Posted tagged ‘podcasting’

More experimentation with Google Voice

January 20, 2011

It has been a rough couple of months as I’ve had to replace four reporters. The process of soliciting resumes, reviewing resumes, interviewing candidates, checking references and making the offer is very time consuming. Combine that with vacation time for myself and covering for staff while they were off, as well as short deadlines and days off with the holidays, and I am behind in what I’d like to do in the ideaLab. With that said, I’ve renewed some of my earlier experimentation with Google Voice.

A podcasting project in cooperation with the Saline Area Historical Society is in the works. I am just waiting on scripts to be written based on research by the historical society on 10 historic places in Saline. I’ve been told those should be ready by mid-February, and then we will meet with my ideaLabHeritage citizen volunteer, Eastern Michigan University professor Michael McVey, to record the oral histories. The plan is to edit the audio using the free software Audacity and couple the audio file with a photo slide show of old and new photographs of the historic sites.

This project has me thinking of a simpler way for us to produce audio, and share more stories and information. I think Google Voice can accomplish this. For example, we could invite area senior citizens and residents at retirement homes to call our Google Voice number and record their stories. This could be based on anniversaries of historic events, Memorial Day or other themes. I could put together a questionnaire and they simply read the questions and then answer. They have a three-minute window to do this.

Beyond recording local history, we could do this to produce Q&A’s to complement stories online. For example, maybe we have produced a feature story on a local artist. The story is online with a photograph and a video interview of the artist demonstrating her craft, and then there is an audio clip of her answering questions about who is the most influential person in her life, the name of the artist she most admires, the tool she couldn’t do without, her favorite artistic medium, etc.

Since I’ve been working out at the health club every day for the last five months, I’ve noticed some people listening to their iPods and reading the newspaper while on the treadmill or stationary bike. I’ve also brought the iPad for my workouts and seen others using them to listen to music, check their Facebook news feed and read the morning headlines. This got me to thinking about incorporating an audio function on every story for people who would rather listen to their news than try to read it in print or on the iPad. So, I called our Google Voice number and read a story, then downloaded the MP3 file and uploaded it with the story online. I also had our 14-year-old movie reviewer do the same for his review of “I love you Phillip Morris.” Readers now have the option to click the audio player leading the story and listen, rather than read it. Check it out.

Those are my efforts for the month and I hope to step it up more. The next step, however, is to train the new staff on everything I’ve learned in the last five months, from iPadio.com to editing audio files to Google Voice and other efforts.

Learning how to create podcasts

October 31, 2010

Reporter Gerald LaVaute edits audio for a podcast.

My ideaLab report for October is dedicated to podcasting, which I and my staff have learned to do with instruction from Eastern Michigan University College of Education assistant professor Michael McVey. The Saline resident joined me Oct. 20 at Marble Park Cemetery in Milan, where we gathered audio clips at a Trick-or-Treat Tour put on by the historical society. Members of the group, dressed in period clothing, shared first-person stories of some of the local leaders and people of significance buried there.

While we used McVey’s fancy audio recorder to gather the audio, it can be done with the iPhone, as well, using “utilities” and “voice memos.” The sound quality won’t be as clear, but it will work. The phone is actually quite functional because you can also shoot photos for a slide show to accompany the podcast, as well as video to complement your written piece.

On Oct. 28, I invited my staff over to my home for podcast training. Everyone either brought a laptop or used a couple that I provided. First they had to download free software at audacity.sourceforge.net. Each reporter was given a clip, such as local historian Martha Churchill playing the role of the wife of Milan’s first village president, Nathan C. Putnam, and Lance Smith portraying the town’s late police chief and historian, Warren Hale.

The training went well, as McVey gave individual attention to each reporter, helping them eliminate ambient noise and edit the clips down to under three minutes. They were then converted from .wav files to mp3 using audacity editing software. I will finish the project by embedding the mp3 files and photos in a story and uploading it to our website using our content management system, which allows one to embed mp3s under the “media” section, where photos are uploaded.

Eastern Michigan University professor Michael McVey helps reporter Jodie Mason edit audio for a podcast.

