Power of Leveraging Transparency: Interview with Cyrus Shepard, Moz’s Content Astronaut

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Today we are joined by Cyrus Shepard, Senior Content Astronaut of Moz, blogger, SEO consultant, and paragon of transparency. We’re all familiar with Moz, as anyone trying to promote anything online has likely come across their analytics tools. Over 300,000 people are active on the Moz blog, forums, and events. This is Shepard’s flock. But how did he get here?

4 Short years ago, Cyrus was a waiter in downtown Seattle. He wanted to start a website so he read a (physical) book about html coding. Fast forward a few months and he was taking customer service calls at Moz (then SEO Moz). He bull rushed his way into the Lead SEO position, but all the steam he had generated caused an overheat. He left to be CMO at a funded startup and an SEO consultant. Check out the full story on his blog.

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SEO for Startups: Interview with John Doherty, Distilled NY Head

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Today, Ebyline proudly presents an exclusive interview with John F. Doherty, head of Distilled New York, founder of HireGun, international speaker, blogger, and photographer.

Distilled was ranked #1 this year in the top 50 SEO companies by bestseocompanies.com. They also occupy the highest ranks in many other lists.

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Interview with Joe Pulizzi- Tackling the Latest Content Marketing Trends and Sneak Peek of New Book

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Today, Ebyline is proud to present an exclusive interview with Joe Pulizzi- CEO, entrepreneur, speaker, blogger, and author. We asked Joe to fill us in on the latest content marketing trends and give us a sneak peek on his upcoming book, Epic Content Marketing.

Joe is known as the “Godfather of Content Marketing”, using the now ubiquitous term as early as 2001.

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Tom Stites on Founding a Reader-Owned News Co-Op

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Tom Stites headshotVeteran journalist Tom Stites has held editor positions at The New York Times, The Chicago Tribute, and The Kansas City Times. While a fellow of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society in 2010-2011, Stites developed the business plan for the Banyan Project, an organization aimed at creating a sustainable and scalable business model for online journalism. Among those projects is the launch of Haverhill Matters, the pilot program for new reader-owned news co-ops. The Banyan Project is currently running a crowdfunding campaign through Spot.us.

Ebyline talked to Stites about his vision for news co-ops, potential revenue models for co-ops, and more. An edited version of that conversation follows:

Haverhill, Mass. is a middle-income community that lost its daily newspaper and radio station, as you mention in one of your Nieman Lab posts. But that description could fit a lot of communities in the United States. Are there other reasons that you settled on Haverhill as your pilot community?

Yes, there are all these news deserts, and they’re spreading. What I was looking for was a place within about a 45-minute driving radius of where I live, so that I could have my hands on it whenever I needed to. I was also looking for a place that had a real sense of identity. I set the arbitrary number of about 20,000 English-speaking households, and that drastically reduces the number of possibilities. The reason I wanted that many is because this is the first one, and I wanted a lot of room for learning curve mistakes.

That’s why I ended up at Haverhill, and it’s turned out to be a real boon. It’s a terrific community, and the people there are gobbling it up.

Is there a timeline for when it might launch?

No, we’ve hit a couple of speed bumps, both of them because of illnesses. The chair of the Haverhill organizing committee has had to step aside due to illness. The National Cooperative Business Association had, at its expense, furnished us with a cooperative business development expert. This is a consultant whose deep experience is in starting new cooperatives, and particularly cooperatives that take a new form, as this one does. She has been taken ill, and NCBA is now quickly rounding up somebody new, but they haven’t named them yet.

At the same time, none of us has ever started a cooperative before. I’ve started for-profit businesses, and I’ve also done entrepreneurial things within the non-profit sector, but this is new, so to have that expertise gives us all a lot more confidence.

My guess is that instead of September, which is what we had hoped to be the kickoff time, I think we’re now talking first of the year. What I want to do is talk to the new co-op consultant and see how fast he or she can work.


Who will write for the pilot program in Haverhill or other co-ops in the future?

Almost all content of Haverhill Matters and other Banyan-affiliated sites will be written by local writers. And already some independent reporters who yearn to bring better journalism to their communities are expressing interest in organizing Banyan-affiliated co-ops to do so. If you’re interested, please get in touch now. No more sites will be launched till the Haverhill pilot is up and running, but Banyan is exploring new relationships.

The plan that we have is to create a community institution that will support itself and endure. The co-op expert needs to bless this for me to be absolutely confident, but the plan is to have a full-time general manager and a community organizer person whose job it is to make sure that the community is engaged in this. That includes the businesses, as well as the people and the institutions.

