Archive for April, 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


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