Lessons for online journalists from #CNNFail and the Iran uprising

By Robert Niles: As Iranians took to the streets over the weekend to protest the country's recent election, thousands of users of Twitter were staging a protest of their own: against CNN for not devoting as much attention to the Iranian situation as Twitter users wanted. The hashtag #CNNFail became one of the top trending topics on Twitter Saturday night, as Twitterers expressed their outrage over CNN airing repeats of feature interviews instead of live coverage of the protests. On Saturday, I retweeted this comment from @pinoy2com: "#CNNfail is 4th most Tweeted keyword. A turning point for audiences signaling what they wanted covered by mainstream?" Indeed. The virtual protest provided several valuable lessons for online journalists who wish to retain the respect and loyalty of their audiences in an increasingly interactive world. Here are 10 lessons from #CNNFail:

How can we better teach journalism students to manage reader-driven content communities?

By Robert Niles: When I was teaching online journalism, the most difficult aspect of the craft for me to teach was its most unique: online journalism's ability to harness the collective reporting power of its audience. Sure, I could lecture all semester about moderating discussion forums, eliciting thoughtful reader comments, recruiting guest bloggers and structuring a crowdsourced reporting project. But instruction provides just a small part of the learning experience. Learning demands exercise, repetition and feedback, as well. Journalism educators traditionally have done well to introduce their students to a professional working environment. Students initially turn in their work, on deadline, to an instructor who serves in the role of an editor. Later, students move into actual newsroom environments, working for student newspapers and broadcasts, under the director of more experienced students, and sometimes, faculty advisors. They practice their craft, interviewing sources, reviewing documents, working with editors and producing work for public consumption. Feedback from editors and instructors completes the loop, preparing students for professional life in a newsroom. The academic calendar, unfortunately, frustrates efforts to extend that model to online publishing. We can publish newsroom-produced reports just as easily as we could in print and on air, but one semester (or worse, one quarter) rarely provides enough time to build an audience large enough to create a significant amount of user-generated content [UGC].

How metro newsrooms can recapture their local dominance

By Tom Grubisich: Proliferating blogs and micro-sites are producing so much local news, hard and soft, that the continuing shrinkage and even death of metro papers will leave no troubling void in metro coverage, Mark Potts concludes in an extensively linked post on his Recovering Journalist blog. Potts comes close to putting metros collectively in the past tense. They can't make a successful transition from print to the Internet, he says, because all they offer are “your basic one-size-fits all metro newspaper Web site.” But in this case the one size – large – is the right one. The metros' problem is they don't know how to exploit their size. For all their cutbacks, surviving metros still have considerable staff and other resources that could be mobilized to do what sweat-equity blogs and micro-sites can't do nearly as well or at all. Metros must become like Gulliver – not the shipwrecked Gulliver who is ensnared by the six-inch-high Lilliputians, but the Gulliver who later outwitted his captors and escaped to freedom. For all their cutbacks, surviving metro newspapers, online or in print, still have considerable staff and other resources that could be mobilized to do what sweat-equity blogs and micro-sites can’t yet do nearly as well, or at all. Gulliver got smart. Will the ensnared metros?

Industry chaos provides reporters with an opportunity to rethink standards

By Robert Niles: The impending collapse of many news organizations is providing thoughtful journalists with an opportunity to reinvent the practice of their craft. What should be newsworthy? What should be the impact of a news story? Working for their old employers, many journalists paid little attention to such questions. When they did address them, too often it was with simplistic answers that had little relation to how the public actually perceived their work. As old newsrooms shrink, or close, journalists now can address these questions in the context of new opportunities, whether they be self-publishing or working with other journalists in new, online start-ups. Let's look at this within the context of a personal example

Thought Leadership drives local media revenue

By Dave Chase: In an earlier piece "Local media survival depends on Low Cost Sales Models," I detailed the favorable economics of pursuing a broader base of advertisers if you employed a sales model appropriate to the size of ad budget. McKinsey had done some analysis that echoed the experience we have had setting up low-cost customer acquisition models using telesales-based approaches. A critical facet of developing this lower cost model is having very cost effective lead generation. Today, most of what I have observed with local media is they are using phone-based sales methods akin to the uninvited and irritating telemarketing methods that can interrupt our evenings. Not surprisingly, these "script readers" have had very low yield. Script readers can be fine for simple things like setting appointments but that's a far cry from closing meaningful business. The successful alternative is to become invited and to establish a relationship with prospective customers through high quality lead generation. There are many different tactics for lead generation but the one I've seen perform the best has been the organizations that establish thought leadership in their field of expertise.