The SNO Report: Building buzz about your site

So, you’ve got a website. You update it consistently, you’ve adopted an online-first mentality, and, it looks pretty good, if you do say so yourself. You’re doing everything right– so why aren’t more people visiting your site?

The work doesn’t stop once you’ve launched your site. You’ve got to go the extra mile to get the traffic you want; after all, people can’t visit a site they don’t know about. So how do you get the buzz going? There are a few things you can try:

First, know that social media is key; it’s one of the best ways to drive traffic to your website, and can bring you a lot of new followers. If you don’t already have established social media accounts, you should definitely set them up; here are some tips from JEA Digital Media on how to get your social media sites up and running.

If you have an established social media presence for your publication, that’s excellent! Let’s talk about how you can use those social media sites to score some more site views.

First, Facebook.
Facebook is generally the top driver of traffic to school news sites, and by strategically posting your content here, you can significantly increase your traffic. It’s a great way to tease your stories, share relevant local and school news, and post pictures of your staff in action. You can also easily share your videos here, and Facebook’s extremely interactive commenting feature is a great way to interact with the readers of your publication.

Tweet Tweet.
Twitter is an excellent way to engage with your audience; replying to tweets, or retweeting relevant sports updates, announcements, or comments will get your readers more involved, and motivate them to visit your site regularly. Twitter is also a great way to establish yourself as the go-to source for all breaking news updates; the faster you are able to tweet out brief updates, or relay important announcements, your audience will start viewing you as the primary source for all school-related news. And don’t forget those hashtags– they can be a great way to ensure that your tweets are showing up in as many places as possible.

Snap some pics.
Instagram and Snapchat are great visual ways to draw people into your site. Instagram is the best platform to add the supplemental photos your staff has taken that maybe didn’t make it onto your site; and hey, if the photo’s you’re posting just happen to be one of many (the rest of which you can find online at (insert your URL here)!) that’s a pretty good way to drive people over to your site. Snapchat’s “story” feature is a great way to reach students, too; adding photos of articles posted on the site, or videos of sporting events and pep rallies; even adding the occasional fun video of your news staff “hard at work” is great advertisement.

And while we’re on the subject, advertisements can come in many shapes and sizes. Buttons? Stickers? T-shirts? Fliers? All great places to advertise your URL. Does your site have a custom logo? Spread that brand around the school like wildfire; print your logo on as many items of clothing you can. Make some lanyards, if you’ve got the budget for that sort of thing. Homemade products are great, too; posters, pins, hand-stitched pillowcases– if you can dream it, you can do it.

And, of course, keep your site updated! People won’t want to check your site if there isn’t new content, so make sure you’re keeping it fresh.

You can….

Add “fun” content amidst all of that hard-hitting journalism.
Try incorporating some lighter elements to your site, like a daily horoscope, or a weekly editorial or political cartoon. There are things that are commonly found in print papers, so why not take it online? Plus, they’re extremely easy to advertise via social media, and it’s a great way to draw in readers who may have never thought to check out your site in the first place. And chances are, once they’re on your site, they’ll stick around for a bit; especially if you’re utilizing the Side Rails template or therelated stories box.  You can also keep an updated events calendar on your site– ideally, you’ll end up being the go-to site for all the school’s happenings, which will improve both your readership and your reliability.

Bribe them.
No, really. Give them food. Block out a section of time in your computer lab or library for students to come in and “preview” the site…while earning some kind of sweet treat as a thank you. Sure, quite a few of them will only show up for the chocolate bars or donuts you’re handing out, but they’ll also have to at least glance over the site while they’re there.

Share that stuff.
Make your content shareable! Click the “show sharing buttons” on all of your stories before posting them– it’ll be much easier for your student body to spread the news that way, which will reach a broader audience, and take some of the work off of your hands. It’s a real win-win.

