We have spent a lot of time working with GateHouse Media newsrooms on the importance of creating time each week to build photo galleries on our websites.
The traffic from galleries can make up to 5 percent of our company's overall page traffic on any given month.
The majority of our newspapers are producing galleries on a weekly basis, with our smallest sites producing at least one gallery a week at a minimum and our largest sites producing at least five galleries a week.
So the volume and consistency is there. Now, newspapers should look at how they could build a layer into what they're already successfully doing online with galleries.
I love what the Observer Dispatch in Utica, N.Y. has done with a new twist on photo galleries, through a feature called iSpy.
We have written about this feature a few times. The basic idea is that a photographer or reporter goes to an event, like a summer festival or a local marathon and they shoot photos of the participants. The photos aren't meant to be 1A, four-column photos in print, but rather grip-and-grin photos that a reader might shoot if they were at a family reunion or wanted to post photos on Facebook.
For speed reasons, those shooting the photos for Utica don't get names, but put in general information about the event in the cutline, for Search Engine Optimization reasons.
Five of GateHouse Media's Top 10 content pieces in June were iSpy galleries from Utica. That fact should jump off the screen for editors reading this blog post. The galleries, on average, are generating about 27,000 page views. That's huge. And while Utica is one of the larger communities in GateHouse and you may not get that number of views in smaller communities, your local opportunity is still pretty substantial.
If you were to do this feature, here are a few tips that could help get you going:
1. WHAT TO COVER: As Utica's editor points out in this post, the best events to shoot aren't necessarily big government fund raisers, but local festivals, sporting events, etc. It's the kind of stuff that we already cover and shoot, that has the opportunity to build the most interest and traffic, because of the number of average readers the content reaches. It would be simple each week to see what weekend festivals are on tap, if there's a big sporting event (like a Friday night football game) and a school-related event.
2. BUILD A SCHEDULE: As you establish your print and online coverage plans each week, use that meeting to figure out which events you could cover through your local "iSpy." For example, you're planning a mid-week center piece on a rally at a local school because they are the tops in the state for test scores. You are planning a story and will shoot at 1A photo, but it's a great opportunity to get tons of photos of kids for your iSpy. This means that you are aligning iSpy photos with assignments for print.
3. STANDALONE PHOTOS: If you give a photographer a standalone photo assignment, consider how it could also build an iSpy gallery. Many standalone photo assignments are kid-or-festival oriented and line up nicely for iSpy. If you use a form for photo assignments, create a field for iSpy on it, to communicate the need to photographers.
4. MAKE IT QUICK: When you upload a photo to Facebook, you're likely not cropping it or toning it. Those photos are scrapbook like and that should be the same goal with iSpy. Don't edit each photo. The goal is lots of faces and photos, so don't weigh yourself down with traditional newspaper expectations with this feature. This feature isn't meant to fall in line with how we do traditional journalism. It's a social treatment. The rules are different.
5. CREATE A BRAND: You don't have to call this feature iSpy. It's a clever name, but maybe there's a better name that your staff can come up with. It's just important to have a sticky name for it. You should create a logo and use it with each gallery, have navigation links on your website and be sure to highlight as much of the content in print, as possible, with that branding.
Follow Me: My blog | Twitter | Facebook | Linked In | Four Square