Ottaway media groups rake in several awards

The two press releases linked below are hitting the wires this morning. Congratulations to all of the recipients, not only for the recognition from our industry peers, but for working so hard on such great projects and products. Your high standards and tremendous work ethic shine through your high quality results every single day.


Press release: SouthCoastToday.com seeks reader input on most valuable Red Sox

NEW BEDFORD, MA (March 6th, 2009) - During Red Sox Spring Training, SouthCoastToday.com is running an interactive bracket to learn which Red Sox player has meant the most to the team's fans.

Site visitors are encouraged to pick which player in each matchup has meant the most to the Red Sox franchise. At the end of each round, the Red Sox star who has amassed the most votes will advance to the next round until a winner is crowned.

"We know that people in this area are passionate about the Red Sox so we wanted to do something that we think will be fun and, hopefully, generate some good old-fashioned sports arguments," said Fred Harwood, managing editor for online content/new media for SouthCoast Media Group, which publishes The Standard-Times in New Bedford, Mass., and its flagship Web site, SouthCoastToday.com

"Rather than ask fans flat out 'Who is the best player in Red Sox history?'" - which is probably too narrow a question - we're asking which players have been the most important to the franchise, which leaves more room for debate," Harwood said. "For example, Curt Schilling might not be the team's greatest pitcher of all time, but the team went 86 years without winning anything until he and his bloody sock came to town. That's probably worth some consideration."

The contest runs from now until the Red Sox home opener on April 6th. In addition to the bracket, fans can follow the latest spring training, World Baseball Classic and regular season news at southcoasttoday.com/redsox, Staff Writer Jon Couture also writes about the Red Sox on the blog "Better Red Than Dead."

SouthCoastToday.com is also running a college basketball bracket tournament, March Mania. Prizes include a chance to win $1,000,000.



Ottaway Newspapers, Inc. (www.ottaway.com), is the Local Media Group of Dow Jones. Ottaway operates eight community media groups around the country - including the SouthCoast Media Group - that collectively are comprised of 8 daily and 15 weekly newspapers, several lifestyle magazines and other niche publications, and a multitude of affiliated Web sites in seven states.

Media Contact:

Sean Polay

Product Manager, Distributed Media




Dow Jones & Company (www.dowjones.com) is a News Corporation company (NYSE: NWS, NWS.A; ASX: NWS, NWSLV; www.newscorp.com). Dow Jones is a leading provider of global business news and information services. Its Consumer Media Group publishes The Wall Street Journal, Barron's, MarketWatch and the Far Eastern Economic Review. Its Enterprise Media Group includes Dow Jones Newswires, Dow Jones Factiva, Dow Jones Client Solutions, Dow Jones Indexes and Dow Jones Financial Information Services. Dow Jones owns 50% of SmartMoney and 33% of STOXX Ltd. and provides news content to radio stations in the U.S.


Press release: Ottaway Newspapers launches mobile-friendly sites

MIDDLETOWN, N.Y. (Feb. 25, 2009) - Ottaway Newspapers, the Local Media Group of Dow Jones, has launched mobile-friendly editions of its daily news Web sites for its media groups across the country.

The launch marks another milestone in Ottaway's ongoing mobile audience development effort, and is part of a larger content distribution approach geared toward pushing the company's local content and information to a wide variety of platforms.

"Seekers of news and information in our markets should be able to access our content on the platform that either they are most comfortable using, or that is most useful to them at the moment they need to be informed," said Sean Polay, Ottaway's product manager for distributed media. "We aim to serve the reader, and these mobile-friendly sites are a big step forward on that front."

The sites were launched by the company's digital product development team, led by Richard Hoover, and were rooted in a pilot project undertaken by Greg Bryant, online editor for Ottaway's Cape Cod Media Group based in Hyannis, MA. Their mobile site, m.capecodonline.com, was the first to launch, and was followed by the remaining media groups in rapid succession:
Ottaway's SouthCoast Media Group in New Bedford, MA, had a pre-existing mobile site powered by a third-party provider. Located at mobile.southcoasttoday.com, it remains in place, though it will eventually be transitioned to the shared Ottaway solution, Polay said.


Ottaway Newspapers, Inc. (www.ottaway.com), is the Local Media Group of Dow Jones. Ottaway operates eight community media groups around the country that collectively are comprised of 8 daily and 15 weekly newspapers, several lifestyle magazines and other niche publications, and a multitude of affiliated Web sites in seven states.

Media Contact:
Sean Polay
Product Manager, Distributed Media

Dow Jones & Company (www.dowjones.com) is a News Corporation company (NYSE: NWS, NWS.A; ASX: NWS, NWSLV; www.newscorp.com). Dow Jones is a leading provider of global business news and information services. Its Consumer Media Group publishes The Wall Street Journal, Barron's, MarketWatch and the Far Eastern Economic Review. Its Enterprise Media Group includes Dow Jones Newswires, Dow Jones Factiva, Dow Jones Client Solutions, Dow Jones Indexes and Dow Jones Financial Information Services. Dow Jones owns 50% of SmartMoney and 33% of STOXX Ltd. and provides news content to radio stations in the U.S.


Plug your blog into Facebook

While spending some time with Deb Cram at Seacoast Media Group yesterday, I walked her through how to plug her smgphoto Twitter feed into her Facebook profile. I realized later that we have many bloggers -- and a few Tweeters -- around Ottaway that also have Facebook accounts who could benefit from the same tutorial.

At the very least, it will help you share your blog with friends and family in addition to anyone else you're connected with on the social network.

