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Community Media Innovation Project Fall 2011


Medill Community Media Innovation Project Fall 2011

By Helen Adamopoulos, Patricia Hastings, Priscilla Kunamalla, Diana Novak, Donald Sjoerdsma, Brian Warmoth and Robert Wile


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY ...................................................................................... 3 INTRODUCTION .................................................................................................... 4 ABOUT THE CHICAGO REPORTER ................................................................ 5 AUDIENCE RESEARCH ....................................................................................... 8 WEBSITE REDESIGN ........................................................................................ 13 THE REPORTERS BLOG ................................................................................. 28 RECOMMENDATIONS: SOCIAL MEDIA .................................................... 36 RECOMMENDATIONS: COMMENTING ..................................................... 39 RECOMMENDATIONS: ARCHIVES .............................................................. 42 BUSINESS PLAN & REVENUE RECOMMENDATIONS ......................... 43 APPENDIX 1: SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION .................................. 52 APPENDIX 2: ADDING FACTORS TO THE DISPARITY MAP ............ 53 APPENDIX 3: MAPS AND GRAPHICS ........................................................ 55 MEET THE TEAM ............................................................................................... 59 THANKS TO ..................................................................................................... 61

The Community Media Innovation Project class at Northwestern Universitys Medill School has spent the fall quarter of 2011 examining the website and digital strategy of the Chicago Reporter, a venerable investigative bimonthly magazine focusing on issues related to race and poverty. Our key findings: ChicagoReporter.com has a small and transient audience, most of whom arrive through search engines and leave after a single page view. The existing site is largely organized around items from the print edition and does not serve online users well. The Chicago Muckrakers blog, operated by the Reporter on the Tribune Co.s ChicagoNow.com, is a good source of news updates on race and poverty in Chicago but is not maximizing its audience nor sending significant traffic to the Reporters website. Improvements to the ChicagoReporter.com could significantly expand the Reporters audience, extend the impact of the organizations work and aid in the development of new revenue sources. The report you are reading lays out a plan that we believe will strengthen the Chicago Reporter by building engagement with online users. We recommend that the Reporter: Redesign ChicagoReporter.com, improving its appearance and organizing content in new ways. (We have executed key elements of the redesign using the Drupal content management system.) Improve its email newsletter so it becomes an essential news source for people who rely on email for news updates. Move the Reporters blog from ChicagoNow.com to ChicagoReporter.com and give it a new name, On Our Radar. Expand its use of Twitter and Facebook to reach younger socialmedia users with an affinity for the issues the Reporter covers. Install the Disqus commenting plugin to improve the quality of online comments and make it easier for the Reporters staff to manage the commenting experience. Raise the profile of the Reporters Barber Shop Show on ChicagoReporter.com. Develop an interactive data application focusing on disparities associated with race and poverty. (We have developed a prototype of such an application, which we call the Disparity Map.) Make greater use of alternative storytelling tools such as photo slideshows, interactive graphics and timelines. Add staff positions that will enable these improvements: a fulltime Web producer, a parttime photographer and a parttime graphic designer with expertise in data visualization. In the short term, we recommend that the Reporter seek foundation grants to pay for these improvements. Over time, we believe the ongoing expenses can be covered by increased individual donations, corporate sponsorships and events. 3

Back in September, the Community Media Innovation Project class at Northwestern Universitys Medill School of Journalism was tasked with formulating recommendations for The Chicago Reporter to enhance its presence online. The class was supported financially by the Chicago Community Trust, which sponsored two Medill innovation projects intended to improve the digital strategy for local Web publishers. Prof. Rich Gordon selected the Reporter as the focus of the class after conversations with officials at the Trust who believe in the Reporters mission but think it needs a digital boost. For an established print investigative news organization, developing an effective digital strategy meant that we had to look at the brand, magazine and website with a new set of eyes. We determined who the potential digital audience might be, and examined the ways this audiences needs differ from those of current print readers. We also found many innovative and successful models to look at and learn from, and reviewed reports highlighting the ways in which similar publications were becoming financially viable. We crunched the numbers, exchanged a tsunami of emails and picked the brains of some industry leaders at the 2011 Block by Block Community News Summit. As the term went on, we reported on our research and findings at http://www.digiwatchdog.com. We also produced a white paper NonProfit Watchdog News: Whats Working based on our research about other locally focused watchdog websites. It can be found at http://digiwatchdog.com/whatsworkingfornonprofitwatchdognews/. This report lays out a comprehensive set of steps for building the Reporters online audience and increasing its capacity for longterm sustainability. As it turned out, taking apart the website and putting it back together was only the beginning. Our vision includes not only a visual redesign of the site but also recommendations for data visualization, blogging, social media promotion and business strategy. We believe our engagement plan will get the Reporters work in front of a brand new audience.

Helen Adamopoulos Patricia Hastings Priscilla Kunamalla Diane Novak Donald Sjoerdsma Brian Warmoth Robert Wile December 2011



The Chicago Reporter was founded by the Community Renewal Society in 1972, in the wake of the civil rights movement, to cover racial integration issues in Chicago. It has since expanded its mission to cover all subjects related to social inequality. Published bi monthly, it specializes in datadriven, indepth investigations. In 1997, it launched its website, ChicagoReporter.com. In its current form, the website consists almost exclusively of magazine content and is organized similarly to the magazine. The magazine has a paid circulation of about 400, with additional copies distributed free of charge to expand the audience for the content. The Reporter has a long history of hiring talented young staff members and giving them a chance to do indepth, investigative journalism. The staff is small: an editor, a managing editor, two fulltime reporters and a presentation editor responsible for producing the print magazine and managing the website. The Reporter also employs three parttime bloggers who are paid on a contract basis. The bloggers provide a stream of updated news for the Reporters Chicago Muckrakers blog, which is published on the Tribune Co.s Chicago Now blog hub. The decision to put the Muckrakers blog on Chicago Now was driven by a desire to reach new, younger audiences and, potentially, new sources of revenue. At that time, the Tribune Co. was paying bloggers based on the amount of traffic generated by their blogs. But recently, that trafficbased compensation was eliminated in favor of a $50/month flat payment. 5

A regularly updated feed of Chicago Muckrakers blog headlines and summaries is published on ChicagoReporter.com. But if a user is interested in reading the full blog post, a click sends them over to Chicago Now. This means that people interested in the latest news about topics covered by the Reporter leave ChicagoReporter.com, depriving the site of attention and traffic. The Reporter also broadcasts a weekly radio program The Barber Shop Show, broadcast live from Carters Barber Shop in Lawndale on the Vocalo radio channel and on the Vocalo.org website. Vocalo is operated by Chicago Public Media as a vehicle for reaching younger, more diverse audiences than those who normally listen to public radio. The Barber Shop Show is also available through Vocalo.org as a downloadable podcast. This past summer (July 5), ChicagoReporter.com was relaunched on the powerful Drupal content management system, which provides many capabilities that could not have been easily implemented on the old, custombuilt site. Our recommendations take advantage of many of Drupals capabilities.

Although ChicagoReporter.com has been online since 1997, the sites analytics indicate that the website has a very small audience, averaging just 6,000 unique visitors and 14,000 page views per month. By comparison, Oakland Local, a nonprofit news site serving Oakland, Calif., gets 10 times that much traffic after just two years of operation.

Search engines are the biggest source of inbound traffic to ChicagoReporter.com. This means most visitors have little affinity for the site. Between July 5 and Nov. 30, almost three quarters (73.8 percent) of the site visitors had never visited the site before. Seven of every 10 visits ended after a single page view. Traffic to ChicagoReporter.com was actually higher before the redesign, primarily because the site previously received more search engine traffic. The analytics suggest that the biggest reason for the decline in traffic was a loss of searchbased visitors that took place after the site was redesigned. Visits Visits Change Traffic sources 7/5/2010-11/30/2010 7/5/2011-11/30/2011 2010-2011

Oakland Locals website, just two years old, has 10 times the unique visitors and page views of ChicagoReporter.com.

Direct Referring Search

6,150 9,397 48,357

6,275 7,840 15,867

+2.0% 16.6% 67.2%


Comparing the five-month period since the Drupal relaunch to the same period in 2010, the major change in traffic drivers has been a significant decline in search-generated visits.


