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.


Blogs can be sources, too

Boston Herald story about a smoky concert included quoting a blog as an eyewitness account. Not sure I've seen that before:

One witness recounted the events on his local blog, Mixtapes for Hookers (www.autonomyboy.silentpillow.com). (Note: I added the link here. The Herald version was hyperlink-free at this writing.)

“The room (filled up) with smoke and the cutey drummer started coughing,” wrote MFH. “The people from the club started running around. All the girls in the audience made a mad dash for the coat room and everybody else calmly walked out onto the sidewalk.”

Ads as widgets (or vice versa)

While reading a story on Wicked Local Bourne this evening, I encountered the following ad (RSS-based readers should click through to see the ad):

Of course, I clicked on "Get this widget!" first, because I have widgets on the brain lately. That made me wonder whether the ad was really that effective.

I quickly realized that it was more effective than a "standard" ad. Get some good creative in that widget, and you have enabled it to not only be clickable for more information on your brand, product or offer, but you've also turned the ad itself into a viral marketing mechanism.

Now how much would you pay!


Meta tag and alias reinforcement

Don't just take my, Yoni's and Ken's word for it: There's ample evidence out there in SEO-blog land regarding the importance of meta tags and aliases and how they contribute to keyword density of your pages and the call-to-action text that shows up in the search engine's themselves.

Witness today's post by Miles Price in Search Engine Journal: 12 Basic On-Site SEO Tactics for Optimized Results.

1. The Meta Keywords, Description and Robots tag — Google used description copy to market your site in its results, treat this as optimized sales copy. Make sure your sitemap.xml page is CONSTANTLY called up to the search engines

2. The Title Tag - The MOST important aspect of on-page SEO, just take our word for it...

5. The URL — The subdirectory folder and page of content should be SEO’d (i.e. http://domain.com/real-estate/real-estate-marketing-ideas.com would fetch a high ranking for a page dedicated to real estate marketing ideas - especially with many highly authoritative, relevant, deep in-bound links)


TV is killing us with convergence and self-promotion

At one point during Game 3 of the World Series last night, there was a trivia interlude, asking viewers which of four Rockies held the franchise record for home runs. To participate, viewers were told to text their choice to Fox, or log onto FoxSports.com to vote.

Now, at the time, I thought that was pretty silly. Vote for something you could first find the answer to with a couple of clicks on the Web?

While the specific question might have been silly, the aim was not: Leverage the strengths of other mediums to further engage the audience, and expose them to other Fox products.

(Oddly, though, I could not unearth historical stats on FoxSports.com. Had to learn elsewhere that the answer is Todd Helton.)

I have been struck lately by how well TV sports broadcasters do, through spoken words, tickers, on-screen bugs and more, to tout their online and mobile products. The Red Sox pregame show on the local Fox affiliate last night included viewer comments scrolling across the bottom of the screen. Watch any Sunday morning football preview show, and they are answering viewers' fantasy football questions via the ticker, and actively seek such questions through lead-ins or close-outs of segments. A local Patriots weekly magazine show included promotional spots for online-only programming during the week and on game days.

Contrast that with my experience with reading the November/December issue of Yankee Magazine this morning. There was a good story about the transformation of Pittsfield, MA, into a can't-miss city on any visit to Western Massachusetts. Once I reached the end of the story, I made myself backtrack through the pages, because I was sure I must have missed a tease to go online to see more photos or share my Pittsfield travel stories. No such luck.

That would have been the elementary step. An interactive map might have been an intermediate step, showing all the different locales discussed in the article (there was quite an extensive list at the end of the print story). Pulling in ratings and reviews from Yelp and other sites might have been the more advanced step. Bonus points could have been achieved if they had their own ratings and reviews system and they solicited users to participate.

So I went online, to see if the Yankee staff did anything to enhance the online version of the story, and maybe just missed the opportunity to tease from print. Nay. The story is not even online yet.

I throw up my hands in disgust. How can we expect our audiences to engage with us and our products if we won't engage ourselves in stretching our thinking and leveraging the strengths of our platforms?


Your Guide to Virtual Worlds

I think this would have to be considered a 201 course: Your Guide to Virtual Worlds

Twelve types of effective blog posts

Rich Gordon offers up a Blogging 101 in his Readership Institute post: Twelve types of effective blog posts

Please share with anyone blogging -- or thinking about blogging -- in your newsroom. We're all never too old to go back to school.


Not Your Father's Press Release

So it appears that the business world is starting to realize that a press releases doesn't have to simply be a piece of paper or e-mail and a few posed photos.

Ford Motor Company recently announced the 2008 Ford Focus with what might just be the very first Social Media press release. In addition to the traditional text release:

their site (yes a website!) also included an rss feed:

a Flickr photo gallery:A YouTube gallery with an embeddable player:

Suggested Tags:
And much, much more.

I think it is worth noting that this is FORD, not the most forward-thinking company out there and one that has been struggling financially. To me this effort indicates their recognition that there is now more then one way to get your message out; that you need to maximize your distribution; that what worked before won't work now. Is it selling more cars? I don't know. But it does have people talking.

So what do you think?


A smile for Unicef

A nice UGC idea, that could be loosely tied to Halloween:

Adverblog: A smile for Unicef


Brand Your YouTube Page

As more of you use YouTube for video distribution and promotion, I wanted to suggest that you switch your accounts from the default YouTuber to Director. This FREE change in what YouTube refers to as Channel Type will allow you to add custom items and logos on your Profile page. Basically it allows you to make your YouTube homepage consistent with your overall branding.

