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New Way For News Sites to Get Business to Pay?

February 23, 2010 Leave a comment
In reviewing some of the older bookmarks that have seemed to gained value with a little bit of age and marinating in my Google account, there is one idea that may work for a local news organization to make money on the Web, and I’m interested to hear what you have to say about it.
The idea stems from a post by Jeff Jarvis back on Feb. 5. One line hit home:

“…we won’t be selling media to merchants — banners ‘n’ buttons — so much as we will be selling service: helping them with all their digital needs, including optimizing them in Google and Yelp and social media and mobile.”

It’s true. When attempting to persuade a local business to buy into a start-up local site, a news organization needs to provide a rich and deep benefit for the money instead of simply plastering its site with an obstructive advertisement.
After talking it over with my Hofstra University mentor, Mo Krochmal, we reached an agreement: use Ning.com, a site to create a social network.
For $40 a month, a news organization could:
  • host the self-created social media network under its own domain
  • style CSS to fit the model of its site
  • place whatever ads it wants
  • control who becomes a part of the social community
Businesses would ultimately pay to join or pay to place coupons, videos and any other advertising posts on its page inside the network. This would give a business a platform to share its voice with a site’s users.
Of course, as with anything on the Web, this should begin in a beta form, allowing a limited number of businesses to join for free. The idea is to control the supply and the demand will increase. Once kinks get worked out, and other businesses become excited and eager to join, then it goes “premium” and new businesses begin paying.
By creating a social network, the ability of a news organization to become creative with the services it can provide (and can charge businesses for) is limitless – versus the two-dimensional advertising model (banner ads and video pre-rolls).
Most advertising-based models don’t last long during investor presentations, according to Jarvis, thus a start-up news organization needs a unique revenue plan that is well-developed, and has a place in the future. Businesses paying for social network access may need to be more developed than I have here, but it certainly has a place in the future with more room to grow.
Note: This post is part of my on-going master’s capstone project at Hofstra University. More information on the capstone (and to provide new ideas, spark a conversation and leave feedback) can be found here.

Tim Robertson
Managing Editor
Nassau News Live
www.nassaunewslive.com

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News, Analytics and the Almighty Hit

January 15, 2010 Leave a comment

♠Understanding when a visitor clicks on your story, from where, and, more importantly, why are all growing areas of interests to online creators (or aggregators) of content.

In a talk sponsored by the Press Club of Long Island tonight, Dominick Miserandino, founder and executive editor of The Celebrity Cafe, discussed Google Analytics and how to use it to measure site traffic.

Miserandino stressed understanding why a visitor lands on a page, and take action based on that result. He advised to pay attention to keywords, where the traffic sources are and either bringing up lagging sources or playing to the ones that are driving traffic.

Perhaps the most logical, but one of the most important points he made during the two-hour discussion was for news outlets to understand that a news story will only last on the Web for a couple days — at most. A story may drive traffic for a day or two, but then it will die off, never to be seen again. The goal of a news outlet is to reproduce stories that will keep traffic at a steady rate each day.

As I’ve seen with Nassau News Live and our use of Google Analytics for the past year, the average time on the site is 1-2 minutes. Prior to tonight, I didn’t know if that was high or low. According to Miserandino, that is about average for one news story. That pits the word count at 150-300 words. Writing a 2000-word piece? Forget about it.

With that in mind, I’m going to end this post. But in the next couple weeks I will focus this blog on the 2-hour discussion with pieces upcoming about the blurring of the “church and state” line that should exist between publishers and editors, and the ethical questions that go along with that. Also, the (in my view) broken model of $ per pageview, and, of course, the cons of using analytics.

Categories: Journalism Blog

In Business Model Debate, Don’t Lose Sight of Journalism

January 15, 2010 Leave a comment

Dec. 29, 2009

Last night I entered a David vs. Goliath debate, and by no means did I slay the Big Guy on this occasion (as usual). We discussed the usefulness and benefit from a business perspective of such web tools as Cover It Live and Live Stream.

While I quickly realized the benefit of a debate that works my brain so much, I was also frustrated. Goliath wanted to know the monetary benefit of these services. Why stream a town meeting or a high school basketball game? What is the rate of investment on using these? While I found some hard figures to try to make my case for these tools I’ve used for the past few years, it boils down to whether advertising will pick up on the Internet.

But then I remembered something vitally important. I’m a (working?) journalist, not a business guy. As a journalist, all I have to defend these services on is their journalistic value, not their monetary value. The business department of a news media needs to concern itself with how much to charge for an ad on a stream cast between breaks or before it starts. These tools allow for community interaction (CIL is based on user comments, while Live Stream has a chat feature), and provide a service. While high school basketball isn’t pertinent to the democratic process of a town, meetings of the council or board of trustees are.

