Less-than-surprising social news

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Did you know that the most recent presidential debate was the most tweeted in history?

Should we be surprised by this?

I’ve failed to understand the point of articles like these. Social media is adding users every day. Some faster than others. So, when a big social event happens, why would we be surprised when we find out it’s the most social event ever?

It happens every year with the Super Bowl. Presidential elections happen even less often, so it’s even less surprising that there’s more social activity than there was two or four years ago.

Perhaps this is a case of superlatives ruling the day. Headline writers using terms like “most ever.”

Have you also noticed that these huge social events are always tied to huge TV and radio media events?

🙂

Youth

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My enthusiasm for the future of broadcasting always crests this time of year.

This is the week my students start showing up to take me online class through UW-Whitewater, Journalism for the Web.

We no longer have to emphasize to students the challenges facing traditional media. They’re well aware, but they’re interested in getting into this business.

They see the challenges, and they want in. That’s what we need.

The challenge for me, as a teacher and someone who is working in the business, is to educate them about the business without making them feel as though they’re working in the same box the rest of us are working in.

We need to do our best to keep them outside this metaphoric box.

The enthusiasm these students bring to broadcasting is infectious. I’m convinced there is a bright future for the business, in large part, because of these students and their hunger to take something they love and build it for the future.

Remember this when you hire them. They are part of the audience we’re trying to reach. Find out what they think, and make sure they can step outside the box every now and then.

Should we scrap website comments?

Image from mantasmagorical on Morguefile

Should we scrap website comments?

NPR just did.

The arguments against website comments are as follows:

  • They’re uncivil.
  • They add little value.
  • They deter voices that might provide valuable viewpoints.
  • They are provided by a small fraction of the total number visitors to a website.
  • Proper moderation take away valuable staff time

I can’t object to these arguments. They’re all valid, and I’m not at all surprised to see NPR scrap them. I expect more to do the same.

I would object to something else I frequently hear from those who advocate for ending website comments: The conversation has moved to social media.

There certainly is a lot of conversation on social media, but I’m not sure why we would want to cede that tremendous engine of engagement to social media companies. We should be hosting conversations on our own websites. We should be leading discussions in our own communities. Why let social media own that exclusively?

I’m confident that there’s a way to host comments on a website in a way that addresses many or all of the objections above. We haven’t found it, but we won’t find it if we stop trying.

 

 

 

Are FB changes actually hurting?

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Facebook has released a series of algorithm updates lately, but have they actually affected broadcasters?

This article suggests that broadcasters have been mostly left unharmed by the changes.
“…the changes have not had a noticeable effect on local news outlets publishing on their Facebook pages — in fact, many markets are seeing their best engagement numbers of 2016.”
That’s not to say that broadcasters won’t be affected in the future. It’s worth paying attention to your performance on a regular basis. The list of variables that affect performance on Facebook is a long one. The more time you spend with those numbers, the more likely you are to be able to successfully diagnose issues in the future.

Police and fire turning to Facebook

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Newsrooms are used to getting news releases sent to their inboxes from local police, fire and other public service offices. But more of those agencies are now turning to Facebook to distribute public information.

It’s easy to understand why. By using Facebook, they can reach the public and the media at the same time, while also bypassing the media. They can do everything with a single post.
But for the media, this can cause frustration.
As I’ve mentioned many times, Facebook doesn’t show you everything. If you follow a local police department, it doesn’t mean you’ll see all of their posts in your feed.
The good news is that you can fix that by changing the settings on the page you’re following to get notifications when they post anything. This, of course, means that you get notified of all posts, including the irrelevant missing puppy posts, and that you get notifications on your personal Facebook account, meaning you’ll get them even when you’re not on duty.
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Unfortunately, there appears to be no stopping this trend.
Do your local public safety agencies do this? How do you work with it? Are there more upsides that I’m not noticing?

Content cultivation

Photo by pippalou at Morguefile.com

When we spend so much time generating online content, it can sometimes be hard to remember that it’s also important to cultivate content.

That is to say that generating the content is only the first step. You also need to present it properly to best serve the audience.

What I’ve seen happen in some situations is what I call the “shoveling” method of managing online content. This is when content is simply shoveled onto a site without much regard for how it’s placed or, more importantly, if it’s even needed.

The audience is busy. They don’t want to sort through all the shoveled content. The audience wants you to tell them know what’s most important. More importantly, they might not want or need everything you’re offering them.

