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Archives: August 2010

Location! Location! Location! How journalists can use location-based services

With the advent of location-based social networks like Foursquare and Gowalla, mainstream media newsrooms have been searching for ways to harness these networks. The results have ranged from brilliant to questionably outlandish, but we’ve only scratched the surface of what is possible. Here are a few ideas and examples of ways to take location-based social media to the next level:

We, the people

To celebrate their 2010 graduation ceremony, the students of St. Edward’s University in Texas submitted photos, tweets, and Facebook posts with their mobile phones and aggregated them using the social, location-based service Whrrl. The result is a multimedia experience that showcases the ceremony from the viewpoint of those who lived it.

Mass aggregation of first-person media isn’t new and since the launch of projects like CNN’s The Moment, they have proved to have major newsworthiness. Using a site like Whrrl to make it easy for a large group to share a variety of media is something media organizations should explore and gravitate toward.

Movie reviews

The mobile application Flixster has many awesome features, one of which is its ability to find movie theaters near the smartphone user and instantly provide showtimes and sometimes ways to order tickets.

Newsrooms, especially entertainment publications, can capitalize on this idea by creating apps or check-in alerts that provide movie reviews from newsroom critics when the mobile user is near a movie theater. With a little extra tinkering, an app can also aggregate reviews from other locals or like-minded movie viewers.

Real estate listings

In the same vein, newsrooms can make better use of their real estate listings by creating an app that lists available housing near the mobile user, using the phone’s built in GPS. Imagine walking in a neighborhood and seeing a listing of apartments for rent, sortable by price and with comments from others. There are a couple of real estate apps already, including ZipRealty and Zillow that newsrooms can learn from.

Of course, there are several media organizations who are already making the most of their content — and their audience — to provide a valuable, location-based service. The Independent Film Channel recently solicited its membership for tips on quirky locales around America. Foursquare members can opt to receive these user-submitted alerts when they check in to select locations. Wall Street Journal readers who check in to specific restaurants can read restaurants the site has reviewed.

Sports fans should check out ESPN Passport which allows mobile users to check-in to sports venues and keep track of games they’ve attended. You can also use the app to take photos of a match in progress and share with others in the arena. The Scoop, The New York Times’ mobile guide to New York, is also a pioneer in marrying existing content with mobile and GPS capabilities.

Location-based services can do anything from report the location of local crimes to point out road hazards submitted by other users. So far though, the majority of those companies that are exploring and taking advantage of the technology fall outside of the journalism realm. Hopefully, as these services and social media applications become more mainstream, newsrooms will be more likely to adopt them for their own uses.

Also on 10,000 Words:

5 iPhone applications that can revolutionize mobile journalism
15 Awesome interactive maps from the New York Times
Why news media should not wait to develop iPad apps

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5 Things I've learned about building a personal brand and why everything you've heard is bogus

A question I get asked a lot is how I built a successful personal brand. How did I build 10,000 Words from a rough-around-the-edges personal blog to a popular and well-trafficked resource?

Usually when people ask the question they lean closely in and expect me to mention social networks like Twitter, reader engagement, cross-platform integration, and all the other social media guru-isms floating around the web. While those are a part of the equation, building a strong personal brand transcends technology and tools. A successful “personal” brand requires you to be a “person” and sometimes to think outside of “thinking outside the box.”

Be nice

There are many talented people out there competing for work and the attention of online readers and communities. What separates the talented from the equally talented but successful, is a good, genuine, likeable personality. You don’t have to be Mr. or Ms. Smiley Face, but people appreciate kindness and humanity. Being arrogant, antisocial, cliquish, or rude will turn many people off and damage your personal brand.

Think of your favorite restaurant experience: you likely told other people about that restaurant not just because the food was great or the decor was beautiful, but because you perhaps received great service or the waiter or host was especially kind or accommodating.

You can only tell people how great you are, but the true test of a strong personal brand is what others think of you and how likely they are to sing your praises.

Show don’t tell

Many of those who have strong personal brands are not necessarily the most knowledgeable or the biggest experts in the field, but those who share a bit of themselves with others. Instead of just telling people what they should be doing, share your personal experiences and why certain strategies or techniques have worked for you. Make your work available online and tell other people how you did it. Be open and honest.

The reason many blogs are successful is because the blogger has shared their personality with readers and based their posts on personal experiences. My career took off when I stopped hiding behind the big orange 10,000 Words icon and started putting my face out there figuratively and literally.

Say Yes!!