The second full-time employee would be the editor, and the editor would ideally be someone from the community. It doesn’t mean that we can do that in every community, but Haverhill with 61,000 people, we’re pretty confident we’ll be able to find somebody there. The community college has several people there with significant journalistic experience in the community.

That’s one layer. Then we expect to have all kinds of community people involved. In a city the size of Haverhill, there are 11 communities that have or have had at different times neighborhood associations. We’re looking to have a correspondent at every one of those neighborhoods. There would be other sort of beat people who would be in the community and who are concerned with the environment or the arts or whatever.

Every one of these people that I’m describing to you will be members of the co-op.

I’ve been imagining this from the beginning as a reader-owned enterprise. It essentially will be. That hasn’t really changed, but there are other kinds of co-ops. There are producer co-ops, meaning worker co-ops owned by the workers. What about business members? You wouldn’t be able to advertise unless you’re a member of the co-op, and what would that look like? What would they get if they pay more to get a membership?

We’re working through all of that stuff, but we’ve come to the conclusion that the accountability of the editor to the readers is what really matters and not the accountability of the editor to the other employees or the accountability of the editor to the business community.

What format do you see this taking? Will this be a daily print publication, an online publication, an iPad publication?

I think that it will initially be an online and smartphone device. The software that forms the basis of what we’re doing is extremely flexible for that and also for any other platform, including tablets.

Your website lists six sources of revenue. First is membership fees, and second is advertising. Traditional publications have really struggled with advertising, so how might news co-op approach it differently? 

Without nearly as much ambition, because it’s not so crucial. If you’ve got a broader number of revenue streams, advertising doesn’t mean as much. These would be more like sponsorships. It certainly isn’t going to be full of ad words. For one thing, you have very limited control over what you get from real ad words and from any number of other outfits that supply advertising.

This whole idea started with a value proposition. We saw the newspapers, in particular, almost all “crumbling” since five years ago, six years ago. By that time, they’d lost huge amounts of the trust that people placed in them over the 15 years. A bunch of us talked about this, and we came up with the value proposition that people will want your journalism if they experience it as being relevant to their lives, respectful of them as people, and worthy of their trust. Most of the journalism that gets written is really written in policy wonk political style which tends to be very abstract and not particularly relevant to people’s lives.

The question is how do you get relevance? Well, if you start there, you can listen more carefully to your readers, and if you’re accountable to them, it’s much easier to get to relevance. It just seems like a no-brainer.

If you allow advertising you can’t control, it pays a pittance, which is what Google Ads and their brethren do. What’s the point? So, you just don’t do that, but if your advertisers are business members of the cooperative, and they’ve bought into the idea, and they’ve paid their money, they’re going to understand the value of where they’re advertising. They’re going to see that the advertising environment is relevant, respectful, and trustworthy, and it’s a good place to have your ads.

Then we’ve got some other revenue streams on top of that. We’re looking at an overall budget of $175,000 or a little more. We’re getting there. We see this as possible, and we’re not predicting a fancy slam dunk in the first year. That would be nuts, but the fact is we see it as possible, and with enough diligence, we’ll figure out how to do it.

Learn more through the Banyan Project’s website or on Spot.us

How the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Uses DocumentCloud

Every day, new journalism technologies emerge that give journalists better tools to engage readers. One such tool is DocumentCloud, a new tool sponsored by IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors.) In recent news, reporters at Mother Jones used Document Cloud in their article on the Obamacare decision, and reporters at ProPublica used DocumentCloud in the GlaxoSmithKline scandal that was released on DocumentCloud on June 2, and published June 3.

Ebyline spoke with one editor who’s been using DocumentCloud in the newsroom.

“Here at the Journal Sentinel, we’ve used it for a variety of projects. Most recently, I used DocumentCloud to annotate police incident reports to pinpoint examples of misreporting of FBI crime and weapon codes,” said Ben Poston, a Data Editor at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Poston says that he hasn’t used DocumentCloud to do a lot of textual analysis of documents, but that the ability to annotate, share and build a document gallery has taken stories to the next level.

“I think it helps us be more transparent with readers and also guide them through technical documents,” said Poston. “Before DocumentCloud, we might just link to a PDF of a document, but it could be 100 or more pages, and very few readers are going to take the time to sift through that many pages.”

Poston recommended that journalists can use DocumentCloud to store and organize all of their documents.

“I’m really bad at keeping paper files organized…so uploading docs electronically to the cloud makes more sense and allows easy sharing among reporters here,” he added.

Here’s a video of DocumentCloud lead developer Ted Han explaining the website’s functionality:

Ted Han, DocumentCloud – 2011 Knight News Challenge Winner from Knight Foundation on Vimeo.

Has your newsroom used DocumentCloud? Why or why not? Leave a comment and let us know!

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