King Fish Media’s Gordon Plutsky On Achieving Content Marketing Success

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PlutskyInterview-PHOTO

Gordon Plutsky is the chief marketing officer at King Fish Media, based in Boston, Mass. When he’s not strategizing with clients, you might find him writing for the King Fish blog or firing off a few tweets. After all, he has a reputation to uphold: Social Media Marketing Magazine ranked him one of the top CMOs to follow on Twitter. While he’s not in the office, Plutsky also teaches marketing courses at Endicott College in his capacity as an adjunct professor.
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How a small newspaper used iPads to bend the rules of reporting

York Daily Record NewsVroom

Randy Parker, image by Tim SohnWith the rapid migration of news and media onto the mobile platform, newspaper editors are finding all sorts of ways to keep up with the changeover and stay ahead of the trends. That’s why Randy Parker, managing editor of the York Daily Record put a tablet or smartphone into the hands of its top reporters. Further, as Parker explained at the America East 2013 newspaper conference in Hershey, Pa. they take those tablets on the road and into the community to experiment with news ways to boost reader engagement.

Parker explained that several years ago his newspaper hired Lauren Boyer for a new position to cover business news focusing on consumer issues, but he didn’t want her to stay in the office and instead tasked her with finding new ways to tell stories for the paper. York Daily Record gave Boyer the first iPad it bought, and she used it to shoot videos and tweet. Today she still finds new apps and tools to download and use on a weekly basis.

“It was one of the best investments I could have ever made because it absolutely energized her, and it accelerated her creative thinking,” Parker said. “I noticed every time I look over at her desk, she’s not there.”

Boyer’s tactics integrated social media use and traditional reporting – allowing her to venture into the community, meet new people and still stay connected with the newsroom. Often Boyer would send out a tweet that she was going to be at a particular location and invite people to stop by and tell her what she should be covering. Parker explained that a local public relations representative from Harley Davidson who was hard to get a hold of found her that way one day and chatted with her for around 45 minutes.

The second person on staff at the York Daily Record to receive an iPad was the paper’s senior reporter who covered the courts. The judge let the reporter use the iPad in the courtroom because it doesn’t break any of the court’s rules.

“[The judge] said, ‘Well, there’s no cellphones and no laptops, but this isn’t a cellphone, and this isn’t a laptop, so, yeah, I guess you can use that in the courtroom,’” Parker said. “This was a new judge. I think he was looking to bend the rules to new technology.”

The court reporter uses Scribble Live, which lets him live-blog the proceedings and sends his updates to Twitter.

Parker said he has gradually rolled out iPads to 14 staff members. In addition, the paper has purchased six Nexus 7-inch tablets for photographers, and he predicts the paper will continue to purchase Nexus tablets instead of iPads because they’re less glitchy, fit into “boy pockets,” and they are “dirt cheap.”

The paper has tried Kindle Fires and Windows Surface tablets, but they never caught on.

York Daily Record also created a “News Vroom,” an old newspaper delivery van that goes to sporting and other local events from time to time. Workers erect tents around the van that house six laptops, six smartphones, six iPads, and a WiFi router that allows connection to up to 21 devices. The paper uses the mobile connection to showcase the newspaper’s apps at events that draw crowds: its e-edition for iPad, its iPad app designed to focus on breaking news, photo streams, and methods for sharing information like Little League game scores.

Next up for the York paper: developing a pre-fall high school football tablet e-zine and a commemorative Gettysburg anniversary edition for tablet.

Photo courtesy of Digital First Media.

How the end of Saturday mail delivery affects publishers, advertisers and readers

Postal Truck

Postal Truck

The elimination of Saturday mail delivery by the United States Postal Service, expected to begin in August (although there’s some dispute about whether the move is legal) doesn’t only mean waiting until Monday for letters to arrive. For newspapers that use the post office for home delivery—primarily weeklies but also dailies that have switched to several days a week and rural papers—the decision to end Saturday mail delivery will force them to shift how they cover the news, how they get that news to readers and how they deliver readers to advertisers. In short, Saturday mail delivery is a big deal to the newspaper world.

