In hindsight, I should have live blogged from the Digital Editors Network autumn meetup but it was less about the journalism for me and more about the fact the Macbook Pro wouldn’t fit in my handbag. Oh, to be a girl. Plus it was already being live blogged here.
But I did tweet!
So, after a talk about truth telling and a lively demo involving spoon and a blow torch, Marc Reeves, ex editor of the Birmingham Post, talked about TheBusinessDesk.com, a business news service in the North West and West Midlands which reports the latest from the business world via its website and daily emails. And 8.20am is the best time to send said business email, says Marc.
The site is tagged ‘tomorrow’s news today’ which Marc confesses is cheesy but true. Operating much like an evening newspaper does, his team of journalists are often first to deliver the business headlines with the morning email.
He also says the emails drive 80 per cent of traffic to the site and that users have a short dwell time. But when delivering news to busy people, this is to be expected, he says, and doesn’t regard it as a problem, for him or the 70,000 registered users; they come, they glance at the headlines and they head off again.
“We do what we have to do,” he says, “which isn’t spend time writing the indepth features we’d sometimes like to. We’re a niche site and have to meet the needs of our consumers.”
Of course, the site makes money through advertisising and while Marc started by saying his talk wouldn’t be about innovation and strategy, it was about an online business start-up that was growing and contining to grow.
Where’s the drama? Set the editors free!
Next up was journalist and multimedia strategist Grig Davidovitz via Skype who made some salient points about how we now consume our news and what we expect when we consume it via different platforms.
“The kindle is not about the kindle, it’s about the experience of reading books,” he said. The kindle is wherever your eyes are – an actual kindle, or a kindle app on the iPad oriPhone.
He told the story of John Analog and John Digital and how each consumed their news throughout the day, the first via newspapers, magazines and TV broadcasts, the latter via social media, RSS and websites. The great thing about today, he said, is that everyone can access your story. But the flip side is that you’re competing with everyone.
And so onto the three Cs:
- Choice (which channel)
- Consistency (achieving the same level of service across channels)
- Continuity (a seamless experience between channels)
These are the three factors to bear in mind when creating news across different channels. “The web isn’t just about content, like Starbucks isn’t just about coffee,” he said. “It’s all about the experience.”
A lot of online news sites look boring because they imitate the traditional newspaper template – there’s too much information to consume and in the online world, we want it quickly, succinctly and then to move on to the next thing. So the Huffington Posts succeeds in breaking away from the boring, for example the iQuit headline and one-sentence Steve Jobs story which told the reader everything they needed to know, at a glance. Impact and drama, “free the editors!” says Grig.
We’re still braver in print, using images to tell a story, snappy headlines and not hundreds of words – yet we’re slower to do that online. Editors need to exploit the best part of the story as simply as possible and not be afraid to break the template, says Grig.
So to create a cross-platform experience, you need to:
- Highlight the best elements of the story
- Show the drama – big headlines, images with impact etc
- Different templates for different platforms, what works on the web won’t work on a smartphone
Live blogging attracts a bigger audience
And last but not least was Paul Gallagher, of the Manchester Evening News, a newspaper which has seen a positive response to its live blogging efforts which bring communities into the conversation or story.
Whether it’s the 2010 cold snap, summer 2011 riots or Man City winning the FA Cup, MEN’s live blogs get huge followings and all reporters have the skills and ability to live blog. And while some were slow to start, says Paul, they all now enjoy the experience and the reader response.
MEN covers council meetings via Twitter (after a bit of battling with the council) which makes them more accessible to constituents and more lively for the reporter covering them. They now live blog from 14 council across the patch.
“We aim to cover the news as best as possible, not hog it all for our newspaper,” says Paul. “We get the responses, the follow ups but the most important thing when live blogging is to report what’s happening as it happens.”
When the paper live blogged the recent riots, traffic went off the scale with 1,277 tweets, 5,000 comments, 34,000 words and 180,000 views.
But the paper didn’t live blog until the riots started, it didn’t act on rumours. Paul says they didn’t want to incite rioting by reporting rumours, they simply held back until the first brick was thrown. They later used infographics to report where rioters lived, as they poured court data into Google maps reports, tying offenders to some of the most deprived areas of the city.
A live blog increases dwell time 20-fold, said Paul, who uses Cover It Live as its platform. As for monetising? They’re not quite there yet but currently looking into advertising opportunities around live blogging to match audience appeal with income.