YLYB #115: Bills, Bills, Bills

Paying for the book is always a struggle at my school.  I know at some schools, yearbooks nearly sell themselves.  This is not the case at my school.  Being a Title I school, more than 80 percent of our students qualify for free or reduced price lunch.  This means that luxury items, like a yearbook are, well, a luxury.

This is especially true when they cost more than $70 each.

We are struggling to sell more books, but it seems like we can’t make a dent in the number of books we sell each year.  Of course, with the potential for school funding cuts in my state, school districts are putting more pressure than ever on yearbooks to break even or even make a profit.

Now, I’m not a marketing major, but I’m not sure how we are supposed to sell more books during a recession? We are trying everything we know and we have had more pre-orders this year, but I’m not sure how we are going to sell all the books we need to to break even.  Any ideas, pass them along.


YLYB #99-100: 184 Pieces of Paper On The Wall

Today, I printed out one numbered piece of paper for every page in the yearbook.  As we start turning in pages, we print out the final layouts – this is a pretty good way to judge color and to see duplicates – a person in the book too many times.  The walls of my room look like a counting exercise.  Can’t wait to see them all filled.

We are also in the continuing saga of what to do about declining sales.  I’m out of ideas.  Between our continual churn of new students and the recession, there is no permanent solution.  It was suggested that we raise the price of the book, but I think that will only drive sales down even more.  I’m open to ideas from my readers.

YLYB #37: Pickup Sales

Sales are very slowly starting to pick up.  Maybe it is the constant harping I have been doing on the matter.  My students have finally started to turn in yearbook money.  It just seems like we have been devoting so much time and resources to sales, that our book is going to suffer.

Yearbook is the eternal resource hog.  There is only so much time in a day, so many students on staff and you just can’t do it all photography, design, coverage, and sales.  It seems like when you focus on one aspect, the others suffer.  I guess it is like the old expression good, fast, cheap – pick any two.

YLYB #33: Half Day and Yearbook Sales

Yearbook sales are starting off slowly.  We have sold a few, and the kids need to get out there and work harder.   With the recession still going strong, I know this will be another tough year, but we increased sales last year.  So, we can do it again this year if they try hard enough.

Today was a half-day at the high schools in my district.  We had the second half of the day to plan and call parents.  I did that and did a lot of catch up work on yearbook receipts and t-shirt sales.  I really hate dealing with money.  I was supposed to be a writer or videographer, not a book keeper or salesman.  So much for what we wanted to do in life.

Don’t get me wrong, I love teaching – I love yearbook – I hate sales.

YLYB #23: Our New Yearbook Rep.

Today, my yearbook rep. came by the school and taught my three yearbook classes.  She worked on selling yearbooks and ads with them and even offered them a prize for the top sellers.  That’ll be a big help I hope.  We’ve been sliding in both ad sales and copy count for several years.  Last year, we were able to reverse the copy count slide and even grow – in a recession!

This year, our goal is to increase our ad sales – especially business ads, and also increase our copy count even more.

My rep. “S” did a decent job trying to fire up the troops and give them some needed info, help and CANDY!  (Ssshhh, I’m sure we violated some candy police state policy.) So, the kids are more excited than they have been in the past about selling books and ads.  Lets hope we can turn that into sales.  Plus I didn’t have to prepare a lesson for three periods today.  (Big Smile)

Cool Links #87: The One About Prom Craziness

Last night was Prom.  Yesterday was insanity day.  We had our seniors out most of the day to get ready for Prom.  Some of the sophomores were at a Field Day, the Ballet Folklorico dance team was performing somewhere, there were AP Tests, and we were getting ready to prep for Yearbook Day!  Too much craziness for one day.  So, after another 16-hour day, it was time to sleep.  Now, it is time for cool links!