Here are the steps to follow (Note to those reading this via the e-mail post to our onlineeditors listserv: You'll want to click through to the Ottaway Online Editors blog to see the screenshots embedded in this post):

  1. First, grab the URL for your blog's RSS feed. In the case of our Mzinga blogging platform, there is an XML button at the bottom of each blog's entry page from which you can grab the URL. Right-click on it and in Firefox select "Copy Link Location," or in IE select "Copy Shortcut:"
  2. After logging into Facebook, choose Notes from the Applications toolbar:
  3. Once at the Notes page, click on the link to "Import a blog" under the heading "Notes Settings:"
  4. Paste your feed URL into the "Web URL" text field, and click the square box to affirm to Facebook that you have the right to post the feed. Finally, click the "Start Importing" button:
  5. Voila! Instant RSS success!
There are other, more elaborate ways to accomplish the same goal, especially if you are active on Twitter. You can create a Twitterfeed account, and plug that same RSS feed into Twitterfeed so it will update your Twitter followers when you post a new item. In turn you can add the Twitter application to your Facebook profile, and allow it to update your Facebook status every time there is a new item posted to Twitter.

But if you're not yet feeling that adventurous, just sync up your Facebook Notes with your blog feed, and you'll be on your way to being a practitioner of viral marketing and content distribution.


We welcome Boston.com links, but first we must write better Web headlines

Let me state for the record that if and when Boston.com expands its Your Town initiative beyond the immediate Boston area, and starts aggregating stories from our New England media groups -- Cape Cod, SouthCoast, Seacoast and Nantucket -- I will not consider it a threat and will not join Gatehouse in their suit against the New York Times Co.

(Others in the company might disagree, of course, so let's also state for the record that this point of view is mine, singularly, as we have not yet formed an official company consensus, much less a position, on this issue.)

Sure, I understand the competitive concerns on the advertising and branding front. Long-term, however, the opportunities are going to outweigh the challenges. And make no mistake: Such partnerships are tremendous opportunities. We should be seeking them far and wide, with all sorts of media, professional associations, government institutions, non-profits and more.

It's in exactly the same vein as content distribution and marketing programs we've been discussing, exploring and preparing for over the last 12 months, especially on the back end as we've prepped calendar, headline and business review widgets for placement on both partner Web sites and for everyday users to pick up and put on their blogs or other personalized platforms.

Bob Kempf, old friend, sign us up, and it has nothing to do with your Ottaway heritage. It's a simple PageRank equation.

  • Boston.com's Google PageRank = 8
  • Cape Cod's Google PageRank = 6
  • SouthCoast's Google PageRank = 6
  • Seacoast's Google PageRank = 4
  • Nantucket's Google PageRank = 5
Now, I don't pretend to be the grand poobah of search engine optimization. In fact, our page ranks would indicate we've not paid enough attention to such things across the board for quite some time. It's why one of our major strategic planning items come January will be focused squarely on improving our visibility in the search engines.

That said, one of the basic tenets of SEO is that the more links you have back to your site, the more authorative you appear to be to Google, especially when those links come from a site with a higher PageRank than yours. Such links translate to having a greater chance of being more highly visible in Google -- depending on the keywords used, of course.

So we will take Boston.com's appropriately attributed links to our stories, especially if they continue to leave the "nofollow" attribute off of the link. I will thank them for the direct traffic they drive to us. I will thank them for general opportunity on many other fronts, too.

Meanwhile, we will redouble our efforts to decrease our bounce rate and convert that traffic into more loyal customers once they arrive at our articles. We will ride that wave of links -- in combination with other SEO-related efforts -- all the way to higher visibility in Google and other search engines, which in turn will also generate more traffic and more opportunities for conversion.

But before Boston.com or anyone else blesses us with such great opportunities, we've got some more basic blocking and tackling to do. For starters, Boston.com and any other future partners are not going to rewrite our headlines for us.

The headline is the first and perhaps only chance we have at magnifying the potential of any linking opportunity, and when we continue to leave print kicker headlines in place for Web placement and aggregation, we remain dead in the water in the customer conversion battle. From an SEO point of view, the dearth of keyword-rich headlines also means none of these back links is going to be worth very much in the race for increased search engine visibility.

We need to get in the habit of adding more context and keywords to our Web headlines. To illustrate, here is a sampling from around our empire today:
When blended like this, the home market for the stories is indistinguishable. In an aggregated content world, the more descriptive the headline, the more likely you will make it for your headline to be understood and attractive to the local audience seeking your content on other platforms.

The flip side, of course, is that using the town name in every headline that makes sense will create some overkill on our community pages. In fact, the redundancy will also be beneficial from a search-engine standpoint, and it will not significantly harm the user experience. If headlines on the Anywhere page all have the "Anywhere" in them, the keyword saturation of that page will help it rank highly for anyone searching for "Anywhere news" or anything else to do with Anywhere.

The alternative, though, is an outright gamble. Leaving off the place name and hoping the ambiguity will inspire the reader to click and consume some portion of the story to get the full context is tantamount to cold calling the entire phone book and hoping to hit your monthly sales number before you run out of time.

Looking beyond our core platforms, we should consider a keyword-rich, fully contextual headlines as a lead qualifiers. It's one thing to get a bunch of traffic from a punchy headline linked from Fark or Drudge, and hope to convert some small percentage of that flood into a second page view and beyond, but we all know our primary goal is to attract local audiences. The more local information that can be stuffed into a headline, the more likely it is that the person clicking is from the local audience, and we have a much greater chance of converting that consumer to engage with our local advertising and other local content.

