What I want instead of Facebook’s OpenGraph

Facebook makes a great pitch, don’t they? One line of javascript. More user engagement. Viral distribution on the world’s largest social network. It’s compelling.

The downsides, though, are worth examining. Limited access to your visitors’ contact information means that converting visitors into repeat customers is not necessarily easy. Not all of your visitors use Facebook, and might want to connect profiles from other social networks or public profiles. Further, with Facebook positioned in the center of the exchange, what happens if Facebook suffers access problems? Facebook could become one of the largest single points of failure on the internet.

While their offering from this week’s F8 event are compelling – and I’ll likely add some of their tools to my sites – I want something else. A set of easily plugged-in tools not tied to any particular social net, but which can access any or all social nets – not unlike the OpenLike project, but bigger.

Continue reading “What I want instead of Facebook’s OpenGraph”

Short URL integration idea

“Newspapers who send offline readers to their site should use bit.ly links to monitor if the readers actual visit the site.”

An interesting idea from @cophotog: run shortened URLs, linking directly to the story, in print with most (all?) stories. This could provide an excellent tool for quantifying reader overlap and reader conversions. There are some challenges, though.

  • Even if we assume that shortened URLs all have short shelf lives, relying on a 3rd party shortening service, especially when most are still in startup mode in a bad economy, seems risky.
  • Making a short URL is one more step in an already complex production system
  • Print layouts are often completed before the story makes it to the web CMS, in which case there wouldn’t be a URL to shorten.

So is the data to be gained from such links worth the challenge? Perhaps. Done right, in the right production environment, this could be a powerful tool for gauging readership.

The first step is to eliminate the middle man by running your own short URL service. There appear to be plenty of scripts and CMS plugins popping up to add basic service to most sites so this shouldn’t be a major hurdle.

Picture 3

Once you have a working shortener, it will have to be integrated into the CMS. This would be easiest in shops with a modern, single CMS for web and print. Shops using legacy workflows where print comes before web production will not be able to make use of this. The model for this should be WordPress’ permalink field in the Edit Post screen. The CMS (possibly WordPress, even) should present the story’s final URL in both long and short formats to the author. These URLs would be stored with the story so they can be retrieved by the page layout application or middleware.

During print production, the layout software or middleware application should access the short URL field and allow the data to be placed on the page with the story’s other fields.

Finally, the shortened URLs need to be integrated with the site’s existing analytics package to ensure that the on-site behavior of short URL users is tracked separately from long URL users.

Magnatune music: we are not evil

Magnatune logo

I learned about a music label this week called Magnantune that lets anyone listen to their entire catalog before buying. You can listen to any track from any of their artists online. Granted, it’s a streaming file, rather than a straight download, but it’s a hell of a lot more than the other labels offer. Magnatune also has per-genre streaming radio stations for you internet radio junkies, as well as podcasts.

These guys really seem to get it: free streaming of all tracks, everything licensed under Creative Commons, free licenses for podcasters/videocasters, and all purchased albums are available to the buyer as unrestricted MP3 files with a license to share the music with up to three people. Oh, and the music is pretty good, too! Good stuff, guys.

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Washington State newspapers move to Knight Ridder

Big news today in news. This positions Knight Ridder to control most of Washington State’s daily newspapers once they complete their eventual takeover of the Seattle Times and it’s smaller dailies. I certainly wouldn’t want to be publisher of The News Tribune or the King County Journal right now.

When it’s time to change…

Regarding the LA Times, wikis, and the future of newspapers… Jeff Jarvis in today’s BuzzMachine:

“I’ve sat in meetings with newspaper editors who earnestly think that the best use of internet interactivity is to let the people talk about what they have written, to discuss them, to keep them in the spotlight they built for themselves. There is no bigger institutional ego than a newspaper’s. Presidents and popes get humbled more often than editors. Well, at least they used to.”

Jeff must be thinking about daily editors, because editors at small weeklies – for the most part – have no such delusions about themselves. Of course there may be some big fish/little pond stuff going on, but not nearly on the scale one would find at a large daily. That said, his point is still valid and the rest of the article is certainly worth your time.