Soo Meta redefines video storytelling by turning Storify-like content curation into great-looking video slideshows. The platform even allows producers to add polls and quizzes to their videos.
Having been in the online journalism/publishing business for years, we are always on the look out for these valuable services that can help transform the way we tell stories. This new online platform is designed to help you transform your videos into how-tos or something more useful.
But as history showed, such services would find other uses–I’m excited to test this out.
In my years of doing journalism (and teaching it), I came to realize how important it is to have context–a piece of the storytelling puzzle that gets left out because we’re in a rush to find the next breaking story.
It’s been years ago when me and my boss (and some former colleagues) were talking about the 3Cs in doing online journalism: produce content that will lead to conversations, and in turn, build communities around these conversations. Everybody is doing that now. What’s missing is CONTEXT.
I’ve spent the whole semester teaching CONTEXT to young journalism students. They call it many names: computer-assisted reporting, data journalism, or whatnot. The bottomline is this: very few of the “leading” websites in the country offer context. And yes, context is important these days especially when you’re dealing with complex issues such as the Sabah dispute.
So as the local media reported on the incursion of a group of Filipinos who believed they have ancestral claim to this land, very few thought of giving people a bit of context–a lesson of history.
And this thought led us to create a Timeline, collecting and curating content for context.
This is the same concept that the Guardian or New York Times have done when they got the war logs leaked by the Wikileaks. Journalists exist not just to report, but to provide context into very difficult topics and issues that come their way. Their years of experience and training are meant to prepare them for this: making sense of the world. And with that, aiming to help explain things to readers who will in turn think and act. Journalism is here to influence and change society.
This brings me to the last point: the web. It’s a medium–and as my boss would say–it’s an amplifier that will allow a bigger crowd to hear it. And I really love this metaphor because I love playing my guitar loud with a big kick!@# Marshall amplifier! Imagine the world without those Marshall amps. Where would Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page be?
The web is here to amplify context. It is the most fascinating medium that will allow you to establish context to stories like the Sabah standoff/crisis.
So if there’s one thing that I would want my current students to understand about data journalism, it is this: the context is also the story. We now have 4Cs. Content, conversations, community, and context. Tada! Isn’t that great?
The thing is, finding good people is always a big challenge for managers. Keeping them is a steeper hill you have to climb. What’s interesting is this point:
…the most important thing great bosses do is help others succeed. As I write in “Work Happy,” the way to accomplish that is to modify that hot-button management mantra I so dislike into something far more helpful:
Very interesting and insightful thoughts/ideas in this recent article shared.
This article can be fairly summarized by this statement, which I’m quoting from the article:
With the rise of new distribution platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Hulu, there’s no question that the next generation of digital media is as much about distribution as it is about content. Media companies that orient their organizations to prize audience development above all (with distribution as a key component) will catch the upside of these tectonic shifts. And they will be the ones that survive and thrive in the digital age. After all, audience is the ruler of media companies’ fortunes.
I was asked this question today and this made me think. There’s a simple answer to this, but if you’re going to offer a good advice from a perspective of a journalist, then that’s a different issue.
Okay, for a start, blogs are here to stay. It’s a publishing tool that anyone with enough technical know-how and time can use. But as one of my editors would often tell me, “it’s a beast that you need to feed.” And if you’re planning to earn from it, then you have to be clear with the purpose it serves.
But as I write this, I recall answering: ‘You need to start thinking about content, first. Then, you can start building your audience, until you get some recognition, a name that will eventually attract income.”
In the end, no amount of SEO and link love would amount to good content, sustained. If you love your craft, you will keep writing and delivering stories that will hopefully attract an audience. I say “hopefully” because it is easy to say it, but doing it is another matter.
So where do you start?
Start with your family and friends. “Force” them to read your blog. And if they’re really your friends, then perhaps word will spread! (But make sure they find your blog using social media).
Choose a topic that you think you can write about with much gusto. In short, if you’re passionate about music, focus on that. Write from your experience. You can “copy” the style of your favorite blogger–what I mean here is that you mimic their voice and not copy their work–that’s infringement.
