Tag Archives: blogs

2010 by the numbers, at two sites

Wordle for Underoak

From @mybxb: “What was your site focus in 2010 & what are you hoping to build up in 2011? #mybxb

It was just one simple Twitter question, likely from Michele McLellan, an expert on small local news sites. The Twitter account asked the same question of quite a few people on New Year’s Eve eve.

It led to a little excavation for me.

I won’t be able to answer the second part of this question immediately. But here’s a start on the first part of the question, after a quick look at the numbers.

I focused on two sites in 2010, neither of which were commercial endeavors and both of which were solo experiments. I stuck Google ads onto one of the sites late in the year as an experiment, but the cost to appearance likely means those ads won’t last. Finding my focus, for me, means looking at the numbers to see what I produced, not just what I intended.

Underoak (Merry Oaks neighborhood information):
39 posts, the least since 2006, when it was 22
An average of 885.25 page views per month
Best return per post by month: October, averaging 372 page views per post, with four posts during the month
Topics: Local stories involving animals, art, nature and “green” stories, advances and coverage of local events and traditions, civic events and issues, development and business.
Quick conclusions: An audience exists for local civic information in Charlotte. Archives of event coverage help make later coverage easier. You don’t have to file three times a day, every day, to generate decent traffic. You do have to focus on headlines and what keywords people are seeking. A niche of 2,000 people or so is likely too small to reach the kind of numbers that would generate decent online ad revenue. The minimum audience size is likely closer to 20,000 potential readers, or about the size of typical zoned print sections of legacy media.

Global Vue (About journalism and technology):
About 45 posts
An average of 408 page views per month
Best return per post by month: July, averaging 60 page views per post, with 17 posts during the month (heavy posting was an experiment as part of a Peer 2 Peer University class).
Topics: Journalism of all sorts, from ethics to business models, with one peach thrown in for good measure.
Quick conclusions: We need more demos and fewer memos, but it’s nice to have a place to think out loud, even if it means sharing with a tiny group. It also is nice to have a linkable, updated online biography, beyond Facebook, LinkedIn and similar services.

Connecting the world and strengthening international reporting, through an online journalism class

Classmates Richard Smart (@Tokyorich) and Rick Martin (@1rick) collaborated on multimedia coverage of a protest in Shinjuku, Japan, against U.S. military bases on the Fourth of July. The work was part of an assignment in online journalism for a class at Peer 2 Peer University.

As the United States celebrated its birthday with parades, fireworks and the honoring of fallen soldiers, seeing a protest against U.S. military presence in other sovereign countries added rich perspective.

I would have had no idea about the protest without the classmates’ coverage. In that respect, the power of a global journalism class is remarkable.

Of Krispy Kreme doughnuts, Cheerwine, PR and journalism (plus ‘Star Wars’)

Krispy Kreme and Cheerwine doughnut

The Krispy Kreme and Cheerwine doughnut

John Robinson, editor of the Greensboro News and Record, wondered aloud on Friday where the line exists between promotion and news for journalists.

The occasion was the debut July 1 of the Krispy Kreme doughnut filled with a Cheerwine-flavored creamy filling. Krispy Kreme doughnuts and Cheerwine soda are both North Carolina products, and the match was greeted with a great public-relations campaign that included the delivery of samples to the governor’s office and at least four newsrooms across the state.

Of course, photos and instant reviews flew out on Twitter, followed by blog posts and then “news stories.”

The product debut and the PR campaign showed the synergy that exists between PR people and news organizations, made only stronger these days by limited newsroom resources and the need to find stories that will drive local visits to websites. Still, I’m not sure how much value the story had for print by Friday, except perhaps for investors in Krispy Kreme stock.

At the same time, comments were flying on Charles Apple’s blog about an advertising stunt at the Los Angeles Times, with a faux news layout wrapped around the newspaper, advertising a 3D King Kong ride at Universal Studios in Hollywood. Some comments questioned how the advertisement was that different from the elaborately designed skyboxes or promos on newspaper front pages that mark the opening of some blockbuster movies.

I’ll go out on a limb: How is the Krispy Kreme story or the L.A. Times ad so different than “Star Wars” skybox promos and full-page graphics in a newspaper about a science exhibit in Alabama?

I can feel the vitriol now: How silly to ask. The “Star Wars” work is cool, and it’s about science, and space, and it’s done by the newsroom, or from the newsroom budget with a freelancer. It’s obviously different than a PR-manipulated doughnut story or a faux news layout. (And I respect greatly the people who did the “Star Wars” work.)

But from the marketing perspective, it’s not so different. Coverage is coverage, ink is ink.

What’s different is who does the design and content work, or who makes the decisions on play. In this new era, it’s important for both PR people and journalists to pay attention to new experiments and shifts in roles.

