Daily Mail snoops on people online and steals their content

A few weeks ago the Daily Mail caused a bit of a brouhaha by accusing brands that monitored social media to help identify and solve customer’s problems of “snooping” and “spying”.

I really can’t get anywhere near the level of hysteria generated by the article not even if I attempted a Brasseye-style spoof. Basically you should go and read it, although you actually shouldn’t as it’ll increase their site traffic.

Anyway, while there’s been enough discussion of this particular incident online I wanted to follow-up with another story of the Mail’s disgusting audacity and hypocrisy that happened to a friend.

Now, just imagine if a company was to trawl through the Internet – not unlike those companies that snoop on customers. But imagine if instead of helping people, this company used the Internet to steal things that belong to Members of the Great British Public.

Then imagine that when an aforementioned law-abiding citizen tells the company that it has broken the law and stolen something the company (or a representative of said company) was to deny it and attempt to cover up the crime by offering desultory sums of money to buy the victim off.

Just imagine if that company was none other than the Daily Mail itself!

Yes. That’s right. The sanctimonious Daily Mail was trawling the web on election night for pictures of voters across the UK reacting to polling stations being closed without all voters being able to cast their vote.

Friend and film-maker, Emily James, just happened to be in one of those polling stations and snapped away on her phone, uploading the images to Twitpic.

While other media outlets saw the images, requested permission to use, credited and paid Emily for her work the Mail simply lifted the images then claimed they were in the public domain which meant they could use them with impunity.

Emily, knowing her rights, asserted that Twitpic’s T&Cs copyright remained with the photographer and invoiced the Mail for a reasonable amount.

What followed was a series of exchanges with the Mail’s Pictures Online Picture Editor, Elliot Wagland, and the Mail’s Group Managing Director, Alex Bannister.

I’d urge you to go and read the full saga over at the Just Do It blog as it unfolds and savour in the sheer hypocrisy of the Daily Mail that on the one hand criticises companies for using the Internet to help its customers while on the other hand is happy to steal content from people. Part 1 is here and Part 2 here

Aside from the audacity of the Mail it’s also slightly worrying that its Online Pictures Editor fails to grasp the basics of copyright in relation to key social media platforms.

However, as Martyne Drake observes on his blog about this particular story, although the Mail’s Group Managing Editor  claims this was a one-off

given the number of times I’ve seen them [Daily Mail] attribute copyright wrongly and use pictures from Twitpic and other services (which retain the original copyright of the photographer), it’s not so much an incident that’s happened by accident or carelessness, but downright arrogance.


EXCLUSIVE: Dick Fedorcio, Met Police blogger engagement and my part in it…


G20 officer hides badge

I published a blog post earlier this year in which I questioned the Metropolitan Police's approach to social media and criticised what I perceived to be the wrong organisational attitude.

Rather than looking to embrace social media, listen, adapt and respond to the public and earn the reputation it deserves, comments made by the Met's Director of External Affairs, Dick Fedoricio, in a PR Week interview suggested otherwise:

"If I was seeking to
manipulate people, it would raise a question about how that reduced our
integrity. To be leaning on someone to say "give us a good blog" starts
to raise some ethical issues.

I wanted to return to this issue for a couple of reasons. Primarily, I was shocked (but unsurprised) to see that according the Evening Standard, the Met has now requested that all imagery of its officers hiding or obscuring their badges be removed from photo libraries and image databases (hiding numbers means officers can't be (easily) identified and is an illegal tactic usually performed to allow police to act with impunity while committing – often violent – offences against the public).

While the Standard accuses the Met of trying to "re-write history", a member of the public gets it right in a comment posted on the story:

"If people start uploading such images to Facebook and Twitter, will
they get their collars felt? We seem to be heading in that direction."

Leaving aside the jusdgement of which direction society is heading, the issue of whether material incriminating authorities published publicly in the social web can be removed remains – as does the question: what power do authorities have to, in DIck's words, "manipulate" or "lean on" someone to force removal?

Following the G20 the Met has signed up 6Consulting and Radian6 to run social media monitoring for the force so it's very likely that any 'offending' material will certainly be identified. That said, I return to the point I made originally which was that this approach reveals a traditional command and control communications culture at the Met which will not fit in the distributed, complex, networked world in which we now live.

