I'm just back from three days at the Online News Association Conference. Rather than try to write some kind of polished post blah blah blah, I'm just going to push out everything I learned this weekend.
Dip into this stuff or ignore it, but I encourage you to dip!
1. There's a LOT young journos need to know about using social media to report your stories. To quote a social media manager at the Washington Post, it's no longer a question of whether reporters use Twitter, but how. Lots of ethical issues ensue, like how do you ensure authenticity of sources, how do you correct an inaccurate tweet? (Someone tweeted that Gabby Giffords had died, probably assuming that no one who gets shot in the head survives. Rule number one of journalism: NEVER ASSUME ANYTHING. That has since been corrected.)
NPR's Andy Carvin highlighted a terrific panel called A Conversation on the Front Lines of the Arab Revolution, in which panelists discussed the role of social media in the reporting of the Arab Spring, and explored lots of issues. EVERYONE SHOULD WATCH THIS VIDEO and follow these participants on Twitter. Read about it here.
2. Tech is creating new storytelling forms and distribution channels.
Sites like Storify and Storyful use tweets around particular topics to create stories.
Google is pushing hard to be helpful to journalists. Hmm. They held a couple of great panels, including the introduction of Google Standout, and a terrific workshop on Fusion Tables, which lets you merge data with maps. These are all free, just click around on your Gmail account and start playing with My Maps. Students in my 301 will have to learn this. Most of these tools are free, but Google will be rolling out some premium products as well. Check out the TexasTribune's Perrytracker. Here's the presentation.
Good news for you longer-form writers: The Atavist and Longreads are reaching audiences interested in longform narrative (and, more importantly for you folks, providing platforms to sell your work directly to audiences, and, potentially make more money on a story than you would selling it to a cheapskate magazine publisher, of which there are many.) Of course, it's up to you to develop your own audience, which leads to....
3. Using social media to build your audience and "brand," a word people hate but use anyway. This may mean having your own FB page as a journalist.
It doesn't mean just tweeting and FBing for your employer; it means being able to strategize, measure engagement and push content. (Trust me, this is a big thing on resumes and Linkedin profiles, but you have to be able to deliver!) Lots of tools for this now: Chartbeat, Twylah lets you "brand" your tweets. Caveat: Keep your skeptical journalism hat on as you explore this area. Old people like me in the audience got slightly cranky at this presentation. Another old-schooler sent me this link from the New Yorker site this morning that sums it up a bit.
I loved how Aviation Week writer Benet Wilson manages her dual online identities as The Aviation Queen and a magazine writer. Check her out.
4. Tech is changing all the time, and you have to keep up. You may think you're so smart, but your ten year old kid sister is getting ready to eat your lunch. Read sites like mashable and Poynter at a minimum! Here's the presentation on Top Ten Tech Trends. Some scary, some cool.
5. Tech + entrepreneurship + good journalism can help you jump the line. AND: don't think magazine, think mobile app. Matt and Julie from Amherstwire introduced me to three Colorado College grads who had launched an Ipad magazine, er, app called Once. They were masters of self promotion, not only on social, but in the real world. They volunteered to work at the conference so they'd get free access to 1,200 journalists who were attending. I bought them beers and I'll bet they didn't pay for a thing the whole weekend, because people loved their energy, passion and the quality of their product. So people wanted to help them.
They carried their Ipads everywhere, with their logo on the outside, and showed that demo to anyone who would stand still.
We were standing in one circle at the opening night reception. I noticed that a guy in another circle was pointing to the Ipad under the guy's arm. Look, I said, they're noticing your product. So off he went to show them his magazine. Just using this technique and social, they managed to get 8,000 fans in two weeks.
6. Watch and learn. See how the winners of this year's ONA Awards tell their stories.
What's next? This. Aurasma: Bringing Virtual Worlds and Physical Worlds together.
I can't keep up. I went home and decided we needed a Sunday double feature of "Brazil" and "Minority Report."
None of this stuff seems so crazy now.
You folks will have to go on without me. Report back and tell me what you've learned. So I can tell the next group of students. I think this is how it works.