Archive | November, 2010

SEO…get in the know!

28 Nov

Shame on me…I haven’t posted in a while. I’ve sadly been occupied with the usual — work, interning, school. Excuses, excuses, I know.

But I’m back and with a topic that’s been coming up a lot lately both in my classes and in my internship: SEO, or Search Engine Optimization.

In English, that means writing in a way that will get your article at the top of the heap in a Google search. More specifically, it has to do with writing a headline while keeping in mind what words and phrases someone searching for your article would type into Google to find that article.

Bow down before Lord Google...

I’ll admit that I don’t know a lot about SEO, which is something that I’m hoping to change in the future. But there are some things I’d like to say about it.

For one, this is clearly an issue that concerns copy editors. We’re the ones writing the headlines and teases that Google picks up on in its searches. Not only do we need to make sure keywords end up in those places, we need to make sure they end up in the front of those places, a practice known as “frontloading.”

The lede, too, becomes even more important than it was in the past. When Google pulls up a news article, the lede often appears right after the headline. An editorial director at Yahoo, whom I interviewed for an upcoming ACES article, hit the nail on the head when he said that “People are only going to spend a few seconds before they click on your story or not and when they’re clicking on it, they’re making an assessment of whether they’re going to spend time on that or not.”

They care about Google, too.

In the past, we fought to keep people interested in our story. Now, we fight to get them to read it at all. In this sense, we’re becoming more a part of the “advertising” process than ever.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing — it makes us consider what our audience wants more than ever. And doing away with more “creative” heds doesn’t necessarily weaken a story. Subject-verb-object has always been one of the strongest sentence constructions.

But focusing on a handful of search terms for headlines and teases does have the danger of encouraging repetition, especially when a lot of articles on the same subject are all lined up in one spot.

Go to The University Daily Kansan’s website and you’ll find that “Jayhawks” appears in five out of the six sports headlines on the homepage.

Jayhawks 5, Opponents 0.

Redundancy like that would never fly in a newspaper; I ‘ve heard debates in the newsroom about whether or not we can even have contractions in two separate heds that are on the same page.

Does it matter on the internet? Do readers even care? I guess it’s something we’ll have to find out about in the future, but I can say right now that it does chafe me a little to see the same word over and over again.

And if we’re so focused on what people are searching for on Google, how long is it before we base what we’re writing off of what is “trending” on Yahoo or Twitter? It’s not that much of a stretch and I’ve read articles discussing the possibility before. Right now, Jessica Simpson and Mandy Moore are two of the top listings on Yahoo. No offense, but I don’t really want to spend the rest of my days writing about celebrities (although I’m certainly guily of reading the Hollywood gossip as well.)

I'm still mad at her for marrying Ryan Adams.

I think being able to connect with readers online is a great thing. And we should be listening to what they want. But, newspapers have been in charge of deciding what’s newsworthy for so long, I guess I worry: What if the American people don’t really care about anything important? But what is “important” anyway — the things people want to know about or what we think they should want to know about?

For most of these questions, the answers aren’t really out there right now. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Say what, Kansas? (Part two)

3 Nov

I recently wrote a post about the Kansas Board of Education potentially cutting high school journalism funding. I did some digging, and while some sources say the cut is definitely coming in 2012-2013, others aren’t so sure about what’s going on.

I expect to have something definite to comment on in the near future.

I hope it's good news. Otherwise, Dana will be angry. And smash. Grunt.

In the meantime, my father recently e-mailed me an article from the Kansas City Star, which actually gave me some heart, especially since it features my alma mater — Shawnee Mission West High School.

In a nutshell, the article explores how convergence journalism — being able to write and film and edit and make a graphic, etc. — has finally come to area high schools. At West in particular, the school now offers a “Convergent Media” class. Broadcast and print are working together for the first time, the students are finally maintaining a website and even business classes have pitched in to help drum up advertising.

If this doesn’t scream to educators that high schools are trying to enter the new realm of journalism and stay relevant — one of the conditions they have to keep journalism funding — I don’t know what does. Are high school newsrooms a little behind the rest of the country? Sure they are. But movements like this naturally trickle down — from large media institutions to smaller ones and colleges to high schools, at the end of the line.

When I was attending West just three short years ago, I never would’ve dreamed of doing anything like this. It was 2008 and we didn’t even have a website, to my knowledge.

It was totally like this.

High school journalists are clearly taking great strides. From experience, I can honestly say that a setup like this would’ve benefitted me before I came to KU. Sure, I’d heard about convergence journalism while in high school but the idea was something far off and misty. Me, produce video? You’ve got the wrong girl. Things didn’t hit home until I was standing, video camera in hand a year ago, trying to figure out how to load a tape and hoping I’d bought the right kind from Wal-Mart.

To stay on track, high school journalists need all of the money that they can get. I’ve said it before, software, video equipment, computers, teachers with journalism education degrees, it’s all necessary and it’s all expensive. We need to support high school journalists because their experience dictates, to a degree, the future that college and professional organizations face. If they aren’t exposed to journalism or aren’t exposed properly, they won’t pursue it in the future, quickening the so-called “death of journalism.”

Because, in the end, journalism matters. Bloggers are great, but they oftentimes provide commentary, not news. We need professionally trained journalists out there doing it  right. Just because people are buying less newspapers doesn’t mean they no longer want to know things — they’re just cheap.

Scrooge: The poster boy of American news consumerism.

I hope the Board of Education weighs its choices heavily before coming to a decision on this matter instead of giving in to the “doom and gloom” voices around it. It would restore my faith — at least a little bit — in the future of this state and my profession.