News Leadership 3.0

Posts tagged with: Tips

January 21, 2010

Don’t “over Twitter” and other social media tips for news organizations

Media strategist Steve Safran says news organizations must straddle two worlds - the traditional one of producing news and the new one as a player on social networks. Here are his tips for success.

(USC journalism graduate student Nikki Usher sat in on the Knight Digital Media Center’s Strategic Leadership Summit for Public Radio Stations, held last month in conjunction with National Public Radio and funded by Knight Foundation. I asked her to write about key takeaways.)

By Nikki Usher

Steve Safran, a media strategist at Media Reinvent, offered key take-home lessons for news organizations looking to improve their online presence:

1. The Twitter Effect.

Safran advised public radio stations not to get bogged down in numbers of Twitter followers. He highlighted Boston public radio station WBUR, which has 4,300 or so followers. But, Safran pointed out, Twitterers have “spheres of influence.”
The average twitter user, according to Safran, has 126 followers. WBUR has 4,385 followers, but if all of them retweet, that means another 552,510 people may pay attention to WBUR. In a magic world, if all those people retweeted WBUR, you could get 69 million WBUR mentions. “Small beginnings are OK,” he said.
Safran’s number one tip for Twitterers: don’t over tweet. Keep it short, and don’t over promote.
“Audiences want their information as micro as possible,” Safran said. “You are using other people’s mobile text money, so make it worth their money.”

2. Media 1.0 vs. Media 2.0

News organizations are in a funny spot. They are original content providers and they must play in social media.
Media 1.0 is: one way, mass media, top/down, a closed network,  (e.g. not sharing APIs, no comments on a site), hierarchical, passive, macromedia, and bundled.
Media 2.0 is: interactive, direct, bottom-up, open network, collaborative, active, micromedia, and self- bundling.
News organizations shouldn’t get rid of media 1.0 - that’s what audience come to them for - but they do need to change. Safran offered the word “simulpath” - how to keep changes occurring while things are already in progress.
He suggested:
* Unbundle content for consumption anywhere
* Build interactive applications into brand extension platforms
* Make content available for mobile distribution
* Create widgets to provide content on other Web sites in the market
* Own RSS and offer many feeds
* Launch a branded RSS reader

3. Connecting outside the news organization

News organizations, thanks to the world of Media 2.0, aren’t in their own mass media world anymore. Instead, they are part of a larger information ecosystem. And they are also part of a local community.
Safran stressed the importance of a news organization becoming a local information hub as well as an aggregator for content by users.
He suggested news organizations organize local bloggers and the local Web, build and maintain a database of local Web sites, help users create participatory content, and build standalone, niche web sites.
Niche channels are key, as Safran pointed out. “Blogs are the single best search engine optimized content out there.”
His final suggestion for news organizations was to “aggregate, aggregate, aggregate.”

4. Building hits and attracting users

“You don’t want to be best radio web site - you want to be best multimedia outlet,” Safran told public radio executives.
What does that mean for news organizations? It means giving audiences news as it happens in new and novel ways - especially in times of breaking news. Consider new blogs, mashups, and simply blowing up home pages, as CBS8 did with the California Wildfires a couple of years ago. 
And news orgs shouldn’t be afraid to be the gathering place for competing information sites, such as adding feeds from the LA Fire Department.
The web also means writing differently. Search engine optimization, according to Safran, isn’t a magical science. It’s just using easily googled words over and over again so that your site comes up first - if you’re writing about a local fire, include the name, place and site of the fire so anyone searching for information will stumble upon it.
“Keywords are marketing,” Safran said.
He offered some key suggestions:
* Write literal headlines
* Think: How would my friends search this?
* Link out like crazy: Start with two links per story
* Keep updating as the story changes
* Use lots of RSS feeds
Safran reminded public radio leaders most traffic comes from search or aggregators, not from using the home page as a destination. So news outlets are really competing to be the RSS feed of choice.

