Want to learn the latest digital reporting skills?
The journalism field has radically shifted. But when you’re working endless hours and juggling two or three beats, it can be tough to make sense of it all.
That’s why the new Kiplinger Fellowship teaches you innovative digital tools and approaches — all at no cost to you.
This March 30-April 6, fifteen journalists will spend an intensive, hands-on week at Ohio State University, using social media to build a following, develop sources and cover their beats. We’ll talk Twitter, deep web searches, digital footprints, SEO, the backchannel and more. Tools you can use to get a step ahead in the constantly evolving digital world.
Then, back in the newsroom, you can log in for coaching sessions — getting tips and ideas from renowned journalists.
And there’s more — your editor has the option to attend our three-day condensed version of the training in June.
And thanks to the generous support of the Kiplinger Foundation, all of this will be free-of-charge — plus we’ll cover lodging and give you a travel stipend.
Want to apply? Visit KiplingerProgram.org for more details, or access our online application now.
Application Deadline: November 30, 2010
Contact: Debra Jasper, Director
Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism
John Glenn School of Public Affairs
Kiplinger Social Media Fellowship
Apply Now: Wharton Seminar for Business Journalists
Program Dates: October 10-13, 2010
Application Deadline: September 3, 2010 5:00 PM
Success: Social Media Networking
Everyone keeps talking about social media and how we've all just got to be a part of it. I'm not sure who the “everyone” is really, but I'll fill you in: they're right. For one of the first times in my life, listening to my peers paid off in all the right ways.
I started small joining LinkedIn and reconnected with many contacts. Through the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon-style efforts, I found many others with whom I should be connected.
Later, I moved over to Facebook. I thought it would be simply a better way to stay connected with friends. Blogging had grown old to me and was getting tiresome. Trolls were irritating me and after doing it since July 2004, I was ready to slow down just a tad. My personal blog is still there, but is neglected, I hate to admit. It was writing I did for pleasure and when it ceased to be fun, I slowed down.
But, this Facebook thing, it’s a lot of fun and I learned — lo and behold — it could land me a bucketload of work. It really has. I have had my foot in the door to a couple of big contracts that haven’t come through just yet, but it was a way in that I hadn’t before had. I have gotten numerous freelancing and subcontracting gigs there for people I’ve never met in person. Through contacts of other contacts and name recognition, I’ve successfully “friended” many professionals, from the public relations and marketing world to magazines and other professionals. And I’ve reaped the benefits of multiple projects from it.
It has also worked well looking for sources for articles. I needed to find a local car dealer for an article and no one was returning my cold calls. I posted on FB what I needed and about a half-dozen journalist or PR friends posted the name of a PR gal who repped a car dealer. A few hours after posting that request, I was done with my interview. The same has happened for multiple stories. It has worked 100 times better than going to Help a Reporter Out. (I’ve never had luck there.)
So, if you're still dragging your feet about the whole social media thing or consider it a time-waster - you’re only partially right. It can definitely be a drain on your valuable time, but it can also be a boon for finding work or finding sources for your projects.
Look me up on LinkedIn or Facebook.
Time Management: ‘What to Leave In, What to Leave Out’
Howard Rauch’s finding that online projects have added at least eight days of work per editorial staff member really has struck home – not so much as revelation but as confirmation of what we’ve all been seeing for some time. I’ve worked in b2b media for more than two decades and I’d have to think hard to remember the last time my work focused exclusively on print. It may have been the mid 1990s.
I empathize with all editors these days – the job is more challenging than ever. Try though you might, you can’t do everything, and you can’t keep adding hours to your day until you’re burned to a crisp. This is true in print but even more so in digital media, where cheap and nearly limitless server space and nearly infinite online options are the polar opposites of print’s set folio sizes and start-the-press finality.
