This is the fourth of seven blog posts about the Berkshire Eagle Unbolt Master Plan (which I explained in the first post). A staff committee developed the plan in response to my call for newsrooms to free themselves from print culture and workflow in six primary areas.
This is the plan to drive the Eagle’s mobile journalism. Most of this post will be the Eagle’s plan, with my comments in italics. Digital First Media is changing mobile publishing vendors. I am leaving in references to the new vendor, Rumble, but have deleted a reference to the name of the vendor we’re replacing.
What is mobile?
Mobile is our future. Mobile traffic in many cases already exceeds desktop traffic. Right now, our mobile does key off our desktop presentation.
How do we apply Unbolted mobile?
Mobile is not just where our audience exists, it’s where our newsroom exists. Mobile is immediacy and accessibility. We see three main facets to mobile as it applies to audience and newsroom:
- As a news tool itself.
- As the link between audience traffic and reporting with apps and social media.
- As the device with which to report from the field or to source news from the field.
Buttry comment: I might change “tool” to “platform” in Number 1. I think Number 3 covers the use of mobile tools. But the growing importance of mobile platforms, mentioned above is different from the use of tools.
Goal: Hold The Eagle’s mobile champion but also editors accountable for content on our apps and put mobile in the forefront during planning discussions.
- Apps and the mobile-optimized site (m-dot) are checked three times a day. Apps are updating as expected with mobile-optimized content (photo galleries, videos, etc.). Buttry: In many of the newsrooms where I’ve worked through my career, daily news meetings often featured a discussion of how we did in that morning’s newspaper. I suggest a similar discussion daily (or at least once or twice a week) of how you’re doing on mobile: How the phone and tablet apps look, what content is attracting traffic and engagement with mobile users, etc.
Time frame: Ongoing, but loose. ASAP: Assign additional editors/reporters who check what and when, or assign content checks by department?
- Promote (SOCIALIT) mobile platforms enable readers to browse news, photo galleries, Touts and the real-time breaking news aspect of mobile.
Time frame: Don’t want to do this with the current vendor. Want to ramp this up with Rumble.
- Digital news and visual journalists use social media to keep editors and audience (and vice-versa) aware of our work and to apprise them of any changes, developments to a story. One of the most outstanding examples of mobile technology is how Andrew and Derek Tweeted updates of the trials they covered. Our readers responded very positively to this and clearly would like to see more.
- Sports department has been doing an outstanding job of Tweeting (liveblogging) updates and scores from the games they cover. Regarding the games they do not staff, the sports editor that evening makes sure that the final scores get out on Twitter as soon as we know them.
Time frame: Ongoing, underway. Created job position of digital sports editor to manage this in the department on April 15. Buttry update: Matthew Sprague has been named digital sports editor.
- Avoid potential for error. The principal drawback for the use of social media in newsgathering is the potential for error. I think many of us have Tweeted or webbed something early in the day, only to find that the circumstances may have changed or the information presented to us was inaccurate; we should correct or update when this happens. This refers to captions on photos as well as stories. Overall, the sense we have is that it’s always good for a second party to look at a Tweet or a Facebook entry or a story for the web. That should be the minimum done. A fresh pair of eyes usually can at least bring out obvious mistakes. Any news relayed through social media should be accurate, though the urge to “get something out there” is pretty strong. I like this on multiple levels: The emphasis on accuracy, the candid acknowledgment of a problem to address and the recognition of the value of editing. No newsroom has as many editors as it used to, so we need to uphold our commitment to accuracy by emphasizing standards to staff, learning from our mistakes and deciding where to use our limited editing staff.
- Our input shows that readers really enjoy social media updates via mobile. One of the interesting things about the use of social media is that we often get much more feedback on stories on Facebook, for example. Obviously, there is a place for comment under the story.
- Tweets can include stories from the web news.
- Touts bring reader into the scene in (almost) real time.
- Stories and photos can be launched in real time from mobile.
- Blogs and stories can be built from tweets, mobile pictures, Touts and Instagram.
- Keeping editors aware of your work, such as spot news, can mobilize Social Media and drive traffic.
- Buttry: The plan includes links and email addresses for Eagle journalists to use in reporting on mobile devices and sending to AP. I won’t post those links here because they are for internal use.
- Reporters have Twitter, Facebook, Tout apps on their mobile device at a minimum. ScribbleLive app is recommended too.
- Sending photos from the field on a mobile device is simply a matter of emailing the photo with a caption in the body of the letter. You can embed a cutline with an app called Markista. Snapseed can fine-tune the look of your photos taken with your phone.
I sent a draft of this post to Garver. Here is his response:
Thanks for your comments about our mobile plan. We approached this in three parts so I was worried it would be a little confusing. The first part of the story is about using our reporting to improve mobile platforms (this will improve greatly with Rumble). The second part of the plan was to get journalists to think about using mobile devices as reporting tools, getting them in the field, engaging people more and improving the content in the mobile platforms. Lastly, we can use social media to drive traffic on all platforms, including mobile.
We are discussing web traffic now in our meetings and monitor it frequently. We do not have direct access to mobile traffic numbers and I will bring this up to our online editor.