editor on the verge

Online musings from the newsroom and beyond . . . by Yoni Greenbaum

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When the walls start crumbling it’s time to act

February 6th, 2008 · 9 Comments

At too many newspapers reporters have been given smart phones to use when they’re out in their beats only to return to the office and work on circa-1980s desktop computers. They sit on chairs that are held together by bubblegum and Scotch tape and talk on phones that are a mix of handsets, cords and cables scavenged from other phones. Photographers use digital still cameras and hi-def video cameras and work on new(ish) computers with big monitors that receive power thanks to enough extension cords and outlet multipliers to bring a fire marshal to tears.

I can not think of a more fitting symbol for a troubled industry then crumbling offices and derelict buildings.

While much of this may exist outside of the watchful, critical eye of readers and advertisers, it is not lost on a newspaper’s staff who, understandably, interpret the poor conditions as a symbol of low regard. To them, if their corporate or private owners cared about them and respected what they did, they would not let them work in that environment.

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→ 9 CommentsTags: Compensation · Industry · Leadership · Online · revenue

Obama video offers valuable lesson

February 5th, 2008 · 1 Comment

I’ve noticed that quite a few media/journalism bloggers have written posts about the will.i.am/Jesse Dylan produced Barack Obama music video. Bloggers from Jeff Jarvis to J.D. Lasica and Wendy Withers have posted the video and many cases written about it, mostly focusing on its political implications. While the politics of the video struck me as well, there was something else that stood out for me — a lesson for the newspaper industry.

When I viewed it for the first time I was struck; here was a great speech given by Obama after the New Hampshire primary and a musical performance by many artists that I liked, combined into a inspirational video. And the combination didn’t just work for me. According to the Viral Video Chart, since Feb 2. the video has been viewed 1,891,780 times and it is currently the number 1 ranked Viral Video.

To me, this was a powerful example of something that I think we in the newspaper industry are still struggling with. To me, the video was a great example of how both the message AND the medium are now both important. If you haven’t seen the video for yourself, take a moment and check it out:

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→ 1 CommentTags: Online · Reporting · technology · Video · YouTube

What does “Most Popular” mean on your site?

February 4th, 2008 · 2 Comments

Increasingly, on newspaper websites, I see “Most Viewed,” “Most popular” and “Most Linked” lists. Having my own blog, I know that these types of features can help increase the amount of time that people spend on a site and interlinking helps spread page rank throughout the site.

But as a visitor to these sites, the lists leave me wondering. I want to know how they’re calculated, how frequently they’re updated and what span of time they supposedly cover. But I find that few, if any, sites that I was able to find, provide even a piece of that transparency.

For a lot of visitors, the technology behind a website could just as well be witchcraft. They don’t know the Java on their computer screen from the java in their cup. By the time they come to your site, many of them have already had mixed experiences with recommendation engines on sites like Amazon or Digg. I include myself in that category and I’m sure you could as well. I mean how many times have you visited Amazon only to be recommended a product that left you shaking your head and wondering what it had to do with you?

So what can you do?

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→ 2 CommentsTags: Analytics · Audience Development · Best Practices · Branding · Metrics · Online · Tools · Traffic

Your newsroom could learn something from TMZ… No, really

February 2nd, 2008 · 5 Comments

Do your story meetings look like TMZ‘s? If not, maybe they should?

In most newsrooms, story meetings are near clandestine events, with participants marching, piles of paper in hand, to a conference room (or office) only to emerge anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and a half later looking haggard and, in some cases, confused and dejected.

For those of you who watch the very popular television version of the “entertainment news, celebrity gossip and Hollywood rumors” website TMZ.com, you will know that their meetings are done in the open with seemingly broad participation. Editor and founder Harvey Levin stands at the front of the room and users a clear board to note stories that the show will be using. There is a free exchange as the individual staffers (or are they editors?) offer their story ideas.

Now, back to what goes on inside story meetings at most newsrooms.

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→ 5 CommentsTags: Best Practices · Editors · Industry · Innovation · Meetings