July 31, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Every four years, the Olympics arrive with its outsized baggage to set up camp in a host city, while disrupting the lives of residents, changing the character of entire city precincts, and sucking in attention like only a media sinkhole can. I should know. I lived in Sydney for and leading up to the Olympic Games in 2000. London appears no different but, interestingly, some aspects ARE different.
For each of these titanic cast-of-thousands, audience-of-millions productions, the actors change but the plot usually remains same. There are the standard stories about athletes passed over for selection, and fears over transport, security, the weather, drug cheating and empty seats.
This year, there’s a new subject that is stalking the games and will continue to shadow it in this new era of personal mobile connectivity. The first big clue dropped during the men’s cycling road race on day one.
After numerous complaints from television viewers about confused and confusing commentary during the race, it has emerged that the volume of tweets and texts generated by mobile phone using spectators absolutely bamboozled the race organisers’ GPS information that should have accurately logged the progress of individual riders. So much so, that the International Olympic Committee issued a plea to Olympic crowds to ration their tweets and SMS messages during road racing.
Good luck with that. London has been described as the first ‘real’ social media games because of the growth of social media usage in the four years since the Beijing Olympics. The opening ceremony even went out of its way to portray British youth culture as highly connected (did you notice the touch screen props?).
Twitter says there are now more tweets about the Olympics on a single day in a week than the total number of tweets sent during the whole Beijing Olympics.
Social media and the Olympics is a growing new thing – and lessons are being learned that will apply to future games. High profile athletes are endorsing products using social media (and fallen foul of International Olympic Committee guidelines) and many are simply using it to talk directly to their home support. The majority of athletes are of a generation that has integrated social networking into their daily lives.
But for games organisers and team managers, it has become a new scenario for a potential public relations nightmare.
Has anyone warned the athletes? In a word, yes. Every team will have issued guidelines on how to use social media safely and appropriately. The last thing the team managers and communications professionals want is to go into damage control over an errant tweet or Facebook post.
It’s worth a reminder that Facebook only became public in 2006, Twitter broke out in 2007 and China’s weibo platforms only hit the mainstream in 2009. Today, Facebook has 900 million users (compared with 100 million in 2008), Twitter has 140 million users (six million in 2008) and Sina, China’s most popular micro-blogging network, now has 300 million users.
The International Olympic Committee has issued social media usage guidelines and central to them is this directive:
The IOC encourages participants and other accredited persons to post comments on social media platforms or websites and tweet during the Olympic Games, and it is entirely acceptable for a participant or any other accredited person to do a personal posting, blog or tweet. However, any such postings, blogs or tweets must be in a first-person, diary-type format and should not be in the role of a journalist – i.e. they must not report on competition or comment on the activities of other participants or accredited persons, or disclose any information which is confidential or private in relation to any other person or organisation.
You can find the full document here. If only Hope Solo, Michael Morganella and Voula Papachristou had actually read it.
Morganella is the most recent casualty. In a fit of sour grapes after his team lost to South Korea, he tweeted the Koreans were “mentally handicapped retards”. Don’t bother looking for his Twitter account – it’s no longer available and he’s no longer available for his team’s next game.
“South Koreans are mentally handicapped retards!” Michel Morganella (Swiss) has a Twitter meltdown after losing bit.ly/MWO374—
we-are-football (@we_are_football) July 30, 2012
Solo, the goalkeeping star of the American women’s football team, used Twitter to pick a public fight with a former United States international player turned commentator, Brandi Chastain, over what she called unfair criticism of the team. It’s become a distraction for her teammates because she’s become the story, not the team.
Papachristou, a Greek triple jumper, found herself going home before the games began for tweeting “with so many Africans in Greece, at least the mosquitoes of West Nile will eat homemade food”. In country where immigration has become a sensitive political issue and non-Greek minorities are under attack from far right groups, her ‘joke’ got her expelled.
Meanwhile, Australian swimmers, Nick D’Arcy and Kenrick Monk, won’t be joining their teammates for the end of games festivities. They’ll be going home after their events – their penalty for posting photos on Facebook of themselves posing with guns in an American gun shop.
Journalists are also not immune to social media blowback, as happened to Guy Adams, a journalist at The Independent, when he took a tilt at the official American Olympics network, NBC, over its coverage.
