Category Archives: Design

Smart stuff to start your thinking about #collegemedia verticals/channels

You can call them “verticals,” or you can call them “channels.” They are called both in this super-smart Nieman Lab interview with Mic publisher Cory Haik. I saw it in April, made myself a note to go through it with a highlighter aaaaaand found the note this week while cleaning out my Gmail inbox. Better late than never, I hope, here are excerpts and bullet points with college media in mind. And if this is up your alley, I strongly encourage you to read the Nieman interview.

The interview came just after Mic redesigned its website and its approach to news around nine “verticals.” They are:

  • Slay (feminism)
  • Payoff (personal finance)
  • Out of Office (food and travel)
  • Strut (body positivity)
  • Navigating Trump’s America
  • The Future is Now (tech)
  • The Movement (social justice)
  • Multiplayer (gaming)
  • Hype (entertainment)

Haik said the verticals were chosen after study “within the social sphere of where our audiences are and figuring out stories, categories, and topics that they are most passionate about and that our journalists were best to engage with them on.”

Instagram, in particular, we dove into over the summer and found some microcommunities within body positivity and feminism. We created some new teams to spend their time doing daily journalism on this beat within Instagram specifically: original motion graphics, photo illustrations, animations. Editors and story producers connected on these specific topics within Instagram and then really built out these communities.

For example, Slay grew out of a feminism Instagram channel and an email newsletter.

The thesis here was that we were connecting the audiences that we were growing organically within social and were doing our journalism and original storytelling around and then connecting that back to our own site and making those connections explicit with our audiences — so they could follow Slay, engage with Slay, read and watch our Slay journalism on whatever platform really suits them — but also to connect the dots so they know we have a very 360-approach to how we’re doing our journalism across the landscape.

Each vertical uses only the platforms where Mic thinks there’s an interested community. So the personal finance vertical Payoff launched as a podcast and an email newsletter but without an Instagram channel. Payoff also is the example Haik used to talk about making money from a vertical.

Discover sponsors Payoff across all of these different platforms. There’s sponsorship within the podcast, the Payoff newsletter, and on the channel itself — on our site, you see that. Across all the different platforms and the mechanisms by which we’re producing our journalism, there’s also accompanying sponsorship for that brand. There’s a way to really tie it across platforms for the advertiser, which is appealing because they get a very digitally focused innovative way to integrate with the channel in a way that’s not just one node on our site.

Full disclosure: Your humble blogger does not think video is the answer to all journalism problems. He thinks there is a lot of bad video out there. But he’s very proud of his Georgia Southern University students’ video operation and he has to sit up and take note when he sees this:

One of our reporters did a written op-ed that did okay, and then he did the same op-ed in video format and it reached half a million people in just a couple of hours. … if your video reaches 500,000 people, the degree to which some of them will convert to a newsletter subscriber of that columnist is pretty high. They’re interested.

More on leveraging viral success to build brand loyalty:

We are thinking about a lot of ways of connecting our very viral moments to our direct to consumer products. It’s working. Facebook has been a very good lever for us to grow our Navigating Trump’s America newsletter. Whenever there is a big story about Trump and we promote our newsletter, we can get hundreds to thousands of email subscribers. That’s a pretty great funnel.

Lastly, a branding question I suspect will be important for media college media editors. Interviewer Joseph Lichterman asked, “Going back to the channels for a minute: I’m curious how you balance their individual identities versus the overall identity of Mic. How do you want readers to think about them within the overall structure of the publication?”

Mic really is the network of all these other brands. Mic itself is actually a channel as well — that’s really our core news channel. … I don’t know that there’s a ton of crossover between Strut and something like Navigating Trump’s America. There might be. People are interested in politics, obviously, and can be interested in fashion, but we would be perfectly happy if someone just followed our Instagram channel or followed our Facebook page for Strut. We’d view that as a success. We’re figuring out how we bolster these channels on their own, but we do want people to know that they are part of the Mic family. They’re all supported by the endorser brand of Mic.


Engaging the audience: a progress report

Dear Student Media staff:

This will be a long message, so flag it to read later when you have a few minutes.

TL;DR? There’s a lot of good stuff going on in Student Media. While we’re all striving to do better in so many areas, it’s important to recognize where we’re making strong progress in engaging our audience.

Now, please indulge a little narrative of how I came to write this message.

Read the rest of this entry

“How do I report all these facts if I can’t write a long article?” Here’s how

You can learn a lot about design from the Focus page in the Orange County Register. But that’s not what struck me when I saw this page in Focus editor Charles Apple’s Twitter feed.

OCR Focus 5-23-2014

What I see here is great ammunition for my campaign to kill the news “article.” So this post is for my fellow revolutionaries. (I know you’re out there, plotting quietly.)

Print this Focus page, share it and hold it in reserve for the day (the first day you ban “articles,” I suspect) a reporter comes to you and says, “What do you mean I can’t write a long text article? I know it’s not a compelling narrative, but I’ve got a lot of facts here that people need to know!”

Facts? This page has got ’em. Details on each of five major campaigns in World War II. A map of internment camps. Statistics on medals. Good reporting has been done, which underscores a point my advising pal Erica Perel from The Daily Tar Heel tweeted after my first broadside against the boring article: Read the rest of this entry

Kill the news article! (Or … How to save news writing)

We need to abolish the news “article.” Maybe all of us in journalism should. But I’m pretty positive we in student media should. Why?

  • The biggest writing problem I see in college media, up to and including the elite publications, is that we try to force basic facts into a false “article” narrative. The writer, especially a new writer who of course is assigned a less-than-inspirational set of facts to assemble, battles bravely. He inserts transitions. He throws in quotes because, well, you’ve got to have quotes. It’s too long, and it’s boring. But we told him to write an “article.”
  • Our biggest design problem (except at a very few outstanding programs) is that those “articles” are accompanied by photos and graphics dreamed up after the fact — or at least separately from the reporting process — to “illustrate” the boring text. We all want to smartly integrate design elements and text, but how often do we accomplish that goal? Is it acceptable to fail at this?

Update, April 11: Bill Neville at the University of Alabama-Birmingham points out that the Poynter Institute’s “Eyetracking The News” study found that readers remember more information from a collection of facts arranged in “alternative,” more graphically appealing forms rather than in a traditional news story. So it’s not just about enticing them. It’s also about how much we help them. Read the rest of this entry

NOLA Notes: What’s your above-the-fold rating?

One in a series of post from the zillions of words of notes I pounded into my laptop at the National College Media Convention in New Orleans.

Erica Perel showed us a front page from The Daily Tar Heel, the excellent (and Pacemaker-winning) student newspaper serving the University of North Carolina.

Perel, the DTH’s newsroom adviser, described that particular edition as a “really good daily paper.” Above the fold were a good centerpiece feature with a photo of a giant pig, a football story and a strong news lead. So where did it rank on the DTH’s 1-to-5 “above the fold” rating?

She gave it a “3.” The reason why it’s not a “4” or “5” is important.

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