Wick Communications

Posts Tagged ‘Breaking news’

Crowdsourcing a story

In Innovation on 15 Dec 2016 at 2:00 pm


Savvy news organizations are using an evolving, blog-like, approach to coverage of rapidly changing events. The way it works most often is that you post a lede to breaking news and then top it in tick-tock fashion with new information as it arrives. I suspect we will all adopt this approach at some point in the coming year.

The latest incarnation might be the way The New York Times has covered the tragic fatal fire in Oakland earlier this month. It’s interesting work and I’m excited to see how it’s received.

In the old days, a Times staffer would have parachuted in to the fire scene, talked to the mayor, the fire chief, the guy who owns the next building over and a survivor or two. Then she would have written a 35-inch takeout with a clichéd lede reading something like, “City officials, artists, musicians and the rest of Oakland’s shocked residents are struggling to reconcile support for a quirky artists’ community with the need for a safe place to sleep after 36 lives went up in smoke in the Bay Area’s other city on …”

You know that story. You’ve read it a million times. Well, not this time. In a story front and center on the newspaper homepage, the newspaper announced:

We are going to share regular updates on what we uncover as we do our reporting.

We’ll tell you about the interviews that our journalists conduct, the documents we obtain and what we learn as we learn it — as part of our effort to piece this story together. …
Read the rest of this entry »


Planning for the big one

In Innovation on 5 Jun 2014 at 4:08 pm

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Spurred by what he saw as a less-than fully realized effort to report breaking news on one of our news sites, Wick Digital Sales Manager Jim Keyes sent an email to some of us the other day. It was an urgent plea for better planning before we are pulled in a thousand directions by some big news event.

It was an impassioned plea that offered a litany of best practices for getting news up quickly and digitally, and I nodded along with him.

Before I pass along his tips, I wanted to make a couple points, about our digital opportunities and planning for Some Big Thing.

First, if you consider the Web to be an afterthought or think you don’t have time for digital reporting, allow me to retort. We got into this business because we believe in the power of information. We all want to reach as many people as we can as quickly as possible. Lord knows, I love having a newspaper in my hands, but the newspaper itself is not the thing. It’s what’s inside. The digital universe is vast. Using digital tools is relatively inexpensive. You can post a story or photo much, much more quickly than you can print it, and you can conjure maps from thin air, publish videos, share comments – all within moments of the news breaking. More and more (and more and more) readers are migrating to devices. The days of being solely a “newspaper editor” are over. … Read the rest of this entry »

A whale of a news story

In Online media on 22 May 2014 at 3:03 pm

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A popular image may or may not translate into clicks. I know that runs contrary to popular wisdom about our image-obsessed camera-phone culture, but let me explain with an example.

On Wednesday night, Half Moon Bay Review Publisher Bill Murray posted a provided photo of a dead animal on the newspaper’s website. By the time the photo was posted, the carcass was already the talk of the town.

It’s a photo of a dead juvenile humpback whale that washed ashore and then continued to bob in the water within sight of the coastline. It attracted a television satellite truck from San Francisco. Drivers were pulling to the side of the road and walking toward the growing stench like those people who first saw the flying saucers in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

The photo got a lot of traction across the newspaper’s social media. It was retweeted 11 times after the Review’s initial tweet. Twitter Analytics reports the image had twice our normal reach. By midmorning on Thursday, more than 4,000 people had seen two photos we posted on Facebook.

And yet, on our website, the image was not exactly racking up clicks. We showed nine clicks on the photo itself in about 12 hours, as opposed to 96 for a story about lobbying in Sacramento over local beach access. … Read the rest of this entry »

No more waiting for cache

In Online media on 13 Mar 2014 at 5:20 pm


Has this happened to you? Something big happens in your community and you furiously tap out a breaking news update. Because we live in the digital age, you would like to disseminate this big news immediately. Because you have used the Town News system you have refreshed again and again, waiting for your breaking news to break.

