Digital First Media’s ideaLab coming to an end

The Southeast Michigan Media Lab, part of my ideaLab project, will continue, although the ideaLab is coming to a close.

The Southeast Michigan Media Lab, part of my ideaLab project, will continue, although the ideaLab is coming to a close.

It’s hard — and not so hard — to believe. After 3 1/2 years, Digital First Media’s ideaLab is coming to an end.

I was shocked when I was named to the inaugural group in July 2010, surprised when it continued past what I thought would be a year-long stint and forever grateful how my time spent experimenting with digital media tools has helped me grow as a journalist, editor, mentor and trainer.

The news came in the form of a phone call Dec. 13 from Mark Lewis, communications/operations editor for DFM’s Thunderdome in New York. He wanted me to know the project was ending. He also solicited my feedback about the experience and announced a new project could replace ideaLab in the coming months. I wasn’t completely shocked at the news because my boss, Glenn Gilbert, group editor of 21st Century Media’s Michigan cluster, had warned me that it might be happening, and I knew many of the labbers had taken on new roles in the company or left for other endeavors.

I was so honored to be part of the ideaLab. When I first learned in a blog post by company CEO John Paton that I was part of the exclusive group of 18 representing editorial, advertising, finance, circulation, production, IT and Classifieds, it came as a total shock because I had not applied. My name came up as top brass deliberated over the makeup of the team. When I read the post announcing who was picked, it blew my mind, as noted in the “about” page of the ideaLabHeritage blog I created to share information about my project and its progress.

The ideaLab met for the first and last time in late August 2010 for a daylong summit at company headquarters in Pennsylvania. Members received advice and tips from a newly minted advisory board and we hashed out our individual project ideas and goals. At that time, while I was telling the group my interests, we determined my goal would be to “incentive co-workers to learn new technologies and understand the value of digital; train co-workers to utilize new tools by showcasing the strength and potential of each offering.” We were each given a smartphone, iPad and netbook, a stipend of $500 per month and encouraged to spend 10 hours of our 40-hour work week on our projects, and communicated through conference calls, email and a Facebook group.

What came of my project initially was a partnership with Eastern Michigan University professor Michael McVey and the Saline Area Historical Society to create a virtual historic walking tour of downtown Saline, with audiocasts sharing each building’s history, digital map, and photos from the past, as well as today. I learned how to use Audacity for editing audio, although Michael did the bulk of the work, and I partnered with one of my reporters, David Veselenak, for the mapping component. I also crowdsourced photos from the historical society and used a freelance photographer to get modern-day shots. Given the opportunity to tackle this project three years later, I would do it very differently, using different tools and presenting it as a cohesive package using ThingLink.

After the historic walking tour podcast was completed, my ideaLab project evolved into an effort to document, through audiocasts, historic moments and milestones that local residents experienced. As part of the effort, I visited Brecon Village retirement community in Saline to interview older residents about their lives. I tried to get staff and the community involved, as well, but that proved difficult to do with limited resources and scheduling conflicts. I used the tool ipadio.com to gather and share the phonecasts, which were embedded on our website under a drop-down menu under the news tab our web department created especially for us. I later added audiocasts on other topics to the channel.

In February 2012, as the ideaLab grew in number, with the acquisition of Media News Group, and as a request for proposals to develop community media labs came forth from Digital First Media, my project morphed into the Southeast Michigan Media Lab, the muse behind this blog. My proposal was among 12 approved in 2012, and the only one in Michigan to receive funding. For me, it was the perfect opportunity to dedicate my ideaLab time toward an even greater good, teaching the public digital storytelling and social media tools to grow our network of community contributors and blogging partners.

With the newly invigorated ideaLab came a virtual space for us to work called BaseCamp. Here we created to-do lists, sought advice from one another and shared the progress of our projects. In February 2013, my ideaLab project had morphed into my job, along with other responsibilities, and my home became SPARk-East, a business incubator in Ypsilanti where our media lab was — and continues to be — based.

I’ve had much success with the media lab, where I’ve hosted dozens of workshops, led by local media professionals, educators, social media gurus and myself. We have a loyal following of nearly 100 “labbers” on Meetup.com. I would estimate I’ve worked with several hundred people either individually in person or virtually through email exchanges, Facebook, Twitter and live chats, as well as workshops. Next month, in my last blog post about my ideaLab project, which I will post on my ideaLabHeritage blog, I’ll provide more concrete numbers, analysis and reflection.

