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.
- wu ying on Photos from our recent adventures in WNY
- wu ying on The Batavian’s basic rules for scanner reporting
- wu ying on Tracking the progress of Vance Albitz
- Craig Huckerby on Paywalls create opportunities for local news entrepreneurs
- Peter Eirene Chin on How to launch your own local news site in 10 (not so easy) steps
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Monthly Archives: March 2008
Hey, it’s 2008! Go to college and learn to become a print reporter!
Watch is amazing video promoting Conestoga College‘s journalism program.
[youtube ELoBRgruNAQ nolink]
Well, they do offer broadcast … here’s a list of their media courses. It must still be 1988 in Canada.
Not one mention of the web. Amazing.
Folks, this is what we’re teaching our kids. Continue reading
Do me a favor, please, and go read this story in Western Horseman about the Army’s plans to take 400,000 acres of land from ranchers in Southeast Colorado. The story is the best I’ve seen so far of the issue.
This is an issue very important to my entire family. My uncle would lose half of his range — a range that has been in the family since 1913. Here’s a picture of my great-grandparents homestead. That’s where my grandmother was raised. She just turned 90 this week.
IFRA Search, the search engine for the news publishing industry, officially goes online. With www.ifrasearch.com, IFRA is introducing the first professional research tool for specialised searching on to the market: by using IFRA Search, persons working in the media industry will find all information relevant to the news publishing industry drawn from IFRA’s own, partners’ and other high-quality sources.
Its vertical orientation ensures that the hits generated by IFRA Search offer quality instead of quantity – the result of a two-year development period based on more than 40 years of IFRA know-how in the news publishing industry. Thus the IFRA search engine offers the possibility to find important contents quickly and precisely.
Not so fast. I launched MediaGeeks.org Jan. 27. Beatcha by a month. But hey, since IFRA Search uses different technology (MediaGeeks.org is really just a subset of Google results, being built on a Google Custom Search Engine), it’s a good addition to media vertical search. It returns different results for the same terms Continue reading
A government law requiring online posters to provide real identity strikes me as a tad unconstitutional, but it’s worth noting.
Kentucky Representative Tim Couch filed a bill this week to make anonymous posting online illegal.
The bill would require anyone who contributes to a website to register their real name, address and e-mail address with that site.
Their full name would be used anytime a comment is posted.
While I believe newspapers should know the identity of people posting to their site (or at least make an honest effort to gather real identity), it seems some level of anonymity on the Web is +1 for society.
Besides, the law would be unworkable. It’s unconstitutional because it smacks of the government trying to prohibit speech it finds objectionable (going far beyond merely banning hate speech); it’s an unenforceable burden on publishers to expect them to enforce real identity with 100 percent certainty; and the way the web is built, it is absolutely impossible to require real identity. Continue reading
MediaGeeks.org is the media-specific search engine I created several weeks ago using Google Customer Search.
If you haven’t tried it yet, please do.
Personally, I’ve found it very useful for looking stuff I’ve read some place some time but forgotten where, or even if I can remember I read in in Romenesko or elsewhere, it’s a quick and convenient way to find the exact post I want.
If true, here’s a good move by Yahoo! They’re going to add video to Flickr.
Nobody should expect, I don’t think, for Yahoo!’s Flickr video to overtake Google’s YouTube any time soon, but sometimes being #2 isn’t a bad place to be.
Flickr has a huge user base. Certainly, many of them must be interested in video. Those users can jump-start Flickr video and help Yahoo! start ramping up some market share.
In an era when speed-to-market is paramount, taking a little time to get it right may not be such a bad thing. If this is true:
Part of the delay may have been a long internal debate about how to make Flickr Video special and distinct from what YouTube already offers.
Innovation is never about big smash break-throughs. It’s about iterating and re-imagining what has gone before you. And it can simply be sustaining innovation. There is a place for that, too. Continue reading
Long, thoughtful, thought-provoking piece from Zac Echola. It’s a must read for any journalist with any doubt that the game has changed radically and forever. This isn’t a “transition period” for newspapers. It’s a whole new game.
See, I’m kind of tired of people talking about how newspapers are going through a “transition.” As in, “we just need to get through this transition.”
