Thursday, 31 December 2009

Where journalism students should look for jobs in 2010

Where will journalism students  find jobs in 2010? Or, to put it another way, who’ll be able to afford to hire them?

The question occurred to me while listening to a Q and A session at the NCTJ’s Journalism Skills Conference. It was actually asked in a slightly different way of a panel of editors and trainers representing the BBC, STV, The Guardian, Newsquest, and The Scotsman by Bob Satchwell, executive director of the society of editors.

Mr Satchwell asked: “How can news providers make money to pay for [new journalists] when information is so freely available on the internet? And are there any implications for the way we train journalists arising out of that first question?”

This strikes me as a really key question, but the problem with the answers he got was that they circled around the seeming impossibility of charging for news online, and didn’t really get beyond that conundrum.

But, actually, things are not as gloomy across the whole range of media. If we go beyond the narrow definition of news, and think about journalistic content – or content produced by journalists -  in general, then I believe some clear and positive answers can be given.

Because, while getting people to pay for general news online, whether locally or nationally, is hugely difficult, there are areas of growth in the media, and areas where there is a healthy market for journalistic skills, as well as the ability to pay for them. And all that despite the recession.

You can watch the conference discussion at The videos are long; a full record of a Q and A session lasting almost two hours. I’ll quote the main points the speakers made below, but first, I think its more important – particularly for trainee journalists who hope to find a job in the coming year - to look at where they can best aim their efforts.

My answer is that the pool of employers who will hire journalists, and those with journalistic training, is shifting. Here, in summary, is my list of who can and can’t pay.

Who'll struggle to pay for new journalists in future?
Commercial broadcasters

Who'll be able to afford to pay for new journalists?
Local authority-funded magazines
Consumer magazines
Customer magazines
B2B magazines

Who else will want those with modern journalistic skills?
Social media marketeers
With the growth in social media marketing, those who can marry journalistic skills with an understanding of this new area will find themselves in great demand

So, let me justify those claims.

Where the jobs will be in the future

Not on local papers
Local newspapers, where much training has traditionally taken place, will become much less important as an employer. I believe that in the medium term most regional press will disappear, to be replaced by small enterprises, a mix of hyperlocal sites from traditional publishers and from start-ups and very traditional old-school print publications. These enterprises will support very few journalists, and I doubt they’ll be able to afford to train many. Regional press ABCs have been dire, with an overall fall in circulation of 8 per cent.

Not on national newspapers
They’ve only ever taken on a few dozen college-fresh recruits annually between them, and that’s not going to change.

On the BBC
Social broadcasting will remain in rude health. The BBC was described as the elephant in the room during the discussions in Glasgow. I can’t see many people paying for local, national or international general news while they can get it free from the Beeb.

The BBC will remain very rich and well resourced, and will continue to train people, and to give a journalistic home to those trained elsewhere

On consumer magazines
There are 9,000 or so mags in this country, and only 1,300 newspapers, and magazines in general are not suffering nearly as badly as newspapers.

The August magazine ABCs showed what Press Gazette characterised as a solid performance

Dominic Ponsford reported: “When total circulation of all the thousands of audited titles is totted up, it dropped overall by 1.9 per cent period on period and 3.8 per cent year on year.

“According to final figures from magazine industry trade body the PPA, yesterday’s figures show that total average circulation for all the weeklies, monthlies, quarterlies and so on amounted to just over 657.5 million in the first six months of this year. This compares with 683.6 million in the same period a year ago.

“So while the economy shrank by as much as five per cent according to some estimates – the magazine industry was rather more resilient, at least circulation-wise.”

Nicholas Coleridge, chairman of Conde Nast, spoke on BBC Radio 4’s The Media Show
(you’ll find the interview 20 minutes in on the linked podcast) of 2009 being a “bad year for advertising, a very strong year for circulation, especially in the last six months.” He predicted a rise of a 2 per cent in his magazines' circulation. Despite a fall in advertising, Conde Nast has been expanding, launching two new titles.
Some new journalists will get jobs on glossies fresh from their training courses, but many more will find a home in another growth area:

On customer magazines.
The top three magazines in the UK are given to subscribers by Sky. Of the top 20 magazines, only five are actively paid for

