Online Journalism

Chapter 11: Building a digital audience for news

March 27th, 2011 · Comments Off on Chapter 11: Building a digital audience for news

There is no denying that the Internet has changed the world. So, how do we keep up with it? For most of us, using the Internet doesn’t cost much. So, why pay 50 cents for a newspaper when you have access to all the information in the world for free?

One way journalists are trying to keep up with the new business model is through advertising digitally. Marketing with ads, using viral campaigns and creating memorable slogans are all ways to make enough money to be sufficient.

According to Mark Briggs, there are five ways journalists can build and sustain an audience.

  1. Tracking content
  2. Web analytics
  3. Search engine optimization (SEO)
  4. Effective headline writing for the web
  5. Distribution through social media

Tracking content

The key is to track anything that can be tracked. Here are some sample ideas of what should be tracked regularly:

  • Total news stories per day
  • News stories by topic or section
  • Total blog posts per day
  • Videos per week
  • Podcasts or other audio stories

The best way to track information is by using a web-based spreadsheet that is accessible to many people at once.

Web analytics

Web analytics can be a software or mechanism that is used to track website traffic. Software such as Omniture, Google Analytics and Hitbox are easy tools to track your website performance.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

In a nutshell, SEO allows web users to find you as easily as possible. When you type “John” into Google’s search engine, SEO displays a list of websites ranked from most popular and relevant to what “John” could mean or who it could refer to. Whether you are referring to the “John” meaning restroom or whether you are looking for a biography of “John Travolta” that is what SEO does best to determine.

By using HTML meta tags, title tags, links and other user-friendly tricks, you can grow an audience using SEO.

Writing effective headlines

Everyone can write a headline. However, not everyone can write an effective one. According to Brian Clark, writer of Copyblogger, an average, eight out of 10 people will read headline, but only two out of 10 will read the rest of the story.

Here are some tips to write effective headlines:

  • Use conversational language: Be direct and focused.
  • Use keywords: Remember the basics — who, what and where.
  • Use attitude: Being fair and accurate doesn’t mean you have to be boring! ZZZZZ

Using social media as distribution channels

Social media is the new newspaper of this decade. Here are some websites to market your story though this medium.

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Chapter ten: Managing news as a conversation

March 27th, 2011 · Comments Off on Chapter ten: Managing news as a conversation

One of the greatest challenges journalists face today is learning how to manage a news conversation. According to Mark Briggs, this begs three questions:

  • How do journalists participate in the conversation without sacrificing their objectivity or credibility?
  • What about legal and ethical issues now that everyone can publish anything they want on a professional news site?
  • And what happens when you really want the audience to participate, but they don’t?

News conversations have changed drastically over the past few decades. What once was a lecture is now an interactive conversation. Journalists require feedback and encourage discussion among readers and viewers.

What are some ways that online journalism has allowed for user participation?

  • Comments: That little box on the bottom of every story that allows you to type your thoughts on the story allows journalists to receive feedback.
  • Discussion forums: These discussion forums range from topics such as politics to fashion to sports. They allow the media to keep up with how the conversation is going among the public.
  • Social networking: Websites such as Facebook and Twitter have been critical in listening to conversation among the public. Believe it or not, when you write a status update about Joe Smith, Joe Smith is out reading it.

Sometimes it can be difficult to monitor such conversation when people become outraged and nasty. All communication is not good communication. But remember to take everything with a grain of salt and try to learn from everything, even the negatives.

Happy reading folks.

Tags: Comm361 · online journalism · social media · Student Blog Posts

Chapter nine: Data-drive journalism and digitizing your life

March 25th, 2011 · Comments Off on Chapter nine: Data-drive journalism and digitizing your life

There are some things everyone should know about when it comes to data productivity and organization.

What you need to manage + the right tools to manage = personal productivity

We often feel the need to organize our digital data. Things like e-mail, contacts, to-do lists, calendars and word documents. Tools such as Google, Office Live and Zoho can help us organize our data.

Google helps organize our contacts, e-mail, documents calendar and allows us to share our data and files.

Office Live provides us with Word, Excel and Powerpoint, applications that organize data.

Zoho is a full suite of productivity and collaboration tools, most of them free. Zoho provides tools for everything, plus Wiki, customer relationship management and much more.

Now, how does this apply to journalism?


Well, all journalism is driven by data. We used databases, spreadsheets and other forms of organized data to write our articles. Any assignment can be broken into data points, including this very blog.

Data-driven journalism is important because news organizations used web sites as data destinations. They can use depth, customization and searchability to archive news stories. Other kinds of databases used in news sites include public employee salaries, a list of top employers and property tax assessments.

Gazetteonline is a great web site that displays data-drive journalism.

Data-driven journalism helps reporters do their jobs by sorting out and displaying data in a simplified way. It allows reporters to share their data and tell their stories in more creative ways.

One way is by using a collaborative map such as MindMeister to display a storyboard. Map Builder also allows similar use.

Data-driven journalism is one of the most important tools in online journalism and it can certainly sets no limit in allowing what journalists can do when it comes to telling their stories.

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Chapter eight: Telling stories with video

March 10th, 2011 · Comments Off on Chapter eight: Telling stories with video

These days, as long as you have a phone with a camera, you are armed with one of the most powerful tools on the planet: a video camera. What words and pictures can’t capture, video does. From World Cup soccer matches to political revolutions to weddings, video captures it all with the click of a red button.

As Professor Klein has told me throughout my year at Mason, “Don’t leave Mason without learning video!”

And it’s true.

Video is one of the most essential ways for journalists to tell stories.

So, what accessories do you need as a journalist to tell a basic news story?

• Tapes and batteries: We have all had the time where we have gone to interview someone and realized that our battery is about to die. Embarrassing, isn’t it? The best way to ensure that your battery lasts longer is to charge it before you come and always keep a back-up in your case just in case! As for tapes, keep at least two to three back-ups in case something urgent arises!
• Microphones: Audio, audio, audio! 70 percent of video is audio, so if you cannot hear the person being interviewed, you are only left with a 30 percent retention rate.
• Tripod: Always try to use a tripod to make your video look professional. There is no need to zoom in and out or move around when interviewing someone unless it’s an emergency. So, just use a tripod.
• Headphones: Buy a pair of decent headphones and plug into the camera and listen to the audio while you are shooting. That way you can ensure your interviewee can be heard.
• Lighting: A spotlight is essential when interviewing candidates, especially indoors. Entry-level lighting cost less than 100 dollars but use battery up quickly!

Happy reading!

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Chapter seven: Making audio journalism visible

February 23rd, 2011 · Comments Off on Chapter seven: Making audio journalism visible

Painting sound pictures for listeners is a skill that takes much practice, according to Mark Briggs. Thank god, we have audio journalism to help us with that.

The good thing about audio journalism is that it can be done with a handful of tools — a microphone, recorder and free software. Long gone are the days of silent films. Now, through audio, journalists can capture the true essence of a story.

But what does audio actually bring to the table?

Presence: Now, you can bring your readers to the story, instead of the other way around.

Emotions: Tone, voice, expression and sound can be heard and moreover, felt.

Atmosphere: You can hear the environment and be a part of it.

Audio journalism expert and NPR’s very own Jonathan Kern has some tips for those who want to pursue this medium and how to write for it:

1. Write for the ear:  Write as you speak. Don’t go around using technical words like operose that many have no idea what the heck it means.

2. Use one idea per sentence: When people don’t have a visual aid to go along with a story, they lose a lot of what they hear. So stick to keeping it simple.

3. Repeat complex ideas: If there is something you want to stick to readers, repeat it. If there is something you want to stick to readers, repeat it. If there is something you want to stick to readers, repeat it.

4. Structure your words: Let people feel the tension of the rising action, climax and conclusion!

5. Perform: Keep the listener’s attention and interest any way possible!

Recording audio can be used for many different purposes such as:

So, get out your digital recorder. I f you don’t have one, buy one here and start recording!

Happy reading recording!

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Chapter four: Microblogging

February 15th, 2011 · Comments Off on Chapter four: Microblogging


It’s the one thing that comes to mind when you hear the word microblogging. In what way can we possibly cover news in less than 140 characters?

What is microblogging?

It’s the idea that lets individuals write and share small content of news online via short sentences, images or video links.

It is an effective medium for journalists to use to break news. But what many people don’t also see is that it works both ways. It lets journalists find breaking news from local citizens as well. When Captain Sully landed the plane in Hudson River, people had tweeted the plane landing’s picture before traditional media even got there.

Microblogging also opens the door for crowdsourcing and building communities. By building a community on a website such as Twitter, people can form real connections, build a network and even gain a job (see previous Mandy Jenkins blog). It lets people conduct public interviews, find news leads and connect with their audience.

And finally, microblogging lets you market yourself. By building your own brand, you give yourself a reputation…whether it’s a good or bad one… that is on you.

Happy reading folks.

Tags: briggs · Comm361 · social media · Student Blog Posts

Chapter three: Crowd-powered collaboration

February 15th, 2011 · Comments Off on Chapter three: Crowd-powered collaboration

In chapter three, Mark Briggs focuses on the new types of reporting methods that are becoming more prevalent in this day and age.


Coined by Wired News’ Jeff Howe in 2006, this term basically means distributed reporting. It is using a lot of news sources at a given time to help research a specific story. The concept itself lends to grassroots organizations and projects such as InnoCentive and Amazon. According to Briggs, crowdsourcing aims a community power on a specific task and shows that a group of committed individuals can outperform a small group of experience and paid professionals that aren’t as committed.

Open-source reporting

This is a transparent way of obtaining news and showing off your news sources to the public. Due to open-source reporting, blogs and social media websites are important because they keep the media on their toes from making mistakes. And if they do make any errors, they can fix it with a click of a button. Open-source reporting welcomes the reader’s feedback and helps journalists increase their credibility and social capital.

Pro-am Journalism

This is the most unfiltered form of journalism on the web. Everyone is their own author and decides what to publish when and where. It is a do-it-yourself movement that made everyone want to play the role of journalist. The example that Briggs gives is CNN’s iReport. This platform enables users to upload and publish their own content to CNN’s stories as a local reporter. With this approach, everyone is a media outlet.

Happy reading folks.

Tags: briggs · Comm361 · Student Blog Posts

Chapter two: The basics of blogging

February 14th, 2011 · Comments Off on Chapter two: The basics of blogging

In Mark Briggs’ second chapter “Advanced Blogging,” he focuses on the essentials of blogging. His main points of the chapters are summarized as the following:

  • Good blogs are a continuing conversation: If you write a blog, it is necessary to create a reader’s base to get some feedback. This enables you to continue the conversation and write more!
  • Blogs aren’t magic: This basically means that blogs are not going to do the work for you. If you want a successful blog, you have to be on your guard constantly, posting, updating and working your butt off.
  • Read blogs to write blogs: Go to Technorati and scan the top 100 blogs to see what interests you. Writing about what other people write isn’t wrong as long as you credit them and write with your own spin.
  • Know blog language: Trackbacks, posts, permalinks….what do they all mean? And what the heck is a vlog and moblog? Sounds foreign? Check out this website for definitions.
  • Customize your blog to fit you: Using basic CSS is okay for most blogs. However, if you really want to turn on your future employers, create your own themes, widgets and other elements to spice things up!

Say what?

Happy Reading!

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Chapter one: We are all web workers now!

February 10th, 2011 · Comments Off on Chapter one: We are all web workers now!

I have taken three classes with Professor Steve Klein, one for every semester I have been at Mason and the one thing that has stuck with me all this time is that he has always emphasized the FOUNDATIONS of writing for journalism. Whether it may be writing a story, doing carpentry work or climbing a mountain, one cannot rise to the top without knowing the basics.

In Mark Briggs‘ chapter one, his focus is on those basic foundations themselves. Here is a list of a few he mentions:

  • Knowing the difference between bits and bytes.
  • Knowing how web browsers function.
  • Knowing what the hell an RSS feed is — and what it stands for.
  • Knowing how HTML, CSS and XML work — don’t even bother knowing what they stand for.
  • Knowing how to use FTP to transfer large files over the web.

The chapter is titled “We are all web workers now.”

What the heck does that mean?

Briggs is referring to the idea that everyone in this age is destined to utilize the web at some point in their life. Even my mother, who does not speak perfect English and had never used a computer in her youth, is addicted to Facebook more than I am. As for the young ones, they are even smarter and better at technology than me. My three-year-old nephew is working the web searching for games. The boy can’t read but he sure does know how to get to Nick Jr.  Just like the of us, he is, after all, a web worker.

Happy reading folks.

The many web browsers to choose from....

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