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Archives: January 2008

DVD design: Great menus are great inspiration (Part I)

I’ve long admired the subtle connection between DVD menus and interactive/multimedia projects created in Flash, which are often styled and laid out in a similar fashion. Below you’ll find screengrabs of some great DVD menus that are designed well and can be related to a online multimedia package.

NOTE: I’m more than a little wary of using Flash to design an entire multimedia project because Flash is not search engine friendly. There are some things you can do if you want to produce a self-contained Flash piece and still increase your SEO. Instead of having an entire project designed in Flash, simply animate the things that need animating (do not animate text) and insert the smaller files into a more searchable HTML document. If the entire project is created in Flash, include a text description that contains keywords about the content of the .swf file. Also, it may be cumbersome, but try breaking up the Flash project into multiple files with text links to the different .swf files. CNET has great advice on helping Google “see” your Flash content. More information on creating a Google friendly website can be found at Digital Inspiration.

On to the menus:

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

More DVD menu goodness after the break

Click thumbnails to enlarge the screengrab.

William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet (1996)

Artificial Intelligence: AI


The Simpsons Movie

War of the Worlds (2005)

Also on 10,000 Words

DVD design: Great menus are great inspiration (Part II)
DVD design: Great menus are great inspiration (Part III)
What is design?

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Great movies about journalism

Been out sick today. In honor of the many DVDs I’ve watched today here are great movies about journalism. Do you have a favorite?

From the top: Citizen Kane, All the President’s Men, Shattered Glass, Capote, Good Night, and Good Luck, Anchorman, The Paper, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Network

Politics as (un)usual

There are a number of sites that will help you determine who you should vote for based on your stance on a number of political issues, including The Candidate Match Game from USA Today, Connect2Elect and glassbooth.

Wired ran a great story about how event sharing site Eventful helped bring John Edwards to Kentucky, a state oft neglected by presidential candidates. Sounds like the web is working, but Mashable points out that presidential candidates aren’t actually personally invested in social media.

For those who want to take politics into their own hands, the good people at THUP have created an online game that lets users pick their candidates and the team behind them and campaign their way across the country, staking out political territory.

The Associated Press asked some of the presidential candidates their favorite and least foods (with amusing results). This naturally led Chow, a site for all things food previously mentioned here, to create an “Eat Sheet” that compared the candidates’ tastes in one nifty chart. Mitt Romney loves hot dogs and Barack Obama loves chili. A match made in heaven?

Are you registered to vote? Are you sure? VotePoke will help anyone confirm if they are registered to vote for the upcoming election. I am newly registered after moving to a new home and the site did not have my information up, so I cannot verify if it actually works or not, but its worth a try.

Need more politics? Check out this previous post on tracking the presidential candidates online.

What the journalism industry can learn from porn

Stay with me on this one. I was channel surfing last week when I landed on G4‘s coverage of the Adult Entertainment Expo and a group of panelists discussing how technologically advanced the adult film industry had been and become.

“Everybody knows that porn drives technology; sex drives technology,” said one panelist.

Statistics vary on how much of the internet is made of porn, but there’s no denying adult themed websites had a greater presence on the internet long before news ever did.

Porn has already begun to conquer the mobile web, allowing users to view their favorite photos and videos on the go. And yet only a conservative number of media sites are optimized for cellular devices (kudos to Fox News, the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Sun-Times, CBS News and others for their mobile optimized sites).

I remember hearing stories of people watching porn on their iPods and digital devices on the BART trains of San Francisco, but in my time living there I rarely saw somebody reading news content from anything other than the traditional newspaper. If we could more assertively rush content to mobile devices we could not only capture the average business traveler, but also save the BART system from cleaning up the large piles of newspapers left behind.

Video on demand has been a boon to the porn industry for years now. Instead of going to the video store and sifting through shelves to find captivating titles, users can download or stream a variety of adult films in a diverse number of niches that surpasses even what’s available in brick and mortar stores.

In the G4 interview, adult film director Richard DeMontfort argued that porn sustained the early stages of video technology, including VHS and DVD, because people could enjoy the films from home. “When video came out, porn was the first one there, porn kept video growing like crazy,” DeMontfort said. “The method of transmission changes every few years… now it’s changing faster than ever.”

Very few online news sites are providing large amounts of video content produced exclusively for the web that is not derivative of a print or broadcast story. Right now that isn’t a bad thing because you get more bang for your buck if the package is available on more than one platform. But it doesn’t help to change the prevailing ideology that print/broadcast consumers and online consumers are the same group of people. Often the online user is in a completely different market than the target audience of the news site and requires more sophisticated content than what is being offered to the traditional news consumer.

The journalism industry is often reactive instead of proactive when it comes to new technology platforms. We see some cool technology that many times has been out for a long period of time and figure out how we can copy it and make it our own. Instead, we the media should be on the forefront of how our content is delivered, instead of waiting for Joe Porn to figure it out.

Tod Hymes, publisher of XBiz World, offered salient advice: “The smartest people in the world are looking at the internet and all these delivery platforms figuring out how to capture the demographic they want and how to get them to pay money.”

Finally, one panelist said that no matter the transmission, it all boils down to people watching other people have sex. And for journalism, it boils down to the written and spoken word. The news will never die, we just to need adjust how it’s presented in order to stay on the forefront of the technology that’s changing our work and our lives.

Keywords are essential to a great web headline

Like most multimedia journalists, I pride myself in being able to wear a lot of different journalism hats. But the one thing I have never gotten a grasp of is writing headlines. I can write a 1,000 word story in my sleep, but ask me to write a couple of words to sum up what I’ve written and I draw a huge blank.

I’ve asked around and searched for advice and here is what I’ve learned. The first rule of writing web headlines is that they differ incredibly from print. Whereas a newspaper or magazine piece can have a flowery, pun-filled headline, an online headline has to be concise, attention-grabbing and chock full of keywords that will grab the casual reader.

Take the Arizona Daily Sun headline Fire-prone homes under fire. It caught my attention, its great for anyone searching for “fire” and “home” and it has the word fire twice! Gotta love that.

If the headline must be flowery because it, for example, is identical to a print story, it is wise to have a subhead that has the keywords in it like the Newsweek story “He’s Not as Smart as He Thinks” where the subhead reads “A British researcher reports that the male ego is often larger than his actual IQ. But you might be surprised by what women think of men’s intellect.”

Now when I’m struggling to come up with the perfect headline I think of the keywords that are in a story and then put them together in a cohesive sentence. In the end, it’s all about search engine optimization. Because a lot news traffic comes from search engines like Google and social news sites like Digg and StumbleUpon, the headline is a huge factor in whether a story is read or not.

The New York Times has a great article on the importance of SEO in online headline-writing that is worth a read. And I’ll keep working on my copywriting skills.