Category Archives: Musing

The all mighty page view

Pageviews. We need to constantly think of ways to generate them – some legitimate, some not so much. It’s the ‘not so much’ pageviews that for some reason are really starting to get under my skin. The ones that don’t irritate Google, but are still blatant in their intent.

You’re obviously just out for views if you:

  • Use slideshows that refresh the entire page.
  • Split a ten paragraph story onto two separate pages. (Hint: Your site is pretty much infinite. It’s not like print where you have to worry about space, or continuing ‘after the jump.’)
  • I’m sure there are more sneaky ways used to get pageviews that don’t piss off The Google, but I can’t think of any more at the moment.

Slideshows are irritating anyway, but I can deal with well-coded ones that seamlessly transition to a new slide. It’s the ones that refresh an entire page (and make me wait for new ads to load) that bother me the most. And while I’m at it,  If your article has more text than art, it doesn’t need a damn slideshow.

Splitting a story into separate pages is more likely to make me navigate away from your website completely than bother to click, wait for it to load, and continue reading. it’s jarring and unnecessary. I’d rather just keep scrolling thank you.

 

Twitter has a long way to go

Working with journalists on social media initiatives and devouring tech blogs that post a lot of social media analysis caused me to lose touch with reality a little. It’s easy to be in my bubble surrounded by people who easily switch between Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus while happily trying out whatever new social media wagon comes along next.

This morning on Facebook, my favorite chef, Michael Symon posted the following:

Chef Symon sends his tweets to his Facebook fanpage automatically, but still monitors comments and wall posts when he has time. Recently, he had shut down fans’ ability to post on his wall because of the ever-present troll factor that got to be too much to manage. I can see why he would prefer Twitter over Facebook for communication.

But the comments on his post above are interesting and eye-opening because his fans are not journalists, or tech mavens. They are teachers or stay-at-home parents, or students, or clerks – in other words they are a cross-section of the majority of everyday people. And boy, quite a few of them hate Twitter. Or they refuse to learn it.

Check out some of the comments:

All of these popped my little bubble, so to speak, and made me realize that as much as I love and adore Twitter, I really am not sure it will ever be what Facebook is (or what Google Plus hopes to be.) While frustrating, these people make good points about communication and ease of use. To me, Twitter is easier to understand than Facebook, but then I’ve been on it for years so of course I “get it.” Coming into it cold, however, I can now see why it seems overwhelming. There’s no immediacy of feedback like there is on Facebook. If I join Facebook it’s because I already know friends and family using it. If I join Twitter, I can pretty much follow celebrities I like but finding my friends and family there is not easy and if I tweet anything it feels like I’m tweeting in a void.

Now, I have always said that Twitter is what you put into it. That is the mantra for any social network. If you barely use it, of course it will be useless to you. You have to expend some effort – especially on Twitter and I think that’s where Twitter degrades for new users.

Twitter needs to educate “newbies” when they sign up – not inundate them with famous people they can follow. It feels like Twitter expects people to “get it” from the outset when it should be investing time and screen space in ensuring that they get it once they are fully signed up. It needs to find a way to hang onto new users and find a better way to connect them to people they already know and who will @reply back to them. Perhaps a dedicated group of Twitter employees to engage with new users or I don’t know, someone code a ‘bot or something that tweets back and forth with newbies and walks them through the language of ‘tweets’ and ‘mentions’ and ‘@replies’ and ‘retweets.’

I just don’t think Twitter is helping itself very much by just signing people up and expecting them to get it.

 

Missing the point

A fundamental thing that Newspaper Journalists Against Twitter fail to remember is that while live-tweeting a presser or breaking news event is important, it’s never the whole story. Also, not all of our readers are using Twitter. Granted that number is dwindling every day, but there will always be someone who prefers to read the actual paper, or who will read an update online on their own time. That’s when it’s essential to take those tweets and the questions you got answered and turn them into a full story with details and facts and research and everything reporters actually do.

I just overheard a reporter say, “I hate that tweeting shit” in reference to the fact that the questions he had answered for his story were already tweeted. My heart died a little because I feel like I must not be doing my job properly.

I’ve been tweeting for the paper since 2007 and have trained and advocated and occasionally nagged everyone to get on the Twitter train. Some did, and some never ever will. But this person has a love/hate relationship with it and I can’t make him understand a) how it works and b) why it’s a good thing.

Things have changed. People want their news and information about 2-10 seconds after it happens, so that they can simply know about it. Once they are interested in an unfolding story, they will usually take the time to look for the in-depth articles that our reporters are so good at. They will want more details that can only be provided after everything is verified, fact-checked, sourced, and put together in a cohesive story. There’s room for both instant news, and fuller, in-depth news. One reaches a certain audience, and the other reaches them and everyone else.

