CONFERENCE DAY 2
The second day of SND STL had me overwhelmed. I listened to so many great speakers the previous day, learned so much, saw so many excellent demos. And now here I was with another great line-up of sessions to choose from.
Cross-Platform Editing – Teresa Schmedding is the president of the American Copy Editors Society and also an assistant managing editor at the Daily Herald in Chicago. Teresa talked about trying to hold the line between editorial quality and actually getting stuff out the door. Her stories of pet peeves of writers and editors she’s dealt with were highly entertaining. It’s hard to know what’s worth fighting for. You will have readers who will write and complain about certain edits so you have to know what your standards are.
As someone who finds it near impossible to read blogs, websites, even Twitter feeds, and of course books and print media, with bad grammar and spelling, I sympathize with these tough calls. I know carelessness can lose you readers.
Teresa’s top recommendations were three things:
1) Focus on grammar, it’s the most important
2) Details: make sure you’ve got ‘em and they’re consistent
3) Structure: make sure it’s not confusing for the reader
Teresa recommended not to spend time on some of your old and time-consuming style rules, certain old “newspaper” rules, and your boss’s pet peeves. Ask people, your readers, what they value so you can ensure you’re spending time on what’s most important to your readers. And if you’re thinking about a pay wall, people will not pay for error-filled copy whether they are grammatical, spelling, or fact errors.
Designing a Responsive News Website – Everyone working on the web at this point has to have seen the Boston Globe redesign at http://bostonglobe.com. Miranda Mulligan and Mat Marquis are two of the main folks behind the redesign. They talked very honestly about what went into the redesign, what was hard, what was valuable and what pieces they’re still working on. They described HTML5 & Responsive Design and which pieces they wanted to incorporate in their new site. They also showed us the grids they ended up using and how they worked with things like Scott Jehl’s Responsive Images script, media queries and other technology to make it work right.
Challenges they came across included the Boston Globe masthead (very complicated & went through many revisions), third party integration for things like video and advertising, making HTML5 crossword puzzles (this piece is currently in beta), saving offline stories, and interactive information graphics in responsive sites.
Also interesting to me was that they chose a new CMS and went with http://www.eidosmedia.com which is also used by the Denver Post, the New York Post and the Washington Post. It will take two years to implement and customize, print products will launch on it next year.
Lastly they covered the importance of using analytics and allowing them to inform future decisions such as grid widths. Excellent and candid talk about the real pain and equally real rewards of going through this process.
Gamestorming with Dave Gray – I read Gamestorming earlier this year and found it to be a very useful book for developing ideas and working on teams. Dave gave some examples from his book and how companies like Starbucks are listening to customers and changing their strategies for the better.
Dave pointed out that the question is no longer “What’s in tomorrow’s paper”, it’s now “What IS tomorrow’s paper?” Companies who approach it this way will get it right faster than those who are clinging tightly to old models that are going to slowly fade away.
The paradox of discovery is that you might not find what you’re looking for, but if you’re not looking for something then you won’t find anything. If you’re looking for the ROI before you start anything, you’ll never build anything. You don’t have to be smart, you just have to do things.
How to Make News Apps in your Newsroom – Several times on this blog I’ve mentioned the fact that trying lots of different things and being able to work news, magazines and media more like an agile start-up is a great way to get ahead of the competition. Brian Boyer from The Chicago Tribune and Scott Klein from ProPublica talked about news apps which are software. This is a new area, so these aren’t people in your company who can fix your computer or get the server back online, they’re people who can build newly capable applications to visualize stories or interact with users.
Apps that fall into this category include things like “Dollars for Docs” from ProPublica, which points out doctors who have taken money or other compensation from pharmaceutical companies. The speakers pointed out we need “Demos not memos.” In other words, we need more people in the field who can help to visualize and display and build these applications.
If you’re interested in working in this area, good places to start are things like Hacks & Hackers, NICAR-L mailing list, a language like Python or Ruby, a database like MySQL or PostgreSQL, and informational, how-to sites for web designers/developers like http://developer.mozilla.com and http://alistapart.com. Lots of other helpful links are here on Brian’s pinboard site: http://bit.ly/sndnerd.
Finding the Web Designer Within – These two guys from Upstatement had amazing slides that they published ahead of time so you could follow along. The slides are great because they point out that a lot of what news designers have been trained to do are very useful skills for web design. Things like grids, typography and being able to organize volumes of information are all skills that can transfer to web design.
As with the previous speakers, they mention that it’s important to teach yourself to code and recommended Coda. They design in the browser but still use InDesign occasionally.
You can find the Upstatement slides from this talk here: http://upstatement.com/sndstl/
Adios, Arial! New Tools for Taking Beautiful Typography from Print to Digital – Typography is so important for readability on the web, and Alan Tam, Sam Berlow and Danny DeBelius gave a great talk and examples on why you need to test every scenario, why the results can change and some technology to use to help. Sam recommended tools like the web font preview on http://www.fonts.com, the fontswapper on http://www.webtype.com and http://fontfonter.com to try web fonts on any website.
Great fonts can render totally differently on different operating systems, different devices, different browsers, so it’s important to test the fonts you’ve selected everywhere. It’s also important to make sure you’re using complementary fonts, which is probably hard to eyeball unless you’re a very seasoned web font user.
Closing Keynote with Robin Sloan and Matt Thompson – This presentation was definitely one you did not want to be late for. The session was live-streamed, and below is the video. Robin and Matt are amazing speakers and it’s definitely worth watching their take on what the future of reporting a natural disaster might be like with their video called The Storm Collection and the brilliant talk that follows:
You can view the slides from Robin and Matt’s talk here: http://snarkmarket.com/storm/
END OF DAY 2
I’m very used to attending technology conferences with topics I’m more or less familiar with. It’s been a long time since I have been to an event where I felt that every talk I walked away from had new ideas and new things for me to learn. As I said in the beginning of this post, it’s overwhelming. Although I’ve always been a newspapers and magazine junkie, that’s not what I studied in school. Without a journalism background, I felt out of my element. It’s uncomfortable to be in that position, but I realize we probably don’t do that enough to ourselves.
SND STL was incredibly well put together and I am so grateful to the organizers for all their hard work and effort. I will definitely be attending SND again in the future, hope to see everyone next year in Cleveland.