Media Monday Edmonton: Getting social on Facebook

For some reason I was curious about local media and Facebook recently, so that’s what I looked at this week. If you’re looking for a good rundown of recent news, check out Karen’s latest Edmonton New Media Roundup.

Here’s a quick comparison of Edmonton media organizations on Facebook (as of October 17, 2011):

102.3 Now! Radio Radio 55,454 3,186
91.7 The Bounce Radio 49,280 1,816
Global Edmonton TV 41,963 2,447
100.3 The Bear Radio 21,416 1,786
Hot 107 FM Radio 16,565 1,597
Sonic 102.9 Radio 14,244 1,605
CTV Edmonton TV 12,876 1,080
CISN Country 103.9 Radio 9,799 1,181
CKUA Radio Radio 9,045 198
104.9 Virgin Radio Radio 7,587 848
Edmonton Journal Print 5,695 269
K97 Radio 5,461 334
BT Edmonton TV 5,155 1,222
92.5 JOE FM Radio 3,488 175
up! 99.3 Radio 3,221 482
Edmonton Sun Print 3,134 616
630 CHED Radio 2,026 53
Lite95.7 Radio 1,727 180
Vue Weekly Print 980 14
CBC Edmonton Radio/TV 963 30
The Team 1260 Radio 945 7
96.3 Capital FM Radio 842 54
Metro Edmonton Print 803 14
the edmontonian (retired) Online 744 2
fusedlogic Online 693 12 Online 581 20
iNews880 Radio/Online 354 6
The Gateway Print 336 3
The Unknown Studio Online 296 3
City and Dale Online 251 9
Avenue Edmonton Print 190 6
West Edmonton Local Online 176 11 Online 155 6 Online 54 14
Jay n’ J. Online 21 0

Some thoughts on this table:

  • Radio stations are clearly the heaviest users of Facebook among the local media, both in terms of likes but also activity.
  • Online properties generally don’t have many likes on Facebook. Is this because they’re already online, just elsewhere? Is it because they don’t have as large an audience to promote Facebook to?
  • I would have expected CBC and the Edmonton Sun to place higher in terms of likes. They both have a significant offline audience, but they evidently haven’t been as aggressive at converting that audience into Facebook likes as other media organizations.
  • I think it’s interesting that 102.3 Now! Radio almost never links to its website on Facebook. Instead they posts photos, videos, and general notes, and seem to generate quite a lot of discussion. Contrast that with iNews880, where pretty much every post on Facebook is a link back to the website.

There’s a ton of additional analysis that could be done (which organizations advertise their Facebook pages, which have it integrated into their websites, etc.), but I think this is a useful start.

What do you think about the results?

Edmonton SeniorNet

seniorsBack in April, the Seniors Association of Greater Edmonton (Sage) invited me to join the Seniors Social Media Advisory Committee. The committee exists to help plan and develop what we now call Edmonton SeniorNet. Here’s some background that explains how this came about:

The Edmonton Seniors Coordinating Council (ESCC) was formed in 2004 as a mechanism of shared planning, coordination, and collaboration among Edmonton service providers for seniors. One of the ESCC’s objectives has been to develop and maintain a current strategic plan that addresses the needs of seniors and senior serving organizations in Edmonton. The Strategic Plan for Services to Edmonton’s Seniors: Towards 2015 is an initiative that aims to identify a shared strategic direction to meet the needs of seniors in Edmonton. One of the key areas that have been identified in this document is the need for meaningful and affordable social and recreational participation for seniors. A goal of this area, which Sage has taken the process lead on, is to develop and/or facilitate the use of current and emerging technologies to connect seniors.

This is interesting to me for a number of reasons. Obviously we know that the seniors population in Edmonton (and elsewhere) is growing rapidly. And we know that a large number of them are adopting tools like Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family. But there are lots of seniors who are not, for a variety of reasons. For me personally, my grandparents are split when it comes to web usage. My Dad’s mum is an avid email user, she’s on Facebook, and she uses instant messaging and SMS to keep in touch. She’s pretty savvy, and she’ll probably read this right away! On the flip side, my Mom’s parents use the Internet for banking and some very limited email and that’s about it. I often wonder why there’s such a difference in usage between them, and while I have some guesses, I don’t know the answer.

