Blogs: Good or Evil?

Washington Post's Howard Kurtz collects some wide-ranging thoughts (by others) on blogs in his column today:

Blogs: Good or Evil?

The column almost reads like a blog. Ironic, eh?

NYT's Talk to the Newsroom: Reader Questions and Answers

A little nytimes.com inside baseball as Deputy Managing Editor Jonathan Landman answers reader questions about the Web operation.


Speaking of podcasts....

Been discussing podcasts via e-mail with Dan Wheeler in Danbury, and as part of hunting around for some examples, I came across this article: Newspapers' nascent podcasting projects in perspective - Editors Weblog- Analysis.

One preoccupation of newspapers looking to include podcasting is how to produce them in a way to which readers can relate. Are readers merely interested in hearing the print journalist read his or her article or does it have to sound more professional to keep the reader coming back?
Of course, given that choice, it's the latter, right?

I submit, however, that the goal should really be to sound professional and off-the-cuff (authentic) at the same time. That's a challenge, but it's doable. The podcasts I enjoy the most sound as if they are not following a script, while also not injecting a lot of ums and ahs in between.

I'm a huge fan of The Splendid Table Kitchen Questions. It's basically the call-in portion of The Splendid Table, a public radio program produced by American Public Media (home of Marketplace and A Prairie Home Companion, among many others). The podcasts's real charm is that its completely unscripted (well, aside from the call screener), but always informative.

On the flip side, Celtic Music News podcast is outstanding for its musical content, but I cringe every time I listen to the host in between songs because he always seems lost and unsure of where he's going next.

Here's what some other newspapers are doing across the country. If you don't have iTunes or other software that can subscribe to podcasts, get thee to Juice, and give their free software a trial run.

Here's a list I collected for Dan:
Papers more our speed:

Pensacola News Journal: http://multimedia.pensacolanewsjournal.com/podcast/pod_pop.shtml

Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: http://www.democratandchronicle.com/apps/pbcs.dll/section?Category=PODCAST

The Daily Journal (Kanakee County, Ill.): http://ww2.daily-journal.com/podcast/index.cfm

And the big boys:

SacBee: http://www.sacticket.com/music/story/13712786p-14555138c.html

NYT: http://www.nytimes.com/ref/multimedia/podcasts.html (I love the Music Popcast. And even the Most E-mailed Stories one is pretty good. It's about three minutes, and always has a quirky, creative spin on describing the stories.)

SFGate: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/sfgate/indexn?blogid=5
Description of their intent: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/sfgate/about?blogid=5

Philly.com: http://www.phillyfeed.com/
If you're really interested, I'll send a list of the music podcasts I listen to regularly.

Chronicle Podcasts : Helen Thomas' Washington

Helen Thomas podcasts! Who knew?


USA National Gas Temperature Map

Via today's Rocketboom: Timely mashup done by the folks at gasbuddy.com, which many, I'm sure, are already using as a contextual link for any gas price stories. The USA National Gas Temperature Map uses a color-coded map to show how gas prices differ across the country.

Green = cheapest. Red = most expensive. Right-click over your county -- or any other that interests you -- to see the average price. If you zoom in on the map, you can do the same for individual towns, too.

Personally, I'm driving to New Jersey for my next fillup. Luckily, I live one town over the state line.


Earth Day online event

From: Clyde Bentley [mailto:bentleycl@missouri.edu]
Sent: Sunday, April 23, 2006 10:09 PM
To: New Media Federation
Subject: [feds-newmedia] Earth Day online event

Columbia, MO, celebrates Earth Day with a large street fair and festival.  For the second year, student editors of MyMissourian.com have staffed a booth at which they explain citizen journalism, hand out pamphlets directing folks to our Web site and copies of our 23,000-circulation citizen journalism print edition.

But the excitement really climbs when we offer the loan of a digital camera on the condition they come back with photos of the fair that we can immediately upload to the Web.

We are a low (make that no) budget operation, so we just put a few photos directly on the site and then link to a Flickr gallery that grows through the day.

And grow it did.  We ended the day with 100 user-generated photographs, plus a pile of e-mail addresses of folks who would like to continue contributing.

Take a look at http://mymissourian.com.  If you have questions about our project, drop me a line.


Clyde H. Bentley, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Missouri School of Journalism
3 Neff Hall
Columbia, MO 65211-1200
(573) 884-9688 BentleyCl@missouri.edu


SFGate: Populist news sites give readers what they want / New tools measure buzz, helping online editors decide if a story deserves better play

Calling your attention to this San Francisco Chronicle article from Monday: Populist news sites give readers what they want / New tools measure buzz, helping online editors decide if a story deserves better play

My pet-peeve rant: They didn't link the bleepin' Web sites in the fact box appended to the end of the article. For crying out loud!

Google tips

Via Search Engine Watch:
Tips_Tricks_85x11.pdf (application/pdf Object)

They also have an online cheat sheet, and still more here. My favorite is the weather search.


Newstimeslive.com: How to comment on stories

Danbury launched reader comments last week, and provided a brief tutorial on the process.

Give me 5 every Friday

UGC idea from Cape Cod: Give me 5 every Friday


Check out the number of guides in the right rail of phillyBurbs.com. Of particular note is the new Pets guide.

