Category Archives: Journalism

Posts about online-journalism and the future of what we’re doing

Commute Travel times in South Carolina

Another day, another stab at a data visualization. Today we are looking at commute times by zip code for South Carolina.

The average commute time for South Carolina is 26 minutes. The highest reported travel time came from Alcolu, SC at 67.8 minutes with a margin of error of +/- 6.7. The lowest travel time is in Bluffton, SC with 3.6 minutes with a margin of error of +/- 1.1.

You can view the map below or view the fullscreen version here.

*Note: There are 539 zip codes in South Carolina but only 400 in this report.

I’ve been on the job hunt for a new PPC/SEM position recently. After filling out dozens of applications I decided to see if I could visualize the locations of the jobs I’ve been applying for.

I signed up for an indeed API account and used the IMPORTXML function in Google Spreadsheets to come up with the following visualizations.

The first visualization shows job listing density by state. I first created a pivot table and did a count unique of Job Titles, but I realized there were a lot of overlapping titles. I then realized that the XML from the API returns a unique job key for each listing so I used that instead.PPC jobs by State

Of 300 jobs posted between May and August of this year; 76 jobs were listed in California, 35 in New York, 22 in Illinois and 20 in Texas.

Top cities included by number of lisitings: New York City – 25, Chicago – 11 and San Diego – 10.

The XML from the API also returns a longitude and latitude for each post so I visualized each job key across cities. It’s interesting to see that there are some states in the US with no job listings for PPC or SEM roles. I wonder why?

PPC jobs by location

On July 31, 2013, I admitted that I have failed as a small business owner. Let me tell you the story of how I got here and where I went wrong.

Working with newspapers

In 2004 I saw the light. I knew that the internet was the future of journalism. Nine years later, I’m wondering how far we have advanced with that mission.

I know now that it’s not just journalism that needs saving, it’s so much more. Advertisers and publishers are both grappling with how to drive sales online. Bad ads lead to bad websites with no conversions or KPI’s to track.

In 2008, I joined the online department at The State Newspaper (now The State Media Company). Things were great. I helped create and implement their first social media strategy on Facebook and Twitter. Something I was very proud of at the time.

In January 2010, I received unexpected news. I was being let go in the third round of layoffs at the paper. I was crushed.

Life after newspapers

On Feb. 5th, 2010, I had a job interview with The Washington Post to be one of the comment moderators for their website. I was to live in D.C. on 35k per year. I passed on the opportunity and went to New York City. I lived there for a month and a half.

In June, 2010 I joined a The South Carolina Policy Council. I was their social media manager. During that time, I joined a group called Operation Geek Farm (now Spark Freedom). As the social media manager I handled Facebook, Twitter, Google analytics and the website for the policy council and their news website – The Nerve. I learned a lot. I also learned a lot about the free market and the idea of running your own business. I knew that it was better to create a job than to find another job.

Life in the free market

On December 21, 2011, I started Creative Spark Columbia. I had one desire, help small businesses with their online presence. I wanted to run their social media accounts, host and maintain their websites and run reports in Google Analytics for them.

I landed my first client quickly. Before Christmas I was already working on building them a website. I would go on to host and build websites from various price ranges of $500 to $3,000.

Most of my clients are great. It’s my fault though. I was thinking short term and not long term. If I could go back and re do things I would.

Since I had structured my business to “help” small businesses, mainly financially, I was really hurting myself. I didn’t account for the monthly work it would take to maintain websites and I ended up undercutting myself. When you undercut yourself, you hurt your bottom line. Now I was stuck doing a lot of work for free when I should be charging for it.

Why I’m okay with failure

To me, failure is an option. It’s a chance to learn from mistakes, regroup and move on. I know how to do things better now. I know what it takes for a small business to survive.

My advice to people who want to start their own business

  • Know your bottom line. You need to be able to live as well
  • Know your worth. Don’t let a client lowball you. If they do, walk away
  • Learn as much as possible before you start your business
  • Learn as much as possible along the way and add that to your mix of tools
  • Plan for the long term, not the short term. Things will happen when you need an immediate fix. It’s not worth the pain and suffering.

Moving forward and looking to the future

Yes, some version of Creative Spark will continue to exist. I am changing how I operate, what I offer and more importantly, who I offer those services to. This time around I will be much more selective with the clients that I work with. My pricing structure will be different. I was knocked down, but now I am getting back up.

Wake up in the morning and go straight to work. No shower, brushing your hair or teeth, no makeup needed. Get to work, go to brunch early. Moet Mimosas while riding on a helicopter around New York City. Get off work at 2 and go mountain biking with your friends in Peru. Go to the club in L.A. until 5 A.M. Get up and do it all over again the next day.

Badass and Beautiful, or as I call it: B&B. That’s how Facebook wants you to feel when you use their new phone ‘experience’ Facebook Home. Just look at the photos.

Seriously Facebook? Are our lives that exciting? Are all of my friends photojournalist who take amazing photos all day long? I’ll reserve my opinions about Facebook being the one stop shop for everything on my Android phone (Hello, Google??). It will be interesting to see how Google jumps to integrate Google+ into the core of their OS the way Facebook has. And Apple users, looks like you’re SOL right now.