I mentioned there were a couple of reasons I wanted to blog about this topic again. That's the first, the second is much more personal.

After my previous post in which the Met's Dick Fedorcio told PR Week that he will "not go as far as interacting with bloggers" he went right ahead by 'interacting' with me.

So how did he interact with me? Was it a comment left on my blog post examining the Met's approach to social media? Was it an email explaining the Met's decision not to interact with bloggers? 

No. Instead Dick left me a voicemail on my work phone. Why he phoned me at work I don't know (especially given my blog states clearly it's a personal site and encourages contact via my personal email address).

Dick's voicemail was rather aggressive (I'm sure this was unintentional) and stated that he worked for Scotland Yard (again, this is confusing, but I'm sure he meant the Metropolitan Police).

He advised me, in a rather intimidating fashion, that if I planned on blogging about the Met againI  should give him a call in advance.

Now I'm sure Dick meant only well by his inadvertently aggressive and intimidating phonecall advising I seek permission before blogging about the Met, but it seems clear to me that the Met are doing blogger engagement, despite what they tell PR Week.

Plus ca change…

Technorati tags: Dick Fedorcio, Metropolitan Police, blogger engagement

Have we finally breached the symbolic ‘real media’ vs social media divide?

There's an interesting post over at the Journalism.co.uk blog where they are trying to crowd source the perfect press release.

The post offers some great press release-writing tips for people new to the industry and even acts as a reminder to those more seasoned PR professionals about what journalists really want to know about a story.

But what's interesting about the results is the inclusion of social mediia elements which are being specifically requested by journalists.

Maybe I'm wrong to be surprised, but when journalists are asking for "a headline have crossed over into … short enough for a Twitter update including a link." then it seems we really have gotten over the online vs offline; 'real media' vs social media divide.

The only thing is…. while journalists are adapting quickly to a new, more real-time media environment have PR professionals? I still see a lot of "no-one really reads blogs" or "Yes, but what's the reach of that Tweet?" from PROs.

So here's the real incentive: even if you want to ignore that the media landscape and infrastructure is changing around you….. the journalists you are pitching stories to already get it and if you don't adapt accordingly then you'll be less effective at doing your job. Simples!

Tags: Journalism.co.uk, social media, press release

Crowd-sourcing the future of media

One of the things I [heart] about the internet is its ability to totally democratise the production and distribution of knowledge and information.

Reading George Monbiot's (somewhat difficult to follow) analysis of the relationship between the media, editorial independence and advertising in a recent Guardian column, I thought: "Wow. Well, that's complicated. What's the solution?".

Well, it turns out the solution wasn't too far away. Several comments down in fact. By a man called Graham Wayne.

I won't try to summarise or precis his response. I'm just going to re-post.Lazy, you say? Well, it's too good not to. 


am moved by your candid argument to respond – and we should acknowledge
the Guardian for giving you the space – and yet for the first time in
many threads I am, frankly, quite perplexed by the commercial paradox
you identify.

There are some alternatives, but none of them are
entirely satisfactory or perhaps commercially practical. Some are not
consistent with the ethical requirements you describe and with which I
broadly agree. But in the first place, let us enjoy for a moment the
irony of taking money from the airlines, the automotive industry and
their ilk, in order to sponsor an MSN outlet that consistently
criticises them and pays for people like you to do so. It does sweeten
the pill a little, but perhaps not enough.

Some suggestions then
– not so much as things I think can be done, but as catalysts that
might lead to constructive discussion and better solutions than I can

1) Recent news suggests that some quality MSN websites
will attempt to institute subscriptions. If the Guardian moved in that
direction but limited advertising according to content that met
published ethical standards, it would make subscription more
meaningful. I would pay to support a news site that placed ethical
behaviour at the core of its business model, because that is exactly
what I find is virtually absent from commercial concerns, and much to
our detriment both as consumers and members of society.

2) Try
such a scheme as an alternative site and trial it for a reduced sub in
the first year. If it took off, move the enterprise in that direction
and reward those early supporters with a discount on the second year –
or something.

