Tag Archives: website

Get Local!

My newspaper recently launched a new website. We feature three main stories from anywhere on the site — Outdoors, News, Sports, Local, Showcase — you name it and it can be featured.

With the launch of the new site, the new boss man asked for more local stories. He said to think about what we think is “cool” in the area and then write about it.

This added strain to an already small staff shook some of my fellow reporters. To be blunt, they weren’t pleased and weren’t afraid to be vocal about it.

Personally, I thought it sounded awesome and asked for some pointers on what he would like.

Well, let this be a lesson to everyone — a positive attitude pays off.

My editor, boss man and content editor all met and decided I would be the lead Get Local reporter.

What does this mean?

Less death stories, less tax stories, less road stories and more restaurant stories, people stories and activity stories.

Since I started focusing on the local side of things I’ve visited a strawberry field, gone bar hopping for karaokers, gone paddle boarding and have a page-long list of other fun things to report on.

Not too shabby.

I still am ready and willing to get out of the field, although I don’t think it will be anytime soon since I’ll be working through graduate school.

However, it makes the in between a lot more tolerable. Hopefully, the positive continues to outshine the negative.

… Here’s to keeping this present positive attitude.

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The New Normal

I’m not really one for change. It freaks me out.

I’ll talk a big talk, but when the time comes I tend to stick to what I know. Hence my living in my hometown three years after graduating … but that’s a different beast to tackle on a different day.

My big boss, the guy who’s my boss’ boss, held a meeting this week to talk to the reporters about the changes that will soon be taking place.

There were two meetings held and, as it happened, I went to the second one. The buzz around the office before the meeting started was not good.

No one was happy, none of his answers were good enough and, for some unknown reason, he didn’t like being probed by eight different reports … Curious.

The meeting started and I was cynical, to say the least. But the more he talked the better and better it was sounding.

Our website is changing. The newsroom’s baby is changing.

It’s a hard concept to understand.

What was and will be the most challenging part of this is that we will no longer be basing our judgment on stories and our success online by the number of page views we get. We were told page views are moot and of no importance any longer.

Huh?

Since I got here, the only way we’ve done anything with our website was by looking at the number of page views we generate. Heck, we had a pizza party when we got to 8 million.

Now, who knows. I was told that’s not my job to worry about.

I was told that what my big boss wants is quality content. Quality content? Who ever heard of such a thing.

New features will be in the paper, including an Outdoor section, which will allow us (yeah, me too!) to go out and write about the things locals and visitors can do in the area.

We can go out and take our time on a story. We can do a good job and not put up anything and everything.

I know this is all talk, but my hope is that some of it will come to fruition.

The truth of the matter is, most likely, nothing will change. I will still have the same workload, but more could be piled on because of the new story expectations.

I hate being cynical, I really do. It’s just an unrealistic thought that I won’t have to do the monotonous work that takes up most of my day to replace it with one story only.

We do still have a paper to fill up.

Anonymity No More

Online comments can hurt — We all know that.

The St. Petersburg Times, one of the greatest papers around in my opinion, addressed comments in a way that made me sit back and think.

The reporter took the time to learn about a man who commenters quickly dismissed cold heartedly. Read the story.

The article made my heart ache, but it made a point that I think is important for anyone hiding behind the anonymity of an online persona.

Once the submit button is hit, you are effecting a family that just lost their son, a girl who lost her father, a man who lost his best friend.

No matter where you are typing, those words can still hurt.

Better Off Flipping Burgers

If and when I really lose it, please let the press know I would like to be referred to as “Lady Fingers.”

I can see the headlines now:

Lady Fingers strikes again

FORT WALTON BEACH – Another one of the Daily News’ commenters has been found with every finger cut off and discarded in their trash can.

Lady Fingers is believed to have had a psychotic break after multiple comments were issued in Police Blotters she wrote for the paper’s website. She is considered dangerous to anyone that has written a snotty comment.

It happened again.

I wrote a story about a man who was arrested for having a little blue pill in his pocket without a prescription. I didn’t read the comments, but apparently they weren’t positive.

One person, I was told, even commented that perhaps I should go into the business of fast food and hamburger flipping rather than journalism.

Our graphic design guy and the rest of the newsroom felt so bad that they thought they would try and put a positive spin on it and made me a McDonald’s badge rather than the press pass I requested.