It's got a decent start on the content side (no link to describe who Dave M is on the blog, but he's posting prolifically), plus a business directory spotlight with a form to dive into their Switchboard.com (i.e. yellow pages) implementation.

(Side note: Frankly, I'm a little worried that Abercrombie & Fitch shows up in the Pet Breeder listings....)

PhillyBurbs has also incorporated a link to their Dog Lovers photo gallery, much of which appears to be wire photos, but probably still is generating a decent number of clicks for them.



I just noticed that Daily Candy on Friday inserted a poll into its e-mails. Perhaps they did it sooner than that. There are days when I tend to delete the e-mails in the interest of time.

Point being that I recommend inserting poll questions into your Lyris templates, if you're not already. It's a great way to fold an additional call to action into the sometimes humdrum daily headlines e-mail. The whole idea of the e-mail newsletters is to entice clicks from people who might not otherwise visit that day. A poll -- especially an irreverant one such as what Daily Candy offered on Friday in it's Boston edition -- could be just the trick.


Pocono Record - Easter egg hunt kids photo tips

Great article idea, and check out the tease at the end that solicits user-generated photos.

Wish I'd had this advice in hand when our kids participated in an Easter egg hunt this past Sunday!


Blog-based local newspaper site

The Hudson Independent (a monthly in Tarrytown, NY) has created a local newspaper site with Typepad, a blogging tool. They're having trouble getting traction (no comments or trackbacks on any of the articles, so far as I can see) but it's an interesting and simple way to do some "hyperlocal" content.


This Boring Headline...

An amusing article from today's New York Times talks about the need to write straightforward headlines for readers who see only the headline on blogs, or in RSS feeds -- or for that matter in news lists on your home page.

"Part of the craft of journalism for more than a century has been to think up clever titles and headlines, and Google comes along and says, 'The heck with that,'" says a VP for new media at Stockton's northern neighbor, the Sacramento Bee.

Optimizing headlines for search engines

Spied via LostRemote:
NYT: This Boring Headline Is Written for Google

We didn't need it, necessarily, but consider it as further proof of the importance of the 'Net headline (as opposed to the newspaper kicker that can often wind up online).


Road sage

I'm a sucker for good, local historical content, even if I have no connection to the area. So I ate up this story from yesterday's Exeter News-Letter: Why is the road called Tan Lane?

When Plattsburgh's new site launches next month, one of the online guides they're crafting will focus on the area's rich history. I submit, though, that even a mere landing page to collect articles like Exeter's (if you have them) -- perhaps with AP's Today in History as an additional feature -- would be something that could generate some additional page views and provide for a "stickier" experience for our audience.


When UGC Goes Bad

Check out the New York Times article today on an effort by Chevrolet to solicit user-generated advertising.

Some samples:

  • $70 to fill up the tank, which will last less than 400 miles. Chevy Tahoe.
  • Our planet's oil is almost gone. You don't need G.P.S. to see where this road leads.
  • Like this snowy wilderness? Better get your fill of it now. Then say hello to global warming.
The good news? So far Chevy is sticking with the concept:
"We anticipated that there would be critical submissions," Ms. (Melisa) Tezanos said. "You do turn over your brand to the public, and we knew that we were going to get some bad with the good. But it's part of playing in this space."
NYT points out that Converse had more success with its user-generated advertising effort: conversegallery.com. I guess Chuck Taylors engender less activism than SUVs.

Warning: Converse's site is addictive. Here's a few of my favorites:


NYTimes.com redesign

Letter from Leonard M. Apcar highlights new features: Wider pallette, more prominent UGC, better integration of multimedia, multitudes of topic (i.e. landing) pages and personalization.


Pew Study

This USA Today article about the latest Pew Study which reiterates what we all know -- no one under 35 is reading a local newspaper but is reading lots of local news online -- got me thinking about innovation.

What are we doing that is innovative and cool to draw these people into our sites?

I have lots of ideas, but haven't had time to implement:
1. Using Google's mapping API, create a map of the private communities in and around the Poconos and link basic content about those communities to the map.
2. Do the same thing for the casinos that are being planned and that I have no idea where these locations are.
3. Do more SPOTTED! events (problem here is getting staffers to volunteer their time to take the pictures)
4. Recruit local photography students from the nearby college to take the SPOTTED photos in return for critiques by our professional staff shooters.
5. Create a kick-ass real estate landing page with interactive maps (google's again, probably) that link to Realtor's listings and lots and lots of information about new construction and living here. The new construction content could be a tutorial on how to pick a builder.

What are your top five innovative ideas that will keep us in the online content game?

Filtering and Aggregation

I found this post by Jeff Jarvis thought-provoking. (I haven't read the Times article yet)

I've always thought our value online and in print is our ability to edit (filter) and gather (aggregate) as much local news as we can. The problem for us stuck in between the old and new model is that the content can be aggregated and filtered by just about anyone. And whomever does it faster and hits the presentation nail on the head in terms of what the reader wants, wins.
Maybe we need to be more like google in that we suck up much more local data, present it the way the reader wants (or searches for it) and worry about the editing later. The longer we only rely on the print content to fill our Web pages, the more we lose our edge in the market.

All in my humble opinion and fully aware that sucking up local data and presenting it in a useable form is much easier said than done.

What do you all think?