• Sales of paperback outperform digital titles

    At the start of this decade publishers feared the death of the paperback. Britons abandoned bookshops at an alarming rate, seduced by e-readers and cheap digital books.

    Even Jeff Bezos, the Amazon founder, was shocked by the speed of readers’ defection when Kindle downloads outsold hard copies on the website for the first time in 2011. “We had high hopes this would happen eventually, but we never imagined it would happen this quickly,” he said at the time.

    But the ebook story has turned out to have a twist in the tale. Sales of physical books increased 4% in the UK last year while ebook sales shrank by the same amount. Glance around a busy train carriage and those passengers who aren’t on their phones are far more likely to have a paperback than a Kindle.

    The e-reader itself has also turned out to have the shelf life of a two-star murder mystery. Smartphones and tablets last year overtook dedicated reading devices to become the most popular way to read an ebook, according to the research group Nielsen.

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  • YouTube: $35 internet TV service

    After years of boasting that it’s bigger than TV, YouTube has joined the TV business

    The Google-owned video giant has launched YouTube TV, a live TV service that seeks to compete with other internet-based TV services such as Dish Network’s Sling TV, AT&T’s DirecTV Now and Hulu’s upcoming service — as well as the broader pay-TV ecosystem. For $35 per month, YouTube gets you more than 40 channels including all of the major broadcast networks as well as popular cable networks such as ESPN, FX and Fox News. Soon, the lineup will add 10 more channels, including AMC, IFC and BBC, at no additional cost. At launch, the service is available in five cities including New York and Los Angeles.

    Fundamentally, YouTube TV isn’t all that different from Sling TV or DirecTV Now, which also offer bundles of TV channels at an affordable price. It’s also a business worth jumping into, as Sling TV and DirecTV Now have attracted 1 million and 200,000 subscribers at a time when cord-cutting is on the rise.

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  • The internet warriors

    Why do so many people use the internet to harass and threaten people, and stretch the freedom of speech to its limits? Director Kyrre Lien meets a group of strongly opinionated individuals all across the world, who spend their time debating online on the subjects they care most strongly about. They feel like warriors for their own personal causes, often feeling left behind by offline society, feeling like they are the ones who have all the right answers. Online platforms are their favourite tools to express the opinions that others might find objectionable in language that often offends. Do they behave in the same way when they come offline?

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  • Can .art give art business an online boost?

    London’s Institute of Contemporary Art adopted the new .Art suffix last week, a sign that the art and culture business may at last be starting to come to terms with its future in the digital realm. The hip arts organisation ditched its fusty ica.org.uk web domain for the more streamlined and descriptive ica.art. The move may soon be followed at other prestigious art institutions around the world, the ICA says, including the Tate in London, Guggenheim in New York, the Pompidou Centre in Paris and Lacma in Los Angeles.

    The ICA director, Stefan Kalmár, said the change of web address was not only logical but underlined the ICA’s position as an institution “that has always thought globally and opposes the current re-emerging of nationalism in the UK and elsewhere”.

    Five years ago, the body in charge of names on the internet, ICANN, swept away regulations and opened up a new world of additional web address suffixes, or top-level domains, including .art.

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  • Could a Video Game Help Preserve Inuit Culture?

    For more than three thousand years, the Iñupiat people of Alaska have passed on stories to their children. Like all enduring fiction, the stories deliver truths that transcend cultural shifts. They act as seeds of moral instruction and help to define and preserve the community’s identity. The story of Kunuuksaayuka, for example, is a simple tale of how our actions affect others: a boy named Kunuuksaayuka goes on a journey to identify the source of a savage blizzard. In the calm eye of the storm, he finds a man heaving shovelfuls of snow into the air, oblivious that they gather and grow into the squalls battering Kunuuksaayuka’s home downstream.

    The Iñupiat’s oral tradition, however, is at risk. Over the past few decades, advances in technology and communication have opened up the community to a flood of other stories delivered in new ways. “As is common for indigenous peoples who are also part of a modern nation, it’s been increasingly difficult to maintain our traditions and cultural heritage,” Amy Fredeen, the C.F.O. of E-Line Media, a publisher of educational video games, and of the Cook Inlet Tribal Council (C.I.T.C.), a nonprofit group that serves the Iñupiat and other Alaska Natives, said. “Our people have passed down knowledge and wisdom through stories for thousands of years—almost all of this orally—and storytellers are incredibly respected members of society. But as our society modernizes it’s become harder to keep these traditions alive.”

