On April 20-21, 2012, the University of Texas-Austin hosted the annual International Symposium on Online Journalism. Here’s some of what I learned, separated by topic:
News Org Content
- 75% of traffic flow on news sites these days is to story pages (versus home pages).
- News orgs must innovate at every dimension to be successful today (and not simply hire a “chief innovation officer.”
- News orgs should empower individual reporters — and all of their abilities, in all of their worlds — to brand content in individual, persistent URLs.
- Bullets within long-form stories and investigative pieces are your friend.
- Transparency goes beyond how to produce the news. It also involved getting access to experts and officials and people they would never otherwise get to meet. For example, do Q/As with your experts to provide a chance for people without access to ask questions. (John White, deputy editor for online, Winnipeg Free Press, Canada)
- Data is changing the way we tell stories, and changing the definition of who a journalist is (Aron Pilhofer, interactive news editor, The New York Times)
- A definition of data journalism: “I am not talking here about statistics or numbers in general, because those are nothing new to journalists. When I talk about data, I mean information that can be processed by computers.” Paul Bradshaw (prof in UK)
- Data stories are a mix of craft and art. News applications should be made for craft. Ask: Who are your users? What are their needs? What can we build to fulfill their needs? (Brian Boyer, news applications editor, Chicago Tribune Media Group)
- Don’t do the map if it is not useful. Consider this nursing home graphic from the Chicago Tribune. Though the editors had geo-location data, the “fancy” map wasn’t going to be useful to people. (Brian Boyer)
- Data art is not useful. You need to tell a story. (Alberto Cairo, lecturer in visual journalism, University of Miami)
- We have to create presentation layers and exploration layers. Consider the Visual Information-Seeking Mantra: “Overview first, zoom and filter, then details-on-demand” — Ben Shneiderman (1996). Give an overview, and THEN let them zoom, filter and get all those details. You cannot have one of these without the other. (Alberto Cairo)
- We must embrace complexity. But you have to arrange it in a way that the human brain can understand. (Alberto Cairo)
- Data is a record for people. To make that record speak to people, you have to make it come to life. When you are bringing it to life, you have to make editorial decisions. Which bits of the data are important? (Alastair Dant, lead interactive technologist at Guardian News & Media, London, UK)
- Fractions of a second: An Olympic Model by NYT: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/02/26/sports/olympics/20100226-olysymphony.html
- How Twitter Spread Rumors During the Riots by the Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/dec/07/how-twitter-spread-rumours-riots
- The Obameter by Politifact: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/promises/obameter/
- “What one word describes your current state of mind?” by NYT: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/11/01/us/politics/2010-election-wordtrain.html
- “Where does the Westside start?” by the LA Times: http://projects.latimes.com/mapping-la/debates/westside/
- The New Yorker app for the iPad is more popular than the Wired Magazine app because iPad is all about long-form.
- Mobile tablets have a different audience time than general Web reading (iPad=6pm-11pm versus 7am-5pm for Web pages).
- 8 trillion SMS sent in 2011. TRILLION!
- You don’t necessarily need a mobile app. Check website logs to see what people are using and then develop for those devices, platforms.
- Some imperatives for mobile success: Nurture a first-rate mobile web site; position core apps strategically; select and align dedicated mobile professionals; harmonize experiences across platforms; assume that mobile is different than Web platforms; empower internal mobile editorial champions; secure multi-level executive support; strengthen content delivery systems; use mobile devices IN THE FIELD (so powerful in Libya, in Egypt!); drive other platforms’ success with mobile. (From Louis Gump, vp of CNN Mobile)
- Premium real-time alerts should be focused on very practical content. (From JV Rufino, head of Inquirer Mobile in the Philippines)
- Choice is your solution to making money on mobile; give them choice between getting ads or doing a subscription. (From William Hurley, co-founder of Chaotic Moon)
- We are losing words that have significance and meaning in our search for that mass audience. (From William Hurley). (I think we are losing words also as we write for a 140-character limit)
- Oh and do you have a refrigerator strategy yet? (Not enough users yet to make the effort perhaps but definitely start thinking about your television strategy.)
