Monthly Archives: October 2008

RSS for dummies – would I convince you?

Here’s my first attempt an a RSS guide for dummies. What do you think. Too patronising? If you knew nothing about RSS, would this convince you to give it a try?

Our news, delivered to you, for free

Want to get our headlines, as they happen, delivered to your desktop – for free? Well you can, with RSS feeds. Sound complicated? It’s not – here’s how it works…

You choose which of our headlines you’re interested in; news, sport, north dorset, east dorset, business, entertainment.

We send you a headline and a summary of each story, as it happens. If you want to know more, there’s a link to take you to the full version. If you don’t you can delete it.

You can read your headlines as they arrive, or check your feed once a day, five times a day or once a week if you like. The updates will stay put until you’re ready to read them.

We don’t ask for any personal information, there’s no cost, and you’ll never be spammed. It’s just a no-hassle way of keeping up with the news.

Interested? Then read our step by step guide to signing up.

First, you need a news reader, also known as an RSS reader.

If you have a My Yahoo page, adding our headlines to it couldn’t be easier.

On our home page, under the Daily Echo logo, there’s a little square orange button with the words All Feeds next to it.
You’ll also see this button around the site and on other website that use RSS.

Click the all feeds button and it will take you to a list of the feeds we offer. Click the link for the one you’d like to use, and you’ll get a new screen that shows you the most recent headlines, with a bar across the top that says ‘Subscribe to this feed using” and a drop down menu.

All you have to do is choose My Yahoo from the options and click subscribe now. That’s it! Our headlines should now appear on your My Yahoo page. You can go back and choose another feed to subscribe to if you like. And you can cancel at anytime.

If you have an MSN account:

On your My MSN page, look for the box that says add new content. There should be a search for new content box.

In that box, type http://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/news/rss/
That will give you all our news headlines. If you want sport, it’s http://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/sport/rss

Click the green arrow and you’ll get a results page that should say ‘one result for syndicated content’ and a Bournemouth Echo headline. Tick the box next to this and click on the OK button.  Our headlines should then appear somewhere on your page!

To get other feeds, you’ll need to go to our homepage. Under the Daily Echo logo, there’s a little square orange button with the words All feeds next to it.

Click the all feeds button and it will take you to a list of the feeds we offer. Click the link for the one you’d like to use, and you’ll get a new screen that shows you the most recent headlines, with a bar across the top that says ‘Subscribe to this feed using” and a drop down menu.

Because you’re using MSN, you’ll need to copy the address from the browser bar (it should look like the picture below) and paste that in the new content search bar in your MSN page. Then follow the steps above.

If you have a Google account:

On our home page, under the Daily Echo logo, there’s a little square orange button with the words All feeds next to it.
You’ll also see this button around the site and on other website that use RSS.

Click the all feeds button and it will take you to a list of the feeds we offer. Click the link for the one you’d like to use, and you’ll get a new screen that shows you the most recent headlines, with a bar across the top that says ‘Subscribe to this feed using” and a drop down menu.

Select Google from the drop down menu and it will ask you whether you want to add the feed to your Google homepage or use Google reader.

Unless you already have an iGoogle homepage, the easiest option is to use Google reader. Click on it, and it will ask you to sign in to Google. Once you’ve done that you’ll get a Google Reader page with our headlines on it!

You may want to bookmark the page or make it a favourite because it’s not easy to find from Google’s search page.

If you have an iGoogle page you can choose to add our headlines as a module – or choose to add it to Google reader and then add the reader as a module to your iGoogle page. (For instructions, click here!)

If you have an AOL account:

On you’re my Aol page, click the favourites tab. On the left of the screen will be a box called feeds.  Click Add Feeds. In the box, type  http://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/news/rss/ for news or http://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/sport/rss for sport. Click the check button. It should bring up our feed in the results box. Tick the box next to the feed and click Add Feeds.

Our headlines should appear on your page!

To get other feeds, you’ll need to go to our homepage. Under the Daily Echo logo, there’s a little square orange button with the words All feeds next to it.

Click the all feeds button and it will take you to a list of the feeds we offer. Click the link for the one you’d like to use, and you’ll get a new screen that shows you the most recent headlines, with a bar across the top that says ‘Subscribe to this feed using” and a drop down menu.

Because you’re using AOL, you’ll need to copy the address from the browser bar (it should look like the picture below) and paste that in the Add Feeds search bar in your AOL page as before.

If you don’t have any of these accounts and/or you are using Firefox as your browser, you can add the feed directly to your bookmarks like this:

Go to our homepage. Under the Daily Echo logo, there’s a little square orange button with the words All feeds next to it.

