RTÉ Digital at the Dublin Web Summit, October 2011

Blathnaid Healy & Editor-in-Chief of Huffington Post UK & AOL Europe Carla Buzasi

A selection of interviews that I did for RTÉ’s digital platforms at the Dublin Web Summit last week. It was the first time that I worked on a digital outside ‘broadcast’ for RTÉ’s News Now and I really enjoyed it.

AOL Digital Prophet David Shing

Storyful founder  Mark Little

LinkedIn & Presdo founder Eric Ly

Mashable Editor-at-Large Ben Parr

Editor-in-Chief of Huffington Post UK & AOL Europe Carla Buzasi 

New York Times’ Lead Technology Writer Nick Bilton 

Facebook Director of Platform Partnerships Ethan Beard

Current Director of Social Media at TSL Education and former Head of Social at Ogilvy Group UK Maz Nadjm

More coverage of the Dublin Web Summit and F.ounders on RTÉ.ie.

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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

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