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.
2010 really looks like the year of location-based social networks, and the news industry seems to agree. The Metro publishing group recently announced a partnership with Foursquare; once a site user says where they are (done via GPS), relevant articles from Metro’s Canadian papers will be pulled into the program, providing site users additional information about the neighborhoods, restaurants and stores near them.
While this move may make some waves for Metro, and may drive some incremental traffic to the Metro group of sites, some may question the move’s overall value for the news company.
Here are three additional ways news organizations — and the business units that support them — can leverage location-based social networks such as Foursquare to make money and drive some incremental traffic:
Highlight local landmarks, must-dos and other activities in a multimedia tour. Location-based services such as GoWalla and Foursquare were created, essentially, for social urban explorers: people who like to go to new places and tell others about their travels. Local news organizations can encourage their writers to create content about landmarks and partner with advertisers to create promotions and deals for tour goers along the way.
Drive SEO by encouraging local lifestyle writers to post links to reviews/articles on location pages. While not a location-based social network, Urbanspoon allows bloggers to link their restaurant reviews to restaurant pages through a special embed code. (Example here.) Social media leads at news organizations can encourage restaurant reviewers to post restaurant reviews as “tips” on venue pages, feature writers to link to pieces on local landmarks on those pages, and so on. Then, when site users check in to a certain location, they may click through to the newspaper article pages from the network venue pages.
Partner with location-based networks to become their sales force. If a local news organization were to show interest in Foursquare, it could become its local sales division, helping draw in new users, new deals and new locations. The quicker Foursquare, GoWalla or MyTown grow, the more likely that site is to become the location-based social network of the future.
Addendum: Foursquare has announced partnerships with Zagat, Warner Bros., HBO and ExploreChicago. No other news organizations have signed on with the service, but the partnerships, as reported by Mashable, are quite interesting.
At its essence, social media should be, well, social. Thanks to the progression of the Internet, what people want (even expect) these days is to be able to have a conversation with just about anyone at anytime. Whether we like it or not, this is how a lot of people now communicate. We are in the communications business, so it makes sense that we’d embrace it.
Responding to people encourages good dialogue (and good commenters) and is likely to make people more loyal to our product. I often get notes, through Twitter, Facebook or e-mail, from people who express gratitude that I’m listening and responding to their concerns and comments. People seem to think we’re a giant, uncaring media corporation. They’re pleasantly surprised when they get a real human response.
What you should do:
Respond to your reader comments. You don’t have to respond to every comment, but posting a response or two in a thread of comments, even if to just thank someone, is good practice. Here’s an example from a marketing blog of someone doing just that:
Be sure to represent yourself as the author of the story or blog post, and be sure to not be sensitive or defensive.
For those on Twitter: respond to tweets. When people direct a message at you, either privately or publicly, be sure to give a response of some type. If you ignore them, they’ll be less likely to care what you have to say in the future.
Respond to comments left on your news organization’s Facebook fan page. It’s one thing to have the official response, coming with the official Facebook page’s avatar. It’s a step further to see a familiar columnist’s Facebook page responding to the question, giving some more authority to the answer. Jump in to help.
Respond to e-mails. E-mail is old-school social media, and if you’re a staff member, your e-mail is likely out there for the public to find. If you get a question from a reader, taking a few minutes to respond can go a long ways.
All of this sounds like it could be a major time suck, but a quick response or a short reply will often mean a lot to the reader who reached out to you.
That may or may not be an exaggeration, but according to this data, it seems that more people are — at the very least — starting to explore location-based social networks by linking them up to their existing Twitter and Facebook profiles. However, for users who have just gotten used to Twitter and Facebook, these other networks (and how to act on them) may still seem very foreign.
I recently spoke to a reporter about folks who cheat at Foursquare and other location-based social gaming platforms, and was inspired to write up this quick guide to Foursquare etiquette. (NOTE: While I wrote this guide for Foursquare, it may be applied to other location-based social networks or games that involve “checking in” to a location.)
Here are some Foursquare dos and don’ts:
Create new, meaningful locations. Is there a landmark or cool restaurant that hasn’t been added to Foursquare? Do your fellow “Squares” (coining that term for Foursquare users) a favor and add it.
Add useful tips to existing locations. Do you have a favorite dish at a local restaurant? Is there a waiter or maître d‘ people should ask for? These are the tips that make location-based social networks (all social networks, really) cool — it’s the fact people are willing to share their local wisdom and preferences with others. If you have something to say about a given location that you think will help someone else out, take a second and add it.
Edit incorrect listings. Edit locations that have incorrect addresses and/or phone numbers, or restaurants and venues that are closed. By doing this, you’ll find that you may become a Foursquare Superuser in no time!
Share Foursquare promotions and deals with your friends. Know a bar or restaurant offering a great deal through Foursquare? Tell your friends on Facebook, Twitter and in real life. (For instance, there are several I’ve used: The Drawing Room at Le Passage [occasional client] and David Burke’s Primehouse.) The more people use these deals, the more businesses will create special discounts for Foursquare users. Don’t be shy to proclaim your geekiness to your friends — you may save them some money.
