Archive for January, 2015

Audacity and Soundcloud for audio editing and publishing

Think audio is dead? Serial proved that wrong. But basic audio editing and publishing also is bread-and-butter for tasks like 911 calls for quick gonzo interviews, especially a critical quote to add authenticity,

Without doubt, Audacity is the most powerful free audio editing tool. Then, one of the best publishing tools is Soundcloud, which generates fully responsive embeds.

How to create animated gifs with Photoshop

How to make animated GIFs with CS5/6, a six-step process that can take fewer than 5 minutes.

1. Identify clip
2. Create raw footage (from sites to iMovie to Snapz Pro X or Snagit)
3. Import into Photoshop
4. Edit
5. Optimize file size and save
6. Preview and share

Grab all the details from the primer: PDF: How to create animated GIFs with Photoshop

Timeline JS walk-thru

Timeline JS is an open-source timeline tool built in javascript by NU prof Zach Wise and the Knight Lab. It’s based on a Google Drive spreadsheet, accepts photo, video, Tweets, audio, maps etc and generates fully responsive embed code, so it’s Next Gen friendly.


Chief Keef
Mike Ditka (not this one)
Boston Marathon bombing manhunt


1. Get a copy of the template
2. Clear out data
3. Insert your information into the spreadsheet
4. Select Edit/Publish to web/Start publishing to make the spreadsheet public
5. Paste document URL into Timeline JS interface
6. Hit preview to make sure everything’s OK
7. Grab the embed code and insert into an HTML page/story.

Tutorial and data

You can get the template here.

Grist for timeline:

Soundcloud audio from Jan. 16, 2013

Sept. 8: Chicago Bears defeat Cincinnati Bengals 24-21 as Marc Trestman gets first NFL head coaching victory.

Flickr photo from Sept. 15.

Tribune image from Sept. 15 Bears game.

In that game, with 3 minutes, 8 seconds left, a game that had twisted and turned suddenly hinged on the confidence of a huddle and the poise of quarterback Jay Cutler, who gathered his offense near the Chicago 34-yard line. The story from Sept. 15.

Biggs tweet about typo on 9/15.

Cutler tackle from Sept. 22

Ben Roethlisberger turned the ball over four times, two of which the defense returned for a touchdown, as the Bears beat Steelers 40-23 on 9/22. Story here

Published spreadsheet here.

Documentcloud walk-thru

DocumentCloud is one of the best tools for archiving original source documents, as well as a very powerful public way to create a deeper online experience and aid in transparency.

Here’s the latest version of the DocumentCloud primer.

And here’s a few examples as to how we’ve used it:

Single annotated document: FRA derailment support

Single annotated document: NIOSH firefighter deaths report

Document collection: Jesse Jackson Jr. case file

Scribblelive tutorial, walk-thru

Scribblelive is a creation/curation tool can accommodate a wide variety of social posts and original content.

A Scribble event can support: Twitter, Vine, Instagram, Flickr, YouTube, NDN, Soundcloud and Vimeo. Events purport to support Facebook but really don’t due to privacy settings, and do not consistently support Imgur, Linkedin or Google+. You also can styled text posts, .jpgs, animated .gifs, .wav files, polls and .mov files.

Download a full text/visual primer here

Key links

Scribble CMS:
Tribune’s white label site:
Usage tips:

Chartbeat 101

Chartbeat is real-time analytics software that checks in every few seconds with your site’s users to see where they are, what they’re doing and how they got there. And because it checks in every few seconds, it can determine how long users are spending on that content – engaged time.

From Chartbeat: “Engaged time is the amount of time your visitors actively spend interacting with your content, whether it’s reading an article, writing a comment, or watching a video. According to our research, there’s a strong correlation between visitors’ engagement and their propensity to return to a website; visitors who read an article for three minutes return twice as often as those who read for one minute.”




What does it do? Measures in real time how users are interacting with the content on a single page and ranks it against all content on that page (numerically) and against historic data for that position and specific times (colors).

What doesn’t it do? It doesn’t tell you the top story on your site. It doesn’t take into consideration other ways people could find content on a site (search, social). Nor would it track links that leave your core domain. It also doesn’t contrast types of content – video, premium, etc.

What’s it good for? Determining story play. Determining a piece of content’s life cycle. Testing and refining headlines or images.

Color codes:

Green: Above the median clicks per minute (for that position at that time).

Yellow: Between the median clicks per minute (for that position at that time) and roughly one-half of the median clicks per minute.

Red: Below roughly one half of the median clicks per minute (for that position at that time)

Grey: Hasn’t collected enough click-through data to calculate performance for this position or it repeats a position already calculated.

No color: Offsite link or too low to be calculated


On, Chartbeat pins and ranks around 60 pieces of content. So if a story hasn’t been in the top 60 in the past few seconds, or if it hasn’t gotten any clicks at all in that time, it won’t have a pin.

