Ben Cohen

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Designing A New Type Of News Site

The first thing I noticed on AnnArbor.com is, well, the first thing I was supposed to notice. The bare home page doesn’t even try to do the traditional newspaper editor’s job of defining which stories are the most important or pressing. It’s simply a time-sequenced river of news. Think of it as Times Wire, except without the choice to click back to The New York Times’ spiffy home page. This is the home page.

It might not be what readers expected when Tony Dearing, AnnArbor.com’s chief content officer, promised a site “different from anything you’ve ever seen,” but maybe it should have been. “Somehow, that has the connotation of this fantastic, super-futuristic, dancing-women, fireworks-going-off site,” Dearing told me. “And really, I meant it in the opposite way. It’s going to be very different, but in a simple, understated way that news sites traditionally have not gone.”

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Filed under: Nieman Lab

How A Newspaper Webcast Became More Like A Blog

When Ledger Live, The Star-Ledger’s webcast, debuted last July to critical raves, it was about as conventional as a daily video podcast from the newsroom could be. Host Brian Donohue spent most of his time behind his desk, in classic anchorman style, and the rundown of stories resembled a cable news show. Interaction between Donohue and his audience was limited.

A year later, though, the show has evolved into something almost entirely different. For starters, it’s no longer daily and (no matter what the name says) no longer live. Donohue is rarely immobile now, and the format hardly resembles your grandfather’s newscast. Audience numbers are way up, and Ledger Live has even attracted one of the most obvious markers of success: a sponsor’s ad for 15 seconds before every show. The show’s evolution shows the limits of borrowing from an established model when building something new. Just as early TV had to evolve its own formats and get past just being radio-plus-pictures, newspaper online video is evolving beyond the metaphors television has handed it.

“From a newscast, it got a lot more bloggy, which I like and have more fun doing — and I think it works better,” Donohue told me. “What we wanted to do was just go back to doing a video show the way reporters talk to each other. It’s more conversational. It’s snarkier. It’s a lot more fun. What you need for video to work on the web is more of a voice. For the web in general, you need a voice.”

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Filed under: Nieman Lab

Using Comments To Build A Baseball Community

If you’re a Colorado Rockies fan, you can follow your team in any number of ways. There are the obvious national outlets, the Associated Press, the hometown Denver Post, and — before this year’s spring training at least — the Rocky Mountain News, R.I.P. Then there are the television networks and radio stations, and, perhaps most significantly, a growing gauntlet of coverage from Major League Baseball itself from MLB.com. That seems like a pretty saturated market, and we haven’t even broached the many Rockies blogs, fan sites, and message boards, or the community and regional blogs that occasionally join the fray. There’s no shortage of information about the Rockies.

And yet, some of the reporters who know the Rockies better than anyone are working for still another news organization — one they created with that exact saturation in mind. Inside The Rockies — a reported blog launched two days after the Rocky’s closing by the newspaper’s beat writers, Tracy Ringolsby and Jack Etkin, and its assistant sports editor for interactive, Steve Foster — doesn’t aim to supplant the competition. Their goal is to guide the conversation around the Rockies.

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Filed under: Nieman Lab

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