Moderate how often you cross-post to Twitter and Facebook. It’s easy to connect your Foursquare account to your Facebook and Twitter profiles; that said, it’s easy to spam your Facebook and Twitter contacts with your check-ins. Be mindful of how often you cross-post, and make sure to cross-post only things you think are important. Going to McDonald’s in a drunken stupor at 4am with someone who’s not your significant other? It may be risky enough to post it on Foursquare, but especially don’t post it elsewhere. (A hat tip to Benedict Wong for this one.)
Don’t accept friend requests from people you only know through Twitter or Facebook. When someone signs up for Foursquare, they have the ability to pull in connections through their Twitter and Facebook accounts. If you get a Foursquare invite from someone you know only through those networks, and you’re not comfortable with them knowing where you are, don’t add them, but don’t get weirded out that you’re getting these requests either. I only become Foursquare friends with people I know personally, but that’s my cup of tea. (Another school of thought: “Don’t like ‘em? Don’t Foursquare ‘em.”)
Don’t check in to places you don’t actually go to. I work on Chicago’s famed Michigan Avenue, and I take the bus to work each day. If I’m active on Foursquare, I may check in to my job, into the Magnificent Mile and to my apartment (not my real address), but that’s it. Some folks, as they commute via bus, train or car, will check into locations they pass by briefly.There’s no reason to check into locations you don’t spend any time at, so don’t do it.
Don’t let Foursquare consume you. Nothing will get you in the doghouse quicker than constantly checking in on Foursquare when you’re on a date. If your Foursquare usage interferes with dates or family time, you’re not enjoying the time you actually spend at that location, so you may want to scale back a bit. If you feel you must check in, however, retreat to the restroom.
Up for discussion:
Retroactive check-ins. It’s easy to forget checking in to a location, but if you remember after the fact, will you bother going back to check in to locations you’ve left? (I know I’ve done this on occasion, which is why I didn’t put it in the “Don’t” section.)
Have I missed anything? Do you disagree with something I’ve said? Please feel free to post any additional thoughts you have as comments below.
Simply put, one builds social media credibility — and value — through engagement, and Twitter enables one-to-one, one-to-many or many-to-many discussions.
Smart Twitter use happens through engagement.
As a journalist, your role is to help provide readers with information and insight to help them answer some big questions: Who should I vote for? Which product should I buy? What does this new law mean, and how will it affect my family?
Twitter audiences love this kind of information. They crave it. In fact, they pride themselves on the fact that they know about news before their friends — just because they’re on Twitter.
While you engage on folks on Twitter, be sure to provide relevant information that makes their lives better, and as you build out your audience, take note of which people like which information. Take it upon yourself educate your audience about your beat, your news organization and yourself.
But it’s not just enough to link to the news; convince your readers just why they should pay attention to you. Instead of tweeting “X law goes into effect today: LINK,” tweet “X law goes into effect today, and this is why it matters: LINK”. You’ll find that your links will get more clicks, your tweets will get re-tweeted and your time spent on Twitter will be more useful.
Engaging and educating are two Twitter essentials, but if you’re not a fun person to follow, people just won’t follow you. Don’t just tweet serious or work-related posts all the time; if you’re at a ballgame, tweet photos from the game. If you’re at a restaurant, post a picture or two of your food.
Have fun with your tweets, so that other people will have fun following you on Twitter.
What other tips — ones that begin with the letter “E” — would you suggest to others? Please add them as comments on this post!
If you are one of the lucky few who scored a Google Wave account, you’ve probably logged in, fumbled around a bit, probably were impressed by the instant nature of it — and you probably got annoyed relatively quickly at Wave’s slowness. If you have enough friends or colleagues who have invites, you might have gotten a peek at Wave’s potential as a collaboration tool.
Having played around with Wave quite a bit, I was ready Tuesday to experiment a bit with Wave’s potential to report and discuss the news. So, I set up a new wave, called it “Austin News”, put out some ground rules and then publicized my experiment through Twitter. Within a few hours, we had more than 100 people talking (mostly) about local news in the wave.
I even embedded a poll to let people say whether they planned to vote on Election Day. Someone went in and edited my poll question to add “or have already voted” since the polls had been opened for a few hours by then:
In five hours, the Austin News wave generated about 70 individual comments, or “wavelets.” The wave overall was a bit slow, somewhat hard to follow and a little buggy. (I couldn’t get a photo to appear, and I think it is because I tried to upload too large of a photo, clogging the system.)
I did, however, see some great discussion; I posted a link to the Texas constitutional amendments that are up for a vote, and people immediately began discussing why anyone should care about them, which are the the most important ones and why. I dropped in topics a few times throughout the day, from the election to the launch of the Texas Tribune to some local economic news. I included links to our stories. People discussed each item as they came in.
There is potential here.
Waves get overloaded after about 50 wavelets, or messages, are added to a particular wave. I’m going to launch another wave tomorrow (a daily edition of waves, of sorts) to keep them from getting too overloaded. I imagine Google will speed this system up quite a bit before opening it up to the public.
It was the first of many experiments on Wave. I’m excited to see where it leads.
- Robert Quigley
If you have any questions, ideas or suggestions, please leave them as comments below!
You can even drill down further into more of the city’s trends, like so:
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.
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!