To understand the actual and potential audience for ChicagoReporter.com, we reached out to people who are interested in the kinds of topics the Reporter focuses on. With the help of thenPublisher Alden Loury, we emailed Reporter print subscribers, people whove signed up for the organizations email newsletter and the email lists for the Chicago Community Trust and for Bean Soup Times (a website and enewsletter created by Toure Muhammad, a journalist, comedy writer, and marketing specialist). The emails invited recipients to take a short online survey, which included a question about their willingness to be interviewed about to the Chicago Reporter. From among those who responded to the survey, we conducted indepth interviews with a total of 30 men and women who work and/or lived in the City of Chicago and were current or potential users of the Chicago Reporter website. These individuals represented a diverse array of ages, ethnicities, occupations and income levels. The goal of the interviews was to understand their general news consumption habits, views on local news organizations and their usage and impressions of ChicagoReporter.com and the Chicago Muckrakers blog. We also incorporated recent industry studies such as News that Matters: An assessment of Chicagos information landscape, (July 2011), Pew Research Center study, How people learn about their local community (September 2011) and Audience Segments in a Changing News Environment (August 2008). To translate this research into recommendations, we developed profiles for personas who might use ChicagoReporter.com. Personas are fictional characters, or archetypes, who represent potential customers. The persona approach is commonly used in marketing and product development. By building a product for a target persona, you not only draw users who are represented by that persona but reach a larger group of people who share similar goals or interests. A wellexecuted persona project captures your research, encapsulates your design requirements, and helps you prioritize your innovative ideas and insights. Jared M. Spool, CEO and Founding Principal of User Interface Engineering. Every decision we made regarding design, placement and repurposing of Reporter content was done with these personas in mind.


Ellen Morrison is a 63yearold AfricanAmerican resident of Hyde Park who retired from the U.S. Post Office three years ago and now focuses on her work as an artist. She fondly recalls the Reporters heyday in the 1980s. She uses the Internet occasionally but relies primarily on print newspapers and television for her local news. Ellen likes to contribute to causes she cares about, including the Reporter. When she does, she writes a check and mails it to the organization. Unfortunately, shes recently had to cut back on charitable donations and reconsider her subscription because her finances are pressed due to recent medical issues. Ellen is what the Pew Research Center would call a Traditionalist, who uses traditional media sources almost exclusively. This is the largest of Pews news audience segments (46 percent of the population), also the oldest and the most economically downscale. It is common for nonprofit local news organizations to find that financial contributors often are not the heaviest users of their websites, according to Getting Local: How Nonprofit News Ventures Seek Sustainability (a research report published in October 2011 by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation). Because Ellen is not likely to become a regular user of the Reporters digital products, we did not consider her further as a possible target persona for our work. Terry Steinbach is a 56yearold lawyer at the Center for Ethics and Advocacy in Healthcare, a Chicagobased nonprofit. He describes himself as an active hippie and lives in Andersonville with his wife Debbie. His three adult children each work and live in the city. Terry is what the Pew Research Center would call a news Integrator, someone who interacts primarily with traditional news sources such as print newspapers and television, but also gets news online. His current print subscriptions include the Chicago Tribune and Crains Chicago Business. Terrys main motivation is to stay as informed as possible about local issues, especially related to health care, as his job requires it. Most of Terrys interaction with the Chicago Reporter magazine takes place in his inbox. He subscribes to the Chicago Reporters enewsletter and receives links to Reporter articles from colleagues and friends. He occasionally reads the magazine at work, where copies are delivered to his office. He is currently only an occasional visitor to the Reporter website. Terry donates annually to organizations that align with his interests and values. He supports the Health and Medicine Policy Research Group and the Boys and Girls Club of 9

Chicago. He is open to giving to other organizations that are committed to making a positive impact in the city. Emma Bryant is a 24yearold graduate student at the University of Chicagos Harris School of Public Policy Studies. She currently lives with a roommate in Hyde Park. She is eager to find a job where she can make a difference in the city. As a woman of mixed heritage her father is black and her mother is Caucasian Emma has a special interest in issues related race and discrimination. Emma would be described by Pew as a NetNewser, the youngest of Pews news audience segments. She relies exclusively on the Internet as her main news source. Emmas three favorite news sources are Huffington Post, the Chicago News Cooperative and Twitter, which she relies on for breaking news. Social media plays a major role in Emmas daily life. She follows her favorite brands and news organizations, contributes to discussion on Facebook and Twitter and visits sites that her favorite organizations recommend. Emma is also a heavy smartphone user and will frequently post interesting articles to Facebook, Twitter and her Tumblr blog. When it comes to news, Emma wants to go beyond the basic headlines that everyone knows about. She also wants to be able to discuss local public policy issues with her friends and colleagues. Because she cares so much about resolving the social injustices plaguing the city, Emma will give to charities and nonprofits that make a compelling case to her, even on a tight student budget. Dan Burke is a 36yearold staff reporter at the Chicago Sun Times. He is single and lives in a condo in the West Loop. Dan has a keen interest in database reporting and does a lot of online research to see how other news organizations make use of data. Staying abreast of local issues and knowing topics inside and out is critical to his success in the workplace, but going even deeper with policies and urban issues that are under investigation would give him an even greater edge. Nearly all of the news Dan receives is through the Web. Like Emma, he is one of Pews NetNewsers. On his new iPad, he visits the Drudge Report, the New York Times and various wire services throughout the day. Dan supports select organizations, such as NPR. Dan knows of the Chicago Reporter print magazine and appreciates its investigative reporting, but has never been to the website. Dan receives much of his daily news from email alert and RSS feeds, which include the Catalyst Chicago RSS feed.


Ernest Johnson is a 44yearold fulltime community organizer who lives with his wife and 6yearold daughter in Garfield Park, where he was born and raised. His main goal as an organizer is to make his Garfield Park community a better place for his daughter and future generations to live. Ernest has felt the sting of racial discrimination and economic injustice in his life and wants to better equip his community to respond to those injustices. He also wants to be able to keep community members informed of education, housing and criminal justice issues so Ernest devotes much of time to holding community meetings. He also organizes and attends protests to voice the needs of his community. Ernest hopes to run for office one day. Ernest is primarily interested in local news, which he most often gets by visiting news websites. He also listens to news on the radio and reads the newspaper each morning. Pew would consider him to be an Integrator. Ernest frequently comments on articles through news sites and social media, especially when an article is biased or inaccurate. Ernest reads the Chicago Reporter and deeply appreciates its investigative work. He wishes more people knew about the work they do. Andrew Ramirez is a 31yearold social science teacher at Campos High School in Humboldt Park, which is also where he lives with his wife and two children. Because of his sense of humor and ability to relate to his students, Andrew is the teacher every sophomore at Campos hopes to have. As a news consumer, Andrew wants to know as much as he can about the communities that he serves as a teacher. He cares deeply about his students and wants to know what kinds of issues they face when they walk out of school each day. Andrew also stays on top of national and local coverage of education issues, such as education reform. Andrew has heard about the Chicago Reporter from his colleagues and has visited the website a handful of times to find particular stories that focused on education issues. He has never come across the print publication. Andrews favorite news sources are ChicagoBreakingNews.com, GapersBlock.com, so Pew would consider him a Net Newser. Hes also a regular listener to WBEZ radio when he is in the car.



We selected Terry and Emma as our primary personas for developing the Reporters digital products. Our rationale was that Terry and Emma are types of users who should be users of these products, and are distinct enough from each other to encompass a wide range of online news consumption behaviors. By creating a website that meets the needs and motivations of these Terry and Emma, we believed the Chicago Reporter could also meet many of the needs of other types of users as well.

Terry and Emma are in the center of the bulls-eye for the Chicago Reporters digital products. If the Reporter meets their needs for online news and information, it will also satisfy many of the needs of Ernest, Andrew and Dan.



The existing ChicagoReporter.com site is largely organized around items from the print edition. The homepage features a rotating series of main feature stories from previous issues. Below this are links to Chicago Muckrakers blog posts on ChicagoNow.com. The middle column contains a most read/most commented module, though many of these end up being older items. Below this module are links to past feature articles. The website was relaunched this summer on a more powerful, flexible platform called Drupal. Drupal enables the Reporter to publish a more functional site. We have executed the redesign on the Drupal platform. The new website prototype can be found at http://reporter.markroyko.com. (Contact Prof. Rich Gordon or Mark Royko, the Reporters Web developer, for login/password information.) Weve built functioning versions of the home page, article pages, topic section pages, and blog pages. While the redesigned site is not yet fully functional, we believe we have provided the key foundational steps needed to relaunch the site with its new design. We constructed the Reporters new home and article pages based on how our personas were likely to interact with them. Our first step involved coming up with iterations of handdrawn wireframes featuring varying elements and arrangements. Our design and usability leaders (Helen and Priscilla) used the wireframes to create the final layouts for the pages, first on paper and then as Adobe Illustrator mockups. After the team felt that the mockups sufficiently represented the desired layout for the site, we conducted usability testing with subjects representative of the Terry and Emma personas to see if their needs were met. In conjunction with usability testing, we developed a working HTML mockup based on the Illustrator wireframes. This mockup used the CSS framework Blueprint (http://blueprintcss.org/) for layout purposes. Finally, our design and usability leaders integrated the HTML and CSS with the Drupal interface to create the finalized version of the redesigned Reporter site. 13

Our redesign of the home page retains the original sites threecolumn layout, but the content emphasized differs considerably. New Old


Header and Footer

We attempted to keep the header relatively minimal and uncluttered while still giving viewers a sense of what the site is about. Our redesigned header retains the Reporters logo and tagline. It also includes a general search bar, a subscribe link for the publications RSS feed and a link to the archives. Emma, who frequently conducts academic research related to the Reporters area of coverage, prioritizes easy access to the sites archives. Aside from the general RSS feed, the header doesnt contain social media icons or links; we opted to move those into the body of the page, where they are closely associated with their corresponding social media feeds.

