Tag Archives: tools

Ben Franklin in a Box

Part of the Ben Franklin Project is to share the knowledge and experiences learned during the process and invite others to comment, critique and improve on the efforts.

To that end, the staff at The News-Herald (OH) prepared a step-by-step guide for some of their workflow ranging from ad tracking to billing which you can see here.



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Ben Franklin 2.0: Independence and the ideaLab

By John Paton

Our successful Ben Franklin Project ( http://bit.ly/apHRbA ) has shown the world that in an industry that can be bereft of good ideas that smart people with the willingness to take a risk can produce revolutionary results.

But like all successful revolutions we need to continue the journey. And like all successful revolutions we have a goal – independence.

On July 4th we will declare our independence.

We will declare our independence from the kind of thinking that has kept our company and industry from transforming to a multi-platform news company. And we will declare our independence from an industry that ties itself up with expensive proprietary I.T. systems and processes that are outdated almost the day they are installed.

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Video, photo and other tools still needed

Since the announcement of the Ben Franklin Project by Journal Register’s CEO John Paton, we have received some tremendous interest and some wonderful feedback spurred by those watching and those helping.

To date we’ve received suggestions of about 100 tools — free tools — we can use to carry out the digital first, print last transformation of Journal Register. Even with that list we’re still short. In some cases we have a tool in mind — using ShareThis is an obvious choice for content sharing — but we don’t want to overlook another option because we are choosing one we find familiar and/or comfortable.

JRC advisor Jeff Jarvis — who offered WordPress, Google Docs, and Flickr as editorial options when he blogged about the Ben Franklin Project — wrote:

… The rest of the process of publishing a newspaper is more complicated — at least to me, as I don’t know the tools. I’m not sure all that can be done with free tools but I’ll bet it can all be done in the cloud …

The beauty of this process is that it’s a collective effort to find the right tools. We’re not claiming  we have the right ones on our list — which we’ll post in the coming days after another round of feedback — we just want to make sure we do as much as we can to find the right ones.

That said, here are a number of the spots where we are still looking for strong feedback including:

  • Video editing — Journal Register bought the Flip cameras so the FlipShare software doesn’t make the “free” list. Other ideas?
  • Video streaming — Is YouTube our answer or are we better looking at Vimeo, Blip.tv or others?
  • Photo editing — Color correction, sizing, etc.
  • Accounting — Primarily ad placement, tracking and billing

We’ll continue with the crow-sourcing of story assignments on another day. Again, we have a few ideas but we’d like to hear how you think they’ll work.

As always, thanks for the help, the feedback and support.


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Comments from John Paton’s blog on The Ben Franklin Project

Sam Piroton Says:
April 13, 2010 at 9:16 pm | Reply

Here is another good link; topic “a google newsroom”. really worth reading; was written by Benoit Raphael, director of lepost.fr.


Thanks to my friend @davanac for the alert.

Toby Murdock Says:
April 13, 2010 at 6:20 pm | Reply

Great post! In particular I like what you had to say here:

How do we learn about the arguments in our community? How do we work with the people we used to call the audience and who are now participants in the collection and dissemination of news? What is our role here? Is it to add context and our expertise as journalists? And do we bring value to the community by creating a place for ideas and stories to be shared and discussed with a mixture of professional and amateur content? And always how do we do this when the deadline is right now?

Those indeed are the key questions. And I think that the answer is that much of the role media going forward will be guiding and filtering content that their community produces. It increases the depth of coverage while controlling your cost structure.

For example, I saw this article in one of your papers’ sites. It covered a high school sports game, and amounted to one sentence (understandable, given staff constraints). How much deeper do you think the coverage of that game could be–paragraphs, photos, quotes, even videos–if you opened up your sites to your community to contribute to and then empowered your editorial team to manage and curate those contributions? It is the winning “crowdsourced” formula that so many sites are succeeding with: SeekingAlpha, BleacherReport, GDGT, AllVoices, etc.

One thing about all of those sites, however: none were done on WordPress, because WordPress is meant for one, or at most a dozen, contributors. But true crowdsourced sites have hundreds or more in their communities contributing. So all the crowdsourced pioneers listed above had to build their own systems to be able to manage such a community.

That’s where we come in: Grogger is a platform for grogs (“group blogs”) that are specifically meant for crowdsourced publishing. Our platform is free to use (though there are modest charges for advanced features, just like WordPress) and would be a great fit for your project.

