Farewell Post

This Social Media Theory journey has been enjoyable, but much more difficult than I even imagined. I knew what my challenges would be at the beginning. Hurdles like lack of experience, being a digital immigrant and the whole ‘behind the curve’ identity I have yoked myself with perennially plague me.  And most of those realities played a part.

But nothing was as difficult for me during this course as was overcoming my innate tendency to be a late adopter.  Repeatedly when assignments came around, a general, life-long habit to wait/psych myself up to trying new ways of social media interaction caused dread and anxiety and often caused me to wait too long.  Indeed, I got very far behind in this course–more so than I might’ve ever in any other college course. I’m not proud of that.

Miraculously and as it turns out, my tendency to be a late adopter is not from incapability (or from fear of it, at least). I can happily report at the end that, more often than I expected, navigating and wrangling new forms of social media endeavor was far easier than I guessed and was always enjoyable.  It was good to learn as a sidebar to the course that I’m not a total idiot, whether I might’ve felt that way a few times in the last few months or not. Indeed, I’ve made myself proud, where the ‘how to’ aspect of the course comes into play.

But on the notion of the use and practice aspect of social media, I can honestly say that a comprehensive retrospective provides me with a somewhat decent handle on the scope of how social media works for creating an online presence. Managing and maintaining the sites is constant work. But it’s more than just creating content and making sure everything is current. It’s about doing so with a cohesive mentality and with an appropriate message for a targeted  audience in mind. It’s about branding. And it’s about making the most of the respective social media’s functionality as it most appropriately benefits the brand.

I’ll admit, my own brand has been all over the map this semester.  What I intended to create with the GayGaze blog was/is just too uncomfortable for me. So, in light of that, I changed courses midstream to promote my creative writing on the journal blog.  And I’ll have to confess that I didn’t live up to my self-challenges on that front either.

In effect, all of these observations lead to a perspective that I did not expect to gain by the end of this course: social media management is a tough job. It’s a busy job. And now more significantly than ever, I see that it is an important job. And I feel incredibly more equipped to tackle it if a professional opportunity ever comes my way.

 

Weekly Reading Insights-Week 10

The reading material compiled for this week’s topic of Social Media Uses and Gratifications was by far the most compelling and interesting reading to me for the semester.  Perhaps I might’ve considered a career in media psychology, because attempting to understand how and why people use their preferred types of media is quite intriguing to me.  Add to this innate curiosity the reality that I have lived through the decades where contemporary forms of media did not exist and have had to evolve through my own sensibilities about my personal media uses and gratifications in both a pre-Internet and post-Internet reality.  I’ve been a college student on both sides of that Internet fence as well.  It all adds up to compelling ways of thinking.

Where new media forms are concerned, I’m truly enjoying being somewhat observant to the proverbial ground floor of uses and gratifications study.  Indeed, reading through some of the selections (especially the Hargittai and Hsieh study), it’s likely the same experience as  other students had when television first surfaced as a medium and academic study attempted to define its realities and how it would be used and/or its effect on society.  This is historical research happening before our eyes, as it were. And if I live long enough, I’m confident I’ll look back on ideas and terminology like “dabblers” and “omnivores” and remember when they were first applied to social media–and that I was there when it all emerged.

Beyond the engaging aspect of the research and observation, though, what do scholars and industry professionals say about how social media is being used and for what purposes?

Repeatedly in this week’s selections and in other academic uses and grats studies, we consider the behavior of young people.  Typically falling into the category of ‘early adopters‘ per Rogers’ diffusion of innovation theory, young person behavior with social media provides abundant insight–especially considering, as Boyd pointed out in her paper, some sites like MySpace and FaceBook were directly targeted to high school and college-aged users.  As Boyd suggested, the Myspace/Facebook dynamic highlighted more than increased use by young people, but a larger demonstration that online activity reflects cultural tendencies even in social class-oriented-behavior.  Appropriately pointing out that sometimes the media itself can set a tone for certain media by the way it characterizes them, Boyd’s contentions are that social media use is borne out of the social and cultural capital, attitudes, social network, geography, race and religion aspects in everyday life that identify us with our own social classes.  Because of factors even as simple as visual appeal (where one site’s “blingy” appeal for some classes comes off as “gaudy” to others), she concludes that “in a society where we can’t talk about class, we can see [class struggle] play out online.”

