Online First: Making It Work

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Information about Online First: Making It Work

Published on March 4, 2014

Author: loganaimone



Is your news website still living in the shadow of your print edition? Learn how a dynamic news website and an "online first" philosophy can transform and reinvigorate your coverage of your school community.

ONLINE FIRST MAKING IT WORK Logan Aimone, MJE School Newspapers Online

State of many high school news websites • • • • • • They’re a repository for printed stories. They’re where the bad stories are published. They’re a storage place for print PDFs. They’re only occasionally thought about. Big stories are published only after the “big reveal” in print. They don’t live up to their potential. ONLINE FIRST MAKING IT WORK

What if it didn’t have to be that way? • • What if you didn’t have to wait until the next issue? • • What if your audience wasn’t just your school? What if you needed to reach your audience instantly, no matter where they were? What if you have real news to report? It can be different. ONLINE FIRST MAKING IT WORK

Online first gives you new opportunities. • • • • • Breaking news and emergencies Developing stories Sports game coverage Movie and music reviews Opinions ONLINE FIRST MAKING IT WORK

Your publication is no longer a newspaper. • • • It’s a news program. It’s news beyond the paper. It’s time to change your language. • • • Issues/Editions Archives Section Names ONLINE FIRST MAKING IT WORK

Your audience expands beyond school walls • • • • • Students Teachers and school staff Parents Community The World ONLINE FIRST MAKING IT WORK

What do you need to do to be online first? • • • Commit. Build the audience. Have a writing/editing/classroom structure. ONLINE FIRST MAKING IT WORK

You’re committed. You know what is needed. So how do you do it? ONLINE FIRST MAKING IT WORK

Build the audience. • • • Establish a reputation: Be the #1 news source in your school. Deliver relevant content. Timeliness makes content relevant. How do readers know you’ve posted a new story? • • • Browsing Email updates/RSS Social media ONLINE FIRST MAKING IT WORK

Engage with readers via social media. • • • • • • Build your social media networks. Post to social media. Avoid the auto-post plugin. Time your posts. Get readers to distribute content they like or want to promote. Listen to your readers with social media. Find sources and story ideas on social media. ONLINE FIRST MAKING IT WORK

Start looking at design differently • Story page design is consistent, putting focus on content. • • • • • Contextual linking Embeddable elements Multiple photos and video Rethink your home page. Rethink the carousel. Design and structure can vary to fit the circumstances ONLINE FIRST MAKING IT WORK

5 things to think about and address: • • • • • Day-to-day activities Leadership structures Coverage decisions Grading Fun ONLINE FIRST MAKING IT WORK

Students will be in different points of the production schedule daily. And that’s OK. ONLINE FIRST MAKING IT WORK

Rethink the story cycle • • • • With an online-first attitude, there is no “cycle.” You can make every day a story idea day. You can make every day a publication day. A story might take three weeks or three hours to produce. ONLINE FIRST MAKING IT WORK

Day-to-day Activities • • • You can bring order to the chaos. • • Teach lessons. Large-group, mini-lessons, ad hoc. Review. What was published yesterday? Did it get read? Brainstorm and plan stories. What’s happening today? What do readers need to know? Set a priority for the day. If it’s the print edition, spend time on design, editing. ONLINE FIRST MAKING IT WORK

Day-to-day Activities, continued • Communicate beyond classroom. Develop a method to facilitate organization and communication. • One-on-one checkins. These add accountability and opportunity to redirect student efforts. • • Story groups. Pull writer, editor, & photographer together. Down time. It’s OK. ONLINE FIRST MAKING IT WORK

Leadership structures • Accommodate the online-first philosophy by revising student leadership positions and descriptions. • • Have an online editor-in-chief. • Also consider a social media coordinator. Roles for managing editor (assignment editor) and photographers/photo editors must be expanded. ONLINE FIRST MAKING IT WORK

Leadership roles • Empower editors to own their positions • • • • • to keep up with story ideas. to keep the audience informed. to keep up with the editing. to make decisions responsibly. Plan for when big news happens. ONLINE FIRST MAKING IT WORK

Coverage: Timeline and deadlines • Determine the best platform. Some stories are told better in print, while some are told better online. • • • Don’t just use the general deadline for a print issue. What deadline makes sense? What deadline is realistic? Set up an editing process that allows for students to finish stories successfully. Individualize. ONLINE FIRST MAKING IT WORK

Use a collaborative writing tool • You need a tool that allows you to collaborate in real time to speed up the editing process. • • • Google Drive (Apps/Docs) is great for this. Share a folder rather than a Doc Have a master planning spreadsheet/plan ONLINE FIRST MAKING IT WORK

Grading: What to consider • Assignments will have many forms. How do you accommodate this in grading? • What happens when students slack off, flake out or just don’t produce? • • • Set up a checklist of requirements to earn grades. Determine competency levels and grade based on level. Establish production quota for quarter/semester. ONLINE FIRST MAKING IT WORK

Make time for fun • The production cycle doesn’t have the same ebb and flow as each printed paper, so you will need to build in time to celebrate, evaluate, bond and grow. • Incorporate Web milestones (analytics, hits, likes, retweets) into the celebration list. ONLINE FIRST MAKING IT WORK

Take advantage of what the Web offers • • Publishing is instantaneous. • Content can be the length that is appropriate — not cut or expanded to fit space. • Storage is not an issue — lots of photos or multimedia. Stories can be published when they are ready — not when the print cycle dictates. ONLINE FIRST MAKING IT WORK

Take advantage (continued) • Stories can be updated or corrected easily as new information is gathered. • A story can be a springboard for exploration with links to additional content and related stories. ONLINE FIRST MAKING IT WORK


QUESTIONS? Let’s hear ’em. • • • Contact me at or @loganaimone School Newspapers Online See me at the table in the exhibitor area ONLINE FIRST MAKING IT WORK

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