Sunday, 29 September 2013

My 'interesting reads' roundup (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Definitely NOT another 'How Journalists Should Use Pinterest' post.

I've read various articles recently about Why Companies Should Be Using Pinterest (I haven't saved any of them, but Zemanta will no doubt provide the latest selection as I write this - it's like trying to put down a hydra). 
However, any social media wrangler in a newsroom knows a site has to be proven earn its keep before more than tentative attention is invested. And how do you even start to overcome this chicken/egg scenario? It's a Google+ sized problem for most of us. 
But this week I was asked to share some of my tips for using it, and as I started to set them down I realised that I wasn't thinking about how to use it as a journalist and 'drive audience' I was writing out my learnings as a user. I've set up various accounts and boards on titles I've worked on but I also use it myself, for all sorts of things.  "My name is Alison, and I'm a Pinner".
I found it very useful as a student, for example and these are the boards that consistently pick up followers because they're really niche (that was my first learning outcome).

I like Pinterest for sharing and driving lifestyle and Buzzfeed-style traffic - it’s easy to create boards, followers - once secured - are loyal; every time they log in, your content is highly visible, as it displays automatically on their homepage. But although it's a visual site, Pinterest is branching out, as it announced this week

Articles will now have more information - including the headline, author, story description and link - right on the pin. So when you find articles about things you're passionate about... they're easier to save and organise. 

And share, it should add. I like the idea; it takes away some of the issues around Pinterest's laid-back (to say the least) attitude towards ownership and copyright; it does have a certain 'if the user doesn't care, why should we?' attitude towards that. 

Thinking about how I use Pinterest (ie. without my work hat on) gave me some ideas about how you can use it with your work hat on. So here are some of my tips on getting the most out of Pinterest, written with my enthusiast's hat on. This is definitely NOT another 'How Journalists Should Use Pinterest' set of tips: 

1. Spend some minutes through the day reviewing - you can see at a glance what’s hot (bit like Twitter’s trending list. 

2. Linking your social media accounts to follow mutual users offers a quick if haphazard community base that you can build on and tweak as you go. These people are already engaged with you on other platforms and are so likely to be interested in the visuals you pin 

3. It is female oriented, but there are football clubs doing their thing with success. Pinning badges with slogans and inspirational quotes from club heroes, that link through to more visual content, is likely to be more shared.

4. Joining a group (also called a community) board (you need to be invited to do so) dramatically boosts your own followers and drives repins when you’re starting out. 

There is a basic directory of group boards but there's nothing as useful or discovery-linked as, say, Twello. 

You might need to do some speculative following and emailing of your appropriate pins to get invited to the board but once you do, repin numbers can shoot up. I was invited to join a popular 'Home' board courtesy of my 'Next Home Ideas' board - and my follower numbers have consistently grown since then for other boards too. 

5. Pinterest users may not realise it, but they are a content farmer’s dream. People will use the search facility to look for ‘cute puppy’ ‘lose weight fast’ ‘10 amazing [whatever] facts’. It's like e-How, but actually not annoying. 

6. A feature in print about someone who’d lost 10 stone for their wedding, that was pinned as ‘lose weight for your wedding, fast’ works across the Alpha Female categories of Food&Drink, Health&Fitness and Weddings, and is a quick, permanent, win.

7. Category boards search is your friend. If the audience isn’t using search, they go straight to the categories list.
Pinterest categories that attract significant followers and repins are all around lifestyle -

Home Decor, Animals, Food&Drink, Health&Fitness (just look a the Popular category to see just how much) and after that probably Hair&Beauty, Weddings and Women’s Fashion with maybe Travel too. 

These give you access to people who are motivated to re-pin and share content, possibly it in smaller niche numbers but pins around celeb fashion and how to replicate it have worked well for me in the past. 

8. Pinterest categories are alphabetised so Animals is the first category anyone browsing the site sees. A great board of regularly updated, pinned animal pix linking to stories will capture the idle browser and also build up followers quickly.
It doesn’t have to be about cute puppies - true life stories are hugely shareable (although if you find yourself welling up at the amazingness of US animals, I advise running the tale - tail? - through before you believe a word) as people like to add their own comments under the pin. It also means you get user engagement and comments to reverse publish if desired.

9. Don't beware Geeks; they bring gifts of audience and sharing. The Geek category is very engaged. Doctor Who, Sherlock, Harry Potter, nerd affirmations... all these things are shared repeatedly. For newspapers with access to celebrity interviews, film reviews etc, or photogenic locations where shows or films beloved of the Geeks have been shot or have featured (hello, Cardiff!) it's, well, a gift.

