July 2nd

Native advertising standardization boiled down to Iron Chef metaphor

Brands are the secret ingredient, publishers are the chef, suggests Ed Urgola at Say Media in his analysis of the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s attempts to establish a framework for the native advertising space.

The secret ingredient of each Iron Chef match gives it focus and direction. Chefs must use the ingredient in their unique style to produce an array of thoughtful, personal and delicious dishes. It’s a great analogy for re-framing the conversation around native ads. By providing the same constraints to publishers, it allows them to express the brand message in a native, and ultimately more scalable, way

June 30th

The pen is mightier than the keyboard

Can’t remember the last time you used a pen to take notes? Maybe you forgot because you didn’t use a pen. Writing something down longhand requires more brain processing power than typing on a laptop, so we’re more likely to actually remember what we write.

A leap forward in financial reporting, or the demise of the human journalist?

The Associated Press tells us to expect all its quarterly earnings stories to eventually be written by a computer rather than a human. Could you tell a story written by artificial rather than human intelligence? After all, a computer recently passed the Turing Test, further narrowing the divide between human and machine. Apparently it’s very hard to tell the difference, which means either journalists are getting worse or algorithms are getting better.

AP is merely the latest news organization to jump on the AI bandwagon. Chances are that the post-game sports report you read suspiciously soon after the final whistle might have been compiled by technology developed by Narrative Science, a company that could also be the artificial-brains behind AP’s move (Narrative Science keeps most of its customers secret, lest we rise up against the machines).

AP says it will enable its journalists to spend more time doing better journalism (and, no doubt, enable AP to employ fewer human journalists). The company also promises a 14-fold increase in the number of earnings reports it churns out each quarter. Already swamped by content, us humans are going to need more help from the machines to make sense of this tidal wave of machine-generated content.

June 28th

Use an app to speed-read a book a day… if you don’t mind forgetting it just as quickly

Even though most people don’t read much more than a headline on their screens, speed reading apps that promise to get you through a Harry Potter tome in a day look set to multiply as though under the spell of the Gemino curse.

Spritz, the company that provides the technology behind one such app, ReadMe, promises to eliminate the time consuming aspect of reading a book by making sure you no longer have to engage in that most strenuous of activities — moving your eyes. Instead, one word at a time will flash up on the screen with one letter highlighted to draw you eye to the “optimal recognition point”. Normally we read at about 200 words a minute. Spritz offers speeds of 250 words a minute up to a staggering 1000 words a minute. At that rate the first Harry Potter book would take about an hour and a half to read.

Removing eye movement associated with traditional reading methods not only reduces the number of times your eyes move, but also decreases the number of times your eyes pass over words for your brain to understand them.

And therein lies the problem, according to research at the University of California San Diego. When we read, our eyes and brains often pre-read and re-read words to fully comprehend the sentence. Eliminate that possibility and we tend to forget what we just read rather quickly, as lead author Elizabeth Schotter points out:

Removing eye movements from the reading process is precisely the fatal flaw in such speedreading apps and the reason why they will not be useful for reading any text that is not extremely easy or short

June 25th

Amid all the tumultuous digital changes in publishing there’s still one topic that can get writers all in a tizzy

Most of the world probably wouldn’t notice if the style bible of journalists throughout the US decided to change its rule on the serial comma. But it’s apparently enough to rile those in newsrooms, according to an improptu Poynter survey that sparked a minor twitter storm and drew over 2500 repsonses.

loving the Oxford comma

Perhaps journalists are craving the good old days when newsroom style was a big deal. Y’know, like before all this digital stuff.

“If we can’t change our behavior in the use of a comma, it doesn’t hold out much hope for us to deal with the much more tumultuous changes presented to us in the digital age.”

June 24th

A person just clicked a headline and helped change the world forever

Clickbait headlines are the empty calories of the news feast. Problem is, no-one has the recipe for the main course.

There is evidence that many more people share stories than read them, suggesting, disturbingly, that clickable headlines are the content for many readers, like the fries that go with the meal. In 2013 Pew Research reported that most Americans get their news from Facebook.

Now even college newspapers are feeling the internet squeeze and slashing print editions

Nationally, over the last few months, student papers at Columbia University, the University of Nebraska and Oklahoma State University all announced plans to scale back their print editions.