CICM offering internship to Web savvy students

 

Are you a student who is Web savvy?

Are you looking for an internship that will help your future career in the changing world of journalism?

If so, check out Innovation in College Media’s internship opportunity.

The Internship has several advantages over traditional media internships. First, it’s sorta paid ($500 stipend), unlike many internships. Better yet, you can telecommute to it, which will you save you time and money (telecommuting is one of the most awesome things ever). Most importantly, however, you’ll have the opportunities to produce new media journalism:

The possibilities for editorial production are limited only by your imagination and energy. Some of the possibilities:

  • Podcast interviews with media movers and shakers.
  • Reviews of college media online initiatives.
  • Maps and databases of college media online sites.
  • Live video streams of conferences and/or interviews.
  • Round-ups of relevant new media writing.
  • And more.

Now, you do need to have social and new media skills. If you’re a student and you don’t, what are you doing? Trying not to be employable?

All you need to do to apply is to either send a copy of your resume and a 250 word essay on what your plans for the site would be to scmurley@gmail.com. Better yet, you can do this on you blog.

You do have a blog, don’t you?

This is a fantastic opportunity to work on a real resume builder. You’ll also have a tremendous amount of flexibility in what you produce.

What should the Online Ethics Seal be officially called?

We need your help naming the Online Ethics Seal.

The Online Ethics Seal has been the tentative name. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be the finalized name. In fact, many of you have said don’t like the connotation that a “seal” brings.

Maybe this is more of a code of ethics. Or, maybe it’s more of principles to aspire to. Or maybe it’s an ethics policy.

This is what the name we come up with must convey:

  1. The seals that are produced encompass a wide array of online products. We make no distinctions between The New York Times, a Typepad blog or a new media Web startup.
  2. This whole process is voluntary. We are not certifying anything. We are simply coming up with an open-source, free system to help Web sites formulate ethics policies. This is also a system to help users quickly identify the ethics that a Web site has.
  3. This process is all about transparency. We want to make it easier for our users to understand what we do. This isn’t about ranking sites, casting judgement or anything like that. It’s just about being open about what we do.
  4. This is not a blogger certification process. Yes, bloggers can adopt the seals/codes/whatever but this process is not aimed at them solely. Nor does this process hope to reign in blogger. Rather, this is aimed at anyone producing non-fiction content on the Web. It’s a service that benefits both content producers and consumers.
  5. This benefits participating organizations too. Most established print news organizations have an ethics policy. Those policies, however, can be time consuming and difficult to produce. We want to make it easy for online startups to be able to customize a policy for themselves.

Remember, Creative Commons is our inspiration. So, help us come up with a good name for this project!

Is the downfall of newspapers really just a rebirth of journalism?

Newspaper ad revenues are again down by double digits, more newspapers are defaulting on debt and we’re entering one of the worst economic crises ever.

Ad revenue will continue to dry up. Many traditional print advertisers (car dealers, real estate agents, etc) are facing tough times and some are going out of business. This economic crisis will claim many people’s jobs and shrink ad budgets around the country.

It will further squeeze already squeezed newspapers. Even CPMs are down. Many newspapers have been slow to embrace video ads, which pay much better. Newspapers also have not been able to discover newer revenue streams.

It’s well known that many older newspaper subscribers do not frequent newspaper Web sites, and this is one major argument against cutting back on the number of days that newspapers publish. Many of these core newspaper readers still read and enjoy newspapers every day. Newspapers don’t want to alienate some of their most loyal readers.

The problem is that newspapers have to move forward into a Web world. Resources are still skewed wildly in favor of print at most newspapers. With little audience overlap between print and online products, newspapers have little synergy and are unable to produce products that compliment each other.

Imagine how much more sense it would make to have The Washington Post, for example, to publish daily online and produce a once-a-week print publication that focuses on analysis, enterprise stories and the big picture. It would be the Yin and the Yang. It would be synergy city.

