Here’s a quick video I did for Bryan Person at LiveWorld when I was at the BlogWorld Expo 2009 (#bwe09). It’s geared mostly at brands curating their streams, but there are some ideas journalists can take away from it, I think.
I recently wrote a white paper on lifestreaming for Weber Shandwick. In it, I discuss what a lifestream is, how brands can take advantage of lifestreaming platforms, but also how journalists and editors can take advantage of storystreaming and eventstreaming, and what types of newsy content can be streamed.
In addition to the Austin American-Statesman’s recent storystreaming efforts, the St. Paul Pioneer Press has also been using Posterous in some recent crowdsourced journalism projects: “Minnesota Sports Heaven” and “Snow Shots.”
The journalism-related portion is on page 10 of the paper.
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.
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.)
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 “email@example.com” 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
Journalism and social media go together like peas and carrots. (Or, as I prefer, cinnamon ice cream and hot caramel.) You spread social media technologies, philosophies and practices in your newsroom, and as a result, your co-workers may have created Facebook accounts. They may dabble on Twitter. In fact, they may also blog in addition to producing content for print.
These tools are all great as far as information gathering, story distribution and digital brand-building, but they’re not really innovative as far as storytelling formats go. One question I hear a lot from journalists is, “Is this all there is to social media? From a journalistic perspective, what’s next?”
As you know, I’ve been on a bit of a lifestreaming kick over the last several months. Predictably, my short answer has been this: “Storystream your content.”
A storystream helps bring to light, through a chronological narrative, a particular issue, process or concept over a more significant period of time than an eventstream usually covers. Used journalistically, it turns into a collaborative stream of consciousness that tells a story.
Good stories have multiple characters, and a storystream should be no different. For your storystream to be successful, it must consist of multiple points of view. Think of your storystream as a collaborative or collective narrative, with multiple authors.
Storystreams are new. Storystreams are different. And, most importantly, a storystream can connect a publication to its readers like never before.
Here are some steps to creating a successful storystream:
1. Establish a theme/set parameters: Creating a stream to document the life of an entire city would be immensely difficult. Whether the framework is rigid or abstract, it’s imperative to create parameters for people to express themselves. Some examples:
Chicago at night (specific)
Hurricane Katrina cleanup (specific)
The color blue (abstract)
In addition, you’ll need to set rules. Be very specific on the types of submissions you’ll accept, its guidelines — character count, photo resolution, video length, etc. — and, if applicable, content rights.
2. Recruit contributors: Individuals may be able to carry one part of a story, but if your storystream has multiple authors, there will just be more content your readers can relate to.
Think of all those times you asked your readers for user-generated content. It probably seemed a bit disjointed from the rest of your publication’s journalistic activities, or just an afterthought, no? Recruit your readers in the real-time telling of a particular story, and you’ll have more than one person to help you spread the word about your storystream.
For its recent “A Day in the Sun” storystream, the Austin American-Statesman announced the project on its site, on Twitter and Facebook. Announce your project in multiple media with “you”-centric language. After all, the storystream is about your readers, not you per se.
One more note: When you recruit, be sure to refer back to your theme and guidelines regularly.
3. Curate your content: Once your storystream has new contributors, you’ll need someone to oversee the flow of content — and questions — you’ll get from them. Is it the content what you’re looking for? Is it good content? Does it fall within the guidelines you laid out earlier? Curate before you publish and the story will be clearer and better.
4. Promote and syndicate your content: After your storystream begins, talk it up! Re-post your content on:
Tell your friends about your project. Tell co-workers, digerati — both local and non-local — and explain to them what the project actually is. They may be so excited, they’ll want to contribute or spread the word.
5. Reward your contributors: Come up with some incentive for your readers to contribute. Invite your storystreamers in for an exclusive tour of the newsroom. Give them a percentage off their newspaper subscription for a couple of months. Give them a T-shirt. Buy them a beer. Do something.
If you follow these steps, your storystream will bring your readers closer to you than ever before. It will also get them excited to be a part of your news brand.
As always, if you have any suggestions, please feel free to post them as comments below!
I’ve recently signed up for Posterous, a lifestreaming site that may very well be the next shiny Web 2.0 tool.
What is lifestreaming, you ask? It’s a way of aggregating your life — photos, videos, articles and blog posts — in one place. In a recent post, I say lifestreaming can be thought of as a linear, time-based scrapbook. A Web 2.0 version of “Being John Malkovich,” sort of.
It’s simple enough to sign up for Posterous:
1. First, go to the Posterous registration page. Select your URL — e.g. YourNameHere.Posterous.com is the default, but you can install Posterous as the CMS on your personal blog — as well as your password. Enter your contact e-mail address. One word of advice: Use an e-mail account that you can access from your mobile device easily; this way you can upload photos and videos directly to your page, instead of just using SMS for the posts.
Be sure to fill out your profile completely. Add a bio and a photo, because if you don’t, your page’s sidebar will appear quite sparse.
2. Create a contact on your phone for Posterous. Enter the telephone number in as 41411. (It’s a short code — definition here — so that’s why the number is only five digits. Enter the e-mail address as post [at] posterous [dot] com. (Use the actual symbols for “at” and “dot,” not the bracketed words. Just saying.)
