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

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.”

Muck Rack

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

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

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.”

“Industry-agnostic” platforms

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.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1215308302 Fenella Saunders

    I have only used Contently, so I can’t comment on the other platforms. I found Contently to be pretty easy to set up initially, as it was mostly automatic in acquiring my clips from other sites. It tends to pull in any random image from the page as the article thumbnail, but at least you can edit that manually. The interface for reordering your clips is intuitive, but still somewhat unwieldy. My page is still a bit of a mish mash because I haven’t had the time to sit down and manually move all the pieces around. I wish there was an interface set up with smaller icons so there wasn’t as much scrolling needed when reordering. I also wish there was a way to group clips by subject or type (features, reviews, etc.).

  • http://www.npr.org/people/4127076/jeff-brady Jeff Brady

    I was surprised to find that Muck Rack had created a profile for me complete with photo, job description, location and a comprehensive collection of my work. It had the same user name as my Facebook and Twitter pages (jeffbradynpr). I talked with the CEO via Twitter to learn more. He charges “PR pros” a fee (up to $4495 a month) to access the information and in return journalists have their work highlighted on his site. I never agreed to take part in that transaction so I demanded Muck Rack take down my profile. He complied within a few hours.

  • http://homewoodsuitesneworleans.com/featured/family-friendly-new-orleans-attractions/ Attractions In New Orleans

    As the world of journalism becomes increasingly Web-based, having a
    digital portfolio will impress employers and show them you have the
    skills they are looking for.

  • rebecca

    Contently is the best way to organize content, everything is in your face and captures your attention. I personally will give it kudos!

  • http://www.highfashionaveragewoman.com/ Tish Grier

    An important note: once you set up yourself on any of these platforms, you have to maintain that profile. Think about which platforms will help and which will only be another way to spread your presence into places that may be harder to track down over time. A few years back, Digital CV (I think that was the name) was the Platform du Jour for online portfolios. They had a funding hiccup, decided to shut down, then decided not to shut down. That’s also the problem with digital (other than having to keep every presence everywhere updated all the time:) you never know when one of these nifty tools is going to get shut down, bought out, or otherwise become obsolete.

  • wwwells

    FYI: You’re missing several checkmarks for Contently. Premium portfolio & network access for vetted journalism professionals, PDF support for docs and images, optional inclusion in media directory, and most important of all: automatically detects and tracks your work around the web. Would be great to show what these actually look like side-by-side as well, as the presentation makes ALL the difference.

  • http://twitter.com/editortim Tim Sohn

    Don’t forget Ebyline