The front page of the Internet — or at least some people’s Internet — now officially has a publication to call its own. Today Reddit launched Upvoted, a site with stories sourced from the online community and written by a small team of editors.
Upvoted, the website, follows on the launch of some earlier editorial experiments from Reddit this year, including Upvoted the podcast, and Upvoted Weekly, an email newsletter, both designed to showcase some of the best material working its way across Reddit.
The website was only the next editorial evolution for Reddit, writes Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian:
This launch of upvoted.com is the next logical step in celebrating the Reddit community: a hub for original content to give Redditors credit, as well as go beyond the original story to learn more about the people and ideas that bubble up across this site of 202 million monthly users (bigger than Brazil!). And of course, you can discuss every piece of original content at r/upvoted.
Upvoted, the website, has been in works for some time, as Reddit, like a number of tech-focused companies this year, began hiring editors.
The shift into producing content comes after a tumultuous summer for Reddit: In July, users shut down a number of subreddits after Reddit’s director of talent, Victoria Taylor, was unceremoniously let go. Shortly after that, CEO Ellen Pao resigned and cofounder Steve Huffman took the top job, soon laying out plans to ban harassment on the site.
Upvoted is both a fresh start for Reddit and a nod to the diehards. As an independent website, Upvoted will likely be easier to navigate for the uninitiated than diving into sometimes confusing maze of subreddits. But the stories themselves will come from the Reddit community itself, with posters getting credit for discoveries or being interviewed by Upvoted staff. Interestingly enough, the site won’t have comments, instead directing readers to take their discussion back to Reddit.
Upvoted is also a way for Reddit’s community to capture some of the success from viral stories that have migrated onto other sites. In recent years, Reddit users have frequently accused individual writers and news sites of plagiarizing their discoveries.
As Julia Greenburg writes at Wired, Upvoted presents an opportunity for Reddit to grow its community and potentially collect new advertising revenue:
“The stuff our community creates on a daily basis blows our mind,” Upvoted’s team said in an email. “Unfortunately, rather than telling that story, some news outlets take our users’ content and repackage it as their own. They don’t tell the backstory of our communities. We think our users’ stories need to be told, but with them at the center of it.” That’s exactly what Upvoted sets out to do. It also shows that Reddit is anxious to keep the eyeballs — and ad dollars — that go to other news organizations closer to home.
The Addis Ababa court that is trying the four members of the Zone 9 blogging collective who are still detained is due to issue a verdict when the 37th hearing in their trial is held on 8 October. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for their acquittal and immediate release.
Arrested in April 2014 under the 2009 anti-terrorism law, Atnaf Berhane, Befekadu Hailu, Abel Wabella and Natnail Feleke are facing the possibility of 10 to 15 years in prison on charges of “working with foreign organizations claiming to defend human rights” and “receiving funding in order to incite the public to violence via social media.”
The two other members of the collective and three journalists who were arrested at the same time and on the same grounds were released in July after the justice ministry decided to drop the charges against them without further legal justification.
While it welcomed their release at the time, the withdrawal of charges ordered by the justice ministry could be challenged in future before the courts, according to observers.
RSF therefore calls for a not-guilty verdict that would prevent any future prosecution of the bloggers on similar grounds. Since the release of two of the Zone 9 bloggers in July, the prosecutor has not presented any new evidence against the four still held.
“We urge the court and the authorities to be fair and open with the Zone 9 bloggers,” said Clea Kahn-Sriber, the head of the Reporters Without Borders Africa desk. “If there is no solid evidence against them, they should be freed at once and they should be acquitted so that there is no danger of any subsequent prosecution for the same facts.”
Zone 9 calls itself as “an informal group of young Ethiopian bloggers working together to create an alternative independent narration of the socio-political conditions in Ethiopia.”
The collective's name alludes to the eight detention zones in Addis Ababa's notorious Kality prison (where human rights defenders and journalists are held).
