Women's Health Base

A look at women, the world and the web

Archive for November, 2008

Just Put ‘Gok Wan’ In The Title

Posted by hannahflynn on November 26, 2008

(Churchill, writing like him could see your blog hits go up. – distributed under the Creative Commons Licence)


Writing for online you have a whole new set of rules to guide your expression. It has been discussed in the mag lab and in our online lectures and boils down to that dreaded TLA: SEO.  


Search engine optimisation has so far been explained with little more than a comparison between two now infamous headlines ‘Super Cally Go Ballistic Celtic Are Atrocious’ and ‘Freddy Star Ate My Hamster’. Useful, but so far not developed on so I’ll attempt to elaborate here.


Winston Churchill has been mentioned on a number of occasions. It may have something to do with this little quote “short words are best and the old words when short are best of all.”A trained journalist he knew the value of tight writing, and as Jacob Neilson explains on his blog calling a spade a spade is an important step in internet marketing.


Adam Tinworth blogged on search engine optimisation  in 2006 when reporting on the RBI conference. He made a number of key points, separating them into on page and off page tips. First of all he suggested using words and phrases that readers would use and to avoid puns and metaphors. He also goes on to say that putting the most important information first in the headline and first sentance and paragraph is important for SEO.


His off page recommendations are not particuarly controversial but make the point people should not be scared to send people to other sites via their linking.


Timeliness is one of the most crucial aspects of writing for online. 36 hours is the recommended maximum time frame for covering an event. Sure, the news chain can be observed after that but initial analysis needs to take place pretty soon after news becomes news.


Looking at my own blog stats has become a bit of a geeky hobby, as the guest lecturers discuss their own massive traffic flows making mine look paltry in comparison. Plus Jeff Jarvis mentioned on Twitter earlier this week that by placing audio on his blog he had 17,000 hits. I got about 13.


But some lessons can be learnt. My most active day came last week when a kindly soul responded to a comment I had posted on someone’s blog asking if they could offer me any tips and comment on my attempts on embedding audio. That day saw a whopping 36 hits. Phew!


The front page of my WordPress account tells me today that my post from last week, featuring stylista Gok Wan’s latest foray into making women ‘feel good about themselves’ is the most active out of all of my posts. So after blogging relatively seriously about…blogging, it turns out all anyone wants to read about is a Channel 4 show called Miss Naked Beauty. I feel a bit dupped and also horribly tempted to ignore all warnings about not tagging everything with ‘David Beckham’ to direct unwitting tweenagers to my non-David obsessed blog…



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Cervical Cancer NHS Website Up

Posted by hannahflynn on November 20, 2008

A website put up by the NHS to promote cervical screening to young women has received strong criticism from feminist groups.

Feminist community blog The F Word has criticised the use of men on the site in its post entitled ‘Apparently men have to be Cervix Savvy’.

In a four point list the blogger suggests the NHS are patronising women by getting men to tell them about the benefits of getting screened.  

The comments left also criticise the website, on one count for suggesting that cervical smears should be part of a woman’s beauty regime.  

Just over two weeks ago the NHS announced it was to inject £250,000 in to a campaign to increase the number of women turning up for their cervical smears after numbers dropped to an all-time low this year.

The numbers were never good and since the minimum age was raised in England it has got worse.

A row broke out over the minimum age earlier this year with some consultants stating that if all women turned up at 25 there would be no cause for worry, but as they didn’t the minimum age for smears should be reviewed.

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TV Testing Women’s Body Image

Posted by hannahflynn on November 19, 2008

Last night there were two programmes shown on prime-time TV exploring the way women perceive themselves.

The first was Gok Wan’s new incarnation as the presenter of Miss Naked Beauty; a Channel 4 series which seeks to empower and liberate women though shock tactics which expose the levels of unrealistic pressures on the way they look. Few have swallowed this agenda, however.

Just a week after the show first aired the Sunday Mirror claimed Gok had “humiliated, demeaned and exploited” the women taking part. The section in question revolved around the participants having their make-up removed by being hosed-down by Wan. 

The regionals, including The Liverpool Post and South Manchester Reporter  also had criticisms of the show.

Wan has since defended the show on ITN, but the outcry has raised some serious questions about the wisdom of shows which offer self-help through changing the clothes and make-up of people with already low self-esteem. Trinny and Susannah he is not, but many people are claiming the presenter’s shows are little better in their aims.

The BBC decided to broach perception of body image last night, in its challenge cum documentry entitled How Mad are You? One of the few participants they correctly diagnosed was Alex, who considered herself a recovered anorexic. The deciding factor for their diagnosis was her gross overestimation of her body size on a test which asked her to adjust an image of herself to what she considered her actual size. She was 30 percent over. It was explained that people in this country often over estimate their size but usually only by around 5 percent. Interestingly, a woman who had been diagnosed with depression found the task the hardest to complete.

