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How do journalists compete in a large media market?

“Your title tag and description are your first impression to attract potential audience” said Monica Wright. “You capture new online readership by setting yourself apart with useful and engaging tags.”

Building an audience online also includes:

  • tracking your content
  • web analytics
  • search engine optimization (SEO)
  • effective headline writing for the Web
  • distribution through social media

What should you be tracking? Anything that is able to be tracked! Start by using the baker’s dozen list below:

  • total news stories per day
  • news stories by topic or section
  • total blog posts per day
  • blog posts by specific blog
  • slide shows per week
  • video stories per week
  • podcasts or other audio stories
  • news updates
  • breaking news e-mail alerts
  • SMS or other mobile network alerts
  • e-mail news letters that are not sent automatically
  • Twitter, Facebook or other social network posts
  • user-generated content

By using web analytics, you will be able to track your audiences in order to learn what your audience is consuming. Web analytics softwares allow you to identify key data points, such as:

  • pageviews
  • visits and unique visitors compared
  • engagement and referrers

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) assist in driving more audience to ideas that people are excited about. SEO’s perform three main functions:

  • spiders and robots: small computer programs that are sent out by search engines line Google and Bing to “crawl” the Internet and track and record the information found on Web pages
  • indexing: take the information sent from the spiders and robots and build large database files with references to all the content connected to the right links
  • queries: takes the keywords you’ve searched to look in the index for the most relevant results — it then returns and presents those results on Web pages for you to explore

When creating a headline, be sure to write for readers and robots. In order to make headlines better:

  • use keywords
  • user conversational language
  • don’t be afraid to inject a little attitude

Social media is great at distributing information to many channels. Mark Briggs suggests:

The future of journalism means managing online communities and participating in various social networks,” said Mark Briggs. One of the greatest challenges facing journalists now is how to manage and leverage news conversation in social media networks.

The problem with news as a conversation is that participants are rarely as constructive or respectful as journalists and other readers would like. There are either too many conversations for news organizations to manage, or there are too few comments that generate actual conversation around the news.

While some journalists shy away from the interactiveness of reader comments, Doug Feaver, creator of the dot.comments blog, suggests that “comments provide a forum for readers to complain about what they see as unfairness or inaccuracy in an article, to talk to each other and to bloviate.”

Feaver makes a great argument – news conversation does have wonderful benefits, such as:

  • they provide transparency on the reporting process
  • they enable an immediate feedback loop
  • they spread awareness of news coverage through word-of-mouth marketing

News conversation allows more tips to be discovered and more links to be shared, according to BeatBlogging‘s Patrick Thornton. Knowledgable users can provide journalists with tips, links additional insight or even clarify a post.

Journalists should make news participatory so that audiences can contribute to news and information by suppling additional:

  • photos
  • videos
  • event lists (on calendar sites)
  • edits (on wiki sites)
  • message board posts
  • blog posts
  • votes and recommendations
  • promotin on other social media sites (ex: Digg and SumbleUpon)

There is the 1-10-100 rule for participatory online community sites that states:

  • 1% of the user community actual create content
  • 10% of the user community will synthesize the content by posting comments, e-mailing links to friends, authoring blog posts on separate sites and linking back to it, etc.
  • 100% of the user community will benefit from the actions of the first two groups

Journalists should be responsible for keeping all news conversations accurate and ethical. They can do this by:

  • setting guidelines for participants
  • monitoring offensive postings
  • knowing their legal responsibilities
  • correcting errors

Audio is considered the invisible medium, but what journalists forget is that “sounds allow listeners to see with the best lens of all, the mind,” said best-selling author Jim Stovall.

Without text or visual images, audio can produce a rich experience.

Karin Hogh, a podcasting expert based in Denmark, said that “audio journalism has characteristics that can’t be matched by other forms of media,” which are:

  • presence
  • emotions
  • atmosphere

“Using these assets, you can communicate your ‘personal’ perception of the events and add many facets and also take advantage of audio as a background medium,” said Hogh.

Audio journalism is a quick and simple way to distribute information via podcasts, which feature one type of “show” with new episodes available either sporadically or at planned intervals. The use of podcasts help build loyal listeners.

All journalists really need in order to create full-featured sound segments are:

  • a microphone
  • a recorder
  • a free software

Brief audio reports can also be created through the use of a mobile phone. This allows news journalists to quickly and easily cover news breaking scenes.

