Posts filed under 'Management Issues'

Talking Lifestreaming on ‘The Kevin Sablan Show’

I was hanging out with Jon Lansner out at BlogWorld a couple of days ago when we decided to, as an homage to our mutual friend Kevin Sablan, record a podcast in his honor.

We talked lifestreaming and storystreaming, but didn’t make fun of Kevin as much as I would have liked. Go figure.

Kevin: This one is for you.

- Daniel B. Honigman (with Jon Lansner)

1 comment October 18th, 2009

New Tricks: Use Trendsmap to discover local Twitter trends

I recently found out about a new tool, Trendsmap, that tracks and visually organizes local Twitter trends.

Finally, a service for breaking news reporters to not only find what one’s local digital community is talking about in real time, but who’s talking about it.

For instance, once I moved over to my region, I found conversations about

You can even drill down further into more of the city’s trends, like so:

Trendsmap Chicago

Screenshot of Chicago Twitter trends (via Trendsmap)

Trendsmap is still in development, it seems. For now, the page defaults to a Los Angeles “home” region. (This can easily be worked around.) Also, not every region is included in the trends; only major metropolitan areas.

Regardless, I’ll be keeping an eye on Trendsmap, and reporters should as well. Through the tool, you’ll be able to find sources and build your readership with key influencers who drive the local news conversation.

Here’s a quick demo video from Trendsmap:

Daniel B. Honigman

15 comments September 25th, 2009

New Tricks: 5 steps to a successful storystream

NOTE: You may want to check out a few of my previous posts before reading this:


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.

My friend Kevin Sablan over at the Orange County Register sketched out what he thinks a storystreaming platform could look like:

Storystreaming platform

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)
  • Joy (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:

  • Twitter
  • Flickr
  • Facebook
  • Other blogs
  • Print product

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!

12 comments September 1st, 2009

New Tricks: Convincing your people to do just a little bit more

If you’ve tried to instigate change within your newsroom, you’ve probably heard some exasperated staff members say something like this: “They keep asking us to do more with less!”

From their point of view, this is what “change” often sounds like:

Not only do you have to do your old job (well), now you have to write stories for the Web, which you didn’t have to worry about even five years ago. Of course, you now have to blog – regularly. And shoot video. Don’t know how to shoot video? You’ll figure it out. Edit the video when you’re done, too. Even the intern knows how to do that, right? Oh, and we need all of this quickly — as in now — because our Web audience is gone after 5 p.m. By the way, you should try Twitter and live chats, too.

It’s not hard to see why they feel like they’re being asked to do too much, is it?

Here are three tricks to help spur that change without sparking a mass exodus of talent out your door:

1. Train them well. There’s nothing that makes extra work feel even more burdensome than not knowing what you’re doing. If you’re asking print reporters to shoot video, identify people in your newsroom who already appear to have a knack for it and have them work with those who do not. Pay for a multimedia expert to come in from outside for training if possible. Editing video is tough. Don’t foist that onto someone without some serious training. If your broadcast news reporters are being asked to write print stories for the Web, bring in a writing coach. Your city’s newspaper might even be willing to ship off a wordsmith adviser for a day in exchange for a video trainer.

2. Pat people on the back when they do the right thing. I once had an editor who never gave positive feedback. When I complained/whined a little that I wasn’t getting any positive feedback, he wryly said, “We expect good. I’ll tell you when you screw up.” That management style didn’t work then, and it certainly won’t work now. Even if you’re not the person’s boss, if you catch them writing a great blog post or starting a good Twitter account, send them an e-mail saying how great it is. CC the top bosses. Telling people they’re doing the right things goes a long way, especially considering the current business climate. Also, make a big deal out of successes. When a staffer’s blog receives a lot of comments, send a note out to the newsroom linking to that entry. Explain why community involvement is good. When you get a news tip through Twitter, let everyone know that is where you got it. When the video page views go up, have the money people stand in front of the newsroom and give a cheery report about the growth in that part of your site. People are more likely to take on new things if they see the tools work.

3. Lead by example. Whatever position you are in, show you mean business by making changes yourself. Write a blog, even if it’s not for your publication. Start a Flickr page and invite people to tag photos from a company gathering. Join Facebook, Twitter, Friendfeed, etc., and use them. It lends credibility to your preaching.

Even your organization’s biggest anti-change die-hards know by now that we’re not going back to 1995. Don’t just talk about change — do something to make it happen.

3 comments November 20th, 2008

Can you make ‘actual money’ on your social media island?

Do you remember this IBM commercial?

An employee is showing off his avatar on a “virtual life” island where he does virtual business. The catch is that his innovation doesn’t make any “real” profits. The boss, in avatar form, berates the employee by saying, “The point of innovation is to make actual money.” The employee sheepishly says, “My avatar doesn’t know how to do that.”

This commercial is funny, but if you’re pushing social media at your organization, you’ve likely had a serious conversation that follows that same theme. If you haven’t, it is coming soon. Your “island” might be your efforts to build a Facebook page, write a blog, get a Twitter presence going or build up credibility on Digg or Mixx.

You don’t want to sound foolish when that question comes up, so here are some answers you could use:

Question: “Making any money on your island?”

  • This effort is more about marketing our brand than a direct dollar-for-dollar payback. If we do this right, our brand is seen as a part of their lives. Besides, these social media tools are (generally) free. We have little to lose by trying.
  • If we don’t do this, then we risk becoming irrelevant. This is the way people are communicating at an increasing rate, and we are in the communications business.
  • This can be used for good customer service. Social media allows for us to respond to customers swiftly and effectively. It’s hard to measure the effect of good customer service, but it is easy to measure the effect of bad or nonexistent customer service.
  • It’s not about making money right now, but this just might make money in the long run. If we don’t plant our flag now and learn to do this the right way, we’ll be behind the curve.
  • We can reach an entirely new audience for our product. That’s the holy grail, isn’t it? With the economy the way it is, now is the time to try to reach out to new people.

Just don’t say, “My avatar doesn’t know how to do that.”

11 comments November 17th, 2008

New Tricks: Dealing with racism within your social realm

If you’ve managed a community that allows commenting or hosts other types of user-generated content, you’ve seen it. Behind the shield of a screen name, the ugliest parts of society sometimes is on full display: racism.

Recently, community managers across the country have had to decide whether to zap or keep comments about Barack Obama that could be considered racist, but the issue comes up often in online communities.

There are no hard rules on this. Each community manager (and organization) has to take a lot of these on a case-by-case basis.

Here are three guidelines that we offer, but we’re interested in hearing how you’ve dealt with this:

1. If there is an clear racist word or phrase in the content, the material is toast, the user is banned and you move on with your life.

2. If the user walks the line by using code words, it’s a little muddier. You might be misreading the author’s intent. Often, it helps to grab a coworker and show him or her the material. Usually, though, your first instinct is the correct one. If you decide you have a racist on your hands using code words, warn or ban the user.

3. If the user is not clearly being racist, but you might be sensitive to a topic (e.g., the person is against illegal immigration strongly, and you see that as being racist because of your own stance), try to get a second — or even a third — opinion. As a community manager, it is still your right to nix any material, but if you come down too hard on the offender, you’ll lose credibility within your community. A heavy handed manager can kill a community.

If you’re a community manager, how far do you let people push the envelope?

16 comments November 13th, 2008

New Tricks: Wrangling an online community

Do you allow users to post material on your site?

If you are the community manager of a Web site that does, ask for a raise. If you’re the community manager’s boss, give that person a raise … now.

Let’s list this poor schlub’s headaches:

1. Users who attack each other personally and viciously. Few things (outside of maybe driving) make people as insanely rude to each other as the semi-anonymity of social networks.

2. Users who walk the line of libel. OK, cross the line and dance all over it.

3. Users who think it’s a sport to find a way around your dirty-word filter.

4. People who use the community to grind their own axes. I’ve seen people get on soapboxes against one individual or niche issue and just never step down.

5. Users who report abuse when the material is not abusive. This is supremely annoying because someone still has to check out every report and make a decision. These users tend to be highly political and report material with which they disagree politically.

What to do?

1. If you are the community manager’s boss, get that person some help. It does not matter how small a community is, if there’s a community, monitoring help is needed.

2. Make sure your community manager has the tools needed to effectively work within that community. The manager must be able to remove offensive material quickly and effectively.

3. Send warning e-mails to abusive users. That sometimes works wonders. People are often sheepish once they realize their anonymity isn’t absolute.

4. Make sure you prominently display great rules of engagement for your users. Enforce those rules.

5. If possible, deputize the “good” members of your community. Give them the power to zap material or even ban bad users. It’s empowering to your “super users” — and they’ll work for free because they just care about the community.

No community is easy to manage, but if you implement these tricks, you might at least alleviate the headaches for a while. Now, about that raise …

2 comments November 11th, 2008


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