One nitpicky critique: Where's the RSS feed? How can I subscribe to the blog in my RSS reader, where I consume most of my blog-like interests, if you don't allow my Firefox to automatically detect the feed in the page, nor offer me an RSS link somewhere in the sidelines of the blog? Or how can I add it to Facebook? Or my iGoogle? You know... the platforms where I spend a significant portion of my online time these days?
For what it's worth, the feed is not available on their sports RSS page either.
Maybe my standards are too high, and I'm too much of a stickler for these details. I suppose it's nice to know we're not alone in trying to corral the basics. Boston.com has some basics to tackle, too.
Check out the in-print promo Matt Pepin, the Times Herald-Record's sports editor, crafted for the burgeoning Facebook application that Patrick Mullen has been building as an extension of Varsity 845. It's at the bottom of the PDF.
Patrick has been improving his development of the application daily for about the last week or so. His assessment is that developing for Facebook is easy once you get the hang of it, and what you build essentially is Facebook's equivalent of an iframe, something we're all practiced at using on our Web sites.
Patrick and I both agree we've not yet achieved the secret sauce with building social networking applications and widgets, but this is a great initial foray into the space for us. I'm looking forward to collaborating on future development.
Please share any ideas you or your kids might have. After all, much of the target audience is much younger than us. Who better to ask than them?
See below some outside feedback on the Varsity 845 effort.
While projects like this do depend on some technological pieces being in place, success comes only from completing the circle with widespread buy-in and usage by the staff. Matt Pepin has done a superb job of using the technology that Patrick Mullen has provided, and running all-out to make sure the content is filling the platform and building the audience.
Please reach out to Patrick and Matt when you can. They have hit upon an initial formula that can work for you. Lots of audience growth can be derived from consistent and persistent use of online tools to strengthen your timely and interactive coverage of the local online sports scene.
From: Pepin, Matt
Sent: Tue 9/25/2007 11:08 AM
To: Vanderhoof, Joe; Mullen, Patrick; Gliedman, Erik; Osenenko, Derek; McGuire, Meg; Mohart, Doug; Polay, Sean
Subject: a review of V845
Everyone ... very favorable coverage of V845 by the New York State Sportswriters Association in the president's blog. Link is here, text is pasted below.
The 411 on '845': Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill was famously quoted as saying "All politics is local." He was also known for his ability to return to his old neighborhood and recognize people he hadn't seen in years, greeting them by name and attending to them as though they were life-long friends.
Rep. O'Neill got it. He understood that he needed to be attuned to the lives of his constituents. It's grassroots politicking, and it's how he got re-elected time after time after time, though being a liberal, Irish Democrat in Massachusetts certainly didn't hurt his cause.
I'm not sure yet whether the effort will amount to "too little, too late," but newspapers and other old-school media are going the grassroots route as well these days, focusing their newsgathering and delivery on so-called "hyper-local" approaches. Major newspapers and electronic media that used to have multiple foreign news bureaus are shutting them down to concentrate on national and state coverage. Those that used to maintain a presence in New York and Washington, D.C., have been cutting back to focus oin state and local reporting.
And mid-sized daily papers are moving their resources back from the statehouse into the local neighborhoods to recapture readership they've been losing for any number of reasons over the last quarter of a century. And the emphasis is on online operations in pursuit of the young folks.
Translation: This is a swell time to be a web designer or developer with a little flair and imagination. There's a big market for "cool" and "cutting edge" in the online world these days as newspapers court the young readers.
To that end, The Times Herald-Record in Middletown typlifies the "adapt or die" mentality this fall, having rolled out Varsity845.com <http://www.varsity845.com/> . It's a laudable effort that combines old staples -- roundups, game stories, states and standings -- with new strategies such as blogging, video clips, photo galleries and forums.
It adds up to a place in the top three of must-visit scholastic sports sites in New York, alongside Newsday <http://www.newsday.com/sports/highschool/> and LoHud.com <http://www.thejournalnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/section?category=SPORTS02> .
