What students can learn from the State of the News Media report

pewresearch

Screenshot from PewResearch Journalism Project

Every year, PewResearch releases a State of the News Media report as part of its ongoing Journalism Project. The report researches everything from who is producing the news to new key players to economic models for content. This year the report identified a few key trends including changing revenue models, increasing local TV acquisitions and content sharing, momentum for news videos and growth in digital reporting. 

Although all of the trends are relevant to students, I think the trend of growth in digital reporting is especially important. The report focused on 468 digital publication for its study of the trend. Almost 5,000 full-time positions were created from those companies alone. This statistic is especially exciting when you take into account that from 2003 to 2012, 16,200 full-time newsroom and 38,000 magazine positions were lost. The report also found that:

  • Hiring rates at digital native companies has been explosive

  • Most digital sites are small, new and not-for-profit

  • Digital organizations often focus on niche news needs such as local and investigative news

  • Many sites are investing in global coverage

  • Websites are hiring both experienced and young reporters alike

  • Most job losses are coming from print

  • Growth in digital sites does not mean sustainable business models have been created

It’s hard to not be excited about these findings. The report as a whole even began with a few words of optimism:

“In many ways, 2013 and early 2014 brought a level of energy to the news industry not seen for a long time. Even as challenges of the past several years continue and new ones emerge, the activities this year have created a new sense of optimism – or perhaps hope – for the future of American journalism.” -State of the News Media 2014

I read this report and thought back to the Journalism Interactive conference I attended last weekend. The conference was all about digital media and was packed with ideas about new journalism tools. Digital strategist Amy Webb’s talk stands out the most to me. Webb gave an insightful presentation on top tech trends for journalists and journalism educators. She also said that journalists weren’t moving fast enough and that journalism curriculum was outdated to teach budding journalists how to succeed and better the new media environment. The State of the News Media report shares some promise and optimism about the digital revolution of news, but we need to act fast if we want to capitalize on it. We also must not mistake short term growth for sustainable revenue solutions for news (which the report doesn’t fail to mention). That all being said, I think there are a number of ways young students can take advantage of growth in digital reporting:

Tips for students

1. Experiment with digital tools

This semester, I changed my blog’s theme to focus on the intersection of technology and media. The inspiration came from the combination of classes I am taking (Entrepreneurship, Convergence Reporting and Emerging Media), and also from some personal interests I wanted to act on. Every week I now write about some aspect of technology and news and their intersections, and it has already been incredibly beneficial to me. By holding myself accountable to a weekly blog, I essentially force myself to read about and experiment with new tools. I encourage every student to do the same. If you have more time and motivation to simply experiment on your own, do it. If you can integrate new tools into your reporting, even better. In order to master digital reporting, you have to be familiar with practicing it. You will learn from this application and also demonstrate your knowledge to future employers.

2. Gain experience at a digital-native company

I can’t begin to count the number of students who have told me they want to work at the New York Times or the Washington Post.  These are the same students who got really amazing print internships the summer after their freshmen year. First of all, they rock. I myself came into the journalism school with print experience from high school thinking I would only be successful if I could get a job at one of these big name news publications. I believe that journalism organizations will always need talented writers and reporters who don’t want to stray from their craft in these changing times. However, I also believe that students should look beyond the kinds of journalism jobs they are familiar with and explore digital-native companies.

This fall I had the opportunity to contribute to a digital publication called Silicon Prairie News, which covers technology and entrepreneurial news in the Midwest. Over the summer I became interested in entrepreneurship when I helped with Maker Faire in Kansas City. I initially looked at the position as a chance to meet people who were as excited about entrepreneurship as I was. The position was unpaid, and it was not nearly as shiny as some of the other positions my peers had the previous summer. However, I gained a wealth of connections in a field that excites me, and I also fell in love with non-traditional media. As part of a small team, I had a lot of independence and freedom to make a story my own. I also sharpened my online media skills through experience with content management systems, for example. Experience at a digital publication shows an employer that a student is adaptable, explorative and risk taking. The first step to eventually becoming an innovator in your field is getting your foot in the door at an organization already practicing innovation.