The analysis, again from Dominc Ponsford shows:
Skymag: 7,545,510 (0.0%)
Sky Sports Magazine (UK): 4,197,870 (0.0%)
Sky Movies Magazine (UK Edition): 3,508,817 (0.0%)
Asda Magazine: 2,524,175 (0.0%)
Tesco Magazine: 1,998,407 (0.0%)
Sainsbury's Fresh Ideas: 1,499,499 (0.0%)
TV Choice: 1,335,894 (100.0%)
What's on TV 1,270,032 100.0%
The Somerfield Magazine: 1,003,795 (0.0%)
Radio Times: 961,114 (99.9%)
Morrisons Magazine: 934,535 (0.0%)
Take a Break: 914,109 (100.0%)
Sense Magazine: 821,895 (0.0%)
Sky Kids: 755,141 (0.0%)
Saga Magazine: 652,055 (98.1%)

Very few falls in circulation there.

But how many journalism courses prepare students for this market, and urge them to equip themselves for a first job in it? When I’ve mentioned this to tutors on such courses they tell me their students wouldn’t wear it; that they aren’t interested in this area. So, to answer Bob Satchwell's question, point them to areas such as this, where the jobs are.

Many tutors also say that students aren’t interested in B2B magazines. They should be encourged to think again.

On B2B magazines
Not all of them will survive, but most will. The survivors will be those that offer information people will pay for: information that helps them make or save money, and do their jobs better.

On local authority magazines
This is a burgeoning area, but one that is much-criticised because of the impact on local newspapers. Local council magazines will remain in rude heath; a whole new platform of social media, funded by the council  tax payer.

OK, the journalism won’t be objective, but with 95 per cent of local authorities producing them
there are jobs to be had.

On social media marketing platforms
Social media marketing is going to be a huge growth area. Organisations from the biggest corporations to the smallest family firms want to use Twitter, Facebook and whatever platforms emerge in the future. And to do that well they need people who can create good content. That means journalists, or those with journalistic training and skills.

Journalists deride PRs and delete most of their press releases unread. Quite right; virtually all of them are poorly targeted, poorly written rubbish. But, increasingly, journalists who can handle multimedia can create a release with stills, audio and video that is extremely useful to the outlets it is targeted at. Those trad journalistic organisations that can’t afford nearly as many journalists as they used to lap the stuff up. Want to write for a local paper or get yor reports on local TV? Increasingly, you'd best go into PR.

What the panel said
But enough from me. Here’s what the panellists at the NCTJ’s Future of Journalism conference had to say for themselves.

The session, on December 3, was chaired by Aasmah Mir, Presenter, Radio 5 Live and Radio Scotland . The panellists were: Alex Gerlis, head of training, BBC College of Journalism, Tom Happold, head of multimedia, Guardian News and Media, Tom Lowe, newsgathering editor, STV , John McLellan, editor, The Scotsman, and  Margaret Strayton, group editorial manager, Newsquest.

Bob Satchwell asked them: “How can news providers make money to pay for [new journalists] when information is so freely available on the internet. And are there any implications for the way we train journalists arising out of that first question?

The videos can be seen in full here. If you want to pick up on just this part of the discussion, it begins at 7.50 in the embed below. The debate was filmed by three students studying NCTJ accredited courses: Clare Carswell, Glasgow Caledonian University; Lesley Quinn, Cardonald College; Natasha Radmehr, University of Strathclyde.

Tom Happold, head of multimedia, Guardian News and Media
"If I knew the full answer to this question I’d be several pay grades higher in my profession and much more successful.

"I suspect the answer isn’t one big answer it’s a lot of answers. I suspect we are going to have to look at a number of ways of raising revenue as we increasingly become online publishers.

"Touching on the Murdoch question [paywalls for Times Online and other titles] I’m really curious to see how they do on that. …I find it really hard to imagine who’s going to subscribe to read the Times online. … Its website isn’t as good as its newspaper…it’s not a particularly pleasurable experience reading that website, and it’s not true to the behaviour of people who…get news online.

[He’s asked by the chairperson whether,  if all newspapers together chose to charge, people would subscribe. He answers:] "There is one very big text news organisation that is financed by the licence fee [the BBC]. That is the elephant in the room. Also, pure news in the text form is very easy to replicate. ..It’s very easy even if something is behind a paywall to pick up on that story and replicate it and report on that story. It’s why papers often hold stuff back to the last edition.

