Creating your own Web site, blog, or podcast is an excellent way to explore this career. Not only will you gain experience in Web design, coding, and different software programs, you'll have total editorial control.
Does your school paper have a Web site? If not, take the initiative and build one. As online producer for this project, you can add photo slideshows of the school prom, add a team roster graphic for the winning basketball team, and spice up your site with links to school clubs and organizations.
You should also surf the Web to view existing news and corporate Web sites. Write down what you like and dislike about each. Are the links relevant? Is the story portrayed in a concise, yet informative manner? How are the videos presented? If given the chance, what improvements would you make?
You might also consider becoming a student member of the Online News Association, a professional organization for online journalism professionals. Besides presenting the latest industry news, the association's Web site offers a wealth of information on available internships, school programs, conferences, and forums. Visit https://journalist.memberclicks.net/join for more information regarding a membership at the student level.
Online producers' job duties vary based on the organization for which they work, but in general, they create, format, and manage the content on a company, organization, or publication's Web site. Online producers working in journalism are responsible for the daily writing/editing and presentation of information appearing on their organizations' Web sites and other interactive resources. Most forms of media—newspapers, magazines, television, and radio—have a Web-based equivalent where people can access news and information on a 24-hour basis. Online producers take news articles originally published in that day's paper or broadcast and translate them into appropriate content for the organization's Web site. If new developments have occurred since the story was first printed, they are incorporated into the online version. Special coding is added to the article, most often HTML, which allows the text to be posted on a Web site. Links or related keywords are added so the article will show up in searches and archives.
The Web version of a story must be presented in a different way than it is on paper—text is often edited to be more concise and engaging to the reader. The layout of the entire article is key—if it does not grab the reader's attention, online readers may ignore the story. Online producers may choose to include features such as photos, video, animation, music, or art. Since space is not an issue on the Web, many articles run with sidebars, photos, and other features not originally included in the print or broadcast edition. Online producers often work with multimedia producers to create special content packages such as videos or an audio slide show—a series of photos presented with an audio voiceover—to further enhance a story. Other stories lend themselves to special art provided by different vendors. Online producers, working with the advertising and technical departments, decide on which pieces to purchase and use. Sports sections, for example, often use team rosters and statistics to complement special event coverage such as the Super Bowl, the World Series, or the Olympic Games.
On an average shift, online producers can expect to produce about two to four dozen stories. Many of the stories are filtered from the day's print edition, but some will be reported directly from the field, or from newswire services. Some online producers, especially at smaller companies, are responsible for producing all news stories, regardless of subject. Online producers employed at large media companies may be assigned a specific beat or area of expertise such as world news or sports. Teamwork is part of the job as well. When an important story unfolds or a special edition is being created to cover a major event—such as the death of a religious leader or a presidential election—online producers will work with other members of the editorial staff to get the news posted as quickly as possible.
In addition to working on Web sites, online producers oversee the preparation and posting of content for podcasts, blogs, wikis, virtual worlds, RSS feeds, social networks (such as Facebook), and Twitter feeds. Some of the material may come from an organization’s Web site, while other material may be entirely new.
Online producers also work in the corporate world at companies that range from advertising agencies to national retail chains. Producers employed in this capacity deal more with the design and maintenance of the Web site, or in some cases, multiple sites. An online producer working on a retail Web site coordinates with the company's creative merchandising team to launch a new product line or shopping portal. They monitor the site to make sure links are working properly and troubleshoot any problems. They may also hire podcasters and bloggers to “talk up” the product to encourage sales or use other new media resources to promote the product or service and interact with potential customers. Online producers working for a school or professional organization may be responsible for setting up and moderating forums and chat rooms as well as creating online banners, blogs and podcasts, microblogging sites such as Twitter, social media sites, online company newsletters, and posting relevant news articles regarding their employer.