Earlier today, while working at The Oakland Press, where I am now offering regular office hours to teach our journalists new digital storytelling skills, I created a NewHive expression featuring some of the tools I’ve learned over the last three years or so. While my ideaLab project is ending, my job continues to be “to learn new technologies and understand the value of digital; train co-workers to utilize new tools by showcasing the strength and potential of each offering” — and for that I am extremely grateful to the company for investing in me and my potential to help our newsrooms grow the skills of our digital journalists.
Digital storytelling tools

Helping two new bloggers launch their dreams at the media lab

Amy's Next Chapter

Over the last two weeks, I’ve helped two people launch their blogs on two different blogging platforms. Beckie Crispino started a blog for her business, Cashbackclics, an affiliate of Shop.com, on Blogger and Amy Alandt has started a blog on divorce and the next chapter in her life on WordPress.

Beckie Crispino

I first met Beckie when she came to the media lab through Meetup.com for a workshop on blogging. She learned a lot from Heritage Media Managing Editor Rick Kessler’s two-part series, and wanted to put into action much of what she had learned. We took Rick’s recommendation for a blogging platform and set her up on Blogger. We also set up a Twitter account

and Facebook page associated with the blog, and I am pretty sure she has either set up a Tout account, as well, or plans to soon.

Beckie’s blog has not been launched yet. First she wants to have a logo made and get all of her ducks in a row. In the meantime, she has been adapting to Twitter very well, tweeting and retweeting multiple times a day since we first set up the account Nov. 6.

Amy’s blog was freshly pressed today on WordPress. She also found the media lab through Meetup.com an had attended Rick’s blogging workshop, and my presentation on RebelMouse and NewHive. She works in sales and marketing, and wanted to become more familiar with the WordPress platform since the company she works for uses it and she’s now an administrator of the blog.

To gain practice before actually using her new-found knowledge on her employer’s blog, she set up a personal blog, called “Amy’s Next Chapter.” Today we set up her “about.me” and she wrote her first post, “Welcome to my blog about divorce.” Initially, her first post was titled “Welcome!” but we changed it after I explained about search engine optimization and writing headlines for the web.

Amy is also interested in Tout and during our time together we created a Tout, so I could show her how easy it is to do. The short video was shared on my Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Amy doesn’t have a Twitter account yet and she prefers to share links to her blog posts on Facebook, rather than link the two. She is considering starting a Twitter account and Facebook page just for her blog.

I applaud both women for taking the steps to realize their dreams, and I look forward to working with both more in the future.

If you are a blogger or thinking about starting a blog, 21st Century Media‘s Michigan Group is recruiting blogging partners. Reach out to me by commenting on this blog and I can send you information.

Four workshops scheduled at the Southeast Michigan Media Lab

I’ve scheduled four workshops at the media lab, and thought I’d make a NewHive expression promoting it. As part of my workshop, I will be teaching people how to use the tool. A bonus is that I discovered in addition to YouTube, Vimeo and Syndicaster videos, I can embed Touts.

Below is the article I wrote and asked all of the editors in the 21st Century Media Michigan Group to share in print and online.

The Southeast Michigan Media Lab, 215 W. Michigan Ave., at SPARK-East in downtown Ypsilanti, will host four free workshops designed to teach writing and social media skills to area residents.

Rick Kessler, managing editor of Heritage Media and a blogger, will teach a two-part series on blogging from 4 to 6 p.m. Oct. 3 and 10. Have you wanted to start a blog, but weren’t sure where to begin? Or, maybe you al-ready have a blog but you’d like to know how to take it to the next level? Kessler can answer those questions and more during his two-part series, “Blogging 101.”

Part I will cover every-thing from how to start a blog to how to find content for your blog. Part II will show participants how to grow their audience and discover advance blogging techniques. Each seminar will have a question-and-answer session and an op-portunity for one-on-one instruction.

Kessler is the author of the Gr8LakesCamper blog, which “celebrates the world of RVing, camping and tra-vel destinations in the Great Lakes region.” He started the blog in June 2007 and since then has had more than 1,400 posts and 360,000 page views. Visit his blog at gr8lakescamper.blogspot.com or email him at rkess-ler@heritage.com for more information.

