Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Is Your Brand Ready For The Apple iSlate?

January 19, 2010 Leave a comment

The Apple iSlate, otherwise known as the-only-possible-thing-on-the-planet-that-can-save-media, is supposed to be released next week by Apple and the media is scrambling to be ready. But what are you doing to get your own brand in place to take on this new technology?

Not sure? Consider the following:

  • If Apple does in fact release the iSlate, magazines and media companies will be turning to advertisers in droves to fill their new digital properties. This means ads will need to be placed next to interactive content and possibly be interactive themselves. Is your brand ready to be interactive and have multiple campaigns?
  • If you’re brands video is placed next to a Sports Illustrated video recap of last night’s NBA game, how will your video quality compare to the high definition video SI is using? Flip camera’s worked great last year, but now as mobile displays are able to distribute video in full hd will your ad take advantage of that?
  • Advertising, or rather good advertising today, is all about storytelling and providing viewers with a story. With interactive ads, brands can now highlight personalities, product demonstrations, real-world situations and story lines that support their message and engage the viewer. Outdoor brands and travel brands have a strong advantage here. Who wouldn’t want to see yesterday’s snow conditions, check out interactive trail maps, and view 360-degree photos of hotel rooms when deciding if they were going to book a trip that weekend to their favorite resort?
  • Are you still thinking one-way? Or are you using your ads to encourage conversation and participation? Advertising is no longer about putting out a message and expecting it to stick. We all know this, but for some reason advertisers are still approaching ads as if they were ads and not their own branded content. Most magazines have little to no online budget, so ads can take advantage of this and use various mediums to create their own content targeted specifically at iSlate users. For instance, if your brand was a rafting company, approaching your advertisement as a narrative travel story following a select number of guests, engages the viewer more than just a bunch of b-roll video with crappy copyright-free music. If you are thinking like a journalist, your brands advertisements will stick out. Big time.

There are many more ways brands can set themselves up for the iSlate and mobile advertising, but by far the largest step needs to be action. Like podcasting and iPhone Apps, the early adopters were able to grab market share quickly and stay ahead of the game by innovating along the way. So instead of wringing your hands, start small and build from there. Brands that do will succeed and I believe will stand out sometimes even more than the editorial content they are next to.


Social Media vs. Traditional Media: The Wrong Argument

September 3, 2009 2 comments

After reading a well thought out post on assessing ROI in a social media world, I responded with a comment. To see the original post go here. I have pasted in my comment below, which I think stands for itself.

Great post Jason, I can’t agree more with the Kool-Aid references. From a young professionals standpoint who grew up with both traditional marketing and new media marketing I can’t help but get frustrated with a majority of the conversation today about social media and how businesses are being told to pick “one or the other.”

Social media in my opinion is a tool, albeit a very powerful tool, but nevertheless a tool within a marketer’s toolbox. Too many times I feel we forget marketing is a 360-degree experience. Customers can be anywhere today – TV, print, online, mobile – and it is a company’s job to effectively target and reach their selected customers through each of these mediums utilizing a variety of distribution methods.

When I explain marketing to potential clients I draw a circle and put their brand in the middle. Each part of the circle represents a different part of the pie, and in order to reach each section the company has to push their message out in that direction. Media once it reaches the edge can then flow in a circular pattern – say someone retweets and blogs about a message they saw in print and suddenly customers are reached across the circle – but it’s a complex web that must be built up over time and with the understanding that there is no one simple one answer.

Many times I find companies look at social media as a powerful tool, but then opt to place an Intern or entry-level employee at the helm. A senior executive might oversee the strategy, but the lack of economic investment means the “saving grace” of the companies marketing program is left up to an employee with potentially little allegiance. This makes me wonder: just what value do you really see in this? When I speak to companies I make it a point to not paint a social media vs. traditional media picture, but rather one that involves everyone in a form considered non-traditional.

The other large piece of the puzzle, and one that I consider equally if not more important, is the rise of content creation and understanding how content can be utilized in multiple mediums for the same purpose, but that I’m afraid is another topic.