As a freelancer for Newsday, I’ve been to my fair share of crazy village meetings where rooms are packed and tensions are high. I always wondered why the whole village doesn’t turn out for some of these meetings that concern their kids, crime and taxes, but perhaps they don’t know what is happening or can’t leave the house. Stream casting meetings makes city council’s hold meetings in the public and accountable to people in an online world, not just to those sitting on uncomfortable wooden benches.

These live web tools are for the betterment of journalism and the betterment of the community we as journalists serve. It should be our responsibility to learn and utilize these to the best of our ability.

That’s for established local media. And, as any decent debater would do, I’ll anticipate Goliath’s counterargument. What about start-ups run by journalists that lack a business department, and therefore the journalists need to act as the business leaders too?

Unless the start-up is beginning in a dark corner of the world (or northern Maine), there is a challenging media outlet in its coverage area. Simply covering town hall meetings and high school basketball with pictures and text won’t cut it. Unless the reporters were head-hunted from the competitor, their contacts and sources won’t be as good as the established outlet in town. Start-ups need to do something to distinguish itself from the status quo. Providing extra, and inexpensive services to its general public will slowly pull the community away from the established outlet. Instead of only hearing about bickering at the town meeting the next day, hear some of the good debate that occurs. Watch the post-game press conference with coaches and player interviews. See instant highlights. Start-ups need to break the mold (and be bold).

In fact, to join Web 3.0 and the 21st century (and the new decade), every news outlet should look to break the mold.

Categories: Journalism Blog

Editors Drive NNL Hyperlocal Coverage

December 22, 2009 Leave a comment
December 16, 2009

A hyperlocal website can’t run with two people. And when it comes to managing 105 part-time reporters, it takes a lot more than a pair.

The biggest change between this semester and the spring 2009 term was major leap our editors made in picking up responsibilities. I developed beats for seven areas that I wanted NNL to focus on. I included sub-beats in several of them, as well. I then assigned editors to each of the beats and began filling in with reporters. I asked editors to develop their own beat plans, and they did. What resulted on some of the beats was fantastic.

Our coverage of the Lighthouse project turned out excellent (before they pulled themselves off the media map). Our politics coverage benefited a great deal from the hard work that we put in each week to find meetings and bring in unique ways to share the stories.

I couldn’t have handled what I wanted to take on without my team of six editors. Between handling story assignments and what’s coming up and jumping on breaking stories each editor shined this semester, and I’m very grateful for it.

In the inaugural semester of Nassau News Live in the spring of 2009, I shied away from handing great responsibility to a team I generally didn’t know. I took a lot on my shoulders and was swamped all the time. This semester I learned how to delegate to produce results. While I thoroughly enjoy finding newsworthy stories much more than managing people, I can take pride in what we accomplished.

We have a bit of turnover at the editor level heading into 2010, but I look forward to training the new crop on our system and how to help me run a 24-hour newsroom. Hopefully, we’ll be able to spread responsibilities out a bit more, and therefore be able to do more with NNL.

NNL Editors:

Jaymes Langrehr — Business/MTA/Lighthouse

Chari Bayanker — High School Sports

Lisa DiCarlucci — Social Media/Community Manager

Michael Salerno — College Sports

David Gordon — News/Politics

Anna Gallese — Video

News Pay Models Need Added Value

December 22, 2009 Leave a comment
November 30, 2009

We all know advertising alone on the Web won’t save journalism, so we must find alternative solutions.

As a part of my master’s work at Hofstra University, I’ll be looking into different models and attempting to find one that will work for a hyperlocal news organization.

While flipping through studies, one says 74 percent of people say they’ll find another free site instead of paying for content, while a second study pins that number at 48 percent.

And the debate on both sides is age-old.

Some comments on some studies contend news sites could work together and all begin to charge a small fee to begin, and “ramp” up the price until it is a sustainable business. The trouble with that is in a highly competitive industry such as journalism, getting rival news orgs to get along and play the same game is a lofty goal.

And if there are questions of whether the public will pay for news on one site, imagine the questions swirling over whether readers will pay to read the same news on four different sites (i.e. the New York newspaper market). This will breed more competition, innovation and perhaps the market would push one in front of the others. While that sounds good, it could result in news orgs shutting down, and leaving the public with fewer viewpoints and voices.

It seems to be common sense that giving something to the public for free for 15 years, then trying to charge $250 a year isn’t a great idea. At the very least, news organizations need to work on Web innovation now in their planning for a future when some content (if not all) comes at a price to the reader.

