New-look scouting reports on Freep.com for Michigan, MSU and Lions football games this fall.
I’ve actually been creating these sparingly since late last season, but now we’re in the habit of creating them consistently each week (finally!).
Check out this week’s U-M scouting report here.
Hat tip to my former employer, The Arizona Republic, for the idea!

New-look scouting reports on Freep.com for Michigan, MSU and Lions football games this fall.

I’ve actually been creating these sparingly since late last season, but now we’re in the habit of creating them consistently each week (finally!).

Check out this week’s U-M scouting report here.

Hat tip to my former employer, The Arizona Republic, for the idea!

Four writing lessons from the comedy of Joan Rivers

My favorite advice from this in general is to not be afraid to write about the elephant in the room. Many journalists these days are too tentative with what they write, in fear that it could cost them their jobs which, in this field, are getting more scarce by the day. 

Maintain your courage and use your instincts.

An exercise in self-improvement

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I didn’t write about this last winter but, roughly two weeks before the calendar hit 2014, my long-time colleague and best friend Jake May and I sat in a bar in Clarkston, Mich., bought a few beers, busted out two sheets of paper and wrote down our lists of goals for 2014.

To be clear, these weren’t “New Year’s Resolutions.” At least not to me. They were actual goals for self-improvement that I would carry on past the month of January and even past 2014. Some are pretty basic, such as “bench 200 pounds,” or “run a 10K,” or “read at least 10 books” (I’ve read six so far, by the way). Others are much more specific and more private. But nonetheless, I wrote down 18 goals and sought out to complete at least 10.

Why do this? One year earlier, when New Year’s 2013 hit, I only had one goal in mind: Fitness. I weighed roughly 190 lbs. at the time, had hovered around that size for several years (I graduated college at 210 lbs.) and couldn’t figure out a way to get in better shape. I went running 3-4 times a week, used weight machines at the gym and watched how many calories I ate each day. Weeks and weeks of that and… nothing. I knew I had to figure something else out. I wasn’t overly self-conscious about my body, but it was to the point where I could tell it affected my confidence and limited my focus. I needed a vice.

Then I discovered this article: "Everything You Know About Fitness Is A Lie." I recommend reading the whole thing but, long story short, it denounces the treadmills and ellipticals and weight machines you find in abundance at gyms. To build real-world strength and fitness, you have to use free weights such as barbells, dumbbells and kettlebells. So I reworked my training regimen, started reading a couple books on healthy eating, stopped counting calories and, within the first three months of 2013, I lost 20 pounds and began lifting more weight than I ever had in my life. 

Before 2013, fitness was something I got in and out of; never did it become a routine or a lifestyle. It felt like something I had to do but didn’t want to. Now? I can’t live without it. Lifting is one of my favorite parts of the day. I hate rest days. And, being a single male in his middle 20s, health and fitness became fun for me. I started taking better care of my teeth, cooking healthier food, reworking my wardrobe and trying new exercises and activities.

In other words, I felt more alive.

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Fast forward to December 2013, with Jake in the bar, writing down goals for 2014. I found 2013 to be a rousing success in terms of self-improvement; I was eating healthier, working out harder, improving at my job every day and, best of all, enjoyed the trickle-down effect all of it had on other aspects of my life (Few things beat going to the dentist and having him tell you “your teeth are great. No problems. We’ll see you in six months!”). Now it was time to expand upon that.

Even though I wrote down 18 goals that ranged from watching 50 classic films to making a Freep.com post go viral to learning new dance techniques (yes, really), all of them rounded into one purpose: To become a more valuable individual through new experiences, tastes and skills. I wasn’t trying to impress anyone; rather, I wanted to step outside my comfort zone, test my limits and try new things. As humans in this age of technology, we have a greater tendency than ever to fall into the same day-to-day routine when there’s so much more we can do with the little time we have. I’m 27 years old, about to turn 28 in two months. I refuse to enter my 30s without at least trying my best to grasp everything life has to offer. (That’s the most sentimental I’ll get in this post, promise.)

