Note: This post appeared in the September/October issue of Quill.
Pinterest might have a reputation as a social network for sharing recipes and fashion tips, but news organizations across the country are embracing Pinterest in innovating ways.
In case you’re not acquainted, Pinterest is an image-based social network where users post links and photos onto different topic boards. The posts show up as a stream of images, like photos pinned to a bulletin board.
Each user can create and pin to dozens of different topic boards, to share different types of content. Like with Twitter, you can follow other people – or individual boards – on Pinterest, to see what items they are pinning.
The simplicity and visual appeal give posters a different approach to attract interest for their content.
Several newspapers are using Pinterest for fashion, food and other features items. The New York Times, for example, started its Pinterest page in June with boards on shoes, food and fashion.
But the visual power of the social network can extend well beyond fluff stories, as the following examples show.
Front Pages: Several news organizations have boards that highlight their front page each day. The pins link back to the newspapers’ websites.
Quotes: Lack a photo? You can do like the Wall Street Journal and the Mercury News: grab wacky pull quotes from a story to draw a reader in. Pins link directly to the article.
User-Submitted Content News organizations have created boards for everything from prom pictures to engagement announcements, to share their readers’ content with a broader audience.
Staff Bios: Many news organizations are posting photos of staff members, with contact info and links to their content on the news site.
Illustrations: The Wall Street Journal has a board of its “hedcuts,” those dot-ink portraits that have become a signature illustration in each day’s newspaper. The illustrations are impressive on their own. But a sea of the illustrations on a Pinterest board is a fascinating back door to interesting stories you might have missed in print, or online.
Different twist on political candidates: The Washington Post has boards for biographical information about presidential candidates Barack Obama and Mitt Romney, for a different approach to profiles about the candidates, complete with childhood and wedding photos.
Outside content: The Guardian of London has a board called “On Our Radar,” in which the news organization links to news stories it finds from other sources.
Profiles: The Des Moines Register has a board called “Interesting People” that links to news stories, blog posts and other features about people in Des Moines.
Special projects: Digital First Media newspapers have a Pinterest board for their special reporting project on homecoming veterans.
Community Guides: From The Morning Journal’s guide to Ohio golf courses, to the Denver Post’s Favorite Colorado Places board, newspapers are using the visual ability of Pinterest to offer a public service to readers.
The key, as with any social network, is engaging your audience. Invite readers to contribute their own content to boards, as the Atlanta Journal Constitution does.
And make sure you aren’t spamming your readers with feeds of only your content. Keep the pins interesting – and don’t be afraid to share content that isn’t from your news site.
Want to learn more, or find other newspapers who are using Pinterest? Follow Joanne Phillips on Pinterest or Twitter. She’s tracking new newspapers that join in and has a great board with more than 150 different news Pinterest sites.
Jodie Mozdzer Gil is an assistant professor of multimedia journalism at Southern Connecticut State University. She previously reported for the Valley Independent Sentinel, the Hartford Courant and the Waterbury Republican American. You can follow her on Twitter @mozactly.