I’m headed down to Venezuela for a break, leaving the laptop behind with plans to build some sandcastles with my girls.
Stay out of trouble, people. On second thought, start some.
Last time I was in Caracas:
That guy you know from the Internet, probably.
Remember that time when I spent two hours out of every day, five days a week, writing, shooting, and editing a daily newspaper webcast?
It stunk. It was no fun, a waste of time, and a poor way to engage online readers with video.
No one — and I mean no one — wants to watch you read from a script for two minutes. It’s a good start, and adding photos is the next step on the way to adding actual news video to the bit, but what you really need to do is leave the newsroom.
That’s right, get out. And take the camera with you. And do some reporting instead of reading.
Coincidence: Two people asked me about daily newspaper webcasts in the last hour, and I told them both the same thing. Then I spotted yesterday’s Ledger Live, from NJ.com.
At about 2:40 into this one, which is good and fun, and has personality and life to it, even if there’s some desk-sitting involved in the process, Brian Donohue takes a typical crackpot reader comment about immigration and does the fricking reporting.
Check it out. When I worked in California, we had some regulars, the crackpot immigration people who would leave some racist comments and blame every single problem in town on the Mexican community. And more or less, we found is better to not engage them. Just don’t look.
But, of course, the right thing to do is to debunk their claims, or at the very least, depending on your opinions about objectivity, demonstrate how complex the problem can be.
So, Brian took the crackpot question and the camera and went out to find some answers.
And the result is a great piece of journalism.
I hope my friends in Newark are posting some of the individual stories coming out of this webcast and archiving them in some sort of SEO-friendly way, because this is great evergreen content. I want to see this piece on immigration and housing show up every single time those two keywords show up in a story on their site. That’s the long-term value of a great Local Explainer.
Watch the webcast, and if your newsroom reads the headlines into the camera and/or fields crackpot reader questions on a regular basis, think about the opportunity you have to get away from your desk and shoot some answers.
via John Hassell
A friendly-looking recent tutorial on using the Django Tagging python module.
This is the fourth post in a short series I’m pretty much done with about the business model for online news before I go back to my usual routine of pointing out the obvious to people wearing dark glasses. The starting point, the givens in the equation, are listed here. Suggest which windmill I should tilt at next using the Skribit widget in the sidebar of my blog while it’s still there.
“elephant” by droolcup on Flickr
There’s something funny about software for publishing online news.
Newspapers don’t develop it.
There’s an exception or two to that rule of course, but I hope I’ve force-fed you enough fine LJWorld.com products at this point to hammer that exception home. (I almost wish they had an affiliate program.)
But usually, instead of spending money to hire developers to build software to match the specifications of their own needs, newspapers and the companies that own them reach out the third-party vendors on a daily basis in order to provide basic functionality to online readers, consumers, and advertisers.
Follow along with me for a moment, substituting your own organization for the Royal We, in the parlance of our times:
No, I wouldn’t recommend you drop everything you’re doing so you can re-invent the wheel, especially when some of those wheels are pretty darn good at filling your needs for a relatively small short-term price.
But yes, I heartily recommend you build an extensible Web application for the next unserved need in your organization. Just pick any one of those that pops up in the next month or so, and go at it.
After you’ve launched it and earned the praise of your peers, slap a price tag on a license and get to work marketing it.
You’ve made a long-term investment by hiring developers. The capital is coming back in the form of the application that’s useful to your organization; think of the license fees for the software as interest income. You’ll be supporting the software for your own papers, anyway; might as well serve a few other organizations at the same time, for a price.
So ask yourself which software needs are going unmet in your own organization. If you can’t find the right tool for the job, chances are, no one else can either.
A caveat: I’ve given out a lot of advice (some of it unsolicited) to newsrooms about using free, Web-based tools for online news production. I still think that’s the right approach for many news-related purposes, but as soon as you find yourself paying for a mediocre service that’s part of your core business routine, it’s time to build something better.
Merlin Mann, via @jkottke. Includes: “4. Good blog posts are made of paragraphs. Blog posts are written, not defecated. They show some level of craft, thinking, and continuity beyond the word count mandated by the Owner of Your Plantation.”
Lots of tabs with a cool little play-along player. Might be more like a fake book than exact transcriptions, at first glance.
This is the third post in a short series I’m going to write about the business model for online news before I go back to my usual habit of banging my head up against walls made out of giant rolls of newsprint. The starting point, the givens in the equation, are listed here. Suggest what I should throw my weight at next using the Skribit widget in the sidebar of my blog.
Elephant in the room, part deux. by Cody Simms on Flickr
Perhaps you’ve read, once or twice, a screed that I or others have written about what sort of skills an entry-level reporter should have these days if they expect to get a job anywhere other than a community weekly. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)
The problem is, I don’t know if anyone has given your advertising department the same speech.
This is a crucial step in the incremental-growth projects I’m laying out here.
Because you can’t sell video business listings if your salespeople don’t know what’s going on in the online video world. Because you can’t explain why your business directory looks so superior to search engines if you don’t read up on SEO. Because you certainly can’t explain your local blog network to advertisers if you’re not familiar with the traffic and content and level of activity in the local blogosphere. Because you can’t sell a fleet of niche social networks to advertisers if you can’t explain the value of the Long Tail.
The list goes on, full of things that should be obvious to news content producers at this point, but what about advertising content producers?
That’s right, you’re going to need sales reps who can produce content; I’m talking about something more than a graphic artist here.
Here’s what I’d be looking for in an ad sales rep if I were hiring one today:
And if you can’t find someone who can fill that role full-time, consider hiring a local videographer or small production house to put together advertising video from time to time. Find a local partner and try to pay them (in part) with a sponsorship or advertising in trade.
When it comes to marketing, keep in mind that you, news producer, desperately need to get across to sales reps what it is that’s new, different, better, improved about your online product.
That means making presentations to them about new products, verticals, databases, and your fancy new content management system. Yes, to be clear, I’m saying that you absolutely must get up from your desk and go stand in front of a room of advertising employees and explain to them why that mashup you just built is so cool, and what sort of advertisers you think might be interested.
Crazy, right? News and advertising working together? Get used to it. If you can’t find sales reps that understand what you’re working on, then you’ll need to consider going out on sales calls with them yourself.
That doesn’t mean you need to start memorizing rate cards and upselling, it means that you, person who built that awesome map with all the data overlays of crime, liquor store robberies, and standardized test scores, need to go tell the community (read as: the chamber of commerce, or the Elks, or the Rotary Club) why your project is so cool.
So get out there. Hire people who can sell more than a banner ad. Train your current reps to shoot and edit video. Don’t skip over the advertising department when the new computers and cameras get ordered. Write simple one-page summaries of the cool stuff you build online, and send it out to the whole department.
Hire like you mean it.
Hire a sales force for tomorrow’s product, not yesterday’s.