Old Media Interview: Dan Schneider, Denver Post online news producer

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my experiences creating single-topic Tumblr blogs. This got me thinking about news organizations using Tumblr, and what they’re getting out of it.

Dan SchneiderDenver Post social media news producer, was kind enough to talk about the paper’s Tumblr blog, its goals and just how unique its Tumblr readership is.

-Daniel B. Honigman

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When did you start the Denver Post’s Tumblr? What prompted you to do so?

We started our Tumblr in April of 2011, in part because we were aware of some other news Tumblrs, and in part because we’ve been pioneers on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and other social platforms and wanted to continue that trend of experimentation.

What do you see as the purpose of the Tumblr? Do you post the same stories you post on either Twitter or Facebook?

For us, Tumblr is about reaching an audience that we think is unlikely to find us otherwise. While lots of Tumblr users are on Facebook, they may not be as engaged on Facebook as users who aren’t also on Tumblr. Also, there’s less crossover with Twitter (our other truly strong social effort) than with other services. Add that to the demographic uniqueness of Tumblr and we suspect that a sizeable fraction of our readers on Tumblr aren’t finding our news any other way. In part it’s a brand-building effort — getting our name in the consciousness of those who might not see it otherwise. In part it’s an effort to keep our foot in every door that might eventually be a thoroughfare for our brand.

How often do you post? How do you decide what to post?

Mostly I post when I get the chance. Sometimes it only happens a few times a week. I try to let Tumblr guide my choices. I’m a Tumblr user myself, though mostly a student of its phone-photography stars, so I’m somewhat in tune with the tastes and trends of Tumblr as a whole. Along with that, I’ve asked our Tumblr readers what they’d like us to post on Tumblr. I try to choose things that I think have a possibility of viral growth, and things that are relevant and timely and of potentially national or international interest. And I try to mix it up and not just post the same types of things over an over. While I’ve been doing this for most of a year, I feel I’m still in a learning phase with trying to pick content that will get a lot of notice and engagement on Tumblr.

What do you know about the folks that are “loving” or re-blogging your Tumblr posts? Are they local? How much overlap is there with your followers/fans in other networks?

We know that a lot of locals follow our Tumblr. I’ve visited hundreds of their own Tumblr pages and seen where they’re from, what they post and reblog, etc. We know there’s a lot of spam/robot/junk accounts, too, just like on Twitter. We suspect that the overlap is less than with our other social efforts, and other studies indicate that Tumblr users seek out news on the web elsewhere less than average.

What kind of traffic are you getting from Tumblr referrals? Are people clicking through? Does it compare yet with what you’re getting from, say, Facebook, Twitter or Reddit?

I can’t give you any specific numbers on the traffic Tumblr is generating for us, but it’s modest. The click-through rate is not amazing, but the payoff is still good. In my opinion, it’s still worth the efforts we put in because the clicks through are generally high quality (time on site, pages per visit, etc.). It does compare with Reddit, but still lags behind Twitter and far behind Facebook.

Do you have any plans to expand your Tumblr presence? (e.g. create other blogs, single-topic blogs, reporter-specific Tumblrs)

We have two Tumblrs right now; we don’t have any plans to create new Tumblr blogs that the online team would be responsible for, but would be happy to help reporters or section editors that had an idea for Tumblr.

All in all, how would you evaluate your Tumblr experience? What have you learned from using it?

I’d say my Tumblr experience has been great. We’ve picked up a few good news tips from Tumblr and had some great response to things that didn’t have a lot of news value or success in other arenas. I’ve definitely learned more about picking news people will chuckle at and pass on out of the stream, and I think I’ve learned a lot about our Tumblr readers and their news habits (Brian Stelter’s “the news will find me” quote comes to mind) that will be increasingly characteristic of all our readers as social and mobile gain ever-increasing speed in their dominance of digital content consumption.

A lot of folks are starting to look at Pinterest as well as a way of clipping articles and photos to share with a slightly different community? What are your thoughts on news organizations using Pinterest? Any preference to stream vs storyboard-based lifestream platforms?

