Posts filed under 'Newspaper'

New tricks: Bring people in by … sending them away

The New York Times today launched “Times Extra,” which is an alternate front page that links to stories that are NOT produced by the Times.

In the past few months, more and more mainstream media outlets have warmed up to the idea of linking to material outside their own sites. This in effect could turn old media, which is used to being the source of news, into news aggregators, at least sort of like the Drudge Report. The idea behind it is that although you jettison your readers off to other material, they will keep coming back to your site because you are a one-stop shop.

The Dallas Morning News has also waded into this by hand-picking opinion pieces from around the Web and posting them on their opinion page. The material is posted along side their own work — they often even play up material from outside the Morning News above their own.

It makes for a much better user experience, and it is likely to make their opinion page a destination site for people who are looking for smartly chosen opinion pieces from around the Web.

If you maintain a hand-chosen Twitter account (as opposed to dumping RSS onto Twitter) for your news organization, you should also link to outside material. Colonel Tribune and the @statesman do it as a matter of practice. Why not be the place to go to for news, no matter where it comes from?

By new media standards, old media has been very slow to pick up on this idea. Even the Times, which is ahead of most mainstream media in trying Times Extra, isn’t making it the regular home page — users have to click on a tab to get to it. (To find it, click on “Try our extra home page” tab near the top of the paper’s standard home page).

The open exchange of links is what drives information on most of the Web, outside of mainstream media. We doubt this idea will still be embraced at least right away by all in the old media — after all, it is hard for some to believe that sending folks away from your site is a good thing. It’s hard to argue with the numbers, though …

Check out who is on top of the Nielsen Online ratings for news sites for February 2008:

The following is data from Nielsen Online on the top 30 sites in the “News” category based on February 2008 traffic. This data takes into account U.S. home and work Internet usage, and it shows both unique visitors to each brand or channel and sessions per person. For more information about the sourcing of this data, please visit www.netratings.com.
Brand or channel; sessions per person; unique audience (000)
1. drudgereport.com; 19.9; 3,445
2. Daily Kos; 8.9; 1,204
3. Fox News Digital Network; 8.3; 10,177
4. CNN Digital Network; 7.9; 37,181
5. AOL News; 7.7; 21,119
6. Yahoo! News; 7.4; 35,274
7. MSNBC Digital Network; 6.4; 34,013
8. ksl.com; 6.0; 796
9. Breitbart.com; 5.3; 2,674
10. Google News; 5.3; 12,050
11. Gannett Newspapers and Newspaper Division; 5.1; 13,998
12. NYTimes.com; 4.9; 18,975
13. Netscape; 4.8; 2,709
14. Townhall.com; 4.7; 1,152
15. Media General Newspapers; 4.6; 1,761
16. GTGI Network 4.5; 1,345
17. Star Tribune; 4.3; 2,108
18. TWC News Websites; 4.1; 840
19. NewsMax.com; 4.0; 4,054
20. Zwire; 3.9; 1,089
21. Cox Newspapers; 3.9; 5,197
22. washingtonpost.com; 3.8; 10,441
23. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; 3.8; 1,259
24. The Buffalo News^; 3.7; 502
25. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; 3.6; 1,472
26. MediaNews Group Newspapers; 3.5; 5,850
27. USATODAY.com; 3.5; 10,571
28. WorldNow 3.5; 10,588
29. IB Websites; 3.4; 7,565
30. St. Louis Post Dispatch; 3.4; 1,022

9 comments December 4th, 2008

Old Media Interview: Stephanie Romanski, Web editor of The Grand Island Independent

Sometimes, smaller organizations are able to embrace change quicker because of the lack of red tape. At the same time, working as a Web editor at a small paper has its own challenges.

Stephanie Romanski

This Q&A is with Stephanie Romanski of The Grand Island (Nebraska) Independent, a newspaper with a circulation of about 20,000.

Romanski joined the newspaper business just over four years ago. She says that some of her coworkers are “fond of saying I haven’t had time to become ‘jaded’ yet, which is fine with me.” She says journalism is “in her blood” — her parents worked in everything from radio, to newspapers, to television.

Official position at the paper:
I am the Web Editor for the Grand Island Independent in Nebraska.

What are your unofficial roles?

