BERKELEY, CALIF. — With MediaShift, I’ve always had a plan to add video and audio along with all the text reports I do here. As I want to “walk my talk” about media outlets using multimedia, I felt it made sense to do them myself. This week, I’ll be auditing a week-long boot camp in multimedia training at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley. It’s a training run by the Knight Digital Media Center.
Not only will I be doing the training, but I’ll also have the chance to live-blog the sessions and share them with my readers here. I won’t be covering the entire week, but will try to write about topics that will resonate with the MediaShift audience. (You can also see live webcasts here.)
Today, Sunday, started at 2 pm with a reception at the J-school’s library. The other trainees all work at small, medium and large newspapers around the country, with a few coming from magazines and broadcasters. The idea is for everyone to learn more about doing interactive projects, shooting video, editing audio and video, while also hearing from expert speakers.
Cit-J, Community, Mashups and Mobile
The first panel is called, “Cit-J, Community, Mashups and Mobile: How a Newspaper Company Becomes a New Media Company.” The focus is on the Bakersfield Californian newspaper site, which has had success doing citizen journalism with the Northwest Voice and other neighborhood print publications culled from citizen contributions online.
Jennifer Baldwin is “contributions editor” of the paper, and is in charge of working with community members and getting them active in contributing text, photos and video to the site. (I’ve added bold emphasis below when paraphrasing the speakers.)
Baldwin: How do you get buy-in from your staff when it looks like you’re trying to replace them? I talked to reporters and editors and explained what I was trying to do. They realized that it helps empower the audience. User-generated content isn’t going to replace them; it just augments their reporting. I go to all the budget meetings and look for opportunities. The key is to have someone champion your project in the newsroom, someone like me in charge of citizen journalism or user-generated content.
Get out in the community and meet people and encourage them to submit stories and news releases and photos from their events. Some communities don’t have access to technology — older people, poorer people — so help facilitate for them. I’ll post things if they can’t do it.
A big part of what I do is check stories submitted by the public, verifying identities, etc. There’s also bad poetry you have to go through. You can’t run everything in print that people submit. People don’t want to have their stuff just online; they want to be in the paper. I sometimes have to convince them that we have a lot of traffic on our site.
I want to encourage people to send in more breaking news to us. We get a lot of features but not as much breaking stories. If you see a car accident, take a photo and send it along to us. The TV stations have been doing this and we need to compete with that.
Just last February, we reorganized our newsroom into an informational hub. We used to have reporters and editors working in their own world deciding what got in the paper and there was no cohesive discussion on how it would look online. So we’ve created a hub system with all our front end information creation people broken into teams. So they are reporting for the web as if it was a wire service. In our morning meeting, we talk about how we’re going to do reports for the web.
And then the editors are grabbing the content and putting it on the web. The amount of work being done on the front end is really shocking. People are really apprehensive about it, but now they are reporting the heck out of everything, posting things on the blogs, doing audio and video and it’s been a real transformation in our newsroom.
Jason Sperber is community content coordinator at the Bakersfield Californian.
Sperber: You get more page views from doing community projects. It’s no longer the norm that we’re giving information and people are getting it. People now expect not only to talk back at a website but talk first. With user-generated content, you can get sources and feedback from the community that you wouldn’t have got previously. Now, you become the host for that dialogue and discussion.
We now have the “Bakatopia” brand, created as a hedge against Craigslist. But what caught fire wasn’t the free classifieds, but the early adopters who liked music and more edgy content. Communities will happen anyway online. If you don’t do it, someone else will get those voices or page views or loyalty.
The biggest thing is that interactivity = people. Some folks think it’s about technology or hiring someone to filter comments. Some people think you need to moderate every comment and you get a huge queue of comments for a couple days. The Bakersfield Californian took a big step by creating my job to have a full-time person working on this.
Use automated filters, and also use the human touch. Don’t rely on the automated filters, you also need to get in touch with people, and have people help flag comments. If you can get them to buy into the idea that this is their community, then they need to do something about it. It’s very powerful to see people step up and police their own community.
(Talks about rules for commenting, and I notice that the Californian’s rules are almost exactly the same as the ones on MediaShift. Sperber then admits that he stole them from me, and says, ‘It’s good to steal from the best.’ Nice one.)
We’ve also created niche social networking sites, broken down by neighborhood, subculture, ethnicity, and even targeted marketing. They can share information and even meet in real life. With targeted marketing, we’ve learned that we need to find new ways of finding small businesses, and find ways for them to reach niche people in our community. So we’re trying to combine print and web advertising to reach local parents. I highly recommend the book, “Here Comes Everybody” by Clay Shirky.
Matylda Czarnecka, specialty product manager, Bakersfield Californian.