Dialog box:

Click on any pin to see its clicks per minute, the position’s median clicks per minute and a trend line.

Read until here:

Locates the “digital fold” where the majority of people will stop scrolling down your site, as well as tracking audience as they scroll down the page.

Installing the HUD:

To install the HUD, first pick your browser. Install it on a lesser-used one as it’s resource intensive. Then go to:

Click on “Active heads up display.” When it turns green, go to

You will see a button near the bottom of the site with an arrow on it. Click that arrow and the “heads up display” (real-time click map) will launch.


Segment by section:

If you’re a section editor, restrict your content view to just the content you focus on. You can restrict content by section by changing the “All sections” pulldown. This gives you a full slice of metrics, from audience source to engagement time, by section.

Active visits:

• Concurrents: Number of visitors from the sample on the site.
• Recirculation: % of visitors moving from a content page to another content page on the same site. Note, moving from the apps server or big gallery would detract from this, artificially lowering the %.
• Engaged time: We’re usually in the low 20 second to the mid-30-second range.

Visitor frequency:

• New: First visit to site in 30 days
• Returning: Visited your site more than twice in the last month
• Loyal: Visited site in eight of the last 16 days.

You can drill down one level and re-sort on any of these three segmentations.

Traffic sources:

• Internal: Traffic from one page on your site to another, rather than coming from a link on another site. Note this differs from recirculation in that it could be a section front.
• Direct: Visitors who arrive by entering a URL in their browser, typically landing on a homepage.
• Social: Visitors who arrive from links provided by friends or others they follow on social media.
• Links (formerly external): Visitors who arrive via links from external sites, e.g. Drudge Report, Google News.
• Search: Visitors who arrive from search engines, such as Google or Bing.

You can drill down one level and re-sort on any of these five segmentations.


Highlights your top referrers. Can drill down one level and re-sort.

Concurrents by traffic source:

First, the graph compares the current day’s traffic against 24 hours of traffic from the same day one week ago, meaning any atypical traffic would plot as a variance. Can plot 7 days or 30 days to normalize the graph to mitigate outliers.

Top pages:

The main area of the editorial dashboard displays the top 20 pieces of content based on concurrent visitors, engaged time or recirculation. The default is concurrent visitors.

You can open any of the top 20 to get a full audience reading on that item, but the dashboard provides some clues from the main page as to what’s going on.

The “L” badge marks a landing page, either a homepage or a section front.

The colored chevrons on the left-hand side of the list indicate how quickly the article is trending in popularity. Green chevrons mean the article is gaining in popularity and red means that it’s trending down. More chevrons means it’s trending more quickly in whichever direction

The “acquiring” badge means a higher number than expected of new visitors are interacting with this page.

The “retaining” badge means that this piece of content has a higher than expected engaged time and/or recirculation.

Social icons for sites like Twitter, Facebook and Reddit will display when over 5% of concurrent traffic is coming from that source.

Engagement time is displayed in either green for content engaged more than 30 seconds, or a pink-orange for content under 30 seconds. The brightness of each color correlates to extremes on the spectrum.

What’s numbers are good? Good engagement time is more than 60 seconds. Great is more than 90 seconds. Ideally, 30% of traffic from a single content item is from social. The Los Angeles Times gets about 20% of its total traffic from social. The Chicago Tribune averages under 10%.


The daily report ranks engaged minutes for a site’s top 20 content items, sections and authors, and also displays sitewide metrics. Can also restrict by date, section or author.

By default, the sort will flag in reverse text the content with the longest engagement time and most concurrent visitors. The main dashboard also highlights top offsite referrers and may flag a “missed opportunity,” meaning the user didn’t click on other pages on site.


The weekly report looks at broader data on users and referrers. Displays engaged minutes per person each week and their weekly return rate. It also ranks and analyzes top referrers. Can change your weekly date window.


Download a PDF of the Chartbeat 101 primer.

Download a PDF of Chartbeat’s official Guide to Audience Behavior.

Exploring interactive chart tools: Infogram, Datawrapper and Google Charts

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This week I explored four data visualization tools to build interactive charts: Google Fusion Tables, Datawrapper, and Google Charts.

As Fusion Tables is being phased out for charts, the latter three our your best choices. Google Charts, however, requires a somewhat higher skill level than the browser-based Datawraper and

Download the sample data here.

What can be done? Pretty decent stuff.

1. Datawrapper line chart of January weather
2. Datawrapper line chart of historic snowfall totals
3. tree chart of Chicago’s top Twitter accounts

SEO best practices

Keywords form the basis on your slug, give you guidance on what terms should be in your SEO title and story-level headline, and comprise your SEO Keyphrase (keywords) field in P2P.

Your content’s success in natural search and on Google News can hinge on how well you’ve identified and used keywords.


To recap, your slug generally should include 2-4 keywords for breaking news, under 6 for longer stories. No articles, punctuation, wasted words. Front-load key nouns like names and geography.

Example: Was Mayor Rahm Enamuel attacked by eunuchs? chi-rahm-emanuel-eunuch-attack-20140813 seems like a viable slug, with Chicago mayor as a keyword.

This affects search and Google News.

In P2P, your SEO Keyphrase field can contain up to 10 comma-delimited terms. It is used by Google News only.

Three key areas to know

1. What has worked in the past?
2. How can I identify developing trends?
3. What tricks and tools can help be identify keywords?

Know what’s been successful before

You can crack the formula a bit by looking at what story slug/keywords have generally performed on Google News.


Another valuable method is to run an Omniture referrals report on a topic you’ve used in the past.

First, find an applicable slug. Then log into Omniture SiteCatalyst and select Site Content/Pages Report/Pages. Then filter for your slug or a word in your slug.

Next, click on the “Break down” icon left of the slug and select Traffic Sources/Search Keywords – Natural. Although this no longer includes Google metadata, it still contains a statistically significant amount of information.

Example: The Notre Dame academic fraud scandal (chi-notre-dame-academic-fraud-investigation-20140815)

The top searches that got people to that piece of content were:

chicago tribune: 261, 0.4%
notre dame: 254, 0.4%
notre dame football: 155, 0.3%
notre dame football suspensions: 126, 0.2%
notre dame academic fraud: 54, 0.1%
notre dame investigation: 15, 0.0%
notre dame football news: 13, 0.0%
notre dame scandal: 12, 0.0%

Based on this data, chi-notre-dame-football-suspensions might be a more effective slug and keyword combination than academic fraud, although clearly that has some value as well.

Trending tools

1. Trendsmap (United States or Chicago)
2. Newswhip
3. Chartbeat Rising
4. Trendinalia: U.S.

Search tools

1. Use your browser to “view source” on story files. Search for keywords or keyphrase.
2. Google Trends Explore
3. Test natural searches. Did you get what you expect?
4. Twitter and Facebook trends are displayed in the browser
5. Google Keywords Planner

Social media analytics: Simply Measured, Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics

1. Simply Measured

Simply Measured is a social media metrics tool that allows analysis and measurement across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Google+, Linkedin, Vine and Tumblr. It allows you to run basic and trend reports on a single account or run comparative reports on data sets of multiple accounts.

Much of the analysis is based on tracking “engagement” of a post, a composite figure based on likes, RTs, comments, replies, shares and favorites, depending on the channel.

Twitter Account Report

The report allows you to track: potential reach, when tweets were sent, what type of engagement that tweet had, if a tweet had multimedia, user profiles, keywords, platform, clients, DMA and top tweets by engagement (RTs + replies + favorites).

Facebook Fan Page Report

This report tracks the number of brand posts, top users, keywords, and top posts by engagement (likes + comments + shares)

Multiple Twitter Channel Analysis

This allows you to run queries against data sets you create that include multiple social media channels.

Social Traffic Report

Pulls Google Analytic data. Generally stuff you can get in Omniture or Google Analytics. like top social sites. The report does trend social media pages per visit against # of visits. It also features a concise dashboard profiling social visits vs. all other visits.

Website Influencer Report

Pulls Google Analytics data. Displays top users and top tweets driving visits to your site.

Limitations to Simply Measured?

It’s always not real time. They scrape a full day’s report in the “early AM hours,” according to a Simply Measured rep. So, if you run a report throughout the day, it may be missing data, Also, both Facebook and Twitter offer deeper dives into the data through Facebook Insights and Twitter Analytics.

2. Twitter analytics

The Twitter Analytics page displays general data on engagement, including a month-long graph on engagement. But its strength is its granularity. It shows link clicks, follows, whether a person viewed multimedia or expanded the tweet, and how it performed over time.

The Followers page features a graph that tracks overall follower growth, but also highlights what followers are interested in, who they are and where they are located.

More? Twitter’s official blog post

3. Facebook Insights

The Insights tool offers a more robust set of data on your Facebook page, focused on engagement, reach and profiles of your fans, defaulting to the last seven days. For your metrics, your can look at data including content post time, reach, likes, shares and comments. It charts most trends over time. For the user profile, the data includes city, language, gender and age.

Valuable reports

• When are your fans online? Posts > top graph
• Do you want to search by negative feedback? You can toggle over to sort by like hides, spam reports etc, showing highlighting perhaps your least effective posts.
• What posts brought people to your page? Visits > External referrers

4. Muckrack

“Who Shared My Link” tool

Great free tool to quickly run data on a single URL and look at social shares across all platforms if you only want a quick, quick look.