Monday, December 09, 2013

MediaWeek (V7, N49): The pdf, French Publishing, Web News Traffic, MOOC Myths, Aftrica Reading

Can Scholarly Publishing Evolve Beyond the PDF? From John Wiley.

French authors can't get a break (BBC):
"I often joke that the only way to get published in Britain if you're French is to pretend you're Spanish. If you've been a best-seller in France, it's a sure-fire recipe for not getting a deal in the UK.  "As for US publishers, they're so convinced that with 350 million potential readers and a big stable of American writers, they've got everything covered - every genre, every style. So why bother?"  The costs and difficulty of literary translation are clearly part of the problem. So too is the fact that the Anglophone book market is thriving - so the demand for foreign works is limited.  Some French authors are critical of Anglo-Saxon "complacency". 
"Personally I am fed up with all the stereotypes," says Darieussecq. "We're not intellectual. We're not obsessed with words. We write detective stories. We write suspense. We write romance.
"And it's about time you started noticing."
How does news web traffic work?  The Atlantic goes looking.
About the middle of October, a number of news organization websites started to see huge numbers of visitors flowing from Facebook. Buzzfeed’s Charlie Warzel reported that Buzzfeed and its partner sites had seen traffic from Facebook surge 69 percent between August and October.
The change wasn’t out of nowhere. In August, a Facebook corporate blog post hinted that the algorithm that controlled the site’s News Feed was changing slightly, such that “stories that people did not scroll down far enough to see can reappear near the top […] if the stories are still getting lots of likes and comments.”
It sounds like a little change, but it’s hard to overstate the importance of the News Feed. The feed is what you see when you log into; it’s essentially the homepage of the site, and it changes for every user. What dictates how it looks is the elusive News Feed algorithm, a program that decides not only which statuses, photos, and news stories should display, but how many of each there will be. And a traffic jump of the size Warzel reported could only come with a change in the News Feed algorithm.
Enter Upworthy. Simultaneous to this traffic upheaval, an entire vocabulary and syntax for headlines that people click and share—and oh, boy, do they click and share—had presented itself on the social web. For publishers trying to grab more traffic from Facebook, the path became clear. Borrow, adapt, employ the Upworthy style post haste. Assure readers your content was nothing but wondtacular. And so began the wondtacularization.

Confirming the MOOC Myth: IHeD
The research presented on Thursday was perhaps best summarized by research conducted by the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education, which analyzed the study habits of 1 million students across 16 Coursera courses between June of 2012 and 2013.  “Emerging data ... show that massive open online courses (MOOCs) have relatively few active users, that user ‘engagement’ falls off dramatically especially after the first 1-2 weeks of a course, and that few users persist to the course end,” a summary of the study reads.  For anyone who has paid even the slightest bit of attention to the MOOC space over the past year, those conclusions hardly qualify as revelations. Yet some presenters said they felt the first day of the conference served as an opportunity to confirm some of those commonly held beliefs about MOOCs.
BBC looks at the culture for reading in Africa (BBC)
Publishers have long bemoaned Africa's lack of a "book culture" but some hope that the advent of smartphones and the internet could help change this, writes journalist Chris Matthews. The 566% increase in worldwide internet usage since the start of the millennium might appear staggering but not when compared with Africa, where online activity has grown by an astonishing 3,606%.  More than 160 million people are now connected throughout the continent, mostly on mobile phones.  With internet access surging and connectivity increasing, the doors are being thrown open to digital publishing.  All of which suggests a new chapter has been started since Kenyan publisher Henry Chakava's withering attack on Africa's book culture back in 1997.

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