Content Ninja's Weblog

An exploratory journey on the edge of newspaper evolution

In my tribe April 30, 2008

Filed under: innovation,journalism,social media — contentninja @ 2:50 pm
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Content Ninja is back from last week’s reconnaissance missions, and I must say, context gathering is a beautiful thing. But I digress. Some cool things I’ve come across, now that I’m caught up with feeds, e-mail, voice-mail and meetings.

Paul Bradshaw has a terrific post at Online Journalism Blog on the myriad ways “Journalists Can Master Twitter.” The post is worth reading just for his list of recommended Twitter tools that can stock your contacts list. I especially like Gridjit.

J.Deragon defines a new term — socialutions — in his post “What is Socialutions?” at Social Media Today. He defines it this way:

“(P)eople, communities and organizations leveraging technology to interact with people for the purpose of solving problems. The act of working together with others to create new solutions to old paradigms of communications and interaction without boundaries and with limitless reach.”

He further suggests that old paradigms must be completely abandoned.

“For the old to adapt and flourish in the new paradigm they must understand the dynamics, the tools and the methods of Socialutions. Otherwise any attempts to leverage the new paradigm by forcing it to fit into old methods will create social rejections and the old problems will remain however the results will be worse than previously experienced.”

And lastly, Francois Gossieaux shares a slide presentation at Emergence Marketing in his post “2008 Tribalization of Business Study-Preliminary Results.” Which is an incredibly academic title for a really accessible slide show on community building and what works. (To see slides, click “view” next to Slideshare icon below.)

Although the presentation was written from a marketing perspective, it has value for us, too. I found slides No. 16 (“Community features contributing the most to effectiveness”) and No. 17 (“The biggest obstacles to making communities work”) to be most relevant.

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Sugar rush April 25, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — contentninja @ 10:28 am

Just a quick note to say that Content Ninja is in focus-group withdrawal, but what a great experience! We clearly share a community with lots of bright, engaging, funny people. They were thrilled to share their opinions and thoughts, learned from each other along the way (that kind of organic interaction was great to watch) and many of them offered, without prompting, to remain engaged with us for continued brainstorming and user testing. THAT is cool.

Other big thing this week is Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco. Jason Kristufek, Ted Borelli, Todd Bransky and Becky Ogann are there. What’s really cool is that they’re posting daily blogs and video from the convention to share what’s going on. Jason is tweeting, too. Check out their updates at Wedia Buzz.


Do something! April 21, 2008

Filed under: content,innovation,social media — contentninja @ 3:32 pm
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A personification of innovation as represented by a statue in The American Adventure in the World Showcase pavilion of Walt Disney World's Epcot.Image via Wikipedia

Lisa Williams and I talked last week about journalists innovating at the individual level. That may seem like an insurmountable task, but look at startups. What makes them work is not the grinding machinery of business processes; it’s people — a mere handful of people who roll up their sleeves and DO.

So we innovate on the individual level by thinking like a startup, but I concede that we won’t “turn the Titanic” (to borrow Williams’ metaphor) without management support.

Author Scott Berkun, interviewed for AIGA, puts it this way:

“Casual Fridays, innovation offsites or giving people copies of Who Moved My Cheese are all nice things, but have zero direct impact on creativity in the workplace. It’s the behavior of leaders and managers that determines how innovative a group is, and most of what enables creativity is entirely free. You can spend a zillion dollars on creativity efforts, but if the basic behavior of managers doesn’t change, you’re wasting your money.”

CEO Chuck Peters has been “walking the talk” for some time. He’s asking if I know yet how I will do this. I have not mapped all of the abyss, but in the darkness I can feel something taking shape, a mixture of content and context creation, aggregated community-generated context and social tools or their best functionalities used to connect with the community.

Every day I learn something from other voices in the dark. Take Furqan Nazeeri’s blog Altgate. His post, “10 Web 2.0 Tips: $75,” speaks to that entrepreneurial, startup spirit. He created a social network for Obama supporters to recycle used campaign material. He did it cheaply and quickly. No teams to build, meetings to hold or spreadsheets to fill out. It’s a beautiful thing.

Lesson for me? There are three types of community members (emphasis is mine): “My guess is that for every 1,000 members, about 900 are lurkers, 90 are participants and 10 are activists. Each of these segments has different needs. For example, blogs are great for activists, but polls can be a better way to engage participants. The lesson here is to think about these segments separately.

This is why audience discovery is so important and where I’m concentrating my efforts at the moment. What do people want? How can we help? Focus groups start tonight and go all week.

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Lost at sea? April 18, 2008

Filed under: innovation,journalism,newspapers,Uncategorized — contentninja @ 4:54 pm
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Brookgreen Gardens in Pawleys Island, South Carolina, United States.Image via Wikipedia

Here’s another one to watch.

