Journalist Q&A: Nicole Bode, DNAinfo

Nicole Bode talks to Emory Sullivan about the organization's deep connection into New York City's diverse neighborhoods and how social media is used to connect with subscribers.

Name: Nicole Bode
Title: senior editor
Outlet: DNAinfo
Preferred contact: nicole.bode@dnainfo.com
Website: www.DNAinfo.com

Nicole Bode talks to Emory Sullivan about the organization's deep connection into New York City's diverse neighborhoods and how social media is used to connect with subscribers.

Why is your website called DNAinfo?
DNA stands for Digital Network Associates. We have reporters for each neighborhood in Manhattan, and we are so deep into each one on a street-by-street level that we are in the DNA of the neighborhood. When we think of hyper-local, that is what we really define it as.

What makes DNAinfo stand out from other NYC news sources?
We have reporters in every neighborhood—from Inwood to downtown. They are covering everything from mom-and-pop shops, construction, and potholes in the street to bigger news that is going to get the attention of larger news sources. It's a really unique blend of news coverage that makes people say, “You really do care about my neighborhood.” Other sources may be able to tackle one neighborhood with that specificity, but to really cover an entire borough with that level of attention is something that is very unique to us.

Also, because we are digital, the “Network” part of our name really does mean something. Being digital, being online, and being mobile is a very large part of who we are. The whole aspect of being digital and online only is a new thing for local coverage in Manhattan.

How has social media affected DNAinfo?
Journalism has had an ambivalent relationship with social media until recent years. There was a question of how much of your personal life you should put into your reporting or should you be keeping them separate. Something that's been really nice about this organization is that because we're embracing social media as a part of the journalistic process people are encouraged to be interacting with their readers on social media.

Our reporters are completely plugged in to social media across the board. We have reporters who have a massive following on Twitter and Facebook, including our Inwood/Washington Heights reporter, Carla Zanoni. She actually came to us already having been a reporter in that area, so she's really plugged into the community. She doesn't use Facebook and Twitter to just pump out content, but instead engages in a very public way.

Our readers seem really interested in commenting on Facebook and reaching us through Twitter and Foursquare. A lot of our stories and tips come to us through social media. The story we covered about the plane hired by a disgruntled citizen to fly around downtown Manhattan was found through Twitter. We used a photo posted by a follower on Twitter and wrote the story based on the buzz.

What are some of the unique ways you reach out to subscribers/advertisers?
For advertisers, we have an ad sales team that is going block by block reaching out to small businesses, many of which will be making the switch from print ad to online ad for the first time. We work with them start to finish, creating the whole vision of what the ad needs to entail—in some cases, actually crafting it for them. We explain to them what results can be expected from a digital campaign and what it really means to advertise online. There's a lot of outreach and a lot of give and take that happens with the sales team bringing a lot of people to online advertising who have never experienced it before.

When it comes to gaining readers, there's organic buzz that's happening naturally. Some of our stories are so unique that they get a lot of attention from established news organizations and are run with attribution. A lot of people also find us online. For example, if we cover a small fire that's not picked up by major news outlets, curious locals will search online for it, and we'll be the only ones who wrote about it. There's also a lot of shoe leather involved. We send our reporters out to get to know locals in their neighborhoods. Throughout the summer we'll staff street fair tents to get the word out.

You've recently added new content to your website, including weekly editorial columns, neighborhood events calendars, and “On Your Block” Manhattan business reports. What other changes can we expect?
One of the biggest things that we've done is transition to a new content management system, which will allow us to publish to any platform. We now have more ability to display multimedia on our site and really feature the massive amount of content that we put out every day. We're also developing a whole host of mobile apps that will be coming out within the next year, which is something we're really looking forward to.

Do you plan to charge for your content eventually?
There aren't any plans for that. Next year we'll be publishing a directory of all businesses in Manhattan, which is additional content that won't be free. But we are a free site and that's the way it's going to stay.

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