Here are all of the posts tagged ‘journalism’.

Social media: threat or opportunity?

by Chris Applegate in News Google+

Paul Bradshaw has a really interesting post on the Online Journalism Blog, focusing on the interaction between ‘traditional’ and ‘social’ media. In short, BBC News’ education section published a piece on the threat of “tech addiction” to learning. As it turned out, the paper the article was based on contained no academic references or detailing of research methodology, and had been written by a pair of management lecturers rather than psychologists or education experts. This cast a certain degree of doubt on the claims in the BBC story, but it took a GP, AnneMarie Cunningham, to bring the matter to light.

Although AnneMarie’s blog post has been widely circulated, there’s been no opportunity for these comments to be fed back into the original article, as like nearly all BBC News stories, there are no means to comment on stories.

Paul takes the BBC to task on not allowing user comments and writes up his email conversation with Gary Eason, the BBC website’s education editor. What piques my interest most was this quote from Paul:

Speaking to Gary further, he said that he was aware of some of the criticisms but does not tend to address online discussion unless they were libellous towards his journalists, “otherwise I’d spend all day doing something else”.

This chimes with something I noted in another blog post I wrote on social v. traditional media, witnessing at least one journalist declaring the basic standards of a social media policy should be those of the libel or defamation laws. Here again, another journalist is only considering readers’ contributions with misinformation or abuse primarily in mind, rather than thinking that it can in any way enhance or improve their content.

The story in question still sits on the BBC News website, uncorrected and unimproved, damaging the BBC’s reputation. Which itself is unfair on much of the efforts in other departments – the BBC is a colossal organisation, with a wide variety of people and projects, and so while it may suffer in some areas, and in many others it’s been great at getting social media right – from getting its staff to blog from the shopfloor to pooling the buzz around its programmes. But by not being social across the board it risks further damage and ammunition for its detractors.

That said, merely adding user comments to news stories are not a panacea – free-for-all anonymous commenting can lead to stories being swamped with irrelevant content, endless groupthink or just plain trolling – examples of how bad conversation can drive out good (a Gresham’s law for the social web?) are outlined in an interesting post by Mark Pack, using the Daily Mail as a classic example.

Merely adding social functionality to your site is not enough to help you get the best out of social media. You need to find the venues where the constructive conversations are happening; you need the right tools to help filter through the chaff; you need to consider the right policies and interventions to ensure communities around you remain civil and constructive.

And to get all of these right you need to start from the right place to begin with – not with a negative mindset, worried that every comment or blog post is going to be libellous or a threat, but with one that is open to the ideas and opportunities that social media offers to improve your content and your brand.

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Twitter’s rise and the decline of blogs

by Robin Grant in News Google+

UK internet visits to twitter 2009-2008

It was April when Hitwise last released stats on Twitter’s growth in the UK. Yesterday, Robin Goad published the chart above showing Twitter’s continuing rise and had this to say:

Twitter has been the fastest growing major website in the UK over the last 12 months, and certainly the most talked about. The noticeable thing about Twitter’s growth is that the vast majority of it – 93% in fact – has occurred during 2009. If anything, the service is even more popular than our numbers imply, as we are only measuring traffic to the main Twitter website. If people accessing their Twitter accounts via mobile phones and third party applications were included, the numbers could be even higher.

He goes on to look in detail at where traffic from Twitter goes, pointing out that 55.9% is sent to content-driven online media sites, such as social networks, blogs, and news and entertainment websites – a very different profile to Google for example.

On the same day, the Guardian’s Charles Arthur penned this:

Blogging is dying. Actually, no, let me qualify that. The long tail of blogging is dying. I say this with confidence [...] Where is everybody? Anecdotally and experimentally, they’ve all gone to Facebook, and especially Twitter.

He backs this up with evidence of his own – which I have to say matches my intuition into what is happening:

More and more of the feeds I follow [haven't been updated for 2 months]. Why? Because blogging isn’t easy. More precisely, other things are easier – and it’s to easier things that people are turning. Facebook’s success is built on the ease of doing everything in one place. (Search tools can’t index it to see who’s talking about what, which may be a benefit or a failing.) Twitter offers instant content and reaction. Writing a blog post is a lot harder than posting a status update, putting a funny link on someone’s Wall, or tweeting. People are still reading blogs, and other content. But for the creation of amateur content, their heyday for the wider population has, I think, already passed. The short head of blogging thrives. Its long tail, though, has lapsed into desuetude.

So what does this mean for brands? Well, as Charles points out, people are still reading blogs and we would have always have recommended talking to those in the short head (which is still pretty massive compared to the relative scarcity of conventional media) – i.e. those having engaging conversations with the large communities following them. It’s also essential to remember that unlike the transient nature of Twitter and the great walled garden of Facebook, blog posts are effectively conversations that are eternally visible through Google, meaning they have more inherent value to brands.

The fact to note here is that some of the creators (in Forrester’s terms) have moved from blogging to creation in other forms of social media, and this should not be ignored. Your social media strategy should never rest on blogs alone (just as it shouldn’t on any other part of social media) – you should be experimenting with Twitter, Facebook and other channels – and your strategy should be driven by your business objectives, where your target audience spends their time and where you can be most effective.

