Tag Archives: social media

As editors dream up online strategies, the short-term future of college newspapers remains in print [Video]

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While the current trend among newspapers in this country is to throw brains and money at the online side of the business, student newspapers are just getting strategies in place to put more thought into websites and social media.

At first glance, it appears counterintuitive. Today’s students are technologically savvy, quick adopters of new devices such as smart phones and programs like Facebook and Twitter. Product planners are also fast to note how infatuated twentysomethings are with their phones and tablets. But in Boston at least, student newspapers aren’t planning to abandon the print product anytime soon.

While students are generally connected through social media, it’s going to take more time to get them to go to the Internet before going to the newspaper. So much time, in fact, that editors are in no rush to abandon the print product and view the two technologies as generally separate entities.

“This is as social media savvy of a school as you can find,” said Alexander Kaufman, editor in chief of Emerson College’s Berkeley Beacon. “People at Emerson are eager to tweet about things that irk them or what they’re thinking about.”

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Boston Globe Lab is full of ideas. Great, now where do they fit in a newsroom?

Chris Marstall in front of the picture map at the Globe Lab.

The newspapers still (relatively) flush with money should do the right thing and invest in researching how people, and their readers, use technology. Thankfully, the Boston Globe isn’t sitting on its hands. It’s invested in a good-looking lab that features a raft of interesting technology.

The Globe has the right to feel it’s ahead of the curve, technologically speaking. BostonGlobe.com is a nice site, even if it’s under a dreaded paywall. It was also honored with an award from the Society for News Design that basically equates to “Best Damn News Website – Period,” thanks to a responsive design setup. They also won kudos for their fancy way of integrating maps and data into the site, such as that used in their feature about mislabeled fish that Design Director Miranda Mulligan was eager to show off. It’s clever stuff.

The Lab’s other tech serves as a cool way to monitor what readers are doing. Joel Abrams was keen to show off a clever way of mapping tweets and showing how sharing links among users can really take off. Chris Marstall liked to show off a set of screens that maps Instagrams taken by people around Boston.

But where does all of this fit into the newspaper’s business of reporting? Their ability to answer that question was pretty much summarized by a trio of TV screens in the newsroom that monitored tweets and replies to the paper’s handles. Slowly, different forms of technology are working their way into the newsroom. But it looks like it’s going to be some time before all of the interesting mapping and social media analysis is going to make it into the newsgathering process, and that’s a shame.

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Who cares what you like to read?

I have The Washington Post’s social reader installed on by Facebook account. Why? Good question.

It seemed like a good idea at the time, but the more I saw my friend’s messages floating down my feed, I saw what kinds of articles they were reading. Or probably clicking on by mistake.

The idea behind the social reader isn’t far-fetched, I’ll give it that. I share tons and tons of stories to people I know aren’t clicking on them. At most, they retweet or throw a story on their Facebook news feed. If people reply or leave comments, that’s just an interesting side note. But the whole point is that it’s a selective process.

Installing a social reader in your Facebook account is a little different.

The point of it is to show people what you’re reading, but it turns into a map of cheesy things you click on – and might not want others to know about. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the bro-iest of guys confess they’ve “read” about Snooki’s pregnancy thanks to the Post’s reader. I’m sure (or I hope) it was out of morbid curiosity, not because they’re really interested in what the “Jersey Shore” personality (that’s being kind) is doing.

I know there are ways to turn these settings off, but it defeats the mission of the product. But a social reader, to me, answers a question nobody was asking. Really, how hard is it to type 120 characters and add a link on your own?

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Journalism in China is “almost like playing a video game”

Wu Nan, March 29, at Northeastern University

Based on Nieman fellow Wu Nan’s testimony about her work in Chinese journalism, being a reporter in that country has similar appeal as eating fire. Remember, some people like that stuff.

Wu’s work at various sites, including The Wall Street Journal’s Chinese site, gave her insight into the difficulty that nation’s reporters face in reporting every day news, she said to about 50 Northeastern students. She also said the emergence of social media in the area, from Facebook and Twitter knockoffs, has become crucial to the reporting process.

Wu’s roughly 35-minute discussion was kind of insider journalism discussion, but her experience reflected her talent in navigating censorship and disclosure restrictions, something journalists in every state have to face. But she described it as kind of a thrill, suggesting, to me anyway, she was interested in reporting that was challenging.

As China increasingly becomes a more important country, it makes sense to understand the ability of their reporters in covering the national news. On the face of it, it sounds like China embraces citizen journalism because it’s already a backbone of the journalism scene there.

Wu doesn’t mind, though. She thinks Chinese journalism is like a maze in a video game – and a great challenge.

