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Build a better college newspaper website

21 Oct

Nationaal Archief

Here’s a checklist of online adjustments and guidance for a better college newspaper website. Change is difficult for newspapers. There are learning curves and time management issues in making these changes, but muscle up and get these done and get your dying newsprint a suitable online channel.

Content Management

  • BBC headlines: Look to for guidance on well done news content and presentation. These are excellent examples to follow of keyword forward, densely descriptive but brief headlines. Print headlines do not transition well to online. Snappy headlines that provide information scent (leading people via searches to information results).
  • Direct me to useful information: Not everything is a news story or an enterprise piece. Create content that summarizes stories and group infographics, photos and video. Guide To, How-To, Complete List, etc. is content that people need, want and search for all the time. Anchor this evergreen content in a prominent place on your website and Facebook tabs.
  • Make sure that your RSS feeds are useful. Find a setting in your website’s content management system that not only provides the RSS feed code but links it to the option to add to RSS readers. I’m probably not going to copy the code leave your site and add it to my reader as it is set up currently. Make it one click.
  • Repurpose signed comments from users in a prominent place on the homepage. Anonymous doesn’t cut it. If someone is willing to sign a descriptive username then reward that user with a Comment of the Week feature (with crosslink to the original story). Crosslinks are key – outbound/inbound.
  • PDFs of complete news product: Great (I guess), for a quick scan of the news product and display, but advertisers expect added value and should have a link from their ad. Help your advertisers out.
  • All stories need images (entry points), calls to action (what do I do next?), and crosslinks and other info. Every URL shared on Twitter or Facebook is an introduction to your product. Why stop there?

Facebook for college newspapers

There is typically little engagement on college news Facebook pages. Readers comments on stories to no response. You will gain no value from social media unless you speak to followers. Engage.

Explain coverage: Demystify the news gathering process. Introduce your writers and editors and explain your operation. Tell your story about how you tell stories. This is a great recruiting tool and an opportunity to share with a wider audience.

Follow other people and fan pages: Try to use the @ symbol in all of your status posts. Put your idea and brand on other Facebook fan pages. The @College_Newspaper learned a lot from reporter @SusanMurphy’s visit to @BigUMedicalCenter and @BigUBusinessSchool. Look for stories in the next issue.

Shout out to your follows on the Facebook wall. Use the toggle as fan page administrator to post as both the admin and your personal profile to the your page’s wall. Note the support, interests of friends this way. @Jason Allen probably wasn’t happy with the result of this weekend’s @BigUFootball game, but we have the details on the upcoming game.

YouTube/LinkedIn for college newspapers

Don’t forget your other channels. Complete all profiles with full description and branding. Your YouTube channel needs custom background and profile, while your LinkedIn channel needs a custom profile image.

Twitter for college newspapers

Build source lists on Twitter. Sync your coverage, contacts and followers into your Twitter stream. Spend a little more time to build a better list of followers. Research keywords and geo references related to your university and rake in all sources connected to your university (and competitors, as well). Reporters can ask questions; propose story ideas and crowd source info. Twitter is a listening tool. Use it as a news gathering tool.

It’s expensive to produce that print product. Begin planning your escape plan immediately. Great usable, timely and authoritative information will never go out of style. Find new packaging.


Toledo Blade circulation figures pick up . . . not really

20 Sep

Toledo Blade - Old Media Howdy neighbor

Thanks for leaving your newspaper (the Toledo Blade) on the end of my driveway for the past 12 weeks. I’ve enjoyed running over it, then retrieving the ripped bag and depositing it in my trashcan.

Hope tossing it in my driveway helped your sagging circulation figures. I know it’s tough to pretend to advertisers that you are circulating over 100,000 papers (when it’s probably considerably fewer).

