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Ten technical Twitter tips for journalists

So you think you know Twitter? But do you know how to archive tweets, set up an RSS feed of a Twitter stream or have private group chat?

Here are some practical, technical tips to help you:

1. Learn to love Twitter’s own advanced search. Since being updated earlier this year, Twitter’s search options have become much more powerful than they once were. You can use the advanced search page, but it’s worth learning a few shortcut commands you can use on the Twitter homepage. For example,

Type to: in the search box on Twitter’s home page to get messages sent to you or to a particular username.

Find local tweets using near: and within: This is a tip sent by journalism student Jeroen Kraan @KraanJ when we were discussing Twitter tips on @journalismnews.

There is a list of more Twitter advanced search commands here.

2. Search tweets using Topsy. Topsy is Google for social media, a search engine that allows you dig part way into the unimaginably vast Twitter archive.

3. Get to know other search tools. Search tweets using Snap Bird. This is a really handy tool that allows you to search a user’s timeline or your own account. Try PostPost to search and “strip search” your timeline. PostPost will ask for your email address, send you a link and then you can dig deep within your timeline, searching for a specific hashtag or user.

4. Set up an RSS feed. You can set up feeds of your own or any other user’s Twitter updates.

To add a feed of tweets from a user copy and paste the following, replacing xxxx with the user name.

http://twitter.com/statuses/user_timeline/xxxx.rss.

This method doesn’t work for Google Reader but is compatible with RSS readers such as NetNewsWire.

To set up a keyword RSS feed use the following URL, replacing Journalism.co.uk / journalism jobs with your search query.

http://search.twitter.com/search.rss?q=journalism.co.uk

http://search.twitter.com/search.rss?q=journalism jobs

There’s also this really handy tool from Sociable.co. This allows you to set up an RSS feed for a username, Twitter list or keyword.

5. Archive your tweets. You can archive a hashtag or tweets sent from your account or another user’s account using Twapperkeeper. This is a particularly useful way if you want to search for a tweet you sent some months or even years ago.

6. Verify tweets. The HoverMe browser extension for Chrome is useful for verifying Twitter sources. Once installed and you hover over a Twitter profile photograph, you can see what other online accounts that user has and although not fool-proof, it will give you some idea of whether they are a real person with LinkedIn, YouTube and Delicious accounts and, helpfully, a Klout score, which measures online influence.

7. Here’s a tip for TweetDeck users who share the management of a Twitter account. One limitation of TweetDeck is the inability to be able to create a column of tweets sent from your account, something you can do in other applications such as HootSuite. The workaround is to set up a new Twitter account, follow the one (or more) account you manage and set up a TweetDeck column for “all friends”. This is our solution at Journalism.co.uk, where several people respond to tweets.

For this to work you must always use a character before the @ as tweets beginning @username can only be seen by people who follow you and that person.  For example, use .@joebloggs and not @joebloggs when writing tweets that begin with a username.

8. Have private, group chats by starting tweets with !b. New Twitter tool !blether allows you to start a group, private chat with people who follow you. After authenticating this tool you can use !b at the beginning for a tweet to begin a conversation. Useful for chats during conferences.

9. Monitor Twitter lists. How often do you make use of other people’s Twitter lists? Journalists seem to frequently overlook these existing lists where people have already done the legwork for you in terms of collating lists of useful people to follow. For example, a journalist following a story such as an uprising in an Arab country, a financial story or celebrity gossip can simply follow a list someone else has created.

Did you know that Journalism.co.uk has Twitter lists for UK regional journalists, UK broadcast journalists, UK press public relations, UK consumer journalists, etc? Send us a tweet if we have missed adding you to the correct list.

10. Familiarise yourself with how to read and send tweets via SMS. You never know when you might need to send or read a tweet via SMS. Even if you have a smartphone you may find yourself unable to use a 3G or WiFi signal. The number you need to save in your contacts is 86444 (for UK Vodafone, Orange, 3 and O2 customers). (Other country codes are listed here.) The command you need to remember or to save is ON. Text ON to the above number and you will be able to follow the commands to receive and send tweets.

