Friday, June 29, 2007

Q&A with NYT's Digital News Editor

Jim Rogers, editor of digital news, has been answering reader questions this week. Check it out.
"The other example we have faced since the dawn of the digital era is the need to pursue and present news on around the clock, while at the same time maintaining the standards and depth that the paper has been known for throughout its century-and-a-half existence. We are still learning the best way to do that and in the next few days, I'll try to point to some examples where we have succeeded."

Including a question (kinda far into it) about moderating reader comments:
"The first thing that readers should know is that unlike some other news sites, we review every single comment that readers send in. We have considered trying software that filters profanity or doing what other sites do and allowing readers to flag objectionable comments. But so far we have not found anything that substitutes for having trained editors or news assistants read each one to make sure it is suitable for publication."

Liberating control freaks, fostering collaboration

It's not at easy as this slideshow makes it look.
Still, it's worth a click.
LibraryBytes: Suggestions on liberating control freaks ...

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Impact of Google Maps

More from this month's Wired: How Google Maps are Changing The Way We See the World
It's one of the cover stories.
"...In the past two years, map providers like Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo have created tools that let anyone with an Internet connection layer their own geographic obsessions on top of ever-more-detailed road maps and satellite images. A host of collaborative annotation projects have appeared — not to mention tens of thousands of personal map mashups — that plot text, links, data, and even sounds onto every available blank space on the digital globe. It's become a sprawling, networked atlas — a "geoweb" that's expanding so quickly its outer edges are impossible to pin down."

Searching Videos and Multimedia

A topic that's popped up in a couple of my UNC class discussions: how do you search multimedia and video? Both search for those productions and search within those formats.
It's not nearly as easy as searching for text or photos. Photos can still be tricky finds, because they often rely on users adding comments, tags or other metadata in order to be picked up in search engines. At least with photos, they're often in the vicinity of related text, which helps make things a bit easier to search.

With multimedia, video and even flash productions, Google and other search engines can't always see the content. Here's a link to a short Wired magazine story on who'll become the Google of video:

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Fun with maps

Loading ...

OK, so with all this hullabaloo over programmer-cum-journalist Adrian Holovaty (He's the guy behind, a database of crime reported in Chicago. He was at The Washington Post, where he spearheaded projects such as a database on all the votes in Congress since 1991. Oh yeah, he also was awarded more than a million bucks from the Knight Foundation.) I wondered just how difficult it is to incorporate your own data with Google Maps.

I'd always figured that these so-called map mash-ups were for really hard-core programming types. But it's actually relatively easy to create a map, add a couple markers and link those markers to specific content. Obviously, it gets more complicated as you add more markers and make the map more interactive. But the possibilities are endless, and intriguing. It's not difficult to link such a map to an external database or XML file.

It's gotten me to thinking about how little we do to provide added value to Web content. Yes, we sometimes add photos or video, but rarely anything beyond that. We don't generally link to related stories, or archived stories, or even to related third-party content on the Web. We rarely post original source material. We rarely put maps or graphics online, and rarer still do we make those graphics clickable. As a simple example, with just a couple minutes per article, we could include a small Google map with each story locating specific details. For example, a small 100-pixel Google map could've located where the Charleston fire was. Or, we could use the map's polygon overlay to show the route of the funeral procession. Well, you get the idea...

Click on the red markers in the map above for links to some applications of the Google Maps API.

Newspapers and newscasts III

"And now for all you Shakespeare nuts..."

Looks like The Chapel Hill News, with the N&O, is trying its hand at a daily "OrangeChat" videocast. It consists mainly of a reporter reading from that day's report, intersersed with a couple still photos. They do have a segment outside talking with a woman in town.

Note: You need to have Flash installed to see the video posted above.

Really fast, really local news

A couple of blogs are beating and The Observer.
Davidson News is all over the town's local cable issue, which now has statewide implications. Last posting was about 11 hours ago.
Under the Water Tower shows that Fat City wasn't the only building to get its facade ripped off by storms.
Both sites benefit from the skills of people who are former reporters. In "Under the Water Tower's" case, former-reporter-turned-teacher Lolo Pendergrast uses new technology to become a photographer.
Both sites depend on people doing this work for no money, and postings depend on vacation and kids' schedules and other intrusive life events.
But how can we work with them now? Google Reader gives an easy way for our reporters and editors to monitor and get news tips. Can we start?

Monday, June 25, 2007

Newspapers and newscasts: part II

Following up from Rich's 6/11 post on newspapers getting into the online video biz. I checked in with my Maynard classmate Jack Sheard, who's the presentation editor at the Grand Island (Neb.) Independent. It's a pretty small Morris paper, but they're having some success in changing the way they do things. Some of that, Jack attributes to having a publisher who's willing and ready to jump in. They've been doing a lot with multimedia and video casting lately. Jack tells me they've just recently unveiled some revamped pages and ramped up video casts. Check 'em out at

"We built a studio in our basement, spent some money getting the right equipment and hired the right people.

We moved to two newscasts each day. Each news cast has the top current headlines, the top events we're covering and sports and weather. They normally last 3 to 5 minutes or so. The first cast is recorded at 9 a.m. And is online by 11 a.m. The second is recorded at 4 and is online by 7. There is a lot of carry over from cast to cast, each cast containing about half new and half carry over.

Immediately after we film the news, we record a 60 second radio version that a local pop station runs. It runs the casts at noon and 6 p.m. Each cast on the radio is followed by a 30 second newspaper promotion."
They've hired a couple young video journalists from a local college, and they're also getting into the video advertising (think like the ads you'll see if you watch tv over your computer).

Five questions for online projects

Staffers from spoke at an SND conference last weekend in Atlanta.
They highlighted five questions to ask before starting an online project:

  • Does it have an audience? Who?

  • Will it generate traffic?

  • Does it provide a service to the reader?

  • Will it have a long shelf life?

  • Do you have the resources to pull it off?

More at Charles Apple's blog.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Naked melee development zoning (your neighborhood name here)

Those words drive traffic, based on the hit reports Dave has been sharing from our company website lately.
And it's also based on the hit reports I see on my neighborhood's blog. People buying real estate or planning to move first surf.
If we had naked melee zoning and newcomer stories, we'd get lots of hits.

In AJR's words, "Rolling the Dice"

Story from June/July issue: Media companies have high hopes that hyperlocal news online will bolster their newspapers’ futures. But early returns suggest the financial outlook for such ventures is not bright.

Read AJR's story here.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

What drives traffic? Reader comments

Tuesday, June 19: Our lead editorial on Nifong and the Duke case rises to No. 6 on's What's Hot list. Editorials generally don't make this list.
It's just three notches below "Doctors find six sewing needles in baby," wryly noted Lew Powell.
Obviously, the case has long been an Internet hot button. Still, I suspect enabling reader comments on this one helped lots too. By 2 p.m., 30 people had commented online, and I bet each one of those commentators hits the site again after they make their comment to see how people respond. At least once.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Free slideshows

Problem: We have at least 100 "Draw Your Dad" submissions for readers and no way to get them in the paper or online with existing staff and software.
First obvious solution: Purchase Adobe Photoshop CS at $499 each for seven locations, total cost of $3,500 plus training for clerks. Add web staff from redeployed newsroom people to upload and position slideshows.
Alternative solution: Use free software and server space from outside sources built for individuals and small independents to accomplish the same goal.
Avoid adding another clog in our existing production pipe. Use a different pipe, with a different destination, and link from our website to that different destination. Use the paper to direct readers first through our website, with one image each on regional pages, then link from there to Flickr. We don't need to save these images in our servers. Don't worry about the loss of hits to the website. More on that later.
Specifics: Use Flickr (free), Picasa (free) and gmail (free) to email and resize the images for Flickr. Cutlines (metadata) can be edited before uploading. Captions show up on top of the images if the viewer clicks on the "I" in a slideshow. See advice on the Internet to find out how to upload easily. Use one existing photo-savvy clerk reporter like Lukas or one Flickr-savvy copy editor like Adam to do the work, over two days, max. Make sure the scanning is spread out over several locations, and make sure there's one networked place where all those images can be gathered.
If the space limitations of a free Flickr account are too small, spring for one $24.95 Pro account for the whole newsroom.
But again, what about web traffic? Isn't that why we're encouraging reader interaction? What happens when the hits go to some outside company instead of us?
We direct readers from the regular newspaper to regional webpages to find the slideshows. We use one image on those pages as a visual refer. From there, we use a direct link to the specific set at Flickr, so it's only two clicks for readers.
TV stations regularly send viewers to their websites to get links to outside information. We can too.
Readers do not have to create an account or come up with another password to see the slideshow at Flickr. If they want to comment, that's when they have to sign in.
Yes, Flickr gets the page views and not our website ... but we preserve and build our relationship with loyal readers. We brand our presence at Flickr and broaden our audience. And consider the alternative: no slideshows or hits at all.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Web first at Lawrence

After reviewing stories sent from the field via e-mail, editors at the Lawrence, Kan.-based Journal-World post content to the Web through a content management system that is accessible from home. In addition, reporters leave cell phone numbers on their voice mail messages so that sources can reach them after hours. According to ME Dennis Anderson, the newsroom is now staffed nearly 24 hours a day. He initially offered raises to those who embraced these new convergence tasks, but now it's expected of everyone

Cell phones, laptops, digital cameras, MP3 recorders and hand-held scanners are just some of the gadgets the reporters use to submit a variety of multimedia content from the field at any time of day. To handle this influx of all-hours information, Anderson encourages establishing an after-hours phone call order to determine which late-breaking stories receive coverage first. He also suggests becoming more selective as to which stories earn the “breaking news” label.

The Journal-Times “Web-first” model enables readers to follow online developments throughout the day by offering e-mail and text messages of breaking news to its readers, who can then submit their responses and participate in online chats based on weekly topics. Although the sometimes-spotty use of chats has decreased the number of letters to the editors, the reader-moderated comments often contain leads for future stories.

Source: Inland Press

A contrarian

Consultants telling newspapers what to do are a dime a dozen, particularly because blogs are cheap and free.
Still, reading contrary views can make one think, whether it's about how to do online stuff better or how to reorganize a newsroom.
John Duncan writes long as The Inksniffer, but he quotes Lenny Kravitz at times. He's now added to the journalism links.
An older post on McClatchy, called "Dear Gary Pruitt: aka Calling All Angels," gives provocative suggestions on what we should stop doing, always the hard question.
Scary provocative quote:
---Stop rearranging deck chairs. ....redesigns alone rarely move readership permanently on its own. You have to rethink what a newspaper can be before that will happen. And you have to believe energetically in the product that drives most of your revenue instead of hoping that its decline will be slow and its death painless.
---Stop reducing staff by attrition. I know this is part of the McClatchy way and it feels warm and nice. But this is the cheapest and worst way to cut staff costs because it involves abdicating control of your staff to coincidence. I've done this. The people who leave are generally experienced (retirement) or talented (recruited elsewhere) and often both. It causes huge problems for management in getting the right people in the right chairs. The shuffles and compromises involved usually have little to do with the needs of readers and you can get saddled with them for years. Make a decision about where the resources need to go to match your vision.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Breaking the big story ... online

I recently received a complaint from Walker Lundy, former editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer, that included concerns about our online coverage of a story. He was very interested in this local story, regularly checking, but "could find only a bare bones story."
"I found much better info on a TV news web site, which is pretty amazing given their resources and yours. The last time I checked was 11 p.m. and still there was no complete story."
He's right. We need to do a better job of moving quickly online when news hits. It's not just about posting stories to add to a daily count; it needs to be about being first and beating our competitors.
Otherwise, readers will start turning to our competitors -- TV news and their Web sites -- more frequently.

Who needs a full time web developer?

Hire a company to do it for you.

I had an interview today with Jean Dubail, the AME/Online at the Cleveland Plain Dealer. They've been working with a California-based company called Caspio. Basic idea is that you get them your data through a wizard on their servers. They will then generate html code that you import onto your pagees. Readers can then search the database from your site, pulling information from their servers. has used this a great deal for campaign finance information, crime, etc. Seems like a great way to get the developer in your hands when you need them most.

Couple examples built with the help of this Caspio technology:
A United Way fundraiser - like the cows or the rocking chairs Charlotte had a while back. Start from this database, pick the guitar you want to look at and it pulls the vitals from the database and then maps the location for you.

The King James Statistical Bible
One of Dubail's favorites, this one lets you take a look at Lebron's stats in any number of ways.

Earthquake report
A minor earthquake a couple months ago. The website asked readers to add their information to the database. It's then mapped on a Google map.'s top hits are routinely sports - with the Cavs in the NBA Finals that's off the charts right now. Browns fans can't get enough. Dubail gave me today's stats: the top 5 stories were all sports. About half of Monday's unique visitors went to sports pages and accounted for about 45% of the page views.
They're developing a database of all things Browns that will encompass the 60-some year history of the team. It's taking a lot of manpower, but they're aiming to have it running in time for preseason. The hope is this database will let you search game by game for stats AND for stories from the PD. There's also one in the works for a huge high school sports database of schedules, records, results and the like.
For a town where sports traffic means big business, these two seem like fabulous ideas.

Facebook and identity

Howard Weaver has started a Facebook group for McClatchy. (Registration required, you can use your work email address if you're not already on Facebook).
He's my first friend. Trisha O'Connor from Myrtle Beach is on there too. She was in Charlotte long ago.
Try it out if you're brave, though the time involved with creating and choosing an identity there, along with maintaining a profile at LinkedIn, seems unwieldy and overwhelming.
LinkedIn is a business-oriented grownup kind of Facebook. Many people whose work depends on networks use it heavily. Like: real estate people, IT people, investment advisers, consultants.
The addition of Facebook to the mix raises all kinds of questions about self-awareness, defining your community, and even spying on your kids. Unlike LinkedIn, Facebook users generally show pictures of themselves. Rather daunting when one is gray-haired.
Bonus: If you have a UNC email address and join the UNC network on Facebook, you can see the wall postings of your kids' friends who are going to that fine institution. Gads, say the kids. But they need to be aware....
I'm unsure whether UNC alums with alumni email become part of the same network as current UNC students.

Facebook appears to have been a place for folks of a certain age previously. It'll be interesting to see whether more experienced folks go there, and how they interact with the younger ones.

Monday, June 11, 2007


... from an intern training session. Intern was asking about what video editing software we use:
"I haven't done a print-only story since freshman year."
Which is interesting. I've talked with people who say they're seeing J-school students coming out with NO multimedia experience. But, I've also talked with people who are impressed with the caliber of multimedia skills students have. One in particular mentioned the strength of the program at UNC.

My contact at the Tampa Tribune's site, told me in an email interview:
"We recruit recent graduates for our corporate multimedia intern program, in which participants spend time in all three parts of the operation. It's been a great success, with several of the interns getting jobs upon completion. Surprisingly, we're seeing only a small proportion of students with broad multimedia experience, although that number is growing."
Here's hoping we give this class of interns some room to stretch into more than just print only stories. What other schools are doing great things with multi-platform journalism education?

Biking to work and pie in the sky

Rumor has it a 50-something editor is planning to join the bike-to-work crowd.

If he can do it, maybe I can too. Hey, a mentoring website offers help, with links.

Wish we had a web place at to link together all these nonprofit resources out there. Maybe we could help them sell ads to fund their work.

Pie in the sky. I need to just step away from the computer and go work out....

Newspapers working on newscasts

From Broadcasting & Cable, examples of papers in Roanoke, Va., Naples, Fla., and Wilmington, Del., that are producing daily webcasts with bits of the day's news.
In the race to capitalize on the popularity of broadband video, newspapers are continuing to take a page from TV stations’ playbooks by producing increasingly sophisticated newscasts and other Web programs. And although the newscasts may not pose a threat to stations’ ratings, newspaper executives are hoping they will help secure their lead over broadcasters in the battle for local ad revenues on the Web. ...

When it comes to online advertising, papers have the upper hand: According to a study from Borrell Associates, they control 36% of all locally spent, online advertising, well ahead of TV stations’ 7.7%. ...

The Roanoke Times offers a daily afternoon program produced in a new multimedia studio and control room. The Naples (Fla.) Daily News produces 30-minute daily “VODcasts” on its online channel, Studio 55. And Gannett’s Wilmington, Del.-based News Journal offers the twice-daily Delaware Online, which features a dedicated Web anchor.
(Click above to see the videos.)
I'll betcha we already have the resources and technology to pull something like this off. Maybe make the most of that WCNC partnership...

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The idea of traffic

If you're ready for some heavy-duty reading about traffic and the structure of websites, see Buzz Machine from May 29.
If you'd rather have some edgy eye candy, try We Are Sharks and We Never Stop Swimming..
One of those pages links to a multimedia presentation on the effects of Chernobyl. Go there if you have a home high-speed connection and audio turned on.
Chernobyl photo essay.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Who's reading?

If blogging has its narcissistic elements, why not add voyeuristic as well?
The Naked City has added a little Sitemeter bug at the bottom of the blog, and now Mary Newsom can see where her readers are, when they're visiting and where they're coming from.
Other visitors can click on the bug as well.
Actually, there is business value here: We always say it's important to know who your readers are. And this feature allows bloggers to measure their traffic, to answer Cheryl's question, "What Drives Traffic?"
Perhaps an added bonus: Will such a little bug deter nasty posters?
Bonus No. 2: Don't go to the other Naked City blog by mistake. Unless you're about to spend an academic year in Boston.