A social media reader ~ March 2016

Some (mostly recent) pieces on using social media that I’d recommend:

General

7 powerful social media experiments that grew our traffic | Buffer Social

How The Washington Post works with its foreign correspondents to report via social media | Nieman Lab

Is Your Social Media Content as Popular as You Think? | Content Marketing Institute

How To Get Started With Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) | Search Engine Land

Using open soure social media sources in investigative work | Verification Handbook for Investigative Reporting

Facebook

Facebook now ranks live video higher in the news feed | Buffer Social

How to see who has shared your content on Facebook | Search Engine Land

Facebook announces a WordPress plugin that lets publishers easily create Instant Articles | Nieman Lab

Instagram

Instagram May Change Your Feed, Personalizing It With an Algorithm | New York Times

How to Tell Powerful Narratives on Instagram | Nieman Storyboard

7 ways news outlets can use Instagram | Journalism.co.uk

Twitter

Twitter has changed. Get over it | The Drum

In defence of Twitter | Slack Communications

Taking Twitter lessons from the New York Times

Don’t try too hard to please Twitter — and other lessons from The New York Times’ social media desk runs the headline as once again the team behind @NYTimes offer some insights from a year’s tweeting.

Most of the advice is well received. However – as I argue in my latest piece for the Press Gazette – the notion that we shouldn’t try too hard to please Twitter is rather undermined by the example given.

The question implied by this advice is: do print headlines work better than written-for-social-media sells? Using the New York Times’s own example, the answer is yes. But that says more about the pedestrian nature of the digital effort than some overarching rule.

A good online headline or social media sell should combine the wit (either or both meanings of the word) of a newspaper headline with a dash of digital pragmatism.

Read: What New York Times teaches us about Twitter. And what it doesn’t

Resist the ego bath. Some thoughts on online video

In my latest piece for the the Guardian Media Network, I look at examples of good online video in action. My experience is that most video on the web is “long, self-indulgent, rambling and shambling – video for bosses (internal stakeholders, if you must); not video for viewers.”

By looking at those that (mostly) get it right – from the NME to WSJ, The Atlantic to Channel 4’s The Last Leg – it’s possible to learn some useful lessons that are applicable in most circumstances. Lessons such as these:

1. Answer the question. Explainers work.

2. Keep it short. Brevity takes times. But it’s worth it.

3. Repurpose, repackage, reuse. Better 10 well-targeted one minute videos than one 10 minute grand tour.

4. Think discoverability. Headlines matter.

5. Text and moving images, a perfect partnership. To liven things up, aid understanding or create a brand new strand.

6. Leave them wanting more. And tell them where to go.

Read: BuzzFeed to NME: a publisher’s masterclass in producing online video

 

What do the following websites have in common?

So here goes:

  • The New York Times
  • The Atlantic
  • Drudge Report
  • The Huffington Post
  • AOL News
  • Gawker
  • People
  • TMZ
  • Vice
  • E.Online
  • Perez Hilton
  • Buzzfeed

The answer: the Daily Mail is gunning for them all. Or rather Mail Online US believes it is “uniquely positioned” to take them on and in the process “fill a gap in the U.S. news/ent landscape”.

We know all this because Forbes.com’s Alex Kantrowitz got hold of the marketing slide that shows Mail Online floating expectantly among this exalted company.

I’ve written some more about it over on the Press Gazette.

Why it takes a “dose of counterintuition” to properly understand digital

In my piece for the Press Gazette this week, I’ve drawn on an article written back in 2010 (an age in digital publishing) about The Atlantic magazine. Why? Because I think it perfectly captures the challenge and the cultural change required by traditional print publishers in the digital age.

The Atlantic had to act counter intuitively to properly make the transition, according to the original New York Times piece. And here’s an extract from my response:

It does take a “dose of counterintuition” to properly understand digital. Why? Because a lot of what we take for granted in print simply doesn’t translate online. Equally, the assumptions we are making about digital need to be challenged. Constantly.

For example, some of us still struggle with the notion that we should, on occasion, link out to our direct competitors. And if we do we will probably end up with more readers, not fewer.

Moreover, that in order to make money we should consider giving more of our stuff away for free.

We struggle, too, with the notion that digital can aid print, not cannibalise it, at least not at a micro level.

Certainly the internet has been “disruptive”, to borrow a term beloved by technologist, and there is a systemic shift from the older medium to the newer one.

But that’s not the same as believing that your own website will destroy your weekly, or indeed that your app will destroy your website. It might but it doesn’t have to. The New York Times, for one, claims that digital subscriptions have helped stem the decline in print subs.

You can read the Press Gazette piece here.

Digital subscriptions can help print circulation. And other lessons from the paywalled New York Times

Journalism.co.uk’s Rachel McAthy spoke to New York Times’ Paul Smurl before the Easter break to mark the second anniversary of the paper’s move behind a metered paywall.

The interview is worth listening to in full but here are a few lessons I took away from it:

1. It can be worth trading (some) ad revenue for subscription revenue…

2. …so long as you don’t lose too many readers

3. Digital subscriptions can help print circulation

4. Hostility towards the paywall model has softened

5. Amazon and Apple have taught people to pay online 

You can read more at the Press Gazette and can listen to the whole interview here.