- People who identify themselves online are more likely to post and re-post stories, a deeper engaged behavior than commenting; people with pseudonyms more likely to superficially comment.
- Make opinions of users matter on your website. Really collaborate with communities members, and not just invite them to crowdsource.
- Journalists must be engaged in social-media realms, must become part of the community (helps build audience for the group).
- Considering privacy is important; people define privacy according to and reaction to situations they don’t like (J. Richards Stevens of University of Colorado at Boulder)
- Gulf between the ways that tools appear to work and the ways they actually work; what producers and designers don’t understand is that the interface is the product. (From J. Richards Stevens)
- Aesthetics and the architecture of the site create psychological effects on the way people feel about the place (and the product/brand). (From J. Richards Stevens)
- Interfaces have a responsibility to communicate to users the choices in privacy of data etc. (From J. Richards Stevens)
- Stop thinking that you are smarter than everyone younger than you are. Start building your brand for someone younger than 50. (John White, deputy editor for online, Winnipeg Free Press, Canada)
New Business Models
- Be innovative and think about partnerships with the unusual such as the Winnipeg Free Press’ News Café, which combines journalism with a Third-Place restaurant. (John White)
- Create community focal points.
- Failure in any of these experiments has to be built in. (Ben Ilfeld, founder and COO, Sacramento Press)
- For innovation, it’s important to know what metrics you want to hit before you scale the idea. Assess success before scaling and expanding (Ben Ilfeld)
- Sacramento Connect brings together community blogs etc. Build on already established community networks!
- If you cannot find the knowledge, create a forum to get it.
- Move beyond advertising
- Recognize the value in training and in helping to create content and helping others create content.
- Consider funding via community events
- Supplying tools isn’t enough to create a successful media outlet. That’d be like having a scalpel and bring told to operate.
- Start-ups are going to answer the question of monetizing journalism. (Bob Metcalfe) “We will see a million experiments and a few of them are going to work.” (Dan Gillmor)
- For-profits and non-profits (news orgs) have essentially the same problems. The distinctions between traditional journalism and “other” need to lie in other kinds of characteristics. (Bob Metcalfe)
The following is from a keynote by Jim Moroney, publisher & CEO, Dallas Morning News, and chairman of the board, Newspapers Association of America)
- There is no one model for news orgs; there are many models. It’s about finding what works for your org.
- $42.2 billion 2007 to 20.6 billion in 2011 print ad revenue: Only four years for 50% to evaporate.
- No longer a mass audience. We are publishing for a “mass intelligence audience.” But that’s not the same thing as an elite audience.
- The value of content is created along two axes: relevance and differentiation. Content that is irrelevant to you has no value to you. If something is not differentiated, it becomes a commodity, and therefore has less value. Every news publication has the who, where, when, what, so the 5Ws are now a commodity.
- Go deep on certain categories. We cannot be all things to all people.
- Four trillion ad impressions in marketplace in 2011; more than 1 trillion were from Facebook alone.
- Online ad revenue growth will not match dollar for dollar your losses in print ad revenue. You have to cross-subsidize your journalism beyond advertising.
- Audiences are developing two reading zones: the work, laptop, information zone and then the long, leisurely read of the tablet.
- 42% of tablet news readers regularly read in-depth news articles, another 40% sometimes do this. These people are three times as likely to regularly read in-depth articles as they are to watch news videos, according to a recent Pew study.
- You can’t charge for commodity content.
- Build more subject matter expertise in newsroom and through affiliations, particularly universities, to produce and capture deeper content, to tap into that “mass intelligence” audience.
- We must preserve the scale of the newsroom with this strategy, but also need to develop other sources of revenue that is not advertising.
- Leverage your brand to create new revenue streams: offer social media, marketing and event-marketing services.
