Posts Tagged ‘Social media’

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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 NYTimes.com 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.

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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 socialmention.com

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

socialmention

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.

awards

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

Krieger

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.

Baines

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 mining.com, 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 mining.com:

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 mining.com 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!

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.