Posts Tagged ‘social media’

Silencing media doesn’t work anymore in a citizen journalism world

Wednesday, July 22, 2009 21:53 - by

Recently Lebron James was dunked on by Xavier University Jordan Crawford at James’ Skills Academy in Akron, Ohio, and Nike tried to stop video from getting out.

The problem for James and Nike is that they forgot that we live in a world of Flip Cameras, cell phone cameras and plenty of ways to capture and disseminate video without professionals. Sure, Nike was able to stop professional videographers from sharing video by confiscating their video, but silencing professional media outlets isn’t a good way to stop information from being disseminated.

In many ways, the rise of citizen media is allowing for a greater defense of the First Amendment and freedom of expression. Now would be censors have to realize that it’s not easy — if not near impossible — to stop every single citizen from documenting what they witness. We’ve seen this in China, Iran and other parts of the world.

Stories will be told with or without traditional media outlets. In fact, citizen journalists are willing to show far great portrales of the world (citizen journalists don’t know or care about the Rice Krispies test). Instead of often sensitized Western media reports, citizen journalism is willing to show us the horrors of oppression and civil unrest.

Instead of actually stopping information from flowing, governments and, in this case, large corporations merely paint themselves as overbearing censors and bad guys. Sure, Iran, China and Nike were able to stop professional reports but they were miserable at stopping citizen journalists.

What did Nike end of accomplishing? They created a monster out of a rather pedestrian dunk in a pick-up game (check out the dunk yourself). They sullied their own good name and the name of Lebron James. And, of course, the video of the dunk got out anyway.

Twitter users seem to agree that the hype around the dunk was way bigger than the dunk itself:

realhiphopfan88 lebron should never have hid that video the uproar was worse than the actual dunk he made it more of a big deal than it really was smh

LouisburgCoach The craze is over & the video is out: Lebron James gets dunked on. Hyped WAY too much but…

Watts4 Ok yea LeBron got dunked on but It wasn’t as bad as they made it seem! It was kinda weak to me….

a_jucks @OGOchoCinco did you see the “dunk” over lebron?? why did they make a big deal about that? it wasnt that bad..

Guruofsports just saw the Lebron gettin yammed on it wasnt that bad.. damn somebody dnt kno how to take a L

DjFonzie I can’t believe all the hype over the lebron dunk.

Now both China and Iran are totalitarian regimes that afford their citizens few rights by Western standards. They are often censoring media — particularly foreign media — because they don’t want their often grotesque acts of oppression being noticed. And a large part of running a totalitarian regime is controlling the flow of information.

In Nike’s case, they turned something that was barely news or not news at all into a major story in the sports world. They also hurt the reputation of one of their biggest stars.

And for what? I don’t know. What I do know, is that Nike shows us that there are plenty of big corporations out there who don’t get how social media and citizen journalism work.

I think traditional journalists should take this to heart. Would be censors may begin to realize that censorship is futile in the age of citizen journalism. That realization may never come, but I do know that censorship just got a whole lot more difficult.

Using social media is a key to understanding it

Thursday, July 9, 2009 12:23 - by

Mashable has a piece today noting that the new social media editor at The New York Times doesn’t appear to be very active on social media.

We think the answer to their question is clear as day. Yes, of course a social media editor should be all over social media.

News orgs should have social media phenoms as their social media editors. Someone who eats, sleeps and breaths social media. A journalist who can’t get enough of it and understands how social media can improve journalism.

Now, maybe @NYT_JenPreston will become that phenom, but she has already called her role “more internal,” meaning that she doesn’t plan on being more active on networks like Twitter, at least for the time being. I can’t imagine how someone who isn’t actively engaging in social media can direct others, especially on what’s next.

Certainly, you can listen to what others are saying, read sites like BeatBlogging.Org and grok what is and isn’t working on social media. Being an avid social media user, however,  is probably the only way to innovate and see what’s next.

There are some very talent social media editors at traditional news organizations: Robert Quigley and Andrew Nystrom come to mind. Both are dedicated social media employees who were into social media before they got jobs in social media, not after. By being active and passionate social media users, I think they are well positioned to see what’s next and how to make their news orgs’ use of social media better than the rest.