Sage recently received funding from the Government of Canada’s New Horizons for Seniors Program for this project, which was originally known as the “Emerging Social Media” project. Over the last few months we have been discussing how to take the program forward. The idea is to connect interested seniors with mentors to get an introduction to the world of social media, to see if it helps them stay connected.

We’re nearly into August now, and the Edmonton SeniorNet program is very close to launching!

Edmonton SeniorNet is a program that aims to introduce seniors to Internet websites that will help them easily connect and share ideas and stories with friends, family and the community. Edmonton SeniorNet seminars will take place at the Sage computer labs, and will run twice weekly from August to late October. Our hands-on seminars will teach seniors to use email and social-networking websites such as Facebook, Skype and Twitter.

Classes are currently scheduled to take place at Sage downtown (northwest corner of Churchill Square). One option is Monday & Wednesday afternoons from 1pm to 2:30pm (starts August 3), and the other is Tuesday & Thursday mornings from 10am to 11:30am (starts August 4).

We’re still looking for additional participants and mentors. Participants should have some basic computer skills and experience surfing the web is a desirable asset, though not required. Mentors should be enthusiastic but patient, should already use Facebook, Skype, and other tools regularly, and should be eager to share their knowledge with others! If you’re interested in participating either as a participant or a mentor, contact Karolina at Sage (contact info is on the right side).

Check out the Edmonton SeniorNet blog for updates as the project progresses. You can also like the project on Facebook!

Looking for an HTML5 developer to join Questionmark in Edmonton

Back in April I posted that Questionmark was looking for a Junior Technical Writer here in Edmonton, and I’m happy to report that my blog post led to a successful hire! I figure it can’t hurt then, to mention that we’re looking for a web developer to join our growing team:

We are looking for a talented mobile applications developer to join our development team in designing and creating the next generation of online assessment delivery software.​ The successful candidate will work closely with a Product Owner and other team members (developers and QA) in a SCRUM (Agile) environment.​ They will be responsible for delivering potentially shippable functionality each Sprint using HTML5 and other mobile technologies targeting the most popular mobile platforms (iOS, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Phone).​

We’re looking for a web developer with experience creating applications using core web technologies (HTML, JavaScript, and CSS). The ideal candidate would also have experience with our core technology stack – ASP.NET MVC, C#, WCF, and SQL Server. There’ll be a focus on mobile development initially, but of course HTML5 is not limited to smartphones so there’s lots of opportunity to have a wider impact!

Our development teams are cross-functional and work in two week iterations. We use Visual Studio Team System 2010 to manage source code and other artifacts, and Visual Studio Lab Management to facilitate automated testing and deployment.

Our Edmonton office is located downtown in the Empire Building on Jasper Avenue at 101 Street, right above Central LRT Station.

You can view the job posting on Monster, or email me directly if you have questions or are interested in applying!

Recap: Edmonton Journal Connect

Last night I attended an event called Edmonton Journal Connect, held at the Winspear Centre downtown. It was an opportunity to meet John Connolly and Lucinda Chodan, the Journal’s new publisher and editor-in-chief, respectively. It was also about the future of the newspaper:

Paula Simons was our host for the evening. She kept things rolling along and introduced John and Lucinda to the large crowd. She also used the opportunity to plug her Facebook page! It’s about the future, right? Actually she made a bet she could get to 500 likes by the end of the week. She’s close, at 446 right now.

John spoke first, and introduced the Edmonton Journal’s new executive team:

  • Joseph Wuest, VP Advertising and Marketing
  • Joseph Celino, VP Reader Sales and VP Production
  • Gail Matheson, VP Finance, Planning and Human Resources
  • Sandra Marocco, Director of Strategic Partnerships

He used the bulk of his speech to focus on the transformation that is being led by that team. Citing Taste Alberta, partnerships with the YMCA and the Edmonton Eskimos, John proclaimed that the Journal is “looking to partner and collaborate with you”.

