Archive for the ‘Interviews’ Category

Visalia Times-Delta: Paul Hurley Interview (Part II)

Monday, April 6th, 2009

Last week, I posted the first half of the interview with Paul Hurley. Today’s post is the conclusion of the email interview.

The Goods (Part II)

LB: What are some of the most recent concepts that you have taught your journalism students that interest you?

PH: Some of the things we’re discussing here in this interview have been fodder for our class discussions, including the future of print media, the relevance of critics in a world of bloggers, the rise of digital media, changing standards of traditional media, etc.

Last week we had an interesting discussion about the phenomenon in China about the “mud-grass horse.” In Mandarin, the phrase “mud-grass horse” could be interpreted as sounding similar to a particularly common and obscene vulgarity. Somebody in China made up a kind of fairy tale about the mud-grass horse, as if it were a tale for children. But the story is filled with language that could be considered obscene.

The video is intended as a criticism of the Chinese government, which has been relentless in trying to control and censor online content in China, mostly successfully. It uses the term “harmony” to explain the importance of expurgated content on the Internet. As it turns out, “harmony” sounds very close to the words “river crab,” which the mud-grass horse vanquishes in the fairy tale.

You could find all this stuff online, BTW.

Anyway, the mud-grass horse has become a cultural phenomenon in China. It has been viewed literally millions of times and copied and repeated tens of millions. There are all kinds of offshoots – pictures, cartoons, jokes, etc.

The Chinese people are using this very subversive method to criticize their government, which obviously tolerates no criticism at all. And they are using the Internet to get their message out.

From a political standpoint, it’s very exciting. It’s like Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense,” except in the 21st century. It indicates that Chinese totalitarianism will fall; it will not prevail, because of the ability of people to communicate freely with each other. That’s very powerful, when you think about it.

LB: In the same email I mentioned before, you said that journalism (most specifically new media) is going through a transition. In your opinion, what do you feel this transition is, and where will journalism end up?

PH: The transition is from one medium to others, from a system where the communication line is linear to a network. The capability of electronic media is making that possible and accelerating the process.

Some form of journalism will always be relevant and valuable. People want to know about their world and each other. Journalists will need to discover and communicate that. There will always be a need for people to capture data, synthesize that information, and present content that makes sense of it for the rest of us.

That process, however, will take place on different platforms than simply newspapers and magazines, or radio and television. No doubt Web sites will also change and become different that what we are accustomed.

In the end, though, journalism will retain these qualities: It will need to continue to be expert and not amateur (speaking of bloggers here). It will need to be relevant, that is, tell people what is most important to them, and certainly not to what people in the major media centers think is important. It will need to be interactive: Opportunities will be built in for people to both provide feedback but also provide additional information. In that way, journalism will become more wiki.

LB: What advice would you give to an individual who desires to enter the journalism industry?

PH: Work on the skills that will be valuable in a world where journalism becomes what I just described. Communication skills are essential. Experience with different platforms will be important. Journalists can’t shy away from technology anymore. They must embrace it fully.

It will be important for journalists to be their own camera person, graphics designer, sound technician, etc. Then they will have to do what they can to stay ahead of the curve, to know about the latest thing, if not use it. They will also have to be prepared to collaborate, and not just with other journalists, which has been common for years, but with their audience. Doing all that requires having a well-developed critical sense: The idea is the thing, not the medium. There are lots of ideas out there. You better be able to tell the good stuff from the crap. Start learning now.

Interview Summary

Once more, I would like to thank Paul Hurley for sharing his time and expertise for the Wordy’s Wisdom Blog. I hope that everyone who has read the full interview found it to be as interesting and insightful as I did.

What are your opinions about the future of journalism or media? Your comments are welcome below.

Ghostwriting Service - Copy Editing ServiceLuis D. Bonilla
luis@wordszilla.com
Wordszilla, LLC

Visalia Times-Delta: Paul Hurley Interview

Monday, March 30th, 2009

This interview features Paul Hurley, a senior editor for the Visalia Times-Delta (a newspaper company located in Central California). Paul was gracious enough to spare some time and answer some questions via email, and he did so very impressively. I am planning to break the interview up into a two-part post. You’ll be able to read the second half of the interview next week.

The Goods (Part I)

Luis Bonilla: You work for the Visalia Times-Delta. Please share with us your job title and the type of work you do for the newspaper company. Also, you mentioned to me that you teach journalism. Is there a specific niche of journalism that you instruct to your students?

Paul Hurley: I am the senior editor for Community Conversation for www.VisaliaTimesDelta.com. They used to call me the Opinion editor. I would write the editorials, edit letters and columns, select other features for the Opinion page, such as the cartoon, and occasionally contribute a column.