We certainly wish Ms. Preston the best of luck at the Times and hope she does a wonderful job in her role. We do think she has a point about listening, and many so-called social media experts would benefit from more listening. By listening, she’ll certainly be able to understand what others are doing and why they are doing it. In the end, however, we think being active on social media (and loving every second of it) is a key part of being a social media editor.

I do a lot of listening and researching for BeatBlogging.Org, but many of my best lessons were learned from doing (and sometimes falling flat on my face). I’ve been a Twitter use since 2007 and how I tweet and why I tweet has changed considerably since I first started. I’m always learning new lessons by both listening and doing.

Social media is one of those things that is hard to fully understand and appreciate without getting your hands dirty. It is, in many ways, quite similar to blogging. Most people don’t fully understand the power of blogging until they do it. But for most bloggers (and social media users) there is that ah-ha moment, and I’m not sure if that ah-ha moment can come from just listening and researching.

I think what has been most important for me in my social media research and use has been my enjoyment of social media. Most successful people on social media (outside of celebrities) are successful because they genuinely enjoy being on social media and interacting with people. I don’t mind following both my personal account @jiconoclast and tracking what people are saying to @MsBeat, because I genuinely enjoy my time on Twitter.

Clay Shirky: Every time a consumer joins the new media landscape, a producer does too

Tuesday, June 23, 2009 14:07 - by

Above you’ll find Clay Shirky’s excellent TED talk about Twitter, social media and the Internet and how these technologies have forever changed media.

“As recently as last decade, most of the media that was available for public consumption was produced by professionals,” Shirky said in the video. “Those days are over, never to return.”

The biggest take away from this excellent talk is that consumers are now also producers. The same tools that allow us to consume a variety of content on the Internet — text, photos, video, etc — also allow us to produce that content. It is both easier to consume content than ever before and also easier to produce content.

“Every time a new consumer joins this media landscape, a new producer joins as well, because the same equipment — phones, computers — lets you consume and produce,” Shirky said. “It’s as if you bought a book, they threw in the printing press for free.”

This presents a fundamental challenge for content producers. Content producers must find a way to add value in a world with ever increasing producers of content. Anyone with a computer or a mobile phone can be a content producer.

Rather than belittle so-called citizen journalists, professional content producers need to find a way to work with, not against amateur producers. I think there are several ways to do this:

  1. Curation — The biggest problem with citizen journalism is not that no one will report for free, but rather that so many people are willing to report on the world around them. There simply is a glut of information. Professional curation suddenly becomes a valuable commodity. Is Andrew Sullivan reporting live from Iran? No, but he is providing excellent curation of what is happening over there. There is a real need for knowledgeable and patient people to sift through all of this citizen media and pick out the best of it.
  2. Analysis — Citizen journalism is all about micro details, but it’s poor at providing a macro view of a situation. Professional journalists are in a much better position to look at citizen journalism from above, combine what they see there from professional reports and provide macro analysis.
  3. Trends — Citizen journalism is much better at providing the details of crime in a neighborhood , but citizen journalism isn’t very good at identifying trends in data. Citizen journalists can provide the on-the-ground details (with help from pros from time to time), while professional journalists spend most of their time identifying trends.

Shirky also points out that social media is not just a place to report information, but also a place to discuss what is happening.

Social media, the Internet, computers, cell phones, etc are not going away. Rather than bemoan these changes, content producers need to figure out ways to thrive in this new reality.

“Media is increasingly less just as source of information, it’s increasingly a site of coordination,” he said. “Groups that see or hear or watch or listen to something can now gather around and talk to each other as well.”

The tweeted revolution: how social media cannot be silenced

Monday, June 15, 2009 23:51 - by

It’s starting to become a little ridiculous for people — many of them old-school journalists — to deny the power of Twitter, especially in light of what is happening in Iran right now.

I can offer no great insight into who really won the recent presidential election, but it is clear to everyone that many people in Iran are not happy and feel they have been screwed over. Again, however, it is social media leading the way for coverage. If you want to know what’s really going on in Iran, Twitter is the place to be.

Right now, four of the top trending topics on the service are IranElection (No. 1 right now), Tehran, Iranians and TwitterReschedules. The last topic is about how Twitter has rescheduled routine maintenance, as not to disrupt the current chatter about Iran. It’s a good thing that Twitter at least recognizes the seriousness of this situation, because many in at traditional media outlets haven’t paid much attention to this unfolding story.