Of course it’s not just your strategy but the also the way you conduct yourself that counts (as Habitat discovered to their cost this week) – as Robin concludes:

The key to having a successful Twitter presence is to engage the community. Twitter is a great viral marketing channel, and for many users the aim is to have their story ‘retweeted’ – i.e. passed on by other users – as many times as possible. Although all of the newspapers have multiple ‘official’ feeds, these tend to be bland and have very low ‘retweet’ rates. Where journalists themselves are ‘tweeting’ themselves and engaging with the Twitter community, they typically have more success in creating viral stories.

Although we’d probably put it differently, we agree. Success with Twitter, like the rest of social media, is not about mechanistically shouting at strangers, it’s about being human – making friends and having conversations with them.

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We Are Social at #media140

by Chris Applegate in News Google+

Time for a break
Photo by Sizemore

Yesterday Robin and I attended media140 along with seemingly everyone I follow on Twitter (as Bash joked: “If you wanted to take out the hard core of London tech/media peeps, now would be your chance”). It was a good half-day of debate, case studies, and proving that Twitter people can interact in real life too. :)

Pat Kane gave a good keynote on how Twitter enriches more traditional journalism – creating a civic space of proto- or pro-am journalists supporting journalists in researching or reporting their stories. The G20 summit was one obvious example of this communal reporting – Kate Day’s blog post about that is well worth reading; what strikes me about these civic spaces is how ephemeral they are – the crowds that form around a news story are like flashmobs, there for the duration before dispersing. It brings into question who ‘owns’ a story and is the centre of this crowd given there is no permanent social structure in place.

Kevin Anderson talked about this social ‘glue’ and the help it gave him in his roadtrip during last year’s US elections, using Twitter not just to report but to meet people as well. Kevin mentioned how he felt disconnected his audience working for a big paper compared to working for a local one, and how using social media brought a lot of that back. Suw Charman-Anderson noted the differentiation within social media – in her Ada Lovelace Day project, she noted that people on Twitter were more open and more likely to help out than those who just pledged support on Facebook. It was an interesting insight into the differences between the two; in my mind, Twitter’s wider openness and realtime nature allows you to more fully experience the joy of meeting & conversing with random like-minded people. It allows you to join and adopt ephemeral crowds, and then take part in real-time and contribute as much or as little as you like, this fitting seamlessly into your everyday activity. Facebook’s mechanic of join and then ignore for groups is quite clunky and much less fine-grained in comparison, as well as being far less conversational (for more, in Robin’s recent eMarketer interview, he discusses the advantages of open social media over closed social networks).

These experiences reinforced in my mind how the key skill that anyone working in ‘traditional’ media should have with respect to Twitter or other social media: understanding and becoming part of the wider communities where your story might be discussed, creating or finding the transient virtual crowd that form around it, and then transforming that all the social capital and social content (tweets, links, ideas) into content that adds value for both you and them. Nick Halstead was keen to point out how all those 140-character Tweets can help you write up your brilliant 1000-word piece, but the perils of Twitter and unreliability of rumours can torpedo quality journalism if you get carried away. Bill Thompson was more embracing, describing the collective real-time stream of consciousness and how overwhelming it can be yet at the same time utterly enjoyable (a lovely contradiction).

Which leads onto my final thought: in a Twittered-up world, your media property is only as good as your audience, rather than your content. Mike Butcher talked about how social media allowed his audience to become his editors, which I think got misunderstood slightly by some other panellists – I don’t think Mike was saying he had abandoned all editorial control or responsibility, but with their ability to search, correct and feed back in real-time, he was directly responsible to them, and if he ever got things wrong, they would hold him to it. So getting an audience your content deserves becomes very important – and ultimately demands making sure you have skills and capabilities in community management as well as producing great content. The days of journalists relying on niche skills are truly over – and I wonder how quickly journalism and media courses are catching up?

Additionally, there’s some good summaries of media140 out there as well – Kevin Anderson covers the panel on news gathering and Pat Kane’s talk as well. Ewan Spence talks of the “impromptu community” that sprung up around Eurovision last weekend, exactly the kind of thing I was thinking of above, and quotes from Adam Tinworth (who also liveblogged the event): “Around an event like the Eurovision, the main broadcast is in real danger of becoming just a social object that people interact about elsewhere.” Danger makes it sound like a bad thing, whereas I’d argue the exact opposite.

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Newspapers and thinking the unthinkable

by Robin Grant in News Google+

When someone demands to know how we are going to replace newspapers, they are really demanding to be told that we are not living through a revolution. They are demanding to be told that old systems won’t break before new systems are in place. They are demanding to be told that ancient social bargains aren’t in peril, that core institutions will be spared, that new methods of spreading information will improve previous practice rather than upending it. They are demanding to be lied to.

The quote above is from Clay Shirky’s recent essay “Newspapers and Thinking the Unthinkable”, which takes an uncompromising look at the future of newspapers and journalism. With things getting to crisis point for newspapers in the US and in the UK, Dirk Singer has helpfully put together a timely report on the future of print and what it means for brands:

Dirk’s view is an accurate reflection of the current reality (even if obviously pitched from on offline PR perspective), especially on slide 21 where he says:

Online exposure is not second best
online outperforms print on reach and credibility

However, as Clay postulates, newspapers as we currently understand them may not exist on or offline in just a few years from now. And by then, social media will be even more pervasive.

The smart brands are preparing themselves for that future by learning about and experimenting in social media right here in the present.

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