Here are all of the posts tagged ‘newspapers’.
With all the talk of teenagers’ online habits in the news, we got our most knowledgeable man in to blog on the matter. 17 year old Adam Bernstein is an A-level student currently on work experience with We Are Social, and here are his thoughts.
The trouble is, as another teenager – admittedly a slightly older one – Robson’s arguments do not hold true. There is much value in Robson’s report – it does provide an interesting insight into how one particular teenager consumes media. But there is a danger in taking isolated examples and extrapolating them to be indicative of society.
Robson’s report is supposed to be focussed on the teen market, yet too often he ignores important economic & social factors. For example, the argument that teenagers don’t buy newspapers because they’re too expensive is an interesting one. But this argument is based on one assumption which underscores Robson’s entire report: teenagers are independent of their parents. But this simply isn’t the case – most people I know who do read a newspaper read it because it’s in the house. Teenagers probably wouldn’t pay 80p a day for a newspaper but it’s not an issue because in many cases they don’t have to.
If Robson wanted to know the real reason teenagers don’t read newspapers, it is more about content. Teenagers will consistently have their lifestyle treated with derision in the papers; but how often will a viable alternative be offered? With the continual damning of teens in the papers, it’s no wonder teenagers don’t read them.
But it was Robson’s claims about Twitter which were the most ignorant: “Twitter is pointless to teens” screamed the headlines. It’s true to say that teens (on the whole) don’t use Twitter but his fixation on the costs of texting missed a crucial point: only 5% of Tweets are made via SMS – the success of applications such as Tweetdeck and Twitterfox show how it is really used.
The reality is that teens don’t use Twitter because of demographics: to make a broad – and somewhat unfair – generalisation, teenagers use Facebook, whereas Twitter is used by older people. Essentially, teens follow other teens so it’s inevitable that most of the age-group stays away from Twitter. Twitter’s relevance to the younger market is diminished because many perceive a ‘tweet’ as being the same as a Facebook Status Update – they don’t see the need for both.
Robson’s report is useful for the many truths it does contain: Teenagers doing all they can to avoid advertising is an important point which the ad companies will be trying hard to counteract. But Robson’s suggestion that teenagers are motivated above all by cost is a spurious one: teenage consumption of media probably does have something to do with money; but most teens don’t have a full-time job, many are in full-time education and are supported by their parents – it is they who pay for everything so his argument that costs are the most important thing to teens is wrong.
But, as Suw Charman-Anderson notes, the main problem with Robson’s report is that he thinks his experiences are emblematic of teenagers as a whole. The reality is that there is much greater diversity in the teen market than Robson suggests. Teenagers are an eclectic bunch – and Robson would do well to remember this.
Update: I’ve just come across an interesting report by Forrester about this exact topic (for those interested in US rather than UK data, there’s also a good presentation from the Pew Internet & American Life Project and Nielsen’s recent How Teens Use Media report). Robson’s argument that all teenagers are always listening to music, particularly free online music, is kicked into touch:
With its findings suggesting socio-economic factors are unimportant in how teenagers consume media, Robson’s arguments that costs are the primary factor in deciding what teens do is shown to be false.
But what is most interesting for companies is that teenagers are using social media for the same reasons as the population as a whole. Possibly this means they don’t need tailored advertising; more probably, it means that in time teenagers will drift over to Twitter – Facebook was originally intended for Harvard University students yet is now used worldwide.
Having said all of this, the accuracy of the report does have to be considered – speaking to 261 13-19 year olds and making assumptions that this data covers society as a whole is questionable. But at least it’s more accurate than Robson’s report which was simply the findings of one person.
Conventional wisdom positions the website as the destination and focuses investment on search to ‘drive’ traffic to it. Think about the language we’re using here. Do we really think that people who are ‘driven’ to your website are going to stick around, interact with your stuff, click on your banners? Search is attractive because of it’s accountability, control and efficiency but ask yourself this: who would you rather have on your website – a person who is looking for a specific piece of information and is likely to leave as soon as they’ve got it, or a person who is passionate about what you do and has a desire to connect, interact, share, contribute. Both people count as a unique user. But only one of them will likely stick around, come back again and again, and be truly engaged. So I would argue that their value is very different.
There’s nothing wrong with investing in search, and it is an important tool, but it is not everything. Deploying search optimisation without social optimisation is only a partial solution. What do I mean by social optimisation? I mean participation in the conversation. I mean making the community elements in your own content as visible as possible (it has to feel like a community). And I mean creating tools and services to facilitate what that community is trying to do. This has pound notes attached to it – community facilitates repeat visits, engagement and interaction. Repeat visits, engagement and interaction facilitate subscription, transaction and advertising.
In a follow-up post, he goes on to say:
Aristotle defined three types of friendship – friendship based on utility (utility being an impermanent thing, changing according to circumstance, disolving when the utility is no more), friendship based on pleasure (of the moment, changing as pleasures change), and ‘perfect’ friendship which is based on goodness (mutual respect, nourishing, lasting, trusting). Friendship is not black and white, and ‘friend’ (or ‘fan’ or ‘follower’) is a very blunt term.
Think about participation. There are many forms of it, and a significant difference between simply reading, or commenting and actually contributing. Forrester’s Social Technographics ladder does a good job of reflecting the broad scope of such participation inequality.
I think one of the most useful ways of thinking about your audience is through the level of engagement and interaction they have with what you’re doing. The internet is a does medium. It’s not for passive consumption, it’s about interaction. So thinking of your audience in this way you immediately start to think differently about your content, and about the value you are delivering. Wary as I am about segmenting people into homogenous groups, I think it’s useful to put a simple framework around this:
In Tribes, Seth Godin talks about the fact that what people really want is the ability to connect to each other, not to companies, so services that facilitate connection, give people stories to tell and something to talk about, build permission. It flips the focus from looking for customers for your products, to seeking out products (and services) for the tribe.
This means that content owners need to reach out and engage their audiences wherever they are. When we think about online communities, it’s easy to slip back into old destination thinking about attempting to “build” an online community around your brand. But to paraphrase Mark Zuckerberg, communities already exist, so the job instead should be to think about how you can help that community do what it wants to do. Communities are fluid and ever changing. So a better model is to think about multiple assets (social objects or ideas if you like) each with their own levels of participation.
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.
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.
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.
A nice quote from Juan Bascones, Havas Media’s global chief media investments officer, speaking at the World Newspaper Advertising Conference on Friday:
Today consumers’ new distribution model is based on conversations. The only way the newspaper industry will survive is for it to focus on leading and facilitating these conversations.