"To go back to the question; a number of answers. Advertising is still going to be a big part of it, creating a strong relationship with your users online so that you can sell services to them, get them to pay for events, … Also maybe journalism in the future is going to have to look at other sources of funding to do big investigations. …There is no reason why news organisations shouldn’t … appeal to your readers to help you do stuff.

Margaret Strayton, group editorial manager, Newsquest
[She is asked by the chair whether the Johnston Press paywall trial is that the right way forward.]

“I wish I knew, and I wish Johnston’s every success because if it worked for them then I’d bloody well make sure that it works for us. …We have allowed the search engines and the aggregators to come in and to steal our stuff…put there by professional journalists for which it is the publishers who pay to train these, not the Googles of this world. ..I honestly don’t see that people will pay … the perception is that it is free information…we were hoping that we’d have the eyeballs and once we had the eyeballs the advertisers would follow. Well, you know, the advertisers aren’t following in great droves and certainly not paying [what] they would pay to advertise in newspapers.

John McLellan, editor, The Scotsman
"I think you can probably track it back to the 1980s and the free newspaper explosion …we have since that point steadily devalued news and its reached its peak with the giving away of the London Evening Standard, and online is basically an extension of that. As an industry we have devalued what has cost us a lot to produce …as an industry we do have to try and roll back the years and collectively get back into a position when we do start putting a value on what we do and are not prepared to throw it away.

"We chased audience and was very successful; we built up three million unique users…but print still represents 95 per cent of our revenues and we have to put 95 per cent of our effort into maintaining where the money’s coming from.

It may be that the future for us is in some kind of PRS [performing rights] setup. If someone plays a Paul McCartney song in Taipei then Paul McCartney gets a payment. I do think we need to start talking …to the likes of Google and… start getting money from them. [referring to the BBC, in whose Glasgow HQ the conference is taking place he goes on:] ..The best way of making money is to ensure that people are threatened with jail if they don’t pay up for your services."

Tom Happold 

"We are in danger of sounding like loom weavers in industrial revolution Manchester

"Google and the other search engines are creaming off vast amounts of the advertising online but that is because they are providing a service that people like to use. And actually the growth of the web has allowed a publication like the Guardian to become a global news organisation. There are opportunities as well with that and I think."

John McLellan
"The vast majority of us working in a commercial environment cant lose the amount of money the Guardian loses every year. We can’t do it, or we’d be out of a job."

Tom Happold
"Some people have experimented with charging. The New York Times put a paywall around its comment section and then took it off because the New York Times stopped being part of the cut and thrust of political debate in online American journalism.

"The idea we could have gone back in time and put a paywall around our sites, [if we had] we wouldn’t have the huge audiences that publications like the Guardian do have online.

"In reality what we are going to have to face up to is a contraction of the industry".

Alex Gerlis, head of training, BBC College of Journalism
"Obviously from a BBC point of view we cannot charge, people are paying a licence fee in the United Kingdom. In one sense it’s a debate that we are slightly separate from, but we can’t ignore it and we can’t pretend that we’re not part of it.

"When Murdoch is using, the kind of rhetoric he is using around Google, he’s also got the BBC in mind as well. I can’t think that it is commercially helpful to talk about Google in the kind of language that is being used about it. …because for an awful lot of people Google is now part of the English language, so to suddenly demonise it, an awful lot of people aren’t going to understand what you mean, about why is Google stealing things when its simply a way for us to find out about your information.

"…Maybe once you get past the rhetoric, and you start thinking about what sites you would pay for maybe it’ll change, maybe some specialist sites maybe people would do."

Monday, 28 December 2009

Two milestones in the shift in power from old media to social media

There have been a couple of social media milestones during the year which show that old media and new are experiencing a shift in the balance of power.

They concern two big news stories that fit the old media model of an issue on which their readers will have strong views

In both cases the publication sought to chime with its readers views by producing trenchant comment about them.

One was the death of the pop star Stephen Gately The second was about a letter sent by the prime minister to Jacqui Janes, the mother of a soldier killed in Afghanistan.

In the first the Daily Mail columnist wrote that there was nothing natural about Stephen Gately’s death, and linked it to his homosexuality.

In the second it was said that the PM got the dead soldier’s name wrong, and made various other errors in a handwritten letter that was difficult to read. The Sun recorded a phone conversation between the prime minister and the bereaved mother, and published it on its website.

