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Multimedia Workflow

May 21, 2011 Leave a comment

We’ve recently started using Trax, a program that helps keep track of an article through various stages of the production cycle – conception, assignment, publication – and the elements that are attached to the article (such as videos, photographs or graphics). The unfortunate part of Trax is that it doesn’t have a good way to keep track of multimedia assignments.

While our multimedia is still being created in a limited capacity at my newspaper due to only one programmer being employed here and the rest of us online staff having other, specific duties, we like to incorporate various elements into our online storytelling like text, audio, graphics, polls, quizzes, databases, user input and other mechanisms. Many of these elements may be created/contributed by a variety of people in the newsroom. Thus, Trax doesn’t really work for us because there’s no good way to group projects together into one super project, or assign a single project with multiple elements to multiple people.

This got me thinking about our workflow and how it doesn’t work. I found this really interesting presentation by Ron Slyvester at Multimedia Reporter.

We’re about halfway there in terms of re-creating this workflow at our paper. I’ve been really please with how forward-thinking some of the journalists I work with are after I shared the usefulness of Tweeting and Facebooking to their carers. One veteran reporter here shared the idea of using Twitter as a note-taking service. He said that by the time he gets back to the office, his story is already halfway written – he just copies and pastes sentences from his Twitter feed.

What multimedia workflows do you use in your organization?

Best. Day. Ever.

April 4, 2011 1 comment
Tornado by Andy Kuppers

Sports editor Andy Kuppers was the first to contribute images of the tornadoes.

Thursday, The Ledger recorded its best day ever in terms of page views (our actual number was about 100,000 more page views than our last record-breaking day). I would argue that it was also our best day ever in terms of audience engagement, reader interaction and keeping the site fresh with breaking news content.

The morning was one of horrible weather – tornadoes were reported throughout the Central Florida area, along with high-speed winds, hail and lots of rain. We started putting together a report on the weather conditions early. As soon as it was safe to be on the roads, several reporters and photographers left the warm (relative) safety of the office and hit the streets.

What we did right:

  • Set up a gallery so we could crowdsource local photos from readers. This gave readers an easy way to tell their own stories and was also a boon for page views – almost 100,000 of our page views came from this photo gallery. It was also much faster to gather local readers’ photos of the storm than it took for our own photographers to transmit their pictures from the field and we didn’t have to waste time uploading photos ourselves directly after the storm.
  • Crowdsourced local reactions to the storm – our managing editor/digital put together a Storify using local Tweets about the severe weather. This got several thousand page views, showing it had an audience outside the local Twitter population.
  • Two reporters stayed at their desks, taking down information about damage, power outages and other consumer information. This gave us a direct link to readers and gave them a way to voice concerns.
  • We put together an interactive map of the county, showing where the tornadoes had been reported and with reactions of local residents to the storm and the subsequent damage.
  • We quickly changed the homepage when we got enough related pieces of media. This gave readers a way to see all the connected elements and showed that we were paying attention to the story as it changed throughout the day.

What we did wrong:

  • It took too long for our photographers to upload photos into our own staff galleries. Obviously, this had to do with the severe weather conditions and the fact that electricity was down in a significant portion of the county, but page views could have been significantly higher (I’d estimate another 50,000, easily) if we had gotten more than the dozen photos we had uploaded before the end of the work day, Thursday.
  • People were Tweeting about the storm while it was still going on but we didn’t put together the Storify until after the tornadoes had cleared. This means we had a two-hour window where we could have possibly been getting page views when we weren’t.
  • While we posted a few messages on our social networking sites – mainly Twitter and Facebook – we could and should have engaged our audience better on these sites. Linking more elements throughout the afternoon (instead of adding information to our original post on Facebook) could have gotten us more attention and page views. We didn’t flood our fans, but we could have given more updates throughout the afternoon and into the evening with relevant information.

All in all, it was a great team effort on the part of the multimedia team and the entire newsroom. We gave our readers a wide breadth of information about the severe weather and made sure to give them a chance to shape our coverage. We also learned better what to do next time when significant breaking news happens: Have a plan and execute it early.

Why Ads on Twitter Don’t Compare to Ads on TV

March 15, 2011 Leave a comment

I’ve seen them before – “celebrities” who Tweet an ad for a couple bucks. I usually don’t think much about those ads, but they annoy me greatly. Today, writer Joel Stein sent a Tweet:

I didn’t say anything or respond but I was kinda miffed. I thought about unfollowing but I hadn’t quite formulated why, exactly, seeing an ad in my Twitter (in the feed of a person I chose to follow) was so disconcerting until Joel followed up with this Tweet:

“Some people pissed I accept twitter ads. Curious why it’s worse than ads in Time mag, Vh1, time.com, sitcoms, gmail. Is it more invasive?”

Yes, Joel. It is invasive. Not because I’m pissed that I’m seeing ads in my Twitter stream. If ads were part of the Twitter experience – the way that Twitter was able to make money of this great micro-blogging tool that I’ve become so attached to – I wouldn’t mind very much. I already see ads in many of the free Twitter iPhone apps that I use to check my feed or send a quick Tweet by when I’m not at my computer. However, when I see an ad in my feed, it’s a feeling that someone has invaded my world. Twitter isn’t a passive medium like television or a magazine. Twitter is a carefully cultivated list of people whom I want to hear from. These are people in my community, in my industry and, yes, a celebrity or two who occasionally have relevant or interesting things to say.

I follow a couple hundred people on Twitter. I don’t read every message that comes though, even though I’d like to. When I’m trying to catch up on what I’ve missed since the last time I’ve checked Twitter, I often skim the page for pictures of people I know I’d like to see, no matter what and make sure I read them. Joel will no longer be one of those people. That’s not because I’m mad at him or what he says isn’t relevant to me anymore. It’s because the knowledge that he sends out Tweets that are advertising messages means that he’s no longer a top priority for when I need to get through a few hundred Tweets quickly. I’ll still follow him – he’s only sent out a handful of ads since I first started and they’re easy enough to skim over – but if the ads increase, he’ll be gone. There’s plenty of other comedians and writers on Twitter who don’t feel the need to make a quick buck by inserting an ad into their feed.

Oscar Predictions

February 25, 2011 Leave a comment

I know, I’m always harping about LOCAL news and how resources should be saved for local projects, but some national events are of so much interest to our audience that spending resources on them seems like a fair return on investment.

Take, for instance, our Oscars contest. It only took about an hour to set up in CoverItLive. We’re not offering any prizes so we didn’t have to get permission from the lawyers. And it’s a fun event where people can compare their scores with other, local, people. The project goes live today, so I’m not sure what our ROI will be, but I’ll know more later today.

 

 

Pole Dancing for Fitness

December 6, 2010 Leave a comment

For our Converged Journalism final, we’re doing a feature project about fun ways to stay fit that will be pegged to New Year’s Resolutions. This is the first finished product in that three-part series, about pole dancing. Jennifer Hatley from Vertical Movements studio in Lakeland was happy to dispel some common myths about pole dancing and show us how hard you work in a fitness class that’s based on a pole.

Thanksgiving: A User’s Manual

November 19, 2010 Leave a comment

Today, the New York Times has introduced a beautiful and comprehensive feature (and a timely one!) with its Thanksgiving: A User’s Manual. Videos, slide shows and an interactive teach readers how to create pies, turkey and an entire vegan/vegetarian-friendly meal, respectively. The recipe interactive for the vegan/vegetarian meal is especially impressive, with 61 yummy sounding dishes that prove that diners who don’t eat animal products aren’t restricted to a boring salad.

 

I do wonder how effective this special online section was in drawing readers and clicks. While there is plenty of great content that is useful for anyone cooking a Thanksgiving meal (or, like me, just a foodie who loves watching delicious food cooking methods), many people already have their favorite go-to websites for recipes and cooking tips. My aunt loves to go to Food Network. I’m an AllRecipes.com kind of girl. Do readers need the newspaper for their dinner-table fare? Unless it’s hyperlocal food (or the recipes are created with local produce in mind), I think it’s probably a waste of effort. Not because the end product isn’t helpful, but because I think it’s difficult to carve out an audience with something like this.

Dreaming of a White Christmas

November 12, 2010 Leave a comment

It’s not even Thanksgiving, but the jolly old chaps over the Atlantic are already wondering when the first snowflakes will start falling. As a Floridian who is fairly obsessed with the white stuff (I played in my first snowfall last year, when we spent Christmas in New York City), I love this #uksnow Map developed by Ben Marsh using Twitter as his main source.

The developer takes Twitter posts with the proper hashtag of users self-reporting their own snowfall. Right now, there’s not much to see on the map, but it will be delightful to watch the crowdsourced snow experiment grow as winter continues to creep forward. This is really an amazing application of Twitter. While there is a small chance for abuse (like any other application that relies on pure user reporting), I would think that the application developer would have a script that would check for any anomolies against other reports within the same region and allow the map to self-correct from there.