Our partners always ask about the ways they can add content to their NewsCloud site and specifically, what can be automated. We've built a number of options for populating your community site with content as easily as possible.
The Pros and Cons of Automation
A lot of our mainstream media partners want to automate importing content into their community site. While this can reduce the need for staff time and involvement, it can also reduce the quality, focus and appearance of content on the site.
Readers can tell when a site only includes content from an automated engine. The headlines aren't well chosen, the images often don't work well and there isn't as much focus of the editorial voice.
Since NewsCloud makes it so easy to post selected content manually (it only takes a few minutes a day), we often ask why an organization wants to put the effort into launching a community site if it has so little staff time to dedicate to it?
That said, NewsCloud has built support to automatically import a selected XML feed of content from your CMS with the proper headlines and images ... but few partners do the development work on their side to generate a special feed of featured stories for their NewsCloud community site.
We also offer some automated ways to speed importing of selected content without sacrificing your curated editorial voice.
Approaches for Distributing and Minimizing the Workload
It's often useful to have a group of staff involved in posting content to the site. If each staff member posts once a day or every other day, the site will have a fairly active curated voice.
Another option is to recruit moderators (paid or volunteer). One of our partners used 40 bloggers. This can spread the workload around as well. However, it does reduce the amount of control you have over your editorial voice.
As your community grows, readers will post the majority of content and the site won't require as much leadership from your team. However, it's important to have a plan to populate your site with fresh content as you're trying to attract people to your new site.
Options for Manually Posting Content
1. Post a Story Wizard. You can visit the post a story wizard page and paste a URL for the news story you want to add. NewsCloud will look up the title, caption and images for the story (if available) and make it easy for you to complete your post.
2. Post a Story Bookmarklet. You can drag the post story bookmarklet to your browser bar and then when you visit a third party news site, like The New York Times, you can just click the bookmarklet button and NewsCloud will launch a popup pre-filled with URL, title, caption and any images (if available) to make it easy for you to submit the story.
3. Compose an Article Wizard. You can visit the compose an article page to compose a longer blog entry or article with our rich text editor. This is great for original work - and user generated blogs.
4. Quick posting stories from the Newswire page. If your site imports RSS feeds into the Newswire page (see below), then you can visit the Newswire page and manually click Quick Post or Publish to add a headline to your site. Quick post will automatically load the title, caption and images into your site (making its best guesses) while Publish will allow you to customize your story before you complete the post.
Options for Automation
There's often a lot of confusion between stories and newswires. NewsCloud essentially maintains two buckets of story content: stories & articles vs. newswire headlines. Readers can't Like, Comment on or Share Newswire headlines unless someone chooses to add it to the site as a full story. However, there are widgets for the home page to show the latest RSS headlines, which can help to keep your site content fresh.
2. Importing stories you share via Google Reader. If you (or several staff members or moderators) use Google Reader, you can import shared stories into your NewsCloud site. This allows you and your staff to browse Google Reader (on the Web or from a smartphone) and post stories to your NewsCloud site simply by sharing them. The downside to this automated approach is that it is not possible to edit headlines, captions or choose images before the stories are posted.
3. Importing every story from your RSS feed(s). NewsCloud can also import every RSS headline as a full story, using the best title, abstract and image that it finds. The problem with this approach is that you are essentially duplicating the content on your website and not providing a focused, curated editorial voice for your community site. Note: if you create a custom RSS feed of selected, curated stories - then this can be a decent option (you can also use option 4 below).
4. Importing every story from a custom XML feed. If your content management system (CMS) can generate a custom XML data feed with the headline, abstract and images that you want to load into your community site, NewsCloud can import this content as well. Again, this generally works best if you are selected a curated subset of stories for your community site rather than every single story on your existing website.
In the future, we're planning to allow automated importing of news stories from a specified Twitter list. So, essentially, you can create a Twitter list of curated Twitterers and NewsCloud will filter out the news stories that they are tweeting or stories tweeted by multiple folks, and we'll post those to your community site, referencing the original Twitterers.
If you have more questions, please visit http://support.newscloud.com
Read the previous post: How Community Foundations Can Create Local Online Hubs with NewsCloud.