New Media Skills: Creating Video Part 3 – Sweat The Small Stuff

December 4, 2008 Leave a comment

This week’s Written Road Post

So what separates the pros from first-timers? Often, it’s just a few boneheaded mistakes that keep amateur videographers from producing quality clips. When I spoke to New York Times video journalist Erik Olsen last week, I got some insight into a few of those stumbling blocks. As you’re preparing to produce your first video here are some of the details that shouldn’t be overlooked.

“People rely on the camera’s microphone,” Erik told me during our interview. I’d be lying if I said I’d never made this mistake, so his words definitely resonated. “It can mean the difference between a good and bad video.” The lesson: your camera’s onboard microphone doesn’t cut the mustard.

I hate to tell you that there’s something else you have to buy, but take the time to research and invest in a separate microphone that provides professional quality audio. There are literally hundreds of options out there, and some really great articles helping you navigate the spider web of options. I’m currently testing two different microphones next week while shooting some video for and don’t want to just recommend something I haven’t used, so when I know the pros and cons I’ll post my results and let you know.

It sounds pretty intuitive, but Erik couldn’t stress this point enough: “Put your camera on a tripod.” Sure the Blair Witch-style of shooting is intriguing, but for most video a shaky picture will just be annoying and ruin a potentially good shot. Tripods allow you to create smooth and fluid panning shots, and to conduct interviews that are steady-framed and not distracting because of camera movement.

When purchasing a tripod keep the following things in mind:

· The cheaper the tripod, the less stable it will be. Typically, cheaper tripods work for flat surfaces, but the moment they are put on uneven ground they have a hard time keeping the camera steady.
· The lighter the tripod, the higher the price. This usually pertains to carbon fiber tripods, which can skyrocket into the $500+ range. Of course, the exception to this rule are the uber-cheap tripods which might be light, but will have a hard time holding up in the elements.
· The heads on tripods can make or break a shot. If you plan on doing a lot of panning, make sure you get a head that supports this use.
· Finally, if you travel a lot, consider a monopod, or micropod. These are lightweight, versatile, mobile, and easy to pack.

Keep your equipment safe
Be sure to protect your investment. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve dropped a camera (both film and video) only to find that a well-padded camera bag saved my butt. I would strongly recommend either a Lowepro bag, or a waterproof, bombproof, Fort Knox pelican case. I use both: the Lowpro for everyday use and the pelican for traveling or rafting trips. Typically, both run around $100. This might seem steep at first, but making sure your equipment is safe, and in the same place every time, is key to successful video.

New Cyclecross Audio Slideshow

November 18, 2008 1 comment

I write a lot about being a multimedia journalist and how folks can produce multimedia packages themselves. Just this past weekend I went to a local cyclecross race with the goal to produce an audio slideshow and walk the walk. Three hundred photos and twenty minutes of audio later I sat down to work my magic. Even though I’ve done several of these before, I forgot how time consuming audio editing can be. I’m pretty happy with the final product and think the intro rocks. Overall I’d give it a 7/10 mainly since my photography could use a little help.

New Media Skills: How To Create Audio Slideshows

October 30, 2008 1 comment

New Written Road Column 

The blood continues to flow among print journalists this week, but that just makes our opportunities to build skill sets even more important. We can react to the change in our medium by throwing our hands up in the air or we can act by setting ourselves up for the next wave of media opportunities. In my next few posts, I’m going to overview a handful of new media skill sets that may seem beyond reach, but are actually a lot easier to learn and master than you may think. One of my personal favorites, and a useful one for reporters and photographers alike is the audio slideshow.

How to Create Audio Slideshows:

It is no secret that photojournalists are becoming more valuable if they can produce audio along with their photography. Some of the nation’s largest papers are featuring stunning slideshows, intertwining eye-catching photography with NPR quality audio and usually accompanying it with a print-based article.

But how do they do it? The answer is more simple than you think.

