A few personal tips on using Storify for content marketing

Storify front pageStorify is a great curation app that has a lovely interface for producing content around a conference, a topic, a breaking news story, a hashtag or a planned article. On my personal Storify, I’ve used it to collect funnies, round up conference conversation, links and reaction, cover live news and, most recently, document the joy and pain of working at a standup desk.

Today I did an hour’s session introducing three digital marketers to Storify, running through some examples of how I use it personally and for the companies I work with.

We produced a Q&A as a test article, curating content to answer questions around taking up netball as a sport – see the embedded Storify below. But first, here are my tips I’ve gathered from creating content using Storify: Continue reading “A few personal tips on using Storify for content marketing”

Five tips for journalists trying to make the digital transition

NUJ panel_view from the stageToday was a first for me – being a speaker on the social media panel at the NUJ’s one-day conference on the enjoyably menacingly titled New Ways to Make Journalism Pay II. I’d originally signed up to attend the event before I realised I probably had something to pass on from my own experience of shifting from print to online, hence ending up on the stage with this view of a packed room.

Our session took a purely Q&A format but, as prep, I’d put together the five things that have helped me get to grips with digital content work. Here they are… Continue reading “Five tips for journalists trying to make the digital transition”

McCullin – A film by Jacqui Morris – a first review

Tonight I was privileged to see the (first-edit) premiere of ‘McCULLIN – a film by Jacqui Morris’. Here’s the trailer…

McCullin Trailer from Jacqui Morris on Vimeo.

This cinema-quality documentary film recalls the work of Don McCullin, the celebrated war photographer who has taken some of the most affecting war, famine and humanitarian photos of the 20th century. He is 75 now and made the film, well, because he was seriously ill and told Morris to come and film quickly before he died. (He has had an operation and is recovering well.)

Continue reading “McCullin – A film by Jacqui Morris – a first review”

Cantal press trip blogged – and a travel request

Just back from a week in the centre of France in a little known area called the Cantal. It may be “one of the most sparsely populated and geographically isolated French departments”, according to Wikipedia, but it does have one big claim in that the region encompasses Europe’s largest volcano. Snowshoeing a sleeping volcano seemed an irresistible storyline. Continue reading “Cantal press trip blogged – and a travel request”

Travmedia launches new social network for travel trade


Travmedia, a press release and journalist alert service which connects journalists and PRs, has just made a very smart move (I hope) by launching a Facebook-style social network, that will facilitate many more travel trade connections and work opportunities, and make travel freelancers like myself more visible to travel editors.

‘My Network’ is a little clunky to use at first – a beta feedback option would be good for members so that they can improve the user experience. And there are currently some privacy issues – if you are a Travmedia member you should immediately update your default profile so that your full address doesn’t show, for example.

But I think this might be the first useful work-oriented network I’ve joined since Twitter, which has become a little noisy of late.

The success of ‘My Network’ may be dependent on whether others adopt its usage and how Travmedia develops the service. But it’s already been helpful to me in finding PRs for areas I want to cover, for reconnecting with friends I’ve met on press trips and for posting feature pitches and commissions.

We shall see how our relationship progresses after the first flush is over.

Dataviz first attempts

Having wrestled with a significant number of roadblocks for what is a fairly straightforward dataset, I am happy to announce the birth of my first data visualisation comparing 2011 figures for the percentage of women in the boardroom across a number of different countries. (Data source: Grant Thornton International Business Report). This is just a tester graphic, though. I now have to figure out how to show this over time, and with many more countries, and on a world map. *Gulp.*

Women in Senior Management 2011 Many Eyes

Update: I have added in the rest of the 2011 data by country so that it can be represented on a world map. Can’t seem to customise the horrible brown colour though.

Women in the Boardroom 2011 Many Eyes

Now to try adding in extra maps to show the data in different years…


Less than 15 minutes later, the rest of the data is input and a graphic created which shows the state of play for senior women in business since 2004. You’ll have to click through to see this in action. Either click ‘All’ maps in the toolbar above the map, or select by year from the dropdown menu bottom left.

