Archive for the ‘Social media’ Category

image from everythingpr
Couldn’t have said it better myself — a portion of what Liz Heron, social media editor for the New York Times, told Poynter’s Steve Myers about whether reporters should use Twitter to break news before it appears on the Times’ own website:

“Encouraging individual journalists to use social media for reporting is a key part of our journalistic strategy and an important part of our future success as a news organization. … If our staff uses social media well, it only serves to enhance our journalism as a whole.”

The question to my mind is what constitutes using social media well, and I would say it’s making your newsroom known as the go-to place for news that’s relevant to your community (whether that community is oriented to a place or a topic) and helping drive traffic to where your full stories appear, whether that’s in print, online or on the air. Certainly breaking news via Twitter can build the reputation of delivering news fast; whether it also drives traffic depends on how you follow up after those initial tweets — send a link, refer to details that will appear in the paper or on the air.

Having said that, know what your boss wants and expects. I don’t sign your paycheck.

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The Storm Collection from Storm Collection on Vimeo.

The above is a video telling, from the perspective of future historians, the evolution from pre-history to the early 21st century, not more than a few years from now, of how people receive their news. The co-creators, Matt Thompson and Robin Sloan, previously made a video that gained wide circulation, Epic 2014, which depicts from a future historian’s perspective the events that led to all news media except the New York Times being consumed in an all-everything incarnation of Google, but even the Times was driven by it to remove itself from the Web. (That’s an oversimplification; watch the video.) Where “Epic” dealt with the evolution of the production of news, the new one, “The Storm Collection,” focuses on the consumer.

I don’t know whether it’s a measure of how coccooned in my daily work I am lately that it took a week for me to come across this new one or it’s just that the above video doesn’t strike as many people as striking as close to the bone as “Epic 2014,” but I suspect it’s the latter. “Storm” is not as slick and seems rather slow-moving and padded, not so much of a story, as though they had an end point — the ultimate news-consumption device, depicted in the video as a pair of glasses by Apple with displays embedded in the lenses — and tried to find a way to build to it — which is essentially what they wind up saying in a Society of News Design presentation was the case. (In the video of their presentation, the “Storm” video starts 5:30 in, and the actual 19-minute presentation/discussion starts about 14:40 in.)

However, what’s really interesting is not the “Storm” video but how they explain in the SND presentation what they are thinking. It really IS hard to think how to make a video depicting it. They describe technology enabling a proliferation of small opportunities for people to seek out and receive information – instead of the 30 minutes with the morning paper or the 30 minutes with the evening news on TV, it’s many smaller bits throughout the day, and the challenge for people who produce the news is find ways to make their presentation compelling. One comparison they make is to NPR’s so-called “driveway moments,” when people hear a story on the radio as they drive, reach their destination but remain in the car to finish hearing it. “These moments are emerging all around us,” with advancing technology creating ever more seamless points of entry into people’s attention.

I’m not sure I like their depictions of some possible future technologies – one of the least intrusive, but still creepy: an electronic frame you have on your desk displaying a picture of your sweetheart along with a display of that person’s most recent status update. But I know I’m not that future news consumer. I’ll be the dinosaur who’s clinging to a tablet and reading at a table in the coffee shop instead of getting all my news through my glasses while riding in my self-driving car.

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They buried the lead. You have to read to nearly the end of a press release from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism to get to what seems to me to be the most important element of a new study by Pew’s Internet & American Life Project, produced in association with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, asking about where people get their local information:

“While there are a variety of demographic dimensions that are linked to the way people get local news and information, the most striking is the difference between younger and older information consumers. Simply put, one generation into the web, older consumers still rely more heavily on traditional platforms while younger consumers rely more on the internet. Among adults under age 40, the web ranks first or ties for first for 12 of the 16 local topics asked about.”

That’s not earth-shaking, but it’s “the most striking” demographic breakdown, underlining and confirming that younger news consumers’ habit of getting information online is not changing. (Note also a recent Knight Foundation survey of high schoolers and their news habits.)

Also notable to me was the finding on mobile use:

“Nearly half of adults (47%) use mobile devices to get local news and information. Not surprisingly, mobile is particularly popular for ‘out and about’ categories of information, such as restaurants.”

Perhaps the only thing in the study results that really surprised me, though, was the high percentage of people who reported doing things that Pew calls “participating” in the news — and note here, again, how this group focuses on the Internet:

“And 41% of all adults can be considered ‘local news participators’ because they contribute their own information via social media and other sources, add to online conversations, and directly contribute articles about the community. Both these groups are substantially more likely than others to use the internet to get local news and information on almost all topics.”

