Meh to Epic OPM 12


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An overview of the website category of NSPA’s signature award, The Pacemaker, with examples from the 2012 finalists and winners, presented at the JEA/NSPA National High School Journalism Convention in Seattle, April 14, 2012.

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Meh to Epic OPM 12

  1. 1. FROM ‘MEH’ TO ‘EPIC’ Learning from Online Pacemaker finalists JEA/NSPA Seattle Convention • April 14, 2012 Logan Aimone, MJE National Scholastic Press AssociationWednesday, April 18, 12
  2. 2. Introduction The Pacemaker is the highest honor in scholastic journalism. For eight decades, it has recognized trend-setters and go-getters, effort and enterprise, achievement and talent. Today, the Pacemaker continues to recognize the best student journalism in the nation.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  3. 3. Keep in mind … • The images seen in thisFinalists. are 2012 Online Pacemaker presentation • Winners will be announced at Saturday’s awards ceremony. • Inclusion in this presentationadoes not indicate a website’s status as winner. • Do not read example was included whether an anything into here.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  4. 4. Who’s judging? • Pacemaker judges as well as a range of working in media are professionals experts familiar with student media. • A team of working digital media journalists from metro daily newspapers and journalism nonprofits judged the 2012 Online Pacemakers.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  5. 5. Who’s judging? • Entries are judged holistically. There is not a rubric with points attached to certain criteria. • Judging is by natureNSPA’s Multimedia subjective based on somewhat Guidebook.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  6. 6. How do they judge? • The number of Pacemaker the number of winners is proportional to finalists and entries. • The number is not fixed, but about half of the finalists will be named winners. • This is a contest, not a critique. • Judges provide generalare more on the finalists. Some teams feedback thorough.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  7. 7. What do they judge? • Coverage and Content • Interactivity and Community Tools • Breaking News • Design and Navigation • Rich MediaWednesday, April 18, 12
  8. 8. Judges said top sites stood apart for: • Quality writing and video. It’s done exceptionally well, it’s fresh and it’s posted regularly. • Engagement and interaction beyond comments. Using Facebook and Twitter to ask questions, inviting users to submit content and even having fun like caption contests.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  9. 9. Judges said top sites stood apart for: • Good navigation. Don’t bury confusing important content beneath a the layout that requires many clicks to find. • Innovation. Latest news Mobile version. Ticker. Curated content. summary. Sub-sites. Social media integration. App with push notifications. Live chats.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  10. 10. Coverage & Content • Coverage is comprehensive, focusing on many aspects of the high school community it serves, including academics, school activities, faculty and administration and student affairs. • Includes Web-exclusive content, such as blogs, interactive elements, video, audio and breaking news. • Same standards for excellence as print.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  11. 11. From the judges on Content & Coverage: • The frontcycle is not tied to the print The Web page content must be fresh. cycle. • Go get stories — use research and enterprise. Eliminate fluff. Avoid repeating content that can be found elsewhere. Produce for your audience.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  12. 12. From the judges on Content & Coverage: • When a reviews and one good news with 10 high school’s website is lopsided story, rethink priorities. Your readers can find CD reviews anywhere. Make it relevant and specific to the school. Staff picks and playlists add a more personal touch than just “This CD sucks.” • Avoid multimedia forslide sake of video multimedia. Label a the show or as just that. Write headlines that inform and work online, not just in print.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  13. 13. Paly Voice Coverage & Content Palo Alto HS • Palo Alto, Calif. Coverage is prioritized and organized for visitors. Ticker and “latest” sidebar highlight newer stories.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  14. 14. Rider Online Coverage & Content Legacy HS • Mansfield, Texas Strong storytelling in writing and video. Good use of in-depth features on “We Are Legacy” tab.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  15. 15. El Estoque Coverage & Content Monta Vista HS • Cupertino, Calif. Well-written stories revealed significant issues, like the reporter’s online conversation with a substitute teacher charging students for editing.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  16. 16. Interactivity and Community Tools • Readers canand polls. discussions interact through comments, • Social networkingand engage the reader. guides) empower tools (links, sharing, • Readers can There’s a methodstory ideas and letters. submit content, to do so. • Website uses reader-generated content.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  17. 17. From the judges on Interactivity/Tools: • Make sure readersreturn visits and foster which encourage can post comments, a sense of community. • Treat the Web theits own unique the Web platform. Use as capabilities of for interaction and context. • Extend engagement with mediatweets and discussions on social reply platforms.