The blog was blocked by the authorities within Ethiopia soon after its creation in 2012 but remained accessible abroad and the group continued to post information and comments on social networks. Because of constant harassment by the authorities, they suspended activity seven months before their arrests, which occurred immediately after they announced that they were going to resume blogging.
There has been a dramatic decline in the number of media outlets in Ethiopia, which is ranked 142nd out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.
Many reporters and editors with privately-owned print media fled the country in 2014 after being threatened by the authorities. Prosecutions of journalists under the 2009 anti-terrorism law. which provides for long jail terms, have been almost systematic.
Welcome to Hot Pod, a newsletter about podcasts. This is Issue Forty-Three, published October 6, 2015.
So it looks like I’m back after a week off, and it seems I’m a little rusty with the Oxford comma. On the bright side, I barely use punctuation anyway, and besides, I can’t believe you’re reading this and I’m just happy you’re here.
“I always get kind of confused by the talk of how podcasts don’t have good data.” So says Roman Mars, steward of the great 99% Invisible and Radiotopia, on this week’s episode of Big Venture Capital Firm Andreessen Horowitz’s a16z podcast, which discusses the surge we’re currently seeing in podcasts. Mars’ point, which is well taken, is that podcast measurements via downloads are way better and significantly more precise than broadcast radio measurements and that, besides, the metrics we use to conduct transactions with advertisers come from a kind of shared fiction (a “lie”) anyway. Metrics, much like gender and time and the basis of life in liberal arts colleges, are a social construct.
Broadly, I absolutely agree with these points. And I suspect (though I have no way to prove this, so let’s just call this a strawman right out of the gate) that this perspective comes from a very legitimate skepticism (or perhaps fear) that our various pursuits to generate better, more granular data reporting on the way people listen to audio on the Internet are ill informed. It’s very possible that we would open the black box only to realize that most people don’t actually listen past the 10th minute for most shows — much like how most people don’t actually scroll past the first two paragraphs of meaty investigative long-form pieces, you know, the kind that takes down presidents and wins Pulitzers and gets synecdoched — and we consequently lose whatever clout, bargaining chip, or basis of reasoning in our dealings with the advertising community.
And I also suspect, with no proof yet again, that the bulk of us are ill prepared to rapidly rebuild that collective fiction to a workable place once it’s broken. If that’s the case, it must explain why it feels like everybody is squeezing as much juice as they can out of their oranges before the frost. (Holy crap, what a pretentious metaphor.) Many businesses, both good and not-so-good-but-still-businesses, have been built on the rudimentary metrics that podcasting as a medium has been able to provide so far. Much of that building must have taken a lot of hard, hard work, the kind of labor that I simply can’t begin to understand. It’s hard to truly understand the entrepreneur — particularly, the creative entrepreneur — unless you do it yourself, and so it’s hard to know the true emotional impact of such, er, disruption.
But on a conceptual level, I still believe that increasing the knowability of podcast consumption is an essential and worthwhile pursuit. Maybe it’s a function of my youth, arrogance, and/or relative lack of structural power in the space, but I believe that breaking apart the makeshift fundamentals of today’s podcasting business models will lead to better creative and revenue environments in the future. More granular data will lead to better editorial decisions and better, perhaps more meaningful advertising practices. It could perhaps even lead to better alternatives to advertising.
Right. That’s enough of me saying a lot without providing any evidence. Other things to note from the podcast (which you should listen to in full!):
- The other guests were Ryan Hoover and Erik Torenberg of Product Hunt, the buzzy hot app-curating startup, which recently launched its podcast discovery vertical.
- Super interesting tidbit: At around the 7:50 mark, Hoover made reference to a new Gimlet show in the pipeline that’s due to drop sometime by the end of this year: a podcast that recommends new podcasts. The jockeying for the center of the podcast universe continues. Of course, there have been attempts at a podcast (or radio show) like this in the recent past, but I’d be damned if I didn’t admit to being super excited.
- Also interesting: The age-old question of “What’s the atomic unit of podcasts?” Mars appears to take the position that the unit is the show, while Product Hunt has clearly sided with the episode as the discrete unit. I can’t remember what I sided with back when I asked that question myself in this newsletter, but I’ve recently come to suspect that maybe we’re asking the wrong question.
