Category Archives: press

The numbers game may not be all bad for news and journalism content


From a journalist and content producer’s perspective, development of stories is considered very sacred and full of integrity. Never will we sway to the winds of metrics, ratings and numbers.

But, just hold it right there.

Actually, reader and viewer data can be put to good use for developing good quality content. It just needs to be read and interpreted correctly.

Of course, click bait headlines and Kardashian-like rubbish stories will get the high numbers. But it is the consistent, high-quality, society-benefitting content that keeps the right audience.

And once we learn that value the demographics and psychographics of the audience, only that will we be able to look past the PVs (page views), UV (unique page views), bounce rates and whatever else.

Once we know who is watching us, then we will know how to cater to them. It’s like that old saying that kind of goes like ‘it’s better to shoot like a sniper and get the one you want, rather than spray with a machine gun and hope you hit something’. Or something like that lah!

And the article that inspired this in me is by digital expert David Higgerson: Why audience targets can be good for journalism

How do you control an interview when you are being interviewed?

Journalists love interviewing people. Well, love may be the wrong word, but they have to interview people because it’s their job. But personally, I love it. I love asking people questions and it is even more fun when we have to haggle with them to get answers. But what if the tables are turned and the journalist is being interviewed? Will they be more than willing to give full answers like how they expect their interviewees to give?

Washington Post’s media reporter, Paul Farhi, recently wrote about how tough it is to interview people (specifically journalists) because they tend to be too cautious. We’re all familiar with the ‘off the record’ statements so willingly given by people who don’t want to grant actual interviews. And Farhi goes on to explain another term – ‘talking on background’.

So basically, ‘off the record’ means that the statement or explanation cannot be published in the story. But a journalist can use the information as a lead to go deeper and research a story. And, ‘talking on background’ basically means that the information and statement can be used but the source or interviewee cannot be named. The worse, of course, is when an interviewee says ‘no comment’.

I’ve been interviewed many times and, just as I like being interviewed, I like to be interviewed too. But hey, I get the point of interviewees to want to control the information they give out. I just feel that it is in the way you answer rather than just declining to do so.

Readership and circulation are now contributing more to newspaper revenue than advertisers


Readers have become the number one revenue generator for newspapers around the world. It used to be advertising. Looks like the old model has gone belly up!

And only yesterday, I wrote about how I’m wondering if crowdfunding could be the key to bringing integrity back to journalism in Malaysia.

So it looks that news could be heading towards serving the people once again rather than the corporate dinosaurs.

The report by WANIFRA (World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers) also goes on to say that although newspaper circulation seems to be stable, there is a rapid growth in mobile and digital.

(Like I’ve said all along… traditional media will never die. It’ll just be repurposed.)

People are more and more reaching out for their smartphones to get the news. It’s the first thing they do in the morning, and data shows that desktop consumption for news is dropping. Time spent on smartphones is now more than on computers.

Another interesting fact is that there are still more people reading newspapers in print (2.7 billion) than on digital platforms (770 million). And they all are increasing they readership numbers by strategising to pull in consumers from both platforms. Smart!

Urghh… it’s too much data for me to process so go read the article HERE!

Should metrics and audience analytics determine journalistic and editorial direction?

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The human factor or the Chartbeat culture? This is a debate that has been raging on in newsrooms everywhere (including here in Malaysia)  and the most common argument is that goofy cat photos would trump more significant issues like the Rohingya crisis, the Syrian war, political strife, etc.

Columbia Journalism Review’s Alexis Sobel Fitts wrote about a research done by Caitlin Petre where she studied how metrics influenced decision making in newsroom. She spent a lot of time in the offices of Gawker, The New York Times and Chartbeat.

At Gawker, a large monitor that displays the Chartbeat dashboard (which monitors the visitors to the site in real time) for everyone to see seems to dominate the way the reporters and writers work. (Oh my god! How familiar this must all sound to many!)

She observes that this negatively affected how they would experiment and try new things because they were too pressured to chase the numbers. In fact, apparently, the employees were evaluated on how much money they were making for the company based on CPM (how many dollars per 1000 visitors they brought in)!

This just sounds so wrong, in my honest opinion! It doesn’t reward originality and creativity, nor does it provide a healthy journalism environment.

Whereas at The New York Times, reporters do not have access to these metrics because they believe it would lead to reporters writing more about skateboarding dogs, Angelina Jolie and probably the Kardashians!

However, with all that being said, reporters and writers still constantly checked how well their stories were doing.

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At the end of Petre’s studies, she found out that The New York Times ended up hiring audience engagement analysts to make sense of how these metrics could play a role in editorial decision making, while at Gawker, a new system of putting editors in charge of determining writers’ compensation rather than numbers was implemented.

Oh well…

[Read the full article ‘When metrics drive newsroom culture’ at the Columbia Journalism Review]

Fat Bidin recommended reads, views and listens from the Internet this week


1. The New York Times’ report, ‘Rohingya migrants from Myanmar, shunned by Malaysia, are spotted adrift in Andaman Sea‘ by Southeast Asia correspondent Thomas Fuller (who I’ve worked with before) is very engaging and a very human story.


2. Radiolab’s episode called ‘Sight Unseen‘ speaks to photojournalist Lynsey Addario who got unbelievable access to a US military medevac team in Afghanistan. After she took pictures of a rescue attempt of a US soldier, drama ensued regarding the rights to publish the pictures. Classic Radiolab style creating drama about visuals using audio!

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3. I had assigned a very young but enthusiastic reporter Mariah Ahmad to Nepal right after the first earthquake that happened. She was wiling to go SOJO (solo journalist) with only a smartphone and a DSLR. Here is one of the photo essays she managed to produce for Astro AWANI.

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4. Another story from The New York Times. It’s episode 3, ‘A bionic approach to prosthetics controlled by thought‘, of a video series called ‘Robotica’. This particular episode is about bionic prosthetics that can be controlled by a person’s brain directly and we see in the video how Les Baugh, 59, who lost both his arms when he was a teenager, learns how to control his robot limbs for the first time.