Wick Communications

Archive for the ‘Online media’ Category

Add cover art

In Online media on 7 Sep 2017 at 3:49 pm

The most visually pleasing new addition to the TownNews platform, to my mind, is something called “cover art.”

Log in to TN and open an article asset. Do you see cover art there, next to the line with body copy and so on? Click that bad boy.

From there, it’s pretty self-explanatory, but it helps to play with it a bit so you understand what works and how the photo ultimately interacts with text.

First, think about a photo that might work well on a vertical mobile screen. Click change and upload a file just as you would upload any photo to your list of assets. Now, look at design options. The effects are fun. Who doesn’t love the easy movement created by the “Ken Burns effect?” (If you’ve ever seen one of Burns’ documentaries you will instantly recognize the effect.)

Next, play around with the headline backgrounds. I found the background box serves to set the headline apart from a busy photo. But it may not be necessary for you.

This looks particularly awesome on mobile. Play with it then look at it on your phone. I bet you love it. And if you love it, readers will as well.



Add art to the middle

In Online media on 7 Sep 2017 at 3:43 pm

TownNews product managers talk in terms of “article designing.” It’s the art of enhancing your digital storytelling so that folks make it all the way to the last scroll in hopes that the package stays with them like a good meal.

One of the things that the experts have learned should be obvious to those of us in the print world: If you don’t break up all that gray type, you are apt to lose audience.

So, TownNews has made it ridiculously easy to add art and other storytelling elements in the middle of your story. Simply add art elements as assets, find them as you would any photo or child asset in the system, and then drag and drop where you want it to appear in the story. (For anyone who uploads stories regularly, I’m confident that you can take it from there. TownNews explains it better than I here. But if you need help, please ask me.)

Photos, maps, videos… Think of the possibilities.


The opposite of clapping

In Online media on 24 Aug 2017 at 12:08 pm

This week, Medium, the popular blog platform that I have adored since its inception, announced that it intended to pay at least some contributors based on the number of “claps” (which used to be “hearts,” which were essentially “likes”) that a contribution generated.

This is a terrible idea and the reason I canceled my paid membership this week.

Succinctly put, we shouldn’t measure the value of media by the reaction it elicits. While that seems blindingly obvious to anyone who has toiled for newspapers as long as I have, there are apparently those among us who consider any other value proposition a dispiriting holdover of legacy thinking that is dragging our business into the toilet. (Hello, Medium founder Ev Williams!)

This “claps = value” concept devalues the slow clap we should be giving serious journalism. Take the insightful analysis of what is happening today in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which I highlight in Their Best today. It will never be applauded as much as this YouTube video, which I literally found by Googling “dumbest thing on YouTube.” At my newspaper and many, many others, we report on the city administrator’s salary and from the sewer authority meetings and about the school board’s tax proposal not because it is popular to do so, but because doing so is important to the continuation of the democracy. An uninformed electorate is capable of unfortunate things, and I’ll leave it at that. … Read the rest of this entry »

A new take on take-downs

In Online media on 27 Jul 2017 at 2:02 pm

By now, I’m guessing all the editors at Wick properties have been asked at one time or another to “take down” or remove from the website an old story that is an inconvenient truth for some unlucky reader. We’ve been talking about what to do about these requests ever since we started publishing online. (The Kicker first addressed the issue seven years ago, for what it’s worth.)

Perhaps the most typical case is something like this: A guy was arrested for a DUI in, say, 2005, and it continues to come up when he searches his name on Google. He thinks, perhaps with some reason, that the old arrest is figuring into his trouble getting a job. He may even tell you that the case was ultimately dropped.

So what do you do?

Time was, the police blotter appeared in the print newspaper one day and that was it. It didn’t follow you around like a virtual puppy dog intent on peeing on your leg every so often. Obviously, we couldn’t “unpublish” something that appeared in the paper 10 years ago. But, theoretically, we could take it off our website.

It would be very rare for me to recommend you do that. And I was heartened by some legal advice that appeared this month in the California Newspaper Publishers Association quarterly.

