Is The Doc Filled with News or Noise?

news or noise, determining news over noise,
news or noise, determining news over noise,

At work, the editorial team and I used to have a document called, well, "The Doc." The Doc was a Google Sheet where we placed all the stories we intended to cover and we simply went through the stories in order. We broke the order if an important story broke that needed to get into the app and into Top News right away, but besides that we went in chronological order. Stories first on the doc were first in the app, and we did our best to ensure that we placed stories on a wide variety of topics and from a wide variety of sources on the doc. It doesn't look good in the feed when there are too many stories in a row from one source or on one topic and we don't want to come across as an app that favors certain topics or sources.

Filling the Doc Was My Favorite Thing to Do

I thoroughly enjoyed "filling the doc," as the task was called when The Doc needed to be refilled and I was good at it. I could easily find 30 stories in 30 minutes for the doc, maybe more. One way I was able to do this was that, at all times, I was fully aware of 90 percent of the stories we covered in the past 24 hours. The knowledge meant I didn't have to spend as much time checking for duplicates, since I just knew whether or not we had the story. The only time I would check for a duplicate was if the story I found was an update to a previous story or is part of a developing story. With developing and ongoing stories, it's much harder to keep everything straight versus a one-time story. Another tactic that made me so efficient was that I utilized Google News to find stories from credible sources on specific topics. I would search terms like, "North Korea," "marijuana," "sex" and "space" to find stories on those particular topics. Using Google News in this fashion was much better way than searching Twitter or following specific hashtags to find stories on these specific topics.

I loved "filling the doc." I loved encountering all sorts of different stories on all sorts of different topics. It certainly helped that I was pretty good at it too. It was especially thrilling to find a "gem," an interesting, well-written and/or very important story that hadn't yet become a big deal or that wasn't being covered by other/more mainstream outlets. Two "gems" that I personally found were the Ice Bucket Challenge and the first photos of Officer Darren Wilson in the aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting. I ended up on the Ice Bucket Challenge early because Michelle Wie was one of the first celebrities to participate in the challenge, and since I'm originally from Hawaii, I care about everything Michelle Wie. I wish I could claim being on Michael Brown story before it turned into Ferguson and the subsequent movement, but I really don't recall coming across the story. The Darren Wilson photos I remember, since it took several days for the Ferguson Police Department to release his name, and photos were only uncovered on Facebook after the public had his name confirmed.

I Want to Bring This Back Somehow

I'm not quite sure how to bring back The Doc and in what capacity, but I think there is value in finding so many stories in such a short amount of time (more so than the fact that I enjoy the task). Part of that value is finding the "gems" before those stories become part of the mainstream conversation. Another part of the value is finding stories that wouldn't have become part of any conversation or wouldn't have come to the surface for exposure without The Doc and spending the time to find all sorts of stories. Typically, news sites showcase stories according to the same categories: World, U.S., Politics, Local, Weather, Business, Entertainment, Sports, Tech, Arts, Health, Science etc. Maybe Food, maybe Travel, maybe Cars, maybe Lifestyle to encompass several of the topics previously mentioned.

All news stories worth covering must fall into those categories. Very rarely is the Sports category segmented into football, baseball, basketball etc. unless you're a sports publication like ESPN, for example. Otherwise, it just gets filed under Sports. Only so many Sports stories can be covered or featured in a day. Because there are limits to everyone's time and attention regarding the number of stories to read and feature, only the most popular sports are going to be featured unless something really big, incredible or viral happens in a sport like lacrosse, climbing, rugby, ultimate frisbee etc, like rugby war goddess Georgia Page. Her bloody nose is awesome for a day, but the next time anyone is covering women's rugby and encouraging women to play the sport (which is what Page wants out of all of the media hype and exposure) is probably the next time another woman breaks her nose during an impressive tackle.

