Here are a few simple habits you can develop that will help your newsroom respond to breaking news.
Keep your newsroom tidy
Between hectic production nights and collecting ideas from freelancers that never flourished, you may find yourselves stuck with dozens – even hundreds – of assignments in your newsroom that are clogging up your dashboards. Not only does this make it difficult to keep track of the assignments that you’re genuinely working on, but depending on your subscription you may also be seeing some performance issues in Camayak, where you’re tracking your desk – and newsroom’s – editorial budget.
As a rule of thumb, at least once a month editors should be going through and spiking any abandoned assignments. If you have, say, 150+ active assignments, you probably want to do some trimming. Note that you should only spike assignments that have truly been abandoned (more on why, below). You can do that quickly and easily from the Archive page, as long as you’re an editor or admin in Camayak.
You should also check to make sure that people are actually approving assignments out of Camayak, instead of just copy/pasting them and leaving finished articles to stack up. As you probably know, you can approve assignments to publish directly online and then also update them from within Camayak. It’s worth asking whether your colleagues are habitually hitting ‘Update’ on approved assignments and then forgetting to re-approve them to clear their queues.
It’s important to know that Camayak relies heavily on assignment statuses. For instance, Staff Performance and Staff Portfolios will only pay attention to assignments which are “Approved”. So if you have a mountain of assignments that were approved, or should have been, we recommend resisting the temptation to ‘Spike’ them, since they will be removed from all of those analytics dashboards. The better option is to approve them to a destination in Camayak that’s copy/paste, so you don’t overwrite the web versions that you already have (and must presumably be happy with). This will at least populate your analytics.
Create Breaking News assignment templates
Roughly one in every fifteen assignments created by Camayak users is considered ‘breaking news’. While 7% is a small fraction of your total newsroom output, those stories are more likely than any other assignment-types to:
Capitalizing on your preserved institutional knowledge in situations like these is important to get the most out of your coverage. If you have guidelines for your editors and reporters as they work on breaking news items, wrapping them into an assignment template will stop them from being overlooked as your staff’s peripheral vision narrows on the real-time challenges they’re grappling with.
Support inexperienced staff
Whether face-to-face or remotely, backing your staff up as they confront new hurdles in their careers is vital for the vibrancy of your organization. The instant chat feature in Camayak is super useful for one-on-one, private communication with your reporters and you should expect to have to split your time as an editor between content and personnel management, as breaking news unfolds.
Burnout is real. You mightn’t know who your key point-person on a story will be until you’re already in the thick of it, so your coverage may only be as good as the least experienced person in the newsroom. Remember to look after your colleagues and don’t assume that others know what you do. Information-sharing is the current of any time-sensitive reporting so don’t be shy about speaking up, either.
Until last week, the average among college organizations for setting assignment instructions was 53% of all new work, which meant roughly one in every two assignments was being set without any instructions whatsoever. We kept hearing from editors and newsroom managers across the country who felt that Camayak could help improve that.
“When you show up at a campus newsroom for the first time it can be a a confusing experience” one editor told us. “You got good grades in English at school and maybe even worked on your high school newspaper, but your style needs to change now that you’re talking to a college audience and you may need some more guidance around how to write a compelling headline”. But where do new writers get that from? Their assigning editor is often new to the job themselves and has only been giving out assignments for a week. Perhaps she hasn’t even had time to sit down with you to discuss what her expectations are, yet.
Camayak now offers busy newsrooms a way to standardize their basic expectations of both staff contributors and freelancers pitching speculative ideas to their editors. By creating templates for specific types of assignments and desirable pitches, newsrooms stand to share more of their institutional acumen with more of their staff, more consistently.
Some college newsrooms are already more consistent than others at setting specific instructions for their contributors to follow. ECC Union, El Camino College’s student media organization, sets clear instructions for four out of every five of its assignments while Algonquin College in Ottawa, Canada, chooses not to set assignment instructions for a small portion (10%) of its work. Among professional newsrooms that use Camayak, the innovation insights agency PSFK.com and travel broker Skyscanner set instructions for an average of 98% and 100% of their assignments respectively.
