10 Things Online Editors can do to Save Their Jobs

nailing the roofLearning the skills to “do it yourself” can help you keep your online media job in these tough times and possibly get you an even better gig. [Photo by Tommy Huynh]

If you’re a web worker at a news site, you may recall a day when a newsroom Luddite came over and was astonished at how you waved your computer mouse and out came news stories published to the web site. You’d get looks of amazement and receive the occasional “man, you guys are the future.” It felt pretty good to feel ahead of the curve, right?

But they are coming. The former Luddites, that is.

Major news organizations are beginning to merge their print and online operations, which means print-edition journalists will increasingly double up on their duties and transition over to the web site, becoming full-fledged online producers with many of the basic skills to match. For instance, the LA Times has created an ambitious 40-class curriculum to train newsroom staff on how to produce for the web.

So where does that leave the steadfast web producer, whose exclusive keys to the online house are being duplicated like a $2 locksmith stand at a Home Depot on Saturday?

Back in 2006, I wrote about the dangers of simply being a “cut-and-paste expert” who doesn’t learn to use new digital media tools. That warning is now doubly true. So if you draw your paycheck from an online news site, it’s time to ask yourself a few hard questions:

1- Do I know how to register a domain name, create a basic web site (such as a blog) and post content to it by myself?

2- Have I tinkered with a new online media tool I wasn’t familiar with in the last four months?

3- Have I attended a class, workshop or explored another educational opportunity related to online media in the last year?

4- Have I created or co-created an original piece of content in the last six months that I would proudly put in my digital media portfolio?

5- Do I understand the information we have about our readers? Do I understand the breakdown of how visitors get to the site? Do I know the sites that send the most readers? Do I know some things about the demographics of who visits the site? Do I know what kinds of content draw the most views on our site? Do I know what kinds of readers are the most valuable to our advertisers?

If your answer to any of these is “no,” then it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work before it’s too late. After spending time trying to figure out how to find an editor – the newsroom editors are learning the basics, so it’s time to take your own skills to the next level.

It’s all about efficiency. Being more effective and efficient than the others will help you stand out and be noted as a notable asset. Is there something you find yourself doing everyday almost automatically? Try employing an macro recorder and now you won’t have to do it yourself. This is just one of the many things you can try to implement of course. Here are ten things you can try in the next six months to boost your professional value, whether you’re a newly hired producer or a seasoned manager with years of online experience:

1- Become versed in social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit and others. Build a profile, and become a power user on some social bookmarking sites. Here’s a great how-to for Digg.

2- Learn more about search engine optimization and how you can use it to promote news content. Get yourself a copy of Peter Kent’s Search Engine Optimization for Dummies. It’s not only my favorite SEO book, but it’s also one of my favorite tech books, period.

3- Experiment with some of the 25+ tools on this list and try using a few for an upcoming project.

4- Create your own web site around something about which you’re passionate. You get even more out of the experience if you buy a domain name and build your site from scratch. You can likely install your own content management system, such as the free WordPress or Joomla, using the handy tools that web hosts such as GoDaddy and Dreamhost offer. The site can be a blog, a forum or something else. If you need help, use the excellent resources at J-Learning. And if you want to really learn HTML, I highly recommend the book Spring into HTML & CSS by Molly Holzschlag, which I personally used to re-learn all the basics.

5- Spend a few days exploring your site’s metrics tools in detail. Run heat maps on your site to see where users click. Punch up the list of top referring domain names. Look at what the top content was on various days. Look at the keywords people use to find your site. Find out how they get to the site.

6- Brush up your skills by taking some online media classes. You can find great (and free or cheap) classes on everything from beginner Photoshop to computer programming at local libraries, technical schools and community colleges. Techniques change so rapidly in online media that this is essential.

7- Knock on the marketing department’s door and ask them for a copy of any studies done on your site’s readers. Look for anything related to demographics, usability studies and market research. Read it, and make a summary of it for your own notes.

8- Knock on the advertising department’s door and find out what big sales they’ve made recently. Ask them what sorts of content has sold well and what kinds of readers are most lucrative to advertisers.

