Archive for October, 2010|Monthly archive page

journalists turn to 7-part mathematical formula to gauge online readership [no, seriously]

In Uncategorized on October 26, 2010 at 5:49 pm

Finally, news of an “engagement index” devoid of ludicrously overpriced gowns, ludicrously overpriced food and cake, and ludicrously scratchy and uncomfortable rent-a-tuxes: Philly.com has a whole new way of measuring online readers’ interest. Well, maybe “a whole new way” is a slight exaggeration, so let’s instead call it “a way using scary-looking math that at first glance may send scads of arithmophobic reporters scrambling for cover.”

As reported by The Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard, Philly.com, the website of both the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News, has (correctly) gone beyond the established wisdom of Page Views Above All Else with a seven-part formula — Σ(Ci + Di + Ri + Li + Bi + Ii + Pi) — that breaks down into the following elements (coding via The Nieman Lab’s site):

C — Click Index: visits must have at least 6 pageviews, not counting photo galleries

D — Duration Index: visits must have spend a minimum of 5 minutes on the site

R — Recency Index: visits that return daily

L — Loyalty Index: visits that either are registered at the site or visit it at least three times a week

B — Brand Index: visits that come directly to the site by either bookmark or directly typing http://www.philly.com or come through search engines with keywords like “philly.com” or “inquirer”

I — Interaction Index: visits that interact with the site via commenting, forums, etc.

P — Participation Index: visits that participate on the site via sharing, uploading pics, stories, videos, etc.

With less of an emphasis placed merely on acquiring clicks—hopefully resulting in fewer inane and news-less slideshows cobbled together simply to satisfy Click Lust—complex equations such as this one could lead to a greater value being placed on producing actual journalism and not simply “content.”

Pro: This will help media companies—the ones smart enough to care—better understand their readership.

Con: Not every newspaper or TV station can afford a full-time Web analyst.

More from The Nieman Lab piece:

Tracking site visits with this level of specificity is time-consuming — [Senior Data Analyst Chris] Meares says he devotes about a third of his full-time job to analysis of the engagement equation — but it has produced some interesting information. For instance: “We’re definitely seeing the impact of social media and how it provides engaged visitors.” While Google and Yahoo provide a lot of traffic, the visits that they send to Philly.com don’t tend to be engaged. Only 20.34 percent of visits that come through Google are engaged visits. In comparison, 33.64 percent of visits that come via Facebook are engaged.

Getting journalists to embrace math? Not impossible. Getting those who employ journalists to see the value in paying people to do more math? Well …


‘… our newsroom didn’t even have e-mail yet …”

In Uncategorized on October 20, 2010 at 1:05 am

Robert Boos, aka @earthtobobby, has been an Arizona journalist for 18 years, with the bulk of his experience coming via the Web. Currently, he’s the editor of JournalismGIS.com, a non-profit startup where he hopes to educate journalists in the use of map-based data analysis and visualization in the pursuit of reporting. He’s worked for The Tribune and The Arizona Republic, and he’s an adjunct professor at The Cronkite School.  He also like soccer.

How has journalism changed during your time in the business?
When I first started at newspapers, our newsroom didn’t even have e-mail yet. Sure, we had electronic messaging that we’d use to contact each other, but it wasn’t instant. You had to sign into the system, and it would load all your messages you received since your last login.

But we didn’t have POP or SMTP access to email. Sure, a lot of businesses were beginning to use it at the time, but our newspaper did not. In fact, I remember our IT department was very reluctant to implement e-mail access to the outside, as they said it would open our network to hackers.

I guess that says a lot about the sophistication and tech savvy of the business when I started. The Web was just barely existent, so there was no way to research a story using that means. The newspaper library of clips and LexisNexis were the only means of getting background info. That, and, of course, actually talking to people.

I took a year off from the biz and came back at another paper—one that had just recently jumped in with a website with the intention of delivering news and earning readership. That was cutting edge, and I wanted to be on it. And we actually had email. I did that for the next 13 years.

Journalism has certainly changed since the time I got my start. Obviously, the Web has changed the way daily business gets done, but I really think it brings the business back to its origins of getting the story out as quickly as possible. Now every newspaper, once a daily operation, is a wire service with the purpose of moving copy through the journalistic process and to its audience. I realized that very early on, and that was what really excited me about working for a Web news operation.

There was an interesting Slate.com post this week comparing “news articles” to “blog posts.” What did you think of it?
I tend to think of a blog as a running commentary on a topic or series of topics. The entries may range from quips or a “Here, look at this” to a print-destined column. One could write a blog that runs as commentary alongside their thesis, or as they write their book.

I also still believe that newspapers do and should hold themselves to high standards. Reporters can and do write blogs, and, in my opinion, they’re a little more interesting when it is commentary on the craft of the job. On the one hand is the story or the column the reporter wrote, and in the other is the insider tale of what it took to get that story, or an anecdote about the interview that adds color and background for the reader and offers insight and transparency to the reporting process.

What should newspapers and magazines be doing to adapt digitally? And what are some currently doing really well or really poorly?
The need for reporters to be doing more to drive stories to the Web is pretty well established, but I think newspapers are not doing enough to equip them. A reporter who whips out their smartphone to cover a breaking news event with live video always seems to bring congratulatory pats on the back, but it doesn’t seem like the lesson is learned. These need to be every day and more equipment and training is needed to help reporters along.

Now, if reporters are to be expected to expand their function and skills, so should the production and editing staff. There needs to be better integration between the print and online production teams. The online producer as I knew it is thinning out. Real integration needs to happen between the copy desk and online production. Copy editors need to learn online production and online producers need to be cross-trained to the skill level of the copy editor. Page designers and especially graphic artists and visual journalists need to be integrated into online production. As it stands, stories are passed from the reporter to their editor and then to the copy desk and somewhere in that process it is forked for print and online. Online production needs to happen as part of the function of the copy desk and page- and graphic-design teams. I think as online production tools and content management systems improve, the online team distinction will disappear as their role is merged with other teams

Will actual hard-cover/soft-cover books and newspapers disappear in 10 years, 20 years … or some other timeframe? What do you see happening with that?
I know that I can’t read a book on a laptop—it’s just not suited for the kind of comfort I get from a book. I’ve never used a Kindle, but I have used an iPad and I can see that becoming a greater experience.

In the next 10 years, I think the economics of running a newspaper will continue to force many to scale back their daily printing—maybe Web-only all week for daily and breaking news, and then on weekends and Sunday a publication that offers special projects and in-depth reporting and analysis.

In 20 years, I really hope to see e-paper that updates itself wirelessly and offers a reading experience similar to the broadsheet—like the newspaper we saw in “Minority Report” and the “Harry Potter” films.

I hope I never see books go away.

If an angel investor said, “Hey, here’s $10 million, form a news site/product/app/combination thereof from scratch,” what would you build and why?
I’m working on it! I think JournalismGIS.com is a good start, but I’d really like to build a research group or non-profit center for geographic information science, data visualization and statistical analysis in a journalism pursuit. We’d pursue public data, conduct our own research for publication or take commission for research, and train reporters and visual journalists on how to use those tools. Who says journalists have to be bad at numbers?

Now, can I have that $10 million?

british journalism students who don’t read newspapers … want to … work at newspapers? wait, what?

In Uncategorized on October 12, 2010 at 9:32 pm

Roy Greenslade blogged today on The Guardian’s website about how the overwhelming majority of the 250 students in the journalism class he teaches do not read newspapers but want to work for newspapers. Huh? An excerpt:

I asked for a show of hands on a simple question: what is your primary news source?

Newspapers? No more than 20 hands went up. Radio? About the same. Television? Maybe 30. Internet? A forest of hands.

Interestingly, many of the people taking the newspaper course – people hoping to get jobs on papers – admitted to not reading printed editions.

Given that part of the lecture was devoted to entrepreneurial journalism, I also asked: how many of you are hoping to get jobs in traditional “big media” outlets?

Virtually the whole room put up their hands. They may be digital natives, but their ambition is to work for others rather than themselves.

So, what gives? Why? With the number of legacy-media jobs dwindling and with more and more talented, experienced reporters looking for work, at what point should such a view be discouraged? Or, well, should it? Certainly, as David Carr wrote this week in The New York Times, there’s certainly still an allure about actually seeing your name in print, particularly on a significant story:

Yes, you can make news working in your pajamas and running stuff past your cat and no one else. But even in 2010, when a print product is viewed as a quaint artifact of a bygone age, there is something about that process, about all those many hands, about the permanence of print, that makes a story resonate in a way that can’t be measured in digital metrics. I love a hot newsbreak on the Web as much as the next guy, but on some days, for some stories, there is still no school like the old school.

“Mainstream media,” Greenslade wrote, “remains a lure.”

How come? And, perhaps a better question, for how much longer?

And: Do journalism students across the pond feel the same way?

are superstar journalists still worth the investment?

In Uncategorized on October 6, 2010 at 8:42 pm

Saw a piece in The Wrap a few days ago that was simultaneously bewildering and infuriating. The topic? How a number of “superstar” journalists still command six- or seven-figure salaries despite working for companies struggling to get by. Look: If someone offered me that much money, I can’t say I’d immediately turn it down, but when 95 percent of the media landscape is crumbling, doesn’t the value of big-name talent diminish? When you can barely afford to maintain a marquee, why spend even more money to upgrade its lights?

Karen Danzinger, a managing partner at the Howard-Sloan-Koller-Group, a media/publishing search firm, disagrees, telling The Wrap:

“Talent is always at a premium — a star’s a star. If you are in the upper echelon of talent, especially now, there is a lot of opportunity.”

Perhaps that’s why ESPN splurged $10 million to steal Rick Reilly away form Sports Illustrated in 2007. Also: Historically, one of the few sections of a newspaper where readers paid attention to bylines—think Jim Murray, Red Smith, Grantland Rice—was the sports section.

But it’s 2010. Do most readers still care? With so many people getting their news via Twitter and RSS feeds these days, and with so much of it being wire copy or re-purposed wire copy, at what point are superstars not worth the investment?

And it’s not just legacy media organizations investing in star power. The Daily Beast just lured away Howard Kurtz, a 29-year veteran of The Washington Post. (Terms were not disclosed.)

Here’s a bit more from The Wrap piece:

“When some employers think it’s optimistic, that the revenue will return, they might go out on a limb for a star,” Danzinger said, “whereas they might not have before. But in general, those people have always been valuable.”

According to Folio, the average salaries for consumer magazine editors in 2010 was $90,000 – a 10 percent decrease from 2009 – and most of those surveyed by the trade expected the recessionary salary cuts to reverse this year.

But Min and co. aren’t your average ink-stained editors.

“We’re talking about 1 percent of the talent pool,” Danziger said, adding: “Janice Min, she’s always gotten big salaries. She’s always been a star.”

Well, what do you think, fellow journos? Is one superstar worth a sum you could spend on 10 actual reporters?