Columbia Journalism School
Society of Professional Journalist
I think Seamus Condron nailed it, in responding to Jen Preston’s question: There’s a “big difference between being everywhere & engaging everywhere. Want to see more human presence at these outposts.” For a reasonably savvy publisher, it’s not that hard to pipe feeds of your content into various social publishing platforms, whether it’s Facebook pages, LinkedIn Groups, a Twitter account or newer services like Tumblr or Posterous. With the exception of the biggest news organizations in the world, that automatic posting hasn’t been a huge success. Some people will always subscribe to a feed, I think, but most want a person curating the news, just like Andy Carvin does on Facebook. That’s why I generally suggest that others not set up Twitterfeed or other feeds without first paying attention to a community’s conventions for conversation and information sharing. Part of that is reciprocity: will you share the content of others? Part of it is listening: when readers have questions or feedback, will you respond? Vadim is right: the central issue is resources, as measured in the scarce cognitive bandwidth of editors being asked to do more than ever before in many more places, often with much less budget, or in writers who are faced with a public primed for more one-to-one interaction than at any time in history.Honestly, I’m not sure it’s going to be possible at every news organization. The New York Times can devote staff to moderate its comments. Many cannot — and that just speaks to feedback on the site, not far flung conversations out on the open Internet. I think editors, writers and community managers will have to pick their spots. Go to where the conversations are, participate meaningfully, ethically and responsibly. When journalists take the opportunity to learn from the aggregated wisdom of that audience, I’d like to think everyone benefits.
Obviously, journalists aren’t the only ones facing these questions. Real estate agents, politicians and nonprofits are facing the same dilemma.
That’s why there’s a growth market in social media jobs at corporations and nonprofits and in political campaigns, and the smart ones are asking questions about strategy first before jumping in everywhere.
The marketers and PR folks have been asking these questions for awhile, and some are getting to a place with answers, using integrated feed tools in the right places and engaging with real people in the right places.
The answers are likely different and nuanced for each industry and community, but we would do well to remember that journalism isn’t the only one overwhelmed with choices. We can learn from other industries, and also see where they’re spending money formerly spent on ads.
I think that the guiding principle as always is what value we can bring to the public/readers/community by being on a platform or using a new service. I think a platform with a lot of promise is Posterous because of the ease of posting from the community. Some orgs, like The Statesman and Mediabistro are already on there, but who knows if it’ll catch on to the public? You could argue news orgs and media companies could potentially drive the growth of those platforms, which would benefit everyone.
But the larger point, as it always is, as many have already said, is resources. Newsweek’s Tumblr took work, it shows and as a result it’s got a lot of potential.
Maybe what will make the difference is public participation, where members of the community act as editors/moderators and help us.
I think news organizations will always need a home website, a kind of home base, but in 2009 saying we don’t have the resources to be in the places where our reader are is just weak.
Newspapers especially, are dropping readers at a prodigious rate. The circle of failure grows as the ignore their readers more than ever and pander to advertisers that no longer value them.
News organizations are no longer a monopoly. If they want to stop complaining about how unfair life is, and start competing, they will at least attempt to be everywhere they can listening, and engaging their potential customers as often as possible.
Welcome to the new world, where “do you know who I am?” doesn’t cut it any more.
Thanks for your comments, Alex. I think that you’re right. Ultimately, I think that community managers or social media editors will likely become commonplace or should be devoted to a specific position. Even with small newsrooms, an effort should be made. Your last graph sums it up beautifully.
Thanks for your comments, Justin. I like your last point because it gets to the heart of creating an engaging community. One where people want to participate and feel like they are contributing to something that matter, something that is important. If news companies can use these platforms to create the kind of community, they could play a larger role in what that content looks like, which may make the jobs of news creators easier and more rich.
