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.
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.
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.
First they ignore you.
Then they laugh at you.
Then they fight you.
Then you win.
The Daily Mail’s reportage on Twitter has attracted the ire of the UK’s social media community – after a dismissive report on celebrity Twitter usage at the weekend, followed by reporting with relish about the Twitter backend hack a few days later. The result has been a mini online backlash against the Mail, including a spoof @Notdailymail_uk Twitter feed (contrary to rumour, I am not behind it), which has nearly five times as many followers as the real thing, and a spike in traffic to my own spoof Daily Mail headline generator as well.
Simon Perry points out at least one of the reasons the mainstream media can be hostile to services like Twitter – it allows celebrities to communicate directly to the public. With our help, Stephen Fry was one of the first celebrities to use Twitter and his phenomenal popularity has led a slew of British celebrities to follow suit, including Jonathan Ross, who’s making the most of his time off work by becoming Twitter’s self-proclaimed “Number One Twitter Detective”, tracking down fake profiles on his fans’ behalf.
Celebrities no longer need the intermediary of celeb magazines and gossip columns, and the Mail is among those newspapers who rely heavily on such content. Hence the hostility to Twitter. Twitter either has reached or is about to reach (a matter of recent debate between Vikki Chowney and myself) its tipping point in the UK. Just like other forms of social media in the past – such as blogs, Facebook or Wikipedia – the mainstream media are now moving on from treating it as a distraction to treating it as a threat. With outright hostility now the flavour of the day, are we beginning to see the endgame being played out? People are more likely to use online rather than newspapers in the UK and now even in the US for their news, and with the double whammy of newspaper sales declining and a recession reducing ad revenues, expect them to put up a fight to the bitter end.
Update 2: From our very own Stephen Fry:
I’m not someone with press offices and all that kind of thing, but those like me in the public eye who have, have discovered it’s a magnificent way of cutting out the press.
If people want to announce their new this or their new that, they’re going “I’m not going to do an interview, I’m not going to sit in the Dorchester for seven days having one interviewer after another come to me, I’m just going to Tweet it, and point them to my website and forget the press”.
And the press are already struggling enough – God knows they’ve already lost their grip on news to some extent. If they lose their grip on comment and gossip and being a free PR machine as well, they’re really in trouble.
So naturally they’re simultaneously obsessed because they use it (as it fills up their column inches) but they’re also very against it.
So you’ll get an increasing number of commentators going “Aren’t you just fed up with Twitter? Oh, if Stephen Fry tells me what he’s having for breakfast one more time, I think I’ll vomit.”
They really will have a big go at it because it attacks them, it cuts them out.