What makes the site superior? Start with the name. Playing off the area code for the Catskills/Hudson Valley region the paper serves, it's named so as to put a little distance between the new product and print product. Trust me. I spent 11-plus years at DemocratandChronicle.com in Rochester, so I understand how it's a lot easier to design a snazzy t-shirt with the Varsity 845 logo on it than it is to get creative with the Times Herald-Record name.
The site's design -- yellow type on a black background -- is attractive and effective, but that's relatively superficial stuff anyway. Where Varsity845.com really succeeds is its content:
* A simple, useful calendar
* Standings that are generally up to date and accurate
* Chat forums
* Results roundups and game stories
* Video reports and photo galleries
* Links to lists of players and coaches of the year in the respective sports as well as Section 9 champions
Additionally, the staff does the stuff that looks good but involves effort above and beyond what many sites are willing to do. Three bloggers contribute multiple entries each week and three nominees per day are highlighted for their Player of the Day voting.
Taken in total, it's superior to just about anything out there and positions The Times Herald-Record to defend against MaxPreps, Scout.com and other national players that are trying to make inroads into local markets. Publishers across the state should stop by to see how they should be doing it.
As Howard Altschiller and I were discussing Twitter, he used that as one mechanism to announce the page launch: http://twitter.com/seacoastonline
(And as a reminder, make sure you're linking to new pages from your Site Maps, so that Google/Yahoo/Ask/MSN/AOL can pick them up when you next get crawled. You should enter these new pages into the Google Site Search spreadsheet on Google Docs, so when your user searches on your site for that topic, it gets featured as a Suggested Page at the top of the results. Still confused about the latter? Give me a shout.)
Comes courtesy of new media guru C.C. Chapman. Wouldn't you know I learned about his blog post via his Twittering.
It's as comprehensive a page as you'll find for following the Yankees and Mets preseason, and interacting with the writers and fellow fans.
Try to find a better landing page on the New York metro-area sites. I've not seen one yet. If you do, let me know. It's always good to learn from what others are doing.
The nice thing about what Patrick Mullen, Erik Gliedman and Matt Pepin have done here is that once everyone is on the common platform, this won't be that hard to replicate for the Red Sox in New England, for example, or the A's and Giants out West.
A must-read, and file it away for future discussions. Many of you have likely heard me advocate a similar concept whenever I am asked how our newsroom workflows might evolve.
The presentation isn't very elegant, but we were able to post them in a photo gallery, and it's had more visits than the Maverick's surf contest.
Thanks to Roger Black for pointing out the audio slideshows done by the Columbia Daily Tribune.
Soundcheck: Hit Music (April 11, 2006)
Point being that I recommend inserting poll questions into your Lyris templates, if you're not already. It's a great way to fold an additional call to action into the sometimes humdrum daily headlines e-mail. The whole idea of the e-mail newsletters is to entice clicks from people who might not otherwise visit that day. A poll -- especially an irreverant one such as what Daily Candy offered on Friday in it's Boston edition -- could be just the trick.
NYT: This Boring Headline Is Written for Google
We didn't need it, necessarily, but consider it as further proof of the importance of the 'Net headline (as opposed to the newspaper kicker that can often wind up online).
We've figured how to promote a Sunday story, how to pop photos into the "latest local scores" hole, worked on some kind of a system for updating the scores each night. I started a blog today (zero views!), and assistant SE Mark Connelly gets going tomorrow. Those are up at santacruzsentinel.com/sports.
The Sentinel site has a forum started, to which we'll add a sports thread, promote it from the sports front, hope to get more action from that in the fall.
Hoping to get some audio posted with a story this week about a local longtime play-by-play guy.
I've met with our web people and talked about several projects to work toward, including databases for calendars and recreation listings, and ultimately scores, standings and stats for local high school leagues. Also plan to get reader/viewer votes for athlete of the year packages at end of the school year.