To make this switch, simply sign into YouTube and then go to the "Channel Info" section (http://www.youtube.com/my_profile) of your account and click on the "change channel type" link.

Don’t forget to press the Update Channel button before navigating away from the page otherwise your change won’t be registered.

Make sure that you have given your channel a title and description. This information is entered in the Channel Info page. Your description can be something as simple as RCA Record’s:

The latest videos from RCA Records!

If you want to promote all your products you can provide a description similar to that of the Universal Music Group:

Universal Music Group (UMG) Music Video Channel.

Universal Music Group consists of record labels Decca Music Group, Deutsche Grammophon, Interscope Geffen A&M Records, Geffen Records, Island Def Jam Music Group, Lost Highway Records, MCA Nashville, Mercury Nashville, Mercury Records, Philips, Polydor Records, Universal Music Latino, Universal Motown Records Group, Universal South Records and Verve Music Group as well as a multitude of record labels owned or distributed by its record company subsidiaries around the world.

This is also where you can include a link to your homepage or other portions of your site or even contest or event. For example if you visit the NBA’s YouTube page, you’ll see that they are currently looking for people to vote for the Fan Plays of the Year.

Channel Design allows you to customize the look and feel of your homepage in addition to delete or add the types of content visitors will see. At the very least, I would encourage all of you to upload your logos, make the color scheme visually consistent with your own sites and remove content options that might just clutter your page.

To get some ideas of how other sites are customizing their pages, check out some of these links.

You could even do something like what Al Jazeera English did on their page, and get the most out of your background image.

Once you’re done designing your YouTube page, don’t forget to upload your videos and for that I encourage you all to use HeySpread since it will post to YouTube and 15 other video sharing sites. For more on that, see my previous posts here and here.

If you have any question or comments please don’t hesitate to reach out to me and once you’ve completed your page, please share it with everyone.


Another Thought on YouTube

With all the talk last week about YouTube, copyright, credibility and impact I thought it was interesting to look at how UC Berkeley was treating the site.

For those of you familiar with the University, you likely already know that it has long embraced the web, since last year it has offered podcasts of its lectures on iTunes and earlier this month it went a step further and started publishing lectures on YouTube.

At http://youtube.com/ucberkeley, you’ll find a heavily customized page that takes advantage of the functionality that comes with a “Directors Account” -- including custom items and logos. Videos on their page include tours of campus, full lectures and interviews with staff. Currently the topics of study featured include chemistry, physics and biology.

The university explained its decision to post to YouTube this way.

"UC Berkeley on YouTube will provide a public window into university life, academics, events and athletics, which will build on our rich tradition of open educational content for the larger community," said Christina Maslach, UC Berkeley's vice provost for undergraduate education in a statement.

I don’t know how they are gauging success, but these are their posted YouTube stats:

Subscribers: 4,580
Channel Views: 340,889 (the channel seems to have gone live in May)

Now obviously we’re not running colleges or universities, but I think some of that “public window” that Maslach spoke of above rings true for what we do as well.

More then anything else, I hope seeing the way UC Berkeley, the various Presidential candidates or CBS.com are turning to YouTube and using it will help you all work through some of your concerns about incorporating the site into your overall strategy.


Kapler's corner -- Gabe Kapler offers his thoughts on the Red Sox in the playoffs - Boston.com

Nice idea, Boston.com: Kapler's corner -- Gabe Kapler offers his thoughts on the Red Sox in the playoffs - Boston.com. There's some nice inside-baseball (pardon the pun) stuff in there that only someone like Kapler could provide. Love that!

One nitpicky critique: Where's the RSS feed? How can I subscribe to the blog in my RSS reader, where I consume most of my blog-like interests, if you don't allow my Firefox to automatically detect the feed in the page, nor offer me an RSS link somewhere in the sidelines of the blog? Or how can I add it to Facebook? Or my iGoogle? You know... the platforms where I spend a significant portion of my online time these days?

For what it's worth, the feed is not available on their sports RSS page either.

Maybe my standards are too high, and I'm too much of a stickler for these details. I suppose it's nice to know we're not alone in trying to corral the basics. Boston.com has some basics to tackle, too.


Varsity 845 in-print Facebook promo

Hey, Facebook users and explorers,

Check out the in-print promo Matt Pepin, the Times Herald-Record's sports editor, crafted for the burgeoning Facebook application that Patrick Mullen has been building as an extension of Varsity 845. It's at the bottom of the PDF.

Patrick has been improving his development of the application daily for about the last week or so. His assessment is that developing for Facebook is easy once you get the hang of it, and what you build essentially is Facebook's equivalent of an iframe, something we're all practiced at using on our Web sites.

Patrick and I both agree we've not yet achieved the secret sauce with building social networking applications and widgets, but this is a great initial foray into the space for us. I'm looking forward to collaborating on future development.

Please share any ideas you or your kids might have. After all, much of the target audience is much younger than us. Who better to ask than them?

YouTube invitation

I believe I received a YouTube invitation from fitnessfactor overnight because I already subscribe to another fitness video channel (if only I was better at making time to stay fit!). I am betting that they scoured related channels, and invited subscribers of those other channels to check out fitnessfactor.

A bit spammish in practice, but it did entice me to click through and check out the videos.

One weakness of the fitnessfactor invite was it was not personal. They just used the default YouTube text:

Hi Sean,

I've been using YouTube to share personal videos with my friends and family. I'm inviting you to become my friend on YouTube so I can easily share videos with you in the future.