    For the C.I.T.C., the challenge was to find a way to preserve the community’s stories in a way that could withstand modernity. As the team pondered the problem over lunch a few years ago, the council’s C.E.O., Gloria O’Neill, suggested a video game. O’Neill had been looking at examples of indigenous communities expressing their heritage through modern forms—such as the film “Whale Rider,” which explores gender roles in Maori culture—and was considering whether the medium could help to preserve the Iñupiat’s cultural heritage. “We all agreed that, if done well, a video game had the best chance of connecting Native youth with their cultural heritage,” Fredeen said.

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  • Netflix Deepening Our Cultural Echo Chambers

    When “One Day at a Time” started its run on CBS in December 1975, it became an instant hit and remained so for almost a decade.

    In its first year, “One Day at a Time,” a sitcom about working-class families produced by the TV impresario Norman Lear, regularly attracted 17 million viewers every week, according to Nielsen. Mr. Lear’s other comedies were even bigger hits: One out of every three households with a television watched “All in the Family,” for instance.

    Last week, a new version of “One Day at a Time” started on Netflix. Critics praised the remake for its explorations of single parenthood and class struggle, a theme that has faded from TV since Mr. Lear’s heyday.

    Yet, well intentioned and charming as the new streaming version may be, there’s a crucial aspect of the old “One Day at a Time” that it will almost certainly fail to replicate: broad cultural reach.

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  • Denton, Thiel, & Plot to Murder Gawker

    One day in September 2014 the publisher of Gawker Media, Nick Denton, sent an e-mail to Peter Thiel, the Silicon Valley venture capitalist and billionaire. It could easily have been a message to a friend, or at least a kindred spirit, for, as many people who know them both have noted, the two have so much in common.

    They are contemporaries: Denton turned 50 this past August, and Thiel 49 two months later. Both were born in Europe—Denton in England and Thiel in Germany. Both graduated from fancy universities—Denton from Oxford and Thiel from Stanford. Both made their fortunes in the digital world; in fact, it had brought them together in San Francisco a dozen or so years earlier. Both are gay, and both came out relatively late. Both are libertarians, and nonconformists, and visionaries, and science-fiction fans, and workaholics, and wonks. Both have resisted getting old, Denton by attitude, Thiel through human growth hormones. Both have a cultish kind of appeal. Both were wealthy still in 2014, though as winner of one of Silicon Valley’s greatest daily doubles—he co-founded PayPal and was Facebook’s first big investor—Thiel was exponentially more so, a fact that stuck in the ultra-competitive Denton’s craw. “Nauseatingly successful” was how Denton once described him. “Does Nick Denton wish he were Peter Thiel?” a headline on Denton’s own gawker.com once asked.

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  • Social Media to Get Inside the Minds of ISIS

    RUKMINI CALLIMACHI IS arguably the best reporter on the most impor­tant beat in the world. As a New York Timescorrespondent covering terrorism, her work explores not just what jihadists do but how they do it. You’ve read her stories on ISIS’s use of birth control to maintain its supply of sex slaves, or the Kouachi brothers’ path to the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, or the nature of lone-wolf attacks like the recent mass shooting in Orlando. Her byline often appears on the front page of the paper; at just 43, she’s received three Pulitzer Prize nominations. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Callimachi, though, is how she gets her insights into the world’s most hostile and secretive organizations. Sure, she spends months every year out of the country reporting, but increasingly her work requires just as much time staring at her phone and computer screen. Social media enables Callimachi to access what she calls the “inner world of jihadists”; she lurks in Telegram chat rooms, navigates an endless flood of tips on Twitter, and carefully tracks sources and subjects all over the Internet. Her cell phone battery dies up to four times a day. The truth, she has found, is as much online as it is on the ground.

    WIRED: How did you start covering terrorism?

    CALLIMACHI: In December 2006, I became the West Africa correspondent for the Associated Press. As it happened, that was the year that a group there pledged allegiance to al Qaeda and became their North African branch. Very quickly, large swaths of their area were deemed too dangerous for a Westerner to visit, and I saw my own world shrink as a result.