Instead, I’m going to leave you with a random sampling of images in my newsfeed from the past 24 hours. Just ask yourself, do you want to see this on your phone all day long?

If you think they won’t add fan pages and advertisements to your new home screen in the future, dream on.

  1. No one tool with save journalism. Four years ago it was video. Two years ago it was social media. Now it’s data projects, etc.
  2. Upper management can’t focus on pageviews, they have to make data driven decisions. This is something I preach the gospel on every chance I get. Focus instead on conversion rates and per goal value.
  3. Organizations have to focus on content consumption and not just content. This goes along way with paywalls.
  4. Advertising must get better. Newspaper advertising is siloed and a doomed to fail unless they adapt Google’s DoubleClick for Publishers and piggyback on them. Google has them beat hands down and there’s not much they can do about it. No chain of newspapers will ever have the reach that Google has. Also, newspaper ads online are crap. Fix them.
  5. Prominence must be given to great visual storytelling. Dedicated tablet apps need to be created to reinvent the visual story.
  6. Being an outsider I feel comfortable saying that newspapers don’t have the reach they think they do. If I don’t see it in an RSS feed or somewhere on social media it’s lost. I think a lot of other people feel the same way.
  7. Newspapers have to stop hiding behind false and inflated metrics. A VP of online advertising gave a speech saying that email sign ups had increased 300% since he took over the positon.  What he didn’t mention is that in order to leave a comment, you had to sign up to receive emails. There was never any mention about open rates, click through rates, etc. See number 2 on that one.

The number one question I get asked a lot about my site “Why aren’t you blogging any more?” The truth? I don’t have time for it! Okay, so that’s only part of it, but I also don’t want to blog for the sake of blogging. I’d like to wait until I have something really good to say.

Chris Brogan, someone whose site I haven’t read in forever has some really great advice for any blogger. His two best pieces of advice, focus on what you’re passionate about and keep it short and sweet. Less than five hundred words if possible. If you’re using wordpress, there’s even a word count feature at the bottom of the compose screen to tell you where you’re at.

So about this who passion thing… I went to speak at the South Carolina chapter of PRSA and spent a good hour afterwards talking to the fine folks at the South Carolina Press Association. We talked about every aspect of the future of newspapers; what they’re doing right, where they’re failing, what could be done to save it and how you change the old guard mentality.

I’ve got to say, it was great to have that conversation. I haven’t talked about the future of newspapers in a long time and while some of us disagreed about what’s wrong and how to fix it, we all realize that something needs to be done. On the ride home, I couldn’t help but think that I could spend the rest of my life trying to educate people during these fast changing times.

One other thing we discussed was how an ideal online only/online first, print secondary model would look if it weren’t tied to an institutional legacy. By that I mean, if we started from scratch with the best and brightest minds in all aspects of news and online advertising with a completely virtual office, what would that look like? Would it be successful? I dunno, just something to think about.

So, my pledge to you dear readers and mom is to get back in the habit of posting more. Hold me accountable won’t you?

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported.

If you’re in the social media world, you can’t ignore its newest darling, Pinterest.

If you’re a newspaper or a photojournalist, you can use this quick tip to see who’s been pinning your work.

For this example, we’ll use The State. Point your browser to and you can quickly see who’s been pinning your photos.

You can change the source to any site and it will still work. This is also a great tip for businesses who want to keep tabs on what people are saying about them on pinterest.

Enjoy and have fun pinning!

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported.

A hundred years ago, if you wanted to know what time it was, you had to make a significant investment–in a watch.

Twenty years ago, Timex made it clear that if you merely wanted the time (not jewelry) it would be about $15.

And five years ago, every kid with a cell phone got the time as a free bonus.

And yet there are still watchmakers. Still Rolex and Patek and the rest. Some of them are having great years.

Clearly, they don’t sell the time. They sell jewelry. Exclusivity. A souvenir.

This passage got me thinking again about how newspapers have failed to understand how people consume news. For ages newspapers were in the business of selling access to information through an ad supported platform. Your choices were simple: Television, radio, newspaper or magazine. Things were simple then and they worked well. Newspapers and magazines have always been a ‘perceived media’ whereas radio and television were ‘received media.’

When the internet became mainstream, it changed everything and the playing field was leveled. Passive consumers of media quickly became active publishers sharing blogs, photos and videos. They are now a part of the conversation and newspapers didn’t take notice of this.

In the day and age of everyone being a publisher or aggregator, what are newspapers selling? What’s their exclusivity?

The news organization of tomorrow won’t sell access to information as an exclusivity. News organizations of tomorrow won’t have to sell souvenir front page editions or highlight videos of your child playing football. No, the news organization of tomorrow will have to understand the balance between what news readers consume and how they consume it.

The news organizations of tomorrow will understand that it will take a massive about of data-mining that mixes consumption rates with location, devices and social reach that we haven’t thought of yet.

We live in an age when people buy water when they can get it from the tap for free; a time when growing a garden is cheaper than buying produce and eating out is more expensive than a home cooked meal. If this is the case, why are newspapers failing?