Thanks guys!

I’m Going to be Shot At, Guaranteed

I only have myself to blame.

I didn’t have any assignments today, or any ideas. I finished all the little things I had to do by 9 a.m. with a lot of day left.

This inspired my boss to get out her car keys and say, “C’mon. I’m going to teach you how to find stories.”

Oh boy.

So I hop in her minivan and we ride around town looking at signs, odd going-ons and then we stumbled upon a house with a yard full of weeds taller than me.

I take a picture, mostly to appease her, and we drive on. Then we see a home with what looks like everything that once sat inside of it in the yard. Televisions, chairs, vacuum cleaners, stuffed animals — you get the picture.

Then, genius struck me. (This has been happening a lot lately: genius ideas)

Why not take a photo of unsightly homes, yards, etc. all around the area and post them to the website? The genius of this was so simple: Take a picture, post the picture and get a ton of page views.

Voila!

Then I realized my stupidity.

Most unsightly eyesores reside in neighborhoods that eat little girls like me for breakfast.

Once we got back to the office and the idea was approved and the project was stamped with the idea that this would be mine to do, I set out to find some eyesores.

I walked out of the office with my head held high. I’m going to get readers involved with submitting stories, I have found a way to get out of the office and roam the area whenever I’m bored. I’m a freakin’ genius.

As I drove listening to my radio, sipping my ice water and keeping an eye out for ugly stuff, I slowly started getting more and more uncomfortable.

I was in neighborhood’s where domestic violence happens all the time, gun shots are always heard in the background and I know one of those roads had a dead body spotted on it not more than a year ago.

Not to mention, I have to stop and roll down my window or get out of my car to get these pictures.

My only thoughts as I finished up my photo taking sessions were, “This is how I’m going to die. I will be shot for taking a picture of a rusted car …  Steve Irwin had a better death than that.”

Yeesh.

Wacky Signs, Catchy Headlines and Sensational News

When I was in J-school I was told that what was up-and-coming were newspaper websites (formerly Web sites, but AP loves change).

So, I focused my energy on learning web. That’s how I got started on this blog … it was for an online media class.

When I was applying for jobs right out of college the first place that offered me a job had absolutely no online presence and that ultimately made my decision not to go with the paper.

At the weekly newspaper, the website was just beginning to go up. The publisher’s goal was to make the paper weekly but online be a daily. It didn’t exactly work, but I learned how to update the site, do videos and make photo galleries.

Then contrast it to the daily I’m working at now. The paper averages 5 million page views a month.

A couple months ago when the oil spill was fresh and disasters were happening all over, we hit over 8 million – in one month. That’s huge for a paper with less than 100,000 in circulation and for a paper who’s previous editor said we would never get over 5 million.

Lately, however, we’ve been dragging.

So here is what I’ve learned through experience and from those around me on what works and what doesn’t.

Driving web page views:

In breaking news: Put up a photo gallery of a.) wacky signs, b.) girls on motorcycles or c.) Weird bumper stickers.

In top story: Put up a quirky story with a good front photo and a photo gallery. Videos don’t hurt, either.

Local: Death, destruction, child molesters in jail and throw in a couple of feel-good or business stories so the site isn’t too bleak.

Police blotters: Headlines are the key to this. Make it short, simple and witty. Adding a mug shot and putting (MUG) in the headline also helps

How to slow the website:

We learned just this morning, if you have a photo gallery with too many photos not of individuals people won’t click on the photo and you’ll lose page views. Also, adding too many photos to one gallery overwhelms the reader and they lose interest. Not something you want.

Put up nothing but crimes. People like crimes, trust me – I know. But if it’s the entire site they grow tired of it and start looking for other things.

People also find such words as “tourist development,” “legislation” and any name that appears on the site too often boring. Mixing up the headlines helps with that problem.

We don’t like to sensationalize, but making the story sound more exciting than it is really does increase page views. Having a photo does the same thing and that is true for print papers as well.

Since starting here, my instincts towards the web have gotten much better. I know which celebrities people will find interesting, which stories will be clickable and how to set the website up for the optimal amount of readership.

I hope these tips help someone else who, like me not too long ago, knows little about the world-wide web except that they need to know something.

Good luck all you J-school kids, in the end it’s totally worth it!