editor on the verge

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

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Is it too late for an intervention?

November 23rd, 2008 · 6 Comments

I spent part of my Sunday morning visiting dozens of newspaper websites and by the time I was done I found myself wanting to scream. WAKE UP! LOOK AT WHAT YOU ARE DOING!

Too many of the sites I visited looked as if they’re frozen in time or, at the very least, not working with any sense of urgency. When I tweeted my observation:

“Where’s the innovation? Where’s the experimentation? Don’t see most newspaper sites doing anything different or new. What happened?”

Steve Yelvington came back with this on-point response:

“Biggest risk of organizational (i.e., newsroom) convergence is a loss of imagination and innovative spirit.”

While I agree with his comment, I just don’t feel like any of these sites can afford to rest on their laurels or to be stuck in neutral. With marketing budgets at many newspapers shrinking or disappearing altogether, for the most part, it’s up to the individual web staffs to increase metrics such as page views, time or site and return visitors (for example).

What concerns me even more is that I’m not sure the people at any of these sites realize that they have a problem. On too many occasions I’ve heard the cliché “if it ain’t broke, why fix it?”.

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→ 6 CommentsTags: Audience Development · Best Practices · Editor on the verge · Editor on the Verge · Industry · Innovation · Metrics · Online · Organization · technology · Tools · Traffic

Your content is not rotisserie chicken

October 21st, 2008 · 3 Comments

Recently, I’ve found myself thinking a lot about Ron Popeil. An American inventor, Popeil is responsible for such gadgets as the Chop-O-Matic, the Veg-O-Matic, Hair in a Can Spray and the Showtime Rotisserie Oven which he hocked on many late night infomercials. It was this last product that has been on my mind much of late.

Popeil claimed that it was so easy to cook whole chickens in the Showtime Rotisserie Oven that all you had to do was “set it and forget it.” This phrase popped into my head recently while I was trying to explain my approach to website management.

Too many online staffs treat their websites like the Showtime Rotisserie Oven. They, say it with me, “Set it and Forget it.” Enamored with automation, they design sites that is chock full of headline pulls, RSS feeds and automated dayparting, Flash galleries, etc.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a technophobe, but the problem I have is that all the automation becomes an excuse to not deal with their site unless there is a problem or special project. They never stop to ask, are the right stories are being presented at the right time? Is the best photo being featured? Are our visitors being best served? They never ask because well, it’s all automated.

To me, that just spells missed opportunities.

I believe that the pages on your site should showcase not just the best, but the most appropriate and appealing content that your visitors would want at a given moment. And yes, that means change comes often.

My approach is to use metrics to help plot a roadmap and then use your journalistic sense, your common sense to make the right choices. Are there places for automation? Of course, but your site won’t grow automatically it requires your constant attention.

So if you want to cook a chicken follow Popeil’s advice. But if you want to grow your site, take my advice and do the work yourself.

→ 3 CommentsTags: Analytics · Best Practices · Editor on the verge · Editor on the Verge · Industry · Metrics · Traffic

Not quite a blog post, but still worth a read

September 14th, 2008 · 2 Comments

I thought I would share this address that I gave at the Bi-Co Boot Camp at Bryn Mawr College. The event was a gathering of students from both Bryn Mawr and Haverford College who work, or are interested in working at the student newspaper, the Bi-College News. I was invited by Dave Merrell, a former editor of the newspaper and a recent intern at Philly.com. Feel free to share you comments, questions or thoughts.


Bi-Co Boot Camp, September 13, 2008, By: Yoni Greenbaum ©2008

Thanks, Andrea for that introduction and thank you all for this opportunity to speak with you today.

Now some of you might laugh, especially since we just met, but the truth is I already owe you an apology. I know that may be hard to believe, but it actually gets worse, because not only do I owe you one but so do my colleagues at newspapers throughout the country.

As you all know the newspaper industry is in horrible shape. Circulation is declining, advertising is disappearing, revenue is shrinking, the news just isn’t good. But all of this didn’t just suddenly – happen. These problems didn’t just materialize overnight. Frankly, some of them didn’t have to occur at all.

Somewhere along the way we dropped the ball, we screwed the pooch, we lost sight of the goal line, hell, we just blew it.

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→ 2 CommentsTags: Careers · Editor on the verge · Editor on the Verge · Editors · Education · Industry · Leadership · Online

Come one, come all to the Carnival!

April 27th, 2008 · 4 Comments

That’s right, it’s time for another Carnival of Journalism and this month, I’m proud to be hosting. Not sure what a blog carnival is? Check out this entry on Wikipedia. The Carnival of Journalism includes posts from some of the brightest minds currently blogging on journalism, in my humble opinion.

The Carnival gets underway with a post from John Hassell of the exploding newsroom fame. For those of you who don’t know, John is the online editor at the Star-Ledger of Newark, NJ. He enters the carnival with “A day in the life of a big local story.” Want to see how a major daily fires all guns at a story? Then check out his post.

Not wanting there to be only one John at the Carnival, John Ndege offers “Out Scooping the Wire News Services.” John Ndege is a great blogger whose insights go beyond journalism. If you are earching for some guidance in this crazy journalism/Internet world, take a stroll through his blog. For the Carnival, he ponders the future of news wire services and the impact of services like Twitter.

Soon to graduate from the University of South Florida, Wendy Withers offers the Carnival a post with some great “Advice for college journalists: Online portfolios.” Wendy has always offered some great insights (it has a spot in my reader) and this post is no different. Her tips could be the difference between a graduate moving into their own pad and starting a job or moving into their parents attic and looking for work.

Think we’re done? Wait! There’s more to come so keep checking back as more posts will continue to go up. Have your own thoughts? Drop a comment below and let people know what you are thinking.

See, I told you we weren’t done yet.

Charlie Beckett, someone who seemingly wears more hats then I can capture in a few witty words, reminds us that sometimes there is good writing beyond the blogosphere with his book review of Can You Trust The Media? by Adrian Monck. Full disclosure, Adrian also participates in the Carnival of Journalism (see below). Read the review and, dare I say, buy the book.

Moving back across the pond, Jack Lail, managing editor/multimedia for The Knoxville News-Sentinel (someone who always manages to be blogging — how he pulls that off I’ll never understand) offers “The ‘Golden Age’ of Web news.” His posts always give me something to chew on for a few days and this one isn’t any different:

All-media-meets on the Web has created a local news and advertising battlezone in market-after-market the likes of which I’ve never seen in a 30-plus-year career.

The author himself, Adrian Monck, takes a moment to address some of the observations about his book in “Can You Trust The Media? – Review.”

Think the Carnival’s done? Not quiet, check back later for more.

And before I could hit “Save,” along comes Andy Dickinson, faculty member at the University of Central Lancashire and prolific blogger (and apparently wine drinker) offers “What is a picture worth?” Although he describes it as a “bit of a ramble of nice words and tricky pictures,” I don’t think I’d be that harsh. Give it a read and let Andy know what you think.

→ 4 CommentsTags: Blogging · Carnival of Journalism · Editor on the verge · Editor on the Verge · Industry · Innovation