3) Ban only the ads that meet the ethical standard.
This is not a moral exercise but a commercial one, but where virtue is
rewarded. Ethical standards should be applied to products or services,
not companies per se, and when certain products enjoy more ad space
than their counterparts, their importance to the companies that produce
them shifts in their favour, simply because they sell more. Advertising
usually targets the consumer, attempting to modify their behaviour;
here advertising could target the companies and do the same. It is in
the boardroom that this message needs to be understood – the market is
changing and ethical behaviour will be rewarded by consumers. (And when
it's all hat and no cattle, you have new fodder for the column).

Develop more flexible price strategies and find more innovative ways to
deliver the adverts. Perhaps a rate card with weighted price bands
depending on gross revenue, where smaller and more ethical concerns can
also take some space in the paper or the site, thus increasing
opportunities for ad sales. I suggest this because I think taking the
ethical stance will cost the Guardian some revenue. Quite how much it
loses is in part dependant on the ad sales team, because there is also
a strong marketing advantage in the ethical stance, especially if the
Guardian is the first to adopt is. Very newsworthy, and worth
trumpeting in any ad campaign. It must also be true that properly
exploited, there may be some additional market share to be gained
through it, so it's not all downside.

5) Keep discussing the
option of going completely digital. I'm sure this is discussed and the
Guardian management understand this much better than I, but there are
important implications for the environment as well as the economics. It
must include a subscription, but that has benefits since it would
probably be annual or semi-annual, which is more reliable income than
variable sales of print copies. (I'd like to see the management's
thoughts on this. Things change, as the Guardian demonstrates with this
very site. Where are they now on this?)

Prudence would dictate
money will be lost, so the Guardian must ask the same question it does
over page 3 girls: what is it prepared to do in service of Mammon
rather than its founders like Scott? Tits are out of bounds, yet they
would bring in more money, as would the sex trade ads, but the Guardian
has taken a moral stance at the expense of profit. Morality cannot be
parcelled out or striated by expediency. Either the Guardian is wholly
responsible and doesn't want to assist in destroying civilisation, or
it may as well start looking for busty women and brainless men to leer
at them, since that readership will always put their hands in their
pockets – if you know what I mean.

Good isn't it? I hope the Guardian's Emily Bell sees this and takes some of Graham's points further.

Tags: Guardian, George Monbiot, future of the media, Emily Bell, advertising

Social Media: Changing Organisations One Crisis at a Time

Youtubes Police
There’s a school of thought that believes that major internal changes only occur through external events – often political or financial – that have a major or cataclysmic impact on the organisation.

When it comes to social media causing cataclysmic changes in the UK we have recently witnessed two significant events which in one case has led to change. However, as far as I have seen, these changes have largely passed unnoticed among professional communicators despite having relevance to public and media institutions.

While they’re not exactly cut and dried case studies I thought I’d use a blog post to take a look at what happened, why, and how the Internet has changed the way the organisations in question operate – or not.

The first example at first sight looks like a fairly standard whistle-blower business story. Last month the Guardian published a story based on leaked documents that shone a light on Barclays’ investment division. The story, the Guardian claimed, was another piece of journalism damning the financial industry at a time when public abhorrence and anger for the wealth being accumulated (or not) by bankers was at its peak.

The Guardian broke the story overnight via its website which included scans of the leaked documents. These meant anyone could delve into Barclays’ gory tax avoidance details themselves. However, by the following morning edition of the Guardian newspaper Barclays’ lawyers had secured an injunction requiring the documents to be removed from the Guardian’s website. Job done, they thought.

However, in the couple of hours that the documents had been online users had saved copies of the documents and distributed them across the web, on sites including the wonderful Wikileaks.

Unfortunately, the injunction meant the Guardian couldn’t disclose or signpost its readers to the documents but that didn’t matter as people were discussing the story and linking to copies of the documents anyway – entirely by-passing the MSM and thus rendering the legal injunction all but worthless. 

This has clear resonances with the Diebold case in the US back in 2004. I won’t go into the specifics (it’s on Wikipedia and has been examined in detail Yochai Benkler’s Wealth of Networks) but suffice to say that a large company, in this case Diebold, discovered it couldn’t use legislation to control or censor unpalatable information once it had been launched into the social web.

