets, and  I decided to start with LaInformacion.com, a spanish online news website that has some special characteristics. I interviewed Mario Tascón, head of Diximedia, the company that runs the project, for the article, that you can read here. Below is the full interview, in the English version. Tascón also writes in 233grados, his blog about media. If you understand Spanish, check it out.

If you know other interesting and groundbreaking online news projects in any of these countries, let me know. Thanks.


Mario Tascón’s interview

-At first sight, La informacion seems like an ordinary news website. What makes it different?

The fact that it looks like a regular website when a big part of it is made by machines is already a difference. From 12.am until 6.30 in the morning, the editor in chief is an algorithm that selects and organizes the news that we get. It analyzes trends in real time in social networks and search engines. It’s a less expensive way to maintain a website during certain periods, and if you can’t notice it, it’s because it doesn’t work that bad

Another difference is the amount of information. More than 5.000 stories get into the system every day, among videos, texts and infographics. A website like elpais.com doesn’t have more than 1.000 stories like those each day.

I believe that usability and the design of the website make also a difference, that has been recognized by users and professionals (in such a short amount of time we had lots of international awards in both of those areas.)

The way the newsroom is designed is another difference. It’s a networked newsroom, as it is a network of partnerships with other players. As an example, a great deal of information about football is made with resultados-futbol.com, which is a social network with thousands of youngsters.

The international affairs are also covered mostly through the partnership with the Global Post, and the Technology news are covered with Microsiervos, which is the most well known blog about the subject in Spain.

The way we deal with the different channels (Twitter, Facebook, etc…) is different too. Most of the media treat them all the in same way, but for us, the language itself is quite specific.

-How does La Informacion work? It’s not a traditional process of journalistic newsgathering, but it’s not just aggregation. Where does the concept of “semantic news” fit in?

Lainformacion has a great technological frame that lists thousands of news in real time, so we use fewer resources regarding the “breaking news” traditional concept, to which the digital media dedicate so much effort. Breaking news are analyzed by the machines, using that “semantic intelligence”. Having that part of the job in the hands of the algorithms most of the journalistic resources are dedicated to search or elaborate stories and provide them added value when published, and also to try new narratives and experiment with different technologies:

a.- Panoramical Megafotos panorámicas of landscapes, monuments, events or exhibitions
http://blogs.lainformacion.com/megafotos/2010/01/12/el-palacio-de-cristal-bajo-la-nieve/
b.- tag clouds of political speeches

http://graficos.lainformacion.com/2010/01/bush-hablaba-de-guerra-obama-habla-de-economia/

c.-F1 drivers comparisons
http://graficos.lainformacion.com/2010/01/comparativa-de-pilotos-favoritos-para-el-mundial-de-formula-1/
d.- own production vídeos http://videos.lainformacion.com/
e.- special packages
http://graficos.lainformacion.com/2010/01/haiti-siete-dias-y-la-nada/
http://especiales.lainformacion.com/ciencia/hombre-en-la-luna-40-aniversario/

The semantic listing systems allow us to treat more than 100.00 pages in real time with information about 100.00 concepts from companies to people.
http://tags.lainformacion.com/steve-jobs_P_MyGx3iZlNvxaKogkbIOtb3/

Here you have collected the most important news about Apple, eliminating the noise and listing the news immediately. You have to remember that we don’t reproduce full texts, so the analysis work is complex but with an accuracy rate of 95%.

We eliminate the noise  (most of the news come from the wire and get repeated) and we select from each subject group within a category the best, the most interesting or complete. It’s impossible to do that work manually.

-Is user generated content a part of your sources? Why? What is the real value that UGC brings?

It’s one of the areas that we still haven’t developed in lainformacion and we have examples of what we want to do in that field with Praticopedia.com ,where we even share the ad revenue with the users.

-What has been the biggest investment in La informacion? I don’t have the idea you have much of your own multimedia content production, for example.

Technology and newsroom. There’s a lot of content that we create and buy.

-La informacion is just one year old, and it is freshly out of the beta phase. How has it been so far? I know it has been having a steady, fast growth in audience.

We have grown a lot in terms of audience (in December we had 1.6 million users in Nielsen’s ratings whereas elmundo.es had 6 million). Considering that we only launched officially in September (after a few months in beta) it’s a good number. We need to establish an audience, that visit us regularly and transfer the success we have on twitter and facebook to create a larger virtual community.

