Category Archives: User-generated content

Don’t Be a Fool: Annual Spoof Warning

There is no off season for spoofs. Remember the great video interview with Bono? It was really a Bono impersonator. The episode was an echo of a 2009  adventure when a film team exposed the low standards of a lot of reporting about celebrities.

If the stories seemed far-fetched, it was because they were part of a series of fabrications about celebrities — made up and fed to tabloid newspapers by a documentary team that wanted to prove that journalists don’t check facts.

The Not-Bono interview with Jason Matterra was this year.

Spoofs don’t just happen with small newsrooms and celebrities. Last year, the very large Associated Press tripped up and fell for a spoof involving GE and taxes. Spoofs can happen any time, but they usually spike right around now.

As March 2012 draws to a close, it’s worth repeating this warning, a warning I send around the newsroom every year at this time:

The silly season is upon us. Many publications will be running corrections on April 3 for items they fail to see as pranks on April 1. Don’t let that happen to you – or to your readers.

One editor reminded me about a 1998 prank announcement that fooled the FT:

Guinness brewery issued a press release announcing that it had reached an agreement with the Old Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England to be the official beer sponsor of the Observatory’s millennium celebration.

According to this agreement, Greenwich Mean Time would be renamed Guinness Mean Time until the end of 1999. In addition, the famous observatory would refer to seconds as “pint drips.”

The Financial Times, not realizing that the release was a joke, broke the news in an article in which it discussed how some companies were exploiting the millennium excitement in order to promote their own brand names.

There are sure to be more examples this year. Have you seen any? Comment below.

Each year, the UK starts the day early, and in style. Some top 2010 and 2011 spoofs, from a friend’s list:

*Ferrets to deliver broadband to rural areas, Telegraph

*AA to use rocketman to rescue stranded motorists, Daily Mail

*Google launches translate for animals, Google

Funny to read. Not so funny when they are re-told as real news.

That was two years ago. Every year brings a new type of spoof, and 2012 will be no different. In 2011, it was that hot, newsy Twitter feed. Too good to be true? Think twice, or three times.

A selective guide to fake Twitter feeds:

BPRahm EmanuelBronx Zoo cobraDarth Vader.

Journalists sometimes are on the other side of this, playing their own spoofs on the public. Adam Penenberg reminded me that the history of journalistic spoofs extends back at least to Mark Twain’s account of a petrified man in  1862.

Whether a colleague, activist or prankster, someone has a plan to spoof you, and to do it soon. Enjoy a good laugh, but please do your audience a favor. Don’t publish the material as fact. The reputation you protect may be your own.

3 Comments

Filed under Crowd sourcing, Social networking, User-generated content, Web/Tech

Getting Started on Twitter, WordPress, Pinterest or Any Platform (the Nike Secret)

The shortest and probably most effective social media workshop I presented was for local reporters in Westchester County, N.Y.

Each reporter covered one or two towns, and each town had a local news site, Facebook page and Twitter feed.

It took three minutes:

1. Open laptops.

2. Go to your town Facebook page.

3. Type in a question (“what should we be covering in town?”) or make a comment (“meeting with editors today to talk about story ideas”).

4. Hit “enter.”

Just Do It. The lesson from the Nike ad applies to journalists who encounter new digital tools and new daily workflows.

The simple act of doing it helped each of us become more familiar with the tools we all hope to master to be better journalists. Each of us is new to something. A few months ago, I had never used Storify. Two weeks ago, I had never used Pinterest. The first time I live-blogged a speech, it was an experiment for me — a live blog of the 2010 State of the Union. While it was an important speech for the president, it was not a core assignment for Forbes.com, the business news site where I was managing editor. In a very important sense, it was my place to experiment and learn.

Every week I hear from journalists who want to improve their skills, who are  neophytes at something. It’s common to meet a reporter who expresses some variation of these two worries:  a) how do I learn this new tool and b) should I live tweet a boring meeting.

Yes, live tweet that boring meeting and use it to learn about Twitter. Live blog that routine lacrosse practice, and you’ll learn your way around the blogging software.

This stuff won’t show up on the homepage — it doesn’t diminish your name or the media brand. Make your mistakes when few people are paying attention. You’ll be more confident when you go to the murder trial. You’ll be ready for the school shooting or the deadly storm.

There is an even more basic way to start that doesn’t involve the dull meeting or routine sports practice. Start by asking a question that’s on your mind: What’s going on? What should I be reading? What’s happening tomorrow?