The second case is more recent – and more tragic. During the G20 protests the innocent newspaper salesman Ian Tomlinson was assaulted by a police officer who had disguised his identity by covering his face with a balaclava and illegally removing his identification number. Furthermore, the officer responsible didn't come forward until the video footage had been played out across the world. As a result of this violence there is a very strong likelihood that the injuries Tomlinson's sustained during the assault led to his death.

This version of events – widely accepted by the public and media as the most accurate – has been established using images, videos and first-hand testimonies from citizen journalists. However, the response by the police forces involved and IPCC was to issue media statements that contradicted this version of events. How can that be?

Writing in Monday’s Media Guardian Nick Davies asks the important question: “Why did it take six days and citizen journalism to shed light on Ian Tomlinson’s death.”

Davies – whose book last year, Flat Earth News, criticised cash and resource strapped newsrooms for being overly-reliant on the PR industry and PROs – goes as far as to suggest that the reason may be that the Met, City of London Police and IPCC were deliberately issuing misinformation.

Far be it for me to comment on that point but it places the role of the Internet at the heart of the media coverage, rather than the periphery.

Aside from Tomlinson’s death, the nearby peaceful Climate Camp was targeted by violent police action which would seem to have coincided with when the MSM cameras were turned off. Without citizen reporters capturing the camp clearance on phones, digital video and still cameras there would be no real record of the events that unfolded.

Ditto the police officer who updated his Facebook status: "Can't wait to bash some long haired hippys up @ the G20." As a result he is being investigated. And who knows what happened (if anything) to this guy who’s Twitter update landed in my inbox a few days after the event.

With all this reputational fallout for the police and sharp drop in public trust it is perhaps no surprise to see the relatively rapid announcement in PR Week that the Met is now “stepping up its online comms" to deal with the Internet as a communications channel.

While it’s certainly a step in the right direction, tactical changes will only be successful if supported by a change in organisational strategy too. With the web making organisations’ actions near-impossible to control or manage, traditional institutions and their approach to communications – and in this case, UK law a well – are being undone by the Internet.

Things are changing, but it seems to be only one crisis at a time.

Tags: Social Media, organisational change, crisis, Barclays, Metropolitan Police, City of London Police, IPCC

Interpreting Media Trust: The Devil is in the Detail

Claire from media measurement firm, Metrica, sent me some survey findings that reveal the “pulse” of the UK’s trust in media.

Claire pulls out two interesting findings for discussion: the increased trust in national media (up from 46% last year to 70%) and the extremely low levels of trust in social media (only 5% trust blogs; 1% trust forums).

These findings interestingly echo Edelman‘s Trust Barometer results for the UK published back in January.

Back then we summised that the increased trust in media was due to a ‘bounce’ following the media’s public contrition after its dressing down last year over the numerous vote fixing and competition rigging scandals.

The low trust in ‘bloggers’ (bottom of the pile, I believe) was due to people responding to a concept rather than personality. After all, trust in “someone like me” (argubly exactly what bloggers are, compared to formal media channels) topped the rankings.

However, Claire offers an alternative analysis, indicating that the public want more objectivity:

“my personal opinion is that the consumers of media, having so much more content to choose from, have become more savvy about their options. When choosing your news channel, the objectivity of the source is the key.  Generalising massively here, I would say that while social media is often authentic, it is less likely than traditional media to be objective.  Many blogs tend to focus on  ‘opinion’ rather than ‘reporting’.  And there’s the issue – how much do any of us trust the opinion of someone whom we know nothing or very little about?”

But I’m afraid I must argue with Claire’s interpretation here (no offence!).

My (personal) reading is that objectivity has always been a delicate lie which is being increasingly exposed as the internet offers us more and more conflicting accounts of (news) events around the world. For example, type in a top news stroy in Google news and you can get numerous different accounts of the event from a range of opposing – yet supposedly ‘objective’ media outlets.

Claire asks “how much do any of us trust the opinion of someone whom we know nothing or very little about?” But in a way this overlooks the point. Blogs and forums are not populated by strangers, but rather once you have spent time getting to know the people that contribute to blogs and forums you realise they are “people like me” – and as Edelman’s Trust barometer indicates, the most trusted source of information.