While big metro newspapers long ago replaced paperboys with professional delivery services, many rural and non-daily newspapers rely on the postal service to deliver every day but Sunday, says Max Heath, who consults on postal issues for publishers including the Publishing Group of America (American Profile, Relish and Spry magazines) and Landmark Community Newspapers (56 newspapers and seven college sports publications).

Even though the change only affects Saturday mail delivery, it will impact most U.S. newspapers in some way, Heath predicts. Trickling down to the deadlines of technical and content writers.

Medium- to large-circulation dailies will see the least impact because, according to Heath, most metro dailies (i.e. with a local coverage area) with a circulation of 25,000 or over use contract carriers for home delivery. These papers typically only mail a few hundred papers a day to avid subscribers far from home.

“In the 25,000-and-under segment, a shift toward [using the post office] becomes more predominant as circulation declines,” said Heath, noting that there are exceptions such as papers that have wide geographic coverage areas that don’t commit a lot of resources to home delivery and typically piggyback on local newspapers’ carrier services. How big a deal is the Postal Service to the newspaper industry? Heath estimates that 80 percent of non-daily newspapers are predominantly delivered by mail.

Weekly, semi-weekly and six-day-a-week papers are likely to see the largest impact. Of those, the large number of weekly and twice-weekly publications that come out on Saturday will need to either move back to Friday or forward to Monday (since there’s no mail delivery on Sunday, either). For six-day-a-week newspapers, the Saturday issue is often the biggest issue with the most advertising, according to Heath.

 

Advertisers will determine how newspapers respond

Advertisers face a tough decision: Will they get the same bang for the buck and a similar audience by moving their ads to Friday or Monday? Their choice, made community by community, will be one factor driving newspaper publishers to consider dropping a Saturday issue or switching to expensive contract carriers.

“Those dailies with Saturday issues must discern whether their advertisers will live with Friday. Some, like the Cadillac, Mich., daily [Cadillac News] with a Saturday issue and large shopper to non-subscribers, will likely go to home delivery by contract carriers,” said Heath. “The effects will vary from paper to paper, depending on Saturday advertising and whether it can keep the advertisers on another day or will also be forced to consider contract delivery. Some non-dailies with Saturday may have a bigger percentage of advertising on Saturday than, say, a six-day daily with Saturday issue,” said Heath.

Chris Huckle, publisher of the Cadillac News, said in a piece posted on his newspaper’s website that the post office has forgotten about newspapers.

“We know that people not only want their news delivered on the weekends but also their letters, cards, bills, payments and other communication,” wrote Huckle, who declared that his newspaper will continue to publish on Saturdays and find another way to deliver.

“We’re the major mailer by far in our market area. And we do care about our Saturday delivery. If you (upset publishers), they’re going to find other ways to deliver their products,” Huckle told USA Today, explaining that approximately 75 percent of Cadillac News’ postage budget goes toward delivery of the Saturday edition and a supplement on Monday.

Tonda Rush, CEO of the National Newspaper Association, the industry group of community newspapers, said his organization opposes eliminating Saturday delivery.

“A USPS whose focus is on urban delivery of packages and advertising — which is where it seems to be headed — is a USPS that is not fully serving the nation,” said Tonda.

 

Digital, late delivery part of the solution

One possible upshot of the end of Saturday mail delivery will be papers investing more in a digital strategy. For newspapers that publish on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, many of their subscribers receive their papers the following day by mail. For them, the end of Saturday mail delivery could lead to subscription cancellations, especially since 10 federal holidays land on Mondays, said Heath, who explained that this issue is more likely to affect papers in rural areas because for them, contract delivery could be prohibitively expensive.

The in-county cost for a 5 ounce paper delivered by the post office is less than 10 cents per piece, said Heath. Contract delivery ranges from 12 to 15 cents in city areas and 25 to 30 cents in rural areas, or a 20 to 200 percent increase in cost. Why the extra cost? Using private carriers means newspapers have to create driving routes, hire a supervisor, verify delivery, recruit and contract carriers that typically don’t stick around too long, develop a legal contract, and decide whether to provide accident insurance for drivers. Hiring third-party companies to do the job will work for some papers but likely not for rural ones.