But the newspaper business is changing rapidly. Everything is going online. Like other newspaper companies, we are trying to attract readers to our Web site. My job is now to stimulate and promote interaction with the newspaper, not just through letters in print, but online through blogs, story comments, polls, and other feedback. So I also write a blog now for the Web site, manage the forums, set up blogs and recruit new bloggers, etc.

We also have an innovative program at the Times-Delta called 210 Connect. A local church, First Presbyterian, bought a vacant building downtown, 210 Center Avenue, and renovated it into a meeting place/cafe. It has a number of spaces for meetings, concerts, and other events.

Once a month, we hold an open public forum on a single subject at 210. We invite experts to address the topic and the public to engage in conversation. We have a person blog simultaneously on our Web site so the conversation is continued there. And we encourage others to comment and get involved. We have had forums on faith, growth, the foreclosure crisis, hunger, water quality, and others. Several members of the community have initiated different actions in response to our forums.

As for advising students: Yes, I have taught journalism for about the past 10 years, off and on, at a local community college. One course is for aspiring reporters. I advise them to obtain all the communication skills they can, including electronic ones, as well as experience in blogging, editing, video, and Web page maintenance. The future of daily journalism is clearly going digital.

LB: What initially persuaded you into the media industry?

PH: I like expressing myself in print, had studied English and enjoyed the stress of writing daily and on deadline. It’s also a great way to learn about issues, people, the environment, and everything else.

LB: You mentioned in an email that the newspaper industry is basically on its last legs. Do you feel that there will come a time when newspapers will be come obsolete because of the Internet? What about print media as a whole?

PH: Print media will survive, but it will probably become a specialty product or a niche product. Instantaneous digital transmission has too many advantages over print for print to remain an effective form for news, where the latest information determines the value of the product. Newspapers, and other print media, will adjust so that they contain depth and analysis that isn’t affordable through online or digital transmission.

Print will also continue to be valuable for its graphic capability, portability, and personal impact. People will end up paying more, however, for what will become more and more an elite as opposed to a mass medium.

LB: Do you think that the Internet, with the advent of blogs and forums that anyone can write, has watered down what’s considered reliable news? Has the accessibility of “publishable” material on the Internet changed how the consumer expects information?

PH: Nicholas Kristof had a great column in the New York Times last week entitled “The Daily Me.” It’s not an original idea, but he proposed that, as people rely more and more on blogs and online news reporting that is tailored to their interests, they will also become less likely to discover or accept other points of view. The result is a populace consuming media that merely confirms their beliefs (or prejudices) and avoids having those beliefs challenged by media with a wider scope.

You can see that happening already: Conservatives watch Fox News. Liberals watch MSNBC. People consume the media expression that they are most comfortable with and that is the one that confirms their beliefs.

Obviously, this is dangerous in a democracy as a society that relishes the free exchange of ideas, but you can see it politically in the polarization of the nation into “red” versus “blue.”

I believe the pendulum will start to swing back once we have traveled so far down the road of mindless partisanship that people begin to realize that their ideas are worthless if they are not challenged by the opposition. Imagine this country if there had no Hamilton to answer Jefferson or vice versa?

People have always had junk news alongside “serious” news, and when the issue gets important, they have always recognized the difference. So I am not worried that blogging will “water down” the news. There are really only a minuscule fraction of successful bloggers out there compared to the total number of blogs, and some of them are actually good.

It won’t be long that people recognize that there is no substitute for critical thinking: Just because you have a computer and screen name doesn’t make you a respected critic; your gut instincts are no substitute for learning and experience; buying a movie ticket doesn’t give you the credentials to comment on “Duplicity” to a wider audience than your wife and your dog.

Interview Intermission

As mentioned before, the conclusion of the interview will follow next Monday. I would like to thank Paul for his insights on both print and online media. If you have any comments on what is posted so far, please feel free to leave a comment below.

Ghostwriting Service - Copy Editing ServiceLuis D. Bonilla
luis@wordszilla.com
Wordszilla, LLC

Guest Interview: SEO Web Design Company

Tuesday, January 20th, 2009

New Shoe MediaThis week’s guest interview features Claye Stokes, owner of New Shoe Media (a business affiliate with Wordszilla). The following interview was conducted via email and covers topics related to SEO (search engine optimization), website design, and website copy.

The Goods

Luis Bonilla: What is the difference between a traditional website design company and New Shoe Media, an SEO web design company?

Claye Stokes: In my experience, many web designers have a tendency to cut corners when it comes to website development to save time and cut costs. Anyone who visits the website, including their client, doesn’t see the code anyways, so why spend time making the website standards-compliant? In the case of your nephew’s friend who can set up a quick website for free, he probably isn’t familiar with industry standards or search engine guidelines.

