TNT3: Carrying the Banner: Reinventing News on Your University Web Site

Georgiana Cohen 
Manager, Web Content and Strategy, Tufts University

The audio for this podcast can be downloaded at

Announcer: This is one in a series of podcasts from the HighEdWeb Conference in Austin 2011.

Georgiana Cohen: Thank you, Michelle. Thank you all very much. Thank you all for coming. I know I have to compete with this extraordinary view, but hopefully I will prove more interesting than the beautiful Austin skyline. I will certainly try.

Again, if you're tweeting about this session, please use the hashtag #tnt3 in your tweet so that we can all see what people are saying, and hopefully I can go back later and answer any questions that come up in Twitter as well.

This presentation is called "Carrying the Banner", a little bit inspired by "Newsies", one of my favorite guilty pleasures, whoo, yeah, "Newsies", one of my favorite movies, musicals, what not.

The reason I've picked "Newsies" to sort of represent this presentation is because the Newsies were scrappy and determined to change the way that their news system worked, the way that they worked in news, and I feel that if you're here, you're probably that way, too. We're in higher ed. We don't have buckets and buckets of resources to work with, but we are scrappy, determined and resourceful, and when you have those things and that determination and that goal to change the way things are, you can get a lot done.


A little bit about who I am. I work at Tufts University. I am the Manager of Web Content and Strategy there. I've been at Tufts since 2004 working on a whole host of content initiatives from social media, web content, multimedia. If it's content-related, I probably broke it at one point.

I am also the cofounder of Meet Content, which...who knows Meet Content out there? Yeah. Meet Content is a blog I cofounded with this guy here, Rick Allen. We focus on how to create and sustain web content in higher ed, basically how to make it better. We're @meetcontent on Twitter., check us out. I have some pins to give away later if you're interested, give it away to some questioners, really anyone who wants a pin can get one. So please check us out.

So why am I here?

In February 2011 at Tufts, we launched a website called Tufts Now. We launched it after more than a year of planning as an integrated news and events hub for the university.


This is just a little bit of a look at Tufts Now. You can also go to if you want to check it out on your laptop, if you have a laptop. You can see some of the features we have here, stories, "Featured Events", news clips, "Featured Blog", "Most Popular" emailed/recommended, big feature story there, and items we have up in our navigation.

Why exactly did we decide to embark on the Tufts Now project?

We had a little bit of a problem was that we had a fractured news presence. We actually had two independently-managed and operated news sites at the university that existed in parallel online since the beginning of the 2000s at the very least.

There's one called E-News which I started working on when I started at Tufts in '04, and that had started around 1999, 2000, and then the other one, Tufts Journal, had previously, historically been a print faculty/staff newspaper that then came online due to budget cuts around 2002, 2003 or so.

They were independently run in parallel for years. We didn't even start coordinating editorially until 2007. So before that point, it was very possible that there could've been a profile on Professor Smith in E-News in March and the next profile on Professor Smith in the Journal in April. This is not ideal.


In addition, our public relations office, they weren't even online until 2008, so that was the third element that was sitting out there.

Who was the team that comprised the group that tackled Tufts Now?

It was a little bit of a challenge, actually. We had, like I said, a print group that had done the Tufts Journal, historically they also produced our alumni magazines, and then my group, which is Web Communications, so we're the web people. So you had that print-web, sometimes, disconnect.

It's a challenge to understand one another. We're coming from very different contexts, and that can't be underestimated how much of a challenge that can be to overcome and how to learn to listen to each other and how to learn to appreciate what the other side brings to the table.


And then we also had our PR group, like I said, that was also an outlier.

So the team that came together was eventually Web Communications, my group, Publications, Public Relations, and also our Photography team.

What was our goal for Tufts Now?

Our goal was, mmm, milkshake. The way I look at it is we were trying to create this delicious blend of content pulling all of our content together, as well as content from beyond our groups, and to also have smooth coordination of all these content efforts as well.

Is this being like an annoying sound? OK. All right.

But really, truly at its essence, what our goal was was to tell good stories and present and deliver them well. That should really be the goal of any news or PR presence that you have on your website for your university. Just any communications, really. That should be your ultimate goal: to tell good stories and present and deliver them well.


