Howard Owens is a digital media pioneer. He started publishing local news online in 1995 when very few local news outlets had web sites. The header image on the site depicts the film camera he used early in his career and the press pass from his year on the staff of the Carlsbad Journal. For more on Howard's professional background, read his LinkedIn profile.
HowardOwens.com is the personal web site of Howard Owens and covers his range of interests -- political localism and libertarianism, music and personal interests, as well as his professional interests.
Howard is currently publisher of The Batavian and lives in Batavia, N.Y.
- Fred Donaldson on ‘Lede’ vs. ‘Lead’
- Wordpress Arena on Migrating from Drupal to WordPress
- Howard Owens on My evolution as a photographer and thoughts on the Chicago Sun-Times
- Patrick Thornton on My evolution as a photographer and thoughts on the Chicago Sun-Times
- Howard Owens on My evolution as a photographer and thoughts on the Chicago Sun-Times
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Daily Archives: March 7, 2007
I’m at the Inland Press Association Key Executives conference in Tucson.
I’ve sat through a day and a half of presentations (and made one of my own). All of them interesting and informative. I took notes during a few of them.
Great tip from Susan Patterson Plant, vp of marketing and digital development at Des Moines Register: You can tell your ad director that he should know about online, and you can tell her editor that he should know about online, but if you really want to change culture, get the finance director to ask questions they should know about online, such as revenue and audience size. That will get their attention a way that the online director can’t do quite as well.
Ad sales tips from Greg Swanson, CEO Itz Publishing:
- Sell using spec ads
- Change ad creatives frequently
- Know the metrics of your audience and target advertisers accordingly
- Keep ad units on a page to a minimum and sell rich media ads in those spots
- Sponsorship model works better than CPM-based banner rotation
- Set realistic expectations
Chris Hendricks, VP/Interactive for McClatchy:
Newsrooms need to produce content specifically for the web site. It’s hard to create a compelling digital product when all you get is a dump of the newspaper. If you’re producing first for the web, then the print product becomes the greatest hits of the newsroom.
Online is not growing audience fast enough: 70 percent of print audience never touches the web site in a 30 period. That’s not acceptable. We need to do a better job of driving print readers to our web sites and make better web sites. The untouched print audience represents a huge opportunity for online. (I found this an interesting twist on the audience growth paradigm — most publishers and site managers talk about using the web to reach a new audience, but Chris was clear that we need to convert more of our print readers into regular newspaper.com users.) Chris said, we need to tell people we have more content of interest on our web sites. “Why would you let them go someplace else?”
Comments on stories mean that frequency, time spent on the site and unique visitors all go up. Comments bring readers back to see what other people are saying, and they encourage readers to forward the story to friends.
Here’s an interesting McClatchy requirement: Executive editors must blog. For everybody else, it’s an encouraged option.
Here’s a UGC idea: Create a way for local businesses to submit their press releases, and publish them ALL online. One McClatchy site received 150 submissions its first week with this program.
More UGC: The Anchorage site has a UGC-photo featured called Nice catch. Hundreds and hundreds of people have submitted pictures of their fish.
Hendricks on video: It’s part of the critical strategic path. “We need to be in the video business.” Some McClatchy sites have studios, but many just have $99 cameras and reporters are out shooting video. Chris endorsed the idea of doing whatever you need to do to get video on your site. It doesn’t need to be big, fancy or expensive.
Chris introduced me to MiamiHerald.com’s What the 5, a great take on the video blog format. I’m already a fan. The concept: What are the five stories each day that people will be talking about, though today’s segment contains only two stories and three house ads.
In response to a question, Hendricks said newspapers don’t do a good job of directing its web audience to other good things on the internet. Why not, for example, tell people about the best things on YouTube? “Everybody loves an editor,” he said. (If you believe, as I do, in distributed editing, there’s no reason that the paid, professional, experienced editors of a newsroom can be part of the “we media” distributed editing process as well.)
The emphasis in the company is on growth opportunity, which is online, and manage the decline of print.
