Tips on managing a website, from measuring traffic to understanding new platforms for news and information.


How to get your news site banned from Reddit

I’ve called Facebook a capricious despot when it comes to how its mystery algorithm dishes out prime News Feed real estate. Figuring out how it favors certain types of content over others can have a major positive impact on your site’s traffic. For better or worse, news organizations are dependent on Facebook for an ever larger share of visitors.

But Reddit might be even more confusing to news organizations. It’s a place where successful posts can expose your content to an international audience of millions and lead to big traffic spikes — but also where human moderators can cut you off for bad behavior or suddenly decide your domain is no longer a good fit for the site’s primary news section.

The Atlantic has experienced both forms of banishment, barred for a time in 2012 due to overzealous link sharing by its then-social media editor. More recently, the media company’s domain has been banned from /r/news, a subreddit that all Reddit users see by default unless they unsubscribe, alongside other major sites like The Huffington Post, Vice and Salon. Read more


Tuesday, Apr. 15, 2014


Hyperlinking could help journalists in defamation lawsuits

This is the second in a series of articles by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press on legal issues that can affect journalists. It is written by Cindy Gierhart, Ethics & Excellence in Journalism Foundation Legal Fellow at the RCFP.

Media scholars have noted for years that news outlets lag significantly behind blogs in their use of hyperlinks. But recent court cases suggest that news media may want to increase their use of hyperlinks as a way of defending against defamation lawsuits.

Let’s take a look at a couple of scenarios where hyperlinks have helped media defendants.

Scenario #1: Facts supporting an opinion

Suppose a blogger writes, “I think the mayor is a thief.” Even though it begins with “I think” and sounds like an opinion, it is followed by an assertion of fact. Standing alone, that statement could be defamatory. But if the writer provides hyperlinks to accurate accounts on which the conclusion is based, then the statement may be considered “pure opinion” and not defamation. Read more

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Tuesday, Apr. 08, 2014

Workflow _Depositphotos_small_xs

Right workflow tools can reduce pain points in news organizations


That tweet from Alexis Madrigal, a senior editor at The Atlantic, touches on an important topic in the news industry, but one we rarely discuss. Workflow.

In the world of journalism, production workflow and process is not glorified. Nor should it be. But it should be respected. For all the talk about business models to save journalism, we talk very little about the tools that allow us to get the job done, let alone which ones are more efficient. But a profitable journalism industry is an efficient one. If you’ve ever pulled out your hair trading Word documents with track changes, then you know the saving grace of a good workflow.

“We are finally starting to see news [organizations] that are serious about the tools they use to do news better,” said Eric Eldon, the former co-editor of TechCrunch. Read more

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Friday, Jan. 31, 2014

Digital tablet on newspaper

How Digital First Media hopes to transform workflow, culture of ‘newspaper factories’

Digital First Media has unveiled plans to transform its newsrooms and put its money where its name is. “Project Unbolt” aims to address the problem of digital efforts at the mercy of existing newspaper infrastructure.

The first of Digital First’s 75 daily newspapers to get the unbolting is the New Haven (Conn.) Register, where digital transformation editor Steve Buttry will lead efforts to rearrange and reimagine the newsroom’s workflow, culture and structure. He’ll also work closely with three other local papers — The (Willoughby, Ohio) News-Herald, The El Paso Times and The (Pittsfield, Mass.) Berkshire Eagle — for the pilot program.

The project’s name comes from Digital First Media CEO John Paton’s observation that the company’s newsrooms are print operations with digital “bolted on” — remarks that rang true but stung, Buttry wrote on his blog.

“It’s a little uncomfortable for people who rightfully think they have been working their asses off to be digital-first,” Buttry told me via phone. Read more


Wednesday, Jan. 08, 2014


New York Times website redesign: the desktop strikes back and other observations

Three instant reactions to the new New York Times website, which went live this morning:

The Gray Lady online: less blue, more white

That each Times headline used to be blue seemed to be less an aesthetic choice than an antiquated signal to users that yes, indeed, you can click on these. Now, those headlines are black, going a long way toward cleaning up the design and making the Gray Lady less blue (minus the blinding Dell ads on the homepage this morning, of course):

Meanwhile, we’ve seen glimpses into the newspaper’s article-level white space goals for months now, and in practice it’s a beautiful change that allows stories to breathe — and for comments to expand onto the page next to the story whenever you choose. And no one on any platform is likely to complain about the end of story pagination.

Native ads? Yawn

You’re more likely to be fooled by one of those pro-Russia print supplements in the Times than by one of the online native ads everyone’s been fretting about. Read more

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Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013


How journalists can encrypt their email

Journalists, and their sources, have a lot to lose.