Trad media is used to having just the views of its own readers to worry about.

With social media the views they express are likely – if controversial enough – to reach a far wider audience; an audience that is not programmed with the prejudices that the newspaper confidently presents to its own constituency.

The Gately story was picked up, famously, by Stephen Fry and others on Twitter and Facebook
and resulted in a huge backlash from that community. As a result Moir apologised.

The letter story spread far beyond the Sun’s own readers and it seemed to some that the Sun was using this incident as part of a campaign against the prime minister.

Overwhelmingly, the view among those who learned of the story via social media was that, as a person of partial sight, the prime minister was being bullied. It resulted in a ‘give Brown a break’ backlash.

A majority of the Sun’s readers who commented on the website showed sympathy for Brown, Roy Greenslade reported.

What does this tell us?

Two things.

That newspapers such as the Sun and Mail, which pride themselves on having a finger on the pulse of their readers, can on occasion get things very wrong.

Second, that old media can no longer express views that chime with its own readers but which offend a substantial number of others. Well, they can, but if they do it openly on the web, without pay walls to keep these views from the general web user, then  they will be called to account for them.

This is a profound shift in the balance of power towards the wider community. It shows that social media has very powerful. The wisdom of the crown has been brought to bear in these two instances.

We are used to hearing of the negative impact that unfettered comment can have on the web. Here are two examples of how it can be a force for good.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

What's to come for journalism in 2010, and what was good in 2009

It's prediction time: what will 2010 bring for journalism? Foliomag, for example, has gathered 115 views from American media people in which Twitter and e-readers get plenty of mentions.

In the UK, Jon Slattery’s blog has a continuing series in which prominent UK media types pick the best of 2009 and predict what is to come. In best new media Twitter gets more votes than any other application, and under predictions there is confidence in hyperlocal and divergent views on paywalls – some say they are on the way, others see them as a handy divider between those who impose them (and fail online) and those who don’t (and succeed).

Adam Westbrook includes a wealth of new media startups and the growth of entrepreneurial journalism among his top 10 for 2010.
He also dubs it “the year of the hyperlocal” and sees more journalists training other journalists, with journalism students being a key force for innovation in storytelling.

Paywalls, he says, will work for really high quality content, but believes Times content doesn’t warrant a paywall.

For what it’s worth, here are my thoughts:

My prediction for 2010: Journalists and publishers will learn to use Facebook as a marketing and audience-reaching tool as effectively as other industries already are.

My best of new media in 2009: I’ve gone for three applications that have been perfected in the past 12 months: Facebook for giving journalists and publishers the perfect platform to find new readers virally and for drawing them back to our branded websites and print editions; Apture, for making it easy to add multimedia content to any text report; and Qik for making it simple to stream live geotagged video from your phone to your site or blog.

Here are some highlights for me from Jon Slattery’s contributors:

Best new media in 2009
Steve Busfield, head of media and technology for Guardian News and Media
Twitter. A name that annoyed old media world, but had to be embraced as a means of communication.
Patrick Smith, currently of PaidContent
Spotify is potentially a game-changer for the music biz and I'm a big fan. Also good are Audioboo, a mobile audio-blogging service (you can hear my boos here) and Soundcloud which allows you to store and send massive audio files, which is hugely useful for journalists these days.
Adrian Monck:
Thomson Reuters iPhone app.
HoldtheFrontPage publisher Paul Linford
Twitter – fast becoming the most reliable source of good stories.
Jo Wadsworth, web editor of The Argus, Brighton
Help Me Investigate. A great idea, and it’s now beginning to take off and really prove its worth.
Steve Dyson, editor of the Birmingham Mail
BBC online.
Chris Wheal, journalist, editor and trainer the student work experience project using Wordpress, Twitter, live blogging, youtube and Flickr.
Sam Shepherd, Digital Projects Co-ordinator, at the Bournemouth Echo
A predictable answer, but Twitter (if it still counts as "new", that is!)
Neil Fowler, media consultant and an associate member of Nuffield College, Oxford
Press Gazette columnist Grey Cardigan
Does The Thick Of It count? Sheer brilliance. If not, then the amazing variety of YouTube content.

