What online news producers can learn from American Idol’s David Cook

by Shawn Smith on March 26, 2008

American Idol’s David Cook can teach a thing or two to online news producersIf you follow me on Twitter, you know that I’ve been excited about American Idol contestant David Cook’s performances. I can’t help it. The guy is the most unique singer I’ve ever seen on the show.

But outside of his singing, Cook also has given some valuable lessons for online news producers during his run. Take a look!

Lesson 1 - Look, listen, watch, explore, and learn

Before singing for the judges in his initial American Idol appearance, David Cook said he studied the audition tape of fellow rocker Chris Daughtry to learn how he succeeded in the A.I. environment. The same strategy can be applied to becoming a successful producer.

Take time to learn about what strategies made for successful online news features on your site. Study competitor’s websites and dissect what has made their sites noteworthy. This step alone can help you jump ahead quickly.

Lesson 2 – Roll with the punches

After Cook’s Hollywood audition, American Idol judge Simon Cowell gave him a big thumbs down.

Face it. Not everyone is going to like what you do. Learn to take criticism and use it to improve the projects you’re working on. Brood over criticism and you’ll likely give yourself an ulcer.

Lesson 3 – Forget being a one-trick pony

A great act is more than singing. “It’s charisma and it’s performance and it’s all these extra things that come along with being a good singer,” Cook says.

A good producer must diversify his or her skills. At many sites, a producer will be called upon to write teases, record podcasts, edit video and photos, write script and be everything a news site needs. Have a passion to expand your skill set and you’ll be more likely to be rewarded with advancement, pay or a new job. Rest on the one thing you do exceptionally, and you’ll likely stay where you are.

Lesson 4 – Bring a fresh perspective

Lionel Richie’s “Hello” is a great song! But how relevant is it today? Cook breathed new life into the song, adapting it to a more modern style.


Although a feature may be working for your site, it still can be improved or tweaked to appeal to different audiences. Take a moment to analyze the projects your working on. Do your projects need to be done the same way they’ve always been done? Could anything be improved or updated to integrate new tools?

Lesson 5 – B+ effort won’t cut it. Be on your game

If you’re going to play the Beatles, you’d better play well. Butcher the song, and a singer may get blasted by the audience.

Think of your publication like a Beatles song. If you don’t put your heart into it, your site users will notice and leave you for another site. Take ownership of your site and sections – making them a reflection of you.

Lesson 6 – Take risks

Who would think that slowing down Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” and singing it over guitar is a good idea? Take a look!

Experiment, Experiment, Experiment! In the online world, risks are part of the game. Try out new features, and if they don’t work, just scrap them and try something else. Playing overly-conservative will give opportunities to other sites look for ways to innovate online storytelling and take your users.

What else can this season’s American Idol teach online producers?