Women in the Boardroom 2004-2011 Many Eyes

Phew. Logging off now and going to pub.

News from my blogs

Having different blogs for different subject areas means that I am a slave to them all. So if it’s quiet here on my central hub then it’s probably because I’m over on one of my other workday or spare-time blogs. As a quick roundup, here’s what I’ve been posting elsewhere of late:

31 Destinations in Time – because it’s not just about the place but the era in which you visit it. I’ve just posted number 11 in the series on Dumaguete City, capital of Negros Island, in the Philippines in 2007. The series also includes Bali, Iceland, Venice, Jordan, Slovenia, Paris, Gili Trawangan, Austin, Texas and San Francisco.

Subs’ Standards – lately in my sub-editing blog I’ve been picking up on a few funnies that have made it through to publication. I also published my first guest post – from multimedia journalist Andy Bull on the subs-friendly art of curation and live-blogging. I’m now thinking of asking other sub-editors to write about their experiences of digital subbing.

Debauched Teddies – rounding up bad teddy bears from around the world. There are LOTS.

Katchooo Mix – a scrapbook of stuff that is relevant to my interests.

Flickr news – fresh up are holiday pics from Llangollen canal and the Isle of Purbeck, plus shots from Mostly Jazz Festival weekender who kindly gave me a photo pass.

Grant Thornton Thinking blogs – I help write and edit four blog channels for Grant Thornton UK on/about: business leaders and entrepreneurs, the high net worth community, international markets and boardroom issues. Recently I’ve researched online business networks in China, live-curated the UK Budget and set up a Scoop.It for female finance directors. I’m lucky in that the firm’s online channels are open to exploring new ideas for business and financial content.

The Firehead blog – I’m also blog manager for this European content and comms recruitment company. They let me post LOLcats among the more serious business content. This makes me happy.

My first attempts at ‘journalism’ circa 1984

A few weeks ago Stirchley News discovered some old issues of Snooze aka Stirchley News zine from the mid 1980s in someone’s attic:

“My mother recently discovered a pile of these local interest newspapers in her loft. Mum helped on Snooze and was part of the Stirchley Community Action Group. I also helped a little on Snooze, occasionally, with typing and layout…”

Full story here.

Now, I also helped on Snooze – as a 15-year-old local Stirchley schoolgirl who had a vague idea of one day becoming a fancypants, hi-falutin’ journalist. My bezzie mate Tracey and I compiled the back page section. We called it Hot Gossip and basically filled it with immature jokes, droodles and general silliness.

But I’ve been waiting with some trepidation for the issue to come out with my first attempt at ‘serious journalism’ – or that’s the way I remember it. It involved going down Stirchley High Street and counting the number of different restaurant types, doing an interview and writing up a special report.

Well, finally the issue has been posted online but it’s hardly the in-depth article I remember.

Continue reading “My first attempts at ‘journalism’ circa 1984”

Anyone else out there do what I do?

5351881990_b621326356_bThe shift in publishing from print to digital has changed my production journalist job beyond all recognition – a transition I blogged about in last year in RIP Sub-editing. Now, instead of ‘journalist’, I answer blogger or web editor or content strategist or content creator or multimedia producer or social reporter or online quality controller – depending on the circumstances I find myself in, the people I am speaking to and what people are more likely to understand.

A memory: covering an FT conference for a client, I got chatting with a senior manager at BT Group who asked what I did. I replied that I was there to interview attendees and get their views for a video blog post – a video blogger. I’ll always remember his reaction: “Is that even a job?”

I’m happy to say that it is. I wasn’t insulted by his comment. I fully understand how fast reporting has changed and how big business has (in general) not kept up. In fact, his reaction wasn’t at all unusual and often people don’t understand the business model behind what I do. But the truth is, my work as a sub-editor and journalist for newspapers and magazines has now morphed into one of facilitator. I assuage the needs of clients, all of whom have become publishers, but most of whom do not have any training in basic publishing skills, production sensibilities or editorial judgment.

