Category Archives: The Big 5 (Top Overnight Stories)

Searing Your Brand on Social Media: The Overnight Birth of a Logo

Three weeks ago, almost by accident, I came up with what is the first tiny-but-tangible building block of my would-be world news media EMPIRE(!?) Aaiyaaaa!!

The great challenge and opportunity of the web is that you can actually create new stuff, which you then might just get someone out there in the ether to consume (and one day, buy!?) Rather than having to claw through a corporate list of meetings and measuring, some half-equipped dude can actually get his idea up  and running – and live — virtually on his own. Cool shit.

The adrenaline rush of inventing something brand new is different for a reporter who typically got his rushes responding: to events, to editors, to fill that empty space on the wires/paper/magazine/website that is waiting for your copy. Now, there is another void waiting to be filled, but only YOU are aware that it exists.

To try to capture that sensation, and show how accessible the digital world can be, I thought I’d try to chronicle the blow by blow of why/how/when I upgraded and expanded While U Slept, my aforementioned lil’ project of Overnight News Bundling.

Friday, March 5

4 p.m. On the phone with my Paris-based multimedia ‘rabbi‘ who I lean on for ideas/advice on the project. Brainstorming on how to build traffic for whileUslept. He notes its high time I stop posting only on my own twitter account…and give it a twitter home of its own. As we talk, I notice I’m getting a quick flurry of ”follows” on said personal Twitter account.

4:15 p.m.. This retweet of my day’s post of overnight headlines goes out. That explains the boost in traffic!

4:20-4:50. Feeling a sudden sense of urgency with new readers coming in, I quickly start to set up that Twitter account, scrambling to put up some generic foto and basic info/description.

5:13: After my thank you message, Prof Sreenivasan responds, saying he’ll refer to my little feed product on his Facebook page.

5:15-5:45. Oh hell! Facebook too!! I scramble to set up whileUslept Fan page, with same generic foto/info. (NOTE: keep reading…final links below. don’t wanna give away the ending!?)

Saturday, March 6

Tinker with new pages….see the first Twitter followers, send out  fan page recommendation to FB friends.

Sunday, March 7

whileUslept traffic has tapered off…both because I don’t do a Sunday entry….and because, well…why? Decide it’s time to give the whole damn thing a more professional look and functionality. It’s time, in other words, to call on Annie, who is already busy slaving away in her spare time to complete the prototype for the bigger site. I send an email out to her to see if she’s free for a Skype, though I don’t specify what’s up.

Monday March 8

9:49 AM Annie responds: she’s free this evening for a skype. I decide still not to mention what is up (She probably assumes it’s about prototype), figuring I can explain it directly more clearly…I also figure it will take a few days to get the various whileUslept venues spruced up. (Shower great compliments on myself for uncharacteristic patience…)

11:15  AM After spending previous 16 hours — minus 5 for sleep — trying to figure out why the damn link of my Facebook Fan suggestions wont go through to several friends who’d flagged me… I realize that I had a country restriction. In fact, all 9 of my fans live in friggin’ France! It is confirmed: I am an idiot!

12:29 PM this tweet goes out from a certain star journo-twitter, a former colleague who’d seen whileUslept post on Facebook, Biggest spike to date in traffic begins, heading toward 600 hits, and dozens of new followers/fans…I cringe a bit, knowing the clankity layout of the thing, but I do my best to NOT call Annie, who does have a day job after all! (and 2 kids!!), and gets exactly 0 euros in monthly salary from yours truly.

9-11 PM: No sign of Annie. It will have to wait, I tell myself, but I lay out in a detailed email my wish that we (she!) can come up with a logo/design for whileUslept.

11:54 PM: Email arrives from Annie: Sorry …fell asleep putting (daughter) to bed….starting work now:(

Midnight-4:30 a.m: this could be a post of its own…but to make it brief, Annie and I, fighting with a shaky skype connection and sagging eyelids, go back and forth on concepts/designs/executions of logo. We decide it should be the same colors/font as the prototype she’s doing for the Mother Site. We agree on designs for the different venues where it will appear. (Final touch ups will be made the next morning) HERE ARE THE RESULTS…

TWITTER

FACEBOOK

WHILEUSLEPT HOME PAGE

Conclusion to whirlwind: Annie is a Danish Rock Star. I am a happy American camper. But traffic is tapering off again!!?? Aaiyaaaa!!

(ALL FEEDBACK/IDEAS WELCOME!!) ANNIE can be reached at annieskovgaard.christiansen@fastwebnet.it

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Building an Online Audience (Nearly) from Scratch. Can An Old Media Veteran Bring His Readers With Him?

My world news website is literally still just a project on paper — or more precisely, Powerpoint. From what I’ve learned about all this technology stuff, websites on paper, uh, don’t work so good. The live prototype is still a week or two away, and the beta version wont’ be ready for a bunch of months. At least.  None of this, however, prevents me from starting…that is, trying to build an audience. Or at least a pre-audience.

