Nokia USA: It’s Not Your Intermediaries, It’s YOU

I was so happy and excited to get my N95 (see video). I could be this happy again, if only Nokia would get its US service and support act together.

As I noted earlier, this morning Charlie Schick of Nokia USA left a comment on this blog to reach out to me about my recent heartbreaking experience with the Nokia N95. Here’s what he said:

“These are the nightmares that we never want to happen.

“I remember in the days before we allowed users to do their firmware updates, this was one of the worries that could have killed the whole process.

“I think what makes it hard for us is all the disintermediation – the, sometimes small but crucial, gap between us and you.

“And what concerns me is that we know when it happens to folks like you who write about it. Yet, that leads us to a one-time fix.

“How can we spread a policy or procedure down the line that helps anyone with this issue (and without costing the company or you an bundle)?

“I don’t know, and any more speculation on my part might be irresponsible.

“For sure, the more folks who bring this up, the more likely the company will come with a plan that can deal with this in a way we are both happy with.”

Here is my response — which I hope will lead to further constructive conversation and perhaps better options for current and would-be US users of high-end Nokia products…

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Making your home page “bloggier,” but not “a blog.”
A bloggier home page definitely doesn’t have to be ugly.

Right now, several of my clients are working on site redesigns and also are looking for ways to increase site traffic. One of the most basic strategies for attracting more traffic to your site is making your site more appealing to search engines. That’s why I’m suggesting that these clients might consider adding a “blog” to their home page, because search engines love blogs.

…OK, I realize now I need to learn to say that differently when talking to clients. All of these clients are from major, respectable media organizations — consequently, they have a generally negative immediate reaction to the word “blog.” Even though these people are savvy about online media, they still tend to immediately associate “blog” with a negative and largely inaccurate stereotype: poorly designed rant-fests that attract trolls and flamers like cockroaches.

No, that’s NOT what I’m advising for their home pages.

Rather, I’m saying it can be useful to manage the newsiest parts of your site with a blog-like back-end — a content management system interface that makes it easy to post discrete items, categorize and assign a permalink to each, and present them online in reverse-chronological order. Then you generate a feed (RSS) from that content, so you can syndicate the most recent items to a space on your home page layout.

Here’s how you can benefit from that strategy…

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Conversational Media Mindset 101

Gaetan Lee, via Flickr (CC license)
Is your wetware due for an upgrade?

On Monday I’ll be co-presenting a session on “Future Tools” at the Knight Digital Media Center seminar: Best Practices: Editorial/Commentary in Cyberspace. My fellow presenter Leslie Rule (who runs KQED‘s Digital Storytelling Initiative) and I will be explaining to a room full of news org editorial writers how they can use technology to do their jobs and serve their communities better. I’m going to focus on conversational and social media; Leslie will focus more on locative and location-based news and services.

When you’re updating your media toolkit, I think it’s important to upgrade the “wetware” first. So I’ve just written an introduction to the conversational media mindset — and why it matters to them and their communities.

Check it out over on the seminar blog.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. You can leave comments on that post, too.

Newspaper Biz: Evolution Isn’t the End of the World

Rob Lee, via Flickr (CC license)
Some ways of approaching what looks like the end of the world are more constructive than others.

(NOTE: I originally wrote this for Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits. I’m cross-posting it here because I think it might also interest Contentious readers.)

This morning I read in the New York Times a cold litany of everything that’s going demonstrably wrong with the newspaper business. (Found it thanks to Jim Romenesko.) It’s a long, depressing, and familiar list: layoffs, buyouts, papers folding, declining revenues, etc.

A couple of things Richard Pérez Peña wrote in that story caught my attention.

First, “Newspaper executives and analysts say that it could take five to 10 years for the industry’s finances to stabilize and that many of the papers that survive will be smaller and will practice less ambitious journalism.”

Yeah, no kidding. Personally, I’d be surprised if many dailies are left standing after the next 7-10 years, if they don’t make fast, fundamental changes to their revenue strategies. (I touched on this theme yesterday.) I realize this is dire news to people who can’t envision doing anything but working for a traditional newspaper. But on the bright side, for those with flexibility and a bit of business savvy, I think that right now there is more space than ever in the news market for entrepreneurial journalistic ventures.

Why my optimism?…

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Getting Smart About News Podcasts
See how simple podcast show notes can be?

(NOTE: I just published this on Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits, which is mainly read by mainstream journalists and journalism educators, but I thought Contentious readers might find it interesting, too.)

