How goes it?

So it’s summer, which I guess technically means I’m not obligated to blog about anything anymore. But I’ve got time on my hands and keys underneath my fingers, so here it goes.

The last time I checked in I was actually in Philadelphia for a graduation at the UPenn Wharton School (pretty cool, right?) and The Progressive was in preliminary discussions of changing its online look. So far the layout is the same, and though online is big for all journalism markets, their print edition is where the paper is (literally and figuratively, in case you weren’t sure).  They’ve added a petition to defend Medicare from going under by way of Republican wishes; remember, it’s a self-stated leftist magazine so they can do that sort of thing. Petitions aren’t a novel concept, but most magazine websites I visit have polls and quizzes, so kudos to the people at Progressive for finding a way to get their readers truly involved. Or as my wonderful teacher would say, create a sense of community.

The July cover is the best one I’ve seen since I’ve started reviewing the magazine. I’m on a PC, so I can’t take fancy screen shots and show yall, so you’ll just have to see for yourself (www.progressive.org). There’s a PBS video and a bulletin for the next rallies in Wisconsin, another novel idea that pushes forward that sense of community. Otherwise, there’s the same great coverage of events and news that the magazine has become known for.

Even though it’s an op-ed, I endorse this piece written by a guy whose last name is one letter (P) off from shampoo. Whatever he’s using to wash his hair is working because he makes some good points. The same goes for Ms. Bricker as well.

As for me, well, I’m trying to make stuff happen. I’ve got one internship available, but the only problem is it’s a good hour in driving distance one way. And with Atlanta traffic on top of that, that’s pretty hefty. I’m waiting to hear back about another one (I’ve been told by the end of this week I should know). That one’s much closer (20 min. one way), and the voice is more gender neutral. I promise I’ll work my ass off wherever I get put because this sitting at home business isn’t for me. I willingly blogged for pleasure if that gives you any idea. That never happens.

Hope you enjoyed it though. I actually think I might have too.

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Road trip diaries

I’m done, yall! Doesn’t feel like it, maybe because I lied and I’m actually not.

For example, I still have this post to type. What’s it about? The Progessive. Did you expect anything else? Seriously?

Well, here’s the deal. I’m not done reading it. It’s a pretty awesome magazine. And they’ve got a really cool staff. See where this is going?

Last time I updated it was the night before I spoke with Miss DiNovela, which I’ve declared is a fancy type-synonym for awesome.

Our conversation went really well. What’s funny is The Progessive doesn’t have an actual web or online editor, but Liz has been the leading force of the movement for years (kinda like what Kobe is to the Lakers—sorry, I had to do it). Why is that funny? Well, when I reached out to the staff she was the first one I contacted. Maybe I’ve should’ve taken it as a sign when her personal e-mail was the easiest to find.

Of the things we talked about, The Progessive‘s readers aren’t your typical Internet users, which is to say they don’t really use it much at all. Old, rich white men (not officially but pretty much). There’s not much in the way of multimedia on the website, but their readers don’t mind.

The majority of their revenue still comes from the print subscribers, so they use the website to push the print edition. The site hasn’t undergone a redesign in years, but they were plans to meet and discuss it the day following our interview.

The recent Wisconsin protests were a huge boost in subscribers for the magazine. The magazine obtained 1400 more subscriptions because of its stellar (and currently ongoing) coverage of the protests. Most of that coverage has been highly promoted on the web; it’s the only thing that’s been moved on the website since the start of the semester.

Car’s ready. Gotta go. I promise I’ll finish later.

I’m back. Sorry for the delay.

I e-mailed Ms. DiNovela a few days after we talked to see how the web dev meeting went and she said nothing concrete had come about, but there were plans for another meeting later this week (I think it may have been yesterday).

Web editing at the magazine is done by the editor Matthew Rothschild and is a less vigorous process than editing for print. Like Vox, there were weekly editorial meetings for print but web was attended to as necessary. For example, because the protests were only three blocks away an editor/reporter was chosen in the morning to cover it and write something for the web.

Liz is currently trying to push more cross-promotion across the magazine’s platforms. There isn’t enough, and she knows it. She says there’s not enough web-think awareness in the offices and that needs to be fixed going forward.

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It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

In all fairness, I haven’t done enough with The Progressive.

