Tag Archives: NCTJ

SEO recruiters look for journalists as Google gets fussier

content marketing trend

Searches for ‘content marketing’ according to Google Trends. Since February the term has been at the peak of its popularity [Tweet this image]

In a guest post for OJB, Nick Chowdrey looks at why increasing numbers of SEO agencies are hiring journalists.

As online marketing and search engine optimisation (SEO) practices have evolved, journalists have become increasingly sought-after by the agencies that compete to improve their clients’ rankings.

“For a long time there was a very poor practice in online marketing,” says Joe Sharp, Head of SEO at Hearst Magazines. “Generic advertorials were duplicated across multiple sites with strategic links engineered to increase SEO value. Continue reading

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Hyperlocal Voices: Cathy Watson, Uckfield News

Hyperlocal voices - Uckfield News

Cathy Watson, an experienced journalist, first set up the Uckfield News 3 and a half years ago to promote her PR business, which it has since outgrown. The site is “reactive”, says Cathy, both in the directions that it has grown, and in many of the stories that it covers: “Where I see people hunting for information, perhaps on Twitter or Facebook, about traffic hold ups or fires I make the calls to find and post answers but I don’t make the traditional daily calls.”

This is part of the ongoing Hyperlocal Voices series of interviews.

Who were the people behind the blog, and what were their backgrounds?

I set up the blog but my husband, Paul Watson, now helps with it. We are both journalists.

I have worked as reporter, news editor, sub-editor, deputy editor and acting editor moving, within one company, between the Bury Free Press, Newmarket Journal and Lynn News and Advertiser. After moving to Sussex I worked as a freelance for the Sussex Express.

Paul too worked in all jobs across the newsroom before becoming an editor. He edited free newspapers in King’s Lynn and Wisbech before moving to edit the Middy, (the Mid Sussex Times at Haywards Heath) and then the Sussex Express.

Most recently he has been looking at the future training of journalists in managing a project led by the National Council for the Training of Journalists supported by the Broadcast Journalism Training Council, the Periodicals Training Council and the Society of Editors.

The project has included a survey of employers of journalists, relevant education providers and new entrants to the profession.

He continues to work as an editorial consultant for the NCTJ.

What made you decide to set up the blog?

I started a PR business, wanted to attract the attention of local businesses and thought it would help to have an Uckfield News page on my website. I updated it daily with nibs (news in brief).

When did you set up the blog and how did you go about it?

I started the news page three-and-a-half years ago using the free Microsoft Office Live platform. After about 18 months I altered the focus of the site to Uckfield News and a year ago had a bespoke site built.

What other blogs, bloggers or websites influenced you?

None. I didn’t know people were setting up ‘hyperlocal’ sites. Everything I have done has been reactive, people liked the news so I added more of it, I tested a shopping feature and it led to the listings, the listings are now leading to more features and people who pay to list (so supporting the site) are, where possible, sources for stories.

How did – and do – you see yourself in relation to a traditional news operation?

Uckfield is on the edge of circulation areas of three paid-for newspapers. They cover the town well but can’t pick up the ‘nitty gritty’ because of commitments to other towns.

I’m particularly interested in planning applications, change within the town, shopping and business news. I concentrate on reporting facts, leaving people to add their views in the comment sections at the end of stories, and on Uckfield News Twitter and Facebook pages.

I also mix paid-for ad features in with the news.

Where I see people hunting for information, perhaps on Twitter or Facebook, about traffic hold ups or fires I make the calls to find and post answers but I don’t make the traditional daily calls and tend to avoid “shock, horror, probe”.

What have been the key moments in the blog’s development editorially?

Adding shopping, business and history features. They are a good way of bringing people back to the site on a regular basis.

What sort of traffic do you get and how has that changed over time?

It doesn’t seem long since I was pleased to have four or five visitors a day! Growth has been slow but by the time we launched the new site a year ago we were getting about 1,000 unique visitors a month.

In our most recent peak we hit about 4,500 unique visitors, 9,000 visitors and 25,000 page views. The figures have settled again to about 3,000 unique visitors, 5,000 visits and 14,000 page views a month but the trend is upwards.

Paul and I have the desire to cover everything that moves because old habits die hard! But I am reining back because I don’t want to do this without advertising support. I have just had the site altered to accommodate advertising and hope to start building that side of the business.

