Wieck Australasia goes to CAS 2011
Our omniscient leader Warren Kirby will be sitting in on a panel at CAS 2011. Hear what he has to say about "Thriving in a Networked World: New Tools and Tried-and-Tested Rules for Media Relations", Thursday 26th May www.casummit.com.au
DALLAS, Texas – Two Baylor Health Care System sites built and managed by Wieck Media are winners in the 2011 Digital PR Awards presented by PR News. The wins came in the Online Newsroom category and the best organizational Blog.
The Online Newsroom bested other finalists that included Cisco Systems Inc., and Intel & Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide. They, along with Fahlgren Mortine with Crown Equipment, received honorable mentions.
Every now and then you stumble across something that completely changes your perception of the world. And so it was last night when I read a post on the Stem Law Firm Web Strategy Blog.
A blog post titled “How to fix your law firm’s Media page” is quite possibly the best, most succinct article I’ve ever read on how to utilise an online newsroom – and it was written by Jordan Furlong — a LAWYER!
This isn’t the standard list of content types, like images, video or search function. It’s packed with ideas and concepts that aren’t always obvious. Most of the points suggest stepping back to ensure you see both the forest and the trees.
It’s definitely worth a read but for those that don’t have time:
- Points of Contact – this isn’t just a single point of contact, it’s a list of people with a specific area of expertise to both provide the correct job title but also to help the media avoid wasting time. The warning note is that each person must be reliably responsive.
- The Business Side – “Not every reporter’s inquiry involves law-related issues — increasingly, especially in the legal press, stories involve the business side of practice.” Now replace law-related with “my industry-related” and see how that resonates…
- The Firm’s Media Resources – “What if reporters were clients?” Now think about that for a minute. If journalists were clients they’d what to know what you can give them. OK your newsroom might have plenty of images and video but can you provide something unique on request? Can you organise key personnel for interivews?
- A Series of Primers – “Not to paint with too broad a brush, but the level of legal literacy in the mainstream press is not terribly high. Consider creating a series of primers on your Media page that explain basic legal concepts on issues that appear regularly in the press.” Again, replace ‘legal’ with ‘my industry’ and you get the idea.
And finally Furlong finishes with “There’s an old expression: “You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.” I think something similar could be said about the press: even if you don’t want to talk to them, it’s quite likely they want to talk with you, and they may have good reason.”
Aggregation has long been identified as both a benefit and a curse on media publishers the world over.
New media powerhouses like The Huffington Post have mastered and fine-tuned not just aggregation, but also social media, comments from readers, and most of all, a sense of what its public wants. In the process, Huffington has helped media companies, new and old, understand the appeal of aggregation: its ability to give prominence to otherwise unheard voices and to bring together and serve intensely engaged audiences, as well its minimal costs compared to what’s incurred in the traditionally laborious task of gathering original content.
Huffington often says that aggregation benefits original-content producers as much as it does the aggregators. When sites promote each others’ content, they create more engaged audiences through additional page views and commentary.
News organisations have always blended material from a variety of sources by combining editorial content from staff, news services, and freelancers; adding advertising; and then distributing the package to consumers. In the digital world, news aggregation is not so different.
There are two basic models for aggregation. The cheapest way to aggregate news is through code and algorithms, with little or no human intervention – think Google News or Yahoo News. On the other end of the spectrum, publications like Huffington Post starts with algorithmic selections but puts them into the hands of human editors who set priorities for sections and then condense, rewrite or bring several organisations’ versions of the same story together.
But what happens when aggregation turns into automation? A third model is emerging where the content itself is created with software, then aggregated and published.
Take a moment to read Robbie Allen’s “How I automated my writing career”.
It’s easy to dismiss this example as ‘that’s just regurgitation of stats, of course that can be automated’ and you’d be right – to a point.
Here’s an excerpt from a fully automated article on one of their sites:
“The Tar Heels got to the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team after falling to Duke, 75-58, in the ACC tournament. In making the Elite Eight, North Carolina defeated 15th-seeded Long Island, 102-87 in the second round, seventh-seeded Washington, 86-83 in the third round, and then 11th-seeded Marquette, 81-63 in the Sweet Sixteen.
North Carolina was led by Tyler Zeller, who had 21 points on 75% shooting. The Tar Heels also got 18 points from Harrison Barnes, 11 from Dexter Strickland, and seven from Kendall Marshall.
Kentucky was on fire from beyond the arc, scoring 36 points in three-pointers to get an edge.
The Wildcats got their top scoring out of a game high from Brandon Knight with 22 points and seven rebounds. DeAndre Liggins (12), Josh Harrellson (12), Terrence Jones (11), and Darius Miller (11) all hit double figures.”
If that isn’t enough to send a shiver down your spine, consider this; machine-created content will never be worse, or more expensive to produce, than it is today. It will only get better, cheaper and more accessible to both legitimate publishers attempting to make their workflow more efficient, content farms who can finally do away completely with the human element and to spammers.
And it’s the latter who are most likely to push the boundaries faster more than anyone. In the never ending war to fool a tiny percentage of Internet users into helping out a poor Nigerian lottery winner, the algorithms used by spammers need to be more complex and more “human”.
