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GigaOM is a technolgy news web blog that is staffed by veteran tech reporters, journalists, and industry analyzers. What makes GigaOM stand out as a top quality site is the level of depth and analysis it provides in its articles. Not only do the writers on the site report on events and new technologies, they predict what direction the industry is heading and how new products, laws and corporate decisions will effect the future for businesses, individuals and society as a whole.

Not all the news on the site is that “heavy,” however. GigaOM regularly posts product and application reviews for new devices such as the iPad.

The layout of the site is clean, efficient and organized. There are generally one or two featured stories at the top of the page accompanied with a picture and headlines for several recent stories underneath. There are also links on the  front page for those interested in following GigaOM on Facebook, Twitter or Google.

Often times the articles on the site lead way to interesting community discussion through the comments section underneath each article. I’ve noticed on many occasions that the writers become actively involved in the discussions relating to their own articles, which I thought was pretty neat.

The site isn’t updated quite as frequently as technology blogs like Gizmodo or Engadget, but the trade-off seems to lie in the depth and quality of the news presented. While I thoroughly enjoy Gizmodo and Engadget, I see them more as sites for entertainment and breaking new stories as they occur. GigaOM serves another purpose. It’s a site that doesn’t necessarily produce the most news at the fastest rate, but the staff takes the time to interview credible sources and to make sure the stories are well written and comprehensive enough that the readers will feel like they have learned something important after reading an article. I don’t visit one tech site over the other, rather I often visit both types as I see them as complimentary to each other.

So if you’re looking for technology news that reflects on industry trends and provides knowledgable advice and foresight, GigaOM is the site to visit.

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Picture of the iMac inside the Apple Store on Boylston Street. Click image for more tech photos relating to Gizmodo.

There are millions of new media sites that have been published on the web, most of which are seldom visited, so what is it that separates the sites with 100 page views per month from the ones with 100 million? It’s a question of increasing significance as the journalism industry shifts further into the internet age. Perhaps the best place to start looking for the answer is at a site that has already achieved this type of success; a site like Gizmodo.

Gizmodo.com is a popular  web blog that specializes in the rapid dissemination of technology related news articles and product reviews. This encompasses anything from reporting on the “Ferrari of electric bikes” to the downsides of Powerpoint.  The blog was created in 2002 as part of Gawker Media, and the staff at Gizmodo now prides itself in being the most heavily trafficked site in the entire network, with about 5 million page views per day on average. Gizmodo falls slightly behind in average page views per month compared to tech blog competitor Engadget, but the numbers are close and subject to change on any given month.

The topic of technology presents itself as an advantage in an age where technological innovation is increasing at an exponential rate. This is something that Jason Chen, editor at Gizmodo, believes helps drive traffic to the site.

I think everyone, even people who don’t really think they like tech, likes tech. TVs, phones, microwaves — all that stuff is tech. Unless you’re a total luddite that locks yourself in a barren house, you’re using tech somehow. So there’s always a type of device that interests some people.

One of Gizmodo’s specialties is knowing how to draw in a crowd.  Tish Grier, a social media strategist at Tish Grier & Associates, explained that part of the draw of Gizmodo is the immediacy of the information and the tone of the articles, which readers tend to find fun and easy to digest. That is only part of it, however. According to Grier, Gizmodo editors also know a thing or two about effective marketing strategies and employ a technique called “link baiting” to drive up site traffic.

They’ll put up an article that’s very controversial  and they’ll get people to go crazy and write about it. It drives as much traffic to the site as a scoop will do. . . bloggers who find these sensationalistic stories will write on them and it all links back to the original site.

Chen pointed out the importance of making sure the content being produced through the site keeps viewers interested as well.

We look for stuff that either makes us say “awesome” or stuff we think a lot of other people will think is awesome. Basically, we look for cool tech stuff, or tech-oriented stuff, that appeals to people who like gadgets. We usually go through stories together with the staff to see what might work but sometimes we work on them individually.

Sites like Gizmodo are always looking for the next “awesome” story that can help drive up site traffic and crush the competition. Scoops occassionally present themselves in the form of leaked information on gadget prototypes that have yet to be released to the public. To exemplify the impact these sorts of stories have on a tech site, we can look at the recent case of the leaked Apple iPhone 4G. Gizmodo was able to get their hands on a misplaced prototype version of the unreleased iPhone, which they paid $10,000 for. They released the story about the iPhone on April 19th at 10am. During that same day the number of page views sky rocketed from the average 5 million to 20-25 million . The tech site Digital Inspiration estimated that within only two days after the story broke, Gizmodo might have earned $150,000 in ad revenue, more than covering the cost of purchasing the prototype.

