Dave Copeland

    • Member Type(s): Expert
      Media - Freelancer
      Media - Print Journalist
      Media - Web-only/Blogger
    • Title:Author, Journalism Professor
    • Organization:Freelance
    • Area of Expertise:Social media and online journalism

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    Want to Save Journalism? Start at the Bottom

    Tuesday, March 20, 2012, 12:25 PM [General]
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    Recovering newspaper people get a little squeamish when you talk about things like click-through rates, page views and social reach. That's because most of us were raised on the belief that the best newspapers carried "all the news that's fit to print," not "all the news that's fit to share." We don't like admitting the school lunch menu and the latest update on Snooki's pregnancy get more eyeballs than the in-depth analysis of Congress's latest budget debate.

    That conventional wisdom may explain some of the reasons for the telling data points the Pew State of the Media Report released Monday, which found the newspaper industry is still in a long, steady decline, and digital revenue gains are failing to keep pace with print advertising losses.

    And here at the College Media Association's annual convention in New York, where student journalists and the advisers who are training them into the next generation of news reporters are gathered through Tuesday, there are plenty of casualties to comment on that slow decline -- and plenty of reasons to worry.

    Students at the College Media Association's annual conference are encouraged to tweet updates to the #nyc12 Twitter hashtag, but the conference's program still puts a heavy emphasis on training them for print journalism careers.

    Old Habits Die Hard

    A college newspaper adviser was traditionally the person who could lead by example and give students the real-world models for them to base their work off of. There are more than a few traditional academics on the tenure track at a gathering like this, but, increasingly, ex-newspaper reporters and editors are losing jobs in their chosen profession and finding work as journalism instructors and college newspaper advisers.

    I won't use CMA's use of a listserv as its primary means for advisers to discuss issues as Exhibit A in how the people training the next generation of journalists are out of touch with the latest content delivery methods. My own view of tech is that if something is working for you, there's no need to abandon it until you find something that works better.

    Nor will I make fun of the conference app that didn't work as advertised, the fact that most of the new media sessions were hidden in basement conference rooms, and that several people think the best way to connect with young journalists is to pepper their talks with the phrase "badass."

    That's because what is most troubling about a convention like this is that their instructors and advisers often just don't understand what is and is not working, if they understand new media at all. What happens here and across the industry is people cling to myths, including the feeling that having a print product is vital and that they can't make money online. They focus on soon-to-be-antiquated skills like print page design when they could be focusing on understanding Web site analytics.

    If those myths continue to propagate with undergrads, they'll continue to propagate when the students go pro.

    Start at the Bottom

    "The half-formed question for the industry now seems to be whether organizations need to go all in for digital by installing top executives and editors who specialize in new media," Emily Guskin, Tom Rosenstiel and Amy Mitchell of the Pew Center for Excellence in Journalism and Rick Edmonds of the Poynter Institute wrote in the Pew report. "Another question is whether their organizations can weather another five years or more of transition if the effort takes that long."

    No one is about to ask me to install top executives at any news organization. But where I can do my part is making sure I'm on top of all the changes in the field and learning all the multimedia skills my students need to know to succeed. I've spent the past five years transitioning from a print journalism career to an online journalism career, and I'm constantly trying to train my students to do the same. If I don't concede that I don't know everything, if I preach too many "when I was your age" war stories, they're doomed, and so is this profession.

    When I started out as a journalist in the early 1990s, being a good writer or a good reporter or a good photographer was usually enough to land a good entry-level job in print. That model doesn't cut it anymore. Now students need to have all those skills, plus an ability to work in a range of content management systems. Being able to edit video and audio and being fast enough on your feet to file a broadcast from your smartphone doesn't hurt, either. Oh, and don't forget all those crucial social media skills that colleges are not stressing enough.

    At the risk of talking myself out of my teaching job, can we really expect ex-newspaper guys who are still romanticizing print to be able to teach the next generation of journalists all those skills?

    For more on the future of journalism and how to attract readers, continue reading this article on ReadWriteWeb.

    How to Write Readable -- and Retweetable -- Tweets

    Friday, March 9, 2012, 8:38 AM [General]
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    You know the basics of Twitter, but now you want to boost the number of people following your 140-character missives.

    We asked a dozen social media experts the best way to do that, and all of them recommended taking time to write readable -- and, by extension, retweetable -- tweets. What follows is their best advice for increasing your followers' engagement with the content you share on Twitter and other social networks.

    Short and Sweet

    Twitter lets you post up to 140 characters in each messages, but pros shoot for tweets in the sweet spot of 100 to 120 characters. The reason is simple: That lets people add their own quick comment when they retweet your message to their followers.

    "Twitter's limit may be 140 characters, but the most-read tweets are even shorter," said Greg Hakim, a senior account executive with the Boston-based public relations firm Corporate Ink. "Typical users scan Twitter's feed pretty quickly, and tweets that are too long consistently get lost in the shuffle."

    Three Things to Include in Every Tweet

    Columbia Journalism School professor and social media guru Sree Sreenivasan says every tweet should include three elements to increase its chances of being retweeted. In his popular social media training sessions, he advises people that every tweet they write should include:

    • One @ mention: Mentioning at least one Twitter user in each tweet insures that at least someone will read it and, hopefully, share it with their followers. If you're not sure who to mention, Jasmine Davis of the Content Factory recommends mentioning the author of the article, which can encourage engagement.
    • One hashtag: Hashtags make your tweets more searchable, which increases the chances they'll be found by someone not currently following you.
    • One link: Links are love. Whether its an embedded photo or video, or the URL of the article you're sharing, a link is a way to give your followers something useful. Recent studies, according to Internet marketing consultant Steve Webb, show that tweets with links are up to three times more likely to be shared.

    It's important to note that Sreenivasan acknowledges that most of the people who follow you on Twitter will not see most of your tweets. It's even more important to note that Sreenivasan spends five to seven minutes composing each tweet he sends out in hopes of increasing its chances of connecting with his audience.

    For more tips -- inlcuding when to tweet, where to place links, and how to compose tweets -- continue reading this article on ReadWriteWeb.