Monthly Archives: November 2011

A suggestion for nzherald.co.nz

Photo of Kindle portable reading device at Ho'okena Beach by Zach HaleI have a suggestion for The New Zealand Herald (and any other New Zealand newspaper for that matter): how about offering readers a Kindle edition of your newspaper.

I thought I’d explain why.

Yes, the NZ Herald already has an excellent website. Not only is all the content from the paper and more available online, but its easy to collect, scan and access content in other ways. There are RSS feeds for virtually every topic, email updates to subscribe to, an e-Edition from Newspapers Direct and mobile editions easily viewed on a variety of gadgets.

Also, facsimiles of the daily edition are viewable using the PressDisplay service offered by my local library. It’s like a modern microfiche version viewed on a screen (admittedly, the bigger the better).

Even with all these choices, I still think there is room for a Kindle edition. It offers something different that none of the other ways of reading content do.

I base this on my experience over last 11 weeks buying a Kindle version of the Saturday edition of the Guardian newspaper from Amazon’s Kindle Newsstand.

This is the closest simulacrum of reading a hardcopy version of a paper on any electronic device I’ve tried. It’s easy to quickly flick through the contents much as you would a dead tree version. Or you can view a paper article-by-article, reading headlines and summaries of each story, review or column.

Typically I’ve been scanning the full paper, then reading a few favourite columns first. As the book reviews and other features don’t date I can come back to them later. In fact, I could read reviews I missed from the first issue I bought in September, as all copies I’ve purchased are stored on my device.

The most important thing is that the full contents of the paper are included (sans ads, fortunately). I tend to glance at everything even if I don’t end up reading it all. This is something I never do on websites as my eyes gravitate to my pet subjects.

Other features add to the attractiveness of Kindle versions of newspapers. The text to speech option is available for newspapers, so I can listen to any story. The computer at Amazon is safely storing my credit card details (famous last words), so I can buy publications anywhere there is cellphone coverage.

Getting a newspaper on my Kindle is the best experience I’ve had on any electronic device.

I definitely want to read NZ content, and I’m willing to pay. To ensure quality journalism is available with our democracy I’m happy to contribute to costs of gathering news and views.

I’ve been paying approximately $2.50 for each issue of the Guardian, and I’d be happy to pay the same amount for the NZ Herald. I don’t think I’d pay a monthly subscription even though it works out cheaper per issue. If I did this I could imagine I’d feel swamped with too much to look through.

Perhaps going down the paid subscription route still creates jitters at the NZ Herald after their last foray in the middle of last decade. In September 2005 this bold proclamation was issued by the paper: “nzherald.co.nz to charge for premium content”. A little under two years later, charges were dropped.

I’ve no idea what the maths would be (something I’m sure newspaper executives struggle with as they face the challenge presented by an environment where the internet is ubiquitous), but according to Bookman Beattie, Kindle sales are booming in Aotearoa. As Amazon is involved, the cut subtracted after delivery might make it difficult for papers in our small country to be viable. I hope not.

If anyone at the NZ Herald is listening, feel free to use this is evidence that at least one citizen is keen on a Kindle edition. I’m looking seeing a listing in the virtual newsstand (he says hopefully).

PS See my review of the Kindle, “Reading again on a Kindle”, 5 October 2011

Photo credit: Zach Hale

Counting the impact of email newsletter #1

Eight thumbnails of my email enewsletter as it would render in common email clients or web-based mailIt didn’t take long to learn how many people opened my first email newsletter. Though much later than planned, I eventually sent out my first issue on 7 November. I really wanted to get issue one out to subscribers so they would get the notice about the Wellington NGO webmaster event before it happened.

I’m not sure how many of the subscribers attended the event (held last Tuesday), but I do know how many saw my words and notices.

50% of subscribers opened the email, of whom 19% clicked on a link. The most popular links were tied between the networking event sign-up page and blog posts on “An unplanned hiatus” and “Why I didn’t get an iPad”.