3. Think entrepreneurially

A panel on teaching media entrepreneurship was also one of my favorite presentations at Journalism Interactive last weekend. The panel made clear that not everyone has to be an entrepreneur, but that students can help an organization by thinking entrepreneurially. The industry needs more people who understand the business so that they can use new tools to not only produce quality content, but also bring eyes and money to that content. In my opinion, every student should take at least one basic entrepreneurship class. If you’re not looking to spend too much money, consider participating in a Startup Weekend. Columbia has a booming Startup Weekend every fall. Mizzou also has an exceptional class called the Entrepreneurship Alliance which focuses on experiential entrepreneurship. At the very least, walk into Museao and talk to literally anyone in the building about the businesses they are building right here in Columbia. Traditional news skills are great; however, a skill set is only beneficial if it can be applied in unique ways. One of the panelists said it best:

“I’m not interested in your clips. I’m not interested in what candies you can put in the box. I’m interested in the box you can make.” -Lisa Williams, digital engagement editor Investigative News Network

What are you waiting for? Go out there and get digital!

 

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J/i Day Two as told by Storify

Journalism Interactive concluded last night, and I am almost exhausted by how much I learned from the weekend. Day two was made up of breakout and teaching sessions that each gave an in-depth look at innovative ways to think about and teach journalism.

My favorite session today was a panel on entrepreneurship that featured a live pitch contest. The session discussed how important having an entrepreneurial mindset is, especially as journalism and its revenue model is rapidly changing. The session was only one reminder of my interests in journalism and new media techniques. I can’t wait to get back to Mizzou to test out everything I have learned!

Check out my Storify summary of day two of the conference here:

https://storify.com/SarahDarby/j-i-day-two.html

J/i Day One

Day one of Journalism Interactive is wrapping up at the University of Maryland, concluding a full day of presentations on topics ranging from emerging tech trends to teaching strategies. This day was packed with new ideas and interesting discussions. Check out some takeaways from a few of the sessions today:

9:15 a.m. “The Future of Visual Storytelling”

Journalism Interactive kicked off this morning with this presentation about digital and visual storytelling from Richard Koci Hernandez, journalism professor at UC Berkley. Hernandez told the audience he would share 15 semesters worth of information about visual storytelling, and he certainly promised on his goal of providing a wealth of information. I particularly enjoyed how this talk praised risk taking in journalism. Hernandez encouraged experimentation and original thinking.

Takeaways:

  • The Internet is not a dumping ground for media created for other platforms
  • Web is its own platform
  • Visual journalism does not exist on a single canvas
  • Creative approach is more important than skill and technique

Favorite quotes:

“I’m not making you a designer, I’m making you a design thinker.”

“The edge, the secret sauce to mastery is not waiting for perfection, instead, start where you are with reckless abandon.”

“It’s not how good you are, it’s how good you want to be.”

Tools to try:

  • Timeline JS – interactive timeline tool
  • visual.ly – Visual content sharing space
  • X WordPress Theme – User friendly, interactive WordPress theme that minimizes required code knowledge

10:30 a.m. “Top Tech Trends for Academics”

Following the opening session, digital strategist Amy Webb gave a fantastic presentation about tech trends. I have read a number of her predictions about tech trends through classes and on my own, so I was particularly excited for her talk. Webb challenged the audience to embrace emerging tech trends in order to better engage an audience. Webb’s talk was by far my favorite presentation given today.

Key tech trends:

1) Tech first versus digital first – Essentially, all journalism organizations should already be digital first, and to be truly innovative, organizations must embrace new technology. Being digital first alone doesn’t acknowledge consumer behavior, competitors and new revenue streams, for example.

2) Anticipatory computing – New search tools will analyze previous search conversation and context in order to predict and deliver calculated search results to an audience.

