Recap of my presentation, “All the news that’s fit to Tweet”

On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to present “All the news that’s fit to Tweet: How social media is changing news gathering and news reporting” to a group of Journal Gazette reporters and editors. As I mentioned in my opening remarks, the journalists in the audience are the true experts on that topic–they’re experiencing those changes every day. My goal, then, was simply to provide an objective perspective and to demonstrate why I believe social media presents a tremendous opportunity for journalists to connect with their audience. The slides above provide an overview of my comments, but here are a few of the key points:

– Social media provides unmatched speed and scale. That’s why more and more people are getting the news from social media first, and then sharing in real time what they learn. That’s pretty hard to compete with.

– That being said, the news media still has an incredibly important role to play as people seek to answer three questions about the stories they find via their social networks:

  1. Where can I learn more? You can’t say much in a 140-character Tweet or in a Facebook status update. The news media can meet the audience’s need for substance.
  2. Is it credible? This just in: just because you read it on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s true. The media can help the audience separate fact from fiction.
  3. What does it mean in my community? When the audience wants to know what a story means in their neighborhood, the news media have the infrastructure to deliver hyper-local content.

Journalists can position themselves as a trusted provider of answers to those questions.

– In addition, when the news media encourage the audience to share and comment on its content, they have the added opportunity to reach an even broader audience. The news media can be the bridge between what happens when a story breaks and what happens when people want to talk about developing stories and share their opinions with their networks via social media.

– The opportunities available to journalists aren’t limited to their interactions with the audience. A growing number of networks/tools allow them to leverage the power of social media to find sources that may otherwise have been beyond their reach (through tools like Help A Reporter Out and LinkedIn Answers, for example), connect with other journalists (Muck Rack) and solicit opinions/quotes/reaction from readers and others (by simply asking questions on Twitter or via a status update on Facebook or LinkedIn).

– I truly believe, as I said in this earlier blog post, that there’s a closing window of opportunity for the traditional media to change the way it reports and disseminates the news. To seize this opportunity, however, journalists need to play offense instead of defense. This means looking at social media not as the enemy, but as an ally. The relationship between social media and the traditional news media isn’t an “either/or” proposition. They are not mutually exclusive. Journalists who understand this (such as Andy Carvin, Brian Stelter and Nick Kristof) will make the rules in the new world of journalism.

– If journalists resist social media, someone else will pick up the mantel. If journalists refuse to break news on Twitter, as some would have it, someone else will do it for them.

– Every journalist has a responsibility to encourage their profession to confront these challenges and resist being complacent. It’s up to those in the profession to change the industry from within.

The group I spoke to was very receptive to my comments–they get it, that’s for sure. They also had a lot of great questions, including a few with no easy answers. How can the news media create a sustainable revenue model in this environment? If ad content is matched to editorial content (news stories, blog posts, or otherwise), what happens when that content is unfavorable to the advertiser(s) that appears on the same page? How do you know when it’s safe to break a story via social media knowing that once it’s out there, it’s out there? All require substantive consideration and debate. One thing’s certain, however: social media’s impact on news gathering and reporting will only increase. The media can adapt without compromising its standards, but it must act quickly. Now is the time to start answering those questions. Now is the time for the news media to begin playing offense instead of defense.

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6 Responses to Recap of my presentation, “All the news that’s fit to Tweet”

  1. I was having an interesting ‘argument’ (friendly) with a local agency guy yesterday… I have long ago accepted that ‘it’ (insert your industry) has all been changed (for better or worse, the verdict can be debatable) because of the interconnected web/tech tools. It reminded me 1. that you are in the minority (an early adopter) still 2. that these disruptions to business models create enormous, perhaps unprecedented growth opportunities to those who will resolve to the realities vs. resist them.

  2. ajjuliano says:

    Well said, Craig. The winners will be those who figure out–first–how to bridge the gap between what works in the old model and what the audience wants that’s new/different. In the case of the news media, they have the advantage. They have the infrastructure to make the most headway in the shortest amount of time–but only if they shift with the changes, instead of resisting them.

  3. Andy Welfle says:

    How can the news media create a sustainable revenue model in this environment?

    That’s a good question! How did you answer? I don’t necessarily, think, at least with the social media landscape today, that they would make much money off of their social media efforts, except to drive traffic back to their website, where they’re displaying ads. Though they’ll be breaking news on Twitter, readers will want to go to their site to see more details and analysis.

    Wow. A slick marketing guy in front of the rough-and-tumble newspapermen. Did they rake you through the coals? 😛

  4. ajjuliano says:

    It was a question that really couldn’t be answered in the amount of time we had, but my comments reflect what you said: the opportunity to connect with readers and be a resource in the new communication environment can lead the news media to greater degrees of relevance, which leads to revenue opportunities. Easier said than done, of course, but it’s all about having content that people value, which leads to traffic and reach that advertisers value.

    I was not slick and they were not rough-and-tumble. They certainly were smart and asked good questions, but when it was the right answer, I had the good sense to say “I don’t know.”

  5. Anne Gregory says:

    Thanks for talking to us. We do use Facebook and Twitter for branding purposes, and almost every post has a link back to our website. We get more news tips from Twitter and more “hits” from Facebook, which makes sense if you think about how each one functions.
    Much of what we tweet is automated — police, sports blogs and the like — because we simply don’t have the bodies. I suspect most newspapers our size haven’t added staff to keep our social media socializing. — Anne Gregory, JG web writer-editor

  6. ajjuliano says:

    Thanks, Anne. I think you’re right about the main thing keeping newspapers from “socializing”: a lack of staff. It’s a problem many organizations face: aligning finite resources (people, dollars, etc.) with the infinite choices presented by social media. That’s a big enough challenge for any organization, but harder still when budgets and resources have always been cut.

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