All of this simply heightens the need for athletes and anyone involved with the Olympics to take a 360 view of what they intend to post on social media. They must realise their posts can be seen by everyone and anyone. But as we know, common sense can only be learned and not necessarily taught.
To quote George Santayana, those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Like four yearly controversies over empty seats, drug cheats, transport and security, social media is now also an embedded fixture at the Olympics. It is also a guaranteed prospect to win Olympic gold for online gaffes.
August 13, 2011 § Leave a Comment
The UK riots have been such a dynamic and sprawling news event. There’s been a marvellous quantity and granularity to the reporting. It has also helped that such a wide ranging news story happened in one of the great media capitals of the world where domestic and international media organisations, by and large, have some of their best news reporting resources concentrated in one place.
Apart from the news reporting by professionals, there’s been an avalanche of citizen journalism – user generated content sourced from amateurs who have been recording what they see around them, in their workplaces and neighbourhoods, on their mobile phones and cameras.
Thanks to both the professionals and the amateurs, there’s been such a verisimilitude and rawness to the online coverage of the anarchy that has unfolded in dozens of locations in London and spread to cities beyond the capital.
The people who got in among the rioters to film and video the violence and looting were either very brave or foolhardy, or both. But the videos posted on YouTube, Facebook and Vimeo have an intimate and personal quality – as seen here, here, here and here – that makes them powerful viewing.
This woman has become a cult figure for the way she berate looters in the London borough of Hackney and you can see why.
Many people have been shocked by this video of rioters stealing from an injured Malaysian student. The Guardian was able to locate the victim afterwards and get his story.
These samples, particularly those of the woman with a conscience and the bashed student, have received thousands of views. They were posted online, shared on the social web and highlighted on mainstream news websites.
In Birmingham, a Sikh community television station, Sangat TV, distinguished itself with its street coverage, so much so that Sky News UK co-opted its footage into its own. Here’s what one blogger said: “Is anyone else watching Sangat TV on Sky 847? Their coverage in Birmingham has been absolutely excellent. They assisted the police, live on TV, in detaining four looters and they’re generally sending out a far better message than mainstream media.”
Whether professional journalists would involve themselves in detaining looters is another story about journalistic objectivity but you can view some of Sangat TV’s riot coverage here. It’s a remarkable story of what can be achieved by a four person news operation, as you can see by this article.
Meanwhile, a journalism student says he received over one million page views on his blog The West Londoner in one day at the height of the rioting. Gaz Corfield told Journalism.co.uk that traffic to his live blogging “went viral” through posts on Twitter and Facebook, and links left in comment threads on mainstream news websites. Here’s the story.
All of this highlights how amateurs are now working alongside the professionals and are often in places where the professionals can’t be. This is why media organisations increasingly need to keep a close eye on the social web to supplement and enhance their own reporting resources.
What this means is that journalists working in news rooms now have a new and evolving role. They need to be curators of the best content on the social web. The rise of news curation is one of the aspects of how the web is changing journalism, as explained in a recent book by Steven Rosenbaum called Curation Nation: How To Win In A World Where Consumers Are Creators.
Rosenbaum’s thesis is that, as online data grows exponentially in volume, a lot of it driven by the amateur web, there is an evolving category of people who are content curators, selecting and sharing relevant and interesting content with their online communities. He also explains that the boundaries between professionals and amateurs are becoming increasingly fluid because everybody has the tools to create and share content.
A corollary of this trend is that some news organisations are moving towards a ‘mixed economy’ or hybrid model that incorporates amateur content with their own professionally sourced content. A successful model that is often quoted is the Huffington Post. It publishes its own content, aggregates content from other news media and curates content from the social web.
News is also about providing context. The best news providers and content curators, whether they are amateur or professional, have an important responsibility to frame the content within the bigger picture so we understand the significance of what we are being shown. Without context, what we see on the web is often unverified, fragmentary and sometimes phoney. Content curators that earn our trust make us confident that what they are showing us is a true and accurate record of an event that happened.
The riots in Britain are just the latest example of how even news organisations are increasingly becoming joined at the hip with the social web and acting in a curatorial role to give us more nuanced, crowd sourced coverage but also by giving us the essential context we need to understand what we are seeing. Welcome to the Curation Nation.
July 19, 2011 § Leave a Comment
There’s a debate in journalism training about shorthand. Is this a skill that is still relevant to new journalists joining the news media? The reality is that shorthand is headed for extinction unless there’s some major industry intervention. But, while old school editors and journalism tutors may deplore the death of shorthand, the rest of the industry is much too preoccupied with survival in a Force 10 digital storm.
