Working as a Web producer

“Don’t let school work get in the way of your education.”

As a teacher, it’s a little worrisome when those are the first words out of your guest speaker’s mouth, but Rich Murphy, senior Web producer for, quickly explained what he meant to a class of graduate students at Virginia Commonwealth University.

“The most important thing for you to do as a journalist is be a detective, especially as a multimedia journalist. As a Web producer, I’m always thinking, ‘What is the element I can add, what is the thing that people will click on?’  I ask myself what will make people bother to follow through when they hear, ‘For more on that, go to’  Your job as a Web producer is to make it worth their while,” Murphy says.

When asked what people are clicking on at his site, Murphy said that weather continues to be the number one driver and that slide shows with photos from behind the scenes of major news events like the political conventions are getting lots of traffic right now.  Murphy also says that text stories will usually drive more traffic than most videos.

“The problem with video is people don’t want to commit to staying through the whole thing – when people are surfing it’s still easier to use text,” says Murphy.  “Video has to have something special for people to click on it.”

Murphy told the class that the most viewed video ever on is a story about a “photo warrior” who was challenging a practice that prevents professional photographers from shooting pictures inside Union Station.  Part of the reason why it received so many hits is that it went “viral,” meaning that people began to spontaneously share it with others on the Web.  Murphy suggests posting your online videos at, the best viral video launcher out there according to him.

Murphy also suggests that beat reporters get in the habit of creating distribution lists of their sources and other interested parties.  Then when the reporters produce stories on beat-related topics, Murphy encourages them to send the distribution list a link to that story in the hopes that it will get passed around to a wider audience via email.

Murphy says he continues to learn things on the job and that’s what keeps him challenged. He also pushed the students to keep learning on their own.

“Google just about anything and you will find that someone, somewhere has figured it out and posted the information online,” says Murphy.