Do an overnight test and get a good reader to challenge your work. In the publishing world, this means getting a good editor to go through your copy. It helps! But once you’re confident with your work, edit your work.
Read, digest, then write. There’s no such thing as a writer’s block. But there’s such a thing as being overwhelmed or being disorganized. Some writer friends use mental outlines (you can draw them if you want) to organize their thoughts. You get stalled when you cannot pin down the main theme of your blog. Also, read a lot. It helps!!!
Write as you talk. In my writing classes back in the days, I struggled with writing. But once I started writing the way I would talk to my friends or even parents, then I figured–that’s the voice am going to use when I write. It has to be conversational these days if you want to hook you’re readers. Read magazines. Read non-fiction. Read fiction.
I’ve been a big fan of William Zinnser, author of the classic on Writing Well. His tips are practical and up until now, are still relevant.
So back to the question of earning from a blog. So where do you start? If you’re able to blog consistently and get people to even comment–and share it –then perhaps you can move to the next level and push your blog to publishers. Magazines are still out hunting for good writers. Websites that offer news are also on the lookout for good writers who have good track record in blogging. The best way to earn from a blog is to get paid for what you produce–which is content, and if you think you can do this most of your life, then you might get a better chance of succeeding.
It’s not easy, and there’s no shortcut. It takes hard work, patience, practice and a good sense of who you want to reach (audience) before you can make an impact. You don’t blog for the sake of making a living out of it. It has to serve a purpose, or at least fulfill a need–or even answers life’s questions. Use your imagination. Some may disagree, but this is my view if I were asked this question again.
Last year, my daily news habit involved turning on the television, then while that’s on, I grabbed my Blackberry and I started wading through Twitter.
Today, a lot has changed thanks to Apple and an app called Zite.
This morning, I woke up with tons of thoughts in my head (what’s keeping me awake these days is another topic altogether). So what do you do when you’re up early? Exercise? Nah, perhaps not this time. Sleep more! Yes, I can do that. But as thoughts started percolating into ideas–I found myself grabbing my iPhone 4s. I tapped (we no longer click with a mouse these days too!) my News app folder, and fired off Zite.
To those unfamiliar with this mobile app (and I’ve had this argument before that apps will increasingly become the next good thing that happened to mobile), Zite is a mobile app aggregator, which wades through the web and “curates” content for you, based on categories or topics you’ve chosen. In short, this is now my one-stop for news that I want, and need. As one journo told me in a conversation, it’s my daily dose of news.
As you can see, our daily news habits are changing with technology. I was born in an analog world. I always tell my class that they’re lucky to be in an era where information is abundant–in fact, there’s too much information that we now need to find the best from all the grime.
Enter “Social curation” or social content and apps like Flipboard and Zite. These developments are riding on the idea that our info-overloaded society needs help in identifying content that we can share, save, tweet, copy, and e-mail to friends and peers. Today, Facebook serves this purpose somehow, but in my case, this social network is that, a distribution network + an online community that serves a different purpose.
We are turning to “smaller” social networks and even mobile apps to help us make sense of the world. This is both a good and bad thing. This talk from Ted Talks, for one, warns of a world where “filter bubbles” will threaten discovery of information that is also as important as the one we’re being served in a digital platter.
In an ideal world, 100 blogs will translate to more page views than one single, and well-researched report. For an online publisher that thrives on pushing numbers up and attracting audience, that’s good news. But in reality, 100 blogs don’t necessarily translate to more page views or even more readers. How much stories do you think visitors to your website read?
Another question, do you think they read everything on your site? Answer: no. They scan and pick what they want, then move on. If you can catch their attention in 6 seconds, then you’re making a lot progress. So it’s such a tricky world. And because the web is hyperlinked, it’s easy to jump from one page to another–so if there’s any good gauge of online engagement, it is time-spent and PV/UU, roughly translated as “how many pages do you view as a reader.”
To understand how news websites are evolving these days based on the evolving habits of readers, you can start with your own as anecdotal evidence. It’s clear, the next battlefield –and it has been for sometime now–is the mobile space. How are news organizations responding to apps like Zite and Flipboard?