Lisa Williams is founder of Placeblogger, a 2007 winner of the Knight 21st Century News Challenge, and of H20town. Williams is one smart cookie and a no-nonsense voice in the cacophony of voices surrounding social media, new media and the evolution of journalism. (Yes, I freely admit that I’m adding to the din.) She blogs at the MediaShift Idea Lab.

In “Journalism will Survive the Death of its Institutions,” she makes a solid comparison between what’s happening to the news industry and the volatility of the high-tech world. Difference is, she argues, that high-tech employees are kind of used to it.

She concludes that the savviest among us journalists will make it by branching out in “kayaks” as “Titanic” companies go down:

“You’ll discover what thousands upon thousands of tech workers discovered: you can do great work outside of an institutional, big-company context, and you can make a living doing so. High tech companies didn’t own innovation; the innovators did. News organizations don’t own journalism: journalists do.”

What’s the lesson for employees at a family-owned, independent company like Gazette Communications, which is fighting hard to avoid sinking? That innovation can start with you, the individual employee. That individual journalists can build communities around their beats and add value to our content.

And in “10 Things Journalists Should Know About Surviving in a High-Tech World,” her basic premise is that jobs are temporary, so build your skills. My favorite tip, however, is No. 6: “Breaking things is a privilege. Progress is about alternating breaking and fixing. Anything 100% working is 100% dead.”

Our industry definitely has some things that need fixing. Let’s make progress.

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Take a breath April 17, 2008

Filed under: innovation,social media — contentninja @ 5:09 pm
Internal NavigationImage by stephentrepreneur via Flickr

What? Did I fall in? No, just busy, busy, busy. Jim Tobin at Ignite Social Media wrote a post at Social Media Today that gave me pause, for a second.

In “Social Media Geeks, Like Us, Aren’t Normal,” he cautions social media strategists not to confuse gearheads’ enthusiasm for the tools as being majority sentiment. He offers the example that a majority of social media geeks might use Firefox, but a majority of corporate folk use Explorer.

“So as we Twitter, check out different browsers like Flock, add extensions to Firefox to make it ‘ours,’ and blog on the couch late at night, we need to remember that we’re not normal. That’s ok, until you choose a social media marketing strategy that’s based on people acting like us. As you craft your social media marketing strategy, remember, you’re not normal.”

What a sage thing to say. And a good reminder that the tools don’t come first.

Remember, “Good to Great“? It’s not about the technology. As my friends Tom and Jason are wont to say, “Figure out what you want to do, and then line up the tools to do it.”

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What’s in a name? April 14, 2008

A ball of navel lintImage via Wikipedia

A lot of meaning and baggage and history, not to mention self-worth, that’s what.

Photo guy Paul Jensen was reading my blog and stopped me today to ask just what I meant by the word “reporter.” You can see where he is going with this, and it raises a good point.

Lots of terms have been bandied about — reporter, content gatherer, subject matter expert and its acronym SME. They demonstrate how words can be inadequate to fully express what is meant.

Take reporter, for example. Nearly 250 years of newspaper history suggest that means a person who writes words, but what about photos, video, blogs, etc.? OK, content gatherer suggests content is not just words, but it and subject matter expert are broad, undefined, even vague terms. (After all, you could be a subject matter expert of belly-button lint, but does the community really need that expertise? Then again, a great many bloggers are accused of navel gazing, so maybe we do need that.)

The latter terms smack of new-media-speak. Sometimes we just try too hard. (Consider “waste disposal engineer.” No matter how you dress that up, the job is still about garbage.)

So let’s call a spade a spade, shall we? We should unapologetically use “reporter” and mean a reporter of content in myriad forms. When we engage our community and ask members to contribute content, we’re not going to set limits. “Just the words, ma’am” is not part of the vocabulary. Perhaps we should consider doing away with content specialization inside the newsroom, too.

In the end, though, a label is just that. Does it matter what we call ourselves? What counts is how we get the job done, and that’s where the greatest potential for change and innovation are.


Man on the scene April 11, 2008

Filed under: content,journalism,video — contentninja @ 4:52 pm
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David Howell is a mobile vlogger in Cedar Rapids whom I follow on Twitter. He makes videos using a cell phone.

He made a video of last night’s weather non-event. See it here:  (He’s a grown-up, and so’s his language.) Despite the fact that nothing much happened weatherwise in his hood, his video is fun to watch. His anxiety is palpable when he gets spooked by the sirens.

How cool would it be for reporters to create video content with their phones? Forget the expensive pro-grade video cameras, and equip folks to do this right now with a piece of equipment they can carry in their pockets. Invite folks in the community who already have the right phone to shoot video for us, too.

I know, it takes time to edit and polish the finished product. That’s what product managers on the backend would do.

Imagine the possibilities: Reporter or community member shoots video on phone and uploads raw content to our content pool, where a product manager — TV or online — can pull all the raw bits, edit and polish, and present a terrific finished piece.

Hello, world!