We kept the footer simple and uncluttered. Half of it is devoted to the staff roster with links to more extensive profiles. We thought it was crucial to include this on the home page to meet Emmas desire for more personality on the site; this points her to information about who the people are behind the stories. The rest of the footer includes links to the main topic pages as well as the home and about pages, so that readers who scroll to the bottom of the page can navigate to the different sections without having to scroll back up. Finally, we repeated the search bar, archives and subscribe links from the header for the same reason.


Major Elements: Left Column We opted to prominently feature one story for instance, the main investigation from the Reporters latest issue as the lead article on the homepage, giving it the largest headline as well as the only fullsized image. This is similar to the rotating box on the publications current homepage, but we decided to display one static story at a time because site analytics indicate people rarely click on the rotating box. Furthermore, emphasizing one stable story gives viewers more time to read a descriptive blurb. Underneath the main story, our design gives the reader an idea of the range of the Reporters coverage, with story blurbs and thumbnail images from each main topic category, in accordance with the new taxonomy our team developed for the site. The categories appear here instead of in a navigation bar at the top of the page because pairing them with the blurbs provides more context and lets users get a better idea of what kind of stories fall under a given classification. The topic sections also include links to offsite articles relating to that area of coverage. Emma and Terry both expressed interest in seeing aggregated content from other local news sources. We modeled this partly on the Chicago News Cooperatives Dateline: Chicago feature on its homepage. Major Elements: Center Column The second column emphasizes the most recent entries from the Reporters blog. This is meant to catch Emmas attention, since she has a high interest in blogs and social media. Emma also wants to see more of the Reporters personality on the site, so the recent blog entries include thumbnail pictures of the bloggers. The next element below the blog features a link to the Reporters weekly Barber Shop Show radio program. A significant portion of our audience interview subjects said that they visited the site in search of the radio show but couldnt find it. The next element, an Impact section, contains an excerpt from the magazines Reporter News section pertaining to how the publications work has made a difference. A clearly labeled donate button with a brief persuasive pitch and a quick and easy email newsletter signup live at the bottom of this column. These elements exist primarily for Terry. Major Elements: Right Column This is the social media column, designed almost exclusively to meet Emmas needs as a heavy user of networks like Twitter and Facebook. We modeled the social media column on the news feed Facebook implemented in the upper right corner of its site. Since Emma is an avid Facebook user, shes accustomed to looking to that area of a website for recent news. The Reporters Twitter feed is at the top of the column, since it provides a stream of frequent updates, like the news feed. As evidenced by our usability testing, Terry will probably ignore this column, but its unobtrusive size and location (as well as the presence of other content that does interest him on the page) mean that it wont distract or alienate him as a reader. 16


Our new design for the article page aims to keep readers engaged while also motivating them to explore other content on the Reporters site. As with the home page, we decided what elements to include within article pages based on Terry and Emmas top priorities. Old New


Top and Bottom of the Page In order to serve Emma and Terrys mutual desire to gain an idea of the scope of the site, we included a simple navigation menu at the top of the page. This article page feature serves the same purpose as the preview sections for each topic on the home page. Clicking on any of the navigation menu items will lead readers to the section page for that topic.

Once a reader has reached the bottom of the article, we compel them to further interact with the website in several ways. To inspire thoughtful dialogue, there is a bolded question; for instance, Whats your stance? Do you think public housing residents should be evicted if a member of their household is charged with a crime? We also present readers with a block of related links at the bottom of the page, encouraging them to explore the topic further. The related links fall into three categories: related stories on the Reporters site, Around the Web/aggregated articles (satisfying Terry and Emmas desire for curated content from other sites), and events connected to the article topic.


Left Column: Article Text We included several supplementary features along with the article text to increase reader engagement. The share box on the left side of the page a few paragraphs into the article also caters toward Emmas high interest in social media. We inserted the share options a few paragraphs into the story (after the nut graph) so that readers will have already gotten an idea of what the article is about before deciding whether to circulate it to others via social networking or email. We added variety to the article text by incorporating sidebars with power points (a device used by the Reporter print magazine to highlight key findings), maps, graphs and pull quotes. Our usability testing confirmed our hypothesis that readers fitting Terrys profile will find these additions to the main text interesting and useful. Right Column: Blogging, Social Media, Taking Action Because Emma is very interested in blogs (and the Reporter blog offers the most frequently updated content on the site), we repeated the block of blurbs about recent blog entries at the top of the right column on the article page. Below the blog block, we once again offer Emma the chance to engage with social media by liking the Reporter on Facebook and/or following the publication on Twitter. We felt it was important to repeat these elements on the article pages because of how important Emma considers social media to be as part of her online experience. For Terry, we placed the email newsletter signup and donation blocks below the social media elements. These live farther down on the page because we want Terry to read a good chunk of the article (and become more persuaded that he wants to subscribe to e mail updates and help out with future investigations) before he encounters these options.




We decided to create topic pages that present all articles from the five main categories: economy, education, criminal justice, housing and immigration. Users will have the option of sorting the stories by ascending or descending order. This page will be ideal for both Emma and Terry, who may need to research policy issues for academic or professional work. The fact that these pages are category specific also targets our secondary persona Andrew, who is interested in education articles.


Main Story Each section page features one main story that could either be the most recent article published by the Reporter or a cover story from the most recent issue. The team decided to highlight one story on the section page to allow the Reporter to point readers toward content that they believe is particularly relevant or important. Related Events On the left sidebar section pages have a block where they will see upcoming community events that are related to the category they are viewing. For example if Emma is searching through the section page for the housing category, she will see upcoming CHA board meetings that she can attend or research at a later time. This is a feature that Ernest, a secondary persona, would also greatly appreciate. Related events would provide a way for readers to be more civically engaged; having a place to voice their concerns could result in positive changes for communities as a whole. Clicking on the Related Events link will take users to the Events page, which has a builtin calendar that users can subscribe to. Story Forms Since our team made the decision to organize Reporter content by subjectrelated categories, the different story forms (New Voices, which we renamed Q&A, and Spinoffs, which we renamed Behind the News) will be found on the sidebar of each section page. This makes it much easier for viewers to identify the different story forms that the Reporter offers and find them easily on the site. Social Media For users who might enter the site without following the Reporters various social media accounts, we included a Facebook widget that allows them to view what the Reporter has currently posted on Facebook and Like the page. This is a priority for Emmas who keep up with the news through their Facebook accounts. Enewsletter and Donate Toward the end of the section page are blocks where users can sign up for the Reporters Enewsletter and can donate to support future investigations. Both of these items were designed with Terry in mind. Our team decided to include them toward the bottom of the page to allow users to fully take in the content on the page before deciding whether or not to invest their time and money to the organization. They were also each included on this page because there people like Terry, or Andrew who are interested in particular subjects and might come specifically to this page to get the latest investigative news. 23

The Barber Shop Show, broadcast live each week from a West Side barbershop, is produced by Vocalo.org, a unit of WBEZ. Currently, the radio show is completely missing from the Reporters site. We heard from several interview subjects that they went to the website in search of the radio program and were frustrated they could not find it. We recommend that the Reporter create a frictionless process for users to listen and subscribe to the radio show, as well as access archives. First, we recommend a popup window indicating when the show is live and featuring a link to a media player. This will provide instant access for those looking for the show as it is being broadcast, and could even attract new listeners. While the podcast is live, while also recommend a flashing on air component be placed on the topright corner to attract users who may click through the initial popup to get to a story but decide to tune in when they have finished reading. For those searching for Chicago Reporter podcast, we have mockedup a webpage devoted to the Barbershop show that will serve as a landing page for this search. This page would feature archived episodes and a function to search older episodes. We used the podcast page from WBEZs Sound Opinions as a model.