10. Embedding pins within your own CMS allows you the opportunity to invite your audience back over to Pinterest to discover stories they might have previously missed, sign up, start following you, etc etc.

11. Because Pinterest has integrated Facebook login options and actively encourages users to follow that route, a user has to opt out of it cross-posting their activity onto their Facebook stream. And I guess there are many, many pinners who simply miss the 'Skip' option Facebook hands them.
So, from a media point of view, there's the potential of hitting two new audiences when someone repins you - once on Pinterest, and once on their Facebook profile.

12. Finally, adding the ‘pin it’ button to your bookmarks bar is the fastest way to pin something to your boards quickly from the Record site. It’s here under the apps. It makes life a lot easier!
And you can also add a Pinterest widget button to let users pin your stories off the site, of course, should your developers be feeling kindly disposed towards doing some coding.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, 23 September 2013

Sometimes you don't realise how fundamental a change has been

Shift happens. Sometimes, maybe, more than we realise. 

Today, I reflected on just how much, and how quickly, in the general scheme of things. The Daily Post notched up its 50,000th edition today, and we made quite a big deal of the fact. 
There was a front and back wrap, comprising a montage of historic front pages, and an 8-page pullout of which my favourite contribution was by Head of Production, Neil Avery, charting a day in the life of the Post. 
I like it because it sets out in increments of time just how the daily life of our newsroom has changed, in a fairly short time; the Post has shifted from a print identity with a companion website to a multi-platform publication which operates in real time as much as possible.

Ignoring the computers and production systems for a moment, if an early 20th Century Daily Post editor had access to a time machine, and zapped himself forward to today he would still recognise he was in a newsroom. 
And he would still recognise the general set up and operation of part of that newsroom - discussions around story angles, photos, and headlines pretty much follow the same patterns, after all. 
But how much else would be alien? Pages being whizzed remotely to a printing press, the night editor's final task of his shift - exporting of xml to create the tablet app, live tweeting, live blog interviews, photos being pinged to the head of images via Dropbox from reporters' phones... these are just a tiny fraction of the changes you see in our newsroom today. But the Post is just my example, because I work here and see it - it's not unique. Such changes are happening everywhere in local newsrooms, and I'd imagine the timespan and accelerated shift is similar.

And yet, if you consider the lifespan of the average UK regional daily newspaper as a clock, these are changes that have happened in just a few minutes. For years there was the status quo for titles and their staff and now, suddenly, there has been this snap and a new phase begins. One in which audience is far more at the heart of what we do, I'd suggest. 
Anyway, of all the lovely tweets we received today (and I've storified many of them because they show how important local journalism is to many people) this one made me particularly happy:

Happy birthday, Daily Post. I am so proud to be a tiny piece of your history.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Women in journalism and management - some thoughts

I spent much of 2011/12 slogging towards an MA in Journalism Leadership with UCLan - a commitment that, while I cherish the end result and happily wore the Hat of Weirdness on graduation day, isn't something I'd advise anyone to combine with moving jobs (twice) and home (twice). 

As part of my chosen research, which was on the emerging role of the editor - something I plan to blog about over the next few posts - the subject of mentors kept cropping up. 
It also came up as part of one of the course modules, and it's quite challenging to find yourself having to think back over a fairly long career and answer questions such as: 

  • Who was your mentor?
  • Did you seek unofficial mentors if you weren't allocated one?
  • Does your company have a mentor programme?
  • Are you a mentor?
  • If so, how does your role work?

At the time we had the discussion I said that, no, I'd never had an official mentor; however, on reflecting afterwards I remembered there was once a bloke (not a journalist, but a manager) assigned to me as part of a work mentor scheme in Southampton years ago.
I had one email off him and then he left the business. End of story. 

So much for my official mentor experience. I've always sought out my own role models anyway, and there have been plenty of editors and deputies who have helped me (or hauled me) up the slippery rungs of management.
However, there have been times in my career path when I really would have appreciated a female executive - role model, mentor, whatever - to discuss things with, and you know what? There wasn't one. 
I don't mean there wasn't one I could talk to, I mean there was no one in a senior management role who could help a young female journo new to management with some friendly encouragement. 
I finally worked with my first female assistant editor when I joined the South Wales Argus, and met the first female newspaper editor of my career when I joined the Liverpool Echo, where we shared an office with the Liverpool Daily Post, then edited by Jane Wolstenholme (now a successful author). 

