NPR’s analytics tool will measure how much readers care

Nice to see Brian Boyer and co at NPR have won Knight Foundation funding to build Carebot, a tool that aims to improve the nature of news analytics.

Writing on, Benjamin Mullin says Carebot will try to determine how valuable stories are to readers, rather than just counting pageviews and unique browsers.

“The stated mission of the project, spearheaded by NPR Visuals Editor Brian Boyer, is to devise metrics that change how newsrooms measure and celebrate successful stories,” writes Mullin.

“Our official team motto these days is: We make people care,” Boyer said. “We believe that visual journalism has the power to make people care. So if that’s our motto, if that’s what we tell ourselves, if that’s what we’re trying to do every day, then how do we know if we’re doing our jobs? How do we measure that success?”

Carebot will aggregate data from Chartbeat, Google Analytics, Facebook and Twitter, and run an algorithm that looks at “social engagement (likes, shares, comments) time spent on site and completion rate. Rather than examining raw numbers for each statistic, Carebot will base its scores on the number of engagements per pageview. By this reckoning, a story with 1,000,000 pageviews and 1000 shares would have a lower Carebot score than a story with 1,000 pageviews and 100 shares.”

NPR plans to open-source the program for use by other news organisations, Mullin says.

Read more about the concept in Mullin’s piece on

The governance gaps that armed insurgents fill

A brief but interesting TED talk by policy analyst Benedetta Berti about when and why armed groups (insurgents, militias, terrorists) get involved in politics and start providing social services.

She notes that war has changed: it less often involves a state fighting a state. “Of the 216 peace agreements signed between 1975 and 2011, 196 of them were between a state and a non-state actor.”

Berti notes that we, in the West, tend to think about armed groups in terms of their violence. Natural, I suppose, given that it’s the violence we mostly see on the news, and its awfulness leaves us breathless.

But she argues that our governments need to work harder at looking past the violence to understand the groups’ strengths, strategies and long-term visions. It is there that solutions might best be found.

“These groups are hybrid. They rise because they fill a gap left by the government, and they emerge to be both armed and political, engage in violent struggle and provide governance.

“What do you call a group like Hezbollah? They run part of a territory, they administer all their functions, they pick up the garbage, they run the sewage system. Is this a state? Is it a rebel group? 

We live in a world of states, non-states, and in-between, and the more states are weak, like in the Middle East today, the more non-state actors step in and fill that gap. This matters for governments, because to counter these groups, they will have to invest more in non-military tools. Filling that governance gap has to be at the center of any sustainable approach.”

Thanks, as ever, to TED for making these talks readily available under a BY- NC-ND Creative Commons licence and for going the extra mile with sub-titles and transcripts.

Bookmarks for July 24, 2015

Morepork slow-mo

Keeper cam! Morepork (rūrū) are silent hunters – their soft wing feathers make no sound as they swoop down on their prey. Zookeeper Debs captured an amazing slow-mo video showing one of our rūrū in action!

Posted by Auckland Zoo on Wednesday, 22 July 2015


Bookmarks for May 22, 2015

Some of the more interesting things I’ve read – or bookmarked to read – over the last little while.

Haka video of 3-year-old Levi goes viral | Māori Television
Levi Tairi, a 3-year-old boy of Māori and Samoan descent, is set for stardom after a video of him performing the haka for his great grandmothers 81st…

Twitter loses quarter of market value after poor results ‘leaked’ – Telegraph
Twitter loses quarter of market value after poor results ‘leaked’ – Telegraph

Google aims to transform European newsrooms – PC World New Zealand
Google will give €150 million (US$163 million) to European publishers and digital journalism startups in the next three years as part of a wider package that aims to support the news sector.

Fairfax Media NZ appoints Jeremy Rees | Scoop News
Jeremy Rees has been appointed to the newly-established National Community Titles editor role at Fairfax Media New Zealand.

Rural residents: council wants to hear how bad your broadband is | Te Waha Nui
Auckland Council wants to hear from rural residents about “what’s really happening” with their broadband connections.

Woollen pants from World War II bring warmth to Christchurch homeless 50 years later | Te Waha Nui
The Red Cross sent the warm trousers to a WWII prisoner of war in 1945 but they only got as far as Geneva

Leaving the New York Times — Medium
I’m not a fan of burying the lede, so let me just get straight to the point. I am leaving the New York Times to go work …

Finnish military fires depth charges at suspected submarine| Reuters
Finnish military fires depth charges at suspected submarine | Reuters @juhasaarinen

The People Who Risk Jail to Maintain the Tor Network | Motherboard
Some of the volunteers who keep the Tor network running are raided for their services. “Richard” was one of them.

Newsonomics: The Wall Street Journal is playing a game of digital catchup » Nieman Journalism Lab
Its newly launched redesign isn’t just about aesthetics — it’s a chance to look inside the business and strategic thinking at America’s business daily.

Inverse topography—conduits, energy and stasis « fog on water
Stream order diagrams are simultaneously beautiful and illuminating. Subtle line width variations form aesthetically pleasing dendritic patterns that suggest how water moves across a diverse landsc…

Hacker Implants NFC Chip In His Hand To Bypass Security Scans And Exploit Android Phones
Hackers who want real stealth might want to hack their own body first. An ex-military security specialist tells FORBES an NFC chip in his hand would be a useful tool in any digital criminal’s arsenal,…

Child malaria vaccine: Final trials bring hope – BBC News
Final clinical trials of a malaria vaccine – the first to reach this stage – suggest it could protect one third of children against malaria, according to data published in The Lancet.