We recommend embedding a codable media players that can stream audio feeds, including live ones, onto the webpage. Mediaelement.js, which wraps around any audio feed, is the most basic among these. A list of additional media players can be found here: http://creativefan.com/wordpressmusicplayerplugins/ Alternatively, the Reporter may simply prefer linking to Vocalo.orgs player. Finally, we recommend a widget on the top of the homepage that will play the most recent episode and contain a subscription link directly to iTunes. For reference purposes, here is the iTunes feed URL. http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/thebarbershopshow/id427824890


We recommend moving away from printfocused organization of content on the site. Drupal offers powerful taxonomy (categorization) tools that can be used to surface related material adjacent to other content. Online users like Emma and Terry are looking for an experience that doesnt require great familiarity with the print publication before diving in. Main Themes Weve limited the navigation bar to five main themes: education, economy, criminal justice, immigration and housing. Our review of Google Analytics showed that a busy navigation bar lowers the chances that a reader will use it, and our cardsorting exercise showed that our personas were most likely to divide Reporter stories into a small number of categories. SubThemes This vocabulary comprises (1) themes that are so specific they wont bring in more than a few articles a year (religion, environment); and (2) broad themes that encompass a great swath of what the Reporter covers (race, poverty, community). Every article can be tagged with as many subthemes as desired. Used wisely, this vocabulary will become a great way to dynamically feature topics throughout the site. Story Forms This vocabulary is a refined version of the current Departments vocabulary. Terms have been renamed to be more understandable to people who have not read the print magazine (New Voices is Q&A, Spin Offs is Behind the News, Cover Stories is Investigations, etc.). Reporter Impact has been moved to a different section of the site. Web Extras is no longer necessary under the new digital strategy. Community Areas and Neighborhoods Several of our personas, especially Ernest, are interested in the narratives of specific areas of Chicago. Weve addressed this need by creating Community Areas and Neighborhoods vocabularies. Community Areas is a nested list of geographic terms. It starts by dividing the city into four sections North, South, West and Downtown and then into the 77 official Chicago community areas. The second vocabulary is a list of terms for unofficial community areas, or neighborhoods. Again, the vocabulary has been divided into North, South, West and Downtown, but its broken into a more granular and nuanced view of Chicago than the other geographic vocabulary. Here you will find neighborhoods like Cabrini Green and Wicker Park.


Tagging and Metadata Metadata is information stored within a story: time, date, author, multimedia, etc. A tag is a piece of metadata that describes content (a story, event, blog, etc.). A few descriptive tags for One and Done, for example, would be Chicago Housing Authority, eviction court and onestrike policy. Readers dont see the tags, yet tags play a huge role in associating content, which helps the reader navigate the site. Many of the vocabularies we've created include freeform tagging options, meaning a storys author will be able to create terms when he or she posts an article. One of the problems with freeform tags is redundancy most often homonyms and synonyms. To ensure you dont end up with both a CHA and a Chicago Housing Authority tag, we recommend that the sites Web producer monitor the list closely and combine any repeated or synonymous terms. A bloated and imprecise list of tags undermines the purpose of tagging.



The Chicago Reporters current blog, Chicago Muckrakers, offers a lot of wellreported content through the Chicago Tribunes ChicagoNow blog network. Although it is hosted outside of the Chicago Reporters website, its placement on ChicagoNow earns it some attention beyond the Reporters core audience. At present, the Reporter is paid $50 a month by ChicagoNow. Its contract with ChicagoNow expires Dec. 31, 2011. Megan Cottrell, Micah Maidenberg and Steve Johnson write articles that cover daily news on topics that matter to the Reporters audience. The blogs writers, in particular Megan Cottrell, often take a more explicitly leftleaning attitude than is expressed in the magazine. The blog provides a service to readers of the Chicago Reporter magazine who want to engage with the Reporter between issues. Because the Reporter only publishes a magazine every two months, the blog is critical to maintaining an audience. The name, Chicago Muckrakers, has a lot to do with the investigative tradition of the Chicago Reporter, but it is slightly misleading when it comes to the blogs content.


We have turned the blog into a focal point of the new website. We envision it as the driving force that gets readers to think about the Chicago Reporter during the two month period between issues. The Reporter has already committed three parttime employees to the blog. Our recommendations will make the blog a reason for people to engage with the Reporter on a weekly (or even daily) basis, which should subsequently increase the earning potential of the site as a whole. First, we recommend that Chicago Reporter end its blogging agreement with ChicagoNow for the Chicago Muckrakers blog. Given the Reporters new partnership with the Chicago Independent Ad Network, traffic to the Chicago Reporter website is more valuable than it has ever been before. Knowing that, the meager 569 visits to the website directed from the ChicagoNow blog from July 5 to Nov. 30 isnt a very good argument for employing three bloggers to create new content five days a week. Moving the blog content to ChicagoReporter.com gives potential Web audience members a reason to visit the site on a regular basis, which will improve its value in the eyes of the reader and in terms of advertising. Putting blog content directly on the Reporter website is a way to capitalize on the esteem in which the Reporter is held. 28


The blog got a toptobottom redesign, starting with the name. We chose to call it On Our Radar in an effort to target the Emma persona and appeal to a younger audience. We think this name has more to do with daily news coverage, the existing content of the blog, than Chicago Muckrakers. We need to get the word out that the Reporter is providing a daily news update from the magazines perspective. The new name conveys an idea of everwatchfulness and awareness of surroundings that provides realtime context to the larger investigations within the magazine. The current name might be construed as journalism jargon and somewhat oldfashioned. We believe Emma is more likely to engage with the online portion of the Reporters content, and we recommend the name change in an effort to reach out to her. The logo, designed by local graphic artist Danny SpitzerCohn, highlights the meaning of the radar and the blogs Chicago focus. By using the traditional green radar, we are also adding some much needed color to the homepage and catching the readers eye. The skyline portion of the logo, which will appear on the blogs main page, reminds the reader that the focus is always on Chicago. We dont feel substantial changes to the blogs content and tone necessary. We do recommend the use of an About box to clearly describe what the reader can expect. In our sample About in our blogpage mockup, we highlight both the daily updates and the tone of the blog, an element we feel needs to be expressed. Currently, the blog has a definite leftleaning attitude, which is something that we think might appeal to the Emma persona. However, it needs to be clear to any potential readers that there is a conscious decision to write with a distinct opinion and the place for that is in the About section.




Our industry research showed that news organizations need to go beyond traditional storytelling formats to succeed in the digital age. Since the Reporter is a datadriven publication, providing data applications to illustrate information will engage audiences in new ways. Sometimes showing is better than telling especially when it comes to the complicated issues the Reporter covers. Some people are visual learners and gain qualitative understanding of information from data visualization. Even for people who arent visual learners, data visualization is still a critical tool to understanding complex, connected information. Wellcrafted data visualization can bring more value to a news organization. For example, digital watchdog news organization The Bay Citizen created the Bicycle Accident Tracker. The Webbased app incorporates maps, charts, data and user submitted info to provide an interactive resource for someone wanting to learn about bike accidents around San Francisco. People return to this application again and again because it has longlasting value. That repeated interaction brings more traffic to your site, making it more attractive to advertisers and sponsors.


The Disparity Map compares the 77 Chicago community areas in terms of race, poverty, income, housing and education. The map is segmented by community area because this is a common way for the Reporter to analyze data based on sections of the city. It is also commonly used by the City of Chicago for data gathering and analysis. Furthermore, it is easy to aggregate U.S. Census data by community area. In addition to visually representing this data, the Disparity Map ranks the communities from most to least disadvantaged. The prototype of the application can be found at http://map.medill.co. It draws from multiple data sets and calculates how they interact. So, if readers select more than one disparity marker, the map will rerank based on whats selected. By default, it displays the community areas based on the percentage of people living below the poverty line. The map is not only a resource for readers, but can also be used to visualize Chicago Reporter investigations. By adding new data sets to this application the Reporter can quickly gain insights about Chicago and see the relationships among different disparity factors. The Reporter could add any data set sorted by Chicago community area such as the results of investigations into TIF spending and foreclosures on apartment buildings. The goal is for readers to gain an understanding of the disparities in their own neighborhoods and around the city. Where are the most disadvantaged communities? Who lives in these areas? How much do they earn?



The Disparity Map has four major sections: (1) the filter box; (2) the community area map; (3) the Most Disadvantaged rankings; (4) the complete, ranked list.