Predictions for 2010
Steve Busfield
Digital paywalls for (almost) all old media. Whether they work is the big question.
Patrick Smith
Newspapers will get smaller, some will close and more and more local websites covering specific areas will sprout up to replace the coverage communities are losing.
Adrian Monck
China to become a major force in global newsgathering.
Paul Linford
More and more regional newspapers refuse to fade away. If the big publishers do decide to close more titles, the best ones will either be picked up by smaller newspaper groups, as the Whitchurch Herald was earlier this year, or bought up by local entrepreneurs content to operate on smaller margins.
Jo Wadsworth
Hyperlocal start-ups start to make their staff a real living
Steve Dyson
That a slow but steady change in the ownership of regional newspapers begins to happen. That regional journalism starts to proudly shout about its exclusive content, and that more and more experiments sprout up to trial charging for this online.
Chris Wheal
Fewer full-time jobs, more freelance contracts and a deafening white noise of struggling print-only die-hards bemoaning the internet, blogging and Twitter for taking away work that they believe was rightfully theirs.
Sam Shepherd
A widening gap between the newspapers and groups that push the boundaries of what can be done online and those that close down their online content, either behind paywalls or as part of a drive back towards the print product.
Neil Fowler
A staged swap of some regional newspapers to force the government's hand over ownership regulation (I said the same last year - but it's got to happen soon!).
Grey Cardigan
More of a hope than a prediction: that local newspapers might return to local ownership, with sensible margins, a sensible cost base, sensible management and sensible resources. The game isn't up yet if we can prise the odd failing title out of the hands of the greedy mega-groups.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Boris shows exactly how not to tweet

It's like being bludgeoned by half a dozen press releases all at once. Well done Boris's people: that's a mini-masterclass in how not to tweet.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Friday, 20 November 2009

Making social media manageable: One click posting to Twitter, Facebook, Blogger, YouTube, Flickr, Delicious and more

Social media takes a time. A lot of time if you want to do it well, and on a range of platforms.

So how helpful would it be if you could get one-click posting that sent your multimedia content to a wide range of platforms?

Over the past week I’ve been trying out Posterous, a tool that promises to do just that.

Posterous acts as a distribution centre. Post once to it via an email and your content is sent on to all the other platforms you have indicated you want to post to: Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, blogs on networks including Blogger and WordPress, Delicious, FriendFeed and more.

So you send Posterous an email and, depending on what platform it is posting your content on to, the subject line becomes your heading, the body of the email your text, links are converted into Posterous’s own shortform, and video -- via links or html – is embed on each appropriate platform. They say you can attach any type of file and they'll post it along with the text of your email: photos, MP3s, documents and video as either links or files.

You also get, at the heart of all this, your own Posterous blog, which might be more appropriate for individual bloggers within a company than for presenting the overall title or brand. That blog also presents your profile and offers links to your content on all the other platforms Posterous is distributing to on your behalf.

So how well does it work? Mostly, pretty well. The tweets are fine. The Facebook content brings heading, short text and image together smoothly.

I found it didn’t always file seamlessly to YouTube, and not all my posts went to Delicious for some reason, or to Flickr. Also, it doesn’t seem to like html code for embedding video into my Blogger blog; it prefers a link. Oh, and the promised url shortforms don’t seem to appear for me.

But, to be fair, I haven’t been exhaustive in my exploration of how to fine-tune Posterous, so there may well be quick fixes for these glitches.

You don’t have to file to all platforms all of the time. You can use tailored email addresses to specify to Posterous what platforms you want to post to, and you can always go into your Posterous blog and edit the content you have posted if something has gone wrong. Here’s mine:

Mashable did a comparison of Posterous and Tumblr and Posterous came out well. Mashable concluded: “We’re so much in love with the anytime, everywhere model that Posterous supports for blogging, lifestreaming, photo sharing, and video and audio posting. There’s just too much good stuff there to ignore.”

I’d agree with that. Certainly journalists and publishers are going to need tools like this if we are to make social media work for us.

Now, to see how things go, I shall file this post via email, with screen grabs as attachments, and see how it is rendered. There should be grabs with thsi post of my Posterous blog plus posts sent via Posterous to Twitter, Facebook, Blogger and Friendfeed. If you follow the link to my Posterous you can follow on to the other platforms and see how things look.

Posted via email from Andy's posterous

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Forrester on how consumers might pay for online content

No surprise that Forrester finds 80 per cent won't pay for online conent, but interesting results when they ask the other 20 per cent what payment model might work for them.