1 – As a yearbook advisor, I’m always on the lookout for a way to sell more yearbooks.  I think I may have found an advantage.  According to businesspundit.com, women make 70 percent of consumer purchases.  That is not a typo – 70 percent.  So, even though they are about 52 percent of your student body, the girls or the moms will make the decision to buy most of your yearbooks.  This may explain why girls dominate yearbook staffs.  Yearbooks are a consumer purchase.  They’re just more into it.

Women Make 70 Percent of Consumer Purchases

Women Make 70 Percent of Consumer Purchases

2 – If you teach video production or broadcast journalism, then you know how difficult it can be to get cutaways or b-roll.  Then you’ve got to watch this video. (mildly not safe for school)

3 – Is journalism about access?  In some ways it seems that the only journalism making any money these days (business, sports, entertainment) is about access.  Adam Westbrook takes this debate up with a piece on his blog.

4 – I love PHDcomics.com and this one is spot on.

Things You'll Never See In A Newspaper

Things You'll Never See In A Newspaper

5 – The JEA has a good presentation about the reasons why students should think internet publishing first.

6 – With Youtube changing from FLV to HTML5 on their site, I need a new way to download Youtube videos to use in class.  I prefer to use the Google Chrome browser, but you will need to download Firefox for this one, the Easy YouTube Video Downloader.  It works pretty good and lets you choose several formats to save your videos in.

7 – Dateline: Silver Age is an homage to both the “Silver” Age of Comics and to the many journalists who have had to pen a headline in a newspaper.  I love the site, it is so much fun.

Police Baffled By Newspaper Headlines

Police Baffled By Newspaper Headlines

8 – When you are creating a web site, you need that site to run in a lot of places.  I’m not talking about Denver and Boston, but Chrome, Firefox, Safari and Explorer.  And you need it to run on mobile devices too.  Noupe.com has a terrific list of sites that can help you optimize your web site for every type of browser and platform.

9 – I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it before, but the SnapFactory Blog has some great tutorials, called Digital Photography 1-on-1.  They are for beginning and intermediate photographers.  They are available on their Youtube channel too.

10 – Want a simple way to develop grid-based web design systems?  Webdesignledger has everything you need – tons of links for grid based web design tools.  And who doesn’t like to design on a grid?

11 – Wired Magazine is stepping up for fair use.  In an online article, they note a study that says Fair Use of copyright material adds nearly $7 Trillion to the US economy alone.  So, I wonder just how much damage has the DMCA done to our economy?

12 – Where do computer threats come from?  You’d be surprised.

Where Computer Threats Come From

Where Computer Threats Come From

13 – Just funny.

Hall Monitor

Hall Monitor

14 – I’m a big fan of Rebooting The News, which comes from the author of Scripting The News.  I love his idea of creating three simple rules for computer standards that are similar to the rules for robotics by Isaac Asimov.

Have a great Yearbook Week and I hope you get your books in soon or finish your Fall books soon.

Cool Links #85: The One About ILPC

Here in Texas, we have a journalism convention hosted by the state sports and academics authority (UIL) every spring in Austin on the campus of that Orange and White University.  (My sister is an Aggie, so I’m not allowed to say the name of the university in question.)  The trip is nearly always fun, entertaining and we learn something too.  I attended some great sessions put on by some great speakers from near and far.  One of the best parts of the trip is seeing other staff’s t-shirts.  My favorite this year was West Orange.  Their shirts said “That’s What She Said.” on the front and “You can tell me, I’m a reporter.” on the back.  It has taken me an entire week to recover from the lost sleep and insane amount of fun my students and I had on the trip.  So, now a long overdue Cool Links episode.

1 – Adam Westbrook says that news organizations are too big to succeed and that we all just need to keep it simple, silly.

2 – Jim Jordan provided one of my links this week in his UIL session last week – 51 Ways to tell the story of your year.

3 – This next link also came from the workshop, from a professor at the University of Nebraska, Scott Winter.  I really enjoyed this video about a native American girl, literally fighting to get off the reservation.