Many newspapers may never see this reality. Ad revenues will continue to plunge, newspaper managers will continue to cater to print subscribers who are slowly dying off and leaving for richer online experiences and this will be the end for many dailies.

But maybe this could be the event that brings synergy to print and the Web. There is still a future for print — albeit a much different future than daily newspapers are used to. I receive The Economist, National Geographic and the Sunday Washington Post (it would be much stronger if it were the only Post edition each week). A lot of younger people do like print publications, but we don’t like daily publications.

They make little sense. I don’t have time each day, or the will, to read a daily print product. Daily print products also clog up my apartment and are bad for the environment. But giving up on print would be a mistake too.

Could the death of daily newspapers be the catalyst that brings in older readers to Web journalism?

If older readers came onto the Web en masse, newspapers would no longer have to cater to two distinct audiences. Finally, newspapers could produce a print product that made sense in a Web-first world. I fear this reality, however, can only happen if many older readers are forced to start reading online news because many newspapers fail.

And while I will lament and mourn the loss of newspapers around the world, I believe this is a better future. The downfall of newspapers could lead to better journalism. So many news organizations are held back by the past, by bureaucratic inertia, by institutional memory.

Imagine a future in which the only thing holding back news organizations was our imaginations. This economic crisis could not come at a worst time for newspapers, and, frankly, no one really knows how bad it is going to get. I do know, however, know that in good times and bad, people want to be informed.

Maybe, just maybe, this crisis will force us to reinvent journalism. Maybe it will spark an unprecedented wave of innovation as we face the realities of a new world for journalism.

Could it be the turn of the tide?

The online ethics seal: together we can be more transparent

At ONA 08 and a week later at Poynter Seminar on ethics, I talked about my online ethics seal idea.

The idea is very simple —  to form a series of ethics seals that Web sites, blogs and news organizations could embed on their Web sites. I want these seals to be in the same vein as the Creative Commons.

Right now there are five seal categories:

  1. Sourcing
  2. Objectivity/advocacy/opinion journalism or opinion
  3. Linking
  4. Copy editing/fact checking (does a second person fact check?)
  5. Conflicts of Interests
Each category can have a different level. For instance, your blog could say that you do not accept anonymous sources, while I might accept anonymous sources as long as two-independent sources confirm the same information. This will create a lot of freedom for people to customize their specific ethics policy within our open source framework.

The seals are developed by the community:

  • The seals are open source — The community gets to decide which level of the seals means. This also means that people are free to change the language of a seal as long as they open source their new seal.
  • That means the seals will evolve — Over time, we can update the ethics seals to reflect the current state of the Web. There will be version 1.0, 2.0, etch of each seal.
  • The community is more than just blogs — Any online ethics seal can’t succeed if it hopes to only serve blogs (or “govern” them). Rather a good seal should be applicable to traditional media sources and new media sources. It should be a common ground, because on the Web traditional and new media lines are blurred.
  • The seals are just beginning — Right now I have laid out five seal categories. Maybe we need more categories. Maybe we need less. Together, we’ll figure out the core areas to develop seals around.
Why would I want an ethics seal?
  • Transparency — This is the name of the game. What these seals are saying is this is how you and your news organizations/blogs go about reporting/posting. It’s not about casting judgement. Just about transparency. So what if your blog publishes rumors? What I’m saying is just be honest with your users.
  • Advertising — Advertisers consider blogs even less valuable than social networks. Why? Stigma. Many people feel that bloggers have no ethics. That’s not true. Many bloggers do, but they aren’t clear on what their ethics are. Many bloggers and online publications want ethics policies, but where do they start? We’ll make selecting an ethics policy as easy as selecting a Creative Commons copyright policy.
  • Ease of use — Why develop your own ethics seal and policy, if you could adopt an open source policy that is widely used and understood by users? Developing a custom ethics policy can take a lot of time. Instead, you can mix and match different seal categories to form your own policy in a matter of minutes. Want customization? The seals are open source. Customize our seals and wording. Just make sure to post what you have changed.
  • Our users will thank us — Even the most staid of traditional media sources make it tough to know how they report (almost every news organization has an copyright policy on every page, but an ethics policy is no where to be found). They are not transparent about the reporting process, but our readers deserve better. Imagine if my blog and The New York Times had the same open source ethics policy? It’s possible. This would ultimately be really great for users, because users would be able to easily understand how each site reports because our ethics policies are open source, widely used and easy to identify.
Our users will ultimately be the biggest winners:
  • Let’s be transparent — Why are copyright policies so widespread and yet ethics policies are so clandestine? What is ultimately more important to our readers? How we report and blog or how they can use our content? If you think you have better ethics than “those bloggers,” prove it. if your blog practices journalism, prove it. This is about being honest about who we are.
  • This will help users find relevant content — Part of the ethics seal is a central Web site and database that lists participating Web sites and blogs by seal type, content type and geographic location. If I want to look up a local sports Web site in my area, with a certain ethics seal, I can do so. Maybe I’m looking for technology rumor blogs. By utilizing the same open source seals, people will be able to find similar content. If you don’t want your national security news to contain anonymous sources, you can select from news outlets and blogs that do not use anonymous sources.
  • It comes with cool icons — Obviously entire ethics polices cannot be embedded in the footer of Web sites, but cool, memorable icons can be. Each seal category will have its own icon. Each “level” will have its own color. The five seals will be placed in a row in a footers on every page of a Web site to help people quickly comprehend what kind of ethics policy that Web site has. Each seal will link back to a page on our Web site that lists the full ethics for that given seal.
  • No legalese, please — Each seal will be written in plain English. Ethics seals are non-binding. There is no reason for them to read like the back of a credit card offer. So, they won’t. We’ll make them easy for anyone to understand.
Take action:
  • Post suggestions — Post your thoughts in the comments section of this post or on your blog.
  • Join the Wiki — We have an online ethics wiki. Join the Wiki and help shape the future of this project.
  • Spread the word — Link people up to this post. Tell them about the seal. Tell people about how together we’re going to usher in a new era of reporting transparency on the Web. It doesn’t matter anymore on the Web if someone works for a newspaper or a blog. What ultimately matters is how we go about reporting and creating content.

Supply and demand is a bitch

SupplyDemandTriangleExtras.jpg

I have some lessons from ONA 08 over at BeatBlogging.Org (version 2.0 nonetheless), and I wanted to highlight the supply and demand part of the post:

  • This is an issue facing journalism on the Web and not just beat bloggers. Right now, there is simply more supply of written content than there is of demand for it from advertisers. This means low CPMs for written content. It also means that text-only beat bloggers need to get a lot of page views to make a decent amount of revenue.
  • On the other hand, there isn’t enough supply of video content on the Web to meet advertisers demands. Advertisers love video ads and pre-roll. They want to stick it on your content, but are having trouble finding enough content.
  • I’m not suggesting that everyone jump to doing video, but diversifying content can help boost revenue. This could be a once-a-week podcast or vodcast with a few ads in it. It could mean shooting some video for your beat blog. But realize that video content can get a much higher ad rate than printed content can.

News organizations need to diversify their content. This means more audio, more video, more multimedia and — yes — less written content. Now, none of this matters if our multimedia content has terrible SEO and exist within ghettos.

CNN.com understands how to get people to watch lots of video. CNN.com automatically plays a new, related clip after a clip is finished. Users can build custom playlists and watch hours of video — and ads.

Most news organizations, however, allow video and other multimedia content to exist within arbitrary ghettos where that content is not connected to similar content. When a clip ends, the content stops. Related content is not linked together.

And the biggest crime of all: A lot of multimedia content on news Web sites is not properly indexed and searchable. That my friends is one of the worst ideas ever. Search is the key to content distribution.

News organizations need to address this supply and demand issue. Trust me, redundant, non-local news is not in demand. And it’s probably not that in demand by users either.

Jay Mariotti made the right decision to leave the Sun-Times

The real question is why he stuck around so long.