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  18. 18. From the judges on Interactivity/Tools: • Make your site more engaging. Few websites offered places to submit content, news or photos, but use was rare. Its a huge missed opportunity. • Make the “Submit Letter to Editor” more prominent, and use Facebook and Twitter to solicit answers for your “Question of the Week”-type features.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  19. 19. Grizzly Gazette Interactivity / Tools Granite Hills HS • Porterville, Calif. Complete Spanish section. Strong social media presence. Reader-submitted photos add content.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  20. 20. Niles West News Interactivity / Tools Niles West HS • Skokie, Ill. Makes use of a variety of social platforms, including Tumblr and Flickr.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  21. 21. Foothill Dragon Press Interactivity / Tools Foothill Technology HS • Ventura, Calif. Site demonstrates a strong social media presence with lots of engagement. Poll is placed prominently on front page. They have a Tumblr, too.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  22. 22. Breaking News • Frequency of update is a consideration. • Multiplegraphics, text, audio, include photos, media — which may video and interactive elements — are used to report breaking news events. • Coverage is useful and related to school community. • News is accurate, even if the information is incomplete.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  23. 23. From the judges on Breaking News: • The Webthat the editorial team isn’t indicate ages quickly and old stories updating very often and visitors aren’t coming frequently. • Don’t bury the new content. Make sure it is highlighted. • Surface all content about a hot topic on campus. This makes it available for readers to review and assists first-time visitors.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  24. 24. Black & White Breaking News Walt Whitman HS, Prominent stories are handled through “Most Popular” tab and for recently added or recent comments.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  25. 25. Knight Errant Breaking News Benilde-St. Margaret’s School • St. Louis Park, Minn. “Quick Look” is a great overview of latest news and updates. Surfacing content of major news story (right sidebar) highlights continuing story.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  26. 26. Design & Navigation • The siteinto stories. readers is visually appealing, drawing • Navigation is easy; readers seek. effortlessly find what they can • Newsthepresented in a clear hierarchy, with is most important and/or newest stories prominently displayed. • Multiple elements intostory are packaged together of a an integrated unit.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  27. 27. From the judges on Design & Navigation: • Content carouselsand not because a CMS used deliberately are cool but should be template offers them. • Avoid moving widgets, headline tickers and marquees. Your front-page carousel should be about the only thing animated on your home page.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  28. 28. From the judges on Design & Navigation: • Present a cohesive look and feel. follow, Templates offer clean designs to but bad color choices or a cluttered masthead/flag image set apart experts from amateurs. • Organize links logically for the viewer. They likely seek the latest sports stories before contact information and about us. • Avoid cutesy headlines/tabs or headlines without teaser text.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  29. 29. Silver Chips Online Design & Navigation Montgomery Blair HS • Silver Spring, Md. Clean design is easy to navigate. Headlines and summaries invite readers to continue. Emphasis is on communicating information — attention paid to the user’s experience.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  30. 30. Harbinger Online Design & Navigation Shawnee Mission East HS • Prairie Village, Kan. Clean and easy to navigate. Those should be goals of any website, and this one stands out. Tabs organize content for visitors beyond obvious categories.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  31. 31. Fourcast Design & Navigation Hockaday School • Dallas, Texas Simple, elegant design stands out from the pack. Attention is focused on the carousel with other featured content down the page or via tabs.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  32. 32. Rich Media • The site uses a text and, video, photos, variety of media: • Media enhance content and help tell stories rather than simply add flashy elements to the site. • Audio, video and graphic elements are technically excellent. • Copyrightonly original contentand followed; laws are understood or copyright-free material is used.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  33. 33. From the judges on Rich Media: • Don’tto third-party resources in every Link “shovelware” your print edition. article. Embed Google Maps content. Add value to your Web articles with features your print edition can’t handle. • When you’re creating videovideos need to YouTube or Vimeo that the pieces in stand alone. People will share the videos on Facebook or find it on YouTube and may not have the accompanying articles.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  34. 34. From the judges on Rich Media: • Dumping 200multimediaslideshow and calling that a photos in a piece is wrong. Edit! Make the slide show have a beginning, middle and end. • Follow copyright rules.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  35. 35. The Lancer Link Rich Media Carlsbad HS • Carlsbad, Calif. Site contains a lot of fresh, well-produced multimedia. Audio in podcasts is clear and crisp.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  36. 36. Rich Media Francis Howell North HS • St. Charles, Mo. A variety of multimedia includes timelines, videos, podcasts, and events calendar. New items are updated almost daily.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  37. 37. And now, some tips. Less “meh.” More “epic.”Wednesday, April 18, 12