- The episode also gave reference to a framework that I’ve long loved when it comes to thinking about the current landscape of podcasting: that it’s remarkably analogous to the early days of blogging. Waiting for that Breitbart equivalent.
Sideways to “live journalism.” Bill Simmons made some news last week when he dished out some insight into the brouhaha behind his dismissal from ESPN, openly discussing the issue with guest Wesley Morris (formerly Simmons’ employee back at Grantland, and who recently left the site to be The New York Times’ critic-at-large — R.I.P., the great “Do You Like Prince Movies?” podcast). His comments proved to be harvestable material for the digital media mill, with organizations ranging from The Washington Post to Business Insider1 crunching out posts delivering their own highlights, recaps, and takes on the podcast episode.
So the highlight I want to highlight in this state of affairs is not anything Simmons-related, but rather the fact that the podcast episode catalyzed several other pieces of media into existence. It underlined the fact that podcasts, or certain kinds of podcasts, at least, are themselves raw material for further reporting — a primary resource that seems underutilized by media institutions that actually have their own podcasts.
Let me put it this way: This Simmons situation highlights a manner in which podcasts can be more directly linked with more established digital media output that has yet to be adequately exploited. When wielded as an extension of journalistic institutions, podcasts (and live events) can themselves serve as raw material for use by reporters who focus on shortform blog posts and actively participate in instant recap culture. I think we saw a close-to-decent example of this with a recent episode of Recode Decode featuring an interview with BuzzFeed founder Jonah Peretti, who disclosed some truly juicy numbers about the media company’s traffic proportions. Recode did a really good job getting more mileage out of that bit of news by reporting further and publishing an addendum on the actual post that originally housed the podcast episode, and we saw Business Insider doing its thing where it basically published a partial transcript of that moment in the interview.
It’s a win on a lot of levels. First, a good interview or audio report is an easy source for writers and reporters to report on, reflect on, and put up to feed the beast. Second, such posts increase the attention paid to the podcast — thus increasing the likelihood that the show would be tried out by a reader who wouldn’t typically dabble in the medium. And finally, moves like these help close the gap between audio and other kinds of digital output; they further extend the utility of the podcast as part of the institution’s overall reportage, as opposed to being a placid digest-as-distribution-play, brand-extension effort, or some wackadoo accessory to the larger operation.
Perhaps the parallel that comes closest to evoking what I’m trying to say with this is the curious manner in which The New York Times’ Charles Duhigg describes the paper’s conference initiatives. “It’s live journalism,” Duhigg has been quoted as saying.
All right. I think I’ve met my quote for ~~thought leadership~~ this week. Let’s get to some juicy announcements!
Serial to be adapted for TV. Right. So I remember reading this last week and immediately putting down my laptop and going straight to bed. But here are two things that makes this situation really interesting, per reporting over at Deadline and The Hollywood Reporter:
- The people responsible for the adaptation are Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the insane duo that’s fashioned a fascinating and incredible career out of pulling off highly unlikely adaptations with verve. For reference, they were behind The Lego Movie and 21 Jump Street, both of which were not only box office hits but critically praised as well. (Their most recent project, the TV show The Last Man on Earth, didn’t quite reach the heights of their cinematic output, but you gotta give it to them for handling a really high concept.)
- The adaptation concept positions it well for television. According to Deadline, “Miller and Lord will develop a cable series that would follow the making of the podcast as it follows a case.” Which makes it sound less like a miniseries adaptation and more like a straight-up season-long procedural.
Eh, why the hell not. Count me in the bag for this.
Speaking of Serial. Old news now, but in case you missed it, Maxim magazine put out the first report a few weeks ago that one of the new seasons in the podcast’s pipeline will revolve around Bowe Bergdahl, the American soldier who mysteriously went missing from his base when on duty in Afghanistan back in 2009. He was eventually found to be held captive by the Taliban, and was freed in a prisoner exchange in 2014. The Serial team has not confirmed this.