September 07, 2010

Bargain Babe: The good, the bad, and the ugly of entrepreneurship

By Julia Scott: Being an entrepreneur is about the good, bad, and ugly possibilities of life. The possibility that you get rich and retire tomorrow (or at least be able to hire a house cleaner and eat organic). The possibility that you will fail again. The possibility that you will spend all weekend re-arranging your home office to maximize efficiency only to catch your dog peeing on the shredder come Monday.

  Here are three lessons I’ve learned in my 19 months of being an entrepreneur (a word I can now spell):

  1. Fear is good. If none of your colleagues, editors, or partners scare you, chances are you’re slacking off. Why work hard for someone who is always content with your content? I realized I had been doing lackluster work when a new editor, um, inspired me to spend three times as long on my weekly column. Fear indicates you are being challenged.

  2. Follow every reasonable lead but realize that some are not going to pan out, especially if they involve students who know less than you do. My conviction that a single meeting with three masters candidates would produce a revolutionary business plan, uncontrollable revenue streams, and overnight fame showed me I had much to learn about evaluating opportunities.

  My out-of-control expectations, which were fueled by out-of-control ambitions stemming from out-of-control greed, blinded me to the fact that the situation was not under my control. This was one class for the students. They had an assignment to meet an entrepreneur. They had to make a presentation about who I was, what I was doing, and how I could do it better. While sincere, they had no interest in breaking ground for me. Perhaps the true lesson here is that if you think others will carry your weight, it will end badly.

  3. When a partnership fails, it can be ugly. Approach the situation dispassionately and leave the door open to future collaboration.

I worked with a local deal site, even though my money-saving blog has national readership, on four Groupon-like discounts in Los Angeles. The results were non-scintillating.

  Instead of cursing them and the hours we’d spent negotiating a contract, I typed a polite note praising the quality of their deals and pointing out that the offers weren’t quite the match that we hoped. If they had national deals in the future, however, I wanted to know. The response was encouraging: they were open to partnering again. It’s unlikely that will happen, but knowing it could increases my possibility of a good outcome.

  Confused about which lesson is the good, the bad, and the ugly? Hint: I used the words, good, bad, and ugly in the corresponding lesson. Subtle, huh? I hope people other than my mother think this post is funny.

Julia Scott is a journalist by training, a cheapskate by nature, and an alumna of Knight Digital Media Center’s News Entrepreneur Boot Camp, funded by the Knight Foundation. She shares strategies and inspiration to save at BargainBabe.com. We ask her to share insights about her life in entrepreneurship occasionally on this blog. Reach Julia, aka The Bargain Babe, at julia at bargainbabe dot com.

June 12, 2012

Text alerts for community media: Tips for getting started

Text message alerts are a potentially powerful, effective way to keep your community engaged with your news and information wherever they are—and regardless of what kind of phone they have or whether they have a data plan. But there are plenty of ways to do text alerts wrong. Here are some tips for getting started safely and smart…

By Amy Gahran

Aside from voice calls, text messaging (also called simple messaging service, or SMS) is the most popular thing people do with their cell phones. It’s also the most ubiquitous mobile communication channel—SMS works on virtually every cell phone, from the cheapest and most basic feature phone to the fanciest smartphone.

You can use text alerts to deliver short messages with breaking news, top headlines with links to stories, special topic updates, event or deadline reminders, and more. You can also use them to drive traffic to your website, or to your print edition, or even to carry paid advertisements.

1. Subscribe to other local text alerts first. Get a sense for what kinds of news, info, or alerts people in your community might be getting. For instance, local daily papers and TV or radio news shows often offer text alerts, as do many local governments, police departments, school districts, sports teams, and more.

Get to know the kind of content they provide, and get a feel for what seems useful. Also look for opportunities: what kind of local news or info isn’t yet offered by text alert?

Follow the links included in these text alerts, to ads as well as to stories or online information—do they go to mobile-friendly web pages? Are phone numbers or addresses ever included? (These are clickable on many phones.) See if they stick to what they promised in terms of content and frequency. Do they honor standard “stop” requests to unsubscribe?

2. Select a reputable SMS service with shared shortcodes. You will have to spend a little money to do text alerts right. Wireless carriers charge money to deliver text alerts to phones. Also, anti-spam laws govern require that a common shortcode (a special 5- or 6-digit phone number) be used to send any text messages which are not strictly person-to-person communication.

