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  • Navigation for your site: The case for new M&G Online

    For the new Mail & Guardian Online that we are launching later next month we've had quite a few discussions and workshops about the navigation. It was a unanimous decision early on that we would opt for a top nav, discarding the left nav we currently have, which we feel is outdated and cluttered. We've also consolidated the sections, creating a few "super sections", as we figure we currently have too many which dilute the offering from a content and advertising perspective. The navigation meetings we've had have been involved... deciding how you structure your content is a decision based...

  • Wikis working for media

    There have been several attempts by media to harness the beast of the wiki. It appears that so far the wiki has eluded mainstream publishers. It's just proved too unweildy and scary for those that like to call themselves "the gatekeepers". Of course, the most famous of all attempts by a publisher to use a wiki was the LA Times wiki-editorial experiment that eventually degenerated into pornography. Publishers just haven't been able to find the magic ingredient that makes the mother of all wikis, the famous Wikipedia, one of the most successful sites in the world. So it's with interest that...

  • ZA Tech show: A local podcast worth listening to

    Been meaning to write about this for a while now. The ZA Tech show, journalists "indulging in beer and opinion", is fast turning out to be one of the country's top podcasts. This week's podcast, with Simon Dingle, Ben Kelly, Brett Haggard, Jon Tullett and Duncan McLeod, is particularly good. They have the hilarious David Bullard as a guest... love him or hate him, he's hilarious. Bullard speaks about his firing from the Sunday Times over his controversial column, and his relationship with editor Mondli Makhanya. They also look at the "future of media" with Stuff Editor and gadget guru...

  • Powering your site: Technology choices

    Making the wrong technology choice can cripple your online business. It can mean expensive maintenance and development costs down the line. It could mean downtime for your website and make the simple act of publishing an article a trapeze act. You don’t want this. A site’s Content Management System (CMS) is the engine of your site, and if your engine don’t work, you’re going nowhere. Most major publishing websites are two sites in one: The front-end part, which the consumer interacts with, and the CMS part, which is the back-office, administrative area that your non-technical staff use to update the site...

  • Breaking news: Electoral authority to consider inviting bloggers to cover elections

    The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), the body responsible for running South Africa's elections, are to consider inviting and accrediting bloggers alongside media. I was invited to present a paper (pdf) on new media at the IEC conference called "The Role of the Media in Promoting Electoral Democracy" at the Reserve Bank in Pretoria on Thursday. It was a conference attended by media, politicians and IEC officials. At the end of my presentation I urged the IEC to extend an invitation to local and international bloggers to cover the upcoming elections alongside journalists. My proposal received a positive response from Dr...

  • 24.com launches impressive crowd-sourcing tool in Answerit

    Just got a press release today about 24.com's new answerit service. It's based on a similar Yahoo! service, which apparently has done pretty well. 24.com are one of the few players in the country who can launch a service like this, because it requires volume. Last time I checked, they have the volume, or more than 3,000,000 unique browsers. At the heart of the site is an innovative points system which regulates users' answers and ensures only the good stuff stays at the top -- it's a fairly complex crowd-sourcing excercise and, I have to say, is very well conceived....

  • South Africa's sleeping online media giants

    Some media companies have embraced the online era and are now reaping the rewards. Others have been slow to wake up to the promise of online publishing. Here are four media companies, where we may see greater things: Avusa (formerly Johncom): It’s probably wrong to call this media company a sleeping giant, as it has recently woken up. For a long time it’s been a laggard in the online space, despite having big media assets. Its archrivals, Independent in IOL and Media24 in 24.com, have stormed ahead of Avusa. But we are seeing a turnaround. Avusa’s online strategy has seen an...

  • Apple: Be evil?

    Here's a riveting read from Wired magazine, "How Apple Got Everything Right By Doing Everything Wrong", analysing the factors behind Apple's success. Wired argues that despite Apple's sexy image, it flouts the ideals that represent many of the new, progressive and forward thinking tech companies of today. These values include embracing open platforms and encouraging interoperability, cultures of openess and transparency, and treating your employees "like Gods" . The thing is, consumers don't really seem to care. Controversially, the article shows that even Microsoft -- generally portrayed as a staid, uncreative tech company of the old school -- is in...