    Then in 2012 they succeeded in taking over northern Mali. The area that they controlled with two other groups was enormous, the size of Afghanistan. They imposed Sharia law, cut off people’s hands. An adulterous couple was stoned to death, and women had to be veiled. It was one of the biggest stories on my beat, but it was frustrating because I couldn’t go there, so I was covering it by phone. Then in 2013 the French went in to push back the jihadis, and suddenly reporters were able to go in behind them.

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  • Egypt: App to combat forced disappearances

    For Egyptians, the risk of being snatched from the street and forcibly disappeared by the country’s security forces has never been greater. In the first eight months of 2015, 1,250 people disappeared, according to a report by the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedoms (ECRF).

    In response, the organisation has created I Protect, an app that allows Android phone users to key in a code when they are being detained, which sends three text messages to contacts and an email containing the location of their arrest to the ECRF.

    The group hopes the messages will aid a quick reaction during the first 24 hours of an arrest, key to stopping people being transferred from a police station to a larger facility, making them harder to find.

    Mohammed Lotfy, executive director of ECRF, said: “Being able to speak out about the arrest of an activist or protestor in the first hours contributes to the person’s transfer from police to prosecution during the legal time from of 24 hours.

    “This prevents their detention incommunicado, or worse their forced disappearance, and therefore reduces the risks of being subjected to torture or other ill treatment.”

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  • How technology disrupted the truth

    One Monday morning last September, Britain woke to a depraved news story. The prime minister, David Cameron, had committed an “obscene act with a dead pig’s head”, according to the Daily Mail. “A distinguished Oxford contemporary claims Cameron once took part in an outrageous initiation ceremony at a Piers Gaveston event, involving a dead pig,” the paper reported. Piers Gaveston is the name of a riotous Oxford university dining society; the authors of the story claimed their source was an MP, who said he had seen photographic evidence: “His extraordinary suggestion is that the future PM inserted a private part of his anatomy into the animal.”

    The story, extracted from a new biography of Cameron, sparked an immediate furore. It was gross, it was a great opportunity to humiliate an elitist prime minister, and many felt it rang true for a former member of the notorious Bullingdon Club. Within minutes, #Piggate and #Hameron were trending on Twitter, and even senior politicians joined the fun: Nicola Sturgeon said the allegations had “entertained the whole country”, while Paddy Ashdown joked that Cameron was “hogging the headlines”. At first, the BBC refused to mention the allegations, and 10 Downing Street said it would not “dignify” the story with a response – but soon it was forced to issue a denial. And so a powerful man was sexually shamed, in a way that had nothing to do with his divisive politics, and in a way he could never really respond to. But who cares? He could take it.

    Then, after a full day of online merriment, something shocking happened. Isabel Oakeshott, the Daily Mail journalist who had co-written the biography with Lord Ashcroft, a billionaire businessman, went on TV and admitted that she did not know whether her huge, scandalous scoop was even true. Pressed to provide evidence for the sensational claim, Oakeshott admitted she had none.

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  • Google, Facebook automatic blocking extremist videos

    Some of the web’s biggest destinations for watching videos have quietly started using automation to remove extremist content from their sites, according to two people familiar with the process.

    The move is a major step forward for internet companies that are eager to eradicate violent propaganda from their sites and are under pressure to do so from governments around the world as attacks by extremists proliferate, from Syria to Belgium and the United States.

    YouTube and Facebook are among the sites deploying systems to block or rapidly take down Islamic State videos and other similar material, the sources said.

    The technology was originally developed to identify and remove copyright-protected content on video sites. It looks for “hashes,” a type of unique digital fingerprint that internet companies automatically assign to specific videos, allowing all content with matching fingerprints to be removed rapidly.

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  • Photos Essential To Storytelling

    The question — “Pictures on the radio?” — was raised, not just by outsiders, but also by some within NPR early on, Somodevilla said, adding that Gilkey confided that he felt some colleagues were less than welcoming early on, not understanding the value of video and images. He said that was one of the biggest accomplishments of Gilkey and his NPR Visuals team colleagues (who number about a dozen people): “Making people at NPR believers in visual storytelling.”