Met with staff today, most of whom seem at least interested, some enthusiastic about what's possible. Here are my notes, which went out to the staff and were generally talked about today, for what it's worth (feel free to borrow, delete, or laugh at them).
As we go forward, our focus on internet will continue to be more important to us, more of a service to readers, more important for the company financially, more essential to being relevant and competitive, more fun (and probably more work) for us. I’d encourage everyone to think in terms of how your work can be put to use on the internet, to look at what works for us and what works on other sites, and to learn/train in the technology used for our site.
A few things in the works:
In addition to someday being able to put up agate, to put up photos with stories, and getting parentheses to appear, here are a few things we’re shooting for within the next couple weeks/months, The idea is to focus on the things that have the biggest impact for the least amount of effort.
Live scores, probably the most useful and unique thing we can do now, No one else is doing it. Everyone should know how to update the live scores section, and it should happen every night. Ideally, the slotter updates every score we receive. At a minimum, we should keep the biggest games in mind. For every game meaningful enough for us to staff, reporters should call with halftime updates and final scores. For the very biggest games, we can do more, a live running commentary is possible, as long as we’ve got the internet connection.
How to update scores:
1) From the Sentinel intranet home page, click: Mid Day Update Admin. That takes you to the following site:
http://midday.santacruzsentinel.net/administrator/ (you can access that site from anywhere you’ve got an internet connection).
2) Username: admin; Password: CACRU
3) Under the pull-down menu: Content, choose content managers, then choose ‘latest sports scores,’ then choose ‘latest sports scores items.’ This takes you to a page where you click: “Latest sports scores.”
4) This brings up a dialogue window, where you can edit what appears on the site under “Latest sports scores.” After updating, click “save” icon at top right of the page.
It’s also possible to post photos immediately in the same site:
1) Photographers need to provide a quick 72 dpi image, Lovejoy is always up for doing it, plans to do so on every assignment.
2) From dialogue window, click the ‘edit/modify image’ icon (third from left above the text field)
3) Browse to find the photo, probably in GWIP_sport
4) Click upload, then OK. That takes you back to the original dialogue window. Add text below photo for cutline info.
5) click ‘save’
Blogs. Everyone will get one. That will mean spending a little time, on the subject of your expertise, especially during your season, keeping a running conversation with readers. Ask them questions, ask for advice, for their opinion, point them to interesting links/discussions, let them know what you’re working on, especially talk about issues of the day. I’d say this is a daily, 15-minute, type of activity, but will lead to story suggestions, feedback.
Landing pages - We’ll work on setting up pages for columnists, etc. that will link to their blogs, archives of columns, related articles, etc.
The idea is that if we’re writing about a subject and someone is reading on the web, we should offer that person reasons to stay, explore the site more. Eventually, we’d like to have landing pages for outdoors, Watsonville (possibly other communities/high schools), football, baseball, basketball, other sports, with links to schedules, standings, stats, results, archives and photos. Much like Mbaypreps. Ryan and I will work on a basketball page, and we’ll build other templates from there.
E-mail to readers: At some point, I’ll start sending a daily e-mail to readers about what we’re planning for the days ahead, or what they should check out in today’s edition. I’ll also be able to send e-mail to readers about a breaking story, or a big upset.
In time, we’ll work on putting schedules, stats, results, Breaking Away, etc., into databases. This might mean that instead of typing in incopy documents, we’re entering info on web pages, standings, stats hopefully will be updated immediately, then we’ll export to publish that stuff in the paper.
Promos, photo galleries, slideshows are all fairly easily accomplished. Mostly, requests and ideas should go through me. But Kim O’Keefe in back is the person who helps us get all of these things done. My plan is to learn the interface as much as possible, so we can quickly change the look/feel/content of the sports front.
Coaches input their own scores, especially for community events, lower levels
Readers send in their own photos
Reporters can post audio
Video ... .
Saxotech ... the new system. They’ll start planning that in June, it’s a fairly long process, and detail-oriented to set up what we want from the sports section front/home page.