4 –  The incomparable Bob Kaplitz Blog has another gold nugget – this one shows why viewers hate boring, out of focus video.

5 – I’m not a big fan of script fonts in school publications.  Usually they are either overused or used in ways that harm readability.  But Web Design Ledger has a super group of 20 that are modern and useful.

6 – The Google CEO says newspapers will make money again – online.  They just need to hang on and get through these lean times.  I tend to agree with him, but I also understand that the dynamics of the web mean that most newspapers will be smaller, and more focused on local or niche content.

7 – Winning the war of the scrum is more a job for rugby players than photographers, unless you’re a paparazzo.  Fun Tuna has a collection of images that illustrate the daily grind of those who hunt stars for a living.

Photog Scrum

Photog Scrum

8 – Here’s a blog I added to my RSS reader recently – Local News Queen.

9 – This is the biggest problem with news organizations getting smaller.  Too big to fail, also often means too big to sue.  Few would willing take on the lawyers at the New York Times.  But I doubt many would hesitate to take on a blogger, especially one who makes their bread and butter in a small market.  The Newsosaur agrees and the comments on this article are even more engaging.

10 – While I teach in a 1:1 classroom (I have a workstation for every student), I don’t teach in a 1:1 school.  I wish I did.  I think that students from Title I schools need more than their peers.  They need computers in every grade PK-12.  But sadly, I see three of the five insights from the Always Learning blog as roadblocks in going 1:1 in a Title I school.

1. Involve All The Stakeholders:  Most Title I schools have little or no involvement from parents.  Many parents work, some have two jobs.  Others have language barriers.  Many feel uncomfortable in schools due to their own level of education.  It is a recipe for limited parental involvement.

2. School Leadership Must Take An Active Role:  School administrators in a Title I school have more problems on their plate than solutions.  They have limited time and resources.  They are not likely to initiate an expensive program like a 1:1 initiative when they have so many more pressing issues.  And mandated testing only exacerbates these problems.

4. Project Based Learning Is Where It’s At:  State mandated minimum skills tests take up so much time, effort, staffing and funding at Title I schools, that PBL is not going to be an option unless we change the metrics.  We can’t swim against the stream, when we’ve got to deal with the realities of passing a test that is difficult for students with issues that face most Title I schools.

11 – Jeff Jarvis reboxes his iPad.  The journalism professor was an early advocate of the device, but now says it is not going to benefit him as a content creator.  That’s too bad, because I think that if the iPad had a web cam and a microphone input, it would be a great journalism device.

12 – The Edit Foundry blog deals with the issue of color correction in Final Cut.  Very useful tips and tricks.

13 – Journalists are too focused on using ads to make money on the web according to Adam Westbrook.  I’m sure this is true, but as I’ve said before on this blog, journalists – especially in America – were told for three generations or more that it was unethical to get your hands dirty with the money making side of the business.  News should be clean and keep out of the sales dept.   Most journalists have little or no idea how to monetize anything.   And it may take an entire generation before that changes.

14 – Is the White House Press Corps dead? The Daily Beast thinks it may be dying.

15 – Is CNN dead? The New York Times thinks that the once great news network (remember the voice of James Earl Jones: This is CNN?) may be on the way out.  It’s death hastened by FOX News and MSNBC’s race to opinion based “reporting.”

16 – Several states including California are attempting to make unpaid internships illegal.  I want to salute them for that.  I remember a number of journalism students that I knew who could not find paying internships.  They were forced to work for free, and so did the bare minimum number of hours needed to complete their credit.  It didn’t serve them well and was a horrible way to “pay their dues” in the industry.

17 – Pxleyes blog has a fun post with 45 more Photoshop Disasters, some you’ve seen and some you haven’t – some safe for school, but not all.  Some are just creepy.

Creepy Photoshop Disasters

Creepy Photoshop Disasters

I think that’s going to do it for this week.  I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Our last day is the first week of June.

