Check Your Sources

In a world where news is dominated by what is on the news overview onGoogleand the trending topics on Twitter, it is becoming harder for more traditional news outlets to remain relevant. Do people have to pay for what they want, or is free news part of a person’s rights?

I have just watched Page One: Inside The New York Times, which as someone with an interest in media and it’s progression, was something that I have been meaning to watch since it came out last year. It shows a ‘behind-the-scenes’ look at one of the world’s most established and popular Newspapers. It was not what I expected. It showed that the Journalistic giant had made mistakes, and that it was struggling in the world of modern day media. But for a printed paper, created in 1851, the fact that this publication can still sell over 2,000,000 copies in a day, is phenomenal, no matter how you look at it.

The one thing that was highlighted in the documentary, was how the drop in advertising revenue, and the reader’s want to get free news, was damaging the paper. It is said, that papers who print, lose money with every copy of a paper that they publish, as the cost of the paper needs to be affordable, for people to buy it on a daily basis. In the past, this loss was covered by the money that advertisers paid to be included in publications. As the Internet has become stronger over the last 10-15 years, companies began to start up their own websites for promotion, which was cheaper and began to lean less and less on the traditional printed media. In a world, where profit margins are becoming thinner and thinner, you can see why companies would follow the path of self-promotion.

This caused a problem for newspapers, like the New York Times, which found that their main source of revenue was disappearing. It meant that changes needed to happen, and the paper and it’s journalists would need to be more interactive with it’s audience to try and stay relevant. This involved an introduction of a website where journalists could record corresponding videos with their articles. Readers were invited to comment, and share their views, and the company began to catch up with it’s competitors in other media, such as TV. This way of publishing stories helps newspapers get a broader, even worldwide audience. Whilst this seems like a more affordable way to spread the news, but there was still a big gap in revenue, due to advertising loss. This is where the site installed a ‘paywall’, which would ask heavy users to pay a fee to continue using the site. This model has proved very successful for many online services. And has helped plug the gap in revenues, created by the drop of advertising.

And that is what a lot of people have a problem with. Why pay for something when you can Google the news for free. Google is a site, which like the way newspapers used to operate, is funded mostly by advertising revenue. The issue with advertising revenue, is it gives the reader the belief that they are viewing something that is free. Accept, it isn’t really free. Google gets paid by how many people use the service, as advertisers will pay accordingly to feature under certain searches. When up to the ‘top 10’ of results you get on google, have paid for that high ranking, you begin look further into what you’re using. That every click that you make on a google site, is collated and sold to marketing companies. You then begin to wonder, are sites like Google really free?

Another problem with the internet, is that the source is not as important as it used to be. You search for a news topic online, and will click on the one with the snappiest headline. More often than not, the photos and story may come from a single source, a source which be mentioned somewhere at the bottom of the article, if you’re lucky. And this mixed nature of ‘search engine news’, means that all sources and all work just becomes a big muddle. Where as in print, you can sometimes say, ‘I’ll read the Daily Star, because I want to read nonsense’. Or the Independent for more serious news. That definition between different publications isn’t so relevant when you Google search, and just pick one out of hundreds of results. It’s like written journalism is losing its definition.

Where this causes a problem, that whilst the bigger publications like the New York Times and The Independent can sent journalists to specific areas to cover important stories, smaller, less serious publications can’t. This means, that you can get ‘piggy-back reporting’, where smaller outlets will rehash another publications story. They report news and events, without any first hand coverage. This leads to second hand stories, which can lead to inconclusive reports and no checked sources. The only way that true, first rate articles can continue to be published, is if people start to pay attention and pay for what they read.

Because when all the newspapers go under, a loss in advertising for Google, could send them down the pay route that News outlets are currently used for. Nothing in life is free, especially not the Internet.

So check your sources, and help them, or they will stop being reliable.

