Marissa Nelson on Googlebots, Twitter and CoverItLive

I attended a great workshop at Wordstock on Oct 2. It was Writing on Different Platforms, led by Marissa Nelson.

Marissa is someone to keep tabs on. Here’s why.

The Toronto Star hired her in 2007 as a reporter and peer-to-peer trainer. In just one month on the job, Marissa helped bring the entire newsroom up to date. She played a crucial role in training the entire newsroom to use multimedia tools. She personally trained 40 reporters on how to shoot and edit video. Later she took her show on the road to The Hamilton Spectator, where she helped the newsroom develop a one-week immersion course on new media for reporters which was modeled on the one she developed for The Star.

She started her job as the managing editor of last Monday. Given her quick ascent at The Star, I’d wager she had a master plan for the newsroom before she even applied. I wonder what she’s got up her sleeve for the CBC.

Each of these platforms could be their own post — she covered a lot of territory in her workshop. We even learned she that she likes basketball, which makes her cool in my books (I forgive her for being a Raptors fan).

Here’s an overview of her presentation:

Making your content searchable

  • Googlebots, the mysterious bots that Google uses to collect data, scan a web page from the top-left corner going down. They read HTML and pull out words that match your query.
  • To optimize the searchability of your page — to make your page easier to find — repeat the key words in the lede
  • Hyperlinked text makes it even easier for search engines to pull it up, but only specific words, not entire sentences. Hyperlink key words only.

Choosing which social media tool to push your work

  • People use Facebook and Twitter differently. Facebook is more positive and less techy than Twitter. Twitter is snarkier (more references to pop-culture), techy and a better medium for covering breaking news. People who use Twitter are more likely to own iPhones.
  • When tweeting breaking news, always state what you know and what you don’t know.
  • Give credit to your sources
  • Ask your followers questions.
  • Tweet pictures and colour from the scene. 

Other platforms to consider when covering an event

  • CoverItLive (free) and Scribblelive (pay a fee), both Toronto companies
  • Chatrooms are good community builders: the moderator (that’s you) can decide whether to allow other voices or not.
  • If you plan to cover an event, start a blog well in advance to create publicity.
  • Determine whether or not these tools are right for the event you’re covering. Treat these platforms like a TV show: if you want to cover a spontaneous event, forget it. You have to do some planning in order to ensure there are no periods of “dead air”. These platforms don’t allow for spontaneity and silence is fatal. Think about inviting special guests.