Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Knight Digital Media Center Event Day 3

See other reports from Journalism in a 24/7 world: Decision-Making for the Online Editor A Knight Digital Media Center presentation:

Report for Day 1
Report for Day 2
Monday (Day 2) Wrap Up
Report for Day 3
Go to the Knight Center site here for more info

9 a.m.
First Speaker, Don Sena, Managing Editor, MSN
Best Practices -- Programming and Driving Engagement

Proper Home Page content planning
Increased quality and relevance to users=increased engagement
Proper mix and distribution of content, partners, etc
allows you to deal with the revenue pressures
A solid plan allows better reaction to content we have to react to

Three levels of planning:
Monthly forward planning
Weekly planning, builds on the monthly plan
... but you must know when to blow up the plan for breaking news

Monthly planning should account for at least 33 percent of our Home Page leads (stories)

Do your research: Find out when readers will have the most reader interest in a story. Run it then.

Don: How are you rotating stuff in and out of your front page?
Heather (Yahoo) We watch the clicks and rotate out stuff that isn't working, keeping in mind that if something is of compelling news value you keep it up even if it isn't getting clicks.

AJC: We will keep a breaking news story up high, but let people know it's developing by updating the headline, the red update bug.

Dallas Morning News: A chat, a blog, a hot video might lead the site. We're trying to break out of the box of what's the story and look for other things on the site that you can put in that box that isn't necessarily a story and photo.

Don: A hidden gem?

Amy: What about feeds? Full text vs partial feeds? Widgits and Facebook applications. What can you do on other sites that would support your business.

Don: A mantra: Accuracy, Speed and Quality. I don't want to be first and wrong, I'd rather be second and right.

Discussion: People sharing how they get the story up quickly.

Don: When big news breaks, let people know visually by using a Blowout News Template. Big headline, big focus. Break the page for something huge like Va. Tech. It's jarring to the reader but jarring in a good way.

Template wise, for big breaking news, do you guys have the templates you want? Do you have the big template you need? Raise your hand if you don't have the templates you need.

(About 2/3 of the people raise their hands)

Linda, Dallas Morning News: We discovered we were not in a good position when news broke. We've since developed a couple of good templates, including a blow out.

Note to self: might be a good idea to create a post-it note check list of everything that a producer should add to a package for a big story: Video, blog, photo gallery, soundoff, archival links. Too obvious?

Do you build templates for news that could break? (Don shows four templates for possible Osama news: Osama bin Laden killed, Osama bin Laden Captured Alive, Osama bin Laden Found Dead, Osama bin Laden Eludes Capture. He says, we run this last one about once a week. Big laugh.)

Guy from La Opinion: We've been sitting on a big Fidel Castro photo gallery for a long time.

Idea from Don: Create a test site, a front page that's the same look and feel as the rest of your site. Serve this page to 1 or 2 percent of the readers to see how stuff does. Test out new content and play ideas on the page.

Don: (paraphrased) Now moving the talk to revenue. We have a lot of content that advertising has sold against that our users are not really clamoring for. Then we have stuff that users want and click on like crazy, and they've sold advertising for. That's the good stuff. Then we have high user interest stuff that isn't monetized.

You should have an Editorial Guidelines document, so when advertising reps come to you and ask you to do stuff you can point to the document to help explain why you don't play that way. The document outlines what we consider advertorial, how advertising needs to be branded on a page, if an advertiser comes up with a story idea, that's something that won't make it on the page. This is a way to protect editorial integrity of the page for people who don't understand why that's important. We're always adding to it as a new thing crops up. We have a branded entertainment experience team, brings in a lot of money. They create experiences that mesh editorial and advertising. That is the stuff that scares me the most. It's very subtle.

Mantra II Protecting the reader interest in editorial is good business.

Take risks. Try new things. Accept failures. If you don't bomb once in a while, you're not putting yourself out there enough to find the things that are going to work well. Don't make your teams risk averse.

Next speaker: Bill Gannon, Director of online operations, Lucasfilm Ltd.
Best Practices -- Case studies in online decision-making
Vikki and Bill say this sessions off the record. Sorry.


Mark said...


I agree with Don's mantra. It's an old and inarguable journalism chestnut. But isn't part of the reason everyone's so freaked out right now a sort-of high-speed extension of that statement?

I mean, would you rather be second and right but out of business? I would be, but I'll be not everyone agrees.

Mark said...

I'll BET not everyone agrees, that was supposed to say...