Saturday, 31 March 2007

Multimedia news content tips

Steve Outing at discusses ways to use news content online, but not just on originating sites. We have to move away from thinking of a newspapers output as a two-dimensional nailed down format, particularly in terms of multimedia content.

Apologies for using the whole passage en masse, but it all makes great sense to me at this current stage of newspaper evolution:

Newspaper companies increasingly are moving resources into producing video. Early adopters like have been doing it for years, but now even small newspaper companies are trying their hand at video and going toe-to-toe with local news broadcasters -- or experimenting with new forms of video journalism.

If you're going to the trouble and expense of getting into video news, then make sure you spread it around; don't horde it on your own website and expect that to be enough.

Unlike some of the TV networks these days -- which send out the lawyers when one of their clips gets uploaded to YouTube by zealous fans -- newspaper companies should jump for joy that their video work can be distributed and seen by Youtube's huge audience. Think about getting your video work on multiple video services (there are lots of them).

Important, of course, is effectively incorporating your branding onto the videos. In caption fields, include the URL to get viewers to your website. Include a watermark logo in the video, and an intro that covers who produced this video, and perhaps sponsors.

Just as with newsworthy photos and Flickr, major news video can attract a significant audience on Youtube, et al. Newspaper companies should take advantage of what these online video services can offer in terms of exposure. And don't just tolerate your video work showing up on such services -- actively encourage and promote it!

Thursday, 29 March 2007

Keep your headlines simple

Newspaper headlines in print can be quickly associated and placed in context along with surrounding images, graphics and sub-headings. But frequently online only headlines are are seen initially, meaning their composition is a key to that stories popularity.

The same is true of headlines on newspaper websites or blogs. Headlines need to be sharp, informative and visually strong. Clever play-on-words or sweeping emotive language will distract the reader.

Newspaper headlines in print can be quickly associated and placed in context along with surrounding images, graphics and sub-headings. But online sometimes only headings or headlines are are seen initially, for instance in search engine results or news aggregator sites, meaning their composition is a key to that stories popularity.

Traditional print writing style inverts this informative pyramid style, teasing the reader with emotive language and sparse yet intriguing imagery. But online it has to work the other way. Readers will rarely read long passages on screen, so the most newsworthy facts need to sit in the first three to four paragraphs.

The BBC do this for their news, where the first four paragraphs you read on the BBC News website will also be displayed on Ceefax. An example of reusing content without having to repackage it.

At one point during the film's [Snakes on a Plane] development, New Line altered the title to "Pacific Air Flight 121". Only Samuel L. Jackson's intervention prevented this disastrously-bland alternative from taking hold. In an interview at the start of the year, Jackson explained "I got on the set one day and heard they changed it, and I said, 'What are you doing here?'...They were afraid it gave too much away, and I said, "That's exactly what you should do. When audiences hear it, they say, 'We are there!'"

When users read the titles on your website, do they say the same?

Taken from the newsletter #010 - August 2006.

Just say no to 'hits' measurement

Working in the new media industry I still find it's hard to get people used to measuring online success in terms of 'page impressions' and audience in 'Unique Visitors' (meanings of these below).

I find myself regularly (irritatingly condescendingly) correcting people who talk of 'hits', here's a definition of why hits are dead as a measurement of a web sites success:

"Hits: Requests for any single file on a Web server. A hit can be a request for a Web page or any element of that page, such as an image, a style sheet or an external JavaScript. Therefore, "hits" is a meaningless statistic for measuring Web traffic. A large number of hits on a website might mean that a site uses a lot of images or scripts on its pages, rather than that many people visit the site. "Unique visitors" over a defined period should be used to measure a site's popularity instead."

Measuring website statistics:

  • Page impressions are the number of individual pages that are viewed on your site.

  • Visits are the number of times a person or computer IP address is logged as having visited your site, regardless of how many pages the look at or what they do.

  • Unique Users/Visitors are all the individual visitors to your site, if they visit more than once it still only counts as the same Unique Visitor of the chosen time period.

From the Online Journalism Review.

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

What will newspapers look like in 5 years?

Tabloids, supplements, give-aways, all have been tried to keep people buying newspapers over the last few years but news consumption is still in flux.

The tide is slowly turning against the printed newspaper, although it's death I suggest is not upon us.

The evolution and expansion of television and online news has given the public a constant output of rolling news coverage.

The printed word has its obvious limitations in the digital world, which leaves newspapers facing up to the possibility that their time as the news source of choice will fade.

That leaves newspapers with the job of producing websites that not only give users what they want, when they want it; as well as being a platform for expanding in the future; but also enable the editorial team to effectively and efficiently update the site.

The newspaper website

Newspapers in print, may have to trim down their output, while the quantity of constantly updated short sharp news is available online, a quality in-depth print product, filled with comment, opinion, features and measured commentary is published less frequently, maybe not even daily at regional level.

Part of the project for newspaper websites is a web standard design, layout, usability, accessibility and solid information architecture, but these depend on a clean and efficient backend of the site.

If old legacy code and creaky databases remain, producing interactive, multimedia friendly, well-designed pages will be hard, long and expensive work in the long-term.

The 24/7 editorial strategy

As revenue becomes tight at newspaper titles, staff and resources are cut and centralised, but the editorial team must remain strong and feel that they have some hope in a digital news future.

As The Guardian staff are now debating it sounds like a huge leap into multimedia 24/7 news coverage from working to print deadlines.

It is possible, with the right systems support and multimedia resources in place to streamline the editorial process, for the news team, with some realistic, quality training, can develop content skills to include relevant multimedia narrative tools to keep the modern news viewer's needs fulfilled.

There's no worn path for newspapers to tread in the digital world, so research, advice and a realistic approach is needed, along with a deep breath before making the leap!

The BBC are setting the standard for digital news as you would expect with the burden of making a profit lifted form their agenda, while newspapers, both national and local need to find their niches and their own distinctive voices. If they can do this efficiently and work out how to make some money along the way, then a digital strategy may keep them afloat.