Any item in the filter box can be checked and the map will change dynamically. The filters weve built include the number of residents below the poverty line, the number of vacant housing units, households receiving food stamps, renter occupied housing units and adults 25+ with a high school education or less. Data comes from the 2005 2009 American Community Survey 5Year Estimates. Any data that is organized by community area will be easy to include.

The community area map operates like a basic heat map. When one or more filters are selected the number of people in poverty and vacant housing, say the community areas are shaded. The greater the number of people in poverty and the greater the number of vacant housing units, the more intense the shade of red. Its designed to draw focus to the areas that have the highest level of the chosen filters. These change automatically when a filter is selected.

The rankings box shows the ten most disadvantaged communities by whichever filter or combination of filters are selected. They are automatically reranked when a filter is added.


The list of all 77 community areas is ranked by whichever filter or combination of filters are selected.


When you click on a community name or one of the community polygons, an infobox appears that shows several elements. At the top of the infobox is the community area name and overall disadvantaged ranking. This ranking is based on a combination of whichever disparity filters is selected. Beneath that is the racial breakdown of the community. Next is population and per capita income. Both are included for every community area, but are not ranked. Then a series of pie charts show the statistics and rankings for each disparity filter. At left, with three filters selected:
People in Poverty shows that 43 percent of the total population of Englewood is living below the poverty line. Vacant Housing shows that 26 percent of the total housing units in Englewood are vacant. High School Education or Less shows that 60 percent of people 25 and older have a high school education or less.


The Disparity Map is a multipurpose tool. The app was designed so that people with relatively little coding experience could use it. Data can be added to the map by adding columns to the Google Fusion Tables back end and by modifying the JavaScript code to create new checkboxes. The procedure is explained further in Appendix 2. We developed the app with a goal of allowing the Reporter to use it for future investigations in which analysis is organized by community areas. This has been a common approach to data analysis in the past for instance, in looking at TIF spending and foreclosures. Reporters could also use the app internally to compare data sets and identify trends. This, of course, can be done in an Excel spreadsheet but seeing the distribution geographically may get you to notice trends you wouldnt have otherwise. It could also be used to illustrate upcoming Census data releases.

The Reporter deals with large databases, but often uses just a small portion of the data contained therein to support a story. Staffers at the Reporter have told us that working with large amounts of data sometimes crashes their computers. To ensure staffers can access entire databases without any blunders, the Reporter should build a data library. This would require purchasing more server space to store data. Fortunately, the costs of data storage are declining quickly a 1terabyte backup drive can be obtained for as little as $100.



The Chicago Reporter has a Twitter account and a Facebook account with some modest follower numbersjust over 1,000 on Facebook and 2,600 on Twitter. The Twitter account tweets almost exclusively during the Barber Shop Radio Show, and on those days might publish upwards of 20 tweets in a day. On the other days of the week, this account might tweet two or three times. The tweets mostly are for new blog posts, but with no specific mention of the blog making it hard to know if the subject is Reporter content or just an interesting article from another source. There are few retweets, and minimal conversation and engagement on either Facebook or Twitter. The Barber Shop Show tweets seem strange and disconnected because there is no leadin: The Reporter goes from no tweets to more than 20 in a day, and it is hard for followers to get an idea of what is going on if the Reporter isnt appearing in their timelines more often. Like the blog, there is a definite leftleaning attitude to many of the tweets in the language used, the retweets and in the hashtags selected. This is somewhat inconsistent with the Reporters desire to portray itself as an unbiased news source. We found that the Twitter account does not typically mention the magazine or its content. There are some spelling and grammar errors in the tweets, as well. On Facebook, there are almost no comments or posts from other people on the Reporters wall. According to Facebook, only 13 people are talking about the Reporter. When the Reporter asks questions, they are unspecific and fail to spark discussion. The Reporter does post fairly frequently on Facebook, but should strive to post more consistently throughout the week. The publication should also make use of the events functionality on Facebook for events such as the bimonthly issuerelease party.


The Chicago Reporter is missing out on a major opportunity to engage its audience and get them excited about the stories they report. Our most significant Twitter recommendations are targeted at the Emma persona, because she is more likely to rely on social media to keep up with the Reporter and she prefers Twitter to Facebook for that purpose. We would like to use the Chicago Reporters Twitter presence to promote content, build journalists brands and improve audience engagement. Given these goals, here are our recommendations.


Promoting content Tweet on a regular schedule, during peak times. It is commonly accepted that Twitter users are most active in the early morning, midday, and late evening.1 Even if the blog posts come out throughout the day, they need to be tweeted during peak times. Set up a tweeting schedule for regular content promotion using HootSuite, and use their resultstracking tool to check when you are getting the most click throughs and adjust tweeting times accordingly. After a blog post is published, the blogger needs to compose a tweet for @ChicagoReporter to go out during peak times. During the radio show, tweet when it is starting, indicate who is there and if you are looking for audience interaction. Livetweeting it throughout the show can fill up someones timeline for too long, and if a Twitter user isnt listening, he or she wont want to see that many tweets about it. Building journalists brands All Chicago Reporter bloggers and reporters should make their feeds public, promote themselves as a Chicago Reporter employees in their bios and adhere to standards of topics and language used that are appropriate for an outwardfacing Chicago Reporter presence. All bloggers and reporters need to tweet during their daily work. If they are out covering an event, they need to tweet something like At the Chicago Planning Commission Meeting, waiting to hear on X. Look for a blog post later! Mention @ChicagoReporter as often as possible, respond to people who tweet at you and accumulate followers. All bios should to include: Retweets do not constitute endorsements; all opinions expressed here are my own. Bloggers and reporters can and should tweet their articles as soon as they come out. They do not need to adhere to the peaktime rules. However, as mentioned above, the bloggers also need to write a tweet about each post to go out on the Chicago Reporter during peak times.


The Reporter can take a number of steps to enhance direct engagement with readers. The staff should respond to people who tweet with questions or comments. There should also be an intern monitoring Twitter all day, staying abreast of mentions; this is easily done with an iPhone, via email or through a program like HootSuite. Staff can ask specific questions about things posted to Twitter and Facebook; avoid just saying, Tell us what you think. Its also essential that the Reporter retweet relevant stories from other outlets, particularly ones chosen as part of the curated content on the Reporters homepage. The best Twitter users are known interlocutors with other personalities in their given field,
1 Source: Sysomos Resource Library http://www.sysomos.com/insidetwitter/


and readers come to look forward to miniexchanges and debates. Let the reporter/outlet that you are promoting know you are doing it: if they retweet your tweet, it means more exposure. Whenever possible, use the Twitter handles of the people and organizations that you are talking about in your tweets. Similarly, if there is a blog post on the Reporter blog talking about a major issue (like Occupy Wall Street), search Twitter to find out what hashtag is being used and make sure to fit it in. A final note on Facebook. While the Emma persona is unlikely to spend much time interacting with the Reporters formal Facebook page, many reporters today leverage official pages (separate from their personal accounts) for yet another effective interaction channel. The savviest reporters post what might be called outtakes to draw in followers: tongueincheek messages, interesting or amusing photos and other material too informal for publishing (but not too candid for posting!). Most importantly, they intersperse this material with links to actual stories, boosting traffic.


The Reporter enjoys a lively commenting community, with multiple threads on each story. However, a few of these comments contain offensive material that the current commenting system renders difficult to administer. The principal personas likely to comment on chicagoreporter.com are Emma, the grad student, and Ernest, the community organizer. As commenters, they have three goals: Swiftly reacting to a story, engaging with other Chicago Reporter readers in a relatively freeflowing conversation and maintaining a degree of anonymity. The Reporters goal, meanwhile, is to keep debate on the website civil, and remove comments deemed offensive by others in the online community. Our recommendations below balance preserving a robust discussion on the Reporters website with making managing unwanted comments as simple as possible.


We recommend installing Disqus.com, a popular commenting plugin that can be used on the Drupal platform. Disqus has a number of adjustable settings that can be used to moderate comments to a greater or lesser degree, and with more or less responsibility for the Reporters staff. It also can be easily modified to make the plugin more stylistically appealing. For instructions on installing Disqus on Drupal, consult http://drupal.org/project/disqus. We recommend relatively strict comment moderation settings, which will also minimize the work required of Reporter staff. Comments do not need to be approved prior to being published However, users will be encouraged to flag posts. If a post is flagged, an email will be sent to the comment moderator and Disqus will automatically hide the post while the moderator determines whether to approve it. Comments containing links or images must be approved before they are published. Should the Reporter choose, there is a process for transferring comments from the existing site to Disqus; it can be found here.



Many actual or potential ChicagoReporter.com users are community activists or teachers who would want to bring data to their peers or students in an easytoread format. A strong, clean infographic can do a great job of showcasing the important conclusions drawn from an investigation and can help spread awareness about your publication. We envision readers sharing or printing out useful graphics. They may even want to buy them if the data offered enough value.

