Archive for the ‘Audience’ Category

What should we do with Economist Group user data?

March 7, 2007

The Bush administration has accelerated its Internet surveillance push by proposing that Web sites must keep records of who uploads photographs or videos in case police determine the content is illegal and choose to investigate. — Declan McCullagh, CNET News. (via Danah at apophenia)

It would be really worrying if this development did come to pass as the last thing I’d want is the government to be nosing around my web. I mean I don’t have a Nectar card because I don’t like companies knowing too much about me. However, some of the most interesting things that are being done on the web rely on aggregating user behaviour.

StumbleUpon suggests the sites you’ll like, based on your previous preferences. tells you what music to listen as it knows what listeners like you liked.

The more we can learn from Economist Group users the better a service we can provide them because it facilitates discoverability. It also facilitates deliverability of targetted ads.

Where do we draw the line? I don’t know yet, but it will definitely have to get a lot of thought.


Users vs Editors : The Digg example

February 27, 2007

Writing the post below, about why CNN front page gets it wrong by listing the most viewed video, got me thinking, because I love Digg, f’r’instance. So why does Digg produce interesting news (particularly if you love Macs, really love Macs, want to marry Steve Jobs, hate Microsoft, code GNU-LINUX or have attended ComiCon in a homemade super-hero outfit) whereas most viewed on CNN produces sensationalism?

The difference is accountability. If you vote for a story that sucks on Digg, then the community values your opinion less, because you’ve recommended something lame in the past. That’s why Delicious doesn’t have adult sites on its popular page, as they don’t want to be seen by others as porn users, despite the fact that the internet is made for porn.

But if a front page is just made from viewed stories no one will find out that you effectively voted to have Jordan and Peter Andre’s wedding in the top ten.

The lesson, in the realm of user generated news, shame is a good thing


Who is accountable for this?

Users vs Editors : The CNN front page example

February 26, 2007

I love our users.

They can do amazing things.

The Economist Group should do all they can to empower them.

Here’s what The Economist Group shouldn’t do : let’s most read articles create the home page. For proof look at the favourites on CNN (as of 18.44 GMT, 26/2 (by the way, that’s February 26th in English format not the second of God-knows-when-abry in the US)).

No. 1 : Stacks of Fun : video from the world cup stacking championship. Massively impressive video, but we probably won’t have it as a leader.

No. 2 : Union Square Pillow Fight : Yawn already, massive pillowfight flash mobs were interesting 2 years ago. (A more amusing flash mob is the randomly chasing strangers).

No. 3 : Housing Sex Offenders : apparently housing sex offenders is controversial…

No. 4 : High Speed Chase : is CNN the new Police! Camera! Action! ?

So that’s a front page of fun, fear and thrills. I’d like to think Economist readers were higher browed than that. Maybe we should give it a go and generate the front page by popularity.

But I have a sneaking feeling that the moment we wrote a blue box story on the deleterious effects human methan emissions in UN negotiations, we’d know what the home page would show.

Update : John Robinson says that he prefers to see the least read articles because its interesting to see what people are not reading (via Journerdism!)

Ecnmst readrs on Flickr

November 14, 2006

There I was trying to install widgets on my blog, because now is the time to *get* widgets. The result is that I now have one Economist blog feed on the side as well as interesting photos from Flickr. This means I no longer have a blogroll, which annoys me.

Once I got to Flickr, however, I thought I’d see what I could find by searching for “economist”. Well blow me down with a feather there are over 1000 photos with that tag and, other than a few of economists such as Jo Stiglitz and drunken economists, it is all about The Economist.

I can’t believe people are loving our ads so much, and they love taking photos of their pets and  babies reading it. There are snaps of the building and flicks of the front covers.

There is a community of Economist lovers on Flickr and we need to get in touch with them. We need to empower and enable them. Oh, think what could happen if they all decided to help us.

Here’s the link to the photos. Enjoy.

Crowdsourcing your way out of a crowded market

November 8, 2006

I started this blog to show that I was the right person for Project Redstripe, The Economist Group’s snazzy new internet unit. As a social media evangelist/nut job/freak I would love to be able to do amazing things with the content, brands and, more importantly, the audience of the The EG.

Now it’s almost two months since I put myself forward for the job and it is starting to drive me a little mad. I’m just so pumped when I think about the opportunities that we have. Not only that, but the race into digital continues apace.

There’s the Gary Younge video blog at The Guardian – his last video of his trip across America has him visit Las Vegas (expect more insight from St. Tropez, Gstaad and Sun City later in the second series), Alan Rusbridger namechecks the Sunlight Labs at The Society of Editors and Gannet are now crowdsourcing their news.Here at The Economist we’re making ever more podcasts and are number 1 on iTunes (in the politics category).

As I look around publishing I sense the fear is gone, the snobbery is going and there’s still a tiny bit of time to get a fraction of a step ahead.

Of all the developments I’ve seen recently the Gannet use of crowdsourcing is one which most excites me. They’re turning to their audience for news because they know they can mobilise far more folk who, collectively, know far more than their journalists, to investigate stories.

Now imagine what the audience of The Economist Group could do. You just have to read the letters page of The Economist to realise how clever these dudes are. Do you think that CFO magazine is read by halfwits? The possibilities are endless and I want to be part of it.
The entire post could be boiled down to this : please choose me Mike, you’ll make me very happy indeed.

News organisations in Second Life

October 16, 2006

I was delighted to see that Reuters have opened up a bureau in Second Life. The journalist – avatar name Adam Reuters – will file stories on Second Life business.

