Social Gators: Tim Kaine rally offered surprise coverage during UF engagement class

I taught my first class at the University of Florida this weekend. It was a one-credit class in audience engagement, taught in a bootcamp style over one weekend.

Our last four hours together on Sunday were supposed to be about how journalists measure success — dotcom metrics, social metrics and impact measurement. But then an opportunity to do social journalism arose, and it’s just not in my nature to pass up the chance to get students into the field.

Tim Kaine held a rally directly outside the UF journalism school on Sunday afternoon, and I scrapped the last chunk of my class agenda and instead deployed the 17 students to do social coverage.

Nine students went to the rally to do social-first coverage. They told a variety of stories from the field, publishing to Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. Eight students stayed in our newsroom/classroom, aggregating and curating posts from the rest of the team, searching for other community posts and fact-checking.

Lauren Rowland took the lead on a live blog on Storify. Her file was live as soon as our coverage started, and she updated continually for about two hours. Producing a live blog takes constant attention to searching and filtering. Jessica Small, Catie Flatley and Zoë Sessums spent their time finding, transcribing and funneling content into the various curations.

Carolina Lafuente took a different approach to social curation. Her Storify published after the event was over. While Lauren’s provided minute-by-minute updates, Carolina’s walked readers through just the highlights of the afternoon chronologically. Emanuel Griffin also collected highlights of the day’s social coverage, but he did it on Medium. Read the rest of this entry »


An analytics question: What are you readers *not* reading?

I’m sure most people in your newsroom could provide examples of some of your most-read stories. The one that got shared hundreds or thousands of times. The one that got linked from Google News. The one that keeps finding new audience, months after it originally published.

To be sure, there’s benefit in celebrating your wild successes.

But I think there might be more useful knowledge gained by spending time at the other end of metrics report. What coverage are you investing in that isn’t finding an audience?

Low readership numbers can be due to a lot of things:

  • Maybe a story was published at an awkward time and was pushed too quickly off its section page front.
  • Maybe the headline didn’t do it justice.
  • Maybe it didn’t get effectively (or at all) published to social platforms.
  • Maybe there’s a built-in audience for the story that would love it but just didn’t find it, and some outreach would be worthwhile. (Related post: Who’s the story’s audience?)
  • Maybe people got everything they needed from the social post or excerpt on the home page and didn’t feel compelled to click for more information.
  • And maybe the subject just didn’t interest your readers.

Regardless of which answer applies, don’t you want to know what you’re investing staff time in that is hardly getting seen? So you could then do something differently?

At times of such intense staffing shortages, wouldn’t you love to use data to know what you can stop doing?

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Race project wins community service award

Is there any better compliment to the work of journalists than to say it was a community service?

Not in my world.

I just learned that one of my last community outreach team’s big projects at the Columbia Missourian won a community service award in the Missouri Press Association’s annual Better Newspaper Contest. (Here’s the Missourian story about its 56 awards.)

During my last semester with the Missourian, the University of Missouri campus was going through a time of intense turmoil, and the issue of race was at the heart of it. A student’s hunger strike, the resignations of the top officials, regular protests, a free speech debate — and in the middle of it all was a newsroom staffed by Mizzou students and run by Mizzou journalism faculty, trying to figure out how we could best be of service and help draw connections.

The duties of my community outreach team had never been more needed. We used every tool in our toolbox to monitor the mood and needs of the community. We wanted to know what they wanted to know, but we also sought to discover what was making them feel mad, hopeful, scared or disconnected. We hosted and participated in conversations, and we did a lot of listening.

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Create a document to plan your social posts

UPDATED 10/5/16: Scroll down for a sample social media plan from Colorado Public Radio.

In a Poynter class I’m teaching, we’ve been talking about the need to be strategic about how we produce our social channels.

It’s not enough to react to today’s news. We need to think about the mix of content. We need to share what we know people are talking about today, not just what our newsrooms feel like producing today. We need to share certain stories at certain times.

We need to think about what we published yesterday, last week or six months ago that might have new relevance today, and come up with a system to plan ahead for those posts.

Some of us also have lots of people jumping in and out of social posting in our newsrooms. It can be tough to know who’s in charge of which stories, which hours and which days.

To manage all that, we need a document that looks further ahead than today’s news budget. I came up with a document that worked well in the newsroom of the Columbia Missourian, and I cleaned it up for public sharing.

Here is my sample social media planning doc, in case it’s useful for anyone else.

And if you have one you’d be willing to share, will you send it to me? I love peeking in on other peoples’ work systems. It gives me the same excitement as new school supplies, or pictures of home offices. Ahh, productivity.

UPDATE:

I’m doing some work with Colorado Public Radio, and I was so impressed with the social media planning docs created by their social media manager, Leslie Smail.

Here is their template in a Google spreadsheet.

Here’s what Leslie wrote about how CPR uses the template. (I’ve seen it in play for a specific project, with multiple staff members using it to share ideas, plan and edit behind each other.)