3) Robo journalism – “Bots” can be utilized to generate basic news stories to save reporters writing time for in-depth pieces, and computer assisted editing can analyze long news stories and generate summarized versions of the most important information.

4) Computational reporting – Tools such as WolframAlpha can be utilized to provide more complete, data-driven search results that can aid reporting.

5) Aggressive versioning – Content should be delivered based on situation and individual, instead of just device. For instance, tools can deliver different versions of the same story according to how fast a person is walking with their device (which indicates how much they want to read of a story).

6) Experiential journalism – Simulation devices can be used to actually place a reader in a story like never before.

Recommendations to journalism professors:

1) Open source journalism – Students and faculty would both benefit from better communication between schools and more open source projects.

2) Show students more options – Faculty should better acknowledge non-traditional media outlets, and prepare and inform students of job opportunities in those companies.

3) Market yourselves better – Journalism schools must embrace technology fully and not just create “trendy” classes in order to attract highly intelligent students with an interest in tech.

Favorite quotes:

“Smart kids want tech degrees because j-schools don’t make journalism sound interesting.”

“It makes no sense to fail a student for one AP Style error. Make them worry about something else.”

3 p.m. “News Startups and Innovators Panel”

The afternoon session of day one of the conference, allowed participants to choose their own adventure. This startup panel peaked my interest with its combination of journalists and entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurial journalism is an area I want to learn as much about as possible, and this panel offered a variety of interesting perspectives. The panel featured speakers from Trove, Newspeg and InfoActive, all startups.

Takeaways:

  • News startups are easy to start because they are cheap and business advice is easily acceptable. However, news startups are hard to sustain because finding an audience and making money is difficult.
  • Entrepreneurship may not be for everyone, but all journalists can benefit from the relentless testing, thoughtful decision making and business knowledge entrepreneurs have.

Tools to try:

  • Trove – Compiles news stories based around interest of reader and recommended by users
  • Newspeg – Acts as a sort of Pinterest for news stories, allowing stories to be “pegged” to site
  • InfoActive – Creates interactive infographics for complex and ongoing data sets

These takeaways highlight just a few of the new ideas I learned about today. I also attended sessions on social metrics, digital teaching strategies and algorithms. So many ideas and conversations happened today!

To follow more of the conversation, check out the conference on Twitter @JIConf and #JIConf.

 

Journalism Interactive 2014

Screenshot from Journalism Interactive

This weekend, I have the incredible opportunity to attend the Journalism Interactive conference at the University of Maryland. The conference was founded in 2011 by the aforementioned school’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism and has since expanded into a partnership with the University of Florida and the University of Missouri.

The conference has a little bit of everything concerning journalism education and digital media, and it has a particularly exciting entrepreneurial focus this year. The conference’s website states its goals as follows:

  • Advancing the national discourse about how journalism schools are preparing students for a rapidly changing industry
  • Expanding the knowledge of media educators through training in digital media teaching strategies and technologies
  • Creating a community of journalism educators engaged in teaching and using digital media and providing them with meaningful networking opportunities to share teaching strategies and techniques

Throughout the weekend, I will share key takeaways as I can. I will also be sure to post pictures and multimedia if possible, including an excited selfie when I see digital strategist Amy Webb speak live Friday! Follow the fun along with me this weekend on my blog!

Intersection spotlight: Kiva

Intersections are important (See previous blog post for more on this). There are many examples of great ways people all over the world are using different ideas and skill sets to benefit journalism. However, I also think it is beneficial to look outside any one particular field for further inspiration. When I am not exploring journalism topics, I often find myself exploring non-profit innovation. In particular I read about social entrepreneurship, and organizations that focus on teaching people skills in entrepreneurship so they can build their own sustainable communities. This week I spent hours reading a case study about one of my favorite such organizations, Kiva. Although the non-profit is technically outside of the journalism realm, a lot can be learned about the way Kiva uses intersections between technology, charity and entrepreneurship.

kiva

What Kiva does: 

Kiva is a non-profit organization that has established a unique model of “charity” through its creation of person-to-person micro lending. Kiva allows online users to lend impoverished people around the world as little as $25 to help them in entrepreneurial ventures they would otherwise not have access to. The organization works with microfinance institutions in 73 countries, and has, to date, provided nearly $550 million in microloans with a repayment rate of 99 percent.