Have a computer? Digital camera? Audio recorder? Perfect — now you just need $70 and you’re in business.

When creating slideshows the typical workflow is:

1) Capture photography and audio

2) Download media to your computer

3) Edit audio track

4) Import audio track into a photo-editing program and edit the slideshow

5) Export the slideshow and post it on the web.

The two following programs provide easy-to-use functionality, while keeping costs to a minimum.

Audio Editing:
First download Audacity and import your raw audio tracks into the program. Once the tracks are imported you can instantly begin refining, tweaking, and merging tracks together. Once the track is complete, simply export the track to your computer. The program is free, compatible for both Mac and PC, and works with .wav and .mp3 files, though a special plugin (downloadable from the site) may be necessary.

Photo Editing:
Spend $69.99 and download Soundslides — a powerful, yet easy-to-use editing program created by a multimedia pioneer. After importing the audio track form Audacity, import your photos and start switching around the sequence, adding titles, customizing player settings, and even adding basic motion to the photographs. Exporting can be done either as a .mov video file (Mac only at the moment) or a .swf flash file (both Mac and PC) which is ready to be uploaded directly a website. (Uploading can be tricky if you’re not a web guru so make sure to check out Soundslides upload tips)

Need some examples? Check out, the New York Times Multimedia page, and Poynter Institute’s powerful blog post: Creating Multimedia: A Novice Shows The Way.

Next week I’ll talk about video editing and how you can get started for under a few hundred bucks. And of course if you have experiences, tricks, or comments please feel free to add them below.

Rethinking Newspaper Travel Stories – Don’t Just Tell, Show

October 24, 2008 3 comments

New Written Road Piece

We read a lot about the death of print these days. For travel journalists like myself the statement is usually followed up with a stiff drink and not-so-fleeting moment of insecurity. Just this past week at the Society of American Travel Writers’ national conference in Houston, Texas, I met travel editors from around the country who were feeling the pain of budget cuts, restructuring, and mounting pressure to do more with less. But even after a series of potentially deflating conversations, I still maintain that there is a space for travel writers in the new media landscape: it’s just a matter of finding and pitching evergreen content that can be supported online.

Take for instance this stellar piece the New York Times produced focusing on the last stop of subway lines. The concept was simple: what’s at the end of the line? The delivery: genius.

The article itself was a long piece of beautifully written prose, but what really makes it a bright spot for me was the well produced multimedia package (video, audio, and photography) that accompanied it.

Sure, the production cost was huge, and this kind of content goes beyond the typical skill sets of most freelancer writers, but the concept is important: as we move forward, we would do well to adopt a screenwriter’s perspective: don’t just tell, show.

A few weeks back I spoke with Tyson Anderson, a visual journalist with a strong affinity for infographics and online storytelling. His insights and experience at the Rocky Mountain News play nicely into the change that is happening, and provide an insiders look to how travel writers need to rethink traditional newspaper stories.

Written Road: Would you mind elaborating a bit on infographics, and explain what they are, and how they can enhance a story?

Tyson: An infographic does more than just add decoration to a publication. An “info”-graphic’s job is to display information visually. After a certain point, a list of numbers or a textual description makes it hard for us to understand or draw any conclusions because we don’t have the ability to take all that information in, categorize it, and then relate it to the rest of the data. An infographic does a great job of doing these things, and if used properly can help people visualize stories and increase comprehension. Infographics are also very good at conveying a large amount of information very quickly to readers, which is very good in today’s internet world where you might only have someone’s attention for a few seconds before they are off to something else.

Written Road: While you were working at the Rocky Mountain Times, did you learn inside tips on how to pitch editors multimedia packages?