Helpful links:

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Newspaper image recognition app Paperboy launches for UK titles

November 1st, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Mobile, Search

From today you can use the free Paperboy iPhone and Android app to take a photo of newspaper or magazine article and image recognition technology will use the picture to find the digital version of that story. You can then share the digital article via social media or save to the app’s library, or to note taking and archiving platform Evernote.

The Guardian, Telegraph, Times and Independent are among over 100 UK titles to be searchable via a mobile phone photo. There are also plenty of local titles involved, such as the Yorkshire Post, Kent Messenger and Sunderland Echo.

“We bridge the gap between print and online”, Tom Desmet, marketing manager of Kooaba, the Swiss start-up specialising in the image recognition technology behind the app, told Journalism.co.uk, speaking of his high expectations for the app.

In a way it has the potential to revolutionise the newspaper business for both the reader and the publisher.

The technology was first introduced in Switzerland and last month was enabled for German and Austrian newspapers and magazines, following a partnership deal with digital news distributers NewspaperDirect. The UK, US and Canada today (Tuesday, 1 November) join the growing list of countries to have photo-searchable titles.

How are people using Paperboy?

The initial Swiss launch a year ago has given Kooaba the opportunity to test the app and discover how people are using it, Desmet explained.

About half of the usage is people who would like to remember a certain article or recipe, 25 per cent is about exploring additional content and the last 25 per cent is about sharing it.

Recipes are doing particularly well, according to Desmet.

We’ve got some magazines that are only doing recipes and people really love to remember those things.

How does the app make money for the company behind it?

There is no charge for smartphone users to download the Paperboy app and the basic package is free for publishers. Adding additional content, such as including videos in a digital article, carries an upgrade fee.

Kooaba earns “a little kick back fee” if a photo referral from the app to NewspaperDirect results in a reader paying for a digital subscription, but the majority of the apps’s earnings are generated by interactive adverts, Desmet explained.

If you take a picture of a page and there is an advert and it’s interactive, you can get additional product information or find the nearest retailer.

How can news publishers make their print editions interactive?

Publishers have two options to make their digital editions available: they can either approach NewspaperDirect or go directly to Kooaba.

All they have to do is upload a PDF of a newspaper every day to our backend and it will be interactive and it doesn’t cost them anything.

How does the image recognition technology work?

Desmet said the company is confident that the technology “works really well” and is almost aways problem-free. He said that stories that are text only and without photos are occasionally not recognised but this “almost never happens and it is something we are working on”.

Kooaba is a world leader in the image recognition field, according to Desmet, who said one of the company’s earlier apps predated Google Goggles, an app that allows you to take a photo of an object and use the picture to search the web.

We were the first to have the visual search, even before Google Goggles was out there, but then they created the same app and we couldn’t compete – so we got into a really specific use case and launched Paperboy.

Paperboy can be downloaded for free from the iTunes App Store and the Android Market. The company is also working to release a Windows phone app.

The Paperboy app can be used to snap and search the following UK titles, according to a list on NewspaperDirect.

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Guardian launches @GuardianTagBot – which auto answers questions

October 27th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Search, Social media and blogging

The Guardian has launched @GuardianTagBot, a Twitter account that answers your questions by returning links to Guardian content.

I tested it by tweeting the word halloween’and in less than one minute received a tweet with links to 30 stories.

It works as it is linked to the Guardian’s content API.

In a post introducing @GuardianTagBot, “your new Twitter-based search assistant”, the Inside the Guardian Blog explains:

TagBot will try its best to understand full sentence queries e.g. ‘What’s happening in the Middle East?’ but it will probably respond best to more specific search-style terms like ‘Middle East news‘, or ‘Nigel Slater recipes‘. TagBot might get confused if you are asking for news on Jordan the country rather than the latest antics of Katie Price, so you might want to be as clear as possible! Of course you can swear at TagBot too, but you might make it sad. TagBot will also struggle with personal requests like ‘Will you marry me?’. It’s not Siri.

