News Track

December 8, 2013

For a major news organization, CBS News could do a lot more to expand its online presence. Even though just about every news outlet has struggled with shrinking budgets, fewer staff and the pressures of the 24 hour news cycle, some have still gathered a following online that allows them to compete.  CBS could be more competitive online if it chose to devote resources away from the traditional broadcast platform.

Instead of repackaging material from news broadcasts, CBS could produce more content that was just for online. Although it is convenient for people who enjoy watching the news to be able to find the clips they missed online, it does not provide anything original to draw in a wider audience.

It would also be great if CBS could engage and interact with its audience more. They are active on Facebook and Twitter, but seldom uses social media to get feedback, initiate discussion or crowdsource stories. Allowing the audience to participate in the news-gathering and reporting process can increase engagement and of course page views and therefore profit.

CBS needs to take advantage of its vast video archives and showcase more unaired content on the web. It could also have users submit video and create more “man-on-the-street” style videos. Instead of having all video coming from the anchor desk in the newsroom, CBS certainly has the resources to have reporters in the field film video and create different types of pieces to supplement the traditional pieces aired on television.

I think CBS will continue to be a trustworthy source of news. Even though adapting to the Internet age has not been easy for many news outlets, they seem to have a solid foundation and have plenty of content to work with.  Social media is a two-way street and people expect to be able to interact and engage with content instead of just listening to and reading the news. Then people may be more willing to share clips and have stories go viral.

CBS is able to produce a lot of multimedia content that makes them competitive with other outlets. If CBS made multimedia content more prominent on their website instead of just showcasing previous news clips, it could do even better and build a larger audience.  Most of the multimedia is just an afterthought and is difficult to find on the site. CBS should produce more multimedia that it is proud to showcase instead of repackaging material that has already aired and is available on YouTube.

 

November 24, 2013

CBS News produces some great video content in the form of traditional news packages, but the organization could benefit from some innovation online. Although people enjoy watching news segments that they may have missed in the morning and share them with their friends, the online content is overall average and not engaging.

I’ve noticed that CBS lags behind ABC and NBC when it comes to using social media to engage their audience. CBS tends to attract an older audience, but even older adults are beginning to be active on social media. The network could do more to encourage users to submit their own content and tell their stories through video and audio.

The 50th Anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination could have been a good opportunity to allow audience interaction. The homepage on Saturday, November 23 was filled with stories about Kennedy’s assassination from the day it happened and analysis from today. I think a neat video could have been produced with viewer submissions. Nearly everyone who was alive on that day has an interesting story about where they were and what they were doing. Viewers could have submitted their stories and producers could have chosen some and edited them into a video. It would also be a good way to find sources to interview about the assassination. Even if the video didn’t air, it would make an interesting web story as people continued to add and share their own experiences.

Even if CBS is reluctant to use social media as a part of regularly scheduled news programming, it can certainly be a good source. In the face of shrinking budgets and staff, CBS regularly relies on reporting done by affiliate stations. CBS could supplement its already stretched thin reporting staff by crowdsourcing B-roll and other video footage. Natural disasters like the typhoon in the Philippines present ample opportunities for the audience to become the reporters. People like to participate and feel like they are part of the story. It is certainly in the best interest of any news organization to verify the information, but that shouldn’t discourage outlets from asking for viewers to send their own photos and video. Audiences may trust the media outlet more if they feel like their opinions and contributions are being considered in producing news packages. As citizen journalism continues to grow with the advent of smartphones and mobile devices, CBS should seek to incorporate them into its existing structure instead of competing with citizen journalists and maybe being eclipsed by them in the future.

November 10, 2013

The CBS News website uses a lot of video with supplemental text stories. However, much of the video is clips that have already aired on the morning news shows. CBS does not create videos that are specially produced for the web and relies almost solely on professionally produced studio videos on its website.

CBS also does not use web videos to break news. Stories published on the web are professionally done and contain video and text. However, it does stream some live events. When I went to the site on November 7, the White House daily press secretary briefing was occurring and being streamed from the website.

press briefing

I like that even though most stories are focused on just on clip that is displayed at the top of the screen, related videos are easily accessible on a sidebar. This story about the Twitter IPO has a featured clip discussing the launch of the IPO and on the left-hand side throughout the story are links to other related videos including an interview with a technology reporter and a story about tech stocks. Although all of this content originally aired on CBS News, it still provides good information for people who are interested in the story and want to learn more.