This phenomenon is reified by Manjoo’s observation of ethnic use of Twitter.  This piece was just a specific example of cultural/class-oriented social media use, but it’s compelling for me to read about this because it demonstrates a far different reality than my own use of Twitter and that of any of the dozens I have interacted with–as a white, gay man.  Ethnic use of Twitter in the “oral-dissing” tradition of the black community and in the “call-and-response” tradition using what Manjoo dubbed “blacktags” is something I have only randomly witnessed among classmates and some coworkers but have never really acknowledged as such. Yet this is a perfect example of cultural social media proclivity, just as when Boyd suggests that latinos might have been more predominant on MySpace because of the vivid visual (aka “blingy”) nature of its online presentation. The use of Twitter in the black community as a means to talk to each other directly rather than broadcasting messages is a tendency that I also found interesting and that I can remember seeing before I understood it as a trend.  This whole observation makes me curious if there can be enough discernible Twitter evidence to study trends of usage within the gay community.  That seems like a great idea for a study. 😉

Considering, then, that certain groups of the population or maybe even underrepresented segments of the population have identifiable uses for certain types of social media, a piece by Brown aptly suggests the “civic value” for journalists to pay attention to this habits and behaviors. Essentially, targeting these previously or typically underrepresented groups in the new media realms where they interact most and knowing those ways of interaction can help bring about a sooner demolition that state of being underrepresented–in both coverage and reach.

Finally, as Hargittai and Hsieh pointed out, understanding not only the frequency and nature of social media use but also the diversity of it is imperative. As previously stated, I really appreciated this article because of its innovation and insight. While basic, it provides new semantics for uses and gratifications theory where social media are concerned.  Whether on the “dabbler” end of the spectrum of use, where mainly one social networking site (SNS) is used and only randomly, or on the “omnivore” end where at many SNS’s are used and at least one to an extensive level, this article adds depth to prior considerations of age, race and cultural considerations that have been pushed to the forefront once again in the context of social media use.  This depth reflects that sex even sex (with women being more intense users of social media than men) and even technical skill can play a role.

Indeed, this was a fascinating week to read for J7330. 😉

Weekly Reading Insights-Week 11

DATA. Damn.

That word’s meaning has truly evolved for me, in particular, from the first time I can remember hearing it in an educational setting. Way back in 1984, I learned a bit about ‘data’ while in Mrs. Ruth Caudell’s “Data Processing” class at Gilmer High School. Personal computers were new then, and my peers and I were stoked about taking a computer class (which then used DOS as operating system..lol). Primarily, what “data” meant to that group of high school students was focused on what a computer could do with it. Thus, it was more about the new technology than the value of the data themselves.

Fast-forward many years through and beyond my years in the journalism business, and we arrive in 2014. Now “data” is a significantly more operative and useful concept for the news business.  Indeed, gathering and interpreting data has always been integral to the news function. But now, there is so much more data available at a reporter’s fingertips. And the responsibility to be able to wrangle it and interpret it is much more intense.

Data-driven journalism (DDJ) is fairly new terminology for the news business, coined around 2009 to classify reporting that takes on the task of getting involved in the hordes of data now available online to extrapolate and synthesize information about trends and statistics. According to so-called “information architects” such as Mirko Lorenz and Paul Bradshaw, this new journalism task specifically requires some extent of computer capability.  Bradshaw’s take on the phenomenon of DDJ is summed up nicely in  this quote: “data must be found, which may require specialized skills like MySQL or Python, then interrogated, for which understanding of jargon and statistics is necessary, and finally visualized and mashed with the aid of open source tools.” Therefore, this new aspect of reporting has opened up new jobs in the field–and also new implications.

Amy Schmitz Weiss detailed some of these implications in this week’s reading from her blog.  Not only does DDJ require new technological skills not typically expected of reporters before, it requires new capability at insight. Further, because many citizen journalists and lay information mongers are adept at creating their own visual interpretation of data, reporters in this field of the business have to be savvy with this skill as well.  Data mining and sensor-sourced capabilities cause some concern about the waning existence of private data. And for the DDJ reporter, the main key is being able to interpret and synthesize the myriad information that is available and important to manage for contemporary news stories.  Weiss pointed out the applicability of the trend, such as with the Cicada Tracker technology and mapping capabilities.  But the overarching sensitivity here, as pointed out by Weiss, is the key capability of reporters to be able to understand and analyze statistical representations of data to make sense of them for the general public’s consumption.