Looking at my goal list now, I’ve completed 6 of my 18 goals, with several still in progress. With four goals to complete and four months to do it, I’m confident I can finish the year strong.

So why am I rambling about all this stuff now? Well, as you can tell if you scroll down BrianManzullo.com a little bit, I haven’t been updating this site very often. I’ve used it in the past, both on Tumblr and WordPress, as an aggregation of interesting articles on the media, journalism and sports, as well as a showcase for some of my work as a digital journalist.

I want to expand upon that — just like I did with my goals for 2014. I want to use BrianManzullo.com as a showcase for my work outside of work as well. After all, as a human, you aren’t just your job, right? All of your experiences mold you into the person you are today, whether in your career or not.

If I learn how to cook a few new dishes, I will share my experience, with photos and/or video. If I read a new book, I will share what I learned and what I’ll apply from it. If I had a great day at work and created an innovative project, I’ll share it and go behind-the-scenes with you on the thought process behind it. If I actually run that 10K (I haven’t yet), I’ll write some words about it. If I set out to accomplish a new goal and/or accomplish it, I will expound upon that, too.

My hope is that anyone following me is inspired like I am to improve with their lives as well — whether it be in their careers, at home, with their families or their personal lives. I’ve already received positive feedback from friends and colleagues on Facebook and Twitter, where I irregularly share my experiences. And one thing I’ve learned in all this is when you have momentum, you have to find ways to keep it going!

(On a side note: I’m also giving BrianManzullo.com an overhaul. It’s on Tumblr right now. But, soon, it’ll likely go back to WordPress, where it began. I’m taking advanced online courses on HTML, CSS, PHP, JavaScript, Python, etc. in an effort to build a website from scratch (or at least from a base template, like I did in college five years ago while working at cm-life.com). And yes, you guessed it, that was one of my goals, too; just not natively for 2014!)

In closing, hopefully you continue to read my work (hell, if you’ve read this far already, that’s a start). And if there’s anything you want to share, feel free to do so, whether on here or on Twitter. I’d love to hear what everybody else is accomplishing in their lives.

-@BrianManzullo

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Social games in sports

With the “dog days of summer” in sports, you have to get a little creative to keep your fans engaging with your brand. Here’s one way I did it in late May and early June, taking advantage of the rich history of Detroit sports.

We had fans on Facebook and Twitter construct all-time lineups, setting all-time athletes at certain values depending on 1) how great they were, obviously, and 2) how popular they were among fans. 

The photos of the games are below, but click on each team name to see the Freep.com post with share/comment numbers.

Detroit Red Wings (even Wings star Pavel Datsyuk shared it!):

Detroit Tigers:

Detroit Pistons:

Yes, it’s social but it’s not just about social media. Yes, it’s about engagement but not engagement with us but instead about a community’s engagement with its own work. It’s about results, outcomes, impact.

Some news orgs are killing comments, but not just because their commenters are terrible at being humans

The war on comment sections continue.

Like I’ve written before, my opinion on comment sections continues to change as time passes. I used to think all anonymous comments were the optimal path to transparency by opening every reader to the discussion within every story without fear or censoring. Then I started to realize the benefits of “Facebook comments” to hold what people say accountable to their names and/or faces (and to promote overall civil discussion).

Nowadays, though I still support them to an extent, I see the benefits of removing comments altogether. Why? For the reasons stated in this link: To prevent distraction, to promote a linear “read, then share” click economy and, best of all, to keep the bulk of the discussion where it’s meant to be: Social media. Let’s face it, Facebook and Twitter tend to provide better, more efficient forums for discussion than news sites and they drive much more traffic for local audiences. Why hopelessly try to emulate them when promoting the habit of “reading, then sharing” can accomplish the same goal: Driving more engaged traffic?