We all know that quantity is important for generating traffic, but what you DON’T produce sometimes matters as much as what you DO produce.

There’s no shortage of information on the internet. Users can find it. What they really need is someone to cultivate it for them. That might be the most valuable skill for tomorrow’s digital journalist.

Mashable

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I don’t like to make any assumptions about anyone’s media consumption habits, so forgive me if you’re already a reader of Mashable.

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If you’re not a reader of Mashable or any other digital-first media site, then I suggest you take a look. It’s what a news website looks like when it didn’t start with a broadcast or newspaper company.

Take a look at what makes the site different in terms of site design and content. Do you find that you’re producing the type of content you see on Mashable? Are you producing more of it than you used to?

I’m not here to declare one model better than the other, but I do encourage those of us in broadcast to take a close look at what the digital native companies are doing.

We’re not going to replicate them, nor should we feel obligated to, but they’ve approached journalism with a fresh set of eyes. That kind of insight is the kind we should be hungry for.

Lessons about Facebook Live

Most newsrooms have at least experimented with Facebook Live, but the uses have varied.

New platforms are always a good way to get newsrooms thinking creatively.

NPR got into Facebook livestreams in a big way shortly after the feature was launched. Two months later, they’re talking about how it’s going.

“It’s all part of a bigger mandate at NPR to do more and better live content.”

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The first lesson: Don’t go live just to go live. This is a common trap for newsrooms trying new technology. Technology often gives us a solution to a problem we haven’t found yet. That leads to confusion about when and how it should be used. You need to have a purpose and a plan when you decide to go live.

NPR also found a huge audience for live news and explainers. Based on what I’ve seen, I think many newsrooms that have been spending time with Facebook Live have found that there is a large audience there…perhaps even larger than what they’ve previously been able to generate from native livestreams.

Livestreams have been available for longer than the majority of the audience has been looking for them. It’s a technology that, thanks to Facebook, is finally finding mass appeal.

My question: Can that be translated into more popularity for native livestreams (that can be more easily monetized)?

NPR’s final conclusion is that engagement is what matters most. That’s always been the case for Facebook. Engagement is the currency of social. Livestreams need to generate reactions, comments and shares.

How is your newsroom using Facebook Live? How are you using it outside the newsroom (promotions, events, etc.)? Tell us what’s working for you.

Let’s not panic about the FB news feed tweak

Everyone is writing an article today about FB’s decision to tweak it’s news feed to give more time to friends and family and less time to publishers. Here’s my two cents:

Two things:

  1. Don’t panic.
  2. Don’t be surprised.

It’s not clear now much this change will affect publishers. I’m sure there will be some effect, but I don’t think the effect will be dramatic. Facebook needs still needs news content and publishers, including broadcasters, are a huge supplier. We’ll probably lose a little traffic, but let’s not lose any sleep over it.

On the second point: We should not be surprised when Facebook decides to do whatever it wants to do with its platform. Broadcasters needs to be on Facebook, but we cannot depend on Facebook. It’s not our platform. It belongs to someone else. We don’t have a say in what they do with it.

We’ll keep plugging along and looking for new ways to exploit the FB algorithm, and they’ll keep changing it to stay ahead of us.

You can at least rest easy knowing that you and your competition are in the same boat.

Rethinking the news “product”

I like to follow the words and writings of Jeff Jarvis, and not because I buy everything that he writes, but because I want to buy it.

His main thesis is that news organizations (he spends a lot of time writing about local TV news) needs to stop thinking about news as a product and think of it instead as a service to our audience.

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Jeff Jarvis

This rings true to me, so I continually wait for him to explain what he thinks this means in terms of now newsrooms should actually be structured and run…and how it would better work to pay for news.

In a recent writing, Jarvis delivers a line that summarizes his ideas nicely:

Only when we reconceive of journalism as a service rather than as a factory that churns out a commodity we call content, only when we measure our value not by attention to what we make but instead by the positive impact we have in lives and communities, and only when we create business models that reward quality and value will we build that quality and value.

See what I mean? This is a great idea, but where’s the business model?

Still, as we think of the long term survival of digital news, I think Jarvis is promoting the correct paradigm.

Can you envision a future where broadcast journalism is funded by a model that rewards quality and value delivered to users, instead of pageviews?