Posts Tagged ‘ Facebook ’

The Journalism Social Network

In light of the new hit movie, The Social Network, it seems appropriate to write a post on the infamous social network – Facebook. How does journalism relate to Facebook? Well, there are plenty of ways a journalist can use Facebook as a tool.

To start, Facebook is a great way to find contacts. For example, say a journalist is covering the health industry and adds 20 of his contacts to Facebook. By looking at his friends, the journalist may be able to find other contacts that he wouldn’t otherwise have met. Now, obviously a journalist has to be careful about adding “whistle blowers” or anonymous sources. These people can give false leads and information that will risk a journalist’s credibility. But, most of the time Facebook is a very useful tool.

Secondly, Facebook is a great source of special interest groups. Previously, journalists looked to large ‘official’ organizations to comment on a story.  Now, a journalist can get a further perspective from groups that are using social networking platforms. This is particularly important as stories are increasingly pushed by people from these niche groups.

A third way to use Facebook is as a news source itself via the feed of friends’ status updates. This can be more miss than hit, but there’s always the chance someone will mention something newsworthy, or even post newsworthy images. Either way, having friends on Facebook will improve a journalist’s relationship with contacts by showing an interest in others’ lives.

Finally, a journalist can set up his own group on Facebook. This can provide a useful organizational and distribution tool for stories. A journalist can seek help on a story, and get others to give their perspective on an issue. The group is like a community that can feed into the news agenda of the site, suggest ideas, leads and treatments. As journalists become increasingly stretched, being able to tap into support networks like these is becoming increasingly important.

Adapting to Facebook will be easy for young journalists, since so many of them have practically grown up with social networks. College students are perhaps one of the most connected groups of people, which is important for those entering the field of journalism.

    Steps for Journalism Entrepeneurs

    So, you’re fed up with the news industry and thinking about starting a news website. Sure, many people get lucky and stumble into into entrepreneurship, but there is a greater chance of success if you start with a plan.

    Starting a news website requires its own step-by-step process, combining the aspects of business and journalism.

    Robert Niles from MediaShift shares his checklist for starting an online news website:

    The name:

    ☐ Select a name for your publication
    Pick a name for which you can obtain the “.com” domain of the publication name, without spaces or special characters such as hyphens. It should be easy to spell, and easy to remember.

    ☐ Register your domain name
    Once you’ve selected a name, don’t hesitate to register it with a domain registrar, such as GoDaddy or Network Solutions.

    ☐ Open a business checking account
    Open a bank account as soon as you have a business name. Separating your business account from your personal account will help with accounting, taxes and projecting a professional image to customers.

    ☐ Register a fictitious business name.
    Banks often can help you do this when you set up your business checking account, which is another reason to take that step immediately.

    ☐ Trademark your name
    No lawyer is needed to trademark a website name. Simply follow the steps on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website. All of the paperwork can be filed online. The process takes months, but it’s worth it.

    Getting operational

    ☐ Select a calendar app or system to record deadlines, meetings and assigned tasks. This helps keep track of key dates and tasks as you move forward.

    ☐ Secure office space
    You need a place to work. Even if you work at home, you need to set aside space that’s just for your work. That has a tax advantage, as well, as you might be able to deduct dedicated work space within your home, especially if you rent. Out-of-home office space can be a better bet for many entrepreneurs, though (especially “hyperlocal” publishers), as a “real office” demonstrates that you are serious participant in the local business community.

    ☐ Obtain equipment
    At minimum:

    • Laptop computer
    • Mobile phone (with e-mail and Web access)
    • Digital camera
    • Video camera (with tripod and mic for better production values)
    • Digital audio recorder (be sure it can sync with your computer to upload audio files)

    ☐ Get insurance
    You’ll need libel insurance, as well as insurance for your workspace and equipment. Visit the Online Media Legal Network before you proceed, too, so you’ll know where to go should you get into legal entanglements in the course of your reporting.

    ☐ Review publishing systems and select one
    Here’s one review of content management systems popular with start-up news websites. If you’re simply looking to blog, and want to start ASAP, there’s always Blogger, too. E-mail small publishers you admire or your LinkedIn network for advice. This decision’s too important to leave to a single website article or Google search.

    ☐ Select a hosting provider
    You’ll want a hosting provider with extensive experience supporting the CMS you’ve selected, which is why I listed that step first. Again, rely on recommendations from colleagues and friends to guide you.

    ☐ Install publishing system, if necessary
    Depending upon the hosting package you select, you might need to install the CMS software yourself. Delve into your hosting provider’s support forums, or throw yourself upon the mercy of its support staff. If your hosting provider doesn’t have either online support forums or a helpful support staff, you’ve picked the wrong host.

    Starting up

    ☐ Design web templates
    Once you have a CMS, you’ll need to customize it to reflect your website. Select an available theme, or design your own.

