GateHouse News Service used some new tools to cover the anniversary of 9/11 this month in New York and Washington, D.C. What you can learn from our experiments:
The news service used Tumblr as our blog platform because it was social, and a lot of major news organizations are using it. While it was easy to update from smartphones and email, and a great way to display good photos and quotes, it was more difficult to get an audience than we thought. Reblogging of posts seems to be the way people connect on Tumblr, and that didn't happen to our posts until the weekend of Sept. 10 -- too late to get a big following, since our coverage ended on Sept. 11.
OUR TAKEAWAY: Tumblr could be good for national media or topics because the audience is national, so it doesn't seem like a good option for local newspapers or niche communities.
We also experimented with Storify, a way to curate and collect tweets, Facebook posts, Flickr photos and more sorted by keyword or location. This could be used well locally by rounding up a certain day's posts in your geographic area, or ones that mention a local school, team, event, local celebrity or public official. In the case of breaking news, it's also helpful to go back and see when, how and from whom the news broke on social media.
OUR TAKEAWAY: Storify is free and easy to use. It's something that could have lots of local uses and is adding tools, so get comfortable with it and start experimenting now.
Raw video brought another perspective to our coverage. While stories with quotes and still photos were compelling, video of memorials at the Pentagon and in downtown New York brought the viewer into the moment. In text and stills, you couldn't hear the emotion in the voice of the man who lost his wife in the Pentagon attack. You couldn't see the flutter of the "peace ribbons" outside St. Paul's Chapel in Manhattan. That motion and emotion were what made videos a better choice for these stories than solely print or stills.
OUR TAKEAWAY: Think of your stories -- breaking and not -- that have motion and sound, another thing text and pictures can't provide. Consider your sources that have great voices and great personalities, and capture them on video rather than just in text or images.
Facebook and Twitter widgets
Facebook and Twitter offer "widget" options from their developers -- lines of online code you can use to plug in a feed of Facebook or Twitter posts to your blog or website. We used them in our blog to offer users -- who were online anyway -- a look at other content they might be interested in.
OUR TAKEAWAY: At least Facebook should be considered as an outlet for most of your local stories. Readers will want to comment on new businesses in town or those going away, important happenings at meetings, construction project updates, sports results, upcoming events, opinion and lifestyle pieces and -- of course -- callouts. They may "like" profiles, community bloggers and videos. It's a good way to find sources as well, and to keep an eye on what people in your town are really talking about.
If you have questions or want more information on anything mentioned in the webinar, contact news service editor Lisa Glowinski at email@example.com or 630-348-3350.