Would be eager to help out on the project. Let us know!

nona breaux Says:
April 13, 2010 at 5:45 pm | Reply

I think The Reporter is always up for a challenge. We have a small staff, like everyone else, but we’ve been doing great at video, live streaming from a few events with the netbook, Web first, tweeting, facebook, etc. So, chosen or not, we’d like to be part of this experiment in some way.

Vince Carey Says:
April 13, 2010 at 2:48 am | Reply

This is one of the more interesting ideas out forth. I would like to hear more on how it would work time wise and how we would use the web to enhance the coverage

Andy Hachadorian Says:
April 12, 2010 at 10:26 pm | Reply

After thinking about this during the course of the day, and reading and re-reading your e-mail, I believe it’s worth a try. (I suppose I should have talked to Frank or Ed first, but what the heck…) I believe I understand your goals here and I think with people like Karl here as well as working with the corporate team, it probably could be accomplished. I think it’s one of those things we sit around scratching our heads saying, “Heck, I dunno. We’ve never tried that before…”

In terms of quality journalism, I believe the Daily Local does that. We are fortunate to have a staff of very smart kids. My bosses always told me to “hire staff that’s smarter than you. They’ll make you look good.” So that’s what we’ve done. We have the Dave Zeitlins, the Danielle Lynches, the Tom Kellys and others and they’ve rewarded the newspaper with lots of honors from their journalism peers. I’d put my staff up to anyone’s. I do believe, though, that if we reconstructed the newsroom and the way we do things, they could do even better work. I still think they are burdened with a lot of crap stuff which I am still working on how to solve. It’s not an easy problem to solve although I’m guessing our Community Journalists play a part in that solution. Not to mention the model of do what you do best and link to the rest. I see a day not too far away when the paid reporters work in tandem with the CJ staff. And we have meetings with the public and as a huge team, we all push the news out together. It’s still a little fuzzy, but that’s how I see it. Maybe we should get a group of editors together and spend a day or two sketching out the newsroom of the future – although the future is now…Whaddya think?

Sam Piroton Says:
April 12, 2010 at 8:51 pm | Reply

Very interesting post again! Let me bring my 2 cents. A similar operation was set up a few weeks ago by 5 public-run media, here, in Europe. it was called “huis clos sur le net”. Goal was to isolate 5 journos, with Twitter and fbook as only news source. No tv, no radio, no smartphone, no newspaper. They had to figure out how to use twitter/FB, see if it was reliable, control-able, how to check facts and so on… The 5 journos were all social media newbies.

For those who understand french, their blog:

More links:




The experiment was controversial, because biased. 5 newbies, so not really used to the tool. Neither can yu imagine having twitter ON, and not being able to listen to radio or TV. And because it was heavily advertised, false news/rumors started circulating…

So, im curious to see how your test will develop. But i’d say, if you want it to be efficient, really interesting, don t start from scratch. First, build a good following/follower ratio; well trained people.

My 2 cents…

Jeff Johns Says:
April 12, 2010 at 5:52 pm | Reply

Here are some suggested tools:

Ad Creation: http://bannersnack.com

Photo Processing / In-Print Ads: https://www.photoshop.com – OR – http://aviary.com/

Online Publishing: http://wordpress.org (download and run on any site for free) – If set up properly you could use this as your entire publishing system and reverse publish to print. Have everyone type out articles in WordPress, edit, update, edit, update, live online and then export articles under category of ‘print’ each night. Workflow would have to be worked out but it could work.

Just some suggestions off the top of my head.

Tom Valentino Says:
April 12, 2010 at 5:48 pm | Reply

I, too, am very intrigued by the possibilities of The Ben Franklin Project and would love for The News-Herald to be chosen for it. With the talents of our staff, I think we can really get something amazing out of this.

John Bertosa Says:
April 12, 2010 at 5:36 pm | Reply

I just want to second what Tricia Ambrose said about Project Ben Franklin. I know the other reporters and editors here at The News-Herald would enjoy the remarkable challenge.

Tatiana Burdiak Says:
April 12, 2010 at 5:35 pm | Reply

I came across this article today and thought it related to your proposed question. It is about how journalists are using social media in their day-to-day work and the instant powerful connection between the writer and the reader. Thought I would share.


