Tag Archives: breaking news

Early success and struggles, and why Central PA NewsVote isn’t Spot.Us

When Central PA NewsVote first launched last week, the initial post got 36 comments, many of which were story ideas I was very happy about. (Catch up on my new blog, in which I solicit story ideas from readers and allow them to assign me their favorite via polling, in my older entries on the subject.)

But the follow-up post, in which I actually put their ideas into poll form, had gotten just 68 votes as of 10:30 a.m. Monday. The poll had been up for several days, and it’s a high-traffic web site. That’s a very low number.

I had done my best to promote it via social media, tweeting the heck out of it and promoting it amongst my interested friends through Facebook. I suspect that led to a lot of out-of-town journalists voting, which is nice and all but not exactly what the blog needs to thrive.

Such low numbers leave it open to gaming, as I suspect one of the subjects might have started an e-mail campaign to boost its voting numbers. I noticed a quick rise in one of the story ideas.

Since I put the poll up Thursday, it had never been promoted on the home page of PennLive as the original post had. So shortly after 10:30 a.m. I got the OK to put a teaser up in our breaking news blog, which has its headlines displayed prominently on the home page. We’ll see if that improves the numbers, because I’m seeing now how important it is to have a true cross-section of readers if this is going to work.

In the future, there will be more consistent promotion in the breaking news blog and the print edition, so I’ll be less worried about voting numbers. The Web site folks did a great job promoting the launch, and I probably should have lobbied to get significant promotion for the first poll, too.

Other thoughts:

— Though it wasn’t voted on, opening myself up to story suggestions led to an A1 story that ran above the fold Saturday.

I got an e-mail from a reader with a simple idea: When someone is laid off, what do you say to the person? Does anyone really know what to say in that situation?

It was a great idea I wouldn’t have come up with by myself, and ended up being a somewhat interesting read.

— Several people have drawn the comparison to Spot.Us, and I can see why. Spot.Us, for the uninitiated, allows anyone to pitch stories, then others can vote with their wallets by donating money to hire reporters for specific stories.

David Cohn, its founder, dared to tweet yesterday that Central PA NewsVote is smarter than Spot.Us because the news organization absorbs the cost of reporting. I happen to think that’s silly modesty, as Spot.Us is a much more innovative concept in that it operates outside the traditional news organization. Anyone can reshuffle chairs inside the news organization, but it’s something else to establish a completely new model.

But that’s a silly “argument” to have. What’s important to note, though, is that Central PA NewsVote is really working in a different area than Spot.Us. There’s a big difference between the community features my blog is soliciting and the investigative stories being pitched on Spot.Us. So we’re talking much different levels of reader engagement and different ways that readers are going to use our sites.

What we do have in common, though, is an acknowledgment that democracy has a place in the news process. The more people are trying similar concepts, the more we can find out where it fits.

— I’ve been thrilled and highly appreciative – yet slightly unsettled – by all the attention the idea has gotten so far in the journalism community. Among my favorites: Alana Taylor had a nice analysis on beatblogging.org, and Jay Rosen discussed the idea in a podcast with Dave Winer (about 28 minutes in).

Thanks to all who are excited by the idea, and I hope others try it elsewhere so we can compare notes.

I’m only uneasy because I’d like to see it produce first. I don’t want this to be a gimmick, I want it to be a legitimate gateway to great stories. I want it to be a genuine involvement of the readers. As of now, it’s still just an idea, and I’m looking forward to getting the real answers.

When protesters are outside, Twitter beats local newspaper site

A little past 9 a.m. today, a long fleet of truckers roared down the central business area of Harrisburg, all incessantly honking their horns. Some had signs taped outside their windows, revealing that they were protesting gas prices at the Capitol.

Interesting story, as anyone who lives or has an office downtown surely has heard them.

So let’s compare “coverage” from Twitter users and the local newspaper’s Web site, shall we?

Dani_PA Dani_PA PA truckers “convoying” to Capitol today to protest gas prices.Gas is too expensive, so they’re spending mucho $$ to drive w/o pay? (9:10 a.m.)

Daniel Victor bydanielvictor Trucks blaring horns on 2nd Street in protest of gas prices. Normally I’d be amused but they woke me up. Was looking fwd to sleeping in.

Daniel Victor bydanielvictor Thought it was a Three Mile Island alarm or some other apocalypse notification system.

Aaron Gotwalt gotwalt Hundreds of tractor trailers driving by the office honking their horns to protest gas prices. It’s like a hangover simulator.

Larry Marburger lmarburger I’m sure a horn-blaring truck convoy will lower the price of gas. Thank you, Harrisburg.

Greg Newman 20seven @bydanielvictor Is it that crazy downtown?

Daniel Victor bydanielvictor @20seven A bit quieter now, but still hard to hear my TV. Pennlive says they’re going to Capitol: http://tinyurl.com/2sxq25

Greg Newman 20seven @bydanielvictor yeah, all inlets to harrisburg are supposed to be backed up, plus a overturned TT on 81 north on or at the bridge

Dani_PA Dani_PA I HATE PA TRUCKERS AND THEIR HORNS. Nonstop for 30 min. Doesn’t Harrisburg have a noise violation policy? Why aren’t they getting ticketed!

Maurice Reeves MauriceReeves @Dani_PA LOL. you must be hearing the rally at the State Capitol building. I’m glad I’m not in Harrisburg right now.

Now let’s compare that all with what readers would find at the local newspaper’s Web site at 9:55 a.m.:

Traffic around The Capital Complex could be complex this morning when 75 truckers bring their rigs without trailers into downtown Harrisburg for a 10 a.m. rally. (emphasis added)

The newspaper’s update has more details, of course. But I italicized “could be complex” because it’s predictive, where as Twitter is immediately reactive.

Twitter showed me a variety of sources, and I laughed out loud at the “hangover simulator” comment.

Twitter allowed @20seven to ask a witness — whether or not I’m a reporter, I’m sure, was irrelevant — about what’s happening right now.

Twitter allowed me to link to our newspaper’s Web site for details.

And Twitter allowed @20seven to tell me, and any of his other followers, about traffic details I wouldn’t know about any other way.

Now I’m not criticizing my newspaper’s handling of it. In fact, it shows we’ve come a long way in that a morning newspaper can tell people why there are a bunch of horns blaring outside their window at 9 a.m.

The newspaper’s Web site did as well as it could under how we currently operate. Problem is, this experience on Twitter shows how the supposed immediacy of blogging just won’t be immediate enough as more people find their way to services like Twitter.