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#newsrw: Connected journalism in 10 points

I was at news:rewired last week talking about community management and while there are already some great round-ups of the sessions available, I wanted to share the things I took away. In no particular order of importance:

1) The Telegraph’s Kate Day made the salient point that communities around a newspaper brand are nothing new – feeling a sense of belonging to a certain newspaper’s club has been around for some time.

2) IPC Media’s Cathy Ma told us that A T-shirt competition engaging with Horse & Hound’s Facebook fans generated a five-figure profit for the title.

3) MSN’s Pete Clifton on newsroom architecture reminded us that getting your departments or different teams into the same working space is only half the battle. You have to work hard to ensure that the same divides (e.g. Between web and print) don’t reform.

4) Storify’s Xavier Damman: “Everybody is a reporter but not everyone is a journalist. Without journalists those voices would get lost in the noise, quickly forgotten.” He showed us how Storify is being used for reaction, comment, breaking news and to bring new voices into a story. Perhaps most interestingly he showed how the TCDisrupt conference had used Storify to create a printed digest.

5) AOL and HuffPo UK’s Carla Busazi explained the work of her three-strong blogger outreach team and how everyone at HuffPo has a responsibility for blogger outreach and social media. The site gets requests from other media to interview their bloggers

6) 50% of CNN iReport videos are related to breaking news, explained Dominique van Heerden, who explained that this is a community loyal to one another and that very much feels they own the space. Dominique gave a particular example of the son of a soldier killed in Afghanistan. After posting a video tribute online, which led to a CNN follow-up, the community helped to set up a college fund for the boy.

7) Chris Hamilton talked in detail about the different approaches to verifying UGC in news situations. The best are often simple, but require lateral thinking he said – e.g. Getting someone near Pearl roundabout during demos in Bahrain to turn their laptop around so the team could confirm their live location simply using their webcam.

8 ) Ed Barrow from idio explained how Metro is using a social media dashboard to monitor market level social media and track their readers’ behaviour on site to discover real time trends. Through this they encourage targetted engagement with the authoritative individuals who broke the original news. On the dashboard a component shows if anyone else is writing about it yet. If no one is it tells you to get writing and links directly to the CMS. The print side of the metro is using this too.

9) Reuters’ Anthony De Rosa said the news organisation had to realise that its customers will tweet the news it puts out as soon as it reaches them. reuters is encouraging its correspondents to tweet the news too. Its distribution model continues to evolve/be challenged.

10) Momoko Price talked about BuzzData’s plans to make it easier to encourage a community to grow on your around data projects. Don’t divorce data from the community or the context, she says, but make data quality or creativity a source of pride or shame. From doing this you get a level of discourse that is different from a comment thread because you are engaging a highly data literate community. similarly you can lose that community depending on the data tools you use e.g. Presenting data just in Google Docs doesn’t make it easy for them to leave comments.

I was only in half the sessions if the day – so check out the news:rewired site and hashtag #newsrw for a fuller picture of the day.

The idea that kept returning to me throughout all of the above and the day as a whole was one of newsroom architecture – how to fit in these new tools, roles and processes in an existing newsroom. If you start with the story, what roles or organisational structures then need to change in order to build and nurture the networks required to support investigative, connected, engaging, open and groundbreaking – even sustainable – journalism? These changes and roles are being forged right now, if this conference is anything to go by.

Do news organisations have a duty of care to readers on Facebook?

It’s been a week of two halves for Facebook. Firstly, a load of new launches with interesting potential for news organisations:

Facebook plugins
Partner sites can now integrate bits of Facebook with their sites – it’s called Open Graph. CNN International, for example, will let you share with Facebook from CNN.com and give a Facebook ‘like’ to content on the site. It’s another way for news organisations to drive traffic to their sites via Facebook networks and create individual ‘publishers’ in users.

(According to Mashable, these developments signal the end of Facebook Connect and should make it easier for users to login and use a site integrated with Facebook.)

Facebook Docs
A partnership with Microsoft for building Word, Excel and Powerpoint documents and sharing them via Facebook – but without the same collaborative capabilities of Google Docs, says Fortune.

Universal ‘like’ buttons
News sites can add a ‘like’ button to their pages – if I recommend an article or page it will appear on my wall and therefore be shared with my network, BUT also on my profile page as a link = stronger recommendation for the news site in question, plus more information for them about who I am, my likes, dislikes etc

As explained by the New York Times:

The Like button will allow Facebook to keep a record of what a user linked to, providing the company with ever more data about people’s preferences. Facebook, in turn, plans to share that data with web publishers, so that a magazine website, for instance, may be able to show users all the articles that their friends like. A site like Yelp may show reviews from a user’s friends, rather than those from strangers.

But now for the other half – the social network’s approach to privacy and data is coming under even closer scrutiny as these new developments encourage users to share even more.