Nema Lorestany, a 19-year-old Gizmodo reader from Scramento, Calif., said the appeal of the site lies in the quickness with which it’s updated.

I use the site as source material for tech news for my podcast. They have a lot of news dudes or news dudettes frequently updating it.

A common worry among news traditionalists and professionals is of a potential degradation in news quality, with sites pushing for quickly produced stories with sensationalistic headlines that can grab a crowd. The lingering fear is that frequently updated “soft news” over the Internet will become the acceptable standard of journalism while thoughtful analysis of major news events takes a back seat due to lower traffic on more serious news sites.

Despite concerns, the popularity of sites like Gizmodo doesn’t strike me as a legitimate enough reason to fear for the future of journalism. Gizmodo is the go-to tech site for people interested in new technologies. I believe the site’s popularity is the result of being the most relevant, updated purveyor of new information within the industry it has set out to cover.

Grier believes there is a common misconception among news consumers that the news found on the internet through sources other than well known, mainstream news outlets, such as NBC and the New York Times, are run by amateurs. She explained that many of the popular tech blogs we read are created by actual journalists.

Many of these sites, whether Gizmodo or Silicon Valley, are from journalists. Many go to journalism school or have written for newspapers and magazines. . . A lot of it is attributed to amateurs when the fact of the matter is most of these writers are journalists.

An important factor that plays a part in driving the success of a site is its aesthetic appeal. An aspect of Gizmodo that might be more appropriately attributed to the Gawker Network as a whole is the colorful design and efficient layout of the site, which is shared among other sites within the network.

According to Chen, editors have almost complete control over the content Gizmodo produces, but the site layout is fixed. Virtually no articles are posted without an audio/visual accompaniment to the story as well as plenty of links. Many staffers post videos in their articles, primarily when posting reviews. The look and feel of the site, while some may see it as a superficial concern of lesser consequence, has influence in the site’s success.

The design of the site also helps facilitate the integration of various social networking components. On the main page there are links to subscribe to Gizmodo through Twitter and Facebook, as is standard of many new media sites today. What makes the main page interesting are the links to Twitter feeds and even AOL instant messaging for individual staffers.

Despite the site’s commercial success and its association with the Gawker network, it still feels like an accessible community because of these social networking components. It is a pretty astounding feat to be able to contact someone on site with as much web traffic as they get and actually have someone respond to an instant message seconds after sending a request for an interview, which is exactly happened with me.

Gizmodo is good at what they do and in my eyes, remains a logical point of reference for how new media is done properly.

Blogging for Profit

Creating a blog is not an activity that many would engage in to generate a sustainable income. Blogging has become an outlet for people to voice themselves, usually as a hobby. Despite this, potential remains for blogs to become full-fledged business ventures capable of turning a handsome profit. It all comes down to a matter of creativity, motivation and identifying your personal talents.

The Gawker Media Network has exemplified the potential for profit through blogging, however its approach involves massive amounts of ad revenue facilitated by extremely high site traffic. While bloggers generally strive to gain more followers on their sites, the ad revenue approach is not a realistic one. It would be difficult for one to live off blog ad revenue alone. This is where creativity and personal skill set comes into play.

Dan Gregory, a faculty member of the School for Technical Entrepreneurship at Northeastern University, mentioned that identifying personal talents is pivotal for establishing where one would excel in creating a business, especially when deciding your role and value in a team environment. I can see this line of entrepreneurial thought translating well into the realm of blogs.

I have a preference for writing about technology and gaming — these are my hobbies. How can these hobbies translate into career-comparable income through the use of my web blog? It’s the million dollar question. It seems simple, but if it was truly as simple as it sounds there would be a lot of rich, happy bloggers out there making a decent living which, as of now, simply isn’t the case. The success of any idea correlates directly to the traffic generated through the web blog in question. As such, the ability to market yourself, your ideas, your talents and your blog is perhaps the most important aspect in the mission of blogging for profit.

Newstrust is a social news network that allows members to post articles from anywhere on the internet for the purpose of being critiqued on its journalistic merit. After having spent some time on the site, I have to applaud it for its originality. The idea behind the site, according to NewsTrust Editor Mark LaBonte, is to help news consumers critically analyze stories by posing  questions that encourage readers to reflect. In this, I believe the site has succeeded. The full review format asks the user to rate stories based on fairness, style, sources and depth among other aspects that may apply to any given story. The reviewer is then encouraged to provide notes and/or comments.

