Digital portfolios for journalists: What are your options?
Until recently, many journalists built their own sites to highlight and promote their work.
Now platforms like Pressfolios, Muck Rack, Clippings.me and Contently offer turnkey solutions. But do they offer a substantial enough advantage to justify the time required to compile, archive, digitize, organize, optimize, connect, upload and then maintain an anthology of brand-consistent clips, feature stories and -- in some cases -- multimedia work on yet another social platform?
Recruiters and HR departments simply “don’t always have the bandwidth” to research a candidate on the Internet, said Lars Schmidt, NPR's senior director for talent acquisition. Schmidt said he prefers journalist portfolios that are clearly categorized. He also advises journalists to organize their portfolios according to the job they’re seeking.
For instance, “if the position requires audio," Schmidt said, “have all your audio clips together and laid out in a way that makes it easy for whoever is trying to find it to find it quickly.”
For this piece, I compared online digital portfolio platforms from Clippings.me, Contently, Muckrack and Pressfolios. I inventoried the features that would help journalists categorize, customizable and brand their interface.
I then presented my inventory to all four of the portfolio platform developers in the form of a checklist and asked them to confirm the features that were and were not available on their software. The checklists were then finalized and verified. Features currently in development or scheduled to be released soon were excluded. Here are the results (you can click each chart to view it bigger):
Pressfolios co-founder Marc Samson, who was featured in a live Poynter chat about online portfolios in May 2012, said the newly launched Pressfolios has “a fully redesigned user interface, new portfolio customization options and story management tools” that highlight the system’s new PDF-uploading feature.
Pressfolios automatically clips a full PDF version of any story you add to it, regardless of whether or not it was submitted as a URL link or a PDF doc, Samson said. In essence, Pressfolios provides users with an automatic and secure cloud-based file backup system.
Samson said the backup system protects users without compromising their privacy because the “PDF clippings are only available to the user who added the story and are never displayed on the user's public-facing Pressfolio.”
Gregory Galant is CEO of Sawhorse Media, which owns Muck Rack. He said Muck Rack functions as a who’s who for the industry. He therefore resisted defining its journalist portfolios as a job search tool. “Lots of people use it who don’t need a job,” he said.
When asked whether or not he know of any instances in which a Muck Rack portfolio user had successfully secured either a job or an assignment as a direct result of their Muck Rack portfolio, Galant responded with the following analogy, “If you go to a cocktail party, you might meet someone who will become a career opportunity, but that’s not the entire point of the party ... the goal isn’t to be as transactional.”
A journalism job board is an additional Muck Rack feature. As it is also newly launched, it hasn’t been heavily populated yet.
Clippings.me founder Nicholas Holmes “toyed with the idea” of adding an internal networking feature to the platform, he said, “and came to the conclusion that most journalists just wouldn't have the time or see any practical value in being able to do that.”
To him, the value is in “hooking your portfolio up to the platforms that are established rather than trying to create something new”; users can embed RSS feeds from their portfolios on their LinkedIn pages, he said, and they can create accounts using social networking logins.
Clippings.me has a feature that uses tags and automatically compiles a directory of journalists that public relations professionals can access through a sister site, MediaGraph. As with Muck Rack, users can opt to not be pitched or can specify the kinds of stories they want to receive.
Multimedia journalists “can easily embed YouTube, Vimeo, AudioBoo, SoundCloud or Storify clips and it embeds them in portfolios (just like a Facebook timeline),” Holmes said. The service offers customizable tabs so journalists can decide whether they want to categorize by topic, media or publication.
Contently cofounder Shane Snow says journalists vetted into Contently’s premium network can also opt to be approached by editors from newsrooms as well as by editors from corporate publication departments, but he says opting out is just as easy. Editors from traditional and commercial publishing departments are willing to pay for access to a database of vetted journalists. Contently also provides a suite of tools journalists can use to handle everything from editorial calendars and getting paid to kill fees.
Contently profiles feature a prominent link to a resume, as well as a "ticker" of publication logos that show where users have had their work featured. Snow says he designed Contently to provide "all the things they have to be good at to be a journalist today." Those things include "getting credit. Finding clients and billing clients."
Paul Franz, a multimedia producer at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said he’s sticking with WordPress because he considers it the best way to showcase his robust spectrum of multimedia projects. “For what I do,” he said, “it was important to show design and coding skills along with just the content I product.” Although Franz’s WordPress customizations are “not hardcore coding per se,” he said they show he knows how to build a site.
Franz credits his WordPress theme modifications with getting him freelance jobs and showing clients he knows what he's talking about. Whether or not a position requires coding, industry-agnostic platforms like WordPress provide myriad design customization options as well as the opportunity to curate a blog that will supplement and enhance an online clip and publication portfolio.
NPR’s Schmidt said journalists should use knowem.com to research and monitor the availability of their first and last name, or preferred "handle" for social media accounts. If your first and last name is already taken, then claim a relevant alternative, as Schmidt did with his own domain after realizing larsschmidt.com had been taken.
Schmidt’s final recommendation, interestingly, is an old-fashioned one. He urges journalists to “include a resume and have it up on your portfolio.” Yes, a resume. An easy-to-find resume, Schmidt said, is still the best way to say, “here’s what I can bring to your organization.”
Correction: This story originally omitted a section about Contently.