Lessons from the Online News Association Conference (#ONA19) in New Orleans | 6AM City

Audra Goforth
Sep 27, 2019 · 5 min read

By: Audra Goforth, Editor, AVLtoday

Name badges for the 6AM City team at ONA19, New Orleans Sept. 12–15

Sept. 12–15, 2019, I attended the Online News Association conference in New Orleans, LA.

This conference is the largest U.S. event focused on digital journalism — has been going on for 20 years — and included three days of panels, presentations, and networking all related to media and online news in the digital age. I participated in a volunteer program through ONA, where I worked 10 hours of setup and registering participants during the event. And, since my volunteer shifts were the day prior to the conference and morning-of day one, I was able to attend some pretty cool sessions.

Here are four session highlights –

  1. Building Trust: Workshopping Strategies You Can Use to Demonstrate Credibility
  2. Editorial Experiments to Develop and Refine Your Digital Audience Strategy
  3. How Instagram Stories Helped Us to Double Traffic and Engage Audience
  4. How to Get Sh** Done in a Remote Workplace and Beyond

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

Building Trust: Workshopping Strategies You Can Use to Demonstrate Credibility

→ Speakers: Lynn Walsh + Joy Mayer from Trusting News

→ Basics: How to demonstrate trustworthy journalism to the community in an era where journalists are questioned for their credibility. “How do you convey trustworthiness to your community? Turn their misconceptions into an opportunity.”

Did you know: 79% of people surveyed said they have never spoken with a journalist. The proportion of people who have interacted with a journalist goes down for people who are younger, not white, less wealthy, and less educated. Mistrust is often based on misassumptions. There’s a disconnect with the public between what they think we do and what we really do.

“It’s really important to have a comment policy and set expectations for response. @TrustingNews #Ona19 #ona19credibility” — @EngagingNews

Key takeaway: Implement a comment policy to ensure that comments can be monitored. Lynn + Joy used this metaphor:

If you were throwing a party at your house and one guest was blaring music so loud you could barely hear to have a conversation, one guest puked on the floor, and one spilt rum all in the punch — you wouldn’t let your party stay like that making your other guests uncomfortable. You would throw out the punch, clean up the puke, turn down the music and most likely ask those rude guests to leave. So you should treat social comments the same way.”

A comment policy can live on the brand’s page alongside the ethics/mission statement (like ours here) and be used when someone is commenting on an article/social media post making other readers feel uncomfortable. You can comment on the article when things get heated and share the comment policy to remind readers to be mindful when posting. That way if someone “pukes in the comments” you have a standard to hold them to and can simply delete their comment without heat.

Editorial Experiments to Develop and Refine Your Digital Audience Strategy

→ Speaker: Everdeen Mason, The Washington Post

→ Basics: Using hypothesis driven editorial experimentation, newsrooms can craft better strategies by taking educated risks. A.k.a. Let’s increase engagement.

Creating the editorial experiment is a three part process –

“Two things to think about regarding analytics: Analytics incentivize behavior for the people you’re reporting into. Don’t pick just one metric. To understand what to create based on analytics, you have to understand what metrics tie back to reader behavior.” — @annaxgabriela

While working on the experiment, ask yourself these questions –

  • Pro-tip: Create questions as a team to strive for the best engagement.

“Audience strategy and content strategy have to be happening at the same time.” — @EverdeenMason

How Instagram Stories Helped Us to Double Traffic and Engage Audience

→ Speaker: Franak Viačorka, U.S. Agency for Global Media

→ Basics: Learning how Stories can keep your audience engaged and inspired

People who are coming to Instagram stories want the WOW effect. They want special projects, microsites, fact-checks, games, tests, quizzes. It creates brand recognition and THAT will bring revenue.

Key takeaways:

  • Stories should have short text
  • Stories should be dynamic
  • Stories should be vertical
  • Stories should have some kind of animation
  • Stories should be interactive with polls, quizzes, etc.

Instagram stories need to be interactive, playful features, movement and brief. In fact, he gives a breakdown:

  • 1/3 of your Instagram story should be fun
  • 1/3 of it should be engaging
  • 1/3 of it should be educational/informational

Have an editorial strategy for a well-produced Instagram story. After you’ve made and posted it, Viačorka says you can post it other places like your Instagram feed, Facebook and YouTube. Now you have multi-platform content that could drive your audience back to your Instagram.

How to Get Sh** Done in a Remote Workplace and Beyond

→ Speakers: Anna Perling + Kaitlyn Wells, Wirecutter and Adam Schweigert, Mother Jones

→ Basics: Learn the basics and beyond of a few powerful tools to help you manage projects, communicate with colleagues, and boost workplace culture whether you’re based in an office or not.

Remote work is often great for introverts, but can be harder for extroverts. So, Adam suggests, you should create places for extroverts to exercise those energies.

Communication is KEY:

  • If it doesn’t work for remote, it doesn’t work
  • Set clear expectations and norms
  • Assume best intentions
  • Facetime matters

Adam Schwieger’s best practices for thinking remote first:

  • Practice good organizational hygiene
  • Consistent policies + clear expectations
  • Culture is your more important product

Tips for when using Slack:

  • set statuses when you’re away/busy so you’re communicating that
  • don’t forget to fill out your profile
  • set keyword notifications for your name + keywords that are relevant to you
  • use the Star feature to keep track of important messages
  • commands, apps and integrations are helpful to implement too

Another great tool: Boomerang for Gmail. “It’s kind of like a to-do list that can take stuff off your plate for a different time.” –Kaitlyn.

To experiment with the tools, download Airtable, Zoom, and Boomerang.

While I learned something of note from every panel + session I went to, these four connected directly to the work I (and my peers) do at 6AM City. What lessons did you learn at ONA19 that were especially relatable to you?

Pro-tip: If you didn’t get to New Orleans, you can tune in to most of the sessions virtually on their archive pages here.

6AM City

6AM is engaging local communities by creating new ways to…

6AM City

6AM is engaging local communities by creating new ways to consume, participate, and share local content. We do newsletters in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Florida. (And more, soon!)

Audra Goforth

Written by

Editor, AVLtoday at 6AM City, LLC | 📍Asheville, North Carolina

6AM City

6AM is engaging local communities by creating new ways to consume, participate, and share local content. We do newsletters in North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Florida. (And more, soon!)

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