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Web responsibilities

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by BrianGriffin, May 22, 2008.

  1. BrianGriffin

    BrianGriffin Active Member

    My paper is moving toward an overhaul of its Web site and it got me curious about what the state of the journalist is in terms of the relationship with the online product. If the Web site is producing six percent of your paper's ad revenue, is it taking any more than six percent of your work time?

    I ask because, to be honest (and feel free to be jealous), up to this point I've had to do nothing with our online product because our online product is way, way, way behind the times. Now I'm part of a "team" that's being put together to drag the site up to date. So, in that regard, I wanted to get a feel for what's happening in the industry.

    So, I ask you all:

    1. What are you having to do now for the purpose of the Web site that you weren't doing a few years ago? I'm talking blogging, extra content, (shudder to think) video, maybe even HTML work. As a follow up, how much extra work is it? Are you no longer able to do things with the print product you used to do because of obligations with the Web site stuff? Has your paper decided to blow off print product staples to shift resources online?

    2. What works and doesn't work with your Web sites? Are you really generating reader interest with the comment section (as discussed on another thread) of your stories? Does your staff try to stir "conversations" online with content aiming to do that? If you have seperate domains under the banner of the paper's site (for example, Grizzmania.com in the Missoula Missoulian, an example off the top of my head), are those seperate domains generating a significant number of hits?

    3. What technology are you now carrying as tools for online stuff. Does everyone carry broadband cards with their laptop so they can update their blogs from anywhere? Are you guys being asked to tug around a camcorder to shoot video of your interview with Johnny Shortstop? Are you having to download stuff off your voice recorder to make it into a podcast?

    I'm just wondering how common all this stuff is now and what's worth it and what's not.
  2. jlee

    jlee Well-Known Member

    I can't answer all of that, but ...

    The shop I'm at just did a major update of our site, meaning we're the equivalent of a decent 1999 site. As a copy editor, all it adds to my workload is an extra 30 minutes of posting local photos and stories, cropping photos for the index site and adding breaking news from time to time (we promoted a copy desker to run the web site during the day). It's not much bother on regular nights. On heavy nights, it's done begrudgingly.

    Reporters have been using previously owned video equipment on occasion. Blogs are updated infrequently with the exception of our state government reporter in the capital. We're adding two news writers later this month, so I suspect multimedia will become more a part of the job when we have more people/time.

    Ad revenue is iffy, but our circulation is steady and we haven't invested too much in the Web site other than the update and replacing the copy desker. No new equipment or anything like that (heck, even the two computers in the Web department were just extra ones).
  3. WriteThinking

    WriteThinking Well-Known Member

    If you start making the web your focus, or try to incorporate it into what you're doing now -- especially if you do not bring in any additional staff -- it will not take six percent of your time. It will take much more than that.

    In fact, despite the technology and the speed inherent it, and really, even, because of it, you will find yourself working more, and harder, than you ever have before. You'll be surprised, even shocked, at the difference, and be fantasizing about the days when you had a mere 3-11 or even a 1-midnight shift to simply put out the printed paper. You'll remember fondly what focusing was, and probably have a hard time doing it at a time just when you'll need to do it most.

    The immediacy/constancy factor, mixed in with varieties of daily deadlines, makes it so that the work, quite literally, never ends. The 24/7 cycle? It means, essentially, that there is no cycle. You work whenever there is work, as fast as you can, all the time.

    If you're blogging, you'll want to update posts, or write new, additional ones -- ones that are, hopefully, researched and sourced, and not just popping out of your head -- several times a day in order to build up a following.

    And, to keep people coming back in order to build up that following, you'll need to keep the material fresh and the updates coming. You'll be using a broadband card or a Blackberry, and filing constant updates from high school football/basketball/baseball games -- during the games -- if that's what you cover.

    You'll be editing/posting blogs continuously as they come if you're an editor, and you do, in fact, want that stuff to be edited, rather than just thrown up there. You (or somebody else) will be putting up HTLM highlights of round-ups and phone shifts during the late-night or overnight times.

    The difference in all this between major web sites like Yahoo, and newspapers' web sites is that Yahoo is not also putting out a paper.