The Iranian government controls the media. The BBC even believes that Iran is responsible for their satellite signal being blocked in the region. That’s exactly where a subversive social media technology like Twitter comes in.

Decades ago, a totalitarian government could have made it extremely difficult for the outside world to know what was happening in their country. To this day, North Korea and its internal workings are shrouded in mystery. State-run media can silence dissidents internally as well.

Huge Rally in Support Of Mousavi, Tehran

But no government has found a way to silence the broader Web. Sure China tries, but even the great firewall has great cracks. In Iran, we are seeing that the Web — and more specifically social media — cannot be silenced.

What makes Twitter such a subversive tool is that it is so hard to block and stop. Anyone with a mobile phone (and there are many more mobile phones than computers in the world) can post to Twitter. Those with more advanced phones can upload photos and text via the service. It’s difficult to stop millions of people from sharing their experiences via a network like Twitter.

Sure, Iran is trying to block all this information from coming out, but that’s far easier said than done. On the Web, even if the government finds a way to block a Web service, it won’t stay blocked for long. Alternative proxies and other workarounds quickly propagate throughout the Internet.

Beyond the merely technically is the shear scale of the problem for the Iranian government. There are lots of social media sites out there to try to block, and even if the government managed to block all of them, it would still have to contend with millions of blogs. The beauty of the Web is that it allows anyone’s voice to be heard.

Huge Rally in Support Of Mousavi, Tehran

For the real story, one needs to be on Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, etc. The mainstream media like CNN have been woefully inadequate in covering the turmoil (although they have been coming around). In fact, for most of the weekend, did not feel the unrest in Iran was worthy of being the top story.

Ironically, it was Twitter users who slammed CNN the hardest. #CNNFail become a popular hashtag on the service as angry users slammed the network for taking such a caviler approach to this issue. Ever since then, has taken a far more serious and in-depth approach to the upheaval in Iran.

Here is what some Iranians are saying on Twitter:

“I’ve learned something today. Americans DO care about the world outside America. Their media just doesn’t.”

“Non stop sound of shooting heard in Tehran.”

“Just saw pics of dead bodies. Bodies of young iranians. Got sick and cried for hrs.”

“Good night. viva freedom. viva truth. Hope a better coverage by media. That’s our only support.”

“I’m so tired and going to get some rest while I know there r people & students in streets fighting for justice.”

YouTube big in coverage too

Not only are people sharing powerful images and text via Twitter, but a myriad of user-generated video is appearing on YouTube. These are the kinds of video that traditional media outlets rarely get. These are also the kinds of video that the MSM may hide from the public because they are too raw (read: to real).

For instance, take this video of a crowd of protestors being shot at:

Here is another video of protestors chanting into the night:

Professional journalism bringing analysis, insight & context

There is, of course, room for professional journalists in this equation. Professional reporters can make sense of all these tweets, photos and videos. Professional reporters can also offer additional on-the-ground insight.

Beyond that, professional journalists can offer analysis and try to answer the why question. The ideal future of media involves a collaboration between citizen and professional journalists.

These are the kinds of stories you won’t find originating on Twitter:

All of these photos come via Flickr, another social networking site that is helping to spur this revolution.

Monday Dose of social media: Twitter = traffic

Monday, June 15, 2009 11:34 - by

For TechCrunch, Twitter = traffic (a statistical breakdown) — Twitter has been a big traffic driver for BeatBlogging.Org and for many other blogs and Web sites.

TechCrunch receives almost 10 percent of its traffic from Twitter. At the end of the day, we can debate whether or not Twitter makes for better journalism (it does) or for better user engagement (it does), but there is no arguing about whether or not Twitter can drive serious traffic. The answer is unequivocally yes.

Many people report using Twitter to replace RSS, and Twitter is quickly becoming a great place to discover news. All this points to the fact that smart content producers and news organizations should be on Twitter, actively engaging users. That engagement will directly lead to traffic.

How social media is radically changing the newsroom — This post is a great little rundown of not only how social media is changing newsrooms, but also some of the issues to consider, like ethics.

I think it’s good advice to keep in mind that even if you consider something your personal account, people will still link it to your company if your a public figure in any way. Journalists are often pseudo-public figures, and should keep that in mind when positing to social networks:

Journalists should keep in mind that they are representing their news organization when they use social networking tools — even if it’s their personal account.