  • create valuable and evergreen flash products
  • develop workflows for daily online video (packaged and live)
  • grow a community through social media sites
  • survey how much viewers follow live blogs and live chats

Realizing the habits of viewers with these services will only benefit news orgs in the future, and tell them what their audience is willing to pay for. The average online media organization will have to work harder and do more in a day, but after giving their hard work away for free on the Internet for so long, they’ve dug their own hole. Looking into the list above (plus I’m sure many others) may help some get out of that hole, and by charging for those services, help news media turn a profit online.

Covering Sports for the Web

December 22, 2009 Leave a comment
November 23, 2009

This weekend Nassau News Live’s five-tool ability was on full display. Text, live blog, video, pictures and slideshows. All in one package — and within hours.

This past weekend Nassau News Live blanketed the Nassau County high school football championships. There are four conferences, and although only one team is in our coverage area, we sent reporters to each game — and what we got can’t be found in one location anywhere on the Web. Best of all, it is simple to duplicate.

Chari Bayanker, the high school sports editor covered two straight games on Saturday night. I want to single him out because of his hard work. He had a game story up for the first game immediately (with a video), and followed suit with the second game, despite its late start time. I believe the time stamp for the second story is around 1 a.m.

To explain how to do this, I’ll run through how I covered Friday night’s game. The fact there was only one game certainly made it much easier — so props to you Chari.

I spent the first half taking pictures. While I don’t have a $3,000 camera (investors?), I did my best with the DSLR I do have that doesn’t allow for fantastic night shots of sports. I tried to get a few pictures that would represent the game no matter the outcome. I took pictures of both quarterbacks, the main running backs and both defenses making huge tackles. There wasn’t any scoring in the first half,which hindered how I wanted to present the story, but I can only work with what I’m given.

While I was freezing on the sideline (of note, bring gloves when you do this), I was texting live updates to my Twitter account. Now my dad informed me that I didn’t advertise this anywhere except Twitter, so the outside world didn’t know I was doing it (lesson 2). These tweets average one every four or five minutes of game time and always included the score. It is actually a benefit when texting in the cold that Twitter only allows 140 characters.

For the second half, I decided to up my Twitter coverage and make sure I was ready to post a game story when the game ended (and get warm). I returned to the press box where I increased live blogging the half that actually had scoring. Whoops. Anyway, I posted a halftime story with a picture that I quickly loaded onto my Asus netbook. While the second half unfolded, I edited and uploaded the best few pictures I had to Flickr and created a quick slideshow using VuVox. I embedded this into my running game story.

With a few updates of the game on both the site, and on Twitter, I had the mold for my game story and just needed to top it off with the final score and the final stats.

As soon as the game ended, I posted the final game story on the Web and ran down to the sidelines to interview players and the head coach of the winning team with my FlipCam. After grabbing a player and the coach, I scooted back up to the press box to collect the final totals for stats and write in some of the quotes I got from the sideline. (This is all about an hour after the game ended).

When I returned home, I edited a quick video together and uploaded it to YouTube and embedded it into my story. Midnight. Done.

Three hours after the game I had video, a live blog, slideshow and a game story with good quotes all in one place.

When TV broadcasters are fighting to put a package together for the one time it’ll air and print reporters are trying to recap the game play by play, my work is done. I had the live blog giving viewers each play as it unfolded (and I copied my Twitter stream into my text), and the video I produced, along with the slideshow, is getting more use than a once-aired TV report of the game.

Hello? Media? I said LIVE VIDEO… for FREE

December 22, 2009 Leave a comment
November 16, 2009

Media outlets — newspapers — looking for ways to generate revenue (via web traffic), listen up.

Using live video to report anytime and from anywhere provides a fantastic opportunity to give viewers up-to-date information and a service that is sure to drive traffic, build user loyalty and expand a media outlet’s reach.

At Nassau News Live, we’ve used Livestream (formerly Mogulus) since Feb. 2008. More recently, since Feb. 2009, we’ve used it as an outlet to produce a live webcast (broadcast) that is embedded on our site. We upload the week’s video stories and give a typical broadcast. While we are still working on our model and working to improve our product, we are servicing our public.

We also record and archive our webcasts and users can access them by an on-demand feature.

Its real easy, too.

Create a free account on Livestream. All you need is a web cam and an internet connection. Open up the “studio” function, and it will pick up your web cam. If you just want to go live from here, hit transition to clip, and you are set to start reporting.

That’s the basics. That’s it. And it is free. Absolutely free. (I’ll have a more detailed blog post on how to use Livestream later.)

It isn’t new, but why aren’t media outlets using this feature? It can be used to break stories, and give print an opportunity to break a story first. Essentially, viewers won’t need a television to watch their news — they’ll be coming to your website.

A downside of the free account on Livestream is they will input ads into your on-demand and recorded (not live) video. A paid account removes this and allows an outlet to put its own ads in.