The time it takes the Daily Bruin staff at UCLA to complete and publish an assignment has almost halved since they started using Camayak in 2013. Back then it took the Daily Bruin newsroom an average of 64 hours to produce, edit and publish an assignment. So far in 2016 it takes them just 35 hours.
Year on year, the Daily Bruin staff have improved the pace at which they complete new assignments:
One reason for this faster process is that Daily Bruin contributors are submitting their first drafts in less than half the time that they did three years ago. In 2016 the average submission time has been under 10 hours, compared to over 21 hours in 2013.
Editing at the Daily Bruin – that often requires six or seven people to check work before it’s approved – has also become faster, taking 25 hours per assignment this year compared to 41 hours in 2013 (a saving of almost 40%). This year alone, the Daily Bruin team is showing marked progress in its efforts to complete the writing and editing components of its work with gusto.
Despite working more quickly, the Daily Bruin staff haven’t decreased the volume of their production – averaging between 330-350 assignments per month and on schedule to exceed that this year.
Another one of the first college publications to adopt Camayak – the Kansas State Collegian – are also showing a speed increase of almost 30% since 2013 and month-on-month this year are outpacing their first year using Camayak by more than 60%.
If you’d like to get an idea for how Camayak can help you evolve your own workflows, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NEW YORK, NY — Today, Camayak is launching a unique partnership with Chartbeat to give campus newsrooms across the country access to better digital analytics.
Twelve college newsrooms including the University of Oregon’s Emerald Media Group, Texas Christian University’s TCU360, and California State University, Northridge’s Daily Sundial will begin to use Chartbeat tools to measure the real-time engagement of their online content.
As newsrooms across the world embrace the power of smart technology, employing the right metrics and right tools is crucial. For publications looking to produce and distribute the highest quality content, clicks and impressions are unreliable and ineffective metrics. Instead, to write better content, grow loyal audiences, and secure financial sustainability over time, the world’s most influential publishers have turned to time-based metrics.
Now, student journalists and editors from these twelve newsrooms will know what content is capturing and keeping their readership’s attention every moment of the day. In addition to their own data, each of these newsrooms will have access to the real-time data of all twelve sites, so that each can see the performance of its peer institutions.
Being able to adapt to real-time data will further support teams that are moving from a weekly assignment to a 24-hour news cycle model. As campus newsrooms look to scale their content production to keep up with their online audiences, college newsrooms expect to seize more opportunities to satisfy their students and alumni. “We know that Chartbeat will provide the kind of stats that a newsroom and a sales staff can put to great use”, says Stephen Wolgast, Director of Collegian Media at Kansas State University.
If you’re interested in joining the consortium. of college newsrooms sharing their analytics, get in touch with us to schedule your free 30-minute Camayak demo. Not a college newsroom? Check out our professional pricing and let us know if you’d like to try Camayak.
Camayak. Camayak tracks and publishes every assignment in your newsroom’s workflow. We work with senior editors and managers to define their editorial processes so publishers can grow their contributor numbers without compromising on the quality of their approved assignments. Camayak puts newsrooms in control of their content production.
Chartbeat. Chartbeat measures and monetizes attention on the web. It is most well known for the real-time analytics tools that help 80% of the top publishers in the US and 50,000 media sites in over 60 countries develop a defined loyal audience and monetize that audience’s engagement. Chartbeat works with editorial teams to align them around the right audience development goals and with ad sales teams to give them the data they need to adapt when it matters. Chartbeat proves the monetizable value of quality content over clickbait.
If you’re managing an editorial agency that works with multiple clients who want their own newsrooms, or freelancing for a variety of publications that use Camayak, we’ve just made it easier to stay on top of all your priorities.
Camayak users can now switch effortlessly between the newsrooms they belong to, prompted by the number of unread notifications that they have in each ‘room’. You can belong to as many newsrooms as you like and each one retains its privacy from the others, allowing you to build up teams with limited access to each vertical, group, or publication that you’re managing.
For agencies looking to pilot Camayak, you can arrange an introduction webinar by emailing email@example.com. If you’re already using Camayak and want to manage a newsroom account for a different group or publication, get in touch and we’ll walk you through it.