The documentaries contrasted sharply, with guidance and commentry being offered by fashion expert Gok Wan and musician Mylene Klass in one and by professional psyciatrists in another. As one participant in Miss Naked Beauty was told by James Brown, former editor of Loaded, her picture looked like it should have a phone number put under it, we really have to ask exactly what Channel 4 are planning to achieve with this Campaign for Naked Beauty.

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Gynaecological cancer cells “cannibalise”

Posted by hannahflynn on November 18, 2008

A new discovery about the genetic pathways that affect ovarian cancer may open new doors to cancer treatment.

Cells can ‘eat themselves’ through a process known as autophagy, and a protein known as PEA-15 has been found to speed this up in ovarian tumours. This extends the life-expectancy of people suffering from ovarian cancer.

And many other cancer patients may benefit from the findings. PEA-15 binds to a signalling molecule known as ERK which is responsible for the high rate of growth seen in many cancers. So far no ERK inhibitor has been found, though it has long been considered a likely candidate for cancer treatment.

As ovarian cancer is notoriously hard to detect, but is very responsive to treatment the findings are promising.

Science Daily has provided references to the paper and Discover Magazine has taken a more light hearted approach.

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Money Money Money (and how to make it online)

Posted by hannahflynn on November 16, 2008

We’ve been banned from using the term ‘credit crunch’ in the maglab. Perhaps its because of the lazy journalism the phrase now appears to indicate, but the current economic crisis is not something journalists can afford to ignore.

Many people on the course have been questioning how wise the decision to spend over £5,000 on a journalism qualification is at a time when Press Gazzette’s headlines are littered with apopalyptic tales of job cuts and falls in revenue. It is a very good question.

We have (unsurprisingly) been advised by our last two guest lecturers to try and ‘make-it’ in online journalism as we watch regional news crumble at our feet, and news just in this week suggests they may well be right.

Better than expected” is about as cheery as headlines come in this time of economic downturn, and that’s what’s happened to online revenue at Trinity Mirror and their rival Johnston Press. Year-on-year figures are not good, but there has been an increase over the last four months in money generated from online advertising. The nationals have been pretty gloamy in their coverage of this (see Media Guardian) as the death knell for print advertising is rung.

This news alone won’t save print media, but when looked at alongside news from the summer that INM has seen increases in online advertising sales and revenue it does give journalists a good idea of where to look for their pay-checks.

Interestingly, the increase in online revenue is most significant for the national publications and not the regionals, suggesting that people want a paper copy of their local rag or, as the figures suggest, people just aren’t that turned on by regional news anymore.

Figures for online revenue for magazines are harder to find, probably due to their slow turn around compared to a daily. Media Guardian reported Future publishing masked a drop in print advertising with a 39 per cent rise in online revenue, back in June. It is suggested this was boosted by the launch of Qore, a new digital edition for Sony US across the PlayStation 3 Network. Though this is specific to North America.

But Associated Press focused on the darker side to advertising revenue losses last week. They reported the audience viewing magazine content is 1.5 times as large on unauthorised sites ( defined as “unauthorized material viewed on Web sites that aren’t owned by the copyright owners.”) as it is on their own, and the average web publisher could make and extra $150,000 by selling ads alongside its unlicensed material. They also criticise the fact that internet advertising is far cheaper than print advertising and propose that newspapers and magazines will never recover their losses in online advertising, even if they were to advertise alongside their own unlicensed material. Dark days ahead indeed.

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Tamoxifen: Wonder Drug if Taken Properly

Posted by hannahflynn on November 16, 2008

Cardiff’s own have managed to reveal the genetic cause of tamoxifen resistance in women, using a rare cell-line produced by the University. They have also clarified the mechanism by which the cancer-drug works.

While tamoxifen has been understood to be an oestrogen blocker for a number of years, the work done by the team at the Welsh School of Pharmacy showed which genes tamoxifen affects. It was found that ErbB2 must be ‘switched-off’ by tamoxifen in order to prevent recurrence of breast cancer, using a control switch “in the background of the genome“. This is held in position by signalling molecule Pax2. Results have been published in Nature.

The results have come not long after the revelation that many breast cancer patients are not taking tamoxifen properly or even completing the course, significantly increasing the risk of recurrence. Reasons cited include the suggestion that patients put less emphasis on taking a tablet than they would on chemotherapy. Published in the British Journal of Cancer  the paper has received surprisingly little press attention with only B2Bs like Nursing Times and Healthcare Republic giving it any space.  

Interestingly, The Western Mail not too long ago speculated that at-risk women may be given tamoxifen as a preventative measure. Trials are still ongoing, alongside another trial by IBIS who are looking at ways to prevent breast cancer.

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A Beginner’s Guide To Blogging – Podcast

Posted by hannahflynn on November 15, 2008

As part of our magazine course we had a session on audio for online publications. This is one of several attempts by the class to create a short podcast on a subject close to our heart… so we discussed blogging!