People reading news online have more information available to them than ever before. As New York Times Media reporter David Carr wrote in a 2010 Nieman Lab article: We have the stream, a fastmoving, evershifting flow of bitesized updates and messages, Carr said. Everything weve seen in the development of the Net and, indeed, in the development of mass media indicates that the velocity of information will only increase in the future. Considering the length and density of some of the Chicago Reporters stories, we thought we would give an example of a way a story can be reimagined for a Web audience that needs shorter but still hardhitting content. We took Angela Caputos November/December 2011 story, Razing Hell, and the photographs taken by Jason Reblando to accompany the story, and made a short slideshow for the Web. The story has been shortened significantly to make this possible, but the main data points are highlighted in the photo captions. The slideshow can be found at http://reporter.markroyko.com/razinghell. Slideshows are among the most popular items on many news sites, mainly because people love visualizing stories. We think they would be effective in stories that highlight the human cost of a particular problem. For Razing Hell, the viewer can get a feel for how widespread the foreclosure problem is in the Roseland neighborhood by actually seeing many of the boarded up homes. To implement slideshows, the Reporter will have to ask photographers to get many varied photos. The reporter who wrote the story may have to tell the photographer to go photograph various events or people to properly illustrate the whole story, which could cost more through hours of the photographers time. Through the slideshow code we built, anyone can be taught to assemble the slideshow after the story is edited and the photos selected.


Document Cloud is a set of tools for working with and publishing originalsource documents. It can help journalists analyze the content of documents, and help 40

publications make them available online. Making key documents available would offer readers a complete experience with the investigative work you produce. For example, Terry might have been interested in viewing the city health department documents obtained in the July 2009 Waste of Chicago story.


A quick and easy way to include interactive charts on your site is to use Google Charts. Google Charts is a tool that allows you to input data and automatically generate pie, line, column and area charts as well as tree maps. Other tools include Vidi and Tableau Public.

When representing a chronology, consider putting the information into an interactive timeline. Timelines increase readability and are more visually appealing. We believe that the History of Englewood would be a more effective and engaging story if put into a timeline. We noticed in Google analytics that this page has heavy traffic, but people do not stay on this page because the long block of text turns them away. Among the available interactive timeline sites: Timerime, Dipity, Simile and xTimeline.


In order to engage with their community of readers, we recommend the Reporter aggregate content in addition individual stories. Content would include links to Reporter content on outside sites, videos of interviews, pictures of staff members at launch parties and tweets from influential people. This could take the form of a story post or blog post that does a weekly review of what the Reporter is doing and things that are happening with the issues the Reporter covers. Storify is a free service that collects these pieces of content and puts them into an embeddable story format. If the Reporter decides to maintain a presence on ChicagoNow.com, Storify could be an effective tool for aggregating a regular update about what the publication is up to. 41

The current archives do not follow the typical format used by most established news organizations. They take up a lot of space and include a lot of text, which can overwhelm your reader. We suggest a more organized, intuitive format that helps your readers easily locate archived content. The amount of teaser text should be limited to a couple sentences. Also, the date, author and comment count should accompany the results. We also recommend identifying the type of content, whether its a blog, story or piece of multimedia. Any sort of picture included with the content, would show up as a thumbnail next to the search results. To help readers navigate a lot of content, we suggest filtering results by date as well as sorting results by relevance or date. With this new style, you can easily include 10 results per page, making your archives much easier to scan. New Search Results Page Existing Search Results Page



Getting Local: How Nonprofit News Ventures Seek Sustainability (a research report published in October 2011 by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation) says nonprofit local news organizations need to act like digital businesses, focusing as much attention on developing revenues as on content. At the same time, developing new sources of revenue sometimes requires making investments. The Chicago Reporter has relied for financial support primarily on its parent organization (the Community Renewal Society) and on foundation grants, which have declined in recent years. It receives a modest amount of support through print magazine subscriptions and individual donations. Based on our examination of the Web analytics for ChicagoReporter.com, and our interviews with people familiar with the Reporter, we believe the organizations digital products represent significant untapped opportunities for audience expansion and financial support. In order to take advantage of these opportunities, it is essential that the Reporter significantly improve its website, email newsletter and social media presence. These initiatives will require time and attention that the Reporters current small staff cannot provide. But we believe the investment can be repaid over time through the development of new revenue streams.

Our largest expense recommendations are additional staff members. The first would be a fulltime Web producer, which might cost about $40,000 per year. We find this position especially important since the Reporters presentation editor currently manages the look of both the magazine and website a huge task for anyone to handle. The Web producers primary duty would be maintaining your site. Other duties include promoting the website through social media and searchengine optimization, publishing and managing content, managing Web advertising, collecting analytics, monitoring story comments, securing the website and server and educating Reporter staff members about how to use the Drupal interface. A Web producer with design skills could design pages and make tweaks to the design of the website. They would work with reporters to make their vision for a story a reality for instance, by helping create slideshows or video. Their contributions would be critical to a streamlined user experience. We also recommend hiring a new parttime photographer. We estimate that a good parttime photographer would cost about $24,000 per year. The Reporters current stable of freelancers has been sufficient to fill a bimonthly print magazine, though we would note that many of the photos are not visually compelling. A parttime staff photographer would be better able to collaborate with reporters from the start of a story and work more closely with them to get more photos and more compelling imagery. Photos are the first thing a user sees and they reflect your organizations reputation. 43

Photos should tell a specific story by giving context. If a story doesnt have a good photo readers will glaze over it. In fact, a study by Web site consultant Jacob Nielsen shows that people ignore generic photos. This means stock photos are ignored and clutter sites, while users engage with relevant, highquality photos. Users are bombarded with tons of images online and so your photographs need to stand out. Our third staff recommendation is a parttime graphic designer who would specialize in infographics or information design. We estimate that this would also cost about $24,000 per year. Since the Chicago Reporter is a datadriven publication, its crucial to have excellent data visualization for both the magazine and website. The graphic designer would work with reporters to craft stunning data packages. They would know the best way to tell a story through data. Like good photos, good design increases business value. As your organization grows and develops its business strategy, you may consider redesigning your main logo. A graphic designer would take into account the mission and tone of your publication before making any sort of change to your logo.


As discussed in the revenue section, we believe the Reporter can significantly increase revenues from individual donations and events. In order to do so, there will be some additional expenses for donor premiums (coffee mugs, Tshirts, etc.) and for the events themselves (space rental, food, etc.). We estimate these expenses at $5,000 per year. Donor premiums Having an experience or gift attached to a donation will make some people more likely to donate as well as more satisfied after they donate. They will see themselves as part of the organization. Using a membership model similar to that of Catalyst, the Reporters sister publication, members should be offered different kinds of gifts depending on the level of their donation. As a byproduct, promotional items such as coffee mugs, window decals and T shirts also serve as marketing for the publication. Experiences could be another class of gifts. These could include lunch with the editor or a donors favorite reporter. Events Hosting events takes some planning and resources. However, hosting simple events shouldnt cost too much. Next Door Caf is a free location to host events or you could consider hosting something at the Reporter office. Larger events, for example, a fundraising ball, would cost a lot more to host. These could be sponsored by attendees or businesses, but would still cost a lot of time to plan and execute. However, you will find people look forward to events and may become regular attendees, readers and donors fully immersed in the Chicago Reporter experience. 44

We recommend purchasing the following domain names that redirect to chicagoreporter.com: thechicagoreporter.com chicagoreporter.org thechicagoreporter.org According to the analytics, the top two keywords visitors search for are chicago reporter and the chicago reporter. These additional domains will help some people find your website. As mentioned in the Data section of this report, we also recommend the purchase of a 1TB networked hard drive to enable the creation of a data archive for the Reporter.

We seek to make The Chicago Reporter sustainable by further diversifying its revenue stream. Diversification has been the key to sustainability for other news nonprofits, as this graph showing revenue breakdown for other news nonprofits demonstrates:

The Knight Foundations 2011 Getting Local report shows that successful nonprofit news ventures have a diverse mix of revenue streams.

