Shortly after the Ann Arbor News closed, AnnArbor.com went live. The site has an interesting format — it’s rather blog-like — and it screams hyperlocal. It’s definitely worth looking at if you’re a community journalist. And on top of the interesting format for news, they’ve also rethought advertising in a unique way. Check out the articles for more information. The first link, from the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard, covers the reasoning behind the sites layout and delves into the ad issue as well. See the other two links for some commentary on the site from Steve Buttry and Jeff Jarvis.
With football season right around the corner, it’s a great time to experiment with your website.
High school football is great for generating interesting photos, compelling narratives, and, best of all, reader interest. That’s all the more reason to give something new a shot online.
With that in mind, I’ve got five things you can try online this season. And did I mention they’re free?
- A new twist on the sound slideshow
You’ve likely seen the slideshows that combine audio interviews and photos to turn a simple slideshow into a great narrative piece of mulitmedia journalism. These are great, and you can create them for free online with a program such as Flowgram, but they can be a lot of work out in the field if you’re a one man (or woman) band. Instead, you can use a service such as Animoto that will take your images and automatically set them to music.
Let’s face it, you have readers that have some great insights into high school sports. So use them.
Using the Web (and your print edition), you can ask your readers to submit questions that you can pose when you’re doing interviews and follow-ups. You can take questions by e-mail, in a comment thread on your site, or using one of the ways below (specifically No. 3 and No. 4).
You can use those same methods to help your travelers for out-of-town games. One could ask, for instance, where the best post-game meal is, and have readers respond online or by e-mail, then post the results.
- Go live
Of course all of your readers aren’t going to make it out for the friday night lights. In that case, there are several things you can do to bring the game to them, via the Internet.
One of the easiest ways to do that is using CoveritLive. CoveritLive allows you to host live blogs, or even talk live with your readers. There’s also a scoreboard feature that will let you update your readers throughout the game. Readers can talk back to you, too, but it’s not the typical free-for-all you’ve seen other places. You’re the only one who sees what people are saying, and you can choose to showcase only the most insightful stuff — or none of it. The good stuff can be repurposed for print, and don’t forget to give a shout out in print to your reader if you happen to use a question or quote from them, that’ll just keep them coming back.
- Use the Twitterverse
If you’ve yet to try out Twitter, this is a great time to do it. First, check to see that there are local people on Twitter by using Twitter’s advanced search. Type iin your town in the “Near this place” field, and see if it would be worth it for you to try to use the service.
Assuming there are enough “tweeps” in your town to justify using Twitter, a great way to build conversation around a game or your team would be to promote a hashtag (more about hashtags here) in your print edition, and ask all the “tweeps” in your community to append it to their posts on Twitter. If that’s all Gibberish to you, don’t worry. You’re not alone. If you want to know more about Twitter, see our resources here and here.
- Let their voices be heard
Sure, the TV folks are the ones known for the often-mocked man-on-the street interview. But check out a new take on that from the Lawrence Journal World called “On the Street“. You could easily apply this man-on-the-street tactic to creating a quick online (or print) piece.
You can record these pieces with just about any video camera, and if you do it right, you shouldn’t even need to edit them. Just tell the person you’re interviewing to state his or her name, then answer the question succinctly. Press record right after you ask the question, then stop it when they’re done answering and go on to the next person. Do that and you’ll have a finished product — no need for titles or editing — as soon as you get back to a computer. Upload it to YouTube and call it a night.
Promote it in print by posting a few quotes and teasing to the Web feature. You could also take this in another direction and just go downtown and shoot similar videos before a big game that offer encouragement to the team, and post that.
Think you can’t handle any of these things? Let me know, and I’ll clarify where necessary. If you want more ideas or have a few of your own, let us know in the comments and I’ll post a follow-up with a yours and another five of mine.
It’s not your father’s newspaper business any more. This business is changing as radically as the buggy whip business changed around the turn of the 20th century. One of our goals in the Around the Web service we provide is to share with you some of the innovative thinking out there related to the business we know and love. This article is one you should definitely read. You may not agree with all of it, but it’s a concept you should think about. Here’s a sample: “20th century news isn’t fit for 21st century society. Yesterday’s approaches to news are failing to educate, enlighten, or inform. The Fourth Estate has fallen into disrepair. It is the news industry itself that commoditized news by racing repeatedly to the bottom. It’s time for a better kind of news. A new generation of innovators is already building 21st century newspapers: nichepapers. The future of journalism arrived right under the industry’s nose.”
Steve Outing’s latest column on E&P’s site goes into detail with a persuasive psychologist on the psychology behind paid content. His expert is Dr. B.J. Fogg, an expert in how technology can be used persuasively and the head of Stanford’s Persuasive Technology Lab. “Often, it seems like the CEOs of newspaper companies are talking only among themselves,” Outing writes, “and not thinking about what the online news consumer wants — or is willing to accept.”
