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OJR: Journalism’s problem isn’t the internet or advertising, it’s attitude

January 5th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Journalism

What’s the biggest problem facing the journalism industry? The online explosion of content and competition, jobs cuts, the advertising crisis? According to the Online Journalism Review’s Robert Niles it’s none of these – but instead the attitude of some journalists.

There are too many journalists, he says in this post discussing the Knight Digital Media Center News Entrepreneur Boot Camp in May, who are “wallowing in a culture of failure” and he urges more to step off of the familiar pathway in journalism.

You won’t be the first journalist to do this. That means that others are available to help show you the way. But you’ll need to start listening to these new voices, and tune out the pessimism, frustration and even scolding you might hear from the colleagues you leave behind.

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The future of local media: 100% locally produced

At the end of last week Robert Niles wrote an interesting piece on local news beats on the Online Journalism Review. Whether working in print or online, he outlined five areas which he felt should form the core of any local publication.

In summary they are:

  • Food
  • Education
  • Labour
  • Business
  • Faith

He explains that for greater reader connection, beats must reflect the activities of the average reader’s daily life

The ‘dream’ publication I’m outlining here carries no wire services reports and no syndicated features, either. It’s 100 per cent locally produced and 100 per cent directed at the local community. So don’t think I’m writing about marginal change here. The structure I’m proposing would create a news publication that looks radically different than today’s typical newspaper.

I know that many publishers over the years have found it far more cost-effective to load up their papers and websites with wire copy and syndicated features than to hire local reporters. But with that content available at thousands of other URLs online, every dollar spent on wire or syndicated services is a dollar wasted. If you feel that you need to reference those reports for your readers, link them online or publish the URL in print. As so many others have said before, do what you do best and link to the rest. If you want better performance, you’re not going to get it by doing the same old thing, are you?

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OJR: Revenue is the only metric that truly matters

Revenue: how to build it, how to maintain it and how to increase it – this is the challenge facing every online news outlet owner or director looking to secure a future in the industry.

But according to a post by Robert Niles on the Online Journalism Review, some sites are getting caught up in the latest ‘metrics’ craze based on the perceived successes of others, whether it be page-views, unique visitors or time spent by browsers on the site. But none of this means anything if it doesn’t make you money, he says.

I’ve seen sites post phenomenal numbers for each of those categories, and fail. There’s one metric, and only one, that truly matters in determining your websites’s commercial success. Revenue.

Your visitors can spend hours per month on your website, but a huge “time on site” value by itself won’t entitle you to a dime (see Twitter). I suspect that one reason why various web metrics fall into and out of favor over the years is that managers talk up or down those metrics based on their website’s individual performance. Someone notices that people are spending more time, on average, on the website, then he or she gets on a panel at a news industry conference and – boom – “time on site” becomes the metric everyone needs to consider.

He advises instead that organisations do not look at these categories in isolation, instead with an eye to how they can be used to boost revenues through advertising and other means.

Of course, you need data in order to analyze it. That’s why smart news publishers ought to be experimenting, constantly. Try new topics, new writing forms, new functionality – then create new tracking channels to monitor those experiments, to build a database of information that can help guide you in making smarter decisions about the growth and maintenance of your website.

See his full post here…

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How ‘evergreen topic pages’ can bolster AdSense revenue

“Evergreen topic pages” – it’s a phrase which confused many when first used on the Online Journalism Review site.

Aiming to clarify the term and show how such pages will contribute revenue, Robert Niles has posted an explanation on the site.

The page does focus on a single theme. But neither a niche website nor a topic index on a general news website necessarily serves the function of an evergreen topic page. A optimized evergreen topic page ought to focus on a single element within a theme – not just sports, for example, but on soccer officiating in the World Cup.

I understand why this might be a tough concept for some news veterans. After all, what I’m asking you to create is in several ways the opposite of what we do on a daily basis writing for newspapers or broadcast reports. This is a different product for a news organization, but one much closely aligned with its core mission than fake front pages or coupon deals.

He explained that such pages are an aside to daily news updates, but can be used to supplement such coverage throughout time, with links to ‘evergreen’ topic pages which provide background information. The pages continue to fulfil online searches and provide a long-term additional income from advertising with limited maintenance.

I stumbled onto the value of evergreen content pages when I wrote my “statistics every writer should know” tutorial in 1996. I added AdSense ads to that site in 2003 and continue to earn several hundred dollars a month from those pages today.

Read the full post here…

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Robert Niles: ‘Communities are key in building websites’ advertiser support’

Robert Niles looks at the monetary benefits of an online community over on the Knight Digital Media Center’s OJR blog: “If a website’s editorial mission focuses on building community, as I’ve argued, so should its advertising sales strategy focus on community as well. Don’t fall into the trap of selling potential advertisers nothing more than numbers; don’t neglect to sell them on the opportunity to support the community that you are building.”

Full story at this link…

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Online writers respond to Pulitzer announcement

December 16th, 2008 | No Comments | Posted by in Events, Online Journalism

As noted last week, the Pulitzer prizes will now allow entries from online-only publications. But, as online writers were quick to comment, not all bloggers are welcome.

As Robert Niles notes, “the awards are not throwing open their doors to every blogger on the planet. Entries are restricted to U.S.-based publications which ‘regularly engage’ in original reporting.”

He gives a full guide to entering, with some additional comments from Sig Gissler, administrator of the Prizes. “The Pulitzer Board is not creating new categories for online-only work at this point, but he [Gissler] noted that the Pulitzers ‘have changed a lot in recent years’ in expanding eligibility for online work,” Niles writes.

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Tip of the day from Journalism.co.uk – Three rules for online linking

October 20th, 2008 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Top tips for journalists

Linking: Online Journalism Review’s Robert Niles has three rules for when links should be used in an article: for attributing sources, providing context and to explain the inexplicable. Here’s a link to Niles’ full article on linking in articles. Tipster: Laura Oliver.

To submit a tip to Journalism.co.uk, use this link – we will pay a fiver for the best ones published.

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Online Journalism Review finds new home at Knight Center

September 18th, 2008 | No Comments | Posted by in Online Journalism

The Online Journalism Review, run by the University of Annenburg’s journalism school, has been resurrected by the Knight Foundation’s Digital Media Center, Geneva Overholser, the university’s new director of the school of journalism, announced yesterday.

The site closed in its previous incarnation in June after 10 years of reporting on the ‘transition from other media to online reporting and production’ for mid-career journalists.

Major OJR contributor and media academic Robert Niles will continue to write for the new-look site, which will focus on the following:

  • Reporting and writing in a conversational environment
  • Investigative reporting in the internet era
  • Entrepreneurial journalism
  • ‘Guerilla-marketing’ the news

New articles will be added to the site twice-weekly on Mondays and Fridays.

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OJR: Newspapers – don’t make readers work for your content

Don’t hide editorial between ads and spam – readers don’t have to read on, says Robert Niles.

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