Students rise to a challenge if you trust them and give them one. This week they’ve learnt that stories matter. As previously reported on this blog, my students – aided by my colleague Andrew Noakes and me – have been providing live reports on cutoday.wordpress.com from the Play the Game Conference in Coventry. To say this has been a rip-roaring success is an understatement.
The product and its appeal has shocked even hardened hacks like me and my fellow lecturer Andrew. The students have seen and scaled an online Olympus.
Let the figures speak for themselves: over 5000 hits in four days before the conference has ended; hits received from all over the world and overnight they go up 500; 100+ posts for the week – the daily record so far is 30, from a staff that never exceeded ten. All contributed by students, bar two lecturers giving help and advice.
We’ve provided print, audio and video and a link to a live-stream of some of the events. These lessons in live journalism have taken place in the blogosphere and are very transferable.
But, Content is King. Keep putting up real and interesting stories in all media. The audience will find them and find them very quickly. One video on drug testing had 50 hits in the first five minutes.
It’s the video and audio which sells, especially if original and exclusive. Keep refreshing the stories with new one and new angles. People will come back to find the new. Vary the texture of stories with length and embeds. Remember that you are writing for a net generation with the concentration span of a gnat.
Tease and trail the speakers, profile them, preview them and then report them. Remember what happens in the conference hall (sometimes the live audience was, er, all of 15) is just the front-end; your audience is out there on the blogosphere worldwide. Via the internet, you can reach and refresh parts that many thought could never be reached – and do so in seconds and in some style.
But the central lesson is the obvious one. Produce good readable and accessible journalism. Assemble motivated hacks manqué, get them working quickly and accurately, finding angles and writing the stories up well. But make sure they are subbed and checked – one student was surprised to learn that the Lord Mayor of Coventry had changed since last year… But the mantra should always be – as Jim White of the Daily Telegraph once put it to my students – ‘good copy delivered on time…’
Whatever the platform, whatever the technology, it’s the stories, stupid. No stories, no content, no audience. It’s a lesson we have all learned quickly.
John Mair is a senior lecturer in broadcasting at Coventry University. He ran cutoday.wordpress.com at the 2009 Play the Game Conference. Most of the hard work was done by his colleague Andrew Noakes and a small group of students of journalism at Coventry University.