Obviously, the role and existence of DDJ is eye-opening for me as an old-school journalist.  But the most enlightening part of this discovery for me was data reporter Grant Smith‘s presentation of a Google map he created for a story in the Commerical Appeal regarding an alleged serial rapist.  Smith showed the class how he laid out a map of the alleged perpetrator’s reported crimes, and it became obvious how using data to simply create a map can shed light on a story such as this like never before. For me, the mere visual representation of the alleged crimes on a map shed light on the accused rapist’s activity and inclinations.

Indeed, journalism not only acts differently than it once did, it looks different.  Our assignment to create a Google map of our own for this week’s assignment was both fun and educational for my first attempt in doing so.  It’s abundantly obvious to me now how data reporting and mapping has became a crucial part of journalism’s present, and how it can only grow as a field to become an integral part of journalism’s future.

Weekly Reading Insights–Week 9

In this week’s reading, we approach the newly evolving concept of journalism as it has become more like a conversation as opposed to a lecture.

For the life of the journalism business, news has merely been reported to the audience, which thereby simply consumed it. Pervasively, the audience has had little to no prerogative to either respond to or engage with the news.  Aside from limited opportunities like ‘letters to the editor’ or so-called op-ed pages in newspapers, audience participation in the news gathering process has barely existed.

The internet has clearly changed this.  In our modern digital society where technology is relatively cheap and more widely available and internet access is rapidly filtering into nearly everyone’s lives, the public has not only become a part of the discourse–it has assumed its own roles of news gathering and dissemination. This is even more common with the rapid adoption of mobile devices.  Indeed, citizens can frequently be ‘on the scene’ and capture breaking news far more easily than a bonafide news team can.  The audience now has more than a right to be informed, it has a right to be heard. This has clearly changed the democratic process of journalism.

In this consideration, it’s important to analyze best practices for how this new dynamic works.  In her research, Doreen Marchionni set forth an explication of operational definitions to illuminate this veritable new way that news happens in our society.  Describing the difference between traditional journalism (where professionals dispense the news) as opposed to collaborative journalism (wherein the audience and news professionals exist and perform in conjunction), Marchionni does more than spell out definitions. In effect, she describes how this new collaborative reality is requiring changes in news professionals and the way they do their work.  Journalists now have to demonstrate less an air of authority, and more an air of humanity.  Because the audience functions no longer as subjects in the news kingdom, journalists now have to be friendlier and more relatable.  Informality–to an appropriate degree so as not to undermined credibility–is now the order of the day.  And interactivity is paramount.  In essence, the new social dynamic of the news requires journalists to be people too.

That’s a bit of a struggle for a business that has self-designated as a watchdog and a gatekeeper.  But according to Marchionni, it’s only necessary.  If our purpose as journalists is to inform the public, in modern culture that is best accomplished by allowing ourselves to engage with the audience in the manners the audience is comfortable with.  And simply, to a large extent, the audience no longer needs or wants to view news professionals as authorities.

Take, for example, the phenomenon of public commenting on news websites. In this one specific reality, academic research has been prompted to call the interaction a new public sphere.  And some scholars like Arthur Santana have even been prompted to characterize this scenario as a breakdown of this new public sphere where incivility in readers’ comments is common and pervasive.  (Santana’s work in this arena is scheduled to be published in the upcoming winter 2015 issue of Newspaper Research Journal).  Indeed, the reach and scope of this type of collaborative journalism and new public order is requiring new thought processes for academics and practitioners alike. This and other realities like it wherein in a participant public plays a heavy role in the journalism process prompts the industry to redefine its procedures.

The readings this week offer many insightful suggestions as to how to address this, but none perhaps as compellingly as in Why comments suck (& ideas on un-sucking them. This piece just makes sense.  Public comments (and the aforementioned new public sphere) is here to stay.  The news industry cannot redefine this course or stick its head in the sand and wish it away.  To embrace it is the best solution.  Practical ways of doing that, as suggested in this article, require a new streamlining of news operations. And change is difficult.  But with simple advice like learning how to reapportioning staff investment to monitor commenting, news organizations can wrangle the madness.  Ideally, as this article suggests and, in a sense, alluding back to what Marchionni discussed about media types becoming more human, journalists make the best investment when they acknowledge their constituents and communicate them humanely.  My favorite quote from this article reads, “When I’m speaking in public, I stand behind a lectern and I use a particular set of skills. The more I hone those skills, the better I get at public speaking. But if I’m talking with people at a cookout and I use those same skills in that setting, I’m just an asshole.”  This is a brilliant characterization about how journalists must reconsider their disposition amidst a growing trend of collaboration.

This collaborative reality is actually furthered on social media platforms like Twitter. This medium has basically evolved into being tailored perfectly for digital news dissemination, and the very nature of its design allows for commenting.  Facebook, too, is designed for this functionality.

But this new dynamic doesn’t have to be a nuisance.  As momentums like crowd sourcing and the perennial need for community engagement will always exist for news outlets, the new conversational nature of journalism actually makes endeavors along these lines easier, as pointed out in the report from Mayer and Stern. The reality is already so firmly rooted in the profession that analytics and metrics are being published to demonstrate the effectiveness of embracing the reality.

In sum, the internet and online social communication has redefined journalism at its core–to what full extent, no one can even foresee. But with an understanding of this new collaborative nature, modern professionals must continue to iterate their practices and their habits to adapt. Unilateral dissemination of the news is of the past;  finding the best ways to accommodate will be the key to the survival and credibility of news outlets.

 

 

My Social Media Goals–and Shortcomings

Assigment: Create a list of specific goals you have for your social media presence, tailored to your needs and what you have learned so far about what works and doesn’t work with your topic area. Decide what metrics you will be collecting about your blog/social media presence that will measure progress toward those views, using the readings for guidance. Make a specific list or spreadsheet.

And here’s the one part of this course I’ve been dreading.  Something about this metrics business scares me a little. Maybe it’s because it’s foreign, or maybe because I still have recurring nightmares about my attempt to compose my first-ever and only-ever public relations dashboard last semester whilst flying almost totally blind about all the concepts and procedures involved.  But I did successfully create that dashboard, with numbers I either sought or devised myself and through learning to manipulate Powerpoint for the second time I’ve ever even used it. I’ve been a brave man for the grad school endeavor. Very brave, indeed. 😉 Nonetheless and for whatever reason, I still feel ill-equipped to really wrangle any sort of metrics with any kind of accurate sensibility.

Actually, I should re-phrase.

I can interpret and synthesize metrics information as derived from any number of analytics sources.  I’m smart enough to evaluate results.

Where I feel a bit challenged is in how to achieve those results.

Take, for example, my prior blogging experience on Myspace back in the day when that was the main social media platform.  I gained my first exposure to metrics therein, as the blogging component of that platform had what amounted to a ‘counter’ for hits. I watched that closely, and found trends in those numbers that pertained to content.  For example, any time I wrote about politics, I saw major spikes in readership.  And on those nights when I might’ve had a few too many beers and might’ve tossed out a general ‘woe is me and my life sucks’ type of blog, well, the hits plummeted.  But throughout my whole blogging endeavor on Myspace, all I did was create content.  It was a personal blog (sometimes too personal). While I was edified by the 34,000+ hits I had by the time Myspace gave way to Facebook, I didn’t have a desire or perhaps even the capability to consider how I could further promote it or amplify my statistics.  Many people encouraged me to do so, and to even consider bigger writing projects like a book.  Some of my readers even did some research on how to publish my blog into a book.  I truly had some devoted and appreciative fans.

But I was not a fan enough of my own blog (or of myself, even) at that point to even try to understand how much more significant it could’ve been.  That’s too bad.

But now, armed with new educational spirit and insight and with a multitude of tools at my fingers to do precisely what I once couldn’t be bothered with where metrics are concerned, I find myself in a newly challenging situation.  Now I’m up to speed on willingness and know-how on the metrics end, even when sometimes it can seem like the blogger in me is apparently asleep. But I fear that I have made a mistake where my topic is concerned.

