Rob Curley talked for about six hours to two diverse groups from The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Daily News, and philly.com: executives, reporters, web people, photographers, editors, ad sales folks, producers, tech gurus, graphics experts. He inspired, he amazed, he energized. He demonstrated what can be done and he demonstrated what can be done to make money. He drank a lot of Red Bull. A Curley intern, Amanda Finnegan, who was traveling with him, said it’s a good thing that stuff is available sugar free.
Curley’s Seven Commandments (as I distilled the six hours):
1. Own breaking news, and make sure your audience knows it.
2. Go hyper-local, deeper than you ever imagined. Don’t just build a container, fill it. (Plenty of photos of youth sports? Yes!)
3. Database like crazy.
4. Multimedia overkill.
5. Evergreen content. Examples: Mark Twin (for Hannibal, Mo.), KU sports history (Lawrence, Kan.)
6. Platform independent: paper, web, sms text to cell phones, X-box, Wii, I-pod and more.
7. It’s a conversation. Leverage the wisdom of the crowd and make sure the audience is participating.
What scares him — or what inspires him? Facebook. (I had some satisfaction that our Philadelphia Sports News Feed group on Facebook, after one week, is up to about 120 members.) In the afternoon, Rob paid our own Jennifer Musser-Metz a great compliment. He said he was a new reporter when he first found Black Hawk Down on The Inquirer’s website — with source documents, bios on the people in the story, reader comments, multimedia. "This is journalism on steroids," Rob remembers thinking. That was when he decided to become an online journalist. We had a chance to applaud Jennifer again for making all that happen.
Beyond Red Bull, how is Rob’s work powered? One force is internology — the power of committed, hard-working paid interns, including Amanda. Who calls 300 restaurants to ask each of them 20 questions (children’s menu? hours you serve meals? vegetarian choices?) Who shoots dozens of digital stills? Who covers the county fair? The permanent Curley staff is five full-time editors-producers-developers. Amanda is one of about 11 interns on the Curley team at Washington Post-Newsweek Interactive. Her training, from Cabrini College in Radnor, Pa., is on display in this student project on war.
Special thanks to Adrian!