If fact, I don’t understand why any star print columnist or beat reporter doesn’t just start his or her own Web site. The Dallas Cowboys Blog for The Dallas Morning news can get hundreds of thousands of page views in one day. And that’s without a really good beat blog that really harnesses the power of the Web and social networking.

Imagine the possibilities. More on that in a minute.

Mariotti threw a few bombs on his way out, including about how he believes that newspapers are dying and how the future is on the Web. He is absolutely correct, however.

First, let’s look at Mariotti’s claim that newspapers are dying. Vin Crosbie believes more than half of today’s 1,439 daily newspapers in the U.S. won’t exist by the end of the next decade. In fact, the Sun-Times is a prime candidate to not be around much longer.

The Sun-Times Media Group was delisted from the New York Stock Exchange. That doesn’t happen for being too good. It happens when a stock falls below the minimum trading value.

Despite what many curmudgeons would like to believe and like to have you believe, newspapers are not in a cyclical down period. Many are about to be down for the count.

For a sports columnist like Mariotti, there is little incentive to stay in print. He can make more money in other mediums that have less turmoil.

Many of the best sports writers like Rick Reilly are being bought up by ESPN (for $3 million a year), Yahoo!, CBS Sportsline and other Web sites. Before the Web, print — especially newspapers– was just about the only place for a star columnist to work.

Because of the monopolies that newspapers had, columnists were at the mercy of newspapers. That has flipped with the Web. Now anyone can be their own publisher and become successful like Michael Arrington of TechCrunch.

I’m sure Mariotti was well paid by newspaper standards, but those standards aren’t very high (and just a fraction of Reilly’s new salary). Frankly, the standards of most newspaper Web sites aren’t very high either, which is one major reason why Mariotti left the Sun-Times:

To showcase your work … you need a stellar Web site and if a newspaper doesn’t have that, you can’t be stuck in the 20th century with your old newspaper.

If I were Mariotti, I’d start my own Web site and post my work there. Yes, he could go work for ESPN full time like many of his former print colleagues have, but then you are at the mercy of ESPN, which is notorious for being overbearing and controlling. Or he could join an online-only sports site.

But why bother? If I were Mariotti, I’d focus on building my own brand with my own Web site and social networking presence. With the right technical help, he could have a kick-ass WordPress installation, where he can publish his latest thoughts about whatever, whenever. He could also embed video clips, build interactive features, have a weekly podcast, interact with users and do all sorts of things that he couldn’t do at the Sun-Times.

Plus, his Web presence would be very 21st century, unlike the Sun-Times. If you’re a columnist, imagine a site that has all of your posts tagged, so that users can quickly and easily discover content. One of the most frustrating aspects of newspaper Web sites is the disarray that is their archives.

And most newspaper Web sites are unsearchable. So many page views are lost because of these technical deficiencies that a basic, free WordPress install doesn’t have.

I’d also start a Twitter account and begin building a fan base with strong user interaction. I would, of course, interact with users on my beat blog as well. Then I’d look into other social networking opportunities.

This is what Mariotti and any sports writer needs to get started: a laptop with a Web cam for video columns, a smart phone, a beat blog (WordPress is a great option), Google Apps for mail and word processing, a Twitter account and Viddler/YouTube and Seesmic accounts to put that Web cam to use.

He probably already has a laptop and smart phone. The Web technology I listed is all free. The only things that will cost money are the domain name (about $10 a year), hosting (might only be hundreds a year) and probably some technical and consulting help to set this all up.

Mariotti, if you’re reading this, start a beat blog. Don’t wait.

We have already seen a lot of top sports writing talent leave for ESPN.com, Yahoo! Sports, CBS Sportsline and others in the past year. I think the exodus of sports writing talent from traditional print publications is just beginning, because not only can big-name sports writers leave for online publications, but they can also now easily and cheaply start their own Web sites.

News organizations need to upsell users

The idea that news organizations should charge for basic content on the Web is repugnant.

