Smarter(4): A list for journalism students

Each Sunday, I post links to three (and only three) articles that are informative about, or pointing the way to, the future in journalism. Previous posts can be found here. There is also a Tumblr for this series, named Smarter.

Photo: Clock face

Medium’s metric that matters: Total Time Reading. Are you reading Medium? It’s a longer-form writing and social platform developed by Ev Williams, co-founder of Twitter, and it just recently opened its doors to all writers. This article discusses why a common metric used to (supposedly) show how popular articles or sites are — pageviews — is NOT the metric Medium considers most important. It also discusses engagement, a pretty hot topic in journalism circles right now.

Takeaways: Understand engagement and attention and how they contribute to success or failure of a content operation (a publication, a website). If you spend your time writing or editing a great story, don’t you want people to spend time reading or watching it? The questions listed at the bottom of this post are worth thinking about.

Screen capture: Chris Johanesen

Design, testing and launching new products at BuzzFeed. In this interview with Chris Johanesen, we learn about the design team and product managers at BuzzFeed, and how what they do contributes to the popularity of the site and the brand. The site’s mix of serious news and cute baby animals is a strategy, not an accident. Since Ben Smith became editor-in-chief in January 2012, BuzzFeed has added “verticals” focused on politics, tech, and entertainment.

Takeaways: In a digital world, UX (user experience) is an important part of attracting people to a website or an app. BuzzFeed tracks all content and lets editors know, “in realtime, how their posts are performing.” The team also focuses on how fast pages load on both desktop and mobile platforms. Note the emphasis on scrolling rather than clicking. Making a successful information product (whether it’s journalism or entertainment or both) requires more than just a bunch of content.

Screen capture: Day to End Impunity

Free Expression, Surveillance, and the Fight Against Impunity. “When someone acts with impunity, it means that their actions have no consequences. Intimidation, threats, attacks and murders go unpunished” (source). Nov. 23 was International Day to End Impunity, and although the day has passed, this short blog post on the Deeplinks blog (from the Electronic Frontier Foundation) can still open your eyes to how threats to journalism are really threats to everyone’s safety and freedom, and to human rights in general. You can explore different kinds of challenges to free expression in this interactive feature: Break the Silence.

Takeaways: Physical threats are not the only kind of danger that journalists face. Systematic efforts to put journalists under surveillance are “crimes against privacy [that] can be used to intimidate or limit the work of free speech.” Also, it’s not only journalists who are standing up. Activists, artists, and everyday citizens around the world also put their personal safety on the line.

I’d love to know what you think. Are these three items new to you? Did they make you think? Did you learn something? Tell me via Twitter or Facebook or here, in the comments.

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