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Wordblog revived

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Religion tops Times blogs

Ruth Gledhill, religion corespondent of The Times, is the paper’s top blogger. Her Articles of Faith blog is well ahead of any of the others from The Times and The Sunday Times published on the papers’ website, according to the Technorati rankings. Gledhill has 772 links from 160 blogs. At the other end of the scale five have no links from other blogs.

Recently, I questioned the purpose of many newspaper blogs, wondering whether they were the latest must-have accessory for editors. A check through the Technorati rankings, unsatisfactory as they are in some ways, seems to confirm the view that some bring little benefit to their papers.

After Gledhill comes columnist David Aaronovitch with 162 links from 90 blogs. He is closely followed by the group news blog. By the nature of their subjects some blogs will have larger potential audiences than others but it is difficult to see a pattern in The Times blogs.

While Technorati records the total number of links and how many other blogs link, it is the second figure which accounts for the ranking, according to an explanation on their site. The figures are from the previous 180 days. They sometimes seem to change erratically and, in my experience do not always pick up links. The list of Times blogs is below, but first a personal disclosure: Wordblog this afternoon had a ranking of 66,872 with 264 links from 40 blogs. When I revived it in the middle of June it was at the bottom of the pile, somewhere in the 1,600,000s.

Times Blogs

1 Ruth Gledhill — Rank: 15,049 (773 links from 160 blogs)
2 David Aaronovitch — Rank: 28,569 (162 links from 90 blogs)
3 News (Group blog) — Rank: 29,614 (202 links from 87 blogs)
4 Asia Exile (Richard Lloyd Parry) — Rank: 37,040 (178 links from 70 blogs)
5 Comment Central (Daniel Finkelstein) — Rank: 39,301 (284 links from 66 blogs)
5 Charles Bremner — Rank: 40,567 (123 links from 64 blogs)
7 Mousetrap Technology (group blog) — Rank: 45,705 (96 links from 57 blogs)
8 Law (group blog) — Rank: 52,557 (111 links from 50 blogs)
9 So LA (Chris Ayres) — Rank: 66,872 (76 links from 40 blogs)
10 Mick Smith — Rank: 70,641 (172 links from 38 blogs)
11 Enterprise (group blog) — Rank: 72,655 (96 links from 37 blogs)
12 A Don’s Life (Mary Beard) — Rank: 74,752 (75 links from 36 blogs)
=13 Music Log (group blog) — Rank: 79,638 (53 links from 34 blogs)
=13 Peter Stothard — Rank: 79,638 (73 links from 34 blogs)
15 Africa (Jonathan Clayton) — Rank: 102,788 (59 links from 27 blogs)
16 Gerard Baker — Rank: 111,889 (43 links from 25 blogs)
17 Sinofile (Jane Macartney) — Rank: 116,916 (73 links from 24 blogs)
18 Eco Worrier (Anna Shepard) — Rank: 122,662 (40 links from 23 blogs)
19 Gardening (Jane Owen) — Rank: 128,952 (25 links from 22 blogs)
20 Asia’s Century (Leo Lewis) — Rank: 245,389 (35 links from 12 blogs)
=21 Cassandra (Ariel Leve) — Rank: 364,820 (11 links from 8 blogs)
=21 Overseas Property (Peter Conradi) — Rank: 364,820 (17 links from 8 blogs)
=21 People (group blog) — Rank: 364,820 (20 links from 8 blogs)
=21 Gay Global (James Collard) — Rank: 364,820 (9 links from 8 blogs)
25 Pink Mum (Anon) — Rank: 475,893 (6 links from 6 blogs)
26 Beyond Wall Street (James Doran) — Rank: 678,225 (4 links from 4 blogs)
=27 Isn’t She Talking Yet? (India Knight) Rank: 858,703 (5 links from 3 blogs)
=27 Student (Anon) — Rank: 858,703 (3 links from 3 blogs)
=29 East of Eden (Stephen Farrell) — Rank: 1,155,566 (6 links from 2 blogs)
=29 Irwin Stelzer — Rank: 1,155,566 (1 link from 1 blog)
=31 Dollar Signs (Dominic Rushe) — Rank: 1,155,566 (2 links from 2 blogs)
=31 Kabul Times (Tim Albone) — Rank: 1,155,566 (1 link from 1 blog)
33 Northern Times (Russell Jenkins) — Rank: 1,738,471 (No blogs link here)
=34 Popcorn (John Harlow) — Rank: 1,738,471 (No blogs link here)
=34 Travel Log (group blog) — Rank: 1,738,471 (No blogs link here)
=34 Cupcakes and Kalashnikovs (Christina Lamb) — Rank: 1,738,471 (No blogs link here)
=34 Lord Rees-Mogg — Rank: 1,738,471 (No blogs link here)
Not Classified Money (group blog) — Not found on Technorati
NC Books Group (Alyson Rudd) Not found on Technorati but also not really a blog
NC Surf Nation (Alex Wade) — Not found on Technorati
NC UN Eyes Only (James Bone) — Not found on Technorati

AV storytelling the easy way

Soundslides is unusual among computer programs — it is designed to be used by journalists although the makers say others uses may be found. It does just one job which is putting together still image and audio stories for the web.