Also, this is funny:
The good news? So far Chevy is sticking with the concept:
- $70 to fill up the tank, which will last less than 400 miles. Chevy Tahoe.
- Our planet's oil is almost gone. You don't need G.P.S. to see where this road leads.
- Like this snowy wilderness? Better get your fill of it now. Then say hello to global warming.
"We anticipated that there would be critical submissions," Ms. (Melisa) Tezanos said. "You do turn over your brand to the public, and we knew that we were going to get some bad with the good. But it's part of playing in this space."NYT points out that Converse had more success with its user-generated advertising effort: conversegallery.com. I guess Chuck Taylors engender less activism than SUVs.
Warning: Converse's site is addictive. Here's a few of my favorites:
Well, no more: NFL Removes Local TV Affiliates From Game Sidelines (via Romanesko)
My brother bought something on e-bay and was wondering if I knew anything about the team ... since I'm so close to Williamsport. Yes, I am related to a genius.
Anyone have any idea where I might find something?
P.S. We're talking LANDING PAGES here!!!! Whoopppeee!
Probably never see this sort of thing in Santa Cruz.
Dinner includes a side of ignorance
COLUMN BY DEAN RUSSIN
If ignorance is bliss, allow me to introduce you to the happiest couple in the world.
Meet Pinky and Strapping Young Man, two members of the foul-mouthed generation that’s about to take over the world.
Since this is the sports section of your local newspaper, I have to make at least one sports reference for this to qualify as a sports-related story. I could go the route of former Daily Star sportswriter Ryan Lillis and simply write, "Jessica Laing — What a player!" to meet this requirement.
But since we’re deep into March Madness ... George Mason? In the Final Four?
This perfect match is at the front of the line at a local restaurant Monday while the rest of us mopes who still think tacos and fishsticks are an irresistible combination patiently wait.
Pinky, who is dressed in pink and is talking on her matching pink cell phone (how cute!), has one foot in the batter’s box. It’s her turn to order, but she’s arguing with some other knucklehead on her cell.
The cashier doesn’t exist in Pinky’s world, which also excludes the 10 people still standing in line and those fortunate enough to be sitting with a tray full of deep-fried goodness in front of them. There’s at least one child within earshot of Pinky, who apparently is the butt of a prank call from one of her friends.
Pinky finally hears the punchline from her friend, who I can only assume is a 911 operator with three calls on hold, then drops the loudest Letter-Between-E-and-G-Bomb in history to effectively express her relief.
Much like 11th-seeded George Mason making it past the Elite Eight, it’s time to pay attention.
"Awww, come on," I say at a slightly higher volume than normal, hoping that Pinky will realize this is neither the time nor the place for "Jerry Springer Uncut."
Pinky is in utter disbelief. How dare someone interrupt her conversation!
A few clean words are exchanged as both sides plead their cases, but Pinky reverts to her pre-thesaurus days and tells me to go four-letter myself.
So our conversation continues, much to the dismay of Strap. After asking me who I think I am — who I think I am! — Strap soon says I’m thisclose to getting punched in the face.
This is bliss at its finest, and it’s a trend that seems to be catching on with the teenage population these days.
Three days before this incident, I was sitting in a local pizzeria with my 3-year-old son when three teens — a girl and two boys — sat down in the booth behind us. Within a minute, I heard the girl use three profanities — for no reason in particular — while her escorts mumbled through mouthfuls of pizza.
The same can be heard in the stands at just about every high school game in the area, and more often than not, the biggest offenders are too young to vote.
Like those fat, little beetles that float around Damaschke Field during summer baseball games, it’s everywhere and there’s really nothing you can do about it to make it go away.
Still, there’s no bliss in simply ignoring it.
Dean Russin is the sports editor of The Daily Star. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our reporter Julie Jag got a third place for game story in under 40k. She interviewed the participants before they left, traveled, stayed up all night, hung out at remote aid stations to deliver this account of the Western States 100 and the progress of several Santa Cruz athletes:
It would have been nice if she had remembered to take her camera.