Category Archives: Online Journalism

What myself and Juande Ramos have in common

This is the first time I’ve written a blog post straight from my iPhone so please ignore any glaring errors in grammar!

Since the last post there hasn’t been much to report. I’m still ploughing on hoping to make my first steps in the industry but finding it difficult to get a result – hence the title of this post.

I’ve started twittering as much as I used to now, mainly to make sure my contacts don’t forget who I am! Ive downloaded a few clients to the phone so now I can keep on track with what’s going on while I’m away from home – something I couldn’t do before.

I’ve secured myself some work experience tomorrow in Sheffield and I’m hopeful that i’ll get an interview soon.

I’m writing this brief post to get myself back on the blogging wagon, and so my readers, if any, don’t forget me! I’ve managed to keep up my portfolio by writing my football teams match reports and getting them published on the league website.

Hopefully by my next post I shall have made progress and will have more to tell you.

This industry is a tough one to get into.

ENO lives on..

This could potentially be my last blog post before the deadline (this Friday) to give Environmental News Online, or ENO, in to university to mark.

As I write this, the website has had OVER 45,000 hits, with over 550 unique hits this week. I did not expect the website to be so popular, and attract so much attention.

I’m really proud of what the ENO team have achieved, and I’d just like to take the opportunity to thank Paul Bradshaw, Rachael Wilson, and the team of ENO Journalists.

Hopefully next year’s crop of Journalism students can use ENO as a benchmark!

Also, while the deadline may soon pass, ENO will still live on. I’ve advertised for more journalists, so if you are interested in writing for us, go to Environmental News Online dotcom, and sign up.

Until next time! From now on I’ll be using my blog more ‘journalistically’ – shall we say, and reviewing certain products and websites that I come across. I’ll still be around on twitter too.

SEO for Joomla – The ENO Guide

NB – This is the first time I’m writing a post with the new WordPress WYSIWIG editor, I must say – I’m indifferent towards it.

I have recently been reading up on how to make the ENO site more Search Engine Optimised (SEO) – so that I can try and push the site higher up in a Google search.

The ‘Top Joomla SEO tips’ I found, were:

  1. Using keywords in the Title tag:

    The number one factor in ranking a page on any search engine is the title tag.
    These are the words in the source of a page in <title> and appear in the blue bar of the browser.

    “Choose the title of an article very carefully. Joomla will use the title of the article in the title tag (what appears in the blue bar). It will also be the text used in any insite links (see also 5 and 6).”

  2. The Anchor Text of the Inbound Link

    Anchor text is the text that appears underlined and in blue (unless it’s been styled) for a link from one webpage to another.
  3. Global Link Popularity of the Site (PageRank)

    How many pages are linking to ENO is called link popularity, or in Google, PageRank.

    “The more sites link to you, the better. Joomla is a CMS that helps you add content quickly. Create one quality content page per day. Quality content is the most important factor to getting bound links. For a site that will perform well, you eventually need 200 odd pages of content. This is the important point. QUICK SEO IS DEAD. The only way to perform well in SEO now is to have a rich content site.”

  4. The Age of the Site This one is self explanatory – ENO hasn’t been live for very long, so it would be foolish to expect it to be on the first page of a Google search. Sites that have been live for longer will naturally have more content, which means more links, which means they will be higher up in Google searches.
  5. Link Popularity WITHIN the Site This refers to how many pages link to the main website from inside the domain. The more links there are to a particular article will improve its relevance in Google search results. If an author of one article links to another related article on the same website (pretty much as you would with a blog) – then ENO will appear higher in a Google search.
  6. The ‘Topical Relevance’ of Inbound Links, and the Popularity of the Linking site

    To improve the ranking of ENO, it is imperative that the incoming links to the site (i.e. sites that link to ENO) have a high PageRank in Google. This means the links have to be from a site that is topically related to ENO, and one that has a high rank too.

  7. Using Keywords in the Body Text

    This refers to the keyword density of the phrase that you are optimizing for, in the content of the page.
    A German study into this, identified some interesting results:

    Targeted keywords in the first and last paragraphs. There is a simple trick here, write your quality content, and then use the tool of your choice to find the keyword density. THEN, take the top three words and add them to the meta keywords in the parameters part of the page (in Joomla admin). This is somewhat backwards for some maybe, it optimizes a page for what you actually wrote, rather than trying to write a page optimized for certain words (which I always find difficult).

    Keywords in H2-H6 headline tags seem to have an influence on the rankings while keywords in H1 headline tags seem to be getting less valuable. Modify the output of the core content component through a template override file.

    Using keywords in bold or strong tags – slight effect, same with img alt tags and filenames.

Hopefully, using these methods that I’ve found, and asking the Journalists to do the same, I can drive more traffic to the website. I think that I should be more closely monitoring the traffic to the website so that I can possibly tailor particular pages to suit specific users.

10 Days Later – The Site is LIVE!

My project has come on leaps and bounds since my last blog post.

Review

To recap, my final year university project is to create and maintain a fully working Content Management System, or CMS, so that the second year Online Journalism students are able to upload stories to the site, and have experience of writing for the web.

I took Paul Bradshaw‘s advice – and went live with the site, in a bid to solve the numerous problems I was having with hosting the site locally.

The ‘L’ Plates are off

Today, the site has gone live for the first time – you can see it for yourselves here. It’s called ‘Environmental News Online’, or ENO for short.