Not going to spend too much time on this, but I’ll just say: If it’s true, this is the best possible go at round two. The team at This American Life are often lauded for its capacity at storytelling, but it should never, ever be forgotten that they are also first-class journalists and documentarians — and they’re perhaps the best team to take on this subject with proper sensitivity and insight.
The release date for the next season has not been confirmed, but it could well drop as soon as a few weeks from now. For a better overview, check out the New York Times writeup.
Two new shows to check out:
- Esquire Classics, which is a fascinating cross between Longform, The New Yorker’s Out Loud, and Catapult Reads. Featuring re-examinations of classic (there it is) articles from Esquire magazine, the first episode displays a marvelous execution of a premise that seems like a no-brainer — yet nobody has really done it properly. Check out Wired for a more extensive writeup.
- The Message, an audio drama project that’s being produced under the “GE Podcast Theater” banner. If the combination of “GE” and “Theater” strikes a bell, hey, you must be pretty good with corporate art/broadcast history. For more information, hit up AdExchanger’s writeup (“GE’s Foray into Podcasting is about Engagement, not Monetization”) or check out the Financial Times’ report for that sweet Shannon Bond coverage. The podcast is also produced by Panoply which, in full disclosure, gives me paychecks for my day job.
Last Wednesday was International Podcast Day, apparently. And The New York Times wrote a little about it, with me and Gimlet’s Matt Lieber throwing out a couple of podcast recs. All hail Anna Sale, as usual.
Is this your first time reading Hot Pod? You can subscribe to the newsletter here, which mostly features irrelevant exclusive content (mostly different GIFs and stuff about what I had for lunch but whatever that’s the newsletter strategy I’m rolling with).
- Congratulations on the acquisition! I think?
Twitter has always been a place to find out what’s going on in the world, with a little help from the crowd. The catch is that you have to know the right people to follow if you want to track the path of a hurricane or question this year’s selection of Emmy winners.
Twitter hopes to make the platform more welcoming to newcomers with the launch of “Moments” on Tuesday. It offers curated tweets tied to news and other events. Previously known as “Project Lightning,” the new feature debuts in the latest app update with its own dedicated tab and a snazzy lightning bolt button. Moments will also be available at Twitter.com.
The “moments” are mini news digests of tweets across a range of topics, from entertainment and sports to news, with splashy full-screen photos and videos. Each individual moment is made up of about 10 tweets.
Moments also allows users to follow stories they’re interested in for a limited period of time. In the past, if you wanted to follow an event like the VMAs or the Super Bowl, you had to stay glued to a hashtag or follow a group of people. If you follow a story through Moments, curated tweets around it will be inserted into your main timeline while the event is taking place.
This has already been a big news week for Twitter. The company officially named Jack Dorsey CEO, again. Part of Dorsey’s mandate is to get Twitter in front of new users. As he said in an earnings call in July: “People all over the world know of the power of Twitter, but it’s not clear why they should harness it themselves.”
It’s no secret that Twitter has been trying to find ways to increase its audience and help new users become more familiar with the service. Twitter has tried to manufacture news discovery in the past; before Moments there was the Discover tab.
While die-hard Twitter users may find Moments useful, it’s clearly targeted at curious or casual users.
“Moments are for those users who have not had time yet to invest in creating their perfect home timeline,” said Andrew Fitzgerald, who is heading up the curation team for Moments.
Moments feels like a “catch-me-up” type of news digest, using tweets as the building blocks of a brief. Each story is packaged by editors who have been tracking news and conversations rising on Twitter.
“We want each moment to tell a story, to have a beginning, middle, and end, and highlight the best tweets that are representative of a conversation,” Fitzgerald said.
Twitter is just the latest technology company to add editors to its payroll. Companies like Snapchat, Instagram, and Apple have also created editorially driven products.
While Fitzgerald is quick to say that his team is not producing a “news product” itself, editors are using many techniques that would be found in digital newsrooms. For example, they’re developing their own guidelines on verifying tweets around breaking news.