You can always check your site’s traffic by logging into Google Analytics; it’s a great way to gauge how many people are visiting your site, how they’re getting there, and what they’re looking at. If you don’t have access to google analytics, or you’ve forgotten how to access it entirely, just let us know.

Best of SNO: now open for submissions

Best of SNO showcases the best student journalism from members of the SNO Network (that’s you!) Why? We believe in recognition and inspiration–by displaying excellent work, we hope to inspire students with fresh ideas and new approaches to traditional news material. Many educators also use examples from Best of SNO as teaching tools in their classes.

Best of SNO is now open for submissions! We post new content daily, so we’re always on the prowl for great writing, original images, video, audio, and whatever else you’ve got up your sleeve. Stories submitted to Best of SNO should be previously published on your own news site. Simply put, we like good journalism–engaging, concise, and relevant–but for more detailed dos and don’ts, check out our guidelines here!

And it’s never too early to start thinking about the SNO Distinguished Sites program; with the school year in full swing, you’re no doubt curating and cultivating tons of great content– so why not get recognized for it? Starting in January, submissions for our Distinguished Sites program will open, but you can start working towards those badges right now.

SNO’s Distinguished Sites Program is composed of six separate badges, each representing a component of a successful news website. The badges are:

  • Continuous Coverage

  • Site Excellence

  • Story Page Excellence

  • Excellence in Writing

  • Multimedia

  • Audience Engagement

We’ve even come up with some new goals for you; because of our two new story page templates and SNO Story Elements, we’ve made some updates on the requirements for the Story Page Excellence badge. Out of the eight stories you submit for this particular badge:

You can apply for the badges in any order; for each set of standards reached, a badge will be displayed on the SNO client list next to that publication’s name. A site that earns all six badges will be considered a Distinguished Site. You can find more information about the Distinguished Sites program in our customer portal!

Congratulations, Mitch Eden
Longtime SNO friend Mitch Eden of Kirkwood (Mo.) High School has been named the Dow Jones News Fund’s 2015 National High School Journalism Teacher of the Year. Mitch advises the award-winning Kirkwood Call.

The SNO Report: Add your site to Apple’s News app

This week’s release of Apple’s iOS 9 includes a new app called News. Articles in the News app are pulled from a wide range of sources, and you can easily add your site to that content pool by following a few simple steps.

Start by going to Once there, create or sign in with an Apple ID for your publication. Next, follow the sign-up steps in News Publisher.

You’ll deliver content to the News app via an RSS feed. To get your feed URL, click on the RSS feed icon at the top of your site or simply add /feed/ to the end of your URL like this:

After you set up your feed, the next step is to upload a type-based logo. Your logo is used throughout News to identify your content, so make sure it’s clear and easy to read, even when scaled down. Apple recommends the following parameters:

  • Horizontal (all on one line) rather than stacked

  • Full-color transparent PNG

  • Required height: exactly 256 px

  • Recommended width: up to 2048 px (8:1 aspect ratio)

  • Maximum width: 2560 px (10:1 aspect ratio — note that some scaling will occur in logos that use the maximum width)

  • Maximum file size: 2 MB

  • Cropped or trimmed to remove extra space to the left and right (padding is applied automatically)

That’s it.  Once approved, any content published on your site will be available in the News app on every Apple device.

Need more help? Visit Apple’s support site or send us an email.

The SNO Report: Kickstart your school year with these new features

We hope you had a great summer! Whether you’re a brand-new adviser or a website pro, SNO wants to offer you an enthusiastic welcome back. We’ve got some great new features and updates to make you the rockstar of your journalism department this year. Keep reading to see what we’ve been working on.

Meet the new and improved FLEX
While you were having fun in the sun, the SNO Patrol was busy developing some new features we think you’ll love!

Side-by-side story template. This is a great option for displaying related stories, like pro and con opinion pieces, next to each other. It’s designed a bit like the longform template, with the ability to set an immersive featured image at the top. You can see an example of what it looks like here.

