Humanity has been Reduced to Six Emoticons


I’m stealing this headline from Techcrunch, writing on Facebook’s emoticon upgrade, known as Reactions.  Facebook’s explanation says the new Reactions will change the algorithm for what you see in your Newsfeed, but at this point it’s not clear how that will work.

Initially, just as we do when someone likes a post, if someone uses a Reaction, we will infer they want to see more of that type of post. In the beginning, it won’t matter if someone likes, “wows” or “sads” a post — we will initially use any Reaction similar to a Like to infer that you want to see more of that type of content. Over time we hope to learn how the different Reactions should be weighted differently by News Feed to do a better job of showing everyone the stories they most want to see.

The immediate response already shows that Reactions are already making a difference.  Rest assured, the advertisers are poised to crunch the data from your Facebook feed, according to Forbes,

Users who have ”Reactions” have already been responding more frequently to posts than users without them. A bump in Facebook’s FB -1.04% already strong engagement would be well received by investors, as well as by advertisers, who can learn more about users through data on their emotional response to content.

In another piece on unrelated Facebook news, Mark Zuckerberg is working on an Artificial Intelligence Butler to help run his life at home and work.   And apropos of nothing, I promised to post a gummy-bear-visualisation of the Iowa caucus, so here it is.

Finally, one more link, this time in case you want to look at a historic map of Ann Arbor.  Yes, that historic map.


Mid-term presentations to be ready for Mar 7th.

Photo story deadline is Mar 13th.

The Future of….


“This is the future of mobile news, as Quartz envisons it.” That’s how Wired is plugging Quartz’s new chat app.  If you use it, “you don’t read the news; you chat with it.”  And when you’ve read some stories, the add repackages news as quizzes in order to keep you entertained.   Meanwhile, a fascinating piece on Buzzfeed’s attempts tScreen Shot 2016-02-21 at 22.15.05o “re-anchor” has some telling insights.  According to Fortune, “close to 75% of the company’s content never actually appears on its website but is created for and consumed on networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.”   Distributed content seems to mean that websites are becoming the ‘front pages’ of yesteryear – fading in significance as a means of discovery.   The future of engagement, it appears, means finding new ways of measuring it aside from pageviews, “For a video, it might be time spent, for other content it might be sharing, and in some cases, it might be whether a user signs up for an email newsletter or downloads an app.”

Meanwhile, the public breakup at the top of Politico – compared to the dissolution of a marriage in the Washington Post – has thrown the company’s future into question, “leaving the main newsroom in search of leadership” according to CJR.   Meanwhile, Vice is becoming so establishment that it’s become the benchmark for new media ventures, though in recent days it’s been busy launching a Securedrop tool for whistleblowers to drop confidential documents straight into the hands of Vice journalists.  Finally, SB nation has been making headlines recently for all the wrong reasons.    This ‘monstrous’ piece is cited by one Al Jazeera journalist as one example among many underlining the dark future of journalism.


  1. What’s a picture worth?  The digital disruption of photojournalism (The Media Briefing)
  2. Is Instagram’s social network dumbing down photography? (Poynter)
  3. Why publishers are using instagram (




IMG_7378 (1)

Thank you to Uri Blau for coming to talk to our class.   It was fascinating to hear him discuss his cross-platform social media policy in action with the use of instagram, twitter, and tumblr, as well as the newspaper website.

But don’t forget:  content is key.   One of the most important takeaways from Blau’s session was his mission.  “You can’t hide from the truth and you shouldn’t,” as he put it. “This is our role as journalists.”    As for #settlementdollars, there are some interesting follow-ups on Twitter.

Don’t forget that Monday’s class is a data visualization workshop in the Shapiro Library Room 4041.     As an assignment, do start work on your Midterm presentations (rubric here) which need to be ready for the class of March 7th.





Race, and Crime, at the University of Michigan Visualised


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  Responsive Async Fixed

IMG_7371 (1)


Walking the World in 9 Years


Here’s the promised post on Paul Salopek‘s 21,000 mile odyssey around the world in 9 years.   It’s all exhaustively charted on his Out of Eden website and on the National Geographic website, where he posted the following,

In the third year of what likely will be a nine-year trek across four continents, I am struck by the persistence of a single question from readers, students, walking partners, barkeeps, shepherds, fellow reporters, baffled police officers in nine countries and, yes, evenlong-suffering editors demanding my copy: What keeps me motived on a slow foot journey that, at times, seems to have no end?