-What is your business model? Is it just based in advertising? What do you think about the pay wall proposals, can it happen with La Informacion?

It is mostly supported by publicity. [Pay walls] are not going to work for those who want to develop the business. If the main goal is to protect print let them shut down their websites but they will kill their brands by doing so. I ran elpais.com in the time where we set up a wall like that…

-What is the importance of social media in your strategy?

Paramount. It’s one of the keys to our success right now. We differentiate the channels, and apply to each one of them a specific language that we learn from our users every day.

Lainformacion.com is the only medium in the world that has its “status” in the header. It’s a declaration of principles.

-The market and the technology are developing faster than any model has time to establish itself. What are the next steps for La informacion?

To be fast and focus on what we know how to do best. And in the rest associate with those who do it well […]. Invest more in new contents and apps for news contents.

Building a hyperlocal news website: a short story on #Brum – part 3

This is the third part of a series about the development of Hashbrum, the hyperlocal news project that me and some of my colleagues at the MA Online Journalism worked on for the last few months. If you haven’t already, read Part 1 and Part 2.

The HashBrum Stories

We tried to find stories that mattered to Birmingham’s communities. We had two successful running feature stories, one about Birmingham’s swimming pools, and another project still developing about cycling in the city,  too many concert reviews, and a few one time stories using multimedia. Another interesting project was Marathon Guy, but it has been discontinued.

The most promising story for me in the beginning was the Swimming Pools investigation, conducted by Andrew Brightwell. The goal was to assess the state and conditions of the public pools of Birmingham, how they were fit to serve the local communities. It had a lot of multimedia and community potential: i thought about creating a map with Andrew with the location and history of each facility, create a space for the swimmers to have a say, and after the Moseley Road Baths tour, create a multimedia package. It didn’t happen, and it’s a shame the story got lost along the way.

Dan Davies has recently put a great effort in a investigation about the existing conditions for cyclists in Birmingham. If you know cyclists, you know they’re a good crowd to work a story with, and Dan has invested in a lot of video and map mashups, which he has been testing and developing, and that seem to be working quite well for the story.

The odd project, but one that took a lot of my time in production was Marathon Guy, a fun idea by Mikel Plana, that was a mix between a reality online show, a crowdsourced/crowdfunding enterprise, and a journalistic account about the communities of runners in the city. Unfortunately, Mikel is not taking the project further, but i think you can tell from the videos i had some fun with this project.

Other notable items in the HashBrum archive are Caroline Beavon’s liveblogging experiments, and a crowdsourced map, that she put together quite quickly.

And if in perspective it looks like a lot of work, i personally feel that we could have done much more, especially when it comes to interactive and multimedia narratives. Like i said before, HashBrum was supposed to be a canvas for total experimentation but  then we got a lot of pics and text. But the moments i like the best are the ones when we go beyond that, and present information in a more relevant and compelling way. The traditional formats are traditional because they work, but if can break the rules and do something different just for the heck of it, why shouldn’t we?

This is where small hyperlocal websites are taking the lead from traditional media:  they invest in new ways to tell the stories, in a cheap, fast way, without having to wait for slow IT departments to implement a damn widget on the front page, after having to wait for  budget clearance; they rely in the power of the community, that they consider as their peers; they value the stories that mainstream media doesn’t care about, and can’t care about, because of the relevance for their reader’s universe and lack of staff; and they don’t have any problems in confronting the established powers, because the community’s problem are their problems too.

Hyperlocal is here to stay, and if you doubt that, just take a look at the map of hyperlocal websites in the UK, and see what others are doing. There’s a lot to be learned from there. I know I learned a lot from ours.

soitu.es: the end | o fim

soitu
Soitu.es Newsroom | Redacção do Soitu.es

One of the most interesting news projects going on the web is now closed. The spanish based Soitu.es is gone, after only 22 months after its launch. In between they won two Online News Association awards, a place in the News Museum in  Washington, and saw their design distinguished by the Society for News Design. It was interesting, intense, risky, but it failed.

