Archive for the ‘Social Networking’ Category


Facebook’s business is journalism’s business

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The social network will roll out Instant Articles to all publishers April 12. (Photo: b_d_solis/Flickr under CC)

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The social network will roll out its Instant Articles program to all publishers April 12. (Photo: b_d_solis/Flickr under CC)

Next Tuesday (April 12th), at Facebook’s F8 conference in San Francisco, the social network is to open up Instant Articles to every single publisher in the world.

Instant Articles, which was launched last May, started a revolution into Facebook’s relationship with journalism, and how users consume journalism on social media. Publishers including the BBC, The New York Times, BuzzFeed, The Guardian and MTV have been utilizing Instant Articles, which hosts content produced by those organizations on Facebook.

In a blog post from earlier this year, Josh Roberts, a Product Manager for Facebook, said opening up Instant Articles would allow users to be connected to content and subjects they cared about.

“Facebook’s goal is to connect people to the stories, posts, videos or photos that matter most to them,” Roberts said. “Opening up Instant Articles will allow any publisher to tell great stories, that load quickly, to people all over the world. With Instant Articles, they can do this while retaining control over the experience, their ads and their data.”

As the social network prepares to open Instant Articles up to the world’s publishers, it comes at an interesting time for the relationship between social media and journalism, where content has become the strategic core of engaging new audiences to platforms. This is particularly the case for not just Facebook, but also Twitter and Snapchat.

Twitter introduced Moments late last year as CEO Jack Dorsey tries to increase the amount of users, while Snapchat has been trying to make its Discover feature more accessible to users, with potential changes coming as early as next month. This also comes as the satirical news site The Onion becomes the latest publisher to join Discover.

Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel. Snapchat has been one of the platforms competing for audiences through its Discover feature. (Photo: Techcrunch/Flickr under CC)

Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel. Snapchat has been one of the platforms competing for audiences through its Discover feature. (Photo: Techcrunch/Flickr under CC)

Separately, Facebook introduced late last year to iPhone users a notifications app called Notify, with content from organizations including CNN and The Weather Channel.

However, this relationship has been beneficial to publishers and news organizations, who have been presented the opportunity to engage with new audiences alongside retaining current ones. At the same time, it has raised questions on the quintessential social strategy to have the most impact and potential for audience engagement.

As Facebook and other platforms continue to try to increase their audiences and change user experience, journalism has become part of the equation of the future of social media. The business of social media has now become a fundamental component of the business of journalism, and both businesses have one thing in common — they are constantly evolving.

One thing however is for certain in this ever changing, yet mutually beneficial relationship. It has established that there is always going to be a need for journalism and those who work in it. The platforms may change, but there is always going to be a need for people to analyze and make sense of the day’s events, irrespective of beat.

Social media is going to evolve, but journalism will be the one that comes out on top, a big win for the industry that, like social media, is trying to answer the big question: “What is next?”

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Long Form Editor and a contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

The importance of notifications

As Twitter celebrates its tenth birthday, its influence on journalism has become significant. As part of a series leading up and celebrating its tenth birthday, SPJ Digital is looking at Twitter’s influence, as well as best practices and advice.

Here, Alyssa Bloechl, of the Door County Advocate in Wisconsin, considers notifications on Twitter and the culture of reporting on the platform.

Twitter, which celebrated its tenth birthday March 21, has allowed journalists to engage with audiences in new ways. (Photo via Anthony Quintano/Flickr under CC)

There are an exponential amount of ways a journalist can use Twitter in their work, be it learning about breaking news, connecting with sources or live-tweeting an event. However, a recent exchange with someone in my community got me to thinking about how the Twitter accounts of journalists can be tools for readers.

Obviously, Twitter is a way to share breaking news that readers look to retweet, but I think more day-to-day tweets from journalists sharing their finished stories or reporting from an important meeting are not necessarily getting the attention they deserve.

The exchange, concerning a coming major detour routing through the downtown business district, went as follows:

Me: “Hi, how are you? Do you have a few minutes?”

Source: “Yeah, I’m free. You want to talk about the detour?

Me: “Um, yes. How did you know that’s why I was calling?”

Source: “I saw your tweet and figured out why you’d be calling. I get notifications for all of your tweets.”

I was stunned. She has notifications for me, a person with under 600 followers and an unverified account.

