Good Read: Nic Newman on Social Media and Journalism
Nic Newman, a BBC journalist, has written a paper for Oxford University’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism that’s a pretty great overview of how social media is changing the daily practice of journalism and how it may be changing readers’ habits.
The paper, available here in PDF format, will take a while to go through but is well worth the effort, surveying social-media efforts from the likes of the BBC, the Daily Telegraph, the Guardian, the New York Times and CNN and drawing a number of interesting conclusions.
These were some of the highlights for me:
- Newman’s examination of the BBC’s efforts to mix live user comments with the news, which began with BBC Sport and is now being extended into the news. Newman calls this a new style of journalism based around live events, taking the form of “an unfolding conversation in partnership with audiences.”
- This intriguing quote from the Daily Telegraph’s Shane Richmond: “The real question in a social-media context is not whether content is good or bad, but whether it is relevant to the audience.” I’d hate to see the hay a Wikipedia hater would make with that quote, but it made me think back to the locals, which never got much credit as journalism but might be more valuable in building engagement with readers than another Pulitzer Prize in the lobby.
- The Telegraph’s My Telegraph experiment with giving readers space to blog is often discussed as a foray into user-generated content, but Newman discusses one benefit that might be more valuable: Those platforms make readers who are already active and highly engaged identify themselves even more strongly as Telegraph readers, potentially turning them into “super-advocates” for the brand.
- This wise quote from Reuters’ Mark Jones, on stories such as the Iranian elections and how news organizations’ duties are changing: “Our job now is packaging raw feeds from many sources and filtering it to prove audience big enough to make a difference.”
- The BBC’s Mark Thompson, on the line between the personal and the professional for journalists engaging with readers (and building up their own brands) through social media: “There really isn’t a Chinese wall … What you can’t do easily is take off the cloak of the BBC and put it back on at will.” That’s good advice on a subject I struggled with earlier this week.
- Hitwise’s observation that automated Twitter feeds from news organizations get the most followers, but the least clickthroughs. What drives clickthroughs? It’s journalists who authentically engage on Twitter.
There’s also a very intriguing section about the concept of “participation inequality,” but I need to think about that part a bit more — I can feel it crying out to become its own post. At any rate, the paper is highly recommended. Read it!
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