When we began the Tufts Now project, we said, 'Well, let's look out in higher ed and let's see who else is out there. Who can we learn from? Who's doing good stuff?' because we've been doing what we had been doing for years and years and years, so we're starting fresh. What's going on outside in the world around us?

And what we saw was not really that impressive. We were not really, honestly we weren't very impressed by what we were seeing in higher ed news sites at that time. And these were some of the things that stuck out to us.

Number one, poor design. They just did not look good.

Not dynamic. It was either something that was just text on a static page or, dynamic in functionality, and also dynamic in content. Or lack of dynamic in content. It was just very flat.

An unclear sense of audience. Was this geared towards internal audiences? External audiences? The media? Alumni? Prospective students? Who exactly were we trying to talk to?


It was also stuck in the 20th century. It just had a distinct lack of modernity. We were starting this project Fall 2009, early 2010, so here we are, we're well into the 21st century, we're well into understanding the new way which we're using new media to communicate, and that's not a lot of what we were seeing in higher ed.

Higher Ed Experts did a survey in December 2010 on the state of print and electronic publications in higher ed. The survey found that 94% of survey respondents said that their institutions were relying more on electronic publications, but only 38% say their budget for electronic publications has increased. So we're not really putting our money where our mouth is.

If it's budget reasons, because we're more sensitive to print magazines or what not, we are focusing more on web publications, but for the amount of money that we're spending on those web publications, we're not increasing that. So we're putting more burden on the Web without investing the time and money to make it or the focus that we're driving to it.


I'm going to maybe name a few names. If your institution is represented in this room, I apologize, but I wanted to show a few real-life examples of news pages that I saw in higher ed that represent these issues that we saw.

If you just look at some of these sites, they're just uninspirational. Here's a wasted opportunity for a photo with this 60x60 or 80x80 thumbnail, whatever size that is. You have this that looks like more a database than a news and content-rich experience. And then this is just like the general template for a site with some news thrown in the center well. Those are representative of what saw when we looked around.

Here's some looks at mainstream news sites from the '90s. When you look at these, it doesn't really look too tremendously different from some of the sites that we just looked through from higher ed sites from 2010, 2011. That just shows that a lot of higher ed institutions aren't thinking about their news experience in a modern context in terms of what a news experience is.


We've put a lot of attention on our homepages. We tend to think of those as being the front door, that people are going to come in and learn about us through the homepage, so there's a lot of flashy design and widgets that go back and forth and show off all these photos and what not.

But I think of the concept of the Potemkin village. Like in World War II, there would be these show villages that the Nazis or whomever would create and the Red Cross would come and be like, 'Look, everything's fine. The children are playing, the fences are painted white. Everything's great here in this village.' But if you go beyond the facade, things are not great.

Do we really want our university websites, those homepages, just to be sort of a show, a facade, a Potemkin village that when you go deeper and dig into the stories that are linked there, there's not really a whole lot going on? It's that unclear sense of audience. It's that poor design. It's not supporting news as its own type of content and giving it the attention that it deserves.


So what was our approach ultimately? After taking this all in and seeing what there was to see, what was the approach that we used?

We looked outside of higher ed. We looked at mainstream media to see what these sites had to teach us. These are actually some of the sites that we drew inspiration from. And the reason that we did this is because, news is changing. Just news as a content type. And don't think of that as New York Times or whatever. We do news, the New York Times does news. It's a content type. And it's changing rapidly.

Media is changing rapidly, and people aren't going to give us a break because we're in higher ed. These are the organizations that are setting the standard for what online news experience is whether we like it or not. So those are the models and the analogs that we have to use in establishing our online news experiences.


You may look at these logos and say, 'Well, jeez, they have millions and millions of dollars. What are we going to do to match that up?' But if you've paid attention to the journalism industry recently, you'll see that they don't really have a lot of money. They are struggling to get by themselves.

So a lot of the newsrooms that you see and a lot of the online journalism that you see is done on a shoestring. There's a lot of great regional journalism, powerful story-telling using and blending different multimedia and features such as that to create rich story-telling, that's done on a shoestring budget, comparable to ones that we have to work with. Mainstream media are setting the standard, but it's not an unattainable standard for us.