Edmonton Journal Connect

He also touched on the success the Journal has enjoyed recently:

“There are pundits who predict the end of news media as we know it, but we at The Journal are excited as we embrace the possibilities that technology has opened to us. The fact is, we’ve never reached as many people as we do now every week. We’ve never been able to connect and engage and interact with our readers to anything close to what we do now. We have unprecedented opportunities to provide depth and breadth of coverage, expanded community news, community input, conversation and interaction and hugely improved relevance to many communities of interests.”

Every week more than 513,000 people read the Journal, whether it is online or in print. The website records more than 465,000 unique visitors each month. You can read more about the stats here.

Next up was Lucinda Chodan. She started off by talking about the shift in the way the Journal interacts with its readers. I love that Lucinda put it so bluntly:

“The old way of practising journalism was pretty ‘top down.’ We decided. You consumed. Now, readers influence much of what we do, from the stories we pursue to the prominence those stories receive in print and online.”

She cited the use of Chartbeat, a real-time web analytics tool, as one of the ways the Journal is able to monitor and react to reader interest. She also mentioned the goosecam, back by popular demand for the fourth year in a row. Last year there were 220,000 page views on the goosecam page. And of course she gave props to the live-blogging that has been done recently for the arena and Twitchell stories.

Edmonton Journal Connect

Lucinda also made a couple of exciting announcements. First, she said the Journal is introducing a “community newsroom”:

“In this community newsroom, we’ll be inviting local bloggers and interested readers to work with us to assign and cover the news – and to use the Journal online as a place to meet and interact with like-minded individuals.”

Details were sparse, but it sounds like there will be two key ways to get involved. One is the creation of a “community advisory committee”. Starting next week the call for volunteers for that initiative will go out. The second way to get involved was the other big announcement:

“I am happy to announce that we will be offering two community newsroom internships to students at local post-secondary institutions.”

That’s a great way to connect with future journalists and to “pass the journalistic torch” as Lucinda put it.

She closed very confidently:

“As John said, there are pundits out there predicting the death of newspapers. As the editor of a major daily newspaper, I can tell you that pundits are occasionally wrong. And I can assure you that in this case, they have completely missed the boat.”

Before Paula officially ended the program, she mentioned a couple of other exciting things they’re working on, including an improved platform for the Journal’s bloggers, and the aggregation of other bloggers in the community on the Journal’s website. Further details on that should be coming soon.

In addition to the speeches, the evening was a great opportunity to connect with the Journal’s journalists and columnists, as well as others in the larger community. There seemed to be a good range of representation, including local politicians, business leaders, and others. Throughout the evening there were screens up showing a live stream of the conversation on Twitter, using the hashtag #meetEJ. And two lucky winners walked away with brand new iPad 2s!

Edmonton Journal ConnectEdmonton Journal Connect

Edmonton Journal ConnectEdmonton Journal Connect

It was a good night of conversation. I’m excited to learn more about the community newsroom and the community advisory committee, and of course the blog aggregation. Stay tuned for details!

You can see more photos of the evening here.

Media Monday Edmonton: How fast are local media websites?

On the web, page speed matters. If your site takes too long to load, people will go elsewhere. Google proved this by purposefully slowing down its search engine. They found that even just half a second caused fewer searches. Bottom line: users love fast sites!

With that in mind, I decided to look at local media sites – how fast or slow are they? Rather than looking at page load times, I decided to use YSlow to determine the performance of each site. Lots of factors can impact the amount of time a page takes to load (your ISP, the speed of your computer, where you are geographically,etc), but everyone has to download the same amount of data for a web page, so I figured YSlow is a little more fair than a stopwatch.

