Wednesday, April 27, 2011

QR Code data

We've been increasing our use of QR codes in The Oakland Press' print edition and I've been tracking the data.
The Google Map QR Code

Here are the results:
• We've been running a QR code on our front page rail linking to The Oakland Press' Facebook page for several months, albeit not daily. Over time, that's been used to bring 237 people to our Facebook page.
• Earlier this month, we used a QR code for a contest where readers could enter to win tickets to a Red Wings game. That generated 76 clicks to the page.
• A QR code linking to The Oakland Press sports page has gotten 130 users.
• A Google map plotting the locations of nine fires at vacant homes in Pontiac also got a QR code, which was published twice in print for stories about the fires — 118 people used it.
• Links to the comments page of stories have had less stellar results, though I'd argue that with the right story, they'd be wildly successful. A story about Michigan State Police using a device to extract data from cell phones had a comments page QR code got almost 30 uses; a link to a less controversial story about a drunk driver garnered only 16 uses.

Below is the Google Map that the QR code links to:

View Fires in Pontiac in a larger map

Monday, April 18, 2011

My 30-day project: & QR Codes

With everyone in the newsroom Tweeting, it made perfect sense for The Oakland Press to create a "best uses" of

My 30-day project gives the why-to and the how-to on using to do a lot more than just shorten URLs for Twitter.

By creating a free account, people can track data related to their shortened links. An added bonus? Every link shortened through the use of a account also has a QR code generated for it.

QR codes are something we're trying to use more often in our print edition. Why? To be able to interact with a huge and growing segment of news consumers — the mobile market.

Why not just create an mobile app for my newspaper, you ask? As much as I love apps, I'm not sold that they're the be-all end-all for newspapers organizations looking to reach the mobile consumer.

If we were to build an app, should we decide that iPhone users will get an app, or will it be Droid users? Or should we spend the money to make two apps? What about an app for the iPad? And what about apps for all those other tablets coming out now, and the next generation of smartphones lurking just around the bend?

My point is, the app thing is going to change. Right now, your apps are decided by your brand. Conversely, from our standpoint, we'd have to decide which brands are going to get our app. It's not a sustainable model and I have faith that in my lifetime, all smartphones and tablets are going to be able to shop at one master app-store — forget this by-the-brand crap.

I was just telling our Online Editor the same thing. He interrupted me to say, "In your lifetime you think that's going to happen? That's more likely to happen before Obama's term is up."

Red Wings ticket giveaway
Plus, why would you spend all that money creating a bunch of different apps when you could just add a line of code to your website that can tell what devices a user is coming from and automatically optimize the website for whatever that particular device may be?

I believe that's where JRC is headed. It certainly seems like the smartest and best use of resources.

In the meantime, we're finding other ways to connect with the mobile consumer — QR codes being one of them. We're also working on an SMS platform.

Already, we're getting results back from our use of QR codes. Staffer Paul Kampe said a QR code was used to promote a recent Red Wings ticket giveaway and generated a total of 65 clicks, including 35 from the first day and 25 more the next.

"Giveaways seem like a slam dunk for using a QR code," Kampe wrote.

I agree.

Here's video of the presentation broken into 3 approximately 10-minute clips:

This week, I'll be tweaking the Powerpoint included below to shed its OP-specific elements and make it applicable for all JRC properties.
Bitly QR codes

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Using Dropbox for journalism

Dropbox is one of my favorite things about the iPhone, and it's not even an iPhone specific thing!

You can download Dropbox (Click the link to go to the Dropbox homepage and see a video tutorial which, for some odd reason, is not embeddable) on your computer and all your mobile devices, allowing you to share content seamlessly between all of them. Even better, you can share folders with other computers.

In The Oakland Press newsroom, I downloaded Dropbox first on my computer, then added it to the iPhone and iPad, and then sent invitations to several of my coworkers to download Dropbox as well. For every person that answered my invite and downloaded the application, I got an extra 250 MB of free storage space. I then shared a general folder (ours is titled "OP Media") with all those coworkers who downloaded Dropbox.

This meant on Tuesday (and again today, while I was on the scene of a fire) I was able to use the iPhone and Dropbox to get photos sent automatically back to the office. I turn on the iPhone, go to the Dropbox app, take a photo, hit "use" and as soon as it uploads, a screen pops up on my coworkers' computers alerting them that "New media has been added to the OP Media folder." They can then drag and drop the photos (or video) to their desktop, edit as necessary and upload to the website. Generally speaking, it's a faster method than trying to upload to a story file right from the phone.

Here's a handout I made:

Using Dropbox for Journalism

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Covering a developing story

It was just before 8 a.m. Tuesday when I ran out of the office to chase down a raid on a medical marijuana dispensary taking place within our county.
That was the start to what would be a long day trying to keep track of the latest developments in the story.
What started off as a raid at one dispensary turned into a raid at two dispensaries, then at a bar, then a strip club, and then at a home.

iPhone photo
Here's how we did it, and how we could've done it better:

