September 3rd, 2009
If you’re looking for the Next Big Thing in blogging and social media, it’s already here in the form of lifestreaming. Thanks to really easy-to-use (and fun) software by Posterous, lifestreaming and storystreaming are going mainstream.
Inspired by Daniel’s enthusiasm, I have been noodling over what might be the best uses for this at a mainstream media operation. At statesman.com, we ran our first full storystreaming experiment this past weekend, with great success.
I organized how we did it by showing that we followed the steps that Daniel suggested in a recent blog post:
We’ve had 67 days over 100 degrees this year in Austin. That’s hot, even for us. As we zero in on breaking the all-time record of 69 days, we wanted to get the community involved. Posterous, which allows for easy collaboration and easy submission of content, seemed perfect for the job. (Note: Here’s a guide on how to use Posterous.)
We used our popular Weather Watch blog to explain to readers what we wanted. In a nutshell, we wanted their photos and a short description of what they were doing on a hot Sunday. We sent links out through several of our Twitter channels and through the Statesman’s Facebook fan page.
Curating the content
When you create a new blog on Posterous, you are given the option to let “anyone” contribute. We checked that box. It gives you an e-mail address that anyone can use to submit a photo, text, audio, video, etc. When something is sent by an outside user, the owners of the lifestream can go in and see the entries and approve them before they appear on the blog.
At the Statesman, we had several people tasked on that Sunday with checking the queue for new submissions. We approved most of the 70 submissions we received, only ignoring ones that were off topic.
Promoting and syndicating content
We talked up our project as much as possible through social media, though prominent placement on the statesman.com home page and through a prominent solicitation in print. I personally DM’d several influencers on Twitter and was looking on Sunday for people posting Twitpics that fit our guidelines so I could ask them to send those into our project. We set up a Twitter account, @Austinheat, that used Posterous’ “auto post” functionality to tweet links to each entry. We also could have sent the content to Flickr, Facebook and dozens of other services using the “auto post.”
Rewarding the contributors
We showed off the submissions prominently online (it was the centerpiece of the statesman.com home page Monday morning) and in print (we chose some of the better pictures and ran them in our daily roundup in our Metro & State section).
The results for us
We put the photos into a gallery on statesman.com, and it was the top page-view driver for our site on Monday with more than 70,000 page views. We also gained some valuable experience using Posterous and proved the concept for future projects. We published the content we received several ways: Posterous, Twitter, in our photo gallery and in print. That type of cross-platform publishing is healthy.
The results for the community
The quality of the pictures were really good. Some were funny, some were artistic, and all were thoughtful. Through this project, Central Texans could all feel the pain of a hot summer and share a small slice of their lives.
- Posterous is a really good platform. Everyone involved in the project on this end said so, and we didn’t get complaints from the public.
- I wish we had used a Statesman e-mail address (that would forward to Posterous) because “firstname.lastname@example.org” is a lot to type on an iPhone.
- We used this mainly as a way to gather user photos. Considering Posterous’ potential, we could have done much more. Besides photos, there’s no reason we couldn’t curate videos, audio, text, tweets, and other content in a future lifestream project. We will look to use it for a richer experience next time.
- We didn’t syndicate the content out as much as we could have. Posterous allows you to push it out to dozens of platforms. We used a few. Why not a Flickr stream?
- The only incentive we offered was a chance to participate (and perhaps get published in print). Although we pushed this pretty hard, we received only 70 submissions. To really take advantage of this community functionality in the future, we might offer a bigger incentive (a giveaway to the best entry, etc.)
- Despite all the “I wishes”, I thought it was a success. We enjoyed the experiment.
I personally have some more ideas for using this in the future, from eventstreaming the Austin City Limits Music Festival and South by Southwest to storystreaming coverage of a sports season. I know some of my colleagues here were inspired by the platform’s potential as well.
Has any other mainstream media outlet used these techniques effectively yet? I’d love to hear how it went.
— Robert Quigley, social media editor at the Austin American-Statesman