Transitions have beginnings, middles and ends. Transitions eventually stop and you get a chance to take a breath and say, “cool, we survived.”
This is no transition, because the changing will never stop. This is no transition because this is a radically different world from the one of mass-produced packages dumped on people’s door steps. The fact that there is still news on paper may be a mere echo of history.
It’s hard to believe news on paper will ever die. It’s also hard to believe news on paper will survive.
We just don’t know, but even if print survives, it will only survive because people in our news organizations become adapt at adjusting to constant change.
The print business, if it survives, will never stop feeling the increased pressure of competition, changing lifestyles and evolving audience expectations.
Print revenue is not likely to ever grow again. Digital revenue, at least, has no known ceiling.
If we expect print to survive, then we need to keep those products going while adjusting to change. But we also need to make digital a higher priority, because that’s the once chance we have to grow revenue and save, if not create, jobs.
Part of that adjustment is recognizing that digital media is fundamentally and radically different from packaged goods media. It calls for a different kind of journalism, and a different mindset from journalists.
Here’s the hard part: For as long as it survives, your print product is largely fine. It could maybe use a nip and tuck, but the people who continue to get the print product like what you do and don’t want you to change.
Online, that’s a whole different story. You’ve got to be different, and radically so. You need to write differently, file your copy at different times, make sure to provide appropriate links, include some video or extra photos, make a map or two, respond to reader comments (correcting, amplifying or scolding), participate in blogs related to your coverage area, and you simply must be smarter and better informed about what you cover if you want to retain the respect of your readers.
The hard part is, you must do all this and keep your more traditional print product going in an era of diminishing resources.
I don’t have an easy answer, except “just do it.” It’s really up to each individual to figure out how to reconfigure his or her job to meet the demands of both the print and the online audience. The responsibility for change doesn’t rest solely in the publisher’s office. It’s also the responsibility of every reporter, editor and clerk.
I think it can be done. I see people doing it everyday. My concern is not enough journalists are even trying.
The main point is — stop calling it a transition. If there was a transition, the inflection point passed four or five years ago. We can’t keep calling it a transition hoping someday soon all this turbulance will end. It won’t. The fundamentals of the media business are altered radically and forever. Continue reading
I always figured some day I would get a chance to make history. It looks like it’s happening tonight. For the first time ever, the NPPA Northern Short Course is going to webcast a session live.
It starts at 6 p.m. EDT. It’s me and Chuck Fadely talking about video strategy. Notice I didn’t say argue or debate. I’m going to try real hard to be nice.
There’s an old saying in computers — I first heard when I was in the Air Force 26 years ago — “crap in, crap out.”
In other words, if you feed a computer gibberish, that’s all you’re going to get back.
Until artificial intelligence really becomes something, CICO will be true.
The same could be said of blogging.
Blogging is only as good as you make it.
There’s a lot of bad bloggers out there. There are bloggers who don’t really have anything to say, but say it anyway. There are bloggers who are more noise than substance, and some how manage to get more attention than they deserve. And there are bloggers who are just plain dumb.
Most of the bad bloggers tend to gravitate toward current affairs blogging.
Unfortunately, political blogs are also the kind of blogs most journalists tend to read. So a lot of journalists have a very low opinion of blogging.
Those of us more immersed in blogging, or who have grown beyond merely the current affairs bloggers, know that there is more to blogging than rants and raves.
Crap in, crap out. You only get out of blogging what you put into Word Press, Blogger or Moveable Type.
Naive as it might be, I haven’t given up hope. I believe journalists can become good bloggers.
Learning to blog really takes turning one simple switch in your head: This isn’t print journalism.
It isn’t the journalism of your cranky old city editor or your sainted j-school prof. Neither of those old farts would approve of blogging in any form, even though blogging is now part of the legitimate media mix.
A lot of people like to say, “a blog is just a tool.” By that, they mean blogging software is just technology for a web-centric content management system.
While there’s some truth to that, the statement also sells blogging short. Blogging is much more than that.
Blogging is a mindset. It’s a way of approaching media communications that is different from traditional media.