That throws up a wide range of pereferences

Forrester's blog says the data suggests two things:

  1. Publishers should continue to offer free, ad-supported products to the 80% of consumers who won't pay for content online; and
  2. Publishers should offer consumers a choice of multichannel subscriptions, single-channel subscriptions, and micropayments for premium product access.

Forester concludes: "There's no one delivery platform, and no one pricing model, that will satisfy all consumers. Consumer willingness to pay is so modest — and, in general, we find it tends to over-report in surveys — that publishers need to be extremely flexible to accommodate the needs of these precious customers.

Full report here:

Posted via web from Andy's posterous

Monday, 16 November 2009

Agencies not using social media well

The Gordon's Republic blog at BrandRepublic says: The ad agency world is not shining when it comes to using social media to market itself, according to new research, but is pretty good at setting things up blogs and Twitter accounts and then infrequently updating them.

Posted via email from Andy's posterous

How do you get to study at Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard or Stanford? Google it

Great thoughts from Jeff Jarvis on the scope for online universities

Posted via email from Andy's posterous

Sunday, 15 November 2009

How Ford does social media</a>" />

Zero'>">Zero to 60: Ford’s Social Media Story, by Scott Monty; presented by GasPedal and the Social Media Business Council from GasPedal'>">GasPedal on Vimeo'>">Vimeo.

Posted via email from Andy's posterous

How McDonalds does social media</a>" />

Collaboration'>">Collaboration 2.0, by Heather Oldani and Steve Wilson; presented by GasPedal and the Social Media Business Council from GasPedal'>">GasPedal on Vimeo'>">Vimeo.

Posted via email from Andy's posterous

Social media success stories

Social Media Business Council members share case study presentations on how they’re implementing social media at their organisations. There is a list of live case study presentations here

Posted via email from Andy's posterous

Penn Olson: Facebook keeps on rising

With tons of addictive games, quizzes and news feeds to keep its users entertained, Facebook has surely created a state-of-the-art site.

Posted via email from Andy's posterous

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Social media careers talk

This is the text of a talk I gave today to the University of London's Careers in the Media conference

Social media: A fad, or the biggest thing since the industrial revolution?

That video clip started by asking if social media was a fad, or the biggest thing since the industrial revolution.

Well, it’s definitely not the first.

What about the second?

Social media is part of a transformation in the way we communicate that is pretty revolutionary.

Social networking sites are fast becoming the way most people interact with friends when they can’t be with them.

Social networking sites are also becoming a very significant way for us to consume media: news, information, entertainment.

We pass on interesting things we’ve read or seen to our social circle

And if audiences are beginning to consume media in this new way, then publishers and journalists need to get in step with that.

This talk is about what social media means for publishers, journalists and journalism.

We’ve known for a while that the web was an opportunity, a challenge and a threat.

We see the fallout from the threat part in the dire state of local and national newspapers, as well as in other media such as commercial television

Let’s go back a bit to the old media world: the olden days.

Journalists created and controlled the content – in rigidly separated silos of print – newspapers and magazines – television and radio.

The means of production – the printing presses, the TV stations, the radio transmitters -- were very expensive, so only a few organisations had access to the means of production

Then along came the web.
We – journalists and publishers -- took our valuable content, which was easy to charge for in print, and we gave it away on the web.

We did that because we couldn’t work out a way to make people pay for it – with a few exceptions.

But we did create our own websites and a lot of people came to them to consume our news, information and entertainment.

Who got rich?

Number one: The search engines

They got very rich. But they’d have nothing without our content.

Number two: Those who exploited the commercial opportunities on the web
The big early web successes were Commercial – eBay and Amazon, for example.
They could make money because the web is a very convenient way to shop and buy.

Next came social networks – Facebook and Twitter are the ones everyone talks about at present.

As the video showed, many people are using social networks, and many more will do so in the near future.

I guess either Facebook or Twitter might prove to be fads, just as Friends Reunited has proved to be, but social media in general is not a fad.

If someone invents a network that is better than Facebook or Twitter, we’ll all go to that latest best thing.

So here’s the big question: Will social media get rich at our expense?

It might, but we need to do all we can to get a slice of the pie

To avoid losing out to social media we need to know how it works, and to use it to our advantage – because I believe it does offer journalists a great opportunity. Here’s why:

People share things on social networking sites. If I see something on a website that I think my friends or colleagues will like, I can share it with them.