Tyson: Most of the things I did at the Rocky, luckily didn’t really have to be pitched. They were either planned before I started or I was given an idea and I got to take it where I wanted. However, I think the best way to pitch multimedia to an editor is to show them a little piece of it. Things are much easier to imagine if there is at least a little part you can see. For example, I did a map at the Rocky comparing 1908 Denver to 2008 Denver. The project consisted of two maps, one 1908 and the other 2008, displayed on the screen together. If you drag one map around, the other one moves simultaneously. Also, two cursors appear on the graphic, one at the exact place you’re looking at on both maps. Because this interface was something I hadn’t really seen anywhere before I had to create some kind of way to demonstrate it before I actually spent the time creating it. I did this by mocking up the interface. I made two ugly boxes in the place of where the maps would be and wrote the code for the basic interface. I was then able to show my editor and others the general idea of the project and get feedback on how we could make it better.

Written Road: What advice can you give travel writers just starting out about producing new media?

Tyson: Take advantage of the tools around you. If you don’t know how to write code, don’t feel you can’t utilize the web for telling stories. The web provides many free services that you can use to enhance your stories without knowing a single line of code. For example, if you don’t know how to use the Google Maps API, a service used to embed custom google maps in your website, you can use Google’s myMaps service which requires no coding at all. Learn and adapt. Don’t allow yourself to get stuck in a buggy while the automobile drives past. The internet changes every day, it takes a lot of work to keep up with it but it’s necessary. I like to read blogs about upcoming technology or view sites like that allow people to submit things that are new and exciting on the web. Don’t be afraid of learning a little code. I think that there is a common misconception that code is something only for MIT grads sitting in dark rooms typing ones and zeros all day. The truth is that with a little training, code actually isn’t that hard to learn. Just one example, Flash, is a good place to start because it combines a traditional drawing environment that can be used with little or no code but then, as you get more experienced, can be extended with Flash’s coding language ActionScript. There are also great resources online to help you out, and are just a few of my favorites. Remember that if you can teach yourself to utilize these wonderful new tools and not be scared of them, you can let readers experience the stories you are trying to tell in ways never before possible.

Aggregation vs. Originality – The Real Online Content War

October 8, 2008 2 comments Editor and Chief John Byrne, recently said, “It’s not, as some people say it is, “online vs. print,” because the contrasts are actually more insidious and dangerous than that. The more threatening contrast is between aggregation and original content — because aggregation is something that’s cheap.”

His words, though now buried deep in the archives of Media Bistro, ring true as the economy tanks and publishers are telling online editors to do more for less.

As a freelance writer myself, the real problem hits home in a different way: it requires me to produce original content that can be packaged and neatly wrapped around aggregated content. I can’t approach an online editor and suggest just a video. Nope. It’s got to be a video, with a long tail effect. Say something that can support previous or future editorial content without becoming stale our outdated.

Just this past week I finished a short course preview video for The final product, less than seven minutes long, was complimented with an interactive GPS-supported map, links to Moab bike shops, and every mountain bike ride has ever mapped in Moab.

Essentially a racer could watch the course preview video, read expert advice on what to eat during the race, click on a link to rent a bike, and then decide which post-race rides to tackle. All without leaving the page.

The fresh editorial content was the course video and the map. The aggregated content everything else. The long tail is that the race happens every year in the same spot, and unless we have a major flood, the course isn’t going to be changing too much. The evergreen angle is people are always going to Moab, and this list of rides creates a digital guidebook of sorts.

But it also had its problems. was limited in how they could package it online, and even though I think it turned out well, there is room for improvement. Online editor Dave L’Heureux, did a fantastic job working with me and my production team to push boundaries, but he was still constrained by budget and ad placement.

The next step will be when publishers begin to see content and editorial as the same, and when they are able to produce new editorial content and wrap it with aggregated older editorial content, while having the flexibility to package the content appropriately. Of course it’s already happening on some levels, but not everywhere.

So if you are thinking about pitching multimedia remember to ask yourself the following questions, and if you can answer them well, then you’ve got a pretty good shot of at least being heard.

  1. How does this content support/complement content already on the site?
  2. If I were to go back in five months, would I still find this interesting?
  3. Can this content standalone in a video player, while also being able to be interweaved into other pages on the site?
  4. What is the serviceable information readers/viewers will get from this content?