Sunday, March 22, 2009

More on Audio, PLUS ... Signing Off

I followed the instructions in the previous post on getting permission to use audio on your site, and finally got permission from Jon Brion's people to use his beautiful song "Little People" as background music to a family video I made over Thanksgiving. Thanks, Jon Brion's people! You can see the result here.

And with that, I'm going to put this blog on hiatus. Making the print to online transition over at has pretty much eaten up all the free time I used to have & I haven't been able to find the time to blog.

Anyone interested in learning more online skills for journalists will find probably the best blog on the subject right now over at Mindy McAdams' blog.

Thanks for reading, and good luck. Read more!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Freelance tips from a freelance pro

Freelancer Michelle Goodman is coming to the Seattle PI tomorrow to teach a session on freelancing to the PI staff. Here's her resource/link guide:

Michelle's excellent Blog:

Michelle's excellent book on freelancing book: My So-Called Freelance Life: How to Survive and Thrive as a Creative Professional for Hire

Mark Matassa's review: ""My So-Called Freelance Life" offers as many laughs as great tips for those just starting or returning to a freelance career. This is a practical, useful, real-life guide to a real life outside the cubicle. Highly recommended!"

Follow Michelle on Twitter

Articles/blog posts of mine that may be of interest:

The Accidental Freelancer's Survival Kit

When to Work for Nothing

Recession Tips for Freelancers

A Luddite's Guide to Linked In

Freelance Tax Tips
[Note: I'm not an accountant; this advice is just a
jumping off point. I encourage all freelancers to hire an accountant who
works with freelancers.]

Using a Blog to Build a Book Platform

To Blog or to Pitch?

Freelance media leads/news/tips:
- Classes, news, how-to articles, blogs, forums, and
everything else you could want to know about the media (+ for $50/yr or so
you get access to subscription content, which includes their helpful How to
Pitch guides - for pitching web and print publications). - This is a $100/yr leads list, but it's been
around for years and people I'd vouch for swear it's great. Not a reprint of
those scammy work-from-home Google ads. Known for great finds like $1/word
trade magazines. You can get a sample subscription for a week before you
sign up. Also people who use this service also rave about the site's forums.
(I plan to sign up in April or May when a big gig of mine ends.)

Great (free) discussion lists (for tips, networking, and the occasional job
(job leads for all freelancers) (national networking list; mostly
seasoned editorial workers... if you sign up for one list, sign up for this
one!) (Seattle tech workers talking about job
market, job hunting, technology...) (networking with local writers; men welcome!)

Favorite freelance writing blogs: (The Renegade Writer) (The Golden Pencil) (Inkthinker)

Great books for freelance writers:

The Renegade Writer - on pitching
Query Letters That Rock - just like it sounds
The Well-Fed Writer - on copywriting

Seattle networking source: I love Seattle Read more!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Using music on your blog or Website

So, I wasted my weekend editing together some video we took last Thanksgiving, and used the Jon Brion song from SYNECDOCHE as the background music. Copyright law says (DISCLAIMER: I am not a lawyer, this is not legal advice, see a lawyer if you want legal advice) that you can sample a snippet of a song, so long as it's not a significant portion of the work. Usually at this has meant that we've been advised to use no more than 15 seconds of a song. (For a song only 30 seconds long though you couldn't use a sample of this size, because 15 seconds would be half the song, a significant portion).

So what do you do if you want to use the whole dang song? You do need to get permission from the copyright owner first.

I cruised around the Internet and found that there are three main sites that license songs: ASCAP, BMI and SESAC.

According to ASCAP, you need to obtain permission before using a song online "because the United States Copyright Law grants the owner of a copyrighted musical work ...the exclusive right to perform it publicly. ... This includes Internet transmissions of music."

Those sites all seem to say that the kind of license I need is a "synchronization license." This is the one required if you want to use a song to accompany a video.

But how to get one? The first step is to search the above Web sites to find out who owns the license to the song you're interested in. Unfortunately "Little Person" doesn't come up in any of their searches.

In any case, it looks like you have to go to a different agent for a synchronization license than you do for a Public Performance License -- which looks to be the license you need if you're just going to play the song.

These sites have a lot of instructions for for-profit business owners, including Website operators. But no advice for bloggers who might not be turning a dime. And so, I sent of a few emails to find out exactly what to do. And tomorrow I'll be calling the hotline at BMI to see if they can help me out. If you need to do the same, here's the info from the BMI website:

"You can also call the BMI repertoire information hotline at 1-800-800-9313 where you can request information on as many as 20 song titles per call."

What experience have you had obtaining copyright for music on your site? What questions do you have? Please post away.

