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.

Quick thought: Don’t forget UGC is not just for extreme weather

2710815392_ec74476b5b_b
With the recent spate of extreme weather in the US, UK and Ireland, User Generated Content has featured everywhere and there have been some amazing captures. There’s nothing new about this, everytime we experience a bad bout of weather news organisations go into overdrive seeking out content from their communities.

Although a lot of news organisations are working with their communities all the time, reaching out, curating, collaborating and encouraging them to contribute content, many are still only using UGC sporadically.

Good UGC practice is not about having an upload function built into an app, setting up a dedicated email address or using social channels to gather content it is centred on good community management. Imagine what your community might contribute if you worked with them all the time.

Image credit: David Thompson/Flickr 

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 

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.

How can social media improve storytelling

Tomorrow (Thursday, 17 May) I’m co-presenting a session at the Circom Regional Conference being hosted by SVT in Malmo.

As the title of this post suggests, we’re asking: how can social media improve storytelling?

Nick Simons (NRK, ex Head of New Media BBC Scotland) and I will be asking a roomful of broadcasters from across Europe to look at that question.

However, we are keen to bring the discussion beyond the room. What are your views on the subject? Please feel free to share in the comments below or join in the conversation, live, tomorrow (2pm CET, 1pm Irish Time).

You can follow the discussion via #circom on Twitter or through this group on Facebook

Has Worldirish.com missed a trick?

I’ve spent the last week immersed in the second Global Irish Economic Forum as the online producer for RTE.ie’s coverage of the event. I was excited to see something like Worldirish.com emerge on Friday. From the announcement it appeared to be something that Irish and Irish-connected people could really benefit from especially during a time when so many people are leaving Ireland to find opportunities elsewhere.

No other websites or social networks (that I’m aware of) offer what Worldirish.com does. In fact, there is no one place online, or off, that you can find a database of Irish people (including diaspora). That is its strength, its power and what gives it such opportunity.

I have some superficial issues with design and navigation, but I can look past those, they are by no means deal breakers. However what I can’t look past is the massive opportunity Worldirish.com has missed.

Worldirish.com is a directory. You need to know who you are looking for. As it is currently presented, it does not facilitate focused connection-building and that is very disappointing.

I appreciate the idea of connecting people by their values, but surely what we need is something more practical.

Here’s what I would have done if I had designed it. I would have asked people for more practical information. For example, there should have been fields for the following: current country of residence, current job title and, most importantly, current industry. With this information gathered a kick-ass search functionality could have been built in to help people find connections that were useful to them.

Consider a possible scenario, a recent graduate decides they are going to set up a start-up semi-conductor business in Timisoara, Romania. If Worldirish.com had the functionality I’m suggesting it could have helped that graduate to find Irish or Irish-connected people working in their industry, or a related one, in Timisoara or other parts of Romania. This kind of connection would have been massively beneficial and thoroughly practical for anyone in any industry.*

Here’s another example. I am hoping to travel to Uganda soon to work on a story. Finding Irish aid workers in a particular part of Uganda is currently very difficult to do. Something that made it easier would be very helpful. If Worldirish.com had industry and geographical information, connecting two Irish people, who don’t already know each other, and who live in different parts of the world could be done with a couple of clicks.

A journalist, an artist, a musician, a software designer or an electrician could have benefited from a site that created a network (or even a directory) like this. As far as I can tell, Worldirish.com cannot facilitate this level of practical connection-building the way it is currently set up.

I understand we have Linkedin (but it doesn’t take Irish and Irish-connected people and put them in one place) and that this site works hand-in-hand with it and other social networks (and that’s a great idea) but while I admire the attempt to connect across values I keep thinking about its potential and what it could be.

There is clearly an appetite for an online platform that connects Irish people. I hope future iterations of the site will enable the practical connections that we really need.

-Blathnaid

UPDATE: Mark Little has tweeted to say the site is still in beta and there is more to come.

(* This is of course working on the basis that people join Worldirish.com)

News organisations and the Facebook app – is it an equal relationship?

I’m very positive about Facebook. I have been for a while now. Working for a news organisation I see how it can reach new audiences, help journalists to engage with users and drive web traffic back to base.

In the past few weeks some of the world’s biggest news organisations have announced they’ve teamed up with Facebook to produce apps, which live within the social network’s walled garden.

This has obvious advantages for Facebook, which gets to keep its users on its site for even longer. It might also, eventually, be a good deal too for the user who gets to read content without being diverted to a third-party site (especially useful on mobile devices!). But thinking about this long-term, if it gains traction and users like it, news organisations may dig themselves into a bit of a hole.

What I can’t figure out here is how the news organisations are measuring success. Jump ahead a few years and assume the idea is massively successful, Facebook has become the place not only to find news but also to consume it, where is the benefit for the news organisation? People won’t need to come to news organisations’ websites for community either, they’ll have that on Facebook and (within reason) will be able to say more than they could on any news site in the world.

At best, news organisations will gain new audience and advertising revenue but the audience will be  loyal to a Facebook/news organisation partnership not to the news organisation itself. If for any reason the partnership were to break up, where would those readers go? In my opinion, if they have become accustomed to finding and consuming news within Facebook, it’s unlikely they’ll follow the news organisation out of the walled garden.

To me it seems like a more unequal relationship than it should be. I understand that news organisations are working with a behemoth, but are we not jumping the gun and surrendering. Do we need to do this right now or can’t we maintain the fairly successful strategy of collaborating with Facebook to guide its users to our content outside the garden? I’m sure news organisations think these apps are targeted at users who currently don’t consume content on their websites, but if the existing tools of sharing and linking are not achieving this I am doubtful an app will be that much more successful and instead will likely attract their current audience.

