Dispatches from the living amongst journalism's walking dead

Month: April 2009

Recommended reading for April 24th

These are my recommended links for April 24th:

Recommended reading for April 21st

These are my recommended links for April 21st:

Recommended reading for April 20th

These are my recommended links for April 20th:

Recommended reading for April 14th through April 17th

These are my recommended links for April 14th through April 17th:

Get to know your Twitter stats

There are tons of sites jumping on the Twitter bandwagon every day – from new posting apps to URL shorteners and analytics providers – it’s all a lot to take in. I have been really getting into Twitter Analyzer lately to really dig into my publication’s Twitter account and I just can’t say enough great things about it.

I run @cincienquirer for the Cincinnati Enquirer every day – it is one of a half-dozen we run and our primary news account. Using TA, I can re-examine what subjects we post about the most, when we’re posting and when we could stand to increase/decrease our frequency. Check out these stats (updated as of today) for @cincienquirer – how useful would this info be to your news organization?

Average update frequency (by hour)

Average update frequency (by hour)

How often we update by date

How often we update by date

Most-tweeted keywords

Most-tweeted keywords

Wouldn’t it be great to know this info about your newspaper?You can also get great statistics on the people who read, follow and re-tweet your tweets. You can see how active your users are (how much they tweet), who re-tweets or mentions you the most and how many followers you can expect to gain over time.

Follower density by location

Follower density by location

How many messages are read by followers (red) and re-tweets (blue)

How many messages are read by followers (red) and re-tweets (blue)

Projected followers by fall

Twitter followers

Whether you use TA or another analytics program (like Omniture, which you may use for your website stats), this is info you should be monitoring regularly if your news organization is on Twitter. Without a regular look at your usage stats and your followers, it is difficult to monitor your success at reaching your desired Twitter audience.

The Diggbar: Friend or foe to news sites?

When Digg released its Diggbar a couple of weeks ago, I had a “Where’s the outrage?” post all ready to go. Now I’m cautiously optimistic it isn’t the end of the world (so I’m glad I never hit ‘publish’) – though I’m very much on edge.

Digg, as most people know, is a social bookmarking site and social hub that is an unbeatable traffic driver for news content sites. People share, rate and comment on news stories (among other links) and thus, visit your site when you’re “dugg”.

A couple of weeks ago, Digg launched the Diggbar, which makes it easy for Digg users to shorten and post links to Digg, as well as jump from story to story within the Digg umbrella. The big WTF moment, came when we all noticed that all of Digg’s links no longer went to the original content providers’ sites, but rather linked back to Digg. When you’d click the link on a story on the Digg site, it wouldn’t go to the story directly, but would open the page inside of an iframe at Digg’s site. Oh, crap.

At that time, TechCrunch noted that this would not affect most content providers’ web analytics and advertising displays, though it could impact the original source’s ranking in Comscore, Google and more. This had this news website editor weeping for the death of linkbait – and wondering when we’d begin to discourage our users from Digging our stories.

But maybe I was all worried for nothing. Last week, Digg set out to dispel the rumors of their alleged thievery, assuring we naysayers in the publishing world that their new gadget wouldn’t hurt us in SEO rankings, traffic and analytics. As Digg’s John Quinn put it, “Digg continues to have a symbiotic relationship with content publishers, and we anticipate these ongoing improvements will only enhance publisher traffic as more people discover and share content on Digg.”

Don’t get too relieved just yet. Mashable notes that when perusing Digg, users now have to click twice to see the real link (or three times if they read Digg in an RSS reader). This may lead to even more proliferation of Digg links over original links if readers opt to go the easy route and just use those shortened Digg links in their blogs and social media tools. Also, despite their claims, Digg URLs are showing up in Google and goofing up our SEO.

This has led some content providers to block the Diggbar. Engadget, for once, decided to block it last Friday, stating, “We believe that the work of content creators should be protected and treated as the unique product that it is, and that an end-user’s experience shouldn’t be tainted with a “catch-all” tool which diminishes context.”

Mashable weighed in over the weekend with the pros and cons of the Diggbar. The biggest pro, of course, is increased site traffic from eager Diggers…but it may not outweigh the cost of the impact on SEO. I suggest you take a read before you get fired up and ready to call your programmers.

In short, the jury is out. I expect to see more hubbub as the Diggbar becomes more and more popular. And Digg isn’t alone, Facebook is already redirecting traffic back to itself from your shared links. StumbleUpon is soon to follow. There may be a battle brewing between social media sites and news websites over these new tactics – so stay tuned.

Twitterizing your staff

Newspapers all over the country all seem to be springing into action on Twitter. If they aren’t already there, many are at least starting to check it out for use in their newsrooms.

Steve Buttry, the Information Content Conductor (how’s THAT for a title?) at Gazette Communications in Iowa is holding a webinar entitled “Leading Your staff Into the Twitterverse” through the American Society of Newspaper Editors.

Here’s the tipsheet he’s including for the webinar of several resources for those getting started on Twitter. It’s got a lot of info on how to set up and run an account and how to make Twitter work for you as a journalist (including an answer that question I get in every training session, “What do I say?”).

Check it out. Also, revisit yesterday’s post about my own Twitter tips.

Intro to Twitter for Journalists

(Updated June 2010)

How-Tos on Twitter

Tweet: A single Twitter message, the maximum length of which is 140 characters (so make them count).