It’s a losing proposition. It’s a terrible, terrible idea. And journalism is filled with terrible ideas right now.

But that doesn’t mean news organizations can’t charge for content. Far from it. Rather, news organizations need to create upsell features.

For years, I have paid to be an ESPN Insider. Insider content is not for casual sports fans, which make up the majority of ESPN.com’s users. But that doesn’t mean some users, like myself, aren’t willing to pay for a premium product.

One of my favorite Insider features are scouting reports. I have access to scouting reports on every single football player in the NFL (and other reports for other sports). For many people that may sound pretty stupid, but it’s a pretty cool feature for me. ESPN also has in-depth trend data for every football game, and I can get AccuScore predictions not only for the outcome, but how each team should do running the ball, passing the ball and play on defense.

Content is one upsell area. Another could be business listings. For instance, a local site should offer every business and restaurant a free listing but also offer premium features for a price.

Want to be able to upload coupons each week to our Web site? Premium feature. Want an in-depth, easily changeable menu for your restaurant? Premium feature. Want a blog to interact with your customers? Premium feature.

Classifieds can be the same way too. Basic classifieds for individuals should be free, but we can still sell people on premium features. Want your listing to stand out with custom features, like Ebay offers? We’ll sell them to you.

Want your listing to show up at the top for a given search? Premium feature.

If we’re going to ask people for money, we have to create value. Basic content isn’t that. News organizations need to stop thinking of themselves as just journalism companies and start thinking of themselves as content companies.

Every news organization should have About.Com-like features for their areas. This evergreen content can be immensely useful for users. The history of an area, the best places to go, etc all should be covered.

New organizations also need to think of themselves as destinations. If you want to be a premium local site, you have to be THE destination that people want to go to. Journalism alone will not make you that destination.

Restaurant guides, business guides, kick-ass classifieds, maps and guides, evergreen content, etc are the keys to becoming a destination. Upselling does not mean offering bad basic products, but rather it means offering really good premium products that people and businesses are willing to pay for.

Using Web analytics to improve content

For years individual content producers in news organizations didn’t have an easy way to figure out how popular or useful their content was with people.

But with today’s advanced site analytics, content producers have unprecedented data about users and their surfing habits. I wrote a long post about this subject over at BeatBlogging.Org. Consider this post the Cliff Note’s version with a few added tidbits.

What makes this data so important?

With Web analytics, content creators like writers, bloggers, photographers, database developers, etc can find out which content is getting the most page views and visits and from where those visitors are coming from. Content creators can also find out which search terms most often land people on their content.

Analytics will allow for content producers to make content that is more appealing to their users. For a football beat, it might mean creating more previews and Q&A sessions and less feature stories. For an education blog, it might mean writing more about teachers’ issues and less about the school district as a whole.

It also might mean different kinds of content. Your users might prefer posts that are short and comprised of lists. My users might prefer longer paragraphs. The only way to understand what our individual users want is to track their browsing habits.

The timing of posts is also extremely critical, and this varies per beat per news organization:

In general, after lunch and after work are the two peak times for Web traffic. This, however, is not universal, and detailed Web analytics will allow content producers to know the peak times to release content on their Web sites. In fact, different beat blogs at the same paper might have different peak traffic times.

Now, not every news organization allows content producers access to this information. In fact, most may not, but the content producers I have spoken to almost uniformly say it has helped them do their jobs better. Every news organization worth anything already has detailed site analytics.

It doesn’t cost a company money to give more people access to this information, but site analytics can be complicated and hard to understand without training. Some newsrooms have come up with ways of getting around that.

Suzanne Yada said her newspaper, the Visalia Times-Delta, has a daily meeting at 3 p.m. to discuss traffic figures and which stories are getting the most page views. Ryan Sholin says at the last paper he worked at he sent out a daily “Top 5.” Sholin said, however, that bloggers had full access to their stats.

Whether a news organization gives access to this data to every content producer or whether a news organization has a meeting or e-mail to discuss Web traffic, it doesn’t matter. What ultimately matters is that news organizations give content producers vital information that will allow them to do their jobs better.