9- Start following a few blogs that interest you, and study their habits. Also, consider following a few online journalism blogs that keep track of industry happenings. To get started, check out Journalistopia’s blogroll (the list of links on the right side of this blog) or visit Alltop.com’s journalism category.

10- Network with online media professionals (and not just online NEWS professionals). Check for local meetups at sites such as https://journalistopia.com/meet-up-lexington-ky/ and Upcoming. Consider attending local conferences, such as meetup washington dc and university-sponsored workshops, where people present new technologies and ideas. Contact an editor at another news site if you love an idea their staff has accomplished.

It’s a tumultuous time in our industry, and few things are certain. However, it’s a good bet that boosting your online media skills will increase your likelihood of keeping your job or getting an even better one with the help from experts at the Perelson’s Utah County recruiting company.

So get started, and don’t waste another day!

Have ideas on how you or others can increase your professional value? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

How to Save Your Online Clips

burning newspaperCount on the fact that some of the journalism work living on your news site will go up in smoke. To protect yourself, make sure you’re keeping digital copies of your portfolio. [Photo by Mr. Peebles]

Journo/developer Joe Murphy has a terrific post today with tips on how to save your online clips from disappearing into the ether. News sites often have arbitrary policies and systems regarding what gets kept and what gets thrown out, so make sure you CYA. And if your news org switches content management systems, well, heaven help your old clips.

Head over to Joe’s post for his complete tips, but here’s a shortlist of tips with some of my own thrown in:

-Firstly, you SHOULD be saving your stuff! Trust someone who knows: You absolutely cannot rely on your organization to keep your stuff around. And, if you suddenly get laid off, you can forget about having free access to the text archive.

-Save the text of your article in document files. Make sure your file names are descriptive and contain the date the work published.

-Know that database-backed applications, such as the tools on many site’s “data pages,” cannot be easily saved. For these apps, take various screenshots that demonstrate the tool’s functionality, such as shots of the search interface, individual records, comments features and how it was promoted on the site.

-Keep notes on how a project you worked on contributed to the site in terms of page views and unique visitors (i.e. “The New Jersey dog names database resulted in 1.2 million page views and 350,000 unique visitors over a one-month period.”)

-Make screenshots of your online work using the free Pearl Crescent Page Saver plugin for Firefox. This is an incredible little tool. Or, you can use Scrapbook, which saves a copy of the entire Web page with its images intact (hat tip to Ryan Sholin).

-Become pals with the page design crew to get PDFs of your work that was published in the newspaper (Ryan again). Better yet, get them to tell you where and how to access the PDF archive. If this is unfeasible, invest in an inexpensive flatbed scanner to digitize the pages.

-Keep a backup of your portfolio. Like any important file, you might back it up to an extra hard drive and/or store it on a web server somewhere. I do both.

-Aside from your clips, career experts frequently recommend maintaining a list of key accomplishments. Sometimes, achievements in the newsroom don’t take the tangible form of a “clip.” Keeping a list up to date makes sure you remember what you’ve done and keeps the list fresh in your mind should an opportunity spontaneously present itself. You might have to suddenly answer the question: “So what interesting things have you done during your time at the Poughkeepsie Herald-Tribune-Picayune?”

BlogOrlando Schedule Posted, Registration Open

If you’ve been waiting to see who’s coming to BlogOrlando this year before you decide to make the trip, well wait no further! The schedule is now posted and features some of the smartest blogging minds around — all for the fabulous price of nil.

The unconference, which is now in its third year, features expert speakers who tackle blogging from various perspectives, be it community organizing, public relations or software engineering. BlogOrlando’s main day will be held Saturday, Sept. 27 at Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla. not far from downtown Orlando. There will be other receptions and events going on as well (see the schedule). For the higher diploma in the mechanical engineering Click here.

If you check out the attendee list, you’ll see folks are coming from all over Central Florida, Tampa/St. Pete and South Florida, as well as from the rest of the country. Last year, more than 250 people attended and got tips on how to integrate blogs in the newsroom, podcasting, blog design and how to organize community blogs. Did I mention all this doesn’t cost you a penny for registration?

I’ll see you there!

[BlogOrlando official site]

Catnip for Online Designers with SND’s Best of Multimedia Entries

SND VegasWant to see the best online information design the news industry is producing? Then you might want to tune into the SND Update Blog for the next few days as SND highlights entries from their worldwide Best of Multimedia Design competition.