    ☐ Select a Web traffic analytic system and install tracking code in web template
    Google Analytics is one example. It’s free and provides more than enough data for a small start-up’s needs.

    ☐ Create a Facebook page for your publication
    Go to http://www.facebook.com/pages and click the “Create a Page” button. Be sure to add a prominent link to your Facebook page within your site template.

    ☐ Register a Twitter account
    You probably have a personal Twitter account, but you should also register one for your publication, using its name. Always remember which account you’re logged into when you tweet!

    ☐ Create an e-mail list and online subscription form
    Constant Contact is one example, but other options are available, as well. Using a third-party provider for e-mail will help you avoid bandwidth overload issue on your host’s e-mail servers, and keeps you from having to deal with the hassle of blacklist management.

    ☐ Design and print business cards
    Sure, you’re a paperless online business. But leaving behind plenty of these “old school” artifacts is essential in building a network of clients, sources, customers and readers.

    ☐ Create a rate card
    Potential advertisers will want to know how much you charge for their ads to appear on your site. So you’ll need to establish (and publish) a rate card listing your available packages and prices. That means that you’ll have to select ad sizes for placement within your site templates. (I recommend the Wide Skyscraper, Leaderboard and Medium Rectangle. Check out Google’s eyetracking heatmap for more detail on where to place your ads.) Determine a CPM (cost per thousands impressions) for those ads and do the math to create impression packages. You might choose to run persistent ads, rather than rotate. But you’ll still need fixed ad sizes and to do the math based on a site CPM to figure an appropriate price to charge.

    ☐ Create a media kit
    You’ll need to describe your site, on a single page, to convince readers to read it, advertisers to support it and other journalists to report about it. Here’s the who, what, where, when and why about your new website. That’s your initial media kit. Plan to update your kit, as you gather more readership data, laudatory quotes and refine your site’s focus.

    ☐ Create a customer lead list
    Who will you solicit to become advertisers or funders of your website? That’s your customer lead list. Gather contact information, then use your calendar to assign times to contact everyone on your list. And then, to contact them again.

    ☐ Create a promotional lead list
    Who can you talk into writing about your site? At what events can you meet and recruit new readers? Where online can you promote the site, without looking like a spammer or scammer? List these promotional opportunities, then use your calendar to assign times to follow up on each opportunity.

     

    Wow. It looks like starting a real online news site is not as easy as it seems. It’s a good thing places like CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and other universities are beginning to offer entrepreneurial journalism classes! I guess that goes to show you that starting a business is hard work, which is probably why so few entrepreneurial ideas are successful. Although it seems difficult, I’m sure it can be done. Perhaps one day I’ll put this check list to the test.

    Crowdsurfing the Crowdsourcing Scene

    A journalism technique called crowdsourcing is like a close relative citizen journalism. Crowdsourcing, in journalism, is the use of a large group of readers to report a news story.

    Crowdsourcing allows reporters to collect and gather information through some automated agent, such as a website. This is a huge advantage. Journalists no longer have to be ‘on the scene’ to get information, which can save so much time.

    Although it is using new technology, the concept of crowdsourcing is not new. Modern crowdsourcing is similar to hooking an answering machine to a telephone “tip line,” where a news organization asks readers to phone suggestions for stories. Or, asking readers to send in photos of events in their community.

    These old methods, however,  require a great deal of manual labor. Reporters must sift through submitted material, looking for information that can be used well in a story. But with new technology, reporters no longer have to do this.

    True crowdsourcing in today’s terms involves online applications that enable the collection, analysis and publication of reader-contributed incident reports, in real time. Applications such as twitter, Facebook, and even mobile applications. The audience can use these tools to contact reporters, letting them know of story ideas as they break. In essence, crowd sourcing allows journalists to have eyes everywhere.

    A great example of this is Janis Krums’ Twitter post about the plane crashing into the Hudson River. The photo seen below was the first photo of the crash.

    Photo Credit - Twitpic

    Krums whipped out his iPhone and took this photo right after the plane crashed, beating all the traditional media outlets to the story. This shows how media outlets can find great value in using Twitter as a news source.

     

    There’s An App For That

    There seems to be an app for everything these days. In light of a recent survey, perhaps news organizations should start thinking about mobile apps.

    The survey, conducted by the Pew Internet and Nielson, studied cellphone users’ app habits. They found that about 43 percent of cellphone users have an app on their device, but only about 29 percent actually use them. However, this may change. The ever-growing market for smart phones is sure to increase app usage. So, journalists…jump on the bandwagon!