To all my blogging readers, could you imagine blogging blind? That’s essentially what many news organizations are asking their content producers to do.

If your company doesn’t allow content producers access to this information, I have a question for you. Why doesn’t your company give individual content producers information about the content they produce?

What is the future of the copy editor?

Do copy editors have a future in journalism?

Will that role be drastically changing? Traditionally, copy editors at most newspapers had to do more than just edit copy. They also had to do page layout, fit stories to fixed spaces, write headlines, write captions, etc. Obviously, page layout is not needed on the Web, and every beat blogger should understand SEO for headline writing. And it might make sense to replace most captions with tags.

Don’t get me started on fitting stories to space either. That skill is dead. Stories on the Web should be as long or as short as they need to be. Copy editors no longer need to spend hours trying to fit a 15-inch story in an 8-inch space.

Every journalism company should have some copy editors, but the era of copy editors heavily rewriting content is over. News organizations can no longer afford to have employees whose main job is to fix the mistakes of other employees. It’s one thing to polish work, but another thing entirely to redo it.

Every beat blogger and online reporter will have to know how to write clean copy. It’s still a wise idea to have copy editors, however, but what will their other duties be?

Maximizing headline SEO? Audio and video post production? Making sure content is properly tagged?

I’m not a storyteller — I’m an information provider

A lot of journalists got into this business because they like to tell stories.

I think that’s one fundamental reason why so many journalists have a hard time adapting to the changing news landscape. For me, it was never about the story — it was always about the information and news.

So, if the format changes, it doesn’t really bother me. I’m not married to the format or the medium. I’m not here to weave intricate narratives and tell stories.

In fact, I’m not very good at telling oral stories. But I can tell you a lot of facts, figures and information.

This post was brought on by two things. First, the other night I was getting some drinks with some journalists and one said, “I’m not a journalist. I’m a storyteller.” He talked about how he had trouble keeping his stories short and didn’t like taking out quotes and information for brevity.

Obviously, his work was more for himself than for his readers. That’s does not serve our readers well, and it certainly doesn’t help journalism.

The second part of this post was inspired by a post by Howard Owens, “Not all information needs to be crafted into a story:”

Storytelling, whether written or visual, then becomes something that is more about serving your own ego than serving your readers.

So check your ego, whether writing or shooting, and give people useful or entertaining information in an accessible package.  Save the storytelling for when you really have a story to tell.

A lot of journalism seems to be ego driven. Some journalists report on what they want to cover, in the mediums they want to report in. It has very little to do with what people actually want.

But we’re in a business. We have to produce a product that people want. And most people just don’t read the whole story (thanks to Owens for the link):

But here’s the thing: journalists have always been far more entranced by ‘the story’ than audiences. Less than a quarter of newspaper readers claim to read to the end of a story, even one they’re interested in … and of those, over two thirds don’t read every word.

Yes, sometimes journalism is storytelling, but as Owens notes, we should save the storytelling for when we have really good stories to tell. I see so many feature, anecdotal and other non-news ledes on stories that are really just news stories.

Let me tell you something: I have stopped reading a lot of news stories because I didn’t want to put up with another boring feature lede on a news story. I wanted the news, and I wasn’t willing to wait for some journalist’s ego to go by. And I’ve read some great non-news ledes and they were usually on great feature stories.

If you’re a storyteller, it’s no fun to have to truncate your stories. Is it really a good story then? Is blogging a good storytelling medium? Probably not.

But if you’re in the business of providing facts, figures, information — news — you’ll find blogging and Web journalism to be amazing. The Web (and its mobile cousin) provide a great deal of immediacy and depth that print never could. The Internet is an awesome vehicle for information.

Too many journalists think of themselves as storytellers and not as journalists. People ultimately want journalism so they can be informed. I think if we concentrate on making journalism that people want, we’ll find ourselves and our industry in much better shape.

And sometimes people want great stories, but let’s not force every news item into the storytelling format.