To accept my invitation, please follow this link and login. If you're not already a YouTube member, you can sign up first.


I've got social networking profiles all over the Internet. It's not that hard to learn a little bit about me, and a personal touch would go a lot further when it comes to recruiting me to subscribe or otherwise participate in what you're trying to accomplish.

An alternative approach:
Hi Sean,

We noticed that you subscribe to cbtrainer's videos, and as a busy executive and father of three, I am sure you are looking for any tips you can get to stay healthy and fit efficiently, while resisting the urge to indulge in fast food and unhealthy snacks, especially when you are on the road.

Check out our videos by following this link, and if we can fit into your video and fitness life, we'd love to have you as a subscriber.

Now, not every potential user is as visible as I am on the Internet. But take out the executive and father details, and it would still be a lot more personal than the default text.

Don't forget what you're up against. I received another YouTube invitation last week that was much more like a typical MySpace invite. "Hi, you looked interesting to me, and you should come over to this other Web site to check me out." They've become so numerous, it's become just noise. The fitnessfactor invite was a lot closer to that noise than it needed to be.

It's all about the signal-to-noise ratio. You need to amplify your signal to rise above all the noise. A little extra effort and a personal touch can go a long way to achieving that.

For related thoughts, check Lee Odden's "Blogger Realtions 101." While it refers to bloggers specifically -- and bloggers will be a specific focus of a chapter in the Audience Development Playbook -- Odden offers some pretty good tips on outreach in general that will be helpful regardless of platform. Also see his more recent post, "How NOT to Pitch a Blog."


A review of V845

We've been talking up the Hudson Valley group's high school sports effort (http://www.varsity845.com) quite a bit lately, and exploring with some of you the possibility of borrowing elements and functionality for your use (Southcoast has since taken them up on the offer, and is working to integrate some of the scoreboard elements into their high school football coverage).

See below some outside feedback on the Varsity 845 effort.

While projects like this do depend on some technological pieces being in place, success comes only from completing the circle with widespread buy-in and usage by the staff. Matt Pepin has done a superb job of using the technology that Patrick Mullen has provided, and running all-out to make sure the content is filling the platform and building the audience.

Please reach out to Patrick and Matt when you can. They have hit upon an initial formula that can work for you. Lots of audience growth can be derived from consistent and persistent use of online tools to strengthen your timely and interactive coverage of the local online sports scene.


From: Pepin, Matt
Sent: Tue 9/25/2007 11:08 AM
To: Vanderhoof, Joe; Mullen, Patrick; Gliedman, Erik; Osenenko, Derek; McGuire, Meg; Mohart, Doug; Polay, Sean
Subject: a review of V845

Everyone ... very favorable coverage of V845 by the New York State Sportswriters Association in the president's blog. Link is here, text is pasted below.


Matt Pepin

Sports Editor

Times Herald-Record

Middletown, N.Y.

The 411 on '845': Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill was famously quoted as saying "All politics is local." He was also known for his ability to return to his old neighborhood and recognize people he hadn't seen in years, greeting them by name and attending to them as though they were life-long friends.

Rep. O'Neill got it. He understood that he needed to be attuned to the lives of his constituents. It's grassroots politicking, and it's how he got re-elected time after time after time, though being a liberal, Irish Democrat in Massachusetts certainly didn't hurt his cause.

I'm not sure yet whether the effort will amount to "too little, too late," but newspapers and other old-school media are going the grassroots route as well these days, focusing their newsgathering and delivery on so-called "hyper-local" approaches. Major newspapers and electronic media that used to have multiple foreign news bureaus are shutting them down to concentrate on national and state coverage. Those that used to maintain a presence in New York and Washington, D.C., have been cutting back to focus oin state and local reporting.

And mid-sized daily papers are moving their resources back from the statehouse into the local neighborhoods to recapture readership they've been losing for any number of reasons over the last quarter of a century. And the emphasis is on online operations in pursuit of the young folks.

Translation: This is a swell time to be a web designer or developer with a little flair and imagination. There's a big market for "cool" and "cutting edge" in the online world these days as newspapers court the young readers.

To that end, The Times Herald-Record in Middletown typlifies the "adapt or die" mentality this fall, having rolled out Varsity845.com <http://www.varsity845.com/> . It's a laudable effort that combines old staples -- roundups, game stories, states and standings -- with new strategies such as blogging, video clips, photo galleries and forums.

It adds up to a place in the top three of must-visit scholastic sports sites in New York, alongside Newsday <http://www.newsday.com/sports/highschool/> and LoHud.com <http://www.thejournalnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/section?category=SPORTS02> .

What makes the site superior? Start with the name. Playing off the area code for the Catskills/Hudson Valley region the paper serves, it's named so as to put a little distance between the new product and print product. Trust me. I spent 11-plus years at DemocratandChronicle.com in Rochester, so I understand how it's a lot easier to design a snazzy t-shirt with the Varsity 845 logo on it than it is to get creative with the Times Herald-Record name.

The site's design -- yellow type on a black background -- is attractive and effective, but that's relatively superficial stuff anyway. Where Varsity845.com really succeeds is its content:

* A simple, useful calendar
* Standings that are generally up to date and accurate
* Chat forums
* Results roundups and game stories
* Video reports and photo galleries
* Links to lists of players and coaches of the year in the respective sports as well as Section 9 champions

Additionally, the staff does the stuff that looks good but involves effort above and beyond what many sites are willing to do. Three bloggers contribute multiple entries each week and three nominees per day are highlighted for their Player of the Day voting.

Taken in total, it's superior to just about anything out there and positions The Times Herald-Record to defend against MaxPreps, Scout.com and other national players that are trying to make inroads into local markets. Publishers across the state should stop by to see how they should be doing it.


Sign Design

I'm sure you know by now how much I love these kinds of contests: Embassy Suites Launches Do Not Disturb Sign Design Contest

You can involve your audience in just about anything you try to do.


Animoto - Remix

So Animoto let me remix the photos, select some as "featured," choose a new starting point in the music, or replace the music entirely. Now it's not as fulyl featured as I might like, but for those just wanting a quick way to create a video-like experience with only photos and a soundtrack -- and the ability to plug it into Blogger, Facebook and other places -- this is not a bad way to go.

Test drive of Animoto

Trying out Animoto (www.animoto.com), a site that allows you to upload photos -- or pull them from Flickr or other apps -- choose some music, and voila... instant video! On this first one, I didn't see anywhere to play with the pacings or transitions. Will go back in to read the directions more carefully now....


User-generated product development

Full credit goes to my wife, Brandy, for pointing me in this direction: Vineyard Vines Custom Department.

Submit your design, and Vineyard Vines will apply it to their products. Sure, you have to order a minimum quantity, but I still love the concept.

The possibilities for similar application to our products is endless:

  • Have readers design their own print page from photos they've submitted.

  • Cape Cod has Gulliver (befriend him on Facebook!). How about if you have readers design your mascot -- and then turn him or her into an online and marketing personality?

  • Run some user-submitted stories in the paper.

  • Solicit blog ideas from readers.

What are some of your ideas?


How we measure up on socialmeter

Found via StephKerchner on Digg: socialmeter

Here's a quick look at our scores:
ack.net: 229
capecodonline.com: 4,841
dailytidings.com: 717
mailtribune.com: 3,170
poconorecord.com: 3,059
recordnet.com: 5,600
recordonline.com: 8,105
seacoastonline.com: 9,438
southcoasttoday.com: 9,288

Note: The tally for something called Shadows wasn't loading for me, but neither was its Web site -- and before today I'd not even heard of it.

It's also missing counts for StumbleUpon, Shoutwire, Magnolia, Newsvine, Reddit, Twitter and I'm sure others. Nonetheless, it's an interesting view of our visibility to potential audience in our markets that traverse elsewhere.


Toot Your Own Horn, Why Don'tcha

So for those of you who didn’t see it, earlier last week Hudson Valley joined Cape Cod in getting their work recognized in an Editor & Publisher column.

On Tuesday, Pauline Millard, online editor at E&P (who I’ve written about previously), wrote about the newspapers online bridge database project. Millard used the project to discuss the ongoing coverage of the Minneapolis bridge collapse.

By now, you may be asking yourself ‘hey, how do I get some of that sweet coverage?’ And if you’re not asking yourself that question, let me tell you, you should be. Because while there is no guarantee that it will work, it doesn’t take much to get the ball rolling.

Start by introducing yourself. As you will see in the piece on Hudson Valley, I’m quoted. Now that wasn’t my intention from the outset – I’ve been quoted enough in my life already -- but rather was a result of my being one to approach Pauline in the first place about the project.

All I did was send her a brief e-mail drawing her attention to the project (including relevant links) and explaining why I thought she might find it of value – in this case, an example of how you don’t need a 12-person Computer Assisted Reporting team to do high quality CAR projects.

I then made sure to stay in touch with her, as she emailed me throughout the day with various questions and comments. In some cases I had the answers and in others, I called on people at Hudson Valley to provide the relevant information. And finally, when she said the project would be the topic of her column, I made sure to send her a nice little thank you note.

Now it’s true that a piece in E&P is not like Fark or Drudge and does not result in a large number of visitors, but a piece in E&P or in Romenesko, brings industry attention and the admiration of your colleagues, if nothing else, it’s sure nice to be recognized once in a while.

So next time, give it your own shot, hey you never know just who might write about the hard work you do?

Pauline Millard pmillard@editorandpublisher.com


Wikipedia contest

Ottaway Online Directors and Editors,
I am happy to announce a new installment of our audience development contest, this time focused on a specific content distribution idea: How many pages can you wiki?
I've mentioned before that opportunity exists with every landing page created -- not to mention listing our sites as geographic resources for the towns and regions we cover -- to sprinkle our links across the wikisphere. So let's focus some effort on doing so, and gain some traffic and an education in the process.
Here's a couple of examples where I have added our newspaper.com sites or specific landing pages to the External Links or Resources sections of Wikipedia entries:
Now, I happen to have a login, and you can set yourself up with one too. It will make it much easier to track your progress, because there is a link once you log in that takes you to "My Contributions," listing everything you've added throughout Wikipedia. If you decide to remain anonymous, you will just have to keep track of your entries manually.
Note: In the case of the Nantucket entry, where I had also originally added links to a few other Nantucket products, Wikipedia editors saw that as link spam and removed all but one. So I would recommend only a single external link to your your products for each wiki page.
And the best part about this contest? Mere participation makes you a winner. Here's how you can earn the prizes:
Add resource links to 25 Wikipedia pages, and I'll furnish you a copy of The Wisdom of Crowds.
Add links to 50 Wikipedia pages, and I'll throw in a $25 gift card to the coffee shop of your choice.
Add links to 75 Wikipedia pages, and you'll receive an Ottaway-logoed shirt, commemorating the our 70th anniversary.
(75? Am I nuts? Well at 5 a day for the next 16 business days, that'd be 80. Seems pretty doable when I put it that way, doesn't it?)
Deadline is 8 p.m. ET, Aug. 31. Grand prize winner will be the online editor that added links to the most Wikipedia pages: A pair of Olympus ME-15 lavalier mics. I know Seacoast needs them for their resuscitated Webcast. I'm sure everyone else can find a use for them too.
Fire away with any questions! And good luck!

Facebook Group | Jersey Shore 2007

Advance has got some groups going on Facebook, including one for fans of the Jersey Shore.

I know a couple of shoreline areas where a similar social networking idea would be worth exploring for us.... Tie-ins with Beachcomber and OnCape Beach Guide products come immediately to mind.

Update: I found out about NJ.com's Facebook group from the tippy top of their Jersey Shore Blogs page.

Interactive mapping

Have fun, and get ready to drool: The New York Times > New York Region > Interactive Feature > New York City Transit System Is Crippled by Storm

Feeds: How Much Can You Eat? [ClickZ Internet Marketing Solutions for Marketers]

Feeds: How Much Can You Eat?: I'm with Kristin Darguzas of ParentDish, who was surprised to hear that 120 is a “managable” number of RSS feeds.

I just checked my Google Reader, and I'm at 130. That's after trimming a few real estate ones that I had added earlier this year for product research, but really wasn't reading. There's likely more than a few others I can cull from the list.

I have many sports-related ones (Gregg Easterbrook, Peter King) that I love but seem to rarely make the time to read. I create the same conundrum for myself with books, too. Like last night, for example, I sacrificed my before-bed reading time to spend more time catching up on some blog reading (thanks for the insights, Howard Owens).

No wonder a study is saying we've reached a saturation point with media.

Therein lies our challenge. Tom Heslin, my former colleague in Providence, describes it as competing for media time. I've borrowed the phrase from him frequently since. I conjured up a calculation last year to show local newspaper Web sites were at the time 1/33rd of an ever expanding media landscape. Stop if you've seen me write this or heard me say this before, but success with growing our portion of a person's media time is rooted in reaching that person on the platform he or she prefers -- rather than hoping to draw them to us more than twice a week.

The good news is the expansion of our RSS feeds to comprise all content categories -- not just our top level categories of News, Sports, etc. -- is already in progress, and is one means by which we can gain a greater share of users' media time. That expansion will also enable several other distribution programs moving forward.


Writing a playbook

As I alluded to during the online content call on Monday, we're in the process of crafting an audience development playbook, which like iTunes Essentials mixes, will break down both everyday and unusual content situations into three sets of steps:
  1. The Basics
  2. Next Steps
  3. Go Deep
So, for example, today there is a story in our Cape Cod Times on public defenders still waiting for FY 2006-07 paychecks from the state. We started the day adding it to Digg/Twitter/StumbleUpon/Reddit, and if we had a midday update e-mail there (it's coming, right?) we would have made sure to include it among the highlighted items.

Next, as I pause to write this blog post, I am in the midst of reaching out to public defender blogs -- some local, some beyond -- to offer it as blog material, and make a connection with those bloggers to see if they are interested in receiving periodic notifications from us on stories they'd be interested in and how they'd like to receive those notifications.

There are other steps, too, that we hope to flush out as part of this, and once Version 1.0 of the playbook is completed, will have crafted a resource from which a training program can be developed. Our aim would be to take it on the road to our newsrooms, and as I mentioned Monday, spend some of our online editors conference in January focusing a workshop on specific situations and doing actual distribution and outreach for live stories while we're at the conference.

If you have categories of content you'd like to see included in the playbook, or any thoughts on the concept at all, please give Yoni and I a shout. We're already looking forward to the January conference, and think the practical workshop element will be a great addition to the program. We hope you agree.


CapeCast IS on YouTube

Shows what I know! Greg was kind enough to point me in the right direction toward CapeCast on YouTube.

PAULINE'S PICKS: Cape Cast Keeps Cape Codders Informed

Congrats to the Cape team for the recognition they received yesterday from Pauline Millard at E&P, who highlighted CapeCast as one of her "picks."

By the way, if you haven't seen Eric Williams' "Hey, Potential Buyer" yet, you're missing out.

Hey, Cape Cod, when are you going to make the daily push of that feature to your YouTube account? No pressure, of course....


AP Ending Its "asap" Service in October

I missed this on Friday. Perhaps you did too: AP Ending Its "asap" Service in October

I came across it via a post by Juan Antonio Giner at What's Next: Innovations in Newspapers. He and I are of a like mind:

A good service, but in our Young Readers Global Report for the World Association of Newspapers (WAN), one of our main recommendations was not to develop “ghetto-sections” for young readers.

They hate this kind of “Guantanamo mentality.”

Some have heard me espouse this before, but it is the many unsuccessful efforts to reach young readers around the industry that leads me to consistently eschew youth portals that we hope to draw audience to, and instead push for distributing content to the audience in a format that makes sense for the medium the audience is already traversing. Two years ago, that was MySpace. Now it's that and a myriad of other sites and platforms, not the least of which is mobile devices.

I also firmly believe this is the only means by which we succeed with personalization, too, because it is not only a strategy by which we reach younger readers, but also how we get at the 91 percent of the online audience that is not coming to us now.

On a more Ottaway-centric note, I had been pushing the AP to allow us to use pieces of asap a la carte, in particular the "Worklife" column (sample), which would be ideal for our employment sections. Thus far, the answer has been no. "Must order all of ASAP to get that feature," they say.

