In charts: New report for CIRCOM Regional on social media and community in regional European broadcasters

Over the past few months I’ve been researching a report for CIRCOM Regional, the association of regional public service broadcasters in Europe. It has just been published at CIRCOM’s Annual Conference, held this year in Croatia. The report, all 93 pages of it, examines the social media and online community activities of 39 regional stations across 31 different countries, from the perspective of the user.

It has been a fascinating piece of research to carry out and shows that stations across the continent are using social media and interacting with their audience in quite different ways. You can read the report in full on the CIRCOM Regional website. Here are a few charts that show the broad picture of regional station’s engagement with the key social platforms:

Twitter

Twitter-Regional

 

Twitter-time-frame

{Above: Year regional stations joined Twitter}

Facebook

Facebook

Facebook Join
{Above: Year regional stations joined Facebook}

YouTube

YouTube


YouTube join
{Above: Year regional stations joined YouTube}

Instagram

Instagram join
{Above: Year stations joined Instagram}

Instagram type{Above: Type of activity from regional stations on YouTube}

Interactions and user generated content

interactions

Interactions type

{Above: Types of interactions}

There’s a lot in the report, it looks at trends across the region as well as briefly examining each station. It has been a most enlightening exercise for me and I believe a relevant document for anyone with an involvement, or interest, in broadcasting, regional or otherwise, in Europe right now. Full report available here.

From IPO to email: Reflections on social, community and content in 2013

I gave a guest lecture earlier this week in DCU to final year and masters’ multimedia students . For the lecture, I decided to take a look back over 2013 and pick out some of the key things that happened in social, community and content and how they have affected, or might affect, media companies. Thought I’d share some of them here also:

Video-slide-edit
2013 was another huge year for video. Media companies with any sense made it a large part of their strategies. I could easily write a half-dozen posts just on video and the major developments, but here I’m only going to talk about the trend towards shorter videos.

Vine was introduced to iOS users in January with an upward limit of six seconds. Its simple format uncomplicated video, making it easy to shoot and even easier to upload. Soon after it launched, media organisations started to try it out as a distribution platform. One company that has been using it well is Ireland’s RTÉ, which has been leveraging the platform to showcase its archives. Archive material can be inaccessible but using Vine brings it to a new audience. Here’s an example: buying the Christmas turkey in Ireland, 1964. A month after its iOS launch Vine was used to cover a news event when reporter Tulin Daloglu used it after the bombing of the US embassy in Ankara, Turkey. In many senses Vine was just the catalyst as it was Instagram that took the ball and really ran with it.

In June, Instagram added video to its product, enabling users to create clips of up to 15 seconds. Smartly, Instagram allowed users to upload videos shot outside the confines of the app, which meant media organisations could edit and produce content before uploading. I really like what mobile news start-up NowThis News has done with Instagram as a distribution platform in recent months. Here are a few examples: Syria, the UN and chemical weapons, ice rink opening in Tehran, photos of winter storm Dion from the community.

On the news gathering side, Storyful’s Malachy Browne recently wrote a good blogpost on Instagram as a source of news video, it’s worth a read.

slide2-IPO
We really began to experience the impact of Facebook’s 2012 IPO this year. A week didn’t go by without a new headline about a possible or confirmed change to the social networking site’s ad platform or its News Feed (this week it was auto play videos in the News Feed). Facebook is clearly pushing hard to generate revenues and keep investors happy. A lot of page managers had anecdotally talked about organic post reach falling, but Ad Ages’s story earlier this month seems to have confirmed this. This change certainly affects brands marketing products, but it is likely to also have an impact on news sites that built large audience numbers on their Facebook pages (often spending to do so) as a way to drive traffic to their sites. Facebook wants pages owners to pay to reach the audiences they have built. This is definitely something to watch in 2014 as Facebook continues its experiments with the News Feed.

2013 brought Twitter’s IPO. Like Facebook, we’ve been hearing a lot about changes to Twitter’s ad platform with users receiving emails every week encouraging them to advertise to build audience. It’s early day yet, but it’s inevitable that the public nature of the company will mean an increased focus on revenue-driving measures in 2014, which will have knock-on effects on users, brands and media.

It is worth noting that both platforms invested in reaching out to big media companies this year.

