Utilizing New Media to Find Article Ideas

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The very first thing you learned as a freelance writer and journalist is advice on how to come up with article ideas. Look within, they say. Sounds almost yen like, but what it really means is to look at your experience, your interests and your hobbies. We learn the old tricks, come up with our own and yet at times, we end up with the same thought, I can’t think of a darn thing. If recently you’re running through your list of previous tried methods, but still coming up short, then try these methods, which can help you truly utilize the new media available today.

1. Social media Even if you’re new to social media, don’t sweat it. Even as a beginner you can make the most out of it. Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin all have community pages, groups and forums of various sorts that you can like, join and follow. Constantly review these groups’ pages and check for regular updates on local community events or potential story ideas. Likewise, you can also join community forums on these social media sites that are listed under your specific subject area. For example, you specialize in health and business articles; follow groups or forums of such subjects. Post on them regularly to introduce yourself and inquire about story ideas.

2. More Social media Follow or friend enough informed people and you end up with a world of resources. Facebook and Twitter members love posting articles, videos and websites all the time. Routinely check these pages and see what you can find, one, two or three articles might come out of it.

3. Subscribe to various newsletters. You can follow a plethora of them online these days on multiple topics, such as health, business, entertainment, political, food or gardening. You can subscribe to blogs, magazines and organizations. Business newsletter topics can lead to various ideas, such as financing a business or bankruptcy mistakes.

4. Convert national stories to local articles. Read national magazines and newspapers as well as watch network and cable news for how a national story has relevance locally. Likewise you can convert local stories into national trends. Doing a series of health article on women’s health for a local newspaper? Find out how that issue can affect women, nationally or globally. Review websites such as http://Orato.com, which bills itself as a “citizen journalism” site and The Women’s International Perspective. These sites can help you rethink aspects of a story idea.

5. Plan and focus on holiday topics or national awareness months. Keep track of the List of National Awareness Months, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and November is Diabetes and Family Caregiver Awareness Month. You can prepare and pitch articles for both local and national publications well in advance.

6. Review your email folders. If your emails are organized in a fashion where you keep certain messages saved in folders, this can help lead to ideas. Say, you keep all local business email contacts in one specified folder? You can review those emails and see if you missed something from a few months or a maybe a year ago. An article idea that might just work today. A helpful hint: create an email address just for email newsletters. Saves space on your main email address, which should only be used for those favorite editors you can’t live without.

How Google Books Lawsuit Affects Journalism, OMG in the OED, and Can Twitter Ruin Your Career?

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Today we have some fresh analysis and news about our evolving journalism world. New York Times delivers another “Ahem” to the FreeNYTIMES twitter feed, and Google books gets another stern look (and a day in court) from some publishing associations. We also have some tips on streamlining your Google analytics and a warning of how Twitter could ruin your professional life as a freelance writer.

All the new fit to blog at Ebyline’s Daily Dose:

NY Times Clarifies: Tweet Our Stories, But Don’t Use Our Logo

“In case you’ve been wondering why the @freeNYTimes Twitter feed continues to serve up a steady stream of links to New York Times articles even after the paper asked Twitter to shut it down, I have an answer.”

Lessons for journalism from the Google Books decision, across Europe and here in the US

“On Tuesday, US Judge Denny Chin rejected a settlement agreement between Google, the Association of American Publishers, and the Authors Guild for a 2005 lawsuit over the search giant’s full-text scanning and displays of copyrighted books. While Judge Chin’s decision makes the precise future of Google Books unclear for now, the issues it raises are already being felt by journalists, newspapers, and media creators of all stripes who are currently grappling with Google abroad.”

7 Ways to Totally Destroy Your Reputation on Twitter

“You spend weeks upon weeks carefully crafting your reputation on Twitter, only to see all your efforts demolished by a single tweet. It’s an uphill battle to make yourself into who you want to be, 140-characters or less at a time, and all it takes is a single mistake to see all of that effort crumble. Here are 10 ways to destroy your reputation on Twitter, in case you did want to take a dive.”

Why You Should Track Short Links using Google Analytics

“It is a common practice for social marketers to use URL shorteners to track how many people clicked on a particular article. By tracking clicks on links, marketers hope to gather intelligence that will help them optimize content and distribution elements.  But, tracking clicks has two major flaws.”

OMG, FYI, and LOL enter Oxford English Dictionary, foreshadow the apocalypse

In an acknowledgement of the internet’s overwhelming influence on the triviality we sometimes refer to as “real life,” the Oxford English Dictionary doyens have decided to add a few of the web’s favorite pronouncements to their lexicon. Among them are the standouts OMG, LOL and FYI, joining their compatriots IMHO and BFF among the proud number of officially sanctioned initialisms (abbreviations contracted to the initials of their words) used in the English language.

Streamlining Your Digital Identity

Image from the collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

What’s in a name? Everything. Yes, it’s that age-old adage again, but for freelance writers and journalists in this internet era, your name really is everything. It is your identity, business, brand, and life. In just a few quick keystrokes, employers, editors, and maybe even your mother can put together the pieces of your life story, whether you like it or not. It’s easy for readers to connect the digital dots and make your Twitter posts, bylines, YouTube videos, and Facebook page into a narrative about who you are and where you have been.

So what do you want that narrative to say? If you don’t take any steps to streamline your digital identity, then others will do it for you. Google yourself. Don’t be embarrassed. See what comes up. If this isn’t the narrative that you want, it’s easy enough to take control of the conversation by consolidating your digital identity with a few easy steps.

1. Facebook Face Lift

Don’t write off Facebook as simply a place to waste your time or procrastinate before a deadline. For freelancers, it can be an invaluable way to tell a little about yourself and get your clips read. Your Facebook page can be a useful tool for connecting with editors and distributing your pieces to new readers. First you need to determine the purpose of your Facebook page. Do you want it to be an intermixed venue where you mix your friends with your business contacts? Will it be a place where both your personal and professional life overlap? If you decide on the former, be cautious of what your Facebook activity says about you. How will your “likes,” comments and posts create an image of you?

If you’re interested in having a personal page that is separate from your public/business page, feel free to make a “Fan” page for your professional endeavors, or use a variation of your name for a personal page.

2. Domain Claim
As new social media sites spring up across the expanses of the internet, it is important to stake your claim with your name. As much as it may be fun to use a cute name or that AOL email moniker you grabbed back in the 1990′s, it’s important to use your real name on social media sites if you want to control your internet visibility.

Snatch up your domain name first, and if you really want to streamline your SEO, register some common misspellings of your name. Then stake a claim on social media and blogging sites Twitter, Linked In and Tumblr, as well as other media sites like Youtube, Vimeo, and Soundcloud. It’s important to snatch up these sites whether you’re going to use them or not. By doing this, you eliminate the chance that someone with the same name as you will publish a YouTube channel with your name that shows nothing but chinchilla dust bath videos.

3. The Name Game

Lastly, think about your own name. How can you get your own name to be noticed in a byline? If you have a very common name, consider adding an initial, or perhaps using your middle name as well. For women, consider using your maiden name. This will distinguish you from the million John or Jane Smiths out there. Your name is your brand, so you want to make yourself stand out. And above all, you want to be “Googleable.” It’s the internet existential crisis. If Google can’t find you, do you even exist?

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