THE SHADDOCK REPORT

08
Jan

Tweet Of The Day: ‘Senior US Official Source’

HAHA. Truth to power.

07
Jan

Another Way To Engage With Readers Is Hiding In Plain Sight

conversation

Source: getamity.com

“Best of Twitter” and other social-media reaction pieces continue to be popular among local-news providers. I think they’re fine — often amusing, occasionally enlightening — no real harm in doing them. I’ve dabbled (here and here).

But what about the great story reactions that occur within a newspaper’s own domain? That’s right, I’m talking about THE COMMENTS, a phrase that causes many journalists, and unfortunately the occasional digital communities manager, to roll their eyes and groan with disgust. Or worse, mock their readers. Descriptions I’ve heard journalists apply to commenters (also known as customers):

  • “Morons”
  • “Lunatics”
  • “Nut jobs”
  • “Racists”

Do readers sometimes spout ugly and hurtful words? Yes. Can they also provide valuable insight and context? Yes.

The last couple of years, it’s been trendy for engagement editors (or their marketing counterparts) to say, “Let’s not be limited to the site. We’ll go where the conversation is already happening! On social media!!” I think that’s a fine idea, but ignoring the comments section is not.

I’m proud to have worked at a company that early on decided to make engaging with readers in the comments not just a goal, but a job requirement. News sites that do this can be richly rewarded, in measurable terms (e.g. return visitors and time on site), and also in less measurable ways (increased credibility for journalists, greater rapport with customers, fodder for future stories). Not to get too marketing-speaky, but the comments are an opportunity to build a relationship with an audience, and newspapers are squandering it by hiding these sections, neglecting them or doing away with them altogether.

I’d love to see news sites make comments more visible on their article pages, not less so. Pull them up higher, give them some eye-catching graphical treatment. Not only could this add value to stories, but it would provide readers incentive to contribute more thoughtful remarks. And, frankly, showing a meaningful conversation between a reporter and a reader right there on the page would make the news organization look good.

My advice to community managers: Go forth into new territories, find and convert new readers there, but don’t abandon the customers who are already in your store.

04
Jan

How ‘Bout Them Cowboys? A Gameday SEO Sniff Test

This morning I wanted to know whether the spousal unit and I had time to whip up a batch of Chex mix before the Dallas Cowboys-Detroit Lions game, so I Googled the term “Cowboys game.” Shockingly I found no local-news sources on the first page of results, general or news, logged in or out.

What the heck, I wondered? My alma mater is chock full of Dallas Cowboys coverage, some of it expert-level analysis as good as any you’ll find on the Internet. Why did none of it appear for me in search?

Search engine optimization is tricky for any company, especially so in the crowded world of news. Sadly, there is no magic prescription for ranking No. 1 all the time, but there are a few factors within a publisher’s control. I took a quick gander at the DallasNews.com homepage story labeled “Cowboys GameDay: Keys to victory vs. Lions, predictions, more.”

First, let me say that this page is gorgeous. The design team at the News is doing a heck of a job with these special pages. They’re truly a breath of fresh air.

Good sense suggests this story should be near the top of the results for my “Cowboys game” query, but it’s not. So, what gives? Let’s take a look under the hood:

Title tag

Most of the content management systems that newsrooms use are set up so that the title tag pulls from a story’s headline by default. If a publisher doesn’t have (and use, natch) a tool to override the default, then editors are wise to include good keywords in their headlines. The actual H1 headline on the story in question is “Detroit Lions at Cowboys.” It looks great on the page, but it’s a bit spare. Let’s see what the title tag, which is pulling from the page label, is:

cowboys title

Also spare, but at least it contains “Cowboys.”

Now let’s look at the headlines on the search engine results page (SERP) for my query:

Cowboys game search engine results

Ah, now we’re getting somewhere. Google, creepily prescient as always, somehow knew that I was looking for Who-What-When-Where type of information, so it returned hits that satisfy that need. The headlines above have something else in common: They aren’t ambiguous. Google rewards specificity. In this example, it’s not enough to have “Cowboys” in a title tag and “Detroit” in the H1. All of the top-results headlines contain both “Cowboys” and “Lions.” I’d love to see if changing the title tag on the News’ story would bump it up in the SERPs.

Title tags are extremely important, but they aren’t everything. Other factors at play that are beyond an editor’s control include page load time, social signals, inbound links and more. However, a savvy producer does have some other tricks up his or her sleeve. This particular page may benefit from a few other enhancements:

Canonical URL: This tells the search engine “This URL is the definitive source for the content it holds.” Standard SEO stuff.

Google news keywords tag: You’ve probably heard that Google discounts keywords because so many people abused them in the early days of SEO. It makes an exception for publishers, who with a bit of code and discipline can increase their chances of rising above the fray. The News has this code (I know this because I led its implementation). Let’s take another peek at the source code to see how it’s being used:

Cowboys game Google news keywords

Right. So, the good news is “Dallas Cowboys” and “Detroit Lions” made the cut. The bad news? So did 18 other terms. Google’s limit for this tag is 10.

