Tag Archives: quality

Newsrewired: so how many readers plus DO we have?

I WAS overwhelmed by the positive reaction to my presentation at last week’s excellent news:rewired conference, but slightly annoyed with myself for not having a better answer to Hannah Waldram’s question afterwards.

My presentation was about building online communities, and the concept of the reader plus – the elusive category of cheerleader readers: demanding customers, but the most effective marketing you could ever ask for.

The slides from the presentation are here and the post where I first came up with the lamer-the-more-I-hear-other-people-say-it “readers plus” is here.

In the questions afterwards, Hannah asked me what percentage of our readers did I think were readers plus. The best answer I could come up with then was “I’m not sure.” But really, since I’m trying to persaude people that the time spent getting them is worth it, I should know. So I’ve been thinking about it and here’s my best estimate.

Flickr: I’d say 25 per cent are genuine readers plus. I know this because we talk to them not just on Flickr, but on Facebook and Twitter and face-to-face occasionally! Because what they do is just a specific area of interest, I think the very fact of our taking an interest has been enough to transform the way they think about the paper or at the least challenged their expectations of us.

Facebook: The best I can say here, is I’m working on it! Putting effort into Facebook is a recent development, and Facebook doesn’t tell you how many times your links are shared by friends, so the only thing we have to go on is comments and traffic figures coming to our site. As I said on Friday, traffic from Facebook has tripled and comments are building. We’ve got some facebook friends who definitely COULD be readers plus but I’m not sure we’re quite there yet!

Twitter: Based on retweets and interaction, I’d say twenty percent of our twitter followers are definite readers plus. It may be more, but obviously I don’t know what people are saying about us when I’m not listening!

Hopefully that’s a fuller answer than “I don’t know” – and sorry I didn’t say this at the time.

For those who asked about how exactly we use facebook etc, you can see for yourself here:

bournemouthecho.tumblr.com
flickr.com/bournemouthecho
flickr.com/groups/echoyear/
twitter.com/bournemouthecho
facebook.com/bournemouthecho (my work profile)
facebook.com/bournemouthdailyecho (our Facebook page)
We also have a pretty neglected YouTube account at youtube.com/bournemouthecho, and of course there’s the comments at bournemouthecho.co.uk.

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Subs v Greenslade (part three)

So. Part three. Why subs aren’t useless.

Page design, for all that Roy says it’s templated and not creative, is a well-developed craft.
There are rules about minimum headline sizes to hold up a page, how many decks you need for a top single, best use of pictures and so on.
These are guidelines based on studies of how people read, watch works as eye catching design and what makes you turn the page without reading on.

Roy may think that online ‘page design is irrelevant, of course.’

Of course it’s irrelevant if you want your readers to miss half your content. Of course its irrelevant if you want your site to be grey and boring, or your text to look so dull your readers drift off halfway down the page.

Page design may indeed be irrelevant to most newspapers right now, hamstrung as they are by their templated cms and their lack of knowledge about eyetracking.

But should it be irrelevant? No, absolutely not.

Two examples (and I promise I’m not showing off here…)

First, online picture galleries.

Here’s the Newsquest official gallery.

And here’s the one we built last month.

Why? Well, the Newsquest version is small. It doesn’t show off the photographer’s work. You can’t really see what’s happening in the pictures. It doesn’t inspire, or make you smile, or make you think ‘I’m going to send this link to my friend.’ Were that paper to be running a picture supplement, it wouldn’t make you think “I’ll buy that, because I already know their pictures are great.’ It doesn’t give the photographers any reason to take anything other than a bog standard news shot. I could go on.

The point is, why should pictures online be relegated to 310 pixels?  Why does the fact that it’s a website mean we shouldn’t care about how it looks?

Second: Our Taste section. Here’s how it looks now

Here’s the version we’re working on for a relaunch

It’s not perfect. We’re stuck with only using basic html and none of us are wizards. But it makes a difference. It’s more appealing. You can see where things are. We’re selling the content.

So page design is absolutely relevant. And who better to deal with it than subs who already know the basic principles?

If I was an editor this is what I’d do.

Find and keep good copy subs. Train them in SEO for headlines and let them work out how to combine optimizing for Google with writing good headlines. They’re not incompatible. It just needs skill.

Find and keep good design subs. Teach them about eyetracking, train them in basic html and the vagaries of the cms so they can add links, create breaks in the copy, use pictures to their best advantage, use italics and bold and lists to make the stories LOOK good.

Teach them about Google maps and Yahoo pipes and Dipity and Flash so they can tell the story in a new way; the online version of fact files and breakout panels and graphics.