Laura Kessel Says:
April 12, 2010 at 5:26 pm | Reply

We at The News-Herald are eager to take on this project. It’s bold and forward-thinking, and we look forward to telling our stories and reaching out to our coverage area — and beyond — using these new tools.

As the methods of delivery of news change around us, we need to keep up, and through this effort, can prove to ourselves and our readers that we’re going to be here and providing the journalism they’ve expected from us for 130 years … just from a different portal.

Tricia Ambrose Says:
April 12, 2010 at 2:17 pm | Reply

How exciting!

The News-Herald would love to be the site of Project Ben Franklin.

We have a newsroom full of journalists excited by the possibilities offered by today’s technology and are eager to serve our communities in new ways.

Morris Hagerman Says:
April 12, 2010 at 10:29 am | Reply

I am not sure I can speak for the Oakland Press, but would love to see it here. We have more on line readers than print. I think this might push us in the right direction and serve a community that wants it.

Carol Sauve Says:
April 12, 2010 at 2:38 am | Reply

We are a weekly but I think the Ann Arbor Journal should be your beta. The A2 Journal is less than a year old and has a community that will be highly involved with this process. Heritage gets the job done with short editorial and advertising staff, so I believe the whole team would look at this as a blessing. Please give us your consideration as a viable choice.

Patti Paul Says:
April 11, 2010 at 2:44 pm | Reply


I’ll volunteer to help in any way that I can. It would be cool to work with Bruce & Jon on a project. Our newsrooms are weeklies, probably not the target you’re looking for, but what do I know. We’re still trying to get people to discuss what we post. We do have heart though.

Jack Kramer Says:
April 11, 2010 at 1:32 pm | Reply

Ditto – New Haven volunteers..

Phil Heron Says:
April 11, 2010 at 11:28 am | Reply

Consider us your first volunteer. I find myself working more and more online most days. We are up to our neck in Twitter, Facebook and constantly updating the site, so I say let’s give it a shot. I’ll convince those staff members not on board to jump in.

By the way, remember the story of the girls who committed suicide on the train tracks?

Today we have one of the stories I most wanted to get, an interview with the third girl who was there that day but backed away from the tracks at the last minute. She tells, fairly starkly and in her own words, what happened that morning.

My guess is we’re going to get some serious blowback from those in the community who believe we already have sensationalized the story, but I still think it’s a story that needed to be told. It’s the lead on our site this morning, with video.

The girl herself did not want to be on video or have her picture taken, but she gave us a shot of herself.

I’d love to know what Jim Willse thinks of it.

Philip E. Heron
Delaware County Daily and Sunday Times
Phone: 610-622-8818

Aaron Nobel Says:
April 11, 2010 at 8:03 am | Reply

We volunteer.

Jemimah Knight Says:
April 11, 2010 at 12:53 am | Reply

This looks a fascinating approach to follow. Nice attention to content. Do you think it will help the publications economically?

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What they’re saying on Buzzmachine

What Jeff Jarvis’ readers are saying about The Ben Franklin Project

  1. Great article. Step by step we’re starting to piece together the ‘new’ newspaper. This model reminds me of the middle-eastern online news organisation Elaph that has an incredibly inventive production structure, which began as a counter to regional censorship, and ended up with a truly international shape and extremely low overheads.

    One note, business tracking and payroll etc can be handled by Replicon (I’ve no affiliation to it, just a regular user) which keeps everything in professional order without ever touching paper.

  2. JRC employee says:

    It is obvious Mr. Jarvis has not been to a JRC newspaper to see for himself the conditions JRC employees must work under. Our computers our 13 years old while we are operating on an obsolete system (when was the last time you put out a paper using Windows 98). Before you tell JRC not to by new equipment, go take a look at the challenge facing the employees every day working with these antiquated machines.

  3. Matthew Terenzio says:

    This is one of the most brilliant ideas I’ve seen from a newspaper company in over a decade.

    It’s definitely going to be a challenge to change the culture at any company but the fact that Paton understands what cultural changes need to be made is a huge, huge step in the right direction.

    I’ve also worked with some of the web developers they currently have and I’m telling everyone to watch this company.

  4. Shawn Petriw says:

    “WordPress, Google Docs, and Flickr”

    Great use for that iPad you returned, Jeff.