Which approach -- cold calling from an unqualified list, or prequalifying and prioritizing your leads -- is more efficient, and more likely to lead to revenue? Well-written Web headlines are the equivalent of the latter, and are more likely to lead to audience retention, which in turn increases our online revenue prospects.

Online content and audience development is not merely about page views and unique visitors. It's about increasing our share of the local online audience to a significant enough scale that our advertising solutions will generate enough meaningful results for local business that invest their marketing trust and budgets with us. If we can't capture a bigger piece of the local audience pie, and don't retain users once we've captured them, we can't very well expect to retain advertisers.

It all starts with the headlines.


More media-related Twitter observations

Check out the widespread Twitter adoption at the Austin American-Statesman.

Came to my attention via Steve Buttry, a tweeting editor in his own right.

As I've written before, Twitter success is about doing much more than blasting headlines at followers. There is a place for that, and there are users who appreciate that. So I'm not suggesting our newspapers fold up the tents on the accounts that were created for that purpose.

Twitter use, though, is much more about community conversation and making connections on the platforms the audience is already on.

I've not yet spent a lot of time clicking through all of the Statesman staff's Twitter profiles, so I'm not sure how successful they are achieving engagement and making connections. The first glance is mighty impressive, though.

By the way, speaking of tweeting editors, Ottaway's Bob Hunter and Paul Pronovost have been dabbling in Twitter recently, too.

(Also, in other Statesman news, check out their recent ad that shows how their Web site is a better breaking news option than local TV news. Came to my attention via Lost Remote.)


Back to basics: Our bloggers should link to related materials

In reading Cape Cod Times' photographer Steve Heaslip's blog post about working at the firefighter awards ceremony in Boston yesterday, it occurred to me that Steve's very good blog posts are missing links to related items within our product suite.

Let me be clear: My intention is not to pick on my old friend, Steve. There are many blogs throughout Ottaway where the practice of linking -- especially to related items on our platform -- is conspicuously absent.

The missed opportunities in Steve's post:

Likewise, from the main story: Put in Steve's blog post as a related link.

Other examples of missed link opportunities in Ottawayland:
To be fair, we also have bloggers who do seize upon internal linking opportunities:
Not every blog post has to link to something else on the site. The live blogging Russ Charpentier did from Gillette Stadium on Nov. 13, for example, for Cape Cod Online's Sports Buzz blog simply doesn't lend itself to that practice.

But when the opportunity exists, linking can only help more deeply engage the readers and provide them with more context, which are the two most important outcomes. In the Steve Heaslip example that led off this post, I guarantee every single Cape Cod firefighter who comes across either our main story or Steve's blog post would love to click through to the related items. They'd even likely share some of those links with their peers, friends and family. One of them might have a blog, too, and would love to know there was more fodder for their linking druthers.

There are lots of things that go into good blogging. I'll posit that linking is the most essential distinguishing characteristic. Otherwise, an unlinked blog post is just another column.

Note: If creating links in blog posts is something that requires more training in our Ottaway newsrooms, please let me know. I hope that's not the case, but if it is, we should address it immediately.


Two days remain to log your votes for Varsity845's Smashmouth Awards

I can't get enough of Varsity845's Smashmouth Awards. Please, if you haven't seen it yet, head on over and cast your vote for your favorite plays while watching some pretty entertaining video (if you like football, of course).

I know I gave this pretty high praise during the weekly online editors call on Monday, but for those outside this blog's primary audience who do not attend that call, please allow me to share with you what I sent to Jennifer Saba, Shawn Moynihan and company at Editor & Publisher earlier today to create some more industry awareness around this extension of Varisty845:

The folks at our Hudson Valley Media Group in Middletown, NY, have put together a pretty compelling feature that is the next generation of their award-winning Varsity845 product. It's very entertaining to watch the clips, and the voting element, of course, is a great way to engage the audience and truly involve them in the event.

Even better from an operational point of view was at the project's base was a library of video clips we already had, leveraging the season-long hard work that went into capturing as much video footage as they did of area football games throughout the fall.

In the first week, it generated nearly 30,000 page views, which I always use as my monthly baramoter of whether a project was worth doing. I think the audience has shown us this one was worth the effort.

UPDATE: Thanks, Jennifer Saba, for the pickup and the praise.


Mobile breaking news alerts in action

The scene: The Polay kitchen at breakfast. My wife, Brandy, and I are at the dining room table, sipping coffee while the kids scurry to get ready for school.

Sean, rising from the table: Guess I better get my act together and get to work.

(Blackberry buzzes on the counter.)

Brandy: Guess so. They're already buzzing you.

Sean, reading from Blackberry: "Route 6 West: Police and rescue responding to rollover, prior to exit 3 westbound, traffic in area slowed."

(Siren volume growing in the distance.)

Brandy: That must be where they're going.

(Fire truck races by our house, headed in the direction of Exit 3. It's followed shortly thereafter by a police car.)

Sean: Now that's what I call a breaking news alert!

Update: One of our Cape Cod readers replied to this post via Twitter today, indicating she wished she'd known about the accident above, so she could have avoided the traffic. I shared CapeCodOnline's alert sign-up link, for which she was very appreciative. Here are the rest of the links to sign up for mobile alerts in our markets:


The blog is alive! Now, let's go tweet.

The Ottaway Online Editors blog is back! Ready or not, here we come in the name of audience development and other business causes. To that end, we've also invited Kari Richards to join us in blogging here, focusing on best practices regarding e-mail audience development. Look for her posts soon.