And let’s face it, shorthand will not be missed because technology offers so many alternatives that are proving to be as good as if not better. There are miniaturised video and audio recorders and ubiquitous smart phones that can record virtually anything. An iPad application called SoundNote records interviews as you type. Even badly type written notes can guide you to the points in an interview that you might need to transcribe for a quote.
While debate rages over whether technology improves journalism, the fallout over the News of the World phone hacking scandal in the UK shows how technology also enables where journalistic ethics fail.
One guarantee is the way journalists tell their stories has to change under the crushing weight of technological innovation. The future of news content is destined to be immersive, interactive and multi-faceted.
It follows that multi-media versatility is going to be an essential part of a journalist’s skill set and we are starting to see journalism schools increasingly incorporating this dimension into their curricula.
From a social media perspective, we’re seeing more media organisations embracing ways to share their content across the social web. But it’s also a safe observation to make that many journalists and media organisations are uncomfortable or ambivalent about using social media platforms. You could say many journalists still profoundly misunderstand the web and are baffled why a collaborative, amateur built resource like Wikipedia works!
But those that do understand how the social web works see opportunity and recognise the game changing nature of platforms like Twitter and Facebook as an increasingly important information ecosystem existing within the digital revolution.
For the journalists that do get the mobile/social/digital shift – and even those that are watching on the side-lines – I recommend two brilliant resources that help media professionals target and locate content on Twitter and Facebook as part of the process of news gathering.
Twitter for Newsrooms is an important starting point for journalists who are new to Twitter and those who think they know it all. There are tips on using Twitter’s advanced search form to get narrow and defined results to help with any story. It is so useful for scanning breaking content when the Twitter stream is a flood of spontaneity that is being throttled on your Tweetdeck.
For finding older tweets, there’s Topsy which allows journalists to go back in time to view Twitter traffic in a given time frame. Also incredibly useful is information on how to link directly to an individual tweet. If you’ve had sleepless nights trying to figure how this is done, here’s how.
There are also a number of Twitter partners that provide ways for news organisation to visualise or curate Twitter data about particular news stories – a terrific way to demonstrate the impact of a story on Twitter and by extension on internet traffic. I started with Mass Relevance, a tweet curatorial service, and there are many others out there.
Facebook searches are another way to find public content. Searches can be carried out in group, page, event or people categories and also in posts by people, friends and groups. People’s privacy settings determine what is in the public domain and is means Facebook lacks the capability to really amplify content the way Twitter does. But Facebook users can message others even if they are not friends and this is a useful information circuit breaker.
Twitter and Facebook searches and techniques are becoming an essential part of a journalist’s skillset. Journalists will also need to pay attention to emerging social media platforms like Google+ and there are other platforms like Quora and HARO (which is an acronym for Help A Reporter Out) that help journalists find answers from potential sources. I have used HARO and I can see its value (although it can be hit or miss) as a regular way to source opinions or comment on issues from a global pool of social web savvy respondents.
Every journalist needs to understand that Twitter is not a passing fad and Facebook is not just a way of talking privately among your friends. The accumulated online babble might be deafening but by skilful manipulation of search criteria, social media platforms are essential, information-rich resources. Journalism might be losing the struggle to keep shorthand but the profession has no choice but to join the rest of us on the social media street.
July 11, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Scenes of a large protest march on the streets of Kuala Lumpur and the ensuing police crackdown have been astonishing for outsiders and Malaysians alike. It’s a rare thing for Malaysians to take such direct action in defiance of their government.
Demonstrations are not tolerated by the authorities and are not a characteristic of the country’s multi-ethnic, politically passive society – at least until recently.
What also helped to amplify the noise of the July 9 protest was the considerable ownership the organisers gave to participants in order to incorporate mobile and web elements. This strategy, together with the hard line taken by Malaysian authorities against the demonstrators, has helped project the Bersih 2.0 movement beyond simply a march for political reform.
A deepening mood of anger and unhappiness with the Malaysia’s government and political system has been measureable on the internet for many years now and frustration with government corruption and cronyism is now being translated into the kind of direct protest action witnessed on the streets of the capital on Saturday.