All that said, my personal preference is to see a news site not only implement comments, but to have staff engage with readers within them. That encourages productive, civil discussion and prevents comments from turning into a digital graffiti wall, where anonymous trolls spew hateful messages and add no value to the user experience. But are the resources there to promote such a social environment on a news site? Can reporters and editors seamlessly add comment discussion to their workflow? It’s a complex issue and there isn’t a single answer for every news entity.

Now that metrics are part of the news agenda, all of the sticks are in the air. Just because something is popular does not make it worthy, but ignoring audience engagement is a sure route to irrelevance.
(via Data Point: How Many Hours Do Millennials Eat Up a Day? - Digits - WSJ)
(via Consumers Prefer the Mobile Web Over News Apps - 10,000 Words)
But unlike the days when legacy media loyalty called for reporters to reserve their biggest scoops for their employers, Greenwald says he’s proud of the way the Guardian (and now, the Intercept) didn’t hog the story. “There are dozens and dozens of journalists who have worked with lots of Snowden documents,” he said, because he has felt the entire time that “the obligation is to the story and not the institution competitively.” By sharing his knowledge and materials with multiple (but vetted as trustworthy) outlets and individuals, Greenwald says the goal is to “maximize the impact. That has been crucial to not just engaging Americans [with the NSA story], but the world.”
I have been arguing that we in news should stop seeing ourselves as content factories and start seeing ourselves as members of our communities who are in the relationship business, who use what we know about people to better serve them. Thus, I ask media companies how many relationships they have with the people they serve and what they know about them — what signals they have, enabling them to improve relevance and thus value and often impact. Those are metrics that start with the public rather than with media. Those are metrics that matter.

Good metrics, bad metrics — BuzzMachine

This is Jeff Jarvis’ response to a TIME piece by Chartbeat CEO Tony Haile, titled "What You Think You Know About the Web is Wrong." While Haile describes the “bad metrics” news organizations use to measure engagement, Jarvis explores what the “best metrics” could be.

The only important thing I can add here is that there may never be a way to truly measure engagement and relationships with readers. It can mean many different things for many different websites, as Jarvis points out. The best we can do is ask ourselves what our mission is - what we want to do as a news organization, as a whole - and use that to determine the metrics of which are most important to us.

Navatar: an Indoor Navigation System for Blind Users using Google Glass (by Eelke Folmer)

Google Glass is still in its infancy and is a ways away from mainstream use, but already some outstanding innovation in the works. Really cool.

In case you missed it, this is Dallas sportscaster Dale Hansen’s viral rant on those who may be uncomfortable with an openly gay man such as Michael Sam sharing a locker room with NFL players.

This video has received millions of views, but WFAA, which originally aired it, didn’t reap all the benefits; many views went to YouTube from a third-party uploader not affiliated with WFAA.

Here’s one WFAA Web Editor who explained why the station decided to let the video spread rather than try to control the brand. And it’s spot on.

This was a situation where we felt getting Dale’s message in front of as many eyes and ears as possible was more important than where our viewers and readers were seeing it. That’s not to say we didn’t benefit from the reaction –– Hansen’s commentary drew nearly three quarters of a million views, setting an all-time record for video views on our site. However, that YouTube clip, which was posted to Huffington Post and Gawker, has 4.5 million views (and counting), dwarfing our numbers. On the surface, that disparity seems like a cause for alarm. In reality, it didn’t really matter. Our brand was seemingly everywhere. Dale became the de-facto voice on one of the nation’s most hot-button topics last week.”

It might be a surprise to some that three of Vox Media’s entities make money. It has invested oodles of cash on things like beautiful design experiences, video studios, and the best reporters it can find. But to Bankoff, that’s all part of the monetization strategy. “The whole Internet content industry and the whole Internet advertising industry has been racing to the bottom,” Bankoff says. “At Vox Media we want to race to the top.”