Slide3-social
Content created with social in mind (like Buzzfeed, Upworthy, Distractify, ViralNova) boomed in 2013. Upworthy, which launched in 2012, had a huge impact this year. According to Newswhip, which analyses and ranks publishers in terms of social sharing, Upworthy didn’t feature in the top 40 social sharing websites in 2012, but by 2013 this year it had charged into the number 5 spot above The New York Times, the Daily Mail and the Guardian. It’s a feat that is even more interesting when you consider that, on average, Upworthy only publishes 250 stories a month, substantially less than its social-sharing-focused competitors. There are some good practices within Upworthy – most notably that staff members write 25 headlines for each piece of content they post (good explainer on this here). I also think its tagline is so simple: ‘Things that matter. Pass ‘em on.’ In just six words Upworthy tells users what it is and what it would like users to do. I’m not sure exactly how long the Upworthy formula can sustain but we’ll continue to keep an eye on it.

Buzzfeed’s announcement that its partner sites received a huge boost in referral traffic from Facebook is significant. Traffic from Facebook referrals to Buzzfeed’s 200 partner network sites are up 69% from August to October of this year. Facebook is placing a premium on, and rewarding content that is entertaining, funny and valuable.

There are some drawbacks, of course, to this. Firstly, let’s not forget what happened with content farm Demand Media, which is now valued at a quarter of its peak value. Demand Media created content to appear in multi-word searches. However, Google’s shift in its algorithms made content from websites like Demand Media’s a lower priority, drastically reducing traffic to its site. I think it’s a cautionary tale for sites that hitch their wagons to platforms like Facebook relying on them for almost all their traffic. Bryan Goldberg wrote an interesting piece on why viral content is a bad business model, it’s a must read.

With Facebook’s algorithms placing an emphasis on content created for a social audience it’s likely going to lead to smaller markets becoming even more competitive and it will become more challenging for straight news sites to get traction on these platforms.

slide4-email

Email newsletters have, of course, been around for a very long time, but for a lot of news organisations they were farmed out to someone very junior to write or pulled direct from the RSS feed. I don’t know why organisations bother sending these mails, they are so ineffective.

However this year there have been some changes to the once humble email newsletter with the likes of Quartz, Circa and recently-launched Ampp3d leading the charge. This is mostly for two reasons they’re writing emails with mobile users in mind and secondly the mails sound like they’ve been written by a human (a simple thing really, but how many email newsletters do you get that feel like they’ve been written with you in mind?).

Quartz sends its email in the morning (it has three regions for users to select from), emails are around 800 words long and are perfect for a commuter, containing links not only to Quartz stories, but other links to stories on other sites that people should watch for, things that happened while readers were sleeping, matters for debate, Quartz’s obsession interlude and surprising discoveries. I also like that the emails tell me to have a productive day – it’s a nice sign-off for a business-focused website. The email is good set-up, digest for the day and one that is clearly worth reading. A recent column from the Monday Note shared an insight that Quartz’s daily mail goes through four people, including two editors, before it is sent.

Circa sends only one email a week on a Friday evening with a pick of its stories curated from the week. The most important point about the Circa mail is that it’s designed (like everything Circa does) with mobile in mind. Ampp3d, the new data-driven spin-out from the Trinity Mirror group, also has a very nice email, it’s probably the most ‘human’ of the three examples.

slide5-collaboration

Organisations and their audiences have been working collaboratively now for some time. User generated content projects from the BBC and CNN are seven/eight years old. However, I think this year we saw some interesting steps towards proper collaboration between news orgs and audience.

In particular, I think Storyful’s Open Newsroom project is a great example of collaboration between a news org and the wider community. There are more than 460 confirmed members so far. Anyone can watch the process, but only verified members can contribute – thus keeping it open but reducing excessive noise and confusion. In August, the Open Newsroom played a key role helping Storyful to verify videos emerging from fresh protests taking place in Cairo. This project has shown great potential for how organised collaboration can produce really good results, especially considering the other conversations we have had this year and the backlash that happened following the Boston Bombings.

I thought BBC News Director James Harding’s remarks earlier this month were interesting and telling about where big news orgs are at when it comes to audience: ‘When we talk about “our stories”, I hope that will mean not just the work of the 8,000 people who work for the BBC, but the information and ideas of the 300 million people who use it.’

