Tom Focoloro Response

18 Feb

It was interesting to meet Mr. Focoloro and learn about how he found a niche market for his bike blogs. Unfortunately I was sitting the furthest away from him so I wasn’t able to hear everything he was saying. But from what I did hear he is doing what he does purely from his passion of writing and I am happy that he is able to make a living doing that.

– Robert Abel

Seattle P.I. Response

18 Feb

Our trip to the Seattle P.I. was somewhat very depressing and gloomy. Not because of the presenters or our host, but because we visited a very large office space that at one time was fully functional that now is host to a lot of empty office space. This visit gave me a very grim outlook on the future of journalism as it this trip was somewhat of a fair representation of the reality of most newsrooms across the country. Journalists are being laid off at an alarming rate and it is becoming harder and harder to distinguish yourself as a good journalist because great journalists are being laid off across the board.

– Robert Abel

Journalism in the time of slideshows

18 Feb

I guess I can say I’m happy we paid the Seattle Post-Intelligencer a visit while the luster of a big city had yet to wear off. In a word, the place was disappointing. I say this so bluntly in the name of concision – obviously, I was far from underwhelmed for most of the visit. In fact, I’d be prepared to do about anything to work somewhere with such a killer view of the Sound. In hindsight, though, my enthusiasm putters out there.

Still, I respect that the PI has had to make some tough choices. I respect even more that its staff continues to defend those choices. I admire anyone who can so stubbornly follow Tim Gunn’s “make-it-work” philosophy. And by and large, the PI has made it work. Its staff mentioned a devoted following, and in doing my research for trip, I found myself browsing several of the PI’s slideshows, namely How to avoid looking like a tourist in Seattle and Seattle’s 15 best coffee shops (although I’m not sure I agree with Starbucks).

That those articles were the top results for my Google queries (Sorry, Microsoft) means the folks at the PI know a thing or two about SEO, not to mention many of their stories feature input from engaged readers. Moreover, you’d be hard-pressed to find an organization that knows its audience better. With a staff of 12, a story that’s not going to get a lot of attention is traffic — and revenue — lost. Maybe it’s not a perennial contender for a Pulitzer, but I have to give the PI props for doing what it can with what it’s got.

As journalists, it’s easy to fall into the hard-news-is-the-only-news trap. At the end of the day, though, we all end up on sites like the PI — even if we aren’t necessarily interested in working for them. Because it represented one of two poles on the journalistic spectrum, the PI visit lent a certain roundness to our itinerary. Thus, while it might have been harrowing, spending an hour at the slideshow capital of the world was certainly worth it.

Seattle Post-Intelligencer and Cat Slideshows

18 Feb

All of the empty office space we saw when we first walked into the Seattle Post-Intelligencer would prove telling in terms of the state of the organization. What was once a 150-person staff producing a print publication has been reduced to a 12-person web-only operation.

It wasn’t the web-only format that perturbed me at the P.I.; we all know that is where the industry is headed. What bothered me was the type of journalism our guides claimed to practice at the P.I. Instead of providing readers with in depth, fleshed out stories, the P.I.’s focus is on what I call “news lite.” This includes photo-centric content like slideshows and celebrity news, fluffy features as opposed to hard news and just an overall lack of depth.

This was my least favorite stop on the trip and, fortunately, it was all uphill from here.

MSN proves actionable corporate atmosphere

18 Feb

Microsoft was one of my favorite companies we attended because I was envisioning the organization from both a corporate culture-level and a source of news. Its team structure promoted interaction with the white boards in each room, and employees seem to have their communication skills down perfectly for an effective business environment.

This is proven by the pure fact that MSN News was an action plan and idea in July, and fully fleshed out and developed in October. In the advertising world, companies often leave cutting-edge ideas as theories and beta versions for way too long, but seeing Microsoft be actionable in its ideas proved the validity of its brand name. MSN News continues to follow its mission, and knows not to stray off.

The MSN News model capitalizes on two human insights that will assist in its sustainability.

  • Readers want easy-to-use design. This is enforced with the user experience research and interface, but proven when moving around the site. User and advertiser feedback is respected and quickly incorporated.
  • News organizations must acknowledge media as it is shared today. This discussion arose around the rumors page, with the rationale that users will discover and tweet this information anyway, so the news must 

Microsoft also gave us the excellent educational opportunity seeing dashboards like the Demand Dashboard they showed us. This proves the constant application of the intimidating term—big data—in today’s industry. The fact that Allison, a woman we met, takes the time and effort to produce summary reports 3 times a day shows that they are trying to make meaning from each day’s analytics. I look forward to watching MSN News continue to innovate and observing how MSN as a website diminishes (or limits the use) of its Fox & NBC partnerships and starts sharing its own content across its platforms.

To read more tips I learned from Microsoft and Steve Cvengros, click here to my blog post on the Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) blog.

-Katie Artemas

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Post-Intelligencer disappoints hopeful journalism students

18 Feb

Visiting the Post-Intelligencer was a very realistic, yet depressing journalistic experience. Immediately upon entering, walking through the empty office space was a signal of dying journalism. Our conversation with Sarah and Scott came off as very defensive—because rather than looking at journalism as a public good or informing citizens, it very much seemed like the PI was reporting for necessity and survival rather than enjoyment or altruism in their work.

Although the PI’s model is realistic to cater to today’s needs, it was discouraging to hear them settle on the notion that feature & enterprise stories that push traffic are more important than hard news pieces or in-depth analyses. We joked about cat stories the entire trip, but it’s the truth that online publications are embracing things like this. Reporters have to be careful what they are taking up for enjoyment if they want to uphold the PI brand’s reputation of catering to highly educated Seattle-area residents and a male-skewed audience.

Because this was our first visit, it was the first publication where we heard about changing media habits because of tablets and mobile devices. Here, we discussed the spike in readership and online habits around 8 pm, and this was a finding that I was able to compare media vehicles to during the rest of the trip. Overall, while this was not my favorite stop, I am glad we learned about adjusting to a dramatic situation of altering content so it will be seen and developing enterprise ideas that cater to the true audience.

-Katie Artemas

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GeekWire shows successful media entrepreneurship

18 Feb

John Cook & his co-workers at GeekWire are well-rounded entrepreneurs, showing us a great example of a startup that has a monetization model, as well as journalistic ethical standards. They are role models for all of us because they have proven that good writing and business skills, networking and a niche focus are vital to a successful startup.

GeekWire shows how niches can build community, and the content that follows can be treated like community journalism. This type of work is shared through internet posts, discussion boards and an interconnected sphere of readers engaged with this information, with a continual discussion around story topics and what is emerging. Community journalism is spread through outreach, which can be done with events, sharing in the correct social community or emailing others stories.

The fact that 40 percent of GeekWire’s revenue comes from their private events says a lot about the role of community events in niche journalism and internet news sites today. The company has built a competitive community around its content that wants to not only come hear speakers, but meet other readers and subscribers in an environment that lets them feel exclusive. The network John Cook built up from his reputation contributes to the publication like no other, since he can bring in credible speakers from Expedia and other popular sites. His lessons are inter-related with many speakers at Mizzou, who recommend learning the resources of large companies before innovating too soon into your own.

Overall, John and Taylor’s stories of what they get to cover, how they enterprise ideas and how their events are run provide inspiration for startups everywhere and show how good journalism can be produced in the local and sub-national tech sphere.

-Katie Artemas