So with the formalities out of the way, on with the blogging! This post has actually been sitting in my Drafts folder for a month, so it's time to push it into the spotlight.

Check out BusinessWeek.com's slideshow "Tweet From The Chiefs" (maneuver through it via the thumbnails at the bottom of the introduction) and imagine the local possibilities. What personalities and dignitaries in your market are on Twitter? What are they saying, and how are they using this social media tool? Publicity? Customer service? Conversation? Chances are, it's some combination of those things and more.

Of course, better start by making sure your brand is represented and polished on Twitter. So far, we're doing pretty well along those lines: CapeCodTimes; HVMG; MailTribune; ThePoconos and PoconoRecord; Recordnet and 209Vibe; and SeacoastOnline. There appear to be accounts for sharpmag and southcoasttoday, too, though no activity yet.

Then experiment with ways to use the accounts in addition to pumping out breaking news. Engage readers, subscribers and advertisers. Promote your Twitter presence, so you can converse with existing members of those groups, all while drawing in more readers, subscribers and advertisers.

Next, encourage individual reporters to participate in locally based Twitter conversations by starting their own accounts and "following" the personalities that you've highlighted in your slideshow. Have them search for others using Twitter's search functionality (examples: https://twitter.com/tw/search/users?q=cape+cod or https://twitter.com/tw/search/users?q=stockton). Seek out brands that have physical presences in your market, too, such as Comcast, Whole Foods, Panera Bread (not much activity yet), and Starbucks. Peruse the Social Brand Index for more.

Once reporters get a feel for the medium, please encourage them to interact. Social media usage is only as successful as the relationships that are built on it. Reporting on a one-way conversation has never been as compelling or as thorough as what's derived from shared dialogue. One-way relationships rarely work out very well.

And isn't that the essence of what we're trying to accomplish as a company and throughout the industry? Jobs-to-be-done interviews, customer-focused product development and consultative selling are in the end a means of building better relationships with our communities and facilitating open and ongoing dialogue.

Social media tools like Twitter can only help.


YouTube melds in some Google Analytics to beef up video stats

YouTube recently announced on its blog that it was rolling out more robust analytics reporting (thanks to paidContent for surfacing the post, given that I hadn't subscribed to the YouTube blog... that will change today).

I haven't posted any videos to my personal account in almost a year, so those of you with more recent videos will have to report back what you think.

So far, the stats must be viewed for each individual video:

As for now, you can find currently available metrics by clicking under the "About this Video" button under "My account > Videos, Favorites, Playlists > Manage my Videos."
It took me three tries to figure out that instruction. Here's a screenshot that I hope will help you fumble around less than I did (e-mail recipients will likely have to go to the blog to see the image):

Who knew that my kids and their friends having a pillow fight at a reunion last spring would be most popular in Germany?


Tiny tripod

Maybe I'm late to this party, but as I was perusing C.C. Chapman's SXSW 2008 photos, one in particular caught my eye: A Nokia N95 being held by a tripod.

The phone I covet has a tripod to match? Color me even greener with envy!

Here's a video that shows how easy it is to operate, and how the clamp can fit on any other tripod in your arsenal:

Or you can make your own, such as YouTube user stretch138:

(These embedded videos may not make it into the e-mail to the Ottaway Online Editors listserv when this items gets posted to the blog, so if not, click through to the blog itself.

That got me poking around the Internet some more, where I discovered that Flip Video -- which I know at least the Pocono Record is using -- sells a handy portable tripod, too.


Starbucks Closes Between 5:30 and 9 P.M. today

First, important news as you plan your commute or other activities for this evening: Starbucks Closes Between 5:30 and 9:00 P.M. today to Perfect the Art of Espresso

Next, the rant: This was buried on page 3A in the "Nationline" briefs column of USA Today this morning. This is important news, especially for business travelers and commuters, the latter of which comprise a large portion of a weekday news audience. Worse? I can't find the brief on the USA Today Web site at all -- not even via the Yahoo-powered search.

To be fair, I couldn't find it via a Google News search either, which to me says no other news organization has realized how helpful such content could be to their core at-work Web audience.

I had to go to Starbucks directly, and not even they had it on their home page as of 8:20 this morning. I had to go to the Press Room to find the announcement.

Would somebody please wake up and smell the venti triple latte, and focus on what the audience wants to know to plan its day?


xFruits aren't ripe yet

Just a quick update on my weekend experiment with xFruits: Though I did successfully mash the feeds and republish content from other feeds to my personal blog, it did not turn out to be an automated result. I still needed to manually update my xFruits settings to get things to flow from feed to blog. The API that facilitates the republication does not appear to be "always on" -- at least not the way xFruits interacts with it.

Witness my post on CommuterDaddy, which I have purposefully not pushed through manually to see how long it takes to jump automatically from the feed through the API, if it does at all. Some of the comments on the xFruits blog seem to indicate it happened weekly for some early adopters. Of course, that would not be nearly frequent enough for our purposes.

More to come....


Tossing an xFruits salad

Please pardon this interruption in content- and marketing-focused blog posts as I dabble in technology a bit and test the feed republishing from the Ottaway Online Editors blog to my personal spolay 2.0 playground.

If successful, this was accomplished using xFruits, something Yoni discovered earlier this week that I've now had enough time to dive deeply into this morning. If not successful, well, it's back to the drawing board....

The idea behind xFruits is to mash up feeds for almost any purpose you can dream up. It's basically another flavor of something like FeedDigest, which we used to combine our football feeds for NewYorkVersusNewEngland.com.