We’ve had a hard time, like many news organizations, thinking of a way to get value from Pinterest with news content. The majority of opinions I’ve seen agree with the notion that it would be good for features departments — your food critics, travel writers, fashion editors and so on — and I think that’s probably right, at least for now. I definitely think it’s a platform to experiment with, and I’ve been thinking of ways we could ‘break in’ to that network from our newsroom. With news consumption where it is, the industry as a whole should be embracing every possible avenue, in my opinion. My personal preference, if you’re comparing Tumblr to Pinterest, is a Tumblr-style platform. That has to do with how I use it and what I expect to be sharing, though. Pinterest has a tendency to look cluttered to me, but that hasn’t stopped me from spending several long sessions digging through the pins and even repinning a few things.

 

2 comments February 24th, 2012

3 reasons why journalists could make good entrepreneurs

A few months back, I went full time with AdYapper, an early stage startup in the ad space. Since around that time, I’ve been thinking of reasons why I think journalists could make good entrepreneurs.
Why is this important? Newsrooms continue to lay off reporters, and starting a business could be a great alternative to a path in the communications field, which is where many journalists go once they’re done in the news business.
This is not a new concept. (In fact, we’ve blogged about it recently.) Since my time at Chicago Tribune/Tribune Company, I’ve been urging reporters to think of themselves as entrepreneurs within their beats, and within their newsrooms; however, I never really thought of just  why I think the very act of reporting and writing is entrepreneurial.  So I came up with a few reasons:
  • Expertise: The very practice of journalism requires knowledge of a space other than journalism. Other than writing and reporting. And if there’s something a reporter doesn’t know, they learn about it.
  • Hustle: This one really goes without saying.
  • Contacts: Journalists have the right to ask anyone any question, at any time. (Whether they respond is another story entirely.) Through it all, journalists develop great rolodexes, and if they’re good, respect — and a good working relationship — from and among their readers and sources.

I put out a call within my network, asking why they thought reporters could be good entrepreneurs. I got one answer: “Journalists can make great entrepreneurs. Our skill sets are tuned to detect and address relevant problems,” says Jason Goodrich, a former editor at the Chicago Tribune and now CEO of Shortlist. “We get to the ‘why’ by talking with people and analyzing the data. Maybe above all else, journalists tend to possess the right mix of idealism, skepticism and determination to bring useful ideas to life.”

Not surprisingly, Goodrich also thinks there’s a learning curve. “However, being a journalist does not qualify you for startup life,” he said. “Entrepreneurship is about building a sustainable business. Let’s just say that there’s a lot of math involved.”

Just something to think about.

-Daniel B. Honigman

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What do you think? What are some reasons YOU think journalists could make good entrepreneurs? Do you have any examples of entrepreneurship within your newsrooms? Please leave your thoughts as comments below!

6 comments December 13th, 2011

From ONA: Entrepreneurial journalism (life after the mainstream).

With all the layoffs in the news industry in the past few years, it’s easy to get down on journalism. However, journalism is not dead, it’s adapting.

Two people who know that better than just about anyone are Laura Frank and Jennifer Lord Paluzzi. The two former mainstream journalism employees spoke Friday morning at the Online News Association Conference about how they lost, adapted, survived and eventually thrived as journalists.

Frank, who worked at the Rocky Mountain News (which shut down in 2009), decided to create a news startup, the Rocky Mountain Investigative News Network, when she was laid off. The I-News Network is a nonprofit investigative organization that has found its way.

Frank, the networks executive director, says the organization makes ends meet in the following ways:

* Donations and grants (which she said was the seed money)

* Underwriting (the nonprofit world’s version of advertising)

* Partnerships with mainstream media.

* Products and services – As an example, Frank said the organization created a summer camp for high school students interested in investigative reporting.

Frank said the key is to “dip your toe in.”

“I’m not going to launch USA Today right away, but I’m going take steps that lead me toward my goals.”