Click the all feeds button and it will take you to a list of the feeds we offer. Click the link for the one you’d like to use, and you’ll get a new screen that shows you the most recent headlines, with a bar across the top that says ‘Subscribe to this feed using” and a drop down menu.
Select Live Bookmarks and click Subscribe now. It will ask you where in your bookmarks you want the feed to be stored. Choose your location and click ADD.
The links will then appear in your bookmarks as a folder called Bournemouth Echo.

That’s it!

Once you have our RSS feed, why not try others? You can have updates from your favourite websites, news pages and blogs – all you have to do is look for the little orange button, and when you see it, click it!

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Newsroom 2.0: re-imagining our business

There are a lot of people talking about business models and the web. How has the news gathering process changed? How do we best utilise the new technologies? How do we think of news as a process, not a product.

But for those of us who started in the print world, most of these people are leaving one element out. There’s lots of talk about the web and barely any talk about the newspaper – except to say that the printed product is done for.

So here’s my question:

If you were starting a newspaper from scratch, today, how would you run your newsroom?
Assume that there IS a printed product; a daily paper, a free sheet or two, a property and business supplement, a what’s on pullout maybe, as well as the online offering.

How would you staff it?

I think there are three core stages:

  • news gathering (in which I would include the writing of the story, creation of video, pictures)
  • honing (the casting of a critical second eye, consideration of legal issues, editorial angles, things the reporter might have missed, extra details that will make the story better)
  • packaging: how the story is displayed, online and in print

There’s obviously a subtext here: the viability or otherwise of sub-editing in the new world. I think there’s still a role (as I have said before) for editorial judgement as well as the obvious need for design, both online and in paper.

But if the news creation model is changing elsewhere on the editorial floor, does it need to change in the production department too? And if so how? My key questions:

  1. Should reporters upload straight to the web?
  2. Who ‘hones’ the copy: newsdesk? If so, does it need to be done again?
  3. If the copy’s been honed for the web, does it need redoing for the paper? If so, who should do it?
  4. If we trust reporters to edit their own video, why don’t we trust them to edit their own content? (Or should that question should be: if we don’t trust them to edit their own content, why do we trust them to edit their own video?)
  5. Should reporters write to box? If so, who checks their copy? Who creates the box?
  6. Do we abandon page design completely, stick to a set number of free designed pages and create templates for the rest, or template everything?

I’m not sure I have any answers for these questions (although I have strong opinions about some of them!) and I’m sure there are other key issues I’ve not thought of. But I’d be interested to hear what you think….

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When is small too small?

So I built this nifty New Forest gallery…

http://www.dipity.com/Shepherdess76/A_New_Forest_gallery/flip

but to embed it in our site I have to shrink it to 300 pixels wide, too small to see much.

Not sure how to solve this problem, except maybe with a big single picture that links to the gallery. Any thoughts?

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Getting ready for switchover

Our new site goes live tomorrow.

So far today I have discovered that the search and archive don’t work, we’ve got no control over our RSS feeds and we can’t use any iframes wider than 320 pixels because of the mandatory content panels that run down the right of the page… which makes embedding dipity timelimes sort of a waste of time.

But we’ll try it anyway…

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Grasping the nettle

I’m getting my hands on our website this week.

My title is (for now) website champion, because our biggest hurdle is a newsroom at best disinterested and at worst actively hostile to the web.

Here’s my list of  immediate improvements, things we can do NOW. Some are really basic – because we really are starting from scratch. Have I missed any?

1: Change the culture:

The internet is not killing our newspaper, but a rubbish website will. People should be excited about the new potential, not convinced it will be the death of us all.

2: Content:

Break news all the time.

Make web part of every day and every conference.

Tailor content to time of day and day of week.

More video. We’ve bought some Flip video cameras and reporters can just point and shoot.

Every page should link to something else. Sell the content to the reader – we need to work to get them to turn the page

Use featurettes and panels more creatively and change them at least daily.

Liveblogging: Sports, events, breaking news with Cover it Live.

Revamp sections: Taste, What’s On, the magazine sections to be livelier and easier to navigate with added content or video to go with in-paper content.

Think more about the way stories are written. How will they read in automatically generated RSS feeds? Think about SEO

3: Generating traffic:

Better generation of in-site traffic. Every page should lead the reader to something else with creative use of links. If this reader has read this story, what else might they like? Whoever uploads the stories should have knowledge of what else is online, what’s good and what’s worth promoting.

Distribution – we expect to have to work at it with the paper so why shouldn’t we work at it online?

Make use of social networking sites like Twitter.

Using Dipity to create galleries and timelines that will be accessible and easy to find for all Dipity’s users as well as our readers.

