Editorchat’s Blog

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What We’re Talking About on #editorchat 4/1

with 8 comments

We’re not going the April Fools route today – this edition of #editorchat will be the real deal.

After stimulating discussions on the digital divide and the future of media led by BusinessWeek’s John Byrne in our last #editorchat, Tim and I decided to keep that conversation going in a multi-part series. A Pew study indicates that writers of online content are more optimistic than their print peers. So, if we ride that optimism and agree that the online realm is the wave of the publishing future, the next item up for discussion is: what are the necessary innovation(s) writers and editors must make to produce profitable business models.

The questions we have for this week are:

When creating online content, should writers have to become SEO experts, in order to craft stories that can be searchable to gain readership?

Editors: How important are embedded links in stories? Do you encourage links to other sites or only back to your own content?

The most successful online publishing is community-oriented, which is by nature, more conversational. Writers and editors, how informal can your stories be? Are first person accounts really that engaging?

What innovations have you seen work? What hasn’t?

Editors: Are you getting pressure from your publishers to be more innovative with information gathering, presentation, and style?

As always, we welcome additions to this list. Please post them as a comment and if we don’t get to it this week, we’ll pick it up next time.

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Written by LydiaBreakfast

April 1, 2009 at 4:12 pm

8 Responses

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  1. Can you create destination content where readers will come regularly?

    Is there anyway ever to overcome the idea that no one will pay for content online?

    How do you create enough value in your content that other sources of distribution (iTunes, Amazon, Facebook, Google) might pay you for it in order to make it available to their audiences?

    edwardboches

    April 1, 2009 at 7:26 pm

  2. If you are interested in the future of long-form journalism (8,000 words or more) here are two important highlights from an amazing keynote address from New York Times Magazine editor Gerald Marzorati at the 2009 CASE Editors’ Forum:

    “A typical cover story in the Times Magazine, when you add up what we pay the author and what the expenses for travel are – -and this leaves out the editing and fact-checking costs, the photography, and so on – – the tally is north of $40,000, and often, if a war zone is involved, considerably more. Do we still have the time to report and read such pieces? And will we have the money? If the reader is an on-line reader, paying nothing, who is going to foot the bill?”

    “…at the Times Magazine site our most popular pieces are the longest.

    And we are doing some interesting things of late to enhance their reading – or it it viewing? – experience. We sprinkle links throughout the on-line versions of our pieces, embed video form time to time in the text, provide a space for reader comments and often have the author of that week’s cover story available on the site to take questions for a few days. We’ve also gotten into the habit of putting a particularly topical piece up on-line early – several days before the Sunday print magazine – in order to generate interest from bloggers and more mainstream outlets like NPR and the Today Show. This sort of publicity can , in turn, generate a conversation that drives readers to the print publication. We editors are all publishers and publicists now, too – no more of that just sitting with a pencil in your office stuff – and I’m OK with that, if the work I and my staff have worked hard to create and believe strongly in gets before more eyeballs as a result.”

    The whole thing is here: http://case.typepad.com/case_editors_forum_2009/2009/03/gerry-marzorati-on-the-future-of-longform-narrative.html

    editorchat

    April 1, 2009 at 8:53 pm

  3. One more excerpt from Marzorati’s story:

    “…During the 1970s, John Hersey had written a cover story for the Times Magazine on President Ford and in the course of reporting it had spent a week in the White House. Hughes reached into her briefcase and pulled out the current issue of Time magazine with a portrait of Bush on the cover. “You know how much time they got with the President for their cover story? She asked, and grinned, coolly. “Fifteen minutes on Air Force One.”

    So it isn’t just the form — i.e.,the Web — that tugs at the collar of narrative journalism but also sources and their handlers, who limit access. Seems to me that we need innovation more than ever.

    milehighfool

    April 1, 2009 at 9:34 pm

  4. You should put the #editorchat time (and place) on the sidebar so people know when it’s on.

    Charles

    April 1, 2009 at 11:47 pm

  5. Sorry to have missed much of tonight’s live #editorchat. The questions you posed tonight were both deep and provocative. Tough to answer in 140 characters or less, especially including links.

    Here’s my two cents. (Note: The following are my own opinions, based upon my experience online to date. They should not be taken to represent those of my colleagues, editors, publisher or employer.)

    “When creating online content, should writers have to become SEO experts, in order to craft stories that can be searchable to gain readership?”

    I don’t know about “expert” — but the reality of an online world navigating by search means that you must consider how a reader will find your content.