This is a quote from a blog from Woychick Design, Think + Do. They focus on non-profit marketing and design. This is an insight from a post from February 2010 talking about the same thing, what are readers looking for in an online news experience. And this is coming from a non-profit context.


"Readers seek up-to-the-minute information in a media-rich environment including video, message boards, and opportunities to connect via social networks. Online publications must be optimized to help people find you."

Our news is not a self-serving enterprise. We are trying to connect with people and inform them.

Here's some concepts that I'm going to discuss that we used in approaching Tufts Now and also just in how I think that we need to start thinking more about our online news presences: news discovery, stock and flow, dealing with organizational woes, and content types.

In 2008, the Associated Press looked around and said, 'We are out of touch. We need to stop and figure out how we're going to adjust in this changing time and target the increasingly important demographic of young adults.' So they commissioned a report called "A New Model for New News. Mission for the digital marketplace".


This was the mission statement that emerged from this report: that the AP's goal was to "Create content that will satisfy a full range of consumers' news needs and then build the links that will connect people to the relevant news they seek."

The first part may seem obvious. "Create content to satisfy news needs." Get behind that. But the whole other half of this is "build the links that will connect people to the relevant news they seek." It's not just enough to create the content. You have to create the connections to the content as well.

Don't just make something that's... It's two-fold. Create something shareable, so it has to have that functionality, and also make it share-worthy. Make it something that people want to pass on and are able to pass on. The whole thrust of this mission is creating content that people are going to want to share and are able to share.

There's a blogger named Valeria Maltoni. She blogs at Conversation Agent, and she wrote about this report in November 2010. In looking at the AP study, she noted that "People and their social graphs are the last mile."


The concept of the 'last mile' is something like, I first became acquainted with the context of disaster relief where if you're trying to get your sources of money to a region afflicted by an earthquake or something like that, actually getting it to the person on the ground who needs it is the hardest part. We can all sit in here and put money in a hat and have a million dollars, but actually getting it to the person who needs it is that last mile. That's the hardest to bridge.

The last mile for us to bridge is actually getting the content that we create and post to the person who's going to find it relevant, to the person who's going to find it informative. And the social graph, and having people sharing that content, is that last mile, the hardest to bridge.

The second concept is the concept of stock and flow, which is an economics concept. In brief, stock would be, 'I have $50.' Flow would be, it's transaction over time, 'I get $50 an hour.'


A blogger named Robin Sloan called the concept of stock and flow "the master metaphor for media today." And here's why: "Flow," Sloan said, "is the feed, posts and tweets, the stream of daily and sub-daily updates that remind people that you exist. Stock is the durable stuff. It's the content you produce that's as interesting in two months or two years as it is today. It's what's discovered through search. It's what spreads slowly but surely, building fans over time."

In thinking about news discovery, we had to think about that one approach in our content. What is the long-term value of our content and what is the short-term value of our content?

And I don't want that to be confused with long form or short form, like a 250-word story versus a 1,000-word story. It's about value: what's the short-term value, what's going to be relevant right now that maybe it loses value over time but right now it's incredibly important, and what's the type of content that's going to continue to have value and grow value over time.


So in thinking about and planning our content, we had to keep that balance and approach in mind.

Organizational woes. I work at the central level. I work in a central news office. It might be tempting to think that when you're at the central level, you're the king of the world. You're at the top. You're not paying attention to the dean who's knocking at your door saying, 'Do this. Do that.' You're the master of all you survey.

But that's not really the case. As we all likely know, being in a central level in a decentralized organization really doesn't mean a whole heck of a lot. What I find to be in a central level is that you don't really have a lot of power to do anything. You're up here on your mountain saying, 'Hey, everything,' and then it's all just down there and you don't have those direct connections to it.

Or maybe some of you are more lucky than I am and have those connections built in, but it often takes a lot of work to develop those relationships, build those connections.