“You’re essentially standing up in a public place and shouting something out,” according to McBride. She says that the same values of journalism that say ‘don’t put political signs in your front yard’ are the same that say ‘when you’re on Twitter, you’re representing your company.’

5 ways a community manager can help your media outlet — Community managers are quickly becoming a necessary position for any news organization that wants to take user engagement and social media seriously.

Community managers should lead newsroom engagement with the community. They should also help content producers at news organizations get on social networks and harness them properly. A community manager should also be easy accessibly for when users have questions and concerns.

It makes sense for every modern news organization (of enough size) to have a community manager. But it’s everybody’s job to engage our communities now. This is the best line of this blog post:

Shouldn’t every journalist help to manage the community?

Yes, we’re all in the community management business now.

Top 5 Twitter related trends to watch — The biggest Twitter-related trend to watch for is real-time search. ushered in a new area of real-time searching, and Twitter has become a great tool to see what people are talking about, watching, experiencing, etc in real time.

Google is really a search engine for what has happened, often days, months and years ago. It’s a poor tool for finding out what is happening now. Google and other search engine companies are starting to realize the power of real-time search and time-based searching, and we should start seeing more search products in the coming years that focus on real-time search.

For now, Twitter is fantastic tool for content producers. It’s a great way to discover news and see people talking about what is happening in their world.

The people formerly known as sources — The ability for our audiences to get information directly from the source and not us is only going to increase in the future. Journalists will have to learn how to function in this new world, where sources like the police department can directly and easily connect to the community using social media. Social media has forever changed the role of established gate keepers like newspapers.

Here is a great video from The Coast Guard discussing how social media has changed how they connect with people and how it allows them to get their message and information out without needing traditional gatekeepers:

Why we link: A brief rundown of the reasons your news organization needs to tie the Web together

Thursday, June 11, 2009 11:57 - by

Ryan Sholin is the Director of News Innovation at Publish2, a co-founder of Wired Journalists and a 2008 Knight News Challenge winner for ReportingOn. You can reach him at ryan[a]publish2[dot]com or @ryansholin.

Whenever I talk with news organizations of any size about linking to sources, resources and journalism that originated outside the walls of their newsroom, two questions come up: How and Why.

Well, conveniently enough, I work for Publish2, and we build tools that help answer the question of How. If your problem is that systems make adding links directly in the text of your story a difficult task, let’s solve that by adding links in widgets, sidebars, scrolling across the bottom of the browser window, blinking in 96pt red Helvetica, pushed to Twitter — wherever and however you want them.

My standing offer on How is that if the question comes up, you can talk to me and I’ll help you out.

So back to the question of Why.

Why we link: Five reasons your news organization should tie the Web together

1. Because we owe it to our readers to give them as much information as we have at our fingertips.

Don’t we? Of course we do.

If you’re a journalist, a huge part of your job is to filter all the information relevant to your community or your beat and pass along the important parts to your readers. Think about all the press releases you get by fax or e-mail, all the phone calls, voicemail, and messages that land on your desk, and think about how you act as a filter for that flood of information. Do the same thing with the Web.

Bring your readers the best links related to your story, and they will thank you. How? By treating you like a first-class citizen of the Internet, and coming back to your news site, which is no longer a dead end backwater in the river of news, but a point of connection where they can find other interesting streams.

Chris Amico took it one step further in a tip he submitted via the Publish2 Collaborative Reporting form I used to gather some ideas for this post. “Humility is healthy,” Chris wrote. “The more we get out of this mindset that we are the sole producers of useful content, the better off we’ll be in the long run.”

2. Because linking to sources and resources is the key gesture to being a citizen of the Web and not just a product on the Web.

You might think your news organization is super-duper-Web-savvy because you put your stories online, have RSS feeds and push links to your own content out via social networks, including Twitter.

That’s Step One. And it’s a good first step.

But, if all you provide your readers is flat content that doesn’t take them anywhere else on the Web, or back up statements with direct sources, or provide resources for those who want to explore a topic beyond what you’ve been able to provide with original reporting, you’re just shoveling text into another bucket, one labeled “Web.”

If, on the other hand, you want to embrace the traits that make blogs, Twitter, and so many other online communication tools a vital part of the daily life of your readers, your news site shouldn’t feel like an endpoint in the conversation. It should feel like the beginning.

