How to get ahead in online journalism

“Competition used to be every other newspaper, now competition is every other website”, says journalism and technology guru Adam Westbrook.

How is it possible to keep your readers when another website is only a click away? Especially when 30% of people who watch a video on YouTube don’t make it past the first 10 seconds before their attention turns elsewhere.

It may sound like a gloomy end for anyone aspiring to become successful in online journalism, but if you have focus then you’ll stand a stronger chance than the rest.  According to Adam Westbrook, the key is to be ”remarkable”; which is easier said than done.  So forget about the standard rules of print, they’ll just hold you back from inventing something new, something innovative and something ‘remarkable’.

Focus on the quality of your audience rather than the quantity; a true fan base won’t sell you out as soon as a new ‘Gangham Style’ video breaks on YouTube.  Aim for boutique chic rather than being just another can of beans in the journalism supermarket.  If you create a ‘niche’ you’ll gain an audience with specific interest and love for your work and when people love something they’ll read it again and again.

The Magazine, Long Reads, Ted Books and Atavist evident the success this Westbrook’s approach to online journalism can create.

The future is the internet.  They’ll always be print journalism as long as a coffee table exists, but newspapers are becoming a dying breed. is-print-dead

These days everyone has a Smartphone with access to the World Wide Web in the palm of their hands, so why will the next generation bother with a broadsheet that’s 22 inches long?

Whether it is a blog, website or even an insightful tweet, get noticed by creating something outstanding. Be the leader.



Data journalism for dummies

As data journalism rapidly develops with the expansion of news online, you need to keep up with the latest tips and tricks to set you apart.

Claire Miller, data journalist for Wales Online says: “The key to getting to grips with data journalism is remembering it is just like all other types of journalism.”

Date Journalism word map

Date Journalism Word Map

In a nutshell the aim is to find a story underneath all those facts and figures, think about what information you are trying to find and what you need to do to get it. Topicality of the story is always key with any form of journalism, what makes it news and why will your reader be interested?  According to Claire Miller, within all the data it’s the biggest, the highest, the most, the smallest, the fewest, fastest growing, location, successes, or failures that makes a story people will want to read.

You can source the data from a variety of places, most of which are free. ONS, Parliament, Sources, FOI/transparency releases and Scraping are some examples.  Claire Miller gives some golden rules once you’ve found your source.

  • Who put the figures together and how did they do it?
  • Watch out for small numbers and rare events
  •  Consider how reliable your data is…and how accurate
  •  What are the long-term trends?
  •  Don’t cherry-pick your data
  •  Be careful of what the numbers mean – What information is actually being collected?

There are plenty of tools around to help however, such as Excel or Open Office Calc and PDF. You may also need: A Google account, something to visualise data with – Google Charts, Google Fusion Tables, Tableau,, Openheatmap and Google Refine.

Once all your information has been refined, you need to visualise it in a simple, efficient way. Conrad Quilty-Harper, Data-Mapping reporter for The Telegraph, suggests graphs, tables, interactive maps and documents.

Journalism vs. Social media

It’s no secret that print journalism has had its time; the World Wide Web has transformed the way we read the news but it’s transformed the way we receive it too.

With the advances of smart phones, journalism has become a one man band.  The writers, the photographers, the camera men, the publishers are basically all compact into a hand size device.  But does that mean that anyone can be a journalist?

The answer is yes.  As long as you have a twitter account you can break a story. Some of the biggest stories of the year were first aired on the social media site including the deaths of Osama Bin Laden and Whitney Houston.


So where does that leave the qualified journalists? Well what twitter lacks is validity, not every tweet is true. However Twitter has 175 million registered users, so once word gets out, it spreads and spreads fast.  If enough people are talking about a story its accuracy becomes irrelevant in the hands of gossip.  Take the Justin Bieber case for example; the moment fans caught rumours of the pop star supposedly being diagnosed with cancer they were shaving off their hair in support.


With people believing everything they read, how can you help them separate the fiction from the fact? In the majority of circumstances it can be argued that response to breaking news doesn’t explode until a valid source confirms it.  Journalists are still needed for the transition from rumour to fact.

Almost every news organisation now has a twitter account.  Since people spend more time scrolling their twitter feed then they do the news websites, it’s still most likely that they’ll discover a story social networking, whether it be from a valid source or not.