I did see some video content that did not air on CBS News. A story about the changes Obamacare will bring to employer-provided health insurance did not have a featured video or a clip from a broadcast. Instead, video supported the text story in the sidebar. One of the videos was a reporter interviewing two people who are experiencing the effects of the Affordable Care Act. Although it is likely this could be aired with minor editing, it is not a traditional broadcast piece. The other video was a section from President Obama’s speech at Faneuil Hall on October 30 where he defended the Affordable Care Act and encouraged people to buy health insurance on the exchange.

I think CBS could do even more with video. The organization has many trained videographers and the equipment and it would be relatively simple to create unique video stories instead of just posting links to clips from their broadcasts. Even just adding supplemental interviews and footage might interest some people and increase web traffic. Having correspondents produce web video is not unrealistic. I would like to see videos from foreign correspondents about the culture they are embedded in. As a major news organization, CBS should use multimedia more to make its site more interactive and attractive to viewers.

October 27, 2013

Audio slideshows are not used on CBSnews.com. Although they have a variety of video, photography and audio content, the organization has not combined the mediums in this manner. I think since CBS has so much content, it would not be very difficult to enhance the photo slideshows that they already produce with audio.

One photo slideshow, “Stunning Views from Space,” showcased photos from tweets of astronaut Karen L. Nyberg. Although the captions of the photos did a fair job of explaining what each picture was about, it might have been more interesting to have Nyberg select some of her favorites and talk about her perspective from space while viewing her photos.

CBS News could also use the audio from its news broadcasts to create audio slideshows. Some of the stories they produce as videos would also work as audio slideshows. The video segment from CBS This Morning, “What 101 objects made America? Find out what the Smithsonian says,” has the anchors interview an undersecretary for art, history and culture at the Smithsonian about some of the selections. In the interview, they only talk about 10 of the items and it would be cool to make an audio slideshow with just the undersecretary explaining the significance of more of the objects with their photographs.

Audio slideshows can be a great way to showcase extra content that does not always make it to air. If what does air is very visual and compelling to viewers, it is likely that they would visit the website to see more. Having a well put-together audio slideshow is more impressive than just a few extra photos and some cut video footage and would likely draw visitors back to the site again.

I think that producing audio slideshows is certainly something that CBS News is capable of. They already have all of the raw components and should consider putting them together in a different way. It would not divert too many resources from the main broadcast platform and would actually enhance broadcast stories and possibly increase web traffic. In today’s journalism, where there is more pressure to produce stories quickly and cheaply, audio slideshows are a way to make the most out of all the content that reporters gather while researching and writing stories. I think this form of multimedia is very effective and would help CBS differentiate itself from its major competitors, NBC and ABC.

October 20, 2013

CBS News does showcase a lot of photography on their website. Although most of their news stories are accompanied by video segments from their news broadcasts, some stories contain additional photographs that help to enhance the story. For example, a story entitled “18-foot, serpent-like sea creature found off coast of California,” contains a video package that was aired on CBS as well as a picture of the oarfish that puts into perspective how large and creepy it is.

CBS also has a lot of different photo slideshows about topics that might not normally be featured on air. Currently, the website is featuring a slideshow of “Six of the most haunted houses in the U.S.” Even though it is not the most “newsy” piece, since it is October and almost Halloween, it is certainly something that would increase visitors’ time spent on the site. CBS also produces and posts other hard news slideshows, which it refers to as “galleries,” but they are not easily searchable on the site.  Unless a gallery is displayed on the homepage or you know what to search for, it is not easy to find other photo collections. I think CBS News should consider adding a “Photo Gallery” tab to its homepage bar. They already have a tab for video and I think people would be interested in seeing more photo content. The slideshow mentioned above was one of the most shared items on the website on Saturday, so clearly people have an interest in this type of content.

CBS does a good job incorporating photos into their social media posts. Every post on their Facebook page is accompanied by a photo relating to the article. This makes the post more attractive and interesting to the readers and increases the likelihood that they will click through to the site. However, photos are not used on Twitter, except as thumbnails that appear when you click the summary of the article. I think that using photos more could be an effective way to pique followers’ interest and distinguish CBS from other news sites on Twitter.

I think CBS uses photography adequately on its site to reinforce and add another dimension to its stories. However, I think it could improve by organizing its content better and making it more accessible to the site visitors. CBS could also interact with its readers more by asking them to submit their own photographs and participate in the reporting. I think CBS does a good job with photography, but there is a lot of potential to improve if they choose to designate their resources to this form of media.

