Words Matter: 60 words that define US foreign policy (via Radiolab)

Radiolab’s recent podcast examine 60 words, one sentence, written on 14th September 2001 that have been the basis for America’s foreign policy ever since. Extraordinary rendition, Guantanomo, drone strikes: everything has been hung on this one sentence, a rather vague, dry sentence at that. As ever, with anything fiercely controversial, the language is deliberately muted and legal, to mitigate the drama that lies just beneath the surface.

This one sentence, signed into law by Bush called the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF).

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Words Matter: Huffington Post’s poor word choice.

Today I was surprised by a crass gaffe courtesy of the Huffinton Post.
As a user, I expect content to be edited, researched, thought-out and interesting. I like to stick to trusted sources for this reason, so there’s a fair chance that what I’m reading is at least factually correct.

I received an email from the Technology editor of the Huffington Post with the juicy, irresistible article title, If You Have A Mac, Memorize These 13 Keyboard Tricks. Eager for more mac keyboard MAGIC, I did what was expected of me, what any rational person would do in this instance, I clicked the link and started reading.

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Writing up the Clickz conference in NY for State of Digital


Whilst I neglect this blog like a fool, I have at least been busy writing up the ClickZ conference for State of Digital.

The conference itself was a mixed bag in terms of quality speakers, some were more forthcoming with actionable information than others. Two of my favourite presentations, one about the success of Amazon and the other about Schema.org were embarrassingly useful. The ideas shared in those two sessions will influence my thinking for some time to come. Besides, I’ve always wanted to get a client to implement Schema but always struggled to make a compelling business case, as it turns out there is very little data out there. Until now. Brilliant!

The posts can be found as follows:

Uncovering the Secrets of Mobile Video

Reputation Roadkill: Learning from brands’ biggest ‘OMG’ moments

Randi Zuckerberg’s Tips on 10 Digital Trends Shaping the Lives of Modern Consumers

The posts on Amazon and Schema markup will be going live shortly and I will add links when they are alive.


I’ve had a couple of posts to write for le works recently, which has rather consumed my attentions, well, that and Sherlock.

Here’s one I wrote on Moz, detailing what publishers are doing for growth in 2014 and what I’d like them to be doing.

The second was a wee one for the work blog, covering in scant detail the state of TV right now, to set up the work of my colleagues, many and varied, and the great work they have done on the future of TV.

These are just a couple of small steps that I’ve taken, in an attempt to fill this odd creative frustration.



The New York Times redesign

Last week the New York Times launched a site re-design, the first since 2006, which seems implausible but there it is. There has been a lot of discussion about it, by peoples many and varied with better journalistic chops than me. I wanted to document a few of the features I found the most interesting. Speaking broadly, the new site looks cleaner, more spare, less like a derivative of the print edition and more like a digital publication. That may have been the point…

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The edited highlights of the internet, brought to you by links.

I’m reading a fascinating book by Frank Rose, The Art of Immersion.

In reading it, it also got me thinking about the now rather abused phrase “high quality content”. We all know what this means, we all recognize it when we see it. But this book got me thinking more about where the need for “high quality content” came from.

Follow me and I shall explain…

But first, some content. The Art of Immersion details the profound changes taking place in all media now, thanks to the opportunity to now interact with the content. Frank Rose labels this co-creation and tracks its history and, more importantly, where this co-creation might lead. I will cover this in more detail when I have completed the book, however last night I read one passage which made me view links in a new light.

Essentially, he reminded me of something that I already knew: world wide web. There’s a clue right there. The invention and use of hyperlinks as a mean of ordering information is exactly that, a web, linking simultaneously in lots of different directions to lots of different things. A link is the preferred mode of passing from A to B and then to F, Z, 23, AB47 etc. Essentially, the link allows us to flit from information hub to information hub in a non-hierarchical manner.

Non-hierarchical. We can move via free association, rather than rigid taxonomy. Links are merely the mode of transport.

So, with this in mind, given that links are the means of sorting the wheat from the chaff, your content had better be extremely authoritative to be worthy of a link and to not end up in the internet abyss. A web publisher must find it so valuable, so insightful, so funny, so cute, so unmissable, that they do not want it to vanish, they want to be able to find it again and allow their readers to enjoy it too.

This may be an obvious point for many, it was just a new, deeper way of looking at a familiar problem, and don’t we all need that from day-to-day?

The Washington Post saw this coming! Sort of

In a recent NPR piece, The Tricky Business Of Predicting Where Media Will Go Next, there are some fascinating details, from the implications of an Apple conference hosted in Japan in 1992, to the details of the platform models of both The Huffington Post and BuzzFeed.

In 1992, Apple hosted a conference to discuss the intersection of technology and news. Bob Kaiser, then-editor of The Washington Post was there, alongside the great and good and occasionally weird of the two industries. The letter is a treat to read, it appears that almost everything that we all take for granted now in media, sharing, editing our own content, bespoke payment models, was mentioned in the conference. The only notable omission in our current smorgasbord of media options is the opportunity to insert yourself into existing films. That would be fun, although there are video games that run along similar lines.

It is rather poignant however, as Kaiser in the NPR piece references the letter but also how the climate of success and power in 1992 at The Washington Post meant that no-one was scared enough to trial the big ideas and innovations that were necessary. To be fair, they gave it a fighting try, by launching their classified ads online however they lost ground to the Craigslists of the world.

In terms of now, the NPR piece goes on to cover the existing business models for the Huffington Post and BuzzFeed.

The Huffington Post is built on aggregation.

1) Use blogs from all over the web on any subject, elevate those blogs by putting them on the front page of the HuffPo site.

2) Curate the stream of incoming content, there is an enormous push on this, the editors are always being trained to hone and refine their particular editorial ‘voice’.

3) Encourage commentary (and, this is my thought, use this a metric of success?)

4) As the business grew, invest in original content.

They have been wildly successful in this endeavour as they started this at about the same time search engines were the primary means of finding the news. Buzzfeed is doing it slightly differently, they operate on the assumption that people now find news and content via social networks, which is certainly true of younger users. Apparently 60% of Buzzfeed’s users are 18-34, whereas the average Fox News viewer is 65. Buzzfeed does not have paywalls or subscriptions and they make their money through ad revenue. They are so optimised for social that their CMS has dynamic elements to it, I did ask the Buzzfeed editor, Ben Smith, to elaborate on this however no response as yet. Ah, he’s a busy man and it is a Sunday so we won’t begrudge him some peace. Rather like Reddit, the presence of an article on the front page of Buzzstream, relates directly to how shared it has been. So, whilst strictly democratic, it does almost remove the editorial role, which I think is rather sad.

As Bob Kaiser said way back in 1992:

“Successful media provide an experience, not just
bits of information…Confronted by the information glut of the modern world, I suspect even the computer-comfortable citizens of the 21st Century will still be eager to take advantage of reporters and editors who offer

to sort through the glut intelligently and seek to make sense of it for them.”