The unfortunate side effect is a website with sloppy HTML that is difficult for search engines to parse, or a website that uses Flash and JavaScript improperly, blocking search engines from the useful and important content that the website has to offer.

New Shoe Media emphasizes clean, lightweight code—the kind that search engines love. My websites also emphasize usability, with intuitive navigation structures and hierarchies, and design elements. Websites are useless if, 1) they aren’t getting any traffic, and, 2) when the traffic arrives, the website doesn’t offer a user friendly experience. My websites are the answer to both problems: my content-centric, search engine friendly websites will offer organic search engine traffic and are easy to navigate and use.

LB: What would you say are the top two most important aspects when building an SEO-friendly website?

CS: First and foremost: how content is displayed on the website. Website copy should never, ever, be displayed using frames, Flash, JavaScript, or images. Although each has their place, none is meant to display text (i.e. use Flash for animations and calls to action and use JavaScript to enhance usability). Instead, use simple, semantic HTML markup to display content and to make it easy for search engines to index and rank your content.

Usability is a close second. Google’s Webmaster Guidelines specifically state “make pages primarily for users.” Offer content that will benefit and add value for your visitors, don’t just try to sell. The usefulness of your website and content will determine how many links and attention your website will receive, so make content writing and construction one of your top priorities when building a website. You may even want to survey some of your visitors to ask if the content on your website is what they expected and/or needed, and make any necessary adjustments.

LB: Do you feel that anyone could write SEO-friendly copy (text) for a website? Why or why not?

CS: Well…yes and no. Search engines are intended to find the best content on the Web that is related to your search query, period—no matter who the author or what the content. So in that sense, then no. If you are an expert in your field, then whatever you write will probably be perfect.

However, it’s important to use buzzwords and keywords that people would use to search for your content as much as possible (while keeping the verbiage on the site natural and flowing). So, if you are in a competitive industry or if you aren’t completely familiar with the subject you are writing about, then it would be wise to hire a professional SEO content writer to optimize your copy and to research and implement copy based on the keywords that people are using most to find what you offer.

LB: You told me once in conversation that one of your biggest obstacles when constructing a website is waiting for your client to provide written content. What are some reasons you feel this occurs?

CS: I think it’s a combination of a couple things. First of all, I feel that my clients are surprised that they are in charge of providing the content. They need a website and just want somebody to make it, and they expect it to be a package deal: I pay for it, you make it, top to bottom. So I think that from the onset, they are normally unprepared to provide content, and it just takes time for them to formulate and construct the content for the website. I consult them on making good content from the sideline, but they are the experts in their field and will come up with much more useful, relevant content than I ever could.

And the second reason: I work most frequently with small business owners who have companies to run, so delay in receiving the content is just due to the many hats they wear that sometimes spread them thin.

LB : In your professional opinion, are the aesthetics of a website more important than the written content of a website? Equally important? Does it matter?

CS: I touched this lightly in the first question, but I believe they are equally important. Like I said, websites have to have good content that will provide natural traffic, but what good is it if it isn’t navigable or if it looks shoddy, unprofessional, or unexpected? As David Ogilvy put it, “You cannot bore people into buying your product; you can only interest them in buying it.” Use design to show off your professionalism, brand, and personality. First impressions are important, so try to impress the visitors who are coming to your site for the first time.

And returning to the importance of the written content: make it so useful that your visitors will want to link to it. Make it so remarkable they will share it; make it factual so that they will cite it in their blogs, articles, and reports. Finally, make it relevant so that search engines will deem it worthy of great rankings.

Interview Summary

Thank you Claye for a very elaborate and informative interview. I really enjoyed your answer on making the website for users. I feel that sometimes the optimization process can overshadow the user-friendliness aspect of a website, and that it is important to realize that the website should be built with navigation (and being informative) in mind.

As always, please feel free to leave a response or ask questions.

Ghostwriting Service - Copy Editing Service
Luis D. Bonilla
luis@wordszilla.com
Wordszilla, LLC

Guest Interview: Copy Editing and Custom Writing Service

Monday, December 15th, 2008

I decided to not inconvenience anyone during the holiday season with interview questions (even though they don’t take too long to answer). So, I’m going to converse with my alter ego, Wordy the Wordszilla Dragon, and see what transpires.

Mostly, I’ll reveal the latest developments with the company (i.e., Wordszilla’s new affiliate).

The Goods

Luis Bonilla: Discuss the new business affiliate for Wordszilla found on the Working Relationship webpage. Does this change anything for clients?

