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Apologies all. I have been ill with a viral reaction which has left me unable to type for almost two weeks! Will be posting soon.

Evidence emerged yesterday that local advertisers are starting to care about Twitter, oft-lambasted as a waste of time by those who think crowd-sourcing is something to do with spraying Lea & Perrins at a football terrace.

A campaign outline for the Sunderland Echo that included a suite of print and online ads, sponsorship and advertorial also included requests for retweets and other social media activity.

That’s a first as far as a client requesting such action is concerned, in my experience. And I’m taking it as a good sign.

I’ll consider any ethical dilemmas about tweeting the merits of a certain brand of hamburger when The Scottish Restaurant offer money for twitter plugs. Could depend on whether they throw in free breakfast bagels, of course…

Adobe Audition is a space rocket when all I need for day-to-day digital work is a bicycle. In truth I don’t exploit this powerful audio editing tool to anywhere near it’s full potential.

But I was given a great tip for adding radio-style punch to voiceovers from a pro via a work experience chap.

Import any audio into Audition, then under the Amplify Tool click ‘Normalise’, then under Amplify click ‘Dynamic Processes’ and from the drop down select ‘Classic Soft Knee’.

Once applied these effects make a significant difference to podcast and voiceover tracks.

Thanks to Andrew Hilliar for the tip.

There’s nothing wrong with the two-blokes-and-a-mic raw feel of some podcasts, especially if your resources are limited. But in looking for quick wins to spice up our Box 19 Sunderland football show we’ve nicked a simple technique to make our recording as interactive as possible.

As well as using forum and email comments to bring the listeners’ voice into the conversation, for episode 13 of the podcast we tweeted live from the recording using Tweetdeck on iPhone. A PC with a net connection would do the same job if you’re based in the office or have WiFi capabilities.

>> Box 19, episode 13 (First tweet is about 6m30secs in)

We flagged the experiment by setting up a box19 twitter account and  contacted competition entrants and other emailers from around the world to tell them when we’d be recording the show. We even included a handy timezone guide so our pals in North America and Down Under could set their alarm clocks or take a break from watching their version of the X Factor respectively.

As a result we had a handful of fans following the show ‘live’ and throwing in questions for our panelists. Definitely a great way to break up the chat and engage the audience.

My friend Robin Brown has a seriously interesting opportunity for a web-literate journalist/ journo graduate with an interest in cars at Motortorque, the online magazine bit of motoring website Askaprice.com. Not the kind of thing I’d usually blog about, but I know how tricky it can be to find out about these things at the moment.

Working under editor Robin in Liverpool’s vibrant city centre, you’ll be carving out a career as the next Jeremy Clarkson. He’ll want a grafter, but you’ll be the Associate Editor on a commercially successful site and get a leg up in an exciting sector. Please note, he needs someone to get started in January. Read on for job spec and contact details…

Continue Reading »

As promised to my University of Sunderland students – here’s a quick video walkthrough on how to create a slideshow in Photo Story 3. Hope it’s useful. Feedback welcomed. Should hold up to full-screen viewing if you need a closer look.

>> Download Photo Story 3 (it’s free!)

transfer deadline dayLast transfer deadline day digital intern David Allison and I ran a CoverItLive blog from 8am through to 6.30pm. Hardly original, but we used several techniques to make it an engaging read for users and a fun (if stressful) day for us. For the next deadline we’re scaling up the operation and asking student journos to get involved.

>> Sunderland Echo transfer deadline day Summer 2009 coverage

The response in the summer – thanks to intense work, solid preparation and some support from our sport team – was phenomenal. 7,000 visitors viewed the coverage and left 2,400 comments. It was a hectic day, but it paid off spectacularly with hugely positive feedback from those who took part.

For February we’ll step up the coverage on two counts. Firstly, we’re working with John Price in the Media department at the University of Sunderland. We’re setting up a live transfer deadline day HQ with a suite of computers, TV coverage from other outlets piped in and hotlines to other football journalists. We’re taking over the newsroom at the David Puttnam Media Centre for a day. No news yet on what biscuits we’ll be laying on…

Once again the blog will be hosted at www.sunderlandecho.com. But part two of our plan to ramp up the operation is inviting digital editors and editors from all across the Johnston Press network of 300+ sites – from The Scotsman in the north down to the Portsmouth News in the south – to take our coverage. It’s likely several smaller titles, including some dailies, will be delighted to do so.

As a result of this two-pronged approach we’ll be competing with similar services from national news outlets. Exciting stuff…

Any media students who want to know more or who wish to take part should email me or comment on this post.

How do you measure the success of a news website? How do you quantify its reach and popularity for the benefit of advertisers? Maybe there is no perfect, one-size-fits-all answer.

The current ABCe measure of different pairs of eyes on a site each month – unique users (UUs) – sometimes feels like about the worst fudge you could get from a regional newspaper viewpoint. 

The trouble is, successfully attracting UUs is less about serving a community with content, more about appealling to as many different groups as possible. Fine, perhaps, for a national site which is gunning for a global audience on just about every topic going. But I have a problem with it for local news sites. Continue Reading »

I’m carrying out what is hopefully an interesting experiment, inspired by The Telegraph via George Hopkin, Johnston Press’ SEO evangelist.

We have a big screen in the newsroom which is meant to display our website in an echo of 1984’s nightmarish propaganda walls.

But we’re now using Twitter aggregation site www.twitterfall.com to filter in tweets where Sunderland or SAFC are mentioned. The results after a few days are pleasing, with several leads coming via the feed.

The screen also gives the newsroom a bit more of a live feel, which is handy when trying to convey the message that there are people out there serving our audience between print deadlines.

Michael Jackson

Here’s a needless error I see all the time when flicking through sites. And, to be honest, I’ve done it myself several times in the middle of a busy day of throwing up content and connecting it with good, old-fashioned hyperlinks…

>> Listen to the Michael Jackson 911 call – click here.

It’s great search engine optimisation, if you want to capture people looking for content about ‘clicking here’. Not so good if you want eyes seeking content about the deceased King of Pop.

>> Michael Jackson 911 call

Ah, that’s better.