Cool Links #77: Crash and Burn

I’m not sure why, but Google Chrome keeps crashing hard on wordpress today.  Other than that little problem it is usually my favorite browser.  So, now I have to get all my favorite sites into Safari and that’s a pain too.  So, if you are reading this, it is despite the best efforts of technology to keep it from you.

1 – Jay Rosin, the distinguished journalism prof. from NYU has a short video on youtube about the current state of the New News.

2 – Bob Kaplitz has another great tidbit on how to make the most of scant b/roll.  This is also a touching story, with a super narrative.

But Bob wasn’t done with just that.  He has another video from the Today Show about Master Storytelling about a master storyteller and salesman.

3 – Since I am still waiting for Photoshop CS4 to be ordered by my district and my old copy of PS7 won’t run on Leopard, I’m testing out free image editors.  This go around, I tried Aviary‘s Phoenix image editor.  I created a new background for my Twitter page.  Aviary works fairly well for an online editor, but honestly it is not really as good as iPhoto.  I’ll keep looking until I get CS4.

4 – The Edit Foundry has a great video on the use of Natural Sound in storytelling.  I personally love stories with lots of Nat Sound.  I feel it drives home the realism of the story to the viewer.

5 – The 10,000 words Blog has a collection of Valentines for journalists.  Here’s my favorite:

Words can not describe this image

It's from the heart, really.

6 – Adam Westbrook has a super checklist for news startups, but I think it would work for news stories, yearbook themes, nearly any media idea.

7 – Should journalism teachers be teaching students more about the business of journalism?  Should we still be teaching about the near-religious “wall” between content and advertising?  Newspaper Death Watch has an eye opening post about this very topic.

8 – Tamron Lenses has posted episode four of their beginners guide about shutter speed.

Well, another short list – mainly video and photo.  Let’s hope the links pick up as the East Coast digs out.  Crazy how much snow fell from Dallas to D.C.


Snowpocalypse 2010

Cool Links #75: The One I Nearly Forgot To Title

We just got our whole shipment of brand new iMacs in at school.  They are pretty, but setting them up is a full time job.  We have 22 new machines and they have to be updated and install Final Cut Express on them first.  In the next couple of weeks we should be getting Adobe CS4 products.  That means more time installing and then setting up the student login account.  Finally we can then switch out all the Mac Minis.  The new machines are so fast and have incredible, huge screens.  So far, the only downside is the wireless mouse and keyboard.  This will mean checking them out each period.  Lost instruction time.  But the cool factor is going to be worth it.  Now, on to the links.

1 – If you teach newspaper or journalism, then you know how difficult it is to get students to write opinion pieces well.  Here’s a great presentation to teach the way to do it right.

2 – Ever had another department want you to shoot their event, edit it, create videos for them and make DVDs too.  And of course they want you to do it all for free.  That’s a lot of wear and tear on the equipment.  I’m not against creating video or any other media for any department, but if it is not news – then we need to charge for our services.  But how much?  I used the FreelanceSwitch Hourly Rate Calculator and it actually gave me a realistic result – $50/hour.  Try it out yourself.

3 – Yearbooks, newspapers, graphic design and video makers all need fonts that are royalty freed.  Here are a couple of sites that offer fonts that you can use.  Dafont.com and Font Squirrel offer contemporary font looks for all your needs.

4 – SF Weekly says we don’t pay for news online because we mainly view it on our work computers Monday-Friday and that we would rather read a real hard copy paper on the weekends.

5 – Straight from the UK, Charlie Brooker has this hilarious sendup of the typical news story.

6 – Photographers have to deal with a dizzying array of alphabet soup:  PNG, JPG, TIFF, PSD, RAW – what does it all mean?  The dPS is always quick with an answer for every photo question.

7 – Natural sound stories can be very powerful ways to sell a story that has strong sound elements.  Advancing the Story blog has a superb list of tips for nat-sound.

