Superb support for successful sites starts with SNO

Dumbfounded by design? Stumped by slideshows? Bamboozled by blockquotes? All alliteration aside, help is never more than a couple clicks away.

  • Our help site is full of detailed instructions and step-by-step videos to get you up to speed quickly. You can search for something in particular, or just browse at your leisure.
  • Fill out a support request and we’ll get back to you within four business hours. Click the friendly red tab on our help site or main site, or click on the big “Need Help?” box on your own site’s dashboard. Or just go here.
  • For website emergencies, or if you’re just feeling impatient, we have a new live chat feature (accessible from our help & main sites). If we’re online, you’ll be connected to someone immediately; if we’re not, leave your email address and we’ll get back to you ASAP.

Still feeling lost? A personalized training with one of the SNO Patrol can help you gain confidence and skills to master your site. Trainings are conducted via screen-share and phone, and are tailored to your ability level. Read more and sign up here.

If you’re wishing we’d just give you our brutally honest opinion, a SNO Site Reviewmight be right up your alley. We’ll inspect every inch of your website and send you a detailed report. We’ll praise you for what’s working, we’ll point out what’s not (and why), and we’ll give you some concrete suggestions for improvement. Sign up herewhen you’re ready to rock and roll. (We promise to put a pin in our pointless puns.)

The Get Published on Best of SNO / Earn Your Excellence in Writing Badge Edition

Excellence in Writing badges are a hot-button item these days. Everybody wants one! The good news is that we’ve been authorized by the Mighty Overlords of Badge Distribution (AKA Tom and Jason) to give out badges to anyone who earns them. Yup, that’s right–a literally infinite number of badges. And all you need to do is get three stories published on Best of SNO before the end of the school year. Easy peasy? Cool. Feelin’ queasy? Read on for some tips that’ll improve your chances of getting published.

  1. Like a bull by da horns, eh? Grab your reader’s attention right away–and don’t let go. We get a ton of submissions to Best of SNO, and quite honestly, if we’re not hooked on your story within the first couple paragraphs, we probably won’t keep reading.
  2. Don’t be the song that never ends. Certain stories require more words than others, and we’re not opposed to length as a rule! All we’re saying is, we see wayyy more stories that run too long than stories that end too soon. If your subject is complex or controversial or seriously-super-duper-interesting, you probably have more words to work with. If you’re reporting on a small bit of school news, though, it’s often best to get in and get out.
  3. Wave those journalistic jazz hands. We’re talking multimedia–video, audio, charts, graphs, interactive doodads, clickable thingamabobs, and anything else you’ve got to spice up your story. Writing is king, of course; that’s not going to change. But with all the technology at your disposal, why not try reporting your news in multiple ways?
  4. Rap artists are the new fact-checkers. If Top 40 radio has taught us anything, it’s to always “back it up.” Sure, you can make up statistics and sweeping generalizations, but no reader will ever take you seriously if you can’t produce credible sources for your statements. Government agencies, experts in a related field, and unbiased nonprofit organizations are usually credible. Wikipedia is not. Neither is Lil Wayne.

The simplest way to increase your chances of getting published on Best of SNO? You have to submit! We’re not psychic, so if you’re writing amazing stuff, we’re not going to know about it unless you tell us. So go ahead, brag a little. If we decide to publish you, you’ll hear back from us fairly soon–within a couple weeks, often faster. And if we don’t? Keep writing and keep trying! Practice makes prefect. Parfect. Purfect. Practice makes you better.


The Earn Your Story Page Excellence Badge Edition

Regardless of your role on the news staff, head on over to your publication’s website and click on any story. That’s right, any story. For real, go look at a story page on your publication’s website. I’ll wait.

Chances are that the story you clicked on is just a story with a photo. While there is nothing wrong with a picture and some text, there is so much more that can be done with a story published online. You can set hyperlinks, add a slideshow, insert a video, create an interactive inforgraphic, change the template, or even display a panoramic image. Creating story pages that provide an enriched and dynamic reading experience is what publishing online should be about, and it’s what the Story Page Excellence Badge rewards.

So for the next story that’s getting published online, think beyond the text and aim to give your readers more than a story, and then once you’ve got eight great looking stories, apply for the badge. (If you’re too impatient to wait for eight more stories to get published, you could always spruce up some existing story pages…)

The Earn Your Multimedia Badge Edition

Okay people. It’s time to step up your multimedia game. Here we are about a month into 2015, and only three sites have even tried to get the Multimedia Badge. Sure,the criteria may look a bit daunting but earning this badge is really pretty simple.