Organised under the Bersih 2.0 banner by over 60 non-governmental organisations, the protesters had gone head to head with a government ban on the protest and the ensuing clashes turned the streets of Kuala Lumpur into scenes more akin to Bangkok or Vancouver as riot police fired tear gas and arrested over 1600 marchers.
Bersih means clean in the Malay language and is a reference to the movement’s call for cleaner government and political reforms. Some observers say the Bersih movement gets its inspiration from the Arab Spring pro-democracy movements. Although Malaysia has regular elections, the country has been ruled by the UMNO party since independence in 1957 and there’s frustration that Prime Minister Najib Razak is not implementing a reform agenda.
Assessing the size of Saturday’s crowd, as an important indicator of the movement’s support, has been problematic. Independent journalists say the march numbered over 10,000, the police claim there were about 5000-6000 demonstrators and the organisers say over 50,000 people participated.
But it becomes difficult for the pro-government news media to assert low numbers when images like these are being shared on the social web by the demonstrators.
Many citizen photographers like Melissa Sasidaran also shared their live images in running photostreams.
While the organisers can also claim the threat of a government crackdown kept many people at home, they can point to the large volume of mentions on Twitter, Facebook as evidence that the protest had a much larger footprint than just what occurred on the ground.
The alternative Malaysiakini news website posted minute by minute updates of events in Kuala Lumpur. Demand on the day was so high, it had to post this message on its homepage:
The extremely heavy traffic to Malaysiakini today has made the website almost inaccessible. We are providing this stripped-down version for the benefit of our readers.
This video posted by Malaysiakini on YouTube shows police firing tear gas at demonstrators.
Bersih organisers also promised simultaneous rallies in Taiwan, Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Australia, New Zealand, France, Switzerland, the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. Here’s the New Zealand Bersih 2.0 Facebook page and this is the New Zealand Herald’s coverage of the Bersih rally in Auckland.
Here’s a tweet from the equivalent event in Melbourne:
Singapore’s The Online Citizen offered its support on its Facebook page with photos of the Bersih rally in Singapore.
The march was also streamed live on WWITV, as another alternative for Malaysian netizens to see an event that the state media might aim to minimise.
Politweet, a service that observes “the Malaysian twitterverse” aggregated Bersih tweets as a raw record of how things unfolded.
Watching the social media feeds and user generated content on July 9 allowed many Malaysians watching in Malaysia and elsewhere a real sense of what happened that day and offered them ways to get involved. The 2.0 suffix emphasised the movement was as much a digital one as a street protest.
While both sides, the government and the Bersih 2.0 movement, will try and claim success for what happened on the streets of KL on July 9, there appears to be only one winner on the social web.
If you are reading this in Malaysia, let us know if you also saw it this way.
June 14, 2011 § Leave a Comment
The Guardian newspaper wants your help. It’s crowdsourcing contributions from the amateur web to help sort over 24,000 pages of emails sent and received by United States presidential hopeful Sarah Palin when she was governor of Alaska in 2007 and 2008.
In a daring move to enable the voluntary involvement of the social web, the Guardian has established an online process that enables each of us to contribute if we want to by helping sift through this massive collection of documents.
The emails, which may or may not prove a treasure trove of gripping insights and shocking revelations about the maverick American politician, were released as hard copy documents. That’s why dozens of journalists have been in the Alaskan capital Juneau to make digital copies for their respective news rooms to pore over.
The Guardian, a Manchester based media organisation, tells us that two of its US correspondents have been scanning the papers from their Alaskan hotel room but because of the huge number, the job is simply too big for the professionals. So it is co-opting its readership to help find the interesting stuff.
“We reckon the collective eyes of thousands of you will find the juicy bits more quickly, so we’ll be publishing the raw mails on our website as quickly as we can and asking you to tell us which ones are interesting and why,” The Guardian said on June 10, the day the emails were released.
“They’ll be pretty rough and ready – no headlines or details of what they’re about – but we hope you’ll help us by using our simple system to tag them according to what subjects they cover, and how interesting they are.”
Here’s how to take part. Click on the button that says ‘Show me an unseen email’ and you’re in the investigative journalism game. Who would have thought journalism could be this social and so much fun? The page also includes progress updates (when I checked while writing this post, nearly 11000 pages had been read and tagged) and you can also tweet @gdnpalin to let the Guardian team know that you have turned up a journalistic gold nugget or not, as the case may be.