Increasingly, websites – whether news, entertainment or pure commercial ones – are getting on the social media bandwagon

They are making it easy for those who visit them to take bits of their content and share it on Facebook, to Tweet it, or put it on a whole range of other networks.

So some in the media fear that what will now happen is that, having been robbed blind by the search engines, we are about to be robbed blind by the social networks

That’s a head in the sand way of looking at it.

Social media offers a great opportunity for journalists and publishers

It also transforms the way we work.

There is a view of news and information among those who like social networks: “If the news is that important, it will find me”

That means we can’t expect people anymore to come to our sites. We have to get our news and information in front of them.

And as they are on social networks so much of the time, the best way of getting our content in front of them is to get it onto those social networks.

So we must use social networks as a new publishing platform.

That’s why you see so many organisations starting their own Facebook pages, which they hope you’ll become a fan of.

Here’s something that is revolutionary: The audience are the new distributors

The press has to distribute its product in trucks.

With social networks, it is the readers who are the distributors. They pick up the things they like and share them – they distribute them for us.

This is revolutionary for newspapers but well known in book publishing. They’ve known for a long time that the best advert for a book is a personal recommendation.

Now all sorts of marketing, advertising, news, entertainment and information is being passed on by personal recommendation.

We call it ‘viral marketing’

That’s how phenomena such as Cadbury’s drumming gorilla became so successful.

Coca Cola has a massive social networking campaign on the theme of happiness.

Journalists and publishers must be as creative in their use of social media as a marketing opportunity as the big corporations are showing they can be.

We must enter into a conversation with the people who find us, who become fans of our pages and who retweet our news stories.

We must listen to what they say.

We must take what they tell us and use it to create information and entertainment that better suits their information needs and interests.

If we don’t do that we won’t reach them

The opportunities social media provide for journalists and publishers are enormous.

I work with a publisher called Haymarket which produces a wide range of fantastically good magazines: Stuff, FourFourTwo, Pistonheads, What Car, Autocar.

Most people like glossy magazines at certain times – they like to sit with them when they have time and read in depth.

It’s the same for a lot of people, still, with the Sunday papers.

But in the age of social networks, how will we get new readers for our print products?

How will they hear of us? Well, they won’t, unless we are present in the places they go. So we need to be on social networks

There is a phrase – fish where the fish are

If the fish (our future readers, viewers – those who will one day buy our product) are on social networks, that’s where we must fish for them.

That’s just the start of a relationship with our audience that will draw them to our websites and print products.

Because, while it’s easy to share a quick video clip or a short snippet of information on social networks, you can’t go into a subject in any depth. When it comes to dense, detailed information – when you really want to know something in depth -- then you are better off with a hard copy.

Most people, if you ask them what they do when they are on the web and they find something they really want to read in detail, they’ll tell you they print it out.

So what’s a newspaper or a magazine? It’s a print out.

And what about if you want to make a big purchase – a new car for example.

You’ll want to do a lot of checking and comparing.

You’ll ask your friends what they think

And if a magazine such as What Car? has been mentioned by one of your friends, or known to you on the social network you use, then there is a reasonable chance you’ll think of that title when you decide where you will go for the really detailed information you need in order to make an informed choice.

Journalists have lost a lot of confidence recently.

Because their material has been given away free, they’ve lost faith in its value. And those who take it, who pick up Metro or whatever, don’t really value it very highly either. Actually, a lot of free stuff isn’t worth much.

But what journalists used to do, do now and will always do, is create material that is of value.

A reader values high quality, accurate information when they need it. They also value a magazine that really entertains them.

What journalists must do with social media is use it to become well known and liked by a new audience. They have to show that audience that they have valuable stuff to offer.

So what about those of you who are thinking of becoming journalists now?

You probably know instinctively how social media works, and use it extensively

If you can add to that good training in the fundamentals of journalism – they never change, however our material is distributed -- then you will have a winning combination, and you’ll be equipped to become a truly effective 21st century journalist

Friday, 30 October 2009

Writing for business: a free ebook from me

Thursday, 22 October 2009

How magazines and newspapers can make Facebook work for them

Facebook can be a problem. Many organisations find that it is so addictive that it takes employees away from their work.