So far, FeedDigest was easier to manipulate in terms of mashing feeds dynamically into an html page with other elements.

xFruits has proven quite capable, though, of mixing multiple RSS feeds into a single feed, and essentially walked me though how I could use the Blogger API to pull feeds from this blog and my CommuterDaddy one into spolay 2.0. For blog aggregation, it seems to be ideal.

The only drawback so far has been that when I first set up the feeds, it republished everything that was available in the feed, and Blogger republished everyting using the time stamp at which the items were received. So I had to go back and reset time stamps -- and weed out older posts when I got tired of redoing timestamps one by one. Not xFruit's fault, I don't think. The bugs seem simply to be Blogger functionality drawbacks.

Now playing: KT Tunstall - Suddenly I See
via FoxyTunes


We've mastered YouTube, so let's tackle Flickr

I visited with Anne Brennan at the Cape Cod Times yesterday, and the conversation turned to placing our content in front of local audiences on other platforms. To follow that up, I shared with Anne some of my ideas about how Flickr could be part of the mix.

So with apologies to Anne, who will receive a second copy of this when the blog post gets redistributed to our online editors listserv, I thought it might be helpful if I shared my thoughts with a wider audience.

Here's what I would do first with Flickr. Have the photo staffs create their own accounts, and upload their favorite photos. I'd aim for daily, but would be happy with weekly intervals for now. Just one photo per interval is all we ask. Then in the caption, in addition to describing the photo, I would put a link to your photos page, something like:
See these and more photos of the week from my colleagues at the <a href="http://www.capecodonline.com/
apps/pbcs.dll/section?category=MEDIA01">Cape Cod Times
</a> and other galleries on <a href="http://capecodonline.com/
apps/pbcs.dll/section?category=MEDIA01">our photos page.</a>
The html code will render, so that the captions will actually link. Here's an example:
I would then make sure to add each photo to the most appropriate Flickr group or groups, where the photos can be targeted to specific interests and gain wider visibility among a more engaged audience. That will translate to a greater potential for click throughs. The photo example linked in the previous paragraph has been added to Cape and Islands Life and Photogamer, an amateur photographer exercise and group I've been participating in.

(Speaking of groups, I found a New Hampshire one that would make a cool project in any one of our markets: http://www.flickr.com/groups/nh/discuss/72157600349063566/)

Down the road, I would try collecting UGC photo efforts on Flickr, asking people to "tag" their photos with "cctstorm" or "cctpatriots" to collect their work in a Flickr slideshow, selections of which you'd republish in the paper and could fairly easily pull back into your site using a Flickr widget (they call it a badge).

Tags, by the way, is a means by which users can categorize their photos with their own folksonomy. The cool thing is it's a way to connect the dots across multiple accounts. I'll walk you through an example:

When you click on a tag like "sandwichma" from there, you get a screen that shows all of my photos with that tag: http://flickr.com/photos/spolay/tags/sandwichma/

Then, there is a link to see all public photos tagged the same way: http://flickr.com/photos/tags/sandwichma/. The first couple of pages this morning are actually my photos, because I recently uploaded a large batch from our family's Christmas card outtakes. Starting on about page 3 of this set, though, you can see photos from other users: http://flickr.com/photos/tags/sandwichma/?page=3

Flickr is among the most popular photosharing sites out there, and it's a mystery to me that so few newspapers -- at least to my knowledge -- have tried to avail themselves of such a highly engaged and enthusiastic audience to any great degree. I recently polled some colleagues from around the industry, and the only similar efforts I could unearth are at fresnofamous.com (http://www.flickr.com/groups/fresnofamous/), nh.com (http://media.nh.com/) and delawareonline.com (http://flickr.com/photos/tags/delawareonline/clusters/).

Such an effort will take some time to build awareness and momentum. One thing we've learned this past year is that success from this type of outreach will only come with consistently applied effort. I firmly believe there is a long-term payoff, both from the standpoint of reaching a large concentration of Cape Cod photo enthusiasts from far and wide who prefer the Flickr platform to ours, and the search engine optimization benefits of creating meaningful links back to our site from a visible, credible, high-ranking site.

The other thing we have learned time and again is that such an effort needs an owner. If no one owns the initiative, it will wane quickly, if it gets off the runway at all. This is the ideal opportunity to really expand a photography-based virtual beat, so that either the photo editor, one or several of the photographers, or even one of the image technicians, really owns, cares for and feeds this outreach effort.

(Full disclosure: Mike Conery and I undertook some Flickr experimentation with Discover Nantucket (http://flickr.com/photos/discovernantucket/), but I don't think we did enough, especially given that we never fully implemented photo galleries on discovernantucket.com, something that will likely get addressed down the road as Nantucket takes back ownership of the site. So we had nothing of added value to link to -- not a challenge most of our other sites will face. The bigger weakness, however, is that the Inquirer and Mirror staff was never fully invested and involved in the project. We failed to clearly communicate what we were trying to accomplish, and the staff in turn was uncomfortable with the platform and the content we were pulling from it. Water under the bridge, but valuable lessons were learned all around.)

We're obviously never going to supplant Flickr, and the odds of us being the "Local Flickr" are pretty long. So let's try to be involved and visible among our local audience that is already on Flickr, offering that audience some of our high-quality photography while also receiving some benefit for the investment of our time, interaction and conversation.

"People form tribes with or without us," Seth Godin wrote recently. "The challenge is to work for the tribe and make it something even better."