The PR machines still exist, and seem to be recovering from the recession sometimes faster than news outlets. They deluge newsrooms with e-mail these days, instead of faxes. Smart PR people know how to work the newsrooms still.

To deny a symbiotic relationship is naïve.

Still, strong news judgment and discussions and balance are required, lest newsrooms lose any more credibility than they’ve already lost.

In the doughnut caper, a quick, fun story seemed in order. But riding that Cheerwine and Krispy Kreme horse for more than a day or two, in print, could be excessive.

Writing a blog post like this one two days later? It’s smart SEO, or perhaps just naval gazing.

You decide.

Forget two-a-day practice; three-a-days will either kill you or get you in game shape

Two-a-day football practice

Two-a-day football practice looks easy compared to three-a-day blog posting

The latest class assignment from an online journalism class through P2PU involves posting three times a day on a blog.

The assignment reminds me of the approaching intense summer high school football practice in the United States. And it’s not just football; soccer players at summer camps, track team members and other young athletes commit to twice a day practices in the off season.

It’s hot; it’s hard, and it separates the serious athletes from everyone else.

I suspect this class assignment will do the same. Posting three times a day online is often billed as a way to drive traffic; I have long suspected it changes the content as well, encouraging lightweight, easy posts without much depth. At the same time, perhaps it encourages quick thinking and sharing of those thoughts without too much self editing.

In that respect, perhaps the assignment encourages the kind of sharing that Twitter has captured. Some have questioned whether Twitter or Facebook are killing blogging. The assignment gives me a chance to convert some Twitter time to creating something of perhaps longer lasting value. Or perhaps not.

Either way, it’s worth a start. The assignment comes from TokyoMango, or Lisa Katayama, who also edits BoingBoing.

Photo credit: kaiju, from Flickr, licensed through Creative Commons.

Building an open Carolina news network

Chip Oglesby's Publish2 links for Boeing

Chip Oglesby's Publish2 links for Boeing

Warning: News geek alert. I hope this post will be of great interest to a small group of people, but I’m throwing out ideas that might be filled with jargon.

The recent rains that paralyzed Atlanta taught a lesson: Building a network before critical need arrives can make the sharing of news and information faster, more powerful and effective.

In the case of the Atlanta flood, local leaders in the Twitter community brought together people by advocating the use of a tag on Twitter that was easily searchable.

But we have more network tools than just Twitter, and the principles of networking apply across social networks.

One emerging news tool is Publish2, which is a for-profit company that allows journalists to bookmark links and tweets and share on their websites with widgets. The company also has widgets that allow website managers to add a request for tips from readers.

The New York Times uses Publish2 to aggregate “What we’re reading” posts. The (Columbia) State’s Chip Oglesby used Publish2 to aggregate stories about the Boeing move from Seattle to South Carolina, including posts from Seattle that gave a different perspective on the move. The screenshot above shows his work.

But Publish2 also has the ability to let journalists collaborate across newsrooms, building lists of links about a particular topic in newsgroups. Then different newsrooms (or blogs) can share the crowdsourced links with widgets on their own websites.

That’s a powerful tool, as illustrated with the crowdsourced use of hashtags on Twitter during emergencies and breaking news. And in the Publish2 case, the crowdsourcers are all pre-approved, theoretically “reliable sources.”

Another example: The hearings about former N.C. Gov. Mike Easley have generated widespread coverage, and interest, across the state. Mark Binker of Greensboro is generating amazing quick coverage on Twitter, and the Greensboro News and Record is using Cover it Live to aggregate those tweets. Raleigh is taking a different approach, using live video, live blogging and comments on the News and Observer site.

News organizations across the state have interest in the hearings but can’t always afford to staff them. Publish2 could help them work together to aggregate coverage and link out to original sources from their own websites.

Admittedly, Publish2 is a for-profit company. Where this goes, I’m unsure. Perhaps Google Wave will make this collaboration easier in a different form in the future. But not yet, and hey, Google is a for-profit company too, just like Twitter (some day).

It’s past time to try out Publish2 collaboratively and learn some broad principles that can apply to networking the news. Let’s build a North Carolina network and a Carolinas network before we get hit with a hurricane or some other big news event that will need all our resources, collaboratively.

Perhaps some day, we’ll find similar tools that are open source and free.

Let’s experiment and iterate now. I’ve created the groups and seeded them with some Carolinas journalists on Publish2.

I have to acknowledge this: I’m throwing out this idea from outside any legacy newsroom, and I understand the heavy competitive pressure within those newsrooms. Perhaps this idea won’t fly in those newsrooms. But then, it might fly among the growing ranks of independent journalists. And as we experiment, other projects like the J-Lab Networking the News effort are encouraging cooperation among independents and legacy newsrooms in two N.C. cities, Asheville and Charlotte.

Ryan Sholin and Greg Linch of Publish2 are behind this idea and willing to help.