Paluzzi, the managing editor of Main Street Connect in Massachusetts, said she capitalized on a small-but-growing blog about small-town news when she got laid off.

She said her former colleagues probably belittled her little blog until it grew into a nine-site network. She said they were then saying, “Why did we lay you off again?”

Paluzzi sought to cover small towns that were ignored by regional newspapers, which had cut back on coverage.

“The blog blossomed into something quite bigger than what I expected. That’s the fun part.”

- Robert Quigley

 

Add comment September 23rd, 2011

The next adventure: academia

After 16 years in the newspaper business, it’s hard to imagine doing anything else, but that’s just what I’m going to do, starting at the end of this summer. I am very excited to announce that I have accepted an offer from the University of Texas to be a full-time multimedia journalism professor. I’ll start in August, and I’ll continue at the Statesman through July.

I’m excited because this is a rare opportunity to be part of a major transformation at a great journalism school. The UT School of Journalism recently voted to change its curriculum, putting much more emphasis on teaching all journalism students the necessary tools to succeed in a still-rapidly changing landscape. I expect to be a driving force behind the school’s transformation. UT’s journalism program is already excellent, and I know the faculty and staff there want to push ahead. What sold it for me is the enthusiasm of Glenn Frankel, the relatively new director of the journalism school. He has a clear vision for what they can be in a few years, and he has won over faculty and administration.

The very hard part for me is leaving the Statesman, where I’ve worked since the spring of 1998. Throughout my career here, I’ve had incredible support and guidance from management, including Zach Ryall, Tim Lott, Fred Zipp, Debbie Hiott, John Bridges and Michael Vivio (who has since become president of Valpak). I wouldn’t have been able to do half of what I accomplished without their help. The other major reason I found success in pushing ahead at the Statesman is my remarkable colleagues. They “get it” when it comes to new media, which made my job much easier. Some of the finest journalists in the nation work at the Statesman, but they’re not just colleagues – they’re my friends. I met my wife here. I also met the best man at my wedding here. I will miss mixing it up with everyone in the newsroom, but I’m glad I’ll still be in Austin with them.

I’m not leaving because of anything going on at the Statesman or in the newspaper industry. I know that I could continue pushing the envelope when it comes to social media and new media into the future at the Statesman. I have no doubt that the Statesman will remain a national leader when it comes to social media and new media, and I’ll eagerly follow the Statesman’s social streams to get my news and to interact with the staff. The UT job was just something I felt I couldn’t pass up.

In my new role, I’m looking forward to teaching the bright minds who come to UT. I’ve been a guest-lecturer several times at UT and at Austin Community College, and I’ve enjoyed it immensely each time. I’m also going to blog about the latest techniques in the field of journalism, with professional journalists as my target audience.

This wasn’t an easy decision, but I’m very excited about where it will take me.

- Robert Quigley

12 comments May 6th, 2011

New Tricks: Journalism on demand

Author’s note: This is an old memo I wrote from my days at Tribune Company. I’ve edited it into a blog post and have added a couple of links, but it’s very much a media rant. Enjoy!

What is it about Zappos that makes it an innovative, well-regarded company?

It’s not that Zappos sells shoes and clothes online, and it can’t be because of Zappos’ sleek Web site. (In fact, Zappos.com isn’t the most visually attractive website.)

Every inch – well, perhaps not every inch – of the page oozes, “We care about our customers.” There are links to live chats, and a company phone number is posted in a place that’s easy to find. It’s not buried on some hidden  customer service page. (Read Zappos founder Tony Hsieh’s book, Delivering Happiness, for more on this.)

The fact is this: If you go to any news Web site, how does it feel? Does it feel like the news organization cares about what you think the news is?

Newsrooms are constantly reorganizing and changing the look and feel of their digital and print products, but I believe that there’s a unique opportunity to change the way people actually experience the news.

