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Resources

I’m playing with Google Custom Search Engine (CSE), and here’s the result – a search engine focused on journalism innovation and experimentation. It currently indexes ~50 sites related to different aspects of journalism, including industry news and analysis, individual analysts and commentators, academic and civil society organisations, philanthropic funders of journalism, and networks of media and journalists publishing regularly on new developments in the field. It’s largely English-language and UK/EU/US at the moment, but will expand over time to include sites covering journalism in other languages, and in other parts of the world. If you have suggestions of sites you think I should include, please tweet or email me.

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Last October my organisation moved offices from West to Central London, reducing my commute  from 9 miles each way to 5. I was running out of excuses not to cycle to work, reduced to arguing that there’s not much room for a bike in a flat with toddlers. Andrea suggested I try out his Brompton. Clever, sure, but how absurdly Lilliputian, I thought. Look:

But I climbed on, and rode round the courtyard outside. Something happened. In minutes, I went from feeling absurd and wobbly, to feeling exhilarated. This was genuine chemistry… I borrowed the bike for a week to cycle to Millbank, and it was heaven. I’d arrive at work wearing a broad grin – and returning the bike to him felt a real wrench.

So I decided to buy one through work. Little did I anticipate the knots I’d tie myself into, as first I confronted the Brompton order form, and then trawled website after website trying to understand what different options meant. (I haven’t cycled regularly since the early 90s…) What the hell was “lowered gearing”? Should I get 1 gear, 2, 3 or 6? Firm suspension or normal? Hub dynamo lighting? And as for the colour…

So, in case it’s helpful to others, here are the resources I found useful in deciding which Brompton configuration to buy.

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Earlier this year, I did some strategy work with a client to look at the documentary landscape in the UK, and here I’m sharing some of the overall findings and resources from that piece of work (some stats and market elements might have moved a little since then, but overall I hope it’s still helpful). It’s interesting that some of the recommendations I made overlap with a recent piece of research from the Open Rights Group – which finds that overall, consumers in the UK face “lack of availability, poor pricing and quality issues when compared with physical media.” I agree that UK consumers are very poorly served with visual media content, and face a fragmented and confusing landscape.

And there’s an evolving list of resources I used here – please feel free to browse and contribute.

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  • Fragmentation in TV audiences  but increase in DVD, download, theatrical documentary markets. (DVD sales plummeted 40% in the USA in the last quarter (early 2011) as digital downloads take off)
  • Tech barriers to entry lower than ever for individuals to make, participate in, distribute documentary, competition for attention ever more fierce as opportunities to watch multiply.
  • Funding still fragmented, largely production-focused, further decreases threatened, and nothing systematically replacing financial and editorial support decreasingly offered by TV channels.  Crowdfunding online seen as potential option for some, commercial sponsorship for others.
  • Online viewing growing in length, web now first port-of-call for many producers to show portions of their film, generate interest, secure funding, conduct outreach.
  • Perception of growing interest in more authentic (i.e. direct) content from new perspectives/voices.
  • Many in each successive generation increasingly comfortable with use of video as means of communication, and with tools of creation – different expectations around participation, form of content, cost, availability.
  • With journalism seemingly in crisis, some expect that documentary should take on more “investigative” role.
  • New types of documentary content emerging (especially focus online on short-form or serial content, animation, and closer ties with photojournalism), but traditional ones still dominant.
  • Action-oriented/advocacy documentary a growing genre, with associated online action opportunities – with foothold in theatrical distribution, and many new entrants in online space. Quality uneven.
  • NGOs, public sector more credible in documentary space as partners/endorsers of filmmakers, less as producers. NGOs beginning to commission films directly.
  • Many online documentary networks and platforms (including for development/human rights), yet few truly comprehensive places online or offline dedicated to helping people watch, learn about, discuss, get involved.
  • Academic centres for study/teaching of documentary not up-to-date with converging practice – not holistic (Depts for TV, online, radio, documentary, journalism, media studies, etc, all doing broadly similar/overlapping things).  NOTE – state of research about documentary is very fragmented.
  • Landscape in the developing world looks very different… – long-term need for any/all of these to be catalysed or strengthened, almost everywhere…

Finally, a stat from the BFI’s research: in 2009, 56 documentary films were released, accounting for 11% of releases but only £12M or 1% of the gross UK box office – and of that £12M, £9.8M came from the Michael Jackson tribute documentary, This Is It (UKFC/Rentrak data). In other words, a total 55 documentary releases earned just over £2M in 2009. It’s not a lucrative career, at less than £40k per release, on average….

We’re not tracking the Haiti earthquake ourselves, but here are a few links to those who are…

– CitizenTube’s rolling playlist of Haiti videos on YouTube
– The NYT’s list of those tracking the earthquake on Twitter
– Reuters Alertnet’s live blog
– Reuters’ own live updates
– Washington Post’s live blog
– Matisse mentions our friends at Global Voices Online

If you know of other great resources, especially sources of video, please add them in the comments.