Want to try it out for yourself? Follow these easy instructions.

Three-column widget layout. When you place a SNO category widget in the Home Top Wide area, you’ll now see an option to create a three-column format. This format creates one, two, or three rows of featured images that sit directly above their associated headlines and teaser text. You can adjust the height and teaser length here as well.

New widget style option. By popular demand, we’ve added a sixth widget style to your site. It’s got a “flag” look to it that we think is pretty nifty! Design it to your liking under SNO Design Options>Widget Styles.

Live widget and menu customizer. You can still design your widgets and menus the old-fashioned way by clicking either option underneath Appearance. If you want to see how your site will look before saving your changes, though, navigate to Appearance>Customize Live — you’ll see a preview of your homepage that refreshes as you make changes.

Easily embed story elements. Adding pull quotes, polls, related stories, and other embeddable objects into your stories is easier than ever. When you’re editing a story, you can now click the “Add SNO Story Element” button to add in these elements and more. You can even search for related stories by title or keyword — no more hunting for story ID numbers.

New preset style starters. Check out the new style starters we’ve added. If you want to quickly give your site a makeover while preserving your widget layout and color scheme, navigate over to SNO Design Options>Preset Style Starters to try them out for yourself.

Introducing SNO Mobile: a dedicated app for iOS and Android
SNO sites are (and always will be) 100% mobile-responsive, right out of the box,even without an app. But for those schools that want to take their sites’ accessibility, convenience, and readership to the next level, we’re now offering a dedicated app that’s crafted just for you. Here’s a small sample of what you get with SNO Mobile:

Push notifications. Instantly alert your fans when new stories are posted on your site.

Seamless syncing. Your SNOMobile app and SNO site are linked, so any time you post a new story on your site, your app will reflect it immediately.

Grow readership. SNOMobile apps work effortlessly with the native social media features of Apple and Android systems.

Want to know more? Read all about SNO Mobile here. We’d love to get to work on your app today.

Unlimited support (as always!)
Enjoy the new school year, and remember: we’re always here when you need us. Simply chat, email, or send us a support ticket — we’ll reply to you with lightning speed.

All our best,
The SNO Patrol

Need a good way to celebrate Constitution Day?
Members of Journalism Education Association’s Scholastic Press Rights Committee have developed several ways to learn about and explore the Constitution. View the lesson plans or view this video to see how to incorporate activities for the Sept. 17 event.

SNOMobile: Premium iOS and Android apps for scholastic journalism programs

We’ve got some exciting news for you. We’ve been listening to your requests, and after many months of research and development, we’re ready to roll out the premium service you’ve been asking for. That’s right–SNOMobile, our dedicated app for Mac and Android devices, is finally here!

We want to be clear: your SNO site is and always will be 100% mobile-responsive, right out of the box, even without an app. Our WordPress theme is designed to display beautifully on any screen. Readers will have a great experience whether they’re viewing your homepage on a 23” monitor or a 3” smartphone.

So rest assured, you don’t need an app. That said, SNOMobile offers several features that go above and beyond the call of duty. Here are just a few of the perks:

Push notifications. Keep your student body up-to-date on the latest school news. SNOMobile integrates with the native Mac and Android notification systems, and can instantly alert your fans when new stories are posted on your site.

Seamless syncing. Your SNOMobile app and SNO site are linked, so any time you post a new story on your site, your app will reflect it immediately.

Student access. Schools often provide students with iPads or tablets loaded only with district-approved apps. When general internet access is restricted, it can be tough to drive traffic to your page–but the SNOMobile app gives students the ability to view your site independently of a browser.

Grow readership. SNOMobile apps work effortlessly with the native social media features of Mac and Android systems. With a couple taps of a stylus or fingertip, a news story you post today could go viral on Twitter tomorrow.

