Given that I haven’t blogged in over a year (not counting a job change announcement), you’d think that the next thing I posted would have to be really good. Something, perhaps, that I’d been perfected for weeks to signal my return to blogging. Something so juicy that it was inspiration for breaking my blogging hiatus.
You might think that. But you’d be wrong.
Today I attended Media 2.0 Day, a part of Digital Capital Week, and I took a boat-load of notes. I figured I might as well do something with those notes, so I’m sharing them here in hopes that they are of interest to anyone who wasn’t able to attend.
First off, let me say I have a new appreciation of live bloggers. It’s surprisingly hard to turn session notes into something coherent and worth publishing. Whether I will succeed in that endeavor remains to be seen.
Without more ado, live blogging of the first session:
Media 2.0 Day, #DCWEEK
Social and Traditional Media:
How News and Media Organizations are Getting Social and Why They Need To Do It
Host: Peter Corbett, CEO of iStrategy Labs (co-host of DC Week)
Moderator: Carlos Roig, VP of Digital for Home Front Communications
Robert Michael Murray, Vice President of Social Media, National Geographic Digital Media
Benet Wilson, Editor of Aviation Week
Andy Carvin, Digital Strategist, NPR
Brian Dresher, Manager of Social Media & Digital Partnerships, USA Today
The moderator introduces panel and asks about how their social media positions were created.
NatGeo’s Head of Digital, Robert Michael Murray, talks about all the types of media the Geographic is involved in. It’s not just magazines and a website. NG has its own record label. They are all about content and distribution.
Murray says his position was created because of realization by NG executives that something was happening out there — conversations among the public, even engagement by NG — but they were in need of a real, long-term strategy (not platform specific) to understand how it works and how to apply it. They were looking to answer the question of how to intimately engage with audience and involve them/get them to contribute to the media output. Murray explains that he’s not actively blogging, but his job is to help drive decisions on what to invest in.
Andy Carvin of NPR is up next. He says NPR’s social media focus is on collaboration. We joke that “Public” is our middle name, but we’re not just a radio station, so we don’t use “National Public Radio”; We call ourselves NPR now. We have a well-educated, curious, engaged audience. Our audience has always been social. Now technology has caught up to our mission and how people engage with us. NPR is a lifestyle, how people define themselves. As long as we understand that, it allows us to reach out and collaborate effectively. We try to create an atmosphere where it’s ok for NPR staff to say “I need help” and reach out to the public. From small things to big things.: Small things would include crowdsourcing questions for press conference coverage. A “large” thing would be organizing volunteers (or building community that can self-organize) to actually go build stuff.
Benet Wilson of Aviation Week talks about her organization’s small steps into social media. She got into social media role because she was looking for a way to get content published on the site that never made it into the magazine. Her manager told her to go create a TypePad blog, but not to tell anyone about it; now there are several bloggers for Aviation Week. One of her roles is to help other AW journalists embrace new media. She says that tools allow her to interact with her audiences as a journalist. Her advice to other organizations just starting with social media: Just start with one thing. Don’t be afraid to reach outside your organization.
Brian Dresher of USA Today: Journalists are now the “brand”, not staff who are shielded behind the brand of the newspaper. It’s a new form of journalism and journalists must now shape the opportunity. It’s been a slow road for journalists to realize there are different set of rules for different “sandboxes” (different voice, different styles, expectations, etc). Challenge is to help journalists understand that being on the frontlines is an opportunity. Twitter is micro-communities. Journalists can build their own brands/readerships. Some niche piece of news could qualify as “breaking news” for Twitter handle, but would never be a breaking news story at the USAToday brand level. That’s a great opportunity for beat reporters to grab the reins and speak directly to a niche audience.
Next, Carvin talks about example of NPR talks about crowdsourcing news about voting issues on election day. NPR used volunteers to help develop widgets and called on citizen designers/developers/editors/researchers/reporters. The community basically helped to report and curate election/voting stories.
Question is raised in response: Why do people volunteer to help NPR build stuff? Carvin says it’s a serious public service. NPR mission is to create an informed public. Benefit of an informed public is people who want to give back and be part of that.
National Geographic is asked to talk about the strategy behind their social media and how they stay relevant. Murray says: We’re part of a larger ecosystem. It’s a crowded landscape. What are we doing to make content be shareable? How do we give opportunities to audience to contribute? We have to make sure we are embedded in people’s lifestyles in order to leverage moments of opportunity.
It’s obvious that National Geographic “gets” that social media isn’t about broadcasting their content, but using social as a feedback and community mechanism.