Seeing increasing numbers of stories made with it on news sites, I decided to give it a try. The thought of making a Flash presentation has always filled me with fear but this describes itself as “ridiculously simple storytelling”. It is true (so far as using the software is concerned: the content is another matter).

During a walk on London’s Isle of Dogs with a camera yesterday a vague storyboard formed. Back at the flat iPhoto (easier than PhotoShop) was used to crop a couple of pictures, lighten a few and chuck many in the waste bin.

The voice over was written and recorded on a MiniDisc before tidying up in Sound Studio, an easy to use audio editor for Macs.

The folder of pictures and the AIFF audio file were then imported into Soundslides. The pictures were put into order in the light box and the length of time for each picture dragged on the time line to match (more or less) the audio.

A few experiments and then it was exported. Two sets of pictures and two audio MP3 audio files, for high and low bandwidth) and all the other files needed and put into a folder called publish_to_web. That is all there is too it.

The software requires no knowledge of the technology: there is no laborious sizing of pictures, no conversion of the audio file format and no worries about where the various bits should be saved. It leaves the user to concentrate on the journalism which for most print people will mean learning a new way of storytelling.

I have decided to post London’s countryside not because I think it is good (the idea was to learn the program), but to show that Soundslides is so easy to use anyone can make an audio-visual. My next attempt will be a lot better now that I have confidence in the technology.

Soundslides
is $39.95 for both Mac and PC.

Distance makes the web grow stronger

As the Telegraph settles into its new integrated newsroom, a different view on combining print and web comes from Neil Chase, head of the continuous newsdesk at the New York Times.

He told the World Digital Publishing Conference (via The Editors Weblog) that the NYT’s print and online newsrooms are seven blocks apart. The time apart had allowed the web to grow and innovate in ways that would not have been possible had it been more closely tied to the print newsroom, he said. The two newsrooms will be coming together early next year.

Chase’s continuous newsdesk is an interesting concept which addresses the problem of newspaper reporters faced with the task of producing continuous updates for the web, and are then unable to develop the story as they should.

At the NYT they have six reporters and six editors on the desk who have the job of helping the rest of the newsroom cover stories. They post the immediate news on the site so that other reporters can focus on doing further investigation.

That sounds like a very good idea.

Freedom of Information costs report rubbished

Government plans to restrict Freedom of Information Act requests is “brazen” David Leigh and Rob Evans write on the front of Media Guardian today. They do not simply attack the proposals, they demolish the “think tank” report which is being used by Lord Falconer, the constitutional affairs secretary, to justify refusing requests.

Frontier Economics was paid £75,000 to come up with the self-serving report and the spurious figures on which it is based. It costs the time of ministers at £300 an hour, suggests the Guardian makes 500-700 requests a year when the real figure is around 250 and contains unsubstantiated figures on the numbers of civil servants employed to process requests.

Who, I wonder, has put it a FoI request for material relating to the giving of this contract to Frontier Economics?

A writer’s adventures in Second Life

Tim Adams of The Observer has spend a week in the virtual world of Second Life and finds it has “quickly acquired a powerful twist of designer corporate capitalism”.

Adams, or rather his avatar Kenny, finds land price inflation has hit Second Life when he tries to find somewhere better to live than his initial land grant. Not surprising with the population soaring from 876,572 when Kenny moved in to over a million seven days later.

He is, of course, not the first journalist in Second Life. A possible 2008 US presidential hopeful, Mark Warner, has already been interviewed by a virtual journalist in a town hall. And Reuters has set up there with a full-time staff reporter, Adam Pasick.

Kenny, finding his money running out, decides to become a journalist and heads off to Reuters’ newsroom to meet Adam. He asks if there are any jobs going for aspiring feature writers.

Adam says he will “keep Kenny posted”. Some things in Second Life are all too like real life.

The site secondlife.reuters.com was unavailable this morning but there is an interview with Adam Pasick on the Reuters Mdia File blog.

UK newspapers and troops out of Iraq debate

British newspapers are not taking their usually predictable stances when it comes to when troops should be withdrawn from Iraq, according to Peter Cole in The Independent on Sunday this morning. He has a little quiz: four quotes from leading articles and the question, Which newspapers are they from?

His conclusion is that, “The newspapers are addressing the changing situation with considerably less cynicism than the political leaders.”

30 years before online is half newspaper advertising

It will be 30 years before online contributes half of newspapers’ advertising revenue, according to a Merrill Lynch analyst, Lauren Fine. That is the simple bit from a report at Paid Content.

Fine says online now contributes 6-7% of ad revenue and she makes an assumption of double-digit growth for the next six years followed by 5% a year. But margins for online advertising are double those for print.

Predictions of this sort never turn out to be accurate, but business planning has to have some numbers to put into the spread sheets and these look reasonable.