It didn’t go without it’s teething problems however..There were a few issues that needed resolving:

  • The contents and categories for inputting news onto the site were a little confusing to understand, and have subsequently been changed by myself and Paul Bradshaw.
  • Users who try to register to the website with an AOL or Tiscali account will have issues when receiving the email with an activation link.
  • The links to the reporters blogs are currently static, and hopefully in the future will become dynamic and self updating.
  • Some of the students will need to know basic HTML in order to attach and post images to their stories – a point touched on by Martin Stabe, who believes that it is wise to teach Journalism students basic HTML:

    “It would be more useful to teach some basic principles including HTML, let the serious geeks (or failing that, the tutor) set up a CMS-driven site in WordPress, MT, Joomla! or another basic CMS, and then make sure everyone else can keep it running — by concentrating on the non-technical journalism skills, like how to present stories online.”

Defeating the doubters

However, I am enjoying learning about and using Joomla! at the moment. When I started this project I didn’t even know what a CMS was.

I chose Joomla! because while I was researching about Content Management Systems, Joomla! popped up in several places.

This nicely leads to the point of the subheading above. Last week, I had the chance to have a quick chat with Pete Ashton – author of “Created in Birmingham” amongst other things.

Pete popped in to the Online Journalism class to talk about finding sources for news amongst other things, and noticed that I was using Joomla! – cue a sigh.

Last year, Pete attemped to use Joomla! for a project – and didn’t enjoy it at all:

“Now, having had to use it on a daily-ish basis for a while I can honest say, hand on heart, that it’s a piece of shit and a hinderance to my work. At least the interface is. It’s the most unintuitive, frustrating thing I’ve had to click my mouse on since I can’t remember when.”

Suffice to say, he wasn’t alone in his way of thinking. At the time of writing my blog, only three of the thirty people who commented on his post, creatively titled ‘Joomla sucks donkey cock’, actually thought Joomla! was worthwhile.

Pete found that searching for Joomla! sucks on Google brings up 219,000 results – that was in May last year. The same search today brings up 138,000 – maybe people are beginning to change their minds about it?

Time to ‘Pimp My Ride’

Steve Hill has found some excellent additions to Joomla! such as easier WYSIWIG editors (which would help some of the less technically sound students), and even add-ons that allow readers to comment on stories. Anyone for a bit of Web 2.0?

I’m currently looking into extensions for Joomla! that make things easier for the students to use and maintain the site, and also for myself too – (may I politely remind everyone that I’m new to this?)

I’m constantly learning more and more about it, and dare I say it – I am enjoying it, just a little.

Hopefully by May, I’ll be able to say that ‘I came, saw, and conquered’, by creating and maintaining a fully working CMS.

For now however, the project is underway, the site is live, and things are most definitely in motion – make sure you keep checking ENO for the latest Environmental News! The site is always changing.

Green light for Environmental News site

It’s been a while since I last blogged, but it’s only because I’ve been researching my final year university project with such depth!

My aim is to create a fully functional Content Management System (CMS) so that the second year online journalism students on my course are able to access it (ideally from anywhere) and add their stories to it as part of their module.

Frustration

Initally, it didnt all go smoothly. I tried the idea of creating and hosting a local server on my laptop, using Apache, MySQL, and PHP, in that order. I encountered several errors, even though I was being ably guided through the process by two books:

I kept encountering errors as Windows Vista (Ultimate) isnt user friendly, and doesn’t like it when you try and go through the back door.

However, during this process, it wasn’t all frustration. I improved my knowledge of PHP and MySQL, and Apache to a certain extent. When I started the project I had no idea of what these programs were, and how and why they are related.

Now I can safely say that these programs, and their languages, are so popular that they make up for 80% of what is on the web today – these stats are according to the PHP site, so don’t quote me!

Back to the drawing board

However, the project has taken another step forward. After being pointed in the right direction earlier by my lecturer, Paul Bradshaw, I now know how this project is going to work.

Later tonight I’m going to buy some webspace and hosting, through GoDaddy!, and start playing around with Joomla! on there. The aim is to get a fully working CMS for the Online Journalism students to play around with, by mid-next week.

Excellent how-to guides

Two guides I will definitely be taking a look at are New.Journalism.Review, and Andy Dickinson‘s. Both attempted to create similar projects to mine, setting up a news website using a CMS, the only difference in the two being their choice: New.Journalism.Review opted for Joomla! and Andy Dickinson opted for WordPress.

My lecturer, Paul Bradshaw, has another website which he has created himself using WordPress – JournalismEnterprise, and from looking at his and Andy Dickinson‘s, it’s quite clear to see that WordPress is extremely user-friendly – but I’m still more tempted by Joomla! as I have come across what seems to be several million websites with additional features, ‘hacks’, and things to do with it. I’m sure there are just as many for WordPress too.

Keep checking back to my blog for updates on how the project is going, no doubt I’ll be venting frustration several times over the coming months!

Aims

Hopefully, by the next blog, I aim to:

  • Purchase a domain/hosting option
  • Install Joomla! or WordPress
  • Play around with the CMS
  • Have a basic ‘shell’ of the site, so that the students can play around with it in the lecture.
  • Have developed a better understanding of CMS’s and how they work.

But for now, the Green light for the Environmental News website is definitely on, and I’m (potentially) on my way to something quite special.