Continue reading “Anyone else out there do what I do?”

Why dataviz eats my brain


I keep getting drawn into dealing with infographics (didn’t they just used to be called graphics?). Which is fine. They are content and, after all, I am a content producer. The problem is that I appear to be seriously rubbish at them. In fact, they can make me feel downright inadequate.

Either I can think up the idea but I’m then left to the mercy of the search engines as to whether I can find relevant statistics to support it. Sadly, it turns out that researching data driven by an idea is a rather hit and miss affair.

Or, being a writer first and foremost, I don’t think particularly visually – which makes it impossible to make smart choices or judge the level of difficulty and resource it’ll take to deliver my suggestion.

Full. Of. Fail.

I used to think infographics were really the design department’s gig but, in reality, the designer is also being asked to step outside their comfort zone and both collect data and then analyse it to check that it will work in practice. They can be great designers but poor data analysts.

Even they may not know the answer. If it is an interactive graphic, then a web developer needs to come on board with their input – at which point the idea may get derailed once more. The result?

Infographics are a time-suck.

And that’s before production begins. Even more frustrating is that I can never type the word without writing INFORgraphic – the word is devoid of keyboard muscle memory and since I have to type it a lot (because of all the freakin’ collaboration involved) it makes my teeth itch. Or is this just me?

So why am I blogging about something I am so bad at?

Because there is an infographics gold rush on right now and it shows no signs of ending. This is probably because:

(a) we are exploring the possibilties of digital content
(b) because users don’t want to read a wodge of text so this needs to be broken up somehow
(c) complex ideas often benefit from simple visuals
(d) they make great linkbait

And we’re not just talking simple representative graphics but interactive, multimedia, story-telling, motion graphics that drill down into different elements to tell the story of the data.

Note: the user will probably still need a guided tour of the infographic.

Many pretty visuals are just that. Lovely to look at but unfathomable. Even good ones usually benefit from a caption or summary title. This is where I as a web writer come in again – I provide the contextual link for readers to understand the graphic’s key points, a sort of guided tour for those who don’t think visually either or haven’t got the time to work it out themselves.

The trouble again is that without getting down and dirty with the production work, I’m often left trying to work out the meaningful points of the graphic myself.

I guess the point I am making is that ideally this task needs to be done or overseen by one person rather than a series of different editorial, design and web dev inputs. And that that person needs to have skills in research, data collection and analysis, visual thinking, design and sketching, Java, Flash, Silverlight and other software, contextual writing, sub-editing and SEO. Otherwise the infographic can fall between the skills gap and cause untold content stress for everyone.

Dataviz requires a weird skillset.

Online data visualisation in particular seems to ask for a greater breadth of skills than most writers or designers can give. Which goes some of the way to explaining why there are a lot of weak examples coming through in my feeds.

Designers need to train up in telling the data’s story, or journalists need to train up in visualising their story. For an example of the (scary level of) skills and tasks required, check out this recent job ad for a data journalist at the BBC.

Until then, the unusual mix of skills required by data visualisation is leading to some great opportunities to fill this niche growth area.

Sadly I will probably not be one of those opportunists. I may have an A’level in maths (including statistics), done a graphic design course and come from a background in journalism – really I should be well set up – but my brain gets discombobulated whenever I have to problem-solve with infographics.

On the other hand, how I wish I could do it!


For more insights into data visualisation, check out Journalsim in the Age of Data. It’s an hour-long presentation but well worth a view, plus there are lots of resources and links available alongside it.

Also check out Randy Krum of Cool Infographics’ guide to designing dataviz.

And this list of ‘awesome free tools’ and resources.

A TED talk on the beauty of data visualisation by David McCandless.

Finally, be inspired by this periodic table of visualisation methods with examples of different types.

Image: Venn diagram of “What is data visualisation” from FFunction.