- Social media is about reputation (Dan Gillmor)
- We pay attention to SEO out of fear: If we build it, will they come? (Carmen Cano, digital managing editor, The Dallas Morning News)
- In one second there are: 2 new users to LinkedIn, 11 new Twitter accounts, 2200 tweets published, 3500 photos uploaded to Flickr, 8000 comments in Facebook, and almost 15000 status updates to Facebook (Carmen Cano)
- Pinterest generating more traffic on web sites than other social media (Carmen Cano)
- SEO –> SMO (Search Engine Optimization to Social Media Optimization) (Carmen Cano)
- Search, social are all about relationships (words, people, respectively) (Carmen Cano)
- Visits per visitor most important web metric, not page views. Time on site also can be misleading. (Carmen Cano)
- Facebook: not for breaking news; it is more about a conversation, simpler/strategic (Carmen Cano)
- SMO must be part of your SEO (Carmen Cano)
- Social, search, semantic = relationships, experience, which you cannot optimize (Carmen Cano)
- The Final-Mile Problem in journalism: getting content in front of the right audience (Chip Cutter, content editor, LinkedIn)
- Pay attention to what is being shared: among your connections, in your industry, beyond your industry (what’s popular across LinkedIn) (Chip Cutter)
- Let the community do some of the work for you: such as AccountingToday, which drove engagement by putting a link into one of the active accounting groups and adding a question at the end: “what are the weirdest tax deductions you have ever seen?” (Chip Cutter)
- Post, engage, post, engage; the cycle never really has to end. Start a credible viral loop. (Chip Cutter)
- Find the right content passion and obsession audiences. Ask questions and dive into the comments (answering questions, asking additional questions to keep the conversation going forward) (Chip Cutter)
- Look to the crowd to inform your reporting; try to latch onto a broad topic by tailoring your stories based on what users are sharing. (Chip Cutter)
- Share so frequently that you’re considered an expert (Chip Cutter)
- Ensure every story has a high-quality image attached (Chip Cutter)
- Write headlines that start conversations; it is no longer about cramming everything in there. You still want keywords, but these need to be about what starts a conversation such as asking a question or posing something in a way that drives a conversation (Chip Cutter)
- Build your own social network (Borja Echevarria, deputy editor, El Pais, Spain)
- You have to accept the loss of control over your news. (Borja Echevarria)
- Charge for your archive because people love it. (Borja Echevarria)
- Social media is how I build hope, inspire change and give back as a journalist (Jen Lee Reeves, interactive director of KOMU-TV and associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism)
- There need to be fewer silos in academic. Talk to business schools, to computer science departments.
- Collaborations outside of academia too!
- Stop training for jobs that no longer exist (Mark Berkey-Gerard, Rowan University: From journalism students to local news entrepreneurs: A case study of technically media)
- Provide students with the opportunities to build products and then test the revenue sources around it (Mark Berkey-Gerard)
- Test new products (Mark Berkey-Gerard)
- Education right this second is being disrupted, and professors have the same problem journalists have.
Finally! Chunking may be back!
Chunking, at least in the way I am using the term, is when you hyperlink your subheads so that you can jump around between sections of a story. I am sure for some content producers it never left, but I have missed it on the sites I regularly visit for years now. I always thought it was a great way to allow users to access the topics of a story they were most interested in by clicking from within a sort of table of contents under the headline. I’m not sure why it went away, and would love to know. Perhaps people weren’t using the features? Perhaps content management systems weren’t allowing the function? Maybe it just got pushed aside as more interactive features etc. came into vogue?
At any rate Bill Gates has brought it back with his 2012 annual letter from the Gates Foundation. In the piece about extreme poverty and issues of food, vaccines, AIDS, education
and other causes he pledges support for from the Foundation, he “chunks” or sections each topic with subheads. Within each section, users may tweet or share on Facebook specific parts or link to topics within sections (as opposed to working only with the entire document).
I see this as being a great idea for news organizations’ formatting of longer reads. My audience research revealed that people would love to be able to access specific parts of longer stories and navigate within it. Chunking the story could entice more people to jump into the content because it looks a little less intimidating than a long block of text.
Loving it, Mr. Gates!
