BusinessWeek.com sees social media as key

In an interview with econsultancy.com, BusinessWeek.com Editor in Chief John A. Byrne discusses the site’s strategy for engaging readers. Byrne says that “We have one overriding goal: to have the deepest and most meaningful engagement with our audience than any other business site in the world. … We see engagement as core to what we do and how we do it.”

In the interview, Byrne makes it clear that the days of one-way communication are over:

Journalism, by and large, has been a product produced by writers and editors and delivered to an audience. That was fine when there was no technology to allow journalists to engage in an ongoing dialogue with readers and to allow for true collaboration between the writers and the readers.

What journalism needs to become is this digital age is a process that embraces and involves your audience at every level, from idea generation to reporting and sourcing and finally to the publication of the article when the journalism then becomes an intellectual camp fire around which you gather an audience to have a thoughtful conversation about the story’s topic.

If done well, that conversation, orchestrated by the writer or editor of the article, has as much or more value to a reader as the journalism itself.

Byrne notes that BusinessWeek.com has 28 blogs and more than 60 Twitter accounts, and cites a favorite example of how one of his writers used social media to great effect:

[S]enior writer Steve Baker … wrote one of the very first articles in the mainstream media on Twitter. But rather than writing that story and delivering it as a finished product to our readers, he engaged the audience in a novel and creative process. He tweeted the topic sentences of his story and asked his followers to tweet back the sentences they thought would logically follow his.

Steve used his blog to report on the back-and-forth of this process to make it accessible to a broader audience who could participate via Twitter or Blogspotting, Steve’s blog on our site.

The result of all this was a much better story on Twitter based on engaging his audience in the reporting of the story.

The future of the newspaper? Maybe it’s the nichepaper

A pair of recent articles discusses the role of the nichepaper in the future of journalism. In “The News About the Internet,” Michael Massing recounts recent attacks on the Internet as leeching content from traditional sources. But Massing say critics fail to acknowledge an essential truth:

Over the past few months alone, a remarkable amount of original, exciting, and creative (if also chaotic and maddening) material has appeared on the Internet. The practice of journalism, far from being leeched by the Web, is being reinvented there, with a variety of fascinating experiments in the gathering, presentation, and delivery of news. And unless the editors and executives at our top papers begin to take note, they will hasten their own demise.

In “The Nichepaper Manifesto,” Umair Haque elaborates on some of those experiments and christens them “nichepapers.” The name is somewhat misleading, since like Massing, Haque also is talking about online journalism. But his definition is clear: “Nichepapers are different because they have built a profound mastery of a tightly defined domain — finance, politics, even entertainment — and offer audiences deep, unwavering knowledge of it.” Haque details eight essential rules and four models for such nichepapers. It’s a lot to digest, but it’s very important work.

Abandoned blogs and one-Tweet wonders

Debate rages about how “sticky” social media are. While it’s one thing for the average person to abandon a blog or Twitter account after an entry or two, that’s a practice that journalists should not emulate.

Writing in Salon.com, John Swansburg and Jeremy Singer-Vine look at the phenomenon of Orphaned Tweets:

After examining some 300,000 Twitter accounts, a Harvard Business School professor reported last week that 10 percent of the service’s users account for more than 90 percent of tweets. The study dovetails with recent analysis by the media research firm Nielsen asserting that 60 percent of Twitter users do not return from one month to the next. Both findings suggest that, thus far, Twitter has been considerably better at signing up users than keeping them.

Meanwhile, the same thing happens in the blogosphere, as Douglas Quenqua notes in “Blogs Falling in an Empty Forest.” He writes:

According to a 2008 survey by Technorati, which runs a search engine for blogs, only 7.4 million out of the 133 million blogs the company tracks had been updated in the past 120 days. That translates to 95 percent of blogs being essentially abandoned, left to lie fallow on the Web, where they become public remnants of a dream — or at least an ambition — unfulfilled.

Judging from conversations with retired bloggers, many of the orphans were cast aside by people who had assumed that once they started blogging, the world would beat a path to their digital door.

The take-away lesson for journalists here is that persistence and engaging writing are the only ways to make your blog or Twitter feed a success.

Blogger ruled ineligible to use shield law

Bloggers may find themself with no protection when they are asked to name anonymous sources, if a recent case becomes precedent. Techdirt reports that blogger Shellee Hale “tried to claim that she was protected under New Jersey’s shield law, which allows a journalist to protect sources.”However, the judge in Hale’s case “ruled that Hale is not protected by shield laws because she has ‘no connection to any legitimate news publication.'”

The Techdirt posts notes that

This is troubling for a variety of reasons. First, it leaves open entirely to interpretation what exactly is a “legitimate news publication.” The judge seems to think it only applies to old school media, saying: “Even though our courts have liberally construed the shield law, it clearly was not intended to apply to any person communicating to another person.” Sure, but that doesn’t mean that an individual who posts something in the pursuit of reporting isn’t media as well. It looks like Hale will appeal this decision, and hopefully other courts will recognize that you don’t have to work for a big media organization to be a reporter any more.

Associated Press crackdown could spell end of blogs as we know them

In A.P. Cracks Down on Unpaid Use of Articles on Web,” The New York Times reports that The Associated Press was planning to “add software to each article that shows what limits apply to the rights to use it, and that notifies The A.P. about how the article is used.” According to the Times, AP President Tom Curley “said the company’s position was that even minimal use of a news article online required a licensing agreement with the news organization that produced it.” Given that much of the content on many blogs — including this one — summarizes current news stories, such licensing restrictions could make for a vastly different blogosphere in the near future. “

55 useful Web sites

Graphicdesignr writes about visualizing data and highlights free and easy-to-use multimedia tools. His “55 websites you should know about” list is full of useful tools and suggestions for the journalist. Among the recommendations:

“Mashable: Social networking news; there’s something for everyone.”

Social networking and bookmarking:
“Facebook: who isn’t on Facebook these days, Join networks by city, school, employer, and interact with other users.”

RSS aggregators:
“Google Reader: Subscribe to and read blogs and news content.”

Blog platforms:
“WordPress: My favorite blog publishing system. Customizable in design and function, and easy to use.”

Other categories include Web editors, videos, photo editing, photo storage, timelines, slide shows, graphics, maps, and Geocodes.

How does your “social media footprint” compare?

Boris Epstein is CEO and Founder of BINC, a Professional Search Firm that specializes in the Software Marketplace.  He poses a question that more employers are starting to consider:

If all else were equal, like education, work history and general skill set, and I had to evaluate the social media footprints of two candidates to determine which one of them I would contact, which one would I contact and why?

With the amount of information available online to employers, job seekers should not only be conscious about what they post, but should also be actively networking and leaving their own “social media footprint”. The practice is not limited to the unemployed, establishing and maintaining your online persona is a good habit to get into.

Companies today are looking for well-rounded people that can integrate well with their team both professionally and socially. Epstein highlights key points and outlines his criteria for comparing equally skilled job candidates.