Boy, it's been awhile since I posted to this baby. Since my last post, I've left my beloved Lawrence, survived a hurricane, launched a couple of large local news sites that damn-near killed me and everyone else working on them, and hired so many people that we've all got to wear name badges.
The biggest thing that surprises me about the move from Lawrence to Naples is how much more gets written about us here, and — to be honest — I was always a little surprised about how much was written about us when we were in Kansas. Just in the last month or so, we've been discussed in the USA Today, Presstime magazine, Editor & Publisher magazine, Salon.com, Red Herring magazine, and we were the cover story in this month's Scripps company magazine.
And from what I'm gathering, there is a lot more coming over the next few months.
Another thing that's surprised me is the amount of visitors we get to our operation, which is kind of fun. Well, until you start feeling less like a journalist and more like a species that is being studied in its natural habitat.
The big news here in Naples is that we're about to launch our new vodcast.
No, we're not trying to be overly hip here and jump on the bandwagon of the latest new media term. 🙂
Naples desperately needs its own newscast. This place is substantially bigger than the last three places I've worked — Lawrence, Topeka and Augusta.
The county that we serve (Collier) has over 315,000 people in it. And no TV news. There are TV stations in Fort Myers, but their coverage of Naples is basically an afterthought.
But I'm not going to talk much about our new vodcast in this post. Instead, I want to talk about our audio podcast, which we launched probably six months ago — and gave us a lot of insight as to how we might approach our own video news reports.
In regards to landing our podcast sponsor, sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. Let me explain in a very long-winded way how we not only started our podcast, but had a sponsor in place before we had even one listener.
We began producing our weekly high school football podcast in September, I think. We have learned a lot from doing those local sports podcasts, as well as our experiments with podcasting in Lawrence.
We began doing our daily news podcast in October.
One of the things that I realized in Lawrence is that despite some very noble efforts, most newspaper podcasts sound kind of amateur. We wanted to try to make our podcasts in Naples sound as professional as we could, with the big problem being that we are all amateurs, so we needed to try to fake it reasonably well. 🙂
We hired different voice talents from an agency in New York to record different introductions for the overall podcast, as well as segment introductions. Since we were still very much in concept mode as we were doing this, we had one woman read 10 pages of segment openings, including 20 variations for the weather opening alone.
We use lots of music for background in the podcast, except for when the local news is being read. The music is from a music library that we licensed.
We bought nearly every member of the newsroom digital recorders from Radio Shack that cost about $50 each. We are getting a surprising amount of audio from our reporters each day. We also bought the connectors so that reporters could record phone interviews for us.
We also use this audio (usually the full reporter interview) to embed inside the text version of related stories on our site.
Most weeks, we use a ton of audio from our reporters on our high school football podcast.
One thing that we really wanted to do with our daily news podcast was to make sure that there was something in each news podcast that was different than what you could get in print or in our typical online coverage — which is why we do an extended interview (5-10 minutes with a reporter) to get some insider view of a story that is in that morning's newspaper.
I've been blown away by the job our print reporters have done in that segment. I think it shows our readers just how knowledgeable our journalists are about their beats and the things they write about.
We also have our newspaper's editorial page editor read a daily letter to the editor, and our online entertainment editor does a daily segment on the podcast of things from our websites' huge calendar of events.
And I forgot to say that for three days a week, one of our newspaper's copy desk chiefs reads the podcast. The guy definitely sounds like he belongs on NPR.
I love all of this because of the amount of involvement the actual print newsroom has in the podcast. Each day, you can hear three to six people from our news organization involved in our podcast, not to mention the voices of sources and the voices of the "talent" we hired from New York to do all of the intros.
To me, the podcast shows the commitment many of our journalists have in making sure that their content helps our audience … whether they are reading it or listening to it.
We make sure that the podcast is posted very early in the morning (like around 3 a.m. or so) so that it can be downloaded for your morning jog or drive into work.
Here's why I just went into all of that detail — we wanted to really, really make an impression on not only our readers but advertisers with these podcasts.
On a whim, we showed our podcast prototype to an ad agency back in October. By the end of that same day we had a signed annual contract for the sponsorship of our daily news podcast.
We promote the podcast each day with a small house ad that runs in print, along with a very small logo of the presenting sponsor.
We also promote the heck out of the podcast in the story content of our print edition (without the sponsor, of course), with whatever story has our reporter interview.
It's too early to tell if our podcasting is going to be a success. I kind of want to have about 18 months to see what happens both with audience and advertising before I call it a success or failure.
I can tell you that downloads of the podcast usually outnumber the amount of times a local government meeting story is read on our site.
Early anecdotal evidence is that many of the people who listen to the podcast actually listen to it directly on their computer instead of on an iPod or other mp3 player, and we're just fine with that.