It’s all part of that evil-but-necessary bit of New Media verbiage: personal branding. The frontiers of the world of journalism are now equal parts barrier-free and mind-spinningly fragmented, where everything is possible and nothing is a sure thing. In the face of this, how YOU get it done becomes ever more important. On some basic level, this has always been the case in journalism, and any profession, really. Do good work, and get recognized for it. What’s different now is that the promoting yourself and producing something for public consumption become one in the same. And so the pro forma act of attaching my byline to my copy transforms into attaching my name to everything I do professionally (and for others, well beyond the professional.)

And so the seeds of the audience is born, even if you’re not sure what your product is, or have not yet figured out how to produce it. Facebook friends, Twitter followers, email lists, etc are the first step. The good news for those of us coming from the world of full-time, branded media is that you are actually not starting from pure scratch. Anytime I tweet something, link something, and generally show up in some digital room with my nametag on, whatever I’m writing or shilling or, like here, thinking aloud, is traceable back to that old fashioned byline and where it’s been residing over the years.

There is no denying that it is a head start if you are looking to create something new. Beyond the actual experience I have acquired from it, the MSM brand is that first small step toward building your personal brand: doors and emails get opened, introductions get made, and maybe even rambling blog posts get read.

Still, this edge has a tiny shelf life. No one – I repeat, not a friggin’ soul – is going to become a customer of the content that I hope to produce/edit on my website because of my work with Time or the AP or whomever. (Likewise, a potential investor who might agree to meet with me, will not be reaching for his checkbook because of what I’ve done in the past) The project quite simply must stand on its own. In fact, for some, the new enterprise must actually overcome the old-school origins of its founder.

In the end, those of us veterans/victims of the crumbling state of MSM have two distinct choices: either see our past as a building block and calling card for the future. Or see the future as simply the thing that is killing some idealized notion of the past. After some real resistance, I have wholeheartedly embraced the former approach. Even with all the uncertainty, that very change in mentality feels like real progress. And some serious fun.

But back to the practical challenge of finding an audience. I wrote last week about my mini project-inside-the-bigger-project, While U Slept, a bundled aggregation of the Big 5 latest headlines/links that I put together here in the European time zone, aimed at early morning readers/bloggers wanting to know what news has actually broken since they logged off and unplugged the night before. I have been vigilant about getting it posted by 1 p.m (7 a.m EST). every day, six days a week. I’m establishing a method for scanning the news sources, making it the most relevant and timely mix it can be. And several colleagues have sent real encouragement. But let me assure you fine readers: it has most definitely NOT caught on like wildfire. My 3!? email subscribers get it first. My 160 Twitter followers get it 60 seconds later, followed by my 307 Facebook friends. And how many click through? What is my most trafficked day? A grand total of 56!? The daily average is at a whopping 23 hits…

I wasn’t so naïve to expect anything different. And I do have a plan..to aim high (future post about this concept). Perhaps it could make a good fit in a smart, heavily trafficked home on the web. Andrew Sullivan? Talking Points Memo? Slate? Or some other New Media outlet that still sees the MSM – and The News itself — as relevant, and a good starting point for the day. All suggestions are most welcome! For now, I am continuing to refine the process and story selection and timing. But when the moment comes to try to find the right home — to try to multiply my audience — you can bet that I will present myself with Old Media credentials in hand, and all the oxygen of the New Media in my blood.

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While U Slept. The Big 5 Overnight Stories. Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2010

Pakistan Says It Nabs Another Top Taliban Leader Mullah Kabir, who was leading push against US forces in eastern Afghanistan, reportedly taken into custody. Follows other high-profile strikes at Taliban hierarchy. (NYTimes)

Iran Announces Capture of Militant It Says Tied to U.S. Iranian security forces say ethnic leader Abdulmalak Rigi was at an American base in Afghanistan a day earlier, carrying passport issued by U.S. (LATimes)

Cheney Stable in DC Hospital After Chest Pains Former VP has long history of heart problems. Former Republican Senate leader Robert Dole also reenters hospital following bout with pneumonia. (AP)

Surprise Drop in German Business Confidence First fall in 11 months follows drop off in production and retail sales. (Bloomberg)

Elvis Presley Passport Bypasses Airport Security A pair of “ethical hackers” have shown how a false biometric passport can get through security at top airports. (CNN Video)

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While U Slept. The Big 5 Overnight Stories. Monday, Feb. 22, 2010

Report: Nato Airstrike Kills 33 Civilians near Kandahar Afghan Cabinet condemns strike of convoy as “unjustifiable.” Comes as US-led surge against Taliban had been gaining momentum. (AP)

Iran Says Building of Two New Uranium Facilities Slated to Begin Head of national nuclear program touts plans to  break ground in coming months on two uranium enrichment facilities, with others to follow. (NYTimes)