It all started with a community college in Torrance, California.
“Oh, so you’re not a CMS?” Kate McLaughlin – the adviser to the student media department at El Camino College asked. “I think I get what you’re saying. You’re just workflow, right? That could actually be really helpful”.
Soon after El Camino College became our first beta tester in 2011, Steve Wolgast, who had recently joined Kansas State University’s CollegianMedia Group from the New York Times, decided we were worth taking seriously and invited us to pitch for helping the ‘Collegian organize itself more efficiently and publish approved stories directly to its new WordPress site.
Over a year earlier, our initial plan for building Camayak had emerged out of a sense that we could contribute to a healthier ecosystem of CMS designed specifically for news production. Around the same time, other companies like Burt Herman’s Storify were looking to give journalists better tools for composing their articles, while outsourcing services like Contently were also starting to make workflow a key part of their appeal to clients that were hiring writers through the same interface. For everyone in the news production business, speeding up collaboration was becoming more important for shrinking editorial teams to get the most out of their staff budgets.
Today, we’re still working towards our goals of offering better archiving and multi-platform publishing to publishers, regardless of which CMS or social platforms they’re using. Over the last three years, we’ve grown our customer base by eliminating bottlenecks in the processes of pitching, assigning, editing and approving editorial work. People using Camayak have published over 7 million words between them, enjoyed integrations with major media companies like Getty Images and even built their own connections to other services like Slack.
Encouragingly, we’ve seen increases in productivity in almost every single newsroom we’ve worked with for at least twelve months. We’ve also connected customers to help one another with advice and, particularly with student newsrooms, have enjoyed compiling data representations to point out quirky trends that their staff have helped to generate.
Photo credit: Roman Heindorff
Earlier this year we even made “Journalism-Driven Data” – a musical rendition of some newsroom activity numbers:
Helping newsrooms become more active is a big part of our pitch, so we’re happy to see rising engagement as newsrooms also use Camayak to increase the size of their contributor roster. Here’s the trend of how frequently Camayak users were pitching new ideas, during our first two years as a live product:
And a similar surging trend for how often Camayak users were commenting on their newsroom activity each month:
At the moment we have a diverse range of clients, from high schools to PR firms and college media to non-profit news organizations. Because we’ve charged for our service since day one, our reception among newsrooms has focused on our cost-to-benefit ratio. For up to thousands of dollars a year, is Camayak worth its expense? When a CMS and server costs are inescapably necessary for delivering content to its audience (although Facebook and other platforms might challenge this), how does a pre-publishing tool that only the newsroom interacts with stack-up as a budget priority? For most teams that are used to using their free generic tools, plugins and overtime (particularly in the form of student labor), the answer is: not at all.
Since Camayak isn’t itself a revenue generating tool, we’ve always known that our ability to demonstrate our value would need to be user-centric and not cost-based. Quickly delivering value to the people that are actually using Camayak is, for example, much more rewarding than speculating to a senior editor that their existing workflow processes might be undermining their ability to save time and even grow their operation. With that in mind we aim to satisfy three types of user so that they each insist on retaining Camayak once they’ve tried it:
Reporter. First and foremost, logging into your newsroom as a reporter and contributing to its flow of content needs to be seamless and engaging, irrespective of whether you’re a veteran or newbie. Our second goal is to convert the collaboration data we track into meaningful statistics that offer a broader and deeper insight into a reporter’s performance in their newsroom. We do this by offering them a free portfolio of their work and, increasingly, helpful data on their productivity and style. As it stands, few – if any – services can offer insights like Camayak can into a reporter’s actual newsroom performance.
Editor. Our objective with editors is to noticeably reduce the amount of confusion and admin tasks that surround the process of tracking editorial progress, week-in, week-out. This equates to a real saving in the amount of time it takes to produce the same amount of work as before Camayak was introduced to the newsroom. Since all assignments and pitches are tracked through Camayak, editors need a birds-eye view of their editorial calendar, which we have the information to build for them. Editors should find themselves with less micro-managing to do and more opportunity to determine strategy.
Administrator. We want to give the people paying the bills the best insights they can get on how their staff are performing. They, like editors, should also be able to piggyback off of their newsroom’s momentum to offer best practice advice where it’s needed most and commend excellent work more easiy.
