According to Julie

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Derfor plager denne VG-forsiden meg

Jeg har stor respekt for VG. Spesielt etter at jeg skrev dette. I går ble jeg skuffet:

VGs forside. Hovedsak er "Sjampoduellen"

Var det virkelig disse sakene som vant over de andre på VG-desken natt til fredag? Det kommer jeg til å tenke på neste gang jeg ringer VG og forteller dem noe spennende en av mine kunder har gjort, og får høre at det ikke er interessant for VGs lesere.

Det er ingenting viktig på denne forsiden, i hvert fall ikke hvis du sammenligner med en del av de andre sakene i nyhetsbildet for tiden, spesielt utenriks. Viktighet er imidlertid subjektivt. Det som er vesentlig for ett publikum, er uvesentlig for et annet.

Så det er ikke bare VGs feil at forsiden er så banal. VGs papirforside skal forsøke å treffe så mange nordmenn som mulig. De fleste er oppriktig interessert i noe som er komplisert og spesifikt, enten det er innenfor utenriksnyheter, lokal politikk, kunst, litteratur, teknologiske innovasjoner eller noe helt annet. Men vi er ikke alle oppriktig interessert i de samme kompliserte tingene. Det vi har til felles, som et behov for å vaske oss på hodet, virker banalt i forhold.

Det plager meg mer at det ikke er noen nyheter på forsiden. Det er ingenting som er aktuelt i tid. Avisen kunne vært fra forrige uke, eller forrige måned.

Det er heller ingenting som er oppsiktsvekkende eller som skiller seg ut. Vi kunne funnet sjamposammenligning og raske mattips via Google-søk fremfor å lese VG.

Det som imidlertid irriterer meg aller mest, språknerd som jeg er, er at du ikke kan ha en duell mellom tolv sjampomerker. En duell er mellom to. Det ligger i ordet.


Apropos tabloid: LES DENNE BLOGGPOSTEN!!!

Hvis du vil vite hvordan jeg synes titler på nyheter bør skrives, har jeg blogget om det også.

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“Racism bad. Eat kale.” – Why Upworthy is noteworthy

Upworthy finds stuff – often, but not always, videos – on the internet, adds a longer-than-standard headline and gets lots and lots and lots of people to look at this stuff.

Here’s their front page today:

screenshot from

There’s something generally annoying about Upworthy. Maybe it’s their incessant nagging demanding that I like their Facebook page or maybe it’s their constant presence in my Facebook feed, whether I like them or not. Maybe it’s the same vague irritation I feel whenever anything becomes super-popular (yeah, there’s some hipster in my personality).

But as a communication geek, I have more reason to like Upworthy than dislike it.

One of Upworthy’s founders is Eli Pariser, the guy who wrote The Filter Bubble. It’s probably a good thing that one of the fastest-growing sites on the internet is founded by someone who thinks Google’s and Facebook’s content filtering algorithms could have scary consequences.

Upworthy’s mission is to “draw massive amounts of attention to the topics that really matter”. It’s hard to hate that. Upworthy uses all the tricks at their disposal to spread content they think is meaningful. They argue that the lowest common denominator when it comes to human beings browsing the internet is not sex, violence or sheer silliness, but “a human craving for righteousness”, to quote this New York Magazine article about the Upworthy team.

The whole NY Mag piece is worth reading, to get a behind-the-scenes view of how the Upworthy team works. In terms of readers, Upworthy is one of the fastest-growing sites in internet history, and more traditional news media are copying Upworthy’s methods for spreading information (from Washington Post’s Upworthy-inspired Know More to tweets that parody Upworthy’s headline style). This supposedly silly video-sharing site is doing what The New York Times says it cannot do right: Researching and testing headlines and other tools for spreading information, so that stories reach the biggest possible audience.