Traditional media is really mass media. In mass media, the voice of the reporter is authoritative. It’s one voice speaking to many people, so there isn’t much room for nuance or alternative view points. In fact, you better make sure both the left and the right, the creationist and the evolutionists, the global warmers and the SUV drivers, get heard. You better make sure you get the story right and balanced and present it in a way that says, “this is definitive,” even if it’s not.
That’s why objectivity has been such a strong touch point for journalists over the past hundred years or so. Generally, especially in print, you get one chance to get it right, and your communicating with a blob of an audience, so you better check out whether your mother loves you.
On the web, audiences are more fragmented. People are using personal devices to communicate.
That means, what works best is the conversational voice, a personal point of view, and a mindset that says, “I’m sharing,” rather than, “I’m reporting.”
So-called objectivity is great for print, not so much online. Some snarkiness and observational prose is appropriate online in a way that is not necessarily so in print. In part, because online, our audience can talk back. We want to encourage that.
That’s not to say in print, or even online, there isn’t a place for shoe-leather reporting and traditional modes of storytelling. There is still a place for all the things the blustering managing editors value, because it is still important. It’s important for society and for civic engagement. But that doesn’t mean it’s the only way to do journalism these days.
Too many publishers, or more to the point, the editors and reporters they employ, still see online as just another place to shovel the same journalism they’re doing in print or in broadcast.
Online is different, and blogging is the key that unlocks the kingdom of how online is different. If you can get blogging, you can get online.
It would help newspapers.com tremendously if more reporters and editors would not only start blogging, but learn to do it well.
It’s a fact, blogs help grow audience. Blogs, however, can also help us produce online products that are different from our print product, giving consumers more choices and maybe, just maybe, a reason to make a habit of both print and online.
I say, it’s worth a try, cause the way we’re doing things right now ain’t working out so well.
In case it’s not obvious: There are lots of different kinds of blogging. This post might be an example essay blogging (if I were to be that pompous about it). There’s also link blogging, and commentary blogging, and news blogging. The kind of blogging a journalist might do depends on the situation, the purpose and the goals. The purpose of this post is merely to say — get over your objections to blogging and start exploring how you can use it in your newsroom to grow readership.
For a related post, see Ryan Sholin’s list of example blogs. (And yes, it’s no coincidence the Ryan and I — we work together — are posting nearly simultaneously along such parallel lines. GateHouse Media readers, are you paying attention?)
Some related links from me and elsewhere:
- Journalists should pay attention to successful blogs to understand web journalism
- Journalism has evolved to fit society’s needs and demands
- Scott Karp: Local Link Journalism: Pulling Together The Threads Of Local Blogger Reporting
- Scott Karp: How Link Journalism Could Have Transformed The New York Times Reporting On McCain Ethics
I’m preparing a post on newspaper blogging … it was partly inspired by something Mark Cuban wrote recently, but addressing Cuban’s rant has really more of a sidebar to my main point (I hope to finish that shortly), so I’m spinning it out here:
Newspaper blogging is probably the worst marketing and branding move a newspaper can make. The barriers to entry for bloggers are non existent. There are no editorial standards. There are no accuracy standards. We bloggers can and do write whatever we damn well please. Historically newspapers have set some level of standards that they strived to adhere to. By taking on the branding, standard and posting habits of the blogosphere, newspapers have worked their way down to the least common demoninator of publishing in what appears to be an effort to troll for page views.
CICO (Crap in, Crap out — see my coming post for how this fits). Some newspaper bloggers (most, probably), aren’t very good. But that doesn’t mean newspapers should not hire and promote bloggers. Online isn’t news print. You would think a man of Cuban’s background and blogging prowess would get that. And there is no reason to assume that a newspaper-affiliated blogger would adhere to the low standards Cuban assigns to bloggers. CICO. Newspaper bloggers can and should do better.
Besides that, I can think of several bloggers who demonstrate higher ethical standards than some of the people employed at the New York Times or CNN.
So Cuban sells bloggers short, sadly. And with that said, his space limitation problems are his problem, not the media’s. He has an obligation to accommodate all legimate media, whether the output is to print, broadcast, a vlog or a blog. If he needs to build a bigger locker room to do it, then he should start calling contractors.