Our apps are uniquely crafted for each school, and though they may seem tiny in size, creating them is a time- and cost-intensive process. We want our pricing to always remain transparent. The yearly cost of the app is $500 for hosting, support, and ongoing updates. Additionally, a one-time setup cost of $300 covers the initial development and customization of your app.

SNOMobile is a premium product with a premium price tag, and we understand the cost isn’t feasible for many schools. That’s why we pledge to always keep your SNO site looking great on all devices–we’ll never force you to pay extra for mobile-readiness. The SNOMobile app is just an extra, delicious layer of frosting on the cake you already have!

Want to take a look at an app we’ve already released into the world? Check out the Knight Errant, from Benilde-St. Margaret’s School in St. Louis Park, Minn.:

Ready to order your very own app? Just click here to fill out the order form, and our developers will get to work pronto. As always, if you have questions, comments, or concerns, please don’t hesitate to let us know–we’re all ears.

The SNO Report: Year-End Best Practices

Because it’s the end of May and you are a journalism adviser, you are probably thinking about summer, and we respect that, but we’d like you, for just a moment, to think about SNO.

Why? At the end of the school year, it’s important to complete a few quick tasks to be sure that your SNO site is ready to go when you return to school in the fall.

  • Make all student users of your site subscribers. The seniors did a great job while they were here; now it is time to pass the baton. To retain all stories written by students who won’t be on staff next year, but eliminate their ability to access the site, we recommend that you change all student user accounts tosubscribers over the summer. When students return in the fall, you can grant access back as needed. If you chose to delete the user accounts of those graduating, be sure to assign the content to another author so that it isn’t deleted.  If the content is deleted, it is not retrievable.  If you have a couple of dedicated staff members that could post a story or two per week on the site, feel free to keep their accounts active, so that readers from around the country can find up-to-date news on your site, even in the summer.

  • Update your site.  Before you leave for the summer, check that your site is running the most up-to-date version of WordPress.  Also check your plugins and theme, a quick update now can protect your site over the summer and give you less updating to do in the fall. Speaking of site protection, it might be a good idea to set up a reminder to check for updates once a month, all year round.

  • Send your students out the door thinking about how they can earn some badges as a part of the SNO Distinguished Site program next year.  Looking at the requirements now sets your staff up to start creating habits that will help them earn the honor of Distinguished Site as soon as applications are accepted in January 2016.

  • Think ahead.  The SNO Patrol conducts hour-long personalized training sessions for advisers and staffs. Order a training session now and schedule it whenever makes sense for you (before the end of the school year, this summer, or even next fall). The variety of training sessions available mean that all staffs, from beginners to SNO experts, will get something out of it, including a staff that’s ready to make use of all that the SNO FLEX design offers.
  • Keep us in the loop. Are you getting out of the jouro biz? Retiring? Please let us know so that we can welcome the new adviser in proper SNO style.

  • There is still SNO in the summer. This summer the SNO Patrol will be adding more features to our FLEX theme.  Look for new preset style starters, live widget previews, and a new story page template for pro/con opinion pieces.  There’s more in the works,too, but we’re going to keep that a secret until the fall.

As always, we want to express our sincere appreciation for letting us build and support websites and features for you and your staff.  We hope that you enjoy your summer break, and we look forward to another great school year.


The SNO Patrol

Editor-in-chief and nonprofit founder: Sanah Jivani does it all

Sanah Jivani is a pretty ambitious senior. Not only is she editor-in-chief of The Legacy Press at Klein Collins High School in Texas, but she’s also the founder of a nonprofit organization and the creator of her very own international holiday. Recently, we had a chance to speak with Jivani about her organization, her goals, and how being part of a newspaper has impacted her life.

Jivani was diagnosed with alopecia–an autoimmune disorder that causes hair loss–at three years old. By middle school, she had lost almost all of her hair, and began wearing wigs to hide her condition. Her classmates bullied her, and her self-esteem hit rock bottom.