Fitzgerald said the editors “come from a variety of different backgrounds, but have in common an expertise in finding the best content on Twitter.” So far the group is focused on news and events in the U.S., but Twitter plans to create editor teams for Moments in other regions as well.
Twitter is also partnering with a handful of media companies that will create collections for Moments. Companies like BuzzFeed, Bleacher Report, Fox News, The New York Times, and The Washington Post will get access to the same curation tools that editors on Fitzgerald’s team use to produce the digests. The newsrooms will be able to embed their collections on their own sites and have them fed into the Moments tab.
Cory Haik, executive director for emerging news products at The Washington Post, said Moments fits with the paper’s focus on developing new storytelling formats for mobile.
“We’re trying to do deliberate small-screen storytelling,” she said.
Haik said the Moments tools are relatively easy to use, similar to creating a custom embeddable timeline.
The Post, like many newsrooms, regularly tries to find ways of incorporating tweets into storytelling — by collecting them using something like Storify, or by directing readers to events that are being live-tweeted. Haik said Moments will make it easier for journalists to collect their reporting in one place.
Specifically, Haik thinks Moments will be useful to reporters in the field covering events as they unfold in near real-time. Take the Amtrak train derailment in Vermont, for instance: A journalist could convey all the necessary details over a series of tweets that could be packaged as a mobile-first story.
“It’s the first thing I’ve seen in a while that is straight-up storytelling for pieces on mobile and social,” Haik said.
Reporters Without Borders is relieved to learn that Abdullahi Hersi Kulmiye and Ali Dahir Salad, two journalists working for London-based Universal TV, were freed on 8 October after being held for six days by the National Intelligence and Security Agency.
However, Universal TV's Mogadishu offices are still subject to arbitrary closure by the NISA and the station has not resumed broadcasting in the Somali capital.
Reporters Without Borders condemns the indefinite closure of London-based Universal TV's East Africa offices in Mogadishu and the arbitrary detention of East Africa director Abdullahi Hersi Kulmiye and programme presenter Ali Dahir Salad.
Abdullahi Hersi Kulmiye and Ali Dahir Salad were arrested without a warrant when they responded to a summons to report to the Mogadishu headquarters of the National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) on 2 October. NISA officers raided Universal TV's offices later the same day and shut them down.
According to the information obtained by local NGOs that defend journalists, the attorney-general's office has given NISA 21 days to conduct an investigation, during which time the two journalists are to remain in prison without being brought before a judge.
Local analysts attribute the arrests and raid to the comments of two parliamentarians during a broadcast of the very popular programme “Doodwadaag” (Debate) on 30 September.
The parliamentarians referred to a parliamentary motion challenging the government and to the presence of Ethiopian troops within the African Union military presence in Somalia – comments likely to have angered the government, which rarely tolerates media coverage of sensitive subjects including anything liable to exacerbate old disputes between Ethiopia and Somalia.
On Saturday the State minister for information Maxamuud Cabdi Xasan said that, "The Universal TV has been repeatedly warned by the security forces to stop the anti government propaganda which they ignored. They have been arrested and will be taken to court shortly.”
For Reporters Without Borders, “The detention of these two journalists is an absolutely illegal measure that violates the principles of freedom of information and expression enshrined in Somalia's constitution.”
“Such arbitrary actions send a very disturbing message to all the Somali media, which have a key role to play in the democratic debate before the 2016 elections. We call on the Somali government to free these two journalists and to reopen the Universal TV studios”, Reporters Without Borders said.
The Somali government often closes down media outlets that irritate it.
In August 2014, the authorities evicted Radio Shabelle from its premises because they wanted to take them over. After Radio Shabelle found a new location, several of its employees were jailed in April 2015 when the radio station broadcast statements by a spokesman for the armed Islamist militia Al Shabaab.
A total of 37 journalists have been killed since 2010 without any credible investigations being carried out. This makes Somalia one of Africa's most dangerous countries for media personnel.
Universal TV investigative reporter Mohamed Mohamud was fatally shot six times at close range in October 2013.