I have speculated and articulated concerns about this previously, considering that my tendency for the bulk of my life has been not to make my sexuality an issue. Unfortunately, that has become an issue.  I’ve found it too overbearing to heartily promote or even composing content for my topic blog for fear of the personal ramifications in doing so.  It’s a subject I’m passionate about. And I perceive the value in what might be accomplished by developing this blog on the topic of gay male stereotyping on television.  But to make it a noticeable endeavor has just been a personal hurdle I haven’t been able to surmount.

I have been able to make some strides.  Fortunately, I had a very limited audience on Twitter when this semester and all of our challenges started. I have been able to control that audience, and even keep that audience limited. Therefore, I’ve been freer about what gay-oriented content and activity I have tweeted.  But even in that setting, there has been fallout.  A long-time friend who was on the ground floor of my Twitter activity actually commented to me the other day, in a concerned and almost shocked observation, that my Twitter was ‘really gay.’  She spoke to me about it from a stance of “why” and “it’s really ‘in your face'” and are you sure you want to do that.” She’s been accustomed to me keeping my sexuality largely quiet.  And she didn’t hesitate to acknowledge how jarring it was to see me doing something different in the online realm in that aspect.  And that just felt really familiar and discouraging, even in an arena where I had created what I thought was a safe haven for being open.

Sigh. I guess I just needed to air all that out. It doesn’t change the fact that I have assignments and expectations for this course that pertain to that blog where goals and accomplishing numbers are concerned.  And I am working to meet the assignments. I will do my best to work through what is expected.  But I can honestly say that the results will probably be minor because I should’ve probably chosen a different topic for these kinds of exercises–one that I could more enthusiastically and boldly promote.

As to that promotion and in the reality of this precarious situation, I can say that I DID have some goals for this blog. Indeed I still do.  And in fact, the whole idea of peeling my face and name off of it and assuming a pseudonym might actually still be the best route. But because I haven’t done that at this point, it’s all a bit late for the purposes of this class.

For all these obvious reasons and because, for some reason, I have achieved a bit of a following on my class blog, I’ll primarily turn my attentions to its existence and the related metrics for the duration. Indeed, #Bones is becoming a bit of a celebrity on there and on Facebook as a result of the #photoaday challenge. A piece I posted a while back for the entrepreneurial journalism course was actually re-blogged by a tech blogger.  And I have constantly seen a decent amount of traffic to that blog.  So it makes sense to consider it for these exercises–to some extent as a means of personal branding–as opposed to what I intended to do with the “beat blog.”

So. Concerning thevoiceofbarry.wordpress.com. What would I ideally like to see happen with my blogging and/or my social media presence in general?  I can easily say that to increase page views and comments on any of my outlets is a number one priority.  I’ve previously discussed how I view Facebook as a sort of ‘stage’ and all the folks on my friends list are my virtual audience.  I feel similarly with our class blog and with my accounts on Instagram and Twitter.  In this perception and as I post content and pictures, etc., in the form of “performance,” pageviews and comments are like the applause. And as Lady Gaga sings, I live for the applause. 🙂

Specifically and beyond increased pageviews and engagement in the form of increased commenting, I perceive that with the momentum I have established through various forms of posting on this class bog that I might could almost re-create the reality of my former blog presence on Myspace–just for general writing posts.  I still maintain relationships with 90% of my readers from my old blog on Facebook. (Although there is gay content on this blog, it is fairly buried.  I could effectively probably even remove most of it and have no damning hard evidence about which to worry. I’m also changing the entire design of the blog so it will even take on a new identity visually.) Through cross-promotion on Facebook and a firmer branding of this blog as a place where I post the type of musings that were wildly popular in my past, I see that I could likely ramp up my visits on this blog in pretty short order. Cross promotion on Twitter is also an easy and needful opportunity here. I already have 28 followers and 408 views without even promoting this blog at all and with only random posting so far.  Now that I have redefined a direction and can more actively draw attention to content on this blog, I will definitely be paying attention to page views and comments.

As to specific metrics,  Wordpress provides some decent basic numbers as to general activity.  For the purposes of my personal, observational writing and whom has typically been a fan, I will find it compelling to learn geographical locality of visitors to determine if they’re largely people from my native southeastern area or if my writing can appeal to folks from other geographical or cultural regions.  I’ve plugged my URL into Google’s Webmaster Tools to start generating some analytics results.  Also, average viewers per day or per post will be pivotal to this personal writing blog.  Because I have seen previously that my readership spikes with certain topics like political blogging and wanes with too much personal melodrama, I will need to pay attention to what specific blog post content engages the most readers.