Let's Talk about What's Not Being Talked About Because Much of It is Probably Important or Interesting

Rugby is important and interesting to someone, and those someones aren't just people in the United Kingdom where rugby is a much more popular sport. Topics like design, books, social media, education, the environment, architecture and more don't have to be reserved for niche publications, in my opinion. There are plenty of stories that are worth discussing, worth knowing about and worth sharing in these topics. It seems like many topics only become important or only get covered when it easily comes with a salacious headline or an eye-catching photo or video.

Overall, news should be what you make of it and what you find important or interesting, not what the local television news says or what the mainstream media decides to cover or to air on primetime. It's only when the time is spent to scour the interwebs for those sorts of stories that the conversation can start on topics we don't normally talk about, for whatever reason.

Content for Readers, Local Search, and Other Online Media News Stories

online media newsIf it was just about writing the darn articles, then the online media business wouldn't be as tough as it is. However, because some think it's that simply, it makes the industry that much more competitive. This is why the stories in this online media news roundup are so important: they illustrate the nuances blogs and online publications need to think about to set the bar high and to be successful in digital content. Below are the latest and most important stories in digital content and online media:

It's Not Just Getting Positive Press, It's Amplifying It Too

In content marketing, the new trends that's working really well for brands is a combination of earned and paid media. This is when brands are paying specifically to amplify and to syndicate earned media, particularly earned media that's positive. Publishers are experimenting with this combination as well, purchasing paid promotions on social media to highlight content that they want to highlight. The New York Times is experimenting with allowing brands to place specific ads with specific articles, and then allowing those brands to share those articles.

Readers Don't Like Gimmicky Content

It's unfortunate that something like this finds its way into the news roundup, but it bears repeating that an attractive headline on a crappy article will generate traffic while leaving your readers cheated and unsatisfied. Link baiting will hurt your brand in the long run, even though there is the short-term benefit of the traffic and the boost in advertising revenue. Readers don't like it, and without your readers, your blog/online publication is nothing. Also keep in mind that when blogs and online publications participate in this kind of content practices, it hurts the entire industry as well as the particular website. If one is willing to link bait and to cheat readers, then they will be suspicious of other websites. Also, put out one horrible piece of content and risk being labelled a link-baiter and publication just out to pull in advertising revenue.

Tailoring Blog Content for Local Search

Many blogs and online publications with a local twist, especially those starting out, often fail to include enough "local" into their content. This makes it tough for them to have their content rank for local search queries, to leverage local events, or to tie their niche to the local scene. This article from the Content Marketing Institute offers eight great tips on how a blog, online publication, or a local business can tailor their content toward local search. Two of these tips: using social media to promote posts (so many forget to do this, or don't do this enough/well) and nurturing your audience. You don't want to write just for the search engines!

Content Curators Aren't Without Impunity Either

Content curators and syndicates such as (which also employs a few writers and editors) typically don't create a lot of their own content. They find great work, and then share the great work. What's in that great work, and whether or not it's true or false, isn't the responsibility of the curator. However, a few hiccups with platform might be changing that perception. Several posts have gotten onto the site that have been misinformation or mindless rants, and something should be done to ensure that this doesn't happen again. It also means that companies like need to decide whether they are software companies or publishing companies, and ought to act accordingly.

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Our First Ever Digital Content and Digital Media News Roundup

digital content newsDigital media, in a lot of ways, is still an emerging industry. There's a lot going on, but still a lot that needs to be figured out. The biggest issue that needs to be figured out: what works and why. Here's some of the latest and greatest in this week's first ever digital content and digital media news roundup: Digital Seen Surpassing TV in Capturing Our Time - NPR - For the first time ever, the time average Americans spend on digital media has outpaced the time spent watching traditional television. Digital media does include watching TV shows on Hulu and Netflix, if you were wondering. This means that there's huge potential in digital media, particularly in tablets and smartphones, which are predicted to have the highest growth in the years to come. But, don't ditch the old tube quite yet. There's still going to be value in watching something live, and many traditional TV networks aren't going to start live streaming things online. If you want to watch the Super Bowl next year, then you will have to be in front of a television.