The answer depends on the day of the week—and the hour of the day—you’re asking.

But at least one reason has grown ever clearer: You.

I’ve described the “Out of Eden Walk” as a 21,000-mile-long conversation with complete strangers, stretching from Africa to Tierra del Fuego. The random people I meet along the trail, from farmers to artists, from refugees to royalty, are this walk’s true destinations. These human encounters offer the thrill of first contact, of a new story, of a new beginning. Each of us has unique lessons and insights to share on this collective ramble that we’re all taking into the 21st century.

Today is the closing date for a crowd-sourced community photo project, Built to Walk, that has grown out of his walk, asking why humans need to move.   It’s fascinating how Salopek has used social media to build a community around his walk, leveraging it for educational projects, using Google hangout to talk to classes and inspiring students to use their own creativity.   Every hundred miles, Salopek has posted a milestone showing where he is.  This one is the most recent on his website, from Gabala, Azerbaijan.

Here’s a recent tweet he posted.

This is partly funded by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, who will be visiting our class on Wednesday, with Uri Blau from Haaretz newspaper in Israel.


1)Why is the US subsidizing Israeli settlements? (Washington Post)

2)US Donors Gave more than $220m in Tax-Exempt Funds over 5 years (Haaretz… you will get a login message.  If you just cancel, it will take you through to the Haaretz story).

3)From the US to Israel: where does the Money Go?  (Pulitzer)

Have two questions prepared ready for Uri Blau who will be our class guest on Wednesday.

Making a Murderer: the Livestream


Anthony Quintano/Flickr

Is livestreaming the future of news?  That headline has become a cliche since the launch of Meerkat in February 2015 and the subsequent arrival of Periscope one month afterwards.    Periscope has since moved in on the market, wooing adrenalin junkies with a new deal to add Gopro livestreams and celeb followers as Oscars’ sponsor Kohl vows to Periscope the red carpet.  But it’s making less positive headlines too: among them the chilling news that man in Tampa, Florida may have been the first person to broadcast his own murder live via Periscope. 

In a Tampa strip club early Saturday morning, Marvin Lancaster III shared a video on live streaming app Periscope of his time out.  Lancaster let his friends know he had been pulled over by a Tampa police officer and was given a warning for a traffic violation. He let his friends know he was inside Club Rayne.  He let them know the music was pulsing, the lights were flashing and a dancer came off the stage to yell at him about fighting. Seconds later, shots rang out. The phone and the live stream dropped to the floor.

There was also the story that a convicted murder has begun periscoping from his own prison cell, asking his 3000 followers to send money to a Gofundme account.    So when is Periscope usage appropriate?   What are the possible pitfalls of livestreaming.  Here are some (very) recent examples for discussion.

  1. Political Reporting

2.  Civil Unrest

Officer Down, Warning ShotsPolice Officer Down.
Warning Shots Fired.
(Can see officer shooting in the air and then pointeing the gun in my direction)

Posted by Lostdutch on Tuesday, 9 February 2016

3. Foreign News

4. Slow Journalism

5. Activism

6. Entertainment Reporting

One last addendum:  tech writers are already writing the obituary of the new social network Peach, which they declared dead just four days after its launch.   In this piece, the author compares Peach to Meerkat, which is also proclaimed DOA.

Meerkat was dead three weeks after it launched and Peach is dead four days after its debut. Peach’s download chart performance is spectacularly atrocious for a product that hit No. 1 on New York’s Twitter trending topics on Friday night. The only question is when the carcass will start to stink – and whether the company can bag $14 million before it does.

The author blames credulous, clueless tech writers for hyping a “derivative” and “hollow” app.

The cluelessness of old media is rivaled only by the credulousness of new media when it comes to revaluating viability of new apps.


1) )Data Journalism Handbook

2) John Snow’s Data Journalism: The Cholera Map that Changed the World (Guardian)

ASSIGNMENT:  Write a 400-word blogpost on a data visualization project on your beat.  Why is it effective?  What kinds of visual tools are used to present ideas and how different is it from traditional journalism? Are there any shortcomings and if so, what? (For Feb 14 8pm)



The Economics of New Media: Class Slides

The big paywall debate: under what circumstances do paywalls work? Should online information be free?


Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 11.42.03

Do podcasts make money, and – if so – how?

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What lessons does Vice’s experience have for media outlets?

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What are the monetary and other implications of distributed content for publishers?

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Should journalists ever write for free?Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 11.45.42

Adblockers: how much of an impact will they have on advertising revenue for news outlets? Should consumers use them?

Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 11.42.55


1)How Americans Get TV News At Home (Pew)                                                                                                       2) In the Digital Era, What Does Watching TV Even Mean?   Or Unpaywalled through library website (WSJ)

ASSIGNMENT:  Audio pieces should be posted to your blogs by Tuesday night at 9pm.

(Soundcloud, password: disruption)

#RIPTwitter no more?

This was how Twitter founder and CEO Jack Dorsey reacted to #RIPTwitter.  The twitterverse was in uproar over reports that Twitter is planning to tweak its algorithm to make it more like Facebook, rather than in reverse chronological order as they are now.

At the Sydney Morning Herald,  Sarah Frier wrote, “The problem with the crowd: They seem to agree Twitter is flawed, but they don’t have a solution, and they don’t like change.”  So now Jack Dorsey is promising change without change, which pretty tough to finesse.

Other news:  the New York Times had better than expected results with 1.1 million digital subscribers, though print is continuing to decline.  They’ve announced another big newsroom strategy review, trying to figure out the way forward.  As Dean Baquet wrote in his memo to staff, 

“Experimenting with new forms of journalism and presentation has sparked tremendous creativity in the newsroom,” he wrote. “But in trying to balance the new and the old, reporters and editors are sometimes left exhausted and confused. Simply put, we keep turning things on — greater visual journalism, live news blogs, faster enterprise, podcasting, racing against an ever-growing list of new competitors on an expanding list of stories – without ever turning things off.”

There’s an interesting piece in Poynter about how the New York Times is resurfacing unused images in its archives to tell new stories.  It’s the perfect example of how evergreen content can be brought back to life again, and is being used at the Unpublished Black History project this month.  The picture below is one example, from the Newark riots, which cost 23 lives in 1967.


Neal Boenzi/New York Times


1)How Americans Get TV News At Home (Pew)                                                                                                                                2) In the Digital Era, What Does Watching TV Even Mean? (WSJ)

ASSIGNMENT:  Audio pieces should be posted to your blogs by Tuesday night at 9pm.

(Soundcloud, password: disruption)

TL; DR: The Iowa Caucuses on Social Media

The Iowa caucuses are all over, and the social media winner of the night was Democratic contender Bernie Sanders, who was “mentioned over 77,000 times on Twitter during the caucus, while Clinton was mentioned 52,000 times”, according to social media sentiment analytics firm Brandwatch.   Sanders also beat Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump to get more new Facebook followers: 15,695 to 10,704.  What correlation is there, if any, between social conversation trends and who wins an election?  This was a question that MSNBC asked, and then answered.  Not at a lot, was its conclusion.  Mashable, however, said that Twitter nailed it.  So the jury’s still out, apparently, on whether social media performance translates into real electoral gains.

The most entertaining social media star was #stickerkid, also dubbed the “new left shark”, who upstaged Hillary Clinton with his own special brand of publicity.

We saw journalists periscoping and filing quick live hits optimised for Facebook straight from the caucus locations.  Here’s  one from Lawson Elementary School by Zoe Daniel from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.


Live video chat here at 2pm AEDT from Iowa. Hit subscribe for notifications.

Posted by Zoe Daniel on Monday, 1 February 2016

Ben Terris of the Washington Post filed a lovely twitter story about a tiny Democratic caucus in someone’s living  attended by 52 people.

And one last unforgettable moment – filmed by BBC’s Newsnight – was when Republican hopeful Ted Cruz tried to hug a little girl, and she really, really didn’t like it.  The problem for him?  It was his own daughter.

For Monday’s class, please read the findings from The Revenue Picture for American Journalism and How it’s Changing (Pew).

Assignment: radio piece of between 2 and 2’30 for Feb 9th.    Here’s a cheatsheet with some of the most basic commands/moves from today’s workshop.  Rubric is here.