Lastly, as a personal challenge related to this blog, I’ve committed to myself to write a blog post per day for 30 days.  Content production is the primary key to engagement. And since the particular content is my own writing, I have to require myself to post plenty of it.  This is not an easy challenge while enrolled in graduate school, considering the amount of writing already required for classes.  And I have seen this discipline of this daily writing endeavor already to be a challenge in times past when I wasn’t in school and was merely holding down jobs waiting tables.  This will indeed be a challenge under the circumstances, but a personally worthwhile one if what I experienced with my prior personal writing blog was any indication.

And who knows, maybe my readers will start championing for  book again and the right person will engage with me to make that happen…

 

Weekly Reading Insights–Week 8

For this week’s reading, we take a look at metrics and the various tools available to measure our online activity.  Indeed, in contemporary online society and especially for digital journalists, it’s not just about writing an article to deadline anymore.  The capabilities of online tracking, measuring, and analyzing engagement have added responsibility to not only write good content, but to be capable of positioning it and promoting it correctly.  Because the tools are there, they should be used.  And knowing how to do that is crucial.

Analytics and metrics are obviously something we never needed to contend with when I worked in the television news business. Ratings operations like Nielsen have thankfully handled that task for the television industry  for years.  And the work of Nielsen was pretty much the only way metrics could be achieved for television entertainment and news.  But alas, the times have changed. That is easily evidenced just by signing on to Nielsen’s webpage.  The first headline that pops up is “Online Measurement” and this quote: “Understanding how your brand is doing online is about more than clicks and page views. It’s about the audience.”

In the readings for this week, I perceived a couple of categories when it comes to metrics: how to achieve metrics and the growing science of metrics.

In the “how to” category, I can already acknowledge that I have bookmarked Leo Widrich’s article titled “A Scientific Guide to Writing Great Headlines on Twitter, Facebook, and Your Blog.” This article is gold and a significant and practical resource for anyone who needs to ramp up their online headline writing.  These pointers are especially useful for me in particular. With the bulk of my professional news experience rooted in television news, writing headlines was something I never had much responsibility for or experience with.  Headlines per se don’t really exist in television news (although skill in writing them is relevant to good lead sentence writing).  But now, headline writing–and really GOOD headline writing–is a requirement for anyone who endeavors online, whether that endeavor is as a digital journalist or a blogger or even just a Twitter user.  Indeed, these pointers are good for all of us.

Specifically and most notably, this article specifies the importance of using action words in online headline writing, as well as being bold to ask for downloads and retweets. And very akin to the best practices for writing a television news story headline, Widrich wisely recommends using “you” when writing headlines in an attempt to make stories seem more personally relatable.

Widrich also highlights the importance of using photos–but not just any photos. He points out that images significantly increase online engagement, but even mores when they are images that can convey meaning without requiring text. Self-explanatory photography is an art, and an incumbent photography skill for online engagement.  Widrich speaks to brevity, as well. We all know the 140-character limit imposed by Twitter and how a requirement on brevity as such can be a challenge. But Widrich suggests to impose that same brevity in headline writing on Facebook and elsewhere. He specifically suggests to keep it under 80 characters.  Indeed, shorter is more engaging online.

I liked the advice in this article that suggested using Twitter for A/B testing, especially with blog headlines.  Using Twitter statistics to establish validity before placing a headline on a blog or elsewhere is inspired and something I would’ve never even thought of doing with my own online platforms. Yeah, gold. The healthy list of resources in Gerry Moran’s piece is invaluable as well.  I also bookmarked this one. Tools, tools, tools. Especially free ones.  This is a good thing.

As to what is apparently a growing science about metrics, the article by data scientist Brian Abelson was an eye-opener. I’m aware and familiar with metrics, having previously built my own public relations dashboard for another class at the University.  And because we talk about it in our graduate student circles even pertaining to our own personal social media, I have a command on the necessity and importance. But to read to what extent academic and scientific research is foraging into the arena was really compelling. In the article, Abelson details his research into how pageviews on the New York Times website can differ with the implementation of promotion of content on social media platforms.  Through a statistical and visual interpretation of his findings that were as detailed and complicated as any academic research article, Abelson establishes his findings that promotion increases said page views.

