Catch up or get left behind

I’ve been a nomad for a few days in the middle of a short-by-my-standards 300+ mile move from the suburbs of Rochester, NY to the suburbs of Washington D.C. and boy are my legs tired.

But I’m catching up on my reading, and found a few things to share with you on the theme of catching up…

VIDEO: Investing in Your Staff

CoPress on Vimeo | September 2, 2009
The latest excellent video presentation from CoPress, making a case for innovation in your news organization.

2010 Knight News Challenge is now open for business
“Got a great idea for transforming the future of news? The 2010 Knight News Challenge is now accepting applications, through October 15th!”

The future of news in 4 dimensions: Charting new kinds of news orgs
Nieman Journalism Lab | September 1, 2009
C.W. Anderson builds the sort of continuum/quadrant chart that makes the mass communications scholar in me go all smiley.

brianboyer: If you’re a Tribune reader, this’ll make it nicer. RT @ryanmark: Update to ChicagoTribune.com userstyle http://userstyles.org/styles/20347
Twitter | September 2, 2009
If you understand what these two Chicago Tribune developers are up to here (providing savvy online readers with an incrementally improved stylesheet for the recent redesign long before the changes get built into the live site’s code), then you’ll understand why I think it’s pretty cool of them.

Five concrete steps to improving the news
Newsless.org | September 1, 2009
Matt Thompson follows up his post about what goes missing from most news stories with a few suggestions for how to roll out a contextual approach to a news story. I like #4, which includes this idea: “Keep a public list of the most important things you don’t know about your topic.”

New report: How to build a user community online
Mark Briggs of Journalism 2.0 and his team at Serra Media put together this great report on community management.

Young Families are the Real Early Adopters
Mash this market research up with the right Pew report, and you’ll have a good idea of how to deliver the news to an audience that is the most likely to want it.

mattwaite: Today, we launched Home Team, a local high school sports site: http://hometeam.tampabay.com/ And I now I need to sleep for a month.
Twitter | September 2, 2009
Matt and company at the St. Petersburg Times demonstrating what a solid Web framework and some experience can help you get done in a short span of time. More details in the tweets that followed this one.

Lifestreaming: Newspaper Uses Posterous to Solicit and Publish Reader Photos
The Steve Rubel Lifestream | August 30, 2009
Did you spot the Austin American-Statesman using Posterous to collect reader photos last week?

So, are you caught up?

If Posterous, Django, market research, community management, contextual news, CSS, the Knight News Challenge, and CoPress are all alien objects to you, pick any one and get up to speed.

Catch up or get left behind.

Be the platform, use the platform, syndicate the platfom

A lot of talk about platforms for news these days, no?

A sampling:

Joey Baker at CoPress defines one of the many things that “newspaper platform” could mean to a local news site:

“…taking lessons from Gawker, Slashdot and the New York Times, and aggregating everything. If there’s a story online that’s relevant to your community, link to it. Who cares if you wrote it or not? The idea is to be the source of news. If people know to just come to you first for their information, it doesn’t matter if they eventually click off your site. They will keep coming back to you for more.”

John A. Byrne posts the 2008 “User Engagement Report Card” for BusinessWeek, probably the most impressive magazine site I’ve seen, getting into blogs and what we now call social media early in the game:

(5) Five Questions For…: Spearheaded by BusinessWeek’s Innovation team, this feature encourages readers to submit questions that our staff will ask leading corporate executives and public officials. We select five questions from those submitted by readers and pose them to such CEOs as Bob Nardelli of Chrysler, Tim Brown of the design firm IDEO, Aetna’s Ron Williams and Best Buy’s incoming CEO, Brian Dunn.” [links are John’s, not mine.]

Zach Seward from NiemanLab talked with a developer at the TimesOpen conference who said this about what the NYT could do with its increasingly awe-inspiring package of software for producing online news and APIs to access its stories and data:

“A company like The New York Times, which has a lot of resources and assets on the user-experience and interaction front and also on the content front, could leverage those resources and allow small, local newspapers, small, local media companies that don’t have the same level of interaction and are just playing catch-up but have really good access to content because they’re geographically local. The New York Times could potentially provide or a company like The New York Times could potentially provide a sort of a white-label, maybe hosted solution where, you know, the smaller news outlets could bring their content in.” [More transcribed plus video here.]

I’ve made it a habit to poke friends and peers at the NYT and Washington Post from time to time over the past couple years, asking them when they’ll give those awesome tools to other papers in the chain, or when they’ll push out syndicated infographics for the Web as part of an online wire service the way they might with print.  They usually smile and mumble something about Facebook or embeddable widgets and wander away.

But, the truth is that most of these tools are probably (?) built internally for internal use, and make the most sense when they’re matched up with who-knows-what-sort-of-crazy frontend system for stories and data that pushes content and files around the network inside their buildings.

It’s much, much, much easier to produce the data and open that up, than to get into the business of software development for everyone.

But man, wouldn’t it be cool?  That’s a platform a small news site could jump up and down on.

[via folks like @jayrosen_nyu and @cnewvine, although I might have spotted them from @johnabyrne, @joeybaker, @copress, and in my RSS reader as well. But you should follow all of those people.]

[Full disclosure: I agreed to join the board of CoPress awhile back, I said I wasn’t going to talk about the New York Times so much, and a buddy of mine is an editor at BusinessWeek.]

CoPress launches hosted WordPress sites for student media

First, a bit of history: The first time I fiddled with a newspaper Web site, it was thespartandaily.com, after I walked into an adviser’s office at San Jose State’s School of Journalism & Mass Communications and asked something like “hey, any way to get an RSS feed off that thing?”

There was, and we did, and I spent a good chunk of time over the next two semesters redesigning the site, migrating it from one host to a second one that had purchased the first, and supporting early efforts at multimedia at the Daily.

But it wasn’t easy. And little of the code I had to muck about in to get the site to do what I wanted was code that I could learn from, or re-use, or maintain in any sort of extensible way.

Since then, more options have popped up for hosting student media Web sites, the most popular and obvious one being to launch a WordPress site on your own server.

But of course, it would be nice if there were one place to share tips, tricks, plugins, ideas, and code snippets with other students and advisers working with WordPress for student newspapers, right?

CoPress wants to be that place.

I’ve had a chance to talk, chat, and tweet with some of the students and recent graduates behind CoPress over the last few months, and I think they’re clearly the sharpest minds in online student media right now.

Here’s the short list of resources, places to start looking into CoPress, if you’re serious about getting your news site off that big popular hosted solution and thinking about giving students, staff, and advisers a chance to learn more than how to paste from Word into a WYSIWYG editor:

  • CoPress.org: Subscribe to the blog’s feed, read more about the budding organization, and contact the team.
  • CoPress Hosting: Not planning to deal with development, design, or server hosting on your own?  Talk with the CoPress team about what they can do for you.
  • CoPress on Twitter: Follow the team on Twitter.
  • CoPress on iTunes: Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.  The CoPress team has done an amazing job of staying transparent, posting recordings of their conference calls as a regular podcast.

If it sounds like I’m excited about this, I am.  This blog started out life in 2005 as “Ryan Sholin’s J-School Blog,” and as far as I’m concerned, working in student media is the best way to build your skillset, on deadline, with real stories, photos, video, readers, comments, and every other element live and in play.  If CoPress makes it easier for students to expand that skillset to cover development, design, and site management for online news, that’s fantastic.