I find that the better approach is to build relationships, to be the ice breaker. If you're at a department or school level and you're creating news for your website or your newsletter, it's going to help you to have that news elevated at the central level to the people who are managing university-wide social media or news or what not. So how do you build those relationships going in that direction?

And then from the central level, your content is going to be as good as the diversity of your institution that it represents, so it's incumbent upon you to reach out and find those content distributors to help inform your news presence. If they're creating great content in the school of engineering and you're at the central news office level, find what of that is valuable for your news channel and elevate it. It helps everyone out. It gives you the diversity of content and it gives them more visibility for what they're producing.

And then there's content types. A lot of times, I think that the default that we think of news as is text: a text news story, a text news release. But we had to start thinking about a greater diversity of content types because they're within our reach to create, and they may be more suited for the type of content or the story that we're trying to tell.


What is the place of video and audio and photos in our news content? Or even things like a live chat? Or even Instagram? You have an iPhone, you have the Instagram app, you may think, 'Well, how is that going to function into our news?' Just look at NPR and Instagram. They've taken to using Instagram as a channel for communicating news and doing it through the visual filtered photography.

There's also a great app out there called Storify which allows you to create and blend different streams of social media content. A lot of news organizations are using Storify to tell stories in real time, a lot of it for breaking news or events.

And then there's user-generated content. What is our community creating beyond our staff news offices and what not? Our audiences are telling our stories for us. So what is out there that we can take advantage of?


The interesting thing about structure of content, it's one thing to tell a great story, but it's another thing to enable it to go out onto the Web and be shared and have the structure that allows it to be found through search. So think about SEO and tagging and linking and metadata and all of those things with regard to our news content. What is the structure of our content such that it supports our efforts to have content that is shareable and share-worthy?

And then there's making our content social, relevant and contextual. That's that last mile that Valeria Maltoni was talking about. How are we enabling out content to be relevant and contextual such that it resonates with people, and then we can help bridge that last mile? These are the questions that we have to start thinking about.

And this is to me the biggest question: what is the press release in the age of the social Web?


The press release, I feel, is the great crutch of higher ed news. It's what a lot of our institutions default to as the unit of news publication on the Web.

If you're not familiar with what that notation is, that '-30-', that's the old school notation for the end of a press release, to let you know that this is 'end of the copy'. But a press release today, does that ever end? Is there an ending to a press release out on the social Web?

I think that we have to think about two things when thinking about the role of a news release today in our news efforts.

Number one, what is the relevance of it? Who is the audience? Who are we trying to communicate this to? Is it for the media? Is it for our alumni or prospective student audiences? Thinking about that will guide how we market it, how we share it, how we write it.

And then there's also thinking about a press release as being an ambassador for our news. When you publish a piece of news content, it's going to go out there and it's going to become sort of our front door. If you structured it right and it's shared out there, it becomes the front door for people to learn about your institution, to learn about your brand. So how does it function as a landing page? Where are people going to go from there?


I really love this quote that I found from this guy, Kyle Christie, who works in PR at King's College in London. It really just sums up, I think, the best way to start thinking about this. "Universities have an opportunity to leapfrog the mainstream media and explain our research, teaching and wider constitutions to society and forms beyond the text-based press release. We have websites and access to the tools needed to reach the public."

We have the technology. We can do this. We think of, here's our story and here's our audience, and traditionally we'd use the media to mediate that story being connected to our audience. But we can go straight to our destination. We don't have to go through a mediator anymore.


There's a value to going through the press and having our source amplified, but we don't have to rely on that conduit as the main way to communicate our stories. We have the ability to do that. It's just a matter of realizing and shifting the mindset to understand that we can just go directly, we can just pass go and collect $200.

Here are some of the solutions that I think can help us in reinventing our university news presences.

Again, it's looking at mainstream media as an analog. Another way that I want to urge you to think about this is to hire journalists. There are a lot of journalists who are out of work out there, and if you have staff openings in your news or marketing office, hiring a journalist such as one who's paid their debts on a beat working in a newsroom is really, really valuable.

I actually wrote an article, and linked, about this a few months back and outlined the characteristics of a journalist can really help do all the stuff that we're talking about, can help execute these strategies.