The Most Valuable Commodity in Online Marketing - Digiday - Email addresses, specifically personal email addresses, are the most valuable commodity online according to this article. They do have a point, as it's something that we'd never get rid of and rarely, if ever, changes. It's not mutable like a screen name or a user name. With cookies under fire for tracking and retargeting, everything will shift to email as a way to figure out who we are and what would be best to advertise to us.

Let's Get Personal: Why We Need to Market to Individuals, Not Audiences - HubSpot - Do you like the idea of a personalized front page for your website? It's a difficult thing to achieve, as individuals are complicated and variegated beings. This article argues the value of creating a personalized experience for your customers/readers, and that the news industry is far behind on this concept. Depending on your website, personalization could be difficult or easy to achieve. Imagine how much more content you'd have to create to meet the personalization standards of everyone in your audience!

Are Brands Confusing Advertising with Marketing - Six Pixels of Separation - In our humble opinion, brands are still struggling with this distinction. We think that many brands still think that advertising is marketing, even though the two are essentially mutually exclusive in online channels. Many brands are still struggling because it's still too much about sales and generating leads, when it's more worthwhile to create something that actually benefits their customers and to help them solve their problems. That's the marketing aspect of it.

Amazon's Jeff Bezos Acquires Washington Post. Co - Media Daily News - We're really curious to see what impact this will have on the news industry, and what Bezos will do with his new properties. We think this won't hurt the news industry by constricting voices or purporting a particular point of view the way a Koch Brothers purchase would have. We also don't really think that Bezos is doing this to jump into the news industry itself. It will be interesting to see what changes take place with the Washington Post, and if the quality of content ever decreases at all.

Tiny Pulitzer-Prize Winning Newsroom May Be the Future of Journalism - eContent - We never heard of InsideClimate News, but we'll be following all that they're doing from here on out. This news site, run by seven people, won a Pulitzer Prize in national reporting for their coverage of the Dilbit oil spill in Michigan. This little news site accomplished something that seemed reserved for only the big guys, showing that these niche news sites might be the future of the news industry. After all, as the established news organizations struggle to cover everything and shutter different news desks, these niche sites doing it right will be the ones picking up the slack.

Related Links:

What a Koch Brothers Newspaper Purchase Would Mean for News

3 Big Principles for Media Creators

How News Websites and Online Publications Can Do SEO

4 Ways to Catch and to Prevent Plagiarism

catch and prevent plagiarismNobody wants plagiarism on their blog or online publication, but it can be tough to prevent and harder to catch. It's tempting for some to plagiarize with the ease and wealth of information out there, and a misunderstand of what plagiarism is can mean false positives (and false negatives) upon your editorial review. To make this process as painless as possible, here are four ways to catch and to prevent plagiarism.

Use Google Instead

Instead of relying on those services that not only cost money to use extensively, but aren't as reliable as we need, use Google and search engines instead. Not only is it free every single time (and it probably searches more sites than those services), but it's also a lot easier to check for attribution, to check if the text even needs attribution, or to see if the text should remain as is (such as a direct quote or a definition). It's also easier to check for those other forms of plagiarism, such as taking another's idea and passing it as one's own.

Encourage Writers to Create Original Stories

If  all your publication is doing is rehashing the news and stories of others, then you risk more plagiarism then you may think. As we said our introduction to plagiarism article, just because the text doesn't match anywhere else online doesn't mean that it's not plagiarism. If you're writing about a hot topic, and simply reciting the analysis of others, that is plagiarism unless the ideas are properly cited. To avoid this problem (and to avoid looking like you need to piggyback on everyone else's news stories to build an audience), encourage your writers to find their own news stories, or to come up with their own angles and analysis to current news. It may feel like you need to content out there as soon as possible, but doing that doesn't mean anything if it's just the reinvention of someone else's content and ideas in the first place.