    Photo Credit - thefrisky.com

    It’s simply a fact..young people like apps. According to the survey, about 47 percent of 18 to 29 year old said they’ve downloaded an app, compared to 39 percent of 30 to 49 years. The 50-plus group brings in a measly 14 percent. For news organizations looking to reach out to young customers, apps are perfect. The survey also found something very interesting – young people have taken to giving mobile donations. For nonprofit news organizations like ProPublica, this is the perfect combination. Young people plus apps equals money!
    Another interesting fact about apps is people who use them tend to get their news online. According to the survey, 90 percent of app users consume news online, compared to 75 percent of non-app users. That is a HUGE percentage! Apps will not only draw in money, but will draw in an audience. By having a mobile application, a news organization can keep constant contact with their audience.
    Some news organizations already have apps. For instance, CNN and USA Today both have applications. Unfortunately, news apps aren’t nearly as popular as game apps, but they are managing to make it onto the scene. The most popular apps, such as Facebook take a whopping 42 percent of users. If you look a little further down on the popularity scale, news apps start appearing – nine percent of users said they used the CNN app in the past month, 8 percent USA Today and 7 percent New York Times. For being fairly new to the app scene, these number aren’t too bad!
    Apps need to be quick and concise. The survey found that people who use their apps daily only do so for less than 30 minutes. This is where journalists’ skills to catch an audience’s attention will come in very hand. With people only spending so little time on an app, a good headline or lead is extremely important to draw them in.

    Words from the Big Man

    Paul Steiger, ProPublica’s editor-in-chief, has some interesting ideas when it comes to the transformation of investigative journalism. According to Steiger’s article, investigative reporting is “on the cusp of major transformation—in the way it reaches its audiences, how news and information is gathered and distributed, and the topics on which it is focused.”

    Let’s explore a few of his main points:

    Reaching Audiences: The first thing Steiger mentions about the transformation of investigative reporting is how they will reach audiences. The old traditional newspaper format no longer works for the majority of readers. Not many people will sit down and read a five-part series or long story that continues on for pages. Instead, audiences have a much shorter attention span and want more creative communication techniques. According to Steiger, reporters can use humor, irony, photography, video, animation are all great ways to reach readers. But, Steiger stresses that there is a right and wrong way to do this. Merely adding a couple of pictures and a graph or two to a newspaper story and putting the same story on the Web is not effective. Instead, reporters must completely rethink how the story is told. They must piece video clips and graphics together to create a seamless story. Then after the visual element is complete, reporters can then back up their stories with narratives, interview transcripts, supporting statistics and data sources from the Internet. Steiger has noticed that some audiences will read the writing and statistics first, and others will skip them entirely and go straight for the video. Either way, it’s important that they supporting facts are present.

    Reporting Tools for Gathering: Steiger’s second point discusses how reporters can use technology to their advantage. Today’s investigative reporters have the opportunity to master computer-aided devices and use them to their advantage. Steiger mentioned his experience at a seminar he attended for Wall Street Journal reporters and editors. Interestingly, the seminar was led by the youngest person present, Vauhini Vara, a San Francisco-based reporter just a few years out of college. The topic? How to use Facebook in combination with other databases to find sources inside major companies. Steiger explained the reaction of the seminar attendees upon hearing this concept:

    “I watched jaws drop all around the table as she demonstrated in two or three minutes that she could identify a dozen present or former employees of a given company who were all within two degrees of separation of a reporter in the room. She convinced many veteran reporters that these people could be reached through friend-of-a-friend contact instead of being cold-called.”

    This was a huge breakthrough for the journalists at the meeting. Who would have thought that the notorious Facebook would prove to be such an asset to reporting? Steiger noticed that Vara’s approach is similar to old-fashioned shoe-leather reporting, and greatly reduces the time and effort required to gather sources. As more and more information becomes digitized on the Internet, reporters will have more information at their fingertips.

    Topic Choices: Steiger mentions how most investigative reporting focuses on where the most power resides – government or big business. Although it is important to exposing abuses by these institutions, there are many other areas to investigate as well. Institutions such as unions, school systems and universities, doctors and hospitals, lawyers and courts, nonprofits and the media, should not be overlooked. People such as the elderly and immigrants are increasingly becoming targets of abuse or fraud by such institutions.

    Unfortunately, there are many crucial topics to be investigated and a small number of well-trained investigative reporters. That’s where bloggers come in. Obviously, blogs can be extremely opinionated and should not be trusted as credible news sources. However, some bloggers have actually uncovered errors in traditional news organizations published stories. According to Steiger, “bloggers also have the ability to add information and insight to build on what reporters have unearthed.” As long as the bloggers are accurate, they have the power to enrich public knowledge on a topic.

    On a side note, Steiger mentions that ProPublica launched a blog of its own, which will be aimed at “aggregating any noteworthy investigative reporting that we can find that day.”

    Overall, Steiger gives some good advice on investigative journalism and how to utilize the Internet during all steps of the reporting process. This is more of an overview, and I plan on going more into depth on specific techniques such as database mining in later posts.