  • Thought Leader named in international Webby Awards

    Well, well, well, it seems to be the month of awards. The news came in lastnight that our very own political blog, Thought Leader, has been named a Webby Honoree at the 12th Annual Webby Awards, also known as the "Oscars of the internet". Taking a quick look at the other sites that were also bestowed with this award -- Thought Leader is in pretty esteemed company. The blog was named an honoree together with political blogs from the New Yorker, NY Times, the CNN political ticker and blogs from CNBC.com and CBS.com. Our news in photos site was also...

  • Google News secrets "exposed"

    Many publishers that have signed up to Google News, probably now the world's largest news aggregator, have instantly (ie results within a day) doubled their traffic. We are not talking about traffic off a low base either. That is how important Google news is as a traffic provider to organisations. So, it's with interest that I read on the Google News blog about some of the theories surrounding ranking on Google news. Hardly a revelation, but interesting none-the-less: Having an image next to your article improves your ranking MYTH Updating an article after posting it will create problems with Google News...

  • The mobile web: Why the future really is on the small screen

    According to a report on Reuters last year, world wide mobile phone subscriptions reached 3.3-billion users or half the world’s population. Compare this to television usage (about 1,5-billion users) or desktop internet usage (about 1,1-billion users), and it is not hard to see why there is so much excitement about the potential of the mobile web. In Japan more than 70% of internet access is via mobile phones as opposed to desktop internet access. Japan’s present is the rest of the world’s future – and we will see the same trends emerge here and elsewhere. The mobile phone is poised...

  • The Douglas Merrill defection from Google, and the South African connection

    Well, well, well. It turns out that Douglas Merrill, former Google CIO, is heading off to struggling record group, EMI. It was barely two months ago that he was out here to sell the newly launched Google South Africa to the local media. Merrill received quite a bit of criticism from bloggers at the launch for being guarded. He generally came across as flat during the presentation. Now we know why. Also -- it was only three days ago (yes, Sunday) that Merrilll appeared on the country's premier actuality show Carte Blanche, singing Google's praises in prime time: Oops, again. Has the...

  • Google not against ACAP, says CEO Eric Schmidt

    The World Association of Newspapers (WAN) has now issued a press release that "welcomes Google CEO Eric Schmidt's statement supporting the aim of the Automated Content Access Protocol (ACAP)". If this confuses you, then you are probably not alone. It was under a week ago, that WAN released a terse statement calling on Google "to respect the rights of content creators and embrace ACAP". It criticised Google for acting in "its own commercial self-interest" by its apparent reluctance to accept the new search engine protocol known as ACAP. Gavin O'Reilly, President of WAN and Chairman of ACAP, did not mince his...

  • Online media strategies & the future of print: Interview with Mags magazine

    Did this interview Gareth Richards from Mags Magazine on online media... 1 Can you give me your views on how important your online presence is to the newspaper? Has it grown more quickly/slowly than the paper version? At the Mail & Guardian we are in the fortunate position where both our newspaper and website are showing record readership. It may have something to do with the fact that the newspaper is a weekend weekly, not a daily therefore the website does not compete directly with the paper, but complements the paper. Our website is essentially the company’s daily news arm. We take...

  • World's publishers face off against Google: It's getting ugly

    I had a feeling this would be the end result. At first there was co-operation and pleasantries exchanged between the media publishers and Google, and then it all went sour. Online publishers and newspapers appear to be heading for a face-off with search engine behemoth, Google. On Thursday, online publishers and print media in the guise of the powerful World Association of Newspapers (WAN) issued a rather terse statement, calling on Google "to respect the rights of content creators" and embrace a new access protocol for search engines visiting websites, known as ACAP. In the statement, WAN president Gavin O'Reilly,...