ONA wrapup: been a long time comin’

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ETA: I also basked in some Washington and Lee awesomeness at this conference (me, Professor Artwick, my ONA roomie/fellow W&L alum Nicole.

This year, ONA set before me a banquet of food for thought (and for doing too).

Keynote with Lisa Stone, the started out bright and early–we missed some of it because we ran to get breakfast at the Starbucks down the street (of course, there would be a huge line at the one inside the hotel lobby), but the one thing I took away from that was how to be a better blogger: write what you know/like, become an expert in it and share it with other people. You’re there to build community (which makes sense, because if no one’s reading it then what’s the point?).

Then I went to a session on livestreaming video (very timely to know after my recent stint at a TV station) by Joe Ruiz. Main lesson: there are SO many ways to stream live video, as easy as from your mobile phone. Check out Qik, Kyte, Livestream.com, and Ustream.tv. This is something definitely worth picking up on. Case in point–Joe shared a time when his station was covering a fire at an apartment complex. They sent the reporter and the photog out there. Photog got the HD, high quality video, and the reporter also got video with his iPhone. The high quality video went on the 5pm newscast, and the iPhone video went on their site at 3pm when the story broke (a good 2 hours before other stations in his market got video of the news event up).

And where the hell are all the other TV people? There were like 3 people from TV, but you all have news online also. Online news isn’t just for print-based outlets! You need to know these things too.

Then I went to a session on SEO, or search engine optimization. Since all our content is online, SEO is something everyone has to think about. At this session, the main things I learned were SEO basics–changing up your news pages show up higher in search engine rankings:

  • include keywords in the article titles
  • full first and last names (or last name)
  • stay away from abbreviations and alternate spellings
  • include proper names
  • include locations
  • if the story has video, stick “WATCH” in the headline

Oh, and the guy who invented Google News was also there. 🙂

Next, I went to a session on design and data visualization, which are two things I love to see done well by news sites. At this panel, one of the designers from Facebook spoke about invoking emotions through graphics, namely joy. My favorite part of the panel was when someone from Adaptive Path, a user experience firm that worked on the redesign for CNN.com and NPR.org., took the floor. My roommate Nicole tweeted that she noticed that a majority of the journalists in the room ceased typing on their MacBooks to simply listen to this guy speak. I agree.

He spoke about how news consumption patterns vary. Some people want to know the news. Others want to apply it. Still others want to share the news and others consume news because they have an emotional attachment to it.

This is where news sites come in–they need to make sure they’re serving the different avenues people consume news. Not “this is the news, this is how we’re presenting it and here’s why you should care,” but “oh, you love politics? there’s an app for that!” Another thing that stood out to me was that the homepage gets all the attention, but really, every page is the homepage. People will access your stories not just through the homepage, but through search engines, links, Twitter, etc. so every page needs to be created with the same care as the homepage. Our headlines should also tempt people to want to read the story, not tease them and make them wonder what the story is actually about.

But what really got me was that news sites should be more than a publication, but an application for users to explore and make sense of their world. Interactivity only works when someone actually learns something new!

The last session I went to was one on more cool new tools for journalists, and my favorite one was Swivel, where you can make your own interactive graphics (data visualization at it easiest) without being a Flash developer. SO FREAKING COOL! Ahhh, I wish I had a news outlet to use this on.

The awards banquet that night was interesting also. Congratulations to all the winners, but really, all the nominees were spectacular. Apparently, Nicole and I sat at the Norwegian table (though we were there first) with Norwegians, who proceeded to talk to us about the weird stuff they’ve encountered in their travels in America (such as pentecostal church services) and talk in Norwegian amongst themselves about God knows what. Then there’s me, who foolishly brought up how much I loved studying abroad in Copenhagen and that I could say random words in Danish while forgetting the healthy rivalry between the two countries (Norway is a former colony of Denmark). One was incredibly handsome, but what do you expect from the same part of Europe that gave you Alexander Skarsgård?

Overall, this year’s ONA was groundbreaking. It was better the second time around also (last year, when I went I learned so much). Going there made me wish I took the job at KATU so I could share and apply what I learned on their site (and make it kick the asses of the other TV news sites in the market). But I’m confident I’ll be able to use all this knowledge soon–the right one always works out.

I forget how funny frat stars are

Like OMG you guys, it’s like college all over again!

Apparently at our hotel has been overrun with USC students going to the USC v. Cal game at Berkeley tomorrow. At first we thought it was a frat/srat function, but upon confirmation (by actually talking to them), it was because of the game.

Step down into the hotel lobby and back 4 years in time. The hotel floors are almost like the dorms, complete with drunk kids stumbling about, empty bottles of Smirnoff and muffled yells.