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#wef11: ‘We’re standing here with open arms’, Google tells publishers

October 14th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Events, Newspapers, Online Journalism, Search

The first session of the day at the World Editors Forum in Vienna today was a conversation with Stefan Tweraser, head of Google Germany.

During the Q&A session Tweraser faced the inevitable questions about whether or not Google is friend or enemy to publishers.

If you would join me for a small experiment, close your eyes and imagine a world without Google, would you fare better or worse? I think it’s difficult to answer because in 2010 alone Google has paid 6 billion US dollars to publishers worldwide. And on average every minute Google provides publishers with 100,000 business opportunities in terms of traffic.

… More than 80 per cent of people use a search engine when looking for content online. One couldn’t exist without the other.

The moderator mentioned that some saw the relationship as one of “mutual complaint”. Tweraser responded to say Google is transparent about what it does, and enables publishers to easily opt out.

Google News gathers news content from over 50,000 publishers and that number continues to rise and rise. On the other hand, if publishers don’t want to be found, there is one piece of code they put on their website so we don’t find them. We are very transparent.

Tweraser also made reference to Google’s new joint paid content platform OnePass, which launched in February, and provides users with a single point of payment for content across a variety of websites.

There is a need for a payment aggregator for paid content and that’s what we’ve been doing with OnePass. We’re still building partnerships. There is enough of an opportunity for joint business models.

When asked for more details on whether other publishers have signed up, and plans to push the platform out more widely, Tweraser seemed to keep his cards close to his chest.

We have launched in several markets and we are actively looking for more partnerships. We are open for business with OnePass.

He added that it’s “in Google’s DNA to partner”, and called for publishers to view it as such.

Google News lives because it partners with more than 50,000 and shares revenue with them on a very significant scale. We are open to partnerships in almost any aspect of our business.

… The one recommendation I can give you: view Google as a partner who’s standing there with open arms.

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Tool of the week for journalists – Topsy, real-time search for the social web

Tool of the week: Topsy

What is it? A search engine and analytics for the social web

How is it of use to journalists? Topsy is a really handy search tool for monitoring what is being discussed on the social web.

Search for a keyword or phrase and you will be presented with news articles, tweets, videos and photos. Search results are returned visually, so you can see icons and avatars beside the source.

What is particlularly useful is the ability to see how frequently a term is being used. For example, a search for “Knox” will return Twitter mentions, articles and videos. You can also click on “experts” to see what recognised news providers have published.

A search for “phone hacking” returns results and also shows the number of times the keyword has been used in the last hour, day, week, month and all time. You can also get these results shown on a graph, create and email alert or set up an RSS feed from a keyword.

You can carry out advanced searches, enabling you to include or exclude additional terms, languages and set a date range or drill down and search for a keyword used by a particular Twitter user.

As a journalist you can not only use Topsy to help you locate sources and monitor rumours (such as team talk by football fans), you can use it to add colour to an article or feature.

For example, you can use Topsy to tell you that interest in the “Amanda Knox” case has been such that her name has been mentioned 516 mentions in the last hour (the search was carried out at 4.30pm on Monday, 3 October), 3,804 times in the past day and 16,000 times overall.

 

 

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How news sites can apply to be included in Google News Editors’ Picks

September 30th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Online Journalism, Search, Traffic

Google News UK has had a makeover. The site today (Friday, 30 September) launched a new Editors’ Picks feature, enabling publishers to highlight content within Google News; and several new features, including increased personalisation of the site.

Editors’ Picks is a new section of the Google News homepage, displaying original content that publishers have selected as highlights from their publications.

Google told Journalism.co.uk that publishers can select long-form investigative features, photo slideshows, interactive maps, charts or other content to engage readers of online news.

The Telegraph, the Guardian, BBC News, Channel 4 News, Metro, the Daily Mirror, and the Independent already have content available, and the product is available for publishers at this link, (which Journalism.co.uk has today used to apply to be included in Editors’ Picks).

