Social Media as A News Source

How important is blogging for a company in the news media industry? Turns out that it’s pretty important, as it helps reaffirm the journalistic credibility, thereby strengthening the brand for the news organization. Many news organizations have already recognized this, and their websites often include channels dedicated to blogs written by editorial staff. For example, writers known for their expertise in automobiles, wine, gardening or food may publish their own blogs based on the same industries.

Ultimately, news organizations will thrive when they produce revenue. Revenue can be achieved by 1) increasing readership, as this will attract advertisers, 2) paywall revenue, where online readers will pay a fee to access stories on a news website. Simply put, online news organizations want not only more readers, but also more loyal readers.  Is simply writing a blog going to achieve this goal? How can news organizations gain even more value from their blogs? Here are a few recommendations.

#1: Engage. Then engage some more.

An engaged audience becomes a loyal audience. By asking readers questions, soliciting feedback or polling readers, news organizations can get two-way communication rolling. For example, the restaurant reviewer’s blog could ask readers to share the name of their favourite local restaurant so it can be considered for a future review. Or the wine expert’s blog could ask readers to vote for their favourite local white wine of the summer as part of  “Reader’s Choice” contest, with the contest winner receiving a trip to the winning winery.

When readers comment on the blog, be sure to respond. Again, this enables two-way communication and strengthens the organization’s brand.

Don’t forget that readers will share valuable content on their social media networks, too. So when you engage one reader, you are potentially engaging many more.

#2: Get the Community Involved. 

Op-eds and Letters To the Editor have long been a way for the public to contribute to the content of news media. Why not incorporate community blogs as well? This creates a positive feeling of “ownership” for the contributors and readers alike, who know that news content is not solely generated by the newsroom. As a result, people will have a stronger affinity with the brand, and will more likely be loyal readers.

The Vancouver Sun website does a good job with this. It contains a channel that includes not only editorial staff blogs but also blogs from the community as well.

#3. Encourage Readership.

While “selling” to blog readers is frowned upon, this recommendation strives to make it easier for readers to access additional news from the news organization’s website. This potentially  increases traffic/readers to the website. The New York Times website does a good job with this. At the end of content, in unobtrusive small type you will occasionally find the words, “Try unlimited access to for just 99 cents” or “Get Free E-mail Alerts On These Topics”. It’s not a hard sell message, and if people like what they just read in a blog, why not make it easy for them to obtain more information in the future?

Blogs for news organizations look like they are here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. Readers benefit from blogs because they can access content from a credible resource. News organizations benefit from potentially increased revenue.

If you have a favourite news blog, please feel free to reply below and share.


There is a wide variety of social media tracking programs available online at no charge, so I thought I would try out one called socialmention and see how well it worked. As the topic of this blog is the media industry, I chose to look up social media conversations pertaining to The Vancouver Sun, which is one of two daily newspapers (The Province is the other newspaper) in Vancouver, BC. Both brands are part of the Pacific Newspaper Group Inc.

Test Case of

The home page looked simple enough. It prompted me for a topic so I typed in “Vancouver Sun Newspaper” and waited a few seconds as socialmention searched cyberspace for recent related social media conversations. As the results came through, I was instantly impressed by the clean layout of socialmention. In addition to a list of recent social media conversations around my topic, it also listed following variables with a definition of each:

  • Strength: the likelihood that The Vancouver Sun is being discussed in social media
  • Sentiment: the ratio of mentions that are generally positive to those that are generally negative; this was further backed by a numeric breakdown of positive, neutral and negative sentiment conversations
  • Passion: the measure of the likelihood that individuals talking about The Vancouver Sun will do so repeatedly
  • Reach: a measure of the range of influence; the number of unique authors referencing The Vancouver Sun divided by the total number of mentions
  • Top Keywords
  • Top Users, which identified the users and their number of conversations
  • Top Hashtags
  • Sources of the conversations


Limitations of socialmention

It wasn’t surprising to find that since The Vancouver Sun newspaper is a news outlet, I was faced with a number of recent conversations that had more to do with recent general news items (some posted by The Vancouver Sun itself), rather than conversations pertaining to The Vancouver Sun specifically. I had to sort through the conversations to find some that were relevant to what I wanted.