I was finally going back up to my room (after waiting for like 2 elevators of drunken frat boys and sorority girls) when two frat boys stepped on our elevator, which otherwise would have been the Sober Express. As much as I like confusing drunk people, I like listening to them even more.

Frat 1: Dude, we’re not on the 16th floor.
Frat 2: I know. We’re in a different tower.
Frat 1: Okay. Just making sure. But we have to go get the alcohol.
Frat 2: No way, Taylor said we had enough already!
Sober person on elevator: How old are you boys?
Frat 1: 21. Old enough to get drunnnk. Sorry, you picked the wrong weekend to stay here.
Frat 2: I’m just going to apologize in advance for how I’m going to act in a couple hours.

By this point, everyone else has already left the elevator and now it’s just me and the bros and they’re like, “You look fun. Why does everyone hate us? It’s not like we’re mean when we’re drunk. Those people never had fun in college.”

Well, at least journalists can hold their liquor much better, says my roommate.

Day 2 at ONA

What a whirlwind day of sessions!

Bright and early in the morning was keynoter Evan Williams, (@ev) the CEO of Twitter. He had some great insight, not only in Twitter as another tool for journalists (curating and sorting through information to find what really matters, breaking news stories, etc) but also from an entrepreneur’s perspective. He reminded us to embrace uncertainty, to trust our gut and to make things work. I think that’s maybe something we all needed to hear. Especially me. I know that I’m facing uncertainty right now (and not really feeling it), but we’re going to make it work. Somehow. Oh and I snapped some not very good quality pictures of him from where I was sitting. They have better ones up over at ONA’s Flickr pool.

Next up, I went to a session by Amy Webb (of Webbmedia group) on the next top 10 tech trends. SO EXCITING. She introduced so many cool and creepy things and how journalists can use them. Cool like Flock, where you can aggregate your RSS feeds and Twitter and Wikitude, for Android phones where you can move your phone around and little bubbles will popup full of text from Wikipedia telling you all about what you are looking at. Creepy like Face.com, which automatically tags you (thanks to face recognition) and another one (which I can’t remember right now) where you can enter a name in some search engine and it comes back with a satellite picture of your house and your address. I can’t wait to start using these things!

Ironically, the next one I went to was on metrics and using stats (clicks, comments, etc) and how you shouldn’t always rely on them. Unfortunately I didn’t pay very good attention during this session.

At lunch, another keynoter, Leo Laporte of This Week in Tech (podcast) talked about how he got started and how to straddle the old and new media (he was in radio before TWIT).

After that I went to the session on data hunting, which was good stuff. Main things I learned:

  • There is a grip of data out there, and some of it can be wrong and misleading
  • Data can show inequalities, but pure data may not be the only thing that’s (it could be policy)
  • DocumentCloud (from the NYT, OpenCalais) is the next coolest thing for journalism (in a nutshell: unstructured text becomes structured data –> better reporting and transparency)

At this point, my head was hurting from listening and dehydration, so I decided to take a break. But thank God for hashtags– now I’m hanging out in a comfy chair, charging my laptop and keeping track of the important points in the session on economy.

Fun trends at ONA this year:

  • the ubiquitous smartphone (mostly iPhones and Blackberrys, didn’t really see anything else out there–though some guy I was sitting next to in the last session had an HTC phone)
  • Macbook is king (at our table at breakfast/keynote everyone had one)
  • people from mostly print-based online operations (where are the people from local TV–you all have Web sites too!)
  • using Twitter really took off (yay hashtags to follow sessions)
  • broke the WiFi again

I can’t believe this is half over. Boo!

The day is mine, Trebek

Day 1 of ONA is done!

First, I love San Francisco so far! The sunny and warm weather is wonderful, coming from Portland’s cold and rainy weather lately. There’s also a huge mall and so many shops near my hotel. Walking around Union Square where all the couture is made me feel so fancy.

I almost didn’t make it to my flight (woke up an hour later than I intended + traffic getting to the airport), but thank God there was no line at security (and the TSA guy drew a happy face on my boarding pass). I’ll give it up to divine intervention for making it here.

I went to the job fair (missed all the career training sessions), passed my resume off, learned about some sweet opportunities, and then went exploring to find some lunch (which ended up being a bottle of Naked juice and a veggie sandwich–with sprouts). At this point, whatevs. If I don’t find a job here, then I’m fine with that. The right thing will happen when it’s meant to happen.

I met up with my friend Nicole (went to college with her and it’s awesome to have a friend who is web savvy also) and one of my journalism professors, so it was a nice round of soaking in Washington and Lee awesomeness (and catching up on J-School gossip). And I’m catching up with some long-lost friends who live in the area, so that will be the icing on top of this conference.

I love having food places within walking distance. I just got dinner from a sweet Mexican grill a couple blocks down. But it’s late, and the keynotes are early in the morning (why; I feel like I need to be more awake to listen to the most important thing).