The author also details the often-overlooked aspect of resource investment into attaining metrics.  Comparable to the origination of the term “horsepower” that this concept’s evaluation of the strength of a machine does not necessarily take into account the “resources required to generate a given amount of force,” Abelson explains that likewise, news organizations can’t simply count pageviews on a website. These organizations have to account for the resource investment (i.e. cross-promotion/advertising, etc.) that is required to accomplished those pageviews.

This is all such a new realm of thought to me.  I’ve investigated my dashboard on my WordPress blogs and have enjoyed seeing those static results.  I have my own Klout score (and a pretty darn high one I’ve heard at 59).  And I’m constantly monitoring my level of engagement on Facebook–if for no other reason than to see how my ‘fans’ are enjoying my ‘show.’ 😉

To gain perspective from this article on the importance of the level of investment in attaining these metrics,  I feel like I’m even better equipped going forward with my personal online endeavors at self-branding but even more so with my “beat blog” on gay male stereotyping on television. Even a little better understanding at the science of metrics and the factors that fold into it will help me decide what my best strategies are as I proceed to attempt to leverage my blog and its content for the highest levels of engagement.

Overall, the readings this week did indeed provide more information than just the importance of measuring online endeavor.  As summed up in the piece by Moran, reach is about more than counting.  It’s about who you can reach and to what extent you can engage.  Moran’s simple pointers as to considerations of what time is best to post online content, attempting to reach beyond just your followers, finding the right followers, finding influencers, and branding correctly all point to the new role of responsibility that journalists face in the online realm that goes far beyond mere content and deadline.

 

Reflections on Photo and Video Projects

Because my struggle with both the photo and video projects was directly related, as are the perceived benefits of utilizing both media in a social-media-driven world, I decided to sum up my reflections about both projects together.

First of all, my challenge for these challenges was rooted in my equipment. I had an old phone. It worked, but not like I wanted it to. My increasing awareness of how much less quality was demonstrated in my photoaday shots of Bones submitted to the class photo blog as compared to some of my classmates’ was already indication enough that I needed an upgrade. Then the added responsibility of trying to shoot even decent video footage with that old phone made a phone upgrade a requirement. But allow me to now say that this phone upgrade was long overdue for more reasons than these assignments. (I feel like a new man armed with this new device. It has already made my life easier in so many ways.!)

PHOTO:

As I previously discussed in the Photoaday Challenge blog and pertaining to the photo assignment, the mere shortcomings of my phone weren’t the only hangup. There is only so much one can do creatively with a phone camera. But in this aspect, I am pretty proud of myself. I feel like I overcame the limited functionality of this basic type of camera and produced some creatively composed shots.

But I must say that trying to come up with ideas for photos that were pertaining to a blog about gay male stereotypes on television was no small hurdle.  I struggled with WHAT to even shoot for days.  I could think of gay-related image ideas, but how to tie them to television was tough.

 

In an attempt to find people or objects that might even be affiliated with homosexuality in general, I spent some time at the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center (MGLCC).  I snagged a decent photo or two during the two days I spent there, but more than that and as a sidebar, I gained some new friends and new affiliations within the Memphis gay community that I think will help me feel more at home here. (I even joined a softball league. lol)  But I still needed more photos for the assignment–and I was drawing blanks.

Because my photography attempt at the MGLCC didn’t really pan out where content for photos was concerned, I knew I needed to seek some further insight. Fortunately, I had made friends with University of Memphis staff photographer Rhonda Cosentino during my first visit to Memphis last summer. I turned to her for input, and her help was invaluable. She gets full credit for the concept of the two faceless men holding hands. (Thanks to Calvin Carter and Bret Weaver for posing for that shot!)  She also had some other great ideas that I would’ve needed some models for, but I just didn’t have the resources or the opportunities (or the willing participants) to pull those off. But I can say that her insight inspired me to come up with some other ideas of my own–namely, the image of the television remote control swaddled in a rainbow flag. That concept and the resultant image make me proud of my work.