As you start on a new digital platform, there may be no audience and no response. Keep going. Ask everyday questions — what are you doing this weekend? did you see Venus last night? what’s your secret deer repellent recipe? It builds familiarity and steadily builds community. Then the community will be there when you need to say — who can join the shovel brigade at the Bar & Grill? Who can fill sandbags?

 

4 Comments

Filed under Social networking, User-generated content

Solving Readers’ Problems, Building Audience: The Fafsa Challenge

The process is daunting. Your newsroom can help.

The Chicago City clerk does it: Fafsa Preparation Assistance. A West Virginia foundation does it: College Goal Sunday. Kentucky did it in 19 towns: Sun., Jan. 29, College Goal Sunday.

A newspaper might run an announcement about a workshop, in Muskegon MI, Reading PA or Knoxville TN.

Why not organize a College Financial Aid workshop in your community? You could organize a virtual workshop, soliciting questions on Facebook, Twitter, through your email newsletter and on your website and providing answers from local experts. With a little more work, you could also organize a real-life workshop.

You may be publshing editorials, op-eds and letters about the rising costs of college, a trend Jordan Weissmann at The Atlantic labled a “surge of tuition rates and student debt that, for many Americans, is threatening to turn higher education into an unaffordable luxury.”

A reader-focused media company can do more than that.

Some editors may be asking: is this our job — to help families pay for college? Think of a related question: is it our job to provide a resource where members of our community can find information they need to solve their most pressing problems?

Newsrooms deepen community engagement by providing a platform for community voices, by providing information that leads to solutions for community problems and by convening like-minded groups to exchange news and ideas. Would a workshop fit that mission?

In Torrington CT and Winnipeg, Manitoba, newsrooms are opening their doors, inviting the community into the room. The Nonprofit Journalism Hub recently examined these two initiatives in an article: News Cafes and Open Newsrooms.

The Winnipeg Free Press News Cafe wants to find a way to reconnect with a younger demographic as well as become more transparent and accessible to the public. The Register Citizen Open Newsroom Cafe wants to help the community become more involved in the journalism process and let the public use the open newsroom space as a community center for gatherings, discussions, and educational opportunities.

Connect to younger people? Provide educational opportunities? Strengthen communities? What better way than to help families new to the process learn to conquer the daunting forms involved in paying for college.

The basic steps for either a virtual or real-life workshop include: announce the event, find a local expert, announce the event, provide a resource box of links in print and online, announce the event, tell families what they have to provide (a W-2, other financial information), announce the event.

For the offline workshop, you need a room, a way to make sure coffee and snacks are available, a person who will be responsible for stocking the room with paper, pens, pencils, and, if possible, an available copying machine and scanner.

In either case, the project is also a way to generate plenty of content — frequently asked questions, profiles of local experts, list of deadlines, process graphic, success stories of families that have reaped the benefit of completing the application, videos.

Keep a list of all the names, contact information and what your newsroom learned. In 11 and a half months, it will make it easier to do all over again.

Leave a comment

Filed under Hyper-local, Social networking, Uncategorized, User-generated content

Living Legends, Lessons From a Postal Stamp Prompt

Who in your area should be on a stamp?

What's the point of of questioning the audience? In your newsroom, when you ask a question across your site and social media platforms, do you have a metric for success? Is it 20 responses? 200? Somewhere in between? 

Do you know what brings more responses — time of day, wording of question, amplification by repeating across platforms? Is someone in charge of keeping track of what works and what doesn't and issuing guidance?

If you typically ask one question a day and generate 100 comments or responses a week, what can you do to increase that by a factor of 10? Who in the newsroom has suggestions for steps to take that might make that much of a difference?

Asking a question is not a resource issue — it takes two minutes to go to Facebook and ask "what should we cover today?" or "how are we doing?" 

It does take a few more minutes to monitor your activity and make adjustments so that week by week you engage more readers.

The Objective A highly engaged audience that is regularly creating content, a newsroom that initiates discussion, readers who react to news by spending time with your brand. 

Measures of Success Comments, likes, clicks, page views, new questions, discussion threads — and journalists who repurpose those discussions into articles or posts for a website or a print product.

Who's doing it well? Here's some evidence from a postal prompt about what works and what doesn't. If you have not asked a "who should be on a stamp" question, today is a good day. (Short url's included to ease sharing.)

The Indianapolis Star in one day had 17 Facebook likes and about 80 comments on a survey: who from Indiana should be on a stamp? Who will it be? Time for Indiana living legend on postage stamp | indystar.com http://bit.ly/nD5tYm Note the large photo of a favorite son.