I'll cap my caveat is that I'm a former journalist, but it's from working and I feel like the skills that I learned in the newsroom served me well coming to work in higher ed because I knew how to find a story and I had the determination to tell it. And journalists are very resourceful. Like I said, we're used to being a little bit scrappy.

So I would really urge you, if you have any openings in your marketing and news offices, to look and target people who have journalism backgrounds, newspaper, etcetera. That's a valuable skill set for us to consider.

There was a great article in the Atlantic Monthly a few months back talking about what the New York Public Library has done in their marketing efforts. They've had a huge amount of budget woes recently but they found ways, even within those budgetary constraints, to do things that, as this article explained, challenge even what the mainstream media is capable of doing.


There's a bitly link here, I'll be sharing these slides after as well if you want to give the article a read, overviewing what the New York Public Library has been doing, and it's really impressive stuff. Again, they are working with some severe budgetary constraints but still doing amazing things.

And then there's thinking about story-telling. There was a session earlier this morning about story-telling and social media content and how powerful that is. I really think that we just have to think of a way to tell better stories.

What does that mean? I think we need to think about the emotional response that our stories are going to evoke. If we want our stories to drive people to action, whether it's to volunteer or donate or enroll, we have to think about the emotion that those stories are going to evoke, because actions driven by emotion are extremely powerful.

So when crafting our content, it all ties back to thinking about content types and what's the best way to tell the story. It may be a photo essay. It may be a short video. It may be a thousand-word article. We have to think about the meaningful way that we're going to share those stories to get across the emotional reaction that we want and help drive the action that we want.


Telling better stories and finding ways to encourage emotional responses that drive desired actions is really a valuable formula to strive for.

We also take a holistic approach. This isn't just a domain of writers and editors sitting in a room and deciding what's best. The team for Tufts Now is comprised of, we had designers, we had developers, we had web people, we had writers. It was a blended team, and I think that that really informed the product that we ended up with.

Taking a holistic approach and bringing photographers and developers and designers and writers into the room from the start, from the ground floor, to say, 'Here's our problem. How do we get together to solve it?' is critical because everyone is going to bring their dimension and their background to the conversation to help inform the solution.


And then that solution that emerges is going to be more well-rounded and more easy to execute because everyone has bought into it and everyone had a role in developing it.

Here is a look at a document shared by Forbes outlining what their vision of the new newsroom is like. It involves content contributors, it involves programmers, evangelists, social networks, tagging an SEO for search engines, analytics, and how those all feed back together.

We have to start thinking about our editorial teams. It's not just enough to have a flashy site with cool functionality and Twitter links and all this fun stuff. Who's the team behind it and how do they work together? What are the relationships in the workflows that help inform what goes up on that fancy site?

How are we planning out content? What are the brand attributes that we're trying to hit in our content? Do we have an editorial calendar? How does that work out? How does that line up with what we promote via social media?


Are we doing information-sharing with our institution so we have the conduits set up to know, 'Hey, this is what's going on at these schools and this is what's going on in these programs, this is what's going on in athletics,' and it's all feeding up to inform our news process and what's happening.

What's our information-sharing process? What are the structures that we've set up to have the relationships and information in place to make our news site succeed?

I think we really have to understand that all of the people creating news at our university are all on the same team. Whether we're on central level, school level, different departments, whatever it is, we're all creating content that's trying to communicate our institution stories or some aspect of our institution stories. So the more that we can realize that and build the structures to make that more apparent and make that more of a reality is important.


And we're not competing with one another. We're not trying to outdo one another or, 'Let me get that story in my central news channel before the School of Engineering posts it on their newsletter.' Why would we compete? We don't have time. We don't have money. It's a waste to try to scoop one another.

Work with each other. If there's concerns about quality of content not lining up or something like that, then work to help develop a shared style guide or shared style for news stories or get group training so that everyone is brought up to the same level if you want to improve the quality of the content from contributors around the university. Find ways to elevate everybody, because we don't have the time or the resources to waste to do otherwise.

I also think it's valuable just to take a fresh approach in our story-telling and just not tell the same old story the same old way.

