Wick Communications

Posts Tagged ‘websites’

Finding a new niche

In Marketing, publishing on 22 Jun 2017 at 3:32 pm

Have you seen Task & Purpose? Perhaps it’s as well known as it should be in communities like Sierra Vista that have a lot of young servicemen and women, but it was a revelation to me.

It is a news and culture site that knows its audience well. It was created out of a job site called HirePurpose that was designed to match veterans with employers and ease some of the troubles we all know are all-too prevalent for returning soldiers. It’s simply spectacular. It is a collection of veteran/writers doing journalism like this piece about deported American military veterans being “conscripted” by the drug cartels. What a story!

The site was originally meant as a marketing asset for the job site, but it’s so much more than that now. It has great content, a defined and valuable audience… and revenue.

I guess it’s a reminder that, as we go about our regular work, we should be alive for new niches like this. It’s possible the Immigrant Project some of us have been working on could go in this direction.



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 »

We must engage readers

In Online media on 26 Feb 2016 at 6:37 am

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Many thanks to Wick Digital Sales Manager Jim Keyes (and then CEO Francis Wick) for passing along some tips for digital engagement shared during the recent so-called Mega Conference, which is a partnership of the Local Media Association, the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association and the Inland Press Foundation.

They come from Gatehouse Media’s Senior Vice President of Content and Product Development David Arkin. I think all of them are worth thinking about. Some of them are great. And a couple of them require careful consideration.

Arkin gave 10 recommendations for how a newsroom can increase reader engagement online. I know “reader engagement” is one of those buzzy terms that can set your teeth on edge, but, if you think about it, we all want more readers, right? All he’s suggesting are ways you might go about that and, even if some of the ideas seem a bridge too far, he gets credit for thinking outside the box. Now is the time to think outside the box.

The ideas:

Be conversational. Hit the right tone in social media. Yes. I would add a corollary: Understand the nuances of each platform. Tying Twitter to update automatically with your Facebook post is not thinking strategically about the former. Hit the right tone. … Read the rest of this entry »

Hold your online fire

In Online media on 4 Sep 2015 at 7:52 am

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It’s not fair, but I want to ask you not to respond to online catcalls in the heat of the moment.

I know. I know. People are awful. They call us names. They suggest we aren’t doing our jobs. They bait us. And the same anonymous posters do it again and again. It’s aggravating, particularly when you have just worked a 10-hour day and you know the whiner doesn’t even buy your product. (Imagine Target or Taco Bell or anyone else with a product to sell allowing the kinds of complaints we get on our websites?)

But here’s the deal: When you reply to these lovely people, you elevate their lowly existence. Some things are just beneath us and don’t require a reply. Online readers are fairly sophisticated, by and large, and perfectly capable of separating the legitimate complaint from jack-assery. You don’t need to point it out for them.

Now a couple caveats. … Read the rest of this entry »

Revolving around a new sun

In Innovation on 16 Oct 2014 at 3:41 pm

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The South Florida Sun-Sentinel let slip this week that it would no longer put its newspaper at the center of it’s sunny south Florida universe. The world now revolves around a digital star.

The plan is to make almost everyone serve the digital product first. A select, small group will be assigned to transform all that digital content (a dismissive term denoting commodity rather that quality which I continue to dislike) into a newspaper. Everyone else is reporting for the online news site. The organization is no longer hiring newspaper reporters, per se.

Does it matter? Is that a meaningful shift?

I don’t know the answer to those questions. It’s not the first time a news organization has sought to change the nomenclature surrounding its business model in hopes of making plain its digital intentions. It’s only been three years since the venerable Journal Register Company announced the creation of Digital First Media. You can’t make your intentions any more plain than that. I guess you would have to say that change didn’t completely change the fortunes of a legacy media company.

I’m sure that spinning terms alone isn’t sufficient to make change. It may be true, however, that tinkering with our processes is necessary to chart a profitable course in the long term.

The changes in south Florida represent an evolution. It used to be that digital departments operated as standalone stepchildren at places like the Washington Post. They were seen as experimental and technical and more akin to an engineering enterprise than the core mission of journalism. Sometimes they weren’t even in the same building. … Read the rest of this entry »

Why video hasn’t worked for us … yet

In Video on 31 Jul 2014 at 4:11 pm
Former Tampa Bay Times journalist Lucy Morgan, multitasking in 1985. That is the year she won a Pulitzer for investigative reporting

Former Tampa Bay Times reporter Lucy Morgan, multitasking circa 1985. She won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting that year.

There is a fascinating Q&A in the New York Times Insider this week. (I’d link to it, but it’s part of the premier edition and you have to pay to see it.) It’s a discussion with Bruce Headlam, who is the newspaper’s managing editor for video.

Headlam is candid about the challenges editors have faced trying to insert video into what has been heretofore a print culture, and he makes some very important points about the trouble with online video generally:

“We talk a lot about ‘the digital newsroom’ at The Times, but in truth, video is just about the most linear experience we offer,” he says. “Even in the print paper, I can scan an article, look at the headline, the photos, the graphics and even the byline to assess what I’ll get, and I can do all that in a couple of seconds. But video is much more of a crapshoot for viewers. They get only a headline and thumbnail before they commit themselves. There’s no unplanned encounter with a video as there is with print or online stories.”

That is an outstanding point. For video to work, viewers have to commit to it in a way that they don’t in print or text. Ad a 30-second preroll advertisement and you really have to want to see that three-minute news video. For that reason, I almost never watch a video of any kind on sites like espn.com. To counter that linear bias, Headlam says he’s careful to make headlines sing and the first few seconds of video “grab viewers by the lapels.”