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Final project: How college newspapers manage their online presence

My final project will compare at least two college newspapers in the Boston area and evaluate their online presence. This will take into consideration a website, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts and the frequency all of these platforms are updated and maintained.

I’ve chosen the Daily Free Press, BU’s independent student newspaper, and plan to speak with Managing Editor Tim Healey and, if possible, Editor in Chief Chelsea Diana. The Daily Free Press is significant among Boston student papers because it’s long been independent from the university’s resources, something I think greatly affects editorial processes and what’s possible with editorial content that can be regulated by administrators.

That’s also why I’ve chosen to interview the editor at the Berkeley Beacon, Emerson College’s newspaper. Editor in chief Alexander Kaufman was behind the team that changed their website to an advanced HTML 5 platform, which is similar to what other major newspapers are using on their websites. The Beacon is independent as well, but it’s a weekly paper serving a much smaller campus. Their coverage during the Boston Blackout last week though was thorough, I thought, and a good example of covering a breaking story in a timely manner that would have wide appeal among their audience.

Based on my research so far, I’ve left the door open to add another paper or student-run media organization as an example. I already monitor their respective Twitter handles and plan to pay close attention to their social media platforms during my reporting process.

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10 is a scary number when it comes to paywalls

With all of the discussion in the last year or so about them, you could probably write a blog just on paywalls.

It’s already been a year since The New York Times instated its paywall on online readers, limiting readers to 20 articles a month unless they paid up for home delivery or a digital subscription. Or if they just found a way to circumvent the paid journalism guards, which proved pretty easy to do if you follow the Times on Twitter or Facebook.

But I finally caved in a few months ago and bought a digital subscription, mostly because I’d go on to NYTimes.com looking for a specific story and then get distracted and click-happy when I saw other stories I hadn’t seen on Twitter. In one sitting, 10 clicks could be gone.

Ten clicks is all non-subscribers are going to get from now on, since the NY Times has made it just that more difficult for cheapskates to scale the paywall. And 10 really isn’t that many, especially if they get any smarter about making clicks from social media count.

In just 10 days, I slammed into the Los Angeles Times’ new paywall. It felt like I hit it head first and I might have let out a few choice expletives in the middle of a Starbucks. I read the LA Times frequently for California-centric stories the NY Times doesn’t do well, or at all. And their paywall counts what you click on through social media. If they cut their free article limit to 10, I’ll be out of free clicks in a couple of days.

Twenty clicks got me through most of the month on the NY Times. Fifteen clearly wasn’t enough at the LA Times. Now 10? That’s going to make scaling the paywall tricky. Looks like I need to get some extra jobs to pay for online subscriptions.

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Comments: Are we angry over some God-given right or just a nice touch?

When exactly were comments expected at the bottom of every story from a news organization? I have some nostalgia for the days you read something in the paper and then slammed it down in disgust, only giving your opinion to the person next to you. Apparently no one else cares to relive those memories.

There’s no getting around the fact comment sections are better breeding grounds for vicious attacks rather than insightful discussion. That’s the tangle the New Haven Independent got in this month just before shutting off its comments section. The editor, Paul Bass, was fed up with filtering out obscene, ridiculous posts all day. I can’t blame him. Bass hopes to find a way to return to offering comments in the near future, but I think this cooling-off period serves as a reminder to news organizations of every size: There’s no right way to do comments, they all present problems.

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Plans to cut MBTA services, raise fares gets activists rowdy

While the message is becoming clearer that Bostonians won’t put up with a level of service cuts or fare increases anywhere near what the MBTA’s proposing in order to shore up its financial troubles, protesters aren’t backing down. Yesterday’s rally on the steps of Boston Public Library proved more residents, from students to seniors, demand to be heard in the fight to save the city’s public transit from being crippled.

Since the proposals were released more than a month ago, riders have mobilized on social media and attended some of the nearly two dozen public meetings held so far. Most, if not all, have denounced plans to raise fares as much as 400 percent for some users and cut weekend ferry, commuter rail and E line service and up to 25 percent of bus lines.

More than 100 gathered at the library’s steps near Copley Square to urge state legislators to put the T on the road to sustainable funding. Many allege cuts as severe as those proposed will divide the city and render the many low-income workers and students dependent on public transit effectively immobile. The cries against the MBTA continued inside, when at least 300 people packed into the Rabb Lecture Hall and another overflow room to listen to more than 70 speakers rail on Governor Deval Patrick and state leaders for allowing the MBTA to get in such dire financial straits.

Photos: Activists denounce proposed T cuts

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Show me the Storify

Josh Stearns makes sense of this thing called Storify, something I’ve long dismissed as a distraction. But the Free Press reporter’s ongoing monitoring of journalist arrests in Occupy protests works well with Storify’s concepts. Stearns is able to continue adding to the story and keep a running tally of arrests and police actions, even as the protests have lost much of the attention they did towards the end of last year. Stearns said, “Right now (Storify has) been used as a sidebar, not a main bar. The question is less than how will Storify will change journalism but soc media change journalism, and that’s an open question.”

The Daily Beast used the Komen Foundation’s political gaffe towards Planned Parenthood funding as the basis of a Storify. It organized the Storify into three segments: the plea for funding, the political backlash and subsequent turmoil at Komen because of the foundation’s own politics. I thought it provided a great mix of tweets and charts and multimedia to show the dynamic nature of this debate that emerged and then the reversal of the initial decision late last week. For stories that can change by the hour as this one did, Storify works well to keep people updated who don’t have the time to watch their Twitter feeds change or read a new news article on the hour.

PipelinePG, an offshoot of the Pittsburg Post-Gazette focused on natural gas drilling, centered their Storify on President Obama’s energy remarks during his State of the Union address a couple weeks ago. They used a combination of media sources such as NPR and groups like FracFocus.org as well as individual tweeters. They also incorporated the Post-Gazette’s infographics and video of the SOTU. It’s all really effective and well-orchestrated. It makes reading any story by them on this topic pretty much unnecessary.

I’ve already been able to use Storify for a hot topic-ish story for BostInno. It’s a great addition for capturing public opinion and what else is being buzzed about on social media platforms. Like Stearns said, how the public takes to it for their own use is up in the air. For journalists, though, it’s something we should all figure out how to incorporate.

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Feed Frenzy

I’d like to think I’m better at Twitter than I really am. I’ve had an account for getting on three years now. One of those years I used it a handful of times. It’s only been in the last year and a half or so that this social media avenue has taken over an increasing part of my life. But there here are others who spend way more time than I do and tweet things with far greater wit – including @dankennedy_nu. (Glad I got the kissing up out of the way.)

@andrewphelps – Andrew Phelps, future of news reporter at @NiemenLab.He’s popping up on both my Facebook and Twitter feeds, continuously revealing something tech-y about journalism. As someone distracted by new and shiny things, both Phelps and the Niemen Journalism Lab at Harvard are must-reads of mine for information about people’s social media habits and general trends regarding news and its online tendencies.

@gawker – OK, let’s get it all out in the open. I read Gawker like I look at a car accident – I can’t help myself. But it’s been kind of fun lately watching their petty argument against NBC News. I mean, who’s really counting how many cameras show up to cover a story. Lest we forget, it’s the web hits that count. Not the most media-ish of feeds, but today’s gossip is often tomorrow’s news. I think that’s their motto, too.

@LATimesRainey – James Rainey used to be the Los Angeles Times‘ media reporter before he abruptly stopped writing his weekly column late last year. Still, he’s a certified media junkie who reliably spills his thoughts on industry news – he also keeps me up to date with the happs in LA so I never feel the least-bit homesick for the West Coast. As a defender of newspapers too, he puts just the right amount of critique on the Internet revolution.

@BrianStelter – Where the LA Times has (or had) Rainey, The New York Times has Brian Stelter and Media Decoder. Stelter’s tweeting during events like the recent Republican debates goes beyond just what’s happening, but also takes a great look at the reporters, anchors and moderators. I feel like he’d be the person to criticize Scott Pelley for the position of his eyebrows. Frankly, the New York Times is the place to be if you’re a media tweeter. Go on WeFollow and most of the top media handles belong to the Times, such as @carr2n, @paper_cuts, @NYTimesAd, to name but a few. David Carr is another media reporter who tweets just about anything he feels in addition to his own work. His feed is, therefore, pretty entertaining. And the Times’ Paper Cuts and Media/Advertising handles keep things a little more serious when it comes to the printed products. Hey, I have to be serious sometimes.

@dkbermanThe Wall Street Journal is a bit much for me to handle, partly because everything I want to read online is usually behind their paywall. For all of the earnings reports Dennis Berman tweets, there’s some coverage about the media and how much money any given company lost last quarter. (NBC, I’m picking on you again) Plus, it usually gets me on the site before I indulge in some of Dan Neil’s humor. Of course, @zseward, the Journal’s social media editor, keeps things light on his feed too. After all he has the guts to call “bullshit” when wants.

[View the story “Zach Seward” on Storify]

Photo: Creative Commons/Flickr/_DaniloRamos

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