One of my favorite examples of this is something that Boston University does. They have a feature called "One Class, One Day" where, we've probably all told some flavor of the story like, 'Oh, we had this new interesting class. It's about this. It's taught by so-and-so. The students had a great time.'


But the way that they tell that story is they look at one class session, like a 45-minute session, and just explain, 'Here's what happened. Here is the discussion. The professor said this, a student asked this question. This is how that class session went.' It creates this immersive narrative of, 'This is what the class is all about' in the richest way possible, which is just letting you experience it through that story.

This is something else cool that BU does. They have a blog called "Professor Voices" and they call it "a timely collection of newsworthy commentary and analysis." It's basically an opportunity to show off faculty expertise, but it's done in a blog format and it's done to connect with real-time events.

"Apple after Jobs". They had an expert who commented about what is going to be the fate of Apple after the death of Steve Jobs. They're showing off the faculty expertise but they're doing it in a way that creates content of value for multiple audiences. I'm interested in this just as one who's curious to know about reactions after Steve Jobs' death, but this also helps out the media who may be looking for experts to comment on that for a story.


Measurement is also a huge, huge part of it. Looking at your web analytics and seeing what's popular, what are people looking for, what kind of stories are driving the most traffic or attracting the most attention.

And then there's also social stats, what's getting shared, what are people talking about out there, how can we measure that conversation, and using that to then inform future coverage. So not just saying, 'This is what happened,' but 'This is what happened and this is how it's going to inform what we do next,' having that bridge measured, it could be a great bridge to improving your content by seeing how is it performing, how are people reacting to it, and then that will inform what we do next.

And I'll definitely point to Rick over here, he's the expert on figuring out the analytics side of it, but having a strategy in place that lets us measure things and then know the impact of them is critical.


I touched on this a little bit before earlier about the impact of design.

News is its own content type. It's not the same as our 'majors and minors' page, it's not the same as our 'get to know our university' page. It's a unique content type that needs special attention and it needs a design that's unique to it. We can't just take our standard template and throw a headline and some body text in there and call it a news story. It's not going to serve the content appropriately.

Approaching news content thoughtfully and thinking about how a news experience is laid out and designed is important.

There's a good resource called the Society for News Design that has some cool information. They also have a good tool kit on their website. There's a lot of free resources for telling stories visually. It's, I believe. I also have the link at the end of my presentation.


Giving news content the due design attention it needs to really help that content come to light and be represented in the best way is critical.

It's also just for trying something new. Like I said, news is changing, media is evolving. There are new channels and tools emerging everyday. How can we use these to meet our needs? We're not going to learn that unless we get a little bit innovative and experimental and see how these tools work.

One example that I want to share with you is a great tool called Soundslides. Soundslides is basically a, it's not free. It's cheap; $60, I think. You download it; it's an app. If you have photography and an audio file, you can blend the two together to create a rich multimedia story-telling experience.

You don't need to have video-editing skills or anything. It's really easy to use. You can add the photos in, get the audio file in and create the transitions, add lower thirds, add credits, add the whole deal. You can even export it as a movie file and then upload it to your YouTube channel.


For 60 bucks, you have this tool that now, with resources you may already have, if you have a microphone in your computer and you have photos, you can have someone narrate a slideshow and create this rich story-telling experience, for not a lot of money.

There's also, I mentioned earlier, Storify as a cool tool for content creation. That's free. Like I said, a lot of news organizations use it as well.

So looking at the new tools that our out there and seeing how they fit our needs is really important.

Something else that we started doing at Tufts was live-tweeting events. There's so much that's happening on campus and there's no possible way that we could cover it all with writers or even photographers. What we could do is send students to live-tweet the events on a special account we set up called TuftsLive on Twitter, and then we use another tool I'll talk about in a second called CoveritLive, and sometimes we also use Storify to pull those tweets together and say, 'We had this event. Here's the recap,' and we embed that on our events blog.


So you will charge your intern, our interns get $10 an hour, so for 20 bucks we now have coverage of awesome events that we may not have found a way to capture otherwise.