The New Online Journalists #9: Amy McLeod

As part of an ongoing series on recent graduates who have gone into online journalism, Amy McLeod talks about her path from the BBC to setting up a website offering graduate advice.

I had no idea that I wanted to be a journalist when I left university; I graduated with a degree in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from St Edmund Hall, Oxford University in 2008.  I had, however, made a number of short films which served as a useful starting point and got me work experience for the BBC.

Once in the building I talked my way into the current affairs development department and found myself working as a journalist.  I heard about the intriguing future plans for BBC content management and worked alongside Phillip Trippenbach, who was responsible for multimedia development – he made me realise the enormous potential that digital technology provides.   Continue reading

Dear Peter Preston: universities shun the NCTJ too

I have an enormous amount of respect for Peter Preston, and much of what he says in Sunday’s Observer piece about careers in journalism is spot-on. But this line strikes me as just wrong:

“If you want to be a journalist, try to get on one of the 68 National Council for the Training of Journalists accredited courses, along with 1,800 or so other hopefuls, but in general beware courses the NCTJ shuns (of which there are far too many).”

There are so many assumptions underlying this sentence that it’s a challenge to unpick them, but here are the main two:

  1. That ‘being a journalist’ is limited to newspapers – regional newspapers, to be specific. Most other employers of journalists – national, broadcast, magazines and online – rarely ask for NCTJ qualifications. Even regional newspapers – the heartland of the NCTJ – do not recruit a majority of trainees with an existing NCTJ qualification.
  2. Secondly, that courses not accredited by the NCTJ have been ‘shunned’. I teach on a journalism degree which chose, a decade ago, not to pay for NCTJ accreditation. The decision was taken by the then-head of journalism, the redoubtable and wonderful Sharon Wheeler, for reasons both financial (the money that would be paid to the NCTJ for a shiny badge would be better spent elsewhere) and educational (the NCTJ  strictures make it hard to be flexible in a changing media environment). That decision was restated by our current head of journalism Sue Heseltine, and I agreed with it: I didn’t see what we would gain for the money we pay to the NCTJ other than a marketing tool that we do not need (we receive around 10 applicants for every place).

That decision was also informed by the problems universities have had with the NCTJ, which I’ve written about elsewhere (the comments to which are particularly interesting). I’ve also written about the assumption that journalism degrees are comparable to training courses.

I don’t have a problem with NCTJ training in particular – indeed, I wish more journalists had the sort of understanding of local government and law that their courses teach – but I do have a problem when it is seen as the only, or best, route into journalism (an image perpetuated by the NCTJ’s own marketing materials). The same is true of university courses, which vary wildly in quality and scope (the latter is not such a bad thing; a one-size-fits-all approach cannot be good for any creative industry).

The only good advice I can think of for aspiring journalists is to simply go out there and do journalism – because there’s no longer anything stopping you – me or Peter Preston included.

What news employers want and what they get – research on the journalism skills gap

I recorded this at the Society of Editors conference in November, so forgive my tardiness. This is Donald Martin, a representative of UK training organisation NCTJ talking about the results of a survey they and partners PTC, BJTC and Skillset conducted into employer and university perceptions of skills needed by journalists:

Gap between what news recruiters get and what they want from Paul Bradshaw on Vimeo.

More about the panel this was part of on the Society of Editors website.

Journalism training orgs combine to form Shovelware Alliance

The UK’s three leading journalism training bodies have finally announced that they are to work together as part of a new ‘Joint journalism training council’.

The National Council for the Training of Journalists, the Broadcasting Journalism Training Council and the Periodicals Training Council – who have traditionally provided training for regional newspapers, broadcast journalists, and magazines respectively – have been encroaching on each others’ territories for a while as the industries converged.

It’s early days yet, but the statement doesn’t make encouraging reading for anyone with an interest in the potential of online journalism as a separate medium: the three “new skills and awareness that are and will be required of journalists aiming to work in multi platform news organisations” include:

“b.    Developing ideas for repurposing and adding to print or broadcast news material for use on websites including the use of links, background material, writing for the website, the basics of search engine optimisation and use of basic content management systems. [my emphasis]

“c.     Using video and audio equipment to produce content for websites and other platforms and publishing it.”

In other words, treating the website as a place to shovel – and possibly add to – content produced for another medium.

The statement does go on to say “It is recognised that this is not an exhaustive list”, but it’s not a promising start.