Wordy: Wordszilla has formed an affiliate with New Shoe Media, which is a local website design company. Basically, if they have clients that are in need of original, start-from-scratch website content (that is also SEO-friendly), Wordszilla will offer to be the writers for their website.

The new content creation service is only offered through New Shoe Media, as Wordszilla’s main services—copy editing and custom writing—will remain the same. Wordszilla will continue to focus on professionalizing clients’ existing text; the complete fabrication of website text will only be offered as a part of New Shoe Media’s website design package.

LB: What is the difference between Wordszilla’s custom writing service and the writing that is being offered for New Shoe Media clients?

W: Wordszilla’s custom writing service for websites utilizes the existing content and ideas from the client and enhances, professionalizes, and completes the text. For this custom writing service, Wordszilla will not create an idea but develop the client’s innovation for the online medium—including suggesting keywords that are SEO-friendly.

The writing service for New Shoe Media will focus on clients who do not have any content ready or created, as they are having a website designed. For this particular writing service, Wordszilla will conduct an interview via email and determine the themes and goals for the clients’ website in order to create the website content (which also includes keyword focus and other SEO suggestions).

Because the content will be originated by Wordszilla (and will take more time to create), there will be a higher fee than what’s posted on wordszilla.com. Of course, New Shoe Media clients are welcome to use Wordszilla’s custom writing service or copy editing service if they already have content that just needs professionalization.

LB: Will Wordszilla ever offer 100% creation of website copy on its own?

W: If Wordszilla expands its workforce, yes. At the present time, however, we prefer to focus on the development of existing content as it is more manageable for the current writing staff.

Interview Summary

Becoming an affiliate with New Shoe Media will hopefully benefit those who need full-service Web design; previously, clients had to provide their own website content.

Do you have a business that you feel would be a great partnership with Wordszilla? Please email me using the address below.

Ghostwriting Service - Copy Editing Service
Luis D. Bonilla
luis@wordszilla.com
Wordszilla, LLC

Guest Interview: Utah Web Design Company

Monday, November 17th, 2008

Similar to the first guest interview, we had to keep a reasonable amount of anonymity with the name of the individual and the company’s name. This installment features C.C. Hunter, and he works at a Web design company in Utah County.

Just like last time, and most likely from now on, this interview was conducted via email. I find this approach to interviewing not only more effective with time and travel, but it allows the interviewer to formulate an adequate response.

The Goods

Luis Bonilla: What is your job title and what are your general duties?

CC. Hunter: I supervise a team of writers, including over 50 freelance writers, for a Web design and hosting company.

LB: What is your personal impression when you read something from a co-worker or upper-management that has horrible grammar, spelling errors, or a lack of professionalism?

CH: It’s most detrimental if it is your first opinion of someone. If I’m reading a writing sample from someone who is applying for a position with us, I won’t even consider them if they have spelling errors in their sample.

LB: While writing website text, what do you feel are the top three most important things to do (i.e., things to keep in mind, items to watch out for, etc.)?

CH: First, does the text have an audience and a purpose? If you’re not writing with this in mind, it doesn’t matter how great your spelling is. Second, you have to know how to write. This takes practice. Third, if you can explain your products or services better than your competition, you’ll have an edge over them.

LB: When reading your client’s website content, what are the most common mistakes that you see? What annoys you the most?

CH: Common mistakes include “its/it’s,” “there/their/they’re,” and “are/our.” Sometimes a writer will try to be too creative or use several big words that are supposed to make them sound smart.

LB: Talk about the importance between the aesthetics of a website and the written content of a website. Are they the same? Is one more important than the other?

CH: The aesthetics won’t get someone to your website, but content with keywords can. You must have a combination of both. The images and the text can work together.

LB: Why do you think that, in some circles, the skill of writing isn’t as highly regarded as other professional skills? (Especially talk about website design.)

CH: If you’ve gone to school at all, you pick up some basic writing skills. Because of this, you think that you can write text for a website. It takes the right kind of writer to write something that sells a product or service.

Interview Summary

Thank you C.C. for answering my questions and giving some insight on written communication. Two notions really stuck out to me after reading his answers. The first was that, in the world of Web design, the images and aesthetics will not initially bring people to your website. Creative, professional, and error-free writing is what really helps shoppers to get interested in your product or service (during the first glance at the search engine results, for example).

Secondly, I think some individuals consider the ability to write and the aptitude to write are one and the same. This fallacy can lead to misunderstandings, miscommunication, and missed business opportunities on the Internet.

What C.C. mentioned at the end of the interview, in my opinion, is noteworthy: When creating a professional business website, it takes a professional writer—skilled in writing for the Web medium—to yield good results.

Ghostwriting Service - Copy Editing Service
Luis D. Bonilla
luis@wordszilla.com
Wordszilla, LLC