W.Va. publications discuss engagement, digital changes at workshop

I attended a W.Va. Digital Strategies Workshop hosted by WVUncovered during the last weekend of March. For this workshop, several publications in West Virginia, the Charleston Gazette, Charleston Daily Mail, among other newspapers and magazines around the state.

I got a really good look at the way W.Va. newspapers are currently functioning, which was refreshing as I was the only college journalist in the room representing The Daily Athenaeum. The room was filled with editors who have been in the news business for longer than I’ve been alive, but I realized I was lucky enough to have the leg up on the social media/blogging boom.

This is part of my education right now, and I’ve grown with it and will continue growing with it. As journalists we must adapt to change, but that process can sometimes take too long and media will move on as new principles are established. Therefore, we must keep changing and looking toward the future; we must not settle for what we know, but what we can predict.

Jeff Sonderman, the Digital Media Fellow at The Poynter Institute, presented new business models for newspapers trying to make the transition to being web first, and how money could be made off of new media. But, as a few editors/publishers mentioned at the workshop, sometimes the media is more advanced than the audience is ready for.

Two-Lane Livin’ publisher made a blog post dedicated to what she had learned at the event, but she said:

Unfortunately, we were often frozen in our tracks by the options and possibilities that lay before us, and were likewise learning digital features that were not yet applicable for our region due to limited access — but over time we have come to find ourselves in a position that we may, and hopefully will, be ready for the digital wave that is heading Central West Virginia’s way.

She makes a good point in saying that even though her audience is not quite ready yet, that they anticipate they will be and are attempting to make the changes now.

With all the pushing and learning, whose job is it to stop and think how the audience will react? The answer is simple – us and the audience. What kind of engaging is there? And where is there room to grow? Who is going to listen and respond? We might not have all the answers, but working to get there is key to finding out what is next.

  1. This sounds like it was a pretty neat experience. As a journalism student in junior high I got to tour my local newspaper, the Parkersburg News and Sentinel. But that was over six years ago, before social media really started taking off. It’s interesting to see how integrating the web and social media into newspapers is going to benefit them, and how the internal changes are going to take place. I’m sure there are a lot of people out there who haven’t had any experience with social media (my mom struggles with e-mail and text messaging; I can’t imagine her having to navigate through Twitter, Facebook, etc.) So, how are the people who have to get these stories to the audience coping with new methods of spreading the news even within the newspaper business? Did you experience a lot of distaste from the employees who now have to start using social media as new outlets for news?

  2. The digital transition has been difficult for any media-focused business. Everyone is guessing what audiences want out of a new technology, and in many cases audiences don’t know what they want until they get it. Nobody asked for Twitter, but they loved it when it came out. More often than not though, the audiences experience a new product and decide that they don’t want it, and that product dies.

    Interesting note though: I watched a speech by the founder of Twitter (speaking at Google I think). And he actually said that he had the idea for Twitter nearly a decade before he founded Twitter. He developed a way to update his blog through an email from his blackberry, so he went out to a park and told the world that he was hanging out at the park. Nobody cared, so the project sat on the shelf until the industry was ready for it.

    With newspapers, where the core audience might currently prefer print, the digital age will come eventually, and they need to be prepared. The younger generation will eventually be purchasing newspapers or going online to read news, so these papers should be focused on engaging them as early as possible while continuing to cater to their old school print base.

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