CNPA legal counsel Nikki Moore said that there is no legal obligation to honor such requests, unless a court orders you to do so and that is vanishingly unlikely. … Read the rest of this entry »

New Google News

In Online media on 20 Jul 2017 at 2:42 pm

We all have go-to spots on the web for news and one of mine is Google News.

I appreciate what to me seems like an honest curation of the top stories of the day and the fact that I can sample many sources in one place. There are channels for top stories and sports and whatever else interests you and you can even set it to find your particular interests.

Recently, the crew at Google redesigned the interface. I guess the sweet spot with such things is to tweak them for better usability without completely upsetting the virtual apple cart, and by that standard I would have to say it’s a success. (Though, truth be told, I don’t think it’s much better than the original, which worked for me just fine. Do you think the “card format” is easier to read than the old blue headers? Perhaps you do.)

There are a couple of things I do like. Google is now tagging stories as “Local Source” when that is the case. Seems like that would be good to know as we all know that local media sometimes has a different and more grounded perspective on some stories. And it’s pretty breathtaking in some instances to click “full coverage.” Doing so can bring you dozens of stories on a topic, related video and tags that can bring you deeper into a story. Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to Google.

One last thing: If you aren’t already setting Google alerts to send you emails of stories that mention your town or beat… you should. If you can’t figure it out, lemme know.

— Clay Lambert

The end of verticals?

In Online media on 6 Jul 2017 at 3:37 pm

I have always been impressed when I see general interest publications like our newspapers spin off niche products. These are sometimes known as “verticals” in business parlance, because they cater to a specific customer base with a well-targeted product.

Until recently, the Wall Street Journal had a bunch of verticals. The Law Blog, China Real Time, Off Duty Daily — these were blogs, essentially, that catered to specific components of the WSJ readership.

Well, no more. The Journal recently joined the New York Times in scaling back on blogs like these. The stated reason is that webmasters want to put what they’ve learned from those verticals into the main app and core publications. It’s also a cost-saving move and probably a nod to the fact that some of these niches never bore much monetary fruit, even if they had a loyal readership.

Perhaps the learned folks who run the Journal have simply learned lessons I don’t know. But I’m still a proponent of these kinds of things. (Ahem, the Kicker is a vertical itself… one that hasn’t earned a penny for the company so far.) I think they serve customers who benefit from the experts newspapers provide. And I think it’s a potentially lucrative thing. You can’t tell me that advertisers wouldn’t want to reach the well-paid attorneys who regularly read The Law Blog. What do you suppose the household income is for the average reader of The Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog? You couldn’t find a sponsor for that?

Two years ago, I spoke with Wick editors and publishers about verticals that could, potentially, be profitable and interesting in our specific communities. For example, the folks at the Eastern Arizona Courier envisioned a wine publication or tab on their website that would service those interested in the burgeoning wine industry in that part of Arizona. It could, perhaps include blogs for each winery, maps, videos, etc. I know it’s a difficult undertaking, but I can envision it working. … Read the rest of this entry »

Awaiting The Outline

In Online media on 4 Aug 2016 at 4:00 pm

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The “next big thing” in online publishing is impossible to describe. Just ask the guy who invented it, wunderkind Josh Topolsky. He’s the brains behind The Verge and other online things-of-the-moment whose moments have come and gone. Here he is, talking to recode about his latest project, which is called The Outline:

We’re … I’m loathe to use the word publication because I don’t think it’s right. Are you gonna use this verbatim? Okay. What I’d say is that we’re a publication focused on telling a story of the way the world is now, and the way the world will be for a modern reader.

He goes on to say he hopes The Outline will be for this generation what Wired and Rolling Stone were for previous generations. Now we’re getting somewhere. Near as I can figure, his is going to be a news site for the super cool kids (we know who we are!) who all the advertisers really want to reach. In this discriminating way, he figures to build a brand that is worth money for what it is and not just a content mill for redistributed stuff on other people’s social media platforms. That is to say, he wants to run a website and events and interesting stuff that is unique. Interestingly, he promises not to chase the most clicks.

