News Leadership 3.0

November 04, 2008

Twitter is my election ‘newspaper’

Surprise! The social networking tool turns out to be my primary campaign news source

I have an Election Day confession to make:

In the final weeks of the campaign, I got most of my election news from Twitter.

That’s right. Not the New York Times. Not CNN. Not the local newspaper to which I dutifully subscribe.

Instead, my Number 1 news source was Twitter, the online blogging service that allows people to send short messages to the people who follow them and receive messages in turn from those they follow.

I’ve written before about the potential of Twitter and other social networks as a tool for newsrooms—both to gather news and to distribute it. Now I feel like living proof of the distribution part of the equation.

It didn’t happen overnight. I typically follow cnn.com for headlines and nytimes.com for depth. As news coverage became increasingly formulaic and annoying (the hourly horse race gets old fast) in the last couple of months of the campaign, I found I was learning all that I needed by following links recommended by folks I follow on Twitter (I still glanced the headlines of major mainstream news sources just in case.)

Consider:

- I got links to campaign analysis, campaign events and speeches minus the CNN-hype, plus links to off-the-beaten-track reports like this. (thanks @sjcobrien)

- I got links to contrarian analysis of the financial bailout and questions about the candidate economic proposals that weren’t finding their way into mainstream media (thanks @howardowens)

- I got running commentary and links on how the press was dealing (or not) with campaign stonewalling (thanks @jayrosen_nyu and your #spinewatch)

- I was the first on my digital block to know about the election polling site FiveThirtyEight, 10 days before it showed up on Poynter Online (thanks @matthewburton)

- Politics aside, I first learned on Twitter that the Phillies had won the World Series (thanks @ckrewson)

All this—and a few other of my pet topics—from about 30 people I follow on Twitter. In many ways, it’s a reader’s dream. You chose your “editors”, people who recommend news and information they think their followers may want to see. Their Twitter comments tell you where they are coming from and if you decide you don’t like their recommendations, you can turn them off any time. You get bragging points: My non-Twitter friends are astounded at the constant supply of interesting links I e-mail to them.

I’m not alone in my increasing reliance on digital media for news. The Pew Research Center just reported that more and more people are hitting the internet for campaign news:  “Television remains the dominant source, but the percent who say they get most of their campaign news from the internet has tripled since October 2004 (from 10% then to 33% now). While use of the web has seen considerable growth, the percentage of Americans relying on TV and newspapers for campaign news has remained relatively flat since 2004. The internet now rivals newspapers as a main source for campaign news.” (By the way, I got that link in a tweet from @jayrosen_nyu.)

Of course, Twitter is just one tool, and not a widely used one at that. Twitter itself is hardly the future of news, especially the future of producing in depth public service journalism. But Twitter illustrates a larger point about consumption and delivery of news. People increasingly believe that news will be there for them on demand or find them when they aren’t even looking.  Twitter and other social media tools (Delicious, for example) enable consumers to get recommendations from people they trust.

Selecting important news used to be the role of the local newspaper. Now anyone can do it. That doesn’t necessarily push traditional newsrooms out of the game. Any newsroom can improve on becoming its users primary trusted online source of recommendations. It’s another example of how aggregating and linking to other sources adds value to the news report.

Is your newsroom taking on this role? Please share your ideas and experiences in comments.

If you want to check out get Twitter, this post from Amy Gahran is a good first stop.

One way to check out its news-gathering potential on Election Day is the Twitter Vote Report, people can report problems at polling places. Kristin Gorski describes the idea here on the Huffington Post. (Yes, I follow @kristingorski on Twitter as well and she posted the link there.) Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits explores the effort as well.

October 24, 2008

Weekend reading

Link: Twitter basics

Amy Gahran offers Twitter Basics, an easy-to-follow guide to the micro blogging tool that many journalists are using in their reporting (either to gather news or to disseminate it).

Reporters Cookbook is a great resource for journalists, with special emphasis on computer-assisted reporting. (via Gahran and Notes from a Teacher.)

For entertainment, this takeoff on this week’s print redesign by The Los Angeles Times is a lot more interesting than the actual redesign.

October 17, 2008

Weekend reading

Links: User appeal, online practices, micro-blogging

- If you’re playing catch up, check out Mindy McAdams presentation, “Current Practices in Online Journalism.”

- Paul Bradshaw describes the user-magnet appeal of cartoons and infographics at Poynter Online.

- Ryan Sholin reviews micro-blogging tools including Yammer, Prologue and Backpack Journal.

September 19, 2008

Weekend reading: Link love

Links: Scott Karp on the value of links,
Mary Nesbitt on the value of students,
Innovate This on the value of twitter

I am playing catch-up after a couple of weeks on the road. Here are links worth checking out if you haven’t already:

—Scott Karp at Publishing 2. 0 argues the value of links in drawing audience. Karp focuses on traffic on the Drudge report. Like Drudge or not, the site has big traffic, and Karp argues that its heavy offering of links has something to do with that (and via its links, Drudge also is a top sender of traffic to major traditional news organization sites).

“There are two main reasons why news sites are reluctant to send readers away by linking to third-party content. First, you shouldn’t send people away or else they won’t come back to your site. Second, a page with links that sends people away has low engagement, which doesn’t serve advertisers well.
“But if you actually look at the data, both of these assumptions are completely wrong.”

Here’s the post and a follow up.
Karp builds on good thinking about linking from Jeff Jarvis. Here’s Jarvis.

- More recently, Jarvis looks at the big picture on member discontent with the Associated Press. The money graf:

“The AP is not bad (no matter what foolish things it may have done in the blog kerfuffle recently). It’s just expensive. Papers the size of the Cleveland Plain Dealer say they pay $1 million a year. As they get more local, as reverse syndication models come to the fore, as they have to tighten budgets, the industry-supported AP syndication model is mortally threatened. Still, this isn’t about the AP. It’s about the new architecture of news and media.”

Read the full post here.

Steve Yelvington sees change ahead as well:

“It’s clear that we’re coming to a major fork in the road, one that could profoundly reshape the way nonlocal journalism is created and distributed in America. What’s not so clear is what’s down that road, or even how many forks we’re going to face.”


Full post here.

—At Medill and the Readership Institute, Mary Nesbitt offers a little antidote to the woes of the industry - Incoming students!

- Innovate This offers still more reasons to check out Twitter.

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ABOUT THIS BLOG

Exploring innovation, transformation and leadership in a new ecosystem of news, by journalist and change advocate Michele McLellan.

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