Replying to/mentioning another Twitter user: When you include  @someonesname, it will send a public message to that user and show up in your outgoing tweets. This is also how you would address a Twitter user. Example: I spoke to @myboss today, he said I was fired. (To respond to others’ tweets on Twitter.com, hover your mouse over their message to see the reply option.)

Direct (private) messages: Use d theirname before your message to make it private. This will not show up on your public tweets. (To direct message from Twitter, hover their user icon and click on the gear to see the option or go to Direct Messages on the right side of the page.)

Re-tweeting (RT): If you see something on someone else’s Twitter feed you’d like to directly share with your followers, you can essentially “forward” their tweet to your readers by re-tweeting. (To re-tweet on Twitter’s site, hover your mouse over their message to see the re-tweet option.)

Hashtags: Sometimes on Twitter, you’ll see people use # before a word. This is called a hashtag and it is used to group tweets from lots of people relating to a certain topic or event. Use a hashtag if you happen to see one that is about a group or event you’re covering.

Starting a hashtag: If you spot a news event or hot topic on the horizon, try creating a hashtag of your own when tweeting about it. Make sure it has a # in front and is pretty short.

Tweeting links: Because you only have 140 characters to work with, you’ll want to shorten any links you put into your messages. Some applications do this for you (see below); otherwise you should shorten your link at tinyurl.com or bit.ly.

Posting photos: If you’re tweeting from a mobile application (see below), it should have a way to directly tweet images from your phone’s camera. There are desktop applications that make this a lot easier or you can upload and tweet a photo at Twitpic.

Posting your geographic location: Twitter has built-in geolocation tools you can enable if you’d like. This will include a location on a map with your tweet.

Posting from your computer: There are several applications available to tweet from your computer that are much easier to use than Twitter’s site. Check out Tweetdeck, Twhirl, Seesmic or HootSuite.

Posting from your cell phone: You can set up your Twitter account to accept tweets by text message by going to twitter.com/devices. You do this by going to Settings > Devices on your Twitter home page. Follow the directions there.

Posting from your Blackberry or iPhone: Smart phones have some nifty apps that help you tweet on the go – most include ways to easily tweet photos and GPS locators with your posts.  Check out your app store for an app that’s right for you.

Grouping Twitter contacts: Once you’re following more than a few people, it can get confusing and tiring to read the whole stream at once. Twitter has a grouping system called Lists that create narrower streams of info from select Twitterers.  You can create lists from the Twitter site or most desktop apps. Create specific lists for beat contacts, personal friends, stuff you read just for fun, etc.

Important Stuff to Remember (Ethics & Such)

  • Make sure you verify a fact before running with it (or even re-tweeting it). Think of Twitter as a tip generator, not a reporter.
  • Twitter followers will correct you when necessary – and they will quickly forgive mistakes so long as you admit to them quickly.
  • If you don’t know something, just say so.
  • Follow the Golden Rule with content. Don’t use anyone’s stuff without getting permission and giving credit.
  • The Internet is public and permanent. Everything you say – even what you think is private – can be found and documented. Act accordingly.
  • Furthermore, if you wouldn’t say it on air or in a story, don’t say it at all.
  • You don’t have to get a special Twitter account just for work. Many journalists (myself included) use one account to span both worlds. Not everyone is comfortable with that, so it’s your call.
  • Even if you have a separate Twitter account for work, keep your profession in mind. To the law (and to readers and sources) you are always a journalist in everything you do.

Finding Who to Follow

The best way to get people to follow you on Twitter is to follow the right people from the start. You don’t want to add too many people at once, as it makes it hard to follow (and might make you look like a spammer). Add a few people at a time, focusing first on adding beat sources, then moving to potential competitors, info feeds and influencers in the community.

It also doesn’t hurt to follow those who’ve replied to or re-tweeted you in the past.

Find local twitterers by location or subject: Twellow is a service that searches local people (or people anywhere, really) by their specialties and popularity on Twitter. Also try Wefollow, which let’s you find members by topic/interest area.

Follow other journalists: A great way to get started on follows is finding other journalists on Twitter. Look for people who share your beat, or even those who seem to have a Twitter presence you like, at Muckrack.com

Look at Lists: A great way to easily follow others and get started with lists is to subscribe to others’ public Twitter lists. If there’s someone you like on Twitter, see who they follow and their collected lists along the right side of their Twitter home page. See one you like? Subscribe to it or pick an individual account from their subscriptions to follow yourself.

Suggested follows:

Go to the address and click on “follow” to add them to start subscribing.

News organizations to follow on Twitter:

@cnnbrk @breakingnews @ColonelTribune @statesman

More good examples:

@johnfayman: A former pupil of mine, John is the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Reds’ beat writer. He’s a good example because he uses his account in many ways: live-tweeting games, leaving commentary, answering fan questions and re-tweeting links.

@thehyperfix: Chris Cilizza is the original live-tweeter, using this account for live coverage of press conferences. You can also follow his regular account @thefix.

More Info:

Twitter Signup and Account Setup

Data Mining Twitter (6/2010)

Making Twitter Work For Reporting (6/2010)

Need-to-Know Twitter Tips for Journalists (6/2010)

My own collection of suggested links about Twitter and social media for journalists is on Delicious.

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