The website and the magazine itself are two different animals; I only say that because there’s an elephant on the cover of the May issue. See: 

All jokes aside, though, the content for both is really different. There’s new stuff online daily that never makes it to a shelf. And when you look at the print content online, you only get an excerpt. Just for the record, I don’t think that’s a bad idea. If a magazine can produce fresh content daily instead of waiting once a month to release it all, then the well will continue to quench thirst (I figured that was better than saying “the wheel will keep turning” or something else that’s really cheesy and overdone).

Tomorrow (which is actually a valid statement considering it’s not yet midnight) I’m talking to Elizabeth DiNovella, the culture editor of the magazine, about the website. I tried to get in touch with someone whose job is more related to the website itself, but Ms. DiNovella said she would speak to me about it. I’m sure she’s qualified. And you know what else I’m sure of? My excitement level because it’s pretty high. And trust me, I don’t say that very often.

You’ll hear from me soon. Till then, read.

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Reading the story v. Hearing the story: Which one is better?

If it’s not a debate happening currently, it needs to be. Storytelling has been transformed over the last few years with improved technology, so much so that videos (and other, more arguably entertaining methods) have become the go-to method for telling a story. It’s not a bad thing because there are some things multi-media stories do well that text and print cannot, yet there’s also the allure of reading a text story, which in my opinion will never go out of style.

For a recent assignment we had to analyze one of three text-video packages and give our preference. I chose this story from the New York Times about a Philadelphia’s school proactive fight against obesity. I think the video is pretty well done, although at some points slightly off topic, but still not more telling than the text. Videos, in most cases, are more entertaining though I think.

What do you all think? Leave a comment and let me know.

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Did you miss me?

It’s been a while, but just like The Progessive‘s latest issue (which I’ll be writing about for you all sometime before Saturday), I’m back.

This time it’s to talk about videos, and how The Progressive website has actually increased the amount of them on its website. Before there was only the videos from “The Spoken Word” section, which were refreshingly not journalism related (aka newsworthy) but instead more noteworthy. The Spoken Word showcases artists and poets performing their material, just because it’s good stuff and worth recognition. The video changes almost daily and almost always deals with a different topic and is of a different style each time. What may be unusual is how there’s no write-up to this daily section of the website (unlike what Vox does with something like “Inside Tracks”), but if your readership is loyal, they’ll get the point of it eventually (that’s how The Progressive feels about it, if I had to guess anyway).

What’s relatively new on the website however are videos from the Progressive rally, stemming from the current political firestorm brewing in Madison. There are two separate videos, one for a specific speech (currently from Rep. Dennis Kucinich) and another of the whole rally. Below the video for the whole rally is a link to a live stream of the it as it unfolded. I don’t recommend clicking it now though as it’ll take you to something that’s definitely not the rally.

For the rally, I think the point of videos is obvious. It makes the reader feel more engaged, almost as if he or she was there even. For the Spoken Word, I think it’s the ability to do something fun and meaningful and still as intellectually stimulating as the magazine’s actual website content.

What’s more is the videos aren’t formatted any differently and are as good as Youtube quality (the Spoken Word videos are usually embedded from there). Although some people may argue this method is tacky, I think the main point is actually the content and not the vehicle. Plus, with something different every day, who cares how polished the presentation of a video (almost never longer than five minutes) is? It will suffice for the 24 hours it’s on the website (the videos aren’t archived anywhere from what I’ve seen).

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check this out

This graphic from The Atlantic is comprehensive, yet easy to read and navigate. It tells of the 12 different types of states. The box at the top meets the reader first, and from there, readers click on each type of state and blots appear on the US map.

The graphic maps the types in different colors and also has every county in every state typed and has a “see all” option. The map works because it presents diverse and unique information, and the text boxes associated with each type are short making it easier to sift through.

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I’m back

It’s been a while. I’ve gotten more e-newsletters about Wisconsin, so there hasn’t been much noteworthy stuff there other than Progressive head honcho Matthew Rothschild taking a shot at the New York Times. Sounds absurd, but he makes a good point.

Next on the menu is navigation of the Progressive website, which is surprisingly fluid. Most magazine websites I visit—which I will say are probably far more popular than this one—often greet me with pop-ups for subscriptions or other ads that I have no use for. Thankfully, they usually have the “skip this ad” button at the top, but that’s still an additional click from where I’d like to be. The Progressive website doesn’t do that.

The homepage of the website is separated by boxes, making navigation easier in multiple ways. First, the boxes are clearly labeled so it’s easy to find what specific section you’re looking for, where as some magazine websites (XXL, GQ, WIRED to name a few) are still neatly organized but also cluttered with articles. Also in the picture, it shows that articles highlighted by the mouse in red while the links remain green. Move your mouse, and back to green the link goes.

