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Archive for the ‘Social media’ Category

Niagara Falls
This morning brought me a good composite illustration of the evolving media landscape, at least a snapshot of it, that is so challenging for traditional news organizations to adapt to.

On Facebook, a journalist friend vented about local sites’ aggregation practices, which several times a day summarize and link to news her staff has reported: “It’s my reporters doing all the hard work! Am I looking at this wrong?” It’s a type of heartburn, but keep it in perspective: It has been going on since the first time a radio talker read the news on the air.

Nieman Journalism Lab reports on how NPR is trying a new strategy for rolling out new shows, aiming to simplify the process and lower the cost while also making use of social media. My first thought was it just shows that NPR, perhaps because it relies on grants and donations rather than advertising, has been somewhat insulated from the economic issues confronting print and commercial broadcast news organizations because it has been several years since I became used to hearing the idea of “fail fast, fail cheap.” But my second thought was that it illustrates one problem for traditional media: We don’t like to do anything just one time. I don’t mean stories, I mean columns, features, shows, sections, segments. We’re used to the idea of stand-alone news and features, but anything that we would do more than once, but not at least weekly and not for the foreseeable future, is a giant barrier. Any traditional news source is tremendously structured and formatted. The idea of predictability is roundly accepted as a plus, that people want to know what they are getting before they even try. Try telling a newspaper editor (not to pick on newspapers; this is just an example) that certain stories should run in larger type. At best, he’ll convene a committee to discuss it for a few weeks, and if they tend to agree they’ll run off test copies on the press and discuss it some more. So in that sense, even though many organizations have been preaching “fail fast, fail cheap,” almost no one really practices it. “Fail fast, fail cheap” means you go ahead and do it, and if it clear quickly that it isn’t working, you stop.

Finally, John Robinson explains what I would call the cognitive dissonance in a Pew study of news habits, which reported that “31 percent of people ages 18-24 get no news on an average day, and 22 percent of 30-34-year-olds get none either.” The nut of John’s argument:

“The 18-24 year-old age group is the ‘if-the-news-is-that-important-it-will-find-me’ generation. Those folks are on Facebook. They get news every time they log on. Their friends tell them the news in their worlds. (And for you not on Facebook, don’t think that they talk about what they had for breakfast.) This generation doesn’t immediately call it news the way we old-timers do, but when they watch, say, the president slow jammin’ the news, it is news. When they see the ‘Trending Articles’ foisted upon them by Facebook, that’s news. (Well, some of them are.)

“But if you ask them where they get news, the answer is Google and Yahoo and Jon Stewart and Huffington Post. It’s rarely actual, traditional, mainstream news organizations. The news may originate there, but they don’t identify those as the sources. And that’s one of the problems with using the generic term ‘news’ in a survey.”

And that right there is the larger issue: Not just young people but almost everyone now picks up news everywhere throughout the day. It used to be far more structured; the morning paper (or, before that, the afternoon paper), the evening TV news and whatever people talked about during the day that was passed on by word of mouth or that was big enough to warrant a news break on TV or radio in the middle of the day. It’s all atomized now, or it’s increasingly so.

A further illustration: Although I started my day with the morning paper, all of the above was stimulated by things I found online — starting with Facebook.

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Regret
The category of “don’t do this on Facebook (or Twitter)” is a large one. While many examples stem from what I guess you might call youthful exuberance or failure to consider the nature of the first two Ws in World Wide Web, not all of them do, which is a good reminder for everyone who laughs off those mistakes as things they would never do. One such tale comes in Jay Rosen’s Anatomy of a Facebook Fail: Mine, in which he explains how he came to post a brief comment on Facebook that he wishes he hadn’t. Skipping to the caveat that any of us could tape to the bottom of the computer screen:

“… that’s exactly why I should have waited to post my comment: so I could examine it with a cooler eye. And that’s what it was: a comment (38 words) not an attempt to report on the episode.

“Still, I have 8,000+ subscribers on Facebook. I knew I was commenting publicly. I teach journalism and I study the Internet. I know a lot about how to avoid these things. That of course makes it worse.”

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The Guardian has a new advertisement for its “open journalism” (essentially the intersection of traditional journalism, crowdsourcing and social media) that is the most fun ad ever for a news outlet. I wish I could embed the video here, but it isn’t working. (Warning when you go to the page: It’s an extremely slow-loading page.) The ad’s explainer text:

“This advert for the Guardian’s open journalism, screened for the first time on 29 February 2012, imagines how we might cover the story of the Three Little Pigs in print and online. Follow the story from the paper’s front page headline, through a social media discussion and finally to an unexpected conclusion.”

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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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