  5. Marc Matteo says:

    I’m curious, wouldn’t it make more sense to have professional photographers shoot the pictures and then simply crowdsource the text? This way a quality visual site can be developed (and print product created) while readers can compete to see who has the most interesting text… like a game!

    Perhaps the Demand Media algorithms can be licensed… then even fewer editors would be necessary.

    It sounds fun!

  6. Orlando says:

    I’m a science teacher and I think this type of method would be awesome for allowing people like myself (non-journalist) to be able to add to the publishing process. This would be awesome if a publication tried this model out. The news that would get reported would be what the people want not what the media wants us to have. Interesting insight.

  7. Sounds interesting and fun. My concern is how to pull it off time wise. Still, any way to change the culture and infuse new ideas should be jumped on by all those in the publishing industry

  8. Inky wretch says:

    I was working in the online unit of a major weekly newsmagazine and, all of five years ago, pushed as hard as I could to have the web-first/paper-later approach adopted. Well, at presentation after presentation, everyone nodded, acknowledged that the times were changing and muttered vapid truisms about the need to be “agents of change” or “embrace tech” or, well, you get the idea.

    The end result, and I know it was replicated at many other publications, was that the ink-and-paper diehards decided that they had better control the Web operation. Back-stabbing and knifings became the order of the day as the magazine’s editors made their plays for control of the web’s daily operations and the right to shape the direction they wanted it to head.

    In some respects these people were actually quite smart. They realized the web was the future and that their careers depended on hitching a ride. The flaw in their thinking was that it did not go far enough. Without exception the inky wretches insisted on attempting to make the web operation a new variant of their tired, old mag.

    They thought in terms of traffic — ie., that it was the online equivalent of circulation, and they boosted those figures with sleight of hand slideshows and the most cynical use of SEO. Google the terms “nike” + “big butt” and you will find an entry that was held up to all producers as an example of what the new, online journalism was all about. The fact that we were pulling volumes of porn surfers worried nobody in a position of power; indeed, the mag editor kept issuing officewide hero-grams about the stellar traffic gains our site was making.

    The result was disaster. As the mag’s circulation descended a Himalayan gradient, the web operation lost its core audience, which was replaced by blow-in surfers who arrived via Yahoo and AOL to look at the latest “wealth porn” slideshow. Meanwhile the bosses were heading up to the executive floor, where they buried the CEO etc with buzzwords and BS. Sure, they talked “engagement” and “reader conversations” and “online community”, but what they really meant was nothing more nor less than the old, arrogant business model: We decide what you read and what you talk about.

    The magazine has since been sold for a knock-down price and, even in the care of its new deep-pockets owner, its future is moot.

    This journalism thing of ours will survive and prosper as the new business models and editorial regimes kick in. That said, it breaks your heart to see the missteps along the way.

  9. […] Cross posted at Buzzmachine.com […]

  10. Sriyansa says:

    Great post!

    In fact because the content has been vetted by the market, 2 things can happen:

    a) it is interesting enough that people will pay for it (or someone who has contributed to the process will make them pay for it)

    b) publisher knows the target readership in great detail – hence higher ad rates

    Additionally, this is not something that will take a ton of time to take off. The key though will be in managing the community expectations.

  11. Sean Upton says:

    Even though print is second, it has to happen, so: while we are on the “no strings to old technology” theme (and reinvisioning front-ends for CMS), how about ditching expensive pagination and Adobe’s print tools and trying to use open-source DTP for layout. Scribus is just as easy to use as InDesign, has professionally suitable PDF output, and can be scripted with a bit of Python to glue to web tools like wordpress using XML-RPC. Inkscape works well for illustration, and gimp is (well, just) okay.

  12. Patrizia says:

    The taking of photos can become competitive: a reader says “I can beat that.” ”

    That also can make the newspaper ( at this point we should find something else to call it) always changing.
    The news begins with the first photos and then we get better and better…
    This IS globalization.
    A newspaper written in the cloud, things which are accessible from China to Europe to America…and of course the Internet plays the part of the King.

    How could we call it?

    iNews, or weNews, or cloudNews, broadbandnews, WDFnews
    Write, read now and never pay? Be part of the news?

    This is a big step in the future of news, may be the only possible bail out for newspaper.
    Remember? Everything has to change, so that everything is always the same…
    This is the Internet generation, the end to end network.
    Not a centralized power or centralized news, but an end to end news…

    Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn’t.