Perhaps I’m missing something (I know I haven’t discussed the new ‘read’ function etc, but while interesting, the greater value accrues to Facebook not the news organisation)? I am in favour of making news organisations as social as possible but within the context of building sustainable businesses.

I would love to hear more from news organisations about the long-term gains for THEM in such a partnership and how they see this developing.

-Blathnaid

The future flexible

Recently I’ve been thinking back to August 2005. I had just moved to Chicago to start a masters programme at the Medill School of Journalism in Northwestern University. It was the first time I had my own wifi network, which changed the way I used the internet and subsequently the amount of news I consumed. At the same time, my roommate suggested I join Facebook, which had just been made available to US universities. Then I started getting those ‘sent from my blackberry’ messages at the end of emails sent to me and I realised how many people were taking the web with them in their pockets. Every day and everywhere they went. And lets not forget the blogs. Tonnes of people were turning to simple content management systems like WordPress to communicate their news and views to the world one post at a time. Even prompting editors to say they wouldn’t hire new journalists who didn’t keep a blog. Wifi, social networks, smartphones/mobile internet, blogs and its relative microblogging are things we are all exposed to (some might say over-exposed to) these days. But just six years ago, at least in Ireland, they were not yet commonplace.

Now most people have a wifi network or a good broadband connection (heck, it’s so well established it doesn’t need a hyphen between wi and fi anymore), they are on at least one social network (2m people, that’s half the population, are on Facebook in Ireland and counting), smartphones are becoming universal and thousands of people microblog and read others’ microblogs in Ireland several times a day every day.

Sitting here taking stock, six years on from my own technological awakening, I realise how blinded we often are to the big developments. Six years ago, sitting in a newsroom who would have believed that some newspapers in the US would be serving their entire digital audience just through Facebook, or that businesses would be set up to curate those microblogs, or that thousands would use an app to watch presenters like Bryan Dobson read the news on their smartphones (the concept of an app economy hadn’t even struck).

It should be acknowledged, the underlying driver of all this change is digital distribution via the internet and how that facilitates peoples’ imaginations, their experiments and ultimately their innovations.

So what are we going to be doing six years from now. And how the hell do news organisations prepare for it?

The first thing to accept, and to become comfortable with, is that we don’t know what’s coming next. There are low barriers to entry for innovative ways to deliver news and news content. In the next six years at least one person will come up with a another novel way to deliver news in a way that people want it. Upsetting organisations’ strategies and plans.

The only way to prepare for something you can’t prepare for is to create and foster a culture that values flexibility and has a desire, even a hunger, to work on the cutting edge driven by its audience’s demands. It must be a culture supported by everyone not just driven by a few digital leaders.

The only future a news organisation can plan for is a future of flexibility.

My fast growing appreciation for Facebook

I always believed Facebook was a great platform for news organisations but even more so following RTE’s social media coverage of the General Election. Analysing the stats post-election was really interesting and revealing.

Neworld Blog reports 77% of all Irish internet users use Facebook, according to recent figures from Comscore.

(The) average Irish person spends 4hours 10 minutes on Facebook per month, well ahead of competitors Google sites (2hrs 51mins), Microsoft sites (1hr 36mins) and RTE.ie (22 mins). (Comscore)

According to Ipsos MRBI, 1.75 million or 50% of the entire Irish population, over the age of 15 years, use Facebook. 175,000 new Irish users joined the site in the last six months.

Facebook’s own figures estimate there are 1,865,000 Irish accounts on the social network.

With 1.8m Irish accounts and growing it’s hard to argue about Facebook’s dominance.

So we know there’s an audience, but what are they looking for?

Vadim Lavrusik over at Mashable has a very interesting post about Facebook’s growing role in social journalism. It even points to a news organisation that is moving its community news website totally over to Facebook. (Note: Lavrusik has just been appointed Facebook’s first journalism programme manager)

CyberJournalist has a post with some nice quick tips for publishing content to Facebook (this link has five tips,  there are eight if you download the document).

After using Facebook successfully during the General Election and seeing the power of the platform first hand – I’m hoping to experiment even more with it soon.

-B

Read All About It – Social Media, Citizen Journalism, iPad and US Presidential Press Corp

Here are links to four articles that I think are worth reading.

First off, some interesting analysis of research carried out by Pew on the types of stories consumed on various new media platforms versus ‘traditional’ media.

It seems to me that news organisations will have to take a different strategy with each platform if they are going to succeed on it. You can’t adopt a one-size-fits-all approach, which is bad news for budgets and resources. If new platforms continue to emerge how can news organisations adopt a successful platform-neutral approach?

Next up, here’s a nice post from Kimberly Wilson (follow her on Twitter @kimberly_wilson) about crowd-sourced websites. She has reviewed six examples  (from Washington DC, Chicago, Minnesota, Canada, Grand Rapids, and Sonora and Tuolumne County).

Yesterday, Peter Preston had a piece in The Observer about the iPad and newspapers. His thesis is that iPads won’t be the saviour as some have enthusiastically predicted, more just one small revenue stream. He uses numbers and anecdotal evidence to support this theory and asks some good questions along the way.

Finally, Brian Stelter has an article in the New York Times about the decreasing number of journalists travelling with the US president when he goes on trips. The obvious downside mentioned is that news when he’s outside of Washington DC is now coming from fewer and fewer sources.

Have you seen any interesting articles about the industry?

B