October 13, 2013

CBS News does not have many, if any standalone audio stories. They do use audio tracks frequently in nearly all of their news pieces that contain video, but do not usually have audio stories that are not accompanied by video. This makes sense since CBS produces a lot of high quality video news pieces and has not had a strong presence in radio since before television news became popular.

Even though CBS News chooses not to use audio storytelling very often, it certainly could enhance some of their stories. For example, there was a story on their homepage on Saturday titled “Voices of the Shutdown: ‘I had everybody cancel.’” However, the story contained no video and was the story of one woman who was dealing with the effects of the government shutdown on her bed and breakfast near Mt. Rushmore. I think if a story is entitled “Voices,” it would make sense to have her tell her own story in an audio format. The business owner was upset and frustrated and the emotional impact of the story would have been much more apparent if she were telling it herself instead of having the audience just read what she told a reporter.

I was also disappointed by a story about the cyclone hitting the Bay of Bengal on the eastern coast of India.  Although there was a video, it only showed the waves in the ocean with an anchor in NYC talking over the footage. I feel like an anchor reporting live from India would have been a more effective way to show people the effects of the wind and the rain. People could have witnessed how the wind was affecting the reporter and possibly the sound of the report and gotten a better sense of what conditions in India are like. The silent waves with a calm news anchor voice over did not represent the situation in India very well and could have been enhanced by a different audio and video track.

I don’t necessarily think that CBS News should do more standalone audio storytelling. I think that most of their news pieces successfully use audio as a component of their video packages and I can’t see that changing. Audio is great at getting across the emotions of individuals affected by disasters, crises and other disasters and certainly should not be disregarded by any news organization.

October 6, 2013

CBS News is an active social media user, but does not use the platform to engage its readers or to do any type of crowdsourcing. The organization uses social media to amplify its message and promote itself, but it does not use these platforms to collect information from the nation at large. Although for most stories, it might not make sense for a national media outlet to solicit information from its readers, the government shutdown could be a great opportunity to collect first hand information. Nearly 800,000 Americans have been furloughed and using social media to reach out to people affected could be very successful.

The site’s social media platforms are very professional and display content in a timely manner.  Individual journalists like Scott Pelley and Charlie Rose tweet about stories that they are working on and preview interviews that will air on their shows. All of the site’s comments are directed through Facebook, which has its pros and cons.

Facebook makes users identify themselves and does not permit anonymous comments. It is fairly effective as a forum, but there are still lots of random comments and spam that end up in the comments section. I’d assume that Facebook has some control over spam, but many still post links to their own crazy conspiracy theories and disrupt actual discourse about issues. Also, the people who report the content are not participating in the forums and I think that is a real weakness. News could be a conversation but it is not set up like this at CBS News.

CBS News also does little with curation. I did find an article on a report that found chicken nuggets contained little actual meat that had a link to the full report and to a Reuter’s article which they quoted from, but these links could have been amplified with other reactions. The story was the most shared on cbsnews.com on Saturday and it was likely being talked about on Twitter and Facebook. The article could have created a hashtag and collected reactions to the report and displayed them on their site to make it a little more interesting and interactive.

I think it is great that CBS News is active and has a strong following on social media. However, I think that people would be more likely to engage with their content if they gave their readers an opportunity to interact. Allowing the audience to participate in producing news instead of just passively receiving it would produce both a better news product and a more invested and devoted audience.

September 29, 2013

CBSnews.com does not use interactive web graphics to enhance its online platform. Although some stories like “What Happens if the Government Shuts Down,” could be greatly aided by a chart or graphic, though all that accompanies the story is a video. Even though the video contains some graphics, not everyone is going to watch the video. A feature that allowed people to see exactly how the shutdown would immediately impact them would be very effective.

Even though CBSnews.com does not utilize graphics often, it has done a good job with Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Most of their headlines are direct and to the point and use keywords that are likely to be searched by readers.  I searched “Obamacare delay” and it was the first result on Google.

SEO1

Another recent story about Abraham Lincoln also had good SEO. I searched “Lincoln Gettysburg photo” and also had the top result on Google.

SEO2

The organization has done a good job creating clear and concise headlines that are picked up by Google. It is also helpful that CBS is a major news organization and is often linked to and shared because of its reputation.

CBS News makes it easy to share and email links to others which helps its SEO as well. If others are talking about their articles and sharing them with their friends and posting them on their blogs, the Google algorithm will boost them higher.

I also think that it is interesting that many articles on the site contain links to other CBS News articles that are related. It seems to me like that is a good strategy to keep people on your site once they find a story they are interested in.  Providing related content to users based on what they searched or expressed interest in could increase web traffic.

If CBS wanted to improve its SEO, they could make some of their headlines shorter and utilize more numbers. They could also try to make some headlines more specific with people’s names and other information.

I think that overall, CBS has a good handle on SEO and is aided by its reputation as a major news organization. The trustworthiness and credibility that come with its reputation make people more likely to click on their links and head to the site. If CBS invested more in specific online graphics, I think that they would have the potential to increase their web traffic even more and draw new unique visitors.

September 22, 2013

CBSnews.com does not utilize many unique forms of online storytelling. They incorporate a lot of video and photo slideshows, but seldom experiment with new ways to tell stories like the examples we viewed in class. I think the organization really focuses on the traditional values of news and is just beginning to expand its reach. I did see one story about the new iPhone 5s that did a nice job integrating how-to videos for specific features, but it was not anywhere near revolutionary.

One way that the site interacts well with the new media environment is through the concept of “news as a process.” Breaking news is displayed on the home page and as events occur the story is constantly updated with the new information. This story about the Kenya mall attack has a time stamp that shows the story is being updated with the most current information.

The main way that the site is successful is through the timeliness of the content that it presents. The homepage highlights the latest news headlines along with time stamps that show when the stories were posted. It makes it easy to access up to the minute news.

CBSnews.com also makes it easy for users to access content on demand through the search bar at the top of the page. I typed in “Syria” and found all of the articles listed from the most recent to the oldest. This can be a real asset if you are trying to learn more about a past event that might not be breaking news anymore.

Although CBS is traditionally a broadcast outlet with limited airtime for news, the web allows the network to expand its range of stories and include more novelty content. This time lapse video of the Burning Man festival would probably not air on television, but is accessible on the site. The site also offers a lot of entertainment coverage, particularly of the Primetime Emmy Awards which air on CBS.

I think the site as a whole is more focused on traditional broadcast storytelling than using multimedia to create online stories.  Some of the photo slideshows are interesting, but do not do much to advance journalism as a whole. I am glad that they make their extra photo and video content available for audience members, but it could be improved if it were better integrated with text and other content.  Overtime, I think more news outlets will continue to devote more resources to their online platforms and create more dynamic online stories.

September 15, 2013

The first thing I noticed about cbsnews.com when I opened it in my web browser was that it was full of ads. This did not surprise me a lot since traditionally ads are how broadcast outlets earn the bulk of their revenue. I did think it was interesting that the same philosophy transferred to their online outlet. I also thought it was interesting that the ads were often for CBS programming and events.

Much of the content on the site was video clips from their news broadcasts. I thought this made it very accessible for consumers who enjoy watching the news. All of the video clips also included expanded print stories, providing the viewer with more information and a different format to experience the story. The availability of the content made it easy for viewers to watch it on demand and possibly share it with their friends through Facebook.

Besides the use of Facebook, I did not find the site very interactive. Comments are not allowed on the site and instead are redirected through Facebook. The videos posted on Facebook are not necessarily discussion-provoking unless they are about controversial subjects. Most videos are just clips from the latest news broadcast and not produced just for the web.

I did not find their Facebook page particularly exciting. It was effective in providing links to stories with the headline, a short teaser and a photo, but even though it is updated frequently, it is not used to break news. Most of the content on the site is just links to published articles. Twitter was similar and was used mostly to promote upcoming broadcasts or links to existing articles. Although Twitter can be effective for reporting breaking news, CBS does not tweet without links to posted articles.

One feature that I did like was that the site displayed lists of the most popular, most shared, and most discussed articles so that people viewing the site could see what other consumers found interesting or important.  I think that this feature is great in today’s world where people are always concerned with what’s “trending” on the web and knowing what people are talking about.

The website is successful at using multimedia platforms to tell stories. There is not a single article that I saw that did not utilize at least two forms of media. Although photo galleries and video are frequently used on the site, I think the site can get a little cluttered and overwhelming at times. I think that the website is mainly a reflection of the broadcast programming, but is successful at making all of its content accessible and interactive for consumers in a timely, multimedia format.

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