Here’s my point: Experiment with small, cross-functional teams to change the environment in which folks experience our content. And there are some things that you can gain:

  • A feedback loop or connection with readers that you’ve never had before.
  • Insight that will help your figure out ways to improve the quality of your reader comments. (On this point, this OMNT post is a must-read.)
  • A look into reader dynamics.
  • Experience. This will help teach your community managers, digital producers or bloggers how to wrangle a community.
  • Expand the reach of the online communities you’re trying to build.

Most importantly, this will let your readers know you’re listening in ways mainstream media tends not to. My vision of true “journalism on demand” isn’t just similar to a restaurant comment drop box, but is a living, breathing, dynamic community.

Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  1. A Small group of forward-thinking, customer-centric – not necessarily social media-savvy – folks in your news organization. A reporter. The public editor.  A web producer. A marketing team member. Someone in ad ops. A circulation manager. Anyone who really wants to gain these insights, and someone who likes side projects.
  2. A platform. Start small. Try putting a link on a homepage to a live chat. From there, we can possibly build forums. Events. Anything. Try to make your community vibrant and open, because if you do, you can market it somehow.
  3. A message. If you think of branding your platform from the start, you’ll get support from the  top down.

True journalism on demand can be an industry-changer. Be willing to test technology, timing and figure out what you even want to know. Don’t rush this into looking like a hokey marketing initiative, but a real effort to connect with your readers. (Perhaps, at some point, you can extend this into a chat with your advertisers.)

This isn’t cutting edge stuff, but test with some basics, including forums, live chats, instant messenger (or Skype), and customer service-driven platforms (e.g. Get Satisfaction).

If you do this, it should be a two-way street. In addition to getting ideas from readers, you could pitch ideas to them, asking what they think you should write about. The idea that gets picked will get done in a timely fashion.

Experiment with treatments. Is your execution a blog? A forum? A poll? Is this promoted in a box with a graphic, or as a text link? You don’t know what will resonate until you try.

Lastly, steward the conversation, and have clear, concise rules of conversation. If you’re waist deep in it, you can drive a positive experience for everyone.

What examples of “journalism on demand” have you seen in the news world? Is your news organization doing something along these lines? Please leave your thoughts as comments below!

- Daniel B. Honigman

Add comment April 14th, 2011

The top newspapers on Twitter? Try this list

Guest post by Mathilde Piard

In the past few days there’s been a blog post about the top 25 newspapers on Twitter that’s been making the rounds. In fact, it’s been circulated so far and wide that I’ve heard about it from multiple coworkers who don’t tend to run in different Twitter and/or reading sharing circles as I do, and who were wondering why two of our newspapers weren’t on the list (the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Austin American-Statesman).

The problem with the post over at The Wrap is that it worked off a list from Journalistics.com from the fall. Back then, the Journalistics post only looked at the top 25 newspapers in terms of circulation because it was part of a series comparing those exact 25 papers on Twitter, Facebook, website traffic, and Google PageRank. I commented on the recent blog post to point this out, as did Jeremy Porter, the author of the original list at Journalistics.com. But because Dylan Stableford hasn’t clarified in the post that his list is just for the top 25 newspapers by circulation (although he did update it to include at the bottom a few of the omissions, thank you) and since most people don’t read comments anyway, I figured it would be best to just provide my own list of the top 25 newspapers on Twitter, one that actually goes by number of followers on Twitter, not circulation.

Some will argue that ranking Twitter accounts by number of followers is a load of hogwash, either because Twitter’s recommended list skews things or because it’s not a good measure of “engagement”. The truth is, you could argue the same about any type of metric. Companies don’t share specific traffic numbers, so the only way to compare websites to each other is to use ComScore’s number of monthly unique visitors. Uniques don’t measure how long visitors stay on sites, how many page views they provide, how many comments they leave or pages they share with their friends.