The AP asked on Facebook and received 96 comments in the first day: http://on.fb.me/potHOi They amplified the request with a Twitter prompt that did two important things: directed people to Facebook and seeded the question with some possible answers from top names trending on Google search: Twitter / @AP: Interesting ideas of who belongs on a stamp — Wangari Maathai? Chuck Norris? — are on our Facebook page http://bit.ly/oBJFIAThe AP tweet to 500,000 followers had two dozen retweets: https://bitly.com/potHOi+

The Tennessean asked on its site and across social media feeds for local living legends worth featuring on a stamp. From the managing editor's Twitter feed @megdowney: I vote John Seigenthaler. @Tennessean. Which living TN legend would you want to see on a stamp? http://t.co/FQYiUpmI

Seeding the conversation with a few names seems to work. The Des Moines Register drew 50 comments on Facebook on the first day with this prompt:What living Iowan should be on a stamp? The U.S. Postal Service has changed the rules to allow living people to be honored on postage stamps. So — who would be your Iowa choice? (Around the newsroom, suggestions included Hayden Fry, Slipknot, Fred Hoiberg, Shawn Johnson and Captain James T. Kirk.)  http://on.fb.me/nrxUyi

A post on the Register's site had a bold call out asking readers to go to the Facebook page to answer: Who do you think should be first living Iowan on a stamp? | DesMoinesRegister.com http://bit.ly/pkeFDu

Lauren Wilbert List, a community producer for the Times-Picayune website, Nola.com, received more than 20 comments when she asked the question: Which living person would you like to see on a stamp?  http://bit.ly/oakFyw

The LA Times fashion writer set up a survey: Poll: Which living face of fashion belongs on a U.S. stamp? – latimes.com http://lat.ms/nMFfTf

There were 89 comments in a day and a half on this Florida news site, and note that the writer included an email address for readers who wanted to add a suggestion without leaving a comment. Does that mean there will be a followup? What living American would you like to see on a stamp? Let us know – St. Petersburg Times http://bit.ly/p4ll6k

How many news organizations will do more than just collect a few comments? The Postal Service is inviting official submissions. Here are the official stamp criteria from the Citizens' Stamp Advisory Committee http://bit.ly/nfjDx4

This is an opportunity to keep the conversation going, to solicit a list of names, to put out a poll, to narrow the list to the top five, to formally submit the names on behalf of your audience, and to report back the status of the request. The requests can be segmented by geography or topic area: who would be your metro area choice? your state choice? who would be your choice from among local sports stars? fashion stars? business stars? civic leaders? entertainers?

Each one of those points is an opportunity for deeper audience engagement. 

What is working for you? 

Leave a comment

Filed under Business models, Crowd sourcing, Social networking, User-generated content

Covering a Disaster: Lessons From Reno, Part 2

Lessons from Beryl Love, @BerylLove, editor of @RGJ, the Reno Gazette-Journal, from Beryl's tweets on #ASNEchat.  Beryl managed his newsroom's coverage of the plane crash at the Reno Air Race. After I posted some lessons from Reno based on my own reading of his newsroom's posts and tweets, Beryl added important details in the chat. I distilled these five lessons from his conversation.

1. Dedicated staff. Beryl wrote: "Staying on top of UGC required someone's complete attention." He added that the best image of the crash came from a spectator (first photo in this gallery). One person focused on user-generated content will help the newsroom find and distribute great content from readers. Beryl added that the newsroom worked hard to contact and confirm the identities of people sending in information but that reporters and editors were "merciless aggregators" when confirmation was not possible.

2. Sign up for CoverItLive. "Using CoverItLive to automate aggregation and publishing twitter updates in real time" was a big help, Beryl tweeted.

3. Social media super users. Know and follow the active social media users in your market. A hospital used Twitter for real time announcements about the number of patients from the disaster who were being treated there. If you curate Twitter lists of active feeds and monitor those lists for news on normal days, you will have that tool at the ready when disaster hits. From @BerylLove: Very interesting to me…

4. Live updates. Use Twitter for fast, live updates during news conferences. Beryl said his team made no effort to link these live update tweets back to his newspaper's website. Break the mindset that every tweet or Facebook post has to include a link back to your site.

5. Plan. Finally, Beryl added: "We are updating our breaking news plan to better define roles." Devote a planning meeting to what roles everyone will play during a disaster. Be flexible, but have an emergency plan that is updated to work with today's social media tools. 

