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Archive for February, 2014

The point of Project Unbolt is not to wrench the four pilot newsrooms free from print culture and workflow. We want to unbolt all our newsrooms from print.

We decided to concentrate our attention initially on the four pilot newsrooms: New Haven Register, Berkshire Eagle, El Paso Times and the News-Herald in Willoughby, Ohio.

I was planning some specific steps to encourage other newsrooms to start their work in the next few weeks, but was delighted by an email yesterday from Nancy March, editor of The Mercury in Pottstown, Pa. She is already hard at work leading the Merc staff in unbolting. (more…)

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The first week of February was my best traffic week in a long time.

The first week of February was my best traffic week in a long time.

I had a lot of traffic on my blog the first week of February, nearly 12,000 views, one of my best weeks ever. So I must have been busy posting popular content, right? Not really. I posted three times last week:

That’s it. Fresh content accounted for fewer than 400 views that week. My fresh content did better the week before and the week after. In fact, my content from the previous week did better that week than the fresh content did.

Yet I had the busiest week I can remember (weekly traffic stats only go back to July in my WordPress dashboard and I’ve paid closer attention to monthly and daily traffic).

The point here is not to boast about that week’s traffic (or to expose the weak traffic for the fresh posts), but to emphasize the importance of understanding metrics, not just following them blindly. (more…)

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Peyton Manning set a Super Bowl record for pass completions in a game. But he still had an awful game, showing how metrics can be misleading. Photo by John Leyba/The Denver Post. Used with permission.

Peyton Manning set a Super Bowl record for pass completions in a game. But he still had an awful game, showing how metrics can be misleading. Photo by John Leyba/The Denver Post. Used with permission.

Sports uses metrics much better and more creatively to measure success than news organizations do. Sports metrics (sports fans are more likely to call them stats) also illustrate how misleading numbers can be.

You know who owns the Super Bowl record for most passes completed in a Super Bowl? Peyton Manning, who set that record this month in perhaps the worst loss of his career.

Manning, the Denver Broncos’ quarterback, completed nearly twice as many passes as Seattle Seahawks’ quarterback Russell Wilson in the Super Bowl for 74 more yards than Wilson. But no one watching that game thought that Manning played a better game. (more…)

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Project Unbolt logoOne of our most important challenges in changing Digital First newsrooms will be measuring success. As I explained last month, Project Unbolt involves changing the culture and workflow of our company’s newsrooms.

But how do we measure our progress? How do we know when we’re succeeding? I’ve asked the editors of our pilot newsrooms to consider these questions as they assess their newsrooms against the characteristics I’ve described of an unbolted newsroom.

In some cases, we will be able to chart our progress using detailed metrics that are already available to us. In other cases, we might need to measure ourselves in some way (and decide whether the time and effort of measuring are worth the insight we gain). In some respects, numerical measurement will be difficult, but we can describe how we operate now and how we’ve changed at some point down the road. Project Unbolt will probably require all of these ways of measuring and more.

(more…)

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A gift from Dad

My new nightstand, made by Dad 60-plus years ago

My new nightstand, made by Dad 60-plus years ago

I received a gift from my father today, almost 36 years after we lost him.

Luke Buttry was a carpenter who served the most famous carpenter ever. He spent his career as an Air Force chaplain, then an American Baptist pastor. He died of prostate cancer in 1978, just a little over two years into his second civilian pastorate, at First Baptist Church in Kankakee.

Wherever we lived, whether in government-owned base housing, a parsonage or our own home, Dad was building things. If the home didn’t have room for a workshop in the basement, Dad would spend time at the base hobby shop working on his projects. (more…)

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Morning Sun Facebook updateRick Mills, editor of the Morning Sun in Mt. Pleasant, Mich., shared an important Facebook lesson with me this afternoon (added links and updated a bit):

You always think it’s the big stuff, the breaking news… but I posted something today about a popular local restaurant closing. Since then we’ve got 70 new followers, it’s been seen by more than 15,000 people, 69 have commented.

Lesson: It’s not always about tragedy. It’s about community, about the people we cover and the things they do. But I guess we already knew that.

The Morning Sun, by the way, is one of our newsrooms that has a bigger audience on Facebook than in the morning newspaper. Weekday print circulation is about 7,000. Sunday is over 8,000. Facebook fans topped 10,300 today.

Note in the screengrab above that the post has been shared more than 200 times. “Likes” aren’t very high (probably because it’s bad news and Facebook hasn’t added a “dislike” option yet).

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Project Unbolt logoSince last week’s announcement of Project Unbolt, various news-industry blogs have taken note:

Sam Kirkland of Poynter interviewed me and noted how we’re hoping to change our approaches to various types of stories (I’ll be blogging more about this soon):

Newspapers have become comfortable publishing content online before it runs in print, but the nature of that content has been influenced by newspaper thinking throughout the planning, reporting, writing and editing process. So Project Unbolt is about going beyond publishing content first on digital; it’s about publishing content first on digital in a digital-native way.

Alastair Reid of Journalism.co.uk interviewed me and we discussed the same topic:

In terms of coverage, Buttry said DFM newsrooms “want to move to live coverage as a default setting” for diary or time-sensitive events, while newsworthy elements of longer, more time-intensive stories will be reported digitally before a comprehensive print publication.

“Does the first story plant the flag in the ground, start a conversation and do some crowdsourcing?” he asked. “And then it unfolds in digital formats with interactive databases and live chats and we might publish documents online, similar to what the Guardian did with the MPs expenses, and ask the readers to help find stories.”

“If we publish something online on a Wednesday, because it’s timely, then after a few days of discussion we’ll publish it in print on a Saturday. It doesn’t need to be online the day before if it is in print,” he said of how the digital and print processes may change. “These are the things we’ll be working on, and becoming more efficient at, in the print production from the digital content.”

Michael Depp of NetNewsCheck also addressed the changes in storytelling (I really need to address this soon):

But what do these kinds of workflow changes really come down to? Who at DFM is holding the machetes, hacking the first traces of a path into this purely digital future? And what should other media companies be looking for to steal for their own playbooks in terms of concrete practices with measurable results?

The early answers are surfacing among editors leading the project and the work of DFM’s more independent experimenters, some of whom are working at papers outside of the pilot. All of them are pointing to questions that, sooner or later, every journalist working in the digital age will have to squarely face. The biggest one: Is a story the final product of the reporting process?

Karen Fratti of 10,000 Words summarized the project well:

More than just refocusing attention to mobile reporting, engaging with audiences over social media or creating new ways to play with and use data, Project Unbolt is about actually changing how newsrooms think and act.

Muck Rack curated tweets from journalists about the project.

Maybe I’ve missed some other commentary or reporting on Project Unbolt. If you’ve seen something else, please share the links in the comments.

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