US Investigators Say They Know Who Hacked Google Financial Times report says it was a 30-something freelance security consultant wrote the code that found a breach in Internet Explorer web browser to allow access to Google data. Details could help prove Chinese government role in security breach. (FT)

Space Shuttle Endeavour Returns in Rare Nighttime Landing Bittersweet end to final major construction mission of the International Space Station, a two-week, 5.7 million mile trip, as Shuttle program begins phasing out. (AP Video)

US Seals Historic Defeat of Canada in Olympic Hockey Thirty years later: another “Miracle on Ice” for Team USA, which defeats Canadian team for the first time in a half-century. (SI) Continue reading

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While U Slept. The Big 5 Overnight Stories. Saturday, Feb. 20, 2010

UK Government Watchdog Calls for Torture Probe Pressure mounts to investigate British Intel agencies accused in torture of more than 20 terror suspects. (The Times)

Dutch Government Coalition Collapses over Afghan War Policy Labor party pulls out of ruling majority over request to extend stay of some of 2,000 Dutch troops in Afghanistan. Early elections expected. (FT)

Ukrainian Prime Minister Renounces Legal Challenge to Election Defeat In surprise move, Reformist Yulia Tymoshenko withdraws her complaint about irregularities in her rival’s presidential election victory. (AFP)

Pakistani Jets Kill 30 Militants along Afghan Border Major US-led push against Taliban ups casualties on all sides, as both ground and air campaigns press on. (Reuters)

In Search of Revenue, California and Other States Look to Tax Amazon, Online Sales Lawmakers in cash-strapped California say $150 million in annual sales from digital retail giant should go to state coffers. (LATimes)

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While U Slept. Big 5 Overnight Stories. Friday, Feb. 19, 2010

Military Coup in Niger Other African leaders condemn junta takeover, suspension of constitution.  (BBC)

Report: China Cyber  Attacks on Google Traced to Schools Probe finds online attacks came from university and vocational school, and began as early as April. (NYTimes)

A Top Taliban Figure Killed in Pakistan Late night U.S. missile strike hits brother of senior Afghan Taliban commander, latest in a series of successful targeted strikes of top rebel leaders. (AP)

Asia and Europe Stocks Down, Dollar Up After Fed Raises RateMarkets down after four-day streak following rise in discount rate. Pound at nine-month low against dollar. (Bloomberg)

Carrefour Cracks India Market French retail giant will open operations later in 2010 after seven years of trying to enter the world’s second most populous country. (Reuters)

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The Birth of a (petit) Project Within the Bigger One

I’m still finding my voice on Twitter. The only thing I’m sure of is that I won’t be tweeting my breakfast menu or misadventures on public transportation. So far I have also shied away from the Confucian pearls of wisdom and random thoughts about the state of the world or my failures at fatherhood. My tweets are mostly linked to news that’s breaking, both in the rest of the world and this much smaller universe of the Transformation of the Business of Information.

Based in Europe, and with the majority of my followed-and-followers in the US, I have found that my geography and language skills may help me to get some breaking news into the Twitter river ahead of the crowd. And so there I was the other morning, about to re-Tweet some bit of France news (don’t remember what?), when another interesting story popped up…and I thought: Hmmm? Let me try to squeeze these two together into one tweet. But with 140 characters to work with…good luck!? So I put the two links aside into a Word document…and then it HIT! me: Why not expand the 2 links into, say, 5…and bundle it into a TOP HEADLINES FROM JEFF post. I could put it up on this site, and link to it once a day. At the very least it would be a good workout at world news story selection, which will be key to the website I am trying to launch. But then it HIT! me…again! If timing is everything, that’s doubly true on the real-time web, which is creating new niches in the ways and whens of how we consume information. I should exploit my Time Zone advantage and News Biz Experience, I told myself, and deliver a story list at around 7 a.m. Eastern time composed solely of news that has broken since 11 p.m. It will necessarily be different than wire service roundups and website Top Stories, which tend to always include plenty of reports of what was already known before the plugged-in news junkies logged off and went to bed. Instead, I would focus on stories that broke after Americans went to bed….which has become While U Slept.

This daily a.m. story list, which I have begun to post here and also at whileUslept.wordpress.com, is geared exclusively toward a hyper-plugged-in U.S. readership and will be composed of aggregated links. (My website project will be different/more) In the first few days so far, it has included a mix of news happening in the first part of the day in Asia and Europe, and late at night in North America, as well as a few exclusive scoops coming out in US publications.

So well before I’ve launched the actual project I have in mind, I already have a related product of sorts. Again, it is a no-lose situation, allowing me to jump straight into story selection, headline writing and the like. (I am happy to report that it comes rather naturally after 18 years as a reporter…and is damned fun!) But my next trick – to be addressed in an upcoming post — is to see if I can actually begin to build an audience…before I’ve even built my website!?

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