Hopefully 2014 will prove to be a more collaborative year.

Slide6-Private

Finally, for this post, I’d like to talk about the growing importance of private. Of course when I talk about private I mean privacy in a non-private sphere. Most people will have noticed the trend of teenagers and people in their early 20s making their Twitter and Instagram accounts private – some even deactivating their Facebook accounts for short periods to avoid being tagged in photos or checked in to a location. The rising popularity of photo messaging service Snapchat with its 350m photo messages a day has lit a fire under both Twitter and Instagram (don’t forget Facebook offered $3bn to acquire Snapchat, which it turned down) with both announcing significant changes to their platforms to include a private photo messaging element in the last few weeks. Twitter users can now send photos in direct messages, while Instagram offers its users the option to send photos to one follower or a small group of up to 15 people.

News orgs (and brands) are already trying to find their feet in this new environment. I’ve started to receive Snapchat messages from Ampp3d in the last week. It’s early days but it’s definitely a space to be experimenting in! When it comes to private vs open I don’t think it’s a competition – we’re always transitioning and this is another part of the transition both are going to be a part of our lives in 2014, that’s for sure.

*****

This is not a definitive list of the major things that happened this year, but it’s my reflection on some of the interesting changes, events and trends. I think we’re heading into somewhat uncertain waters with Facebook and also with Twitter. However, that said, there are lots of opportunities ahead for 2014. It’s shaping up to be another interesting one.

Here’s to a good 2014!

Blathnaid

Image credits: clasesdeperiodismoclasesdeperiodismoGuudmorning!, Grizdavecroland 

Embeddable posts – a significant shift in strategy for Facebook

It was announced today that Facebook is starting to roll out functionality for publishers to embed public posts onto websites (similar to how tweets can currently be embedded). It is not yet available to all Facebook users, but the company says there will be ‘broader availability’. CNN, Huffington Post, Bleacher Report, People Magazine, and Mashable are the first media outlets to get access.

Embedded Posts will only work with public messages, no matter if it’s a status update, Instagram photo, video, etc. To see if it can be embedded, hover over the audience selector (it’s a globe icon). If it is marked as public, click on the “Embed Post” option in the dropdown menu. It will display HTML code that you can copy and insert onto your website — similar to what you would find with Instagram.

Once inserted onto a site, visitors can interact with it similar to how they would in their Facebook timeline. This surely will help aid in the discovery of new content, especially if your site is a heavily trafficked one. These posts will show not only text, but pictures, videos, hashtags, and any other content supported by the platform — it’s almost like having an iFrame of Facebook occupying a piece of real estate.

- The Next Web

This feels like a big shift in strategy for Facebook. You will now have the capability to easily take content from the social network and place it outside their walled garden. This signals a move away from everything happening on the Facebook platform towards a realisation that there could be advantages to their content being spread more widely across the web. Of course, publishers have been screen-grabbing this content for a long time, but now Facebook is playing catch-up and as a bonus has the potential to benefit from increased engagement. It seems to fit in with a long-term trend of Facebook courting big media.

Has the time come for Twitter Premium?

Twitter has a growing problem with its security, which was highlighted again this week when the Associated Press’ Twitter account was hacked. The false tweet, which created a flurry of activity on Wall Street, has renewed calls for Twitter to introduce two-step authentication. Of course two-step authentication won’t stop every hack but it would certainly reduce the number.

The reputations of media organisations that are hacked are particularly damaged because the core of their brand is the accuracy and trustworthiness of their communications with the public. The next time the AP posts a big breaking news tweet we will have to second guess it. How crazy is it that we must dissect a tweet from the AP to make sure that it is legitimate.

Media organisations invest so heavily on security both virtual and physical – from heavily protected networks to security guards at the entrances to their offices – in order to protect their brands and ensure their reputations. There are generous allocations in their IT budgets for this. But they use services like Twitter that make them so vulnerable (much, I know, to the chagrin of their IT departments). So much money is spent making sure media organisations’ websites can withstand a hack, but what can they do to protect themselves when using services like Twitter? Currently very little. Sure, they strictly adhere to Twitter’s advice on account security, but they can’t pay for anything that keeps them more secure.