“Adding one more region to its 196 news bureaus around the world, Reuters now has a branch in the metaverse, supplementing it with a heads-up display featuring a multi-channel news feed from the venerated wire service…”(Link)

If you’ve read here you’ll know of my love of Second Life. Anyone with a bit of imagination should see the massive potential of a virtual world, where creativity is the only limit. Combine Second Life and a news organisation and I get very excited indeed.

I think that this is a very interesting thing to do and one that will only help Second Life be taken more seriously. It is also in keeping with Reuter’s chairman Tom Glocer‘s approach to the web. He, along with Rusbridger, has definitely ‘got it’.

Another interesting development I spotted over on New World Notes was this model of an RSS feed reader in Second Life. It turns the feed into flash so that in can be read of a screen.

I can envisage an Economist island here, where avatars get to relax, talk politics and read stories. Maybe this is the device to do it.

Community, that’s the thing

October 10, 2006

Yesterday I linked to the wiki that I created for my charity rally. I was slightly bold in saying that it was the best wiki in the world. Wikipedia might argue with that, but it is undeniable is that no wiki in the world that means more to me.

Whilst preparing the rally, I would leave it for some time and completely forget about it. Then suddenly look, and see that something unbelievable had happened. The key was that the ralliers that got involved with the wiki were most excited about the rally.

They had shared stories, jokes and photos about it.

Experiences like this show how powerful communities can be, so I really identified with what Emily Bell said in her Guardian podcast :

“In the next two to three to four years, community goes from the edges to the core. Otherwise, you’re not going to have a business.” (picked up by Jeff Jarvis)

This brings us to a question that must lie close to the heart of Project Redstripe – how do we empower our audience?


In other news, Project Redstripe has been picked up on Apparently it is a “rather intriguing new digital incubation unit“. I also noticed they are having a PaidContent drinks party, which I’ve asked for some invites for.

Would anyone like to join me?

How do you make a successful website?

October 9, 2006

Anyone who wants to be part of Project Redstripe must be thinking – how will we make this new site work? Luckily AU Interactive blog has digested The Future of Web Apps 2006 conference and come up with 10 Things That Will Make Or Break Your Website.

Here are a few that I liked the sound of :
“1. EASY is the most important feature of any website, web app, or program.

Make the website easy to use. Then make it easier.

5. Release features early and often.
Start with a core set of features (and create plugins on top) – always know your end goals.

6. Be special.
Passion for what you are doing and creating is paramount. If you believe it, do it. Don’t let anyone else tell you that it’s not possible or shouldn’t be done. Create purple cows. Challenge the status quo. Do it against the odds and with little startup money. (Raising too much money can hurt you and make you lose focus.) Prove all your detractors wrong. Passion and a belief in yourself will get you through the rough times….”

The entire list is great but it’s really number six that speaks to me.

I know that part of the point of this is to show that The Economist is ‘web savvy’. Well, I might let point number 6 do the talking and politely ask to tear up that idea.

Web savvy is great, but how about doing something amazing? Why shy away from the word revolutionary? Let’s be as brave as possible and bend every single part of the web to our will. Let’s do justice to the potential of the internet.

The BBC was founded with the words Nation shall speak peace unto Nation, today we should let citizen can speak unto citizen.

Our readers have so much to contribute. Project Redstripe should give them that power.

Loser generated content vs User generated content

October 6, 2006

There’s a residual, though fast evaporating, image of a blogger. In the public perception they must be either angsty teenagers, techie geeks or political nutjobs.

That’s true, if you count number 1 selling artist Lily Allen as the teen, Sun Microsystems CEO Johnathan Schwartz as the geek and President Ahmadinejad of Iran as the political nutjob.

Why do they blog? I think The Economist answers this best when looking at why top economists blog. Blogging has “it’s place in the intellectual influence game”. Link

That’s why I’d want to do it. You get your ideas out there and make sure they’re fighting for you on the web. Then once you’ve sold an idea the rest will fall into place far more easily.

That’s worth making time for.

(By the way, most of this post was written on my mobile on the way back to work.)

Digg this

October 5, 2006

This blog aims to show why I’m suited to Project Redstripe in several ways. Because of the projects I’ve initiated, my startup, go-get attitude and a true love of the fast changing www. It will also show ways in which, I think, The Economist can take advantage of these changes.

This time I look at what we might learn from Digg.

Everyone loves Jeff Jarvis, founder of Entertainment Weekly and net-journo-guru, calls it the future of media. CEO Kevin Rose is the geek hero of the post-gatekeeper internet news scene.

The site works by aggregating interesting stories on the web. If other users like them others can digg/vote for them. The theory being that a popularity contest means the best ones make it to the top.

Without it I wouldn’t see 8 years of photos in one video, how to make an amazing fancy dress outfit or how to shoot yourself in the foot in any programming language.

As you can see from the last post, it is very geek driven. However, there are others moving in to this space. Netscape have just launched their politics aggregator calling the users that vote, anchors (rumours that it’s rhyming slang for Jason Calacanis are grossly exaggerated).

A question we can ask ourselves is : what is The Economist reader’s web? If The Economist Feed Reader (TM) had a button to bookmark favourite posts and pages, we could find out.

We could see which readers liked which stories from across the web and from within The Economist. Instead of being a destination in itself we would become a way of exploring the rest of the internet.

Use the hive mind of our readers and we can create an Economist web.


Even tiny minds can produce startling things