5 quick, easy online tricks you can try for football season

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?

  1. 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.
  2. Crowdsource
    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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

By Andrew Chavez

Andrew Chavez is a Web specialist at the Dallas Morning News. Before joining the News, he worked at the Austin American-Statesman and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.