Monthly Archives: July 2007

Give thanks for sugar-free Red Bull

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.

And the tech power? In Kansas, in Florida and in Washington, Curley uses Ellington CMS. Here’s the person to contact: Dean Royal toll-free at 866-454-5774 or droyal@ellingtoncms.com.

Special thanks to Adrian!

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We must be doing something right

Net growth is strong, growth at newspaper sites is stronger
An average of
more than 59 million people (37.6 percent of all active internet users) visited
newspapers online each month during Q1, a 5.3 percent increase over the same
period a year ago, according to Nielsen//NetRatings NetView custom analysis.
During the same time period, the overall internet audience grew just 2.7
percent.
—from PaidContent

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Data sets

One of the biggest opportunities we face — in my humble opinion — is with data
applications. Recipes, golf
course listings
, gardening
tips
, campaign finance data. We
— and every big newsroom — have all this stuff, but for the most part readers
can’t access it easily or search it in a simple, logical manner. The homicide
data
and the school report card are great Inquirer examples of what is possible. Here are some tech solutions that promise to make it easy.

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Curley, Loudon Extra, and HuffPo comments

Welcome to Rob Curley’s latest project: Loudon Extra, a hyper-local feature of the Washington Post. It’s hyper local only in contrast to the huge reach of the mother paper. Loudon County is not one small community with one stop light and one high school. It’s diverse and spread across a vast area. But the Extra project is meant to bring local search and local information to users and to involve users in keeping the site current. The ratio of pro content to am content is expected to start at about 99:1, but that could change. Right now data is at the core. From the welcome page:

We are currently building searchable databases of building permits, homes sales, and many other publicly available records. We also will be covering high school sports like this area has never seen.

I like the house of worship lookup and the web cams. The section’s story about the launch reviews Curley’s history increasing page views at other publication and asks a core question about the Post effort:

Curley’s revamping of the Lawrence site gained national attention because of the audience it attracted. In 2000 — before remaking its site — the Lawrence paper got 14 million page views, said Ralph Gage, chief operating officer of the World Co., which owns the paper. In 2006, that number had grown to 247 million, and the site booked about $2 million in revenue. The population of Lawrence is about 80,000, and the Journal’s circulation is 20,000.

Page views at the Naples Web site are up 17 percent in the first six months of this year compared with 2006, when the site was revamped, said editor Phil Lewis, with unique monthly users up 26 percent. The Web site is responsible for more than 10 percent revenue, Lewis said, which is above the industry average.

The question has always been whether a major metropolitan newspaper can successfully run a hyperlocal site like this, and how both local and national advertisers will react.

Those examples of page view increases can be enticing. More from the business story (on the data example 07newsroom discussed in this February post):

In December, Gannett Co.’s Asbury Park (N.J.) Press dumped three huge public-record databases onto its Web site: local property sales and ownership, and state employees’ salaries. By May, the paper had added searchable databases for local crime, school test scores, state deaths and public school employees.

In December, the paper’s Web site recorded 1.5 million page views. By May, the site was averaging more than 5 million page views per month, according to data from a Newspaper Association of America study, with a high of more than 9 million page views in April.

Curley is also known for welcoming user-generated content. More from the Loudon Extra welcome page:

We also will be adding a powerful community-publishing section to the site, allowing readers to share their stories, photos and videos.

No sign yet that the material shared — or posted — by readers will be filtered, tagged or rated by readers, too. Various models exist for this, including the Digg model (users can add one positive — or negative vote), the Plime model (users can increase their own rating, and thus their own voting power), and — starting today — the HuffingtonPost model. [update Freedom Interactive will go live next month with their own version, with SiteLife software from Pluck.] Paul Berry, the chief tech officer of HuffPo, explains all:

We’ve added a commenter profile page which includes your bio and lists all comments you’ve posted. To add a bio, simply click on the Your Account link on the upper right hand corner of every page.

We also have a new I’m A Fan Of feature which lets you vote for your favorite commenters. They can also vote for you. Your fans will be listed on your profile page. We’ll soon be able to alert you when your fans comment on stories and when your favorite bloggers post on the site.

But we’re most excited to announce a new initiative where we will choose one commenter a month to become a featured blogger at HuffPost. Yes, a blogger! Reading through the comments on our site, we realized that our readers are an underutilized resource – smart and opinionated. Our decisions will be based on how many fans a commenter has, how often their comment is selected as a favorite and our moderators’ favorites.

