The first thing I want to do today is to thank all of the respondents to my recent survey of people who work online at North Carolina newspapers. We had 70 people at 29 daily newspapers respond to the survey. This 64 percent response rate is very high, and I think the state’s journalists deserve credit. But I also need to give credit to Phil Meyer, who helped design the survey method and to Teresa Edwards in UNC’s Odum Institute for Research in Social Science. It also didn’t hurt that there is such widespread support in this state for the University of North Carolina and for the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. It’s been an honor to be affiliated with these institutions. And it’s an honor to have the chance to talk a little bit now about some of the hard working journalists in this state.
Archive for May, 2008
With the kind help of Phil Meyer, Ying Du and Sara Peach, I’ve just completed a survey of every person we could identify that works in online news production at newspapers in North Carolina. The results of the survey are in and I will be using this blog to share my notes and thoughts as I begin to cull through the numbers. I hope that by doing so, I’ll provoke some questions from you, dear reader, and some good ideas for further research.
The survey asked respondents specific questions about their own skills and duties of their daily work. It also asked them about their titles and the reporting structures of their organizations. I’ve been amazed at how little we really know — other than the hallway anecdotes at trade conferences — about how online newsrooms are organized. What, exactly, does a “producer” do? How do different skills and structures affect the product?
So, first, let me tell you a bit more about how we conducted the survey.
Being a dude and being a child of the ’80s requires me to go see the new Indiana Jones movie this weekend. I liveÂ in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill region of North Carolina, one of the fastest growing regions in the country, and I wanted to find movie times.
Fifteen years ago I would have gone to the Chapel Hill News, the Durham Herald Sun, the Daily Tar Heel student paper, the Raleigh News & Observer, The Independent Weekly or The Spectator to get the times. Since movie times are commodity news, the paper I would have chosen would have been the one I found first — either at the bottom of my driveway or in a drop box on campus.
But here’s how I did it today:
- I searched for “southpoint durham movie times” on Google.
- My search returned 21,000 results, with 10 on the first page. Of those 10 choices, only one was to a newspaper site. I had six other choices before it.
What publisher of 165,000 daily circulation newspaper would have said, “It’s OK if every single one of our customers will walk by six other drop boxes before getting to ours”?
OK. The past is past. What should you do about it now?
- If you don’t have software that lets you easily see usage stats for your site, now is the time to get some. Many are free. Google Analytics is just one of many solutions. For the moneybags among you, Omniture is a popular (and I think good) choice.
- Look at your site usage statistics and determine at what percentage of referrers come from Google. See whether there are differences in behavior for different types of content on your site.
- Start getting serious about search engine optimization. And by “serious,” I mean this: Are you dedicating the same (or more) resources to search engine optimization and social network marketing as you are to your print circulation department? Until you are, you’re just hoping this Internet fad will soon pass.
Several participants from the N.C. Newspaper Academy earlier this month in Chapel Hill wanted to know more about dealing with comments on articles. At their request I’ve created another in my series of simple one-page “how to’s” of online journalism.
The other One Page guides from this series can be found here.
One of the things I enjoy the most when traveling is reading and watching the local news. On last week’s Tar Heel Bus Tour, I had a chance to pick up a couple of papers and wonder to myself what local media in the state would look like if it were starting from scratch today.
What if the question at newspapers with (literally) dying readerships were not “How do save the newspaper?” but instead “How do we start today serving our communities with the most accurate, relevant and efficient package of news and information?”
Several of my colleagues have also posted to their blogs some thoughts about the Bus Tour. You’ll see from the blog titles that we were an eclectic group. I like eclectic groups.
- Anna Beeber, an assistant professor in the School of Nursing
- Miriam H. Labbok’s blog on “infant feeding and the mother/baby dyad.”
Also not to be missed is the blog of my journalism colleague Jock Lauterer, who does his own tour every summer of the state’s community newspapers. He’s on the road now.
Tuesday’s stops on the Tar Heel Bus Tour had us looking at different ways that private industry is partnering with Carolina, but Wednesday provided examples of partnerships that UNC is creating with public agencies in efforts to improve the lives of North Carolinians.
The stops left me wondering: Are there (and should there be) similar partnerships available in the field of journalism, and what would they look like?
It seemed to me that the first question we need to ask is, is journalism good for North Carolina?
One of the reasons I decided to make the move from newsroom to classroom is because there’s a need for journalism schools to be a source of applied research and development of products and processes that can help journalism be more memorable, relevant and inclusive. Today on the Tar Heel Bus Tour I had a chance to see how some of those partnerships are constructed between UNC and private business in other fields, and to think about how they might work in journalism.
The old question about cannibalization came up last week at the NCPA Newspaper Academy at UNC-Chapel Hill. I found two links that I wanted to share with you. I like them, perhaps because they support my prejudices.
- Online Papers Modestly Boost Newspaper Readership (Pew, 2006)
- Newspapers Are Successfully Extending Their Audience Online (Scarborough, 2006, PDF)
Do you have other anecdotes or data on this question? Send them my way.
Rocky Mount, split by a railroad line between the white world of Nash County and the black world of Edgecomb County, was the first stop on this year’s Tar Heel Bus Tour. For me, it was a fitting first stop because it was one of the first towns in “the real North Carolina” to which I was introduced as an undergrad.
The stop reminded me that, even in an era of international, on-demand connections, so much — if not most — of what we know about the world comes from the people we call friends.
Social media is not a new concept.