Like many net users, I get a lot of my news via podcasts. I’ve sampled several news podcasts and have settled on a few favorites as my current primary daily heads-up on the top stories: AP Newsbeat (1 min.), Denver Post All News (8-10 min.), NYT Front Page (5 min.), NPR News (5 min.), WSJ What’s News (3-4 min.) — and, of course, The Onion Radio News (1 min., a complete story, not a summary). Occasionally I also listen to BBC Newspod but that’s rare, since it typically runs 35-40 min.

(UPDATE Jan 24: If you want to subscribe to my favorite news headline podcasts all at once, I created a Mediafly public feed for them.)

That may sound like a lot, but since I listen to them while I’m doing other things (cleaning, cooking, e-mail, exercising, etc.). It’s actually pretty efficient, especially since I like to see how different news orgs are choosing stories on any given day. And I’m not alone in that — most news junkies follow multiple news venues daily.

There is a problem, though: None of my favorite news podcasts exercise their full potential for engagement. But used wisely, a good headlines podcast can support any news org’s bottom line.

If you want to get more direct benefit and mileage from your news podcasts, here’s my advice…

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It’s a Conversation, Stupid! Video is online

Knight Digital Media Center
Me waving to the internet from the stage at USC.

As I mentioned earlier, on Oct. 1, I helped moderate an excellent panel discussion at the USC Annenberg School of Journalism in Los Angeles called It’s a Conversation, Stupid! Blogs, Wikis, Social Networking, UGC meet Journalism. This was part of an intriguing seminar at the Knight Digital Media Center called Journalism in a 24/7 World: Decision-making for the Online Editor, and my panel was offered in partnership with the Online News Association.

The video for this session is now online! You can watch the whole thing here. (Scroll down to the bottom of that page.)

How Feeds Make You Findable
Freelance Switch offered great search visibility advice — for about five years ago.

The blog Freelance Switch just published an intriguing post, Getting Exposure On Search Engines, which addresses one of the most common questions freelance writers or other content producers have. Namely, how can I make myself easy to find online?” For freelancers especially this can be an issue of professional life and death.

The author, Shaun Crowley, offered great advice — for about five years ago.

His column overlooked entirely one key tool — feeds — that can easily outpace the results of everything else he recommended (SEO keywords, search-engine-friendly presentation, browser compatibility, inbound links, directory listings, etc.).

While Crowley did recommend that freelancers start blogging, he only addressed that in terms of a publication, not in terms of what they should do with their feed.

I’ve said it before: Learning to use feeds is a cornerstone skill for today’s online media. And that’s not just about learning to subscribe to feeds in a feed reader (although that’s a great starting point). It’s also about learning how to get your feed well connected so that it’s delivering you the most value by increasing your exposure and search engine positioning.

Here’s what everyone who wants to improve their search visibility should be doing with their feeds, and why…

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10 Ideas: What To Post to a Conference Blog

Check it out: The SEJ2007 unofficial conference blog.

I’ve been working hard lately to get the unofficial conference blog up and running for the 2007 conference of the Society of Environmental Journalists. This blog will be authored by a team of volunteer bloggers — SEJ members and others attending the conference.

Whenever I do one of these conference blogs, the volunteers always want guidance on what they should write about. In this case, I expect most of our contributing bloggers will come from print media. They know how to write, but they’ve probably never blogged before — and most of them also have little or no experience in creating any content specifically for online media.

Consequently, they aren’t familiar with conference blogs. That’s fine — many people aren’t, although that’s starting to change. I’ve worked on some conference blogging efforts, so I’ve pulled together a list of 10 kinds of posts that work well on conference blogs.

As with any conversational media effort, it helps to know your audience, as well as your community of contributors (both bloggers and commenters). What skills and expertise do they bring to the table? What do they want? Ultimately, that should be your guide.

Here’s my list…
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It’s Not About Your Site Anymore

Amy Gahran
In your own home, you get to put the couch where YOU want it. Who cares if that’s not the living room?

Here’s another reason why learning to use a feed reader is a cornerstone skill for truly succeeding in online media today:

It’s not about your site anymore.In fact, it hasn’t been for at least a couple of years now.

In other words: The way online media works today, you’ll probably succeed more through participation and off-site distribution (syndication) than through publishing alone.

More and more people — especially, but not exclusively, younger folk (you know, the people you hope will become your community or customers someday) — prefer to craft their own custom hubs for information and interaction. That’s what’s driving the popularity of feed-supported, syndication-oriented social media experiences like Facebook, MySpace, MyYahoo, iGoogle, Digg,, YouTube, co.mments, Twitter, and podcasting. (And, on the bleeding edge, Zude, CoComment, and Pageflakes.)

It’s kind of like furnishing your home…

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