Internet Killed The Newspaper Star

Published February 14, 2012 by jcrosland

Ann, a NU professor and The Buffalo News employee, spoke to my Writing for the Web class about how social media effected her job. It’s difficult to think that, once upon a time, The Buffalo News didn’t even have a website. Yowza!

As I stared on blankly, wondering if two Celexa pills was one too many, I made some sense of what the speaker was saying. Thanks to the advent of social mediums like Twitter and Facebook, Ann’s workload is now  twice as much: take notes,

and type up a story,

and blog,

and tweet,

and maybe make a video or two.

That is a lot of work. I understand the advantages of social media. No longer are there waiting times for the story to hit the press. The exchange of information is immediate. Everybody knows everything two seconds ago. Blink and suddenly last hour’s news seems ancient. Furthermore, editing is a snap. Whereas with traditional print mediums, in which errors (i.e. incorrect facts, misspellings) demand a reprint, digital mediums can be fixed quickly, no fuss. Also, the demand for newspapers and magazines is slipping. People prefer reading current events on his or her laptop or mobile device.

I can’t remember the last time I actually LOOKED at a newspaper. Sad, but true.

 

 

Originality and Identity in the Awfully Big World of Content

Published February 7, 2012 by jcrosland

"Who am I? And where am I going?"

If you plan on getting involved in social media any time soon (and you probably already have…Facebook, anyone?), then you should pick up a copy of Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman’s Content Rules. This book provides readers with a stylish and informative run-down of all things social media. This includes how to create:

  • Killer blogs
  • Podcasts
  • Videos
  • Ebooks
  • Webinars
  • And more…

These are designed to “engage customers and ignite your business” (no guarantees). Upon first glance, the book is a bore-fest. Unless you’re a communications studies major fresh outta college looking for ways to make it big (monetary or attention-wise) on the wide ol’ Net, Rules reads a lot like a how-to manual disguised in an informal writing style. It’s educational, and the footnotes can be humorous, but it’s simply not this English major’s cup of tea.

Having said that, I’d like to point out a few good, err, points that Handley and Chapman make in chapters three and four titled “Insight Inspires Originality” and “Who Are You?” respectively.

*gasp* Shame on you, Marvel Animation! -_-

How to NOT Be Like Marvel Animation (see above image)

Chapter three is titled “Insight Inspires Originality” for a reason. Handley and Chapman lay down some ground rules and advice on how to make your content (whatever it may be) stand apart from your competition. After all, who wants second place?

Here are some guidelines:

  1. Whom are you trying to reach?
  2. Where do they spend their time online?
  3. How do they access the Web?
  4. What are they craving?
  5. What do you want them to do?
  6. What content do you already have?
If you can’t answer numbers one and two, then you should probably get off the Internet and start brainstorming. I feel that number three is an interesting question. How people access the Internet alters their perception of any given content. For example, cell phone Internet access can be limited based upon the make and model of a phone. My poor, sluggish, and outdated Rumor Touch can’t process videos or photos very well (if, at all). Thus I am cut off from the niche that CAN watch YouTube videos or comment on a person’s Facebook picture. Thus, I’m less apt to acquire content on the fly, being restricted to using more traditional methods of viewing content (meaning the laptop/PC/Mac/C64 if it’s modded).
Furthermore, people who are a part of said-niche are able to respond to content quicker, thus allowing for a greater volume of information sharing. Additionally, a social media pro can upload content on the go. Content has entered a new age. No more turning pages and looking at billboards for us.

Four is exceptionally important. If you don’t know what the people want, then how can you possibly begin to cater to their needs? Guesswork has long-since been a thing of the past. With social media sites like Twitter, it’s impossible to not know what people are thinking and feeling. You shouldn’t waste your time uploading content in a format that doesn’t resonate with a given audience. Do some research, experiment, and see what works best for both you AND your audience.