  13. Waldo says:

    A couple of things I’d disagree with in what is an otherwise okay post:

    In my experience, reporters certainly don’t worry about the H&Js. If they did it would make the lives of sub-editors much easier. Most reporters will give you War and Peace if you let them.

    Don’t fall into the trap of thinking because online is “unlimited” there’s no word limit and no need for editing. A long, badly composed ramble that never gets to the point (a bit like this response) is a disservice to your time-poor readers.

    And while the idea of asking your readers what you should work on is all warm and fuzzy in a kumbaya kind of way, I can only see it working on non-trivial stories. Asking “the gang” what they know about the local mayor’s use of a slush fund to finance his habit for working girls might not be the best move.

    Still, the digital first, print (or mobile app) second mantra is one I think would work for a lot of publications.

    • Andy Freeman says:

      > Asking “the gang” what they know about the local mayor’s use of a slush fund to finance his habit for working girls might not be the best move.

      Why not? (If you think that you’re in danger until you go public, going public earlier protects you earlier.)

  14. robin says:

    sounds like mr. paton is trying to replicate this experiment:


    apparently the code for this has been open-sourced, maybe jrc has the coding chops to pick it up as one tool would be easier to manage as several different organizations implement this vision.

    best of luck to them!

  15. Nick says:

    By starting the digital process first, and posting stories online immediately, the print editors/designers can use the pageviews and comments as a gauge on which articles are most read, and therefore, which ones may be most likely to be read in the print version.

    Basically, if an article isn’t read or commented on, it may not be needed or doesn’t justify print publishing. Sort of like American Idol for news.

  16. James says:

    “The taking of photos can become competitive: a reader says ‘I can beat that.’”

    The same thing can be said of a blog vs a newspaper.

    You can’t be so dismissive of the importance of professional photographers in news media while at the same time trying to justify the need for newspapers, journalists, and editors versus bloggers.

    Bloggers are to newspaper journalists what Flickr Creative Commons is to photojournalists.

  17. Tom says:

    These are great observations, Jeff.

    Not only would this save a news organization money of production costs, it would also probably allow more resources to be put toward news gathering, which would also benefit the consumer.

  18. Credibility is hard to earn and easy to lose, and it’s something that must be considered in a model like this.

    Go to any NYTimes article online and read through some of the hundreds of comments – everything from “Obama’s a Kenyan, Muslim socialist” to “those damn [Republicans | Democrats] are destroying America.” I certainly wouldn’t want to be a reporter chasing stories based on input from that crowd.

    Tell me how to weed out the actual contributors from the scandal-gawkers, conspiracy-lovers and attention-seekers, and then I’ll believe that the entire newspaper can be run in the cloud. Otherwise, you need a base of primary-source reporters with the tools, assets, and access to do investigative reporting to kick the process off. Once the information is out there, the cloud can enrich it (as it’s proven time & time again…)

  19. […] News(paper) in the cloud « BuzzMachine (tags: news newspapers cloud press publishing future content print) […]

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Pulling content from other sources

From Ivan Lajara

Without mentioning the obvious (FB, Twitter, flips, cojones):

* Crimereports.com, if your community is in it.
* SeeClickFix.com, otherwise (the ones that can be published).
* http://twitpic.com/, for live photo-reporting with smartphones.
* Coveritlive.com for live chats (transcript can be published later, and Twitter feeds can be imported to integrate them with Twitpic.
* UStream.com for live video coverage. You’d need a laptop with a camera or an iPhone. I haven’t been able to find one for the Blackberry 😡

What am I missing?


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Pulling a post from Paton

If you haven’t seen John Paton’s latest blog post, we’re going to be having some fun in the next 30 days.

What tools should we added to the tool shed?

Here’s a quick excerpt if you haven’t given it a full read:

The Ben Franklin Project: A Bold New Experiment … In the next 30 days, we are going to attempt to produce one single edition of one of our newspapers using only tools available for free on the web. Using social media and other digital tools available to us we will crowd source the news assignments, creation, editing and publishing of content. And we will do all of this in real-time with constant updates to that newspaper’s website … We’re looking for volunteers. Will it be your newsroom?

Aside from looking for volunteers to participate in the “BFP” … we’re also looking for tools.

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