Social Media Advocate is the big unofficial one right now. I also back up our videographer by producing and editing video when needed. I’m also working on becoming a sort of liaison between our online department and the newsroom.

What is the culture like at a smaller paper when it comes to change?

I can’t speak for all small papers, just my own. I’d classify it as “wary” of change. “Fairly resistant” would be another way, because it has been somewhat of a challenge to coax people to try something they might regard as just a fad (I’m thinking of Twitter in this instance.)

What has been your most effective tool for instigating change?
I was very excited to talk to everyone in the newsroom about tools like Twitter and Cover it Live. I was invited to talk to them at a meeting about these tools. Instead, I spent almost the whole meeting defending the tools and hearing, “We have no time.” That’s the usual argument.

What I am discovering is that I just have to keep talking about it. I can’t force them to try Twitter. I can’t make them interact with readers if they’re dead-set against it. But when I’m sitting in the morning budget meetings, I can ask them for stories I should tweet for the paper’s Twitter feed. I can ask my boss to add our Twitter follower count to the weekly manager’s notes the whole plant receives. If I hear a reporter coming in working on something breaking, I tell them they should tweet it — or ask if I can tweet it. If I hear something cool on Twitter, or hear about a big breaking story on Twitter, I make sure everyone in my vicinity knows the info came from Twitter. If I make it sound like an everyday part of my own job, I figure eventually it will get absorbed. They’ll get curious.

To sum up, I just don’t shut up about these tools. It worked this way when we were struggling to get some bloggers in-house to put on our site. It just wasn’t happening. So, a couple of us in Online began our own. I started blogging about TV I was watching, and my coworker began a music blog. We pimped them online where ever possible, and we started getting a little traffic. Our sports guys would blog occasionally, but once we put together a page that linked to the blogs we had, it began to grow. Our blog section is still small, but it’s better than having none, and we have grown to include several community blogs.

Tell us about some of the new tools you’ve used and what success you have found:

My two big success stories have been the liveblogging tool from Cover it Live and Twitter. I discovered Cover It Live while looking through one of my favorite sites, wiredjournalists.com. I checked it out and loved it immediately. I couldn’t wait for a chance to use it. The chance came when we had to launch a redesign of our Web site. I decided to open up a liveblog/chat and talk to the readers as they checked out the new site.

They gave us invaluable feedback which allowed us to find bugs quickly and fix them, streamline our navigation for readers who were having difficulty and most of all it gave us *and the readers* immediacy. They loved it, and so did we.

We next used Cover It Live when we ran a six-week music tournament to find Central Nebraska’s favorite song. We held weekly chats with the four guys responsible for coming up with the bracket. It was another hit.

Finally, we recently had a fairly big story break when a large group of Somalian Muslims walked off their jobs and marched to city hall to protest their inability to pray at the appointed times during their holy month. This was a controversial story for days, and I opened a liveblog and invited our readers to talk to us about it. It was so busy that I couldn’t close the chat until nearly midnight, and I had to reopen it the next day.

With Twitter, I had been using it personally for a long time when I decided to open a feed for the paper. That was in November of 2007. Initially, I set it up with an RSS feed spitting out our headlines automatically every so often. Some readers liked it, but our follower list didn’t grow very quickly.

I think I was reading a post by the awesome Erica Smith in which she mentioned that the Austin American-Statesman had set up a special Twitter feed for Hurricane Ike, which yielded phenomenal results for them. I think I sent a direct message on twitter to Robert Quigley of the Statesman, and he very graciously gave me some advice: Get off Twitterfeed and tweet yourself.

I did, and could not be more thrilled with the results. We had 95 followers at the end of August. We have more than 350 now, and it grows every day.

Is there a tough learning curve for you? How do you keep up with all the changes?

I’m a fairly quick learner and throwing myself into learning a new tool or program is fun for me. I do my best to keep up by following industry news and blogs (don’t ask how many RSS feeds I have in my Google reader. it’s frightening), follow a whole lot of smart, talented people on Twitter, and one of the best things I ever did was join wiredjournalists.com.

What’s on the horizon for The Independent? What do you think needs to be done?

We have a lot of ideas for liveblogging – setting one up with the top state sports reporters and let Nebraska Cornhusker fans chat with these guys for 30 minutes before or after a game is one idea we’re kicking around. Weekly chats, liveblogging events, we’ll always put one up when a big story breaks.

As for what needs to be done … we have to embrace the Web more than we do.

What three things would you tell small and mid-sized news operations to do immediately to increase their social media presence?

1. Start a Twitter feed for your paper, manually tweet headlines, use Twitter Search to find people in your area and start following them, and finally, interact with your followers.
2. Sign up with Cover it Live and find a reason to start holding live chats.
3. Join WiredJournalists.com

Thank you, Stephanie, for doing this. You give great advice for any news organization.

You can contact her on Twitter, of course, at @stephromanski.

5 comments November 18th, 2008

New Tricks: Dealing with racism within your social realm

If you’ve managed a community that allows commenting or hosts other types of user-generated content, you’ve seen it. Behind the shield of a screen name, the ugliest parts of society sometimes is on full display: racism.

Recently, community managers across the country have had to decide whether to zap or keep comments about Barack Obama that could be considered racist, but the issue comes up often in online communities.

There are no hard rules on this. Each community manager (and organization) has to take a lot of these on a case-by-case basis.

Here are three guidelines that we offer, but we’re interested in hearing how you’ve dealt with this:

1. If there is an clear racist word or phrase in the content, the material is toast, the user is banned and you move on with your life.

2. If the user walks the line by using code words, it’s a little muddier. You might be misreading the author’s intent. Often, it helps to grab a coworker and show him or her the material. Usually, though, your first instinct is the correct one. If you decide you have a racist on your hands using code words, warn or ban the user.

3. If the user is not clearly being racist, but you might be sensitive to a topic (e.g., the person is against illegal immigration strongly, and you see that as being racist because of your own stance), try to get a second — or even a third — opinion. As a community manager, it is still your right to nix any material, but if you come down too hard on the offender, you’ll lose credibility within your community. A heavy handed manager can kill a community.

If you’re a community manager, how far do you let people push the envelope?

16 comments November 13th, 2008

Newspaper ‘baby Twitterer’ seeks help

Today, I received a DM to the @statesman account from @newshub, which is the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. It said: “Baby Twitterer here. How do we make our Twitter operation as cool as yours?”

I responded using Tinypaste, which is a handy little tool that allows you to blow past the 140 character Twitter limit.

Here’s what I said:

You’re on the right path (not turning on Twitterfeed is half the battle). Next: Reply to followers, ask them questions and retweet good material. Check out my last post on @statesman – I retweeted a reader’s pic from our Veterans Day parade.

Promo your Twitter efforts on your site somewhere (like I did at http://statesman.com/twitter).

Bonus points: See if you can get your sports editor to live Tweet Packers games. Then, see if you can get a developer to scrape your followers Tweets onto a page (like we do at http://statesman.com/bevotwitter).

Also, check out the blog I do with Daniel Honigman. We’ll offer a lot of tips/tricks.

Feel free to bounce ideas off me anytime. We’re still trying to figure this all out, too.

Good luck!
Robert

I also DM’d the Journal to say that it was great to “see a real human staffing these newspaper accounts.” The response? “We’re big fans of humans here.”

:) Not everyone is.

8 comments November 11th, 2008

Old Media Interview: Erica Smith, journalist and social media industry watcher

Erica Smith is a journalist who works for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as a designer for print. Despite working in print, she has carved herself a spot online through the Web sites and blogs she maintains. Probably her two most-popular running features are a comprehensive list of newspapers that Twitter and a tally of newspaper layoffs and buyouts.

Erica Smith

“I spend too much time online,” she said. Among her Web efforts are a tally of newspaper layoffs and buyouts, newspapers (and individual journalists) who use Twitter, and headlines that start with “man.”

Official position at paper:
Now: Designer for the dead-tree edition.
Soon: Web designer, building maps and graphics and fun things like that.

What role do you play at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch when it comes to Social Media or the Internet in general?
Instigator.

I update our Facebook page, do some Twittering (usually for breaking news) and have a blog for the Weatherbird. I play with maps and data. And I push others to use Twitter, Cover It Live, blogs, video and other social media as part of their jobs.