Every time I go to a website to make a comment or buy something, it asks me for my username and password. After a couple failed tries, my instinct is to give up — though my desire to be obnoxious or to participate in consumerism ultimately vanquish and I persist until I break through. But, man, what a pain.
I was reading this New York Times article with interest: “Logging In With a Touch or a Phrase.”
Passwords are a pain to remember. What if a quick wiggle of five fingers on a screen could log you in instead? Or speaking a simple phrase? Neither idea is far-fetched. Computer scientists in Brooklyn are training their iPads to recognize their owners by the touch of their fingers as they make a caressing gesture. Banks are already using software that recognizes your voice, supplementing the standard PIN.
A couple years ago I conducted a bunch of interviews with regular Madison folk about their use of the Internet, particularly as that use pertained to information actions and community engagement. One of my side findings had to do with passwords. The number one reason these people — and these included often those like journalists and bloggers — did not participate in online forums or other digital spaces? PASSWORDS. They try once, maybe twice, but who can keep track of all of them?
If we could resolve the password issues, I suspect the amount of civic participation in online deliberative spaces would significantly increase.
And then I imagine what our coffeeshops would look like with all of us waving at our computers. We’d all be thinking: “Now, was it a five-finger motion that I recorded? Or something more jaunty?” Even this solution, I predict, would ultimately involve some choice gestures.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how to build viewership for news projects for one of the classes I am teaching and the students I am advising. And then I received a comment on a post I wrote for Carnival of Journalism last month.
Here’s the comment:
I was reading with interest your response to Carnival of Journalism’s, Future of Video post. You surprised me when you said you’d like to see more long-form documentary enterprise features from newspapers.
As deputy director of photo and video at the Detroit Free Press, I’ve been heavily involved in all of our long-form (and short) video stories. I am a firm believer that video is the future of newspapers, but there seems to be a resistance across newspapers for the in-depth video story. We’ve been fortunate to resist that resistance and do good work – see our most recent doc at http://www.freep.com/livingwithmurder. However, I fear that the return on investment is not yet there and newspaper’s impatience may kill this type of storytelling before it gets a chance to be realized – Washington Post’s layoffs a few years back of some of their documentary folks as evidence.
Is your desire to see this type of video based on personal preference or are you seeing a demand for it in any of your research – anecdotal or hard facts?
Thanks for your time.
Here is my response:
Thanks for reading and commenting, Kathy!
Alas, although my research has shown that people SAY they would watch a long-form video, they rarely do. They told our interviewers that even though they “want” to watch them, they have to “justify” that time (even as they also admit they spend hours watching sitcoms, hanging out on Facebook, or playing euchre on Yahoo). I think the key for news organizations is to evolve their thinking about such projects. The days of a news organizations producing something like this, promoting it on the site, and hoping people will view it are gone. One needs to discover the audience for these kinds of projects. News organizations need to cultivate genres of audience segments and market those long-form projects to opinion leaders whose demographic indicate an interest in similar kinds of content (such as Frontline or NPR) via Facebook, Twitter, targeted ads etc. Another idea would be to produce such a longer project in partnership with another organization that has such an audience. Finally, such projects are often considered evergreen content, and thus, could be great fodder for attaining a continual stream of viewers from search engines (the idea being that the longer your content stays relevant, the more search engines will find it, the more authority that link gains, the more viewers you attract, the greater possibility it will drive traffic to other parts of your site etc etc). And if it’s issue-based (as many of them are), the project could serve as an anchor for a page that becomes the go-to place for people looking for information on, say, crime or poverty or gas prices or whatever with archived stories, links to reports and data, etc etc. )
I do have some findings that might be helpful to you: that people will devour everything they can about topics they are interested in, that they want to be able to research even more (“dig deeper”), right from the content, and that they want to be able to engage with the material — and the reporter — beyond the product itself. I’d love to see more reporters thinking of their projects in a much more dynamic way.