What makes Kiva unique:

Person-to-person micro lending essentially didn’t exist before the creation of Kiva. Micro finance institutions functioned to support entrepreneurial ventures in other countries, but they had difficulty tracking loans and impact to particular people. Kiva essentially saw an opportunity to fundamentally change the “charity” model. Instead of encouraging giving money to a generic cause, Kiva emphasizes loaning money to people around the world who are actively working to create and grow a personal business. Kiva also makes these loans social and addictive through its online platform.

Intersections that matter at Kiva:

  • Traditional charity mission + accountability of a traditional business
  • Recognition of international differences + acknowledgement of problems every entrepreneur faces
  • Encouragement of donations + public social profiles to track donations
  • New world online platform + familiar charity feel
  • Giving money to people in need + accountability and purpose with money received

If you’re not as passionate about social entrepreneurship and micro lending as I am, Kiva still may not seem to stand out to you. However, I would argue that Kiva has made an impact far beyond the non-profit realm. For example, Kickstarter and Indiegogo use a very similar “funding” model to that of Kiva. The sites allow users to create a profile and then explain a need for funding. From there, numerous donors all contribute online to that user’s cause with the expectation that the money will be used to accomplish a specific task. This all happens with a focus on social engagement that journalists can especially learn from. Journalists should always be looking for intersections and untapped interest in ways that Kiva did. For instance, journalists should examine how technology can be used to engage an audience in a new way. Journalists can also focus on the importance of person-to-person interactions in trying to engage an audience. I try to look to my interests in technology, entrepreneurship and journalism to consider new, innovative ways to impact the journalism industry. Just as Kiva valued intersections that hadn’t existed before, journalists, too, can benefit from consider of innovation and application in a variety of different fields. Also, side note, working at Kiva or somewhere like it is my absolute dream job. I would love to combine interests in international studies, entrepreneurship and journalism.

Five great tools for searching social media

Google is and, for the time being, will always be my go-to search tool. Mostly out of habit, I visit Google for my every web search need. However, I am slowly discovering more search tools that give Google a run for its money. Google is great for searching web information or for finding quick and relevant information. But Google and similar search engines are particularly bad at finding valuable information on social media. As social media sites increasingly become the first place everyday people go to share breaking news and niche opinions, there is a great need for social media search tools.

Here is a list of five great social media search tools I tried this week. I discovered most of them from an article called “20 tools and apps for digital tools.”

1. Topsy– Search Twitter topics, trends and links by time and relevancy.

topsy

One of my favorite guilty pleasures is watching terrible dating reality TV shows such as The Bachelor. Every week, I waste an hour watching the show, and then I migrate to Twitter to read hashtags about what happened. Although Twitter allows you to sort through topics and hashtags to some extent, it has a fairly limited ability to sort with any great amount of specificity. In the future, I will be using Topsy for all of my social media/Bachelor needs. Topsy allows you to select a date range, sort by relevance and sort by category. This is particularly useful for actual journalism needs, such as finding information from a past breaking news event or sifting through a person’s tweets.

2. followerwonk– Learn about Twitter profiles by searching bios, followers and more.

follower-wonk

Every week I gain a couple Twitter followers that are seemingly random until I read their Twitter bios. Their Twitter bios often include words like “journalism” or “entrepreneurship.” As if by magic, these people of the world, who are also interested in journalism and entrepreneurship, find me on the web. Most of the time, I am interested in their profile too, but I always wonder how they found me. Followerwonk may be this tool. It allows you to search through keywords in Twitter bios, follow users without leaving the page and view user analytics. The tool also provides extensive analysis of a Twitter user’s followers and follow habits in the “Analyze followers” and “Compare users” tabs. This tool is awesome! Any journalist can benefit from the endless sourcing opportunities here.