Looking at my blog analytics package I can see that all visitors arriving from links in the enewsletter came within 48 hours, and stayed on average for 2.37 minutes (which is longer than the average for all visitors).

While I have got some idea of the quantity of visits, I don’t have any qualitative feedback. Nobody sent me a message saying “wonderful” or “rubbish!!”

I’ve learned all this about the trajectory of the email newsletter without having to do anything special. All the data I’ve summaried is built into the email newsletter system I use.

The other things I looked for when choosing a specialist email list service were:

  • Flexible, low cost subscription plan
  • Ability to create and test HTML formatted newsletters
  • Both email version and online archive
  • Simple administration of list membership, including segmentation
  • Visible, full-proof and easy unsubscribe option for people who change their minds
  • Reputable supplier with longetivity
  • Ease of creating sign-up widgets for my blog.

In the absence of any email list suppliers in Aoteraoa, the only thing that bugs me is that my list is stored on servers hosted by a company from the United States. I’d much to prefer the records I’m keeping are on a computer in this country.

I didn’t undertake a thorough research exercise before choosing MailChimp. I could have as there are many excellent guides out there aimed at community and charitable organisations.

I commend MailChimp for making the way of creating enewsletters fairly easy. It is a bit fiddly, but I didn’t once need to call on the helpdesk or read a lengthy manual. Now that I’ve got a template, I’ll only have to do tweaking each time I send out a new (irregular) issue.

Before sending I paid an extra $3.00 to run an Inbox Inspection. This tested the draft newsletter in 29 email clients or web-based mail using a service from Litmus. I also tested samples myself, including a plain text version.

Now that I’m up and running, my aim is to increase numbers signing up, and tyring to get people engaging with the ideas I’m sharing. For me, that’s not just encouraging people to visit my blog, but to also comment on things I’ve written and/ or join in events I’m running.

It takes more than just firing out a newsletter to actually engage people. Having got as far as sending out issue # 1, I shouldn’t dose off. I need to use stats and other feedback to improve my newsletters. There’s a lot to learn so that I can increase the number of subscriptions and improve my open rate. I’m going to work through a list of 14 ways to increase opening rate from Brent at NTEN. I’m also thinking about joining a webinar on “Nonprofit Newsletters That Engage” (free for NTEN members).

It’s seem fitting to end this post by plugging my (irregular) email newsletter. Sign-up here (or on the right somewhere if you’re reading this on my blog). And don’t forget to tell me what you think.

PS I do have a Privacy policy – as I hate having my own email address used by someone sending me things I don’t want, I’m very careful about respecting my subscribers privacy.

Resources

Still wondering about using Outlook or a email list service, see “Broadcast Email Tools VS. Microsoft Outlook”

The Basics of Email Metrics: Are Your Campaigns Working? by Idealware (October, 2008)

A Few Good Broadcast Email Tools, by Laura S. Quinn, Idealware (March 2010)

Where can I find a meeting room?

Sign saying "Quiet please, meeting in progress" by Ed YourdonWith so many entrepreneurs and start-ups going gung-ho developing Apps for this, that and the other. And with gazillions of bits of web content created every hour or is it now every minute. You’d think I’d be able to find an up-to-date and useful list of meeting venues in Wellington.

It seems every single time I begin thinking where to hold an event I start from scratch. Not only have I attended a few events in my time, I’ve printed out details and scored the odd promotional folder.

I can never remember the details, and I’ve lost all my notes and pieces of paper. So, I start from scratch. Enter into the Google search box: “Meeting venue”. Hit “Enter”.

Sigh! Up come the familiar list of websites: Venue Hire, Corporate Events Guide, Wellington City Council community directory, Hire it Now.

None of the lists are complete. Some are extremely dated and need to be refreshed, replaced or nuked (are you listening WCC?). Interspersed amongst places suitable for humble gatherings, are many catering for weddings and cocktail parties, and for those with bulging budgets.