Asteris Masouras put it this way in a Twitter reply to my query about why we link:

Links are the lifeblood of the web. It's counterintuitive & suspect for journos not to link whenever possible.

3. Because it’s the best way to connect directly with the online community in our town.

If you’re writing about human beings, businesses, organizations, government institutions or any other life form with a presence on the Internet, linking to them in the stories you publish about them is the low-hanging fruit when it comes to participating in your local online community.

Skipping the link to the city council’s calendar when you mention the next meeting, leaving out the link to the Little League’s online scoreboard when you write a story about its resurgence or not bothering to link to the full database of restaurant inspections when you choose three to write about — these are all easy ways to miss an opportunity to connect with your community and your readers.

Start simple: If you mention a person or organization, link to them.

Many, many bonus points to be awarded if you dig deep enough into the local online community to link to relevant content created by the people in your story. Did that angry neighbor’s crusade for a new zoning law to govern branches that hang over someone else’s driveway start with an image posted to a photo-sharing site and a determined comment? Link to it.

There’s a huge upside to linking out to community members, of course. Sometimes they link back.

Wenatchee World Web Editor Brianne Pruitt dropped a tip in my form including the following statement: “The link economy is real, and important for anyone who wants to be a part of the Web ecology.” I’d translate that as: Give some, get some.

And here’s how Web developer Pete Karl answered the question of why news organizations should link to external sources:

To give them the slightest chance of getting noticed.

4. Because we absolutely do not know everything, but we know where to find out most of what we don’t know.

The days of your news organization existing as a monopolistic source of local information are over, and your readers know it. They browse local, national, international, and topical news and commentary in more places than you call “news.” And if they don’t, they hear it from their friends on any one of a dozen social networks. They know that you don’t know it all. And so do you.

But you’re the journalist.

You’re the filter. You’re the person in town who knows everyone who knows everyone. You’ve got the sources, whether they’re people you talk to at the community center, the city council meeting, the police station, or their Live Journal page. Bring what they know to your readers as directly as possible: Link to them.

David Cohn of Spot.Us offered up the now-classic Jeff Jarvis line in my tip form: “Do what you do best, and link to the rest.”

5. Because it will make your job easier.

I know, I know. Everyone is asking you to do more with less. It’s extremely easy to tell people like me that you just don’t have time for another toy, another tool, another camera, another social network or another task.

I’m here to tell you that bringing your readers the best of the Web can save you work.

How? By opening a two-way channel to let your readers tell you what you should link to next, you’ll cut down on the time you spend looking for that next thing. By maintaining a real presence in the local link economy, you’ll make it easier for sources who know the answers to your questions to find you, and you won’t spend as much time trying to find them.

By sending your readers to the best information available on the Web, you’ll keep them coming back for more, drawing more traffic to your news site. Last time I checked, more traffic is one way to make more money, and with any luck, that’s still how you get paid.

Bonus Links on Links:

Thanks to everyone who replied on Twitter or in the Publish2 Tip Form when I asked for some of the best reasons to link out from your news site.

Four great books for understanding social media and networks

Wednesday, April 22, 2009 13:28 - by

We asked four Web experts to recommend the best books in the area of networks and social media. Here’s what they had to say:

Siva Vaidhyanathan, Cultural historian and media scholar in the Department of Media Studies and Law at the University of Virginia and author.

picture-11The Book: “The Wealth of Networks” by Yochai Benkler

“It’s a formidable manifesto about the ways the digital technologies will alter our sense of value and our understanding of how we build things in the world. Benkler wants us to think beyond scarcity. What he is saying is that the tradition of political economy has been, for centuries, about managing scarcity. Coming up with models about efficient distribution of resources, his book sort of blows all of that away and shows a very different picture of world. One in which value is subject to the ability to manage abundance.

It’s too easy to say that we live in a world of unlimited information or information overload. What Benkler is pointing out is that real value is determined by the ways that people leverage this abundance to create huge and functional structures that don’t depend on the old reward systems where you had to pay somebody with goods, services, money, to get them to do something. Benkler points out that there are some really elaborate and valuable experiments in an electronic networked economy that don’t require you to reward people with those sorts of things. The reward is sociality, being part of something. The two best examples are Linus and Wikipedia. The reward for them is the deep reward of human beings working with each other.

