In our Throwback Thursday series, we take a look at what the key figures in media were thinking in the past, based on the Journalism.co.uk archive, and how those issues can be related to the current challenges and opportunities that dominate the conversation about the digital media landscape.
Read the rest of the series here, including a special on quotes from the first two newsrewired digital journalism events organised by Journalism.co.uk in 2010.
This week, we go back to December 2007, when The Telegraph was considering expanding commenting capabilities on its website; a local newspaper in the US started experimenting with Twitter for its breaking news coverage; and voice-to-text service SpinVox looked at how the technology could be used for newsgathering.
Expanding and moderating user interaction at The Telegraph
In December 2007, The Telegraph was looking to increase the community features on its site and expand its My Telegraph personalisation features across other online sections.
At the time, the newspaper had a five-person communities team in charge of moderating comments. They had a two-fold approach: comments on news stories and opinion pieces had to first be vetted by the team, while those posted on the blogs or My Telegraph would appear automatically after someone had registered, allowing those sections to become more "self-moderating".
Ceri Radford, then deputy communities editor at the Telegraph Media Group, told Journalism.co.uk that the aim was to bring in new commenters across the site's sections, and to eventually move towards an approach where readers would be more involved in the moderation process.
However she explained the paper had "veered away from a principle of active moderation" in the way of encouraging people to contribute, instead relying on the print product to spark a discussion among readers online.
In February 2016, The Telegraph suspended online commenting while it was re-designing parts of its website, and said it was reviewing the way readers were engaging with its digital content.
Many news organisations have also decided to drop online comments in the last few years, pointing their audience to social media platforms instead. Others have continued or even increased their efforts in this space – for example in January 2017, The Washington Post launched a weekly newsletter to highlight the most valuable comments on the site and strengthen its relationship with readers.
Experimenting with Twitter for breaking news
A decade ago, US local newspaper the Nashua Telegraph developed a dedicated breaking news area on its site that fed alerts to Twitter.
The outlet's Twitter feed updates included a link sending users back to a mobile version of the Nashua Telegraph's site, where the content was adapted to fit the mobile and Twitter feed format.
"The breaking news feed is specifically designed for mobile phones: it's very selective, so you're not going to get 50 updates a day, and it's news that's important regardless of where you are," Damon Kiesow, then the paper's managing editor for online, told Journalism.co.uk in 2007.
"With online, while stories are the core of the site, there's a limited audience for 'news'. The new audience is going to come from different niches like video content and Twitter - it's those incremental audiences for 'non-news products' that we need to target.
"It's not about creating new content for these niches, but repackaging what we already have."
Using voice-to-text for newsgathering
In December 2007, SpinVox, a service that was developed to convert voicemail to email by using an automated speech recognition system to turn speech into text, was considering other uses of this technology – for newswgathering.
Simon Crowfoot, then the company's strategic business development director, told Journalism.co.uk at the time that SpinVox could be used to make audio and video clips easier to search for online through the words they contained, as opposed to just through the titles and tags assigned by publishers.
Crowfoot also envisioned that the technology could be used to allow journalists in the field to publish text stories online or file them for editing in situations where they were lacking internet access. SpinVox could also enable citizen reporters to get involved in newsgathering in breaking news scenarios or live coverage of events, due to the "immediacy of speech as opposed to typing".
"The ability for citizens to ring up and express what's going on - that news story in the moment - is a very powerful thing," he said.
"[SpinVox] could be a very cheap and simple way of gathering local news from the people without having call centres full of people answering phones."
See you next week for more Throwback Thursday! Do you remember any predictions that never came to pass, or any quotes that were spot on from 'back in the day'? Tweet us at @journalismnews.
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