Even Paul’s dad is "a blogger!" Now Paul is making it possible for others to try their hand. Who wouldn’t be excited? The wisdom of the crowds, unleashed. And for the crowds in Loudon County, the power of local journalism has also been given free rein. May success blossom in many gardens.

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Networking, BlogPhilly and the unconference

     The Blog Philadelphia unconference brought together techies, writers, bloggers and other digitally minded people for two days at the Radisson on 17th. The folks behind uwishunu and philly.com sponsored the meeting. Who was there? Ziddio was shooting video over in one corner. Steve Lubetkin blogged about our conversation and will have it out on a podcast soon. I learned about IndependentsHall, a group dedicated to bringing together freelancers and other independent workers for various group projects. (T-shirt slogan: "Working alone sucks.") There were people from startup companies, including myfirstpaycheck. A former Drexel student talked about a new mobile platform for linking local businesses and customers: PhindMe. His point, as I understand it: As startups from Google to Mahaolo strive for global scale, all the local knowledge and information people want becomes very hard to find. (The exact spirit behind uwishunu.)  We heard about the benefits of the Philadelphia Area Computer Society meetings (next one: Sept. 15). One clear point — there are many stimulating projects based in Philadelphia, led by innovative people. There are few opportunities for them to come together to swap ideas and seek inspiration. That same quest gave birth to the Norgs unconference. It helps explain the pent-up demand for a LinkedIn Philly meeting (it’s on Thursday evening, at The Inquirer, 400 N. Broad.) Next up is PodCamp Philadelphia, Sept. 7-9, at Drexel. Now there is a site devoted to bringing together people of LikeMind every month (July 20, Friday evening, for the next Philly get together). They had a representative at BlogPhiladelphia, too.

Sample BlogPhilly (BlogPhiladelphia) unconference coverage: Flickr, uwishunu, John Suder, Jonathan Clark, and Alex Hillman. And plenty of session notes on this Wiki.

update Alex adds: "there’s actually a much larger photo set. Enjoy! -Alex"

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When a newsroom seeks a college audience

It’s not the daily news report, but the NYT is using Facebook for a college essay contest.
(Yes, the essay information is available outside Facebook, too.)

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“Reliable” transcript

CNN has put up the transcript from yesterday (thanks, Chris!). Here’s a key portion:

JEFF JARVIS, BUZZMACHINE.COM: More than you, I think, Howie.

KURTZ: Even
more than me. And you write that you’ve become obsessed with this place.
Why?

JARVIS: There’s something going on here. The weekend I went on I got
150 friends in 24 hours. Now that’s not a testament to my popularity; it means
that they were all online on a holiday weekend and they were obsessed,
too.

What I think Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, has really
found here, the key to it is that it’s real identity. The rest of the Internet
is full of anonymity and pseudo-anonymity and people calling themselves you
know, Bubba47.

Well, on Facebook I’m Jeff Jarvis, and the friends I have
are really my friends. I think we’re thirsting for that reality. And then the
Facebook also opened itself up so people can write new things for its platform
so people are just putting on all kinds of new stuff that makes the platform
more active.

So I can form groups of friends. I can do things with those
friends. I can reconnect with old friends. I think it’s pretty
amazing.

KURTZ: The hundreds of pictures that people put up of themselves
with their friends, some of which are not suitable for viewing by prospective
employers, suggest to me that there is a kind of a voyeuristic aspect to
Facebook where you go snooping around in other peoples’ lives. Some people have
even used the word "stalking." In the good sense.

COX: I didn’t know that
there was a good kind of stalking. I think that there’s definitely voyeuristic
aspects to Facebook. I think there’s also the appeal, I have to say that to
Jeff, it’s partially that you have a real person there, and partially it’s a
slightly elitist crowd at Facebook.

KURTZ: Hold it. There’s 26 million
members.

COX: Well, for a long time it was restricted — for a long time
it was restricted to only, like, Ivy League schools.

KURTZ:
Right.

COX: It was started at Harvard and you had to be at a certain
school in order to get in. Then it was high schools that went to Harvard. Then
it was people — then you could get on if you went to a — if you were employed
by a place that had a lot of recent, you know, college graduates. Now it’s open
to everyone.

KURTZ: But you still think it’s elitist, why?

COX:
But I still think there’s something — maybe I shouldn’t say "elitist." It’s
something that you have to kind of — you already know something when you come
to Facebook. You are bringing — there’s an imprimatur of kind of little bit of
being in the know, let’s say.

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