I've only scratched the surface on how to utilize Flickr to your benefit. Here's some additional reading that will help:



Ottaway Breaking News Blogs

UPDATE (9:03 p.m. ET): Our main sites are back up and running:

UPDATE (8 p.m. ET): We expect our main news sites to be back online by 9:30 p.m. ET

We are experiencing some technical difficulties today, and our main sites will be inaccessible while server hardware is replaced.

You can, however, continue to receive updates via our breaking news blogs, which can be found here:


Are you ready for disaster?

In the aftermath of yesterday's snowstorm here on Cape Cod, I could not get outside via the normal side-door egress our family uses. The snow had drifted to about the height of my thighs, blocking the screen door from budging even an inch.

Luckily, the northeast winds had swept enough snow away from our more formal front entrance so I could escape through it to dig out the primary doorway. I whispered a little prayer of thanks to Mother Nature, and wondered what I would have done had the snow drifted in such a way to render both doors inoperable.

The other happy accident of the morning was that my wife, Brandy, ever the planner, had stowed our snow shovel in the basement after another recent storm, saving me from clearing the outdoor shed's doorway by hand to retrieve the shovel from where I ordinarily store it. I whispered another little prayer to her.

The universe's message was clear: Disaster planning should not be left to whispered prayers ex post facto.

I was reminded of that lesson this morning as I was reading Rob Curley's recent post, "Anatomy of a local breaking news story:"

If you are a newspaper publisher, right now — and I mean right this very second — go ask the people who are in charge of your website if they are ready for 100 times the normal traffic that your website would typically get.

When our team was in Naples and Lawrence, we had alternate templates that we could deploy on our sites for just this very reason.

Yep, you read that correctly. We didn’t buy tons and tons of back-up hardware and servers for emergencies — though that’s not a terrible gameplan. We simply had another version of our site ready to go on a moment’s notice that was built to be very low in graphics.
I have much deeper thoughts regarding the value of strategic and long-range tactical planning. Such forethought is unheard of in most newsrooms, where long-range amounts to a couple of Sunday papers from today. But let's tackle this small step for planning kind, first. When's the last time you openly discussed and plotted your online disaster plan?

When I say disaster, I don't necessarily mean circumstances under which you lose a server for more than a few hours, though planning for that with your IT folks is a must. I mean the exact situation Rob Curley describes: An event you must and will own, and therefore will attract national attention.

In his post, Rob described his 2005 Naples experience with Hurricane Wilma. I, too, had a similar circumstances -- five years ago next month -- when our coverage of the Station nightclub fire on projo.com was referenced by the network morning news programs and others, causing a huge spike in what was already a high traffic morning for us.

We were ready, because of experience we had gained during our Web coverage of 9/11. On that day, we had to create a text-only front page on the fly because of a spike we received after police reportedly had cornered a terror suspect at the Providence train station. In the end, that wasn't the case, but the lesson endured. We needed a text-only template at the ready, and should not be trying to invent such things on the spot.

So in 2003, when we needed the text-only front for a short period of time, we simply saved our at-the-ready index-breaking.html as index.html, uploaded, and skipped nary a content beat. Everyone knew the drill, so no one panicked.

(We also had enough foresight to have created an omnipresent backup version of the normal home page -- to also save us from ourselves in case we ever forgot to close a div or a table on any ordinary day. So we were also ready to restore the more richly designed home page when the traffic subsided to the point that our systems could handle it.)

Planning is not rocket science. It's just thought, and prep work.

John Wall and Christopher Penn, in their Jan. 2 Marketing Over Coffee podcast, suggested some New Year's resolutions that included annual tasks such as updating your resume and backing up your data. Belatedly, I add: Prepare for disaster. And next January, revisit the plan, if you haven't done so quarterly already. Planning done in such specifically timed chunks can go a long way toward readying you for the unexpected.


San Joaquin and Hudson Valley multimedia projects praised

Our San Joaquin and Hudson Valley staffs have received some accolades of late. If you haven't seen the projects that these clippings tout, set aside some time to check them out. They are riveting examples of the great storytelling we can accomplish by combining the strengths of the online medium with the outstanding reporting and writing skills within our newsrooms.
Don't just take my word for it. People more eloquent than I had this to say about the projects:
  • San Joaquin
    • Pauline's Picks via Editor & Publisher:
      "This is a piece where the multimedia elements are needed in order to best tell the story. True, it could have been done purely in print, but the photos and videos give the story depth and a much better idea of what the brothers' trip is like, not to mention the beauty of southern Mexico."
    • Cyberjournalist.net:
      "Note The Record’s excellent online slogan, 'News worth sharing online.'"
  • Hudson Valley
    • Pauline's Picks:
      "The project feels like a real-life episode of Law & Order.... The case has so many movable parts that the only way to really understand it is online, where you can see the taped confessions, the interviews with Hall's family, not to mention some of the graphic crime seen photos. So settle in and prepare to see a fascinating story."
    • Al's Morning Meeting via Poynter:
      "This is not just excellent journalism; it is a great example of how online interactive storytelling can make a story stronger, clearer, deeper and more memorable. Bravo."
    • Jon Marshall's News Gems via SPJ:
      "[Christine] Young employs a narrative style to humanize Hall and Jones and present the troubling facts of the case. The tremendous multi-media package, produced by John Pertel, comes with videos that accompany each story segment along with a timeline of the case, crime scene map, links to the case files and a 'where are they now' of the key players.
    • Advancing the Story:
      "Pertel and Young are... comfortable constructing stories with narration and on-camera segments, so the pieces are easy to watch and understand...."