Which leads me to my next thought: we shouldn’t have to resort to manually compiling lists like these of top accounts on Facebook and Twitter (by the way, Chris Snider does this every month for the top newspapers on Facebook). MuckRack has rankings of journalists by beat and region, but only tracks individual journalists, not brands. Jeremy Porter had a great idea when he compared newspaper circulation with other online metrics – but it would be great to see that kind of stuff for more than just the top 25 (mostly national) papers. And why look only at newspapers? I keep secretly hoping Cory Bergman at Lost Remote will compile a list of top TV accounts on Facebook and Twitter, since he’s one of the only ones to cover what local television stations are doing with social media – but again, he shouldn’t have to. (UPDATE: actually, he already did, ha!). Wouldn’t it be cool to compare TV ratings or radio cumes with online stats? And why keep it to media organizations? There are so many brands out there that fudge the line between media, and, well, everything else. Just like ComScore tracks unique visitors for websites, it should also track number of Twitter followers and Facebook fans.

Anyway, here’s my list, and here’s my methodology:

- I used the top of a list that Robert Quigley had compiled on this very blog in the wake of the original Journalistics list (which didn’t really state clearly that it was part of a series comparing how the top 25 newspapers tacked online in a variety of metrics, so it too drew a lot of criticism from people who didn’t get it at first, including myself. Apologies Jeremy!) However, I kept to just the top 25-ish, because frankly I don’t have time to be as thorough as Robert was and go through nearly 200 newspapers.

- I’ve kept the list to US newspapers – no online/iPad only publications and I also took The Onion off the list. Sorry guys, it’s just easier to compare apples to apples. All the more reason somebody like ComScore should be tracking this for everybody, not just newspapers, perhaps not even just news orgs.

- In the case of the San Francisco Chronicle and the Arizona Republic, I went with the Twitter accounts that Jeremy Porter/Journalistics and Dylan Stableford/The Wrap used rather than the ones Robert Quigley had on this blog – as in, @sfgate instead of @sfchron_alert and @azcentral instead of @arizonarepublic. That seemed only fair since Robert’s list used @bostonupdate instead of @bostonglobe and @coloneltribune instead of @chicagotribune. That explains why the Chronicle went from 51st to 18th place, and Arizona Republic from 158th to 25th.

- I also added the Minneapolis Star Tribune, which The Wrap and Journalistics lists did have, but Old Media New Tricks did not. Interesting to note, it looks like the username used to be @mn_news and was changed to @startribune without claiming the old username. So I just did, to avoid someone else perhaps ill intentioned grabbing it. Hey Minnesota Star Tribune folks, if you want @mn_news back, holler and I’ll gladly hand it over.

- Because I removed The Onion from the list, I’m only confident about the top 24 or so listed. Beyond those, I had a quick look around the various lists to find the lucky #25, and that’s how I realized the fudging up of the other accounts like the Chronicle, Republic etc, so I extended the list to beyond 25, as a means or righting a previous slight I suppose J. If I missed your newspaper, I apologize. I’ll happily share the Google doc with you so you can add it yourself, or if you feel like updating Robert Quigley’s list of 200 papers (thus further emphasizing my point that someone like ComScore should really be tracking this stuff instead)

- A word about growth rates since the October lists: The Chronicle, Star Tribune and Washington Post lead with 127%, 91% and 84% (followed by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution with 63% – shameless plug, they are one of Cox Media Group’s papers ;) – and a handful of others in the 40-50% range). Interestingly, there is one account that had a negative growth rate: The Chicago Tribune @coloneltribune account with -2%. Ouch. I wonder what the story is there.

Top newspapers by Twitter followers

See the Google doc.

Piard is the social media manager for Cox Media Group Digital

13 comments April 8th, 2011

Gamify the news by rewarding 3 types of activities

I find myself continuously inspired by OMNT co-creator Rob Quigley’s posts, so I felt a need to expand on the great points he made in his recent post, “The ‘gamification’ of news, and how it can be relevant.”

The gamification of news can be a powerful tool for marketing and reader engagement, but it must be done in a way that rewards all types of readers, based on their level of involvement. (Check out the Forrester Social Technographics Ladder; slide nine here is especially helpful.)