3. Banjo –View photos, tweets, posts and more by topic and breaking news.

banjo

More and more news websites are starting to use social media photos and first-hand tweets to add context to a breaking news story. We saw this in coverage of events such as the Boston bombing and Sandy Hook. However, a news website typically only selects a limited number of photos and tweets about a topic to show in a stream on its website. Banjo, on the other hand, provides a seemingly endless scroll of photos and posts about topics and breaking news events. This week, I took a look at photos and links Banjo had grouped surrounding the New York building. I scrolled through endless pictures posted by originally by Instagram users on the scene that day. This tool is really unbelievable. Instagram and Twitter make it difficult to sort and filter through photos of a news event, often grouping photos ranging in quality under the same topic. Every photo I saw on Banjo was extremely relevant to the news event, and since they were user posted, they were photos I couldn’t find anywhere else. A description really doesn’t do this tool justice.

4. Storyful – Search topic across multiple social platforms at once.

storyful

Storyful takes a topic that interests you and searches across multiple relevant platforms at once. Instead of limiting search results to a list of links, the tool actually opens new windows on various websites with your query already entered for you. This tool is only available as a Google Chrome app, but it is well-worth trying out the browser if only to try out the tool.

5. Leap2 – Generate visual search results from websites and social sites.

leap-2_edited-1

Leap2 is a search engine tool that was developed in my hometown of Kansas City. The founders have a workspace at the Kansas City Startup Village, and I saw the tool in action at an open house there last summer. Kansas City has a booming entrepreneurial scene at the village and city-wide, but more on that in a later post. The search engine is designed to be a new-age search engine. While most search engines mainly provide a list of web links, Leap2 searches websites and social media platforms around your search and presents results in a visual way. I particularly like that a click on a result generates a small pop-up that doesn’t immediately take you away from the page. Leap2 rethinks the way a social audience wants to receive search results.

What other uses did you find with these tools?

Vlog tips from a first time vlog-er

Video blogging is one of those skills that at first seems easy but turns out to be very difficult. On YouTube, any number of Internet stars make their popularity look as easy as having a functional camera and 20 minutes of free time to film a short video. I had never really thought much about the work behind a video blog until professor Jim Flink, also Newsy’s vice president of news, talked to my Emerging Media class. Flink had a number of great tips for video blogging:

  • Think conversation not presentation
  • Real emotion works best
  • Authenticity is key
  • Every motion that is small will look big
  • Emotions are magnified
  • Move your eyes as you would in a conversation

Shortly after Flink came to talk to my class, we found out we would have a one time opportunity to film a mock “talk show” in the RJI studio. Overall the taping was a very exciting experience. It was particularly valuable to consider what makes a news video blog successful. After my experience I have my own list of tips to add to Flink’s list:

DO

  • Be knowledgable on the discussion topic
  • Stay conversational and natural
  • Glance bank at the camera occasionally
  • Dress and primp accordingly
  • Match the feel of your audience
  • Provide value
  • Avoid overly colloquial speech
  • Avoid overly formal speech

DON’T

  • Forget the camera completely
  • Touch your face excessively
  • Slouch
  • Monopolize the conversation

Most importantly, DON’T forget your medium. A video blog is very different from a TV broadcast. A YouTube audience looks to vlogs for niche information or conversations that the 5 p.m. newscast can’t provide. As a video blogger, it is your job to provide valuable information the viewer cannot get anywhere else. For news vlogs in particular, content must be of especially high quality to attract viewers away from other entertaining online videos. To me, the value you bring is the most important part.

What do you think is most important in a video blog? How can news sites engage viewers on YouTube?

Watch “This week’s tech and journalism trends:”