Denver's Civic Center Park during my time at ONA.

What I learned at the Online News Association 2016 national conference

I’m a fan of the Online News Association‘s annual conference. I’ve been before and went again in September to Denver, getting the chance to speak again too.

My favorite part of the conference is the chance to catch up with peers and meet new friends, largely to check in on whether I think my organization is still sharp. As a local chapter organizer for ONA, I got the added treat this year of networking with other local organizers too. But helpfully I do often find a handful of traditional conference sessions on topics I’m thinking about and learn some things, particularly tactical tips and tricks. I wanted to share some of what I learned.

Here are some that stood out this year.

  • Everyone in content creation is nervous about their relationship with publicly traded companies like Facebook and Twitter for content distribution. Many are heavily reliant on Facebook, which is becoming an increasingly expensive relationship.
  • Relatedly, big newspaper chains like Hearst are on the same hungry pathway we are: gobbling up email addresses and, for the future, phone numbers, for deeper relationships with readers and authentication on our own terms. (Not Facebook’s).
  • Speakeasy is a joint venture of the Dallas Morning News and a Dallas creative agency and has nearly matched dollar for dollar declines in print advertising revenue, said a representative.
  • A Speakeasy representative said he doesn’t want any of his four largest clients to account for more than 20 percent of overall revenue. Similarly he doesn’t want any one revenue stream to cross that threshold.
  • Tape a Call is a popular app for recording phone interviews. It costs $10 but seems worth it for those who need it. (It’s free to download but you’re restricted to only one-minute recordings)
  • All My Tweets is a helpful tool to more quickly review your own historical tweets.
  • Screenshot Machine is a particularly easy tool to get full-page screenshots.
  • Magisto is a tool to create simple video packages from existing materials. One of my colleagues actually introduced this to me a few weeks back but I got a more in-depth tutorial on it.
  • Email Hunter is an interesting tool to aim to discover email addresses you need to find.
  • Getting images in all your social postings is no new strategy but I heard lots of lists of tools to help do this easier and cheaper and faster.
  • Bartnicki v. Vopper is a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that stipulates that news organizations can publish factual information that they obtained legally even if it was not obtained illegally by a source. That’s how the Sony hacked emails were reported and was why an iconic reporting series on a banana giant was pulled by a Gannet newspaper.
  • How can reporters get illegally obtained information and use it legally? They cannot direct its acquisition at all. You’d have to say: “I’m not asking you to get this information. I won’t even buy you a coffee for it, but I’ll review anything relevant to my beat.” When the information has to come over the transom and the reporter did not participate at all, those are clear cut, but when you help push people to get info, it gets gray.
  • Lots of people in local communities are talking about comprehension of audience and scale: can niche media like us effectively pull together enough local to compete nationally?
  • I’m personally interested in the array of smart journalism fellowship programs out there, including Stanford’s, Reynolds Journalism Institute (both residential and non-resident)
  • I love seeing friends like the Amicos, Greg Linch,Jessica Estepa, Sarah Day Owen, David Cohn and so many more.

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