Dispatches from the living amongst journalism's walking dead

Tag: demographics

Link roundup: Demographics, Quora, Instagram and news from old media

File under “Good to Know”

  • In not-at-all-shocking news, a Pew study shows the Internet Gains on Television as Public’s Main News Source . Since 2007, the number of 18 to 29 year olds citing the internet as their main source has nearly doubled, from 34% to 65%. Not surprising numbers, but notable nonetheless. This should have TV stations that rely on their newscasts as the sole breaking news source shaking in their boots.
  • Twitter Media gets into what makes good hashtags work. As someone who frequently struggles with the issue of deciding when and how to use hashtags, this post on the well-known hashtag work of 106 & Park really underscores why theirs work so well. For one, they aren’t forced news tags.

New-ish Tools for News

  • Last week, online media watchers wet their collective pants over Instagram, an iPhone photo-sharing application with a built-in social network, when Mashable highlighted how NPR is using it to connect with its audience. NPR, as usual, is out connecting on another app before everyone else – but whether this experiment will pay off is another story. As of right now, the app is only on iPhone, but it’s user base is growing by leaps and bounds. Judging from the comments on the Mashable post, those using it aren’t pleased at the prospect of influx of media.
  • On a related note, The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal gives a good and personal explanation of Instagram’s appeal.
  • I didn’t wet my pants, but I fell in love with Instagram too. I’ve started using its nice filters on my personal Tumblr project, 365 Snapshots.
  • I’m not sure where it started, but there was also a new media gold rush last week to Quora, an online question-and-answer oriented discussion site. Everyone wants to know how it could be used for journalism, especially since it is such a tame, smart (on the surface at least) community that is curating information. My colleague Daniel Victor blogged about some potential uses and started a topic on Quora looking for ideas (very meta) and. We’ll see where it goes. I know my coworkers at TBD are hard at work on this one.

Paywalls, paywalls!

  • The Dallas Morning News is taking a lot of content behind a paywall, with the old argument “because we have to” and “other newspapers do it”. The comments do not belie a supportive readership. The monthly digital-only price seems quite high to me.
  • The Daily O’Collegian, the campus newspaper for Oklahoma State, is also going behind a paywall for non-local readers. This may be the one instance in which I think a paywall makes perfect sense for a newspaper. It does make me feel for the student journalists who will try to use their links there for clips, however. Maybe they can give out a special coded version or something?

Real names are the answer – again

Fun Project

  • NY Times project Mapping America: Every City, Every Block allows users to browse local data from the Census, based on samples from 2005 to 2009 on an easily understood map. I’m in love with it and wish TBD had the budget to build something similar.

There’s a whole Internet outside of Twitter, so don’t forget it

Pew released a new study on Twitter demographics today that found only 8 percent of Americans on the web use Twitter. Of that 8 percent, only 2 percent use Twitter on a typical day. Keep in mind that about 74 percent of American adults are internet users, meaning that the Twitter users make up about 6 percent of the entire adult population.

This news shouldn’t be surprising, but maybe it is to those who live in the Twitter echo chamber.

When all of your friends, your coworkers, your spouse and the media you consume are on Twitter, it may seem logical to believe a great deal of America is as well. This is a dangerous assumption for journalists and media organizations to make – and I know I’ve been guilty of it from time to time.

While I still think it is very important for journalists to use Twitter, the following facts must be emblazoned on the brains of media Twitterati:

  • Twitter represents a very small group of people in your area.
  • Being popular on Twitter doesn’t necessarily make one popular or important in real life.
  • Re-tweets, replies and Twitter referrals do not adequately represent the larger interest in or importance of your work as a journalist.
  • Most people that use Twitter don’t use it to get news.

Now, the study. The Pew study did find some interesting demographic tidbits that should be making us rethink how we approach the tool.

  • There are more American women using Twitter as opposed to men (10% to 7%)
  • Internet users ages 18-29 are significantly more likely to use Twitter than older adults.
  • African-Americans and Latinos web users are more than twice as likely to use Twitter as are their white counterparts.
  • Urban residents are roughly twice as likely to use Twitter as rural dwellers.

So what does all of this mean?

