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Secrets to Successful Online Publishing

Secrets to Successful Online Publishing
By Sylvia Mendoza
(Master’s Program Final Assignment; Journalism 620 Online Publishing)

Networking. Social Media. Multi-media. SEO. Billboard approaches. Links, hubs, nodes. Websites. Internet. The World Wide Web. Anchor text. Interactive. Audience-driven. The jargon itself seems technical and fast-paced. But what pulls these elements together is interconnectivity.

Beyond our personal lives, this networking world has also transformed traditional news gathering and dissemination in print, broadcast and radio mediums. The way news—and online publishing—is covered today, is also fast paced, far-reaching, interactive and instantaneous. Successful news coverage offers an audience options in how to read, listen to, or view a story.

Producing news for online journalism and publishing is about networking and linking to promising audiences—but it goes beyond being efficient in Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+, and a myriad of other online networking sources. When we set up websites, we must be conscious of the words we choose, placement of those words and graphics and possibility for links. In the textbook, Don’t Make Me Think, Steve Krug shows how important it is to be aware of and practice more of a “billboard” approach.    

Don't Make Me Think

Author Steve Krug uses common sense tactics to make web site development user-friendly and efficient–which can result in more traffic to a site.

Awareness will make us better journalists for online publishing. Kirby Harrison compares analyzing websites with how he first viewed films, which is the career path he wants to pursue. Harrison says in his blog, “Now, I look at the little details that are wrong with the web. It was similar with film, when I went to the movies, all I did was watch the movie. It didn’t matter if it was a horror film or a comedy, I just enjoyed my time in the theatre. After learning more details into what it takes to make a film, camera angles, and the eventual do’s and don’t’s in filmmaking, I saw movies differently. Instead of enjoying what I was watching, I started judging the camera angles, whether or the director should have used a wide angle or not, etc.”

Like Harrison, journalists must be aware of how their work can be most effective. They must communicate and produce stories they are assigned or are compelled to tell—in one medium or another—but also in a multi-media focus to keep audiences engaged and keep the news interactive.

Jane Clifford explained this extremely well in her blog, “Digital Daze.” She writes, “After realizing — and accepting — that online readers are different in their approach to news (they choose what to read, when to read it, whether to respond to it on the spot and, much like being in a buffet line, they may taste a map, such as this one digest a graphic or list or photo, and move on to the next story sooner or later, depending on how well the journalist holds the viewer’s attention), online reporters must make sure a story is more than text.”

So what makes one news agency or journalist stand out from another? What is the secret to successful online publishing? What is the secret to successful networking?

Networking was not always associated with the Internet. In Hassan Alassaly’s blog, he reminded me of how our textbook, Linked, began—citing a networking venture that is centuries old. Alassaly writes, “Albert Barabasi[‘s] first pages of his book “Linked” he talks about the networking and how is it works, and to tell us it has been used since the beginning of the Christianity describing Paul that he understood his message is not enough to be reached for, except by networking.  He has to walk 10,000 miles in 12 years of his life to contact as many people as he can to connect his idea about Christianity and Jesus of Nazareth.”

Bodies, bridges, social networks–what do they have in common?

Technological advances and mediums that are the norm now have been foreign to me, a print journalist for the last 30 years.  In National University’s Online Publishing class for its Digital Journalism graduate program, every class has led to this one.  The core group of students in the program personifies a solid networking system.    Students are learning there are no secrets to successful online publishing. It is hard work. It is adapting. It is about putting into practice what we learn in the classroom—and also trusting our instincts. It is about what we bring to the table as individual professionals. It is about telling compelling stories that will draw audiences and reaction.Through all the readings in this class—Don’t Make Me Think by Steven Krug, Aim for the Heart by Al Tompkins, and Linked: How Everything is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means by Albert-Laszlo Barabasi—what I’ve learned most is this:

  • the news is ever changing,
  • multi-media offers interactive alternatives for the online user,
  • the dissemination of news is interactive and instantaneous, and
  • successful promotion of a news article or news agency depends on how effectively key words and phrases are used that can optimize an online search on a given topic.