What’s your take on the newspaper industry? Can it be turned around? How?
If I knew how how to turn it around, I’d be rich. (I’m not rich.)

The newspaper industry is in trouble, but I don’t think this is the end. The focus is just confused right now. For a long time, newspapers forgot they were a business. Now they’ve remembered and focused solely on the business part. We’ve got to find a balance and a way to reach our audience. That’s going to take some experimenting; sure, there will be a few wrong turns on the way, but there will be a lot more right turns.

What’s the history of graphicdesignr.net?
Graphicdesignr started about a year ago when I wanted to re-learn (and learn) some Web skills. I’d had an anything-goes blog for a few months so I gave it a narrower focus, added it to graphicdesignr.net and started playing. Now the site is home to two blogs and my portfolio.

When and why did you start keeping track of Newspapers that Twitter?
That project started back in December; the first numbers were posted in February. The Post-Dispatch (@stltoday) had just started Twittering. I wanted to see what other papers were out there, and what (and how) they were doing. There were 55 Twitter accounts (23 papers) on that first list. On Nov. 1, there were 793 Twitter accounts. There will be even more on the December list.

In compiling this list, what has surprised you the most?
How quickly it has grown. What a difference it makes when publications interact with followers. And the number of accounts that are dormant, but still gain followers. People are reaching out to those publication and being ignored.

What type of feedback have you received from within the industry and outside of it?
Feedback has been great from the start. Since the list started, people have sent me new newspaper Twitter accounts every month. We’re journalists, we like data. And we like to see ourselves succeed. Even non-journo Twitter enthusiasts comment and link; perhaps because there aren’t (well, weren’t — there are getting to be more) many ways to measure Twitter.

How do you keep up with all the work that goes into keeping the numbers up-to-date?
It takes a few hours to go through and track down numbers on the 1st of every month. Everything is set up in a spreadsheet, so that makes it easier to organize. Another hour or so to format it, pull out the numbers of the “winners” and “losers” and it’s done. I add Twitter accounts as I find out about them — usually every two or three days.

Why is social media important in general? Why is it important than the mainstream media embrace it?
Social media has a lot of power, and it shares that power with anyone who wants to participate.

Politics aside, look at how the Obama campaign used social media. He used every kind of social media I can think of, and used most of them very well. The viral nature of the campaign, the layers and personalization let strangers connect, built a community and empowered both individuals and the community. Of course, it’s not a perfect approach — social media typically appeals to younger Web surfers. Older voters may feel left out; more traditional marketing reaches them better.

There’s no reason mainstream media cannot learn from, adopt and adapt those same practices. And then do more and do it better.

If your media outlet isn’t using Social media, what three things should you do in the next week?

1. Sign up. Not for the company — for you. Join Twitter. Join Facebook and LinkedIn. Join Digg or Mixx or StumbleUpon or Reddit or Delicious — or a couple of them. Join Google Reader or Bloglines or any feed reader and subscribe to a couple of feeds. Friend and follow people, interact, share. I guarantee you’ll learn new things, and come away with a great link, story tip or idea every day. Find what works for you. Find what you think would work for your publication. Those are the things you can take to the powers that be to show them the usefulness and need for social media.

2. Blog. See if you can start a blog for work. (If they say no, start one on your own.) Find your niche, something that you can offer a unique perspective on. Web videos? Technology? Photography? Video games? Sports teams? Cooking? Pets? Celebrity gossip? Bicycling? Beer? I know there’s something there. Cultivate and promote your blog (start with the social networks you joined). Look for other hidden talent at your paper, and get them involved in blogging.

3. Play and plan. There are all kinds of fun things on the Internet; explore. When you hear of something new, see if you like it/can use it. Take a look at how you use the Internet and how you get news. Ask co-workers how they use the Internet and how they get news. Ask friends, parents, relatives, strangers. Come up with a plan on what your publication could do, and push your editors to try just one of them.

Thanks, Erica! We’ll go back now to obsessively reading your blogs.

Know an old media fogey we should consider for a Q&A? Please comment below or message us on Twitter.

6 comments November 10th, 2008

Old Media Interview: Travis Hudson, Dallas Morning News Web editor/producer

Today’s Q&A is with Travis Hudson, the Dallas Morning News‘ newest hire to the paper’s interactive team. Hudson is only a year out of college from Kansas State where he received a print journalism degree.