Of course, all these are moot if you really care about your readers. As journalists, we’re all molded with a higher calling– to deliver the truth and worldview that machines and algorithms cannot do. Yes, we do need to make sense of the world with technology. But we also need people, trained ones, to help you understand the world. These people are hard to find. They don’t grow on trees! They’re not out there for the picking. The skills that we need are changing, that we ourselves need to upgrade fast to keep up.
To end, I found this interesting but anonymous quote:
Journalism is an art, not science. Sure, a machine or an algorithm can be coded to do things in a certain way, but unless it has some true intelligence and a taste for artistic senses, it always possess only the qualities of a MACHINE. Which are pretty much redundant. It’s not the 99% of the time of recycled material that matters. It’s that 1% of innovation sparks that come and totally flip a story around. Unless machines think like people, they will always be machines. And people will always have the POTENTIAL of turning out better output.
Having been working for an online medium for years, it has always been a challenge to deliver what your audience wants versus what they need. There have been debates over these two opposing points. One delves on the philosophical, which has served as the guiding principle of journalism. The other dives into data mining, which aims to turn behavior into statistics, dubbed as PVs, UUs, and TS.
As journalists, we have been trained to know what our audience wants. Years of experience–hopefully backed by good data and a lot of sleepless nights–you’re now able to pinpoint with accuracy what works, what doesn’t. It’s “sixth sense” that you embrace and later this serves as a guiding light when chasing stories, writing headlines and choosing photos. To many, it’s called the “Nose for News.”
Today, this still applies. But this type of “gut” thinking can sometimes lead to poor results. Thus, we now have seen our jobs as journalists evolve. We have to evolve or else, we suffer the same fate as dinosaurs.
So what is expected of a journalist working in a digital environment. A lot. Not only are you expected to write, you also have to be immersed in social and digital media. You have to understand the basics of the web–not just HTML, but it helps if you have a grasp of the basic concepts.
You also need to know how to look at numbers and spot trends, behavior and even insights that can help you decide what to do the next day. Perhaps, it is only now that many journalists who write for an online medium are obsessed with numbers–not the pay, but the volume of comments they get, the number of shares on social network, and the amount of retweets.
Today’s digital journos are also starting to explore other devices to deliver news in different forms, shape, size and voice.
Audience is still top of mind, but at the same breath, so is feedback and community management. There’s so much to do, but little time is available.
Also, tools are now available to everyone. And it is painful that amateurs have better handle of these technologies than journos.
There is also a shift in how we deal with audience. Check out this Poynter Institute column on how a journalist responded to a hate tweet.
There are no easy answers to my questions. There are also no standard skills required when you work in a digital media environment. The key trait here is humility. No amount of journ courses and books will amount to immersing yourself in the medium. The lessons you learn from doing is priceless–including the mistakes that you will commit along the way.
That’s why we blog. That’s why we continue to evolve. That’s why you listen more to your audience. That’s why we break the rules and figure out ways to disrupt the status quo. That’s why we chase big ideas, but still grounding ourselves on reality.
News today show new leaked US cables that reveal the US government’s views on the former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Just like in earlier revelations, the Wikileaks provided actual cable dispatches from the US Embassy in the Philippines, reports added. (If you want to view the actual cable dispatches, you can go here).
It was an anonymous letter to a columnist that got published in a daily newspaper that got me into journalism. Unlike today’s youth, we were confined to dreams of being published and seeing our by-lines through Letters to the Editors or a columnist. So when that day happened, I thought, “I could do this more.”
But there was a lull after that. Much as I wanted writing, music was calling me. However, failing to enter the conservatory, I took a pause. One of my friends later saw a yellow pad-full of musings and poems I wrote over the lull months while I was trying to figure out what’s next after College. Writing was not my forte. I loathed newspapers because I connected it to humdrum life (read: old people read newspapers). I stuck to movies and television. I even wrote several term papers about the effects of TV violence on children, which to this day, remained inconclusive.