If the news is gamified as a knee-jerk response to industry trends, the user experience may end up not be a relevant one. Before you start to create a game around your publication, you’ll not only want to think about the goals — rewarding loyal readers to increase loyalty is a simple one — but what exactly you want to reward readers for.

I’ve thought of  three main things news organizations want to reward readers for:

1. Reward activity.

This is the most general type of reward, and many sites and platforms do this (Foursquare and GiantBomb are two examples). News organizations can reward readers for reading, commenting on and sharing (Facebook/Twitter/e-mail) stories.This type of reward, however, is easily gamed. Think about all of those erroneous Foursquare and Gowalla check-ins meant only to boost numbers. (This led to our well-received Foursquare etiquette post.)

Rewarding basic reader activity is a great way to get your audience to spend more time on your news site, or to visit multiple times each day. The more local traffic your news organization receives, the more likely advertisers will want to get involved; incremental revenue is never bad.

2. Reward curiosity.

Once your news organization sponsors reader activity on the site, you’ll want to reward readers who take that extra step outside of the basic on-site experience.

Perhaps they follow up on a series of restaurant-related articles by following along with a Gowalla or SCVNGR activity. Reward them with a coupon they can use at one of them. Maybe they consistently read stories about their neighborhood, or their local politician. If this is the case, you might want to invite them to a sponsored summit or activity; for instance, a political debate. If a reader users a “social” ad or promotion, reward them.

3. Reward involvement.

Yes, there’s a difference between reader activity and reader involvement.

The most active news readers and followers are the ones most likely to contribute, or want to contribute — but there’s no way for them to do so.

In my SXSW Interactive panel, titled “Better Crowdsourcing: Lessons Learned from the3six5 Project,” I spoke of the need to involve one’s audience by having a built-in hierarchy of involvement.

In this case, what’s the process for involving readers at different levels?  For users that read the news, how can you get them to read more? For readers that read a lot, how can they contribute? For readers that contribute, how can you make them a more active part of the stories you tell each day?

Can they be a moderator in a reader forum? Can they contribute to a blog? Would your news organization allow them to create a more specialized blog using your publication’s blog platform? If these features don’t exist, perhaps it’s important to consider them.

How big are your calls to action? If a reader submits a tip, not only should you thank them, but perhaps they could earn a special “Armchair Reporter ” achievement for doing so. If a reader posts a valuable comment on a story, they should be rewarded in some way for doing so.

What else can news organizations reward readers for doing? Please leave your thoughts as comments below!

- Daniel B. Honigman

1 comment March 16th, 2011

The ‘gamification’ of news, and how it can be relevant

One of the somewhat-obnoxious buzzwords going around the South by Southwest Interactive Festival is the “gamification” of, well, everything, including the gamification of news. In a nutshell, that means taking video-game style processes and applying them to everything, from the way we educate our children to the way we keep up with what’s going on in the community. Location-based service game SCVNGR’s “Chief Ninja” Seth Priebatsch’s keynote address on Saturday afternoon was all about using game mechanics to interest people to do important but often-mundane tasks (such as succeeding at school).

Some news organizations, notably The Huffington Post, have been keen to figure out how to add game mechanics to online news in hopes of gaining reader loyalty and increasing clicks. Users can earn points by reading articles or play HuffPo’s “Predict the News” feature, which launched at the end of last year.

“Gamification” is a goofy made-up word, but its idea, I believe, has merits. The key, as Gowalla CEO Josh Williams put it during a SXSW panel on Monday, is to make the game useful and relevant to real people, not just the early adopter crowds that attend SXSW.

Foursquare has about 7.5 million users, and Gowalla has about 1 million. Both have been around for two years and have been pushing their services pretty hard. What will it take to push those numbers into nationwide acceptance? Relevance.

Williams, who says he dislikes the term “gamification,” said Monday that virtual “badges are bullshit.” He said to truly reach the masses, these services have to go beyond “checking in” to places or earning virtual badges. For his part, Williams says he wants Gowalla’s service to mean something to people’s lives. He said the goal of Gowalla is to help people explore the world around them and archive vacations, complete with pictures, comments and more — all put into a neat little box that you can review.