Before any of these people log into a trial Camayak account, we usually answer some questions around objections that senior newsroom staff have on their minds. Such concerns include:
“This is going to cost us money we don’t have”. Two or three years agoI read a report claiming that newsrooms were not unlike a typical Fortune 500 company, in that on average they would devote between 2-4% of their operating budget to IT services that improved their business. To be as competitive as possible, we’re committed to putting downward pressure on our pricing as our client base grows, particularly at the student/education level.
“This is just going to be another login for our staff to remember”. When you’re dealing with a high turnover of staff and/or folks that aren’t technically advanced, the fewer interfaces they can be trained on, the better. Camayak replaces Google Drive, Dropbox, server access and even your CMS to offer content producers a single login to all their newsroom collaboration.
“We already have a CMS that handles our workflow”. Once you’ve chosen a CMS you can expect to keep investing in the platform to make it move with your changing requirements in the future. Sometimes this investment is so intimidating that it can, often in conjunction with a dissatisfaction towards the platform itself, push you towards wanting to move to a different CMS entirely. Outsourcing workflow to a purpose-built layer like Camayak limits a newsroom’s dependence on their CMS and fundamentally de-couples content production from where it eventually is displayed. As audience engagement platforms proliferate, designing a single CMS with both production and rendering requirements puts priorities at risk.
“Everybody has to use it in order for it to work” (aka “can’t some of us use one tool and the rest of us use another?”). One of the main reasons we hear of people choosing to track their editorial workflow with tools like Camayak is to ensure they generate clean audit trails of what they’ve done. By addressing three different sets of user needs (see above) we work to make sure that the main stakeholders in a newsroom can each improve their workflows by using Camayak. While there may be a learning curve that comes with new tool, homogenizing the format of a team’s input reduces the number of repetitive tasks between applications and significantly in the long term allows us to provide consistent performance measuring to editors and administrators.
We’re working to build a better product that learns from the lessons we’ve taken from working with so many awesome newsrooms already. If you’re looking for advice on how to manage your editorial calendar, streamline your editorial workflow or scale up your content production, you can find us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’ve been working on a feature to help newsrooms figure out how to evaluate and pay their staff more efficiently, week-in, week-out. Here’s why.
Every fortnight, writers at the Kansas State Collegian fill out their pay sheets so they can show their editors what they worked on. On average, let’s say it takes just 2 minutes for each writer to fill one of these pay sheets out. Each desk editor then checks their writers’ sheets to make sure they’re accurate. On average, this takes each desk editor 10 minutes to do. The person who’s responsible for collecting all these pay sheets then needs to enter each person’s details into a spreadsheet, so it can go into the billing system. This takes them about an hour each fortnight.
Here’s what that means.
30 writers write articles over a two-week period, so 30 people spend 2 minutes each writing their pay sheet (60 minutes in total). Four desk editors take 10 minutes each to check these writer sheets (40 minutes in total). Then an editor needs to summarize the pay sheets so they can be added to the billing system (60 minutes in total).
Total time spent every two weeks = 2 hours, 40 minutes
Total time spent every 10 week semester = 13 hours, 20 minutes
In this case, our goal is to save the newsroom over twelve hours a semester in tracking whom they should pay and how much. In comparison, a newsroom like The Daily Wildcat at the University of Arizona has seven desk editors that spend about 30 minutes each counting their writers’ bylines. That’s a total of over four hours of time that Camayak could save them, every fortnight.
At Georgia Southern’s Student Media department, the students are paid through a bi-weekly stipend. Even though they spend less time tracking how many assignments each writer has worked on each week, they can sometimes lose track of a writer falling short of their weekly commitment.
A writer stops writing regularly and therefore no longer qualifies for she fortnightly stipend. Since the writer hasn’t officially informed their editors that they’re quitting, payroll doesn’t know that they shouldn’t be paid this week.
In this case, Camayak can now save the newsroom from over-paying its contributors, to ensure that it never spends more money than it has to.
