Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Future Journalists: No Web Skills, No Job

ABM Digital Velocity Panel to
Future Journalists: No Web Skills, No Job
Monday, April 02, 2007
By Marrecca Fiore

Consultant and publishing industry blogger, Paul Conley spends one month a year working with students embarking, or at least trying to embark, on their own journalism careers.

Conley, speaking last week at American Business Media’s Digital Velocity conference, said his third job has made him come to realize that many future journalists are still Web-challenged. These future employees are walking around with hard copies of their clips (as opposed to having them in an electronic format) and believe that they are going carve out successful print-only careers.

But even more disturbing, said Conley, is the willingness of employers to take those hard-copy clips. “We need to stop looking for people who were like us when we were first looking for jobs,” said Conley, speaking during a panel titled “Empowering Your Workforce for the New Digital Landscape. “We need to look for a very different type of entry-level person. Someone who understand the software culture in which we’re working.”

Conley said employers should be looking to hire people who are willing and eager to learn new skills, as well as people who already have strong computer-related backgrounds with image-scanning, video, blogging, podcasting and even Web-related entrepreneurial skills.

Conley said he was very impressed with a college student he met that had started a blog to let other students know about campus news and events. What impressed Conley was not the blog, but the fact that the student knew enough to sign the blog up for Google AdSense and was earning $40 a year from the program. "It's not the $40," Conley said. "It's the fact that he's ambitious and entrepreneurial and learned to do this on his own."

Jason Brightman, Web director of Harris Publications, publisher of 70 titles including hip hop magazine XXL, said publishers must first be willing to undergo a cultural shift before transforming old media companies into new media companies. “When we transitioned our 70 titles from magazines to the Web, we had to get our employees to realize that we were still a publishing company," he said. "It’s just that we were thinking about publishing in a different way.”

Still, Harris initially had two problems, said Brightman. One, it needed to find new talent with Web expertise. And two, it needed to train its existing employees to publish on the Web. “We all know that online publishing is different than publishing in print,” he said. “It does require different writing skills. For XXL, there were already a lot of established hip hop blogs out there so we invited them to blog on our site. We got their content and their built-in audience. And they got to associate their blogs with our brand. And we were big enough that, at first, (the bloggers) would do it for free.”

For its existing employees, Harris appealed to their egos by telling them that Web journalism would expand their reach and expand the number of times their bylines would appear on search engines like Google. “We also needed to get them to look at it not as though we were replacing their jobs and the magazines, but that we were expanding our products to improve the brand,” he added.


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