Wick Communications

Of budgets and busy work

In Online media on April 4, 2013 at 4:23 pm

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I am a big fan of Steve Buttry, the news guru at Digital First. He has a long history in the news business and is one of our industry’s most important multi-platform evangelists. I almost always agree with him. But this is ridiculous.

OK, I take that back. His head and heart are in the right place. He’s just over-thinking it, in my humble opinion.

As he says in his blog post, he was asked to consider how best to reflect digital opportunities on today’s story budgets. This is an interesting and important topic. I can’t say that I have given it appropriate thought and I’m glad Buttry brought the issue out in the open.

To back up a moment, most of us have some kind of story budget. The best of those probably emerges from a weekly meeting and lists fairly specific information about upcoming stories. I like ours at the Half Moon Bay Review to include a slug (file name), likely length in print, day it can be expected, a best-guess lede, the name of the writer and plans for art. I think all of those items are important for planning purposes and allow the editor to give necessary feedback on the front end, before crummy stories come over the transom on deadline.

Buttry is suggesting taking that much farther to include plans for publishing across digital platforms. I applaud the idea … even if I think he has made planning an end in itself.

He suggests creating a spreadsheet with 22 additional columns. That’s right – 22 additional columns. All of them relate to digital publication, on Google+, on Facebook, over email alert, and on and on. …

Now, that wouldn’t be terribly difficult. We could create such a spreadsheet and maybe that isn’t such a bad idea. But I think it is … what’s the polite word? I think it’s overzealous to expect most of those columns to be ticked most of the time. I think some things, like tweeting, posting to Facebook, planning for breaking news alerts, are more than a good idea. They are necessities. I guess I think I’m planning that stuff intuitively even though there isn’t a place to indicate that stuff on the budget. On reflection, however, I can see where the re-enforcement of seeing all those columns might add weight to the importance of digital reporting.

But I also think it’s possible to create so daunting a grid, with so many moving parts, that it becomes an exercise in and of itself. I would hate to think that managing a 25-column spreadsheet replaced managing the people who make it happen.

I may try to work up a scaled down approach and I’ll share it when I do.

Clay

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