New Tech Tools Transforming Journalism

By Masimba Biriwasha | Global Editor At Large | @ChiefKMasimba | February 27, 2014

The digital age is transforming the face of journalism, challenging journalists to tell stories in new and innovative ways. Today audiences are being bludgeoned by tons of information resulting in limited attention spans. What this means for journalist is they have to present their stories in a manner that not only attracts but keeps attention. Continue reading

Redesigning Journalism in the Digital Age

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha | Global Editor At Large | @ChiefKMasimba | February 20, 2014

Journalism in the digital age is increasingly about helping audiences filter through the gazillions of content being produced on a daily basis through high quality, interactive and engaging storytelling. Thanks to technology, journalism is being reshaped, and stories are being told with greater innovation.

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Are Native Ads Good or Bad for Digital Journalism?

By Masimba Biriwasha | Global Editor-At-Large | January 01, 2013 | @ChiefKMasimba

Late last year, The New York Times announced that it will be going big on native advertising in 2014 raising questions about authenticity, particularly on what is and what is not journalism.

Native advertising, described by AdAge as the hottest new form of advertising, is a web advertising method that employs content to lure readers. That’s a very basic definition. According to Sharethrough, a company which specializes in the medium, native advertising is a form of paid media where the ad experience follows the natural form and function of the user experience in which it is placed.

On January 8, The New York Times will unveil a new digital look which incorporates native advertising and will be more stronger on visuals such as video and photography.

The New York Times, a lodestar of journalism the world over, will feature the native adverts – first on the newspaper’s website and later on its mobile platforms – as way to shore up revenues in an industry hard struck by technology. Other large publishers such as Washington Post, Vanity Fair, Buzzfeed are already rolling out native advertising which promises greater interaction with users, albeit at the risk of breaking the separation between advertising and editorial content.

There are fears that consumers may be duped by the nature of native advertising – a hot topic in digital publishing – with consumers expected to distinguish between what is paid native advertising versus editorial content. Native adverts are made to be cohesive with the page content, assimilated into the design, and consistent with the platform behavior that the viewer simply feels that they belong, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). Put simply, the ads are supposed to look similar to the surrounding published content

Native advertising seeks to deliver content within the context of a user’s experience with formats including  features like a color bar and the words “Paid Post” would enable readers to identify material as advertising content.

“There is a renaissance underway in digital advertising that is driving brands, publishers and consumers to communicate with each other in more personal and natural ways,” said Patrick Albano, Vice President, Social, Mobile and Innovation Sales at Yahoo, and Co-Chair of the IAB Native Advertising Task Force. “Native advertising is an important piece of this evolution.”

According to IAB, native advertising has emerged both as an exciting new way for digital markets to engage with the consumer, and as a new source of advertising revenue for publishers. If you have been on a web page with branded content, you probably know how intrusive and distracting such content is to user experience. Because such content is formatted just like an news article, users can potentially be waylaid.

New York Times publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr, was quoted in a letter to employees as saying said that features like a color bar and the words “Paid Post” would enable readers to identify material as advertising content. He added that there would be “strict separation between the newsroom and the job of creating content for the new native ads.”

But whether readers will be able to figure out the difference between editorial content and paid advertising is shrouded in controversy. The seamless integration of branded messaging into consumers’ content experiences in order to acquire attention maybe regarded as an art of deception.

The Time quoted Edith Ramirez, chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission critiquing native advertising saying at a conference last year.

““By presenting ads that resemble editorial content, an advertiser risks implying, deceptively, that the information comes from a nonbiased source,” she said.

If readers don’t fall prey to the deception of native of advertising, it’s difficult to see how the ads will succeed.

“I firmly believe that advertising on the modern internet will be defined by meaningful content, not standard ads. There’s a movement happening, away from interruptive, traditional ads, and towards thoughtful brand stories — and native ads are the most potent and effective distribution strategy for content-based advertising,” said Dan Greenberg, Founder and CEO, Sharethrough. “For advertisers, native, content-based advertising is the translation layer between the modern internet and traditional TV.”

In his letter to employees, Sulzberger acknowledged that native advertising is “relatively new and can be controversial,” but is necessary to help “restore digital advertising revenue to growth.”

Digital artist opens new avenues

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha

INNOCENT Fungurani, aka, Answer, who is pioneering digital art in Zimbabwe revealed that he is on a mission to put the country on the global arts map.

Fungurani (23), who recently showcased his digital works at the Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA) in an exhibition titled “Beyond Boundaries” said that his art is merely a dialect to communicate issues of social significance.

The works he exhibited were extracts from an ambitious journal project that he is currently working on entitled, “Superstition.” His works have a surreal, avant-garde, experimental and an almost dreamy metaphysical quality that speak in a way that language cannot convey.

Fungurani, who is a volunteer art teacher at the National Gallery of Zimbabwe, said that he has always had a fascination for computers from a young age and always sought for ways to be creative around them using the most basic software.

“I define digital art as any art which is created through the medium of  technology be it cellphones, digital cameras or computer webcams. I find this really fascinating because computing systems are fast becoming more accessible, cheaper and efficient in Zimbabwe,” said Fungurani is also a spoken word poet and painter.

Fungurani revealed that he is inspired by everything around him, including the urban vibe, people, architecture and public spaces, culture and language.

“I believe my generation of digital artists is one of many that will emerge out of Zimbabwe. Digital art has greater potential to influence society because many of our spaces are becoming computerized. People also have the need to consume art is the same way that they consume commands at work,” he said

The artist, who was awarded the top poetry prize for the US Public Affairs’ Black History Month poetry slam, said that art for him has been a process of constant evolution towards self-knowledge.

“I was first fascinated by language until I felt that I needed to find other forms of expression to convey ideas that language could not easily express. Due to the some social taboos around language, I felt limited to express on issues such as sexuality, politics and religion,” he said.

“That is how I discovered that images could portray controversial ideas is a more effective way, and communicate to a larger number of people, including the illiterate.”

As a result of this realization, Fungurani said he took to painting and colour before he discovered the field of computerized art.

Fungurani has already made a significant mark on the arts scene in Zimbabwe through highly, innovative projects that have involved many merging young artists. In 2009, he co-founded Kreative Activists Overturning Society (KAOS) with hip hop poetess and filmmaker, Cynthia Marangwanda.

As part of his social contribution, Fungurani said his organization is currently planning a major festival of alternative arts expression that will be held early next year.

“Zimbabwe has been starved of alternative voices; society has become dependent on state and corporate media, yet these are mouth pieces of the rich and powerful. That’s why KAOS will hold a festival dedicated to alternative forms of expression. We are working to create a platform to show case different dynamic and radical art forms,” he said.