Journalism.co.uk has taken a look at Address Book Importing (not just on Facebook, other social sites too). Dan Costa takes a look at the implications of the ‘Like’ function for PC Mag:

Until now, the most granular measure of our human intent has been our search terms, and Google has done an exceedingly good job of connecting that intent with advertisers who want to capitalize on it. By integrating personal and profile information through third party sites, Facebook is making its database of intention social.

As Costa argues, while these new features are opt-in for users, Facebook’s privacy settings have been adapted/changed/the rules redrawn several times recently, so are users’ really making an informed choice?

With greater options for integrating with the social site, it’s not just Facebook that needs to be more transparent about what’s going on with users’ information – news organisations using the new features and with existing fans and friends should too. The ease with which most users ‘opt in’ to Facebook may be a benefit to news sites in terms of creating quick and user-friendly options for interaction, but do readers of these sites fully understand where this interaction will end up?

There’s a duty of care in encouraging readers to share/comment/interact with your news site through Facebook and not explaining the implications of doing so.

Digital storytelling: brands, myths, superheroes and journalism

Fascinating presentation at a conference called Digital Storytelling ’10 a couple of weeks back from Molly Flatt, blogger and ‘word of mouth’ evangelist for agency 1000heads, on storytelling by brands and individuals online, the creation of myths and superheroes and how this affects storytelling/advertising/brands. [She features late on in this video, courtesy of the BBC College of Journalism.]

Social media sites, with the onus on individual user profiles, and blogging in particular mean we are all now the heroes of our own narratives, suggested Flatt. It’s no coincidence that gaming has flourished with the rise of social media, as so often the player takes the part of hero.

What we publish of ourselves and how we blog/write online is all a part of constructing an online persona, narrative or, indeed for a brand, myth. As an individual I probably do filter what I publish online though this selection is largely uncontrived; as a professional working for a brand, I know that we try to create a personality in our social media interactions e.g. making sure we reply to queries on Twitter, being irreverent as well as serious. Other news sites do this fantastically well – take a look at Channel 4 News and its behind-the-scenes blogger and tweeter.

Why should this matter to news organsiations? Identifying the stories that their readers or potential readers are creating online and trying to align themselves as closely as possible can lead to deeper relationships with readers. I’m not talking about editorial content per se [though the tone and style of this will play a part], but the identity that a news organisation constructs, or should be constructing, to differentiate itself online.

Crowdsourcing projects, Flatt suggested, show a personalisation of brands. Allowing readers to become heroes (citizen experts, eye witnesses, commenters, contributors), to let them take part in some element of the storytelling process will help them buy into the brand and its myth. Such a relationship can help sell products and services too.

Brands are telling stories more and perpetuating our self-image of that brand, said Flatt. And whether readers/consumers are talking about the myth/product/story and whether what they are saying meets the brand’s/news organisation’s expectations will be crucial in managing relationships with readers online.

The ‘siteless’ news organisation?

Steve Rubel has posted his thoughts on why it’s a clever move by the Associated Press’ to direct its Twitter followers back to its Facebook page through links in its tweets:

The AP is now changing the game for news by not only going where attention spirals are taking us but by also using their content to curate a conversation on Facebook and – above all – build relationships.

As of this writing, the AP page on Facebook has 9,400 fans. I bet this will grow over time as people spend more time on Facebook and slowly become more accustomed to getting their news there, in addition to friend updates, games,etc. Swap out the word fans and replace it with subscribers and suddenly you can see where I am going and why this is a smart idea. It’s CRM for news!

This idea and my own recent tinkerings with the Journalism.co.uk Facebook page got me thinking about how news organisations use Facebook, what the benefits might be and whether a Facebook-only news outlet is a foregone conclusion (if there isn’t one already out there).

With my own experiments I’ve been trying to work out and ask what readers of Journalism.co.uk via Facebook might want. Aside from bringing the news from the site too them via RSS/Hootsuite and adding links to other articles specifically relating social media and journalism, I think I need to identify what Facebook’s features or some of its functions that make it the point of entry for some readers.

With its own experiments with social media and Facebook, the AP (along with pretty much every other news org out there) is trying to reach what it thinks might be an untapped audience, members of which are already familiar with sharing links, commenting and drawing their friends and connections attention to other sites and services.

Hitwise figures suggest Facebook is the source of an increasing percentage of traffic to news and media sites in the US.

But could a news organisation without a destination site or other platform (printed paper, magazine, broadcast channel etc) set itself up as a Facebook-only outlet? BreakingNewsOn established itself as a breaking news service for Twitter. It’s since decided to develop a companion website and (its original Twitter account was bought by MSNBC), but its origins were in delivering exclusive bursts of news in a Twitter-friendly way, matching content to demand and the expectations of the distribution channel.

If the figures from Hitwise continue to grow, surely a Facebook-only news org can’t be far behind?

#Trafigura, Jan Moir and social media power

I wrote a post last week for the Media140 blog, which I forgot to flag up here, on #Trafigura and Carter-Ruck’s attempts to gag the media – and how Twitter took on added value for me as a media journalist last week.

You can read it in full at this link: #Trafigura & Twitter: the Social Media Mob vs the Super Injunction?