A lot of firms block access to it from work computers. And who can blame them?

If Facebook, or any other social network, disrupts the work of an organisation, that’s clearly a problem that can’t be ignored.

But, in media companies, we can’t let the fact that Facebook is a problem obscure the fact that it is also an opportunity. By my reckoning, it’s probably the greatest currently under-exploited opportunity for media companies within social media.

After all, in management school they say the bigger the problem the bigger the opportunity. A problem of the size of Facebook has to be a great opportunity.

But first, and skip the two pars that follow if you are already convinced of this, why engage with social media?

Because we need to fish where the fish are. Our potential readers are on Facebook, Twitter and a range of other social networks. That’s where we need to be if they are to find us. Putting the right content there is like baiting a hook.

A whole generation raised on the internet will never find our branded websites or, indeed, our print publications unless we engage with them first on social networks. Get our use of social networks right and we can draw them to us, and to our core content, and convince them of our worth.

Huffington Post made a splash recently when it installed Facebook Connect, which as Ken Burbary explains means "Facebook users log in to partner sites using their Facebook account and share information with Facebook friends: a single sign-on authentication solution that websites can use instead of relying on building it for themselves."

Since integrating with Facebook Connect, more than 33% of new Huff Post registrations come through Facebook.

But many media brands that you would expect to be social engaged aren’t using Facebook to anything like its potential.

Two examples

NME just scratches the surface of what is possible – with one-line news items that don’t link anywhere. For example, a free Echo and the Bunnymen download is announced, but not linked to.
Heat magazine is schizo. Search on Facebook and this appears to be the official fan page Yet follow the link to Heat’s website provided and you find there a Follow us on Facebook link that takes you not back here, but to another Heat Facebook page entirely 

Not a problem for readers who go from Heat’s own branded site to Facebook, but mighty confusing for browsers on Facebook who are looking for Heat’s official page. And it’s the currently unengaged audience that Facebook can most usefully put you in touch with, not the converts.

Facebook is a massively powerful marketing tool. Many commercial brands – Coca Cola, Ben and Jerry, Red Bull, iTunes and others are using it as such, and to great effect.

We can learn a lot from them about how to market ourselves to a whole swathe of people who would like us if they met us -- socially, as you do on Facebook -- and who could become visitors to our branded websites and (just maybe, one day)  purchasers of our print products.

Penn Olson blogged about the sophistication of the social media Coke Happiness campaign which is "sending three winning bloggers to more than 200 countries in a year to uncover what makes people happy, as part of the soft drink maker’s Open Happiness campaign.”

Here’s the embed of part of the sell for that campaign from Coke’s  Facebook page

It’s this kind of creativity that is needed on Facebook. But hey, we can do that. So if you are on a sports mag/website, say, what about it? Run a competition on Facebook with a commercial partner, and get prize-winning fans to video-blog the F1 season, or next year’s  Football World Cup.

Penn Olson came up with 10 successful Facebook business pages and, among them, highlighted Red Bull
which ran Red Bull Stash, a treasure-hunt covering every corner of the USA with rewards for engaged fans.

Become a fan of iTunes on Facebook and you get 20 free songs, as long as you are in the US.
Penn Olson adds: “New to iTunes? Not to worry. They have a series of tutorial videos right on its page. A smart move to acquire more users through Facebook.”

What we get on social networks is personal recommendations: readers who find us and like us share us with their friends on Facebook. Book publishers have always known about the power of a personal recommendation. Now we can exploit the same benefit.

But should you bother? After all, a proper engagement on Facebook will take time, effort, imagination and resources. Mashable found that, of social networks, Facebook provides the most loyal visitors:

  • 20% of those that originate from the social network then revisit the site four or more times in a week.

That is not just a boost in traffic, it’s a boost in the right kind of visitor – the one who finds they like you and become loyal. Using Facebook and other social network sites is not about eyeballs, it’s about making yourself  known to the reader who values you once he or she knows you exist.

I’ll highlight two here:
  • Increased registration: of between 30-300%
  • Increased engagement: Facebook users are used to being social. They are an active group, participating, sharing, and generating more content. Sites with Facebook Connect see a 15-100% increase in reviews. Connected users create 15-60% more content than users who have not connected with Facebook Connect.

So, we know all too well about the threat Facebook poses. Now’s the time to focus on the opportunity.