In addition, development experts say foundations are less willing than in the past to be donors of last resort. Large philanthropies need to believe they are in good company in supporting an organization. And foundations increasingly want to see their grants as 45

investments that build organizational capacity rather than an ongoing source of operating funds. The Chicago Reporter print magazine has a devoted, longstanding following. Our recommendations for improving ChicagoReporter.com are intended to increase the number of people who will be willing to donate to the organization and to demonstrate to individuals and foundations that the Reporter is increasing its reach and impact. In this section, we discuss strategies for boosting revenue: Improving donor outreach and output Cultivating corporate sponsors Maximizing revenue from the independent ad network Identifying additional foundations the Reporter should target Individual Donors We recommend, first, that the Reporter ask for donations to finance coverage of particular topics or issues. This model incorporates several successful trends used by other organizations to raise funds. Kickstarter.com, for instance, has become a successful fundraising venture for documentary filmmakers. In journalism, the website Spot.Us uses a crowdsourced funding model to pay for enterprise stories. Independent and freelance journalists give detailed descriptions of what their stories will be about, and the Spot.Us community steps up to provide money. Most of the donations are for $7 or less, but there are over 6,500 Spot.Us users, and few stories remain unfunded.

Mockup of a solicitation of donations to support reporting a story. 46

We also recommend that the Reporter adopt a membershipbased model similar to that of Catalyst, the other publication from the Community Renewal Society. This approach encourages users to donate by providing increased benefits for increased donations.

To increase donor support, we recommend that the Reporter give increased emphasis to donations and donors on its website. Nonprofit news sites have found great success signing up individual donors. For instance, the St. Louis Beacon last year collected $1.3 million in individual donations, and MinnPost collected $486,000. Both of these sites prominently highlighted individual donations on their home pages. The Beacon also has made I Back the Beacon a major fundraising campaign slogan, even creating a separate section of the website to profile individual contributors and what they like about the Beacon. We think this is an approach that should be emulated on ChicagoReporter.com.

Catalysts membership model has six tiers.

The St. Louis Beacons I Back the Beacon campaign profiles individual donors. 47

Corporate Sponsorships From the University of Texas Press advertising new books on the Texas Tribunes site to Chevron underwriting programming at the PBS NewsHour, it is possible to make sponsorships work. In the Chicago area alone, there are numerous companies with visible presences and publicly stated goals that could make them desirable sponsorship partners for The Chicago Reporter. Walgreens, for instance, recently redesigned 10 store locations on Chicagos South and West Sides to offer more fresh fruits and vegetables as part of an effort to position itself as a solution to food desert issues in certain neighborhoods. An organization seeking to associate its brand with social or civicminded causes such as this would be a candidate for website sponsorships that make its efforts known to an engaged readership interested in the types of topics that the Reporter focuses on. Companies such as Intelligentsia and Argo Tea, which pride themselves on promoting communityoriented values, may also represent natural partners for sponsorships. We also identified law firms as a common sponsor among other watchdog news sites. The more the Reporter expands and diversifies its multimedia content, the more opportunities there will be to customize and develop sponsorship options. In addition to sponsoring podcasts, video and slideshow content and data visualization tools, the Reporter may want to consider less traditional concepts. For instance, specific stories or series of investigative reports could be underwritten. Since we are already recommending soliciting storyfocused donations, it could be worth pitching sponsors to fully or partially fund a project and be featured alongside individuals wherever credit is being given. Establishing a fellowship around a specific staff position, such as a reporter, photographer or Web producer, could also make sense. Keeping the Reporters brand and ethical integrity intact should always be a primary consideration, since poorly chosen sponsors could potential erode both in readers eyes. If sponsorships are selected wisely and leveraged properly, however, they can provide excellent sources of revenue. Online advertising We were excited to learn about the Reporters participation in the Chicago Independent Ad Network (chicagoindyads.com). The existence of the network provides the Reporter for the first time with a financial incentive to grow the audience for ChicagoReporter.com. When we modeled the ad revenues possible for the Reporter through the new ad network, however, we concluded that this will not be a substantial source of new revenue in the near future. For instance, we projected ad revenues based on these assumptions: 48

With these estimates, the Reporter could expect to collect just $5,000 in new revenue over three years. More than half of that revenue would be in the third year, so there is certainly potential for growth over time. But this revenue source is not going to fundamentally transform the revenue picture for the Reporter. Foundations Foundations that are active in the nonprofit news industry are becoming less and less interested in providing grants that merely keep daytoday operations afloat. "We've gone beyond the time when foundations were willing to subsidize content," Vivian Vahlberg, a project director at the Chicago Community Trusts Community News Matters program, told us in an interview. This widespread attitude among foundations applies to news organizations of all sizes, including The PBS NewsHour, which recently failed to receive a renewed round of funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Knight provided cash when the NewsHour updated its website in 2009, but balked at subsequent grant request in 2011 that did not provide enough new ideas. However, foundations are interested in helping new and established news outlets evolve into more sustainable operations. Approaching foundations with grant requests that articulate clear paths to future sustainability produce the best results. Developing new revenue streams and diversifying income can play an important role in convincing foundations to fund these initiatives. Were interested in new and different ways of doing things, because one thing you can say about the future of news is its not going to be the same, Eric Newton, a senior advisor to the president of the Knight Foundation, told The New York Times. Folks who can be nimble and change are going to do better in the future than those who are slow to change. According to Newton, who praised the quality of work being done on the NewsHour, their request involved more of what they usually do at a time when Knight is interested in leading edge projects. To pay for the costs of increasing the audience and impact of the Reporters digital products, we recommend that the organization approach foundations that believe in the mission of the Reporter, such as the MacArthur Foundation, the Driehaus Foundation and the Chicago Community Trust. The Reporter should seek this funding as an investment that can be paid back with increased individual donations, sponsorships, advertising and events. 49

Quadrupling of page views within three years A $6.00 RPM (revenue per thousand page views) representing revenue estimates provided by the director of the ad network A steadily increasing share of available ad inventory being sold: 50% in the first year, 60% in the second year, 70% in the third year.


Events help to create a community around your publication and turn being a supporter an experience rather than a chore. As people engage with the Chicago Reporter and the staff behind it, they will feel more invested in the organization. As you make the news process more transparent and interactive, readers will want to give back. Other audience engagement benefits of adding events include: Building relationships Furthering your organizations reputation Generating positive publicity Reaching new people Events can diversify your revenue stream since you can charge for events or solicit donations. To start, we suggest making small events free, but asking for donations at the door. As these events become more established, you could start charging and including guest speakers. Events can come in a variety of forms. We looked at several nonprofit news organizations that hold successful, profitable events. The Texas Tribune hosts events about four to five times per month. They feature state legislators, company executives, authors and other topical speakers who discuss current issues in Texas. The conversations are usually held in the morning or after work. The St. Louis Beacon also host morning current event discussions called Beacon and Eggs. We suggest the Chicago Reporter host monthly forums to discuss current events. You could even use a free event space called the Next Door Caf, which would limit expenses to food. Speakers could include the Reporter staff as well as any influential people who may want to get their voice out into the community. You could have open discussions, speeches, or Q&As. As you earn more revenue we suggest hosting events at a more formal venue, such as the Harold Washington Library or a local lounge, and diversifying the types of events. MinnPost holds a large, yearly event called the MinnPost Roast, where the organization roasts local journalists and politicians on April Fools Day. MinnPost hosts a silent auction during this event and has sponsors provide the food and beverages. The Post heavily promotes the event and tells readers which local celebrities are scheduled to come. They also list who the biggest sponsors are.


The Chicago Reporter should strive to be part of the growing online investigative news community in order to access promotional support from other outlets. To start, the Reporter can follow in the footsteps of Catalyst and join the Investigative News Network, a group of investigative member organizations dedicated to increasing the impact of investigative stories and promoting sustainable nonprofit organizations. 50

The Chicago Reporter is a definite candidate for INN and would derive value from the organizations membership benefits. To join, the Reporter must be completely transparent about its fundingwhich will be possible through the models we recommended for donations. The magazine must also be clearly nonpartisanand while we recommend some opinion in the updated blog, we do suggest that the Reporter do everything possible to keep opinions limited to that space. If approved, the Reporters work would be promoted through the Investigative News Networks enewsletters and social media outreach, and the magazine could receive negotiated group rates for journalistic tools and INNawarded grant funding. Additionally, the magazine would be able to network with other investigative organizations, which could lead to financial opportunities though ad networks and other promotional support.