An anonymous comment ban could kill the public forum

In light of the Cleveland Plain Dealer‘s recent outing of an anonymous commenter on their site, columnist Connie Schultz comes out against anonymous comments on news sites altogether.

I’m not at all surprised she’d take this stance – most reporters seem to feel this way because (I theorize, anyway), they have to put their names on everything they write and wish everyone who attacked their work had to do the same. It’s understandable, but in a lot of ways also very hypocritical.

Journalists want whistle-blowers to rat out government, friends and bosses and live for meaty quotes sharing unpopular or even dangerous points of view. We’ll also usually be happy to let you express those opinions anonymously — just so long as we get to put our bylines on them. We want to serve as a community hub and “voice of the people”, but only want to allow certain opinions to be heard.

The commenters on the story note readers appreciate knowing who is saying what and many acknowledge that it probably would improve the tenor of comments – but they also know it will cut back on dialogue at large (and not always the bad kind). Here’s a comment from a user named RVA123:

There are some risks with requiring names on Cleve.com forums: Though you may be able to ultimately verify authenticity, creating and posting false names will still be too easy for motivated trolls. It probably reduces participation – – which can be perceived as a good thing if it reduces irresponsible posts written solely to drive a negative reaction, and a bad thing if it kills your conversations (and a potential revenue stream for the site) altogether.

Several other commenters note they’d be less likely to share opinions under their real names because they don’t want their bosses and neighbors to know their political leanings, what they watch on TV, where they live or what they REALLY think of their jobs. It isn’t that they have something to hide or have such outrageous opinions they’d never want their names attached – they just want the modicum of privacy they feel the Internet has provided in the last decade or so.

So is less conversation really what we want? Is it better if we have fewer opinions so long as they’re all bylined and well thought-out? From the reactions I hear in my own newsroom every day, I’d say it’s an overwhelming opinion that yes, that’s exactly what we want.

I don’t like being in the position of defending the sort of toxic, anonymous comments that currently permeate news sites, but I believe we as an industry are clinging to an outdated model of what it means to allow the community to have its say. We think that by printing a handful of letters to the editor we are responsibly letting readers have a say because they put their names on those letters. Never mind that those letters usually don’t represent an entire generation of readers – one that tends to do most opinion-sharing online using social media – and are overwhelmingly submitted by white writers.

Aside from any demographic arguments that could be made (and I’d love more and better data if anyone has it), I know how I feel about what I read. My local letters to the editor regularly seem to me to be written by people who aren’t my age and don’t have much in common with my way of life, so I don’t consult them to find out real community reaction on the issues I care about and neither do most of my contemporaries. I turn to blogs, Twitter, Facebook and, yes, the comments on the stories themselves, to see what people have to say. There are a lot more of them – and they’re often far more familiar to me.

If news sites were to eliminate anonymous comments, we should consider what kind of reader would be left out in the cold. Not every anonymous commenter is a racist stalker with an axe to grind – so maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water.

Getting to know our friends in the blogosphere

Have you read the 2009 Technorati State of the Blogosphere Report yet? It’s got some great demographics about bloggers that online news orgs would be good to know, as a lot of them are voracious news consumers.

The report was compiled based on a survey of 2,828 bloggers, blog provider statistics and interviews with many key bloggers.

Fun facts from the study:

  • Bloggers are generally more affluent than the average person
  • The blogosphere continues to be dominated by male, affluent and educated bloggers
  • Most bloggers are “hobbyists” and are driven by personal fulfilment rather than financial gain.
  • The survey found that contrary to popular belief, many bloggers have had professional media experience, with 35% of all respondents having worked in traditional media as a writer, reporter, producer, or on-air personality, and 27% continue to do so.
  • While bloggers read other blogs they do not consider them a substitute for other news sources and the majority do not consider online media more important than traditional media.
  • 31% don’t think newspapers will survive the next ten years.

Business models, social media and cool interweb tips

Best Things I’ve Read This Week

The always awesome Paid Content has an excellent analysis by Nic Brisbourne on his version of the future of news. At it’s core – it isn’t anything you haven’t heard before: Better quality writing, investigative journalism and in-depth analysis are a commodity we in the professional news world have going for us, even as news itself is an abundance.