    A paper for which you, ideally, would want different stuff than is already on your web site, and so that may bring on the need to produce separate (read: more) stories and writing of different formats and lengths for each.

    There will be times you're writing for the web only, times you're writing for the paper, and times you'll be doing it for both. Same goes for the photography department. There also may be different copy edits for the same stories, and different headlines, based on whether they're going in the paper, on the web, or both, because the styles and requirements of each medium are different.

    You'll find that really organizing, monitoring and managing it all is no piece of cake, either.

    In short, it is all very common. And all part of why newspapers are stretched and struggling to find their way.

    I think they will, eventually, but it's not going to be easy.
  4. bob

    bob Member

    I've begun blogging. My place loves it. Not a big deal. I do some updating before and after games, often during games when I have time, and on off days when I'm working. I rarely post when I'm not on the clock, or not with the teams I cover. I try to keep it light, certainly less comprehensive than my regular writing. Not a big deal for me and the execs are thrilled with it. But here's the thing: In all my posts--dozens now--I have never received a single comment from a reader.
  5. EE94

    EE94 Guest

    Ignore on-line at your peril.

    It's where news communication is going, whether you like it or not
  6. BrianGriffin

    BrianGriffin Active Member

    Two questions in that regard: Is there something you are aware of that tells your execs that your blog is being read (a hit count)? Question two is placement. We're struggling with still charging for online content. My position is you will have a hard time getting traffic to your blogs/multimedia/etc. if your site doesn't provide ALL your content and packages it well.

    I guess what I'm asking, is your blog easily linked to from your online gamers, columns, features, enterprise, etc. Or is your blogosphere in a separate area?
  7. BrianGriffin

    BrianGriffin Active Member

    Believe me, I'm well aware. It's already somewhat crippling to my career not to be doing much online work. Find a worthwhile job on this board that isn't asking for online experience or ability. Well, I have ability and some minimal experience.
  8. Rusty Shackleford

    Rusty Shackleford Active Member

    We're a 25k paper with a chain ownership group who started out by owning one of the nation's largest, and at the time most prestigious, newspapers. This ownership group doesn't seem to understand that our little paper just doesn't have the time, resources or manpower to put together the type of site that the huge flagship paper with its dedicated online folks can. That being said...

    1. We do it all. Everyone on our staff pitches in on desk and reporting. As such, when you're working a desk shift, you're expected to post all stories from your section to the Web site in a reasonable time. The higher ups have said they want that done as soon as the story is edited, but that's not always feasible. Also, you're expected to put photos/cutlines with stories online, which requires cropping and sizing the photos to fit the site. In sports, our site has a score ticker, and as we get scores called in, we're expected to add those to the ticker so that we're the first to post them. Finally, our photographers are expected to shoot video of any event they cover. The desk person (who usually, by the way, is working solo) is expected to edit and upload the video to our site, with the goal of turning that video into a newsclip-thing like you'd see on the local evening news.

    All of that, of course, is done in addition to your regular editing, page design, phone answering and other desk duties.

    Plus, each staff member now has a blog that is expected to be updated twice a week.

    And we've done it all while cutting our newsroom staff by 9 since Thanksgiving.

    2. Our ME says this web stuff gets tons of hits. But I went though and checked at some point when i was particularly frustrated, and there wasn't a single reader comment associated with any of our staff's blogs. So I feel safe in saying those aren't being read. Some stories do get many comments, particularly if they're of a controversial subject.

    The frustrating thing is the videos. They take a ton of time, and I don't think anyone watches them. They're hackneyed and amateurish, because we're not broadcast journalists. If that's the type of stuff we were interested in doing, we'd be broadcast journalists. But nobody has ever left a comment on our site about the video, and nobody has ever said anything to me about them when I'm out covering something. But our ME swears they get tons of hits, although he won't show us any data to back that up (we've asked -- we're all pretty sure he's lying).

    But even if nobody was viewing the videos, as I said our chain's first paper was a bigshot top-10 paper whose site gets tons of hits every day and whose video, which is first-class and professional because of its dedicated online video staff, get tons of hits. So they can't understand when we say nobody in our region wants to watch our shitty video, and we don't have the time or desire to make it look good.