No more. I’m very happy to report that changes to the way the company caches stories mean that our Web updates should appear within a minute – if you do it the right way.

Like most networks, Town News stores its content in a cache so that it is more quickly available to users. Most people probably don’t know that when they call up your newspaper website, they are really getting a version that was stored minutes ago. By producing the recently cached material instead of live stuff on the original server, networks are able to run more efficiently and with less traffic to slow them down.

As a result, it has sometimes taken five or 10 minutes for our updates to appear on our site. That can feel like an eternity in a breaking news situation.

Town News says it has addressed this issue with a software update. But you have to take full advantage, you have to take care to assure that your breaking news breaks fast.

Here’s how: … Read the rest of this entry »

Using Twitter analytics

In Social media on 11 Jul 2013 at 2:21 pm

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The other day I stumbled on something that kind of blew my mind – Twitter analytics. Where did I find it? Where else: Twitter.

I don’t think the analytics tool has been shared widely, however. I couldn’t find Twitter crowing about it, but rather read about it from marketing bloggers. It’s curious. I could only access the analytics for the @hmbreview account and not the @wicknews account for some reason. I couldn’t tell you why.

Give it a try and see what you can discern about your own success with Twitter. You get to it from Twitter Ads. Just log in as you do to your regular stream and look for the “analytics” pulldown menu at top left. That’s it. Now what do you see?

There is a wealth of information available for our account. I can see how many people “follow” and “unfollow” on any given day. I can see how many tweets are retweeted, mentioned and “favorited.” I can also see how many times readers have clicked on each link I provide and the reach of each tweet. (That last metric is a function of the readership of folks who may share my tweets.)

Obviously, that is a lot to chew on and potentially very interesting. What kinds of tweets gain traction? Do we do better tweeting about stories that appeal to sports fans or younger readers, for example? Does the time of day matter? Do links to breaking news work better than automated tweets generated when we update the Web? … Read the rest of this entry »

Break the news then put it back together

In Online media on 30 Mar 2012 at 8:52 am

By now, most of us are breaking news on the Web. Whether you toil for a weekly or a daily newspaper, sitting on big news for days or even hours is no longer acceptable.

So tell me, what do you do with that Web story after it’s posted?

The temptation is to cut and paste it right into the newspaper. After all, you have done all that heavy lifting for the Web, and many of your newspaper readers won’t have seen the story online. The concept is called “reverse publishing” and it was all the rage a couple years back.

I think we have to reverse field again. Reverse publishing was never a great idea.

The problem is twofold, beginning with the concept of time. Stories evolve. The story we write today no longer suffices tomorrow. You know this instinctively. Say there is a fire in your town. No one is injured, but people see the smoke for miles around. Your lede might look like this:

A two-alarm fire on the 200 block of Yosemite Avenue Friday left five people homeless and caused minor injuries to one city firefighter. … Read the rest of this entry »

Tweet goes the source

In Online media on 10 Sep 2010 at 9:25 am

I found a good example of a newspaper using Twitter as a breaking news source this week and thought I would share. The newspaper in question is one of my hometown papers, and a good one – the Palo Alto Weekly.

Last week, in the wee hours of a weekday morning, there was a home invasion. Apparently two guys busted into a home and when police showed up a foot chase and search ensued in the middle of the night in a residential section of town. Believe me: This is big news in Palo Alto, Calif.

Well, the next morning the publisher found out about all this when he opened his Twitter account. He subscribes to a feed from a guy he knows only as “qq.” Mr. q is known for monitoring police scanners and tweeting what he hears. The tweets — 15 of them in 40 minutes — were urgent:

“PAPD responding 100 block Waverley on a possible prowler. Units setting up a perimeter.”

“PAPD is requesting that all occupants of the house sequester themselves into a room.”

“PAPD has the suspect on the run. Lighting up the area with spotlights.” … Read the rest of this entry »