Read more!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Twittering Class by Monica Guzman

Monica Guzman of Big Blog fame gave an informative lecture at the Seattle PI on using Twitter and RSS feeds to inform and distribute your reporting.

In addition to many of the ideas already posted in my previous post Why Bother with Twitter, Monica had a lot of great advice for new Twitterers:

1. If you can't imagine how you'd use Twitter professionally, jump in and just start doing it for fun. Get a couple of your friends to join, and use it as a way to chat with them. As you use the tool, you'll start to see how cool it is just to be able to be in touch so easily. Or you'll find it really annoying. Either way, you'll answer that nagging questions: Is Twitter for me? Just get in there and splash around.

2. Monica gave a handy list of dos and don'ts for new Twitterers:

a. Don't auto post headlines. Twitter doesn't like a feed that's robotic. Show your human side.
b. Don't *just* post links to stuff you're blogging. It starts to feel a little spammy if that's all you're doing.
c. More generally, don't just use Twitter to promote stuff.

To this list I would add: Don't post TOO much. You'll fill up people's inbox, which is annoying. There's some folks I would love to add to my Follow list, but dang, they're posting like 20 times a day. Who has time to read all that?

People in the class asked:

Question: What should I Twitter?
Answer: You don't need to answer the question that's at the top of the screen (What are you doing). People post a wide variety of things. If you're unsure what to communicate to your Twitter followers, just follow a few folks and watch them for a while before you get started.

Question: How long does Twittering take?
Answer: As long as you want to give it. If you just posted once a day or once a week that would be fine.

Question: Who do I follow? How do I find people to follow?
Answer: If you have an interest you can go to to search for people who are posting on that interest. Type "aerospace" or "rollerblading" or whatever it is you're interested in into the search box, and then click around on the people who are posting on your topic. If you like what a person is posting -- follow him. You might find in a few days you don't really like his feed. But if you do like him, step two: Go to his page and see who he is following.

Eventually, organically, people will find and follow you. Follow them back, just to check out their feed.

After a few months, or maybe sooner, you may find that you are following too many people and can't keep up with the conversation. If this happens to you, just get into your list of people you're following and weed some people out.

Question: What's the point of this again? Twitter seems silly.
Answer: Twitter is possibly silly. But many people who didn't expect to (myself included) find it useful and sometimes even fun.

Best of all, Twitter is free, so what do you have to lose? Try it. If you don't like it, walk away, don't look back.
Read more!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Making Money off Blogging, part II

If you're planning on getting into blogging so you can make wads of money, you'll probably be less than happy to see what Fake Steve Jobs has to say about blogging.

"For two years I was obsessed with trying to turn a blog into a business. I posted 10 or 20 items a day to my site, The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs, rarely taking a break. I blogged from cabs, using my BlackBerry. I blogged in the middle of the night, having awakened with an idea. I rationalized this insane behavior by telling myself that at the end of this rainbow I would find a huge pot of gold."

Turns out, the blog wasn't the cash cow he thought it would be.

"I never made enough to quit my day job. Eventually I shut down — not for financial reasons, but because Steve Jobs appeared to be in poor health. I walked away feeling burned out and weighing 20 pounds more than when I started. I also came away with a sneaking suspicion that while blogs can do many wonderful things, generating huge amounts of money isn't one of them."
Read on here. Read more!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Legal Guide for bloggers

If you are a blogger you should definitely know about and read the Electronic Frontier Foundation's legal guide for bloggers. If you don't know about the EFF's Legal Guide, now's a great time to check it out -- the guide has just been updated with new FAQs and info.

If you're wondering what exactly libel is and how it works, how copyright works, what do if you get sued for something you blogged, check out the guide.

If you are blogging and have never had a class in media law or any other way of getting info about legal issues you could encounter as a publisher -- please, definitely check out the guide. If you just launch into publishing without first reading up on the law, you may be breaking the law without even knowing it! And as we know, "I didn't know" probably isn't going to help you in front of a judge.

There is no more. Ignore the "Read More" prompt! Read more!

Getting Started with Audio

Mindy McAdams at the University of Florida has another great post in her series on web skills: How to get started uploading and editing audio. Like me, Mindy recommends using Audacity editing software, because it's free and -- while not completely intuitive -- it's somewhat easy to use.

Give it a try -- all reporters should know their way around at least one digital audio recording device and one digital editing program. Audacity's a great place to start.

Don't bother clicking on the Read More link -- for some reason the only coding solution I could find that would let me create expandable posts on blogger puts a READ MORE link at the end of every post, whether there's more to read or not! Read more!