The easiest and most cost effective way to reliably and cost effectively transmit your alerts and adhere to legal requirements is to use a shared shortcode service. These companies lease shortcodes (which cost at least $500/month) and use software to divide their use—and cost—among several users. They also provide web-based software that allows you to manage subscribers, compose and schedule alerts. Textmarks is an inexpensive and easy-to-use SMS service, but there are many others. For a small list of subscribers, your text alert service can cost as little as $20/month.

Avoid services that offer to deliver your text alerts for free—these rely on technologies that are often blocked by wireless carriers. You want to be sure your subscribers receive your alerts—and that their requests to cancel are promptly and automatically handled. (Before you buy, test this important feature by subscribing to alerts from another publisher or marketer using the same SMS vendor, and then send the message “Stop.” You should receive no further messages from the service.)

3. Don’t overload your subscribers. People hate getting too many text messages, especially from news outlets or other organizations rather than individuals. So decide up front what your upper limit for text messages will be: Just 1-2 per week, or 5-10 over the course of a typical month, is reasonable.

4. Establish relevance first. Mobile users prize relevance above all else. So consider what kind of timely, brief alerts might be most valued by your community—and it probably isn’t the top headlines from your print paper or website.

For your first text alert offering, consider sending out occasional text alerts while important community news is breaking, before you write up and publish a news story—or even if you don’t end up publishing a related story.

For instance, you could start by posting text alerts of important breaking local news or events: major police actions or fires, major local government decisions, announcements of important community business openings or closings, severe weather alerts, timely reminders of festivals or sporting events, and more. Focus on whatever key time-sensitive news you already routinely follow (via police scanner, by attending meetings, etc.), so you’ll be able to pretty consistently catch the most vital community news right away.

Later, after you’ve gotten your feet wet with offering occasional text alerts of mobile news and events, you can branch out to offering other types of text alerts, such as your top story of the week or special weekly alerts on an important community issue. You’ll need to maintain each text alert service as a separate opt-in list—never subscribe people to new text alerts without their permission. But occasional alerts of breaking community news is most likely to get people interested enough to try your text alerts in the first place.

5. Provide only direct, mobile-friendly links in your text alerts. If you do link to your online news stories from text alerts, link directly to the mobile-friendly version of the story webpage—not to your homepage, or to a section page. (Making your site mobile friendly is the first item in my 10-step mobile strategy for community publishers.) And definitely don’t provide links that try to load the full version of your site which is meant to be viewed on a computer. That will slow down and frustrate many mobile users.

Similarly, if you include advertiser links in your text alerts, make sure they lead to mobile-friendly landing pages. (If your advertisers don’t have mobile-optimized landing pages, you can easily build and sell them as a service using tools like Landr.co)

I recommend using the free link shortening service Bit.ly to create all links that you’ll include in text alerts. This will allow you to track clickthroughs on these links, so you can assess which kinds of links are most popular with your text alert subscribers.

6. Don’t run off-target, irrelevant network ads. Many mobile ad networks will pay you to append short text ads with a link to your text alerts. That’s tempting, but those ads often say cheesy, generic things like “Got psoriasis?” This is irrelevant to community and most of your text alert subscribers, and hence undermines the key value of text alerts: relevance. Plus, they just look clueless.

Community publishers should probably avoid most ad networks for text alerts—they’re just too general, intended for a mass audience.

But you can—and should—eventually integrate local ads into your text alerts. Once you have a mobile-friendly website, you can start selling mobile-friendly ads from local advertisers (or larger institutions or brands that want to reach your community) which appear on the website. Again, that’s covered in my 10-point mobile strategy.

Once you have, say, five or more advertisers on your mobile site, you can start including occasional links to those advertisers, in rotation, in some (but not all) of your text alerts.

7. Support and promote your text alerts in print and online. Write up short, basic information about the text alerts you provide and why they’re valuable to your community. Create a mobile-friendly webpage with this pitch, as well as clear instructions for subscribing and unsubscribing. Print up postcards and fliers with this information, to distribute in community locations.