    Community-filters with “meta juice” that leverage the aggrrgate voting or bookmarking of links could change that game. Web platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Digg and Delicious — and aggegators of the most popular content of those serves, like popurls.com — have become quite useful venues for finding and sharing information.

    You’ll note Google has begun indexing and including real-time search results from Twitter in the top search results for certain terms.

    That said, increasingly the world sees the Internet through the prism of the search field. Until that subtantially changes, editors, reporters and publishers must do a minimum of due diligence on optimizing content for search engines. There are freely available keyword analyzers, tutorials and other educational resources for journalists that need to get up to speed quickly.

    “Editors: How important are embedded links in stories? Do you encourage links to other sites or only back to your own content?”

    Extremely important. Link to the most relevant resources online for your chosen keyword phrase with the keywords in the text of the link (remember SEO), keeping in mind what information your reader might find most useful in learning more about the subject of the story. That might be your content if you’ve covered the story before. More than likely, however, there will be many other relevant links that will be helpful. For instance, the NYT has been experimenting with sidebars that include relevant blog posts in stories.

    I encourage links to the most relevant content on the Web. Keep in mind, however, that I’d do so as a writer/editor, not a publisher. Linking to a direct competitor’s content with good SEO principles could help to elevate that URL above your own in search. A publisher might prefer to link to websites that also practice similar practices and link back. Given the competition in online media for search results placement, that reciprocity may not always be forthcoming.

    “The most successful online publishing is community-oriented, which is by nature, more conversational. Writers and editors, how informal can your stories be? Are first person accounts really that engaging?”

    I think the level of informality will vary by beat. Sports, entertainment, arts and music reporters, by virtue of the venues and subjects involved, will be able to approach telling stories differently than business, law, medicine or war journalists. Some subjects don’t bear anything less than sober professionalism. I think cable news has actually shown online journalists the way on that count. Viewers and readers expect a minimum of professionalism in reporting and expect that the journalist will act as a surrogate for them, writing accurately from a NPOV. The nature of the online medium, especially when you “friend” or “follow” someone personally, does mean that you may end up being more connected to a particular source than an outlet.

    “What innovations have you seen work? What hasn’t?”

    TimesSelect didn’t seem to work well for the Times. I’m not sure than advertising or sponsorships alone will support a vibrant online newspaper, especially for long-form investigative reporting. Information itself has become a commodity. Traffic, attention and revenue should go to either those most skills in gathering it or aggregating and analyzing it. If you look at the top ten tech blogs, you’ll see ample evidence of both of those trends. Small, nimble teams of writers that are both hyper-informed about a beat are making a go of it for Gawker Media, The AOL blog network, independently or as part of growing stables at media conglomerates. Those distributed teams use all the tools of the digital trade to gather information, communicate, collaborate, and syndicate content.

    Those digital journalism tools now include Skype, IM, email, Google Apps, video cameras and audio recorders, Twitter, social news platforms, smartphones, RSS & RSS readers, alerts, SEO tools and data analytics software, along with a good old pad and paper for when the battery runs out or there’s no Internet connectivity.

    I’m particularly curious to see how the Christian Science Monitor’s hybrid approach works: 24/7/365 online news for a global audience that numbers in the millions combined with a weekly review that analyzes the issues in depth for those willing to pay for it.

    I’m also curious to see how Scott Carp’s Publish2 link journalism plaform works out for gathering and sharing information within a social network of journalists, along with whatever other

    “Editors: Are you getting pressure from your publishers to be more innovative with information gathering, presentation, and style?”

    Yes.

    Alexander B. Howard

    April 2, 2009 at 2:18 am

    • Alexander:
      Thanks so much for your thoughtful responses – we are thrilled that you found the questions provocative and took the time to leave us your comments. I (Lydia) too, am curious to see how CSM will stand or fall with their new model. But I could say that about the entire industry at this point. The only thing for sure, I believe, is that those who are willing to be open to community, even if it means embracing competitors where there is synergy, will be the leaders of the new age.

      editorchat

      April 2, 2009 at 12:26 pm

  6. “A Pew study indicates that writers of online content are more optimistic than their print peers.”

    I’d love to see a link to this study. Went to the Pew site, and couldn’t find anything using those keywords.

    Karen

    April 2, 2009 at 6:17 pm

  7. Hi Karen,

    I (Tim here) promised a link to this last night during the chat. My apologies for the delay, here it is:

    http://pewresearch.org/pubs/1172/online-journalists-optimistic-about-revenues-worried-about-news-quality

    Thanks for joining us.

    editorchat

    April 2, 2009 at 7:37 pm


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