Web Publishist

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The news and online journalism industry through the eyes of a young Web publishist.

A new brand of hyperlocalism

This post adds to the topics touched on in the previous blog post about knowing your community’s bloggers and making use of them. What I’d like to talk about now is the evolution of hyperlocalism and the role of New Media and the Internet in it.

On top of the many ills that the newspaper industry current suffers from, one that I’m interested in analyzing is how small titles over time pulled back from its readers and enforced a ‘one-way-street’ mentality with the news.

The ‘one-way-street’ approach is very print-oriented. A press release rolls in, a few calls are made, a story is written, edited, and put in the paper. Titles have grown very accustomed to throwing news at their readers and hoping it sticks.

In a sense it suggests that the title knows whats best for its readers inherently, and is thus giving it to them without actually asking.

The Internet has changed that. News is a two-way street — especially hyperlocally. Titles should represent the community that they cover, while at the same time evolving with what their readers’ wants and needs are.

What I’m suggesting is a new approach to hyperlocalism. The idea of giving a community more of a stake in covering itself and letting its voice be heard. You do this, at a base level, by knowing every single important person on your beat. You then ask each of these important people if they would be willing to write blog posts detailing the goings-on of their areas. You’re giving them a voice.

Stay in touch with these people regularly. Ask them if they’ve had any ideas for blog posts. Then have them pitch it to you. This is a somewhat radical concept, but I think it’s important. Your community — your readers — should be pitching stories to you. You do this by setting up a group of well-known community members as pitchmen (and women).

You’ve got to give the community a stake in its coverage. Pass some of the onus onto them. The best way to get the community involved and caring is to let them, in a way, cover themselves.

I’m not suggesting this works at every level of the publication. What I am suggesting is that it would likely give the community a greater sense of ownership over a title that is supposed to be representing them and giving them the news that they want and need to know.

The Internet makes this possible and I believe it’s a direction that titles should seriously consider taking, first at an experimental stage and then, depending upon its success, pursuing it further.

It’s refined citizen journalism. These people aren’t journalists by trade. But they do have valuable information and are considered important people in the community. Not giving them a platform would be a mistake.

Filed under: community journalism, newspaper websites, , ,

Know your community bloggers

Blogging is pretty widespread. While I wouldn’t quite call it ubiquitous, it’s getting there. Despite that it’s fair to say that most every community in the US likely has a blogger or two sitting in homes clacking away about what’s happening with them in their community.

In the age of Web-first and community involvement, these kinds of people are extremely valuable. Titles need to know who the bloggers are in their communities. If the blogger is good, offer them a platform to write on a specific subject. Money is tight, but I believe that many would be happy to have the platform and to be recognized as an authoritative voice in their community on a specific subject.

It’s often as easy as keyword searching locations and landmarks in your coverage area into Google’s blog searcher. This will give you an index of instances where these locations have been mentioned in blogs. Half the work is already done for you.

If there’s a college in your area that has a journalism program, you should be walking into those classrooms and asking for applicants who consider themselves good bloggers. These students are looking for ways to add experiences to their portfolios and the students looking to get ahead will see this as a prime opportunity.

Community and hyper-local journalism is going to need to return to the community to rebuild its reputation and standing. This is a perfect opportunity to involve the community, learn more about your readers and increase the amount of content you’re putting online.

Filed under: newspaper websites, social media, student journalism, , , , ,

The revolution will be aggregated

The news industry is in the midst of the Digital Revolution. It’s not a secret, but occasionally it needs to be said as some — most recently, The Associated Pressseem to forget.

A major part of this revolution is the rise in prominence of content aggregators. If you think about it, news aggregators have been around for a while. They started as RSS feeds. You could put them into readers, such as Google Reader or Feed Burner, and get the news delivered to you. Some browsers even come pre-packaged with a news aggregator in the upper-left corner in a drop-down format.

What’s changed now is that aggregators now have a fancy face and greater interactivity. Many, many people still use standard RSS feeds, but that hasn’t stopped the evolution of the aggregator.

Some of the most popular news sites on the Web are at least part-aggregator. Examples of this: The Huffington Post, Wonkette, Drudge Report, Gawker, and on and on.

The new news consumer can’t be bothered to find the news they’re interested in. They want it at their doorstep. And then once its on their doortep, they want someone to read it for them and pull out the interesting parts and spread them out on the table for them.

What this means is over the next few years regional and local news aggregators will sprout up and they will gain prominence. What this means is that local news outlets, instead of being the place people go for content, will instead become small AP-like outlets that supply content to aggregators. The second part of that I don’t expect to happen for a number of years. Not until local and regional aggregators have firmly asserted themselves.

But once they do, look out. It will be a game-changer.

Filed under: Aggregation, community journalism, newspaper websites, social media, , , ,

Why newspaper Web sites are catered to print readers and the problems it causes

I’m currently doing  a work experience stint with The Daily Telegraph, working on their Web site, telegraph.co.uk. I had a conversation yesterday with the editor of the site about the design. I asked if perhaps the blogs should be more prominent.

He agreed with what I was saying, but we weren’t able to come away with a solid solution. Perhaps over the next few weeks one will emerge. The most interesting thing that came up in our chat was the suggestion that The Telegraph’s site — and the sites of many other newspapers — are designed with the intention of it mimicking the print product.

Data shows that the people who are consuming news on the Web are younger than those who turn first to print. Why, then, are newspaper Web sites designed as digital versions of the print product?

I realized the answer as soon as I asked it: People who consume news on the Web don’t visit the sites themselves. They’re linked in through aggregators and feeds. Often they don’t have to navigate the site because the content they want is delivered right to to them.

What we have is a viscious circle that has the potential for stifling creativity and the evolution of Web news. But it also poses a problem. The data says one thing, but it also says something to contradict it. The industry demands that you have a solid Web site, but the market shows young people like their news highly customized. That often means making the news come to them, not the other way around.

I don’t have a solution for this, but I wanted to get it down while it was fresh in my mind. It’s a strange position to be in. Undoubtedly aggregators will continue to grow and become more widespread. What that means for the actual Web sites of news organizations remains to be seen.

Filed under: Uncategorized

J-school & Web development: A perfect match

An interesting article was floating around Twitter a few days ago. It appeared in Editor & Publisher and was written by Seth Porges, who is currently an editor at Popular Mechanics magazine.

The subject he addressed was whether j-schools are adequately preparing students for the real world – and in it suggesting they’ve misstepped.

His thesis statement is that j-schools are too quick to adopt new media standards, such as basic Web coding, and are in the process throwing out pre-existing elements of core curriculum that should remain.

In this blog post I take chunks of what Mr Porges said, and give my thoughts and opinions.

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: design, newspaper websites, social media, student journalism, , , , ,

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