Trust Your Writers

If you make it known that your going to screen every article that comes through, only to send it back because one sentence happens to match another somewhere online (or it includes a phone number or a book title, both of which these services will catch and mark as plagiarism), then you risk scaring away good writers who do good work but are afraid of being accused of plagiarism. You will then be stuck with the writers who will game the plagiarism-catching services to make sure the content passes, or you will get writers who write so poorly that it's not anywhere online (it's so bad that no one else would take their work)  Also understand how easy it is to game the plagiarism software. All one needs to do is change every third or fourth word and it passes. If you trust your writers to do the right thing, then you'll get the writers that are worth trusting. Of course, if you suspect something, use Google.

Also understand that having a sentence or two in one article match another's content somewhere out there isn't going to hurt your search engine rankings and isn't going to get you blacklisted. Your site isn't going to make anyone mad by doing that. Relax, and worry about providing awesome content to your readers instead of pleasing the search engines. Search engines don't read your articles or buy your products anyway.

Set a Policy and Make Your Writers Aware of It

It doesn't help if only you know what plagiarism is and your writer's don't. This will only lead to misunderstandings. If you don't yet have a policy on plagiarism, set one and let your writer's know what this policy is and what counts as plagiarism. If you do have one, then make sure this is something everyone understands and is held accountable for when they join the team. Not holding people to the policy is just as bad, if not worse, then not having one at all.

Plagiarism 101 for Blogs and Online Publications

catching plagiarismPlagiarism is the cardinal sin of online writing and publishing. No one wants it to happen on their website because it ruins credibility, quality, and search engine rankings. It's understood to be a huge ethical problem. However, with the Internet, it's easier than ever to plagiarize while being just as difficult to catch it or to stop it. Here's what every blogger or online publication needs to know about plagiarism, and what constitutes plagiarism:

So, What Is Plagiarism?

According to Wikipedia, plagiarism is:

"the mere copying of text, but also the presentation of another's ideas as one's own, regardless of the specific words or constructs used to express that idea". Meaning, in order for text to be considered plagiarized, it needs to be a copy or close copy of the text AND lack attribution to the original author or source"

Yes, I copied and pasted that definition verbatim from the Wikipedia. But it's not plagiarism as I attributed the definition, placed the definition in quotes, and provided a hyperlink to the very web page I pulled the definition from. A mere word-for-word copy is NOT plagiarism, I repeat, it is NOT plagiarism. It only counts if it is not properly attributed and the author is trying to pass the words and/or ideas as one's own. There are many times when a word-for-word copy would be perfectly appropriate, or even preferable, such as a definition (especially a long or technical one), a direct quote, or a set of statistics.

Why are Plagiarism Detection Services Bad?

This distinction is important to remember because many plagiarism detection services can only detect blatant word-for-word copies of text and don't take those nuances into account when looking at a block of text. Services like Copyscape and Plagium would say that most of the above paragraph is plagiarism, despite the fact that I attributed the definition, quoted the definition (showing that I didn't write those words and that I am 'quoting' someone else), and provided a link to the exact web page I found the definition.

The word-for-word copy also doesn't account for another form of plagiarism: taking another's idea without attribution. I can take someone's public policy idea, change around enough words to pass these services, and then write about the idea as if I came up with it all on my own. It's also possible to pass these services by changing every third or fourth word, so with plagiarism detection services, it's important to exercise human judgement and intuition when evaluating an article. It's also important to let your writer's know that passing these services isn't enough, and ought to know the difference as well.

In our next post, we'll offer a few ways to catch plagiarism. In the meantime, you need to exercise your judgement by knowing that needs to be credited and what doesn't. Knowing this will make easier to

What Needs, and Doesn't Need, Credit or Attribution

Here, then, is a brief list from the Purdue Online Writing Lab of what needs to be credited or documented:

  • Words or ideas presented in a magazine, book, newspaper, song, TV program, movie, Web page, computer program, letter, advertisement, or any other medium
  • Information you gain through interviewing or conversing with another person, face to face, over the phone, or in writing
  • When you copy the exact words or a unique phrase
  • When you reprint any diagrams, illustrations, charts, pictures, or other visual materials
  • When you reuse or repost any electronically-available media, including images, audio, video, or other media