A journalist can adapt to a digital journalism world by remembering two valuable practices. 1. She must remain true to ethical journalism standards as she researches and reports her story. 2. She must strive to tell a story with heart, which was the crux of Tompkins’ viewpoint. If one can get to the emotional core of a story—the heart of a story—the more likely audiences can relate—and will return to a site to learn more.   

Aim for the Heart by Al Tompkins

“Write, Shoot, Report & Produce for TV and Multimedia”

The beauty of networking is that one story can link to other sources, one person can tell their friends and families to link, and then the network for a story grows. Journalism student, Nebo Uyanwah, seemed to enjoy how Linked resonated and gave a new perspective of the magnitude of the Internet. “I love the analogy of the web being different continents or very large communities,” Uyanwah says.

This is how we network and grow as journalism students in the program. We read texts from experts in the field of impactful journalism so that we all start on the same footing. During weekly Live Chat sessions we listen to each other’s comments and discuss certain materials; we link to each other’s blogs and learn about personal style while seeing the strengths and diversity of perspectives. Our professors invite us to stay linked and suddenly, our networking circle has grown.  

As Professor Theresa Collington states, we need to “begin to view (digital) society as a complex social network. The world is actually very small.”

Indeed, Jerry Simpson put that idea to the test when he “linked” with Collington. “I was surprised as the number of connections you and I have in the journalism world,” he writes in his blog. “About a dozen of my friends follow you and even though we haven’t met in person, we are connected or as the author points out “Linked.””

We are enlightened by each other in these journalism classes, too. Insight by Mark Taylor enlightened me as to why Barabasi used the example of Gaetan Dugas, known as “Patient Zero” in the AIDS epidemic, in the Viruses and Fads Chapter. I initially had trouble equating it with the concept of being linked.

Taylor says, “People infected with HIV not only provide an example of the six degrees of separation outlined in the first nine chapters but the epidemic also implies that networks can be made to be damaged…Many journalists rely on digital devices and various social media outlets to reach out to other networks to acquire information needed for news stories. If an act of cyber terrorism was launched against these devices our communication infrastructure would be greatly hindered.”

When each of us in these classes shares insights, perspectives and news coverage practices, they link us to other points of view. Isn’t it part of a journalist’s job to see as many sides of a story as possible?

What I have loved most through all the readings is the concept of interconnectivity that Barabasi brought to life through discussion of the Pareto Principle—or Six Degrees of Separation. He made it fun and relatable by describing the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game. We are in a connected world but we have to go beyond that basic concept to produce news that matters to more people.    

Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon Game

It is taking this interconnectivity and following the lessons Krug tells of producing effective websites that are conscious of the target audience. “They want information fast, at their convenience, which is easy to understand,” says Mark Godi. “Often times, they want to get in and get out. To make them stay, your site has to be interactive.”

Interconnectivity is about believing that the heart of a good story will resonate with audiences as Tompkins believes—while using basic, effective online journalism practices. It is understanding that we are all connected as social human beings, in one way or another. In a beautifully clear written summary of Aim for the Heart, Mic Simpson reiterates, “Stories that pull at the heartstrings will not only be remembered but retold to co-workers, friends, or families. Then you’ve not only affected those who were there for the original story, but so many more as well.”

Glenda McCray-Fikes points out that Malcolm Gladwell, who wrote The Tipping Point, realizes that we may know the same number of people as the person next to us. However, some people are connectors. McCray-Fikes explains, “Connectors are the folks that are strong networkers and can get a message to more people in shorter amount of time then the average person.”

Even with seven billion people in the world, we are linked. As journalists, we can be the connectors. When we keep the power of the written word and multi-media coverage professional, yet authentic, interconnectivity can also be more powerful than we ever imagined.     

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Staying Linked to Kevin Bacon–Part 2

Staying Linked to Kevin Bacon—Part 2
By Sylvia Mendoza
(Master’s Program Assignment; Jour 620 Online Publishing)  

Bodies, bridges, social networks–what do they have in common?