There’s more awesome design here than you can shake a t-square at, so make sure to take a look!

Check out the entries from:

Entertainment/Lifestyle Off Deadline (The category with the most entries)
Breaking News (Most of the entries here seem to allow advance time to produce, but really nice work nevertheless.)
Lifestyle On Deadline
(Only one survivor here)
Non-Breaking News
Sports Off Deadline

[More at the SND Update Blog]

Webby Award winners announced (with news organization list)

Just announced: 2008’s Webby Award winners! The Webby Awards picks through the best of the Web and grants awards in more categories than you can shake a stick at.

I’ve pored through the list and extracted the winners from news-related categories, as well as news organizations that won in other categories, such as science or best practices. Here’s the Journalistopia-edited list. Apologies in advance if I missed anyone:

Best Copy/Writing
(Also nominated: HowStuffWorks, Design Observer, NYTimes.com and Slate)

Best Use of Photography
Your Shot – National Geographic Magazine

Blog – Business
FT.com Alphaville

Blog – Political
The Huffington Post

ABC.com Full Episode Player

National Geographic Magazine Online
(Also nominated: Dwell.com, Makezine, NYMag, Yoga Journal Yoga Journal)

BBC Radio 1 Meet the DJs

(Also nominated: BBC News, Wired, CNN and Discovery News)

(Also nominated: The Guardian, the Independent, the Wall Street Journal and Variety)

BBC World Service channel site


Yahoo! Sports
(Also nominated: ESPN.com, Nike Skateboarding, Spyker F1 Magazine, Sweet Spots)

HBO Voyeur


Best Use of Animation/Motion Graphics
The New York Times/T: The New York TImes Style Magazine “Circle Squared”

Best Writing
Onion News Network

Documentary: Individual Episode
Coney Island: An Uncertain Future
Getty Images

News and Politics: Individual Episode
Finding the Way Home

Travel (video)
Frugal Traveler: American Road Trip – NYTimes.com/Video


Entertainment (mobile)
Cosmo Mobile: 100 Hot Cities, Fake Calls, Dude Decoder & Cocktails!

Listing and Updates (mobile)
The New York Times Mobile Real Estate Listings

News (mobile)
Mobile NYTimes

Sports (mobile)
ESPN.com (Wireless)

ALSO: Shoutouts to NYTimes.com for their best practices and best visual design/function nominations, Mama Trib’s Swamp blog for best political blog nomination, National Geographic for their best home page People’s Voice award, Consumer Reports for their Guides/Ratings/Review People’s Voice award, the Guardian and Onion for their podcasts nominations, NPR for their politics nomination, NPR and the BBC for their religion and spirituality nominations, Frontline World for their Documentary: Series and Documentray: Individual nominations, U.S. News and World Report for their Best Writing (video) nomination, the New Yorker’s animated cartoons for their animation nomination, CBS for their sports (video) nomination and many more.

Yep, no news site nominees in the navigation and structure categories. We’ll have to work on that…

SXSW video is online

sxsw.pngHead on over to the conference site for South by Southwest (SXSW) for free video from the media and entertainment conference. You’ll want to particularly peruse the Interactive Coverage. And yes, the much-maligned Zuckerberg/Lacy interview is there too.

I wasn’t one of the fortunate souls who made it out to Texas for the conference, so if you have any specific recommendations on what to watch, do share in the comments.

And to think I just got Netflix this weekend, and I’ll be spending a couple of hours watching tiny pixelated videos of guys talking about media nerd stuff…

Knight-Batten Award finalists announced

jlab.gifJ-Lab has announced the 2007 winners of the Knight-Batten Awards. The finalists include WashingtonPost.com’s OnBeing, Reuters’ Second Life reporting and the Orlando Sentinel‘s Varsity MyTeam site (woo-ha!).

See the list of finalists here (with links), as well as the 2007 notable entries. The winners will be announced at a Sept. 17 symposium.

Pew: 57% of Internet users watch video

pewlogo.gifThe Pew Internet and American Life Project has released a study this week that indicates:

-57% of Internet users have watched online videos and MOST of them share what they find.