When I worked as a front page editor, I followed the principle that “Readers don’t mind being tricked into reading something worth their time.” If the actual story was good, I could break out every trick in the book (read: not at all written in any book I had access to. It’s not like there was a journalism school syllabus for online front page editing). At a business newssite, that could mean pictures of pretty women or furry animals (bear market = cute grizzly bear). But basically, the more in-depth and well-researched the story, the more tabloid I could go on the front page. I used tabloid as a verb, as in “tabloidizing” important facts and stories.

Upworthy follows this same principle. They’re using different – newer – ways of tabloidizing to spread messages they believe make the world a better place.

Here’s one of the most interesting paragraphs from the NY Mag article:

One curator shares the tip of trying to express the core point of the content in four words. Mordecai gives it a shot: “Racism bad. Eat kale.” Then he lets everyone in on his newest data discovery, which is that descriptive headlines—ones that tell you exactly what the content is—are starting to win out over Upworthy’s signature “curiosity gap” headlines, which tease you by withholding details. (“She Has a Horrifying Story to Tell. Except It Isn’t Actually True. Except It Actually Is True.”) How then, someone asks, have they been getting away with teasing headlines for so long? “Because people weren’t used to it,” says Mordecai. “Now everybody does it, and they do cartoon versions of ours.”


Today’s Upworthy front page shows that the headlines are adapting to this new discovery. On the surface, Upworthy seems to break most of the established headline-writing rules, but that’s mainly because their headlines are so long. They’re still doing what headlines are supposed to do: tell the reader why they should click on the link.

I’ll be following what Upworthy does going forward, to see how the new social media version of tabloidization develops.

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Where do all the girl geeks go?

Do we need more pink nail polish in tech newsrooms?

“Girls study tech and media, but they don’t become tech journalists. Where do the girls go?”

I’ve heard variations of this question hundreds of times. This time it was at a Girl Geek Dinner, where we discussed the lack of female journalists who specialize in technology. The question came from Beathe Due, dean of computer science at the University of Østfold, a school that actually offers a bachelor program in digital media production. There are plenty of girls at this program, and other tech-related educations around Norway – and the world. And girls outnumber guys at journalism school and in social media.

So why don’t more of these girls become tech journalists? Where do they go?

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I guess I’m a social media expert

vintage social media

I am reluctantly accepting my fate as a social media expert.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to call myself a guru in my Twitter bio or anything, but I’ve stopped rolling my eyes when people introduce me as their expert source on Facebook or Instagram (“Have you seen my Instagram?” I shudder, but I keep it to myself). At first, being introduced as a social media expert made me feel like my boss had just said:

“This is Julie. She likes wearing clothes in her spare time, so we made her our stylist.”

Then I realized that I have actually gained some experience over the past decade or so, even if my Masters degree is in Economic History, not Digital Future.

Or to continue the metaphor, most people are more naked than I thought.

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How to get me to pay for news

puppy and papers

I’ll buy news from a cute news vendor – Photo by Marco Monetti

Giving away news for free online has been called “the dumbest choice ever made by the media”. While that might be an exaggeration, I agree that giving away a product to the same people who were willing to pay for it, is a strange choice – and one that media execs have been attempting to remake over the past couple of years. But what about people who have never paid for news?

Back in 2006, Schibsted, a Norwegian media group with operations in 27 countries, was praised by The Economist as a great exception to the current media rule: despite giving away online news, they were making money during the transition to online. Today, all the Norwegian subscription-based Schibsted papers either make their readers pay for online news or they are about to start doing so.

I’ve been worried about this. Information should be free – not in the sense that it should cost me nothing, but in the sense that I should be able to access a variety of news sources, so that my view of the world is not coming from one source alone. If I have to pay per news source, I have an incentive to limit my news consumption, to let just one small group of people filter my world for me.

The great strength of online news is the possibility of aggregating across sources. I am willing to pay for that. I pay for NewsBlur, although it is far from my ideal RSS service. I would gladly have paid for Google Reader.

Today a representative of Schibsted came to Burson-Marsteller to discuss their ongoing digital strategies. I can’t go into detail on Schibsted’s future plans – but I can provide detail on what I want them to do.