Some posts were positive conversations about recent awards won by journalists at The Vancouver Sun and other Postmedia news outlets.


Other posts pertained to the recent voluntary staff reduction plan packages offered to employees.


black day

I began to question how socialmention rates sentiment, because the two articles above had negative connotations attached, yet were rated “neutral” on the sentiment scale. Sarcasm and nuances in conversations were not picked up by socialmention. Since rating sentiment is subjective, on socialmention it is better to read each conversation yourself to get a true sense of the sentiment factor.

How to Benefit from Social Media Tracking

I found a conversation regarding David Baines, an award-winning Vancouver Sun journalist who accepted the voluntary staff reduction plan. It linked to a farewell column he wrote to readers, looking back on his years as a reporter who uncovered numerous business scams in Vancouver.


This article prompted me to look further into Baines, so I entered his name into socialmention and found the following conversations:

More Baines

It led me to an article from, which spoke of Baines’ departure from The Vancouver Sun, and stated that, “Reports put the total layoffs at Pacific Newspaper Group at over 60 people”. The article included reaction from some people, as seen on Twitter:

Baines 3

This was followed by reaction posted on

Baines 4

After reading the article and some of the comments, I realized that some people may have thought that Baines was laid off from The Vancouver Sun and it was not his decision to leave. The truth is that it was indeed his decision. In his final column to readers, he wrote, “When the Pacific Newspaper Group indicated it was willing to buy out employees,  I put my hand up. I am 64 years old. It comes at a good time.”

This presents an ideal opportunity for The Vancouver Sun to use information that can be found through social media tracking. The Vancouver Sun could join in the conversation at or Twitter and clarify that the recent employee reduction plan was voluntary. This type of action would help The Vancouver Sun maintain its strong brand and reputation.

Overall, this experience helped me to determine that socialmention is useful, easy to understand and very fast in providing results for social media listening. I know there are many other social media tracking tools out there. If you have a favourite, please share it!

Printing Press

Newspaper Printing Press

As consumers become more environmentally conscious, our daily lives include more decisions that make an impact on the earth.

At the grocery checkout, should you ask for a paper bag or plastic bag? Or have you brought your reusable bag?

Should you bike to work, take the car or catch the bus?

What can you compost or recycle?

Here’s an environmental decision you may never have considered before: Should you read the newspaper or read the news online?

A press release from Alma Media details results from a study it carried out with research institutes. The study compared the environmental impact of its three printed newspapers versus their online equivalents. It turns out that it is difficult to compare the two mediums because they are used and evaluated so differently. As well, each medium has different environmental issues to take into consideration.

The study showed that when comparing the environmental impact based on one hour of consumption (i.e. reading the news), the printed newspaper was more eco-friendly. But when comparing the environmental impact based on total usage and consumption hours, digital news was more environmentally-friendly.

It is interesting to note that for printed newspapers, much of the environmental impact takes place before the newspaper reaches the consumer. This includes the production of the paper, printing process and newspaper delivery. Compare this to online news, where much of the environmental impact occurs during the production of the devices (e.g. laptops, tablets, mobile phones) on which the news is read.

Kudos should go to Alma Media for undertaking this study as it is now incorporating measures it can take in its two new facilities to reduce its environmental footprint. Hopefully, more news organizations will take heed. Some news organizations currently implement sustainable practises such as using recycled paper, using eco-friendly ink, and incorporating recycling efforts during the printing process. Overall, it would do the news industry some good to build awareness of these efforts and keep environmentally-conscious consumers happy.

What do you think? Do you consider the environment in your decision on how you stay up-to-date with the news?

As the digital world grows, people are changing the way they consume news and information. While some people still read the newspaper, read a magazine, listen to the radio or watch their favourite newscast on tv, more and more people using their desktop, tablet and mobile phone to find this information. This change has opened up new opportunities for advertisers, who can now deliver their online advertising messages to their target market better than ever before.

Here’s a video explaining online advertising targeting:

One form of advertising targeting is behavior targeting, which uses cookies to keep track of the websites you have visited. This allows advertisers to deliver their ad messages to users whose online activities reflect that of the advertiser’s target market. For example, if you are a new parent who has researched baby car seats online, don’t be surprised if diaper ads appear on the screen, even when you are on non-parent related websites.