Given that anyone can post a review as long as they provide a first and last name, one might question how the site maintains credibility. While anyone can abuse the tools and create biased or self-serving reviews, there are counter-methods in place that prevent these users from gaining influence on the site. A primary example involves a community policing approach where users can rate and review other users. As long as you are a member, your profile is viewable by all other members, including your user rating. When more than one person reviews the same story, the review of the person who has a higher user rating is weighted more heavily. In short, if your reviews seem consistently bias or inappropriate, the value given to your reviews from the site will diminish over time.

Despite the occasional unsureness associated with having to rate aspects of a story on a scale of one to five, the reviewing process encourages a level of analysis that might not naturally occur while reading through the news. I can see the site being used as an effective educational tool for students majoring in the field of journalism. While Newstrust might not expand into the realm of internet giants as far as site traffic goes, it maintains its value for those interested enough in journalism to use the tools its offers.

Here are a few stories i’ve recently reviewed: CNN story, Boston Globe story, NYT story

If you’re looking for a good burger in Boston, b.good on Newbury Street is where you want to be. Tucked away below street level, the small but trendy burger joint has some of the best and healthiest (relatively speaking — no good beef burger is going to be that healthy) burgers that Boston has to offer.

Interior view of b.good restaurant on Newbury.

The beef and turkey burgers are house-ground, hand-packed and made to order. I haven’t tried their all-natural veggie burgers and oven-baked chicken sandwiches but others I’ve gone with have told me they don’t disappoint. In staying true to the theme of healthy fast food, they use wheat buns on all their sandwiches.

Healthy food seems to have become synonymous with bland, unsatisfying taste but don’t let that discourage you from coming to this restaurant. I am not by any means a healthy eater, nor do I generally concern myself with the nutritional value of the food items I consume. The food here tastes great and the fact that some aspects are healthy is simply an added benefit. B.good is one of a rare breed of fast food burger restaurants that don’t make you feel greasy and sick after eating.

Aside from just sandwiches, the restaurant offers baked fries, sweet potato fries, crisp vegetables, salads, fruit shakes and milkshakes (with non-fat options).

If you’re a college student strapped for cash, the prices can be a little intimidating. The burgers start at $6.00, salads at $7.00 and the cheapest side is $2.19. The prices aren’t bad for the quality of the food, but since they market themselves as fast food, the price you find on the receipt may be surprising if you decide to order a side and a shake with your meal. Regardless, the quality of the food is well worth the price.

Data mapping has become a popular way to visually illustrate relevant information in a format that’s easy to digest. Sites have used these maps to provide information on issues of health care and the economy by segmenting information into states, districts, towns, etc. that allow for the user to gather information they’re interested in. Three maps that serve this purpose include the data recipient map at recovery.gov, the recovery status map at economy.com and the election maps by Mark Newman.

I see mapping as a format that is complimentary to the traditional analytical text-based format of journalism, but it has it uses as a stand-alone. Some maps allow the user to explore detailed information that is specifically relevant to the individual viewing the map while others give a much broader overview of any given topic. The one reason I have to be dubious about mapping  is the potential for failure in setting up a proper context. Without the appropriate amount of information to explain exactly what the map means, viewers may be mislead. When a poll is shown without an appropriate amount of information, the conclusions that are drawn are often inaccurate or irrelevant to how it’s being applied.

Despite these problems, polling still has its uses. So too does data mapping.

Final Project Idea

I’d like to use Gizmodo as the subject of my final project. Gizmodo is a popular technology blog with several writers, reporters and editors that have an active presence on Twitter and Facebook. The site is updated frequently and there is a lot of active community commentary. While the stories aren’t always the most well written entries, they provide a healthy mix of entertainment, product reviews, tech advice, etc.

Gizmodo is owned by parent company Gawker Media, which owns nine other successful web blogs. Gawker Media has proven that running web blogs, which are generally low cost ventures, can be extremely profitable. Advertising revenue in 2009 was estimated at $60 million. By analysing Gizmodo and interviewing reporters and editors that work on the site, I will try to find out what goes into making a successful, active blog that is able to turn a handsome profit. While it’s obvious ad revenue is driven by high traffic volume, it would be interesting to explore how the people at Gizmodo operate — do they have a specific model they follow? I chose Gizmodo not only because it is a successful new media site, but because it also regularly reports on new media topics. Stories on “new media” often correlate with new technologies. The story would include not only elements of journalism and new media, but also the entrepreneurial side of new media.