Journalists should be embracing this stuff because it’s not going away. Learn how to adapt already, because I’m tired of banging my head against brick walls.

iPhones in the Heartland

Central Nebraskans (and other smaller cities in the country often forgotten by the Tech world) are wondering if they should get an iPhone now that it will soon be available through Verizon. Articles like this from Arstechnica and this from Shelly Palmer can be confusing to those of us still clinging to Blackberries because iPhones have never been an option for us.

My coworker, who is anxiously awaiting the Verizon iPhone and declined to get a Droid in anticipation of the Verizon iPhone, was thrown by Palmer’s blog post particularly because she talks about the cost of switching from AT&T and the fact that Apple will likely announce a spanky new phone later this year. He’s worried about tying himself to a 2-year contract for the phone now if something faster and better will be on the way in just a few months.

This is what annoys me a little about the flurry of posts touting the pros and cons of the new Verizon iPhone – no one takes into consideration the fact that things are different out here in the flyover states. Unless we live in Lincoln or Omaha, Nebraska, we’ve never had access to iPhones at all.

Thank goodness for the Droid!

So should anyone around my part of the world have the same fears about theViPhone as my coworker, I’ll tell you what I told him: If your current Verizon contract is due for an upgrade, go ahead and get the new iPhone. Yes, you’ll have to buy the phone still, but it’s pretty spiffy and you won’t regret it. As far as speed and knowing that 4G speed is becoming the norm – in more populated areas first of course – it will likely be a while before that lightning fast LTE or 4G hits Grand Island, Nebraska so to me, the 2-year contract thing isn’t a big deal. In 2 years, there will likely be an even better iPhone coming out. Besides, Verizon’s 3G network is pretty fast and unless you are a super power-user, you’re not likely to care much. But the one thing that makes getting the ViPhone worth it, in my mind, is the wi-fi hotspot capability.

That alone is pretty fantastic. I don’t have a smartphone at all – I rely on my iPod Touch 4 and the Verizon Mi-Fi. I use it for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, email, Evernote, games, paying for my mochas, texting, and with some jiggery-pokery, a phone. Rarely do I actually use it as an iPod, funnily enough. With wi-fi becoming so available, even here in the sticks, in time I don’t even think I’ll need the mi-fi anymore.

So, my recommendation based on what I know about living in the land that tech sites forgot, and based on being quite a gadget whore, I say it’s ok for you undecided Nebraskans to go ahead and get yourself the new Verizon iPhone when it’s unleashed. You’ll love it.

[For the record, I have nothing against Droids and would be perfectly happy with one if I didn’t love my iPod Touch so much.]

Newsroom travels back in time

My newsroom feels like it’s gone back in time about two years when I was really struggling to get everyone on board with social media stuff. I can’t remember the last time someone grabbed our spiffy Zi8 to grab some video of a breaking story, or hell, I can’t remember when I last had regular news updates for the web without asking for them or finding them myself.

We had a brief period of excitement when it looked like we might be able to finagle a couple of Droids for newsroom use and I had visions of live tweets from pressers and games and breaking stories. I had fantasies of reporters who finally had that big old light bulb go off when they saw how much their work is enhanced by using a Droid and how effective Twitter is at communication.

Well that got squashed pretty quickly in corporate red tape and well, we have no droids and my newsroom is once again too busy getting their stories in for print (and web, often as an afterthought) to fuss with Twitter. I’m back at square one and it’s killing me pretty good. I just don’t know if I can handle starting at the bottom of the hill again. I’m like the Sisyphus of Social Media. And in the meantime, I see our competitors leaving us in the dust because they’ve embraced it.

Let me just say here that I believe the staff here is phenomenally talented at what they do, and have been doing for years. They’ve got experience, great contacts in the community, they’re creative and they are some of the best. I just wish I could find a way that isn’t patronizing or insulting to reach them and switch on that light bulb so that they see what I’m trying to give them is another way to enhance their work, their careers, and at the same time, make a lot of it easier. I want to help, but instead I feel sometimes that I’m seen as a brick wall they can’t be bothered to climb.

Having said that, we still need a solution to the problem of regularly updated content for the web. We still need to be using Twitter and Facebook and Storify and every tool we can get our hands on to make my newspaper THE place to get your local news.