Czarnecka: I’m a geek so I get excited about this kind of stuff. I’m going to talk about mashups using maps. You can tell a story with a map and it becomes more illustrative than a story alone, or words alone, it’s an exciting way to show things to people. It’s also a different way of navigating sites.
We found out that all the Christmas tree sellers were clustered around freeways. Tools we use regularly include ZeeMaps, QuikMaps and Google’s MyMaps. We have a QuirksMap where people can put in their own quirky landmarks, with contributions from readers. We encourage people to communicate their concerns in a new format.
Tips on doing maps:
> Start small with locator maps (showing where certain news hotspots or businesses are).
> Look for opportunities in daily stories.
> Collaborative maps are easy to start: pre-populate them and watch them grow.
> Experiment with topics, embedded multimedia.
The goal with maps is to help people see what’s happening around town in real time. And by tagging content, you can improve search, and automate inclusion on maps and in RSS feeds. If you can geocode stories with addresses, it will put things on maps automatically.
(Now she turns to talking about mobile.)
Mobile is an opportunity to reach new audiences, especially people who use cell phones and aren’t reading the paper. People have their cell phones with them at all times, so reaching them on that device is powerful.
(Listing of all the SMS alerts the newspaper is sending out: breaking news; events and entertainment; classifieds; freebies and offers; sports scores; job fair reminders.)
We’ve done interactive campaigns with mobile. During a hockey game, people could text in the players they think were best of the game. It had less participation than we thought, but it was an experiment. Sometimes things work well and sometimes they don’t.
The Elton John scavenger hunt exceeded our expectations. People had to go to three different parts of the site and find key words, and we had quite a few people entering that to win tickets to the show. But we also gave away tickets to a basketball game and only one person entered. That person was excited but we wanted more people than that to participate.
We’re also doing “MoPhos” or mobile photos. We started out by asking them for photos from St. Patrick’s Day, and we got a photo of a guy who died his beard and hair green. We sometimes do photos around themes or get random photos of sunsets or pets. It’s another way to get people to interact with us.
We’re now at a dinner and all the “fellows” are introducing themselves and also socializing, chatting about why we’re all here and what we want to get out of this training. I’m noticing that many folks are already doing video and audio work for their sites, while others are complete novices. There’s also varying degrees of fear around technology, with some people being very excited about being the new tech guru at their media outlet and others being less enthralled with it.
(I’ve agreed not to quote the fellows directly here on the blog without getting their permission first, so that they can speak openly about their work situations.)
The final session for today is called “Web-centric Journalism, Shells and Storyboards,” the first real training session with UC Berkeley lecturer Jane Stevens and UC Berkeley new media director Paul Grabowicz (who’s also a blogger on MediaShift Idea Lab).
Jane Stevens: We are in the early years of webcentric journalism. The shift started happening around 2002. A few years before that, news organizations thought that their websites would be totally separate from print. Some of them still have their web staffs separate from print.
You need to think about being web-first and web-centric. Even though the print product is the cash cow, and still will be, people say the tipping point for the web will be in 2012 to 2015, and that’s not that far away. At that point there will be more advertising going to web that print.
Part of what we do here is training and part of it is getting you to think about how your organization will make the transition. Bad news: 2,400 newsroom jobs were lost in 2007. Every couple weeks you hear about layoffs and buyouts. (A bell tolls in the background, leading people to start laughing.) Good news: Transition to online journalism continues, including Grist, Marketwatch, Slate, ProPublica, St. Louis Beacon, Stateline.org, MinnPost, Salon, Chi-Town Daily News.
The key to success is understanding the medium. We’ve been grappling with the nature of the web because we’re so tied to what we’re used to in legacy media. What we know so far is that the web is: contextual or immersive, reflecting our lives in no way any other medium has done before; immediate and continuous; solution-oriented; participatory; webcentric storytelling.
It’s not an audience anymore, it’s a community. We really need to think about serving the community in ways we’ve never done before. Webcentric storytelling is some combination of video and audio and still photos and text in an interactive environment in which each of these media is complementary and not redundant. We chose feature stories that you (the fellows) will tell so you can decide on the complexity and the medium.
People in news organizations get stuck on having a multimedia section, when it’s really just a story. Yes, there’s a place for YouTube and all the video on your site but that’s a browsing function. A lot of news organizations, if they do have a blog, they have the reporters do the blog and they also do stories outside the blog. Why aren’t those stories on the blog? To have a separate story that’s just text doesn’t make sense in this arena.
(Shows LA Times Homicide Report blog.)
This was a very difficult undertaking for the Times to cover every single homicide in the area. It’s one of the most popular blogs on the LATimes.com site. It’s not just the shootings, but occasionally there are follow-up stories, like when they showed the consequences to a shooting, a mother’s reaction to her son’s being shot. This woman was a basket case for months and couldn’t work.
I think they should just run this blog in a strip in the print paper. But they haven’t done it yet. There’s just no interest. (Fellows in the audience can’t figure out why they wouldn’t do that if it’s so popular.)