So, Schibsted, here is the online news subscription I want to buy (as in with my money) from you:

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I want to personalize my own online experience

girl geek dinners oslo

I just got back from a Girl Geek Dinner here in Oslo. As always after these events, my brain is full of ideas and thoughts about the internet, and my phone has been low on battery for a while. So after discussing Klout, Fanbooster, and statistics in social media for a few hours, I rushed home to my laptop to write a blog post/note of some of the thoughts that were going through my head. Here goes:

One of our discussions was about content filtering algorithms – like Facebook’s system for choosing what shows up in your news feed or Google’s algorithm for search results. On the one hand, these algorithms are tools to help us deal with the impossible amounts of info that our friends, ex-classmates and brands we once liked throw at us on a daily basis. On the other hand, they might trap us in a filter bubble, where we only see views we already agree with and only interact with people who are like us.

Some discussions, including to a certain extent the one the Girl Geeks (with a few Guy Guests) just had, make these two factors seem like a complete either/or dichotomy: an unfiltered stream of all information or a carefully curated selection. To me the ideal is fairly simple: I want a filtered internet, but I want to filter it myself.

I love being able to use digital media to filter the world, to view it the way I want to. I want to get recommendations from Twitter users I follow, bloggers I read, Facebook friends, even mass e-mails from my co-workers. I love that I can get my own mix of views on the world from sources I enjoy and trust, and that I have more options than one news network. 

Tools that let me filter my own content are great, and I wish there were more of them in online news sources. I would love to be able to check a little box that said “No sports news please” and another one that said “I don’t know who reality stars are, so I won’t click on stories about their sex lives no matter how hard you try.”

The difference between these options and algorithms is that the first are options. There is a huge difference between “You told us you like this, so we’re giving you more of it” and “For reasons we will never tell you, you will never see this content”.

Facebook doesn't care

Compared to pre-internet information segmentation, algorithm-based filtering is becoming both more invisible, harder to break out of and more difficult for actual word-reading, picture-viewing, link-clicking people to understand.

Many people decide for themselves that they have no interest in political views different from their own. But when they search the internet, and don’t see any of these offensive views, they should know why. It should be because they decided to filter something out of their lives, not because a company tricked them into thinking that something doesn’t exist.

Related posts:

Facebook illustration by Sean MacEntree, Creative Commons

If Girl Geek Dinners sounds interesting to you, see if there are events or other ways to get involved with this network in your area. If your area is Oslo, here’s the local network website – and you can join our Twitter discussions with #GGDO

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Journalists wanted–while print media declines

Despite declining employment in legacy print media, journalists are still getting jobs. At least, according to Michael Mendel, who writes:

But remember this: Old industries can decline even as new jobs growth. In fact, the field of journalism is going through a massive innovative spurt that is creating jobs even as others are being destroyed. About a month ago I did a post on exactly this subject, where I looked at unpublished BLS data and help-wanted data from The Conference Board.  Here’s what I found:

  • Employment at newspapers is  down about 5% over the past year.
  • The number of help-wanted ads for “news analysts, reporters, and correspondents” is up 15% compared to a year ago.
  • More people are telling the BLS that they are working as a news analyst, reporter, or correspondent compared to a year ago.
  • Roughly half the want-ads for news analysts, reporters and correspondents contain the words ‘digital’, ‘internet’, ‘online’, or ‘mobile’.

Click here for more, including an interesting graph

It looks like my optimistic blogging while in journalism school was justified. Back then I wrote “Newspapers die – long live journalists”. I argued that young journalists with the right skills would come out of the crisis stronger – without the out-of-date habits of our older colleagues, but with a better understanding of the current and future environment.

These days, I have been officially over on the dark side for almost a year now, but I am using the very skills I was talking about: digital communication, willingness to adapt to change, and an understanding – or at least interest in attempting to understand – the journalism industry.

I think it’s going to be ok.


Article Marginal Revolution – Illustration from a 2010 Madewell campaign, via Refinery 29

Related posts: Newspapers die – long live journalists