We are not edging up to a mass extinction – Stewart Brand – Aeon
The idea that we are edging up to a mass extinction is not just wrong – it’s a recipe for panic and paralysis.

Bookmarks for April 19, 2015

Some of the more interesting things I’ve read – or bookmarked to read – over the past few days. gets a makeover 

Well now, the new-look is looking pretty this morning.

Students recreate Gallipoli in Minecraft for Anzac Day | Te Waha Nui

Auckland students are bridging the generation gap for this year’s Anzac Centenary by recreating Gallipoli in popular video game Minecraft.

Shifting surveys: OMG’s Scott Keddie on what the new radio survey might look like :: StopPress

Shifting surveys: OMG’s Scott Keddie on what New Zealand’s new radio survey might look like | StopPress

Police in Iceland are having Way more Fun than You on Instagram | Messy Nessy Chic

I didn’t even know police forces having instagram accounts was a thing, but apparently it is. The NYPD even has time for one. But no one gets it quite lik

The Winnipeg Free Press is launching a paywall that lets readers pay by the article » Nieman Journalism Lab

The Winnipeg Free Press is launching a paywall that lets readers pay by the article | Nieman Lab #AUTjournos

Reclaiming our harbour: The People v The Port – Business – NZ Herald News

A useful backgrounder for anyone follow the Auckland port extensions | NZ Herald #AUTJournos

[toread] Rebranding the Business of Farming — re:form — Medium

by A common narrative about smallholder farmers in the developing world is that they’re desperately poor, have limited access to quality seeds and…

Video: John Oliver meets Edward Snowden and isn’t afraid to ask the tough questions – Quartz

“Well, the good news is there’s no program named ‘the dick pic program.’ The bad news is they are still collecting everybody’s information, including your dick pics.”

Can’t Kick a Bad Habit? You’re Probably Doing It Wrong — Psychology of Stuff — Medium

When “I don’t” is more powerful than “I can’t” in incrementally breaking bad habits: Can’t Kick a Bad Habit? | Medium

‘Users convert to digital subscribers at a rate of ~1 per cent’

Some useful details about the workings of paywalls in excerpts from Jeff Jarvis’s book Geeks Bearing Gifts published on Medium.

1. If you can expect to convert people from user to digital subscriber at a rate of around 1 per cent, then you need a lot of users to begin with.

Martin Nisenholtz, the business executive who started, has told my classes that giving away Times content online was not an original sin but a foundational necessity, for The Times needed to compete with other new players and to build market share. In fact, being free allowed The Times to become a truly international brand with a huge audience: almost 60 million monthly readers online vs. fewer than 1 million buyers daily in print. Having that large an audience is what made it possible for The Times to put up its meter, for its conversion rate from online user to digital subscriber is only a bit over 1 percent, but 1 percent of almost 60 million is a lot of subscribers.

2. People read far fewer stories than we might imagine. At lesser newspapers ‘an average of 3-4 per cent of users hit the paywall and about half a per cent of those will pay’.

When it started to charge, The Times allowed users to see 20 stories a month for free (with various additions, including links from social media) before encountering the meter and getting hit up to pay up. But not enough people hit the wall and got the pitch. The Times lowered the barrier so customers would see only 10 stories a month for free. That means the vast majority of The Times’ audience doesn’t read so much as one story every three days. That is a shockingly low level of engagement for the pinnacle of a profession that considers itself vital to the maintenance of democracy and society. For lesser newspapers, the numbers are worse. According to Jeff Hartley, vice president for consumer revenue at the Morris Publishing Group, experience with Press+, the leading provider of paywall services, shows that on average 3–4 percent of users will come often enough to hit the wall and about half a percent of those stopped will pay.

Read the rest here.

Nice clarity of thought on value of Economist to readers

The Economist’s Tom Standage spoke to Joseph Lichterman at Nieman Lab recently about:

The Economist’s Tom Standage on digital strategy and the limits of a model based on advertising

I was struck by the clarity of purpose expressed in these paragraphs:

We sell the antidote to information overload — we sell a finite, finishable, very tightly curated bundle of content. And we did that initially as a weekly print product. Then it turns out you can take that same content and deliver it through an app.

The “you’ve got to the end and now you’ve got permission to go do something else” is something you never get. You can never finish the Internet, you can never finish Twitter, and you can never really finish The New York Times, to be honest. So at its heart is that we have this very high density of information, and the promise we make to the reader is that if you trust us to filter and distill the news, and if you give us an hour and a half of your time — which is roughly how long people spend reading The Economist each week — then we’ll tell you what matters in the world and what’s going on.

The article’s a good read. Recommended.

This is how you test a launch system rocket booster

Just for the wow factor: NASA tested its new space launch system rocket booster in Utah. Watch to the end to see the ‘quench tool’ in action.

Published on 11 Mar 2015

The largest, most powerful rocket booster ever built successfully fired up Wednesday for a major-milestone ground test in preparation for future missions to help propel NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion spacecraft to deep space destinations, including an asteroid and Mars. The booster fired for two minutes, the same amount of time it will fire when it lifts the SLS off the launch pad, and produced about 3.6 million pounds of thrust. The test was conducted at the Promontory, Utah test facility of commercial partner Orbital ATK.

For more information, visit: