It's All Journalism

Journalism is not dying. It's changing.

April 18, 2014
by ItsAllJournalism
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Tony Haile: Quality of content matters more than click-throughs

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By Julia O’Donoghue

As chief executive officer of Chartbeat, Tony Haile helps collect data on the audiences of some of the biggest media companies in the world, including Gawker, Time and Al Jazeera.

Tony Haile is the CEO of Chartbeat.

Tony Haile is the CEO of Chartbeat. (Photo courtesy of Chartbeat)

Haile’s expertise is measuring audience engagement with news content. He will be speaking on this topic at the International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy, which starts April 30.

Recently, Haile wrote a provocative article about how news organizations and advertisers should be measuring online engagement called “What You Think You Know About the Web Is Wrong.”

Haile said many media companies and others are measuring audience engagement incorrectly, by just counting clicks. Just because someone clicks on an article or feature doesn’t mean they stick with the content for more than a few seconds, he said.

“When they click on it, that doesn’t mean they read it,” Haile said.

Haile also said people aren’t necessarily spending a lot of time with content they share on social media. “Even if you have a tremendous amount of Tweets and ‘likes,’ that doesn’t mean more time is spent [on a content item],” he said.

What you need to build a loyal audience – one that is worth money to advertisers – is high-quality material that people want to linger over. A media organization with an audience that spends a long amount of time on each news item (and webpage) is valuable. A place that attracts a bunch of quick click-throughs — with little time spent at each stop – is not as sought after, said Haile.

This should be good news for journalists, who might have been told that the quality of their product didn’t matter as much if it didn’t produce large amounts of clicks. On the contrary, Haile said engaging stories and smart Web design are very important.

Haile suggested that people look to the Financial Times in England as an example of a media organization that is innovating in the online arena. “We have devalued content [in the past], but the quality of content matters again,” said Haile, “It is going to have an impact on a whole range of things.”

To view the data about the attention Web Haile mentioned in the podcast, go to the Chartbeat Blog.

This interview was set up in partnership with Steffen Konrath of Liquid News Room.

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April 10, 2014
by ItsAllJournalism
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Jim Brady: Project Thunderdome part of ‘collective learning experience’

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By Michael O’Connell

The story broke April 2, when John Paton, CEO of Digital First Media, announced that his chain of 75 daily newspapers was pulling the plug on its two-year-old experiment in shared, digital content, Project Thunderdome.

“We had 50-some-odd people and 95 percent of them will be leaving the company as part of this change,” said Jim Brady, DFM’s editor-in-chief and chief architect of Project Thunderdome. “So, for all intents and purposes, Thunderdome is dead. Whether the work lives on or some of the new ideas and technologies we brought into the company will live on — I think they will — but they’re going to have to be managed by the papers now.”

Jim Brady, Digital First Media's outgoing editor-in-chief, came by the podcast in December 2012 to talk about Project Thunderdome. (Photo by Michael O'Connell)

Jim Brady, Digital First Media’s outgoing editor-in-chief, came by the podcast in December 2012 to talk about Project Thunderdome. (Photo by Megan Cloherty)

DFM launched Project Thunderdome as a way to centralize non-local news production in one location.

“If 20 percent of your effort in your newsroom is going to producing non-local stuff, obviously, that doesn’t make a lot of sense in these tight times,” Brady said “So, it was our job to help produce the national content.”

Project Thunderdome’s second role was to create unique content that could generate revenue across all of DFM’s 75 daily newspapers. It did this by producing special sections in feature areas such as health, technology and pets.
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April 3, 2014
by ItsAllJournalism
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Yuri Victor of Vox.com — Designing a happy, nimble, digital newsroom

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By Ellen Kortesoja

Yuri Victor says he has no idea what a senior user experience designer does.

In this new role at soon-to-be launched Vox.com, he’s got an all-encompassing title.

But one of his primary goals is to help make a happy company.

Yuri Victor is the senior user experience designer at Vox.com. (Photo by Michael O'Connell)

Yuri Victor is the senior user experience designer at Vox.com. (Photo by Michael O’Connell)

“When you have a great company, you make good products,” he said.

Of course, that starts with free soda, M&M’s and a bean-bagged newsroom that’s a true embodiment to Zoey Barnes’ fictional employment at Slugline from House of Cards, but there’s a more strategic goal at play, Victor explains.

What is going to make Vox’s digital newsroom different? Everyone will be integrated.
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March 28, 2014
by ItsAllJournalism
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Steffen Konrath – News as a signal

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By Ellen Kortesoja

Steffen Konrath felt the immense weight of the Twitterverse early on, but instead of becoming bogged down, he evolved his definition of news.

“News is not an article, news is a signal,” he said. “A signal is an invitation for conversation.”

Steffen Konrath

Steffen Konrath

This is the message he will convey and discuss at the upcoming International Journalism Festival in Perugia, Italy, April 30 – May 4.

Konrath is the creator behind Liquid News Room, a curated platform of both social media and hard news. He began the project in order to find a way to make his work easier.

Konrath was covering Japan’s Fukushima nuclear crisis and the London riots and came away from the experience wanting something more to aggregate social media and decipher its legitimacy.

He found that Twitter and other platforms are as much a burden of information as they are a tool — making it hard to strain out opinion from fact.

Konrath says LNR is meant to be a learning model. It’s a learning curve process to find reliable sources such as Twitter personalities, and then flagging them for later use as a credible source.

He says journalists are often working behind a wall, and are too hesitant to engage with the public and express their opinion, which detracts from the fluidity of information. That hesitancy disallows news dissemination and fact-finding through social media from being a two-way street.
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March 20, 2014
by ItsAllJournalism
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Hank Sims — Lost Coast Outpost finds its voice in local news

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By Ellen Kortesoja

As editor of the Lost Coast Outpost, a successful example of community journalism in Humboldt County, Calif., Hank Sims is using his skillset to make in-demand information easy to find.

Sims is a writer/programmer combo – his experience lends to the mission of Lost Coast Outpost (LoCo), which is presenting information to its community audience in an innovative, no-nonsense way.

The online publication’s startup-esque Cinderella story began with just Sims running the show. He said he started writing long-form investigative pieces, but soon realized he needed to change tactics to build LoCo’s presence online.

Hank Sims, editor of the Lost Coast Outpost

Hank Sims, editor of the Lost Coast Outpost


That idea led LoCo’s status as a breaking news provider. Generating, at times, the most up-to-date information, LoCo is the first-stop news source for those in Humboldt County seeking immediate, digestible local news.

Now, LoCo has four people on the editorial staff, including Sims, along with sales and management staff.

Despite being five hours away from San Francisco, this Northern California county with a population of about 130,000 has a vibrant media scene.

“There’s an island mentality,” Sims says. “We really turn inward and count on ourselves for our culture.”
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March 14, 2014
by ItsAllJournalism
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John Maginnis makes a living covering Louisiana politics

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By Julia O’Donoghue

Covering Louisiana politics since 1972, John Maginnis has made a living for the last 21 years running a statewide political newsletter and website that people actually pay to read.

John Maginnis

John Maginnis publishes the political website LaPolitics with Jeremy Alford.

“It’s been a real success and it’s been a mainstay of my career,” said Maginnis, who also has a syndicated column that runs in 21 newspapers around Louisiana.

The site, LaPolitics, is devoted exclusively to, well, Louisiana politics. Some of the content is free, but a lot of it is also behind a paywall. Maginnis and his partner, Jeremy Alford, ask people to pay $145 per year to get access to all of their material.

LaPolitics is a “must read” for people who are interested in Louisiana’s government, Gov. Bobby Jindal or the state legislature. In addition to subscriptions, Maginnis said the website has started to sell online advertising slots to generate revenue as well.

“We already have prospects coming in. … We don’t have the numbers of some other big websites, but we sell to an exclusive political audience,” said Maginnis.

Maginnis will not accept advertisements from elected officials and candidates, but he and Alford hope the site will be attractive to lobbyists and other people who want to reach an exclusive political audience in Louisiana.

LaPolitics tries to keep its subscription fees affordable, so as not to scare off readers. Elected officials, lobbyists and state government workers all purchase access, but so do regular political junkies who live in the state. LaPolitics readers are particularly loyal. Maginnis said his website has a subscription renewal rate of 91 percent
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March 7, 2014
by ItsAllJournalism
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Tony Wheeler on the journey of a professional traveler

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By Michael O’Connell

In 1972, Tony Wheeler and his wife Maureen were living in London, where they had just finished their studies. They decided to take a year off to travel around the world, with the intention of “getting travel out of our systems,” Wheeler said.

Tony Wheeler at the Yungang Caves.

Tony Wheeler at the Yungang Caves.


The couple left London in an old, beat-up car, which took them all the way to Afghanistan. Eventually, they made their way overland across Asia and ended up in Sydney, Australia, six months after they’d started.

They had 27 cents between them.

The journey that was intended to cure them of the travel bug did just the opposite. In late 1973, they launched Lonely Planet Productions, with Tony’s first book, “Across Asia on the Cheap.”
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March 1, 2014
by ItsAllJournalism
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Ed Timms — Helping young journalists embrace technology

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By Julia O’Donoghue

Ed Timms is a senior investigative reporter with The Dallas Morning News who has been “leaning in” when it comes to technology and journalism for decades.

Ed Timms

Ed Timms


Recently, he won the new Dallas Morning News fellowship in professional journalism, which has him advising journalism students at a student-run publication, Reporting Texas. Timms tries to emphasize that journalists need to be flexible, especially when it comes to technology.

“You have to be open to the fact that technology is going to be a part of your job, and that technology is likely going to change,” said Timms. “We don’t really know for sure what is going to be the social media or the platform that is going to save us down the road.”

Timms says journalism has always been on the forefront of technology. It embraced computers and mobile phones much earlier, for example, than other industries.

A self-described technology geek, Timms used a computer to work on reporting projects back in the 1980s, before it became common practice.

“I very early on embraced the idea that computers are pretty cool,” he said.

Since he was already an early technology adopter, Timms said his newspaper’s Web team often used him to experiment. Things didn’t always work out, but he learned a lot along the way.
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February 21, 2014
by ItsAllJournalism
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Michael Cavna rides two horses as a cartoonist and journalist

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By Michael O’Connell

Artist and journalist Michael Cavna entered daily syndication in late 1996 with his topical comic strip “Warped.” For seven years, he sat at the drawing board every day producing the strip.

Michael Cavna

Michael Cavna


At the time, the American comic strip was still considered something of a going concern, but things were in the process of changing.

“In 1995, you still had ‘Bloom County,’” Cavna said. “You still had ‘Calvin and Hobbes.’ You still had ‘The Far Side.’ Within roughly a 12 month period, all would disappear from the landscape. … Once those quickly in the mid-’90s all disappeared, it was a radical shift.”

Although other strips, such as “Doonesbury, “Dilbert” and “Zits” continued to thrive, the departure of those three influential strips left a huge gap in the comics sections of the nation’s newspapers.

Cavna folded “Warped” in 2003, partially because he’d said all that he wanted to say artistically, but also because it was becoming more difficult for artists to expand their audiences through newspaper syndication.

“I talked to Garry Trudeau about it,” Cavna said. “Even when ‘Doonesbury’ was syndicated in 1970, he felt like the ebb had begun. But the radical shift has been the decline of print readership. So, we’ve really seen in the past couple of decades that drop off as you’ve seen circulation drop off, as you’ve seen two newspaper towns become one newspaper towns. That’s all endemic.”
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February 14, 2014
by ItsAllJournalism
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Catch Amy Webb if you can, the technology consultant and author is charging forward with or without journalists

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By Megan Cloherty

WASHINGTON – Amy Webb has made a living out of looking forward. The owner of Webb Media Group predicts the technology trends that will be driving us socially and in business two to seven years from now. And she isn’t surprised journalism remains behind the curve.

She was inspired as a young reporter by technology working in Asia. When she continually ran into mentality road blocks in her newsrooms when it came to technology, she realized she’d prefer to be ahead of the game than behind it.

Amy Webb

Amy Webb, CEO of Webb Media Group, talks to It’s All Journalism about data, dating and how journalists need to be looking at technology seven years down the road. (Photo by Michael O’Connell)


Point in fact, the idea of designing news content for screens. It’s something she says is on it’s way out.

“So while journalists desperately try to catch up and program for their iPhones as well as whatever else they are doing on air, that’s all well and good. But, I can point you to like 100 companies in the Valley who are all creating devices and applications and scenarios where there are no traditional screens. And the best example of this is Google Glass,” she says.

Media companies need to spend more time thinking about consumers and not about getting better at the status quo.
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