How we did it
1) I put a two sentence story up on our website. It went something like this "A raid of a medical marijuana facility is taking place in Walled Lake. The Oakland Press is sending a reporter to the scene."
2) I grabbed the iPhone, which once again proved itself as one of the most valuable tools to cover breaking news. While en route, I called a photographer to give him a heads up and promised a callback once I figured out where the raid was taking place.
3) Once on scene, I called back to the office and, for the sake of expedience, gave the information on the dispensary's name, address, phone number and website to staffer Valerie West. (What turned out to be really neat was that Valerie instantly recognized the dispensary as the one she'd recently gotten kicked out of while working on a story about medical marijuana ordinances in the county.) While it was comforting to know I could've updated the story from the iPhone itself, it was still faster to call back to the office and relay the information over the phone rather than fumble with the iPhone little's keypad.
iPhone photo
4) I interviewed employees of nearby businesses to get quotes and color for the story. After each interview, I called back Valerie with a quote to update the story.
5) I shot photos using Dropbox on the iPhone. We may have very well been the first news outlet in the area to have images of the raid online.
6) I took video with the Flipcam.
7) I was on the scene from 8:30 a.m. to nearly 10:30 a.m. Once back in the office, I set about making calls like mad. Meanwhile, other staffers at the office were also making calls. By the time I arrived back at the office, we had a full-fledged story with photos posted online, and a reporter and videographer en route to a second raid. We continued updating the story throughout the day.

How we could've done it better
1) I spent a lot of time on the scene, had the iPhone handy and could've been Tweeting. Should have been Tweeting. Mental note taken for next time.
2) I could have shot a 15-second video via Dropbox and had video online before any other news outlets too. We need more people set up with Dropbox.

In total, the stories about the raid garnered 10,283 pageviews — pretty good for us.

At the end of the day, we had a comprehensive story with two videos and a huge variety of photos. The staff really worked as a team to get the latest on this story, keeping it freshly updated and making it a solid multi-media story package.

See the full story, WITH VIDEO: Feds raid Oakland County Medical Marijuana dispensaries

The photos posted here are from the iPhone. The video is my contribution; our full-time videographer has a second video from a second location posted within the story file.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

How multi-media tools enable better displays of data

I can't help but continue clicking around on this Google map created by Political Reporter Charles Crumm.
It shows the exact number of foreclosures by community for each year during the past 10 years.
See the article, Foreclosures spike in March WITH MAP AND CHART
Could this information been presented on a print page? Sure, but the staff resources required to create something like that are huge and the amount of space such a chart would take up on a page would be huge too.
This is an area where digital journalism wins. One reporter, one database and one tool (batchgeo) that significantly cuts down the time involved in compiling and presenting this information. Compare that to one reporter spending hours transferring information from an Excel spreadsheet to a Newsedit document, only to set up even more hours of work for a second staffer to take that Newsedit data and turn it into a pretty full-page chart that eats up valuable space on the page.

View Oakland County Foreclosures in a full screen map

It was time-efficient enough to create that map that Crumm didn't stop there. Taking another set of data, he made a bar graph for foreclosures by the month since January last year. It really gives a visual to demonstrate what the story is all about — that it's difficult to discern a reliable pattern in foreclosures.
A simple glance at the graph instantly relays that foreclosures were high all last year, appeared to dip drastically in the beginning of this year but have now suddenly skyrocketed again.
March Foreclosures

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

OP hosts Community Blogger workshop

Glenn Gilbert, Executive Editor of The Oakland Press
Almost 20 Oakland County residents interested in becoming community bloggers attended our workshop yesterday, April 5.

Yesterday's workshop was different from those we held in the past. Those past workshops have broadened our list of bloggers to about 70, but yet we're lacking a crucial type of blogger — the community blogger.

The way we see it, there's a defined market for micro-local bloggers — a gap in news coverage left by traditional media organizations. With a need for news just waiting to be met, that also open ups revenue opportunities for those willing to take on the task.

 Last night, we had Marissa Raymo of our advertising department's special projects team on hand to talk about monetizing blogs. That, of course, goes back to building traffic, and traffic is something — with an average 3 million monthly pageviews — has to offer potential bloggers.

Our Executive Editor, Glenn Gilbert, discussed why we're reaching out to the community, the changing media landscape and our belief that the inclusion of a diversity of voices is imperative to being a successful source of news in the 21st century.

Using a projector, I was able to guide bloggers through a how-to session on setting up a blog and talked about using social media to promote it.

Online Editor Stephen Frye gave tips on covering communities, structuring blogposts and more.

Snippets from The Oakland Press' Community Blogger workshop

Oakland Press Community Blogger workshop

Marissa Raymo also handed out copies of her presentation on Search Engine Optimization, which is loaded with great information and available on her ideaLab blog.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Broadcasting positive news live

Top three winning students
Excellence in Education is a 19-year-old program here at The Oakland Press.
It was started by retired Senior Editor John Cusumano as a way to showcase positive stories from local school districts.
I first became involved with this program as an Editorial Assistant back in 2005. It's hard to believe so many years have passed now.
Year after year, I'm impressed and humbled by the students we honor.
This year, we got to open this wonderful event to the whole world via a livestream on our website.

Livestream replay: 2011 Excellence in Education Awards

Video streaming by Ustream 
Afterward, I also shot video of the winners with my Flipcam

I also filed the story for today's paper from the event using Google Docs and the iPad. I wrote the shell of the story in advance — the basic information about the program, the scholarship amounts and donations, etc. — while in the office and saved it to Google Docs.

Me (left) with third place program winners
After interviewing the winners with my Flipcam, I added quotes and color to the story. I have to admit, it wasn't the most enjoyable experience in the world to work on the iPad. Most frustrating was the fact that, despite my best efforts, Google Docs would not let me "select all" so I could copy & paste into an email. Instead, I called the copydesk, got in touch with someone who had a gmail account and made them an editor. They were able to retrieve the story that way.

Also, being in a hurry to file my story made the iPad keyboard all the more annoying. I wish I had one of those fold-out attachments ...

Either way, it worked out. Here are the story files: