News for Digital Journalists

Posts tagged with: Social Media

December 10, 2010

Pew report: Who’s using Twitter?

The first-ever report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project to focus solely on Twitter reveals that 8% of American adults who use the internet are Twitter users.

Some highlights from this research…

Of course, younger internet users (18-29) are especially likely to use Twitter. Also, Americans who live in urban areas are about twice as likely to use Twitter as rural dwellers.

Strikingly, Pew found that African-American and Latino internet users are are more than twice as likely to use Twitter as are white internet users. Also, women are slightly more likely than men to be on Twitter.

That said, it’s important to keep in mind that more than 90% of all US internet users are not on Twitter—so it should not be relied on as a primary channel to directly reach a general audience.

January 25, 2011

Digital journalism workshops aim for better business coverage

A series of free digital journalism workshops, on offer around the country and online in the coming months, will train reporters on how to use various online tools to improve their business news coverage.

Sponsored by the Reynolds Center for Business Journalism at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, the programs will cover topics such as using the internet to investigate companies, covering business news using audio slideshows, and using social media for business reporting.

One investigative workshop, Beyond Google: Mining the web for company intelligence, offered online on May 17-18, will show how to tap social media for company info and to cull sources through business networks like LinkedIn. The workshop will be run by Sean Campbell and Scott Swigart of Portland, OR-based technology market research firm Cascade Insights.

Another workshop, offered free to attendees of the annual Society of American Business Editors and Writers Conference, is scheduled for Dallas April 8 and focuses on telling business stories with Soundslides. It will be taught by Jeremy Caplan, the director of education for CUNY’s Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism.

Among other free online programs are:

The workshop series also covers a range of other topics, including computer-assisted reporting, census-based reporting, the green economy, and more, with programs in Philadephia, Raleigh, N.C., Los Angeles and Dallas. Find out about additional programs later this spring and summer. Or go ahead and register for any of the free programs. You can also learn more by contacting the Reynolds Center’s Executive Director Linda Austin at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 602-496-9187.

March 25, 2011

Everyblock shifts direction, adds local discussion to data

Earlier this week Adrian Holovaty announced the first major redesign of his local data service Everyblock. This site is shifting from being a one-way news feed of local data, to becoming “a platform for discussion around neighborhood news.”

More about these new features…

In addition to adding a big “post” button to pages, Holovaty notes: “We’ve unveiled several new features to encourage positive community behavior. Each user contribution to our site has a ‘thank’ button next to it that lets you give positive reinforcement to the original poster for sharing information. We’ve built a lightweight neighborhood honors reputation system that rewards people for making contributions, as determined by their neighbors’ thanks and a number of other factors.”

Also, intriguingly, Everyblock now allows users to “follow” places, much the way Twitter users can follow other Twitter users.

GigaOm’s Mathew Ingram observed: “I think EveryBlock’s change of heart was a necessary one. I’ve argued in the past that whatever value local news sites have comes not from the data, but from the people at the heart of that community—which is why even poorly designed services that are built by the people in a town or neighborhood are almost always better than services that are set up by companies with a one-size-fits-all approach. History is littered with examples of well-meaning services such as Backfence and Bayosphere that never really connected with the communities they were supposed to serve.”

It seems to me that Everyblock might want to try to integrate more fully with Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Yelp, and Flickr, since those services are where so much discussion about community happens. But it would be hard to do that in an automated way. Once a service moves toward hosting public discussion, it really seems to need the hand of a community manager to get the posts flowing, and to keep the flames down. Everyblock will also have to guard against inevitable spamming of its system.

Because of the need of human staff effort to support thriving community engagement services, I’m skeptical whether these new discussion features will last at Everyblock.  But a strategy more based on curating conversations that happen on other sites and bringing that content into Everyblock might be at least partially automatable and thus more sustainable. And there’s room for Everyblock to move in that direction.

Of all these new Everyblock features, I think the most promising is the ability to follow places, and to receive that information as a feed or via e-mail. I live in Oakland, CA—which is just across the bay from San Francisco. SF is an Everyblock city; Oakland is not. But Oakland does have the lovely Oakland Crimespotting interactive map by Stamen Design. I would love to be able to “follow” a neighborhood or area on that map and have it update me with new incidents.

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

April 05, 2011

Social media for news sites: New KCNN learning resource

For news sites, social media can play a huge role in engaging your community and supporting your business model). A new online learning module from the Knight Citizen News Network can help you understand this landscape and use social media strategically…

Likes and Tweets: Leveraging social media for news sites is available for free online. While KCNN (a J-Lab initiative) mainly serves citizen journalists and community news sites, the advice in this guide is useful for anyone in the news business.