If you’ve already used Publish2 and want to join the North Carolina or Carolinas networks, let me know. If you want to be an administrator, let me know. If you think it’s a dumb, stupid idea, let me know.

Update from comments: If you’re not already on Publish2, send the email address you want to use to sign up in a direct message to Underoak on Twitter (me), or email it to me at akrewson45cATmacDOTcom. It looks like that method will automagically put you in the newsgroup or groups.

Try. Try again. Repeat.

How to keep eating and doing journalism


“When the going gets weird, the weird get going.turn pro.”

–Hunter S. Thompson

Rick Edmonds of Poynter has revisited the idea of government subsidies for journalism, concluding that he’d hate for the possibility “to get throttled with a dismissive, ‘There’s a reason we can’t do that.’”
In these weird times, funding alternatives aren’t so far-fetched. Ralph Whitehead of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst said in January that the market may be failing journalism:

“What may be emerging today, however, is a serious case of market failure that can’t be – and must not be – fixed by government intervention: the failure of the private sector to provide broadly inclusive journalism that is both comprehensive and reliable enough to meet the needs of a democracy.”

Now, four months later as classified revenue vanishes into thin air daily, it’s past time to broaden the debate. Not only are journalists losing their jobs in a wholesale way that can’t be ignored even as we try to focus on the positive; whole communities are losing their voices. Volunteer blogs can’t fill all the gaps.
Ed Wasserman, Knight professor of journalism ethics at Washington and Lee University, awhile back wrote about alternative funding ideas in The Miami Herald. His plan, micropayments for journalism, has some big holes. Read more about it here. And Leonard Witt down in Georgia has his own interesting, and perhaps more sustainable, ideas about how to pay for journalism, through community networks.
And then keep thinking broadly about solutions, for yourself, your colleagues and the industry, about other ways to eat while still providing information to others. Hope and work for A New Deal.

The five best and worst sites, Part I

This week, we’re writing about the five best web sites and five worst web sites related to our research topics.
Today, I’m focusing on one best site and one worst site related to communications software. My topic is about building sustainable, findable, objective journalism online, and software and computers are a key component because they are the tools that make online journalism happen.

I’m trying to evaluate online sites holistically now, going beyond just one posting that might grab my attention to make sure posts over time are credible, useful and objective.

So on to it:
One best site: The Wall Street Journal’s Business Technology blog. As others have noted in class discussions, blogs associated with media organizations that we already trust carry more weight than independent blogs.

Ben Worthen, lead writer, joined The Wall Street Journal from CIO Magazine, and the blog can include contributions from other reporters and editors at the Journal, WSJ.com and Dow Jones Newswires.

Worthen defines his subject broadly, including a fun post about TV’s latest IT guy, Chuck, from the Nerd Herd, and posts about the coming generational clash between older and younger workers. He even talks with design guru Don Norman from Northwestern University about the importance of design in software.

Of course, technology news is included as well, but I appreciate his broad sweep of including business management with technology, because the best technology takes into account how people work.

One worst site: The Baltimore Sun’s David Zeiler has a blog since May 2007 called “Apple a Day,” following developments for Apple, Inc. I in no way mean to denigrate Zeiler’s knowledge or skill in sleuthing out all Apple developments. He does a great job of writing actively about every Apple company twist and turn, from online rumor sites to official company information.

However (you knew that word was coming), by adding opinion to spice up his content and writing, he ends up sounding like a spoiled customer in his latest posting, which denigrates Apple’s current customer service, pricing policies and partnerships. It’s called, “How many times must Apple shoot itself in the foot?”

He posted this article on the same day that Apple stock hit an all-time high.

It doesn’t appear that the company is shooting itself in the foot — it just appears that some customers are disappointed that they can’t hack the Iphone.

I found the site through the class blog of David Shabazz, “Write for Freedom.” He has a feed set up called “Around the World,” and many posts on it are about Apple. I love those kinds of feeds in blogs, but wonder whether a feed that only uses keywords or tags as filters will give readers consistent quality.

I clicked on the Zeiler blog, primarily because the headline seemed interesting and controversial, and then was disappointed in the results. Zeiler’s working hard; he’s a designer who probably volunteered to do a blog on the side because he was interested in Apple. But he needs more credentials for me to come back again.

Does Apple have some connection to Baltimore? Does Zeiler own Apple stock? Why should Baltimore newspaper readers trust his blog more than a just-as-accessible Apple blog from California? What does Zeiler bring to the information table that no one else can? Are newspapers turning to blogs too much because staffers love to do them, will often do them for free on top of other duties, and the technology is quick and easy? Is the quantity obscuring quality?

(Confession: I own 10 Apple shares, recommended to me by a 17-year-old, which I bought shortly before the Iphone was released. I do not own an Iphone).