A plea for help, housekeeping, and surfing the RSS feeds


As you probably already know, Haiti suffered a devastating 7.0 earthquake on Jan. 12. You can find some pretty comprehensive information about relief efforts at this Washington Post list. If you have some money to spare, there are some people who could put it to good use.

cupOff to Edmonton! This afternoon, I’ll be heading to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada to speak at the Canadian University Press Conference. You can find out more about the conference at the link above. I’ll be speaking about blogging, social media, and adding interactivity to a web presence. And, I’ll get to participate in a panel discussion with Matthew Ingram and others. I’m looking forward to it. You can follow the discussion on Twitter. I’ll post a hashtag at @cicm when I find out what it is.

Now to the links.

Here comes another edition of links you probably should check out. Most are culled from my RSS reader, with my commentary on why they should be read. I used to do this using automation via, but that method was a little too impersonal for my old-fogey blogging ways. Let me know if you like these posts and I’ll try to keep doing them. Otherwise, I can just post links the more automated way.

bloggerIn the Spotlight: College Fashion Founder Zephyr Basine – Dan Reimold interviews a college student who started a blog about college fashion that has become a hit and lead the student to make money off the deal. Pretty sweet, right? Read the interview for more details, and notice some of the keys to making a hobby into a career start.

“I created College Fashion in March of 2007 because I loved reading fashion blogs but couldn’t find any that were aimed specifically at college students. All my favorite fashion sites and magazines catered either to middle-aged women or 16 year olds in high school. I started this website to fill that need. It began as a fun hobby but it’s grown into a full time job and then some!”

It reminds me a lot of Brian Stelter’s story. He started TVNewser while in college, and now works for the New York Times as a media beat reporter. There are still opportunities to do those kinds of “ground up” blog success stories. The key is to find a passion, make your site as unique as possible and stay committed.

Photo by Flickr user <a href=

There is no new revenue model for news – Robert Niles breaks down the facts about the economics of the news business. It’s eerie, because when I saw this article (recommended by Lauren Rabaino) in my RSS reader, I felt a sense of deja vu. Sure enough, I wrote almost the exact same thing in September, 2009:

Because the simple fact is this: there are no new business models for news. News is not entertainment, so there isn’t going to be an iTunes for news. The only possible models are these: advertiser-supported and reader-supported (through subscriptions or donations).

Niles breaks the model down into three component parts: direct purchases, advertising, and donations, which is a little more nuanced than my construct. Worth a read.

webdesign Why the designer holds the key to the future of journalism – Adam Westbrook challenges news outlets to break out of the mode of what you might call “advanced shovelware” – the content is more attuned to online, but the web sites themselves? Well, they sorta suck from a design standpoint.

But over the last few months I’ve come to a different conclusion: I don’t think we’re happy to pay for news on websites … because it doesn’t look very good.

Think about it: no matter what the story, subject, country, language or website a news story on a web page follows a visual formula. Usually a thin (400-700 pixel wide) central column with two or three thinner columns either side; a headline in big bold letters; the rest of the text in size 10 or 12; the odd sub heading if you’re lucky; and video or photographs squeezed inside the narrow column.

I don’t necessarily agree that people would pay for news if we just put it in a better dress or redecorated every day. But, like Pat Thornton’s post I linked to earlier, there seems to be a sense that news web sites need to do more to make themselves appealing through design. The problem is that design like that takes time and skill. And too many news outlets don’t have either. Thought-provoking.

webdesign Make Your Mockup in Markup – Web designers have usually used Photoshop or an image-editing program to make a sketch of their web page design before beginning the tedious task of coding in HTML/CSS. 24 Ways walks through the process of doing a mockup in HTML/CSS instead.

The real issue with using Photoshop for mockups is the expectations you’re setting for a client. When you send the client a static image of the design, you’re not giving them the whole picture — they can’t see how a fluid grid would function, how the design will look in a variety of browsers, basic interactions like :hover effects, or JavaScript behaviors. For more on the disadvantages to showing clients designs as images rather than websites, check out Andy Clarke’s Time to stop showing clients static design visuals.

journalistNews media and college students: A match made in heaven? – Mark Luckie writes about something I’ve been concerned about recently – the increasing coziness between big news media outlets and college journalism departments to do big journalism projects. The question that should concern journalists is whether these partnerships are actually exploiting cheap labor to do the stories the big companies aren’t willing to pay real salaries for.

It is worth noting that college journalism students are often bright and talented young journalists looking to hone their skills in an academic environment. Some students, especially those in graduate programs, often have substantial experience in the newsroom or have worked previously as a full-time journalist. The partnerships can benefit both the students who gain practical experience and news media who can expand the reach of the newsroom.

But are news organizations avoiding paying full or part-time reporters in favor of tapping the skills of students who only require academic credit rather than financial compensation? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

I don’t have a problem with students gaining real world experience. But I’ve also seen a trend toward the odious unpaid internship coming up. It’s really a shame that news organizations when willing or able to pay the people who are working for them. College students are in a uniquely vulnerable position in this regard. They need experience, and some will do most anything to get it. That means media companies can exploit that vulnerability instead of paying for services rendered with real cash.

Icon credits:
Money – Photo by Flickr user akhater used under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Journalist – Photo by Flickr user utomjording / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.
Designer – Photo by Flickr user OXOX / CC BY-SA 2.0
Blogger – Photo by Flickr user gruntzooki / CC BY-SA 2.0