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Social Media Report

19 Apr

My topic blog – La Flama Blanca en America – has always been somewhat narrowly tailored, so marketing it was going to be a challenge. It focuses on my original analysis of the teams of Major League Baseball and their chances to land fictional ballplayer Kenny Powers. Fortunately I have lots of friends who like baseball and/or “Eastbound & Down.”

My strategy was focused on Facebook and Twitter, the two largest social media outlets. I took a scattershot approach, experimenting with different times to get the most views for my posts. WordPress’s sharing feature was key here; every time I finished a post I went to the bottom and tweeted it, then I posted it to my Facebook profile.

Twitter didn’t have as much of an impact as I expected, with minimal view increases. (Obviously I need more followers!) Facebook, on the other hand, gave me view count leaps in the tens and twenties. I was even able to promote discussion of at least one baseball division in the comment section. I also got a couple of spam comments; I took this as a sign that my site was getting out among the greater Internet.

I also found that the timing of the shared posts was key. To maximize the posts’ positions in my friends’ news feeds, I tried to share the posts in the mornings or late afternoons; I had discovered that this was when people were most active on Facebook.

An examination of my view history was somewhat interesting. I’ve amassed nearly 250 page views this semester:

The U.S. leads the pack with nearly 200 of those views, but I was a bit stumped as to why Germany is in second place. (I concluded that I just lucked out with more automated WordPress bots coming onto my page from Germany.)

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Week 14 – The New “Total” Journalism

18 Apr

As journalism marches into its new era, it’s clear that the profession itself is in need of fundamental changes. Just as editors can be expected to curate and aggregate articles, so too must we curate our approach to journalism itself so it can be better absorbed by the community.

Doing this isn’t hard once you realize that journalism’s new struggle is finding its audience. We need to use social media to network with the community. In addition to giving us a better understanding of their individual issues, this will also help journalists make more of a connection with the community’s members, especially if they are encouraged to contribute regularly to the content of the news outlet.

News also needs to be curated such that remains interesting – not just in regard to the story but also interesting to the point that a reader will be curious enough about the subject to learn more. Proper linking and aggregation can go a long way to accomplishing this.

The wide-ranging forms of new media have given rise to what the BBC’s Robert Peston calls the “total journalist” – somebody who does stories in and out of the newsroom (perhaps on a blog) and leaves the media marketing to their associate news organization. The inherently smaller scope of this kind of journalism will naturally lead to tighter, more focused coverage.

Case Study 10

18 Apr

Wordle

Barack Obama’s States of the Union – his 2010 address, his 2011 address and his 2012 address – have several similarities. Wordle reveals various repeated words that give us insight into the issues that the president felt the United States was facing in each year.

The ’10 speech and the ’12 speech have much more in common with each other than they do with the ’11 speech. Both emphasize words like “jobs” and “businesses.” This reflects a focus on the economy.

The ’11 speech, however, is markedly different. Obama’s speech that year outlined advances he wanted made in education; words like “science”, “technology” and “industry” are emphasized.

The three speeches also share words like “Congress”, “Americans” and “people”, making it clear to whom they were addressed.

Wordle could be used by a journalist looking to make sense of a speech or large document. However, much like Google Correlate, it would be most helpful if the journalist was already familiar with the context of the media.

Week 13 – Social Media’s New Role

11 Apr

Journalists face increased pressures in reporting an online world. Social media is right there to both aid and abet these pressures. The “open newsroom” idea mentioned last week continues to catch on; more consultants (and by extension, news outlets themselves) are arguing that the way forward is narrow and personal.

Individually tailored content requires more work, but the returns can be much better. The issue is whether organizing news into a social media-focused approach will be bad for people’s awareness of the world at large. It’s up to reporters and editors to curate their offerings such that they still appeal to their target group, while having fringe appeal that will draw in curious readers as well – a decentralized news model.

The new approach is facilitated by the growing number of new journalists who are active on social media. The new generation’s literacy of tools like Twitter and Facebook makes source gathering, story research and fact checking much easier to do. Since news organizations don’t need departments or even teams of reporters on these things anymore, it leads to better content when the same resources are actually devoted to improving the work of one reporter.

“Social media” is one thing, but Google’s Trends and Correlate tools are more of “cultural media.” They give us an online look into people’s heads that can tell us a lot about which stories and topics deserve attention.

For example, I did a Trends search of “tsunami” this morning after news of another earthquake near Indonesia. The results screen reveals news spikes based on the last two major tsunami events (2004 and 2011), but there’s noticeably less “news referencing” of the term in 2004; this can be chalked up to the relative growth of the Internet’s news sector.

For Correlate I typed in “music festival.” (The graph wouldn’t copy, but the results page is here.) There were some very interesting associations. I was expecting results related to the upcoming Coachella Festival in California, but instead I got a series of returns on Myrtle Beach and seersucker pants. Journalists using Correlate would do well to either have some data ready (it encourages use of a spreadsheet) or keep an open mind about where their search terms will lead.

