Sensible Talk Front Page Archive for January 2013
January 29, 2013
Shouldn't journalists have made a rule by now that requires if you're writing a story about a webpage, your story should include a link to that webpage?
January 23, 2013
The following is an excerpt from Chapter 1 of Robert Niles' "How to Make Money Publishing Community News Online," a guidebook for people thinking about starting their own website businesses.
Here's the first question to ask yourself, before you build a website:
"Why would anyone pay me money to do this?"
I've heard plenty of answers to this question — almost all of them wrong. You might think this question too personal to have a "wrong" answer, but people who think that are the ones most likely to come up with a wrong answer.
You see, no one cares why you want to start a new business. No one cares about anyone's award-winning-career as a newspaper reporter. No one cares about your heartfelt passion for your hometown. No one cares about the bills you have to pay or your need to find a new way to make some cash.
Get over it. Accept the fact that no one cares about you. But people do care about themselves, and if you can meet an unfilled need for people, they will pay you money to do it.
Starting a business — whether it's a news website, an auto repair shop or an organic grocery store — is all about finding an unmet need in a community and providing a good or service that takes fulfills it. Want to start a business? Then start by looking for the need in a community.
January 16, 2013
Journalism occupies an unstable place between novels and social science. While news publications aspire to truth-telling, in training and practice, reporters work more often as creative storytellers than disciplined researchers.
The Manti Te'o girlfriend hoax illustrated the predictable result -- journalists are suckers for a good story, and won't bother to let the inconvenience of verifying get in their way of telling it.
January 14, 2013
The following is an excerpt from Chapter 8 of Robert Niles' "How to Make Money Publishing Community News Online," a guidebook for people thinking about starting their own website businesses.
Writing, speaking, photos and video all move information in one direction — from you, the publisher, to your readers and viewers. But the Internet enables information to flow in all directions, not just from publisher to reader, but from reader back to publisher, and from reader to reader. How you solicit, manage and respond to information that flows from your readers will determine your business's success every bit as much as the quality of the information you publish. So you need to think about how you will handle interactivity in your publication.
I like to think of interactivity as a ladder. You want to make each step up the ladder seems as easy and as natural as possible for your readers. Start with a simple step — one that requires just a single mouse click and that doesn't reveal a reader's identity to anyone else on the site. For example, polls and votes provide a good first step toward engaging your readers as content creators on your website. Just one click on the poll and a reader has changed the content on your site — adding one to a tally. It might not seem like much, but that simplicity makes it a powerful introduction to more active participation in your website community.
Here are the steps on my ladder of engagement for website publishing:
January 10, 2013
Jim Romenesko this morning posted a rather depressing headline: PUBLISHER: A SET OF STAND-ALONE NEIGHBORHOOD NEWS SITES CAN’T MAKE IT IN CHICAGO. Typically, whenever another "you can't make money on local news websites" post appears, I just let successful local news publishers such as Howard Owens shoot that fish in a barrel. But since I have a book out now teaching readers how to publish profitable community news sites, I think I'll take a shot at this one, too.
First, let me acknowledge that I don't know Mike Fourcher, the subject of the Romenesko post, nor have I read his Center Square Journal site before today. I do think his exit strategy of bringing together community members to talk about his site's future is spot-on, though that's the sort of community discussion I recommend publishers invite before launching their site.
But I'd hate to see this morning's link convince any potential local news publishers that this can't be done. So let me offer a contrasting view, in the form of some advice. (Again, this isn't directed toward Mike, or his situation. It's general advice for any local news publisher.) Here are five steps I recommend to any local news publisher who is thinking about throwing in the towel and giving up:
January 8, 2013
The following is an excerpt from my guidebook for journalists who want to start a publishing business: How to Make Money Publishing Community News Online [$6.99 from Amazon.com]
A website is simply a collection of documents and programs that reside on a computer somewhere. On a very simple website, the site's webpages are individual documents on that computer, written in what's called Hypertext Markup Language, or HTML. Each of those webpage documents is identified by a unique name, called a Uniform Resource Locator, or URL. That computer will use what is called the Hypertext Transfer Protocol, or HTTP, to deliver a copy of that document to your computer when you ask for it. That's what allows you to read that webpage.
Here's an example of a URL:
When you type that into a Web browser (such as Safari or Chrome), you are asking your computer to use hypertext transfer protocol (the http:// part) to make a request to the computer that hosts the www.robertniles.com website, to find the stats folder on that computer, and to deliver a copy of the stdev.shtml file inside the stats folder to your computer. The HTML code in that file contains the instructions to your browser that tell it what text and images to display for that webpage.
How does your HTTP request get to that computer? Your computer needs to be connected to the Internet, through some Internet Service Provider (ISP). Connections can be wireless, over a Wireless Fidelity (WiFi) network or a cellular data network, such a EDGE, 3G, 4G or LTE. Or they can be wired, such as a connection you might have at home or the office, perhaps using a cable, DSL or fiber optic network. Your request goes from your computer (or smartphone) to the ISP, which then routes it across what's called an Internet backbone connection to the ISP that hosts the computer you're trying to contact.
January 7, 2013
If you've not yet read Kevin Drum's smart take on the connection between leaded gasoline and the crime waves of the late 20th Century, please do. Drum builds a compelling narrative out of math (one of my favorite topics!), illustrating the strong correlation between the use of leaded gasoline and crime levels from the 1950s to today.
Of course, correlation should not imply causation, and Drum acknowledges this. The Mother Jones writer reports deeper, debunking alternate explanations and finding medical science that supports the hypothesis that America's crime wave may have been the result of mental impairment caused mass lead poisoning -- an environmental catastrophe that continues to affect some U.S. communities to this day.
Follow Robert Niles
Robert Niles is the author of How to Make Money Publishing Community News Online and Stories from a Theme Park Insider. You can connect with Robert via the following services: