Category Archives: Media

Open-access scientific publishing is gaining ground

The Economist has an update on the gathering momentum of Open Access:

AT THE beginning of April, Research Councils UK, a conduit through which the government transmits taxpayers’ money to academic researchers, changed the rules on how the results of studies it pays for are made public. From now on they will have to be published in journals that make them available free—preferably immediately, but certainly within a year.

In February the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy told federal agencies to make similar plans. A week before that, a bill which would require free access to government-financed research after six months had begun to wend its way through Congress. The European Union is moving in the same direction. So are charities. And SCOAP3, a consortium of particle-physics laboratories, libraries and funding agencies, is pressing all 12 of the field’s leading journals to make the 7,000 articles they publish each year free to read. For scientific publishers, it seems, the party may soon be over.

It has, they would have to admit, been a good bash. The current enterprise—selling the results of other people’s work, submitted free of charge and vetted for nothing by third parties in a process called peer review, has been immensely profitable. Elsevier, a Dutch firm that is the world’s biggest journal publisher, had a margin last year of 38% (…)


Avoid News:‘You’d be better off cleaning your gutters’

Obviously I agree with Ben:

Farhad Manjoo writing for Slate about the useless practice of following breaking news, has this point about what happens if you just catch up with one in-depth article the following day:

And that’s it: You’ve now caught up with all your friends who spent the past day and a half going out of their minds following cable and Twitter. In fact, you’re now better informed than they are, because during your self-imposed exile from the news, you didn’t stumble into the many cul-de-sacs and dark alleys of misinformation that consumed their lives. You’re less frazzled, better rested, and your rain gutters are clear.

There’s a growing sentiment that I am starting to see among news junkies that perhaps it is time to pull back. To not following the news so closely. Instead, follow well-sourced, well-reported news — investigative journalism.


More reasons to Avoid News.


Filter Bubbles Versus Viral Memes: Why We Have More Common Ground than Ever Before

Adam Gurri writing for The Ümlaut :  Adam argues that the meme of The Filter Bubble doesn’t square with his experience (i.e., theories of Internet echo chambers). We don’t square with the “filter bubble” either. Adam closes with this:

(…) I don’t care about most of the stories that go viral, and I would prefer to ignore them entirely. It used to be that random extreme events—unrepresentative of the larger reality—would dominate the news cycle. Now, they also dominate online conversations.

Although I take great pains to avoid the story of the moment, in the end there’s only so much I can do while choosing to remain online. And the benefits of using the Internet are worth the costs, even if I do have to tolerate a lot of pointless common ground.

I have no interest in the daily news cycle, unless it involves alien invasion, or an impending asteroid strike on our part of the ocean. But our selection of Twitter and RSS feeds doesn’t follow the pattern Adam experiences – being mostly academics and scientists, they are too diverse to “harmonize” or jabber on some topical TV news theme. OTOH, the diversity means that we are likely to see signals if there is something developing that we would want to know about – e.g., a repricing of Spanish debt.

Bill Gurley: Favorite Longreads of 2012

Benchmark Capital general partner Bill Gurley wrote “Longreads+Instapaper is basically ‘time-shifting’ for the written word. I am an addict.” For us, Longreads and Instapaper are essential tools in our quest for high signal – low noise. Together they are especially powerful. The “best Longreads of 2012” adds savvy selections by guest authors, where you will be served many hours of delight – whatever your tastes.

Bill Gurley has contributed his own favorite long reads, beginning with this introduction:

Over the past several years, I have become a huge fan of Mark Armstrong’s web service, Longreads. For those of you that don’t know, Longreads is a Twitter handle (@longreads), and a web service ( that points to the best long form content on the Internet. At its core, it’s an amazingly effective editorial and discovery engine. Combined with a product like Instapaper, it creates an online/offline reading experience that feels purpose built for a tablet world. Many short form articles can be read quickly while you browse through your Twitter feed. But the really great articles that make you think and help you learn (the ones that use Daniel Kahneman’s System 2), require more dedicated reading time. Longreads+Instapaper is basically ‘time-shifting’ for the written word. I am an addict.

Several others have posted their favorite longreads of the year (you can find them here).  Unfortunately, I did not keep track as much as I should have. Next year I aim to do better. With that caveat, here are a few of my favorite long-form articles from last year.

I almost always appreciate Bill Gurley’s recommendations, so not surprisingly I found three of Bill’s choices on the podium for our best-of-the-best:

Why the Clean Tech Boom Went Bust, by Juliet Eilperin (Wired Magazine)

Ambition, passion, intelligence, and a boat-load of money can only take you so far. You still need physics and economics on your side. Wired Magazine often surprises with a contrarian viewpoint, and in this case published an article everyone else was afraid to write. If you want your venture to succeed, it must succeed as a business – eventually.

Is Sugar Toxic, by Gary Taubes (New York Times Magazine)

Technically, this article was published in 2011, but that should not stop it from being further distributed. Gary Taubes, as well as others, have uncovered the real cause of America’s obesity. Michael Bloomberg may look silly trying to outlaw mega-sodas, but at the very least he is calling attention to the proper villain. This is an amazing lesson in how everyone can get it wrong and wrong for decades – the scientists, the government, and the doctors

Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek by John Branch (New York Times Magazine)

This is perhaps the most interesting longread of the year. The subject matter is backcountry skiing, but that has little to do with Branch’s phenomenal achievement. The concept of computer generated ‘multi-media’ dates back to the early 1990’s, which is the first time we could imagine text, pictures, audio, and video all combined in a single content offering. However, most efforts over the past 20 years appear to be a technology looking for a solution – there is no flow. Snow Fall may be seminal accomplishment in multimedia where the insertion of each media type builds upon the story in a remarkably compelling way. I wouldn’t be surprised if this article takes on historical journalistic importance. Bonus: Q&A with the author.

Your comments on your own favorites will help us prioritize what to read next. Enjoy!

Kevin J. Delaney: Look beyond news for mobile innovation

Kevin J. Delaney is editor-in-chief of Quartz, the global business news site launched in September by Atlantic Media. He was previously managing editor of The Wall Street Journal Online. This essay is part of Predictions for Journalism 2013: A Nieman Lab Series.


(…) Mobile news will start growing up
The list of breakthrough interfaces for reading news on smartphones is a short one. Instapaper is arguably the pioneer in this area, with its focus on a simple reading experience. Vox Media’s SB Nation iPhone app cleverly grouped news updates about the same topic (Vox tweaked that design in its current web app approach.) But many mobile news apps and sites are little more than re-skinned RSS readers, and surprisingly few publishers even bother to format their email newsletters for easy reading on iPhones and BlackBerries. When we were creating Quartz earlier this year, we needed to look for inspiration to non-news applications, such as the Clear to-do list app — it’s hard to find boldness and creativity in the news industry’s smartphone products.

(…) Clearly, more publishers will reconsider their native app focus in 2013 in favor of HTML5.

(…) Gawker Media’s Nick Denton is among those who have made admirable efforts to improve commenting, and Nick has rightly proclaimed that comments on their own can represent as high-quality content as any article. But most of the best discussion takes place off publishers’ sites, on Twitter, Facebook and in private emails. This is a reality that won’t be fully addressed in 2013, if ever.

He Said, She Said, and the Truth

Margaret Sullivan, the NYT public editor, struggles with the US journalism tradition of “balanced reportage”. See what you think: 

(…) false balance is the journalistic practice of giving equal weight to both sides of a story, regardless of an established truth on one side. And many people are fed up with it. They don’t want to hear lies or half-truths given credence on one side, and shot down on the other. They want some real answers.

“Recently, there’s been pressure to be more aggressive on fact-checking and truth-squading,” said Richard Stevenson, The Times’s political editor. “It’s one of the most positive trends in journalism that I can remember.”

It’s all a part of a movement — brought about, in part, by a more demanding public, fueled by media critics, bloggers and denizens of the social media world — to present the truth, not just conflicting arguments leading to confusion.

There must be a pony in there somewhere!

(…) Next the psychiatrist treated the optimist. Trying to dampen his out look, the psychiatrist took him to a room piled to the ceiling with horse manure. But instead of wrinkling his nose in disgust, the optimist emitted just the yelp of delight the psychiatrist had been hoping to hear from his brother, the pessimist. Then he clambered to the top of the pile, dropped to his knees, and began gleefully digging out scoop after scoop with his bare hands. “What do you think you’re doing?” the psychiatrist asked, just as baffled by the optimist as he had been by the pessimist. “With all this manure,” the little boy replied, beaming, “there must be a pony in here somewhere”

Thanks to Herding Cats!


The DRM free movement for eBooks expands

Joshua Gans notes that the JK Rowling initiative is gathering momentum. Now publisher TOR is going DRM free. Prof. Gans sees the revolution in music proves that DRM free works for the content owners as well as consumers:

The same thing happened in music. DRM was the thing that got music publishers interested in digital downloads (like iTunes) and then something we couldn’t have predicted in 2003 happened; DRM was abandoned and nobody really noticed. What is more DRM was abandoned with a coincidental 30% (!) price increase to consumers as compensation for the extra value provided by portability. My feeling (based on no real evidence) is that overall the consumers won out of that deal (they are paying a little more to save on paying lots more later). It will be interesting to see how TOR’s pricing changes as it goes DRM free.

Read the whole thing »