I’m also proud of the personal headshot of myself wearing earrings. This was  gutsy move on my part, considering how I am perennially concerned about whom in the faceless internet audience might be seeing/reading imagery that I post.  But I felt the image and the message were poignant enough with this particular shot to make the risk worth it. I composed a total of 16 photos and successfully posted them to my own new Flickr page, highlighting my three favorites on my blog.

All in all, I feel like I overcame both content and equipment challenges to pull off the Photo Assignment and depicted some creative imagery that reflects the topic of my blog, who I am as a gay man, and awareness of human equality in general.

 VIDEO:

Composing a video relevant to my beat blog topic of gay male stereotypes on television was altogether a far more difficult endeavor.

My initial intent at how to compose this video was to draw on my professional experience as a television news reporter. It made sense to compose what would basically amount to a television news package, including interviews with members of the community including their opinions about the media’s treatment of gay men on television. With this in mind, I invested the two days at MGLCC, interviewing employees and volunteers for their opinions. I shot a good bit of B-roll footage at the center as well, trying to capture any images that may seem relevant to the topic.

That all might have been a good idea, except that literally almost none of the footage turned out at even decent quality on my old phone. Indeed, one of the most important segments of footage I shot turned out with NO audio AT ALL. (And I’m not altogether certain whether that was equipment or operator culpability.) Either way, when all was said and done after the two days’ excursion, I had no where near enough appropriate footage to compose a news package–and a volunteer who had grown weary of my presence and my needs.  And it’s probably just as well that I had to scrap the tv news package idea anyways. I had no idea where or how I was going to edit the package using 3-audio tracks.

So after some more hours of stress, I devised a simpler plan that would involve less complicated editing but with which I could still fall back on my old television news skills. Armed with my new phone, I decided to create a faux newscast ‘breaking the news’ of non-traditional gay male types appearing on television.

That seemed like a tremendous idea that might seem creatively related to my beat blog–until I had to actually make myself do it. I can’t lie. I had as much fear about whether any of my old anchor skills were still intact as I did about what I would do with any decent footage I shot in the process. It’s been 15 years since I sat on an anchor desk, after all. I wasn’t sure I still had it in me.

As it turned out, I not only discovered I could still ‘anchor’ a ‘newscast,’ but that I am actually better at it than I used to be. Perhaps it was from many years of live emceeing a nightly music show at the Chattanooga Choo Choo Station House, or perhaps it was out of general sense of having matured. Whatever the reason, not only did I find it easy to create the faux newscast, I had a blast doing it. All by myself, in the privacy of my home, I let myself be free on the field and to just explore my own capabilities. I’m pretty impressed with what I produced.  Never mind the two crazy characters I portrayed as a part of the newscast gave the actor inside a little opportunity to flourish as well.  After a number of costume changes and a little bit of memorization to be prepared to recite the script, I was able to shoot footage I was happy with in the course of only a couple of hours.

Then came the next dreadful step–tackling iMovie software for the first time ever.  But just as I fared with facing my fear of ‘anchoring’ again, I discovered that iMovie was far more user-friendly and easily navigable than I could’ve hoped.  After a few Google tutorials and some pure determination, I managed to produce the 3-minute ‘newscast’ of Gay News Now in less than five hours. Wow. I couldn’t believe it. And in spite of my concerns about some of the content, I couldn’t have been more proud of what I created.

For the final stages of the assignment, including uploading the video to YouTube and posting the video to my blog, I found no difficulty. I had never really attempted to upload or embed videos this way, so naturally I was concerned. But the endeavor came off without a hitch. (And my apologies once again for needing the video to be posted to Facebook by someone other than myself. Understanding is much obliged.)

As to insight I gained about using photographic and video tools within the social media realm, I gained plenty. Clearly, to produce quality is paramount. And the attempt to do so can be laden with challenges. This felt not unlike my experience when I worked as a television news reporter, as equipment and operator malfunction was common.  The incumbent responsibility, however, is to rise above any obstacles and strive to deliver quality product in a timely manner. I believe I managed to do just that and learned substantially about how to handle instances like the ones I dealt with in the future.

Further and more profoundly, it’s only the more obvious how utilizing photos and videos can amplify an online message and prompt further engagement in a noisy online world.  Internet consumers have myriad options online. Content producers must be cognizant, and create as much specialized programming and content in as many media forms and channels as possible in any attempt to prompt engagement in the online community.