ideaLab Report and Update

It has been 30 days since my first ideaLab report and a second one is due to update our progress. Some breakthroughs include our sports editor using the iPhone Friday by himself to tweet the halftime score to HeritageNews followers on Twitter, which total 1,114, and three Facebook posts from the iPhone announcing he would be posting, giving the halftime score and reporting the final score. He had three people post “likes,” one of which was me. I guess this will be baby steps because what I had asked him to do was tweet at each quarter, as well as post to Facebook. Another reporter had the Netbook, so I didn’t expect the video by halftime like I did last week when I accompanied him to the Huron-Monroe football game.

The podcasting local history project has generated interest from the Saline Area Historical Society. A member saw my blog post before I even contacted the organization and that helped facilitate the project. I met with David Rhoads, the historical society’s president, Saturday during the Harvest of Arts Festival in Saline. We came up with a list of 10 historic places we could feature first, and he recommended historical society members Bob Lane and Wayne Clements for researching and sharing the history. The next step is for me to meet with my ideaLab community partner, professor Michael McVey, who has experience in podcasting and has volunteered to help. We will review the list Thursday and consider the order, and come up with a time frame for recording.

I am still waiting to hear about copy editor Daniel Lai’s experience with the Netbook while working on vacation in Texas, as he will be back Tuesday, and Heritage Newspapers online editor Jason Alley’s experience with the iPad.

Here’s my official report:
Goal: To incorporate technology into our jobs as reporters, editors and advertising representatives to achieve better efficiency, reader/customer engagement and interaction, and produce products rich in hyperlocal content relevant to people’s lives in a variety of formats. Our first project is a regional story on medical marijuana use in Michigan and the impact the new law has on local communities. Our first step was to shoot a video of our editorial meeting pitching the idea and that was followed by a live chat with readers Sept. 9. Ypsilanti copy editor and reporter Austen Smith is working on the story using our new technology, including video and audio, and is incorporating as much crowdsourcing as possible. During our live chat, we had 30 people participate in a two-hour period.

Allies: My fellow ideaLabbers, staff and the community. I won’t hesitate to call on anyone who may have experience or knowledge about what we’re trying to achieve. To be successful, I will engage everyone I can who has an interest in this project and moving journalism forward.

Obstacles: I reported last month that I still needed to work on getting the sports department on board. This is still a goal and I plan to meet with the department on Monday to reiterate this goal and seek a volunteer to follow on Friday to show him how to cover a football game live, like I did last week with the sports editor.

Training needed: We need training in podcasting, but it looks like Eastern Michigan University professor Michael McVey will help with this. We haven’t established the logistics yet, but it needs to happen in the next few weeks. I’ll also have copy editor and reporter Daniel Lai train employees on phonecasts using iPadio.com. We had talked about this, but none of our reporters showed any enthusiasm for it. We’re about to hire two new reporters to replace two who have left and I can guarantee you they will be enthusiastic.

Resources needed: I purchased a camera connection kit for the iPad and I still need to get Internet outside of WiFi for the iPad. I also need to continue searching for apps for the iPhone and iPad that will help us achieve our goals. The Netbook is still relatively unknown to me because I’ve been lending it out.

Accomplishments: Last month, I reported that we shot our first video pitching our regional story on medical marijuana in the state of Michigan and hesitation local governments are experiencing as dispensaries seek to set up shop and local leaders don’t have zoning and other issues worked out. We followed up with a live chat Sept. 9 to engage readers and ask them what kind of questions they want answered and what their thoughts are on the issues, and saw 30 people chime in. Copy editor and reporter Austen Smith hopes to have the piece done by next week, and it will incorporate video, audio, sidebars and crowdsourcing. I also showed the sports department how to cover football live, and started a podcasting project.

What you’ve taught: I reported last month that I taught sports reporter Dave Merchant how to upload pages to Scribd and then posting them on our websites as an online teaser to print. I also taught reporter Lisa Allmendinger how to send breaking news alerts and enter her sources’ e-mail in our Mail List at TownNews to build our online audience through our e-newsletter. She, however, is leaving us, so the training continues with existing staff and new as two positions are filled. This past 30 days, I taught sports editor Terry Jacoby about reporting live from high school football games, with tweets, Facebook posts and using the Netbook to upload video by halftime. He, in turn, used the training to venture out on his own this past Friday using the iPhone. Both Austen and I also looked into Cover It Live to execute our live chat on medical marijuana.

What you’ve learned: I previously reported that I had learned how to upload pdfs using Scribd to provide more content for our online readers, as well as phonecasts, or phlogs, using ipadio.com. This past month, I learned how to use Cover It Live to do live chats and iMovie on the iPhone to shoot and produce a video, and then I learned about transferbigfiles.com to send it to my laptop so it could be converted and uploaded to our website (see my Sept. 13 blog post).

Metrics: As reported Sept. 21 on my blog, which has more than 1,300 hits, we can measure engagement from reporting live at the Huron-Monroe football game in terms of the feedback that I received on Twitter, as well 14 views on the video I produced and the comments on Facebook. The number of video views is disappointing, but it seems to be the average. On Cover It Live, there were 30 people logged on following the conversation and participating. These blog posts are attracting readers and facilitating engagement, as demonstrated with my contact from the historical society president regarding the podcasting project.

Narrative: Like I reported last month, I feel progress is being made in terms of learning the technology and getting it in the hands of staff who can use it in the field. I was excited to see the level of engagement in our live chat and the live coverage we provided from the Huron-Monroe football game using the Flip, Netbook and iPhone. I was also pleased to see our sports editor take the iPhone out on Friday, and will get feedback from him tomorrow. I saw he had tweeted and posted scores on Facebook. The podcasting project has a lot of potential, and I should be able to report back next month on the progress in training and execution. As I stated last month, I think the key to being successful overall will be staff and audience engagement. I need to continue to engage my staff and encourage them as we incorporate these tools into what we do, and make sure our readers/users know what we’re doing and join the conversation.

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2 Comments on “ideaLab Report and Update”

  1. John Hetzler Says:

    good stuff. I’m enjoying the updates and seeing what you guys are doing. I might even “steal” some of your ideas.


  2. John, if you do, let us know what works and doesn’t work for you. If you have any ideas of how we can better utilize these tools, please let us know. I would love another ideaLab Heritage partner.


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