As a tweeter for some time, I began reflecting on this. I was mostly honored to learn she sees ALL of my tweets, but then nervous she might turn them off when she realized I don’t tweet just stuff I’m working on. (I’ve recently gotten into the fun habit of tweeting with GIFs.)

The Twitter snob in me thought, what worth would all of my tweets have for her? I only turn on the notifications on an account when I know a local journalist or news source is covering a breaking event and I need/want to keep up on what they are saying. Once the event is over, I turn them off.

Alyssa Bloechl of The Door County Advocate in Wisconsin says notifications can help engagement on Twitter, especially for community reporters. (Photo via LinkedIn)

After some thought, I tried to put myself in my source’s shoes. She is the director of a local tourist organization and a well-known community member. If I were in her position, it would be to my benefit to keep up on the day-to-day tweets of a journalist, as they would typically tweet about local news and ongoing stories, which would help me in my work.

She mentioned she appreciates all of my tweets when reporting at city meetings and she even mentioned a string of live tweets I had put together while in the courtroom a few days before.

I have concluded that it is entirely possible that people other people may use Twitter notifications to source local journalists. As a result, I took to Twitter!

Through a poll, I encouraged followers to tell me if they 1) Use notifications, 2) Do not use notifications or 3) Do not know what notifications are. I referenced this as a way they may gather the news on the social network.

As a low-profile account, I got a grand total of 11 responses. 45 percent of those polled indicated they do not use notifications, 36 percent do use them and 19 percent did not know what they were.

It’s not much to work with in terms of the millions that use Twitter, but I believe that margin between using notifications and not can be closed with the right marketing. If journalists took the opportunity to encourage readers and followers to turn on notifications for their tweets, I think communities will have opportunity to be more informed.

That information can empower further sharing and possible social action based on what the journalist is tweeting about while on the job.

I also think if journalists are also thinking about people actually reading all of their tweets and the writer is not just sending characters off into a mass of other tweets, we may become more thoughtful and responsible when tweeting for our audience.

We local journalists can make a difference, encourage readership and tweet responsibly and ethically about their community’s happenings. I know I’ll be working on getting more people to turn on notifications.

Alyssa Bloechl, an SPJ member, is a reporter with the Door County Advocate in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. You can interact with Bloechl on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Reflecting on Twitter

As Twitter prepares to celebrate its tenth birthday, its influence on journalism is significant. As part of a series leading up to its tenth birthday, SPJ Digital is looking at Twitter’s influence, as well as best practices and advice.

Here, Dawn Walton of CTV Television in Canada considers the role Twitter has had in the culture of journalism and the broader culture of storytelling.

A late adopter of Twitter, I only started tweeting in 2010 when the newspaper I worked for suggested it might be a good idea for those of us covering the Winter Olympics. I didn’t really understand how it worked – or the point – but now, 15,500 tweets later, it’s the first website I read in the morning.

I’ve also come to learn a thing or two about what Twitter has done to journalism for the better – and worse.

It has, in some cases, made the jobs of journalists, easier, but at the same time, some journalists, lazier.  Confirmation of deaths, and condolences, appear in real time. Why call anyone or knock on doors when you can comb through, and then Storify, tweet reaction? You can instantly see trends in your region, country and the world. But just because something happens on Twitter, it doesn’t mean it’s a story. Nobody, however, has quite figured out the formula to tell the difference.

But 10 years in, Twitter has firmly planted itself in the media – and public – consciousness.

Want to gauge the impact of David Bowie’s death? Skip the publicist. Go straight to Twitter, where every social media conscious celebrity tweets – along with their fans. Never before would we have known how Barbra Streisand felt about Celine Dion’s husband’s death without waiting for Entertainment Tonight’s coverage, assuming any of those reporters reached out to Streisand for comment.

But then again, why do we care what Streisand thinks? But hey, instant, and high-profile, content, so it’s news.

Twitter has also helped reporters quickly find leads on the stuff that fills local daily news, monitor our competitors and post breaking news. Traffic tie-ups. House fires. The name of the latest murder victim as a friend posts an RIP message.

CTV's Dawn Walton says Twitter has had equal influence in journalism and public culture. (Photo via LinkedIn)

CTV Television’s Dawn Walton says Twitter has had equal influence in journalism and public culture. (Photo via LinkedIn)

Beyond local events, Twitter has also become a forum for massive international events. Journalists watch as active shooters or terrorist attacks unfold minute-by-minute, tweet-by-tweet by eye-witnesses (or those who claim to be).

