Should your media outlet get on Tumblr?

Apr 05, 2011 in On-line, Work

I’ve written before on how Tumblr is starting to gain a role in the online strategy of media outlets. In the last few months a number of big name publications have started blogs on the platform. There are a few good reasons why your media outlet should get a Tumblr blog.

1. Sharing sharing sharing

Unlike other blogging platforms (eg. WordPress, Blogger) sharing is built into the DNA of Tumblr. It takes one click to repost a great image, quote or video from one Tumblr blog to yours. This rewards blogs that have great and well-defined editing, aggregation and curation. If you find great content and post it, it’ll get shared. Find enough great content and you’ll make yourself a destination.

Example: The Daily What. The popular blog finds the best, funniest and wackiest stuff online — odd videos, funny headlines, gobsmacking stories. Getting something on the Daily What pretty much means you’re getting reposted, liked and commented on by dozens if not hundreds of people.

2. Showing off your editorial voice

A number of publications use Tumblr as a great platform for their editorial voice by finding and posting a mix of self-produced content and things from other publications. Others trawl the seemingly endless waters of the internet for great finds. For a new publication, or one without a big recognizable name Tumblr is another way for you to show potential readers what you’re all about.

Example: Worn Fashion Journal‘s Tumblr. An indie fashion magazine out of Toronto, the Wornettes find photos, illustrations and articles that inspire them. It gives the magazine a way to keep their magazine out there and I get the feeling that it helps the editors, contributors and interns sharpen their ideas. (Disclosure: I’ve contributed to Worn)

3. Visuals

Most CMSes and blogging platforms are designed with text in mind. It’s understandable considering that text is the dominant medium for many media outlets. Tumblr, on the other hand, is great for visuals. It actually seems to be designed with photos and graphics in mind.  There are tons of templates that are designed for photoblogging and it’s easy to design (or find) a template that’s visually rich and striking.

Example: The National Post Tumblr. We started the blog as a way to get the Post’s beautiful graphics, illustrations and photography on to a space where it could really take centre stage. Tumblr was the perfect fit. Want another great example? The New York Times’ T magazine Tumblr has pictures so big you probably want a 24′ monitor to really make it work.

Other notable Tumblr blogs:

The Washington Post‘s Innovations Tumblr cherry-picks the best digital journalism out there and gives us an inside glimpse at some of the great things their online team is doing.

A visually-heavy blog from a radio network? NPR’s Tumblr picks the best stories and lots and lots of images. A smart way of inserting yourself into the Tumblr community and conversation.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t include Newsweek‘s Tumblr, the granddaddy of media Tumblrs. Reading Newsweek’s Tumblr feels like a conversation with the smart and cosmopolitan writers and editors who work there.

Long-form journalism 2.0: A look at some tools

Mar 30, 2011 in Media

If you ask around the journalism industry, lovers of long-form journalism noticed something rather disturbing. There are simply fewer of the long-form profiles and features they love to read.

It’s not hard to see why. Forced by shrinking revenues, newspapers and magazines have had to cut page counts, slash expenses and staff and cut the rates and salaries for their writers.

But recently, a number of technological developments have given writers and readers of long-form journalism some hope. A look at some of them:

1. Instapaper and Read it Later

If you think about how you read online, it becomes very clear that most, if not all, of your online reading happens at your desktop or laptop computer. It’s only been in the last few years that smartphones and tablets have become mainstream devices and an important way for many people to read online content.

Enter Instapaper (and similar application Read It Later). These apps allow you to “timeshift your reading.” Articles that you find while browsing during the day (admit it, you’re checking other websites when you’re at work) can be saved on Instapaper and Read it Later to be read on your smartphone or tablet.

A service like Readability also raises interesting ways that publishers can make money from long-form content. Continue reading…

What St. Joseph Media got when it bought Torontoist

Mar 16, 2011 in Media

First of all, I want to wish the team at a congratulations on their purchase by St. Joseph Media. A lot of work has gone into that site and every contributor and editor to the site has had a small (or large) part in the success of the site. As a former editor and long-time contributor to Torontoist, and someone who still has many friends on the masthead of the site, I can’t help but feel a bit of pride to see it go to an owner that I hope will allow the site to grow even more.

This post actually goes out to the folks at St. Joseph Media. So what actually did you buy here? Just a domain name and a seven-year-old logo? Actually, you’ve bought something more than that, a lot more. Lets face it competition is growing for Toronto Life — your flagship publication and the publication that stands the most to gain from your Torontoist purchase. Just in the last few months you’ve got the Globe going upscale in printing and paper quality in an effort to chase high-end magazine advertisers, TorStar is retooling eye Weekly and lately that scrappy publication has been trying to muscle in on your turf. Even BlogTO is nibbling at the edges with their restaurant and store round-ups. So how does buying Torontoist help you? Continue reading…

Five things I learnt from Emily Bell’s speech at Samara

Mar 07, 2011 in Media

Last week Emily Bell, one of the key editors behind the Guardian’s highly successful web presence and head of Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism, spoke at Samara Canada.