Whether you buy his argument one, 50 or 100 percent, you can’t ignore this book. It’s a great conversation starter about the changes we’re going through.”

Josh Benton, director of Harvard University’s Nieman Journalism Lab.

picture-2The Book: “Here Comes Everybody” by Clay Shirky

“It’s about how the Internet makes organizing groups trivially easy and how that process changes the kinds of groups that get formed and how it disrupts business and other structures that are based on doing that group formation in the old, expensive way.

I’m most interested in it from a journalism perspective since that’s what I do. Fundamentally, it gets at how the Internet eliminates a lot of the power that comes with owning a distribution channel. Before, if you had a group of people who wanted to know about city council in Boston and you had a group of people when knew about city council in Boston, to connect those two people you needed to have a journalist in the middle who would talk to the people who know what they’re talking about and would then share that knowledge with a large audience of people who buy the newspaper or watch the TV broadcast. That channel isn’t as important anymore. It’s easier to get around that channel; it’s easier for groups with like interests to assemble themselves without the intervention of a middle man, which is unfortunate for those folks who’ve made a living being quality, competent middle men.

It’s perfectly aligned to beatblogging because it’s all about how groups form. And around every beat there’s an invisible group of people who care about that beat and know about that beat. No matter how good a reporter you are pre-Internet, you were only going to be able to know a tiny fraction of those people. When that community can form around a Web site and form around this blog, the communication doesn’t have to be the reporter seeking out a source blindly or going to the same place you always go to. Now the sources have the ability to come to you and that really ties back into what Shirky is talking about.”

Brian Reich, Managing Director of little m media and author of Media Rules!: Mastering Today’s Technology to Connect With and Keep Your Audience.

picture-31The Book:Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives” by John Palfrey and Urs Gasser

“The book is not about how to master social media or the technologies that will fuel engagement and change in the future. Rather, Palfrey and Gasser dig deep into “the future opportunities and challenges associated with the Internet as a social space,” as well as “the legal and social ramifications of the Internet with regard to the generation of “Digital Natives” born after 1980. I don’t think technology is the answer and too much of the attention in social media is paid to the tools, the channels and the like. For example, Twitter is not, itself, important — it is what short-form/micro communications represent about our society and how our communications are changing that we must understand. A first and important step to understanding how to engage, educate, mobilize and social effectively is to understand the audience you are trying to reach. Few books do as good a job as Born Digital at breaking down how digital natives communicate and what their expectations are for those who try to communicate with them.”

Howard Rheingold, author and critic on the topic of the social, cultural and political implications of modern communication media.

picture-4The Book: “From Counterculture to Cyberculture” by Fred Turner

“Fred Turner makes a strong historian/journalist/media-analyst case that the Whole Earth Catalog and several of the counter-cultural ideals and driving forces that merged in it, and especially the WELL, set the scene for personal computing and Web culture. Any number of cyberculture historians and theorists have come up with their analytic frameworks for understanding the importance of the WELL, but Fred Turner is the only one who really got it right.

He invokes some ideas that come from the sociology of science. He speaks about “network forums” that bring together networks that had not intersected before, in ways that lay the groundwork for people to create new sociotechnical forms. The Whole Earth Catalog readers and contributors, and later the WELL, are examples of network forums that brought together the people who were interested in self-sufficiency — an old American tradition that goes back to Emerson’s “Self Reliance” with the old-tech people interested in self-sufficient energy systems like windmills.

It’s not only an excellent historical analysis of the roots of digital culture, but it offers analytic frameworks for looking at social-cultural change. It is also a great example of how someone can go through two primary source materials, seek out people to interview and come up with an explanation of what a particular group of people did 25 years ago — so accurately that those people agree it is a good portrayal. It’s important to understand the dynamics of the historical emergence of web culture.”


Podcast: A beatblog as a place to experiment

Friday, April 3, 2009 15:41 - by

parker_alexander_t170Alex Parker, formerly of the Lawrence Journal-World, is back with a new beatblog, this time covering public health news in Chicago.

In today’s podcast, Parker shares past lessons from his first beatblogging adventure and his vision for his new beatblog, Chicago Health Matters, at the new media start-up Chi-Town Daily News.