I've worked with plenty of female newsdesk peers who I could throw ideas around with, but senior editorial management was a female desert for a sizable chunk of my career.  
I was reminded of this when someone included my @-name in a tweet to the Reuters 'Women and Journalism study' as a female editor, although actually, this study is about the national newspapers. 
Anyway, reading a summary of the study I see the question is raised about the high numbers of aspiring female journalists: "There are all these women coming in - but where do they go?” 
Press Gazette notes:

Franks found that where women have built successful careers in journalism, it tends to be in the lifestyle areas. Meanwhile, politics, news, comment and opinion remain largely the preserve of men. 
“I was surprised by the segregation by genre and subject matter,” Franks said. “All the old stereotypes hold on just as much as they ever did. You think these things are breaking down but this is not the case. It is altogether pretty shocking.”
Women are, however, relatively more prominent in business and finance reporting. Another area where female journalists have found a voice is in war and conflict reporting.

So, obviously, women in journalism is a subject that is relevant to mah interests, as they say, and so I went back to my Diigo bookmarks to see what else I'd squirrelled away., 
There's this, on the number of women newsroom leaders in college publications, and  this, from the American Journalism Review, entitled Do Women Lead Differently? which is a response (about a response) to an interview with NYT executive editor Jill Abramson, who said gender had nothing to do with how a paper was edited.

Among her points were:
"The idea that women journalists bring a different taste in stories or sensibility isn’t true. I think everybody here recognizes and loves a good story."
In AJR, there were mixed views from other female editorial executives, including Anna Marie Lipinski, editor of the Chicago Tribune
"I think it's true we're all identical in loving a good story, but not all editors will define a good story identically... Do I think gender plays a role in that case? I suspect at times it does. Being a woman gives you access to some experiences in life that men don't have, just as the reverse is true."
Anyway, as I'm a) female and b) an editor, I'm interested in the topic.
FWIW I'm in the Abramson camp: People edit differently; you're influenced by life experiences. Also, I'm definitely NOT the sort of editor who hugs, as cited in AJR. I would be greatly discombobulated to see an editor hug a journo, unless it was at a pub, at said journo's leaving bash, and alcohol was heavily involved.

Over the past several years as I've progressed, the fall-off of women at senior levels of journalism was something I noticed. 
Up to, say, department head level, there are many women managers. But it does thin out as you get past that layer of strata, and it's not a simple case of subscribing it to their leaving for family reasons, as HBR's Sarah Green writes in her article on the subject:'s not exactly that there's a glass ceiling (or a glass cliff, or a maternal wall): the days of blatant discrimination are (mostly) behind us. Today, it's more like a glass obstacle course of a hundred hard-to-see hurdles.
On the subject of HBR, I'd also recommend the linkfest of research that is Tell Me Something I Don't Know About Women in the Workplace.

I hadn't thought of the obstacle course comparison before and from a 'women as editors' point of view, I would have said the regionals doing much better than the nationals until recently. From announcements on industry websites, it does seem as though a number of women who edited dailies titles have moved on to other things. 

I know several female executive or deputy editors and news editors, and a few editors of websites or weekly newspapers.
I believe the rapid growth of digital in our newsrooms has enabled many women journalists - I'd put myself among them - to advance their careers in directions that simply didn't exist seven years ago. 
But I also know that the only Society of Editors conference I ever attended (2010) was particularly memorable - from my point of view, at least - because out of of all the editors and senior editorial types (by which I mean actually producing publications) put up to speak or participate in panel debates, only one was a woman, and she subsequently left the industry. So is this an issue or am I over-thinking it? Are women really not making it to the tops of the mainstream press tree in the numbers they should be? This post has some of my thoughts on the matter - I'd love to hear yours.

* Loise and Clarke illustration by Webcomicfan 

Related articles
Enhanced by Zemanta

Sunday, 15 September 2013

My 'interesting reads' roundup (weekly)

  • This would be my list too: "Employers and recent graduates are telling me that the current job market demands that job applicants know: Multimedia storytelling skills. Producing slideshows with sound, shooting and editing video and photos, writing for the web. Data and statistical skills for storytelling. Collecting, editing, analyzing and interpreting data to produce compelling interactive maps and graphics. Audience development skills (formerly known as marketing and circulation) such as managing online communities, interpreting data on audience behavior, crowdsourcing for information, interacting with the audience. Basics of programming. How to create compelling pages that attract web audiences. The business of media. Journalists can help a news organization generate revenues without compromising their ethics, and today that skill is more important than ever."

    tags: skills journalism

  • "During the last decades, the digital evolution has opened the possibilities of sending personalised content to many receivers. A combined user data unit/developer team/newsroom could create, if not individualised news feeds, then at least more personalised selections, serving relevant content and services at the right time. You’d be doing that, if you had one of those newsrooms. But most of you don’t."