A number of great write-ups of the post have been written. Mathew Ingram’s is here and there’s one from my friend Dana Lacey at J-Source. There’s also a liveblog from Samara available. I’ve pulled out five things that I got from Emily’s highly informative speech. Continue reading…

A slight change in direction

Mar 06, 2011 in Me Me Me

I’m making a few changes to my online work. Here’s the rundown:

You’re reading it. I’ve decided that this blog needs a serious change in focus. Over the last few months I’ve been focusing strictly on issues around online journalism on this blog. So if you’re looking for funny cat photos or videos you’ll have to go to…

Boy Reporter’s notebook

This is my Tumblr blog. Like many Tumblr blogs it’s completely informal and really more of a way for me to play around with the platform. This is where you’ll find those cat videos and photos of Lionel Richie.


I do a lot on Twitter and it’s where I post most of the things I find on a day-to-day basis. Expect everything from tweets about food to books to a lot of stuff on, what else, journalism.

Maps, social networks, smartphones: New trends in journalistic storytelling

Mar 02, 2011 in Media

Photo taken by Flickr user Brenderous

The Nieman Lab’s Joshua Benton wrote a great post (based on a lecture he delivered in Toronto) on eight trends that could have a big impact on journalism this year.

Benton touched on a big range of technological, economic and cultural trends that are already changing the industry but one of the things that Benton doesn’t explore much is how storytelling is changing in journalism.

Many of the tools of online journalism open up new ways to tell stories beyond the simple inverted pyramid or even the long-form feature, the proverbial meat and potatoes of day-to-day journalism.

I’ve listed some of them below. This list isn’t complete by any stretch of the imagination, but it is some of the more interesting new storytelling forms and ideas I’ve come across. Continue reading…

10,000 tweets and counting

Feb 19, 2011 in Me Me Me, On-line, Work

If you’ve been reading this blog you’ll know that twitter is a huge part of my personal and professional life. On Friday, I reached a pretty big personal milestone and sent out my 10,000 tweet. Yes, it means I tweet a lot. Some of it is inane, but I try my best to keep it entertaining, informative and relevant.

I’ve had the chance to talk to journalism students about using social media to build their practice and I can’t stress how useful twitter is. So in honour of 10,000 tweets I want to reiterate the three things I’ve learned about twitter: Continue reading…

I’m part of this year’s #CiviliansRead

Jan 31, 2011 in Books

For the last two years, my friend Jennifer Knoch has organized a shadow Canada Reads competition for her blog the Keepin’ It Real Book Club. She gets a smart cadre of her friends and has them defend that year’s crop of Canada Reads picks.

This year it’s no different, with one exception, I’ve been asked to join the panel to take over for Erin Balser, who now works at CBC Books.

You can listen to me defend Terry Fallis’ The Best Laid Plans. We even taped pre-show confessionals in Nic’s closet.

You can go to KIRBC for the rest of the episodes this week. Also, I have a really good looking book club.


In other book-related news, I’ve also had the chance to interview the author of two books I thoroughly enjoyed in 2010, Tom Rachman (the Imperfectionists) and Rebecca Skloot (the Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks). Both pieces ran in the Post in the last few weeks.

Profile: Tom Rachman

Profile: Rebecca Skloot

Tumblr becoming a part of the news ecosystem?

Jan 30, 2011 in Media, On-line

I suppose it was only a matter of time until Tumblr became a part of the news ecosystem.

A lot of users go to Tumblr for funny animated gifs or photos of hot girls but the recent events in Egypt actually saw Tumblr become a place to find great coverage, analysis and photos of the uprising in that country.

The blogging service has apparently rolled out edited tag pages, in this case #Egypt, to pull together the best content being published about that story. The Atlantic, which has an active presence on Tumblr, is one of the editors, which gives this little experiment some mainstream media cred.

It’s not as important as Twitter, or al-Jazeera’s compelling live coverage from Cairo, but it’s an interesting use of the Tumblr platform and the addition of human curation makes the feed much more usable than Twitter — do a search for #egypt and #jan25 and you’re inundated in seconds.

#MustFollow: The idea factories

Jan 21, 2011 in On-line

In the second of my #MustFollow columns I point to three amazing curators of books, sites, videos and other things that I generally find fascinating.

Maria Popova a.k.a. @Brainpicker

I save more links by Brainpicker than any other single person I follow on Twitter.

A writer, design nut and seemingly all-around interesting person, Popova manages to find wondrous stuff daily.

From her site:

Brain Pickings is about curating interestingness — picking culture’s collective brain for tidbits of stuff that inspires, revolutionizes, or simply makes us think. It’s about innovation and authenticity and all those other things that have become fluff phrases but don’t have to be.

Good Magazine @goodfeed

Based in Los Angeles, Good started as a magazine dedicated to showcasing people and organizations trying to come up with solutions to the world’s problems. The magazine has expanded online and their Twitter feed is one of the ways I keep up with their work.

Slate @slate

I’ve been a religious leader of Slate for many years and there are few online-only publications as smart and interesting. Slate has a more political and current-events bent than some of the previous feeds I’ve mentioned but there’s a great deal of levity there.

Honourable mentions: Can’t forget the smartypants at Wired and Fast Company, both of whom have excellent Twitter accounts. Also, I wouldn’t be a nerd worth my salt if I didn’t mention BoingBoing, the original “Directory of Wonderful Things”.