USAToday is up next to talk about why they use social media/what the purpose of it is: The question that we try to answer is how do we get people to stay engaged? No good way to measure social media engagement, but it’s where all of us are. It’s important to stay top of mind. We (as consumers) start and end our days with social media. But eventually you want to make sure audiences come to you when they aren’t on social networks. Dresher says that USA Today focuses on Return on Interaction, Influence, and Investment (ROIII).
Roig points out that social media has created transparency and a lot more sharing. How should organizations react to that?
Murray from National Geographic says confidently that sharing is not threatening. NG is half a media company, but also half nonprofit so we also have to think about our mission. We’re all learning through open dialogue. We’re not trying to poach ideas. Ideas have to be authentic and relevant to each audience. What works for one won’t work for another, so there’s no downside for media companies to talk to and learn from each other.
Roig next asks Carvin how NPR approaches planning strategy? How do you address the risk of trying to rush to every platform?
Carvin: It depends on the platform. It’s not resource intensive to maintain multiple outlets on video, for example, with tools like TubeMogul; but other types of platforms (i.e., mobile) you need to prioritize. For mobile, NPR prioritizes the mobile web, then iPhone (because of market share) and Android (because focus on openness and collaboration).
For social media, NPR asked, “which of these audiences really focus on collaboration and sharing of news?” That’s why we focus on Twitter and Facebook. Just because it’s easy to rollout on platforms like Tumblr, doesn’t mean you should because those types of platforms may not be core to our goals/mission/relationship with communities.
Carvin emphasizes an aside: They aren’t “audiences”, they are “communities”.
He stresses that strategy has to start with goals, not platforms. It has to make sense with the community; don’t worry about what competitors are doing or how easy it is to roll something out. He then tells a story about how a firefighter used the NPR API to publish an iPhone about 6 months before NPR was ready with its own. He says that’s ok though. There’s no point in hoarding the info, because getting the public involved creating things keeps you on your toes and forces you to be competitive (i.e., make sure you are creating something really good).
Wilson adds that her company is also focusing on mobile web compatibility, but that Aviation Week isn’t currently pursuing apps aggressively. She does say though that she created an Aviation Week iPhone app on her own to show her bosses – they liked it but told her not to pursue it.
The moderator says that even if a skunk works project doesn’t get launched, it’s okay to pursue them because they can trigger ideas.
Dresher chimes in with an example of a small idea/experiment that that really took off: USAToday’s America Wants campaign shows that democratic nature of social media can outperform a bunch of high-profile celebs, and even now (weeks after the contest ended), it’s still getting tweeted about.
Question from the audience: How do you maintain NPR-level quality if you crowdsource? Carvin: we have very little resources, so we pull things together and then say “can you help us?” and volunteers will improve on it. It’s hard to be nimble when you pay people. The “crowdsourcing” example for NPR’s election project, the hurricane Google maps mashups, etc. were not funded and pulled together very quickly and executed almost entirely by NPR’s community. It’s about acknowledging when you have limitations, not about cutting corners.
Next, the panelists talk about different ways they are innovating around social media.
Carvin shares a little about “Project Argo”, a framework for community based aggregators for specific topics. NPR is building the technology framework and individual stations are hiring bloggers/editors who aggregate community contributions and then do reporting on top of that. It’s about building news-reporting capacity at local level.
USAToday talks about how they are innovating in new ways to use social media. They are the first major media partner of FARK.
To answer a question about different uses of social media, National Geographic says that they see a lot of potential around location-based, mobile apps playing into mission of NG. Working with NOAA, they are getting community to catalog and “tag” flaura/fauna.
Carvin is excited to add to the NOAA example to point out the oil reporter app, a geolocation application with a feed that allows you to create all sorts of data visualizations and mashups. The oil reporter app uses geolocation (the same sort of geolocation that drives social apps like GoWalla and Foursquare) to identify where people find oil spill/tar balls.
Live blogging isn’t intended to be a “transcription”. I hope it’s clear where a panelist’s comments end and my commentary (sparse as it may be, in this case) begins. I also tried not to be words into anyone’s mouth. If you have corrections or noticed any serious omissions, or want to share your own reactions to the session, I encourage you to leave a comment.
Updated 11:20pm — And already one correction: The moderator was Carlos Roig, not Peter Corbett, as I had originally written (see, this is why I don’t get paid to live blog!). Glad I had opportunity to correct that, because he did an excellent job moderating.
More (of my) Coverage of Media 2.0 Day:
Part 2: State of Now
Part 3: Pew Internet & American Life Research
Other People’s Coverage:
Live (Sort of) from DC Week: Traditional and Social Media Coming Together