With that training under our belts, November will see us move on to a more complicated but socially and historically significant project as McVey and I work with the Saline Area Historical Society to record the histories of 10 local historic sites and share the stories behind them. I will shoot current-day photos and the historical society will give us older photos to use as part of a slide show to accompany the audio. My goal is to have this project completed no later than spring. I’d like to have a drop-down menu on our website or a button that can be clicked on, where the podcasts can live forever. After Saline, I’d like to add 10 historically significant sites in Milan, Chelsea, Dexter, Manchester, Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Belleville, which are all part of our coverage area, collected by the reporters covering each community.

Here’s my official ideaLab report for October:

Goal: The goal of this month’s project was to explore podcasting and incorporate it into our news gathering tool belt. I’d like to see our reporters either use audio recording equipment or the ideaLab iPhone to gather audio to incorporate with their news stories online, just as they would gather video or photos to accompany their articles. Podcasting can also stand on its own or may be incorporated in a photo slide show.

Allies: My ally on this project, hands down, was professor Michael McVey. He has been very generous with his time, meeting me several times at a coffee shop to go over the details and logistics, and helping to brainstorm the entire project. To learn more about podcasting, check out his podcast on podcasting called “The Considerate Podcast,” which can be downloaded from iTunesU. He also offers tips on the College of Education’s website.

Obstacles: Obstacles would be resources. We don’t have any audio recording equipment, but we do have the ideaLab iPhone until next summer. I plan to explore the possibility of purchasing at least one digital recorder for staff to use.

Training Needed: We had our initial training with McVey and can do some follow up with him, if necessary, but the audacity software appears to be easy to figure out and you can download a manual.

Resources Needed: Resources needed would be a quality audio recorder with a microphone and head set with microphone for editing.

Accomplishments: The accomplishment is the training we received and using viable audio that we can incorporate online. The podcasting project from the graveyard tour, once I get in posted online, will be a nice accomplishment, with the crown jewel being a historic walking tour podcast series that we create for each community.

What you’ve taught: With the help of professor Michael McVey, we’ve taught reporters how to edit audio and convert it into mp3 files for upload on our website to accompany articles or photo slide shows.

What you’ve learned: I’ve learned how to gather audio on a recorder and the iPhone, edit it using free software from audacity.sourceforge.net, and upload it to our website.

Metrics: We won’t have metrics until I get the audio online and see what the response is from readers. Of course, we will promote it on social networking sites and in print.

Narrative: My narrative is above.

ideaLab Report and Update

September 27, 2010

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.

Sharing local history through podcasts

September 21, 2010

A chat at a local coffeehouse last week with one of my volunteers working on ideaLab Heritage has netted an exciting project that can be incorporated into my ideaLab participation with the Journal Register Co.

Since my goal is to get technology in the hands of staff and have them incorporate the latest and greatest tools available in their reporting, this project fits nicely.

Michael McVey, a Saline resident and assistant professor in the College of Education at Eastern Michigan University, and I were chatting and I knew he produced podcasts, so I asked him about them.

Initially, I wondered if there was any value in having one of my reporters read individual stories for a podcast we could make available on our website so people could listen to the news rather than reading it. I thought they could click on the daily headlines and opt to click on a podcast report rather than read the story online. This thought was inspired by my daily workouts at Liberty Athletic Club in Ann Arbor, where I see a handful of people trying to read the newspaper while running the treadmill or exercising on the stationary bikes.

McVey, however, said he didn’t think it would catch on based on his own experience, but maybe we could try something else. That’s when we came up with the idea of historic walking tours of the Saline and Milan communities. The idea is to feature a historic building or deceased mover and shaker every week or two, with two- to three-minute-long stories shared by a member of the local historical society.

We would build on our podcasts over the years and end up with a wonderful archive of each community’s history featured in a drop-down menu on our home page.

If this catches on and enough interest is generated, my staff and I could tackle all eight communities that we cover.

I still have a lot to learn about podcasts, as I know nothing at this point, but McVey said we could incorporate photos and video. He sent me some links to his work, as well as a link to a podcast on podcasting, and we talked a little about equipment, which is really just a good microphone.

We also talked about getting all of the stakeholders involved, from training staff to engaging the historical societies and local libraries.

We hope to start this project in October and Milan has offered a great opportunity. The historical society will be leading a tour of Marble Park Cemetery with a talk on deceased prominent residents at dusk Oct. 20.

My next move is to reach out to both historical societies, check out McVey’s podcast on podcasting and look into buying a microphone. My next meeting with him is Sept. 30, so I’ll update you on my progress at that time.

In the meantime, I welcome your comments and input. Do you have any experience with podcasting?