To get started in creating podcasts, one must record interviews. It is important to:

  • write a script
  • warm up
  • choose your location
  • gather natural sound
  • prepare your subject(s)
  • watch what you say
  • mark the best spots
  • always, always, always keep it conversational!

Keep in mind that “the goal is to record with the highest quality possible and then edit the files before compressing the files to publish and distribute it online,” said Mark Briggs.

When editing, look for audio-editing programs that are:

  • easy to use
  • have the capability to export files in MP3 format

All audio clips should be in MP3 format because virtually any computer can play an MP3. Briggs suggests using programs such as Audacity and JetAudio.

Try to experiment with different techniques to bring even more life into your audio. Some techniques include:

  • fading: a gradual increase or decrease in level of the audio
  • cross-fading: a mix of fades with one track level increasing while another decreases
  • establishing music: use of song clips to set tone
  • segueing: smoothly transitioning from one track to another
  • transitioning: connecting different tracks in a way that is smooth and natural

Visit PodCastAwards to listen to some award-winning podcasts.

Journalism without photographs is like writing without verbs,” Mark Briggs said.

Photographs are important in journalism, and in all other aspects, because they are able to expand on a story in a way that words cannot. In order to fully express an idea, journalists must understand how to capture the perfect image.

When possible, shoot images using natural light. Avoid shooting with a flash or mixture of flashes. If bright sunlight is in front of subjects being photographs, it will create face shadows and make people squint; if the sun is behind the subjects then their faces will be darker.

Great photographs are the ones where viwerers can see a picture within a picture.

According to Val Hoeppner, the biggest mistake amateurs and beginners make is that they do not get close enough to their subjects or to the action happening in front of them. Hoeppner suggests taking 10 steps forward after journalists think they are close enough to a subject.

Two secrets for capturing better photos are to be patient and to take more photographs.

Once journalists are done capturing photos, they should then edit them for online publishing.

Editing advice:

  • Edit a copy of the photo – never the original.
  • Crop the photo.
  • Resize the picture.
  • Modify the resolution.
  • Tone and color correct the picture.
  • Save a Web version.
  • Keep it simple.

Remember that adding and/or removing objects from an image is strictly forbidden.  An image should never be altered in a way that can “mislead viewers or misrepresent subjects,” says Briggs.

“In this day and age of photo manipulation, students new to photojournalism must understand and adhere to the ethics of not creating images that lie or are deceptive to the viewer,” says Colin Mulvany.

Photo editing software:

According to computer scientists, cell phones are changing how we live and how we think about information.

The advancement of cell phones has brought rise to mobile reporting. Reporters no longer have to depend on photographers or camera crews to capture an event, and can now rely on their handy-dandy multi-purpose cell phones. And if they aren’t at the scene to capture footage, they can turn to news consumers.

Mobile reporting is especially helpful in breaking news situations when others arrive at a scene before professional journalists, according to Briggs. Mobile reporting allows anyone with a cell phone to contribute images, videos and/or information that journalists do not have in order to complete a story.

Always, always, always:

  • Keep it simple. Minimize equipment.
  • Be prepared. Have all the tools needed to report in any medium – at anytime, from anywhere.

How to publish while on the field:

When to go mobile?

  • Criminal and civil trials
  • Important speeches or announcements by public officials
  • Breaking news events
  • Public gatherings (protests, parades, rallies)
  • Sporting events
  • Grand openings of popular consumer destinations

And remember, for a mobile journalist, the deadline is now.

What is microblogging?
A service that allows users to publish brief text messages, usually no more than 140 characters, with links to other Web sites, photos or videos.

Why microblog?

  • Allows you to share a link to the article you’ve written.
  • Your content will get read much quicker.
  • Connects you with other journalists and readers.

Why is community important?

  • Response and reaction is the WHOLE point of microblogging!
  • The biggest benefit of microblogging is learning about your audience.
  • Invite your audiences to work with you.
  • Your audiences could help you look for leads, find background or other information on a particular subject/event.

80-20 Rule.
Use 80 percent of your posts to add something of value to the community and the other 20 percent can be used for self-promotion (links to your other articles, blogs, etc.)

Ambient awareness or ambient intimacy: the ability to maintain a constant connection with others without a direct communication tool like phone or e-mail; allows for one-to-many communication

The emergency of the “Real-Time Web.”

  • It allows readers to know what is happening right now.
  • Users on a scene can start spreading the word immediately.
  • Countless news stories break first on Twitter.

