October 5, 2009

Highlights from ONA 2009

JD LasicaAt first glance, the Online News Association’s annual conference this past weekend looked like a throwback to the early days of Web journalism, with lots of familiar faces from the early days of the esteemed new media group. Jai Singh (now managing editor of the Huffington Post), Staci D. Kramer of paidContent, Joan Walsh of Salon, author Scott Rosenberg, consultant Elizabeth Osder, Jonathan Dube, Tom Regan, academics like Paul Grabowicz and Rosental Alves — one might think the San Francisco Hilton had added a Wayback Machine room.

But the sessions, organized by Josh Hatch of USA Today and his team, were generally engaging and forward-looking, a refreshing contrast to the doom and gloom that afflicts most news industry gatherings. The reason? These are the hands-on new media staffers, not the publishers or top-echelon executives who would clearly prefer if this whole Internet thing went away.

If this conference had a theme, it was: Journalism in the Age of Twitter.

I gave a presentation (online at Slideshare.net) on how journalists can use social media tools to build community, and it found a receptive audience. (See our sister site, Socialbrite.org, for 6 Twitter tips for journalists and 8 ways to use social media in the newsroom. Both include free printable handouts.) By and large, new media teams in online newsrooms are interested in seeing how the new generation of social tools can help advance journalism, which is why I like ONA best of all the media conferences.

Rolling out a few new tools, however, won’t lead to the promised land of staying in business. Tools are not a strategy. For that, news organizations need to take a hard look at what’s working in the online marketplace, devise a strategy (of, say, two to four years’ duration), bring in outside experts (the team here at Socialmedia.biz would be a good start), and then begin innovating with short-term projects. Set up goals and then measure results with concrete metrics.

Random bits from the conference

I didn’t attend the full conference — sorry, ONA, but charging speakers to attend on days they’re not speaking is astonishingly poor judgment — but here are a few nuggets I gleaned:

• Leo Laporte’s lunchtime talk Friday was a highlight of the show (when the Livestream video was working). You can see it at BuzzMachine, and it’s worth a watch.

• In addition, Suzanne Yada has a behind-the-scenes interview with Leo Laporte.

• You can find 98 links to websites and articles (everything I referenced in my talk, and more) at http://delicious.com/socialmediacamp/ona09.

Canon 5D• The AP’s Kevin Roach held up the Canon EOS 5D Mark II Digital SLR Camera as almost the perfect news gathering tool, for photos and even for shooting hi-def video (it costs $4,000). “This thing is amazing,” he said. He also said AP trains its reporters to use the Canon HV30 camcorder but they’re looking to move up to a more robust device.

• I didn’t know much about the AP Online Video Network. I think Roach said it costs $25 for streaming 100 hours of video for your audience; see the specific packages.

• Andrew Fitzgerald, Current TV: “Citizens and people with cameras are not a replacement for reporters and photographers.”

• While the university students in the Student Newsroom did a bang-up job covering the conference, I spotted only one journalist (from BayNewser) interviewing attendees in the hallway — and only 13 photos on flickr tagged with ona09 (other than the 12 I uploaded). Compare that with the thousands of photos at a tech event like TechCrunch 50 or Web 2.0 Summit.

• Thanks to ONA’s Liz Lufkin of Yahoo! for your generous comments about my contributions to the conference, and to the attendees who wished we had more time for a deeper dive into social media. We do offer training workshops for your team, by the way.

• Amy Webb offers a resource list of 10 Tech Trends worth a look.

• Smartly, ONA has added links to presentations given by speakers on the schedule page.

• See RTNDA.org (the Association of Electronic Journalists) and NPPA.org (National Press Photographers Association) for codes of ethics for journalism and photography.

• Some of the best coverage of ONA comes from Reportr.net.

• I did a video interview with YouTube’s Olivia Ma, and have more to say about the keynote by Lisa Stone of BlogHer, but will save those for future posts.

• The Next Newsroom Project is listing takeaways from ONA 2009. Among them is the following from Jesse James Garrett (courtesy of Yuri):

12 things every news site should know

12 things every news site should know, by Jesse James Garrett, president of Adaptive Path:

1) Know who you are. Define what you’re best at.
2) Be in the Web, not on the Web. See your product as part of the Web, not a delivery channel.
3) The Web is not the world. Deliver well what users come to your site for.
4) Know what people do with news. People absorb news. People want to apply news. People want to share news. News provides pleasure.
5) Support different modes of engagement. Design solutions that support scanning needs and deep dive needs.
6) Every page is the home page.
7) Navigation is dead. Long-live navigation. People don’t use global navigation, they use contextual navigation.
8) Put the multi in multimedia – Use a variety of means to tell stories
9) Headlines should tempt, not tease. Headlines should make people want to know what is on the other side of the link, not just wonder what the story is about.
10) Think outside the blob. Structure your data.
11) It’s an application, not a publication. Create a tool that let’s people work with the news, not just read the news.
12) Try things out, throw things out.

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JD Lasica, founder of Socialmedia.biz, is now co-founder of the cruise discovery engine Cruiseable. See his About page, contact JD or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

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