From what I’ve found, any link you click on that’s not from the “Topic of the moment” section will redirect you from your current window to that article/link. Topic links will open in a new tab on their own. The formatting on all the articles and even audio commentaries (whether from the home page or other) are all uniform, making it very difficult to get lost on the website. As with most websites, clicking on the masthead at the top will also take you back to the home page.

The drop down boxes at the top of the page also change to a different color when scrolled over, and more importantly, aren’t obnoxious and long. The current issue’s cover appears on every page, though in a smaller size (but still the same location) when you get away from the home page.

The site’s only visible down fall (or maybe it’s actually genius) is the comments section. Only the first few words of each comment are visible, and yeah, you guessed it—when scrolled over turn read and when clicked on expand. Slightly intuitive, not very common but it could work very well once you get used to it. From what I’ve seen, most websites show the full or excerpts of really comments, making the page longer than it probably needs to be.

Lastly, on the bottom of the page is everything you need to know about The Progressive from what its about, to its contributors and editors, special sections and topics and more. This grouping makes the site easy to work with and can answer just about any question you have and take you wherever you need to go. It’s conveniently located on the bottom of each page.

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Staying in the loop

That’s what it’s all about, right? To be in the know.

The other day I got an e-mail from The Progressive, which I thought may have been my newsletter. I got the e-mail yesterday (seems like a lifetime ago) at noon. It didn’t say newsletter on it, but it was the only e-mail I’d gotten from them since I signed up for a weekly newsletter last week.

Anyway, it was about Wisconsin. Not the Packers winning the Super Bowl, although that would’ve been awesome and could be the solution to problem the e-mail was actually about, which is the political discourse in the public sector unions.

In the e-mail, Progressive editor Matthew Rothschild links to his very smart summary (or prognosis, which is what the website titles it) of what’s happening in Madison.

In addition, there are also links to three articles in six lines of body text and the link to the main website, which is often forgotten in situations like this. I intentionally didn’t link to it this time.

In the six lines of body, he also talks about how Progressive has dispatched reporter after reporter to the “battlefield.” Let’s me know they care, and their work shows they’re not wasting their time.

Also let’s me know journalism is a little like war with battlefields, strategy, equipment and other things that make war war. Good to know I signed up for this and didn’t get chosen.

Have a good weekend

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Refreshing daily content

It is impossible for journalism to thrive as a market industry without the internet. Maintaining a website is a lot of hard work though. Journalism companion websites require fresh content daily because of the never-ending news cycle. Without daily fresh content, they lose that day’s battle to the competition since the ability to access both websites (and any website for that matter) is extremely simple.

The Progressive‘s website is slightly misleading when it comes to daily content. One section of the website, called “Daily Dose of Durst” isn’t actually updated daily. The last post is from Feb. 12 and the one from before that is from Feb. 10 followed by the 9 and then the 1. If I were the manager/editor of online content, I would take daily out of this section’s name because it doesn’t follow a true daily trend, but otherwise I would keep it the same.

In the section “Audio Commentary of the Day,” the content is updated on week days only. The name here I think is still okay because it’s not typical for radio stations to broadcast the same programs on the weekends that they do on the week days.

The one section of content that is updated daily however is the prognosis section, which there are two of. These articles are the heart of the magazine’s content and therefore need to be updated daily.

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February cover and headlines

Even though I don’t have a physical copy of the February issue, the great people at the Progressive website happen to have an image of the cover on the home page.

This month’s cover is another illustration. It reminds me a little of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

Just by looking at the three headlines under the “Featured Content,” I think it’s safe to say the magazine doesn’t necessarily aim for SEO in its headlines other than common names and terms.

The recurring sections aren’t labeled as so, and a lot of times the interviews are titled and listed under the name of the interviewee. Though this isn’t the most efficient label, it makes the packaging unique in the sense that all interviews are organized in a sensible manner—by who’s being interviewed.

Of course using Obama in a headline (“Grading Obama’s Education Policy) will yield results, especially when the said search also contains the term education.

“The Rule of the Rich” looks to be the same online and in print. Some may argue the same headline could be damaging for the website (and it probably is in terms of visits and views), but for people to search and find the same article online it is extremely easy since nothing has been changed.

Once I get my hands on the actual issue for the shortest month of the year, I’ll be looking for a change in headlines. Although my prediction is that there will be no differences, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

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