As he was running out of time, Chris hit the portion of his presentation about partnerships (such as with Google and Yahoo!). The benefits of partnerships include distribution — they have enormous distribution; Great products that we’ll probably never have; They have technology and we don’t do technology well; Finally, national revenue through an online ad network. “You can’t look at these people as enemies, because they are the environment.”
He was asked, what are the worries about partnerships? “That it will accelerate the end.” After a little laughter, Chris explained that Google and Yahoo! may accelerate the end of what was once a great business, but it won’t be the end of great journalism. Journalism will endure, and that is what matters. Somebody asked if the Yahoo! and Google offers of partnership weren’t just a Trojan Horse: “No. If they wanted to own our industry, they could just roll it up and buy it.” Hendricks said the executives of Google and Yahoo! have tremendous respect for newspapers and want to be a part of helping us find success.
Bob Kempf, VP of product development for Boston.com.
Kempf said their research shows that in the Boston DMA the potential exists for Boston.com to be the #1 source for local information (point of disclosure: my employer is a direct competitor of Boston.com and we aim to derail this particular ambition; Bob used to also work for my employer and last fall took me to my first Red Sox game and Fenway.)
More from the research: Only 1 in 3 users and 1 of 5 are non-user currently happy with their current options for finding local information. Research: Access to local information doubles the likelihood that non-users will visit Boston.com.
Research: About 50 percent of users like the idea of getting all their local information one place.
Based on the response, Bob feels Boston.com can compete with technology savvy of search engine portal sites (i.e. Google and Yahoo!)
Here’s an interesting editorial initiative around search: Rather than rely entirely on algorithmic search, Boston.com is using staff librarians to keep abreast of what people are searching for and highlighting (“content spotlights”) the best of the current articles on Boston.com.
Boston.com plans to build deep and rich hyperlocal databases and used entry-level staff to go out into the community to gather the data to populate those databases.
Chris Jennewein, VP of Interactive for the San Diego Union-Tribune, spoke primarily about SignOnSanDiego.com’s video efforts.
Newspapers have a tremendous advantage over television because we have the largest news staffs in our DMAs. Even if small portion of those staffs carried cameas, we would by far surpass TV in local video content.
The goal should be to give readers the straight story, which we can do with minimal requirements in equipment and software. “Consumer cameras are just fine.” He noted that Bakersfield uses just point and shoot cameras.
It might be helpful to remember, Jennewein said, that in the early days of TV news, reporters worked alone and carried hand-cranked cameras. The video journalists in Vietnam carried a notebook and windup camera and captured very high quality TV journalism. Once electronic equipment came along, and sound trucks and satellites and TV news became a big production, it changed the face of TV news (and clearly, Chris believes not for the better). “I think what we’re doing in our newsrooms is going back to the early days of TV.”
A newspaper.com with a strong video effort is going to attract a bigger audience, Chris said, and that’s going to mean more revenue. For one thing, TV advertisers who have grown frustrated with the fragmenting TV audience are going to turn to newspaper.com sites to get their video message out to the local audience.
Finally, tonight Inland is announcing the winners of its first-ever online awards. The big winner, Bakersfield.com (beating out Naples News — so eat your heart out Rob Curley!). I loved the judges comments:
The Bakersfield Californian site is newsy – not just “hard” news or “breaking news,” though there’s plenty of that, but also news about the community, its people and how to get more out of life in Bakersfield, Calif. – and it’s easy to read, because of both the writing and the design. The design is clean and uncluttered, and the eye knows where to go, though the homepage is chock full of stuff – news, yes, plus the stuff that’s unique to the Web site: video and interactivity (why have a Web site, asks one judge, if you don’t offer video and interactivity?). This is a site, unlike many others, where the advertising doesn’t interfere with or detract from the editorial content. How often do you see that? Also, said one judge: “This is one sweet site to navigate. Try it via the tabbed menu at the top.” The site’s blogs, and its Most Read and Most E-Mailed stories give a sense of what people are talking about and what they care about. All in all, it’s a winner – and it’s our Inland winner. (emphasis mine)
Congratulations to my buddies at Bakersfield.com. We built a great site. Continue reading