Another form of behavior targeting is retargeting. For example, let’s say you are looking to book your next vacation and you have visited an airline carrier’s website to check pricing. Later, when you are visiting a different website, you are served an ad from that same airline carrier. That carrier is hoping that its ad will prompt you to make a purchase. This graphic from Matomy Market’s website illustrates retargeting well.

Matomy Market - Retargeting Illustration

Matomy Market – Retargeting Illustration

What do you think about behaviourally-targeted ads? Are they an intrusion to your privacy and you feel like Big Brother is watching you? Or do you find it convenient to have relevant ads delivered to you? Perhaps it doesn’t bother you at all.

This article by Andrea Fisherman explains how concern about behavioural targeting comes down to security and privacy issues. As consumer watchdog groups and government bodies decide how and if regulations on behavioural targeting should be put in place, many consumers try to minimize themselves from being targeted by deleting the cookies from their computer.

One thing is for sure. Behaviourally-targeted ads make advertisers happy, as they can target their message to the right people, assuring them better bang for their advertising dollar.

Celebrity news. Some call it gossip. Call it what you will, but most of us like to hear the highs and the lows of the rich and famous every now and then. What’s the best way to get this news? Although the traditional ways, such as magazines, newspaper, radio and television still exist, there are good reasons for going to your desktop, tablet or mobile to catch up with the Kardashians and others. Here are my top 10 reasons to go digital for celebrity news.

#1: No ink-smudged fingers. Have you ever gotten black, ink-smudged fingers after reading the newspaper? You won’t have this problem with digital media. There’s enough dirt in the content of celebrity news – there’s no need for your fingers to get dirty, too!

#2: Access to breaking news. With digital media, you can access late-breaking news. Royal watchers will be able to find out almost immediately when the Royal baby is born. Or when Kanye and Kim’s baby is born. You choose which is more important.

#3: Photo galleries. Want to bet that many David Beckham fans checked out photo galleries of him online when his retirement from soccer was announced last week? More specifically, want to bet that many fans (especially the female fans) checked out his H&M underwear ad photos online? With digital media, there is an endless inventory of photos available.

David Beckham H&M Ad

David Beckham H&M Ad

#4: You can seek out the content you want. Want to find out more about which celebrities are supporting Oklahoma tornado relief efforts? With traditional media, you have to wait for the information to come to you.  With digital media, this information is available to you at the click of a button.

#5: Video. Video is a strong component of digital media. Why just read about Reese Witherspoon’s drunken arrest when you can watch it?

#6: Accessibility to old news. Have you lost track of who Jennifer Aniston dated throughout the years? No need to peruse old issues of People or Us magazine. Simply look it up on a search engine. Her love life is etched in history online.

#7: Live and breathe with your favourite celebrity. Social media allows celebrities to connect with their fans. Want to know what Justin Bieber is thinking and doing? Follow him on Twitter like his 39.5 million followers do. Think what you want about his music; this guy knows how social media marketing works.

Justin Bieber's Twitter Page

Justin Bieber’s Twitter Page

#8: Information is available anywhere, anytime. With digital media, you don’t to wait for the latest issue of your favourite entertainment magazine to come out or television show to air in order to find out if Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart are “on” or “off” again. With your smartphone or tablet, you can access that information online while at the beach, in line at the grocery store, in the middle of the night or during your lunch break.

#9: Sharing. Have a favourite celebrity story you want to share with your friends? It’s easy with digital media. With “share” buttons beside the story, you can quickly and easily share the story via Twitter, Facebook and more.

#10: User Generated Content. Did you bump into a celebrity at your favourite restaurant, or did you see her shopping at a local store? Many websites want access to breaking news and invite readers to share what they know. For example, on the home page of,  it shows how you can email or phone them toll-free with your tips.

Digital media has opened up a whole new way of celebrity-watching. It has made the news more immediate and accessible than ever before. How do you access celebrity news? Are you more of a traditionalist or do you embrace digital media?

