Big news. All Northeast Press titles will switch production systems to a new content management system at the end of April. The Atex and Polopoly-powered CMS is theoretically capable of delivering content to the web with greater ease.

A new centrally-imposed template, which is frankly in its infancy (as you can see at www.peterboroughtoday.co.uk), will accompany the new backend.

An end to the time-consuming cut-and-paste uploading which drags some of my working day into the dark ages? I certainly hope so…

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…

There are generally two types of work ex people who come into newspaper offices…

Shrinking violets who sit dutifully and silently while they are ignored, and those who feel they deserve better treatment and aren’t afraid to say so.

The latter group will indignantly shuffle up to a senior staff member and demand, “Have you got something for me to do?”

On the face of it, a fair question. But it’s another entry into the ‘what not to say’ hall of shame, for me.

The work ex folk who excel are the rare breed who come up with their own suggestions of how to fill their time (and we don’t mean mumbling ‘I might as well go to lunch because no-one has spoken to me for three hours’).

Why not try one of the following stock phrases? Fill in the blanks yourself.

  • My aunty/friend/ex-partner is <doing something interesting> and I thought it was worth a story, so I’m going to give them a ring.
  • Is it worth me going to to check the <church hall, library etc> noticeboards to see if anything has come up?
  • I read in <a national newspaper> that <something happened>. Is it worth me coming up with a local angle on this? Maybe I could speak to <a local expert>, or do a vox pop?

Since you know long in advance that you are coming in for work ex, prepare something – even if it is just an idea for a small filler.

Oh, and don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Why not steal other peoples’ ideas from repositories such as the Hold The Front Page story ideas list?

In the second of my occasional ‘ask the experts’ series SEO guru George Hopkin will take questions from all-comers about search engine optimisation.

George recently left Johnston Press, where he was SEO Evangelist, to take up a post as Head of Digital Development for Dubai-based Motivate Publishing. He also has a track record of setting up commercially successful sites which exploit SEO.

Feel free to add questions as comments, tweet them to me @LeeHallTweets, or use good old-fashioned email. I keep them anonymous so I can disguise my dumb questions in amongst your good ones.

>> Ask the Experts 1 – David Banks on media law for digital journalists

Spent an hour at Venerable Bede school in Ryton, Sunderland today talking about a newsletter project they hope to get off the ground. If only everyone grasped the power of complementary print and web products as well as these enthusiastic Year 7 and 9 pupils. They were full of ideas, excitement and great questions, so it made a change from the day job…

Was surprised to find Facebook now very popular among 12-year-olds. They’ll be on Google Buzz next…

I’m in Dene Community School, Peterlee on Thursday working with positive young people once again, I hope.

The transfer deadline day coverage I put together with sports journalism students at the Sunderland Uni was very well-received.  I make no apologies for performing a brief celebratory jig on behalf of the team, who did a fantastic job on the day.

We syndicated the content across the Johnston Press network and the user experience was really good, which is obviously the key win.

>> Sunderland Echo transfer deadline day live

However here are some facts, figures and quotes from those involved and those who took the coverage. Please note the page views are for www.sunderlandecho.com only as I don’t yet have stats from the many sites who took this content.

Numbers

Visits to blog page – 10,000

Comments from users – 4,200

Clicks on articles produced by students 50,000+ 

What the students said

“It gave me a great insight into how these things actually work, and made me want to be a journalist more than ever!” Anthony Gair

“It was a great experience and I’d love to be involved again if you do a similar event in August.” Chris Fryatt

“Really enjoyed the day. Would be keen to get involved in another transfer day or similar projects” Dave Preddie

“Got loads out of it! Great Day!” Hamish Blackstock (via Facebook group)

What the pros said

“The deadline day live blog was a great piece of work. Congratulations on a job well done.” Alan Greenwood, Editor, Scotsman.com
“Thanks for the transfer deadline coverage, it was first class.” Kevin McLaughlin, Sports Editor Londonderry Sentinel

“Superb platform yesterday!” Jon Peake, Digital Editor, Lancashire Publications Ltd, http://www.wigantoday.net

“Congratulations on the blog yesterday, thought it was really good.” Matthew Brown, Digital editor Portsmouth News
 

 

Transfer deadline team in action.

I’m still here. I survived. The digital adventures continue, for now at least.

Yesterday’s live transfer deadline day event was a great success thanks in large part on the day to the contribution of around 40 University of Sunderland journalism students – many of whom pitched up at 7.45am and earlier, then stayed for a marathon shift.

The numbers certainly stack up – with over 4,000 user comments on the blog and getting on for 10,000 views of the page – as well as over 50,000 more views on the articles penned by the students and shared to a specially-created section at sunderlandecho.com. And I’m sure those numbers will climb significantly thanks to the coverage’s syndication across the Johnston Press network.

More importantly, we delivered an interactive, up-to-the-minute, sustained piece of coverage which was lapped up by our users. The quality of the writing and levels of professionalism shown by the students were truly commendable.

Many thanks to David Allison, John Price, James Ronson and Mark Woodward for their help, support and patience too.

Now, what’s next?

>> Transfer Deadline Day as it happened

This blog has suffered of late. Blame the football transfer window.

I’ve devoted a pile of time in and outside work to pulling together a transfer deadline day service which will provide great experience for students and great coverage for sunderlandecho.com and many other Johnston Press sites – if it all goes off as planned.

Sessions with students to brief them on Coveritlive and the brand values of JP, meetings with lecturers to sort out turning part of the Media Centre at the University of Sunderland into a live newsroom, hours on Facebook and email enthusing students and sorting out incentives to contribute – right down to the sausage sandwiches we’ll take delivery of at noon… It’s been hectic.

Add to that the more onerous task of selling the project to my colleagues at JP and providing them with an affiliate pack including everything from web buttons to print ads, animated skyscrapers for their site to editorial penned by my excellent intern David Allison. Thankfully my pitch has worked – with the likes of the Yorkshire Evening pst, Yorkshire Post, Lancashire Evening Post, Portsmouth News, Belfast Newsletter and many more taking our content.

As a result all eyes are on us. JP’s head of digital content will be there, Sunderland Echo editor Rob Lawson is popping in… All of which ups the stakes and reinforces what a good opportunity this is for the students, I hope.

To be honest, it’s all a bit nerve-wracking. The pressure is largely self-imposed as the groundwork has been done and we did a great job last year when it was just David and I sweating in a room with 2,700 user comments pinging at us.  But we’re on the eve of d-day now and things are pretty much out of my hands. It’s now down to how many students turn up tomorrow at 7.45am for what could be an incredibly busy, and incredibly rewarding, day. And, no, I’m not just talking about the sausage sarnies.

What can possibly go wrong?

>> Transfer deadline day live

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.

Many thanks to David Banks, co-author of McNae’s Essential Law for Journalists, for these answers, and to those of you who sent questions.

Is a commercial website such as a newspaper’s able to use even a few seconds of a song or piece of music without having to pay royalties? A common belief used to be that as long as the clip was under 30 seconds you were ok…
The defence here is fair dealing. It works for printed material, extracts of books, plays,  films etc. So long as your extract does not extract the entire value of the original material  you should be ok. Remember you have to accredit

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