Set up a Daily Echo Flickr account where we can upload our best pictures and encourage readers to  join our Flickr group and submit pictures too.

Use our Daily Echo YouTube channel.

Make sure RSS feeds are obvious and easy to use – and promote them to readers.

Use email to send out daily business briefings, news alerts, entertainment teasers to subscribers and promote in-paper and online.

Breaking news text alerts. Can be story specific  or a daily ‘top headlines in tomorrow’s paper’ text.

The future for regional news?

I’ve been thinking about a couple of things this week.

In my new role at the Daily Echo (which makes me responsible for content and driving up traffic – will post more about this later!),  I’m very interested in what’s happening with the BBC plans for regional news websites.

That’s not because I’m scared of the competition. But – and this is a big deal – the BBC plan is to spend £68m. They already have superlative platforms and video delivery. They have a brand name. And with £68 they have more money to spend than I could ever dream of.

And a few things have happened recently, which added together, don’t make for a bright future.

First there’s Tim Luckhurst in the Guardian, blogging about ITV cutting back on regional news. Then there’s this statement on the BBC plans from the Newspaper Society, which says there has been no market failure to justify state-funded intervention into regional news – but written before ITV’s regional news output was slashed.

Then there’s this job advert from the BBC. They’re calling it a talent pool. But it looks to me like they’re looking for senior journalists who are prepared to be headhunted should the local websites get the nod.

And last but not least this, where culture secretary Andy Burnham says, on the BBC’s Media Show, that he is a) prepared to spend BBC money on improving regional news, potentially even funding ITV and Channel 4 if needs be, but that b) he wants the BBC to be the backbone and he won’t allocate funding that will put the BBC at a disadvantage.

I have no idea what the BBC trust will decide. But with ITV cutting back, there is obviously an argument that local news needs a boost.

The sad truth is that the BBC is so far ahead of most local newspaper’s websites that we’ll struggle to compete. I firmly believe there is a massive audience out there for an informed, well connected, aggregation-embracing, entertaining local news website.

But we need to time to build it… and if the Beeb gets in there first (and poaches all our good people) I’m not sure we’ll ever recover.

I know there’s an argument that it’s our own fault for taking so long about it. And  I repeat – I’m not afraid of competition. I think it’s necessary to drive up standards, and god knows some local newspapers could do with a kick up the arse.

I love newspapers. I want them to survive. I think they can survive.  But if BBC local news happens NOW it could be the death knell for many.

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Style and the Express

Love this post from the Press Gazette. Some people will say these style points aren’t important and that none of this stuff matters as audiences get younger and news providers proliferate across the web. 

But I’d say these kind of standards (the quality control that sub-editors do because reporters don’t) are what make us different – a USP, if you like.

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Express picks fit-to-box layout in world without subs

So here are some details about how the Express is going to manage without subeditors.

It’s the old Northcliffe dream; reporters are sent a box, write their story to fit and craft a headline, remembering to include all the relevant copy commands. Job done.

But then there’s a team of ‘rewriters’ who’ll check the story and make any necessary changes, and the lawyers, who’ll make sure no-one can sue Dicky Desmond for any of his hard-earned cash.

No mention of what kind of journalists these ‘rewriters’ will be (or what they will do with overwritten copy that fills a box but could really do with 200 words trimming from it) but surely they’ll have to be subs? Subs in disguise, maybe, but subs none the less.

Which makes the whole exercise seem entirely pointless. Wordy, flabby, overwritten leads are more likely to make the paper. Reporters will have more to do. Half of what they’ve done will be redone anyway by the rewriters – or it won’t and the rewriters will do themselves out of a job.

I suppose we should be glad they are keeping rewriters (who are no doubt cheaper than subs and there will be less of them).

But there needs to be someone between the reporter and the reader.

Why?

I’ve been a reporter. I’ve been a news editor. Sub-editors changing ‘my’ copy annoyed me immensely. I knew what my story was and I was going to write it my way.

But as a trainee I learnt how to write for newspapers by studying how the subs edited my words; for clarity, for brevity, to pull the reader in.

As a news editor the fiery arguments I had with the chief sub made me look at my stories differently. Sometimes I came round to agreeing with him. Sometimes he agreed with me. But everything was debated. Is it worth its place? Have we got the right angle? Are we being fair?

As a reporter or news editor it’s easy to see a story one way. Your way. Deadlines, a fondness for a particular contact or angle, your own beliefs – they all play a part in how we construct our stories and it’s foolish to think they don’t.

As a sub it’s my job to reconsider those angles. I wasn’t always right when I sat on the other side of the fence and I’m not always right now. But it’s important to spark that debate.

As I’ve said before, we’re not just cut-to-fit monkeys.

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