The Guardian was one of the news organisations canvassed by the American Society of Newspaper Editors for its recent 10 Best Practices for Social Media report. In the study, the UK newspaper listed eight best practice points for its journalists blogging or responding to comments on its website, including this gem: Encourage readers to contribute perspectives, additional knowledge and expertise. Acknowledge their additions.
It will be interesting to see if the Guardian’s collegial social media policy becomes increasingly practised by other media organisations. But let’s go back to the other story.
The Palin emails saga began three years ago when Sarah Palin shot to prominence as a possible running mate for Republican presidential candidate John McCain. At the time, a political journalist for Mother Jones magazine, David Corn (@DavidCornDC on Twitter), noticed the state of Alaska had an open records law that had been successfully used by a citizen activist.
Corn’s request for Palin’s emails under that law three years ago has now paid a big dividend. His story on how it all came about is a riveting read. It is also encouraging for all of us who have high expectations of freedom of information and transparency in government. It is also an inspiring example of granular and patient journalism carried out by a dogged and resourceful reporter.
But there are several caveats to the way the state governor’s office has acceded to the request for the emails – which was followed by other requests from a number of other media organisations as Palin’s political profile soared.
The first is that the process took three years because of what David Corn called evident foot dragging. The second is that over 2000 pages have been withheld and many of those released will contain redactions. Also, Corn says, the right to withhold a portion of the emails can be justified under “executive” or “deliberative process” privileges that protected correspondence between Palin and her aides about policy matters. The other issue is that Palin also used at least two personal email accounts to correspond with aides which the state governor’s office said was beyond its access to provide.
The released emails may well harbour a smoking gun to harm Palin’s probable run for the Republican candidacy in the 2012 presidential race. But given the documents withheld or redacted by the Alaskan government, the emails are unlikely to really hurt her chances and her supporters will continue to rally around her. As yet, nothing terribly damaging has been uncovered.
While Sarah Palin’s emails are Little League in comparison with something like the Watergate scandal that brought down Richard Nixon, there’s a lot to admire in a news story that was made possible by old school journalism with help from the social web.
June 9, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Most media organisations have made the change to the digital world but there’s an evident tension about the social web that keeps many editors up at night. This conflict at the heart of journalism in the digital era reveals itself in stories by journalists about journalists.
There’s constant debate within journalism about the future of journalism and that’s a healthy thing. One of the most fascinating discussions going is how should the news media adapt to constantly changing technology and popular social media platforms.
It’s too simplistic to call it an argument between the digital natives and the digital dinosaurs. Most journalists I know have embraced the internet although many traditionalists scoff at Wikipedia as a news resource and deride the amateur driven social web.
Take this recent story by New Zealand Herald media journalist John Drinnan which is instructive for revealing the kind of tension that exists in the news media around social media.
When TVNZ’s Saturday morning current affairs programme featured an interview with Phil Goff, political editor Guyon Espiner channelled chatter on Twitter in a searching interview of the Labour Party leader.
Espiner said: “Ok. I’m already getting feedback in my ear from the producer saying people are Twittering and emailing us at the moment saying, ‘Hey, we want to know what Labour’s going to do.’ Would you restore this programme? This is what our viewers are saying. Can you give them an answer, Mr Goff?”
Drinnan, who may well be a social media sceptic, made it clear from his story, which also sought the views of journalism and media studies lecturers Jim Tully and Donald Matheson, this was a risky practice. He wrote “a fascination with social media is creeping in to all media as growing legions of readers, listeners and viewers spend more time online”.
Both Tully and Matheson pointed out that journalists needed to be cautious in referencing comments made on social media because of the dangers of anonymous or unidentified sources. Matheson said journalists needed to be more literate about social media and warned against the impulse to use social media as barometers of public opinion.
All of this just highlights that natural scepticism and objectivity are disciplines that journalists should apply in how they go about prosecuting a story. To say journalists are at greater risk of coming unstuck by referring to comments on Twitter smacks of getting things back to front.
If journalists repeat what they see on Twitter and present it as a true and accurate reflection of an issue then there’s a problem with journalism, not with social media. It also overlooks the qualities that make Twitter, well, Twitter.
Twitter works for its users because it is instantaneous and spontaneous. It can also be flippant or serious minded, phony or factual. Despite what Drinnan says, this isn’t about how “twitterers” want a piece of the traditional media but how the traditional media needs it to meet increased audience expectations of being allowed to participate. Isn’t the ability to interact almost the whole point of the web?