Everything in moderation: how the New York Times does reader comments

Hat tip to Nieman Journalism Lab for spotting this exchange on Quora which sheds light on the New York Times’s attempt to cultivate more meaningful exchanges “below the line”. 

The question posed:

How does the NYT determine which articles have comments?

The answer was provided by the New York Times’s community manager, Bassey Etim. He wrote:

The vast majority of NYT comments are handled by a human moderator. This means that we have to make an editorial decision about which comment threads we will open for comments each day. Also, we adhere to a sort-of “slow moderation” theory, which posits that the best way to respect the commenting efforts of our readership is to ensure that their comments exist in an urbane, literate environment. (Definitely not an approach that is good for everyone, but it works fabulously for us, for reasons you can probably divine.) Our goal is to have every NYT comment thread offer tangible added value to each article for our readership.

The costs to this approach are obvious — it takes a long time, and many stories do not get comments. But NYT readers expect the highest-quality everything from us, so that’s what we deliver.

To boil it down, Etim lists  “general criteria for opening a story for comment, generally in order of importance”:

– News value of the story
– Projected reader interest in the story
– Have we recently had comments on this issue?
– Whether we can moderate the projected # of comments in a timely fashion

Syndication Overload For The New York Times

new-york-times-observer-taliban2It feels like déjà vu all over again. 

Keen-eyed followers of this blog will be familiar with David Rohde’s fascinating account of his seven-month kidnap by the Taliban.

Originally published in Rohde’s own paper The New York Times – and simultaneously on the paper’s website – a couple of week’s ago, it made a second appearance in last week’s Sunday Times.   

And now, it has turned up in The Observer (pictured). Or to be more precise, The New York Times supplement that appears in that particular Sunday paper.

The New York Times supplement is published weekly in 26 newspapers around the world (cultural imperialism, anyone?).

The articles in the British version are “selected in association with The Observer”, or so it says below the masthead. That being the case, it seems strange that nobody at Kings Place appears concerned that the paper had been scooped by one its fiercest rivals.

I wondered a week ago what the role of syndication was in the link economy and argued that it still had a place in certain circumstances. But syndication in triplicate does seem to be going a bit far.

Related:
 – What’s The Future Of Syndication?

What’s The Future Of Syndication?

the-sunday-times-25-oct-2009Prisoner Of The Taliban‘ looked like a compelling, if slightly familiar, read. Spread across pages one, two and three yesterday’s Sunday Times News Review section, it was an American journalist’s account of his seven-month kidnap in the Afghan desert.

A quick scan to the end of David Rohde’s piece revealed all, in customary italics:

Extracted from an article that first appeared in The New York Times.

And that’s where I and, most likely, other Sunday Times readers had read the original in all its five-part glory.

Syndication is a normal part of the newspaper business, whether it’s a tabloid previewing the latest celeb photo-shoot from one of the glossies, a broadsheet recasting an essay from a highbrow monthly as op-ed, or – as here – a UK paper taking some of the best journalism from abroad.

But in the link economy, where access to the original source is only a click away, isn’t syndication increasingly redundant?

Last week, I suggested that the likes of the Associated Press were the real losers in a world where aggregation ruled. And that’s probably still the case for those whose business is predicated on providing copy for multiple sources. In other words, those businesses which conform to the most exact definition of syndication. 

But for publishers there is another, softer reason to continue this content-sharing relationship besides any monetary exchange: profile.

And that, after all, is what I am doing by publishing this article here and here. Albeit on a much, much smaller scale.

Related:
NewsNow: ‘End These Indiscriminate Attacks’

‘No Branding Or Devotion – Only Utility.’

new_york_timesSo wrote Peter Preston in his weekly ‘Press and Broadcasting’ column for the Observer.

The piece by the former Guardian editor is an important contribution to the ongoing debate about the future of newspapers in an online world.

Why? Because he challenges a key assumption about success online – namely the importance of the willy-waving “I’ve got more unique users than you” position.

Taking figures from the United States (“because Nielsen collects them with continuous, detailed authority”), Preston looks at the amount of time American web users spend online in the company of newspaper websites.

And it’s not a pretty picture: the average visitor devotes just 38 minutes and 24 seconds a month on one, or more likely more than one, newspaper site.

And remember only one third of the US universe of users visits a newspaper site at all.

As Preston points out this means “the average New York Times print reader spends roughly as long with his paper a day as the average NYT net user spends online in a month”. For the record, that’s 29 minutes 57 seconds.

Preston argues that this lack of face time is a reflection of user mode when surfing – clicking through in pursuit of some fact or picture: “no brand or devotion: only utility”. 

If these site visit times don’t strike you as too bad, consider how you would make money from them. In Preston’s words:

What price nine minutes and nine seconds over a month for average visiting time to the New York Post site Rupert Murdoch hopes to charge for? (Not much of a revenue stream at 19 seconds a day!)

Related:
The Future Of Newspapers, It’s In The Bag
The Wire’s David Simon: ‘Newspapers Must Go Behind Paywall’
Free is just another cover price
 – What if the business model for news ain’t broke?