Both Twitter and media organsitions (and a host of other companies and personalities) have challenges. Twitter needs to generate more revenue and fundamentally better security. Media orgs must use Twitter, as bowing out is not an option, but they need better security. Surely there is a synergy here. Media organisations should have the option to pay for a premium service offered by Twitter that provides extra layers of security. It wouldn’t be the first time Twitter has differentiated between users and not everyone needs enhanced security, just like not every Twitter user needs a verified Twitter account.

For media organisations this cannot happen fast enough. They need to be on Twitter but currently they can’t pay to reduce the risks that are associated with it.  It’s an opportunity for Twitter to drive revenue and begin the process of providing more premium services for heavy and professional users.

30th Annual Circom Regional Conference Embraces Digital


I attended the 30th annual Circom Regional conference, hosted by SVT in Malmo, Sweden, last week and was amazed by how openly it embraced all things social, web and tech. From Mans Adler’s (Bambuser) session on live video broadcasting to Glen Mulcahy’s mobile journalism tour de force and SVT’s group of innovative News Lab journalists, the event was firmly rooted in media 2012.

Granted, I’m biased (I was invited to present and participate in a panel discussion) but there was something for most digital-minded people in the television industry – a massive shift from last year’s mainly broadcast-focused conference.

Nick Simons (NRK, Ex New Media Head BBC Scotland) and I co-presented a session work-shopping (both inside and outside the room) the question ‘how can social media improve storytelling?’ We had excellent participation and here’s a taste of the contributions from inside the room in Malmo (and from outside including: Romania, Ireland, UK …):

If you missed the session you can look at the slides here:

Or you can watch the full stream back here via Bambuser.

If you have any thoughts on the topic, please leave a comment below!

-Blathnaid

The launch of @Ireland – another country on Twitter

Last week was hectic for us all at WorldIrish not only because of St Patrick’s Day but also because we launched @Ireland, a Twitter-based initiative, aimed at giving Ireland a new voice on a global platform.

Today marks the beginning of the second week of @Ireland and its second curator, Catherine Drea.  I have enjoyed this challenging project immensely so far. As clearly stated from the outset it is heavily influenced by @Sweden and the strides they have made with the “world’s most democratic” Twitter account these past few months.

Ultimately this is another way to tell a story in the digital age. The beauty of it is we get to hear 52 people’s stories every year, which hopefully inform, entertain or enrich our lives in some way.

I must heartily commend Bernie Goldbach for coming to us with the idea and trusting us to be the right home for such an ambitious project.

I am very much looking forward to seeing how @Ireland develops and finds its way in the Twittersphere.

For more on the project read my post on the WorldIrish blog, follow the account or read some of the curators’ thoughts: Bernie’s and Catherine’s.

One more link, I was on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme talking about the project on Friday. Here’s the clip.

Finally, perhaps you’d like to curate @Ireland for a week (or nominate someone). If you live in or are from Ireland, have the time and something interesting to say email Ireland AT worldirish.com.

Talk soon,

Blathnaid

Leaving RTÉ for WorldIrish

World Irish

As some of you may already know, I finished up with RTÉ at the end of December and with the beginning of a New Year have started a new job as Content Manager for WorldIrish.

You might remember this post that I wrote back in October after the Global Irish Forum and wonder why I have left Ireland’s biggest media website. It comes down to this – I believe the time is right for WorldIrish.

WorldIrish is the best organisation to create a community for Irish people and those who think Irish. It’s assembling an excellent team of people and will be working hard over the coming months to create something useful and meaningful for the global Irish community. I’m excited to be part of this.

I started in RTÉ in 2007 and had some great experiences from covering Barack Obama’s convention speech in Denver to travelling to Kenya as a backpack reporter. I found 2011 (like most people working in the media) to be an exceptionally busy year. I established RTÉ’s first social media desk, project managed RTÉ’s digital output across several platforms for the General Election and most recently worked on the organisation’s digital strategy.

I have been fortunate to work with some truly excellent people in RTÉ during an interesting time of great digital change.

I’m leaving an established mainstream media organisation for a very ambitious start up. It’s going to be a big change, but one I’m keen to embrace.

We’ll be working hard in WorldIrish over the coming months to introduce an online global Irish community with greater functionality. I’m looking forward to taking on a new set of challenges.

And if you haven’t done already, sign up to WorldIrish here!

Have a great 2012,

Blathnaid