What Guyon Espiner did in his interview with Phil Goff was hardly a hanging offence. He referred to Twitter and email feedback as a nod to the programme’s online audience and to give a live immediacy to the interview.
While it was a tentative attempt by Q&A to embrace a more participatory ethos, it is a sign that some journalists and news producers understand the big lesson the internet is teaching us. We the audience are just not as satisfied as we used to be with a medium that broadcasts at us. The media many of us are integrating into our daily lives is a more spontaneous organism that grows on participation and mass amateurism and the evidence can be found all over the web.
May 24, 2011 § Leave a Comment
For those of you who are interested in what’s happening at the intersection of social media and the news, there’s an interesting new guide for journalists from the American Society of News Editors that makes interesting reading.
ASNE has surveyed 18 news organisations and the result is a paper entitled 10 Best Practices for Social Media: Helpful guidelines for news organisations. The study was commissioned by ASNE’s ethics and values committee and the author is James Hohmann, a decorated journalist from the American Politico website.
Given the input from media organisations such as Bloomberg, The Guardian, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters and The Washington Post and others, we can assume that its recommendations will have credibility and heft within the industry.
In its executive summary, the report says social media platforms continue to emerge as essential news gathering tools.
“Putting in place overly draconian rules discourages creativity and innovation but allowing an uncontrolled free-for-all opens the floodgates to problems and leaves news organisations responsible for irresponsible employees.”
The one issue that has caused some reaction via Harvard University’s Nieman Journalism Lab is whether news organisations should break news on their website first and not on social media platforms.
“In a news climate that values speed, there are great temptations and added incentives to break news on Twitter or Facebook instead of waiting for it to move through the editorial pipeline. This underscores one of the main values of social media for news organisations, which is to drive traffic and increase the reach of high-quality journalism”.
Cory Bergman on Lost Remote says while editors are important, reporters should be empowered to report in whatever way possible, should the need arise.
“I can see ASNE’s point, but the recommendation is more destructive than helpful for a couple reasons. First, as a news organization in a new distributed world, everything shouldn’t be about driving traffic to yourself — it should be about providing the best possible news service on any platform. And second, the idea that reporters must always work through their editors — even though social media allows reporters (and the public) to self-publish — is increasingly out-dated.”
Another US journalist Joy Mayer, a fellowship scholar at the Reynolds Journalism Institute, says if reporters had to wait until there were links, too many people would already know what the story was.
“I was horrified when I saw this line, but the post goes on to say that there are indeed times when getting news out there, is more valuable than waiting to have a link to share. In general, though, I think journalists, and this set of recommendations, undervalue being a relevant, quick part of on-going conversations.”
Joy Mayer’s advice is to go for it.
“My recommendation would be for reporters to quickly tip their newsrooms first and tweet second – without waiting for the story to appear on the site. First is first, regardless of where it’s posted. Then follow up with a tweet with a link when the story is posted.”
But overall, the reaction to the ASNE guidelines is that they are essentially an endorsement of the need to be professional and ethical, something every journalist should be conscious of in both their professional and personal use of social media. The One Ring that rules them all is Number Two – “assume everything you write online will become public” (and this includes Facebook because privacy settings could be changed in future).
For what it is worth, here are the ten key ASNE points:
1. Traditional ethics rules still apply online.
2. Assume everything you write online will become public.
3. Use social media to engage with readers but professionally.
4. Break news on your website, not on Twitter.
5. Beware of perceptions.
6. Independently authenticate anything found on a social networking site.
7. Always identify yourself as a journalist.
8. Social networks are tools, not toys.
9. Be transparent and admit when you are wrong online.
10. Keep internal deliberations confidential.
If you have a view on any of these guidelines, make a comment below. There are many ways to skin a cat and to report a story. Do these guidelines cover them all and are they the definitive Ten Commandments of using social media for journalists? Let us know.
May 19, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Space may be the final frontier but the sky will soon be the limit for air travellers everywhere as texting, emailing and tweeting become increasingly adopted by airlines and civil aviation authorities all over the world.
Earlier this week, an American woman travelling between New York and Palm Beach, Florida, captured rare and beautiful images of the space shuttle Endeavour as it broke through the clouds on its way into orbit.
Within minutes of sending the images on Twitter, NASA had seen it and a number of American news organisations including CBS and NBC had also joined the party, retweeting Stephanie Gordon’s photos all around the world.