In the second half of the book, Linked: The New Science of Networks: How Everything is Connected to Everything Else and What it Means for Science, Business and Everyday Life, author Albert-László Barabási, the educator/researcher is unleashed. The first half of the book was easier for a lay person to follow, someone with no scientific or mathematical background. However, Barabasi’s elaborate explanations showing the complexities of how a body’s cellular makeup and the World Wide Web are similar and depend on interior networks, links and nodes, became tedious and lost parallelism.

Chapter—or “Link”—titles were intriguing but content within was dissected to the point of confusion. The Tenth Link was Viruses and Fads; The Eleventh Link was The Awakening Internet; The Twelfth Link was The Fragmented Web; and The Thirteenth Link was The Map of Life. Barabasi did give some unique examples of how things can go terribly wrong with certain “networking.”  One such example was of the French Canadian flight attendant, Gaetan Dugas, who supposedly slept with approximately 20,000 people—and became known as “patient zero” of the AIDS epidemic. He was “at the center of an emerging complex sexual network among gay men.” Many of these first cases are linked to those who  had sex with Dugas.   He knowingly slept with these “victims” and they had no idea of the severity of the disease. This one man, a node for some, a hub for the disease—allegedly started a worldwide health crisis. However, Dugas may have been wrongly identified as a source, according to Xtra! Canada’s Gay & Lesbian News. This was also documented in an Xtra! video on Patient Zero.

Barabasi’s point in using this example? I’m not exactly sure. Perhaps it was understanding that links—from DNA and genetic propensities for cancer or other illnesses and cellular “wiring”–could go wrong. This could also be applied to networking malfunctions on the World Wide Web. In “The Twelfth Link—The Fragmented Web”—Barabasi talks about how some robots have “taken up residence in the virtual world…performing one of the most thankless and boring jobs humanity has ever designed: reading and indexing millions of Webpages.”

He defines the Web as “a scale-free network, dominated by hubs and nodes with a very large number of links.” It would be a difficult and almost impossible task—and quite an undertaking—to keep track of the millions of web pages in order to estimate the size of the Web. In addition, everything seems interconnected, which adds even more complexities to the ever growing Internet. Barabasis states that “the Web is fragmented into continents and communities, limiting and determining our behavior in the online universe,” yet the “structure of the World Wide Web has an impact on everything from surfing to democracy.”

A Federal agency or other entity could attempt to regulate the Web, but it is truly a localized, individual, ever changing monster, with thousands feeding it daily, watching it grow to unfathomable dimensions.  

So, even though search engines are amazing and seem to offer up a myriad of options for the web surfer, they have only touched the tip of the iceberg in unraveling the breadth of the WWW. Google, for example, has “indexed only 7.8 percent of the estimated 800 million pages out there.” Yet, Barabasi goes back to the six degrees of separation theory, saying, “despite the billion documents on the Web, nineteen degrees of separation suggests that the Web is easily navigable.”

The bottom line for Barabasi is that within the World Wide Web, there will always be a balance of trial and error, growth and setbacks, and even good and evil. The power of being “linked,” however, offsets the negative. He believes being linked to communities that matter to individuals, whether it is for business, education, activism, entertainment, research or enlightenment, or any other category, can produce positive outcomes. Surfing the Web and learning about its behind-the-scenes intricacies is all about possibilities and empowerment—and the knowledge that we are connected more than we think.

The power of this interconnectivity defies all logic. It is up to individuals to harness even a portion of that power to create networks for a greater purpose and discovery, moving ever forward.    

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Interconnectivity: Are You Linked to Kevin Bacon?

Interconnectivity: Are You Linked to Kevin Bacon?
By Sylvia Mendoza
(Assignment: Journalism 620: Online Publishing)

With more than 7 billion people in the world (US Census Bureau), the Internet and social media make us believe that it just might be a small world, despite the numbers. With an incredible network of connections, it is sometimes unfathomable to believe that someone from California could possibly connect to someone they have never met in London, through the various Internet sources find a bed and breakfast or do a home swap in time for the  2012 Olympics.