Users can use the slider feature to increase or decrease the amount of news they receive from a particular outlet.

 

In a release, Madhav Chinnappa, Google’s head of news partnerships in Europe said:

We’ve been working with partners for some time now to create innovative new ways for them to engage readers of news online. Editors’ Picks gives publishers a place to bring together the best of traditional and digital journalism; promoting long-form stories and experimenting with new formats.

 

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Google News US launches ‘standout’ tag so news sites can highlight top content

September 26th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Online Journalism, Search, Traffic

Google News unveiled a new feature during a session at the Online News Association Conference in Boston at the weekend which will allow publishers to highlight their top content and give “even more credit where credit is due”, according to the Google blog.

At present the so-called “standout content” tag is only available on the US edition of Google News and it is not clear from the Google blog when it plans to roll out the new feature in the UK.

The Google blog explains how news sites can flag up top content:

If you put the tag in the HTML header of one of your articles, Google News may show the article with a ‘featured’ label on the Google News homepage and News search results. The syntax for this new tag is as follows:

 <link rel=”standout” href=“http://www.example.com/scoop_article_2.html” />
The post makes an important point:

Standout content tags work best when news publishers recognise not just their own quality content, but also the original journalistic contributions of others when your stories draw from the standout efforts of other publications. Linking out to other sites is well recognised as a best practice on the web, and we believe that citing others’ standout content is important for earning trust as you also promote your own standout work.

Google is asking news sites to use the tag a maximum of seven times a week so that it can recognise what is exceptional content.

  • The 10,000 Words blog was at Online News Association Conference and has more on the launch of the feature.
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The LA Times on the role of its SEO chief – ‘the key is feedback’

September 5th, 2011 | 5 Comments | Posted by in Search, Traffic

The Los Angeles Times has reported some pretty impressive traffic figures recently – in fact LATimes.com managing editor Jimmy Orr says it is the only major newspaper website in the US to be increasing in traffic.

Speaking to Journalism.co.uk Orr reported that for the six months from March to August 2011 the site saw a 33 per cent increase in page views, a 30.1 per cent increase in unique users and a 74 per cent rise in traffic from Google, when compared with the same period last year.

Nieman Lab has written about what it sees as several contributing factors to this success, such as the integration of Facebook’s commenting system, “a full embrace of blogging”, plus the addition of a new SEO chief, Amy Hubbard. In an interview with Journalism.co.uk Orr explained exactly what Hubbard’s role entails, which is overall to ensure journalists’ work gets read.

We do ourselves a disservice if we’re not identifying the content correctly so we are being very aggressive about correctly labelling it.

But he added that Hubbard’s role is more of an educational one than adding an additional subbing stage for articles.

She is on the front line in the morning so she is able to catch stories and headlines as they come in and work with the copy desk and the bloggers.

If she sees something that needs to be changed she’ll send an email or walk over and explain why changes could work in the LA Times’s favour.

Another part of Hubbard’s day is to review headlines and the information entered into the various fields. She will then “kind of give them a grade”, Orr said.

The key is feedback. She can’t just be the one changing things. She has to go around and talk to other people and say “your headline was too long” or “you forgot to identify what the story was about” or “it was a print headline”.

In Orr’s view a web headline must stand alone and tell the reader exactly what the story or the post is about. It should be “short, punchy and descriptive”, he said.

A quick browse found several examples of headlines that do just that. Take “Man impaled with garden shears through eye socket recovers” and “SUV crashes into home; driver tries to flee on skateboard“, for example.

Five headlines, not one

Writing for Journalism.co.uk SEO expert Malcolm Coles has previously explained that news sites need to think about writing five headlines for a story or blog post: the on-page headline, the HTML title headline (for the browser field), the headline for Google News, the headline for the channel page (such as the homepage) and a headline for Twitter.

Asked how many headlines the LA Times writes, Orr said there might well be four or five with one on-page headline, often a different HTML title headline and alternative headlines for Twitter and Facebook.