He suggests we should leverage this to reinforce our place in the market – and do so with less cost and without charging for access to the news. He notes the examples of TechCrunch, Pitchfork and Huffington Post leveraging their trusted brands into things they can charge for – and doing so with a low enough overhead to make it with decent online ad rates. It isn’t earth-shattering – but it is at least the most plausible plan I’ve ever heard.

On the flip side – there’s the privately-funded investigative model of journalism that’s still wearing it’s fledgling feathers – but it’s really rocking out. If you haven’t seen it yet, check out  “Strained by Katrina, a Hospital Faced Deadly Choices” in the NY Times Magazine. The long-form investigative narrative is the sort of journalism we all wish we were doing – and it wasn’t done by the New York Times, for once. The work on this piece was funded by a grant through ProPublica – who worked with the NY Times to get it into print. Could agreements like this be a part of the future for in-depth reporting? If work like this is what comes out of it, I’m sold.

News on News

  • Ok, I get it, so maybe you want a more technology-oriented solution? How’s about an iPhone App that Automatically Picks the News You’ll Like ?An RSS reader that builds a custom news network for you based on your reading habits? That sounds like something we should be working with. Even if the reader doesn’t “pick us” to be in an individual’s mix, something like this makes news accessible to those who don’t have the time to find new news sources. Maybe that new source can be you?
  • Every online news source has either considered or tried free classifieds, with varying levels of success (mostly bad). Boing Boing asserts that Newspapers can’t make themselves as simple as craigslist – a well-deserved slam on the classified pages of most newspaper sites. There’s a reason why Craigslist works and we may have missed the point in trying (pathetically) to duplicate their effort.
  • Did you know The Guardian is the most bookmarked newspaper on delicious? I don’t really know what that says about them, but they must have a lot of news their readers find to be useful – or else they wouldn’t be bookmarking it. Check it out.
  • First it was the bloggers, now it’s the tweeters getting into the press boxes. One twittering fan has gotten courtside press credentials at St. John’s – the first of his kind (and probably not the last).

Social Media News

  • Breaking News: Social Media Is for Narcissists! To some people (i.e. my parents), it may seem like a no-brainer that my generation (Y, Why?) is full of narcissists in regards to social media. What is interesting is the surveyed groups of (much younger) Gen-Yers understanding that that might not be such a bad thing to really sell yourself in such a competitive world – not only in business, but in life.
  • In related news, all that news about teens not being into Twitter may not be right. It isn’t so much that the proportion of teens on Twitter are low, but that the majority of social media users are older simply because the social web is growing up. Twitter – unlike many of the others – actually started with an older group and they’ve had a longer time to adopt it.
  • Pat Thornton writes on Poynter about different newspapers’ approach to Twitter use – and how there doesn’t seem to be one right answer for getting a good ROI out of it. Automated accounts sometimes work, personal accounts sometimes don’t – so perhaps variety is the answer? (At Cincinnati.Com, we have both)
  • As you know, not everyone is sold on social media’s value – not even all of those marketers and brands out there. As much as some old-school companies might be fighting, the stats say Social Media Resistance Is Fading Fast and adoption rates are soaring.

Cool Tips!!

  • If you’re the sort of journo is is doing (or desperately trying) multimedia and online work in several software suites, you might find this collection of software cheat sheets from 10,000 Words helpful. It outlines helpful hints for all sorts of video, audio and web programs.
  • And while most of these little hints apply to marketing and advertising types,it might be good to know these Eight Twitter Habits That May Get You Unfollowed or Semi-Followed so you don’t look like a tool on the Internets.

Recommended links in brief

Do Newspapers Owe Google “Fair Share” Fees For Researching Stories? – Daggle has been on the case with the AP for months now. He examines the irrational fear of the likes of Google – and questions what their resources are worth if they were to start charging us for their services.

How the Old, the Young and Everyone in Between Uses Social Networks – eMarketer – Great stats on who’s using social media tools by age group. We’ve seen these before, but the numbers seem to change so fast…

Recommended reading for June 22-25

These are my recommended links for June 22nd through June 25th:

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:

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