Here are the fourteen sites I looked at (you can download all the data here):

As you can see, none of the sites received an “A” grade. The only one to receive a B was Only Here for the Food. The grade can be somewhat misleading, however. Here’s what the front page performance for each site looks like:

It turns out that Sharon’s blog is the heaviest of them all with an empty cache (the first time you visit the site). This is due to the large number of images she has on her site. In fact, almost all of the weight of the page is due to the images. If you look at the primed cache (subsequent visits to the site) then the Edmonton Journal is the heaviest. The Edmonton Journal has the worst performance improvement going from an empty to a primed cache:

To be fair, I decided I should compare an “article page” on each site as well. With social media in particular, an article page is more likely to be a visitor’s entry point to the site. For this test, I simply clicked on the top article on each site:

One caveat: I used the second story for iNews 880, because their top story was over 25 MB in size! Evidently they think it is fine to embed full size, uncompressed images.

As you can see, Valerie’s blog is the heaviest, again due to the number of pictures she has. Once again, the Edmonton Journal has the worst performance improvement going from an empty to a primed cache:

Final Thoughts

I thought there would be more of a difference between the new and traditional media sites, but there isn’t really. In general the heaviest part of the blogs is images and the heaviest part of the traditional media sites is Javascript, but there are exceptions. On average, the first time you visit the front page of one of these sites you’re going to have to download just over 2 MB. On a 56.6 Kbps dial-up connection, that would take you nearly 5 minutes. On a typical high-speed connection, it’s more like less than 10 seconds.

I think perceived performance is often more important than actual performance, but that’s obviously harder to measure. In my experience, most of these sites load fairly quickly. When I do notice a speed issue, it’s usually because the page I am trying to load has a lot of stuff on it.

Another thing I learned from this exercise is that all of the sites have room for improvement!

What has your experience been like? Which sites do you find slow?

Edmonton’s 2010 Grey Cup Festival Never Happened

In November 2010, Edmonton hosted the 98th Grey Cup. The Montreal Alouettes defeated the Saskatchewan Roughriders for the second straight year to capture the CFL’s top prize. Of course, the event was more than just a football game. We’re festival city, and we turned the Grey Cup into a very successful festival. There was something for everyone, and downtown was full of people, which unfortunately doesn’t happen very often. It wasn’t a perfect event, but I think you’d be hard-pressed to find an Edmontonian who would consider it anything less than a success.

2010 Grey Cup Festival Kickoff

Here’s what Todd Babiak wrote (archive):

Ten years from now, only the statisticians and the really, really heartbroken will recall the winner of Sunday’s Grey Cup game in Edmonton.

What we would like to remember, in 10 years, is that many thousands of warmly audacious people from Saskatchewan came to witness Edmonton’s transition from a cosy little prairie city to something else.

I would go further and say that we absolutely need to remember what we accomplished with the Grey Cup Festival. We need to be proud of it, we need to learn from it, and we need to improve upon it.

But, the Grey Cup Festival never happened.

If you try to visit the festival website, at, you’re redirected to the website of the Edmonton Eskimos. As far as the web is concerned, the festival never happened. And in 2011 and beyond, the web is all that matters. Think about it for a second – less than two months after the event took place, the most important online record of it has vanished.

Ignoring the fact that the website barely worked during the festival (which is an important, but different issue), this is troubling. I have written before about the need to preserve our local, digital, cultural artifacts. The web is the single most important platform for doing so. The web is accessible and pervasive. Too often, however, it is not permanent. We can and must do better. We also need to stop thinking of event websites as only being relevant during the event.

Now obviously the festival happened. And there are other places online that provide evidence and a record of it. There’s the Wikipedia entry, the many blog posts that were written, thousands of photos uploaded to the web, etc. But all of these should be ancillary to the event website, not a substitute for it. And there’s no guarantee that they’ll exist in the future. For instance, you can read Todd’s article today, but in six months it will no longer be available on the web (hopefully my archive link is…this is a problem the Journal is aware of and hopes to address).

The saddest part about this particular instance is that I guessed it would happen. I should have spoken up sooner. The good news is that I archived the entire site on November 27, 2010. You can see the front page here.

I don’t think this is an easy problem to solve, but I believe it is important that we do solve it. I’m going to do what I can to help educate others about why this is so important, I’ll continue learning from the very smart people we have in the “archival” business, and I’ll continue doing what I can to help archive.