Michelle Rogers, director of editorial training for 21st Century Media’s Michigan Group and director of the Southeast Michigan Media Lab, will present “Emerging social media tools and how to use them” from 6 to 8 p.m. Oct. 10. The workshop will introduce participants to RebelMouse for curating social media and web feeds into a personal page, and NewHive for creating crea-tive expressions, invita-tions, special pages with video embeds and photos.

The workshop will be hands-on, so participants are asked to bring a laptop, their ideas and content to build their own NewHive expression with photos, text, video and links.

Attendees should decide in advance which Twitter handles and hashtags they want to feed into their Re-belMouse pages, along with RSS feeds, and consider whether they want to in-clude their Pinterest, Insta-gram, Tout, YouTube and Flickr posts.

Monica Drake, community engagement editor for The Oakland Press, will present on citizen journalism from 1 to 3 p.m. Nov. 12. She will empower participants to become contributors to their local news media, teaching them the basics of journalism, photography and video, as well as other tools designed to help doc-ument and share community news. For more information, email moni-ca.drake@oakpress.com.

To sign up for any of the free workshops, visit the Southeast Michigan Media’s Lab’s Facebook events page or Meetup.com profile. Meetup.com will no-tify participants of future workshops.

Teaching Tout, Twitter and Pinterest at the media lab

The last few weeks at the media lab have had me on the road traveling to newsrooms in Oakland and Wayne counties, and working with individuals at the media lab in Ypsilanti, located in Washtenaw County, teaching Tout, Twitter and Pinterest.

Since Digital First Media entered a partnership with Tout and we started using it in newsrooms across our footprint, from the East Coast to the West Coast, there has been a big push to get everyone trained — journalists, freelancers and the public. In the last week, I’ve trained Michigan sports reporters, Heritage Media-West reporters and Oakland County residents on Tout using three different presentations tailored to their specific needs.

I really enjoyed putting together the presentation for sports because it motivated me to look at what reporters were producing on Tout, checking into their successes (with top views coming from Detroit Lions reporter Paula Pasche and Detroit Tigers reporter Matt Mowery) and looking at what they could be doing better, such as writing better descriptions that are more Twitter friendly with mentions and hashtags, and narrating their videos, instead of just shooting action. I also suggested how their audience could get involved, creating their own Touts and feeding their videos into a widget on our sites.

I had similar advice for the news staff in Washtenaw County, but geared their presentation more toward breaking news and coverage of community events, and motivating their readers to get involved by shooting their own Touts and sharing them by using an established hashtag for breaking news, and individual hashtags specific for each community event.

We have found that more views come through widgets embedded in articles on our websites, rather than plays through Tout.com or the Tout app. It makes sense since you have a built-in audience already interested in the news, sports or feature story, and looking for complementary coverage. So, I walked the reporters through the process of building a widget, which takes less than a minute. It’s very simple and there really is no excuse not to do it. It’s definitely more efficient. It also delivers a better presentation with a video player, and provides more thorough coverage, bringing in video from a variety of sources using a hashtag.

I was pleasantly surprised by the turnout for Tout training for readers of The Oakland Press. We had about eight people sign up via our Facebook events page and Meetup, but twice as many actually attended as a news article online and in print enticed even more people to check it out.

Monica Drake, community engagement editor at The Oakland Press, helped me with both presentations.

I think we make a good team. We had a PowerPoint that encouraged readers to start using Tout and Monica took it a step further by actually setting up the hashtag for them to use that will feed directly into the Tout widget on The Oakland Press home page. It was inspiring to see that many of the participants had either downloaded the Tout app before coming or did so shortly after they arrived. Many asked questions and were genuinely interested in contributing community news through short-form video. The fact that Tout provides video in real time and can be easily shared on social media makes it very useful.

While I feel very comfortable teaching Tout, I struggle a little bit more with Pinterest, but I am becoming more versed the more I use it. I’ve been working regularly with two women from the Professional Volunteer Corps in Ann Arbor, who are interested in creating a Pinterest page to share photos from the group’s volunteer activities. Before they asked for my help, I had started a Pinterest page of my own, but I wasn’t very active. Now, after exploring on my own so I could help them, and then actually setting up their page, adding boards and creating pins, and then showing them how to repin, I’ve become more comfortable with it. There is much more for me to learn about it and teach them, and I am enjoying the experience. Check out their boards here and let me know if you have some suggestions for them. They will be returning Friday for more help.