Best Performing Browsers on My PC

1) Firefox RC 4

2) Google Chrome

3) Opera 11

4) Apple Safari 5

5) Microsoft Internet Explorer 8

I am slightly biased when it comes to Firefox, as have been an avid user for years. This latest release, has the browser going into Chrome territory, with a very minimalist look. But where Mozilla has it right, is where within 30 seconds, a user can locate how to add that menu bar to the top of their page. Also, Firefox is known for the thousands of add-ons that can be used on the browser. Everything from news-tickers to colour-pickers. Also Firefox is still customisable, with the user being able to select a skin for their browser, again with thousands to choose from. This new version is taking Firefox back into the forefront of the browser-battles. It runs a lot smoother and faster than previous versions.

Chrome, like Firefox, is very fast. But it loses out when it struggles on sites which contain video, it becomes very glitchy, and this can happen when the browser deals with anything Flash. I feel that Chrome is over-simple, where there are no options to add a basic menu bar, which is handy when you have to appeal to people like my parents. Maybe there are options, but after half an hour of playing around, I can’t get the standard menu bar. It seems like Chrome is shunning the older web community, who may look for the familiarity of that File, Options, etc all at the top. Even IE has that. You can be as fast as you want, but usability should always be number 1 priority.

Opera, used to be on my Nokia mobile, which I think is where it is strongest, on mobile platforms. It brings everything up ok, but lags slightly behind Chrome and Firefox in regards of speed. The layout of Opera 11, is very similar to that of the new Firefox. It is clean, but not too basic, and you can easily add more options to the menu if needed.

Safari is different from the other browsers, in that the standard browser comes with a toolbar up and ready to go, with the user being able to easily further streamline the browser, or add basics, like the menu bar. The one thing I do want to mention about Safari is that when you open up a new tab in the browser, a selection of most popular sites visited pops up. It makes it easy to find certain websites, which I feel is a nice touch. It runs slightly slower than Opera, but people familiar with Apple software, will find comfort in the stylings of the browser.

And IE. Poor IE. I am running IE 8, because I don’t have the newest version of Vista or Windows 7, so I can’t download the RC for IE9. I don’t know if having the newer version would make any difference, but I hope it would. IE took several minutes to load, before it shut down. On second attempt it did start up ok, but was very slow compared to the other browsers. As basic as IE comes, it is very easy to add, or take away toolbars and menus as you require them.

But one thing to be said, is that all browsers are beginning to look the same. This is mostly due to the high success of Chrome and it’s simplistic layout. I know that I seem to have focused on finding the menu bar a lot, the reason is because I know older people (like my parents) who rely on that toolbar, because it is there in whatever software they are using. So when it is taken away (Chrome) they do get a little lost. And I know that is why they stick to IE, because they know their way around it.

Twitter Unbalanced?

I use twitter A LOT!

It is a place I joined to get to know friends from other sites more. Which is something the site has done so well. It was mostly people from The Leaky Cauldron, Youtube and various Good Charlotte sites. Actually, mostly the Good Charlotte sites, as the GCfam are just brilliant. And twitter has brought me closer to them, and to the band themselves.

But recently I have noticed a few strange going-ons. First is people using the site to advertise themselves for work, and don’t make any personal statements or anything. And I just miss the point of that. You use the site to get to know people, even if it is purely those in the same industry as you, but simply retweeting people does not use the site to it’s capabilities.

The second thing, its fanbases trying to beat each other. Mostly its Lady Gaga Vs Justin Beibers (or Monsters Vs Beliebers), and they try to knock each off the trending topic lists. :S Again, most of it is spam, and doesn’t do anything bar get on peoples nerves. In fact, coincidentally, both acts are becoming very close to over-saturating the market. That is basically getting to the point where instead of making new fans, you annoy people and get less fans. It is the golden rule of advertising, don’t over-do it. And the fans don’t realise that they could be negatively effecting their idol’s sales.

But, twitter is a tool. And the reported interest 0f Google, to purchase the service for as much as $10 million. Watchers say that this inflated price could be the sign of another internet bubble about to go POP. The reason they say this is because they struggle to validate the site being worth that kind of money, especially when advertising and promotion have only been launched recently.

I guess time will tell with twitter. I love it, so as long as it still works, I don’t mind, really. Just don’t change it too much.