Juan Antonio Giner shares in his view on the closing of Soitu the opinion of  AFP’s Eric Scherer in Rue89:

He says “that there are three lessons to be learned from the death of soitu.es:

1. Don’t depend only from one shareholder (specially if it is a bank)

2. Start small.

3. Don’t depend only from advertising.”

For Giner, “soitu.es made all these three mistakes.”  I wish the Soitu team the best of luck for the future.

Um dos projectos informativos mais interessantes na web acabou. O site espanhol Soitu.es fechou apenas 22 meses depois do seu lançamento. Pelo meio ganharam dois prémios da Online News Association, um lugar no News Museum em  Washington,e viram o seu design ser reconhecido pela Society of News Design. Foi interessante, intenso, arriscado, mas falhou.

Juan Antonio Giner partilha na sua visão do encerramento do Soitu a opinião de Eric Scherer da AFP, no Rue89:

Ele diz que “há três lições a retirar da morte do Soitu.es:

1. Não dependam de um uníco accionista (especialmente se for um banco)

2. Comecem pequeno.

3. Não dependam apenas de publicidade”.

Para Giner “soitu.es cometeu todos estes erros.” Desejo à equipa do soitu a melhor sorte para o futuro.

We don’t steal, we share! | Nós não roubamos. Partilhamos!

You need us to | Vocês precisam que o façam
You need us to | Vocês precisam que o façamos

This post by Kevin Anderson really got my attention. He shows how what seemed to be a brave new world became a nightmare. For a few, at least.

AP’s Tom Curley and the inevitable Mr.Murdoch have changed their minds in just a matter of years about news content in the web. Don’t get me wrong, change is good, unless if it is a step back. The restriction philosophy that these gentlemen uphold goes against what the internet is, and how its users relate to it. But they once ruled the news information world, and it is hard to give up all that power.

Anderson confronts their previous and actual views on the subject, and what i take from their current perspective is that they are afraid, scared to lose control over their domain. Don’t fret about it, you already have. But you still hold resources none of us has, and instead of destroying them, you should think of a way to turn the odds in your favour, and let us work with you. For you.

Finally you got to the conclusion that your problem is not Google, or any other company. It’s me. It’s us, the people who get the news via RSS feeds, Twitter, news aggregators, on Facebook, from quotes in blogs. The same people who would never read an article from your companies unless someone shared a link with us, and it got our attention. The link economy is not about stealing, but sharing. It sends people to your websites, it doesn’t steal readers from you. Hell, some of us might start buying your print versions. But you want none of this.

What you want is to sit on top of pile of information that people will get elsewhere, if you lock it behind your dogma. News companies will survive and prosper if their content is allowed to flow, secret societies will remain like that, secret, unknown. Invisible. And being invisible is not what you want. You need us to make your contents visible, important, valuable. You need us to comment it in our blogs, Twitter accounts, Facebook profiles. We are the ones who should be paid for doing the work you have been unable to do online. And since you already invested in producing the content, lets make it quid pro quo, alright?

We are not destroying your business, you are. We do not carry the weight of thousands of jobs lost because the industry didn’t know how to respond to the new paradigm. We are not the enemy.

As a microscopic online publisher (aka blogger), i can tell you how i get more visitors: by sharing. I share what others shared, and hope that my readers share it too. And comment and get involved, discuss it, create from it. My followers and readers are my allies. They make my work more valuable than if i wrote it down in a notebook, locked it inside a drawer, and asked money to people just to read it or use part of my words. And to be considered as an author i must publish, and people must read me. My  author rights are important, it’s true. But you can’t copyright facts. Give us what no one else has and we’ll reward you for it. We’ll show what you’ve done to everybody we know.

So, you’re losing money? Whose money is that? Your employees? Your shareholders? Yours? You’ll never end up in poverty, that’s for sure. It’s not easy to make a profit, but it can be done, because we need the good people you’ve hired and that were so dedicated to their work. It’s like going to war and cut on soldiers and equipment because it’s too expensive for you. Well, if you need the troops, the wage will be defeat.

Look for profitable models, invest, invent. But do not cast the blame on the ones who have been doing an important part of your job better than you do. The rules have changed, and this time you are not able to change them to suit your will. Get used to it. We don’t steal from you, we kept you in business this far.

Este post do Kevin Anderson chamou-me a atenção. Ele mostra como o que parecia ser um admirável mundo novo se transformou num pesadelo. Para alguns, pelo menos.