Here are just a couple ideas to create a buzz and generate that special audience: crowd-sourcing the reporting for it, having give-and-takes about the issue during the reporter with key sources and potential audiences right on Twitter, build up a special Twitter project hashtag, promote the project and relay relevant and credible information about the topic via established discussion threads already on Twitter, side-writing on the issue on their blogs, setting up Q/As with prominent sources and experts on the issue, generating questions and engaging with readers in online forums about the content, using Facebook to generate dialogue and not just as a story-link resting place, cross-promoting the material on highly read blogs and other kinds of content (by other people/journalists/experts) about the project.
The project has to be sold to newsroom leaders in these ways — as something that can live and grow for the site — I think, and not as just a finite product that is good journalism and important for society.
Now the problem is finding the time to do all of this. And there’s the rub, right?
Would love to hear your thoughts on all of this! (And you should check out that Free Press project “Living with Murder;” It’s awesome and there’s always time for “awesome.”
This month’s Carnival of Journalism asked people to pontificate on the future of online video.
When convergence first occurred, I was somewhat skeptical about how big a role video could play in newsrooms that have traditionally been print focused. I study newsrooms transitioning to the digital world and have watched as reporters and editors initially expressed enthusiasm at the possibilities innate in visual storytelling, only to succumb to the cumbersome recording challenges and even more onerous editing learning curve. Technical, cultural, financial, organizational, institutional — the obstacles to achieving online video in formerly print-based newsrooms are many. Though a news organization might make video cameras available to its staff, the staff received very little training in shooting technique. Reporters found the cameras difficult to juggle along with a recorder and notebook. They found themselves shy about speaking in front of a camera, or even doing voice-overs. But mostly, the cultural and organizational dynamics of the print newsroom — especially the emphasis on writing as the primary evaluation measure — prevented much video work from being done (at least by print reporters).
I do think the state of news video for (formerly?) print-focused newsrooms is changing rapidly. Shovelware is long behind us. More and more websites are experimenting with online video and beefing up their use of multimedia. Over the last year newsrooms have renewed their commitment to online video. Even the Wall Street Journal has vastly expanded its video offerings and platforms. iMovie and other video editing programs have made video editing much more user-friendly. Multimedia trainings for journalists abound and are well attended. Even the recently doom-and-gloom prognoses of Pew’s annual State of the Media report have been naming more video use among news organizations as a sign of exciting development in the industry for content features. New iPad apps for video news make watching more convenient. And the statistics prove that more people are willing to spend copious amounts of time watching video. It’s just not so many of them seem to be accessing news video all that much, except the young folks (though I haven’t been able to land on any specific statistics about news use, have you?).
Nonetheless so far I’m still disappointed about how little innovation is happening around video use on newspaper websites. Most news sites still don’t let me pop out the video to a corner of my screen so I can browse off the page while watching that video (unless I am missing that function? It’s not obvious if it is there). I’d like the ability to search for video news in the archives of newspaper websites (but unless I have the direct URL, I am typically out of luck). I’d like to see more documentary-length video as enterprise features on newspaper sites. I’d like to see more video used to corroborate stories, showing snippets of telling pieces of the interview, for example. I’d like to see more reader-produced video commentary attached to stories as part of the forums and comments or somehow integrated more significantly.
And, if I may be a bit obnoxious, someday:
- I’d like the ability to zoom in on parts of most news video (without special software);
- I’d like to be able to right-click and have the transcript of the script available to me (but that’s just because I like to content analyze for my job);
- I’d like the ability to enable text captions on all my videos so I can secretly watch them during meetings without the sound on (without special software);
- I’d like the ability to pause the video, scroll over faces or building or other things and have a screen pop up with information about the person.
The future of news video is wide open. New platforms are going to make video watching preferable in some ways to reading news. Consider the prototype the New York Times is developing for delivering its news on people’s mirrors. You’re not going to try to read a feature-length news piece while shaving or putting eyeliner on. You CAN watch and listen to a video while doing those tasks. I know some people never watch video and perhaps never will, but I wonder if that’s because we haven’t hit upon the right mix of products that will appeal to greater segments of the audiences for news.