Parker said that one of the things he didn’t do well in the past on his previous beatblog, Schoolhouse Talk, was identifying and specifically engaging his audience.

“While we posed questions, hoping for interaction, sometimes it happened and sometimes it didn’t,” he said. “I think the most comments we ever had were on a post about an event called Meet at the Pole, where students meet at a flagpole to pray. There wasn’t much constructive dialogue.”

Engaging the audience will be a big part of Parker’s new beatblogging efforts. His blog is separate from Chi-Town Daily News, trying to build its own presence. The main site will get more typical news stories, while the beatblog will be more about building a community, starting discussions and filling in additional, often more minute details.

Parker wants his blog to be a backstory for stories that are published on Chi-Town Daily News and also be a place to post additional details, links and documents that might not make it into stories on the main site.

“I hope to write pieces that will give our audience new information about topics I cover,” Parker said. “Background, documents, the anatomy of a story: the things that make a story, but aren’t always included in them. I feel like we have a lot of latitude in what we can do. It’s a new experiment, and I hope people will enjoy what we post.”

Experimenting is also a big part of what Parker plans on doing on his beatblog. He is already producing news for the main site, so his beatblog doesn’t have to be relied on to break news. Rather he can use the beatblog to experiment with new forms of journalism, new ways of communicating with users and as a proving ground for new ideas that might eventually make their way onto Chi-Town Daily News.

“I kind see it as a partner with our main Web site and a place where we can experiment and play around with the Internet,” he said. “Even though we’re an online publication, there is a lot out there we haven’t taken advantage and this is the first step towards that.”

Chi-Town Daily News, for its part, is a non-profit journalism start-up that receives a third of its current funding from the Knight Foundation. It employees four full-time reporters, has seven full-time employees, four freelancers and an army of unpaid contributors. But it hopes to fill a niche by covering stories that the major news organizations in Chicago neglect or miss — specially public affairs stories.

“To cover issues that aren’t being covered very well or at all by other media outlets in Chicago,” Parker said of the mission of Chi-Town Daily News. “So that gives us an opportunity to fill a niche that other people aren’t covering and to really sell ourselves as the only people covering these important beats.”

As a non-profit, Chi-Town Daily News can’t afford to spend a lot of money experimenting. But experimenting doesn’t have to be expensive. Parker’s new beatblog is hosted for free by Blogger, and other fantastic blogging options like have free options as well.

Parker is also using Twitter to help build a community around his beat, and most of the people that he has friended on Twitter are people or organizations involved in health in Chicago. He quickly turned to Twitter to help build a network of knowledgeable sources, because that’s one of the things that Twitter excels with. Don’t expect the @Chicago_Health Twitter feed to just be links or some other boring, poor use of the medium.

“This isn’t going to just be a Twitter feed of whatever comes out of our blog, because that’s boring and that’s not how the Internet works, that’s not how online news works,” he said.

Eventually Parker would like to make the blog into more of a community blog, by allowing community members and decision makers to guest blog.

“I think that will create a real sense of community ownership,” he said. “This blog isn’t about me or the Daily News. It’s about the important issues facing Chicagoans.

Some additional topics discussed:

  • How will he decide which content makes sense on each platform?
  • How will he decide which stories go where?
  • Will he be using other social media around his beat?

Click here to stream the interview. Or download the MP3.

Daily Dose of social media: Baby Boomers embracing social media & blogs

Wednesday, March 25, 2009 10:04 - by

Micro Persuasion: Social Networking Demographics: Boomers Jump In, Gen Y Plateaus — Baby boomers are the fastest growing segment of social networking users. So, if you think you can ignore social media because you think only high school and college students use social media, think again. Yes, it is true that social media is still much more popular with younger generations, but Boomers have shown a willingness to embrace social media and blogging.

There has been a belief that older people would stick with newspapers over the Web. Boomers are set to retire and become that older generation, and Boomers don’t appear like they’ll be on the sidelines watching the Web go by. Here are some other interesting tidbits from this post:

According to the study, baby boomers…

  • Increased reading blogs and listening to podcasts by 67 percent year over year; nearly 80 times faster than Gen Y (1 percent)
  • Posted a 59 percent increase in using social networking sites—more than 30 times faster than Gen Y (2 percent)

iList Micro: Create and Browse Classified Ads Without Ever Leaving Twitter — This is the kind of innovative idea that newspapers should try if they are seriously interested in taking back classifieds:

iList, the classifieds site for instantly broadcasting your listing to your friends across your favorite social sites, has just made itself incredibly useful to TwitterTwitter reviewsTwitter reviews users who hate to go anywhere else with iList Micro.