Police, also noticing this trend, are quick to ask the media – and the public – to resist tweeting (or, engaging on any social media platform) in dangerous situations or risk identifying the whereabouts of tactical teams.

Twitter has also profoundly shaped world reaction to major news events making “trending” a common term and, at times, a measure of newsworthiness.

There’s the lighter trending news. Ellen DeGeneres’ Oscar selfie, actually taken by Bradley Cooper, was retweeted more than 3.3 million times, and racked up 225,000 tweets per minute, a Twitter record in 2014. Besides the celebrity eye candy, that made news. What also made news: Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar win this year, which trumped Ellen at 440,000 tweets per minute.

More often than not, I’m left figuring out what all One Direction and 5SOS fuss is about, only to realize it’s just another thing happening on Twitter that isn’t really a story, at least not to anyone who isn’t a die-hard boy-band fan.

But there’s also the serious stuff.

The hashtag #JeSuisCharlie became a global rallying cry after gunmen stormed the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in 2015. And, #porteouverte became the ubiquitous signal for where Parisians could find safe haven during last November’s terrorist attacks on that city.

The Canadian election was one of the most tweeted about events, and was part of the strategy for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (Photo: Alex Guibord/Wikimedia Commons under CC)

The Canadian election was one of the most tweeted about events, and was part of the strategy for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (Photo: Alex Guibord/Wikimedia Commons under CC)

Tweet gaffes have also caught fire and sunk many politicians and celebrities.

Canadian political hopefuls were bounced from their respective parties during last fall’s federal election over inappropriate – and often old – tweets. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush’s recent ill-advised “America.” missive featuring his monogrammed handgun backfired, helping put an end to his Republican presidential bid. Kanye West’s stream of conscious tweet plea for money made the rapper a public mockery.

Those types of Twitter trends are quick to become stories or memes and sometimes the meme is the story.

But when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie didn’t tweet anything on Super Tuesday, yet stood behind Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, his seemingly silent screaming took on a life of its own. Twitter exploded with reaction, and news stories inevitably followed.  But as the Poynter Institute rightly questioned, was it a story? Probably not.

Not long ago, I received an email about a “cat fight on Twitter” involving two rather well known Canadian female politicians – one federal, the other provincial – both believed to be testing the waters for leadership bids of their respective parties. I got lost in threads debates and never did find the ball of yarn that originally started rolling. It never really did become a story, and rightly so.

Some marketing experts prefer Instagram and Facebook to reach their audiences, saying Twitter is on the wane, and its sliding stock prices may suggest the same.

Lately, it feels like only journalists are on Twitter in Canada with trending topics of interest to only die-hard news junkies. It’s become a hub for reporters trying to out-funny one another. Heck, I’ve even found myself trending, which is clearly, not a story.

Still, even those with the rarefied verified, blue check mark still to get a kick out of follows, retweets and replies from those similarly stationed in the Twitterverse. No other venue would allow me to engage in an intellectual public debate over gun control with children’s entertainer Raffi Cavoukian, whose records I sang along to as a kid, or a claim as a follower Sloan, a band I thought was just the coolest in university.

Maybe that’s what a decade of Twitter has done for journalism. It’s a 140-character tool, outlet and equalizer. Now, if only it had an edit function.

Dawn Walton is an award winning journalist based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Walton currently serves as the Managing Editor of CTV News’ local coverage in Calgary and previously served as a correspondent for The Globe and Mail newspaper. You can interact with Walton on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

The art of live tweeting

As Twitter prepares to celebrate its tenth birthday, its influence on journalism is significant. As part of a series leading up to its tenth birthday, SPJ Digital is looking at Twitter’s influence, as well as best practices and advice.

Here, SPJ’s Alex Veeneman revisits Britain’s general election to highlight the best practices of live tweeting and credible reporting on the platform.

British Prime Minister David Cameron won a majority in Britain's general election, something that drew a lot of attention on Twitter. (Photo: russavia/Wikimedia Commons)

British Prime Minister David Cameron won a majority in Britain’s recent general election, something that drew a lot of attention on Twitter.
(Photo: russavia/Wikimedia Commons)

May 7, 2015. As the clock struck 5pm on the East Coast, over in the UK, polls closed in the general election, and a predicted exit poll result no one had predicted appeared. David Cameron, whose Conservatives shared a coalition government with the Liberal Democrat party for the last five years, was set to receive almost a majority of seats in the House of Commons.

At 7pm ET, as the ballots continued to be counted and results came in through constituencies up and down the UK, my colleague, Current Affairs Editor Kirstie Keate, and I took to Twitter for Kettle Magazine to live tweet election results, as well as examine the implications the results would have on voters, as well as British politics itself.

Live tweeting during a developing story or breaking news event consists of the delicate balance of engaging audiences but also informing and adding something of value, something that they can’t get with another platform. In the digital age, the balance of curating a story on Twitter whilst reporting for another platform is something that is trying to be perfected.

That being said, here are some things to consider when live tweeting, and to allow your coverage to stand out:

Monitor sources: In breaking or developing stories, reporting accurate information is crucial. Monitor sources to see the root of information. Try to confirm it, and report on Twitter citing the sources. An honest reporter is a forthright reporter.

Plan ahead: Have conversations with the team you’re working with before the night of a live tweeting to develop ideas. What stands out? What can help create value? Bounce ideas off of each other. Not everything has to be set before the coverage develops — you can even bounce ideas while you’re in coverage mode. Kirstie and I had conversations before election night and spoke during, exchanging ideas and discussing angles. Again, not everything has to be set, but its better to have an idea and be ready to adapt that idea for what is ahead.

Alex Veeneman of Kettle Magazine says live tweeting says honesty with your audience on Twitter will keep them coming back. (Photo via Twitter)

Alex Veeneman of Kettle Magazine says honesty with your audience on Twitter will keep them coming back. (Photo via Twitter)

Look at key story elements: Consider key points in a story to evaluate and follow up on. For example, in our general election coverage, Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats struggled with the issue of university tuition fees, something they promised to repeal, but instead were raised when they were in a coalition.

As they targeted the student vote, the party’s response to fees was something students considered, so their views on election night helped develop an interesting part of the narrative, and helped audience engagement.

Be careful when you post: When you are live tweeting, you need to consider the importance of what is posted. Is there value in what you are going to post, or are you posting for the sake of posting? Will that post truly help your audience understand the story better? Consider before you compose.

Be honest: You may be working on a different platform, but its still reporting. Be honest with your audience. If you don’t know something, mention the reports and try to confirm it. Report what you know. As I said earlier, an honest reporter is a forthright reporter, and audiences appreciate forthright reporters, for they will come back to you after your coverage is over.

By the time our coverage concluded, a small number of constituencies remained, but it was clear — the political landscape in Britain would be changing. The Conservatives would get their majority in the Commons while the Liberal Democrats lost a majority of their seats. In addition, the Labour Party had to figure out their next steps, and the Scottish National Party made significant gains, becoming a force to be reckoned with.

One other thing was clear as well. We engaged with our audience in new ways, showing how important Twitter is in not just communicating with audiences, but also in reporting a story, showing the power the social network can have in major events. Though no story is alike, these tips hopefully will allow news organizations and reporters to do one common thing — inform, educate and enlighten audiences, no matter where they are.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Long Form Editor and a contributing writer on journalism and media issues for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Editor’s note: This piece was amended on March 22, 2016 at 9:13pm CT to correct a caption.

Journalists, audiences and credibility on Twitter

Social media has evolved the news process, but Twitter has been shown to increase credibility. (Image: Pixabay/CC)

Social media has evolved the news process, but Twitter has been shown to increase credibility. (Image: Pixabay/CC)

Modern journalism has without a question been revolutionized by Twitter. A replica of a wire service, the social network allows users to keep up with the events of the world, and new ways for journalists and news organizations to tell those stories. Over the course of its near ten year existence, the social network’s presence has allowed journalists and news organizations to inform and engage with audiences in ways previously unimaginable.

New research has showcased the social network’s value in journalism. Researchers from Hope College and Lehigh University have shown that interaction with users by journalists can increase credibility and are rated more positively by users compared to those that use the social network to provide news and information.

So what does this say about how journalists approach Twitter? Anne Mostue, an anchor and reporter with Bloomberg Radio in Boston, in a telephone interview, said most journalists are aware of the study and the role interaction has, but says its down to time, balancing personal and professional matters, as well as attitudes about Twitter.

“Most people who choose to interact with journalists on social media are looking to get to know them in some way,” Mostue said. “In my experience, people don’t know how to get in touch with someone on the radio. Twitter is a great way to give me feedback.”

Mostue joined Twitter a couple of years ago after joining public media station WGBH, at the encouragement of the station’s social media director. Mostue says she was attracted to Twitter for the ability to enhance public knowledge and contribute to discussions while saying little about things going on outside of her work.