Linda Tubbs of the Professional Volunteers Corps works on her Pinterest page.

Linda Tubbs of the Professional Volunteers Corps works on her Pinterest page.

At The News-Herald in Southgate, I’ve paid two visits in recent weeks to work with newly hired reporter Anne Runkle. Anne had worked in the industry during the late 1980s and through the mid-1990s, and needs some catching up to do with digital media. So, we started with Tout and Twitter training.

I’d eventually love to see her graduate to creating timelines, audiocasts, locator map embeds, polls and data visualizations. But we’re starting with building an audience on Twitter, crowdsourcing and creating video to complement her storytelling.

I am curious, if you are a journalist, which social media tools do you use and why? Please leave a comment and answer my poll.

News-Herald Blogger Fair keeps media lab staff busy

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The Southeast Michigan Media Lab helped staff at The News-Herald in Southgate and Press & Guide in Dearborn with a Blogger Fair July 17 at their offices in Southgate, Mich. The event attracted 20 people either currently blogging or interested in it.

The idea behind the event was to share information about how the writers could become blogging partners with 21st Century Media and its news affiliates across Michigan, including The News-Herald, covering Downriver, and Press & Guide.

Information also was shared about the Southeast Michigan Media Lab, a free resource offered by the company to help bloggers, community contributors, students, senior citizens and established journalists. As many readers know, the media lab offers free workshops on social media and new media tools, as well as one-on-one instruction, from setting up blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and YouTube channels to teaching people how to use Pinterest, LinkedIn, Dipity, Tout, SurveyMonkey, Storify, ipadio and other tools.

Media lab intern Elise Waller produced a video from the event and News-Herald Video Coordinator Dave Herndon shot photos. Media Lab Director Michelle Rogers (me) led the event with an introduction to the media lab and the short-form video tool Tout, and was followed by Heritage Media Online Editor Joe Gray, who presented basic blogging tips and information on social media, and Rick Kessler, who presented a session on understanding search engine optimization and how to monetize a blog. I followed with a more advanced session on adding visuals and interactive elements in a blog, recommending a variety of free tools.

Everyone who attended seemed very enthusiastic. I followed up with the participants the next day, providing links to the PowerPoints, our blogging partnership guidelines and encouraging them to stop by the lab to see me for help.

Our goal is to add 100 new blogging partners to our news sites by year’s end, and I am really hoping to get some great contributors from the Blogger Fair. I am very interested in working with Al Poe, who has been writing reviews of restaurants in the Downriver area for years and posting them on Yelp and Urban Spoon. And I’ve already added Gordon Thorsby, who writes about customer service and his experiences at various businesses across the state of Michigan.

If you were unable to attend our event, but interested in finding out more information on how to become a blogging partner, please reach out with a comment on this blog. Here is my PowerPoint with information about the lab and our blogging partnership guidelines, as well as a presentation on SEO.

News-Herald and Press & Guide Blogger Fair Presentation by Community Media Lab

Blogger Fair 2013: Incorporating visuals and interactive elements in your blog by Community Media Lab

Understanding Search Engine Optimization by Community Media Lab

New media lab opens at Macomb Daily

Southeast Michigan Media Lab intern Elise Waller works with Maryanne MacLeod at the new Macomb Regional Community Media Lab at The Macomb Daily.

Southeast Michigan Media Lab intern Elise Waller works with Maryanne MacLeod at the new Macomb Regional Community Media Lab at The Macomb Daily.

My intern and I had the pleasure of helping Maryanne MacLeod, community engagement editor at The Macomb Daily; Jeff Payne, editor of Voice Newspapers; and Jody McVeigh, editor of Advisor & Source, in launching the new Macomb Regional Community Media Lab June 27 in Clinton Township.

While Maryanne has been working with bloggers and the community for sometime, the media lab space, which came to be when The Macomb Daily moved into its new digs on Hall Road earlier this year, will provide a place the community can call its own, and where community contributions to 21st Century Media publications will be encouraged.