  38. 38. 1. Customize the template • The template is a starting Utilize widgets and modifications ensure the design, organization and display fit the needs of your content and your viewers. • Move thingssee if pollsSwap objects out or around to around. get better response, Facebook more “likes” or stories more views. Use Google Analytics to track success.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  39. 39. 2. Make the CMS work for you • CMS are and maintain consistency organize not evil. They help you through time and staff changes. • Evolve slowly. a site the smallest style change can set Even apart.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  40. 40. 3. Three letters: SEO. • That’s for Search Engine Optimization. • Givefind your site and content. will clues. That’s how search engines • Use key words. Write will pop upand leads with words that headlines in search. • Use plugins toGoogle Site Map relevancy. Try increase search optimizer.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  41. 41. 3.5 More on SEO. • Who are you? Put the name and location of the school on the site. Most visitors will know this, but it’s an important detail for each publication (on or offline). • Put it inso include theengines can’t your images, text. Search full name of read publication, school, physical address, and phone or email in footer of your site.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  42. 42. 4. Improve those content carousels • They are’s the solution. there doesn’t mean Just because it’s • Test it. how the animationeach slide is shown, Consider how long works, how to place the captions. • Compelling photography is essential. If a story doesn’t have good image, you should not splash it across the top of the page. Avoid duplication in multiple places on the front page.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  43. 43. 5. Details count • Have a social media presence. Facebook and Twitter links should be easily accessible through recognizable icons. • Reinforce yourin a row Use a favicon to brand your site brand. of tabs or a bookmark list. Use a site to condense your logo and add code to your head tag. • Experiment with new trends. Try things like Tumblr, Pinterest and more.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  44. 44. 6. Navigate logically • Go home. obvious clicking on your flag/ unless it’s Home buttons are useful masthead will take you there. • Always include “About” or “Contact us.” Nest staff pages, advertising and other “business” pages under these categories. • Organize and archive. Homecoming is only current and relevant so long. Try turning a section into a button in your right rail, or nest all special sections under a certain navigation name.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  45. 45. 7. Analyze your traffic. • No one likes math. Make Google Analytics a part of your staff’s routine. • What’s trending? Talk with staffs about why certain articles are trending. • Consider bounce goingThat’s the an number of people rate. to your site immediately leaving. The lower the bounce, the better you are at keeping people around. • Try Google Analyticator for WordPress and Chartbeat if you have high traffic.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  46. 46. 8. Help your audience • What would you in your highviewer?life You’re immersed expect as a school and experience it daily. How can you build a site for the audience most likely to visit your page? • Help the less familiar. For visitors unfamiliar with your school, add context like a wiki or links to past coverage. • Don’t be up a story link.provide context. can back afraid to and External sitesWednesday, April 18, 12
  47. 47. 9. Prioritize the content • Make the front pageneed the clutter of landing page doesn’t a menu. The dozens of photos. • Service visualthe eye withJust as you do in print, draw skimmers. visual elements and text cues as to what is important. Sites like and utilize many summaries and links and few photos “above the fold” on the main page.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  48. 48. 10. Increase the interactivity • Ask the not only encourages interaction, content audience. Reader-generated it drives traffic like crazy. Contests for cutest pets or best spirit day costume are guaranteed winners. • Allow give advice (“How would you cut ideas, submissions. Readers can submit the budget?”), or add to a wiki (“What’s your advice for incoming freshmen?”). • Share, contentshare. Facilitate sharing of your share, among social media.Wednesday, April 18, 12
  49. 49. What’s next? We announce the winners this afternoon! Contact Logan Aimone: logan@studentpress.orgWednesday, April 18, 12
  50. 50. Questions? Thanks! Twitter: @NSPA Facebook: National Scholastic Press Association Contact Logan Aimone: Contact David Studinski emailWednesday, April 18, 12