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Posts Tagged ‘Publishing

This is the news, as seen everywhere else

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Here’s a fascinating post from the Nieman Journalism Lab (h/t to Youku’s @kaiserkuo for digging it out). It’s a write-up of a study into the way news is reported then reprocessed in the modern, connected media. The study took one story (the tracing of the China hacking attack on Google to a couple of schools) and analysed the way the information appeared then spread among the news media. It used Google News to identify 121 unique stories in publications of various sorts (Google News discounts articles that simply reproduce text).

Among its findings were that of the 121 stories, just seven were primarily based on original reporting, and only another 13 included some amount of original reporting. The rest were rehashes, largely of the original New York Times piece.

Does this matter? The write-up is a little ‘o tempora, o mores‘, lamenting the decline of modern journalism. That seems to me a very US attitude. In the UK, where we have much lower expectations of our newspapers, we’ve known that many of our media sources are not always bravely forging their own paths but are quite happy rehashing whatever is already in the public domain.

However, it is depressing that so much of the news we read is simply rehashed, not just by blogs but by ‘proper’ publications. What if a piece is incorrect? How far round the world can it get before anyone notices? And from a PR point of view, how do you repair the damage once untrustworthy information is ‘out there’?

And it’s also depressing that the best examples of journalism appear still to be the places they’ve always been – the seven news sources that actually went out and got their own take on the story were The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Tech News World, Bloomberg, Xinhua and the Global Times. Excluding the two from China, which might be expected to do their own reporting, it’s four newspapers, a news wire and a specialist site. Maybe that’s not surprising, but given the financial pressure newspapers are all under it raises a worrying question: if the crisis in the media world continues to hit their reporting, where in God’s name is the news actually going to come from, aside from press releases?

All things being equal, a shrinking media sector would see the rehashers go to the wall and the ‘proper’ journalists shine. But when were things ever equal?

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Written by davidtiltman

February 25, 2010 at 4:19 pm

Social media is crap – AdAge says so

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Awesome article on AdAge this week on the limits of social media. It’s by a guy called Jonathan Salem Baskin, and he warns brands against blindly piling cash into social media and out of channels which, though unfashionable, have at least delivered results in the past. He also takes a swipe at the social media ‘gurus’ forever lashing out at the luddite marketers who just ‘don’t get it’. Here’s a choice excerpt:

I know all too many CMOs who find criticizing the social-media lobby something like debating the dialectic with avowed Marxists – you’re never right when the very premise of your existence is wrong, and it gets old being told that your visceral concerns are a result of your failure to perceive class struggle or to tweet enough. Nobody with responsibility for a bottom line has ever felt comfortable with social media as a replacement for traditional advertising. Arguing that consumers “buy more” if you “sell less” just smacks of another five-year economic plan for the glorious motherland.

While he’s obviously hamming it up a bit for effect (as I have done with the headline), he makes a very good point – and one that goes for media owners as well as brands.

A case in point – my own dabblings in Twitter last year for Media. When we set up a Twitter account we were just experimenting with the medium, watching what other media owners were doing and seeing what worked for us. Coming from a publishing background, where what you want is people reading the words you’ve sweated blood over, we began by pushing out our headlines with links to the stories.

At the time, I remember being told by the experts that this was the wrong way to go about it. That we wouldn’t be respected if all we did was pump out links. That we were no better than an RSS feed. One of our competitors even tweeted that we had completely misunderstood the site. But what did we actually want to do with Twitter? While it’s great to make a few people feel warm and fuzzy and engaged, we didn’t have the staff to devote to doing this consistently. They were too busy doing proper journalism. The stuff they’re paid for. What we wanted was for people to read our copy, driving clicks that allowed us to sell ads.

A year on? When I left Media the Twitter feed was one of the website‘s biggest drivers of referral traffic. We abandoned automated headline/link tweets early on to be a bit more ‘bloggy’, but the purpose of the feed is still to generate clicks through to the content. Funnily enough, most serious publishers do exactly the same. And it seems to work with what a lot of people in our business use Twitter for – finding and sharing interesting information.

And the competitor? Funnily enough they’re pumping out links to their own content now.

So kudos to Mr Baskin for having the cojones to suggest the Emperor may not be as fully clothed as we’re told.

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Written by davidtiltman

February 24, 2010 at 3:04 pm