May I be alerted when a story is updated?

As I was checking out this story from recordonline.com this afternoon (received via HVMG's Twitter profile... thanks, HVMG!), it occurred to me that there was no way -- short of revisiting the Web site or keeping the page open so I could refresh it periodically -- to stay updated on the story in an automated, user-friendly way.

Thinking out loud (well, virtually out loud) here, but as a user I'd love to opt into an alert when an ongoing story I've caught in midstream is updated. Ideally I could choose from either e-mail, IM or text alert options, and maybe even an RSS feed specific to that story that I could quickly subscribe to it in my Google Reader.

It would function in much the same way as when you receive e-mail when your blog posts have received comments, or when your posts on forums have received follow-up comments.

I've not seen this functionality anywhere. Have you?


Fun with photos, and engage your audience at the same time

Have you seen Photogamer?

There's a lot to like about this site/concept, and half of its beauty is its simplicity. It's essentially a blog and a Flickr group, melded into a fairly engaging social media experiment. It's highly addictive, both as a viewer and as an amateur photographer.

The concept is simple: Once a day, a photo subject is proposed via the blog. Then, those who are playing along upload their submission to their own photo account, and add the photo to the Photogamer group.

It's not a contest. It's intended simply as a medium through which amateur photographers can showcase themselves, and see how their peers tackled the same subject.

Not a photographer? Well, we already know our users love to peruse photo galleries. What better way to further engage that interest by providing them with more community photos without severely tapping your resources. Put the content expansion in the hands of your audience.

In doing the latter, you're tapping into the wide swath of users who already play in the digital photo space -- using everything from fancy, expensive SLRs to the cheapest camera phones and disposable digital point-and-shoots.

Sure, we've been soliciting user-generated photos online for years. We've even published some in the paper (we should do this more, too, by the way). Our normal m.o., though, is to ramp up the effort when there is breaking news. We need a more continuous flow, especially to foster more aggressive audience growth in those wide gaps between the really big stories.

I've been participating in Photogamer. You can follow my very amateur progress on my Flickr account (I also posted about the experience here and here on my personal blog). Come join me, and spend the rest of January on Photogamer. Then leverage the experience to create a local version for February and beyond.

You could even take Photogamer a step further and turn it into a mobile-phone-photo-based scavenger hunt for a younger audience set, for example. The possibilities are fairly limitless.

I'm sure C.C. Chapman won't mind if I transmit one of his concept's here (helping you speak outside the fishbowl in 2008, C.C.!): The goal, from an editor's perspective, should be to play on the new media playground, and gain insight and experience from the endeavor. By encouraging you to participate, I am hoping you, as my audience, will not only learn from the experience, but also have fun doing it. After all, the best way to learn anything is by doing -- and doing it continuously enough until it becomes second nature.

Then pay it all forward by having fun with your audience.


Social media cuts both ways

I very much enjoyed Matt Kinsman's article about online self-promotion on a numbers of levels, not the least of which is a perspective added near the end that pertains to us as new media managers when we are hiring:

It cuts both ways—not only should potential employers be considering your online presence, you should evaluate theirs, including LinkedIn and Facebook profiles of would-be managers.
I hired Yoni Greenbaum last year after we got reacquainted via LinkedIn. He utilized that channel to network through me to follow a lead on another job, and I steered him toward my opening instead.

You'll have to ask him to confirm, but the connection definitely would not have happened had I a.) not been on LinkedIn; b.) not been connected to someone he was seeking to meet, and c.) not had additional online profiles that aided his decision-making, such as this very blog, not to mention my personal blog, and other online presences.

How many of you -- personally or professionally -- are on LinkedIn? Facebook? Flickr? Twitter? YouTube? A blog? If a talented, web-savvy candidate were considering you and your organization for employment, what conclusion would that candidate reach about your organization's Web savviness and commitment to trying new platforms and technologies?

It really amounts to a Golden Rule corollary: Portray for yourself what you might look for in potential employees.


Speaking of SouthCoastToday, check out these Caspio-powered treats

Fred Harwood tells me that the former was seeded by the Web department, which went on an excursion to check out some displays: "It was either a fun way to be productive or a productive way to have some fun."

Amen! And happy holidays to all!

Pimp the good stuff!

Back in my projo.com days, Managing Editor for New Media Tom Heslin coined a phrase for on-site promotion that became our mantra in the last year of working together.

"Pimp that sh*t!"

We quickly shortened it to PTS, to make it a bit more professional in mixed company, and said it to each other with a wink and a nod during almost every meeting in which we were discussing what of our new efforts should get home-page promotion.

I was reminded of PTS as I was conversing with Yoni Greenbaum via IM today. One conversation was about Year in Review features I was encountering, both on Ottaway sites and elsewhere. In particular, I was touting an effort by our SouthCoastToday crew.

Straight from Google Talk:

Yoni: I don't see the year in review package on their homepage...
Sean: Under their special reports menu? (It was in the lead position yesterday afternoon)
Yoni: nah, all I see if their men and women of the year package.
Sean: Oy. I'll dig the link out of my history....
Yoni: found it through their search
A little later, I was checking out a Google Maps mashup done by TheLedger.com in Florida, showing where to find holiday light displays. Dutifully impressed by the effort, I decided to check how they had integrated it into their site. Another exercise in frustration ensued.

Again, straight from Google Talk:
Sean: OK, that Ledger holiday lights mashup? Am I missing something, or is not linked from anywhere on their main site?
Yoni: nope
Sean: By searching Google, I found this: http://whatsnewonline.theledger.com/default.asp?item=717201
I feel a blog post coming on....