Williams makes a lot of sense. There’s some fun to becoming the “mayor” of a location on Foursquare. There’s also some fun to collecting virtual items for your passport on Gowalla. However, it takes earning good discounts, archiving  valuable memories or gaining valuable content — something — to make it worthwhile to the general population. Gowalla, for instance, worked with TOMS Shoes and AT&T to give Gowalla users a chance to earn a pair of shoes (which also means TOMS gives a pair to a needy child somewhere in the world). That’s value that will make people want to keep using your service.

That got me to thinking about what value a news organization could offer by making the news more of a game. There’s no question that mobile and location are going to be an even bigger part of the landscape in the years to come as more people get better smart phones (and as the smart phones continue to evolve at a blistering pace).

So, what if news organizations started adding location data to each URL? This idea came up while I was chatting with Gowalla developer Rob Mack at a party later Monday night. Imagine a reader using her smart phone to open your news app while she’s sitting at a coffee shop. Instead of just the latest, or even hand-picked top stories, appearing on the main page, what if it had a section that showed news that was relevant to the area around that coffee shop? What if the “game” were that users get points for reading the news about all sections of the city (as they travel and check your stories, a map fills in, showing they saw the latest news for that area)? The game mechanic added in could also just be to show which of their Facebook friends had read the same stories, at the same location. So when you log into the app at that coffee shop, it tells you that three of your friends read the news from your site from that same shop. Users could also leave comments on the story that are location-specific or just a tip about the coffee shop (which could be displayed next to your news organization’s review, which also could appear thanks to location tagging).

This wouldn’t be “gamification” just for the sake of having a game. Users would get value in return — relevant, targeted news content and a communal experience.

Other ideas I have for using location to “gamifiy” the news include a fun online mobile scavenger hunt or tagging user photos and news tips at locations, which could appear on a news organization’s website. Or what about giving users a virtual tour of your city, using your news content? That’s exactly what I did for the Statesman — I set up virtual “trips” on Gowalla using the Statesman’s content to get people to explore Austin.

It’s not just the newsroom that needs to be thinking about this. Priebatsch pointed out in his keynote that the reason Groupon is so successful is because it uses game mechanics effectively to hook users. It gives out a “free lunch” by giving steep discounts, it has a time element (clock is ticking on each deal), and it encourages team play by having a “tipping point” before the deal is active. And Groupon is moving into news organization’s advertising territory in a hurry. Why can’t news organizations, which already have the retailer relationships set up, and the news content to make the app worth using, fight to take it back?  Some are trying various Groupon-like services, including  my parent company CMGd, which created DealSwarm. What’s the next step, though? If I could guess, it would be adding that element of location to the mix. There’s huge potential for advertising when it comes to location-based information and gamification. News organizations are used to reaching local retailers, and location is a natural when it comes to shopping. Imagine that that same woman sitting in a coffee shop reading your news learns, thanks to a banner ad or some type of alert, that there’s a sale two blocks away.

These might sound like far-down-the-road ideas, but more and more people are using smart phones in lieu of computers (or newsprint or TV stations, for that matter). It’s time to start thinking about how news organizations can add value in this space. Williams said that a new location-based service starts up “every week” but we forget about them almost as fast. The reason they go away — they don’t focus on value. News organizations have something they don’t — good content. They just need to think about how to use it in new ways … and make it, dare I say, a game.

- Robert Quigley

21 comments March 15th, 2011

SXSW panel: The Rise of International Social Media

I’m honored to be included on a panel that is part of South by Southwest’s new Tech Summit, which is open to all SXSW badge holders and has an international flavor to it. The panel, which is scheduled to be at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday on the sixth floor of the downtown Hilton, will focus on how social media is changing the landscape outside of the United States.