But then, one day, Jivani looked in the mirror and saw something else. “Instead of noticing that I was bald, I noticed my beautiful brown eyes…I noticed the beauty I carried just by being me,” she said.

So Jivani stopped wearing a wig and started loving her natural self, bald head and all. She created International Natural Day in hopes of helping others embrace their inner (and outer) beauty. On Natural Day, which falls on February 13th, “you allow yourself to be your own definition of beautiful,” she said.

The once-shy Jivani now speaks at schools and other organizations, telling her story and encouraging others to join her movement. She credits her four years at The Legacy Press with helping her overcome her fear of public speaking. And, she says, it was all a big accident.

“I got stuck in a journalism class I didn’t want to take,” Jivani said. She was a freshman in high school, and none of her friends were in the class. However, she slowly made new friends, and realized she loved writing. Journalism, she said, “taught me the power of storytelling… it taught me how to tell my own story as well as other people’s.”

Jivani also believes that being editor-in-chief has taught her how use social media as a tool to spread awareness. “Social media is basically my best friend,” she said. To get the word out, she uses the hashtag #naturalday, and tweets at celebrities in hopes that they’ll retweet her to their audiences. They often do.

Ultimately, “being editor-in-chief taught me how to be a leader,” Jivani said. International Natural Day has inspired chapters and events in 28 countries so far, and it’s quickly growing thanks to her leadership. To find out more about the movement or about Jivani, check out the International Natural Day website.

From the newsroom to the classroom

While SNO works with many middle schools, high schools, and colleges, we’re lucky enough to host a few elementary school papers as well. One of these is The Colonial Times, from Colonial Elementary School in Pelham, New York. We recently spoke with Rich Zahradnik, who teaches the fourth and fifth graders that comprise the Times’ staff.

Zahradnik is an accomplished journalist in his own right, having worked in the field for three decades before becoming an educator. It all began at 15, when he wrote a letter to the editor criticizing a local school board member. She called his mother to complain.

“I realized I could write things that would have an impact,” he said. “I was sold.”

After studying journalism in college, Zahradnik landed a job at an independently owned, local daily. He began writing business news, then national news, eventually going on to report on everything from film to finance to sports. “I was obsessed with understanding media itself,” he said.

When the paper was acquired in ‘86 by media giant Gannett, Zahradnik and two of his colleagues–who knew nothing about running a business—set out to publish their own. The Peekskill Herald was “badly undercapitalized,” he said. “Running your own paper is the hardest work. You’re responsible for the staples, tax forms, postage, everything.”

It was gratifying work, too, though. It was also something that would have been impossible just a few years prior. The brand-new Macintosh had just begun to replace expensive typesetting equipment. “This affected news producers, not consumers,” said Zahradnik. “But it lowered the barrier to entry to publishing.”

What did affect consumers, of course, was the Internet. Like many journalists and journalism educators, Zahradnik has mixed feelings about digital publishing.

“Everyone receives news at the speed only newswires once operated at. We can read pieces we would never have seen before,” he said. “[But] bloggers in basements are not the same as feet on the street—at city hall, the school board meeting, the police precinct. When everyone’s rewriting everyone else, who will be left doing original reporting?”

After the Herald, Zahradnik went on to work at some big-name outlets—CNN, AOL, Fox. He said each newsroom had a distinctly different culture. “CNN was entrepreneurial. Fox often felt like a political campaign… AOL spent its time obsessing [about] click-throughs.”

Zahradnik began teaching after he quit journalism to write novels full-time. “I wanted to give something back,” he said. He volunteered to start a newspaper club at his son’s elementary school. After discovering WordPress and SNO, he realized that a digital paper would be ideal for young writers.

“Say you assign 16 kids 16 stories for a print paper. If one story doesn’t come in, you’ve got a problem. [With a website], the readers know nothing of the missing story.” Plus, he said, his fourth-graders’ stories are often too short for a print paper, but look just fine on the web.