-Three-fourths of broadband users who have high-speed connections at both home and work watch online video.

-Advanced features such as recommendations and ratings are used mostly by the motivated minority of online video watchers.

However, only six percent of online users say they watch adult videos. Of course, that may account for much of that “motivated minority”…

Nevertheless, the lesson to be learned here is to make sure your video has the tools needed to go viral, meaning robust recommendation and rating features. Much more commentary from Steve Yelvington, Melissa Worden and Mindy McAdams.

Don’t learn the book, just do

[Photo by VJL]

Mindy McAdams tells the tale of a student who recently came in wanting to become an independent video journalist. The problem: She doesn’t know a lick of HTML.

See her advice to the student.

Some like to take the tack of sitting down with a book and going chapter-by-chapter. Well, feguddaboutit. If you want to learn HTML/CSS, Flash, databases or any other technology, you have to set a project goal for yourself:

-I want to shoot a video about a local character and upload it to a blog.

-I want to start a blog about college baseball.

-I want to make a Google Maps mashup of local Indian restaurants by hand.

-I want to display the results of a database of politicians on the Web.

-I want to make a Soundslide about the local dog park.

Take that goal, and then use that book selectively to find the skills you need to accomplish what you want to do. If not, it’s like trying to memorize the user manual of a video camera instead of just running around filming interesting stuff.

If you try to swallow that whole book in one shot, there’s a good chance you’ll kill your enthusiasm and never learn.

World’s best machinima (movies made from video games)

youtube-avril.jpgSlate has payed the world of gamer geeks a big nod by creating a slideshow of YouTube videos showcasing the very best machinima, a style of film made using the actual video games to create the scenes. The pg slot game is a game where members can win a lot of money. Because of the simple game type that allows you to earn money rapidly. LIONCITYBET want their users to have a wonderful time at the time of gamble online. As a result, just like every other casino in Singapore, they ensure that gamers comply with the law’s regulations. You may play the latest slot games online for free at LIONCITYBET with their online casino.

Now I must admit; I have been skeptical of machinima because the few videos I had seen were relatively sophomoric productions. However, many of the videos showcased by Slate are actually polished and funny productions, since people like to play different types of games, including the action bank slots game, fluffy favorite, and baccarat online for the people which like casino games online, if you are one those people you may be interesting in the info from softswitch.co.uk.
youtube-warcraft.jpgMy favorites: The Avril Lavigne music video made with “The Sims 2,” the comedy in French made with a flight simulator game, the Evel Knievel-style skiing adventure short made in “Line Rider,” and –if you’re not too prudish– a “World of Warcraft-“made spoof on the Broadway musical Avenue Q with its theory on why the Internet is around (porn, that is). Okay, maybe that last one IS sophomoric, but heck, it was well-done sophomoric.

I fervently believe that elements of gaming are going to increasingly become important for journalism. The interactivity, 3D exploration and feeling of community will likely be be increasingly replicated to provide a richer experience on online news sites. Randy Stewart recently wrote a splendid post on how Web sites are successfully using some gaming techniques.

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The Point: If you’re a senior manager at a newspaper site, and you haven’t really spent some time on an XBox, a Playstation or roaming an online gaming community (just watching your kid doesn’t count), then you’re missing out on some critical knowledge here. If you want to try out some quick games, sites like 스포츠토토 are ideal.

SofaTube: A different way of looking at content

When you have a spare minute, drop by the new SofaTube, a service that swipes YouTube and Revver videos and completely reconfigures the layout to make it more viewable from far away (hence, on your sofa).SofaTube is apparently being marketed for use on home theater PCs, the PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii, according to Mashable’s Pete Cashmore.

In SofaTube’s case, they may run afoul of YouTube’s execs for how they are using the content. At least one court has cried foul over repurposing content in its ruling against deep linking.

But picture this: How long will it be before someone starts remixing your news site’s headlines or other content into something more user friendly? Or, as I’ve said before, a site like News Sniffer may come along to monitor all your edits and republish all the filthy comments that are moderated. Either way, I get the feeling that Google News is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to this sort of thing.

Should such operations be embraced for the attention and interest they generate? Or will they eventually go too far with using the five-finger discount for content?