Here’s another photo of what a space shuttle flight looks like at 10,000 metres from the window of a passenger airliner.
This simple act catapulted Ms Gordon to temporary fame as she became the focus of dozens of Twitter messages congratulating her on the images on her iPhone. She also made a brief video of the launch.
As @StefMara, who describes herself as “just a girl who loves her sports and looks forward to working in the industry again”, tells it, simply scroll down to read how the tweets unfolded:
Three things about my flight: I can lay down across 3 seats just fine, it was freezing & I got to see this. http://twitpic.com/4yg4ur
Here’s another Photo of the shuttle from my plane. http://twitpic.com/4yg6hs
Video of the shuttle launch. http://twitvid.com/W5SRJ
@LizStrand @MelissaCarter my plane Flew right past the shuttle! http://twitpic.com/4yg91a
Thanks everyone for the RTs. I am overwhelmed!!!
@StadiumInsider I had to turn off my twitter notifications because it was killing my battery! Thanks for the RT@JimCantore @HeatherCrawshaw
OMG!!! @NASA retweeted my photo!’n
@StadiumInsider CBS & NBC have already contacted me!
I cannot keep up with all the RTs and tweets. This is crazy. Guess it’s a good thing I woke up on my flight!
OMG!!!!! RT @BreakingNews: RT @Stefmara takes a photo of the Shuttle Endeavor from her plane http://bit.ly/kFPjzr
For everyone asking. I was flying from NYC to Palm Beach Airport. Had been sleeping most of the flight.
Hi new followers. Warning, most of my tweets are baseball and hockey. Feel free to continue to follow if you don’t mind sports tweets.
Woohoo! Dad is finally ok with me being on twitter!
RT @MajorMikeLyons: RT @CBSNewsTech: Woman on plane films Endeavor rocketing to space http://bit.ly/moCpXv Way to go @stefmara! @cbsnews
Texting, emailing and tweeting from flights has only become a recent feature for New Zealanders and Australians. It seems Americans have been doing it for some time. Inflight wi-fi is widely available in the United States and, according to this article from last year, over half of American domestic airlines were offering high speed broadband.
Very few people are lucky enough to see a space shuttle soaring above the cloud. It’s a lovely story and highlights yet again how the social web and mobile technology have wedded to unleash a scarcely believable potential to share experiences. It helps to be in the right place at the right time and it wouldn’t be possible without a smart phone.
What are your experiences of using email, texting and Twitter on a flight? I’d love to read your comments.
May 1, 2011 § Leave a Comment
The British Royal Family may be the proverbial old dog but it has learned a new trick. The happy couple at the centre of last week’s wedding ceremony deserve congratulations for their part in a flawless showpiece, and so too does the Royal Family’s communications team, for a beautifully executed social media strategy.
Prince William and Princess Kate represent generational change for an at times moribund institution and there was no better way for it to demonstrate the symbolism of renewal than to embrace new social communications channels to help win people over.
The internet’s intrinsic quality is that it allows people to participate. The Royal Wedding was the perfect global spectacle for people to share in and contribute to the atmosphere on the climactic day.
People could view the pomp and ceremony online live on YouTube, there were Twitter and Facebook feeds, and a virtual wedding book allowed members of the public to post videos and photos wishing the newlywed couple well and gave the punters a chance to big note themselves.
The strategy was well integrated with royal websites, blogs and the social media touch points have been a big hit, enabling the public to connect with event and the people at the heart of it.
The jewel in the crown, if you will forgive the phrase, was the Royal Channel on YouTube which live streamed the event and included video highlights, a map of the wedding route, the interactive wedding book and a way to donate to a charitable fund.
Here’s a good summary from Ogilvy on the Royal Wedding as a social media project. The numbers are testimony to the massive online interest. YouTube lists the number of wedding hits on the Royal Channel – over 5 million channel views and 12 million upload views.
@ClarenceHouse The flypast reaches us at Buckingham Palace – whoosh! #rw2011 #royalwedding
@BritishMonarchy How was the #royalwedding #rw2011 for you? Share your stories on our Facebook app: http://tiny.cc/e96x2
The other good news is that the Royal Wedding did not break the internet although Twitter did go spotty at times on Friday night. It could have been worse if most of the Americas had been awake.
There’s plenty of information online on how the event impacted on the internet and infographics such as this one usefully show traffic peaks as they related to the real time event.
In another interesting sign, guests who may have been hoping to tweet their way through the ceremony at Westminister Abbey were foiled by cell phone blocking technology. But who would want to be the person who forgot to turn their cell phone off anyway?
As to be found with events of this scale, there were plenty of oddities to uncover. How about this as the creepiest Royal Wedding photo ever? Or the frowning flower girl who became a meme? And who was the cartwheeling vicar?.
In the battle of the Twitter hashtags, the winner was #royalwedding which trumped the official #rw2011 hashtag by a ratio of about ten to one.
The role the internet played in the Royal Wedding has been unprecedented. All of this is simply remarkable for an institution that is as old as the hills and not known for its sense of abandon and adventure. The Queen’s Facebook page last year drew criticism for the way her moderators deleted comments posted by anti-monarchists.
Conventions and tradition define the British monarchy. It is a vestige of an Empire that faded long ago and it gets its pulling power from its long and colourful history. But what’s remarkable is that, like many businesses and institutions in the digital age, it appears to have taken on board the lesson that it needs to reinvent the way it relates to the public and the way the public relates to it.
For such a fusty establishment as the British Royal Family to embrace social media and use it to enhance what was already guaranteed to be a massive public relations win for it regardless, is a very positive sign. The young couple in line to take over the throne will be influential by very fact that they have grown up in a world very different from the one their parents and grandparents grew up in.
We may look back on this wedding as the first and most obvious evidence of how William and Kate will eventually get their chance to take the monarchy deep into the 21st century. But unfortunately, they may have to wait for some time yet!
April 12, 2011 § Leave a Comment
The news media faces huge challenges ahead. Social media has and will continue to change the way we find and consume news, and the news industry – which has proved less than nimble so far – needs to prepare or it risks becoming increasingly unprofitable.
Publishers are seeing an increasing number of us receiving our news through social media platforms. The Nieman Journalism Lab for big picture, crystal ball gazing on the future of journalism says 5-15 per cent of traffic to news websites is coming from social media referrals. This might not be a big percentage now but as more people take to social networks, the trend is on the way up. One US survey showed, 44 per cent of news readers use social networks to share news and information.
The buzz phrase for harnessing the power of social media to bring in punters is social media optimisation. It describes how the news media can adopt strategies to optimise the probability of their content being distributed through social media networks.
It stands to reason that news organisations need to harness this human impulse to share interesting stuff by making it easier for their content to be spread by social media networks. One way to prosper is to lead a reader or viewer’s attention from one story to another. Many news websites are very effective at doing this and other less so. But the trend does represent, as Ken Doctor of Newsonomics puts it, “the social web is the new homepage”.
While many news websites have Facebook and Twitter tabs on webpages to make sharing easy, it’s fair to say traditional news organisations have been patchy in coming to terms with the impact of the internet and how news consumption patterns and habits are changing. More and more news stories we are interested in find us through our social media filters and we also like to participate, to discuss the news online and to share it among our peers.
To increase audiences, news organisations and journalists need to learn to engage with them. Being open to feedback can improve the customer’s experience and grow loyalty for the news brand. One idea is for news organisations to encourage their journalists to use their social networks to bring more readers or viewers to a story and make it easy for them to share it.
Journalists also need training in social media. News rooms need to counter any curmudgeonly resistance by old school thinking because they now need staff adept at using social media to increase the organisation’s ability to engage and promote its news product.
News organisations also have to keep up with future developments. For example, many of us will soon be able to live stream news events from our mobile phones. We can already do it on a peer to peer basis but news from YouTube that it will be rolling out YouTube Live means we are so close to realising live streaming citizen journalism onto open internet platforms that can be viewed by anyone with reasonable access to the internet. How will the traditional news media cope?
In the last decade, we’ve been witnessing a slowly unfolding crash between the news industry and the internet. Now social media has added a high speed element. There are casualties especially in the US where dozens of newspapers have closed and hundreds of journalists have been made unemployed. But if your business is based on news, wouldn’t it be foolish to ignore or minimise an increasing part of the connected and literate world that is using social media to share the news?
Let us know your thoughts below. How do you get the news? Are Twitter, YouTube and Facebook increasingly doing it for you? What media organisations use social media effectively and how are they doing it?
And if you have bright ideas on how news organisations can generate more revenue from giving their news content away for free on the internet, I’m sure they would like to hear from you!