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Community Blogging – Overcoming Apathy

Posted by hannahflynn on November 11, 2008

As I have previously mentioned I began a community blog recently, but with little success. I had come face-to-face with the reader:lurker:contribution ratio. So it was with interest that I listened to Adam Tinworth’s views on the subject.

My own experience of community blogging has been as a regular reader (rather than contributor to) Feministing and Short Sharp Science. Two very different subject areas (!) and two different interpretations of the meaning of ‘community blog’.

Short Sharp Science started off as a series of specialist blogs on the New Scientist website, but recently became one ‘super-blog’. Its contributors are the same people who contribute to the magazine including its editors and reporters. Rather than being the place to report the harder science that the magazine takes care of it contains a lot of more human interest and political approaches to the subject matter. Short Sharp Science is a community, but it is a professional community and one of science journalists and not enthusiasts.

On the other hand, to contribute to Feministing all that is needed is to sign up and post. This could be considered a fairly dangerous approach to blogging but the site is extremely successful and its proprietor Jessica Valenti a successful journalist in her own right who works with her team of editors to moderate the blog. So how do they do it? Social networking of course! The site has branched out with a Facebook group, a YouTube page and a Meetup Alliance.

A good example of an open community blog that embraces a geographical rather than a subject area is Dublin Community Blog. All that is needed to contribute is a quick email to the administrator to put you on the list of authors. The blog contains what’s-on information and has also embraced traffic-driving sites such as Flickr.

So is the answer to a successful community blog an increase in traffic rather than enthusiasm? It would make sense looking at the reader and contributor ratios. Unless there is an RL equivalent, like with New Scientist’s Short Sharp Science, it is unlikely to attract traffic alone. However, it is important to question how the use of these UGC sites would be differ from straight news sites.

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Pop the Champagne Corks – 9 Months Early

Posted by hannahflynn on November 11, 2008

Good news for women wishing to sample the Chardonnay without being shot down by the PC-pregnancy brigade, drinking in pregnancy is now good for you!

After a report a few years ago claimed it was impossible to measure the minimum amount of alcohol that could cause Foetal Alcohol Syndrome, many countries recommended tee-total pregnancies.

The health scare saw the introduction of warnings on alcoholic drinks that told women to avoid alcohol if pregnant or even just trying to conceive.

Women who drank 2 units a week (one glass of wine) during pregnancy were found in the latest research to be calmer during pregnancy and had children that did better in cognitive tests.

There is some concern that the results are slightly skewed by the strong correlation between light drinking in pregnancy and social class, but Fred Brooksteing, Professor of Statistics at Washington University said, “We have no evidence that it (light drinking) does anything and it probably makes women feel better”

Yvonne Kelly who ran the lab at UCl that worked on the paper said the most beneficial effect of light drinking durring pregnancy was the calming effect it had on mothers-to-be, making pregnancies less stressful.

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Self-Publishing and the Rise of Aggregation

Posted by hannahflynn on November 3, 2008

 The major problem with UGC is not the blurring of lines between journalist and ‘user’. Instead it is the dotsam and websam we have to wade through to reach quality new sources.

Matthew Yeoman mentioned the two forms of aggregation he has been engaging with: private journalism and The Ag. While we have all been introduced to RSS feeds, Netvibes and YahooPipes Mashups in an attempt to source our news effectively, news aggregators with analysis are the lazy person’s option….and keeps the journalist very much in the frame.

One of the most sucessful news aggregators, The Daily Beast has a layout similar to most of the others. It has ‘Beast Originals’ offering independent opinion and analysis as well as links to the biggest current stories. My assertation that aggregators are the ‘lazy person’s’ option for sourcing news is exemplified in their ‘Cheat Sheet – Must Reads From All Over’.  

Hitwise UK published results last month that showed news aggregator use has increased dramatically recently. They are also responsible for 26 per cent of traffic sent to news and media sites. Googlenews, NewsNow and Stumble Upon make up the top three. Their definition of what an aggregator is was fairly loose, and included sites like Twitter. Perhaps a look at the direction of traffic to and from more traditional aggregation sites including Yahoo News and the Huffington Post would be revealing.

Its interesting that this rise has happened at the same time that blogging is declining. It is also interesting to note how similar some aggregators, especially specialist content aggregators, are to blogs. There is very little difference between The Ag and some of the broadsheet’s blogs. Gizmodo, a gadget website calls itself a weblog and has been referred to by others as a news aggregation site.  

OJR talked about news aggregators as a way of taking RSS to the masses back in 2005. He also points out that they are the answer to the time required to sift through vast amounts of niche news sites. As the most successful blogs have generally been the blogs associated with traditional news sources, aggregation could be seen as a mere extension of professional blogging, and one which journalists are very much in control of.

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