However, Mostue says, journalists have to be careful on what they tweet, as Twitter has had an effect on audiences’ views of journalists. Mostue adds that when there is so much breaking news, users should not be distracted about events in one’s personal life.

“I don’t want to distract people with superficial information about my life,” Mostue said. “I have to be careful not to give too much of my personal opinion with the news I’m tweeting about. I hope what I tweet is useful or intelligent. It can be a very social platform, but it is more of a news platform than a social platform.”

Ultimately, Mostue says Twitter is another way to give audiences accurate content.

“For some its a time issue, they choose Facebook or Twitter, or don’t enjoy Twitter as much,” Mostue said. “But everyone knows that ideally as a journalist you’re thought of as a person who is approachable and giving you accurate content, and people appreciate your efforts to engage with them and give them relevant information every day.”

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to the SPJ blog network on British media issues and social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Long Form Editor and a contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

Facebook: Now streaming

Facebook has decided to expand its live streaming feature, which could have implications for a news organizations' social strategy. (Vicipaedianus x / Wikimedia Commons under CC license)

Facebook has decided to expand its live streaming feature, which could have implications for a news organizations’ social strategy. (Vicipaedianus x / Wikimedia Commons under CC license)

Last week, Facebook announced its plans to expand its live streaming feature. The social network, in a blog post, said they were testing the feature, known as Live, with a small portion of its users by iPhone.

While it is unclear when this will be made widely available to everyone, including news organizations, Facebook said it hopes to make it available to everyone soon. Originally, as the BBC reports, the feature was only available to celebrities and other high profile users.

Facebook’s decision to expand the feature comes as streaming video expands on social media platforms, most notably through Periscope and Meerkat. With these features, this will allow reporters to tell stories from specific locations they are reporting from, or allow users to submit user generated content on breaking stories to help aid reporting, after they have been vetted.

In addition, streaming video may also allow other ways for news organizations to interact with audiences, either through segments about stories or creating ways to engage audiences through discussion features. The streaming video can also be an excellent way to engage users not only through traditional platforms like television and the web, but also through their Facebook page, expanding their social outreach.

The possibilities for streaming video are endless for news organizations, and Facebook is getting on board with the roll out of Live. The question is how (and if) news organizations will end up adapting it as part of their social strategy.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to the SPJ blog network on British media issues and social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Long Form Editor and a contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

The importance of verifying in breaking news

When reporting on stories on platforms like Twitter, accuracy is important. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons under CC license)

When reporting on stories on platforms like Twitter, accuracy is important. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons under CC license)

Twitter, in its nearly 10 year existence, has become ubiquitous with live events. It allows users to keep up with friends, family, and especially the media when it comes to life here and now. It has also become quintessential when it comes to breaking news, including covering the shootings Wednesday at a social services center in San Bernardino, a suburb of Los Angeles.

As the story broke, Twitter became a way for dissemination of information by news organizations, as well as an attempt to aid reporting for other platforms. As journalists looked for witnesses to the attacks, one Twitter user, who gave the name Marie Christmas on the platform. It later emerged that the user had fabricated information and had not witnessed the attacks, as my SPJ colleague, Ethics Committee chair Andrew Seaman noted on the Code Words blog earlier today.

Those who reported her remarks and had broadcast interviews with this individual had fallen for the error, as Steve Buttry of Louisiana State University noted in his blog, and there are still some questions, especially how the user got onto CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 and how she was vetted. Buttry inquired to CNN about the subject, and a message left with a CNN spokesperson in Los Angeles was not immediately returned.

The story served as a reminder of the importance of verification and accuracy. Andie Adams, a digital producer at NBC San Diego (who also oversees communications for SPJ’s Generation J community), said they worked with their colleagues at KNBC in Los Angeles on the social media coverage of the story. Yet, when looking at a breaking news story, that solid source is important.

“We try to hold back, especially on numbers, so we’d like to get a solid source for a most accurate count before reporting,” Adams said in a telephone interview. “We don’t want to cause undue alarm.”

Adams says that accuracy is the big thing in reporting, and that journalists should be careful about false information.

“False information gets retweeted over and over again and you need to be careful where that information is coming from,” Adams said. “Check your sources. Make sure the information you get is true.”