David J. Neff, an Austinite who uses social media for social good, is going to moderate the panel, which also includes Tolly Moseley, a tech-savvy book publicist, and Kate Schnepel, who in on the board of Wildlife SOS, an Indian rescue organization.

For my part of the panel, I’m going to:

  • Discuss whether Malcolm Gladwell is correct in saying that social media is almost incidental when it comes to the changes we’ve seen in the Middle East
  • Talk about the evolution of the media’s coverage of the Middle East situation, thanks to a combination of social tools and old-fashioned journalism
  • Show off some examples of media organizations that are pushing the envelope in their coverage of the Middle East

For those of you who aren’t leaving on Tuesday (or just coming in for the music portion of the festival), drop by and add to the conversation.

- Robert Quigley

Add comment March 15th, 2011

Journalists and SXSW: Why they should go, and what to do there

It’s a time of shrinking newsroom budgets, and often one of the first things to go is the travel budget, especially for conferences. That’s a shame, because conferences are fantastic for fostering innovation in newsrooms. A journalist returning from a good conference should have a half dozen ideas to try, plus new contacts to help make them happen.

If your organization can only afford to send someone to one conference all year, I strongly suggest the South by Southwest Interactive Conference, which begins in a few weeks in Austin, Texas. It’s not your typical journalism conference, but I think that’s part of what makes it so great. Not to knock on other journalism conferences, but in this day and age, I think journalists need to see first-hand how the rest of the tech world innovates.

What journalists will get out of it

  • Networking. The conference is filled with people working on the bleeding-edge of the tech world. If you’ve ever been to a journalism conference, you know that some of the best things you learned and best connections you made happened between panels, during that 20-minute snack break. At SXSW, the halls of the Austin Convention Center are filled with the 20-something CEOs, designers and programmers at mobile, gaming and social media companies — and much more. You’re as likely to bump into Twitter cofounder Ev Williams as you are Jeff Jarvis. Add an incredible list of side parties (and official parties) to the networking opportunities: You can go to a party thrown by Mashable one night and hardcore Android enthusiasts the next. I’ve found that the tech crowd loves journalism, and they’re excited to share their products and ideas with media types.
  • Great panels, mixed with some OK ones. Not every panel is going to be a hit, but there are so many to choose from that if you land in a stinker, you can get up and wander into another one. Some of the best panels I have attended were discovered that way. Before you go, make a game plan of what panels you absolutely want to attend, but be ready to tear up your plan as necessary. I think it’s good to break away from journalism panels and just look for ones that sound interesting, though if you want a good list of journalism-related panels, Poynter put one together.
  • Optimism! I’ve been to a few media conventions in the past few years, and the general mood felt pretty dour. The industry has been beaten down, and it shows. At SXSW Interactive, you won’t see that. Instead, you’ll see enthusiasm for the future and innovations that excite everyone. What journalists need to remember is that a lot of these innovations could be and should be used in newsrooms to not only make our jobs more interesting and make us more valuable employees, but help our organizations’ bottom lines.

So, you want to go this year?

It’s going to cost you. The tickets for the Interactive portion of the festival started at $450 for early registrants, but it has gone up to $750 now. If you’re starting this late, good luck finding a bed to sleep in, too. The hotels are booked within 10 miles or so of the festival, and even hotels on the shuttle route are booked, so include the price of a rental car and just pray you can find parking.

I think if your organization can still swing the higher costs, and you don’t mind trying to figure out the hotel/parking situation, it’s still worth going this year. Otherwise, start planning for the 2012 festival. Book your hotel and purchase those tickets in September. Better yet, submit a panel idea in the summer (it’s great exposure, and panelists get free SXSW badges).

If you do attend, be sure to look me up. I’ll likely be checking out a crazy panel or heading to the TechCrunch party, but I’ll definitely stop, say hi — and share ideas.

- By Robert Quigley


Gowalla CEO Josh Williams, at the Statesman Texas Social Media Awards during SXSW in 2010
Rodolfo Gonzalez/American-Statesman photo

4 comments February 23rd, 2011

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