Advice to journalist students…

  • “One great thing about Twitter — and this is why it is so useful to student journalists — is that after a while it trains you to look for interesting things around you (and think how you can communicate that in 140 characters,” said Bradshaw, a journalism lecturer in Birmingham, England.
  • “The opportunity of social media is important to younger journalists just starting out. News companies expect that interns and fresh-out-of-college new hires will possess a proficiency in social media. In fact, proficiency with new technology can help you land your first job” Briggs said.

Journalists rely on Internet readers’ ideas to gather and present news.

Crowd-Sourcing: communities that come together to provide the value for a given Web site

  • focuses on “community power”
  • a group of committed individuals can outperform a small group of experienced (and paid) professionals
  • individuals help put a story together by giving advice on an investigation or provide data collection
  • reporting based on the work of many, including your readers

“Crowdsourcing works in some situations, but not in others. If there were a jar of gumballs in this room, I’d want everyone’s help in determining how many gumballs were in the jar. If I needed brain surgery, I don’t want anyone in this room to help. No offense.” – David Cohn, Spot.Us

Open-source reporting: using transparency in reporting in order to provide benefit to your audience and possibly acquire benefits from your audience

  • welcomes audience feedback
  • beatblogging: build a social network around a traditional reporting beat, bring the stakeholders on the particular beat together then weave a discussion and see what stakeholders say to one another
  • links “power the web” – they build readership and brings readers back
  • link journalism: using editorial judgement to provide links to other sources of news and information, based on the needs and interests of a particular audience

“A reporter can more deeply penetrate a topic area and discover great new angles and story tips by “listening” to an informed conversation among loyal readers.” – Mark Briggs

Pro-am journalism: allows audience to publish directly to the same platform, that professional journalists uses to publish their news; a “do-it-yourself” movement

  • most unfiltered form of collaborative journalism
  • allows readers to publish their own news of other forms of content
  • readers provide that “what” and journalists provide the “why”

“Everyone is a media outlet.” – Clay Shirky

Blogs are important because they are simple, immediate and interactive.

Three Characteristics of a Blog:

  • Frequently updated with entries displayed in reverse chronological order
  • Each post has a headline and a body
  • Contains a link for comments that let readers post their thoughts on a particular blog

The Usefulness of Blogs:

  • Help develop community with readers or viewers so they can test ideas
  • Receive early and direct feedback
  • Publish or broadcast in the timeliest manner
  • Teach a new content-management system
  • Build an audience for your writing or reporting
  • Cultivate a collaborative community once you have an audience

How to Create a Blog:

Ask Yourself These Questions When Creating A Blog:

  • What will you name your blog? (1-3 words)
  • What is a good short description or catchphrase for your blog?
  • What will you write about in your blog? What is its mission (2-3 sentences)

How to Build an Audience for Your Blog:

  • Know what readers want.
  • Organize your ideas. All posts should complement your primary idea.
  • Be direct. Use simple, declarative sentences.
  • Be the authority, with a personality. The right voice is key.
  • Edit. Allow 15 minutes of editing time before publishing a post.
  • Make posts scanable. Use different typographical techniques.
  • Link, summarize and analyze. Attribution is very important!
  • Be specific with headlines.
  • Use photos and screenshots.

Bloggers should also post approximately once a day and participate in a blogging community by reading, commenting and linking to other blogs.

Briggs breaks down basic Web concepts so that we can maximize and take advantage of all the information the Web offers.

Key ideas:

  • Internet is not synonymous with World Wide Web.
    Internet: a network of connected computers that share information.
    Web: a way of accessing information through the network.
  • RSS is a quick and efficient tool in obtaining information based on your personal interests.
  • HTML, CSS and XML are markup languages that control how information is displayed and distributed on the Web.
  • XML is a complement for HTML.

HTML Tutorial:

Key terms:

  • Web server: a special type of computer that stores and distributes information over the Internet
  • URL (Uniform Research Locator) or Web address: identifies which information to retrieve
  • IP address (International Protocol): a unique, numeric identity of a Web-server location
  • RSS (Real Simple Syndication): enables you to subscribe to any information feed that gets delivered directing to an RSS reader or Web browser
  • FTP (File Transfer Protocol): a simple process for moving big files that e-mail cannot handle
  • HTML codes: tell a Web browser how to display the text and where to include the graphics, audio or video
  • CSS (Cascading Style Sheets): enables you to edit, modify and troubleshoot existing Web pages and designs
  • XML (Extensible Markup Language): uses tags to describe what data is