As Allen helpfully points out:
- Software doesn’t get writer’s block, and it can work around the clock.
- Software can’t unionize or file class-action lawsuits because we don’t pay enough (like many of the content farms have had to deal with).
- Software doesn’t get bored and start wondering how to automate itself.
- Software can be reprogrammed, refactored and improved — continuously.
- Software can benefit from the input of multiple people. This is unlike traditional writing, which tends to be a solitary event (+1 if you count the editor).
- Perhaps most importantly, software can access and analyze significantly more data than what a single person (or even a group of people) can do on their own.
The slide down this slippery slop has already begun; and not just with websites.
Check out this video about Soylent, a plug-in for Microsoft Word. It’ll shorten down text to fit a specified length and offers a few options. It’ll proofread and correct grammatical errors. It allows the author to do wholesale changes to a document like “Change this to past tense”.
There’s no doubt the current technology can be a valuable tool for media outlets, after all it’s only suited to quantitative and data-driven work. This allows journalists to focus on (cough) qualitative commentary however this is the crucial point.
Journalists must establish their personal, human, stamp on the work they produce. Regurgitating press releases and re-hashing statistics won’t cut it. Anything suitable for automation – which is a lot – will be picked up by newsrooms the world over as managers and publishers scramble to try and reduce overheads.
And then that boundary will shift. And shift again, and slowly the room of writers becomes a room of servers with a couple of database admins, and one or two sub-editors just checking through a cursory selection of articles.
Writers whose unique style engages readers and builds a dedicated following are the ones best placed to fight off this new threat to the established traditions of news media.
For the record, in the interest of self-preservation, I for one welcome our new robot overlords.
“The best online newsrooms combine rich content with careful organization and search capabilities; they enable PR pros to provide reporters, analysts, and bloggers with a vast amount of information without overwhelming them.”
That is a quote from Maria Verven, a PR and content marketing executive with KC Associates, a Minneapolis-based b2b technology PR and marketing agency.
At Wieck, we’re always banging on about the importance of an online newsroom, so it’s heartening for us to see someone WITHOUT a vested interest in promoting them echo the arguments we often make.
There are many more reasons why an online newsroom is a necessary tool for any organisation however this list is an excellent start. It provides a ‘back-to-basics’ overview of some of the things journalists need that are so easily overlooked when you are intimately involved in a company or industry.
Maria Verven’s list includes:
- Media Contacts
- Links to news releases
- Links to media coverage
- Company backgrounder
- Management Team Bios and photos
- Story Ideas
- Upcoming Events
- Links to company generated content
- RSS feeds
- Downloadable JPG images in hi-res
- Links to company social media profiles
- Search friendly URL
Verven also points out
“All of the content should be search optimized, with the ability to limit the search to just information within the newsroom section of the site.”
“All newsroom content should be easily sharable using social media buttons for the most popular sites and networks.”
The full article can be viewed at http://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/8636.aspx
A survey by Arketi Group has found that 81% of business journalists turn to corporate websites when they are unable to find a source.
And what makes the website useful when they get there?
Aside from the basics of contact information and search capabilities, providing reproduction multimedia assets is proving to be of significant importance.
At Wieck, we provide our clients with the capability to deliver all of these resources with our online newsrooms.
The opportunities for PR professionals don’t stop there; 80% say they rely on PR contacts, 77% on press releases and 71% on email alerts.
The survey also seems to suggest that traditional media is shifting the way that it delivers the news with 36% of the journalists saying that 75% of their news outlet’s website is original content that doesn’t appear in the print publication. This underlines the need for PRs to recognise the changing requirements of traditional media and respond accordingly.
The days of sending out a press release without multimedia assets are gone. In the world of modern media, PRs must provide downloadable reproduction quality images and broadcast video on their online newsrooms, or risk losing 81% of their opportunities.
A little over a week ago Google implemented a change that could provide great opportunities for both the media and PR industries and that’s made online newsrooms more important than ever.
They’ve implemented a significant improvement to its ranking algorithm, that’s designed to deliver the most up-to-date results.
The idea is that even if you don’t specify it in your search, you probably want search results that are relevant and recent.
Google has recognised that the fast pace at which information moves in today’s world, the most recent information can be from the last week, day or even minute, so a result from a week ago about breaking news is too old.
The advantages for news media are obvious, do a Google search for something and not only do you get results on a topic, you get the latest news on that topic first.
For PR’s it means having an effective online presence is now more important than ever and the keystone of that presence should be an online newsroom.
An online newsroom that is SEO optimised and delivers the media the most up-to-date content gives you the best chance of getting your news ranked.
As Lisa Buyer wrote in a blog titled “Pitching to Google’s Fresh New Algorithm via News, Blogs, Events & Google+“:
“When was the last time you checked out your online newsroom? Or do you even have an online newsroom? Journalists expect it, customers and prospects learn from it and Google now digs it even more!
A company’s online newsroom can be an excellent source that delivers fresh news content to Google – and this couldn’t be a better time to give your online newsroom an audit. An organized and optimized online newsroom is feeding Google that content freshness and frequency the search engine is now rewarding.”
Communicators that publish quality company news that is relative, consistent, and frequent on their online newsroom are bound to rise above the noise.