Also include this information in an article or recurring house ad in your print edition (if you have one), and link to it prominently from the main navigation on your website. And if you use social media or publish an e-mail newsletter, occasionally promote and link to your text alerts from there. (Social media and e-mail are hugely popular with mobile users.)

8. Keep the big picture in mind. Think of your print and web presence, social media efforts, and text alerts as an ecosystem. Your text alerts can drive traffic to your website or print edition (or advertisers), and also help your community recognize a whole new level of value from your news venue. Your print and web editions and social media posts (as well as supporting materials like postcards) in turn can drive text alert subscriptions.

Text alerts meet a need for quick heads-up awareness, whenever and wherever needed in your community. Your main news platforms provide more in-depth coverage, and social media provides engagement and more frequent updates. Understanding this interplay can help you hone your community coverage strategy and also use mobile to support your business model.

The News Leadership 3.0 blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The Knight Digital Media Center at USC is a partnership with the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. The Center is funded by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

June 12, 2012

Text alerts for community media: Tips for getting started

Text message alerts are a potentially powerful, effective way to keep your community engaged with your news and information wherever they are—and regardless of what kind of phone they have or whether they have a data plan. But there are plenty of ways to do text alerts wrong. Here are some tips for getting started safely and smart…

By Amy Gahran

Aside from voice calls, text messaging (also called simple messaging service, or SMS) is the most popular thing people do with their cell phones. It’s also the most ubiquitous mobile communication channel—SMS works on virtually every cell phone, from the cheapest and most basic feature phone to the fanciest smartphone.

You can use text alerts to deliver short messages with breaking news, top headlines with links to stories, special topic updates, event or deadline reminders, and more. You can also use them to drive traffic to your website, or to your print edition, or even to carry paid advertisements.

1. Subscribe to other local text alerts first. Get a sense for what kinds of news, info, or alerts people in your community might be getting. For instance, local daily papers and TV or radio news shows often offer text alerts, as do many local governments, police departments, school districts, sports teams, and more.

Get to know the kind of content they provide, and get a feel for what seems useful. Also look for opportunities: what kind of local news or info isn’t yet offered by text alert?

Follow the links included in these text alerts, to ads as well as to stories or online information—do they go to mobile-friendly web pages? Are phone numbers or addresses ever included? (These are clickable on many phones.) See if they stick to what they promised in terms of content and frequency. Do they honor standard “stop” requests to unsubscribe?

2. Select a reputable SMS service with shared shortcodes. You will have to spend a little money to do text alerts right. Wireless carriers charge money to deliver text alerts to phones. Also, anti-spam laws govern require that a common shortcode (a special 5- or 6-digit phone number) be used to send any text messages which are not strictly person-to-person communication.

The easiest and most cost effective way to reliably and cost effectively transmit your alerts and adhere to legal requirements is to use a shared shortcode service. These companies lease shortcodes (which cost at least $500/month) and use software to divide their use—and cost—among several users. They also provide web-based software that allows you to manage subscribers, compose and schedule alerts. Textmarks is an inexpensive and easy-to-use SMS service, but there are many others. For a small list of subscribers, your text alert service can cost as little as $20/month.

Avoid services that offer to deliver your text alerts for free—these rely on technologies that are often blocked by wireless carriers. You want to be sure your subscribers receive your alerts—and that their requests to cancel are promptly and automatically handled. (Before you buy, test this important feature by subscribing to alerts from another publisher or marketer using the same SMS vendor, and then send the message “Stop.” You should receive no further messages from the service.)

3. Don’t overload your subscribers. People hate getting too many text messages, especially from news outlets or other organizations rather than individuals. So decide up front what your upper limit for text messages will be: Just 1-2 per week, or 5-10 over the course of a typical month, is reasonable.

4. Establish relevance first. Mobile users prize relevance above all else. So consider what kind of timely, brief alerts might be most valued by your community—and it probably isn’t the top headlines from your print paper or website.

For your first text alert offering, consider sending out occasional text alerts while important community news is breaking, before you write up and publish a news story—or even if you don’t end up publishing a related story.

For instance, you could start by posting text alerts of important breaking local news or events: major police actions or fires, major local government decisions, announcements of important community business openings or closings, severe weather alerts, timely reminders of festivals or sporting events, and more. Focus on whatever key time-sensitive news you already routinely follow (via police scanner, by attending meetings, etc.), so you’ll be able to pretty consistently catch the most vital community news right away.

Later, after you’ve gotten your feet wet with offering occasional text alerts of mobile news and events, you can branch out to offering other types of text alerts, such as your top story of the week or special weekly alerts on an important community issue. You’ll need to maintain each text alert service as a separate opt-in list—never subscribe people to new text alerts without their permission. But occasional alerts of breaking community news is most likely to get people interested enough to try your text alerts in the first place.

5. Provide only direct, mobile-friendly links in your text alerts. If you do link to your online news stories from text alerts, link directly to the mobile-friendly version of the story webpage—not to your homepage, or to a section page. (Making your site mobile friendly is the first item in my 10-step mobile strategy for community publishers.) And definitely don’t provide links that try to load the full version of your site which is meant to be viewed on a computer. That will slow down and frustrate many mobile users.

Similarly, if you include advertiser links in your text alerts, make sure they lead to mobile-friendly landing pages. (If your advertisers don’t have mobile-optimized landing pages, you can easily build and sell them as a service using tools like Landr.co)

I recommend using the free link shortening service Bit.ly to create all links that you’ll include in text alerts. This will allow you to track clickthroughs on these links, so you can assess which kinds of links are most popular with your text alert subscribers.

6. Don’t run off-target, irrelevant network ads. Many mobile ad networks will pay you to append short text ads with a link to your text alerts. That’s tempting, but those ads often say cheesy, generic things like “Got psoriasis?” This is irrelevant to community and most of your text alert subscribers, and hence undermines the key value of text alerts: relevance. Plus, they just look clueless.

Community publishers should probably avoid most ad networks for text alerts—they’re just too general, intended for a mass audience.

But you can—and should—eventually integrate local ads into your text alerts. Once you have a mobile-friendly website, you can start selling mobile-friendly ads from local advertisers (or larger institutions or brands that want to reach your community) which appear on the website. Again, that’s covered in my 10-point mobile strategy.

Once you have, say, five or more advertisers on your mobile site, you can start including occasional links to those advertisers, in rotation, in some (but not all) of your text alerts.

7. Support and promote your text alerts in print and online. Write up short, basic information about the text alerts you provide and why they’re valuable to your community. Create a mobile-friendly webpage with this pitch, as well as clear instructions for subscribing and unsubscribing. Print up postcards and fliers with this information, to distribute in community locations.

Also include this information in an article or recurring house ad in your print edition (if you have one), and link to it prominently from the main navigation on your website. And if you use social media or publish an e-mail newsletter, occasionally promote and link to your text alerts from there. (Social media and e-mail are hugely popular with mobile users.)

8. Keep the big picture in mind. Think of your print and web presence, social media efforts, and text alerts as an ecosystem. Your text alerts can drive traffic to your website or print edition (or advertisers), and also help your community recognize a whole new level of value from your news venue. Your print and web editions and social media posts (as well as supporting materials like postcards) in turn can drive text alert subscriptions.

Text alerts meet a need for quick heads-up awareness, whenever and wherever needed in your community. Your main news platforms provide more in-depth coverage, and social media provides engagement and more frequent updates. Understanding this interplay can help you hone your community coverage strategy and also use mobile to support your business model.

The News Leadership 3.0 blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The Knight Digital Media Center at USC is a partnership with the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. The Center is funded by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

ABOUT THIS BLOG

Exploring innovation, transformation and leadership in a new ecosystem of news, by journalist and change advocate Michele McLellan.

Get in touch with Michele at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

More Leadership at KDMC:
Leadership Seminars | Annual Leadership Reports

Support is provided by:

John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

USC Annenberg School for Communication

McCormick Foundation

Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute

Research

@michelemclellan on Twitter

Recent Entries

Categories

Archives

Feed

Blogroll

Tag Cloud