A lot of times, it's only the high-profile events, the big-name speakers that get attention, but the richness of our campus experience is often defined by the really awesome speakers who went to Africa and did amazing research, and they're talking to 30 people, but it's those kinds of experiences that also help define our institution. It's not just the big name-endowed lecturers. Finding ways to cover all of those corners of the campus experience on a budget is essential and doable.

Also, finding ways to have interactive content is important. I alluded earlier to a tool called CoveritLive. CoveritLive is a tool that does a couple of things. Again, we use it for TuftsLive to embed tweets. If you have an event that's happening, let's say it was this session, you could have the hashtag and then a certain Twitter account all feed in. You could have that all archived.


You can also use it for live chat. If you have a professor who has expertise on an issue that's of timely fashion, you can have that professor do a live chat with an audience.

It's a free tool. You just embed it on your website and manage it via a web consul. So for no cost, you've created an opportunity for interactive experience that will help your audience get really valuable information.

I also want to talk about having a real-time mindset. This is a book by a guy named David Meerman Scott called "Real-Time Marketing and PR" and his whole thing is about real-time is a valuable mindset. It's not just about tweeting, it's about what you're tweeting and how it's relevant.

The whole idea of relevance, I think, nowadays, often hinges on real-time communications. That's what relevance is. What matters now. What matters to me right now. Right now for all of us, HighEdWeb is really important. In three weeks, it will be less important, but right now it's real-time for us, so we want to see content around that.


Also, if we're pitching stories, the media work in real-time. That example of Steve Jobs' death, that's real-time marketing. We're pushing information out there that's relevant to that topic. Today, nowadays, it's been a couple of weeks since Steve Jobs died; that has less impact. It's less relevant because it's not as real-time.

Having a mindset that's us as being aware of what's happening now, what's immediately relevant, is really important.

This is an example from Cornell of a video that was created just a couple of hours after the earthquake that we had in August. It was a professor of Geology talking about what happened and why does an earthquake take place. I thought this was really great that you capitalize on that opportunity to have this expert come and give context.

And that's really the value that we can provide in real-time. When there's an event that's happening, we have knowledge all around us, so if we capitalize on real-time information to add our knowledge as context to help explain what happened, we have value.


'This earthquake happened. Why did this happen? This doesn't happen in the east coast. What's going on? Here's someone to help explain. Here's someone to help us make sense of it.' And that matters in the now. That was like, that whole afternoon it's all anyone was talking about. Two days later, not so much conversation, less value to something like this.

We had two alums who were in a hiphop group called Timeflies and they had their latest EP go up in the Top 10 on iTunes. They were only in the Top 10 for that day. Through monitoring social media and what not, we were able to grab some screenshots of the iTunes ranking and what not and put it up on our blog and be, 'Hey, these alums are in the Top 10 on iTunes right below Lady Gaga. This is awesome.'

Again, it would have less impact the week later, less impact two days later, but we were able to get it up there while it was immediately relevant. 'This is just released, just at the Top 10. This just happened.'


Thinking about social media, also has two-fold purposes.

One is for monitoring. By monitoring what's happening at social media, I've gotten so many story ideas. From seeing what people are tweeting about and what's going on, I've learned about alums that do cool things I never knew about, just by monitoring blog posts or YouTube tagged with our university's name to see what comes up in the description.

It's amazing what you can uncover just by listening. Mike Petroff was talking about that a little earlier in his session, the power of listening. Listening is going to give you so much content ideas you won't know what to do with it.

The other component of social media, when you think about it, is distribution. We need to match up our editorial calendar with our social media distribution, figure out what stories are we promoting through which channels. Some content makes more sense to share via Twitter than Facebook; how do we figure that out? How are we lining up what we're producing as news with how we distribute it on social media?


I talked about this a little bit earlier, too, is news as landing pages. Once people land on our news content or our press release, where do they go from there? Where do we want them to go? How are we shaping that page and how are we laying it out and what are we driving people towards from that point?

We can't just create the content, stick it in the well, and call it a day. It's the first step of what could be a great journey. So where are we leading people? Where do we want them to go?

There's also the idea that our news is not an island. When we create a news story, it shouldn't just be its own little thing apart from anything else. I like to think of it more as an archipelago. We have all these different channels: social media, website, digital signage, newsletter, etcetera; they should all be aligned. The content should ideally come from one source and then inform and feed out everything else.


