Seven things I would have told my 20 year old student journalist self

I’ve spent today being a guest at the University of Central Lancashire’s CJAM event. I graduated from UCLan, which is in Preston, in 2007 and it was a pleasure to be invited back. The event featured a number of talks from alumni of decades gone by, and more recent young upstarts like myself. We also had students pitch stories and ideas at us during a speed-dating style session.

I was asked to give a 10-minute talk as part of the event, so I thought I’d focus on things young journalists, or journalists in training, should be thinking about AKA what I’d wish I’d known when I was 20!

1) Know your phone as intimately as your girlfriend/boyfriend. Know every trick in the book for getting content using it, editing on it and filing on it. And always have it fully charged, with a spare battery/USB cable in your bag. Alongside your shorthand it is the primary tool for capturing content. Don’t sit and wait for training, youtube or Google it and learn by doing. It’s also becoming the primary place people read your content, for the majority of the hours every day on Trinity Mirrors regional websites more than 50% of readers are on a smartphone, the Mirror, Guardian and BBC have also released similar figures. But don’t just gawp. Think about what that means for how your story should be presented.

2) Keep an ideas book. Both online and offline. Have a place to save interesting stories, documents, social links and what could become a story. And have a notepad for those times you don’t have online access

3) Every story could now be the splash and lead the website (and the papers) because audience analytics/trends now sit alongside old-school editorial judgement. Make sure you’re ready for the ask to add something to your story, anticipate the need for pics, video, extra quotes, fact boxes, stats. Your idea on your way to work can be leading the web/social/TV by lunchtime.

4) Follow up. Keep a good diary. The launch will take place on? The next step in the plans is an appeal on June 20? The family said he would be out of hospital by x date. You’ll always have a follow up and therefore another story. What’s the next action from your story? Invite comments, should readers send you their pics?

5) Don’t be afraid. There are no rules anymore. No one has the perfect answer. All major media organisations are pursuing different strategies. Digital levels the playing field for all sectors. It is creativity, focus and speed which win out. Learn from those around you, learn to work as part of a team because a newsroom that succeeds together is one of the best places you can ever be.

6) Think about the reader and work with them. The best journalists I know have authority and empathy in equal amounts. Do not talk down to your readers, they are people. It is easy to dismiss them as commenters, trolls, unique users, busy bodies but they have a right to express an often passionate view. It’s what journalism boils down to, the people. They make the stories, you are a way to get them out there through whatever means you have.

7) Write every day. And never stop. I write 2-3 pieces of content a day for either Blog Preston or getreading. Why? It keeps you on your toes, it gives you discipline. No matter how high up the food chain you end up, it keeps you in touch. Do you have a blog? When did you last update it? Are you consistent? Can you keep readers coming back day in, day out? You’re in a city, a great one, there are stories to be found around every corner. Make use of your time here and don’t leave with regrets about what you might have done.

The return of the evening publication?

I was recently looking through the Blog Preston stats – the hyperlocal site I run in the North of England – and noticed something.

Everything we posted of an evening tended to do a bit better. Looking then through Facebook, there was a trend. Evenings, anytime at weekends + Facebook equalled our best performing stories.

We had a directors meeting on Sunday and we are giving something a try, based around this premise…

If our audience according to social media analytics tools is most active in the evening and weekends why publish our content during the day?

If the bulk of your audience is coming to you via social media and search, with very little direct traffic to the site, why not model your behaviour around them? Continue reading

Ten things learned from five years running a hyperlocal site

In January the hyperlocal site I run for the city of Preston, Lancashire turned five years old. Starting the site has definitely been one of the defining moments of my life to date and a few months into our fifth year I thought I would reflect on what I have learned after five years of keeping Blog Preston alive.

It is now a Community Interest Company which has a stated aim of covering community news in Preston. Paid up, registered and got a company number. What started as a Sunday afternoon New Years resolution is an actual real existing thing. Not just virtual. We have three directors, including me, and about ten regular contributors plus a few more who contribute as hoc. Plus a friend of mine doing ad sales on commission.

Establish your reason
Setting out to post once or twice a day it soon became clear this wasn’t going to be enough. The demands of running a local site will eat into your time, there is no escaping it. To ensure you don’t get sucked into a hamster wheel content cycle you need to have a clear idea of where your site covers and what it covers.

Know your mantra and keep to it, if you set out to be providing breaking news then stick to it and if you only said you’d cover a certain area of the city then keep to that.

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Why email is a force not to be ignored for regional news publishers

Gotta stay relevant. Right? In these times of mounting audiences, mobile consumption and a young savvy internet audience really finding their groove – how do you ensure you can still reach these audiences and get them coming back to your content time and time again?