 

How an end to Saturday delivery might affect the news itself

The Wise County Messenger in Decatur, Texas, is a Wednesday/Saturday paper with a circulation of 6,000. It also publishes a supplement called All Around Wise that is both mailed separately (21,845 copies) to non-subscribers and part of the Wednesday edition. All of its printed material are delivered by mail.

Roy Eaton, publisher, is concerned that elimination of Saturday delivery will hurt high school sports coverage—he has eight schools in his coverage area. The Messenger will likely change its publication days to Tuesday/Friday, cramping its ability to deliver the high school sports stories for which parents scoop up papers each weekend.

Eaton says his staff will respond by creating an online page or product covering high school football that will be published on Friday night or early Saturday and will include printable versions of each story and photo for parents to clip out for their scrapbooks.

“It will be a gigantic pain in the butt, but we’re continuing to plan. If something in Washington doesn’t change, we will probably make the switch in late July, early August,” said Eaton.

Photo used via Creative Commons license courtesy of superba.

 

 

Chicago Art Machine Network CEO Kathryn Born on Technology and Journalism

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Kathryn born is CEO of the Chicago Art Machine Network, which offers news and features on the Chicago art scene. Born founded Chicago Art Magazine after a career as a filmmaker, artist and writer for 15 years. Chicago Art Magazine began as part of Art Talk Chicago – a Chicago Tribune sponsored blog network – and went solo in the fall of 2009.  She also runs TINC Magazine (Technology Industry News Chicago) and DIY Film Magazine.

Recently, Born shared her thoughts about print and web publishing – both fact and fiction.

Many say technology and the internet have decreased peoples’ attention spans, and so editors now want much shorter articles. What’s your take on that?
The truth is people have had the same attention span they’ve always had. They’re smarter than they’ve ever been. But the reason that writing is being shortened so much – we had articles because articles were the only option. We had to do storytelling. Things were very long and drawn out. There is a place for storytelling and there is a time for reading. That is one type of writing that we can be doing. The problem is that there is another type of thing that’s needed.

What is needed?
People go on the web looking for very, very specific pieces of information. You’re looking for information, and you’re trying to harvest the information out of articles. But the articles aren’t the way to do it – they’re not comprehensive, they could be old and out-of-date. So articles became this really, really bad research tool that we all became dependent on. People want to get information. If one of the things you want to give your readers is organized sets of information they can use themselves, then you don’t need to be writing articles – you can be using software.

Can you give me an example?
At TINC Magazine, we’re just starting to pitch the start-up catalog. We take all these companies [for example, gaming companies] and we start to compress them into information for a database. So we’re going to have a button that says “gaming,” and all of a sudden there they are. You see all of them, if they’re active, how many employees they have, how much revenue they have. It immediately gives you that information. Who wants to be surfing for information? You want to be finding information. So, we’re creating these systems.

It doesn’t seem like most online media is doing this…?
When media went online, it’s like nobody sent them a memo saying that you’re not limited to the things you did in print. And so what publishers did, they just took everything they did in print and they did it the exact same way online, not realizing there are all these other things you can do. Slowly video has gotten in, there’s been some interactive graphics, but it’s really, really primitive.

So what direction could writers go?
As publishers, we can be getting data and putting it in a useful way so our readers can be getting the information. Like when the financial collapse happened, I wanted to know more about what the government spends money on, what was on the table and what the politicians talked about. Where are the tools to help us understand our transparent government? Because watching C-SPAN ain’t gonna work! So that’s what’s happening – we’ve got this data out there, but no one’s looking at journalism as a way to organize information for the public, which is the core principle of what journalism and web content writers are supposed to do. Not write articles, not tell stories, but organize information so the public can be informed. This is not that radical if you think about what the core of journalism is supposed to be. The public is actually incredibly smart, and when the go to your article and the information is not there, they’re clicking away from it. There’s a difference between the desire to read and the desire to find information in a hurry. Nobody is talking about this.