If you’ve done a good job, then your success will be based upon whether or not you’ve managed to:

  • Generate at least 100 mentions of [a] product online
  • Having more than 10,000 views of [a] video across all sharing platforms
  • Having 10 bloggers write positive posts about [fill in the blank]

Handley and Chapman distinguish these goals, which are quantifiable, from non-quantifiable goals. These include:

  • Generating a lot of buzz and conversation online
  • Having [a] video go viral
  • A-list influencers or Web celebrities talking about [fill in the blank] in positive ways

Now, unless you’re a business owner or employee concerned about number crunching, then the non-quantifiable goals sound pretty good. Well, they sound good to me. After all, star endorsement and video viral status are good ways to draw attention toward your content/product. It’s even better  when said-publicity and viral status earns you money-making deals down the road.  The end of the chapter wraps up with methods of measuring success by content type (i.e. blogs, photos/videos). Certain content types operate differently. For example, the success measuring stick for blogs entails the number of subscribers, inbound links (ahoy!), comments, and the presence of social validation (ex. Blah-Blah liked [your page] on Facebook). By contrast, ebooks have only the number of downloads as a means to judge content popularity.

Moving on!

WHO ARE YOU?

Who are you? What are you? Are you a human? A robot? Trustworthy? Deceitful? Funny? Morose? Stiff? Boring? A slacker? A thinker?

People want to know who you are. They want to see that spark of originality shine through the content you upload. This is a difficult aspect of social media. Standing out in a coded sea of what could be billions is nigh-impossible…unless you bring something new to the table. Here’s what Handley and Chapman have to say:

  • Be human
  • Lighten up
  • Be appropriate for your audiences 
  • Build on your own brand
  • Differentiate from the pack of bland
  • Know who you’re talking to…and how to talk to them
  • Take a stand
  • Your voice should be authentic

Blah-blah-blah blabbity-blah.

“Be human” is a biggie for me. Too many times have I sat in a class, behemoth textbook opened before me, befuddled by the mysterious words scrawled upon its stark white sheets because, simply put, it was too complicated to understand. Now, I’m no dummy. Four years on the Dean’s List and two honors societies under my figurative belt prove my intelligence. However, college-level texts are, and forever shall remain, a challenge to my 80’s pop culture trivia-addled brain. Why must authors use such big words when smaller, more well-known ones are available.

*sigh* But, I digress.

Point three is definitely important. Always remember your audience. It would be disastrous to post racy content without a warning, especially when your site is frequented by minors and the impressionable. Likewise, you shouldn’t post something that will clash with the moral fiber of your audience. Shy away from controversy UNLESS that is your intent, I believe.

“Take a stand” is also an important point. Dare to be different. Defend your content. If someone doesn’t like it, then question them. See what can be changed to suit their needs, but only follow through with such if you’re prepared to compromise. Otherwise, never settle, and don’t sell out on your values. This is, after all, your content.

Buy the book here at amazon.com!

Amy Winehouse coroner resigns, family seeks advice

Published February 1, 2012 by jcrosland

(Adapted from The Buffalo News)

Amy Winehouse’s coroner Suzanne Greenaway resigned due to her questionable qualifications, her boss said Wednesday. Consequently, another investigation regarding the singer’s death may be held.

Winehouse’s relatives say they are seeking legal advice.

In October,  Greenaway ruled the soul singer’s death at her London home in July accidental via alcohol poisoning.

Formerly an assistant deputy coroner in London in 2009, Greenaway resigned in November of that same year because she had not been a registered U.K. lawyer for five years as required by law. She practiced law for a decade in Australia.

“I believed at the time that her experience as a solicitor and barrister in Australia satisfied the requirements of the post,” says Andrew Reid, Greenaway’s husband. “In November of last year it became apparent that I had made an error in the appointment process and I accepted her resignation.”

Reid possibly broke professional guidelines by appointing his wife as one of several deputy assistant coroners.

Of the 12 inquests Greenaway oversaw, one of these included is the north London borough where Winehouse lived. Reid says he was “confident that all of the inquests handled were done so correctly”–but offered to withhold these inquests over again if the families of the deceased desire such.