Google news standout tag: This tool for calling out a publisher’s strongest pieces works, but only if you use it. Does this story qualify as standout? Not my call, but if I were a publisher who hadn’t exceeded my quota for the week, I might give it a whirl here. (Side note: If newsroom SEO interests you — and I guess it does if you’ve made it this far into my post — follow Adam Sherk. I’ve learned a lot from him.)

Image alt tags: Some experts will say this is too nitty-gritty to worry about. I say why not use every tool at your disposal?

The takeaway: You can have the most beautiful page in the world, but if you whiff on the details, you’ll lose on game day.

P.S. — Go Cowboys!

 

01
Jan

It’s 2015: Do You Know Where Your 2014 New Year’s Eve Guide Is?

New Years Eve clock‘Twas the first day of 2015, and all across the Internet, news organizations still had holiday-specific posts on their homepages.

A quick sweep this afternoon revealed the following on the World Wide Web’s front pages:

  • New Year’s Eve party guides
  • New Year’s Eve drinking games
  • Quirky New Year’s Eve traditions
  • New Year’s Eve weather posts
  • New Year’s Eve deals and steals
  • 5 things to know about New Year’s Eve
  • Christmas cookie posts
  • Posts about how to decorate for the holidays?!?

Retrospectives are fine. Predictions are fine. “Where to ring in the new year?” Not fine.

Article pages and other “side doors” are the new darlings of the digital space because of search and social medial referrals, but publishers that neglect their homepage are doing themselves and their audiences a disservice. The homepage is a brand’s front door, and if the wreath is still up well past the holidays, readers will wonder if anyone’s home.

 

25
Dec

A Feel-Good Story For Christmas Day

“My first Christmas at age 72 with new sisters,” Byrd said. “How about that?”

I love this story about reunited siblings from The Dallas Morning News — a short and sweet read for Christmas morning.

24
Dec

Them’s The Breaks: Details Suffer In Era Of Mobile-First Publishing

Times like these, the old-school print copy editor in me gets testy.

In an age where major media outlets preach the gospel of mobile first and responsive design, orphans and bad breaks in headlines abound. I’ve heard production editors reason that because there are just so many sizes of screens to account for — desktop and laptop monitors, iPhones, iPads, iPad minis, the Android contingent, etc. — it’s not worth sweating the presentation.

Continue Reading..

22
Dec

Words To Live By

Our friends at Pain Points have sound advice for organizations that want to innovate.

21
Dec

How To Get Your Instagram Photos To Display As Images On Twitter

The other day a former colleague sought my counsel on a social media issue: Using IFTTT.com to make Instagram photos show up on Twitter as an image rather than a link to Instagram.

Honestly I hadn’t thought about IFTTT (If This Then That) for a long time, and I was grateful for the reminder. For the uninitiated, IFTTT is a clever site that connects “Channels” (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Email, Evernote, Instagram and many more) to create digital “recipes” that are made up of triggers (“this”) and actions (“that”). An example of this in action:

Trigger: I update my Facebook profile photo
Action: My Twitter profile photo changes to match

(If this recipe sounds useful to you, you’re in luck. It’s real! And there are hundreds of others to choose from!)

Back to the question at hand: How to get Instagram photos to display on Twitter as full pic.twitter.com images, rather than as a link back to Instagram. First-world problem? Sure, but first-world problems keep people like me employed.

First, you’ll need to sign up for IFTTT. Do that. Next, click on Channels at the top of the page, then scroll down and select the Twitter icon. Activate your Twitter account, then scroll down a tad. This is what you’ll see:

IFFT Twitter recipes

See the bottom left recipe? That’s the one you want.

IFTTT Twitter & Instagram Recipe

You’ll receive a prompt to activate your Instagram account. Do that, and you’re pretty much done.

Note: When I first tested this recipe, my trial Instagram post didn’t appear immediately on Twitter, and I suspect this is what was tripping up my former colleague. Initially I thought maybe I had to click Share to Twitter on Instagram to make it work, but that wasn’t the case. If you’ve set up the above recipe, posting normally on Instagram will trigger the desired action, but(!) many IFTTT triggers have about a 15-minute lag. It appears you can override that lag by clicking on the Check Recipe icon within the recipe.

P.S. — Mandatory word of caution: Any time you combine a third party with your social accounts you increase the risk of hacking. Be aware and stay safe!

20
Dec

Constant Comment: News Readers’ Names Travel Fast

Do you think average readers realize how quickly and easily their names can spread across the digital landscape just by commenting on a news item?

Gigya comment

social sharing options

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20
Dec

And The Tweet Of The Week Is …

NYT jackjammer tweet

Whoever thought to write this New York Times tweet in all caps deserves a bonus:

Wit: Maybe not a lost art after all.