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This one feels a little different: the Wall Street Journal has launched a new Facebook app, but it keeps the user on Facebook the entire time while also delivering the Journal’s subscription-protected content (though sponsorships may allow that content to be delivered free within the app). That seems like a huge advance in the current, Facebook-dominated landscape.

But the bigger news, as Megan Garber reports at Niemen Journalism Lab, is the app advances the concept of personalized news, making “every user an editor” and “elevating the role of people as curators of content.” People already have been curating content — that’s the essence of sharing links — but this app seeks to make it a more seemless process, and the fewer clicks needed to do what the person wants to do online, the more pleasing the Web experience. It raises the question, will people be more willing to pay for the news if it’s this easy to interact with it?

9/26/11 UPDATE: The Washington Post also has an app to feed news directly to Facebook, but it’s even broader, including news from partners The Associated Press, Reuters, Mashable and SB Nation. At Poynter.org, Jeff Sonderman sounds a note of caution about such apps — asking, among other things, whether news organizations can trust Facebook as a partner — but I still think the movement of the audience in a fragmented, digital world makes it imperative to find ways to make it easy to stay in front of people’s eyes, and that means only having your own website and linking to it may not be quite enough. We’ll see if people adopt the apps.

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The folks at insidenova.com, the website of the News & Messenger in Manassas and Prince William County, Va., stumbled into an excellent example of how to respond to what you see happening locally in social media. After severe flooding in the region last week, people found themselves without a clearinghouse for information and discussion — but they gravitated to the insidenova Facebook page and were filling it with just such information. So, seeing that, interim managing editor Kari Pugh created a flood information clearinghouse page on Facebook. In just a few hours it had garnered about 250 “likes,” and the community discussion on it was mostly self-sustaining. The community is doing the organizing and exchange of information, but the news organization has facilitated that and put itself at the hub of the conversation.

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Virginia Tech seismograph, WSLS
Tuesday’s earthquake was a perfect “example of a breaking news story that called for audience engagement to be at the center of news reporting,” as Matt DeRienzo, a group editor of Journal Register Company’s publications in Connecticut, wrote in a blog post describing his company’s new-gathering efforts. I quote him mainly because the Journal Register currently is pointed to as a digital-first model, which a heavy emphasis on the Web and on social media, and yet as I read what DeRienzo describes I was struck by the parallels with what I knew had gone on at a number of the properties in my own Media General. JRC gets plenty of positive press, we don’t, so I’ll point out a few of the success stories.

In the most detailed story I have received so far, Ike Walker at WCMH in Columbus, Ohio, describes a big success using Twitter — and key to it is something mentioned a few months ago in a post by The Lost Remote:

“Within a minute of the quake hitting here our email inbox was filled with people asking what had happened. We tried to answer as many of them via email as possible but immediately switched our strategy to social media. Within a few minutes we had started the hashtag #columbusquake and were asking for people to share their stories and locations. The #columbusquake hashtag generated a large number of submissions and made it easier to track conversations in real-time with our users. Lesson learned: when you have a big event like this and you want to dominate the conversation at least on Twitter start a hashtag.”

Beyond Twitter, he has more often-repeated lessons — have staff dedicated to Web-first efforts, pay attention to what people in your audience are saying, and respond to them:

“As people continued to send us stories we used them on air and then created a Google map with pinpoints to map all of the stories showing how widespread the reports were. Because the reports were coming in so fast we had to dedicate a person to handling the map. I don’t know yet how many people clicked on the map however the story got almost 30k page views.

“The conversation continued on Facebook with our staff jumping in and engaging users.”

Kevin Justus at WSPA in Greenville/Spartanburg, S.C., says his station was soliciting information from the audience via social media 20 minutes before others in the market:

“Immediately after we felt the tremor we sent out a simple ‘Did anyone else feel that shaking?’ on Facebook and Twitter. Within 10 seconds we had more than 50 comments, so we knew it was an earthquake. We continued to cover the story on social media as the information came in. Our Facebook wall became a forum for our user’s experience with the earthquake.”

And cross-promote your online and social efforts, not only purely as promotion but also because during a news event such as this, phone lines and websites might be overwhelmed. Kari Pugh, the interim managing editor at the News & Messenger/insidenova.com in Prince William County, Va., just outside Washington, says she heard from readers that the phone and Internet were so overwhelmed in the region that the only news they were getting at times was from text relaying the updates to the insidenova.com Facebook page:

“We gained about 300 Facebook fans yesterday, and we were the only news source for people because Internet and cell and landline phone lines were clogged. They said they were able to get our FB updates via text. We posted continuous updates about damage, traffic, evacuations, aftershocks from the time it happened til about 1:30 a.m.”