I think there's a light at the end of that tunnel, according to the E&P story: "Elements of the service will be incorporated into the regular AP report."

Remains to be seen whether AP will unbundle features and take a more a la carte approach. Hank Ackerman, our retiring corporate liaison who recently doubled as acting bureau chief in Albany, has indicated that approach is under consideration. Stay tuned....


PoliticsNJ.com Power List 100 | Politics NJ

An interesting idea that could apply for each of our markets as we get nearer the 2008 election year: PoliticsNJ.com Power List 100 | Politics NJ

The list is definitely inside baseball, but readers tend to gobble up just that kind of thing:

In developing our list, we eliminated anyone who currently holds elected office, as well as the Judiciary. We also eliminated the living former Governors, United States Senators, and Bill Gormley: we believe that all former statewide officeholders remain highly influential and well respected. This is an Insiders List. We looked at policy makers, party leaders, fundraisers, lobbyists, labor unions, businesses, and associations and have assembled the ultimate list of New Jerseyans with clout, with an impact on politics and government in the Garden State.


Just How Far Can a Video Go?

As a follow-up to my recent post on the video “sneezing” site Hey!Spread, I wanted to share with everyone the results from just one site.

I uploaded two videos, the “How Not to Break a Baseball Bat” video from Southcoast and latest of the “Golf Course” videos from Pocono and after barely four days on MetaCafe, the baseball bat video has been viewed nearly 300 times and the golf course video about 2,000 times.

Across all the sites that Hey!Spread distributed to, the Baseball Bat video was viewed nearly 600 times and the Golf Course video 2,500 times. And all I had to do was upload the videos just once.

So if you haven’t already, check out Hey!Spread. And, if you have the time, explore the sites it distributes to as they each have their own features, some of which you might find valuable. For example, Blip.TV has its own distribution effort that will further the reach of your videos (they’ll even post to your twitter stream when you’ve posted a new video).

Have fun and if you have any questions or thoughts, give me a shout.


Little League pages

I happened to be at Seacoast yesterday as they launched their Little League All-Stars landing page, and now notice today that Hudson Valley has done the same. Anyone else got a similar page they want to share?

As Howard Altschiller and I were discussing Twitter, he used that as one mechanism to announce the page launch: http://twitter.com/seacoastonline

(And as a reminder, make sure you're linking to new pages from your Site Maps, so that Google/Yahoo/Ask/MSN/AOL can pick them up when you next get crawled. You should enter these new pages into the Google Site Search spreadsheet on Google Docs, so when your user searches on your site for that topic, it gets featured as a Suggested Page at the top of the results. Still confused about the latter? Give me a shout.)


A Video Site That's Nothing to Sneeze At

Ok, so I know you’ve all been hearing about the importance of video and how you should try to post your videos to sites such as YouTube and/or Myspace. I also know that your time is limited, that you have many, many competing demands, so I was excited when I learned that the first video “sneezer” site had been created.

Hey!Spread takes your video and distributes or “sneezes” it to 10 popular video-sharing sites including: YouTube, MySpace, Google Videos, Yahoo Videos, Dailymotion, Blip.tv, Photobucket, Metacafe, Bolt and Putfile – as long as you have registered with each of them (they’re free). While Hey!Spread isn’t pretty, using it is easy.

You complete a simple form including your video’s:

  • Title – This should not necessarily be the headline, while that sells the story (if the video was with a story), it may not do a great job selling the video itself.
  • Description - Remember to include your site address in the description as a place where people can go for additional information. I found that many video-sharing sites will make links in descriptions active.
  • Tags – This is completely up to you and while not all the sites use the tags, most of the larger ones do, so give this some real thought. You might even want to find a similarly themed popular video and see what tags it has.
  • Categories – Their category list is pretty basic, so look for the best fit.

You then point to your video file (I found that many of the sites do not accept the flash format, so stick to the unprocessed formats) and move to the next screen.

Hey!Spread then has you enter your usernames and passwords for the video sites (you only have to do this once) and then it takes over. Depending on your connection speed, it might take a minute or two to upload your video. Hey!Spread will send you an email listing all the links once the video is posted. If your video was rejected or there was a specific problem, they will note it there as well.

I tested the service with a couple of files (which is how I learned about the flash format issue) and was pleasantly surprised. Files upload and were “sneezed” pretty fast. And in the time that it took me to visit each of the links the video was already being watched and commented upon.

Some of the sites Hey!Spread reaches will allow you to add additional information about your video, but visiting each site kind of cancels the idea of the “sneeze.”

Make sure that when you do register for theses video-sharing sites to make your sites’s own profile robust – include a photo, your web address and some fun details.

So give Hey!Spread a shot and let me know how it works for you. I think one site that gets our videos out to 10 can only be a good thing, so try to include it in your workflow.

Any questions, give me a shout.


More Twitter

Not that you were wondering, but here's who I'm following on Twitter, so far:

Biz Stone (Twitter founder)
Boston Globe (set up, but not yet in use)
Boston Herald (hasn't been updated since May)
C.C. Chapman (podcaster and new media marketing guru)
Mary McCauley (web developer at Pocono)
Nashua Telegraph
New York Times
Opinion Journal
Pocono Record
Boston Red Sox
Yoni Greenbaum

In the case of NYT and ESPN, Twitter has supplanted my RSS reader as the means by which I most frequently interact with their content. That's especially true of the New York Times. I still have their Media & Advertising feed in my Google Reader, but their latest news now pops up on my IM via Twitter, and I am finding myself clicking into the stories from there almost daily now -- visiting their site much more frequently than was the case before.

Are you on Twitter? If so, who are you following? Come to the Ottaway Online Editor's blog and share your list in the comments below this post.


Twitter / OpinionJournal

Hey, speaking of Twitter (as we were on the noon call today, look who else is using it: OpinionJournal.

In Push for Local Readers, Post Unleashes LoudounExtra.com - washingtonpost.com

LoudounExtra.com is very nice on the front end, and chock full of data on the back end, but the user experience in between so far leaves me wanting more: In Push for Local Readers, Post Unleashes LoudounExtra.com - washingtonpost.com.

That said, the overall effort is right on. While I could not yet find evidence of of iPod-downloadable restaurant guides or mobile late-night options, it does give me ideas for our own dining effort.

"Over the past several months, the six-person staff (and one intern) of LoudounExtra has assembled a restaurant guide by asking each of the county's restaurants to answer questions about their operation, contacted more than 130 houses of worship to find service schedules (and offered to upload podcasts of their sermons onto the Loudoun site), asked all county high school principals about their curriculums, shot panoramic photos of each school and collected statistics on each high school football player, among other data-collection tasks.

The information will be searchable and deliverable on a number of platforms, meaning users will be able to download the site's restaurant guide onto their iPods and use their cellphones to find restaurants open late at night."

As impressed as I am with the description of what is being done by the Post in Loudoun County, the cardinal sin was committed in the article. It's an article about a new Web site, and there is neither a link to the Web site from the text of the article, nor is it in a prominent related links box that would make it as easy as possible on the user to click and go.

I don't get it. We are in 2007, right? The story is chock full of links to other places on the washingtonpost.com Web site. But the most important link -- the focus of the story, mind you -- is missing.

Please tell me I missed it. Please tell me that one of the pre-eminant Web journalism operations in the country pays attention to such details, and I am simply as blind as a bat....

Presidential Candidates' Campaign Finances - 2008 Election Guide - Politics - New York Times

Talk about leveraging databases! Check out this interactive campaign finance feature on nytimes.com: Presidential Candidates' Campaign Finances - 2008 Election Guide - Politics - New York Times


Why Join Another Social Network?

Interesting take by Chris Brogan on the value of being a part of burgeoning social networks. I lean more toward the Rocketboom camp, in case you were wondering. I'm certainly of a mind that we need to be everywhere, though it should all connect back to our main product(s) via our profiles on each network.


Columnist Seeks Your Online Best

I recently came across a new column on editorandpublisher.com. Written by Pauline Millard, formerly of the Associated Press and now online editor at E&P, “Pauline’s Picks” offers “regular picks of the best or most innovative new online features at news sites.” Recent columns have included coverage of the Baltimore Sun’s Interactive Homicide Map and the work being done at the NWHerald.com.

Of the NWHerald, Millard wrote:

"They've had a daily online newscast in place since March 2006. At first they partnered with the CBS affiliate in Chicago to produce them, but have since brought the production in-house. The result is a piece they call the QuickCast, which hits the site at 4 p.m. each weekday. They also produce about 10 interactive features a week. Most are embedded in the online stories. All recent work is archived on a single page that makes it easy for readers who are interested in video to find what they are seeking."
Her column is worth checking out as a quick way to keep up on what other newspaper sites are doing. In addition, and the other reason that I wanted to draw your attention to her column, is that Millard is seeking suggestions (email her at pmillard@editorandpublisher.com). Here’s an opportunity to promote what you are doing at your sites and share those successes with the rest of the industry.

In any case though, check out her column, I think you’ll find it time well spent.


Recovering Journalist: Keeping Customers Satisfied—Or Not

A newspaper-related jobs-to-be-done illustration: Recovering Journalist: Keeping Customers Satisfied—Or Not

Speaking of Mainetoday....

Check out their new vlog: Roger That!.

Joe Michaud's description of how it got started is here.

Like Amanda Congdon, Rocketboom, even CapeCast, it's another example of how a healthy dose of irreverence and personality works online.

If I'm watching video at my desk during the work day (and a large portion of our video audience will, at least initially), entertain me. If you happen to inform me along the way, I'll consider that a bonus. I am not likely taking a break from my daily grind to be served up a bland talking head.

MaineToday.com | Joe Michaud: On the Green Line

Joe Michaud is blogging the revolution at Mainetoday.com: On the Green Line. Note the blog description's tie-in to Newspaper Next.

Full disclosure: Joe and I are on the board of the New England New Media Association, and have been friends for several years.

Most intriguing item I found in the blog so far: The new design scheduled to launch next week.


Twitter / redsoxcast

Check out the Red Sox Twitter page. Play by play, which you can follow online, or receive each "Tweet" as a text message.

Comes courtesy of new media guru C.C. Chapman. Wouldn't you know I learned about his blog post via his Twittering.


Blogging the Presidential Debates

As newsrooms throughout the country prepare to cover tonight’s Republican Presidential debate on CNN, I thought it would be a good opportunity to look at some of the online coverage from Sunday’s debate.

While most newspaper websites offered the usual crop of blogs, cnn.com also had Republican strategist Mike Murphy and Democrat columnist Arianna Huffington providing live color commentary via streaming video. If you tuned in to the coverage on CNN’s Pipeline service, what you saw was a split screen with Huffington and Murphy on one side sitting and watching the debate on TV while offering commentary, as the other screen showed the debate itself. I thought it was an interesting approach since it acknowledged that some people can walk and chew gum at the same time and that for many viewers, the commentary was just as important as the debate itself.

On washingtonpost.com’s The Fix, Chris Cillizza used video excerpts to increase the impact of his blog entries. So in addition to four or five paragraphs about Senator Chris Dodd getting applause, he included video of the exchange. If you look at his entire coverage of the debate, you’ll see that while he didn’t include video with every entry (ok, only four times), he did it often enough to enrich his reader’s experience.

Meanwhile on politico.com, Ben Smith made what I thought was a valuable point at the start of his coverage.

“A brief note on the strangeness of covering these debates: Hundreds of reporters are assembled at Saint Anselm College in Manchester watching the same debate on nice flat-screen televisions that we could watch on cheaper televisions at home,” he wrote.

It is a good point to note that for the many newsrooms that don’t or can’t send reporters to actual debates, there is no reason why you can’t still offer live coverage. For example:

  • Get a group of local political observers together to watch the debate and let a member of your staff serve as their online moderator for a live conversation via a blog about the debate.
  • Create a forum and encourage readers to post their thoughts or comments about the debate as it's happening.

My only caveat is to be honest with your readers about where you are and make sure you promote the coverage both online and in-print.

What did you think of the online coverage? Were there any techniques that you thought worked? What are your plans for future debate coverage?


Craigslist Treasure Hunt - Open House (washingtonian.com)

What a great content idea! Talk about utility: Craigslist Treasure Hunt - Open House (washingtonian.com)

One of the things I find most frustrating about Craigslist is its completely cluttered nature. The signal to noise ratio lists quit a bit toward the noise.

More entries are here.

I, of course, would not limit the scope of content to the perusal of Craigslist. I'd include our own classifieds, and anyone else in my market that allowing ads to be posted to their site.


How Google, Yahoo & Ask.com Treat the No Follow Link Attribute

In our conversation on today's Online Editors' call about content distribution, whether or not to link landing pages from Wikipedia was raised. I'm a firm believer that we should, but there's lots of debate about the efficacy of the practice out there in the search engine circles (if you think journalists like to debate, you should read some search engine blogs...).

As I was putting the finishing touches on the Wikipedia training doc that I am about to distribute and post on the DevCenter, I came across a blog post from yesterday that ties into our conversation quite nicely: How Google, Yahoo & Ask.com Treat the No Follow Link Attribute

Executive summary: Wikipedia's applies the "nofollow" attribute to links to external Web sites. Google honors that attribute (though they "hope and expect" Wikipedia and others to phase out use of that attribute). Yahoo and Ask do not honor the attirbute, and index the linked content.

As Meatloaf once sang, two out of three ain't bad. Makes adding links to Wikipedia worth the effort in my book.


Big Bang For The MySpace Ad Buck - Forbes.com

OK huge caveat emptor here: A study conducted by News Corp. shows that setting up MySpace profiles can be a highly cost-efficient marketing method.

Of course the MySpace owner would say that. I'll be interested to see if minds more capable than mine challenge their math.

Even without the math to back it up, however, I'd believe it. How could word-of-mouth buzz generated in a medium -- with as substantial a mass audience as MySpace claims -- not have a positive impact for mass marketers?

Ergo, how can it not help you?


Traffic postscript

How could I forget CapeCodOnline and the coverage it carried this week of a high-profile homocide?

They received quite a spike on Monday, and their continuing coverage has sustained high traffic this week, at least relative to the previous month:

Technorati Mini

Here's a handy popup window (finally... a popup that's handy!) in which you can plug in your domain, and keep track of what bloggers are commenting and linking to on your site.

One more traffic success to note

Before I pay attention to my Firefox beer o'clock plugin and crack open a cold one, let me add my congratulations to all involved in the successful launch of the redesigned Seacoastonline.com this week.

The traffic tie-in here is that in addition to a successful launch, we've had relatively few traffic-related hiccups so far (knock on wood!). In fact, their audience seemed to be consuming more pages than before -- certainly relative to last month -- as they learned their way around the new site:

Pocono: DJ, Rainbow and the bell

Speaking of traffic success this week, Pocono has been a nonstop hotbed of activity, especially on Wednesday. A local DJ decided to parrot the remark that got Don Imus in trouble, and in turn got himself fired.

The success was exciting from any number of angles. I was in Pocono on Wednesday, and Editor Bill Watson was spending most of his day managing the hundreds of forums posts that were streaming in all day, while the newsroom and online staff (all while I was working with a small group to answer their Saxotech and other questions and conducting the parenting guide brainstorming session... what a day for me to pick to plant myself in Stroudsburg!).

That also wasn't the only story. For those who have heard us cite the long-running Djinn Buckingham story as one of Pocono's early UGC success, wouldn't you know that Rainbow Buckingham herself became a part of Wednesday's updates. On any other day, it would have been the lead story, and the Pocono crew would have been happy for the spike.

Same is true for the late day story of a local bank taking itself public, punctuated by its CEO ringing the NASDAQ closing bell.

The result of all of that activity? Not your usual peaks and valleys. Instead, Pocono experienced a high-level of sustained traffic throughout the day:

What's better is that the audience activity has continued into today, thanks to strong follow-ups yesterday and today, the latter of which included a story about Howard Stern commenting on what was happening with the DJ in Stroudsburg.

(One suggestion, Marta... link all that DJ coverage together through the Saxotech internal links functionality, at the very least -- or is a landing page already in the works?)