Give them input into how the site looks. Use their experience and flair, make them part of the process, keep them enthused about the future and hang-on to their knowledge.

So when a story breaks and you’re running constantly updating copy on the web you’ve got a sub who can make it accurate, make it clear, make it interesting, make it sing – in both the old sense, and the new SEO sense – and finally do it fast, like in the old days of deadlines. Exciting for them and for the reader. Doesn’t sound so bad, does it?

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Newspapers on Twitter: is there any point?

I think there is. Forgive if this is going sound like trumpet-blowing, but this is why I think twitter is worth persevering with as more than an RSS feed.

One of our followers asked for suggestions as to where he should take his girlfriend for dinner.
This is what happened
Our conversation on Twitter

Our conversation on Twitter

PROS: The links are all links to our reviews. And everyone who’s following us or him can see this conversation.
We’ve promoted our taste section, boosted our reputation for being the source of all food knowledge, published links to five old reviews that might now get some traffic and increased awareness of us as a brand providing a service to readers. (and possibly created a rod for my back when people start asking me questions!)
But it took five minutes of my time and Rob Hawkes thinks we’re great now (and hopefully will tell other people how great we are, and so on.)
CONS: is the benefit worth the time?Will we, as a paper, get enough from this one reader for it to have been worth my stopping what I was doing (writing a photo sales strategy) and spending five or ten minutes finding some content that matched his needs?  Added on, of course, to the time I spend monitoring the account in the first place, which, as I read here is a time consuming job.

I think, in this age where we’ve got some pretty stiff competition for people’s attention, that it probably is. This may only be one person. But better to have 1000 true fans than than 100,000 who’ll visit the site once and then never again, right?
What do you think? (and sorry again about the trumpet blowing)
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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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Subs are not cut-to-fit monkeys

In this column, Nick Clayton says:

For a start, websites don’t need subs, at least as they exist at the moment. The reason is simple. The key role of subs on newspapers is in getting words to fit a finite space whether that’s copy, headlines or captions.

Unlike a printed page, there is effectively no restriction on the size of a web page. If you want to run every word in the Bible in one place there’s nothing to stop you. In the interests of the reader there could be an editorial decision that no story should be longer than 700 words, but in terms of readability there’s little difference between say 500 words and 600 words. The missing hundred words won’t leave a space.

Even the most satisfying task of the sub, headline writing, is effectively rendered obsolete by the web. What are required online are labels that will be picked up by search engines, not clever plays on words.

He’s missing a fundamental point. Subs are NOT cut-to-fit monkeys. We rewrite. We pare back. We make better.

Copy is not cut just because it’s too long. It’s cut because the reporter has used ten words when two will do; repeated themselves, included quotes that mean nothing or phrases like this:

He said the ambulance took a long time to arrive. He said: “The ambulance took a long time to arrive.”

As for suggesting that web headlines don’t have to be interesting: he consigns us to a lifetime of unimaginative titles that consist of keywords, like this one from today’s Mirror: Army base ‘bully‘ film

And just two more examples:

The threat of rain did not dampen the spirit of a man who had unearthed a family link to the secret gardens recently discovered at the East Close Hotel.

That was the only mention of rain in the whole story.
And how about this?

BEAULIEU is still Beaulieuful according to Bank Holiday excitement seekers who surf the internet to find out where to go.

Internet search engine Ask.com rates the venue in the heart of the New Forest as number 21 in its top 25, according to the number of hits asking for information.

Top of the pops is Chester Zoo, closely followed by London Zoo and the Natural History Museum. The Tate Modern comes in ninth, Cornwall’s Eden Project at number 15, Legoland at 17 and the London Transport Museum at 18.

Leeds Castle is next, followed by Paignton Zoo and then Beaulieu, which has its abbey, house and gardens, but more specifically the National Motor Museum.

Lord Montagu of Beaulieu said: “Beaulieu was one of the first visitor attractions to open in this country over 50 years ago and it’s gratifying to see that in this modern age of the internet it remains one of the country’s most popular and best loved visitor destinations.”

The motor museum has 250 exhibits ranging from bicycles to cars, through to commercial vehicles.

And Beaulieu doesn’t lag behind the times either: the veteran bus that carries visitors around the grounds has recently been converted to run on recycled chip oil from the Brabazon Cafeteria, ensuring it is environmentally Beaulieuful.

A good sub would reduce that to three pars.

Unlimited space does NOT mean we shouldn’t care about quality.  I don’t leave stories long in the paper because I need to fill the hole – I sub it for value and workfrom there. That doesn’t stop being true just because there’s no box to fill. Every word should earn its place.


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