Tom Curley da AP e o inevitável sr.Murdoch mudaram de ideias em poucos anos sobre os conteúdos informativos na web. Não me interpretem mal, mudar é bom, a não ser que seja um passo atrás. A filosofia restritiva que estes senhores defendem vai contra o que a internet é, e como os utilizadores se relacionam com ela. Mas eles já dominaram o mundo da informação, e é difícil abrir mão desse poder.

Anderson confronta as suas visões anteriores e actuais sobre o assunto, e o que me parece da sua perspectiva actual é que eles têm receio, estão assustados em perder o controlo do seu reino. Não se preocupem, isso já aconteceu. Mas vocês ainda têm recursos que nenhum de nós tem, e em vez de os destruirem, deviam pensar numa maneira de virar o jogo em vosso favor, e deixar-nos trabalhar com vocês. Para vocês.

Finalmente chegaram à conclusão que o problema não é o Google ou nenhuma outra companhia. Sou eu. Somos nós, os que recebemos as notícias via RSS, Twitter, agregadores, no Facebook, citações em blogs. As mesmas pessoas que nunca leriam um artigo vosso se alguém não partilhasse um link connosco e tivesse captado a nossa atenção. A economia de links não é baseada em roubar mas partilhar. Envia gente para os vossos sites, não vos rouba leitores. Até alguns de nós poderão começar a comprar as versões impressas. Mas não é isto que  vocês querem.

O que querem é ficar sentados em cima de um monte de informação que as pessoas irão buscar a outro lado, se os mantiverem fechados atrás do vosso dogma. As empresas de informação podem sobreviver e prosperar se os seus conteúdos fluirem, as sociedades secretas tendem a manter-se assim, secretas, desconhecidas. Invisíveis. E vocês não querem ser invisíveis. Vocês precisam que nós demos visibilidade aos vossos conteúdos, importância, valor. Vocês precisam que os comentemos nos nossos blogs, no Twitter, nos perfis do Facebook. Nós é que devíamos ser pagos por fazer o trabalho que vocês não têm sabido fazer online. Mas como já investiram na produção do conteúdo, fica toma lá, dá cá, está bem?

Nós não estamos a destruir o vosso negócio, vocês estão. Nós não carregamos o peso de milhares de empregos perdidos nos últimos anos porque a indústria não soube responder ao novo paradigma. Nós não somos o inimigo.

Como um autor online minúsculo (blogger), posso vos dizer como consigo mais visitas: partilhando. Partilho o que outros partilharam, e espero que os meus leitores o partilhem também. E comentem, envolvam-se, discutam, criem a partir daí. Os meus seguidores e leitores são os meus aliados. Eles fazem com que o meu trabalho seja mais valioso do que se escrevesse tudo num caderno, o trancasse numa gaveta e pedisse dinheiro a quem o quisesse ler ou usar parte das minhas palavras. E para ser considerado um autor tenho que publicar, e ser lido. Os meus direitos como autor são importantes, é certo. Mas não se pode colocar uma marca de copyright nos factos. Dêem-nos o que mais ninguém tem e nós os recompensaremos por isso. Nós mostraremos o que fizeram a toda a gente que conhecemos.

Então estão a perder dinheiro? De quem é esse dinheiro? Dos vossos empregados? Dos accionistas? Vosso? Vocês nunca irão acabar na miséria, isso é certo. Não é fácil  ter lucros mas pode ser feito, porque precisamos das boas pessoas que contrataram e que eram tão dedicadas ao seu trabalho. É como ir para a guerra e cortar nos soldados e no equipamento porque sai demasiado caro para vocês. Se for assim, o preço é a derrota.

Procurem modelos rentáveis, invistam, inventem. Mas não lancem as  culpas em quem tem feito uma parte importante do vosso trabalho melhor do que vocês têm feito. As regras mudaram e desta vez não podem mudá-las à vossa vontade. Habituem-se. Nós  não roubamos de vocês, nós temos mantido o vosso negócio de pé.

Other links and views | Mais links e ideias

News’ Forbidden City, Jeff Jarvis
Murdoch and Curley to Google: pay up!, Journalism.co.uk
AP: Search engines must pay up, say Murdoch and AP’s Curley, Roy Greenslade