Winehouse’s family is uncertain as to what to do. The family states it is “taking advice on the implications of this and will decide if any further discussion with the authorities is needed.”

Winehouse’s inquest can be ruled null and void if her family opposes the court’s verdict. On Wednesday, her father, Mitch, appeared to downplay the likelihood, tweeting: “Don’t worry about coroner nonsense. We are all OK.”

Winehouse was found dead in her bed by a security guard on July 23 at her Camden home. The 27-year-old singer was most famous for her distinctive beehive hairdos and multiple Grammy-winning album “Back to Black.” She was also known for her alcohol and drug woes.

Though she is praised by fans worldwide for her distinct voice and style, said-praises were often overshadowed by damaging headlines regarding her bizarre behavior and unhealthy relationships. The singer expressed her inner demons in popular songs such as “Rehab” and “Love is a Losing Game.”

Response to –Is Twitter for Everybody?–

Published January 30, 2012 by jcrosland

Is Twitter truly for everyone? Probably not. One article (read it here at businessesgrow.com) examines the purpose of being a “Tweeter.” The author, Mark W. Schaefer of  The Tao of Twitter, relays a personal anecdote involving a fellow customer and “brilliant management consultant.” Several reasons are bullet-pointed. For example, Twitter would be perfect for the customer because he is:

  • Small business-owner
  • Enormous, global market potential (needs a lot of awareness)
  • Small marketing budget
  • Selling differentiated personal services
  • No time to blog, develop extensive content, etc.

    Who else feels like this?

  • Tech-savvy
  • Is a charming, bright person with engaging personality.

And yet, we learn that the customer refused to incorporate Twitter into his life. When questioned, the customer answered:

“I’m not sure why really.  I guess the idle chatter (which is mostly what I seem to see when I log on)  just doesn’t make any sense to me. There’s obviously some self-imposed barrier that I can’t or just don’t want to cross.  You were kind enough to introduce me to Twitter, and I appreciated that.  There’s the old expression about leading a horse to water.  Guess I’m just not that thirsty for Twitter water… at least yet.”

So apparently the customer isn’t completed turned off by the social networking tool.  He’s simply not interested…yet. It’s the “idle chatter” that serves as a road block.  Based upon personal experience, I can comfortably say that this man speaks the truth. Until last Friday, Twitter was an Internet phenomenon that I’d heard so much about but never gave a darn about to try. Quite frankly, I had no need for Twitter. If creating an account wasn’t a course requirement, then I would have happily carried on with life Twitter-less.

Twenty seconds after signing-up, I logged in and searched around the site, testing the unfamiliar coded waters. And quite frankly, I was disappointed. You see, unless you truly care about what your favorite company or must-see celeb is doing every second of every day, Twitter is…dull. I “followed” a few groups here and there, but I felt no glowing sense of belonging. In fact, I felt the exact opposite. I felt more alienated than before because my tweets were lost in a flood of mundane opinions.

The author makes a strong case for Twitter-business interactions, stating that  “Even if your customers aren’t there in force, it is still an incredibly powerful way to learn, connect with thought leaders, and identify new business opportunities.” I agree with him. Twitter can allow for quick feedback and effective information gathering via the tweets of customers and potential business partners. However, I am not a businesswoman. I have no interest in starting a company of my own. Furthermore, I’m too apathetic to fully enjoy what Twitter offers. Following people, posting tweets–it’s all a distraction from life beyond the screen. I don’t care about BK’s new fries or what Tebow said on ESPN. I prefer being surprised the old-fashioned way, and then complaining about it to a person, face-to-face. I feel that Twitter distances people, encouraging them to communicate electronically instead of publicly.

Think about it. There will be an entire generation of folks incapable of holding a conversation without a keyboard.

Scary, ain’t it?

Lancaster central school district faces financial crisis for the 2012-13 school year

Published January 26, 2012 by jcrosland

(Adapted from The Buffalo News)

The Lancaster central school district expects an increase in state funding for 2012-13. However, said-aid is not enough to cover for the  lost $1.7 million loss federal stimulus grant, according to district officials.