Analyzing staff performance with visualizations
We exported payroll data for a couple of newsrooms that use Camayak and using the RAW visualization tool, turned their statistics into pretty pictures.
The size of the circles refers to how many assignments each staff member completed and/or uploaded files to, between July 2014 and February 2015. The larger the circle, the more assignments they worked on. The colors of the circles reference how many files each staff member uploaded to those assignments. The closer to orange, the fewer files they uploaded. The closer to blue, the more they did.
Kansas State Collegian
113 staff wrote and/or uploaded files to approved assignments from July 2014 to February 2015.
Largest circle: 236 assignments
Darkest blue: 221 file uploads
Darkest orange: 0 files uploaded
113 staff wrote and/or uploaded files to approved assignments from July 2014 to February 2015.
This is a plot about four newsrooms using the Camayak platform. We plot various indicators of staff behavior over time.
The time dimension is represented in the music as time. The music is composed of verses, each verse corresponding to a season. Each season is broken into four equal parts (approximately 23 days each), and each verse is correspondingly broken into four “phrases”.
We distinguish between the summer season and all other seasons in these ways.
* Chord progression (i v i III versus I V vi IV)
* Presence of drums (off during the summer)
The commenting on assignments and pitches in newsrooms and assignment of tasks to writers affects the main rhythms and the use of drums.
The rhythm for the melody is based on averaged data across all the newsrooms and dates for the particular season. There are two underlying tracks, and the data affect how fast the rhythm; one of them gets faster when more comments are made in the newsrooms, and the other gets faster when more assignments are created. Similarly, the bass drum turns on when there are lots of comments, and the hi-hat turns on when there are lots of assignments.
The rhythm is also based on the number of pitches submitted; measures get more notes added at the end of the measure when more pitches are submitted. (If a lot of pitches are submitted, notes eventually get added to the beginning of each measure too.)
Pitches of all notes are based on the data for the particular newsroom during the particular 23-day section of the particular season; pitches are higher when more assignments were created.
The time dimension also is represented in the video, as the x-axis. The season’s name is shown in text, and the background color changes to grey in the Summer.
The y-axis in the video is the activity generated per day. Activity per day is plotted incrementally—in 23-day sections and one organization at a time. The name of the present organization is written towards the bottom-left of the screen, and the curve for that organization is shown in front of all of the other curves.
At the right end of the curves are plotted an alternating circle and triangle. Their size is proportional to the number of pitches submitted (circle) and users registered (triangle) for the particular date.
Activity is low during the summers and very low at the beginning and ends of the song. Low activity during the summers occurs because three of the newsrooms are student newsrooms, which have much less activity when school is out. Low activity at the beginning occurs because the newsrooms had not yet begun using Camayak, and low activity occurs at the end because we are using data that were exported a couple months ago.
There is a weekly trend of high activity on weekdays and low activity during the week.
We’re offering every student newsroom we work with the chance to earn $300 by shooting and editing a 60-second video to explain how your staff use Camayak.
Any newsroom that meets the criteria for what we’re looking for will receive a $50 check right away*. Then, if we select your video to use as part of our marketing and training campaigns, we’ll send you another check for $250. Easy, eh?
*In order to qualify for your $50 and $250 reimbursements, your video must…
– be no shorter than 50 or longer than 65 seconds – include footage (or animation) of your campus, newsroom and students – show at least three people’s POV on how they find Camayak useful
You may only submit one video on behalf of your newsroom, so be sure to discuss this with your colleagues. When you’re ready, you can use a large file transfer service like WeTransfer’s free version to send us your work, by addressing it to email@example.com.
We’ll be accepting video submissions until March 15th at Midnight, Eastern Time and will be awarding an extra prize to the most creative video we end up using.
In a bid to support young journalists and their college media programs, The Austin Chronicle is partnering with Camayak to offer its professional-grade tools to local students for free. Camayak, which is also used by journalism schools at TCU, SMU and UT El Paso among others in Texas, will be offered free of charge to any state school media organization in Austin, courtesy of The Chronicle. The partnership, which The Chronicle hopes will help its editors identify promising young writers and photographers, is designed to help student media weather budget threats and grow its influence in the city.
For more information or to claim your free Camayak license, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.