Here are all of the posts tagged ‘mainstream media’.

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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The audience can talk to each other

by Robin Grant in News Google+

Clay Shirky at the recent TED@State conference:

In a world where media is global, social, ubiquitous and cheap. In a world of media where the former audience are now increasingly full participants. In that world, media is less and less often about crafting a single message to be consumed by individuals and is more and more often a way of creating an environment for convening and supporting groups. And the choice we face, and I mean anybody who has a message they want to have heard anywhere in the world, isn’t whether that’s the media environment we want to operate in – that’s the media environment we’ve got. The question we all face now is how do we make the best use of this medium, even though it means changing the way we’ve always done it.

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Commentariat v. bloggertariat

by Chris Applegate in News Google+

Last night I was a guest at the Editorial Intelligence seminar entitled “commentariat v. bloggertariat” – a discussion of how newspaper opinion columnists and bloggers coexist and work together.

The versus in the title immediately set the tone for contrast and confrontation; Iain Dale came out fighting for the blogosphere, with a provocative opening: “the fact that the Twitter hashtag for this event is #eiblogger and not #eicomment rather indicates the organisers believe bloggers are winning.” As well as that, he scolded The Times over the recent outing of anonymous blogger Nightjack. Batting equally fiercely for the other side, David Aaronovitch was disdainful of bloggers, boasting that no blogger could ever get an interview with Nobel prize-winning economist Amartya Sen, who he was interviewing the following day, while the Spectator’s Martin Bright said he couldn’t think of a single classic blog post he had ever read.

While it provided entertainment, the confrontational tone and setup didn’t really help bring us to any constructive conclusions. Newspapers are in trouble, it was repeatedly stated, yet bloggers are way down the list of reasons why that is so – the very fundamentals of news distribution and advertising sales have been overturned and will not return to their old state again. When the discussion moved away from the artificial distinction it proved to be a bit more nuanced and interesting – Iain Dale gave the perfect example of a blogger who has crossed over into the mainstream media – himself – while Mick Fealty revealed about how stories from his blog, Slugger O’Toole, would shape the coverage in the Belfast newspapers the following day.

Those in the mainstream media camp gave a less open-minded and concessionary view; all too often blogs and bloggers were conflated with the opinions left in comments on online news articles, or even worse, the ‘green ink brigade’ formerly managed by letters page editors (thus protecting journalists from their audience). Astonishingly, Anne Spackman of the Times suggested that the law on defamation and hate speech was a good enough set of rules for commenting on articles. The law is a bare minimum – what is agreed by the majority of society to be totally unacceptable. To better manage your communities you need a lot more than that; after all, you are only as good as the people who comment on your site – and I find many online newspaper’s reader comment sections to be poor, full of incoherence, poor spelling and grammar and some comments filled with outright spite. No wonder some journalists are utterly averse to engaging more with their audience.

There is more to social media than just allowing reader comments on your articles – indeed, there is more to the online community around your site than people leaving comments. Newspapers and their readers are capable of much more given the right tools and the right community management – such as the Liverpool Post’s crowdsourcing of its front page or the new Help Me Investigate initiative from 4iP. Mark Thompson, who was in the audience last night, and his recent analysis of safe seats and MP’s expenses, is a great recent example of blogs contributing new content and analysis whilst inspired by mainstream media.

With some notable exceptions like the above, there is too much of a culture of antagonism, on both sides in this debate, but especially from some of the mainstream media stalwarts who attended last night. Letting your lawyers, rather than your community managers, be the arbiters of what is considered acceptable behaviour and participation, is just one symptom of this culture; dismissing blogging out of hand or demanding anonymous but lawful bloggers be unmasked. The good thing is that newspapers are, relatively speaking, miles ahead of where they were 5 years ago, and some of the more social media-savvy in this space do get it; I’d love to see some of the more constructive dialogue these forward thinkers could have with the same bloggers who were there last night.

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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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