I’m no major Bob Seger fan but a lyric of his keeps coming to mind: “Deadlines and commitments / what to leave in, what to leave out.” If you feel like you’re perpetually “against the wind,” take a step back and reconsider your priorities. Here are a few suggestions:
Establish a practical ratio of how much time you should be spending on print, on emedia, and on events. Then stick to it. An example: “On the whole I’m going to devote 70% of my time on the magazine, 20% to emedia/social media, and 10% to events.” Get agreement on this pie chart of time from your lead editor, your publisher, or whoever has ultimate control of your time. There will be peaks and valleys in time spent in various areas, of course, but over a month or two keep tabs on your time and see if you’re sticking to the plan. For instance, under this scenario, in a 40-hour work week an editor would spend about 3.5 days per week on the magazine. If actual time spent keeps peaking past that goal, either the overall ratio is not workable (in which case the editor needs to talk to his or her superiors) or it’s time to start proverbially “working smarter, not harder” on the magazine. And that leads to another tip …
Jettison legacy advertising sections in print that no longer attract advertising. You know those topics that somehow manage to survive from editorial calendar to editorial calendar? If as an editor you feel those topics are no longer worthy of coverage, ask your publisher how many ad pages the section has attracted over the past few years. If the answer is none or very little, consider letting them slip silently into the darkness.
Take a similar approach to editorial surveys. If certain types of coverage score low on the question of “this is valuable to me in running my business” – and by “low” I mean it appeals to less than, say, a quarter or less of your audience – I would consider killing them.
Drop any story that won’t have gainful coverage in both print and online. If it’s a print story in development, break off a piece of it – a handful of great quotes, a stray but salient observation – for quick-hit online coverage. If it’s a late-breaking news story for online, pursue it only if it’s worthy of deeper analysis in print. If it’s not worthy of deeper follow-up coverage, it’s probably not of much interest to your audience anyway.
Are you mining your magazine’s event(s) as a trove of coverage – print and online? If you’re not … why not? You’re leaving on the table hours of exclusive live coverage that your competitor is probably not going to touch. And if you’re short of manpower to both produce and cover the meeting, hire a freelancer to cover some of the sessions for you. Who better to make the final edits than you?
Ditto for video. Why should a story remain just in video and not in print? Take the transcripts of video interviews you’ve conducted and convert them into print and/or web stories. And don’t forget to promote links among them. Different people like consuming information in different ways.
Stop producing video/audio pieces that aren’t generating a respectable number of views. What’s a “respectable amount” of views? Your call. But here’s a suggestion: Would you be disappointed to develop an in-person industry presentation that only 10 or 20 people heard? Of course it would depend on who heard it. But is video really that different? Set a target for number of views of a video for the first month or two it’s posted, and do your best to promote it. At least 50, 75 or 100 views in a month in most b2b markets where video still is being adopted would seem to be a good starting point. If you end up falling short of your goal, analyze and rethink – maybe even jettison – certain video projects, and focus on topics you know are predictable barnburners with your audience. Quality usually is better than quantity.
When in doubt as you conduct editorial planning, hold a project to these criteria:
- Is it exclusive to my media brand?
- Is it known to have generated concrete audience interest in the past (letters, comments, requests for reprints, more pageviews online, etc.)?
- Would the audience be decisively poorer for not having learned this information?
- Does it generate demonstrable interest in the advertiser community?
Don’t be a martyr. I’ve discussed the topic of time management with a lot of editors. Typically a problem with getting it all done arises as much if not more from a desire to do a job well as from lack of prioritization and organization. But don’t be a martyr. Burned-out editors are not good for their employers, their audiences, their friends and families, or themselves.
Jim Sulecki, eMedia Director at Meister Media Worldwide, was named “Innovator in Business Media: Online Executives” by BtoB Media Business magazine in June 2009. Follow Jim’s ruminations on the business, technology and content of emedia on Twitter and his blog, eMedia Encyclopedia.
My Job Search: Considering Options, Keeping an Open Mind
If you're reading this to learn how my informational interviews or my social networking are going, you may want to keep browsing. When asked to write this blog, I had to say to myself, how do I put a positive spin on my job search?
Even as I sit here, another news segment about the slow-moving employment front is on my television. But I'm going to forge ahead, with this blog and otherwise.
My recent position was a senior associate editor at a B2B for pet-product retailers. Just to give some history, I started out as a copy editor at a daily, was assistant editor at a B2B for the underground construction industry and then stayed in legal publishing for a few years. I also freelanced for a health and wellness site.
I must be doing something right. I've had a few interviews (mostly journalism-related; two were not). But it's hard to keep going sometimes because just a couple of years ago (OK, so three) I would normally have some job offers after a couple of interviews.
Here are some difficult opinions I've gathered from my personal job search: It's better out there for editors at the associate level. It's better if you have substantial amounts of Web or digital experience, including (but definitely not all-inclusive) content management system updating, video editing and e-newsletter experience.
Let me explain. I've applied for associate-level jobs. (There seem to be more of these at this point in time, which makes sense. Again, this is just my opinion.) You know it may not go well (i.e., you may not end up with the position) when the editor says to you on the phone, “You understand the salary is associate-level pay.” You try to convince her that you are OK with that and just want to get in with a good company in an interesting position, but that hasn't quite cut it in my experience so far.
I really was disappointed earlier this year when I learned I did not get a Web editor position with a great company. I interviewed with many people, and it seemed to go well. The editor was kind enough to explain to me that, while I do have some CMS uploading and even XML coding experience, they went with someone who had more well-rounded digital experience coming in the door.
Well, I took some time to ask myself, “Where do I go from here?” I'm sure this is a big question for many people right now. It's a sad state of affairs, but it does help to keep that in mind. For me, that meant looking into graduate school. Some Northwestern University professors took some time near the end of the quarter to talk to me, and I also attended an informational session. While that would be a dream come true, I am trying to get myself out of a financial situation and have decided I should not pursue that option at this time.
Option No. 2 related to journalism: Take some community college or other such classes to “up” my digital skills on my resume. I do believe this is the best choice for me right now, but I have not taken steps yet. I listened to an ASBPE Webinar on “Bridging the Digital Skills Training Gap.” That had some great information for some starting points.
Option No. 3 not related to journalism: I love animals. That is part of why I went to work for a pet-product B2B. Perhaps I should take steps to become a vet tech or something similar where I can work with animals (and people). After all, I used to be a phlebotomist at a plasma donation center in college. To combine that kind of work with animals would make me happy.
But journalism is still in my heart. So the revisited “where do I go from here” at this time: Keep applying. Take some classes. And, work on actually contacting people in my LinkedIn network and maybe scheduling some informational interviews.
Anne Sedjo is an editor/writer based in Chicago.
Use Nine-Factor Scoring to Rate Performance of In-print News Sections
Although conventional in-print news sections supposedly are slated for an overhaul, they remain alive, but not necessarily well, via existing formats. So a word to the wise, especially when you run your next competitive analysis match-up: Include a scoring system designed to identify and quantify news coverage strengths/weaknesses.
Recently I revised my system to include evaluation of nine factors (as opposed to the previous seven). In the future, I expect further revisions. Reason? Section content must provide an increased analytical slant. We also must dump all those “obligatory” puff blurbs in the interests of achieving a more authoritative focus.
For me, news section competitive analysis starts with a 20-factor scoring tabulation. I then narrow it down to the following nine-factor scoring system:
- Percent of news pages illustrated. Anything less than 100 percent is unacceptable.
- Percent of pages using infographics. The majority of news sections I’ve reviewed during the past year rarely use infographics. For many, one infographic per section is a big deal.
- Pages/graphics ratio. (Note: This is an addition to the previous system. You arrive at this indicator by dividing total illustrations section uses into total number of pages carrying news. Minimum target ratio is 1.5.
- Story-start ratio. You arrive at this number by dividing news section editorial page count (as opposed to total pages carrying news) into the number of articles run. Shoot for a story start ratio of 1.5-2.0. Ratios over 4.0 usually reflect an absence of depth.
- High-impact lead story. (Note: I’ll say more about this once the entire 9-factor list is presented).
- Urgency percent. Here we are evaluating the presence or absence of high-impact content. To get the current picture for your publication, divide total news section page count into total number of articles addressing a strong benefit or threat. The result never should be lower than 80.0%.
- Total end-user quotes. “End-user” refers to your key reader group. These quotes are tougher to come by, especially if your personal relationship with that group is severely limited.
- Average Fog Index for section’s first page. Everybody knows how FI works, right? If not, look it up via your favorite search engine. Preferred FI grade level range is 10-12.
- Five-factor headline evaluation. Sub-factors entering into this calculation include (1) headline story-telling value; (2) absence or presence of story-telling deck; (3) presence or absence of numbers; (4) overuse of “cute” low-value words/phrasing; (5) presence or absence of active verbs. Factor (3) is notable for its absence. Don’t we know that attention-getting numbers appeal to a B2B audience? Or do we just never insist that writers include hot numbers in their articles. (Hint: Create a staff hand-out listing several dozen questions that only can be answered with a number).
- An illustration on every news page.
- A lead story that occupies one full page and includes direct quotes from three or four end-user sources.
- More frequent use of follow-up stories. For example, in the case of regulatory developments, obtain industry reaction from end-users (as opposed to the usual, more easily accessible association and consulting organization sources).
- At least one page per section using an infographic (preferably a chart).
- A minimum of one direct quote in every article using three or more paragraphs.
- Observation of Fog Index principles. At the very least, average sentence length per article should stay close to 20 words.
Due Tomorrow: 2010 Digital Azbee Awards
Enter the 2010 Digital Azbee Awards today.
Labels: Azbee Awards
Use Social Media to Unlock Your Most Valuable Asset: Your Staff
“You know, we have really good frozen naan in the freezer section,” the cashier at Trader Joe’s told me as she rang up the two boxes of instant Indian meals I had purchased. “Hold on a second,” I said, “let me go grab some.”
A few evenings later when I ate the naan with my family, I was glad the cashier spoke up. The India-style bread served at most Indian restaurants made our pre-packaged meal seem more like a take-out.
One of my favorite things about shopping at Trader Joe’s is how genuinely enthusiastic most of the staff is about their store’s offerings.
I can’t recall a time when a cashier at one of the major supermarkets in my town ever recommended something — or seemed enthusiastic about anything other than ending his or her shift.
The employees at Apple stores have a similar orientation toward customer engagement. Unlike the staff at most big-box electronics stores, most seem like people you might talk to at a party. A conversation that begins with me talking about a problem I had with my iPhone might digress into talk of upcoming 5k races.
Of course, journalists at B2B publications aren’t able to speak face-to-face with their subscribers. But social media tools such as blogs, Twitter and LinkedIn provide them with more ways than ever to engage with their readers.
This is an important opportunity because most business journalists have engaging personalities. It’s a trait that’s necessary to perform a job that mostly involves convincing industry leaders to share insights that will most likely be read by their competitors.
Subscribers are accustomed to reading articles with quotes from reputable sources or references to laws or other authority. But chances are they’re also interested in participating in a less formal conversation about the insights a business journalist has about the industry he or she covers.
Blog posts are an effective means of bridging the gap between a feature article and a conversation over coffee. Regular updates on Twitter and Facebook create a water-cooler effect, which transforms a byline into an actual person with worthwhile ideas.
This makes it more dangerous than ever to do anything but fully embrace social media. To do otherwise is to risk turning your publication into an experience that is about as memorable as a trip to your average supermarket or electronics store.
Steve Roll is the immediate past president of ASBPE.
Applying Foursquare to B2B Publishing
Social Networking is the latest buzz making the rounds around the industry. Consequently, as social media adoption becomes mainstream, the process of reaching your audience and/or customers is changing. While you may be a member of Facebook or LinkedIn, have you checked out one of the newest social networking sites?
Introducing Foursquare, a web and mobile phone application for which registered users connect with friends and update their location. Like its predecessors, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, Foursquare is all about helping users find new ways to explore the city by “checking in” at venues such as restaurants, bars, museums, and other local attractions of interest.
I’ve been a Foursquare member for all of three weeks or so. As a newbie, I thought the application itself could ultimately be a fun way to let my friends know about my recent adventures into Chicago, discovering new places of interest and passing along those locations to other friends and users simultaneously.
As a reward to users, some local businesses are also getting into the act. Some businesses offer freebies to engage their mobile customers to use Foursquare in the form of discounts and prizes to their most loyal customers when they check-in at the venue. Some of the companies offering specials include American Eagle, Sports Authority and Ben and Jerry’s to name a few.
So what does this mean to you?
Well that depends. From an editor point of view, Foursquare could be a great tool for you to highlight your journalistic adventures in a quick and succinct way. As editors in the B2B arena, you’ve most likely traveled to some location to get your story. Regardless of the location, chances are, your destination is already on the application, and if it’s not, you can add it.
Foursquare may even offer editors the opportunity to generate some buzz within their audience about future stories they can read about in the next issue.
From a business point of view, the Foursquare application is certainly a form of marketing – FREE marketing. It’s a win-win for both users and the venues that are visited by your mobile customers. In addition, Foursquare allows the user to share your visits via other social networking sites, making use of social networking that much more expansive. The World Wide Web is a vast universe, and Foursquare is just another way to expand into the social networking realm.
Do you use Foursquare? If so, how has your publication implemented it?
Ryan Olson is a former B2B editor who made the transition to sales in 2008.