10 Things Online Editors Should Know

According to Danny Sanchez on journalistopia.com (another resource for us budding reporters) online editors should know the following:

1- Become versed in social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Digg, StumbleUpon, Reddit and others. Build a profile, and become a power user on some social bookmarking sites. Here’s a great how-to for Digg.

2- Learn more about search engine optimization and how you can use it to promote news content. Get yourself a copy of Peter Kent’s Search Engine Optimization for Dummies. It’s not only my favorite SEO book, but it’s also one of my favorite tech books, period.

3- Experiment with some of the 25+ tools on this list and try using a few for an upcoming project.

4- Create your own web site around something about which you’re passionate. You get even more out of the experience if you buy a domain name and build your site from scratch. You can likely install your own content management system, such as the free WordPress or Joomla, using the handy tools that web hosts such as GoDaddy and Dreamhost offer. The site can be a blog, a forum or something else. If you need help, use the excellent resources at J-Learning. And if you want to really learn HTML, I highly recommend the book Spring into HTML & CSS by Molly Holzschlag, which I personally used to re-learn all the basics.

5- Spend a few days exploring your site’s metrics tools in detail. Run heat maps on your site to see where users click. Punch up the list of top referring domain names. Look at what the top content was on various days. Look at the keywords people use to find your site. Find out how they get to the site.

6- Brush up your skills by taking some online media classes. You can find great (and free or cheap) classes on everything from beginner Photoshop to computer programming at local libraries, technical schools and community colleges. Techniques change so rapidly in online media that this is essential.

7- Knock on the marketing department’s door and ask them for a copy of any studies done on your site’s readers. Look for anything related to demographics, usability studies and market research. Read it, and make a summary of it for your own notes.

8- Knock on the advertising department’s door and find out what big sales they’ve made recently. Ask them what sorts of content has sold well and what kinds of readers are most lucrative to advertisers.

9- Start following a few blogs that interest you, and study their habits. Also, consider following a few online journalism blogs that keep track of industry happenings. To get started, check out Journalistopia’s blogroll (the list of links on the right side of this blog) or visit Alltop.com’s journalism category.

10- Network with online media professionals (and not just online NEWS professionals). Check for local meetups at sites such as Meetup.com and Upcoming. Consider attending local conferences, such as BarCamps and university-sponsored workshops, where people present new technologies and ideas. Contact an editor at another news site if you love an idea their staff has accomplished.

I think we have a good start on these issues. What are your thoughts?

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3 responses to “10 Things Online Editors Should Know

  1. Excellent post and it truly underscores the purpose of the Online practicum. You still need to be good writers and ethical storytellers. You just need to be familiar with the online tools because that will be the industries expectation.

  2. Thanks for linking to us, Courtney. I definitely think that at the very list, social bookmarking sites can be used for research, idea generation, etc.

  3. I think this is a great list. I think something to add would be to just constantly ask non-journalist friends what social networking tools they use and how they use them. It’s great to network with online media professionals, but we need to remember that some of the best sites for journalists weren’t originally developed for journalists to use.

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