Media Ride-Along Report – ChicagoTalks.org

5 Apr

Media Entrepreneur Ride-along Report

by Tyler Parks, Emily Burmaster and Rachel Rowan

ChicagoTalks.org is a nonprofit community news site. Affiliated with Columbia College Chicago, “CT” is built on citizen and student-written journalism, reporting on issues around Chicago.

Barbara Iverson, the site’s co-founder and co-publisher, started ChicagoTalks in 2006 after working on the English version of OhmyNews, a Korean news site that allowed people to register and submit stories for publication.

Iverson got funding from Knight’s J-Lab and help from Columbia College professor Suzanne McBride. Six years after its launch, ChicagoTalks continues to publish the work of many community members and Columbia College students and faculty.

In an email, Iverson said the college’s journalism students generally publish at least one story per semester, while graduate students publish at least four stories per semester. Submission is open to anyone, though, and stories frequently come from nonprofit groups in the area.

To ensure the quality of published work, teachers edit student work and select particularly good stories to submit to ChicagoTalks. Editors look at all stories before they are published to the site, verifying information with writers by phone or online. The student editor is the only paid employee.

“We don’t pay our contributors, but we use a Creative Commons license and everyone gets attribution for their work and retains all rights,” Iverson said.

ChicagoTalks is funded by donations. On the site, visitors can donate via the Kachingle service. In the fall, the site will work with a class at Columbia College called Virtual Newsroom in which students will study search engine optimization and CT’s metrics in order to experiment with advertising and revenue models Iverson has been considering.

SEO is important to ChicagoTalks, but Iverson emphasized the value of solid newsgathering in light of the site’s “hyperlocal” focus.

“We will publish stories if we think that someone in the community will benefit,” Iverson said. “However, (the site’s student reporters) understand that their reputation is tied to stories they publish.”

To market itself, ChicagoTalks shares links to similar sites and asks those sites to “share back.” Students who work on the site are taught to use social networks to advertise stories. CT cross-publishes with other local sites like the Beachwood Reporter, and it worked with the Chicago News Cooperative before it folded. One of the site’s stories was even published in the New York Times.

Because trends point to mobile devices and tablets taking over as the “method of choice” for consuming journalism, Iverson said ChicagoTalks will continue distributing content without a print component. CT routinely adds video, audio and Storify pieces to its stories.

ChicagoTalks is one of the only organizations of its kind in Chicago, so it doesn’t have much competition. Iverson has been able to pursue a growth strategy at her leisure. Her latest project is a collaboration with a DePaul University reporting class, which will be expected to contribute to the site.

Week 12 – The Future of the Newsroom

4 Apr

It’s already been shown how much the newsroom is changing. One of the biggest changes is the acceptance of social media into the fold.

The “crowdsourced newsroom” is the best example of this. Instead of being surrounded by other journalists, reporters and editors are moving toward a day where they surround themselves with social media feeds linking them to members of the community, who contribute at will.

That same aspect of social media takeover is also leading to an erosion of the old guard. The view of news outlets as institutions is being replaced by one that makes them equal members of the community, especially as papers and sites become more involved around the Web. More than ever, it’s clear journalism is a process — a two-way process that requires as much help and curiosity as possible if it’s to continue to evolve.

Facebook Assignment

4 Apr

As the most pervasive and prevalent social media tool in today’s world, Facebook is a unique tool for journalists.

A particularly interesting integration of Facebook is the news app. I see a lot of activity from these applications on my News Feed (mostly from the Washington Post one), and it’s tough to discount the impact of peer pressure here. You see your friends reading what look like interesting articles, but you have to get the app yourself to see them. It’s essentially a word-of-mouth effect that drives up traffic.

The major drawback is that unlike other sites, Facebook has no easy way to sort through old posts (the new Timeline profile helps, but there’s still no search function). Still, it’s become part of our daily lives, and many papers are using that to get back into readers’ consciousnesses.

Millions of people have a Facebook, making it as reliable as email for a contact attempt. This same availability can be useful for fact-checking, but it can cause privacy issues if information is obtained unethically. My two best friends from my pre-journalism days actually stopped talking to each other because one (who happened to be an editor for the Alligator) pulled the other’s (who had a leadership position on campus) profile picture off of a private profile to use as a mugshot.

For my topic blog, I’ve focused on using Facebook to share posts with my friends. Each completed post has been linked to my profile. Combined with the tweets I’m putting out for each post, this has hiked traffic up more than ten times its normal levels. I’ve learned that the best approach is to stagger the posts. The more unique the content seems, the more likely Facebook will bump it to the top of the page. I’ve also found that timing (morning or late-afternoon) is also key to maximize views.