What a novel concept. Now I’m intrigued.

I can’t tell whether Topolsky is being purposely obtuse or whether perhaps he himself doesn’t quite know what it is. (He does like to cuss a lot, which is kind of fun to read I guess.) He has hired some heavy digital hitters, and he’s up to something. Which makes it an interesting project. … Read the rest of this entry »

Instagram vs. Snapchat

In Online media on 4 Aug 2016 at 3:52 pm
Just something snarky I saw on my Instagram feed.

Just something snarky I saw on my Instagram feed.

This week, the folks at Instagram (who work for Facebook) stole Snapchat’s lunch money. They launched Instagram Stories, which is a direct ripoff of Snapchat Stories, and some of the smart money is betting eyeballs will leave Snapchat in favor of the already more popular Instagram.

I know. It’s hard to keep up with the social media soap opera sometimes.

The concept behind “stories” on both platforms is that users can create mini photo-based narratives that disappear with time. And why would anyone want to do that? Snapchat Stories have been wildly popular with celebrities and young people. I think they appreciate that the images don’t have to be perfect. They won’t outlive us all. they are just a snapshot of right now.

Should we be doing that too? Good question.

This isn’t a way to push links or host ads. The popular photo-based platforms are primarily branding exercises for news organizations. They are a chance to show that you speak to this demographic and that your photography is worth looking at. Instagram suggests that the new Stories will be a perfect way to quickly stitch together a photo story during breaking news. I can see that. If you are covering, say, a street protest, you can send a series of photos as a story and share with your existing Instagram audience. Or maybe a sportswriter sends a story from the high school football game. It’s not rocket science. It won’t take forever.  … Read the rest of this entry »

A snapshot of engagement

In Online media on 16 Jun 2016 at 12:50 pm

engaging pic

Some time ago, I submitted answers to a short survey from the University of Texas Engaging News Project. To tell you the truth, I’d forgotten all about it. Until, that is, I got an email this week from the organization, which is part of the university’s Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life. The researchers were sending me a draft of their findings.

To back up just a sec, the project is housed within the UT Moody College of Communication. It’s stated purpose is to help foster “a vibrant American news media that more effectively empowers the public to understand, appreciate and participate in the democratic exchange of ideas.” Sounds great to me!

The research focused on audience engagement, the way we all handle comments and other aspects of our online product. Some quick numbers:

  • Nearly 90 percent of all news organizations surveyed monitor metrics such as unique visitors and pageviews.
  • Only 33 percent specifically tailor news content for mobile. Hmmm…
  • More than 80 percent of respondents across all size organizations have someone who responds to reader comments online. Yet, only 20 percent of them have written policies governing how and when to respond. …

Read the rest of this entry »

The Undefeated

In Online media on 19 May 2016 at 3:19 pm

Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 3.04.04 PM

Have you seen this yet? To my mind, it’s not getting nearly enough attention.

I don’t know quite how to describe it, yet I know what it is. That’s because it’s so sure of itself, even in these first fledgling days. It’s an ESPN product and reads as if ESPN were published in gritty New Haven, Conn., rather than bucolic Bristol, Conn.

Editor Kevin Merida explains that his site is an unabashedly Afro-centric corner of the web. That’s not what interests me most, though lord knows we could use more diversity in American news sites. What interests me is the way Merida makes a daring promise:

At The Undefeated, every day will feature a surprise. Every day, some joy. And no day without swagger. We want The Undefeated to feel urgent, necessary, not dutiful.

Amen. He and his team have already given us poetry, rap, long-form journalism, video presentations and insights into sports and culture that you can’t find anywhere else. (One example of that different angle: While the rest of the sports reporting world is marveling at LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers and their own undefeated run through the playoffs, The Undefeated is writing about James’ promise of education for many at-risk kids back in his native Akron, Ohio.)

I’m already hooked on The Undefeated. If you like it too, think about why you do. Is it because it’s providing a unique value proposition? Is it vital? Is it overflowing with quality and surprise? What can we take from that example? … Read the rest of this entry »