  • The overview tab is a basic gantt chart that we use to map out the different stories we’re putting out and some high level steps and deadlines along the way. The calendar to the right of those tasks is just a visual high level view of what’s happening over the month and in what order.
  • The other tabs are for each social media channel we’re on and maps out exactly how many posts we want for the month, and the dates and times, which we’ve determined based on when we get the highest engagement rates for particular days of the week and times of day, so adjust this for your particular audience. For subsequent months, just add more rows. This planning doc shows how we planned out a particular reporting project, in which we aimed to tweet 3x a day about our coverage, post on Facebook 2-3x/week and on Instagram 2x/week. This will obviously vary for your particular project and I would encourage you to use this as a master planning doc to plan out ALL social media posts, not just for a particular project.
  • Here’s a breakdown of the different columns and how they’re used:
    • Owner: If multiple people are working with this planning doc, assign who is responsible for each post
    • Date: Pretty self explanatory. This column is formatted so that if you just type in “10/5” for example, it will auto format to say “Wed-10/5” or you can double click in the cell and a calendar will pop up if you want to change a date that way.
    • Time: We say AM, Noon, and PM as shorthand for morning, afternoon and evening, trying to give pretty equal coverage to all times of the day, or you can adjust this if you see much more engagement for a particular time of day
    • Type of content: This is a helpful way to make sure you are tracking how often you talk about different stories or are testing different strategies. Types of content could include video, questions, quotes, photo galleries, etc. This way you can sort by a particular content type and make sure you are varying the type of content you put out on social media.
    • Message: This is where you draft the actual posts. Column J tracks the character count and is also color coded from green to yellow to red to tell you the optimal post length, which you can adjust by right clicking and clicking “conditional formatting”
    • URL: Put the link to include in the post
    • Notes: We use this to remind people of particular hashtags or handles to include.
    • Image: If you want to use media that isn’t included in a link, we link to a file path on our internal server, so that we have a record of where media (videos/images) are and aren’t emailing them back and forth

Thanks for sharing the doc, Leslie! Anyone else have one to share? I’d be thrilled to keep updating this post. Reach me here.


When it comes to our communities, are journalists “casual” or “hardcore” gamers?

I’m helping organize a Poynter summit on audience engagement. (It’s Aug. 29 in New York, and you should grab one of the remaining seats!) One of the panels will look at inclusion as it relates to community work. In a planning call this week, the speakers (the amazing Anika Gupta, Andrew Haeg and Michelle Ferrier) asked questions like:

  • Who are we engaging with?
  • Who do we WISH we were engaging with?
  • Why do we think people will want to engage with us? What would their motivation be?
  • Does our interest in our communities feel authentic or self-serving?

The conversation has me chewing on some overlaps between community journalism and gaming or other niche communities.

Join me in mulling over this question: How does it feel when newbies (noobs in gaming vernacular) dive into something you know a lot about, overestimate how much they really know, mischaracterize your culture or truth and don’t seem to care or even be aware?

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Beyond consumption: What do you hope news consumers will do?

When people ask what I do, I can answer a lot of different ways. Engagement, after all, means a lot of things.

I found myself yesterday morning reverting to what might be my favorite description, though. In a conversation with Brian Ries, engagement editor at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, about strategies his newsroom might try, we discussed how it all comes down to invitations.

What are you inviting your users to do?

The default answer usually comes down to consumption. Most of our communication efforts with readers/listeners/viewers/followers have two things in common:

  1. The goal is to get as many people as possible to click/read/listen/watch the journalism we have produced.
  2. They efforts are not specifically targeted but instead are a mass invitation to anyone whose attention we can get.

It’s not hard to move beyond that, but it does take a shift in mindset.

Audience-focused, engaged journalism wants more than consumption. It wants participation. Criticism. Discussion. Collaboration. Empowerment.

Read the rest of this entry »


What have journalists done for you lately?

In the past few days, I’ve consumed a lot of journalism. Some of it is the kind of information that can be found all over the place, from any number of news outlets. Is Florida in for its first tropical storm of the season? What should I know about Hillary Clinton’s email? How’s Serena doing at the French Open?

When you ask people about “journalism” or “the media” (maybe my least-favorite two words of all time), they often think first about these sorts of stories. But “journalism” and even “news” encompass so much more. People consume a lot of journalism without realizing they’re doing it, and certainly without considering the investment needed to produce it. (I wrote more about perceptions of “news” a couple of weeks ago.)

Journalists are justifiably frustrated that people don’t respect where all that information comes from. But complaining doesn’t fix the problem.

Instead, we need to do a better job communicating our value. What makes us credible sources of information? What do we offer that helps people live their lives? Why are we worth peoples’ investment of time and money? (That’s one of the questions at the core of a project I’m working on to do with using social media to build trust.)

Here’s a look at 8 pieces of journalism I’ve consumed in the last few days. Turns out “the media” have helped me understand my world, my country, my community and my family.

  1. Maggie Menderski at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune wrote about a huge development being planned for a spot just 10 minutes from my house. She got the scoop at a retail conference in Las Vegas. Sending her to Nevada represents an investment of manpower and dollars on the part of my local newspaper. Don’t we want journalists keeping an eye on projects that shape our communities’ growth?
  2. Another Herald-Tribune reporter, Shelby Webb, took a deep dive into our local public school district’s rate of expulsions. Sarasota has a higher rate of “expulsion without educational services” than any other district in Florida. That’s a controversial fact that deserves unpacking, and doing so takes massive time. Do you want journalists telling you about how kids in your community are educated?
  3. Jessica Contrera at The Washington Post goes deep with the screen habits of a 13-year-old girl. I eat stories like this up because I love learning about how other people use technology. It’s vital for anyone who produces things consumed on screens. It’s also important for parents trying to keep tabs on kids’ screen use. Stories like this take so much time — finding the right family to work with, gaining trust, earning access and then spending enough time with them that you can authentically represent their lives/habits. Are you interested in journalism to help you understand other peoples’ lives and how the world is changing? (Also, this companion piece about teen jargon is hilarious.)
  4. Read the rest of this entry »