OK. Stop for a minute. Wick newspapers don’t do video very well, at least not on a consistent basis. There are a few examples in our past of really well produced, labor-intensive edits that are beautiful but probably not worth the effort. And there are many more quickie, largely unedited jerky video stabs that appear to be taken with a cellphone by some sort of zoo animal. I am comfortable with that characterization because some of those videos are mine! These don’t take much effort, but usually they appear unprofessional and don’t get the kind of response we might hope to see. … Read the rest of this entry »

Teaching this journalism thing

In Business on 6 Mar 2014 at 5:08 pm

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Last week was a rough one for college journalism programs. First, because it seems ever more of them are deciding the very word “journalism” is anathema to their survival. I see you, West Virginia University! And secondly, because of the reconsideration of journalistic “teaching hospitals.”

In their struggle to remain relevant, J schools are doing what we newspaper types are doing: Namely, changing a lot and sometimes in ways that make no sense. More than five years ago, smart J school administrators at places like the University of California, Berkeley, started websites to give their students real-world opportunities to learn the craft by doing. These were equated to teaching hospitals and medical schools. It makes perfect sense. Kid smart young students the keys to a new website, social media tools, video, audio and print and let them learn as they go. Well, the cost of running those operations is giving administrators heartburn.

Cal Dean Edward Wasserman said last week that the arrangement no longer works for the nation’s premier public university, at least not at Mission Local, which the school has run for years. He notes that the university pays for the site year round even though its students only really benefit for a fraction of that time. He points out that the site is based in San Francisco while the university is across the bridge in Berkeley. And so forth. But as Lance Knobel points out on the Nieman Lab site, Wasserman misspoke when he suggested that marketing and audience building and branding are ancillary to what a journalism school does. In fact, these are the new skills our best journalism schools must teach. I won’t simply repeat Knobel’s excellent post, but I think he is absolutely correct. … Read the rest of this entry »

You want to be ‘stickier’

In Online media on 12 Sep 2013 at 1:59 pm

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This week, I caught up with Jim Keyes, Wick Communication’s manager of digital media sales. Jim is a dynamic thinker and has caused many of us to reconsider the ways we use our digital products to better serve clients and better inform our public.

Lately, Jim’s been talking up the importance of keywords. He notes, rightly, that we could all do more to attract more readers online. We could do more to promote our stories with links (Jim is wildly complementary of the Nogales International, which has incorporated Facebook into the daily grind by making several posts a day). We could add photo galleries. We could promote engagement by printing appropriate online commentary in the printed opinion pages. And we could add related content to stories so that readers might feel compelled to read more about a compelling story.

All of these techniques are designed to increase the “stickiness” of our sites. That is to say, we are interested in having our readers stick around for a while. We want them to be attracted by that one story and stay to read two or three more. (Just to toot the Half Moon Bay Review horn for a minute, July 2013 stats reveal that our visitors spend an average of 1,582 seconds – more than 26 minutes – on our site. That is nearly six times longer than the company average.)

So how do we do that? … Read the rest of this entry »

When the site goes down

In Online media on 16 Aug 2013 at 7:55 am

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You might have noticed that our high-tech world is fragile. Not to get too technical here, but sometimes stuff just mysteriously stops working.

Within the last couple of weeks, the websites for some very large and important news outlets went dark, including those for the New York Times and PBS. Sometimes the cause is something sexy, such as January’s China-based cyberattack on the Times website; other times, it’s more mundane. The Times site went down on Wednesday during routine scheduled maintenance.

So what’s a (slightly) techno-phobic journalist to do in an instance like that? There has been quite a bit of chatter about that as a result of the recent outages. Here are some thoughts to consider.

Use existing social media: The Times turned to its Twitter and Facebook accounts on Wednesday, posting several in-depth stories. That makes perfect sense to me. You have an existing presence there and hundreds of your fans will see your stuff.

Report the problem: It’s always tempting to ignore bad internal news, but there is no harm in telling readers on your social networks that you are experiencing a glitch, working to repair it and will be publishing on social platforms in the meantime. Everyone can relate to a temporary technical glitch.

You can create a new blog/site: Media guru Dan Gilmour thinks the Times should have had a backup site, perhaps a simple WordPress site (like this one), ready to go in such a pinch. He’s reasoning is sound. The Times doesn’t control Facebook and so is at the whim of a third-party when it posts there. I guess that’s true, though it strikes me as a somewhat paranoid worldview. I suppose we can imagine a situation in which hackers run amok and hit even our back-ups, right? Myself, I wouldn’t worry too much about that. … Read the rest of this entry »

Click, click, click…

In Online media on 6 Apr 2012 at 8:56 am

You know that if 600 local residents turn out for a school fundraiser that raises $78,000 in Cade, La., that the Daily Iberian will be there. That is big news in a small town.

Of course, even if the newspaper covers an event like that, it doesn’t necessarily follow that it will make the most of the opportunity. Thankfully, the Daily Iberian has Lee Ball and some forward-thinking editors. Ball, the Daily Iberian photographer, posted 85 photos from the event onto the newspaper’s website. All of them are for sale and, while I don’t know how many prints or jpgs have sold, I know a whole bunch of people have had a look at them. Thursday, Daily Iberian Publisher Will Chapman said the package had generated 20,000 pageviews. Holy Mackerel!

This sort of thing doesn’t just happen. Bell had to take all the photos and download them to the site. The Daily Iberian’s news team had to write the story and come up with an effective tease. Will says the newspaper pointed readers toward the additional photos with a box in Sunday’s newspaper. It all happened quickly too. I’m told the event was Saturday night and the story and photos were in the paper the following morning. … Read the rest of this entry »