I’m tired. Between work and 10,000 Words there are nights when I just want to crawl up next to the TV and eat Oreos in my PJs. But if I receive an invitation to an event, social gathering, or some opportunity for professional development or to meet new people and I have the time and the capacity to do so, I will attend. You never who you’re going to meet and, by doing so, when you’ll have an opportunity to share your work and yourself with others.

Not too long ago, I was at a conference and after a long day of workshops I faced the decision of either going back to the hotel room or attending a post-conference networking session. Suffice it to say I would not have my current position if I hadn’t opted to attend the session. Follow the example of Jim Carrey in the movie Yes Man and learn to say yes to new and unique opportunities… you never know where they may lead.

Do a favor for someone

There’s a running joke/mantra in the design community that real designers don’t do favors. This means no missing cat posters, no websites for friends, nothing that won’t put a dollar in your pocket. Despite this prevailing line of thought, it’s the occasional favor that helps people remember you and your work. If you do them a solid now, they are very likely to remember you down the line. And though the benefits may not be immediately tangible, I cannot put into words how many times a small favor has turned into a big professional reward.

I know I’ve advocated before for getting paid for what you do, but if you love what you do enough, you will be willing to share your time and expertise with others without expecting something in return. This doesn’t mean you should do every favor you’re asked to do, but often those most in need of a favor are the most likely to help you later down the line.

Ditch the “rules” and follow your passion

There are a million social media experts, online gurus, media mavens, and the like who have a million rules for what you should do to grow your personal brand. Forget what the experts say and follow your own plan.

Don’t tweet because you have to, do it because you want to. Start a blog because you have something to say, not because you are told to do so. You will find that your message will be stronger and you will be more passionate about your personal brand if you forge your own path.

Also on 10,000 Words:

15 Journalists’ outstanding personal portfolios
What exactly is a social media editor/manager?
25 Things I’ve Learned About Journalism

6 Exceptional multimedia student projects

Journalism classes and schools, like professional newsrooms, have the opportunity to create large-scale multimedia projects that are the product of a collaboration between participants. These projects focus on a single subject or issue and tell one story in multiple ways.

The label “student journalist” for some may conjure up images of second-rate work that is not ready for prime time. However, the projects below show just how great the multimedia journalism produced by J-schools students are and the potential student groups have to create interesting, vibrant, and diverse multimedia news stories.

1. Hunger in the Golden State

A project of the USC Annenberg School for Journalism & Communication and California Watch, Hunger in the Golden State explores the problem of food scarcity and waste among California residents and what’s being done about it. The humanity of the stories included on the site is augmented by the different ways they are told: the site includes print stories, slideshows, radio broadcasts, and social media components.

2. BARThood

Students at UC Berkeley’s School of Journalism tell the stories of the patrons of BART — the San Francisco Bay Area transit system — in this comprehensive online news package. Among the text stories and slideshows that are common to this type of project, is an interesting data component for each BART station. A stylish data visualization appears on each page that illustrates statistics like the ethnicity and income level of riders and mode of transportation to the station.

3. Greening the Grid

Greening the Grid, a 2009 project of the students of the University of Miami School of Communication (look for online journalism titan Greg Linch among its participants), documents sustainable energy projects in the Czech Republic and the United States. Among the individual stories is this video that illustrates a farm powered by cow manure and this one documenting a 1981 Mercedes Benz powered by discarded vegetable oil.

4. Streets of Dreams: People and Places of Downtown Phoenix

The students of ASU’s Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications encourage you to follow along as they explore the passions of the residents of Phoenix, Arizona and the city they call home. The story of several Phoenix neighborhoods and the unique people who live there are illustrated by video, photo, and text stories.

5. Multimedia Standards

Unlike the previously mentioned projects, Multimedia Standards, also produced by University of Miami students focuses on the craft of journalism itself. Participants questioned leaders in online/digital journalism about the state of the industry and presented the recorded answers in an easily navigable grid. The site also includes a useful “Resources” page with links to RSS feeds to some of the top journalism blogs on the web.

6. Powering a Nation: The Truth About Energy

News21, a collaborative initiative of several universities across the United States, produces several outstanding multimedia projects every year. UNC Chapel Hill’s “Powering a Nation” is one of several standouts and tackles the issue of energy in the United States. Like other News21 projects, the site features print stories, interactive elements, and more. The students pushed the story even further by creating interactive news games that invite readers to solve real problems like balancing carbon emissions and energy use.

Also on 10,000 Words:

3 Ways journalism classes are making education more interactive
News media and college students: A match made in heaven?
Journalism Grads: 30 Things You Should Do This Summer

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