And several recent cases have made clear just how easy it is for the government to access electronic communications, with or without a subpoena.

Thankfully, there are a host of free, relatively easy-to-use tools at your disposal to help protect your privacy when sending and receiving emails, as well as browsing the Internet and chatting.

“Encryption technology is like putting your message in an envelope before you send it,” said Susan E. McGregor, assistant director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, in a phone interview.

One of the benefits of using “crypto,” McGregor said, is the government must notify you if pursuing your communications as a means of having them decrypted.

But because the use of these programs is not yet widespread, email encryption is a “cumbersome” process that requires multiple programs, she said.

Still, McGregor added, “there are so many people out there who really want to help journalists do this and do this right.”

One of the best resources I found is a tip sheet produced by Mike Tigas, a 2013 Knight-Mozilla OpenNews Fellow at ProPublica, who, like McGregor, presented on the subject at an Online News Association conference. Read more


Monday, Dec. 09, 2013


Three simple Google tools journalists can adopt to draw traffic

Google is increasingly emphasizing the ways it can be of service to the media, and the company held a summit in Chicago last week sponsored by the Society of Professional Journalists, the Online News Association and Northwestern University’s Knight Lab.

I won’t get into the weeds of how to build Fusion Tables or use the Maps Engine in this recap of the event — see Google’s new Media Tools site for detailed resources. Instead, here are three simple strategies for taking advantage of Google’s products that you can implement right away.

1. Sign up for Google+ Authorship

Google’s Nicholas Whitaker opened a session on Google+ by asking how many of us had a Google+ profile. Most of us raised our hands. Then he asked how many of us actually use our Google+ profiles. Read more


Thursday, Dec. 05, 2013

Students at the University of Cincinnati talk on their phones in this April 2006 photo. Campus news sites are seeing their audiences migrate to mobile devices. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)

College websites seeing mobile migration, but not all are ready

Website traffic at the University of Oregon’s Daily Emerald was less than 1 percent mobile in 2010. This year, it’s 39 percent and growing. And while visits on desktops have more than doubled to 951,000 since 2010, mobile visits have risen from about 2,700 to 619,000 — nearly 23,000 percent — in that time. (Statistics cover Jan. 1 through Oct. 31 of each year.)

“I told our students that I think next year we will be majority mobile and the news editor asked me: ‘What does that mean for us?’ ” Ryan Frank, Emerald Media Group publisher, said in a phone interview. “It means we’re no longer digital-first — we’re mobile-first.”

It’s a similar story at Ohio State University where I serve as student media director and oversee The Lantern Media Group. The Lantern has seen its mobile traffic grow from more than 16,000 visits in 2010 to nearly 531,000 this year, marking a dramatic rise from 1.4 percent of traffic to more than 25 percent. Read more


Monday, Nov. 18, 2013


Breaking News app’s alerts can shout all day or stay out of your way

Behind the buzz-buzz of a smartphone alert could come anything: News of the death of Osama bin Laden, or a “we have to talk” text, or an email with that job offer, finally.

Or it could be news of a Miley Cyrus twerk, or a “remember to buy milk” text, or an email with an offer to come to Best Buy to purchase a Surface tablet.

Push notifications — full of promise but too often a drag — make for the most intriguing feature of the new Breaking News app for iOS. Although it emphasizes customization, the free app still seems aimed to add to the overwhelming number of chimes emitted from my phone each day.

But there could be a way to make it work for those like me who feel overwhelmed by our phones. And the hope, according to Breaking News general manager Cory Bergman, is that users will adapt the app for any number of use cases. Read more


Friday, Nov. 08, 2013


NPR combines interactive, multimedia desks into one

In an effort to make its storytelling even more web-optimized, NPR is combining its interactive news applications desk and multimedia desk into a new “good Internet team.”

That’s not what it’ll officially be called, said Brian Boyer, the news apps editor who will oversee the as-yet-unnamed visuals desk. Each day, the team will aim to answer the question, “What’s the right way to tell this story online and visually?”

Sometimes, Boyer explained to Poynter via phone, that means a Tumblr blog like Dear Mr. President, or a gallery of animated gifs that needs to live outside the content management system, or a searchable database like Lobbying Missouri. The best storytelling solution isn’t always something produced by a programmer, but combines the news apps team’s web-savviness with the multimedia team’s visual acumen to streamline the workflow and produce a better product.

When NPR’s news apps desk was created, it absorbed the graphics desk, leaving the multimedia desk — photographers and videographers — separate. Read more