Now create some test posts, like I did here and here, just so you can get the hang of it. If you have the iPhone 3.0 software, you can even upload your audio recordings directly to the site by e-mailing them to post [at] posterous [dot] com.
3. Add the “Share to Posterous” link to your browser. This will make it easy for you to take any content you want from the Web and post it directly to your Posterous site. Go to this page, scroll about halfway down, and literally drag the button to the top of your browser.
Click the “Share on Posterous” link on your browser, and a window will open, like so:
Chances are the picture’s file name will be the default headline. Change the “title” field to whatever you want your post’s headline to be. Post your written content into the “Your Comment” field below the photo. (Warning: Be sure to change your headline now, because you won’t be able to re-save it for SEO purposes. To change the URL, you’ll have to start all over. You don’t want to do that.)
5. Share/post a story through the bookmarklet: Say there’s a story you want to share on your Posterous page. Simple enough. First, find the URL for what you want to share. Then click on the Posterous bookmarklet. A similar window will pop up.
If the story has one main graphic, it will automatically show up in the box. If the page has multiple graphics, you’ll be able to cycle through them. If you don’t like any of them, just click on the picture — the HTML code will show up — and just delete it.
Add some text below the graphic, and be remember to give your post a title. You should end up with something like this.
6. Post content via e-mail: Just open a blank e-mail — it must be from an account you registered on Posterous — and enter your headline in the subject box. Now enter the body text as the main e-mail message. Send it to post [at] posterous [dot] com.
7. Post content via your mobile phone: Posting content from your phone is simple. There are several ways to do it:
Post via SMS: Just write be sure to write the word “POST” before the text you want to be your headline. Text it to 41411 and you’ll get something like this. Unfortunately, your post won’t have any body text initially, just a headline. You can always go back and change this later, though. NOTE: One thing — if you post via SMS, your full text will appear, but the post URL seems to have an 81-character limit.
Post via e-mail: just open a blank e-mail and send it to post [at] posterous [dot] com. Your post headline will go in the subject box and the body text will go, well, in the body of your e-mail.
You can also send cell phone photos via e-mail. If you’re using an iPhone, first make sure you upgrade to iPhone 3.0 software. Open your Camera Roll, select one or multiple photos and “Copy” them. (You can do this with the upgraded software.) Then open a new e-mail and “Paste” the photos into the body of the e-mail. To add text above the photos, just type it above the first photo. Your final post will look like this if you have one photo or this if you have multiple photos. Nifty, huh?
8. Now it’s time to link Posterous to your social media accounts. Posterous allows you to link your profiles on Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Vimeo, as well as your WordPress, Blogspot or Xanga-powered blog for either automatic or select syndication. Just click the “Add a service” button at the top of the page, and Posterous will set it up almost automatically.
If you only want to post to one page, just e-mail your posts to [name of the service] [at] Posterous [dot] com.
At your newsroom or company, you’re probably either the one being pressured — or doing the pressuring — to start getting social. Right?
You may start by creating a Facebook fan page, or a Twitter stream. But something is missing. Facebook may seem like great place to promote what you’re doing, and Twitter is an easy way to interact with your customers in real time, but neither are as visceral as you’d like.
Farewell, status updates. Hello, lifestream.
Most of the information we consume in this new media age is either presented in a traditional format (e.g. a newspaper Web site or blog) or a mishmash of data points (a la Twitter, the Wild West). If you think of a lifestream as a linear, time-based scrapbook, you’ll see the benefits of lifestreaming immediately. It’s a completely new way of gathering, documenting and syndicating information.
If you want to document what’s going on with your organization, if you really want to aggregate and present your content in a slightly more formal way, document your conversations and other relevant Web content, perhaps a lifestream is the way to go.
This isn’t to say status updates will disappear completely. The live-tweet is not completely useless. But just think: If you’re at a conference, for instance, you might post some things to the lifestream and still have tweets as well for just short missives. There’s a good chance you won’t want every one-liner posted to the lifestream.
However, if you want to compile several photos in one place, or post an audio or video clip in a more formal location, publishing it to a lifestream may be easier; your content can then be automatically posted on your social network(s) of choice.
For instance, I recently posted this group of mobile photos on my Posterous blog. Not only was I able to e-mail the photos straight from my phone to the page, but Posterous arranged them into a gallery…and then the photos were automatically compiled into this Facebook photo album.
A lifestream is, among other things, more of a real mobile blog than Twitter ever could be. With both Posterous and Tumblr, you can post photos and text via e-mail or SMS. (Note: Here’s a great comparison of the two services. Mashable did another comparison here.)
Imagine if your news organization presented its news in a blog format. Now imagine if the blog could be completed by reporters on the scene, who post instant photo galleries, sound clips and video. You could get a much better look at a particular topic, product or event, and you could easily trace the arc of a that particular topic, product or event.
For instance, if you have a crew of reporters at Austin City Limits, you could enable your reporters to post on the blog, but you could enable select citizen journalists to create posts that would appear alongside yours.
For agency folks, perhaps a lifestream would be a much better PR tool than a Twitter account, which would primarily be used for customer service and engagement.
Pretty cool, huh? For lifestreaming, we think the possibilities are endless.
Have you or your news organization/company ventured into lifestreaming services like Tumblr or Posterous? If so, please post a link to the page! Would be interested to learn about your experiences.