editor on the verge

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

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Go viral next time you’re doing a rollout

February 1st, 2008 · No Comments

Maybe newsrooms need to take a page from websites and use the “private beta mode” approach to introduce new hardware or software. There is nothing like watching the excitement as online users scramble to try and get an invite to a recently launched site. And the buzz those efforts creates amount to viral marketing that is hard to put a price tag on. So why couldn’t this work for your newsroom?

Traditionally, new initiatives are announced at a staff meeting or by memo, a timeline is attached, training sessions are scheduled and staffers are told that rollover will occur on X date. There is absolutely nothing exciting about that. Actually, no amount of kitch (you know the mouse pads, mini footballs, mugs, or pens that offer accompany these efforts) will excite a staff and truly engage them in the effort.

Now in the “private beta mode” approach there would be no distracting staff meetings or memos (that few actually entirely read). Instead, introduction would happen more subtly. Let’s say, for example, you want all reporters to start shooting their own video and plan to supply them with Nokia N95s (feel free to include me in that distribution by the way!). In this approach, you might select a core group of staffers (maybe some who are already tech savvy) and quietly corral them, explain that they are part of the “private beta” and provide them the new devices.

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→ No CommentsTags: Best Practices · Innovation · Organization · technology · Tools

Don’t just go for the data home run

January 31st, 2008 · No Comments

I’m a big fan of data. My first newspaper job involved working with Paradox and Q&A for a project that analyzed municipal services in New York City. And a I applaud newspapers for attempting to empower their readers by providing them with a variety of government data. But I really wish that before they waded into the deep end of the pool that they master the basics and provide the types of information readers may need in their daily lives.

As a reader, it is great that I can go online and learn that the mayor of my town had an estimated 2006 salary of $7,000 or that an elementary school music teacher can evidently make $100,183. But the same newspaper site that can tell me all that, can’t tell me where the mayor’s office is, how to contact him or how to join the local Parent-Teacher Association (in case I wanted to find out more about that teacher’s salary).

Newspapers want people to use their sites and to keep returning to them. They discuss ways to make them “sticky,” more attractive and more fun. But I think in failing to provide readers and site visitors with this basic level of information they’re missing out on an obvious opportunity. And even worse, this forces readers to leave these sites, when more then likely they’d be content to stay.

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→ No CommentsTags: Audience Development · Beat Development · Best Practices · Data · Innovation · Online · Tools · Traffic

Because it bothers me . . .

January 30th, 2008 · 5 Comments

I find it interesting that we frequently talk about context. We bemoan the lack of it and plead for its inclusion. Yet at the same time many, many, many media and/or journalism bloggers choose to use as daily blog posts their del.icio.us or other social bookmarking feeds. And in most cases, they provide these lists of articles and websites without, guess what, context.

Now to be fair, not everyone does this. Some bloggers, Amy Gahran for example, will provide some guidance for why she is sharing a particular entry with her readers. For example, her entry “Impressions on obsession with recession (The Joy of Tech comic)” was accompanied with the following explanation:

“I gotta admit, I think there’s a lot of truth to this one — especially re: media’s role.”

But others don’t even make that effort. Some bloggers will simply include an excerpt from the piece that struck them while others won’t even provide that. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with the use of these sites. I also don’t have a problem with bloggers including them on their pages. But to complain about others not providing context and then to ignore it yourself, just shows how lazy an industry we can be.

→ 5 CommentsTags: Best Practices · Blogging · Industry · Leadership

Strengthen the blogging community in your area

January 29th, 2008 · 2 Comments

In his blog The Exploding Newsroom, John Hassell poses the fascinating question — just how do newspapers build relationships with local bloggers? I’ll admit that I started thinking about writing this piece after just reading the beginning of his post. While he offers “one simple way to start: Make the local blogosphere a beat,” I wondered what other approaches could newspapers use? What if it is not as simple as building relationships with existing bloggers? What if there are no bloggers?

In newsrooms throughout the country I have heard reporters and editors claim that they have no local bloggers, or if there are any, they can’t find them or don’t interact with them. I have heard them talk about the lack of a local blogging community as a justification for not expanding their own blogs. Their community, they claim, just doesn’t “get” blogs.

But whether your coverage area has local bloggers or not, I think you have a great opportunity to develop new bloggers, strengthen your existing blogging community and, as a result, build better relationships between your newspaper and the blogosphere.

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→ 2 CommentsTags: Audience Development · Blogging · Innovation · Online · Tools · Training