    Michael Oreskes, NPR’s news chief, told me that when Gilkey was hired, NPR “recognized that no news organization can be only in one form of distribution. We have to be in digital, and digital now means half a dozen different things. So our roots are in radio and we are still very focused on radio, but NPR.org has 30- something million viewers every month, and that’s a visual platform. Yes, it’s true that radio is for your ear and the visuals on radio are the pictures we paint with our words. But there are lots of people who want our kind of journalism, but they want to get it in a different way.”

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  • The Future of Virtual Reality

    This may come as a surprise to no one, but I never expected to be CEO of a technology company.

    My unlikely journey to this point began when, as a child, I discovered my first love: music. To this day, nothing makes me feel as much as instruments and voices coming together to cast a spell, tell a story, or travel me back in time, into a memory.

    Foolishly, I became a filmmaker instead of a musician. All the while, I was searching for ways to evoke in others the same depth of feeling as music gave me.

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  • Virtual Reality to inspire humanitarian empathy

    It is one thing to say that you understand someone’s pain and worries, but quite another to experience them. From living in a refugee tent to facing the Ebola epidemic, the United Nations is using virtual reality to create awareness of humanitarian crises around the world in hopes of changing how a person acts towards others.

    “Virtual reality is the ability to really take part in a story that usually you’re only a passive spectator on. And it’s giving you the possibility to walk in another person’s shoes,” said Gabo Arora, Creative Director and Special Adviser to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Action Campaign.

    The campaign is a special initiative of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to empower and inspire people to support their Governments to implement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 17 SDGs that aim to alleviate poverty, provide universal education and help the environment.

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  • Transporting Jurors to Crime Scenes

    The promise and hype surrounding virtual reality is spilling into the criminal justice system.

    Researchers from Staffordshire University in England announced Tuesday that they’ve been awarded a $200,000 European Commission grant to develop ways of presenting crime-scene evidence to jurors and lawyers through virtual reality.

    Caroline Sturdy Colls, a Staffordshire professor of forensic archaeology and genocide investigation, is leading the project.

    “A number of novel, digital non-invasive methods,” she said in a statement, have the “potential to…permit access to difficult and/or dangerous environments, create a more accurate record of buried or concealed evidence and provide more effective means of presenting evidence in court.”

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  • Immersive Journalism and Virtual Reality

    As The New York Times brings new attention to VR, immersive journalism could drive not only changes in the media industry, but mainstream adoption of the technology.

    For decades, journalists have been trying to figure out how to better connect audiences to serious events that happen far, far away, and build empathy and understanding. Most recently, media organizations are turning to virtual reality as the possible next step toward that goal. The big news as of late has been The New York Times decision to send 1.2 million Google Cardboard units to subscribers via snail mail. Readers could download the NYTVR app, pop their smartphone into Cardboard, and watch several videos, including an 11-minute documentary on Oleg and two other children ousted from their homes by war called The Displaced.

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  • TV News Stations Are Now Old News

    When direct-broadcast satellite provider Dish Network launched Sling TV in February last year, it was eying those swathes of viewers able and willing to pay for television, but not the fat bill that pay-TV companies send their subscribers at the end of the month. For a monthly fee of US$20, Americans can access a bouquet of TV channels anywhere and on any device through Sling TV, including mobile devices and computers.

    They don’t have to install a hulking antenna or satellite dish on the roof of their house. In mid-April 2016, Dish Network threatened that it would cut its viewers’ access to the cable channels operated by Viacom. Dish Network was reportedly irked by requests from Viacom for an unreasonable increase (“millions of dollars,” according to Dish Network) in fees for carrying Viacom-owned channels such as MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon in spite of the decreasing audiences of these channels. In the end, they reached a deal.

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  • NPR visuals team use analytics

    How many analytics platforms is your newsroom using? The answer to that question goes back to, or should go back to, what the organisation is trying to measure on the web and how it interprets what every engagement or audience development editor is trying to find a definition for: a story’s impact.

    Back in November, NPR received a $35,000 grant from the Knight Foundation to develop an analytics bot that would help the visuals team take better action informed by what they measured about their work, but also rethink their goals and definition of success.

    “We’d been playing around with alternative metrics for longer than one and a half years and this idea came out of our questioning of what our mission is, why have a visuals team at a radio organisation?”, said Brian Boyer, editor of NPR’s visuals team.