Double props to the Edmonton Journal

As you probably know, I don’t shy away from criticizing the Edmonton Journal (or other local media). Though I don’t always succeed, I do try to be constructive, because I think there’s incredible opportunity facing The Journal. Two such opportunities: data-driven journalism, and real-time reporting.

Props to Brent Wittmeier & Lucas Timmons

Neither Brent nor Lucas have been with The Journal for very long, and maybe that’s why they were able to succeed with the unclaimed balances story. Brent was voluntold to write about the Bank of Canada’s unclaimed balances, which he did by teaming up with data journalist Lucas to create a searchable online database for Edmonton. They put together a three-part story, but it didn’t stop there:

We also got quite the response. Dozens of phone calls and emails poured in, and I began working on a follow-up story. And then two. And now, three. Some of these other stories are even better than the original… There should be an extensive piece either later this week or next weekend.

Start with some data, and more often than not a story will emerge. Brent noted: “In truth, they ended up being far more interesting stories than I thought.”

Props to Paula Simons & David Staples

I’m glad to see that Paula and David (with some help from other colleagues such as Todd Babiak) have started a new blog focused on local affairs, called The Edmonton Commons. They used it very effectively on nomination day to share stories about the candidates and the official start of the election. They’ve also got the #yegvote hashtag embedded on the page. Though they have cross-posted some columns, I’m hopeful that their use of the blog as way to forego the print deadline will expand.

Here is Paula’s first post, and here is David’s first post. I like what David had to say:

The sharpening of ideas, the accumulation of good information and the discarding of bad information is at the core of strong decision making. It’s what we hope to do here at this forum. In the past, there were more barriers in regards to entering into the great conversation of civil society, even for a newspaper writer…the conversation was largely one-way. The Internet gives us a new tool that enables that conversation to flourish.

Time will tell how successful the two are with the blog (will they still be writing as often in three months as they do now) but I think they’re off to a great start.

Edmontonians magazine calls it quits, the edmontonian celebrates 1 year

After 21 years of publishing, Edmontonians magazine is calling it quits. Citing declining advertising revenues, publisher Sharon MacLean announced today via email that the June edition of the magazine will be its last.

“The news business is caught in the cyclone of change, fueled by the tremendous growth in popularity of access to news and information on the Internet. Both readership and revenues have declined significantly; major dailies have closed their doors, as have a number of magazines.”

Edmontonians had started to cultivate an online presence, amassing over 4400 followers on Twitter, but the publication remained firmly rooted in print. Perhaps anticipating a question about where the industry is going, Sharon wrote “there is much hope for the future of publishing – we simply ran out of time to bridge the transition.”

I can’t say that I was a fan of Edmontonians, but I know many people in the city really liked the publication. So far no announcement has been made on the website, so I’m not sure what will happen to the content available there. There’s also no word on what Sharon will be up to next.

The decision to cease publishing Edmontonians magazine comes at the same time that local website the edmontonian is celebrating its first year. And what a year it was! Jeff reports:

75,000+ people have checked us out. We’ve averaged 3 posts per day. We’ve got more than 2 comments per post. In the last year we’ve posted more than 780 times. We’ve also shown off more than 1,500 photos of Edmonton. We had 40+ contributors who wrote, took photos, shot video, gave us prizes, and did lots of other great stuff, all helping to tell Edmonton stories.

Of course, if you read Jeff’s actual post, you’ll see that the above stats are mixed in with his trademark writing style. Free from the constraints of print, Jeff and his partner-in-crime Sally have been able to produce content the way they want to, when they want to. That has resulted in a publication that I and many others enjoy going back to (or subscribing to) each and every day.

The similarity of their names notwithstanding, I think these publications are a great representation of two completely different worlds. The advertising-supported physical print model is increasingly under fire from the more flexible online digital media model. Will the edmontonian be around for 21 years like Edmontonians was? Almost certainly not, at least not in its current form (who knows what kind of technology we’ll have when 2031 rolls around). But for right now, its pretty clear that the edmontonian is the more sustainable model.

Congrats to Edmontonians on 21 years of telling Edmonton stories! Congrats to the edmontonian on a fantastic first year!