What was quite incredible to watch was the ability of social media sites and networks to render the so-called super injunction useless. Under legal threat, news organisations trod a careful line in reporting the nature of the order despite the fact that Carter-Ruck’s actions called into question some fundamental principles of press freedom. But active individuals shared ‘forbidden’ links and kept the story circulating leaving the law firm in an untenable position.

[Full coverage on Carter-Ruck/Trafigura/Guardian at this link]

Still reflecting on the impact of these networks on the events in this case, social media and networks once more showed themselves to be a powerful force in challenging the media industry.

Outrage sparked by Daily Mail columnists Jan Moir’s piece on the death of Boyzone singer Stephen Gately spread quickly on online forums and Twitter. Widespread condemnation for Moir’s comments lead to calls for advertisers to drop their ads from the Mail Online piece – these were later pulled by the Mail.

Two significant things here:

Social media and the journalist as brand

This is a post I wrote for the Media140 group blog – hence the intro (there are some great posts on social media, journalism and microblogging that are well worth a read).

Branding – once a dirty concept to journalists; a word associated with new product press releases and not their own career. But the landscape is changing swiftly and the need for a coherent digital footprint or brand – extended and feeding off offline work too – is now a growing concern for the journalist. In this post, Laura Oliver considers the pros and cons of “the Journalist as Brand”:

Two recent events jogged my thoughts on this subject, starting with Adam Westbrook’s excellent recent series of tips for freelance journalists. In his post on branding, he says:

“Even as far back as 2006, the likes of [former Sunday Times Editor] Andrew Neil appreciated that the journalists of the future will need to brand themselves well. ‘The journalist of the future… will have more than one employer and become a brand in his own right,’ he wrote. With full time jobs in well staffed newsrooms becoming more scarce, but opportunities outside traditional/mainstream journalism becoming more plentiful, this prediction is fast becoming true.”

Google News recently added a byline feature to its advanced search tool – you can now subscribe to an RSS news feed for your favourite journalists. In this respect, the ‘journalist as brand’ has existed for a long time, as individual columnists worked upon building their brand along particular themes of politics, argument or writing style.

But, with the advent of social media – in particular, Twitter – the idea of a personality or brand accompanying the byline and a move away from erstwhile facelessness has gathered pace and weight and raised a range of new issues.

No longer just a news org

Creating a brand for yourself as a journalist – and even your own particular style of journalism – with social media, takes you beyond the walls of your news organisation and beyond the traditional one-way distribution of news.

As a journalist, you become more accountable for the stories you have written or for the research you are doing – readers or listeners can now get hold of you with greater ease. And, if you want to maintain the brand of a conversant, responsive journalist, you had better reply!

There are many lessons journalists can learn here from non-news media – for example, those that fail to reply on Twitter and those who use it to spam – rather than to gently promote their work.

As with other online developments (comments beneath articles, blogs for the newsroom) many journalists will feel exposed by this kind of interaction. But, if managed appropriately, it is a positive step towards accountability and towards a stronger, more credible, ‘brand’ of both journalist and journalism.

Take Sky News’ recent use of Twitter by its correspondent Ruth Barnett who is carefully building and maintaining a Twitter community of story contacts, which, if properly handled, will become not only loyal to her, but also more loyal to the Sky News brand. Sky also recently kept its brand in good social media stead by its response to Twitpic photographer Joe Neale.

Personal vs private

If you’re using Twitter, a blog, Facebook and more to help build your working brand, do you need disclaimers if it crosses over with your personal life?

Arguably, this can attract people to you as a journalist e.g. personal details about a shared interest or simply by giving a character to a byline. But, as quoted by Adam Westbrook in his post, there can be difficulties with personal branding, says FreelanceSwitch’s James Chartrand:

“A personal brand traps you into always being present in your business. You will be at the mercy of your clients and your career (…) your personal reputation is at stake.”

And if you’re building your brand on social media openness, be prepared for this. It can work in a positive way – see Jeff Jarvis’ recent musings on sharing the details of his cancer via his blog – but other times it is not so – as this Twitter breakdown from National Post reporter David George-Cosh showed.

Who owns the brand?

A sideline from the personal/private issue was recently highlighted by the case of @PolAnimal. The journalist behind the Twitter account for the US newspaper the Pioneer Press in question, Rachel Stassen-Berger was about to leave the title, but does she get to take the @name with her? She might not want to if it is more closely aligned with the news organisation’s brand than her own. But, as branding for journalists becomes more important and more encouraged by their news organisation employers, the question of who owns the individual’s brand deserves attention.

There is an intellectual property argument here, which I’m not optimally qualified to go into – but, if it is the individual journalist’s brand that has built up that Twitter following, that blog audience, albeit while working for their employer, how can they take that brand recognition with them when they change roles or workplaces?

I would argue that you get out what you put in – a strong enough brand as a journalist, a loyal enough audience for that brand and individual and – change of specialism depending – that link will be maintained and your reasons for putting the effort in in the first place justified.