Thursday, May 31, 2007

Gadgets and magic

News on your phone or other gadget.
Imagine that.
It's already being done at WBTV Wireless for $2.99 a month through Verizon.
Google, of course, has a Beta free version now too, but I couldn't find what I think would be the most useful feature -- Doppler radar on a mobile device. That would change the lives of many soccer parents.
More magic, on the geekier visual side: Apple showed Observer workers the basics of Final Cut Studio this week. The instructor described this workflow (such a nasty word):
He makes a draft of a multimedia movie with sound, publishes out of Final Cut Pro to a Mac blog, which Itunes picks up automatically and sends out to his client on his Ipod. No hassle with burning a DVD and delivering it to the client.
Magic. It's here. Dick Tracy would be amazed.
Who's Dick Tracy? Oh, never mind.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Driving traffic in Des Moines

Randy Brubaker, the ME at The Des Moines Register, told me in April about some of the big draws on their Web site They're doing a lot of innovative things there in a newsroom basically comparable to ours. (They've got about 200; the paper has changed some jobs, reassigned and not filled some positions in order to create new online jobs.) I'd especially recommend Juice, their site for 25- to 34-year-olds.
  • The data page draws a lot of visitors, especially the state salary database. But Brubaker expects the vital stats database will overtake it in the next year.
  • Photo galleries drive big traffic, as long as they're linked from the home page.
  • Reader-submitted photos, submitted using TextAmerica, are starting to generate some steady interest, as are the community (hyperlocal) pages.
  • The site offers a lot of "interactivity," including quizzes, giveaways and games. The spelling quiz and age game at the top right on this page are examples of the interactive graphics produced by the graphics staff.
  • Their fueling Iowa's future page features interactive content such as Google maps to locate biodiesel centers. Obviously, this is a major issue for them, and I think this page shows the value of grouping and archiving related content. Check out all the videos and graphics.
  • Finally, on the heels of, Des Moines has launched a moms special-interest site. This is a good example of the kind of online community the paper and its site can help create. Once this takes off, Brubaker expects the paper will use some of this new functionality in sports and elsewhere on the site.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Thanks, Dr. Fink

Conrad Fink, the UGA prof who was so often quoted during the Knight Ridder sale, is now spreading hope. I visited his class in March, and he and his students reassured and energized me.

Here's Fink's latest, talking about his students in an interview with The Ventura County Star:

"They see this revolutionary change that we're in now as simply a matter of course. I find them looking forward to helping write the new business model of the newspaper industry," he said. "I find them intrigued with the online dimensions of the industry.

"I don't see the fear and trepidation that so many of us in the older newspaper generation feel with this kind of change."

Enrollment in his undergraduate newspaper management and strategy program is at an all-time high, said Fink, professor of journalism and director of the University of Georgia's Cox Institute for Newspaper Management. He is the author of nine journalism textbooks and a former executive vice president of Park Communications.

Friday, May 25, 2007

NYT moving more copy editors to dayside

... to handle more copy being pushed to the Web. According to a report at Gawker, Editor Bill Keller talked with employees about the "gradual reallocation of resources from print towards digital" and about copy editors being moved to the day side, so that there could be a "greater flow of fresh quality edit material."

Not sure, though, what to make of this quote from Keller:
"We can't let our reverence for quality become a straitjacket in new media. The Web environment is different. ... We can offer guidance but we cannot insist on the same control we exercise over print."
My response: Why not?

But this is something I've struggled with for a while. In general, I don't read things on the Web as thoroughly -- or as critically -- as I do in print, and I'm sure I'm not alone. The kind of error that I might clip out and snark at endlessly if it appeared in print barely fazes me online. But does this more casual acceptance of errors mean that we shouldn't strive for "the same control we exercise over print"? And, if that's the case, why do we not have more people editing elements on We've already devoted resources to online calendars, slideshows, blogs, reporting -- but why no online editing?

Meanwhile, 45 miles west ...

The Shelby Star, with a circulation of about 15,000 and a staff of 19, is experimenting with some of the most innovative digital technologies in the industry. Use of blogs, moblogs, video and an integrated newsroom are among the innovations being rolled out.

So far, the changes made — the overhaul of the way the paper gathers, produces and publishes news – have generated an 84 percent increase in Web readers.

In addition, the Star is working on something called the Star Car – a WiFi-enabled mobile Internet reporting vehicle. The installation of this is scheduled for next month, with the launch coming in July.

Sez the publisher:

The second thing we're doing is really focusing on driving traffic on a day-to-day basis. We're learning to be strategic about not only what news we break, but how we break it.

We've tried to learn from TV news on this. They do a lot of teasing and 'holding back' on news and content to lure viewers into their newscasts. We're doing the same thing — dribbling out information, sometimes slower than at the pace we actually collect that information, to encourage users to revisit the site for updates. ...

All of this is contingent on monetising these increases in overall consumption of our products. How and when will that happen, I don't know, but I'm very confident it will happen and we'll continue to be strong news organisations that simply focus on multiple mediums.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Wiki instead?

Maurreen Skowran, a business copy editor in Raleigh, is active in a free, public journalism wiki here.
I hate to muddy waters by proposing we could join up with her instead of having this place, and I've never met or talked with her.
But broadening our sweep -- and our pool of available time and talent -- seems like a good thing worth considering. And if that broadening could happen with McCarolina siblings, all the better.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

What does "are you in" mean?

An earlier post asked "Are you in?" to continuing this or a similar blog now that the newsroom task forces are done. Trent asked "What does that mean?" And some designers have hungered to play with blogs for a long time. So here are some ideas:
Proposed rules and structure:
1. Five people (or even three) agree to be authors and each post once a week. If you miss a week, or two, no big deal. Try to limit posts to 100 or 200 words. Unlimited visuals. Nobody is a length- or posting-frequency cop. Agree to use common labels in posts; posts will be labeled "posted by so-and-so" at the end. Comments can be anonymous.
2. One or two people agree to be design authors to work to build a blog banner or two. Requires Photoshop or Elements and some ability to figure out HTML. They can also play with the color palette, but changing templates should be done with care, to avoid blowing away a bunch of good links.
3. One or two people agree to help maintain links. Everyone can suggest new links, but someone has to do the work of putting them in the link list.
4. Keep posts focused on learning or sharing new stuff, not on industry or internal woes. Don't just point or post about really obvious stuff everyone's going to find at Romenesko anyway; dig into the harder-to-find stuff, and focus on sharing how-to information, or "the story-behind-the story" tales.
5. Question and challenge, politely. Don't cuss. Don't yell.
6. If others want to join in the posts, welcome them to the discussion.
7. On occasion, break all the rules.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The next step

Can we combine this blog with the McLean Project and make it public?
Goals: sustainability, scaleability, optimism.
It wouldn't be a place to read about layoffs. It wouldn't be a place to complain and whine. Do that in private, verbally.
It would be a place to post new thoughts, ideas and links about what we should be learning and doing next.
And by public, I mean accessible to all, but only publicized slowly, in a small way, to people we know are interested in the newsroom. If it gets bigger and gets hits from outside later, all the better, for transparency's sake.
But all posts should be done in a way that acknowledges that anyone can see them.

Are you in?

And what should be its name? And what content should move over from the old blogs?