News Impact Summit 2015
The News Impact Summit took place at LSE, London on Friday 5th June.
Workshop 3: Engagement through data for better story telling
Presenter: Allison Rockey, vox.com
Allison Rockey is nothing if not game. Within the first minute of her presentation to a room full of experienced English journalists she admitted she a) wasn't a journalist and b) had been in digital media about a year. And if that wasn't enough, she delivered the information with a broad US accent and bubbly American confidence. If the audience were a little taken aback, it didn't take long to establish why she'd been chosen to speak.
Allison is the Engagement Editor of Vox.com, a one-year old US news website whose mission is to 'explain the news' to an apparently vast, mostly mobile audience who find the current offerings of news services intimidating. Some might call it news for dummies.
Their point of difference is a 'card' system: essentially a set of simple cheat notes embedded in each story. A word highlighted in the copy indicates the presence of a card that a reader can easily click on - or swipe to - in order to find a definition, understand an acronym or gather some background on the story as they're reading it.
Vox.com's set of cards (a 'stack') on ISIS, for example, has had 'millions of views' and is being constantly updated by the 35 strong editorial team, who encourage other users and organisations to use their card stacks and, ideally, embed them in their own stories, facebook pages or blogs. (Users are apparently five times as likely to interact with an embedded card stack, and 32 per cent of users who view one card will go on to read the entire stack.)
Allison's role as Engagement Editor might be seen in old parlance as a marketing role: she helps the vox.com journalists package their stories for maximum reach on social media - a faster, more effective way to introduce vox.com to a wider audience than waiting for the slow growth earned via search engines. Given Vox Media's explosive growth (their website claims 150m users per month), the proof seems to be in the pudding.
She used their recent coup - an hour-long interview with President Obama – as an example. Not only was the full interview available to watch in video format, vox.com then repackaged their own exclusive into a variety of forms, from a snappy quote for Twitter to a series of short shareable videos for Facebook.
Allison illustrated this with a two minute video grab of the interview, where Obama explains his view on foreign aid. The footage was overlaid with snappy graphics (in front of Obama's nose): a pie chart of the US foreign aid budget or a map showing the location of recipient countries. Its simplicity is enough to make a traditional political correspondent despair, but it's hard to deny the concept has struck a chord.
By sending out video highlights packages, or sharing the most controversial quotes almost simultaneously to the release of the full interview, vox.com effectively mine their own exclusive; trumping their own content before their competitors can.
The vox.com model for growth relies on readers' enthusiasm to share content with each other - a human trait some might consider a risky premise on which to base a media company. Allison seems confident about its future, but of course, she would.
Workshop 6: Using Google tools for Journalistic Research
Presenter: Paul Myers
It’s not very often you hear roars of laughter or spontaneous applause from a room full of journalists, but Paul Myers isn’t your average presenter. He’s an expert in online research, whose skills have been called on by everyone from Panorama and The Guardian, to CNN and the World Bank.
Ever wondered how, within minutes of news breaking, UK journalists know a suicide bomber’s favourite football team, can pinpoint the location of a fraudster on the run, or have the financial information to grill a CEO at an AGM? They may well have been trained by Paul, whose practical workshops move at the frenetic pace of an editor on deadline: a list of useful search sites here, a handy fact about Facebook’s loopholes there – all with a smattering of hilarious personal anecdotes delivered like you’ve just wandered in to the end of his dinner party.
While it’s vaguely unsettling to realise just how easy it is to find personal information online – from a politician’s email address to a bureaucrat’s fraudulent CV qualifications or a sportstar’s distasteful hobbie – there’s nothing illegal about what Paul reveals (although everyone in the room walked out swearing to update their passwords and fix their privacy settings asap). His workshops are simply an awesome demonstration of the power at our fingertips through digital tools we all use every day, from Linked In to Twitter, if we learn our way around them thoroughly. It’s also a reminder that journalism on any platform is still a craft that requires knowhow, persistence, logic and gut-feel; one that starts with the basics of who, what, when, where and why, and can end up leading you to investigating in the most unlikely of places. Ever wondered where your old MySpace page ended up?
The one with photos of you dancing at the 2004 office Christmas party with a punk haircut, runny mascara and shoulder pads the size of Texas? Paul Myers knows. It might be a good idea if you do too.
For useful links, reading and tools on internet research, or more on Paul’s training courses, visit http://researchclinic.net/
Written by Kim Wilson who is the Editor- in-Chief of New Idea magazine in Australia and is currently completing a Masters in Public and International Law.