8 – Free Tech for Teachers has a super useful post about how to add an RSS feed for any web site in Google Reader.

9 – Adam Westbrook has Five Myths about Shooting Video.  My favorite is Shooting Video is Easy!

10 – The Bob Kaplitz blog is always full of great example videos, both of the what to do variety and the what not to to type.

11 – The Oatmeal comic blog is funny, crazy and a grammarian.  This month it is the semicolon that takes center stage.  Great fun for kids – and they might learn something too.

12 – Tamron lenses has their episode 2 in their DSLR series about focus modes.

Well, I’m going to watch the ‘semi-‘pro Bowl now.  Have a great week.

What Should a 21st Century Newsroom Look Like?

Suzanne Yada (@suzanneyada) Tweeted a great topic today.  What should a 21st Century Newsroom look like?

If I could have a big pile of money and resources to build a newsroom today, this is what I think I would do for my high school – I think it would also work for a small town or even a community site in a metro area.

– A big pipe:  News in the 21st Century means lots of data on the net, both upstream and down.  Your reporters are going to need to push video, photos, online magazines, and everything else.  The staff and others are going to need plenty of downstream bandwidth too.  So, that means Gigabit switches and something more robust than a simple T1 line.

– Tools and training:  If money is no object, then buy the best tools you can afford – that means the full Adobe suite of media products (Photoshop, Premiere, Lightroom, Flash, etc.) maybe the Apple one too (Aperture, Final Cut) if you are using Macs.  And periodic training to update and improve skills.  There are also lots of great free and low cost products out there too.  But software is only part of the equation.  You need great HD video cameras, microphones, audio recorders, SLR cameras, laptops, desktops, smartphones (maybe tablets too soon).  Every reporter needs to have a kit containing a laptop, video camera, SLR camera, smart phone and an audio recorder.  Plus all the cables, cards, etc. to make it work.  If money is no object, MyFi cards and EyeFi cards too.  Make it all wireless and fast.  Update live as much as you can.

– A place to meet and a place for community.  This needs to be both virtual and physical.  A news organization needs to be able to meet in person some times.  So you need a meeting space, plus a place for reporters to come in and create things that a laptop just doesn’t do justice on.  But you also need to be able to Skype in and meet virtually.  Community is important too.  You need a place for people to come in and contribute – and feel welcome.  Kind of like a public library.  But this is not for people to get free internet access, they can come in and contribute material of nearly any source as long as it is community news.  Get locals to shoot video of stuff you can never devote resources to.   They come in and edit it and then you publish it.  Maybe you have 1-2 community editors who help them until they can do it themselves.  You also need a virtual space too.  News organizations need people to moderate and participate in the comments on their sites.  They should host chat rooms.  They can eventually bring in members of the community to help moderate.  Leo Laporte does it, so can other forms of media.

– A lighter structure.  Newsrooms are too top heavy.  The lesson of the Internet is that we need fewer chiefs and a lot more braves.  You don’t need a lot of editors, you need a few moderators and 1-2 editors to keep it together.  Everyone else is a reporter.  Reporters create content and that’s what we do – make content.

– Sell, partner and hustle.  Newsrooms need to find, create and hustle funding.  Find partners who want to fund the kind of information we can provide.  Talk to the same business that support the local high schools and get them to sponsor your sports reporters.  That’s how it’s going to work.  You will have to work with the community.  Yes, it will rankle some who say that will tarnish our journalistic ethics.  But we won’t have any ethics left if we don’t have any journalists left.  It costs money to make rich media.

– Social, social, social.  You have to be wherever your audience community goes.  Every reporter MUST blog, tweet and Facebook and that’s just for now.  Keep up with the new tech, especially the social tech.  Don’t talk to your community, converse with them.  Give them content they want (and some stuff they need).

So, building a 21st Century Newsroom is part technology, part training, part attitude and a big part social.  Do I even need to mention that you have to have a web site?  I hope not.