Journalism as an industry has certainly started to move with the times. Most news outlets have a responsive online offering to complement their print titles and are publicising articles via social channels. Local press is also catching on, with Johnston Press recently expanding its tablet app portfolio.
Whilst these efforts are certainly admirable, it’s got to be said that journalists aren’t always at the forefront of digital developments and as such, it can take a while for knowledge to seep down to the industry. This isn’t just an issue with experienced journalists, even fresh graduates can be depressingly limited in their digital knowledge, which is surprising given the impact that channels such as social media have had on journalism. Whether this can be attributed to a lack of digital training at Universities is another blog entirely, but it’s certainly a worry.
To address any skills gaps and further their digital skills, it was suggested at the recent Content Marketing Show that journalists should sit next to SEO professionals. This seemed a rather standard concept to me, as all our journalists sit a stone’s throw away from our SEO team and indeed the social and creative teams. That doesn’t mean we make them coffee, mind.
Sitting next to digital experts has certainly boosted our skillset at content promotion and helped us to use innovative methods for news-gathering. More than that, it’s helped us to measure the results of our articles and refine our future content strategies.
So, what exactly can journalists learn from sitting near these digital hipsters?
It’s important for journalists to understand how to make their stories stand out from a sea of content. Thus, they need to know how to get their work ranking higher than other similar offerings. Broadly, this is where SEO comes in, teaching journalists how to utilise keywords – both head and long tail – that will help increase the visibility of their stories. This doesn’t mean that phrases should be shoe-horned into text, as is the common misconception. Rather, stories should still be written with the audience in mind, which means utilising searchable terms, adding in relevant links to internal/external sources and ensuring the page the content is sitting on is technically sound.
SEO pros are also adept at using Google Analytics to measure how well content is performing. By becoming confident using this tool, journalists can hone future writing and understand how their content is contributing to the site as a whole. Importantly, journalists can use Google Analytics to assess whether their content has had an impact on conversions (this is applicable if the article is sitting on a site that offers a product or service).
Author Rank is another area where content and SEO work together. Google released Author Rank as another tool to combat against poor quality search results. It works by boosting the reputation of authors who produce solid content and gives good writers a competitive edge. Journalists should embrace Author Rank to increase not only their profile, but the profile of the site they’re writing for.
It’s not enough just to produce endless reams of text – no matter how great it may be. Readers are busy; they want to consume content in bite-size forms across multiple channels. Instead of sitting at home reading the paper with the morning cuppa, they’re turning to mobile devices to catch up on the latest news. With a plethora of content on the web, journalists need to think of creative ways to get their audience listening and returning to their stories.
Instead of adding a stock image, journalists could exploit more creative means, such as producing an accompanying graphic or even relaying a story through the medium of an infographic. Using such creative methods can help to increase traffic to a news story and give journalists valuable design experience.
As well as being a great tool to search for breaking news stories or getting opinions from those on the ground, social media is a great way of promoting content and getting it out to a wider audience. With the help of a team of social media experts, journalists can get their content out to the right people, thus boosting traffic and ultimately your title’s reach.
Social is also a great way to push your own personal brand, getting writers in front of potential story leads and work. Journalists can be up against the odds when sniffing out a story, so building up a good social reputation and a solid list of contacts is vital.
To conclude, it’s through immersing themselves in the above practices that journalists become knowledgeable at capitalising on digital channels. And, what better way to learn than to be surrounded by experts?