Editor & Publisher reports that the Audit Bureau of Circulations will begin offering a new service for community newspapers, assuming the ABC board officially approves it. The new service is expected to appeal to community newspaper publishers with lower rates and a simplified auditing process.
So if you think the Twitter trend is overplayed or just “don’t get it” when it comes to the microblogging service you’re not alone. A Harris poll indicates 69% of adults don’t know enough about Twitter to have an informed opinion about it. Mashable has the full report posted. If you’re curious about Twitter, just click the Twitter tag under the Topics section on our Around the Web page for some Twitter info.
Here are some stats from NNA that may come in handy for your ad staff. Sorry not to be able to give you a URL on this, but the article I pulled them from is available only to subscribers.
- 41 percent of U.S. adults say newspapers are the medium they used most to check out ads. That’s more than radio, TV, Internet, magazines and catalogs combined.
- Even among those adults who did not read a paper last week, 36 percent — USED a newspaper. Of the non-readers, 19 percent checked sales and local stores, 15 percent clipped a coupon, 14 percent checked the weather, and 10 percent checked movie listings.
- 82 percent of U.S. adults used a preprinted insert in the last month. On average, adults keep inserts 3.8 days.
- 64 percent of U.S. adults prefer to receive coupons in newspapers. 22 percent prefer direct mail and 10 percent prefer the Internet.
- 60 percent of adults prefer to receive inserts in newspapers vs. 29 percent who prefer to get inserts in the mail.
- 80 percent of adults report looking at advertising while reading the paper.
Chi Town Daily News, an online-only Chicago news source, is telling readers how much each story cost them to produce. Donations help support the site, and within the statement at the bottom of each story that tells readers how much the story cost, there’s a link to donate.
Mark Luckie at 10,000 Words has a post about Adobe Flash and journalism and is saying something that isn’t said enough — journalists don’t need to know how to use it. As he says, Flash was all the rage when it came out. But, as we’ve shown in our Web workshops, there are many free online tools that do the exact same thing with far less effort.
The Texas Public Information Act makes it very clear that the salaries of public employees are “public information and not excepted from disclosure” [Texas Local Gov’t Code §552.022(a)] under the act. Specifically, in the section defining categories of information that are public, included are “the name, sex, ethnicity, salary, title, and dates of employment of each employee and officer of a government body”. [Texas Local Gov’t Code §552.022(a)(2)]
A city employee is, of course, an employee of “a municipal governing body in the state,” and is thus subject to the Public Information Act [Texas Local Gov’t Code §552.003(A)(iii)]
The only exception to the categories of public information in §552.022(a) is for records that are “expressly confidential under other law.” No privacy laws specifically make public employee salaries confidential. In fact, the confidentiality exception in 552.022(a) is very narrow; in one hotly-debated example, the Texas Supreme Court construed the confidentiality exception to include reports compiled for ongoing litigation, which are privileged under the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure [see In re City of Georgetown, 53 S.W.3d 328 (2001)].
In that case, current Attorney General Greg Abbott was serving as one of the court’s justices, and he made a telling statement in his dissenting opinion. He disagreed that 552.022(a) should be extended even this far, instead suggesting that the items in this section (which includes public employee salaries) were intended “to create a set of ‘super public’ categories of information to which” other exceptions should not apply. [53 S.W.3d at 341]
The reasoning behind this is obvious. As taxpayers, we fund our government’s activities. It is our business how much our government spends our tax dollars, including how it pays its employees. Nearly every state makes public employee salaries open to inspection, either in the state’s freedom of information laws or through court decisions regarding the law (as was the case in California in 2007, when the state’s supreme court interpreted the Public Records Act to include employee salaries; see International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, Local 21, AFL-CIO v. Superior Court of Alameda County).
On occasion, government employees bristle at this level of openness, particularly when lists of employees’ names and salaries are posted on the Web. In Maine, for example, a bill was introduced in the legislature in April that would make employee salaries confidential, largely in response to a database posted by MaineOpenGov.org. That bill never reached a vote; it was killed unanimously by the legislature’s judiciary committee shortly after the bill was introduced.
If a government body in Texas is denying access to public employee salaries, it must provide a specific confidentiality provision recognized under Texas law that would serve as an exception to the general rule that this information is open under the Texas Public Information Act. If denied on confidentiality grounds, requesters should be sure to ask for the specific code, chapter and section of state law that the government body is relying on as an exception to 552.022(a); a bare assertion of “personal privacy” should not deter this request for information that is specifically deemed open to inspection under Texas law.