If you unpick Metrica’s survey results there are some more findings that are worth investigating.

For instance, the survey showed “the internet in general has gained four percentage points [of trustworthiness], with 34% of UK adults now saying they trust its content.” With most adults unlikely to differentiate between a blog, forum, UGC site and ‘general internet content’  – not to mention newspaper sites with comment features – how does this square with the overwhelming number of those that distrust specific tools like blogs and forums?

In addition: “News sites as a specific online media type though do fair a lot better with 54% – more than national newspapers!” I think this finding needs further delineation: national newspapers *are* online, aren’t they. How exactly is the Times online more trustworthy than the Times in print?

So I suspect that if you can unpick the survey data or carry out a similar survey with a specifc focus on online then the results may yield even more interesting interpretations.


As a footnote to this post, the advertising firm Universal McCann has just published a report examining the rise of “trusting strangers” – as it puts it. I haven’t read it yet but judging from it’s slightly negative title I suspect it will come at peer-to-peer communications from an adland perspective – i.e. how can advertisers mimic the trust generated through word-of-mouth.

The answer is simple: build deep relationships. But this is something the ad industry has never been able to do. Will we see this start to change?

Technorati tags: Metrica, Universal McCann, Research, Trust

Is Knol *really* the great Wikipedia-killler?

Doc Searls is the first to echo some of my initial (private) scepticism about Google’s Wikipedia rival, Knol.

Knol "aims to include user-written articles on a range of topics".or as Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan calls it, "Wikipedia with moderation."

Knol permits anyone to author a page about a particular topic. While each article or ‘knol’ defaults to a ‘moderated’ setting, this can be changed to closed, preventing anyone else from authoring it.

This struck me as odd from the outset. I personally wouldn’t place too much trust in anything that was authored, put online then closed to revisions or third party intervention. That’s simply advertorial.

The power of Wikipedia, as David Weinberger has pointed out previously, is not necessarily the articles themselves – it is the social knowledge that is embedded in both the article and its discussion page. Wikipedia is trustworthy because it isn’t authoried by an authority rather, by many conflicting authorities.

But I presume Google knows this already as Knol is a shrewd business move. How smart a move remains to be seen.

Edelman Digital’s Steve Rubel circulated an internal memo which highlighted some of the ‘operating rules’ for Knol. These include:

  • Each article can list its “Affiliation” – a move intended to flag conflicts  of interest.
  • There is a significant emphasis on authors and their authority. For example authors are asked verify their name using mobile phone or credit card details
  • Google (apparently) has a team in place watching for spam, while links are no-follow in an attempt to prevent SEO spam.

But despite these worthy measures, it already looks as if the spammers are setting to work.

Going back to Doc Searl’s initial foray into the Knol-iverse, he writes that that a big chunk of the search results search for ‘hair’ were, in his words, “commercial gaming”.

More specifically he highlighted a clear example where Knol’s guidelines were being (or at least appeared to be being breached):

“The top result is for this article on hair loss, by Rob E. Angelino, Founder Hairlab center for hair restoration. Or so it says at the top. At the bottom it says "Copyright © 2005-2007 United Global Media Group, Inc. All rights reserved".

Not sure how that squares with Knol’s defaulted Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License, but it’s significant that Mr. Angelino also has collaboration closed on the document. You can do that with Knol. It also says here that Mr. Angelino is "Founder and CEO of United Global Media Group Inc." and "currently the CEO of The Beauty TV Network". Mr. Angelino has a total of six knols, including one each for the Beauty Channel, BeautyTV and The Beauty Network.”

And there’s my concern made real. I just don’t get the point of Knol. It is just one quick and easy algorithm away from a spammers’ paradise. But even despite Google’s best attempts to keep Knol spam free. I still don’t see the point. And perhaps that’s because there isn’t one.

The big hype around Knol has been that it is Google’s Wikipedia-killer. But, as Doc points out, Knol isn’t a rival to Wikipedia at all. It doesn’t come close or even compare.

And maybe Google knows that which is why they (or someone) has positioned it as such.