The guide focuses on the principles of authenticity, transparency, and real-time crowdsourced communication that distinguish social media. It provides hands-on tools and advice to help you make best journalistic use of your daily social media activity. It includes information about tools to evaluate your social media efforts, including how to use Google Analytics and Facebook Insights.

Disclosure: I am one of the contributing authors for this guide. My Oakland Local co-founders Susan Mernit and Kwan Booth did the real heavy lifting on this project. The guide also features tips from journalism and social media luminaries such as founder David Cohn and Share This author Deanna Zandt.

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

April 21, 2011 launches social news aggregator with pay model, access to others’ streams

An entrant with a strong backers and a unique business model has joined the social media news aggregation race, with the launch today of, a Twitter-based iPad app that lets viewers experience not only their own custom curated news stream, but the news streams of friends and prominent figures as well.

The app, developed by the parent company of in collaboration with The New York Times R&D Lab, uses artificial intelligence to serve up a stream of stories likely to be of greatest interest to the reader, based on the links recently shared by the people they follow on Twitter. The stream is filtered both for popularity and for what the reader has read or shared before.

At the same time, users can see similar streams of news most likely to be interesting to other users, based on who they follow or read - described by the developers as the equivalent of looking over someone’s shoulder while they check their Twitter stream. The app suggests “featured users” like VC Fred Wilson, Digg’s Kevin Rose and AOL’s Arianna Huffington.

There’s a detailed description of how works on the site’s FAQ. is one of a series of apps in the space, including another, called Trove, launched Wednesday by the Washington Post and detailed here by GigaOm’s Mathew Ingram, who writes of the quest for “The Daily Me” by various players including Flipboard (which has raised $50 million), Zite and others.

Much of the Twitter traffic about the release today focuses on the business model for the new app. In contrast to free services, it has a pay structure - it costs 99 cents a week to use, or $35 for year. Also, importantly, the service has licensed with more than 20 publishers, other than the Times, to package their stories - among them the Boston Globe, the Associated Press, Forbes, Fast Company, AOL News, Gawker, GigaOm, Mashable, ReadWriteWeb and SB Nation - some of whom are seen as not always hospitable to aggregators.

Each of the partner publishers gets a revenue share (depending on how many times users read an individual article from their site), plus enhanced presentation options and promotional opportunities.

What do you think - is the pay model likely to work for aggregating what is largely free content? Is the “over-the-shoulder” stream a killer app? Will’s more spare visual approach win over news users from Flipboard, despite that service’s head start? Let us know your experience with this and other social media content aggregators like Zite or Pulse in comments below.

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

August 29, 2011

Social networking growing fast beyond young adults

If your news organization’s social media strategy has been mainly targeting young adults, it’s time to think more broadly. New research from the Pew Internet and American Life Project indicates that U.S. adults aged 30 and over are the fastest-growing segment in terms of frequent social networking usage…

Pew’s research indicates that for the first time, half of all U.S. adults (and 65% of online adults) now use social networking services such as Facebook. The only online activities that remain more popular are e-mail and search.

The percentage of young adults (18-29) who use social networking may have topped out at just over 80%, but older adults are catching up fast. Pew reports: “In the past two years, social networking site use among internet users age 65 and older has grown 150%, from 13% in April 2009 to 33% in May 2011. Similarly, during this same time period use by 50-64 year-old internet users doubled from 25% to 51%.”

Women tend to be the most active users—48% of women use social networking services on a typical day, compared to 38% of men.

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

September 06, 2011

Geotagging: Pew research shows why news orgs should do a better job with it

“Where” is crucial context for mobile media—and for news. New research from the Pew Internet and American Life Project indicates that a significant and growing portion of U.S. cell phone users are using the built-in GPS to take better advantage of mobile services and content…

According to Pew:

  • “28% of cell owners use phones to get directions or recommendations based on their current location. That works out to 23% of all adults.” (This includes 55% of smartphone owners.)
  • “A much smaller number (5% of cell owners, equaling 4% of all adults) use their phones to check in to locations using geosocial services such as Foursquare or Gowalla.” (12% of smartphone owners do this.)
  • “9% of internet users set up social media services such as Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn so that their location is automatically included in their posts on those services. That works out to 7% of all adults.”

