ONA "aha" moment

I'm attending the Online News Association conference this week... and I have an hour to decompress before the next meetup. I thought I'd brain dump a few things about the experience and lessons I learned today. In the last session I attended, I sat near a woman who said she felt this was the first conference she attended where journalists are positive about the industry. One of my friends mentioned "journalism is NOT dead!" when he checked into the conference on Foursquare.

We're feeling kind of good here.

To add to it, I feel really lucky I get to touch two worlds inside journalism - higher education and professional practice. I get to attend presentations and meet with really smart people while thinking along both of these worlds. What can I share with my students? What can I use in my newsroom? I leaves my brain spinning and with very little room to remember the names of people I've met. (Sorry.)

But I wanted to share an "aha" moment that I know a lot of other online journalists have already had... But it took me to attend a Google search presentation and then another panel on analytics to convince me to make a change in how I run my news website and how I teach. I need to teach trends.

Trends. Why am I behind on this? Oh, I knew it existed, but hadn't spent time to think about its potential. I know I can't use the excuse that I'm busy. All of our newsrooms are busy. I need to think about trends because there are search engines and tools out there that could HAND me access to more engagement with my audience. These are tools that could give my students the tools to get that next job and better engage with their audience when they move to a new community.

It's a little "aha" moment where I had to wake myself out of the "analytics can tell me what I need to know" attitude.

I walked up to Will Sullivan (aka Journerdism) who is running for the ONA 2011 Board of Directors and is a 2010-11 Reynolds Journalism Institute fellow. He was at the St. Louis Post Dispatch before the fellowship and I casually asked if his paper was watching search trends. And of course he said yes. I'm so thankful I attended this event to remind me about tools that are out there that can help! Of course search statistics don't mean everything. But it is something I should be doing for my newsroom to help move us forward and do our very best in covering our market.

It was a good "aha" moment. (For those of you who are curious, I plan to spend more time with Google Trends. Also, check out the Google Insights page. That's how I created the trends grid above. It shows the ebb and flow of search about the Online News Association since 2004 in the United States. It's not the only tool out there, but it's pretty fun to play with.)