    3. We don't yet, although other papers in our chain that are similar in size already do, videotape post-game interviews and post them online. The reporter brings a video camera, or the photographer waits until after the game is over to shoot. We're told that's coming for us soon.

    We have one broadband card that we in sports are expected to share. Although the SE has taken it as his own, despite the fact that he does less reporting than anyone. He recently took it with him on vacation, so he could get online with his laptop from Disneyland.

    We, thankfully, don't do podcasts. I don't know if anyone in our chain does.

    Hope that's some help. It took me forever to type all that out, and as you can see, I'm not real happy about all the extra work they're expecting of me. Work that I wasn't expected to do and that wasn't discussed when I was hired in 2005. Work that they haven't compensated me for in the least, given that they've frozen salaries and haven't given me a raise since 2006.
  9. cranberry

    cranberry Well-Known Member

    It may only be six percent of total ad revenue today but that's not going to be the picture 5 or 10 years from now. Web revenue is trending upward, print product is trending down. Which ride would you prefer to take? if you're about to retire, I say screw the Web site. But if you're planning to be in the business for a while it makes sense to invest some time, even more than six percent, in the Web product.
  10. PaperDoll

    PaperDoll Well-Known Member

    We just went through a website redesign. It puts greater emphasis on updates, as well as prominently displayed photos and videos.

    I believe the sports desk has begun linking a couple of (usually high school) stories from the next day's paper in the "updates" section as the print edition is put to bed at night, as well as making sure basically everything goes online early the next morning. Photographers post online galleries of nearly everything they shoot. We have one part-time videographer (who really should be full-time!)

    We also have two webheads on staff who focus solely on the site. They sit in the newsroom, but they don't have editorial backgrounds as far as I know. They're the real techies, the ones who can code things up. Our managing editor/online (or something like that) seems to be more dedicated toward the content side of things. However, we've had so many issues with the redesign it sometimes seems like all three are solely focused on fixing all the things that don't quite work. I worked with them on a project I did last fall, which led to an online-only chart rather than filling up an entire page of the paper with data. (I was hoping for a clickable map, but that would've taken too long to build. :-\) If I do anything else long-term, I want to include them in the planning.

    I was given a newspaper-issued digital recorder more than a year ago, but I've barely posted any audio clips. I don't normally use a recorder at all -- it tends to freak out the high school kids -- and there's only one computer in the office hooked up to the right server... or at least that's how things were arranged the last time I checked. I have access to the newspaper's point-and-shoot digital cameras (though I'd rather use my own) and I have taken some pictures that have wound up in print, mainly simple portraits. I've been trying to take action shots, but, well... I know my limitations.

    I'm more inclined to do pictures than audio, if only because it's easier from a logistical perspective. I can edit and post photos from home. I have to be in the office to work with audio (or video, though I haven't learned how to do that yet!) I also have a blog, though it's mainly been stagnant -- one post per day -- except for one big event last month where I was throwing up text and photos all the damn time.

    I'm the exception rather than the rule, even at my 40K paper with a lot of younger news-side reporters. I spent some time at dot-coms and can actually code basic HTML (though our site is so templated, that's not necessary!) I think lot of the online stuff is fun. I'd like more $$$ for all this extra work, sure... but I also want more feedback from the outside world that all that work is making some kind of impact.
  11. bob

    bob Member

    There is a link on the main sports page, as well as on other pages, so it can easily be found. I know little of Web production and maintainence, but I am told they can easily count hits. And they seem to be pleased with the hits they get. Maybe I need to write something stupid or inflammatory to get some comments.
  12. SixToe

    SixToe Active Member

    Our reporters and columnists are asked to blog every day, anywhere from a few paragraphs to something with more depth. Some people do, some do not. How those who do not can get away with it is irritating.

    Some of our blogs are terrible and some are good. Management never has given any specific direction, advice, set standards, applied goals or tried to do anything other than demand that everyone will write a blog.

    Rusty Shakleford, you wrote this:

    Comments, or lack of them, should not be misconstrued as "hits" or page views. Somewhere in your company's system is a means of tracking the page views. My blog has few comments but I receive emails and comments in person from friends, colleagues and people in my beat. I know they're reading it; they're just not replying on the site.
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