Use <h1> tags around headlines. This will make headlines the first thing a search engine reads, which is exactly what you want. Dont use <h1> tags at any other point on the page. Google tends to ignore instances of <h1> if its used more than once. (Re)write headlines with SEO in mind. The same headlines that work perfectly well in print (One and Done, Despair over disrepair, etc.) make the article very difficult to find on the Web. One and Done hardly indicates youre about to read a story about unjust Chicago Housing Authority initiatives. A good SEO headline should include keywords that directly represent the content. Examples of good SEO headlines: Original headline: One and Done SEO headline: One strike, youre out: CHA residents face eviction if arrested once Original headline: Despair over disrepair SEO headline: When lenders dont register their properties, taxpayers lose out on millions in revenue Original headline: HipHop Hope SEO headline: Young people find community, inspiration in Uptowns hiphop focused Kumba Lynx arts program Include the original headline in the metadata. If you rewrite a headline you might be concerned readers of the print magazine wont be able to find the article via Google. (They are the only group who might type One and Done in the hope of finding the CHA evictions story.) If you include the old headline in the metadata, it wont carry the heft of an <h1> but it will be findable. When creating a new story fill out the metadata description. To fill out the metadata description go to the bottom of the edit story page and click on the Meta Tags tab. Insert a description of the story in the description field. Link to previous Reporter content. When creating new content, be sure to include links to recent or even archived stories that are relevant to the story. This will help boost traffic to individual pages on the site and the site will be more likely to appear in search results when people search for those terms.



Note: Each dataset needs the total number, percentage and ranking with underscores separating each word Open chicago_reporter_inequality_map_2.xls.csv in Excel and paste in the columns you want to add

To work, the percent column must read _percent at the end and the rank column must read _rank Save the file and log onto the Chicago Reporter Data Gmail account: Username: ChicagoReporterData@gmail.com Password: [INFORMATION AVAILABLE FROM PROF. RICH GORDON] Replace chicago_reporter_inequality_map_2.xls with your newly updated version

(Tip: If this option is deactivated click the Sign In button) Log into FTP for the Web server where the app is hosted. Currently, this is medill.co. To log in, type a) ftp.medill.co as the server b) [LOGIN, PASSWORD AVAILABLE FROM PROF. RICH GORDON] Click Navigate to 53

Rightclick index.html, select Edit with and select an editing program Scroll down to the column data from fusion tables )

(You can find this located under Copy all of the information between <li> and </li>

Paste the information before or after a list item in this set (Note: Checkboxes appear in the same order on the map as they do in the .js file) Change the value= value to the data sets column name in Google Fusion Tables: Note: must appear exactly as it does in Google Fusion Tables. Change the <span> value to the title you want to appear in the map:



So youve decided to use a map Before using a map, ask yourself if the story youre telling has a crucial tie to geography. Many of the graphics that accompany Reporter stories feature an infographic that shades Chicagos community areas. One way of showing an unequal distribution of something between races is to shade Chicago community areas by majority race beneath pointlevel data (minors charged with a felony or sex offender violations, to use two examples from the magazine). This, of course, can be effective. When youre trying to tell the reader that trauma centers are distributed unequally throughout the city, with the neighborhoods with the most incidents of gun violence having the fewest centers, geography is at the center of the story. Perhaps the natural inclination is to shade the community areas based on one factor (majority race or income level) with, as mentioned above, pointlevel data on top. If so, the color palette for both the polygon shades and the points need to be carefully selected. The Reporter uses data to create strong investigative pieces. Its one of the tenets of the organization. Since its so critical to the publication youll want to create strong and clear graphics that drive home the groundbreaking research and reporting. Caution: Maps arent always the best way Sometimes a map isnt the best way to show data. (Matt Ericson of the New York Times has a terrific essay on this subject at: http://www.ericson.net/content/2011/10/whenmaps shouldntbemaps/. A chart can be a lot more successful at showing a relationship or can help supplement the visual provided by a map. Charts are best used when the data doesnt relate to geography, when the geographic data is more effective for analysis or when interesting patterns arent geographic patterns. For example, a stacked bar chart can be effective at showing pieces of a whole better than the scattered colorcoded percentages on a map. Here are two simple ways of visualizing data that dont involve maps: Stacked bar chart: A stacked bar chart divides the bar into pieces that correlate with an amount. So, the readers see the relationship between the part and the whole. Pie charts: Pie charts can get confusing because the slivers can get very small and be hard to read. Also, if youre juxtaposing more than one pie chart side by side, it can be difficult to compare the sizes of pieces. Pie charts are best used when you are showing 23 categories and there is a big difference between them. However, labeling can get tricky as the slivers get smaller, so a bar chart is usually your best option. 55

To illustrate the best way of mapping data, lets look at an example from the Reporters archives:

In choosing a color palette showing that shows racial majorities, avoid creating artificial hierarchies. The white through brown unintentionally suggests a ranking of races. Gradients should only be used to map quantitative data. A gradient shouldnt be used to map demographic data, because that indicates there is some relationship between the groups along the gradient. If Hispanic is gray, Asian is white and black people are black does that mean Hispanics are a mix between blacks and Asians? No way! You want to make your color choices as clear as possible so your graphics are as clear as possible. 56

Second, the color saturation of the markers that represent those in violation and not in violation of parole are roughly equal, even though the importance of each is not equal. Yes, the in violation markers should stand out, but just as important, the not in violation markers should recede into the background. It blurs the elements of the story and makes the reader struggle to derive meaning. Examples of successful palettes The New York Times is known for its awardwinning data visualizations, including their maps: Minorities in China

Immigration explorer


These maps use colors that differ from one another, making them easytoread. With data visualization, you dont want readers to have to go the extra step and draw their own conclusions about the data. While this color palette is distinct, it also shows a gradient. Meaning, users can look at this graphic and know the change in color correlates to more or less of something. Successful color palettes for data visualization are distinct, complementary and free from association with any group or demographic. The palette below is racially neutral yet different enough to show divisions at a glance:

Color codes by race: White majority = #E900B6 Black majority = #04A4E0 Asian majority = #9BFB15 Latino majority = #FAAF08 No majority = #818181 We recommend, for the sake of consistency, using the same shades when mapping other data sets by community area. For example, income level could be broken into four tiers. Communities in the higher income bracket shaded red and violet and those in the lower income brackets shaded blue or orange based on our inventory of Reporter stories, when the color palette is applied to other inequality factors, it will, in general, reflect the racial breakdown of the city.



Helen Adamopoulos Project Leader / Design & Usability Helen graduated from Eastern Michigan University with a BS in journalism in April 2010. During and after her time as an undergrad, she reported on the arts and local government as an intern and freelance writer for The Ann Arbor Chronicle. She majored in interactive publishing at Medill.

Patricia Hastings Content & Community Management / Web Technologies and Databases Patty covered public health and majored in interactive publishing at Medill. When shes not writing or catching up on health policy, she enjoys cycling and practicing yoga. Priscilla Kunamalla Audience Research / Design & Usability Priscilla graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago in May of 2010 with a B.A. in psychology. She worked as a marketing assistant at Tyndale House Publishers in Carol Stream, IL where she thoroughly enjoyed executing marking strategies for Christian fiction and nonfiction titles. She majored in interactive publishing at Medill. Diana Novak Industry Research / Content & Community Management Diana Novak majored in reporting at Medill. Most recently, she held the John Callaway Fellowship at WTTW11s Chicago Tonight. Her work has been published by the Huffington Post, In These Times and Truthout.com, as well as in Inventing Arguments, an upcoming textbook from Cengage Learning. She is a graduate of Tulane University.


Donald Sjoerdsma Web Technologies & Databases Don Sjoerdsma received his B.A. in sociology from Indiana University. He was editorinchief of the biweekly IU Northwest campus newspaper, the Phoenix. After graduation, he contributed to the Times of Northwest Indianas Young Voices column, and copyedited the 2010 Indiana Football Digest. He majored in interactive publishing. Brian Warmoth Project Leader / Industry Research Brian Warmoth has worked as a journalist covering media, tech and games for more than seven years. He has contributed reporting and blog commentary for MTV News, IFC and AOL News. He majored in interactive publishing at Medill. Robert Wile Audience Research / Final Report Prior to enrolling at Medill, Robert Wile worked as a beat reporter for the Island Packet in Hilton Head, S.C. His reporting interests include housing and real estate, unemployment and European affairs. He currently serves as a volunteer job coordinator at the Ethiopian Community Association of Chicago. Robert earned his BA from Columbia University in 2008, where he majored in history.


We could not have completed this project without the help of Medill faculty, the Chicago Reporter team and a number of other individuals. Thanks to all who shared their insights, helped us with logistics or coached us through the process of developing a new digital strategy for the Chicago Reporter:

Prof. Rich Gordon Associate Prof. Zach Wise Prof. Owen Youngman Assistant Prof. Jeremy Gilbert Assistant Prof. Rachel Davis Mersey


Alden Loury Kimbriell Kelly Rui Kaneya Angela Caputo Maria Ines Zamudio Megan Cottrell Micah Maidenberg Al Shaw

Geoffrey Hing Mark Royko Wes Lindahl Danny SpitzerCohn Bill Rankin Vivian Vahlberg