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Archives: January 2008

Liveblogging tips and tricks

Are you planning on covering an event that will captivate a large audience? Sure you could write a traditional encapsulation of the goings-on, but why not liveblog it?

Liveblogging can provide up to the minute coverage of any interesting event for online readers to follow, including award shows, political events, natural disasters, court proceedings, sports events, you name it.

Whether the blog is presented in chronological or reverse chronological order is up to you, but depends largely on how many live visitors you are expecting. If a great number of readers follow the liveblog as it is updated, it is best to put updates at the top, so they can be seen quickly without the need to scroll to the bottom of the page. It may seem disappointing if there aren’t a large number visitors aren’t reading the liveblog as its being posted, but keep in mind most users read liveblogs well after the event as a recap of what they have (or haven’t seen).

CoverItLive also provides an instant message-like approach to liveblogging and allows the blogger to include real time photos, video and audio clips along with the text. Read extensive reviews of the service at ReadWriteWeb and Webware.

If you don’t have a laptop handy (or even if you do), its easy to send updates from your cell phone using Twitter Twitter. Find out more about the journalistic applications of Twitter at Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits.

For those who are covering a live event and need a little extra help with their lines, CuePrompter is like having on your own teleprompter in the field. If you have a laptop handy, simply type in your copy into the space provided and select the speed at which you read. Place the laptop near the camera and you’re ready to read.

Essential journalism tools: Then and now

Multimedia journalism is amazing because of the mix between the old and the new. Computers and writing: a match made in heaven. Check out what reporters had to use before the inundation of technology we have today.

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Then: TV camera Now: Portable camera

Then: Reel to reel Now: Digital audio recorder

Then: Rotary telephone Now: BlackBerry

Then: Teletype Now: Email

Then: Typewriter Now: Laptop

Then: Notepad and pencil Now: Notepad and pencil

Alas, some things never change.

Create links that visitors will follow

The days of flashing, look-at-me, animated hyperlinks are long gone when web designers realized they were eyesores and just plain tacky. But how do you get a user to “click here” without making the link overbearingly obvious? Here are a couple of tips to making your web pages and multimedia elements easily navigable.

Hyperlinks should be a color that is distinguishable from the rest of the text. More often than not, blue is chosen, but they can be any one color. Links should also be either bold, underlined or both for quick scanning. Most importantly, Make sure your links are easy to click. When a font or link is too small, it requires the user to click precisely on a small area of pixels which can be very frustrating.

There are two schools of theory when it comes to using the directive “click here” to indicate a hyperlink. Some say the phrase, or variations of it, is unbeatable in indicating something is clickable or important. Others use a group of words as the link instead to creating a continuous flow of conversation. You’ll find 10,000 words subscribes to the latter theory, but really its up to you and your company style.

Many web sites, especially news and banking sites use drop down to streamline a massive number of links, but in most cases they obscure a particular link your visitor may be trying to find, leaving them scouring the entire page. I’m guilty of using drop down menus (in one case, some 60+ California neighborhoods were grouped by county), but I always consider the alternatives before using the navigation style.

Finally, the links on both the web page and any multimedia elements should be similar so as not to confuse the reader. You can find more link usability tips at Coding Horror and Wake Up Later.

What the writers' strike means to online journalism

The ongoing strike by the Writers Guild of America has changed the media world as we know it. Major awards shows have been revamped, scores of TV shows have been put on hold, and movie scripts are being stockpiled. The result is a proliferation of reality shows and online content and a boom in online advertising.

Where does your average news site fit in with all this? Now, more than ever, users are turning to the internet for original content. That means it’s time to push video and multimedia content to the forefront to snatch up visitors who now have a little more time on their hands.

There are a number of online services offering TV programming on the web, including my faves Joost, LikeVid, Mogulus, video giant YouTube and the still-in-beta, NBC/News Corp. venture Hulu. Be sure to check out this mashup of Google Maps and live TV streams from around the world and visit Mashable for an exhaustive list of TV on the web.

Online programming also trumps TV because the user’s close proximity to the computer decreases passivity and negates the use of Tivo, the enemy of television advertising. The aforementioned sites should provide some inspiration on how to present your original content on the web, if you haven’t done so already.

Reader comments: Great debate or heap of trouble?

One of the greatest differences between a traditional broadcast or print story and a story run online is the readers’ ability to comment instantly on breaking news or a hot topic. At the beginning of the multimedia journalism bubble, many news sites were resistant to allowing open discussions on their online stories for fear of the internet “crazies.” Now, all but a few holdouts see the benefit of a free flow of discussion to the local and global communities.

The problem is user comments are sometimes far from civil. Comment-enabled websites sometimes have to deal with overly passionate users insulting each other, foul language, and of course spam comments.

There are a couple of options that keep the comments section less bar talk and civilized conversation:

  • Moderate comments (requires a dedicated staffer which may or may not be in the budget)

  • Necessitate that each comment be reviewed before it is posted (which hinders the immediacy of the conversation)
  • Install a foul language filter like Devowelizer (WordPress)
  • Require registration in order to comment (allows users to be tracked, and if necessary, be blocked)
  • Install a spam blocker like Aksimet (WordPress)

Just one word of advice: DON’T turn the comments off across the board. We’re living in a Web 2.0 world where users expect to be able have their say about your content. Though the challenges of an open discussion may seem daunting, in the end the contribution to the story is well worth it.