State aid will rise by $536,523, or 2 percent, says the district. This, unfortunately, leaves the district with a $1.2 million shortfall that school officials are grappling with as they compose the 2012-13 budget.

“Great news? No. Good news, yes. Any increase, considering the last couple of years, is great,” said Jamie Philips, assistant superintendent of business and support services at Monday’s School Board meeting at John A. Sciole Elementary School.

Last week, the office of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo revealed a plan to boost school funding by approximately 4 percent. The reality is that most local districts will never see that much funding.

Lancaster expected to see an 8.6 percent increase in state aid, the second-highest increase in Erie or Niagara counties.

According to Philips, though, the state’s projection included a figure for reimbursement of district transportation expenses that the district will never receive.

For example, Lancaster was projected to receive $6.4 million in transportation aid. Only $5 million will be given to the district.

In the end, the definitive figure depends on how much the district spends. Furthermore, not all of the district’s spending is reimbursable.

The large picture: other school districts across the state face a 2 percent cap on increases in the property-tax levy. In order to exceed said-cap,  the levy must earn a 60 percent voter’s approval from residents.

Lancaster school officials commence sorting through the funding requests of various district departments next month.

“We have an awesome task in front of us,” said Superintendent Edward J. Myszka.

The “FLCL” of Internet News Sites

Published January 24, 2012 by jcrosland

Blink.

A pause.

A snort of bemusement.

The Onion (subtitle: “America’s Finest News Source”) is an informative, yet baffling online arrangement of  journalistic fact and fiction. Lies are entwined with truth, with a heavy dose of nonsense thrown in for good measure.

Example: “Wooden Fruit Hoping To Become Real Fruit One Day.”

Wait. That’s more nonsense than anything. Let’s find another (and by “another,” I mean better) example.

Example #2: “Tebow’s Defeat Restores Nation’s Faith In God.”

Tebow was defeated? That’s news…I guess.

Between the witty humor and improbable stories, The Onion does a decent job of maintaining the appearance of being a real Internet news site. The page layout reflects the style of, say, mashable.com or some other reputable online news source. Sub-sections, advertisements, an updated news feed, pictures, etc. completed the elaborate hoax. For the briefest of moments, I knew no better despite possessing a passing familiarity with the site. The writing (what little there is) leaves me wanting more; a one-line gag (i.e. “Paula Deen Has Diabetes”) is only as good as its punch.

Lovers of satire, get thee to The Onion!

Bias: A Threat to the Future of Curation?

Published January 20, 2012 by jcrosland

Josh Sternberg’s article “Why Curation Is Important to the Future of Journalism” (which can be read here at mashable.com) is a great overview of field of curation, its purpose, and its potential future. Sternberg argues that the art of journalism isn’t dead; it has merely shifted and changed shape in order to adapt to the means by which people acquire news in modern times. The line between journalist and curator has blurred.  Sternberg insists that curators have, in effect, become journalists themselves, and that “many curators believe they should be held to the same standards as journalists.” He goes on to discuss trustworthiness, sources of information, and how curation will become more refined with the advent of new tools and technology.

One point that raised a few questions is that Sternberg states that curators can be “passionate” about the content they research and present. I feel that this “passion,” if taken to the extreme, could be harmful to the further development of curation. After all, if a curator expects to be treated as a journalist, then s/he must maintain a neutral stance toward the content s/he reports. Otherwise, s/he runs the risk of posting information that is one-sided, thus creating bias regarding whatever topic s/he is reporting.

Additionally, should there be a limit to this “passion?” Maybe, maybe not. It depends on the discipline of the curator, and whether s/he is willing to use his or her reporting prowess responsibly.

I’m not saying that curators should be made subject to strict censorship codes. Censorship is deplorable when misused and wielded recklessly. However, if curators want to be treated akin to their journalists counterparts and establish work forces, then they must be prepared to sacrifice the liberties that are inherent to their field (i.e. covering a story outside of their “beat”).