To that end, we’ve been kicking around the idea of just sending me out with the reporters to do that stuff. It makes sense in a, “Why didn’t we think of that before?” kind of way.  We’re not going to change minds in the newsroom by constantly hammering away at them. Ever been lectured by a parent? Ever tuned them out while they lectured? That’s what happens in a newsroom – well mine at least. So let’s just do it ourselves. I’ve been live-tweeting stuff for years. I can juggle my iPhone, various apps (hello AudioBoo!), cameras and finesse wi-fi in the strangest places. So let’s stop moaning about a newsroom that doesn’t “get it” and just show them. They can still whip out their pencils and digital recorders and write their stories when they get back, and meanwhile, I’ll have continual updates going out instantly, and then Storify them when *I* get back.

I will either piss off my comrades, or they will get to see how this stuff works in action and maybe have a light bulb moment.

Six of one…

Imagine you are an advertiser and you know you should be using tools like Twitter and Facebook but whenever you go to either site to set it up, you get overwhelmed and bewildered and you talk yourself out of it. You’re busy. You don’t have time to invest in this. You’re doing just fine without it.

Along comes your ad rep from your local newspaper and he/she has something new to offer you outside of the usual banner ads and 3X5 print ads and corner peels and interstitials (inter-huh?). This time they mention something about helping you get on tools like Twitter and Facebook. And after they do that, they tell you that for a nominal monthly fee, your business will be in prime real estate, beachfront property on their very heavily-trafficked website (Yay, AP says I can type ‘website’ now! Oh wait, I’ve been doing that for years.)

Well hell, what a deal! Sign me up!

Okay, now imagine you are me. You’re @stephromanski (I’m testing the WP plugin for @anywhere there, sorry) and you’ve begun getting these businesses set up on Twitter and Facebook. Once they’re good to go, the business person will be in charge of their own destiny there and they can tweet and/or post status updates as much as they want.

But here is your minor dilemma: You know they’ll mainly be using one of those tools, either Facebook or Twitter. So if they choose to use Facebook for all their updating, you have to feed those updates to their Twitter account so that those tweets will populate your advertiser Twitter List widget that sits on the prime beachfront property. BUT if they predominantly use Twitter to update, you have to rely on a dodgy Facebook app that sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t for feeding tweets to their Facebook fanpage.

Which is the better option for the businessperson who is usually too busy and may not fully “get” how to use the tools? Which way would be easier for them?

The argument for having them use Facebook is that they are already likely to have a personal Facebook page and perhaps they sort of know their way around it whereas Twitter is completely foreign to them. I know @ev addressed Twitter’s usability at their Chirp conference and I found myself nodding furiously at that whole section of his speech.

On the other hand, if the advertiser is not on either tool, which is the best way to guide them? Fanpages are kind of a bitch to work with, IMO. It seems like it would be harder to teach them (oh yes, in addition to setting them up, you must then spend an hour or so with them and teach them how to use it) to get to and update the fanpage then it would be to teach them to open up Tweetdeck where they can handle everything.

Is it six of one, half dozen of the other? Do you tackle each advertiser individually,  gauge their needs and guide them accordingly? Do you set up a system of ‘This is how you’re going to do it’ to save time?

These are the questions flying around my head right now. Any input in the comments would be greatly appreciated 😉

Funny thing about commenting

For all the fuss we’ve made over commenting in the past year (and by ‘we’ I mean my newspaper), the funny thing is that since we’ve turned it back on a little over a month ago with strict moderation, we’ve had a grand total of 13 comments.

We said we would only turn them on for certain stories. Our biggest fear this whole time has been whether yours truly will be able to manage the moderating duties along with my other duties. I often pictured myself buried under an avalanche of PENDING COMMENT emails and did everything I could to push for the use of excellent self-moderating systems like IntenseDebate or Disqus. Instead, we use the quaint Town News commenting system and so far have not shut off commenting for any story – because we’re not really getting many. We actually get excited when we see the PENDING COMMENT email. But I think for right now, we’re going to just opt out of allowing commenting on certain stories when or if commenting picks up and just leave them open on everything at the moment.

Of the 13 comments we’ve received, 9 of them are in response to an editorial or letter to the editor – 3 of those from the same person. The other four are reactionary to local stories.

I find myself surprised. Did we turn it off for too long? Are we too strict? Are the readers put off by the rules? Are we just not writing stories that are comment-worthy? (I say ‘no’ to that one, we’ve definitely written stories that we thought would have oodles of comments.) Do people just not realize they can comment again? We do place the commenting on a separate tab within the story. Maybe that’s a roadblock. Have we done a poor job of promoting the fact that commenting is back? Maybe readers are just mad at us for taking it away in the first place.

We’ll continue to futz with the process and make adjustments as needed. Perhaps we’ll work on a small marketing plan to promote commenting. Perhaps the comments will pick back up and I’m just being impatient. I guess months of fear-mongering over them made me expect too much right out of the gate.