As the story unfolded, Twitter and other social media platforms were filled with information on the incident, and the social networks are developing new platforms and tools when it comes to reporting live events. Adams says while the new tools are helpful, the ethics are still crucial, even as you report for platforms beyond social media.

“Accuracy is paramount no matter what platform you’re using,” Adams said. “You can do so many things. If you focus on the tech, you could lose the ethics of the journalism part. You forget to do your main job. You need to keep those ethics in place. Value is important.”

Ultimately, the essence of the 5 main journalism questions, who, what, when, where, why and how, still are essential, and Adams says you need to ask what the most important information should be in breaking stories, and what the consequences are for sharing that.

“You can’t speculate,” Adams said. “You need to watch for it in the digital age.”

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and blogger for SPJ’s blog network, with a focus on social media trends in journalism as well as British media. Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Long Form Editor and a contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication based in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

Facebook and the second screen experience

Facebook is trying to create a unique second screen experience, and hopes its partnership with CNN can aid it. (Photo: Pixabay)

Facebook is trying to create a unique second screen experience, and hopes its partnership with CNN can give it a huge boost. (Photo: Pixabay)

Editor’s note: This post was amended at 2:09pm CT to reflect updated information on CNN and Facebook’s partnership on the debates.

Tonight, CNN and Facebook are to host the first presidential debate between the Democratic candidates. While political observers wonder what exchanges will be made between front-runners Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, some eyes are on Facebook, and if it can truly create a true second screen experience in the face of social competition?

CNN will be using Facebook Mentions to stream the debate from its Facebook page, the first page to use Mentions to stream video, according to a report from Mashable. CNN, at the time of this posting, has nearly 19 million likes on its page. It was originally available to public figures who had been verified by the site.

The question of second screen arises as Facebook was ranked as the second most viewed source for political news for the baby boomer generation, in research earlier this year by the Pew Research Center. The social network was ranked the top viewed source for political news for millennials according to additional research.

When it comes to debates and major events, many types of social media outlets become second screen experiences. With this partnership, Facebook is attempting to be the provider of the most unique of those experiences.

In an interview with Mashable, Andrew Morse, CNN’s Executive Vice President of Editorial, said events like debates have become instant social events, and the ability to have a seamless experience was crucial.

“To be able to have that ‘second screen’ that is not a prosthetic limb, [that is] seamlessly flowing between TV and happening on Facebook — it’s a really neat concept,” Morse said. “It’s a really elegant dance in certain ways.”

Facebook does however have some competition on that dance floor, most notably with Twitter and Snapchat. Last week, Twitter introduced Moments, the feature that had been known by many as Project Lightning, which is likely too to play a social curating role with tonight’s debate.

Snapchat is also trying to find a footing, as it planned to hire journalists to document the campaign through snaps, in addition to its Discover channel, of which CNN is a content provider. Its head of news, Peter Hamby, who the social network hired earlier this year, was a correspondent for the cable channel in its Washington bureau.

It is unclear how many debates CNN is partnering with Facebook on. Facebook and CNN have an exclusive partnership on the debates for the rest of the primary season, according to a Facebook spokesperson SPJ reached by telephone.

Yet, no matter the results of tonight’s debate, a two-fold question emerges, which social network can provide the best second screen experience, and how can news organizations respond to it? Ultimately, that answer will come not from pollsters, pundits or the public in the series of primaries and elections that will follow, but from the social networks themselves, and the direction they will take to create an experience for its users that will be unique from all the rest.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to the SPJ blog network on British media issues and social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Co-Student Life Editor and a contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

How Twitter is keeping tabs on the news

Twitter's news tab, unveiled last week, as seen on iOS. (Photo by the author.)

Twitter’s news tab, unveiled last week, as seen on its iOS platform. (Photo by the author.)

Last week, Twitter made available to some users in the United States a new feature called the News Tab.

This tab, available on the social network’s iOS and Android platforms, allows the user access to top headlines from varied sources. When a user taps an article to see more, they will see a headline, a brief paragraph and a link to that article. Below the article are top tweets from other sources.

According to a report from the L.A. Times, the feature is available in Japan, and it has been suggested that this could be a precursor to Project Lightning, a program for news and event curating that was announced in June, according to a report from Fortune. Indeed, beyond this, it has led to new engagement via the social network, which has shown benefits for audiences and Twitter itself.

“It’s a smart move for Twitter,” said Jennifer Wilson, the social media editor for the Toronto Star newspaper in Canada, in a telephone interview. “They are upping the potential for sharing.”