I am speaking on Wednesday at the Technology for Marketers and Advertisers (sounds terrifying doesn’t it, will they brainwash me? Is the future of advertising some kind of microchip inside your shoe telling Tesco what your little toe is thinking about buying next…) event about what Trinity Mirror Regionals have been doing (that is who I work for in case you are wondering) with email newsletters. EMAIL!? But Ed, I hear you cry, email is about as sexy as, well, it isn’t very sexy.

Let me remind you of something. What do you need to be able to have an account on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+? That’s right, an email address. Email is a shockingly bad form of my communication, just ask anyone who works for or with me when they try and second guess what I mean by a one word response of Yes to an email at 11.45pm on a Friday. BUT, one thing I have learned since Spring 2012 when we started on an email newsletter sort them out journey is that a heck of a lot of people still use it, like using it and it isn’t going anywhere quickly.

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Video: Appearance on the Power of Modern Community

My fellow Connected authors (Hannah, Marc) and I took part in a Google Hangout this morning as part of Community Manager Appreciation Day.

It was a discussion about how a combination of online/offline can be used to connect communities – with plenty of examples and chunks from the e-book we wrote on the topic.

It’s a surreal experience chatting to people from the East Coast of the States and South Africa from your living room, but then again that’s the power of technology. Continue reading

Why Google Real Time is super useful for hyperlocal sites

In my day job with Trinity Mirror I am lucky to have access to real-time analytics software Chartbeat. It allows us to see who is reading what on our regional sites, where they have come from and how long they spend on it. And also if they then read something else. It’s a great way of focusing the newsrooms on popular content and putting it on a massive screen in the newsroom is always cool.

But, if you’re a one-man band hyperlocal publisher or a smaller site – and can’t shell out for Chartbeat, what options do you have?

Recently for Blog Preston, the hyperlocal site I run for Preston in Lancashire, we turned on Google Analytics Real Time.

It isn’t a patch on Chartbeat but it is super useful. Here’s five reasons why: Continue reading

Five digital journalism predictions for 2014: Videos, lists, hyperlocal, geotargeting and mobile

I got asked to appear on’s weekly podcast last week, it was about predictions for digital journalism in 2014.

I’m not Mystic Meg, but it did make me pause and think about what we might be doing over the next 12 months. It’s very easy to get stuck in the next 24-48 hours news cycle and not consider what’s going to happen next.

One thing is for sure, digital storytelling is evolving as the device we’re telling the story on expands and evolves rapidly.

Here’s my two pennies worth for what I see as what might be big in 2014: Continue reading

Twitter lists: Hyperlocal sites and people who run them or are involved in hyperlocal stuff in the UK in some roundabout way

Finally getting round to finishing some Twitter lists I started a while ago (although, can you ever finish a Twitter list?), they languished with not many members and at the Trinity Mirror editorial conference over the last two days in Manchester it reminded me I needed to sort them. Inspired mainly by Peachesanscream who did a great presentation on how to use Twitter I need your help to put together. She’s been using Twitter to help grow UsvsTh3m, which has rocketed to 7m unique users in November. They made that Northerner game you’ve probably played.

A list of people who run, started, or are involved in hyperlocal sites or hyperlocal news sites in the UK.

!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?’http':’https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+”://”;fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,”script”,”twitter-wjs”);

A list of the Twitter accounts of hyperlocal or hyperlocal news sites in the UK.

!function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?’http':’https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+”://”;fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,”script”,”twitter-wjs”);

Hope you can help! Tweet me @ed_walker86 with suggestions or leave a comment below

Not sure what all this hyperlocal stuff is? I co-wrote an ebook called Connected which has a chapter all about hyperlocal sites in the UK.

Notes and thoughts from #tal13: Keeping the hyperlocal mojo, hyperlocal social media usage and loving where you live

So I braved the Travelodge in Middlesbrough (once again) for the latest round of debate with hyperlocal site owners and local community sites at the Talk About Local event #tal13.

The day ranged from trying to rediscover your blogging mojo, to best tips for using Facebook and Twitter, how traditional media can work with hyperlocal sites and finally what does the growing usage of mobile internet and mobile consumption mean for hyperlocal sites?

Held in the impressive surroundings of MIMA, the beauty of unconferences (you pitch sessions and stick them on a big board which the organisers then shuffle about so inevitably all the ones you want to see happen at the same time ;) is the range of speakers/sessions is always so varied. Continue reading

A timely reminder of why we need a vibrant local and hyperlocal media online…

Preston's Bus Station, threatened with demolition, is now a grade II listed building

Preston’s Bus Station, threatened with demolition, is now a grade II listed building

The decision to grant Preston Bus Station listed status probably isn’t of interest to many outside of Preston and its immediate area, and of course architectural nerds.

But it did show up why it’s vital we have a vibrant local and hyperlocal media, because we can’t rely on the BBC to keep us updated on what’s happening in one of Lancashire’s largest cities.

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