Worcester blogger Mike Benedetti tagged telegramdotcom in a tweet a month or so ago asking if the text alert we’d sent out about a record snowfall recorded at Worcester Regional Airport was really breaking news. It was a good question. What constitutes a breaking news alert? An explosion in the city? Certainly. A pedestrian struck and seriously injured? Probably. My discovery of a new place that sells Moxie? Probably not.
With the heavy flow of data in our Information Age the ability to get people just the information they want should be a key strategy for any media organization. With that principal in mind, we’re launching a new text alert system at the Telegram & Gazette this week. You select the type of information you want us to send you and we’ll get it to you.
Categories run from breaking news for specific areas, school closings for your child’s school and sports scores to severe weather alerts and a daily forecast.
One of my favorite categories on the system are traffic alerts. We’ve broken it down to major highways and routes. For my morning commute, for example, I take Interstate 290 into Worcester. I can signup to only be notified if there’s a major accident on that route and (assuming I get the message before I leave the house) I can adjust my route accordingly. If I want to also be notified of any I-190 backups, I can check that highway as well. You can go back and readjust your selections at any time.
The text alerts are free (I like free) and the system will be monetized through advertising sponsors, short codes to advertisers and the sale of alert categories to local organizations who want to be able to send alerts to their members.
Screen shot from Canal Bar & Grill ad with Worcester Department of Public Works and Parks Commisioner Robert Moylan Jr.
Is it OK for a public official to lend his or her image to the advertising campaign for a local business? It depends, but it certainly is a perambulation into dicey territory.
When watching an advertisement for the Canal Bar & Grill on telegram.com the other day, I noticed what looked like a familiar face among the bar’s supporters. Is that Worcester Commissioner for Public Works and Parks Robert Moylan Jr.? Yes it is.
Moylan has a few seconds in the ad, in which he lifts a glass of beer and says “It’s a great place for intimate meetings.” It doesn’t say his name or his position. Is there anything wrong with doing this? I can’t say there is, but it left me feeling a bit uncomfortable.
Moylan’s a smart guy. I doubt he took any pay for being in the ad and I don’t know if he’s getting free drinks from it or if the streets are plowed a little better on that stretch or not. I doubt it. But it’s the fact that those questions even come to mind that make a public official’s involvement in a business’s ad campaign a little … awkward.
My regular base of operations at the Telegram & Gazette when I'm not working remotely.
The decision by Yahoo to rein in employees working remotely has riled more than just those impacted by the decision. The Yahoo memo, leaked earlier this month, requires Yahoo employees to relocate within commuting distance of an office or leave the company by June.
Telecommuters across the web last week were voicing bewilderment at this, which seems to be a very counter-culture decision for Yahoo. As the digital editor at the Telegram & Gazette and the admin of the company’s main Facebook page, being able to work outside my desk and outside of the 9 to 5 workday is crucial to getting work done. My day starts when I wake up and crack open my laptop. It ends when I go to sleep at night (hopefully). Social media and the web, of course, do not stop at 5 p.m. And working remotely gives me the flexibility to be available when I need to work. So, I’m a little puzzled by Yahoo’s decision myself. And I suppose the real irony here is that Yahoo is a web-based company — an industry that seems inherently wall-less. You’d think that if anyone got that, they would.
So, how do you know if your employees are actually working rather than kicking back watching daytime TV (the chief concern you often here over telecommuting)? To me, the answer to this is pretty simple: Metrics. I judge my own performance by pageviews I’ve generated, digital content I’ve added, increased reach and likes on our Facebook page. If I’m not doing a good enough job, these things don’t materialize.
Patch.com really put the whole mobile journalist thing to practice when it launched a few years ago with hundreds of editors who literally had no office to go to. Editors were required to post five pieces of content a day. A quick look at any Patch site and you can see whether that site’s editor has been on the job. That’s not to say there isn’t a value to offices. Personally, I need to be in the office on a regular basis or I’d miss out on the rattle and hum that a newsroom generates as well as miss out on some of the important processes of generating the news.
What this issue really boils down to has little to do with whether your staff are working remotely or sitting in desks three feet from you. It comes down to how do you judge productivity and how do you judge success? If you judge it by how many people you have sitting in chairs in your office, you’re on the fast track to nowhere.
As part of our new Telegram Studio feature at telegram.com, I had a chance to sit down with singer/songwriter Cara Brindisi a few weeks ago to talk about her music. Brindisi is a Shrewsbury native who has developed a bit of a name for herself on the Worcester music scene. She’s definitely someone to keep an eye on.
The Telegram & Gazette’s Victor Infante summed up her skills well: “At the core of her success is her gorgeous voice, and her ability to imbue a song with layers of meaning.”
She’s also just extremely likable with a smile that could melt an arctic snowman, which doesn’t hurt. I hate comparing musicians to other musicians (it seems so limiting), but I couldn’t help but see a little Eva Cassidy in her — just that ability to take a song you’ve heard a thousand times and turn it into something beautifully her own. But Brindisi has more than just good interpretation going for her, she’s got a decent range of tastes and you can’t help but be truly impressed when she starts playing her own songs, like her performance of ‘Okay’ in the video here. I love a great voice and guitar playing, but I’m always biased toward musicians who can not only put their own fingerprint on a song, but create completely original works of their own. Cara does it in a way that makes you just want to hear more.
Journalists have been all a twitter over Twitter for several years now. It’s kind of the unwritten (and occasionally written) rule that it’s the place you need to be. But when it comes to social media saturation, Facebook is still king. There are 1 billion users on Facebook as of the beginning of this month (compare that to Twitter’s 500 million). In fact, the number of “daily active users” on Facebook is more than 550 million.
If you’re a journalist, how many of your followers on Twitter are other journalists or industry insiders? Are you really reaching a large section of your readers through Twitter? Look at your website’s analytics, where do most of the incoming social media links come from? If your site is like most, it’s overwhelming coming from Facebook links. And you can increase this.
Don’t get me wrong, Twitter is still a vital place you should be. But when it comes to really increasing your company’s presence on the web, Facebook should be high on your priority list.
Many media companies (major ones), however, are only on Facebook just to be there. They’re not using effective strategies to maximize their Facebook reach and build a community. In fact, many simply don’t have any strategy.