Wednesday, November 03, 2010

I know, I know, I should be asleep. But I've had quite a day...and I'll leave it at that for now, but my mind is buzzing.

Today I received an email charging me to "help us (the Journal Register Company) figure out what we should be doing (in the news industry)." ...Glad you asked.

My ideas range from the minute to the grandiose, and many of them have already been recognized by more experienced minds. But a few that are important to me...

-We need better ways to collate information. One thing the Web can do that print couldn't is build on previous stories, right at readers' fingertips. For instance, Coatesville suffered a series of arsons over 18 months. We wrote many articles about them, have award-winning photographs, have video, are now writing about the trials of some of the accused arsonists...why are we making our readers work to find this background? We need to make it easily accessible.

-In keeping with that, some very simple changes. Our datelines should be hotlinked. So should our bylines. Those are the simplest, most effective keywords we have, and with one click, they would call up a list of relevant stories.

-A biggie, that I know is already receiving attention: Our Web publishing. Our software is clunky and awkward, and linked awkwardly to our print content management system. Another thing the Web can do that was harder in print is: Make it pretty. I've been pushing the idea that news is a service rather than a product, but on this point I will concede. Our content needs to be reminiscent of a magazine. The other day, I picked up an informational book in a store, flipped through it, and set it down immediately. The font was too small, dated, and clunky. I knew I wouldn't be able to concentrate on the content because the package was giving me a headache.

-Just to reiterate, beyond making it pretty, it needs to be easier to update from the field. Our website should not be much more difficult to deal with than this blog post.

-Videos. Now that we've gotten used to shooting video at JRC, we need to level up. We need someone to lead a workshop on putting mini-documentaries together, and also teach a little bit more about tools beyond FlipShare. This can be done as a live workshop, but also put on the Web as a replayable Webinar.

-And finally, 100 percent coverage, as per Jay Rosen's idea here. This will get its own post tomorrow, but we need to think about what that means, and how feasible it is for individuals. I think that a related idea is dimension. If I have photos, video, and text for a story, how can I make sure they complement one another? I can also tweet, blog, and Facebook - and I can do all six of those things without exhausting a story, irritating my audience, or even just overlapping.

The bottom line with all of this is quality of content. Bells and whistles will only piss off readers if they feel they're not actually getting value. We're not TV, and we're not just print. We're multimedia, and we're allowed to promote ourselves with tactics that are a little shiny.

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