For the videos, just think story. We’re looking for videos that are between 1.5 and 2.5 minutes that tell a story through interviews, natural sound, and visuals. That’s it. So, this weekend when you are at that one important event that your school has. Break out the video camera, interview a few people, get some shots of the whole event, record some close ups, capture what leads up to the event and what happens afterward, and then bring it back to the computer and edit it down to tell a story. No event this weekend? Showcase a student who does something especially neat. (Lots of hobbies look great on video…)

For the slideshows, just narrow down your last set of photos to the best 5-10 horizontal shots and then be sure you captioned and credited them all. Need more tips on making slideshows? Check it out the help site.


The Earn Your Continuous Coverage Badge Edition

You’ve been writing and publishing stories all year, and your coverage feels pretty continuous, but in order to earn the Continuous Coverage Badge, you’ll need to do a bit of extra planning.

The first part of the badge asks you to publish three separate, fully-developed, stories about an ongoing news event in your community and link these stories together. This means that you want to look for a developing story that can be reported on over time. An example might be the hiring of a new principal which would have one story on the retirement of the last principal in published September, the overview of the hiring process published in October, and the introduction of the new hire published in January. To complete this task by May 1, when the badges close for the year, you’ll need to start thinking about what could be your developing story now! Once you’ve got your stories published, remember they need to be linked together.

The second part of the badges asks for you to publish three fully-developed stories within two days of the news events being covered. This quick coverage is pretty straightforward, but it does demand that all parts of the process run smoothly.

For the third part of the badge, you provide the links to four categories. In each of these categories, there needs to have been two fully-developed stories published each week over the course of four consecutive weeks. Using calendar to plan your online publishing can help the staff sustain coverage over time.

Remember when your site has met these requirements, all you need to do is apply for the badge!

The Earn Your Site Excellence Badge Edition

The Site Excellence Badge is by far the most popular badge that we hand out.  Why? We’re not sure, but it is probably because it means that your site is excellent! To earn the Site Excellence Badge you’ll want to be sure that your site fits all of the criteria, but here are a three additional tips that can go a long way toward helping you get the badge.

  1. Click through all of the categories in your navigation bar and be sure something has been published in each one in the last two months or so. If not, either publish something or delete the category from your navigation. All elements on the navigation bars should link to current content.

  2. Scroll to the bottom of your site and check forwhitespace. If you see some, rearrange and reformat the widgets until its gone. You don’t want any unplanned whitespace on your site.

  3. Check your photos. When you place an image on your website, that image needs to be an original photo taken by members of your staff, a photo taken by someone else that is used with explicit permission, or a photo that has been licensed for fair use. Simply citing the source of an image that is copyrighted is not sufficient. Republishing images off of Google image searches or other websites is not legal and can result in your publication being liable for compensatory damages to the copyright holder. Therefore, it is important to only use those images, audio, and video for which permission has been granted or secured through a license fee or Creative Commons license. More information on this can be found here:

The You Can Now Submit for Distinguished Sites Badges Edition

Were you one of the first schools to submit for a SNO Distinguished Sites badge?

Yes!  Of course we were.
Great! Glad to hear it. If you’ve already earned a badge, we suggest you check out how great it looks on our client list and tweet about it––you deserve to brag a bit. If you applied but didn’t get the badge, no problem! You can resubmit as many times as you’d like. So don’t forget to keep working on the badges; once you earn all six, then you’ll be a SNO Distinguished Site, and we’ll send you an important sounding press release and a fancy certificate suitable for framing!


No… um… I’m actually not sure what a SNO Distinguished Sites badge is.
No worries. Here are basics. The SNO Distinguished Sites program is made up of six badges, one for each of six components of a modern news website:

  • Continuous Coverage

  • Site Excellence

  • Story Page Excellence

  • Excellence in Writing

  • Multimedia

  • Audience Engagement


To earn a badge a site must reach a set of standards andthen apply. Not a contest with winners or losers, the SNO Distinguished Sites program recognizes all sites that meet the standards.

News staffs are welcome to tackle the badges in any order, striving to earn as many as makes sense for their publication. A site that earns badges in all six core areas will be designated as a SNO Distinguished Site.

You can continue to submit applications through May 1, and your badges will stay on display through December 2015.