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  • Media multitasking

    As news organizations work to enhance their digital presence, they are experimenting with ways to improve their audience experience. As technology evolves, readers, viewers and listeners are demanding more than straight facts from a single source of information. With this in mind, journalists are incorporating multiple media platforms into their work to offer audiences more information and context. For example, FRONTLINE creates investigative documentaries that appear on TV. As viewers watch a documentary, they can use their laptops to access additional information on the subject on FRONTLINE’s website. Meanwhile, audience members also can use their mobile phones to interact with FRONTLINE via social media while they view the program. News consumers are increasingly adept at using two or more media platforms simultaneously to explore the topic of a single news story.

    As digital technology has become more common, so has this “media multitasking.” As academic scholars study the trend, their findings inevitably will be helpful to newsroom leaders in developing strategies for advertising and audience engagement.

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  • New favorite bookshop?

    Book lovers who find themselves easily distracted may welcome the brutal approach by a new bookstore in London. In a bold move, Libreria has declared itself a ‘digital detox zone’, banning its customers from using mobile phones and tablets within the shop. The ban is part of an endeavour by the store to immerse the visitor in the visceral joys of reading and the pleasure of physical books, as well as to reawaken the art of real-life conversation, debates and talks, a sense of conviviality and a taste of the unexpected.

    Visitors to the shop may take photos, but if they’re spotted texting, browsing the internet, posting or communicating with anyone outside the shop’s four walls, they are politely requested to stop. “The rule isn’t enforced in a draconian way, but we do want to create a welcoming space away from digital overload,” Libreria’s Paddy Butler tells BBC Culture. “If you’re doing business on your computer all day, then being in a space full of traditional books allows you to escape, browse, talk about books, and discuss ideas. We all need a break from digital distraction and noise – it’s not good to be plugged in all the time.” So how have customers reacted to the ban of their beloved phones so far? According to Butler, positively: “They mostly say ‘Thank you’.”

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  • Best Online Journalism & Storytelling 2015

    Every year storytelling and journalism on the web gets better. For the past three years I have rounded up the most compelling examples of reporting online (here is 2014, 2013, and 2012). This year I had the good fortune to collaborate with Luis Gomez on this project.

    This is a labor of love. Our hope is that by shining a spotlight on this important work, we can help you discover things you might have missed and that you’ll share them and support the journalists who made them possible.

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  • Ethical dilemmas: using images of tragedies

    If you looked across social media as news of the Brussels attacks unfolded, you would have seen that within minutes of the first reports of explosions at Zaventem airport, people were lashing out. At commentators for using the attack to make a political point. At Twitter for suspending the account of a Belgian expert on terrorism by accident. At a man who tweeted that he’d “confronted” a Muslim woman about the attacks. And plenty of the lashing out was at journalists, especially those contacting members of the public to see if images they had posted of the attack were available for re-use.

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  • A New Perspective on Storytelling

    What is it like to experience a story in VR?

    One leading content creator described VR as “hacking your brain” to make you believe you are someplace that you are not. The illusion of being in that place, known as “presence,” can be all the more convincing when the virtual world responds to your eye or hand movements or commands from a game controller.

    Virtual reality is hardly a new technology. It’s been with us since 1985, when former Atari programmer Jaron Lanier experimented with some of the first VR headsets. There have been several failed attempts to commercialize VR, most famously Nintendo’s Virtual Boy in 1994, which is best known for making people feel motion sickness after playing Mario Tennis for a few minutes.

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  • New York Public Library Digital Collection

    This site is a living database with new materials added every day, featuring prints, photographs, maps, manuscripts, streaming video, and more.

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  • ‘Belgravia’ Treads New Digital Ground

    There are few literary mediums that Julian Fellowes has not dabbled in.

    Mr. Fellowes, the creator of the hit historical British melodrama “Downton Abbey,” has worked on screenplays, stage plays, novels and a children’s book. He wrote the book for “School of Rock,” a raucous new Broadway musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber adapted from the 2003 Richard Linklater movie, and he is working on his new NBC series “The Gilded Age,” set in New York in late 19th century.

    Now, for his next project, “Belgravia,” Mr. Fellowes is marrying an old narrative form – the serialized novel, in the tradition of Charles Dickens’s “The Pickwick Papers” – with the latest digital delivery system: an app.

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