Continuing a trend revealed in their earlier mobile research, Pew found that Latinos are leading in U.S. adoption of location-based services. Specifically, while only 7% of U.S. white smartphone users use geosocial services such as Foursquare or Gowalla, 25% of Latinos and 17% of blacks who own smartphones do so.

Bucking this trend, white smartphone owners are in the lead (59%) in terms of getting location-based directions and recommendations—followed by 53% of blacks and 44% of Latinos.

Is your CMS geodata-friendly? So far, most news organizations have done little to upgrade their content management system to systematically and consistently geotag every piece of content—either with a latitude/longitude point, or by a polygon defined by a set of such points.

Offering this kind of geodata is the key to integrating your content with popular geo services, from mapping to Yelp to social media and more—and even to search, which is increasingly personalized based on location and other user-specific context.

Mentioning place names as text in a dateline, headline, category/tag, or story body generally is not sufficient for locative services to integrate your content.

So now is the time to make your CMS geodata-friendly, and to train all your editorial and production staff in how to correctly geotag every piece of content you publish. This upgrade will position you to more easily capitalize on opportunities offered by whatever location-augmented services exist now and in the future.

Reporters, editors, and ad staff should be using locative media. This will help you understand opportunities to integrate content into locative services, identify potential partners and prospects, and more. It’s also a great tool for finding or fleshing out stories.

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

September 13, 2011

Gallup social media poll shows retweets mean more than followers

Like many businesses, news organizations increasingly are using social media to build awareness of their brand and to engage consumers and communities. New research from Gallup shows how this really works…

A recent Gallup poll of 17,000 social media users identified why three key bits of conventional wisdom about how social media can build your business are myths—and how businesses (including news orgs) can use social media effectively to achieve their real goals.

One key myth, according to Gallup, is that social media initiatives drive customer loyalty and acquisition. In fact: “Engagement with a brand drives social engagement. Customer engagement with a brand drives social engagement, the degree to which customers will work for or against your company or brand within their social networks.”

In other words, the real benefits from social media come not from when you post your own headlines on social media, but when people in your network re-share your content to their networks. Such personal recommendations are far more valuable to brands, including news brands.

So rather than tracking your number of followers or fans, keep an eye on how often items get retweeted or otherwise shared—including via e-mail.

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

September 28, 2011

Sept. 30: Facebook disables “update fans” feature from fan pages

Increasingly news organizations (and their staffers or project teams) have been using Facebook fan pages to engage their communities around their news brand, special events, and more. But one key feature that made fan pages especially useful for outreach will quietly disappear later this week.

If you rely on “update fans,” here’s what you should do today to prepare…

People who run Facebook fan pages have long used the “update fans” feature to send messages to everyone who has “liked” their fan page. This made ongoing engagement much easier in the cluttered Facebook environment—fans of a page were far more likely to notice a personal message (which gets a special notification) than an item appearing in their news feed. (Facebook users never see the vast majority of items in their news feed).

Since this social media communication channel is opt-in (people have to like your page before you could send them messages this way), it worked well—as long as fan page owners didn’t abuse it by sending out too many messages. From the many Facebook fan pages I’ve liked, I’ve received messages mainly dealing with special announcements, such as upcoming gigs of a favorite band, meetups and special event announcements, and urgent news or calls to action.

But Inside Facebook reports that earlier this month Facebook began notifying fan page administrators that the “update fans” feature will be disabled on Sept. 30. So if you’ve been using this feature to transmit alerts, invitations, and notifications, that option is about to vanish.

Facebook’s Help Center entry about the feature removal offered no explanation for the change, but suggested these alternate outreach options:

  • “Post content on your page Wall so people see your updates in their news feed. You can target your posts by location or language.”
  • “Consider using targeted Facebook Ads or Sponsored Stories to help grow and highlight your message within the Facebook experience.”

In terms of maintaining engagement, these options are poor substitutes since they’re unlikely to easily get the attention of your page’s fans.

What to do today if you manage a Facebook fan page and have been using the updates function for outreach: Set up an alternate outreach method not controlled by Facebook (such as an e-mail broadcast list) and before Sept. 30 send your fans a final update to warn them that Facebook is shutting down that communication channel. Ask them to subscribe to the new service if they want to continue getting your updates related to the fan page.

While most fans of your page won’t do this, some will—and that’s better than completely losing a way to contact them en masse directly.

Related post: The power behind the changes at Facebook, and what it means for news publishers (Robert Niles, OJR)

(Hat tip to Ned Berke, publisher of the hyperlocal site Sheepshead Bites.)