(For a refresher on tips for “mastering live news,” have a look back a post on the subject at Steve Buttry’s blog.)

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Among the phrases used in recent years in such efforts as the NewspaperNext report to try to get journalists to rethink the business in light of the changes in culture, work/leisure habits and technology was “jobs to be done,” as in ask yourself what is it that people really need help with in their daily life that news organizations are equipped to handle. One of the answers is providing them with something to talk about. Broadly speaking, that’s what good journalism does. In recent years, as social networking has taken off, it has become clear that conversation is one of the things people value most about the news. They share links constantly. An article by Megan Garber at the Nieman Journalism Lab site looks at whether this conversation — more specifically, the communities that can form around the conversation — is where news organizations should be looking for the future business model:

“News outlets are certainly getting into the community game — through social media, of course, but also through IRL events like the NYT’s TimesTalks, the Journal’s Weekend Conversations, the Texas Tribune Festival, the Register-Citizen’s newsroom cafe, and on and on — but often those happenings are presented as subsidiary products, as events that are separate from the news itself. They’re just another revenue stream — just another product sold, just another milkshake.

“But: What if they were more than that? What if news outlets were to consider themselves as doing a job rather than selling a product? And what would happen to organizations’ business models if we started to think of ‘the news,’ at its core, not as a product, but as an event?”

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As I noted a couple of weeks ago, I can sympathize with those who don’t like the use of “brand” in journalism conversations because it originated in marketing and advertising. The same applies to other words that have come into common use, such as engagement. But the world of journalism and all media has changed, so new words are needed. Got a better word to replace any of the ones you hate? Pitch it out there. Complaining about the existing word doesn’t help if you don’t have a better alternative. The buzzwords gained traction not because of an evil plot but because they are accurate, as Steve Buttry explains in greater detail than I could.

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The July column by South Carolina journalism instructor Doug Fisher, “It’s not rocket science, but …,” echoes thoughts I have had recently. The essential gist of the column is that for most of his life, basic journalism didn’t change all that much, and it really was pretty basic:

“But after helping to write a second edition of a convergence journalism textbook, I’m not so sure anymore. Less than five years since the first edition, the changes continue to be swift and amazing.

“The first edition tried to help journalists get over the reluctance, almost fear, some had of dealing with the changes roiling the business. We talked a lot about how to repurpose content, handle quick audio and still photos with digital recorders and cameras, and blog.

“Now, blogging is so 2007. In most newsrooms, it’s routine for many beat reporters. The journalist without a digital camera and recorder, even if both are just part of a smartphone, is becoming as rare as the snail darter.

“In the second edition, we’ve added dozens of pages on social media and journalism, business models, interactivity and other emerging topics, and we probably could have written more.”

My own thoughts along this line were spurred by the time I have spent the past month or so helping fill a gap in the editing schedule at the News & Messenger in Northern Virginia. Discussion of the website and Facebook, for instance, is routine and takes place throughout the day. But I know that’s not the case in every newsroom, and there is uneven progress — for example, some print newsrooms have instilled video as part of the normal routine, while others struggle just to remember to get raw video from things such as accidents or fires. Still, it’s a long way from the day 15 years ago when I felt the need to circulate a memo to my own reporting staff in Winston-Salem explaining why getting news first on the Web (which in the newsroom could be viewed from just four PCs set in common areas) was a good thing.

RELATED: Somehow I missed the declaration of Social Media Day, but I love this L.A. Times piece in which journalists say how social media has changed their jobs. From NFL columnist Sam Farmer: “It has made press boxes much quieter because everyone saves their best wisecracks for Twitter.”

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Pew logo
The latest study result from the Pew Internet and American Life Project confirm the conventional wisdom that more and more people are joining social networking sites (SNS):

“Nearly half of adults (47%), or 59% of internet users, say they use at least one of SNS. This is close to double the 26% of adults (34% of internet users) who used a SNS in 2008. Among other things, this means the average age of adult-SNS users has shifted from 33 in 2008 to 38 in 2010. Over half of all adult SNS users are now over the age of 35. Some 56% of SNS users now are female.”

And note that when people say they are using social networks, they pretty much mean Facebook:

“Facebook dominates the SNS space in this survey: 92% of SNS users are on Facebook; 29% use MySpace, 18% used LinkedIn and 13% use Twitter.”

As long as the trend continues, and as long as your site’s own statistics reflect the growing influence of social media on your traffic, the time a news staff spends in this area is easier and easier to justify as a core function.

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