(Shows SeattlePI.com traffic page.)
It has live webcams, a list of accidents, links to government sites. There’s a commute calculator, that’s almost a game, but it’s useful because it helps you decide which is cheaper — driving to work or taking public transport. This is what I call a web shell. It’s like an oyster shell. It has to have a way to link out to the rest of the world. A shell does all that for a particular topic.
I’ll show you a good shell at the BBC for special reports. This came about because the for-profit companies said the BBC is public so their site should link to us. The BBC lost that fight and said they would link to everybody and would make a place on the site that focuses on one issue or beat and put everything there. It will have links, photos from people, backgrounders, timelines. Sure enough, it worked and their traffic went up.
The new journalist has to be smarter, actually three people: a reporter, database programmer and infographics expert. You can use Swivel to create your own graphics and embed them onto your site. You can build graphics and share them. Google Maps Mania is a terrific site to get ideas. For example, AirFox Live is a helicopter with TV crew so you can watch their video and track them on a map at the same time.
Newser has a nice way of presenting stories and has a “hot threads” function so that anyone in the Newser community can build their own shell. It enables your community to build sub-shells.
Games are also important for webcentric storytelling. Here’s a game I did about leatherback turtles. We had more than 3 million page views and it went viral in the blogosphere. We tracked the migration of all these sea turtles to find out which one would make it to the destination first. Plus it was mentioned on “The Colbert Report” because one turtle was named “Stephanie Colburtle.” We did the traditional web storytelling with a leatherback virtual world where you could learn more. It actually became a popular bet on a sports betting site too.
(She does a run down of all the sites CBSSports.com has grabbed such as MaxPreps and CSTV and how they have captured a lot of sports sites and social networks that newspapers missed out on.)
Tributes.com site just launched two weeks ago. They are saying that obituaries are the last classified to move online. It’s an amazing site. They have recent famous people who have died, and a page on the recent China earthquake. Plus there are people who died a long time ago. It’s totally user-generated. It’s free for families and supported by funeral homes. (Q: Do they have a death pool? [laughter])
There are national tributes for famous people. There’s funeral planning so you can start planning your funeral now. There’s also a longevity calculator so you can start changing your bad habits. It actually gives you good information, and takes you to Eons, a social network for 50-year-olds and older.
It’s important to start thinking about the advertising part of it. When newspapers went corporate, they focused on larger advertisers like Macy’s and forgot the small businesses. And now we want them, and it’s not enough to just say “advertise with us.” Journalists started newspapers and it wasn’t just the news they were concerned about, but they realized this was a place where everyone in the community could put something in it — whether it’s births, weddings, business announcements. What we forgot was that some of the community out there cared more about the ad than the news stories.
The idea is that your community is your advertiser as well. Tributes.com has done this by going vertical about anything related to death. Newspapers have to do this in a geographical way.
Paul Grabowicz: We don’t want to end on a sour note, but we want to say what we think web storytelling is not. Sometimes you’ll see a video next to a print story, where the video is just telling the same story as the text. (Shows SF Chronicle story that does this.) The video has the same quotes, the same background info, the story told in two different mediums.
How many of you are doing podcasts? Someone at our last session called podcasting “radio without listeners.” (Shows NPR site of podcasts.) We’re training all 400-odd of people in NPR in multimedia, so that they aren’t just shoveling things onto the web.
Jeremy Rue (UC Berkeley instructor): We told NPR people to fit storytelling methods they know so well to the medium. No one goes to the web to listen to 28 minutes of audio. They want to see things and click on things.
Grabowicz: The SF Chronicle used to have reporters just reading their stories in audio and putting it on the web. They’ve gotten better. How many of you have been using YouTube for your videos? (Shows TheBostonChannel.com and its YouTube video channel.) This just looks like the 6 pm TV news. They haven’t done anything to alter it for the web.
I think you should distribute video on YouTube but when you do video on the web it’s not the same as doing TV. (Shows Cape Cod Times video site and its CapeCast video show with lots of laffs.) What I love about it is that it’s not the 6 o’clock news. It’s more whacky and entertaining but it’s just television on the Internet.
Then there’s the Christmas tree approach. On a site on NYTimes.com they take a list of print stories, and then decorate it with multimedia, a video over here, some audio over there. The problem is that this approach hasn’t evolved very much. (Shows Philly.com Blackhawk Down special story.) All the stories are listed and the video is on the left in navigation. Why isn’t the video put into its own chapter of the story?
Even National Geographic does this, which is frightening. They have a section on photos, multimedia, each one broken out. How many of you have sections titled “multimedia”? (Many hands are raised.) It’s thinking of multimedia as something separate or as an add-on.
Read More about the Knight Digital Training:
Photo of Jane Stevens by Jerry Monti via Flickr.