As social networks continue to grow how are they impacting legacy news organizations? That is the question of debate during a South by Southwest panel titled, “Social Media: Breaking News or Fixing News”. Hosted by Kai Ryssdal of Marketplace, panelists included a social media editors from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and the Associated Press. Each of these organizations is a SocialFlow customer, so we were proud to have helped organize the panel.
One of the greatest benefits of social networks for journalists and editors is to gather and find news, according to Eric Carvin of the Associated Press who called it the #1 job for social networks. He went on to explain they are able to “find out about things we don’t know, sooner, and then verify it’s accurate and report it.”
Social networks have also made the ability to verify the accuracy of a story or track down a source substantially easier. After the Asiana Air plane crash at the San Francisco Airport in July 2013, a Wall Street Journal reporter was able to use geo-location data to find out where a handful of Tweets were coming from, tracking down an individual who was actually with a person who had been on the flight. Allison Lichter, the Social Media Editor who shared the story, offered that, “The same instincts that made you a great reporter before social networks existed are the same instincts that let you use social networks to do your job.”
The focus for Michael Roston and the New York Times is audience development and reaching their social network followers with the right content to start a conversation. Roston explained “It’s a social media arms race – that’s not for us. Our focus is to start conversations.”
Deciding upon what content to share can be its own challenge since readers now have unprecedented access to a stream of 24 hour news being published online and shared through social.
The Wall Street Journal and New York Times both leave that decisions up to the social media editors with the content being tailored that each specific platform. Lichter went on to explain that, “Editors for many years have done brilliant work thinking on ‘the page’, now we’re helping them think about how their work shows up on a mobile device.” The type of news, format, and content is dependent on what consumer want to see for each, with breaking news being shared on Twitter and longer, more engaging feature content shared on Facebook. The Wall Street Journal is even leveraging messaging apps such as “Line” for content distribution in Asia.
Individual employees are also empowered to share the publications content, though encouraged to nurture their own audience.
Roston elaborated that, “Our journalists are professionals, and they are have good ideas. We’re more interested in supporting them, not directing them. We want to make it possible for them to listen and use social to do their work.”
Lichter added “We’ve found that working with our editors and reports to find their audiences in those core areas has been incredibly valuable; we find audience in places our reports didn’t know they existed.”
What does the future of news publications and social networks look like?
The key according to Carvin is recognizing that “The social networks need us more than we need them…social networks are businesses and so we are, but we don’t have the same goals. Sometimes we overlap, but the bottom line of what they’re trying to accomplish can deviate from what we’re trying to do.”
Roston echoed this sentiment, adding “The question is how to get these platforms to serve us, not the other way around…It’s important to sit down with your partners from the social network to understand that what they’re trying to do and that their advice and guidance is intimately linked to their interests and not necessarily yours”
Social networks have become more than just a content distribution tool, helping journalists and editors surface breaking news sooner and achieve unprecedented access to sources and first-hand witnesses of events around the world. All of this while giving readers a level of access to journalists and editors that was unheard of 10 years ago and access to a volume of content that is only could never feasibly be published on paper.
Panelists featured include:
Social Media Editor, the Wall Street Journal
Allison Lichter is the Social Media Editor for the Wall Street Journal, overseeing the paper’s social media engagement efforts. Lichter was named social media editor for the Wall Street Journal in February 2013, previously serving as life & culture editor since 2010.
Social Media Editor, Associated Press
Eric Carvin is the social media editor at the Associated Press, where he directs social strategy throughout AP’s global news operations. He oversees the use of social media to uncover breaking news, gather user-generated content, connect with readers and share AP content. He also guides AP’s 2,000-plus journalists as they use social in the pursuit of news.
Kai Ryssdal has been the host and senior editor of Marketplace, public radio’s program on business and the economy, since 2005. He joined American Public Media in 2001 as the host of Marketplace Morning Report.
Sr Staff Editor Social Media, the New York Times
I’m the senior staff editor for social media at the New York Times. Before that I worked as the overnight home page producer for nytimes.com.