Months later, I found myself writing youth-oriented feature stories for an obscure magazine. It didn’t last long. I then tried my hand in copywriting. So I bought the Sunday’s newspaper and applied to all copywriting jobs I saw. Out of 20, at least 3 responded. I failed all three. Then I considered writing jobs. One ad caught my attention: “Wanted: Writer. Must be a journalism graduate of the University of the Philippines or Ateneo de Manila University.” It was a tiny newspaper ad, which many would even ignore. I was desperate. But I had other plans.
In a week, I planned my pilgrim to find a writing job. I failed again. Then I remembered this tiny ad. I pulled it out of my transparent folder and checked out the address. Nothing. I saw a number and called them up. It was close to 5 P.M. and am not sure if I’m welcome to drop by unannounced.
A week after that, I got the writing job — it was a medical magazine that featured pharmaceutical news and hardcore medical stories that I didn’t even bother to understand. I almost ended up in the medical field as a nurse. However, being short-listed during the entrance exam made me realize nursing wasn’t for me.
Three years later, I found myself writing health and medical issues. Who would have thought I would start reading the Merck’s Manual (the bible of many doctors) on a daily basis and interview doctors about their non-doctor activities. The high lasted for a while until I found a new industry–technology.
By this time, I got my first web e-mail. Perhaps of all technological inventions, e-mail was the first media that took me to another path of discovery: Internet. I was lucky to have access to the Internet at an early stage in the Philippines. I immediately embraced technology and by 2004, I was blogging crazy. I also assumed a pseudonym –cyberbaguioboy, which is a pun on cyber and my hometown. The honeymoon period lasted for at least a year until I got tired of technology. Then the mobile phone industry exploded.
Months passed, I was among the first journalists to send daily news stories over my Palm Pro device. I mastered Bluetooth technology. Eventually, I got my first Blackberry [in the famous Blue casing]. I graduated to a higher, better version of the Blackberry until Apple came a long, whetting my appetite for better devices.
So in a nutshell, e-mail and that letter of the editor were two of the media that catapulted me into writing. (I also need to blame Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury for hooking me to paperbacks). Since then, I’ve never stopped writing. And this blog, which is seven years old, is a testament of the power of technology to provide a platform to publish and express thoughts in multimedia.
You’re now lucky that you also have that power to be published.
You have probably seen this article from Poynter Institute about a community website deciding to go Facebook-only. Argument goes that since people start most of their day now on this popular social networking site, it was a no-brainer decision to make: Go where the people are. Such move is seen as a radical step in self-publishing these days.
Because of this story, I was inspired to do a little experiment. I’m bringing my class to Facebook. One of my colleagues pinged me a link. So I’m following the logic of being where the people are. (But surprise, surprise, not all students are on Facebook).
Blogs and websites have a different purpose. Social networks are for distribution, conversations (in a way) and for sharing. Blogging, for one, is more of an exercise in thinking and story-telling. I must admit, after I started becoming more active on social networks, I stopped blogging. Cold turkey! Why? I got addicted to the real-time information rush. And, instant gratification of connecting and sharing ideas to people. How could a blog compete with that?
Perhaps, blogging or writing long-format news or content (to make it more generic), is only for the talkatives and highly opinionated elite. I remember attending one blogging conference where they revealed that most Filipino political bloggers still represent the “political elite.” They are, by default, educated, have access to the Internet/technology, and are more exposed to the world. But that was several years ago. Today, anyone who can type into a comment section of a news website can express their political opinion. And such is the Internet. It creates a community who will gravitate towards common interests.
Social networks are today’s starting point for most online activities. (In my case, e-mail and Twitter). This is where most old and young users are now introduced to the digital media. So for a community blog to decide to drop its website and go for a Facebook-only model is something that might make sense for now. And if its primary objective is to build a community, increase engagement, and eventually keep them coming back, then I suppose that’s a good, radical move.
But I wouldn’t abandon my blog or my news website. Both offer a different set of digital values that are quite distinct from social media. Blogs still represent you, as a person or as an organization. This is where people can find out what you’ve been thinking, wanting, doing, etc. I have my own profile on Facebook now, and a page that I created for purposes of sharing links and hopefully sparking conversation. But this blog will remain, and it has evolved over the years.