The newspaper industry is changing around the world, as readers migrate from reading a printed product to consuming the news on their mobile, desktop or tablet. This shift has dealt newspaper owners with the task of  working with the demand for digital news while keeping a healthy profit margin. What threatens profits is the fact that revenue from digital advertising does not bring in the same revenue that print advertising brought in during previous years. The industry has had to develop new revenue models in order to survive. An example of a new revenue model established by some newspaper organizations is the paywall, where readers are charged for access to online news content.

What other new revenue models can help the industry?

On Digg, I found an intriguing article from McGarr Solicitors in Ireland that showed a new revenue model for the newspaper industry that I have never seen before. It could be called revolutionary by some, or protectionist by others. What caught my attention was the controversy that surrounds the model. The Irish newspaper industry is demanding that links to news stories from their websites belonged to them, and that ” … they had the right to set the rates for those links…” should they be used by others. Further, the industry is pushing for unauthorized linking to be declared illegal. McGarr’s article shows an example where a women’s charity was advised to purchase a licence for a newspaper link it made on its website. It’s worth mentioning that the link was to a story that spoke of some of the positive work the charity group had made.

Ironically, none of the Irish newspapers has mentioned any of this in its news stories.

As emphasized in Rohit Bhargava’s 5 New Rules of Social Media Optimization, social media should “Make sharing easy”. If the Irish newspaper industry restricts this sharing, it also misses out on the benefits of social media that include branding, relationship-building with readers, establishing itself as the news authorities, to name a few.

I can somewhat empathize with the industry’s potential arguement that charging for link-sharing will help offset the costs of paying for the industry’s journalists. It could be argued that these educated and experienced journalists bring editorial integrity and value to the news industry. Unfortunately, what the Irish newspaper industry is ignoring is the irreparable damage from the massive online community that will simply find its news elsewhere. For free.

If you were part of the Irish newspaper industry, what would be your next steps?

Transparency has always been important in the news media industry. Simple things like reporting the truth, properly sourcing a figure or quote, including a byline, reporting a story from all angles, clearly differentiating advertorial (where a story is developed in conjunction with an advertiser) from editorial, to name a few. All of these elements strengthen a news outlet’s journalistic integrity.

Mark Smiciklas states the value of transparency in social media in his blog post on Social Media Explorer.

“Stakeholders are beginning to expect open access to relevant content and the ability to participate in dialogue that will help them satisfy their information needs. All this for the purpose of building trust in a product, services or organization”.

Earlier this week, I witnessed transparency in social media first-hand with my employer, Pacific Newspaper Group, the publisher of The Vancouver Sun/The Province. An internal letter was sent to all employees from the President and Publisher. It was direct, informative, and did not contain good news. It spoke of how the company must make drastic cuts to its costs and number of employees if the company was to survive the new digital age that has changed the traditional print news industry. An employee buyout plan was in the works with potential layoffs to follow.

The company’s next steps showed how it took this opportunity to be fully transparent. Instead of hiding this information and keeping it as internal as possible, it was posted as a news story on The Vancouver Sun and The Province websites, where readers could share the story within their social media networks.

Pacific Newspaper Group’s actions matched some of the points recommended by Smiciklas in his blog post, where social media transparency should:

  • Tell the truth. Practice honest communication and marketing.
  • Become an info hub. Give audiences the information they need to help their decision making with respect to interacting with you or buying your product or service.
  • Share your business values. Help your audiences understand what you stand for.

In telling the truth, the Publisher showed integrity and the reality that the industry has changed, prompting a need to right-size the company in order for it to succeed.

The Vancouver Sun/The Province became an info hub of this news. It is better to hear it first-hand from the source rather than from the competitors (who were undoubtedly on this story in a heartbeat).

The Vancouver Sun/The Province showed its business values by assuring advertisers and readers that the quality of the products remains strong, and measures are being taken to ensure the survival of the products.

Although transparency is important in social media, there are appropriate limits to that transparency. In this case, the company’s exact financial numbers were not disclosed. The number of employees the company wants to take the buyout was not disclosed, either.  This would have been more information than was necessary to divulge to the public, and would have created a competitive disadvantage to the company.

In the end, the news itself was not positive, but the way it was disseminated to the public was appropriate.