Blogs, social networking are musts for journalists

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FORT LAUDERDALE - Social media aren't just for socializing. They're also avenues for buying and selling product, and monetizing information -- turning stories into dollars. Today's journalists need to understand how to use these new media to their advantage.

That was the message this morning in a panel discussion about social media - blogs, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Facebook and others - at the Boating Writers International meeting at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.

"There are 20 million users of Twitter, 100 million YouTube users, and 250 million people using Facebook," said BWI board member and panel moderator Michael Sciulla. "Let's face it, the world isn't cutting down trees and writing just in print anymore."

Internet journalism is one way for journalists, freelancers in particular, to broaden both their reader and income bases. "[But] if you're going to do something that is Internet-related, you've got to think how you're going to make money. Good ideas are simply not enough," said Glenn Justice, editor of online magazine MadMariner.com.

Justice said the key to Internet success is generating traffic, and lots of it. He says of every 10,000 visitors to a Web site, 1 percent - about 100 - click on a product offering. Of those who click, just 1 to 3 percent - one to three visitors - actually buy something.

"It is a brutal equation to have to acquire tens of thousands of visitors and entice them to click," he said. Justice uses an arsenal of Web tools - Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and Facebook - to direct visitors to MadMariner.com.

He said Web journalism must be entrepreneurial. Journalists setting up their own Web sites can make money from Google ads (surf advertising), affiliate marketing (directing visitors to product or service sites), selling ads for their own sites, charging subscription fees to use them, syndicating blogs, and using sites to advertise services (writing stories, filming videos, writing content for others).

"You use the Web site to market yourself," he said.

Marine journalist Kim Kavin operates two sites, KimKavin.com, her personal site, and CharterWave.com, a charter and charter broker site. She writes two blogs and 12 to 15 stories a month, syndicates her daily blog, and is developing a blog site featuring the work of a dozen recreational boating journalists.

"We're all publishers these days," said Rich Lazzara, vice president of Lazzara International Yachts and creator of www.richlazarra.com, a social media site.

Lazzara has more than 1,100 followers on Twitter. He says there is money to be made on the Internet for journalists, but they have to start thinking like entrepreneurs.

"If you're not blogging today, it's something you need to do," said.

- Jim Flannery

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