Edmonton-based startup Edistorm continues to grow

edistorm One of the things we need to do more of in Edmonton (especially in the tech sector) is celebrate our successes (storytelling). Reg and I talk all the time, but not always about our respective projects. Recently though, I had the opportunity to ask Reg about Edistorm, his web-based, collaborative brainstorming solution. He first previewed it to the local community at DemoCampEdmonton4 back in October 2008, and has been steadily improving it ever since, demoing again at Launch Party in March. Reg said the feedback he received and introductions that he made at Launch Party were particularly useful. I asked him how the service has been doing since then.

Edistorm has been getting a lot of traction lately, largely from customers outside of Edmonton. In the last 30 days alone, Edistorm has had visitors from 103 countries and has signed up over 1000 new users. There are registered users from over 60 countries now (one of the great things about Edistorm is that it doesn’t contain a lot of text that needs to be translated…the short intro video on the website is enough for people in any language to get the idea and start using it).

For those of you new to the service:

Edistorm takes the metaphor of sticky notes on a boardroom wall and brings it online allowing anyone, anywhere to brainstorm with only a web browser.

After you login and create a storm, you’re presented with a nice blank canvas. You can add ideas (on sticky notes, natch) both manually and from “idea bots” that brainstorm with you, then you can organize and vote on them. If you invite others to join your storm, they can add ideas to the canvas and vote in real-time as well.

I asked Reg what was new with Edistorm. Turns out there’s a number of things the team has added recently:

  • You can now get daily email summaries to see which ideas have been added or commented on in your storms.
  • One of the coolest new features is templates, which help your organize your ideas on the storm canvas. When creating a storm, you can choose from SWOT analysis, pros vs. cons, domain names, and more. The team is open to ideas for more templates too!
  • Sharing storms is even easier – you can simply provide a key now, instead of having to invite via email.
  • A new iPhone app will be available in the app store within the next two weeks!

Brainstorming is something everyone does, and Edistorm makes it easy to brainstorm online with others. Reg sounds pretty excited about the growth he’s achieved so far (with very little marketing) and about where the service is headed feature-wise. Best of all, it sounds like some bigger organizations are starting to take notice. I think it’s great that another local startup is doing well, and I know Edistorm will continue to grow!

If you haven’t tried Edistorm yet, you can sign up for a free account here. Be sure to follow @edistorm on Twitter too!

OpenID Connect

I’ve been doing some work with OpenID and OAuth lately, making use of the excellent DotNetOpenAuth library. I am pretty much a beginner when it comes to these technologies, but I have been able to get up-to-speed fairly quickly. I was a big fan of Facebook Connect, and I quite like the new Graph API too (which uses OAuth 2.0). Though it was easy to develop against, I think the biggest benefit of Facebook Connect was the excellent end user experience. It was consistent and simple.

In contrast, OpenID is a little more cumbersome, and a lot less consistent. The discussion on how to make it easier and sexier has been going on for a while now. It seems like some significant progress will be made this week when OpenID Connect is discussed at the Internet Identity Workshop. What is OpenID Connect?

We’ve heard loud and clear that sites looking to adopt OpenID want more than just a unique URL; social sites need basic things like your name, photo, and email address.

We have also heard that people want OpenID to be simple. I’ve heard story after story from developers implementing OpenID 2.0 who don’t understand why it is so complex and inevitably forgot to do something. Because it’s built on top of OAuth 2.0, the whole spec is fairly short and technology easy to understand. Building on OAuth provides amazing side benefits such as potentially being the first version of OpenID to work natively with desktop applications and even on mobile phones.

Chris Messina has some additional thoughts on the proposal here:

After OpenID 2.0, OpenID Connect is the next significant reconceptualization of the technology that aims to meet the needs of a changing environment — one that is defined by the flow of data rather than by its suppression. It is in this context that I believe OpenID Connect can help usher forth the next evolution in digital identity technologies, building on the simplicity of OAuth 2.0 and the decentralized architecture of OpenID.

It sounds very exciting – I hope OpenID Connect becomes a reality!