Saturday, July 18, 2015

Cultural publication 'flirts with the Dark Side' in Spain

El Pais announces the alliance on its website.
(Updated Aug. 22, 2015; versión en español)

The iconoclastic Spanish culture magazine Jot Down is a strange creature in many ways. At a time when people supposedly read little and do it rapidly, it publishes long interviews and essays.

In an age of minute-by-minute updates and clickbait, Jot Down makes its money by charging about US$16.75 for each copy of its massive 320-page quarterly, which carries only two or three pages of advertising.

Another oddity: its target market is not the famous millennials so sought after by many media but rather more-mature folks in their 40s and 50s. It is an edgy publication that attracts people “who think of themselves as young,” says publisher Angel Fernandez, 44, who co-founded it four years ago.

Marriage of convenience

Surprisingly, it is viable, profitable, and growing. But possibly strangest of all, it has just reached agreement to share its content with one of the media icons of Spain, in fact a symbol of much of what Jot Down criticizes about traditional media, namely El Pais. Ironically, several of the magazine’s contributors were laid off by El Pais during the long economic downturn and have not hesitated to bash their former employer.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

An exercise on usability puts theory into practice

At the end of a semester-long course in digital journalism, I asked my students at the University of Navarra in Spain to say what they thought was the most interesting or useful part of the course. The survey was anonymous, so I give it some credibility.

The question was open-ended. The second-most-mentioned item was a class exercise I gave them in which they had to judge the navigability, usability, transparency, and other factors of any website they liked. This group exercise put theory into practice and developed their analytical skills.

(No. 1 was the video interviews with digital media entrepreneurs from Latin America. They are in Spanish and can be seen on my YouTube channel. Accompanying text in English is available elsewhere on this blog.)
The exercise took 45 minutes and followed a 45-minute lecture on the theory of Internet design, especially as it applied to taking advantage of mobile and social platforms.

First, I told the students that they were going to do an ungraded analysis of various characteristics of a website or application. They could do it in groups of three or four. I showed the students a list of about a dozen websites that I knew were popular but told them they could also choose any that they liked.