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Bliss Davis Picks His Favorite Photo Galleries

By Bliss Davis, Bowling Green State University Journalism Student

One of my favorite photo galleries is Boston.com’s The Big Picture. True to its name it features, well, really big pictures: crisp, clear and tell a good chunk of the story at hand before you get to the caption at the bottom.

Now, I’m not sure as to when The Big Picture came into being (feel free to indulge me!), but it represents a web trend I’ve been seeing for quite some time: big pictures, and often with it a preference for very horizontal layouts. In lieu of the evolution of convergence, print and broadcast media have always agreed on one thing: visuals do a great job of moving a story along. Pictures are really worth a thousand words.

Here are a few sites that beautifully utilize visuals, per myself and my small group of awesome high school journalism students 🙂 :

This is obviously a short list and there are many other news oriented sites out there that demonstrate this trend. It looks like one that’ll stick, that is, become the norm or even a standard on many sites. Now I don’t necessarily think pictures will mimic the page swallowing size of those on The Big Picture, but definitely those in actual stories (versus bona fide galleries) on TBO and NBC-Universal owned sites.

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What Would You Do with Apple’s Nonexistent iTablet?

By Bliss Davis, Bowling Green State University Journalism Student

Trying to ignore it won’t work–it’s already showed up on quite a few news outlets.

The “big thing” and “it” I’m referring to is the currently nonexistent (at least, on store shelves) Apple tablet, dubbed the “iTablet*” and already gaining popularity quickly, (per Mashable.com, TheAppleBlog and others).

With all of the buzz surrounding it’s potential release one can only wonder what digital oriented/multimedia journalists–well everyone, really–could possibly do with a device like this.  Its purported size, fitting inside a manila envelope, seems to be optimal for carrying around instead of a laptop. Size and usability play a huge factor in what journalists deem practical enough to carry with them on the regular, as evidenced by the popular Flip camera.

Getting gadget happy can have its drawbacks though. I read a blog entry written by James McPherson  earlier this year about how reporters with gadgets are taking over the journalism world.  Okay, not exactly, but he does say this, “As technology continues to improve and news organization cut more staffers, those organizations can rely increasingly on non-professionals to provide content.”

McPherson meshes this view with another potential downfall web and broadcast quality producing gadgetry, “…amateur citizen journalism further decreases the need (in the eyes of owners) for qualified journalists, and increases the possibility for error–or even intentional fraud by people who may try to scam a news organization with dramatic–but misleading or false–video or text.”

**cough**balloonboy**cough**

Now, as a lover of all things technological, I consider it a great thing to have these battery-zapping resources at my disposal, but it does make you think. What will it take to be sure a citizen is accurately capturing a story? Will the judicial system be forced to reevaluate false light and other applicable laws? How about backpack journalists, will they become preoccupied with reporting technology and forget about the storytelling (purely human driven) aspect? True, these are by no means new questions, but the advent and rise of citizen journalism throws a whole ‘nother facet into the mix. The journalism job industry is going to look mighty interesting in coming years.

*This entry is dedicated to the auspicious, yet covert “iTablet,” in lieu unconfirmed of existence.

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5 Ways to Increase Web Traffic Using Twitter

By Bliss Davis, Bowling Green State University Journalism Student

I’ll admit I don’t actually tweet very much, but I regularly read Twitter feeds I enjoy and find useful. I’ve been fascinated by social networking before it was even called social networking (at least I think so, let’s just say a long time), and it has become a habit for me to pinpoint trends, favorite practices and not-so-favorite practices when settling on a feed I really like reading. As such, here are five Twitter habits I’ve personally used when I was an intern to help make a news site more appealing to our Twitter audience. Doing so not only brought a lot of traffic, but our viewership became more inclined to send news tips and other important info as well.
1.  Following those who follow you, especially if they are in your viewing area.

This primarily applies to local stations. Through following those in our viewing area, we gained a significant increase in website traffic. Interestingly, much of this traffic came from the friends/followees of those we were already following. I would set a personal goal of being within a 500 followers of those already following the station (i.e. If we had 5,000 followers, I would aim to follow at least 4,500. This was the starting point). Through this our web traffic grew significantly.

2.  Spread out updates, and also have a special update time.
One of my favorite aspects of working with the web is the immediate feedback. True, not all of it is pleasant, but certainly gives insight into what could possibly be a step in the right direction. With all of that said, sending out back-to-back tweets is not the best idea. After asking around (using Twitter), something along the lines of an hour-ish was ideal for a lot of our viewers, and that’s the minimum. I know, I know…it may pain some to take so long to post tweets, but folks won’t mind. Instead in the mean time, for example, use specific times to tweet weather updates, or release important contest info at a particular time on Tuesdays. It’ll make your feed seem less random and more fact/info oriented.

3.) #hashtag is your friend.

The #hashtag allows you to create search trends on Twitter. Using a recent, notorious story, #balloonboy would have been a perfect way to get website visitors, pending #balloonboy was your own special #hashtag for that story. Similarly, it’s a great idea to #hashtag your Twitter @username so as to 1.) Potentially generate a special search SEO for your station site and 2.) In the process, also create your own archive system. Now, there are a few kinks with this practice, but for the most part tags such as #KTHV, #NBC_DFW or #FOXtoledo would create search trends leading to your feed and website.

4.) Loosen up a bit!

Maybe it’s a personal thing, but I especially like feeds that are not only to the point but also personable. In true producer form, I mix up my tweets from sounding tease-like to the more “what” oriented for the more serious tweets. Directing questions at viewers or inviting them to upload wacky weather pics, for example, works wonders as well.

5.) Polling.

People like giving their opinion. This isn’t a new revelation or anything, but definitely useful. This also allows you to ask questions, adding to the personable bit in #4.

Extra tips:

I’m pretty sure you’re probably well aware of websites designed to make tweeting more efficient. Sites like TidyTweet.com and TweetLater make the whole process a lot less labor intensive. Don’t be shy! I’ve noticed people enjoy tweets from our more visible newsroom members (anchors, reporters). Go ahead, drop in and say “hello” every so often, viewers honestly appreciate it.

Got any other Twitter tips? Share the wealth! 🙂  Bliss is on Twitter at @journalistbliss.