It’s not only time a consuming process to find suitable options, but generally the lists shine little light on venues suitable for the modest budgets of those working in civil society or in third sector organisations.

After narrowing down potential options, then begins the laborious process of finding one that is free and affordable. I won’t mention who wanted $695 for a short after-work session. This is one I politely declined using, even though it was available.

So, I wonder, is there a better way.

Can the crowd perhaps step forward? Is there enough in this idea for people to help co-create a public list? A list that has useful categories or keywords for event types. Perhaps ratings as well as facts. How about a dash of panache – I can’t think if there is any reason for all these lists to be so damn drab.

The idea of listing things on the web is a path well trod. The subject matter may be different, but the notion of collectively creating lists has been around since the early days of the Internet.

Nobody I know would ever want to take responsibility for such a burden as keeping a list up-to-date, myself included.

Yet, I wonder if updating tasks are small and discrete. And the values of accumulated data high. Perhaps, just perhaps, this could take-off. It’d be easier enough to start with a wiki editable by anyone. There could be a template for each venue (one per page), keywords, and an index.

Before I do anymore thinking, I’ll wonder out loud: do others experience the same sort of hassles finding rooms for events? Or is everyone is super organised and keeps really good records themselves?

While I ponder on whether this is a problem unique to me and whether some budding entrepreneur may like to tackle this challenge, I’ve got some preparation to do for the Wellington NGO webmaster event I’m hosting tomorrow night. It’s time to do some baking.

Photo credit: Ed Yourdon

Come along, Wellington NGO webmasters networking event

Two colums of people facing each other at a speed dating event, by gsalokheI’ve promised to run the inaugural NGO webmasters networking event in a fast paced way. The exact words I’ve used in my promotional messages are “Snappy and fun – no sales pitches – no long speeches.”

I’ve attended many networking events and public meetings where things drag on. At worst, it’s half time before even half the people attending have introduced themselves. Recounting the number of hats being worn may be honest, but it quickly becomes tiresome. This is especially so when a honest bunch of people doing good works are present.

So, I’m going to muster some of the newer techniques to keep my promise. These seem to be largely a by-product of the speed dating phenomena.

I’ve yet to finalise my approach but I’m thinking of using a combination of the following techniques:

  • Business card swap and capturing web addresses on arrival
  • Rapid fire getting to know each other round, with pre-set questions such as website platform, part or full time, biggest challenges, number of web properties
  • Speedy prioritisation of issues on top, maybe including voting
  • Resource sharing in a flash
  • Pairing up with like-minded participants.

Of course the format that best suits the group who come will arise on the night. We’ll have about 90 minutes together including time to have a cuppa and some of my home baking.

If you have any particularly good suggestions for speed networking techniques, you could share your thoughts on this blog post.

At this stage I’m not making any assumptions about what will happen after this first event. For this reason, I’ve set up a simple wiki page to record who attends and any links or resources shared if people desire. It’s too early to imposed an online platforms designed to support networking events (eg MeetUp) as this suggests I know how the networking event will work out. I don’t. Making a decision on the technology to support any future networking is some time off (and depends on whether people want to have stuff recorded, and want to come back).

The networking event is open to all webmasters working for NGOs. There’s no charge to attend. So come along if you’re in Wellington on the day. I’m looking forward to meeting everyone who comes along and the korero.

Wellington NGO networking event details

Date: 5pm, for 5.15pm start, on Tuesday 15 November 2011
Venue: Conference room 1 (upstairs), St Andrews church, 30 The Terrace
Find out more and register

PS I decided to run this even after talking with people at the Connecting Up conferences earlier in the year (see my post “An informal, regular get together for Wellington nfp webmasters?”). After talking with a few people, I ran a poll to check with potential attendees how often they’d like to meet. The responses indicated each month would be about right. So, here goes.

Photo credit: gsalokhe