industry news

Avoiding shovelware on your site

It’s an easy trap to fall into for even the most well-intentioned newspaper Web site  — shovelware.

That’s shoveling a newspaper’s content onto a Web site during night production, refreshing the page only once daily — and it also happens to be my new media pet peeve.

News online should be fluid. Ideally, a news site should be updated as frequently as possible, offering readers fresh content throughout the day.

Here’s some tips to avoid this all-too common problem.

1. Post news as it happens.

This is kind of a n0-brainer but it’s easy to overlook.  While many college news outlets thrive during big breaking news events, day-to-day news should also be posted as it occurs. Student government meetings, university or city events or minor police incidents shouldn’t wait till the next day’s paper, rather, they should be posted as soon as the story is complete.

2. Don’t rely on Twitter updates

It’s 2010 — most college outlets have stepped into the Twittersphere. But a Twitter update (or simply using Twitter to link out to your stories) isn’t enough. Follow up those 140-character posts with a few paragraphs on your site to give readers more complete updates. If reporters can’t write updates from an event, have them call the newsroom and update editors over the phone.

3. Stagger deadlines.

It’s easy to be lulled into a newspaper’s day-to-day grind.  But a newspaper’s deadline and production process shouldn’t encumber your site. Now’s the time to make online news a priority. Assign reporters deadlines throughout the day. As content comes in it should be immediately edited and posted to the Web site, even if it isn’t immediately timely.

It isn’t just for news items — this is great for multimedia as well as feature and lifestyle stories and even opinion pieces. In order to make your site a destination, it needs to have something different to offer your readers throughout the day.

4. Make sure everyone (or almost everyone) in your newsroom knows how to post to your site.

It’s a scary proposition for many editors. But realistically, if you rely on only a handful of people to keep your site updated, content won’t flow as it should. Make sure multiple people in your newsroom know how to post content to the site — maybe editors or principal reporters or the copy desk.  This way, as content comes in it can be postedcomp.