Books read in February 2013

The Signal and the Noise The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver. I had high hopes for this book hoping for some of that jaw-dropping insight from earlier books such as Freakonomics and Moneyball, but it didn’t meet my expectations. I still recommend the book, especially if you haven’t read these earlier books. Goods books that give us greater insight into how we let our selves be fooled, helps us separate the signal from the noise, and increase our skepticism is worth picking up. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman is another alternative, but it is a denser book than the other three titles.

The Sins of the Fathers by Lawrence Block. I’ve ready many of Block’s books. They’re enjoyable and meet “the job I hired them to do” (borrowing from a concept in Christen’s book How will you mearsure you life. I can read the book when I have a few minutes spread over long periods of time and can quickly pick back up the thread of the story. They’re also interesting to imagine how a person like Matthew Scudder can spend so much of his life drinking booze, coffee and sometimes both.

The power of a passionate journalist

Hunting for Fashion’s Copycats, in Thursday’s Wall Street Journa is about how a part-time blogger on fashion led to the withdrawal by Channel of a bracelet that was a close copy of bracelet designed by Pamela Love in 2011.

The_fashion_law

For me, the story was the power of a publishing platform, an egnaged audience, the reward of journalism and the challenge mainstream media will always face if it trys to compete, rather than cooperate against non-mainstream.

Call them fans, amateurs, part-timers, free-lancers, bloggers, whatever — it’s people who are extrememly passionate about topics.It’s a large and visible group in sports, tech, music, books, fashion. It’s a smaller, but no less passionate group in stamp collecting, woodworkng, antique cars, etc.

Mainstream news organizations need to embrace and cultivate the passionate as readers, sourcess, conributors, partners. It’s not a natural role for newsrooms and there will be many lessons learned along the way.

 

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Reflections of a military dad

WSJ: While My Son Serves

Partying at a raucous sendoff. Waking up worried at 3 a.m. Getting a welcome phone call from the Iraqi desert. The families of deployed soldiers live in a world of their own, says Dave Shiflett.

 

I’m reading more about military parents as our son expresses his interests after high school.

 

He certainly chose an unusual path: Fewer than 1% of Americans wear the uniform these days. That, in turn, puts families of deployed soldiers in something of a world of their own.

 

Shiflett’s comments about listening cable news and dealing with folks back home were bonuses of the article. Also David Shiflett’s web site

How people find news — PEJ study

Using data for top news sites, Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism presents a sobering view for news sites of obtaining and retaining customers.

Journalists don’t think of their readers as customers, but there is competition for time. Reading news, watching a video or commenting on a news items is time. Users measure that use of their time with other things which could include watching popular YouTube video, playing a game, doing work or going to the bathroom.

Highlights of Where people Go, How They Get There and What Lures Them Away

8 sites with the most power usersCasual users dominate news sites. Even in the busiest news sites, less than 15 percent visit the site less than once a month. Anything below once a month is considered a casual user. The small percentage of people visiting more than once a month should sober journalists and news publishers. With so many few regular users, it’s logical that the average time on the site is less than 5 minutes.

The source of traffic to news sites. Facebook, Google, Drudge and Twitter are the primary sources. The top news sites received about 40% of their traffic from outside referrals.

The definition of “outside referrals” needs better attention. Many news organizations view referring traffic from Google or Bing as a different engagement from a link from Facebook or Twitter. Links from Facebook or Twitter are considered more important because they more often come from a more trusted network of friends or people being followed than search from Google, which would include Google Search or Google News. Many Google or search readers are considered “one and done”.

PEJ: Google Drives Most Users and Facebook Is Becoming Increasingly Important. On both pages graphs show the portion of traffic to the top 25 sites from these Google and Facebook.

The PEJ data doesn’t given any greater weight from a recommended link than an unrecommended link.  But if I’m having CNN.com stories in my Twitter feed or on my Facebook page, I’m more engaged with that site, than searching for something and then choosing the CNN.com link.

Traffic goals for other news sites. The top news sites typically receive between 60 percent and 80 percent from direct traffic, which means users typing in a URL, clicking an email or some other way of going direct to a web site. The remain is traffic from links. Again there’s a debatable issue between the source of the link.

graph on how people get to news sites

The importance of the homepage. The range for the top 25 varied from 79 percent for Reuters to 7 percent for Topix.com, but it was the most-viewed page for all but four sites.

Demographics of top news sites. Most advertisers and marketers should like demographics: well-educated, better than average income. Interesting that women outnumber men on general news sites, by a greater percentage than the overall population.

Little impact of ads. The audience may be desirable, but the audience don’t like ads.

Not a single consumer product site appears in the mix of destination pages for these news sites.  That means that in no case did five people click on the same ad on a news site in the months studied.

The article is creating a lot of cross talk, such as the study’s shortcoming, and it’s reliance on incomplete Nielsen data. One interesting part of the study is how difficult it is to measure a site’s audience. Even using industry standard tools such as Omnitue, Nielsen, or Compete, there are assumptions about users that make tracking difficult — such as one user who visits a web site through multiple computers or browsers a day.