Now you’re “pleased to inform me” that I get to repeat this routine  for “another 12 weeks.” Twelve additional weeks of a “Pulitzer Prize winning Blade” at no cost to me? Serve yourself. Cut those trees down, I’ll keep recycling them along with all the direct mail and pitch cards that your brother-in-arms the U.S. Postal Service keeps delivering (probably shouldn’t have repaired the mailbox after that driver KO’d it during a January ice storm).

Finally, the punchline: if I wish “not” to participate in the program then I have to call the Blade’s Customer Service Department (419-724-6300) – as if someone would actually answer!

Nope, you do what you need to do and I’ll keep updating the locals on your awesome circulation strategy.  Hope this internet fad thing tapers out and you can get back to cranking out high-quality, objective journalism.

Have a great day!

Sorry Jake: Crowd sourcing on Twitter is zippy

19 Aug
EPA tweet on Twitter

ABC News’ Jake Tapper reported this conversation between a farmer and President Obama regarding new EPA directives on dust pollution.

Who needs a production staff when you have plenty of people in your audience to answer questions on Twitter?

ABC News’ Jake Tapper reported this conversation between a farmer and President Obama regarding new EPA directives on dust pollution. A helpful Twitterer supplied key detail within an hour.

Mark Hemingway@Heminator – delivered this article with a link to a letter to the EPA signed by 21 senators shortly after the initial tweet by ABC News. Hattip to original sources Ace of Spades and Slublog to highlight this exchange.

Not sure if ABC News appreciates the speed and customization of their news product by tribes of eager news gatherers, but editors on now on notice. Deliver all the details or have others do your job.

Confessions of a former journalist: Why the newspaper industry is crumbling?

19 Jan

Old Media

Technology continues to bedevil newspapers, which saw this huge necessary revamping and chose to avoid it.

Summary: Ah, has it been two years already since I slipped the surly bonds of journalism (via the Toledo Blade) to touch the face of freedom?  This is a response to a request from a forensics student at Ohio University: “Why is the newspaper industry crumbling?”

Newspapers had for so long held the upper hand. The business platform worked to score extraordinary profits. You needed a large pool of average workers to collect and produce a product for mass consumption. Copy was written for a 6th grade education level. Photography, advertisements, comics, memes and topics (sports and weather) appealed to a large and easy-to-please segment of the public. Publishers rationed favor and status for a select set of high-end columnists and enterprise writers. With no other competing platform – classified advertising produced a surge of profits.

With this financial stranglehold, newspaper organizations walked with a swagger and behaved as though they were above the law. I have attended editorial meetings at five different news organizations, and for all the talk of “First Amendment responsibilities” and “watchdog of the people” there was always the compelling influence of the publisher seeping into many aspects of news coverage and story selection. And that’s before you factor in the bias of 90 percent of journalism grads and newspaper guild members.

Lack of ‘real people’

Objective? There is a jaded, dog-eared playbook that is followed by harried and disgruntled writers and editors that consistently produces an outer-worldly vision of life. This particular lack of ‘real people’ (sources and subjects) becomes so pronounced because real people don’t adhere to deadlines, and don’t fit the standardized and formatted nature of the news cycle. Journalists are essentially lazy. If it can’t be produced in an 8.5-hour shift (subtracting a 45 minute lunch, 15 minute smoke break, and 15 minute ergonomic rest) then it’s not news.

That’s the problem with journalism’s dated model. It is fashioned on the assembly line pattern with cog workers, and this efficiency is necessary to produce profits. The industry can’t help doing what it was engineered to do – the shark can’t help but swim and eat. News organizations can’t hire swarms of creative and unique workers, can’t produce individual narratives, can’t quickly and nimbly produce usable content and can’t possibly do it without defaulting to its built-in biases.