I'm also a big, big fan of making friends with your developers, as I've said a little bit before. Working with developers from the beginning is going to give you a richer product that's going to line up better with what your vision is because they helped develop and execute it.

Also think about news as a product. It's not just about content that gets written. It's about what we create and put out there.

This is a cool thing that Harvard did where they created a news widget from their Harvard Gazette that anyone could go and embed on their website. If you're a school or a department at Harvard, or if you're the alumni website, or maybe you're just an alum who loves Harvard so much you want to have their news on your website, they created a product from their news where, really quick, just add some code, and suddenly you have all the latest Harvard news. And they make this available.

So the developers being involved helped create this product that then shares the story even further.

I talked about structured content a little bit earlier. There's a really great resource that a company named Razorfish created, this eBook called "Nimble". If you go to, they're going to send that link to your developer who's now your new best friend. It can help you start thinking about structuring content such that it gets the traction on the Web to be shared and be found.


Also think about the CMS is really important. Again, news is a unique content type. We use Drupal for Tufts Now. We use an instance of Drupal called OpenPublish, which is geared towards media publications.

There's a great session, I wasn't there, but I heard amazing things about it that Lacy Tite from Vanderbilt gave about WordPress for your news site. That's also a really great tool because it's geared around publications.

If you're using some other CMS, does that CMS have a module or a customization that supports news as its own content type? If you're talking to the venders downstairs, it's worth asking that question. How do you support news? How do you treat it uniquely? How do you address its unique needs as, again, our ambassadors who are going out on the Web to tell our story?


This is another cool article, again, the link will be in the slides, talking about CMS from a journalism perspective. Again, for us as web marketers, it's valuable to how we think about news CMSs supporting our work.

This is another article that again talked about how a regional paper created a news site using WordPress and Google Docs. Again, budgetary constraints, but amazing things can be done.

We also need to look at our approach from 'Web first' versus 'print first'. I feel some of us are trying to adapt print publications for the Web and vice-versa, but this is a great quote from a guy named Max Butler who said, "Why are we letting the delivery platform hold our content hostage? News organizations should instead be 'content-first' and use tools that promote content above all else."

So we're working with print publications, web publications, and having these different tracks or figuring out what informs what; let the content drive the process, not the channel. We're trying to pull in content from a print magazine and wedge it into the Web? It will take a step back. We have this content, it then gets on the print magazine, it then goes on the Web, it then goes here. Let the content drive what makes sense versus a process that's tied to a channel.


The other thing we need to consider is that there's more news the Web to worry about. "These are weird times for publishing," said Erin Kissane at the Confab Content Strategy Conference in May. Look at all we have to worry about now: Instapaper, iPad, Kindle Fire, Google TV. These are all emerging channels for how we consume news content.

Again, we have to think that our content is going to have a home, or maybe needs to have a home, beyond just the website. It's not just thinking about, well, the Web, and then also mobile, it's also these other ways that people are consuming content, saving it to read later, etcetera. Is our content able to do that? Could it be adapted for these ways that people are now consuming content? We have to start figuring out the answers to those questions.


It may seem like a lot. We're a one-man band. I've given this presentation a couple of times before and some of the people I've gotten has said, 'It's so much. How are we supposed to do all of this?' Just do one thing. It's about value, not volume. If you're able to go and implement it all, wonderful, but I sincerely doubt any of us are able to do that. I'm not able to do that. But if we find one way just to tell one story better, then everyone's going to be better off.

Some great examples. UT-Austin right down the street. Denison University. BU Today from Boston University. And of course Vanderbilt, who presented earlier. There's also some really cool resources that are available as well. Again, these links will be in my slides.

The one I want to highlight is News University, They give really, really affordable webinars and sessions for learning about how to write web stories better and multimedia story-telling and things like that, again, geared towards journalists who have no money.


Really great books as well. Again, David Meerman Scott, both of his books, "New Rules of Marketing and PR" and "Real-Time Marketing and PR" are going to have some great information for how to do this.

I apologize if I'm a little bit late, but thank you very much!