How else could writers and the media take advantage of technology?
The whole system of the way media is done is really, really broken. You’re a reporter and you’re going to write a feature. So you go out, you do 20 hours of research, and out that 20 hours of research you take the most usable 15 minutes out of it. Where does the rest of the research go? It disappears, you put it in a file and nobody ever sees it. Why doesn’t the media outlet store that, so the next time somebody’s doing a story on that, they can use your research. You know, 10 people will call me for information for the same story. Someone already called me about this! They don’t have access to the other information that’s out there. So that’s what I try to do, I try to connect people to what’s already been said. Even journalism is really sloppy, and the research isn’t being pulled. They don’t have the technology and have been in such a budget crisis for the last 15 years, and they have so much nostalgia. They’re not forward thinking, and that’s why they’re dying.

So for people who aren’t part of the Old Guard, who are just getting into writing and journalism, what’s the best advice you can give?
How can you lay out your ideas? Don’t think about articles, but think about info-graphics. Think about the core points you’re trying to educate people on. If you let go of paragraphs and look at lists and images and bullet points, how can you reformat your article so it’s really, really informative. Do you need these paragraphs? You’ve got a concept, so what’s the best way to express it, so somebody can come and instantly snatch up that lesson. Question the article format, because that’s what nobody’s willing to do.

How Journalists Crowdsource Funding on Kickstarter

Dying to sink your teeth into a juicy assignment but can’t find a publisher to foot the bill? These days, enterprising journalists are turning to crowdsourced funding platforms like Kickstarter rather than of pinning their hopes on a publishing deal or a magazine assignment to cover their expenses.

Drawing on the popularity of group buying sites, web videos, and social media, Kickstarter’s platform helps creatives connect with backers, a modern-day version of arts patrons from the Renaissance era, through video and social media.

Maria Williams-Russsell, a poet/author who’s seeking funding for the Favorite Words Project, says she and collaborator journalist/author Janet MacFadyen “found a like-minded community [on Kickstarter] — people who were doing cool, creative projects and other people who believed those projects were worth funding.” Interestingly, Williams-Russell says most of their backers are simply people who believe in the project, not friends or family.

Users are also encouraged to offer rewards to backers: for instance, a copy of the book or magazine they’re trying to produce. Often these rewards work on a tiered system, so the bigger the financial contribution, the bigger the reward. (Plenty of the contributions are small, similar to the microdonations that boosted Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.)

Of course, publishing a magazine or going on a photojournalism trip isn’t cheap, so funding is “all or nothing”: either you reach your financial goal within the specified timeframe and complete the project or the deal is off, like those group buying sites mentioned above.

Here’s a look at four projects currently seeking backers on Kickstarter (no pressure but if you want to want to support a fellow journalist or writer, we certainly won’t object):

Favorite Words Project


Williams-Russell and MacFadyen describe the Favorite Words Project (mentioned above) as a “living installation” on t-shirts and bumper stickers. They’re collecting user’s favorite words, and after a year of collecting these words, plan to compile all the words into a book, which they believe will speak volumes about language and the people who contributed.

Shadow People


Crime journalist Scott Anderson had a commercial publisher for his non-fiction book, Shadow People, about the impact of meth addiction on poor rural communities. However, when the publisher requested changes that Anderson felt would have undermined the book’s intent and compromised his reporting, the author walked away. “I didn’t spend 16 months in patrol cars at night watching dangerous and unstable men get arrested, and interviewing the innocent victims of crimes, to watch the book that resulted get ruined by editors who are cowards,” he says. Instead, he’s joined forces with a group of journalists to sell his book through Amazon. “The Kickstarter fund is going to help keeps its shelf price low so people in many of the poor, rural communities that I wrote about can afford it,” he adds.

For Love of Libya

Tim Jagielo works as photo editor and writer for The Tri-County Times, a semi-weekly newspaper in Fenton, Michigan. He’s been following the story of a local man who returned to his nature Libya and decided to join the rebel forces. For his project called For Love of Libya, Jagielo plans to travel to Libya this winter to report first-hand on how this local man and his wife (who will likely join her husband in Libya this fall) are contributing to Libya’s rebel movement. Jagielo says he plans to use a combination of print, photos, audio, and video to tell their story.

Print Altas Quarterly

Freelance writer/editor Laura Palmer and art director Jenna Yankun are working on Print Atlas Quarterly, a magazine that introduces readers to American craftsmen through words and images. They’re hoping to raise $20,000 to cover costs like printing, legal fees, film development, and postage.

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