Zahradnik’s students do a surprising amount of work on the Colonial Times, which is now in its fourth year of production. Kids decide what to cover and who will cover it. They write full stories and headlines. They also do on-screen layout for the paper’s two print issues per year.

“The only thing they can’t do for either outlet is copyedit,” said Zahradnik, “but there are a lot of grownups that can’t do that, either.”

Zahradnik believes fourth and fifth graders have some unique qualities that make them especially great reporters. “They jump into everything with energy and enthusiasm, yet still have an intelligence about the world that’s worth hearing,” he said. “My kids make a refreshing change from the cynicism and ‘I-can’t-do-that’ of the newsrooms I’d been in for 30 years.”

For now, Zahradnik is happy to be teaching part-time. “Great teaching is great theater and takes tons of energy,” he said. When not teaching, he’s writing mystery novels. He lives with his family in Pelham, New York.

The SNO Report: Badge Recap and Celebration!

Thank you to the 128 news publications that applied for badges over the past four months. It was another successful badge season here at SNO! We awarded 172 badges overall!

While every school that earned a badge should be proud of their accomplishment, we’d like to especially congratulate the 14 news programs that earned the ultimate distinction of becoming a 2015 SNO Distinguished Site. Of these schools, five are in Texas, two are in Minnesota, two are in Pennsylvania, and five were the only school in their state to earn the honor––and one of those was the only school in it’s state to earn any badges!

Here’s the complete list of this year’s SNO Distinguished Sites:

Clearly they are a distinguished crowd; a distinguished crowd that knows how to celebrate…

Congratulations to all the programs that earned badges this year! If you haven’t taken the time to celebrate your accomplishment, do so and tweet us a pic!

Badges, pacemakers, and slideshows v. galleries

You are running out of time!
The deadline to earn badges as a part of the SNO Distinguished Sites program is May 1, which is next Friday. Have you submitted for one or more of the SNO badges? What are you waiting for? Apply today.

Congratulations are in order
Speaking of awards, six awesome SNO customers earned Online Pacemaker Awards from the National Scholastic Press Association. The awards were announced on April 18 at the JEA/NSPA National High School Journalism Convention in Denver.

The winning sites are RHStoday, Robinson High School in Tampa, Fla.; The Rider Online, Legacy High School, Mansfield, Texas; the Knight Errant, Benilde-St. Margaret’s School in St. Louis Park, Minn.; Chant, North Cobb High School in Kennesaw, Ga.; Tiger Times Online, Texas High School in Texarkana, Texas; and the Communicator, Community High School in Ann Arbor, Mich.

The full list of Pacemaker results is here.

The Echo of St. Louis Park High School in Minnesota was also named Best of Show for small-school websites by NSPA at the convention. The full listing of NSPA Best of Show results is here.

The battle royal of image display
Slideshows and galleries are a super slick way to show off your photos, but getting them to look their best can take a little practice. Lucky for you, we’ve compiled a few tips and tricks to help you master them.

Galleries and slideshows look identical on the page, but each method is created in a different way. Each has different benefits, so choose which method suits your purposes best.

Use a gallery if: you want to display photos that are already uploaded to your site. This is the default WordPress method of displaying multiple pictures together, and it’s a bit easier than making a slideshow. The downside to this method is that you can only display a gallery on a story — not on your homepage.

Use a slideshow if: you want to display a collection of photos in a widget as well as a story. This method is a little more confusing, so make sure you follow our directions exactly. Additionally, slideshow photos cannot already exist on your site — you must upload them at the time you create the slideshow.

No matter which method you use, make sure to also include a featured image. We recommend you use one of the photos from your slideshow or gallery.

Final step: if you’ve created a gallery, set the featured image location to “Do Not Display.” For a slideshow, set the featured image location to “Slideshow of All Attached Images.” This will ensure that the featured image doesn’t get in the way of your other photos.