When this guy talks, listen: When it comes to the whole blogging thing, this weblog considers the Washington Post’s Dan Froomkin perhaps the most “gets-it” in-the-trenches journalist employed by a print-dominated media company. (Okay. We’ll admit the fact that he’s responsible for providing this weblog with its 15 minutes of fame influences our opinion. However, it was not his reporting that impressed me most. It was the e-mail exchange we engaged in throughout the day as he continued to ask me questions and commented on how I was responding to my critics.) So, when Dan writes an article titled, “Ideas for Online Publications: Lessons From Blogs, Other Signposts,” we read it and encourage all our print-publication friends to do so.
Highlights (read it all):
Push the print newsroom even more
Reporters should routinely consider, when they hear someone’s voice or see them in action, how presenting such information can add value to their journalism.
Learn the lessons of blogs
Consider if you were starting a “newspaper” today. Wouldn’t you want to facilitate exchanges with readers? Wouldn’t you want to encourage your readers to find out more than what you can publish? Wouldn’t you want to make it easier for them to take action? Wouldn’t you want to define and create a community? Wouldn’t you want to make your readers feel important? Blog tools give you all that?– not to mention the ability to easily and quickly post something you just found out about. (What could be more journalistic?)
Concentrate on geography
The tools have finally matured for genuine online community building: Blogs, social networking, phone-cams, ample bandwidth and penetration, etc.
Newspapers should start appending metadata code reflecting geographic location (ideally, street address and/or longitude and latitude, but at the very least city and ZIP code) to absolutely everything.
Serve the audience
Our best, most important work should feature compelling narratives, visual story-telling, interaction with the authors and newsmakers, and Web tools that encourage and harness citizen action. Don’t just put a big serious thing out there in big fat text parts (with a few links and maybe a poorly captioned photo gallery) and expect to make a splash online. Finally, online news sites need to spend much more energy exploring traffic data. What are people actually coming for? What is compelling? What generates that extra click? What does trying this or tweaking that or rewriting these headlines actually do? We shouldn’t blindly chase traffic, but with most Web site managers just getting a few overall numbers and looking at macro-level trends, we don’t fundamentally understand how people are using our sites. Home page editors, for instance, should have real-time data in the background to inform their decisions.
Have more fun
Online news managers should encourage more risk-taking and more fun. Amazingly, newspaper Web sites often take themselves more seriously than newspapers, which we sometimes forget do so much more than just news. Of course we need to maintain our high ethical standards and be respectful of readers. But we shouldn’t be so damn serious?– especially in that all-important first screen of the home page. Newspapers have comics, and horoscopes, not to mention gossip columns and fluffy features. And the truth is, fun things click on the Web.
See what I mean. He gets it.
(Later: Jeff Jarvis agrees Dan is “instructive.”)
(Even later: Dan e-mailed this weblog to say, “Thanks, Hammock Man.”)