Yesterday I was fortunate to spend some time speaking with my friend Sree Sreenivasan, a journalist, academic and all around digital guru. Sree wears many hats at Columbia University, where he has been on the faculty at the Journalism School since 1993. Last year, Sree was named the University’s first Chief Digital Officer. He has served as a professor of professional practice as well as the J-School’s Dean of Students. Sree regularly appears on television talking about the online world and leads workshops for seasoned professionals as well as students.
We spoke about some of the trends likely to have the greatest impact on content producers:
Q: What types of technology and applications would you recommend to people who produce content professionally?
A: I think this is a very exciting time to deal with producing, consuming and sharing content, because almost every day there is something new, either a website, an app or a tool. It can be a little bit overwhelming at the same time. There are a lot of new tools or newish tools that enable freelancers to communicate in smarter, better ways.
Q: What are some of the tools that you recommend?
A: The whole world of sharing your content with other people has become much easier thanks to DropBox and tools like it. It’s amazing how quickly it has happened. With DropBox, no one had heard of it, and suddenly everyone had heard of it. It’s a great way to send large files. Another tool that I absolutely love is Evernote. Evernote was on the front page of the New York Times business section. A billion dollar company that came from nowhere. Evernote is a tool that captures anything. Any text, audio, photographs – anything that you want to keep track of. It’s all cloud based and you can access it from your phone, your computer, your app.
Google Docs has undergone a tremendous transformation from a simple word editing tool to this whole idea of the Google Drive. The way they use presentations and excel and powerpoint and word or their equivalent in Google Drive. I do almost no work in Microsoft Office Suite if I can help it because I want to do everything in Google Drive. My wife jokes with me that you even start your shopping lists in Google Docs. This is the world that we live in when there’s so much stuff and it’s hard to keep track of all of it. But these are all ideas that we can use as writers to share ideas and collaborate and to connect.
On the less creative side of it, on the business end, I encourage freelancers to think about having CRM tools. You think of customer relationship management is something that creative people don’t have to think about, but they do. And you have the same power as a small business. You can use Zoho or a tool like that to make sure you’re paid and to do your customer relation management
Another tool that I love is called SoundCloud. SoundCloud has completely changed the way that I think about interviews and content. Sound Cloud was almost exclusively for DJ and music people. People would share their DJ tracks or sets, and what made that different from anything else was that is that you could comment in specific moments in a song. In YouTube you can comment on video but it’s at the end of the video at the bottom of the page. Here you can comment in the song. Let’s say this interview was recorded on SoundCloud you would then post it on the Internet, you could share it, embed it. But the magic really is that somebody can go in and listen and say that Sree talked about Evernote right here. And then a little picture of them would come up and their written comment is right in line at that moment when I’m writing about it.
The New Yorker has started to use it for their podcasts and what they have found is that it is a very effective way to get content out there. You can check out my SoundCloud account on soundcloud.com/sree to see how I’ve used it. Because there are not a lot of journalists using it, or because there are not a lot of written or audio interviews on SoundCloud the audience that I built on Twitter in 4 years I have built on SoundCloud in six or seven months.
Q: How important is it for content producers to be entrepreneurial? In the old days you would go out and get a job. These days there are not as many of those jobs out there and many of them are not as attractive as they once were.
A: I think it’s very important for content producers to be entrepreneurial. I think in many ways writers and filmmakers were entrepreneurial in getting ideas and thinking about ideas. Just think about the vocabulary of writers. If you’re a non-fiction freelance writer you’re pitching ideas you’re going out to get exclusives, you’re digging into facts. So I find writers to be entrepreneurial in the creative sense, but not in the business sense. What you have to be is to also be entrepreneurial in a business sense as well. The number one thing for that is to be open minded and be willing to try new things.
Q: What do you talk to your students and professionals about in terms of copyright when you’re introducing all of these new technologies?
A: It’s absolutely essential that we are aware of and dealing with the copyright and IP questions. These are things that we didn’t used to have to deal with. Because individuals didn’t produce content that would be seen by thousands of people. we would produce it and then turn it over to someone who would deal with all of those issues. And that’s what has changed in the lat few years. I have students who aren’t famous but when they produce something and put it on Instagram, it’s seen by thousands and thousands of of people. And when they post something it has an impact. I met a journalist whio has 400 followers on Twitter but 1.2 million followers on Pinterest. And this is that kind of new world. He’s never had an audience of a million for anything. And that ‘s the world we live in now. So we need to be aware of IP of copyright of the impact of what we do, and all of this goes back to the business savvy that we were never expected to have.
In fact, in journalism, we were kind of rewarded for not knowing anything about the the business. It was one of the only industries where you were rewarded and were proud of yourself for not knowing how you made money. If you somehow found out how you made money it was bad for you, the publication, the tv station, motherhood and apple pie. We need to change that. In the old days you had editors who would school you, you had a safety net, and that’s all gone now.
Q: Who are a couple of examples of people who are using some of the tools or have reinvented themselves.
A: Buzzfeed has been very interesting to watch to see how they’re using social media. NowthisNews is one of three companies trying to do to CNN what CNN did to the networks. It’s 24 hours live streaming video. Another is Huffington Post Live and another is Ora TV, started by Carlos Slim. That’s the one place you can see Larry King if you want to see Larry King. And Eason Jordan who was the head of CNN for 20 years is the head of NowThisNews, and they’re trying new stuff, which I think is very cool.
Q: What things do you read online?
A: When I tell people to change their media diets I think they should read readwrite.com. They should read Business Insider. Even if they have no interest in these things, these are places covering what’s changing in our world.