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The Big Roundtable’s Social Media Experiment

The BRT wants the stories it publishes to be "surprising" and ambitious - and for them to be read widely.

The BRT wants the stories it publishes to be “surprising” and ambitious – and for them to be read widely, of course.

Longform startup The Big Roundtable (BRT) recently commissioned three college students to put its assumptions about social sharing to the test.

The challenge? Taking one story, one month and whatever techniques they could think of (legal, of course), the three undergraduates were tasked with the challenge of racking up the most unique page views.

Said BRT Founder Michael Shapiro on the pub’s blog, ”The contest was inspired by this simple, painful realization about the patterns in our traffic: there are none.”

Having struggled with pegging what makes people click — and how to get them to a place where they’re able to find stories — BRT noted high traffic numbers when its pieces were linked in other publications’ stories, but acknowledged that stories they thought would take the Internet by storm didn’t turn the results they anticipated. They wanted some answers.

BRT, led by Shapiro, editor Mike Hoyt and publisher Anna Hiatt, was formed in mid-2013, and is based on the idea that writers should be directly connected to, and supported by, their readers. Backed initially by a successful Kickstarter campaign, BRT has since been publishing quality longform (5,000+ words) pieces, some with media partners like Buzzfeed and Longreads, enabling authors to be paid via reader donation. Additionally, a “reader’s circle” receives 1,000 word samples of potential BRT content, so it’s not just the editorial team making calls on what gets read.

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McGraw Center for Business Journalism Offers Up to $15,000 Fellowship for In-depth Business Reporting

A new initiative established at CUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism will offer fellowships of up to $15,000 to experienced business journalists starting this spring.

mcgraw center post picThe McGraw Fellowship for Business Journalism supports in-depth coverage of crucial issues related to the global economy and business. Read more

The Boston Globe Launches Free Site Covering Startups, Innovation in Boston

BetaBoston.com is a new, free site launched by the venerable Boston Globe to specifically cover the Boston tech sector encompassing everything from new ideas and ventures to the people who help shape the city’s future, culture and beyond.

beta boston post pic“Boston’s wealth of consumer technology, life sciences and bioscience companies is reshaping the economy and culture, locally and globally,” said Boston Globe editor Brian McGrory. “We will cover, in-depth, not only the technologies themselves, but the broader social impact of those technologies.” Read more

Everything Upworthy Can Teach Journalists

upworthyThis week, New York magazine has a profile of the website we all love to hate: Upworthy.

Upworthy is the bane of many a journalist’s existence. It peddles in clicks, and has people sharing, painlessly and by the millions, pieces of content that concern topics we actually want to report on. A 10-page feature or package with video on the effects of poverty takes months to prepare and weeks to garner attention on Twitter. They find one video on the topic and it has thousands of views. It’s  more BuzzFeed-y than BuzzFeed; they at least have a news team. You should read the whole piece, though, because there are lessons to be gleaned from their success.

1) Ah, the infamous Upworthy style headline. In one part of the feature, they talk about ‘click testing,’ where they run through possible headlines and then see how clickable they are out in the wild. If it’s not clickable, they tweak. Every media outlet can do this, and if you want to garner more traffic, you should. If you feel icky about changing the headline after it’s originally published, just add a note. I see good digital outlets doing this all the time. Slate stories, for example, often have one headline when I see it in the morning and another by the afternoon when I actually get around to reading it. If it requires emails or write offs to tweak a headline or re-run and write a new social media tease to make it more interesting — you’re doing it wrong. Read more

What NYT Now Means For the Times and Mobile Journalism

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 12.07.42 PMThe New York Times has been a bit slow getting with the program, as mobile offerings go. NYT Now, an $8 app billed monthly, will offer top stories as curated by Times editors on mobile phones (it’s not clear yet when an iPad version is coming) starting April 2.

I had heard rumors about NYT Now when Executive Editor Jill Abramson and other top dogs from the Times announced the app and other mobile products to be rolled out at SXSW earlier this month, but it seems now the Grey Lady is ready to move away from an “all the news that’s fit to print” mentality to a “fast and engaging news experience” mindset, noted TechCrunch’s Ingrid Lunden.

NYT Now will feature quick summaries of the day’s biggest Times stories (“Morning and Evening Briefings”) as well as recaps of aggregated pieces from around the web, and it will all be produced by newsroom journalists on a mobile-only team. The $8 app gets you access to the full version of any story inside the app, but don’t expect an endless supply of Times journalism.

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