Bodies, bridges, social networks–what do they have in common?

Oh, the beauty of being interconnected. This phenomenon for everything from businesses, to a body, to social networks is shown historically in the book, Linked: The New Science of Networks: How Everything is Connected to Everything Else and What it Means for Science, Business and Everyday Life. According to the book blurb, author “Albert-László Barabási, the nation’s foremost expert in the new science of networks, takes us on an intellectual adventure to prove that social networks, corporations, and living organisms are more similar than previously thought.”

At this point in time, there is a convergence of centuries of mathematical and scientific formulas that form the basis for the belief that networks are present everywhere and in everything. Barbasi describes nodes, links, hubs and networks, labeling “isolated nodes” as people. As an example,  he says when people meet each other, they form a link. When several people get together, say at a party to share information, they form a network or cluster. So, like the internet, a network of connections can go from “isolated nodes” to isolated networks to big clusters with a commonality. Networks can be “computers linked by phone lines, islands connected by bridges and molecules in our bodies linked by chemical bonds.” These networks are linked to connectors and hubs that can cause exponential growth and opportunities for more connections and knowledge.

“Networks are …competitive…dynamic systems that change constantly through the addition of new nodes and links.” with a vivid example of serving a rare wine at a party. Share this with another person, then that person tells the next and then that person tells someone he knows. Pretty soon, everyone knows about the tasty rare wine and it will be gone before the next link can be created. Connectors are people who can literally, connect people, business, entities to others. Hubs “are places on the Internet where all of the important things from connectors are linked.”

Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon Game

Barabasi uses the concept of “Six Degrees of Separation” to explain how closely we can be connected to others and not even realize it. Hungarian Author Frigyes Karinthy first wrote about this theory—that everyone in the world can be connected “through a chain of acquaintances of no more than five intermediaries”—in his 1929 “Chains.” This concept is illustrated in the game “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.” Actor Kevin Bacon is seen as a Hollywood hub for all actors who have worked with him or someone he knows.  

The best example of these types of strong and weak connections is LinkedIn. Strong ties are those people who are super close to us, but the best “investment” is to branch out to the weak ties, those we may not know as well, but who can broaden our connections. In my own LinkedIn account, some amazing statistics state:  510 connections link you to 6,365,236+ professionals; and, 65,321 new people in your network since July 22. Wow.

When I took Social Media for Editors at UCSD Extension, what I learned from instructor Erin Brenner reinforced Barabasi’s viewpoint: that for effective connections, I would not benefit from linking to so many other writers, but I would benefit if I linked to organizations or individuals who I wanted to reach as potential clients, such as motivational Latina speakers.

Barabasi mentions the “power laws;” one revolves around the 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, named after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto. His belief? Power comes from a few. He said that 80% of the property in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. Another: 80% of your sales comes from 20% of your clients. My favorite?  How 20% of the population earns 80% of the income.

There are consequences to all this interconnectivity that the general public may not aware of.  In some cases, if technology fails, the world as we know it can come to a stop. There are entities that help monitor what can go wrong, such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).  DARPA focuses on “the development of new network technologies that will allow the networks of the future to be resistant to attacks and continue to provide network services.”

Precautions must be taken. “MafiaBoy,” a 15-year-old who hacked into and handicapped Yahoo, Amazon.com, CNN.com, Etrade and Excite in one fell swoop, was first thought to be a cyber-terrorist by the FBI. Barabasi shows how those sites came to a screeching halt for serviceability. Barabasi also mentions how if major hubs are shut down, a domino effect can ensue. His example? American airports. If Chicago O’Hare, New York, Los Angeles and Atlanta were shut down, “all air travel within the United States would come to a halt within hours.”

Interconnectivity. There is absolute awe in the concept. But there should also be a little bit of wariness. A little bit of fear. And a whole lot of respect for the power at our fingertips.  

 

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