With iList Micro now all you have to do to create a classified listing is tweet what you are offering and use the hashtag #ihave in your tweet. Likewise, you can tweet that you’re interested in something by using the hashtag #iwant. Your #ihave and #iwant tweets will automatically get picked up by iList and added to their microlisting site, where anyone can search from the available assortment of twittered classified ads.

Plus, if you never want to leave Twitter, you don’t have to. Just follow @microilist to have iList do the classifieds work for you. They scour #ihave and #iwant tweets to find a match for your specific Twitter inquiry and direct message you with info on the matched Twitter user.

Twitter Tweaks Its Title Tags For Better Google Juice — Notice your Twitter feed showing up a lot higher in Google today? It’s no coincidence. Twitter made a simple title tag tweak and received a massive SEO bump from Google.

The old title tag for my account looked like this, “” Not exactly good for SEO. Nowhere in that title tag did you find my name.

This is what the new title tag looks like, “Patrick Thornton (jiconoclast) on Twitter.” This simple change vaulted my Twitter feed to the No. 2 search result for the search Pat Thornton on Google, just behind my personal site.

This underscore, yet again, how simple changes can have a profound impact on SEO and search results. Better SEO means your content shows up higher in search results. Showing up higher means more page views.

There is a caveat, however. Your Twitter account is now showing up really high in Google searches for your name (many of you will have your Twitter accounts being the No. 1 result). If your account is filled with banality, it may hurt you when it comes to future employment.

Just keep in mind that what you say on Twitter is easily searchable, and if potential employers Google your name, they’ll find your Twitter account. This could be great or really bad. Your move.

Daily Dose of social media

Thursday, March 12, 2009 8:00 - by

I’m starting a new daily link journalism effort focused on social media, because social media is a big part of what beatblogging is all about. We also believe social media should be a big part of news organization focus on moving forward.

Please leave us feedback and let me know what kinds of link journalism and information you’re interested in.  Without further ado, here is our first Daily Dose of social media.

Twitter as a brand builder: Three examples — Webware has three examples of established media companies using Twitter to further build their brands. This is another way Twitter can be extremely useful. The Chicago Tribune’s @ColonelTribune is a bit of a brand builder himself. I’m a big fan of how Starbucks uses Twitter to be more personal and answer people’s questions:

@Starbucks’ Twitter strategy is worth looking at. Starbucks doesn’t inundate Twitter followers with advertisements. Instead, its Twitter account gives consumers the opportunity to access the company in a way they never have.

10 Ways Newspapers are Using Social Media to Save the Industry — Not all of the ways listed here are worth mimicking — point No. 1 in particular — but it is good to see newspapers thinking of ways to utilize social media.

Social media gives any business an interactive channel to communicate with its current and future customers. For newspapers, that channel can increase the chances of survival in a market where commoditized information has diminished the value of individual brands. Here are ten ways newspapers are using social media to save the industry.

Social Media for Business: The Dos & Don’ts of Sharing — This one is from last month, but it’s another excellent piece from Sarah Evans on how to use social media for business.  Her recommendation to be authentic and human is spot on. That’s what people want on social media. See the first link today and watch as big companies like Starbucks use Twitter to become more authentic and personal with people. Her advice about profiles is spot on too:

A major part of your social media personality is your avatar and your profile bio. The first rule for avatars and bios is to stay consistent across social platforms. If you’re sharing information from your business account, decide whether you want your avatar to be your company logo or the face of the president. Each sends a completely different message and requires a different messaging and branding approach.

About BeatBlogging.Org was a grant-funded journalism project that studied how journalists used social media and other Web tools to improve beat reporting. It ran for about two years, ending in the fall of 2009.

New content is occasionally produced here by the this project's former editor Patrick Thornton. The site is still up and will remain so because many journalists and professors still use and link to the content. offers a fascinating glimpse into the former stages of journalism and social media. Today it's expected that journalists and journalism organization use social media, but just a few years ago that wasn't the case.