Ceding credibility

Technology continues to bedevil newspapers, which saw this huge necessary revamping and chose to avoid it. Overtures were made to large news organizations by tech companies like Apple and Amazon and AT&T years ago to incorporate and blend the news organization business model into the iPhone, mobile devices and other e-commerce solutions. News organizations balked at sharing, and couldn’t even get their head around the fact that skipping (and delaying) this opportunity would leave them with nothing on the table years later. News organizations tried and are still trying to shield their content behind pay walls, convinced that the big numbers of subscribers and advertisers – they once assumed – would regenerate. By ceding their credibility to their biases and stiffing the share model of news gathering – readers themselves are replacing the authority of news organizations. Crowd-sourced content from eye-witnesses and content experts now supplant the news industry’s lock on the ‘news.’

Arrogance and technical ignorance have hobbled the industry, which gazes wistfully at walls full of awards and accolades (and press coverage) and is dumbfounded as to why these rubes don’t covet the product.

The organization publishing model is dead. If you don’t like the lazy tag then take it out of the frame and share your gift on your own terms.

Michael Jackson or CNN: Whose obit are we talking about?

1 Jul
"Hot news doctrine?" Change your ribbon.

"Hot news doctrine?" Change your ribbon.

Best comment left on the whiny L.A. Times Comment blog on How would we have reacted if TMZ had been wrong about Michael Jackson’s death?  Mikeman drops a bowling ball on CNN’s foot.

“This article gets it all wrong. TMZ is not a professional website. It appeals to unprofessional people… people who follow celebrities’ lives. Speed is more important than fact. On the other hand, Drudge Report appeals to the professional, and is faster than other MSM sources. It accomplishes this by adding simple notations when a story has not been confirmed (such as writing the headline as a question, or indicating the report is unconfirmed). The speed of the alerts can be absolutely critical, and it’s success has endangered the relevancy of the overly cautious MSM sources running on obsolete printing press and broadcast rules, in which an error or untrue rumor could seriously hurt the reputation of the source. Drudge can simply say it: “false alarm”. No one gets upset because everyone understands the fickleness of rumor. On the internet, it’s either true or it is false, and I can just check back in 20 minutes to make sure. In print, delaying news is safer than reporting rumors because if your competitors release a more verified report even hours after you submit a rumor, they get the worm. CNN really is dead. Long live Drudge.”

Check back in 20 minutes on the progress of the “hot news doctrine.” First Amendment lawyers are trying to challenge the “free-riding” of aggregators (Drudge). Woot. We all know that it’s the newspapers that are free-riding the benefit of links.

End Times: The Daily Show and yesterday’s daily

16 Jun
What's black and white and red all over?  Your balance sheet.

What's black and white and red all over? Your balance sheet.

You would think that organizations that have spent an inordinate amount of time researching and explaining new discoveries, innovations, and trends would be way ahead of the curve when it comes to their own path. Not newspapers.

Go to the video to see Jon Stewart (and reporter Jason Jones) savage the New York Times.

Best line: “Landlines?” “You guys are like a walking colonial Williamsburg.” Woot.

“When a company like NYTCo is healthy and generating cash, none of this really matters. The New York Times’s value isn’t in buildings or land–it’s in the value of the brand and ongoing business, which aren’t reflected on the balance sheet. Now that NYTCo has gotten itself in a financial pickle, however, the balance sheet and current cash flows matter a lot.” – Business

Note the office dress code at the Times: White shirts, ties (no bowties or suspenders in this video). Like Mad Men without the flair.

I laugh, but I cry after having lived in the realm for many years. It’s like a good zombie pic from here on out.

Old dog simply ‘pushes’ new tricks

21 May
Watch Nashville's David Bullock and Jay Deragon -

Watch Nashville's David Bullock and Jay Deragon -

Why does the old media fare so poorly in new “social media?”  

David Bullock and Jay Deragon discuss the Fox News Network Site and The Fox Nation, in an effort to highlight the best practices of large media brands.

I think that most news organizations simply use social media as a push vehicle. News content is created lined up and pushed with headline intact. With the wide variety of news content out there the social media difference is the content that spurs conversation and that is delivered without regard to a production cycle, and with the content producer’s reputation and personality included.

I’ll be looking for more case studies from David and Jay.