Leave a comment

Filed under Crowd sourcing, Search, Social networking, User-generated content

Vaccinations, College Rankings and Back to School Night: Tips for Editors

Vaccine The Republican debate in Florida sparked new national debate over the safety and effectiveness of vaccines for pre-teen and teenage girls that prevent cervical cancer. (Short url's included to help with sharing.)

That discussion can extend to your Facebook page, site or Twitter feed. Some sources of independent information: CDC – Reports of Health Concerns Following HPV Vaccination – Vaccine Safety http://1.usa.gov/qvmBFJ

American Academy of Pediatricians releases statement on HPV vaccine http://bit.ly/rjipnE

What do lawmakers, parents and doctors in your community say? Who should make the decision if, or when, a child is vaccinated? What are the vaccination rates in your community?

Play Nickelodeon encourages children to get active by going dark for three midday hours Saturday, Sept. 24, for Worldwide Day of Play, supported by ‘Let’s Move,’ the President’s Council On Fitness, Sports and Nutrition and the National Park Service. (Hat tip Mike Allen, Politico.) Build a conversation around "play." How many hours a week did you play when you were growing up? How many hours a week do your children play? Favorite game, outdoors? Favorite game, indoors? 

Football How can readers join the conversation with your staff experts? Try Skype. That's what the Plain-Dealer uses to connect fans to the newsroom. From the Cleveland.com Facebook page: Got a question for Tony Grossi, Mary Kay Cabot or Dennis Manoloff about the Browns? Our Skype lines will be open from 10 – 11 a.m. to take your questions. http://on.fb.me/mTddVj

Local Colleges The Cincinnati Enquirer noted how local colleges fared in U.S. News & World Report rankings: http://on.fb.me/nCXD7D The USNews rankings, http://bit.ly/qEfXnW, and similar rankings from the Forbes College Rankings, http://onforb.es/rt0PP6, can be used to prompt discussion. Do readers agree? What is the hidden gem in your area that these rankings miss? What local college is riding an out-dated reputation? What do families look for when they make decisions — what information do they use to rank colleges for their students?

Tweet for talent Good use of Twitter by a top editor to recruit community photographers: Carole Tarrant (@caroletarrant) RT @theburgsNRV: We're looking for people who shoot photos of h.s. sports around #nrv. Give us a shout at news@theburgs.com.

Back to School Night Knees to chest, folded into tiny chairs, parents endure the annual ritual of back to school night in the hope that their involvement will help their children. Teachers sum up their philosophy of education, grading system, and classroom rules in neat seven-minute presentations. 

Some ideas and possible prompts that can stir conversation about Back to School Night:
*What would you miss most if Back to School Night was canceled?
It happened in one NJ town: http://bit.ly/r0S27a
*Do you know how to reach your child's teacher — by phone? by email? Ellicott City: Back to School night opens lines of communication - baltimoresun.com 
*Did you join the PTA? Why or why not? Back-to-School Night Basics | Scholastic.com http://bit.ly/qZcCrX
*Has your child's teacher explained how much time is expected for homework each day? Questions to Ask at “Back to School Night” | Power Moms Unite  http://bit.ly/rb6TmJ
*Do you plan to volunteer to help in the classroom? Back-to-School Night Basics – Back-to-school prep | GreatSchools http://bit.ly/qGxRUM
A content and social media plan around some of these questions encourages conversation, helps parents and educators share tips and information, and builds community. What is Back to School Night like in your area?

Leave a comment

Filed under Crowd sourcing, Social networking, User-generated content

Do you like social networking? There is a job for you.

Forbes.com is looking for an Assistant Editor for a social networking project.
Our audience and our contributors are C-suite executives around the globe,
brought together through the CEO Network, Forbes.com’s “gated community” for
chief executives.

The assistant editor will prompt discussion, cull the
most incisive posts and comments, post timely and relevant questions;
commission, write and edit commentaries, and use social networking tools to
bring together the broadest possible audience of these top executives in a way
that encourages them to contribute to and find value in this part of our site.
You will be responsible for the day to day running of the Network and will be
part of the Forbes.com newsroom, which reaches 20 million unique visitors a
month. You will report to the editor of our Leadership channel.

Writing, editing and social networking skills required, as is a proven
interest in the people who run companies and the issues facing them.

Send resume, cover letter and references to jobs@forbes.net.

Leave a comment

Filed under Crowd sourcing, Social networking, User-generated content