Things that don't need documentation or credit, also taken from the Purdue Online Writing Lab's page on plagiarism, include:

  • Writing your own lived experiences, your own observations and insights, your own thoughts, and your own conclusions about a subject
  • When you are writing up your own results obtained through lab or field experiments
  • When you use your own artwork, digital photographs, video, audio, etc.
  • When you are using "common knowledge," things like folklore, common sense observations, myths, urban legends, and historical events (but not historical documents)
  • When you are using generally-accepted facts, e.g., pollution is bad for the environment, including facts that are accepted within particular discourse communities, e.g., in the field of composition studies, "writing is a process" is a generally-accepted fact.

AP Style Blogging: What That Even Means

ap style bloggingAssociated Press style, or AP Style, are the grammatical rules followed by journalists and many print media outlets in the United States. In my opinion, it's one aspect of print media and the news industry that ought to creep more into business blogging and digital media, although it hasn't crept as quickly as I would have hoped. It's understandable, as only in the last few years have journalists made the leap from traditional media to brand marketing and brand journalism. However, any content creator out to follow the rules of AP style blogging for the sake of consistency, accuracy, and clarity. Here's are some AP rules that apply to online content creation:


Upon first reference, mention the full name and title of the person. Each additional reference should use the last name only. Here's an example from an industry magazine:

John Daws, Owner of Daws Engineering, agreed that nitrogen tire inflation has its benefits for trucking fleets, but specified that this benefit can only be retained if the trucking fleets owns its own tire casings.

“The benefits accrue over time,” Daws said. “The first year the casing is mounted is when there’s the biggest oxygen intrusion.”

It should be noted the use of the title in the first sentence is incorrect. AP style dictates the titles, when following the name of the person, are lower case. Therefore, it should read, "John Daws, owner of Daws Engineering."


Spell out abbreviations and acronyms on first reference. Use the abbreviation or acronym on each additional reference. There are a few acronyms that can be used on first reference, such as AAA, AARP, and NASA. But, other than that, spell it out on first reference to avoid confusion.

Also note that abbreviations and acronyms do not contain the periods in between each letter. It's return on investment, then ROI, not R.O.I.


When using a month with a day, abbreviate the month. Exceptions are March, April, May, June, and July, which are always written out and never abbreviated. When the month stands alone, or is used with a year, spell out the entire month. Example:

Jan. 31, 1988

January 1988


In general, always spell out numbers zero through nine, and use numerals for numbers 10 and up. These rules will differ under certain circumstances, such as percentages, temperatures, statistics etc. (Since these rules can be tricky, we'll do a blog post just on the AP style of numbers within the next week).

Really large numbers are typically spelled out i.e. one million, one billion. It is also acceptable to use both the numeral and the spelling for clarity's sake i.e eighty-two thousand (82,000).

Note that with the exception of a year, when starting a sentence with a number, that number needs to be spelled out. Example:

2008 was a horrible year for investors.

Thirty-three students showed up to class today.


To indicate time, use the numerals and specify morning or evening. Example:

9 a.m. (nine in the morning is also acceptable, albeit wordy)

6 p.m. (what's not acceptable is 6 p.m. in the evening, as that is redundant. Pick one or the other).

If referencing either 12 p.m. or 12 a.m., it's better to use noon or midnight to avoid confusion. Also note that it's a.m. and p.m., not AM/PM or am/pm.

Understand that this isn't an exhaustive list of AP style blogging rules. We have more rules in the related links, and we will cover more of them in the future.

One last note about AP style blogging: there are very few rules that are optional or up for debate. It's not a matter of preference whether or not you want periods in between the letters in an acronym or in a.m. or p.m. It's not an option to use the percent symbol, unless it's in a headline.

Related Links:

Homonyms and Frequently Misunderstood Words for Content Creators

Additionally Commonly Troublesome Words for Content Creators

An Introduction to Trademarks

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