Travis Hudson

Though his focus in college was in print, he worked for Gawker Media as a blogger for Gizmodo and Jalopnik. He also occasionally contributed to Deadspin and Kotaku. He has also written for NBC Universal, PC World and more.

What’s your official position at the Morning News?
Editor/Producer II is the official title, although people have also given me the unofficial title of “Alternative Audience Acquisition Specialist.” I was brought on here to pioneer alternative audience projects driving people to Dallasnews.com through social media, social bookmarking, social news and any other non-traditional way of delivering content including SMS, podcasting and more.

What are your unofficial duties?
I work directly with the team of Web producers at Dallasnews.com, so I do take on regular Web production tasks like maintaining the home page.

What role do you play at the Dallas Morning News when it comes to Social Media or the Internet in general?
I am the man in the trenches when it comes to our social media efforts executing the day-to-day work. Luckily, our entire Web staff (and especially our Deputy Managing Editor of Interactive, Anthony Moor) is very interested in making the DMN an active participant in the social media landscape, so the support is definitely helpful.

How has your past life as a non-mainstream media blogger given you perspective on this industry?
It’s interesting because I’m getting to experience complete spectrum of the industry. Newspapers have been around forever and blogs have only taken off in the past five years or so. I like to think that my perspective into the world of blogging on such a high level can help Dallasnews.com. On the other hand, the traditional world of print journalism is giving me more insight that can be used in my efforts to further expands The Dallas Morning News’ online efforts.

What’s your take on the newspaper industry? Can it be turned around? How?
It’s an interesting area. On one hand, nothing will ever replace holding and reading real piece of newsprint, but on the other hand, keeping major-market newspapers afloat is becoming an increasingly tough task. Once the middle ground connecting the Web and the newspaper is better defined and discovered, I think things can be turned around.

How does the @dallas_news Twitter account work?
The @dallas_news Twitter account is the main account for The Dallas Morning News. I have full control of it most of the time and I usually populate it with stories that people would genuinely find interesting and want to read. I use it to keep people up to date with weather, traffic, sports and more. I like to consider it a personality-driven account, and it has received positive feedback for being so. I also follow many, many people in the DFW area and beyond to provide our newsroom with potential leads and tips. I also operate a breaking news/top headlines twitter feed @dallasnews_top. It’s used for breaking stories only. Many of our reporters are beginning to create their own Twitter accounts specifically for work to keep up with leads and share stories.

What have you and your paper learned from it?

It’s as much of a two-way journalism tool as a content-delivery tool. Sure, it’s great for getting some of the best content from Dallasnews.com out to the Web, but what’s even better is keeping up with the community with this tool. It’s a great way to find unexpected sources, tips and even pictures with Twitpic, TwinkleShots and more.

What other social media initiatives have you or the Dallas Morning News in general taken? What successes and setbacks have you seen?
We’re taking a look at everything and anything, which can be a very timely task. Facebook and Myspace are two places where we think The Dallas Morning News can really get a foothold quickly. We’re interested in iTunes, social news communities and more. One of the first projects was launching the Twitter initiative, and I think it’s been really successful thus far. It was the easiest and quickest to launch and is growing exponentially every day. In regards to setbacks, there’s generally only one, and that’s time. There’s so much out there in the social-media landscape and only so much time available.

What do you think newspapers need to do in the next year or two?
Newspaper and Web need to explore ways that the two can help each other in this volatile world. There are so many potential ways for the two entities to help each other, and those ways need to be explored and tested for the better of the industry and product.

Why is social media important to you? To your newspaper?

It’s the future of not just journalism, but content delivery.

What three things could a major metro paper do in the next year to connect more with their communities?

1. Focus on brand awareness. Life isn’t just about getting X number of clicks. It’s more about becoming a brand name for content delivery in the community and beyond.

2. Engage the readership for content above and beyond the annual recipe contests, letters to the editor and more. Everyone in the world has a blog and loves to be heard, who’s to say a newspaper isn’t a good place to engage the average reader.
3. Break out of the traditional newspaper mold any way possible.

Thanks, Travis; we appreciate your time and expertise.

Travis can be reached here.

6 comments November 3rd, 2008

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