I agree that we are in a time where we have to meet the readers where they are at (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) And that we need to be where they are, engaging them, and finding them. We can’t expect people to come to us anymore, we have to come to them, which is why I think in a way a platform on a social site makes some sense. Then again, this could be created on a news site itself. I like the experiments of things like TimesPeople, creating a community of followers that can interact and recommend content, but it needs some tweaking.
These social tools are no longer about just community, but in some ways the credibility and relevance of a news organization as well. However, the point is that just being everywhere doesn’t cut it either. You have to be everywhere and do it effectively (ideally that is the result).
Good post, Lavrusik.
The MinnPost Tumblr I created was not supposed to be a “dumping ground” for RSS article feeds. I had two goals: 1) Create a Tumblr that highlighted our photos and artwork and provided a link to the original article, and 2) Offer those who follow Tumblr blogs a way to get current MinnPost content into their stream. I only accomplished number 2. The photos and artwork didn’t work mostly because of limitations within our RSS feed and (yes, as Mathew Ingram eloquently suggested!) lack of production time to manually make it look really good. Ran into some possible copyright issues as well with republishing our Reuters photos.
The overall goal is to get our content published where people are consuming news. We’re doing the same on twitter and facebook and myspace (just kidding about myspace.) I did not set out to engage users on Tumblr, as we have with Twitter and Facebook.
I am also experimenting with Posterous that republishes our daily e-mail newsletter as a blog and RSS feed. This is interesting, but not something I’m convinced is useful to readers.
Can news orgs be everywhere? Of course we can. But it requires good hard work. And that often costs money.
Our current efforts:
Our beta efforts:
I like the MySpace joke. That was a good one 🙂 I enjoy your experimentation and its encouraging to see Minnpost trying these things. The idea with photos for Tumblr would have worked well with the Tumblr crowd, I think.
I do want to point out that Minnpost is an online-only pub. I wish more traditional orgs would be as experimental in their efforts. Minnpost doesn’t have a huge budget, but you prioritize these things and find a way to fit them in your strategy. Others news orgs with much bigger budgets should follow suit (some do, but not enough).
Interesting discussion, Vadim. I don’t think a news organization should be on every social platform, but should be on the ones that are used by significant slices of the community. And you want to get on them pretty early. So I’d say you need to use quite a bit, probably more than you’re comfortable with (and I say this as someone who’s not on Tumblr yet). Gotta be on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Flickr. And be watching for other platforms such as Tumblr and Posterous to start gathering steam. I asked a room of 50 or so journalists and journalism students last week if anyone was on Aardvark (I am) and no one raised their hands. So I wouldn’t make Aardvark a priority. Yet.
Just signed up for Aardvark 🙂 And yes, especially for news orgs I think that the audience matters. But you can also reach new audiences by going to these social sites.
I absolutely agree with your points, except for Aardvark. You get lots of questions on there that could be answered with quick Google searches. Also, there’s little no opportunity for news organizations to really brand themselves there. And what happened when you get a question you don’t have time to answer?
While some conversation may take place on Tumblr/Posterous, it’s mostly a great way to streamline your social media workflow and tell alternative, collaborative stories. They’re not social networks per se, but it makes sense to be there only when it’s the best option.
A “hedgehog” mentality needs to be taken in newsrooms, which now seem to be grasping for every shiny new social media object. If it makes sense, use it. If it doesn’t, don’t. Period.
Hey–here’s our reasoning behind the Newsweek Tumblr:
“Why do we Tumbl? In the end, we use Tumblr not because it’s a great way to connect with our readers (though it is that), or because we believe this or something like it is a part of a new way forward for interaction between publishers and audience (though we think that too). We use Tumblr because it’s fun and while, you know, you can’t eat fun, or trade it in for fistfulls of dollars to fund serious journalism, we believe there’s a value in doing things we like simply because we like to do them, and that hopefully our fellow Tumblrs will too.”
Thanks for responding. It’s also one of the same reasons I started my own Tumblr (more to just be creative).
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