    tags: audience engagement innovation

  • " lets you extract data from any website into a spreadsheet simply by mousing over a few rows of information."

    tags: data scraping journalism

  • Including some essential advice for those about to Newsjack... Choose a trending topic. Blog about it. Tweet it (using the established hashtag). Don't be a moron (e.g., don't try to capitalize on tragedy)."

    tags: google seo

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

My 'interesting reads' roundup (weekly)

  • Agreed. "First, it’s not a given that today’s big journalism “brands” will go under: they face a horribly difficult task of adapting to radically changed circumstances but institutions will not fall. That’s what happens in deep disruption: some organisations adapt and survive, some don’t. Second, the insurgents of news publishing fully intend to become the giants of the future. A few will, most won’t. In America, where newspaper income fell faster than in Europe (largely because profitability rested more heavily on small ads), there is now a solid if small group of online news businesses which cannot yet match the giants of print but have a viable business – and have done so for several years. The poster girl for this group is the Huffington Post, but there are a cluster of other sites which have been in existence for a decade or more, don’t depend on grants or philanthropy and have a base of income and users solidly built."

    tags: future+of+newspapers

    • Journalists tend to confuse journalism with major daily papers. The “golden age” of newspaper journalism in the second half of the 20th century was, in reality, a long commercial decline. British national papers reached their peak total circulation in the early 1950s; the Daily Mirror’s highest sale ever was in 1966.
  • Heartfelt piece on what it's like to lose the job you love. But I don't believe in the death of journalism; I do believe journalism will change but that doesn't mean it disappears. Nevertheless, a good read. "We all know that the clock is ticking. Even Rupert Murdoch knows that the clock is ticking. During the Leveson report, he gave newspapers five to ten years. When I was asked, last autumn, to speak about Leveson at the Battle of Ideas, I tried to think about what newspapers should and shouldn’t do, and what readers should and shouldn’t want, but actually all I could think was this: we are fiddling while Rome burns."

    tags: future+of+newspapers

  • Honest and darkly funny account of what happens when the wheels fall off. IT really does not come out of this well. "I created something based on what I read on the web, not based in reality. I ticked off the list with things other people told me I would need. I did not take the company culture into account. I did not secure executive sponsorship. I did not look at realistic, measurable goals based on the capabilities of the company. I did not create a compelling story for what I was trying to accomplish and I did not use the company business plan as a guide."

    tags: social social media marketing

  • On the one hand I think it's amazingly cool, on the other I'm pretty sure that within 24 months it will be considered old tech. The pace at which developments happen still amazes and delights me. "Developed by biometric technology company Bionym Inc., the Nymi wristband identifies its wearer by their heartbeat and uses it as a password for multiple devices, from a computer to a car. The Nymi technology is based on the fact that “like a fingerprint, your heartbeat is unique”—after putting on the Nymi wristband and activating it, you stay authenticated with your devices until you take it off. "

    tags: passwords security futureofmedia

  • Interesting read on the perceived differences between foreign correspondents, and journalists parachuted in by newsdesks to cover conflict. “Here in the journalists hostel there are lots of jackets hanging on the ends of beds with too many pockets and zips. One Japanese guy has a metal helmet with ‘PRESS’ written in large letters across the front in white Typewriter correction fluid. Some of them laugh during the night in their sleep. Is there something funny going on here, in Jerusalem, during this second Intifada? Maybe it’s just an escape. Maybe not though, perhaps they’re just insane. War clearly sucks but the core of western journalists who report on it seem to consist mainly of people who have no concept of the seriousness of the situation they’re involved in."

    tags: journalists journalism

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

My 'interesting reads' roundup (weekly)

  • A lovely read from The Awl, with some great, good-humoured responses from those early adopters who found their Twitter handle backfired on them a little. "Jeb Boniakowski is one of the lucky few people who possess a short, apposite Twitter handle directly related to his name: he's just @jeb. He’s also one of the unlucky people who happens to share his Twitter name with someone or something else that people tend to tweet at on accident."

    tags: twitter social media awl

  • A definite Interesting Read on analytics, why they rock... and why they aren't always your friend. "There’s nothing like a dashboard full of data and graphs and trend lines to make us feel like grown ups. Like people who know what they’re doing. So even though we’re not getting any real use out of it, it’s addictive and we can’t stop doing it. But after a while you just don’t get quite the same high from your dashboards that you used to. You’ve habituated. We still look at Google Analytics, but at this point metrics like “unique monthly visitors” bore us. They were always useless, but now they’ve stopped being fun, too."

    tags: analytics audience engagement

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.