Our help consisted of setting up a number of accounts that will serve to promote the media lab, communicate with the community and facilitate activities at the lab. For example, we set up a uStream channel so community workshops can be livestreamed, and Twitter and Facebook to communicate with our audience and publicize our work, while also making connections with the community. We also set up an Instagram account and YouTube channel to share photos and video from our work in the media lab. The Macomb media lab was added to our Meetup.com account for the Southeast Michigan Media Lab so we can promote workshops and other activities.

We still need to set up a Tout account to share short-form video, a blog to communicate our activities and work with the community, Scribd account to share PowerPoints from our workshop presenters, WeJoinIn to schedule workshop presenters, a RebelMouse page to curate all of our social media content, as well as RSS feeds from our publications serving Macomb County.

Equipment for the lab has been ordered. They will be getting a few laptop computers and an iPhone. These will be available for in-house use by anyone who comes in looking for help in writing a news release, creating a photo slideshow or video, editing audio, or posting to their blog, among other things.

The idea behind the media lab in Macomb County is similar to the one in Washtenaw County, as 21st Century Media wants to provide community outreach and encourage contributions to our publications. For instance, at the Southeast Michigan Media Lab we have helped senior citizens set up Facebook pages to connect with family and friends, local chambers of commerce and political organizations set up Twitter accounts to boost their presence on social media, and representatives from local nonprofits write news releases about their newsworthy activities. In addition, we have worked with individual writers and bloggers, helping them fine-tune their writing and add bells and whistles to their blogs to make their blogs more visually appealing. We link to many of these blogs from our website and, in exchange, their blogs feature our headline widget to help drive traffic back to our websites.

If you live in Macomb County, feel free to stop by the Macomb Regional Commmunity Media Lab or if you are in Wayne, Oakland or Washtenaw County, you’re welcome at our media lab in Ypsilanti at SPARK-East.

Tout Training for 21st Century Media journalists, editors

The Southeast Michigan Media Lab is on Tout. Follow us!

The Southeast Michigan Media Lab is on Tout. Follow us!

Tomorrow I will be holding a live chat and livestreaming video of training on the video platform Tout for our newsrooms. I am pretty excited about the potential this new tool has, from visual storytelling to community engagement, and I plan to promote its use at the Southeast Michigan Media Lab.

The video platform allows you to provide real-time video updates, known as Touts, and community contributors, bloggers and news consumers can do this alongside multimedia journalists at Digital First Media, which includes The Oakland Press, The Macomb Daily, Daily Tribune in Royal Oak, The Morning Sun, Heritage Media, The News-Herald in Southgate and other news websites across Michigan, as well as scores of others across the United States. Local reporters will be producing videos, up to 45 seconds long, and sharing them on our websites, embedded in articles and on our social media channels, such as Facebook and Twitter. Touts also can be shared through email, texts and links.

Viewers can follow individual journalists and news organizations on Tout.com or through a free application on their smartphone, or watch those videos on our websites. Touters can choose to download the application on their iPhone or Android or create a Tout using a webcam on their computer.

Advantages of being a Touter include the ability to share videos and reply with a video, whether it’s to comment on a video’s content, respond to a question posed by a reporter or add companion content. For us, this interactive element is appealing as we strive to connect with our audience on different levels. Our journalists are now using it to share breaking news, weather and traffic reports, teasers to upcoming coverage, share clips from interviews, video of local events, and to engage their communities in real-time conversations, as well as look for news leads.

I like what John Paton, CEO of Digital First Media, told MercuryNews.com May 1: “Tout’s real-time video reporting platform gives Digital First Media the ability to show, not just tell, our audience what is happening in real-time. Our audiences want immediate news and information, and our partnership with an emerging technology provider like Tout is an example of our commitment to provide just that.”

So, if you’re not on Tout yet, I encourage you to sign up, follow our journalists and branded accounts, retout us, mention us and reply to our Touts, and we will do the same for you if you catch our interest. Be sure to mention us (@heritagenews, @macombdaily, @theoaklandpress, @newsheraldMI, etc.) so it comes to our attention faster. You can follow the media lab on Tout by clicking here. I also encourage our bloggers to add their Tout stream to their blogs, like I’ve done on mine (see photo below). This will make your blog more interactive and give your audience another platform to consume your content. You can also feed it int your RebelMouse page, as I have for the media lab.

Happy Touting!

Link Tout to your blog so your audience can easily access your videos.

Link Tout to your blog so your audience can easily access your videos.