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Archives: August 2010

Online Tools

11 Must-follow news photoblogs

Newsrooms have taken their cue from the rest of the web and created their own photoblogs that display news stories through images and showcase photojournalists’ best work. The photoblogs below exemplify what newsrooms are doing and are capable of doing.

1. The Denver Post: Plog Photo Blog

The Post presents several collections of photos on various topics such as local news, international affairs and sports.

2. The Wall Street Journal: Photo Journal

The WSJ has adopted a popular format for its photoblog: telling the news stories of the day through vibrant photographs posted daily.

3. Boston.com: The Big Picture

A consistently stunning collection of photos grouped by subject or common theme.

4. Voice of San Diego: Credentialed

Not just a series of photos…blog posts include transcribed interviews, video, and more.

5. MSNBC: Photoblog

The lackluster title of MSNBC’s online offering belies the amazing wire images indexed on the site. UPDATE: MSNBC is asking readers/viewers to help pick out a new name. Submit your suggestions here and here.

6. Mercury News Photo

A project of the San Jose (California) Mercury-News, this unique photoblog showcases slideshows that combine photos with audio.

7. The New York Times: Lens Blog

Arresting photos from the day are displayed in individual and easily navigable slideshows. Lens Blog also includes behind-the-scenes narratives with photographers alongside many of its slideshows.

8. The Los Angeles Times: Framework

One of the newest offerings from latimes.com is this photoblog that includes newsworthy and archival photos, video, and multimedia.

9.Toronto Star Photo Blog

The Star’s must-see photoblog features the work of staff photographers and posts include pointed and sometimes witty observations.

10. Reuters: Photographers

Text and photos live side by side on this photoblog that weaves compelling photojournalism with written accounts.

11. BBC News: Viewfinder

Every week BBC News asks its readers/viewers to submit photos surrounding a particular theme. The most interesting photos are displayed on the site.



 

Photoblogs are a great way for newsrooms to show off work of staff photographers and/or wire service photos. Photoblogs also cater for the casual internet viewer who can quickly (or not so quickly) scroll through the captivating images and understand the story contained within each one.

All of the above photoblogs have a few things in common: they display the photos in a format large enough so they take up a large portion of the browser window and they include some form of text, whether it be captions or a full narrative. They also prominently feature the name of the photographer to associate the person with his or her work.

Photoblogs aren’t limited to photos either. Many of the aforementioned photoblogs feature audio slideshows, video, and text-based narratives. Photoblogs can run as their own separate site section or on the same content management systems as regular blog posts or stories, so there is no excuse for not starting a photoblog of your own.

 
Do you have a favorite photoblog from a news organization that’s not listed here? Please share in the comments.

 
Also on 10,000 Words:

30 Amazing photoblogs (and a few tips for creating one)
10 News photos that took retouching too far
21 Free online photo editing tools

The importance of sketching and why you should be doing it

Are you sketching? There are so many ways and reasons for journalists and web technologists to sketch that you may be making your work harder by not doing so.

Sketching allows you to share your vision of a project with others early in the design process before you begin working with time-consuming tools like Photoshop, Illustrator, or Flash. For example, in my role as a multimedia producer for California Watch, I sketched my vision for multimedia components during or before talking with the reporter or editors. The sketches — sometimes made on the fly using giant Post-It notes — allowed my colleagues to see exactly what I had in mind and make suggestions and amendments before too much time was sunk into the project.

You don’t have to be an artist to create a sufficient sketch, just an ability to communicate your ideas on paper.

Sketching also helps you get an idea down on paper while it is fresh in your head. If you are the type of person who is constantly sketching new ideas, you should keep a small, unlined notebook (you can’t go wrong with Moleskine) on you at all times to capture the idea when it strikes.

If you have an iPad and nimble fingers, consider iPad apps like Draft ($9.99) that allow you to sketch using your finger and email the results to yourself or anyone else.

 

 
I’ve ransacked some of my notebooks to show you the different kinds of projects that benefited from sketches:

 
Illustrations
 

Illustration from The Digital Journalist’s Handbook

 

 
Interactive Media
 

California Watch: Comparing student-to-teacher ratio nationwide

 

 
Print Design
 

California Watch contest entry

 

 
Web Design
 

Guide to the U.S. Senate Floor Procedures; Click for full-sized version

 

 
Guide to the U.S. Senate Floor Procedures (mobile)

 

 
California Watch website

 

 
Web designers are already familiar with the sketching process. Wireframing allows web designers to define the structure of a potential website. If you’re interested in upgrading from pen and paper (or napkin) to something more refined, check out Mashable’s list of 10 free wireframing tools. The list includes personal fave Mockingbird which allows anyone to create online sketches and share them with others.

NationWide/NASCAR wireframe by Chris Stevens as featured on Web Design Ledger

 
As a special treat for reading all the way to the bottom of the post, here is a sketch for an unrealized entry for the New Yorker’s annual Eustace Tilley contest. Happy sketching!