What the Google Talk thread doesn't tell you is that I hunted -- I mean, really hunted -- through TheLedger's local news, community, multimedia, interactives and other pages to find how the map was presented or linked. I couldn't even surface via their internal site search. I had to go outside to Google, and come back in, and I still am unclear on exactly how they integrated it on their site, or even promoted it, when the feature was launched.

No user is going to go through the lengths I did to find your cool stuff. It's a disservice to your staff not to showcase their hard work. It's a disservice to the reader to have that kind of utility or interesting content, and hide it under a bushel.

PTS, baby. PTS!


Breaking news alerts: What NOT to do

Check out the washingtonpost.com e-mail I just received, appended below. I am mystified at how even major news organizations don't seem to get breaking news e-mail alerts right.
What's the news conference about? Why should I care? More importantly, why should I drop everything I am trying to get done before my holiday vacation to pay attention to what is happening on washingtonpost.com? Is it breaking news simply because Bush IS holding a press conference? Maybe so, but how am I supposed to know that from what I've been sent? If that's the news hook, tell me! Give me something more than the president is going to hold a news conference. So what?
I am not clicking through to find out more. I have not been made to care enough to pay attention. I am almost tempted to unsubscribe....

From: washingtonpost.com [mailto:newsletter@letters.washingtonpost.com]
Sent: Thursday, December 20, 2007 9:46 AM
To: Polay, Sean
Subject: News Alert: VIDEO: President Bush to Hold News Conference

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News Alert 8:20 a.m. ET Thursday, December 20, 2007
VIDEO: President Bush to Hold News Conference
President Bush plans to hold a White House news conference at 10:00 a.m. ET. To view live streaming video of this event on the Web, go to http://www.washingtonpost.com/postlive1.

For more information, visit washingtonpost.com

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Winter mapping idea: Best Places for Sledding

Check out: NJ Real Estate Wire » Best Places for Sledding in Essex County NJ.

Add a mashup map, some UGC to solicit user favorites and comments on already mapped ones, and you've got something more interactive that will last you all winter long!



An update from Gizmodo for those who are hoping the YouTube video quality might improve: What YouTubeHD Might Look Like.

As indicated in the post, the stream is choppy (understatement), but it's nice to see that there's work afoot and potential quality improvement on the horizon.


Earth to publishers: Stop trying to exert so much control

The headline alone on this AP story on NJ.com is enough to send me into orbit: News Web sites seek more search control

When, oh when, are publishers going to realize that the more we try to exert control over our content, the more likely we are to lose control.

By the way, losing control over the distribution of our content is not a bad thing, people. The easier we make it for readers to access our content -- regardless of platform -- the more likely it will be that we gain and retain readers via whatever channel our content was acquired.

Roadblocks are exactly that. Pretty hard to grow audience when we throw up a bunch of stop signs and detours.


UGC should not be ostracized

A must-read column from Steve Outing's monthly offering on Editor & Publisher: An Important Lesson About Grassroots Media

The really important paragraphs:

Take a look at some news organizations that are soliciting and trying to attract citizen content. Most of the time it's put in a separate website or webpage, off to the side and separated from the professionally produced content. That strategy alone, in my opinion, dooms the citizen content to obscurity. Some people will find it, but my bet is that it will never get significant traffic.

For example, it's common after a natural disaster for a news website to request that eyewitnesses share photos or blog about their experiences. Typically that content is aggregated in a page with all the other amateur submissions. Meanwhile, there's another, separate page for photos of the disaster taken by professional photojournalists. Flipping through the amateur photos is arduous to most of us; you have to scan a lot of crap to find the few great images.

That's the wrong approach, in my view. The best way to leverage those eyewitness photos is to have editors identify the best ones, then add those to a presentation of the best images of the disaster, period -- whether they're from the pros or the eyewitnesses.

That's really what this whole social/grassroots/citizen thing is all about, y'know! News organizations need to stop thinking of themselves as islands, and reach out and grab all the other relevant content that's being published around them. The news website that covers the local wildfires exclusively with staff content is hopelessly lost in the web 2.0 environment. The news site that gathers, identifies and filters all the wildfire coverage from local bloggers and other sources -- and adds that in with its own staff coverage -- understands where it should be going.


Check out: Is there good traffic reporting online?

Following on my Twitter-related post from yesterday, give a read to Yoni's ideas for online traffic reporting.

It really is all about leveraging the strengths of the available platforms, isn't it?


Twitter your br(e)aking news

Some may recall the idea I've floated in various conversations about how Twitter could be an effective tool for commuter traffic updates online?

Steve Outing expands on the idea in his latest E-Media Tidbits post: The Twitter Disaster

Amen, Steve. The end game, in my mind, is placing our content on the platforms where our current and potential audience prefer to consume us. This is something I've been advocating since 2005, by the way, but is all the more true in the social networking, Web 2.0 world in which we're operating as we head into 2008.

This will seem like sacrilege, coming from a person whose success is measured by the audience metrics of our Web sites, but when it comes to content distribution, driving traffic back to our core newspaper.com sites is a secondary benefit (not that there's anything wrong with that benefit, mind you). The more important result is that by pushing our content in ways that makes it easiest for many different audience segments to consume it, we've performed the ultimate "job-to-be-done."

If I put on my user hat for a second, I'll repeat my point from an earlier post that Twitter has become my primary means of following news updates from New York Times and ESPN, not to mention our own Pocono Record. I wish more sites were on the bandwagon.