Technorati tags: Knol, Doc Searls, Wikipedia, Spam

Telegraph.co.uk’s SEO – Shane Richmond responds

I posted earlier this week about a story in  Private Eye about Telegraph.co.uk ensuring their news stories are chock full of realtime SEO key word goodness.

Well, I asked the Telegraph’s Communities Editor, Shane Richmond, if he could enlighten us any further and he has kindly posted his response on his Telegraph blog.

What Shane says makes total sense and (perhaps unlike the ultra traditional Eye) I see no reason why media outlets shouldn’t optimise their content.

In keeping with this idea, Shane provides a great insight into what other UK newspapers are doing – or reportedly doing. Shane writes:

"we’re [Telegraph.co.uk] far from unusual. As far as I know, staff at the Times get an email telling them what search terms are bringing people to their site, the Guardian, it’s rumoured, has begun training staff on SEO and the Mail has recently hired an SEO manager."

Intersting times indeed.

Technorati tags: Telegraph.co.uk, Shane Richmond, SEO, Newspapers

Telegraph’s web traffic chasing secrets revealed by Private Eye

One of the few paper publications I still buy (jndeed subscribe to) is Private Eye, the UK’s only satirical magazine.

In this fortnight’s ‘Street of Shame’ (the section exposing the often shallow hypocrisy of the media) there’s an interesting insight into how the Daily Telegraph achieves such high online traffic:

According to Eye:

"news hacks are sent a memo three or four times a day from the website boffins listing the top subjects being searched in the last few hours on Google. They are then exepected to write stories accordingly and/or get as many of those key words into the first par of their story."

Of course, most Private Eye material needs to be taken with a pinch of salt and to the ultra-traditional Eye journalists basing stores on digital consumer demand is a terrible thing. It is also the cause of the Telegraph’s growing obsession with celebrity and news-lite entertainment stories.

But that’s unfair, as the Telegraph has made some significant and well-thought out investments in the digital space under editor, Will Lewis. For example it was the first UK newspaper to reorganise its enwsroom to recognise the primacy of the web in the news cycle.

I wonder if the Telegraph’s blogger Shane Richmond has anything to add to the Eye’s story. Shane?

*UPDATED* Bloggers, Tory MEPs and why political parties should be worried

One of the findings from my research into agenda-setting and political bloggers in the UK earlier this year was that there is a distinct blurring of the roles between infuential journalists/media and influential bloggers.

To reinforce this, Mark Hanson has blogged about how two top political blogs drove last week’s high-profile campaign to unseat a number of corrupt Tory MEPs.

Both Guido Fawkes and Conservative Home were "swapping research, swapping sources, [and] referencing each other" according to Mark.

Two things strike me as interesting and significant here. Firstly, the timeline of this bears hallmarks of previous political blog campaigns – specifically Guido’s hounding of the Smith Institute which was closely followed/suported by the Daily Telegraph.

However, in this instance the sharing of material and sources came primarily from online sources – ie. without support from a mainstream publication (although I acknowledge this may have happened covertly).

Secondly – and as Mark points out – this was a Tory/libertarian attack on Tory MEPs. Antony Mayfield suggests it may be "right-wing bloggers cleaning their own house" but equally it suggests two further things:

  1. a concerted online campaign around a specific issue – significant because the internet allows people to aggregate around single issues, something traditional political party structures are unable to foster
  2. these single issue campaigns and campaigners are becoming more and more powerful. So potentially powerful in fact that parties ought to be extremely wary of their disruptive force in the future.

This campaign is fascinating because it is a ‘ritual cleansing’ (to adapt Antony’s idea) of the Tory party in Europe – but one conducted by those on the periphery of the party and even beyond (as Antony Mayfield points out: "Guido Fawkes is *not* a Tory").

Traditional political party structures are becoming increasingly redundant and threatened by highly influential and super connected individuals driven by single issues. If was in charge of the Tories, Labour or the Lib Dems I would be investing heavily in understanding the major changes the internet is having not just on communications but on an organisational level as well.

*UPDATED* Political consultant and blogger Tim Pendry gives his very expert analysis on what this online encounter means for the UK’s wider political scene.

Technorati tags: Politics, Guido Fawkes, Conservative Home, Mark Hanson