 
Also on 10,000 Words:
The Mood Board: A designer’s best friend
DVD design: Great menus are great inspiration (Part I)
3 reasons journalists shouldn’t use Flash

The Journalists' Guide to Analytics

Analytics, or the analysis of a website’s traffic, is important for every journalist to understand. Analytics tools can identify how many people visited a website, page, or article, how they found the site, and how popular the content on a site is.

For this post I am using Google Analytics, the free tool provided by Google, to illustrate the common features of analytics tools. Analytics services range from this list of free or inexpensive analytics tools to full-fledged software like Omniture. Most of them share common features like those described below:

 
Page views

One of the most common reasons site administrators use analytics is to determine the number of page views for a site or individual web page. A page view is the number of times a web page was accessed. For example, if a web page was viewed 45 times, that page has 45 page views.

Journalists can use analytics to determine the number of page views on a particular article, story package, or even the number of page views for an entire site. Many analytics tools allow you to drill down the number of page views and the other factors described below by day, week, month, or even year. You can also use analytics to see which pages or articles were popular and which, because of low page views, were not.

 
Unique visitors

The number of unique visitors is different from the number of page views and represents the number of visitors who accessed a particular web page. For example, if a page was viewed 45 times by 25 different internet users, those 25 people represent the number of unique visitors. Unique visitors are determined by IP addresses, a number unique to a particular computer or network.

Some analytics tools also calculate the number of individual web pages the average visitor accessed. In the example above, the average page views per unique visitor would be 1.8 (45 page views divided by 25 visitors).

 
Time on site

Analytics tools can also calculate the amount of time the average visitor spent on a particular page. The average time on site for a news site is usually about 1 to 2 minutes — meaning the average person spent 1 to 2 minutes looking at the site before they clicked away — but this number can vary wildly depending on the type of site. If that number seems low, remember most web readers are scanning rather than reading online articles and may not devote much time to reading or viewing a story.

 
Bounce rate

Another important number in analytics is the bounce rate. The bounce rate is the number of visitors who left the site after viewing a single web page or article. A high bounce rate (calculated in percentage) means a high number of visitors left the website after reading the article(s) they accessed. A low bounce rate means a high percentage of visitors accessed some other page or pages on the same site before they clicked away.

 
Sources

While knowing the number of visitors that accessed your site or article is important, it’s also important to know how they arrived at your site. Many analytics tools list the sources of a site’s traffic — the websites that referred visitors to your site or web page.

For example, in the screenshot below, Google, Twitter, and the social network StumbleUpon make up a large percentage of 10,000 Words’ source traffic. The percentages represent the number of visitors who clicked on a link on each of those sites and arrived at the 10,000 Words homepage or an individual article.

Information on your sources is useful because you can use the information to target or build a rapport with sites that drive you a lot of traffic. For example, if I know that Twitter sends my site a lot of traffic, I can target my social media efforts to focus on Twitter. Conversely, if I know that the site receives a relatively low number of visitors from Facebook, I can explore that and adjust my networking strategy, if necessary.

Sources are also a great way to identify sites or blogs with the same subject matter as your site. For example, journalism blogs Nieman Lab, Teaching Online Journalism and Sicrono send a lot of traffic to 10,000 Words so I should pay attention (and learn from) the content those sites are producing.

 
Keywords
Using analytics to discover what keywords your visitors are using in search engines to arrive at your site can be a bit tricky. Some of the obvious ones are usually listed at the top (For 10,000 Words it’s words or phrases like “journalism,” “technology,” etc.) but the further you explore the more wacky and unexpected they become. For example, web visitors searching for “news site suck” and “burton its always snowing somewhere font” were also referred to 10,000 Words articles.

For journalists, keywords are useful for knowing what words or phrases people are using to arrive to your site. You can also use this information to tailor your content. For example, if, by looking at analytics, you determine that many of your site’s visitors are searching for the word “dogs,” you can perhaps offer more articles on dogs.

 
While analytics are an important tool to understand how people are arriving at your site and what they are viewing, it is important to not get too wrapped up in the numbers. One article may be more popular than another because it was heavily circulated on social networks. One month may have had more traffic than another because of a single, popular article.

Most major news operations already have analytics tools in place for their sites. In some newsrooms, reporters do not have access to analytics and the numbers and stats are limited to editors or upper-level management.

If you are a site owner or developer, one of the first things you should install in your site is an analytics tracking tool. Analytics are not only useful for knowing who is visiting your site, but also provides site traffic numbers to potential advertisers. Either way it is important to be aware of analytics and the power the numbers have to drive a site.

 
Also on 10,000 Words:

10 Ways to track what people are saying about you on Twitter
Where the magic happens: Interactive and virtual newsroom tours
The Beginner’s Guide to RSS

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