Wilson added that this allows Twitter to give context on information whilst staying true to messages in 140 characters.

“The news tab is interesting because instead of checking your morning newsletters, you have a one stop shop for news,” Wilson said. “It’s a different way to engage people on the network. They’re doing a lot of experiments and this is just another one where you see people logging in and coming back.”

The news of the introduction of the news tab comes amid continued concerns of user growth, announced in second quarter results July 28. The tab is not available internationally, but Wilson says should Twitter decide to make it available in Canada, there will be questions news organizations have to answer, from how to get tweets out there, to ensuring audiences are served not just within the tab but also in their news feeds. These questions are also likely of other organizations including in the US.

On the issue of growth, Wilson said this was a direct response to what Facebook was doing in terms of its Instant Articles program, and for Twitter’s part, there was no restrictions placed by the algorithm.

“They’re highlighting that news is an important part of the service they provide to users,” Wilson said. “It’s another way to make sure users are getting the most up to date information.”

It is unclear however as to the news tab’s prospects in the United States, or indeed internationally. Reached by email, Rachel Milner, a spokeswoman for Twitter, said this was an experiment and declined to share any further plans.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is a contributing blogger to Net Worked and SPJ’s community coordinator. He is also Co-Student Life editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

Snapchat Live, Citizen Journalism

You know what social media I purposefully held out on?  Snapchat.

I’d seen one too many of my peers get burned by that pesky little instant-messaging system –– either by sending the right snap to the wrong person, or getting that ugly selfie screen-shotted (I’m sure that’s a verb by now, right?).

No way, I scolded myself. Sending unattractive pictures of my face in different discrete locations is not the kind of social media I want to engage in.

And here we are.  I’ve succumbed to the inevitability of Snapchat, much to the delight of my closest Millennial friends.

Though I still haven’t figured out all the quirks and mechanics of the app itself, (like what really happens when you swipe left instead of right?), I’ve embraced Snapchat as a tool for news, like the nosey little journalist I am.

Not only is my favorite news organization, National Geographic, highlighted in Snapchat’s Discover section every morning, but there’s now a new feature I can’t stop clicking on: Snapchat Live.

Live is essentially a city spotlight, where one city from –– get this –– around the entire world is selected every few days.  Snaps sent with the city’s geotag (a marker identifying the city, swipe right a few times to see yours) are collected and sorted into a story by Snapchat support gurus.  The result is a curated, 100-some-second photo-story told from a handful of the city’s denizens, from almost every location (and angle) possible.

As a wanderlust soul stuck in suburban Ohio, I can’t help but smile and laugh along with those Snappers (a new term for Snapchat users, perhaps?) waving and yelling “Hello, from Cairo!” on my tiny little screen.  In the past few weeks, I’ve been transported to São Paulo, Brazil, and a dazzling city in the United Arab Emirates.  I’ve been taken on intimate boat rides, shown the pyramids of Giza from a lofty rooftop, and seen the sun set on different continents –– without having left my bedroom.

The world is truly a wonderfully small world, after all.

Now, I’ve seen many of these breathtaking sites from textbook stock photos and glossy banners in magazines.  But there’s something about this utterly raw, perfectly imperfect footage on Snapchat Live that keeps me coming back for more.

It’s real.  It isn’t some doctored postcard sent to seem luxurious, remote, or exclusive to us relatively affluent Americans.  Snapchat Live showcases young people, like me, using social media as a tool, a guide, to make our world feel more like a community instead of divided countries.  And I admire this emerging form of citizen journalism, for all of its genuine humanness, if you will.

Because when I’m driving around Columbus, I see more of Fifth Avenue traffic and corn-shucking at my local farmer’s market, a crowded movie theater parking lot and an even more crowded Jeni’s ice cream stand than I do the picturesque skyline of downtown plastered onto every travelogue in history.  And that’s the kind of story I want to tell, to show to others: the bright, beautiful, undiscovered world in which I live.

Snapchat Live is also being used to capture historic moments and live entertainment events happening around the world; I watched the U.S. Open of Surfing this afternoon.  So, don’t be like me –– see what Snapchat is all about today.  I believe it’s redefining citizen journalism in the 21st century as we know it.

Bethany N. Bella is studying Journalism, Environmental Studies and Cultural Anthropology at Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. Connect with her on Twitter @bethanynbella or browse her work at bethanybella.com

The views expressed in this blog post are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital executive, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

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