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

October 14, 2011

Fuego: New mobile tool to follow the future of journalism, anywhere

Lots of smart people are always discussing the future of journalism and media on Twitter—but knowing which of those conversations are most important at any given time can mean spending your whole day on Twitter.

To help solve this problem, today the Nieman Journalism Lab debuted a mobile-friendly version of its Fuego tool…

According to Nieman Lab director Joshua Benton, Fuego for Mobile is a “heat-seeking Twitter bot, our tool that amalgamates the best and most interesting stories the future-of-journalism crowd is talking about on Twitter and presents them to you for quick reading.”

On a mobile phone, the result looks a little bit like Storify, the popular social media content curation tool. But there are some key differences:

  • Fuego displays a running list of the current most popular or important Twitter conversations about the future of news (rather than tracking the progress of a single story).
  • Fuego’s curation is done algorithmically, rather than manually—which requires far less work than Storify or manual retweeting.

How did Nieman Lab do it? In an interview, Benton explained that Fuego combines the Twitter application programming interface (API) with some custom algorithms to select and weight tweets, plus tools to deliver the results through a user-friendly mobile interface. It was created in-house at Nieman Lab by Benton and write/coder Andrew Phelps.

“The people who talk about the future of journalism on Twitter tend to be a pretty self-referential and insular crowd—and for creating an automated curation tool, that’s actually a very good thing,” said Benton.

“In the abstract, this concept could be applied to other topic areas. We experimented with that. But we found that if the people you’re aggregating tend to tweet about a lot of different topics, if they aren’t as focused, that it doesn’t tend to work as well for this kind of automated curation.”

That said, he acknowledged that it might work well for other niche or vertical topics—such as coverage of specific industries.

Initially Nieman Lab seeded Fuego with about 10 Twitter users who are thought leaders on the future of journalism and who tend to tweet pretty consistently about that topic. From there, Fuego started scanning tweets from everyone those users follow on Twitter—yielding an aggregate set of about 7000 Twitter users.

Since Fuego focuses on links, the system filters out tweets that don’t contain links. Among the remaining tweets, it algorithmically weights results to determine what gets listed via the Fuego interface. For instance, tweets by people who are followed by two or more people in the initial “seed set” of 10 are weighted more heavily; as are more recent tweets.

Based on these computations, Fuego displays right at the top of the page the top three current topics or stories; additional popular or relevant topics are listed below that. This list is refreshed frequently.

Nieman Lab also has a special Twitter account, @NiemanLabFuego, which automatically posts a tweet whenever a new item gets added to Fuego’s top three stories.

The technology used to deliver Fuego to mobile devices is interesting. It’s a mobile web app—which means it functions rather like a mobile app, but users don’t have to download and install anything. Just click the Fuego for mobile link from your phone or tablet and it will immediately launch.

Developing mobile web apps is generally more efficient and less costly than developing native apps for specific mobile platforms. The same code base serves multiple mobile platforms and device types. In contrast, native mobile apps require developing and maintaining a separate version for each platform (iPhone, Android, Mango, etc.).

On most smartphones and tablets, users can save a bookmark for a web app on their homescreen, to provide easy launching similar to that of native apps. On the iPhone and iPad, users can also launch homescreen web apps without all the trappings of the mobile Safari web browser, so you save screen real estate by now displaying the location bar, etc.

Simpler mobile web apps (including Fuego) that don’t require animation or much interactivity will even run on many feature phones—if they have better browser like Opera Mini. You can also save mobile Fuego (or any other web site or app) to Opera Mini’s home screen for a similar easy-launch capability.

Fuego was originally introduced on the Nieman Lab’s website in August as part of their redesign, but the mobile version was just rolled out today. The full web version offers three time-based filters: past four hours, past 24 hours, and past week. So far, those filters are not yet available on the mobile version.

Benton noted that eventually Nieman Lab will probably make its Fuego codebase available, but for now it’s so customized it probably wouldn’t be very useful for other organizations or purposes. They’ll also update the Nieman Lab iPhone app to include Fuego. He notes that for iPhone users, it helps to have your apps in Apple’s app store since iPhone users are trained to look there first rather than seek out web apps.

Still, going the web app route is useful to reach a broader audience—especially crucial since Android now far outsells iPhone in new smartphone sales, and WindowsPhone Mango may become a strong contender in coming years.

The News for Digital Journalists blog is made possible by a grant to USC Annenberg from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

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