The one for Twitter can be much more engaging. The Twitter headline can be much more fun, much more dramatic, much more inquisitive. We often look to see if there is a hashtag for a discussion and include that.

A quick check found many of the on-page and browser headlines are different but that most Twitter and on-page headlines are the same.

Keyword research and influencing editorial

Orr explained that Hubbard is doing some keyword research to find out what is being searched for but explained it’s mainly a “common sense” approach to understanding how readers look for content.

Asked if editorial decisions are ever made based on what is being searched for – such as “labor day”, “bohemian rhapsody” and “wii u” which all make the list of hot searches on Google Trends in the US today – Orr explained Hubbard may make suggestions on this.

She might let a blogger know that the HP Touchpad is selling for $99 but she’s not assigning stories. It’s more of an informing process.

Here is some more from Journalism.co.uk on SEO:

#jpod: SEO success stories – the LA Times on its traffic hike (which includes parts of this interview with Orr)

#jpod: Does SEO kill the carefully crafted, clever headline?

How to: get to grips with SEO as a journalist

How to: write headlines that work for SEO

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Google +1 button is coming to AdWords – but how useful is it?

Google is to introduce its +1 button to AdWords, the internet giant’s main advertising product, so users can recommend adverts to their friends and contacts.

The button was made available to news sites earlier this month and has been adopted some web publishers.

Google’s button was added to AdWords on Google.com at the end of March and is now coming to Google.co.uk, according to an announcement on the AdWords blog.

Users who are logged into their Google account can click the button and their friends and contacts will see that news story or page promoted in their search.

In its US announcement, Google explains how the button works for Google AdWords.

Let’s use a hypothetical Brian as an example. When Brian signs into his Google account and sees one of your ads or organic search results on Google, he can +1 it and recommend your page to the world.

The next time Brian’s friend Mary is signed in and searching on Google and your page appears, she might see a personalized annotation letting her know that Brian +1’d it. So Brian’s +1 helps Mary decide that your site is worth checking out.

But almost a month on from news outlets adding the +1 button next to Twitter’s tweet button and Facebook’s like button (including on news stories on Journalism.co.uk), the button is very much third in line in terms of generating clicks.

So why are readers not using Google’s +1 button?

Unlike Twitter or Facebook where users post a link, those who click the button get little out of it in the same way they do by tweeting or liking a story – although that could change with the launch of Google +, a new social network dubbed Google’s answer to Facebook.

Making a recommendation is not immediate and there are several hurdles to overcome. For a contact to see a recommendation it relies on them searching for a keyword that the +1 user has shown interest in and the contact must also be logged into their Google account.

The button’s less than lukewarm take up also suggests people do not want their searches sorted by the choices made by their friends and contacts, but organised by relevance to what the wider online community is reading.

News sites get little out of +1 and although they may get a few more hits as a result, few would claim it has made any impact.

After a month on the article pages of news sites who opted to adopt +1, it is unlikely those who have not added the button will follow suit unless Google+ takes off in a big way. Those which have the button may decide to replace it with the LinkedIn share button, which has been gathering pace and is now coming in ahead of Facebook as a sharing mechanism on many sites, such as in this example from Mashable.

What do you think about Google’s +1 button? Let us know in the comments section below.

Related content:

Poynter: Google’s new +1 social search and news publishers

Digital Trends: LinkedIn launces aggregated news service

#Tip of the day from Journalism.co.uk – using LinkedIn for reporting and job hunting

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Reporters to get author pages with Google’s new authorship markup

June 9th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Search, Traffic

On its official blog this week Google announced it was to start supporting “authorship markup — a way to connect authors with their content on the web”. According to the post this will enable websites to publicly link within their site from content to author pages.

For example, if an author at the New York Times has written dozens of articles, using this markup, the webmaster can connect these articles with a New York Times author page. An author page describes and identifies the author, and can include things like the author’s bio, photo, articles and other links.

According to Google it has worked with sites including the New York Times, the Washington Post, CNET and the New Yorker, prior to the launch of the markup to help get them set up. The markup will also been added to everything hosted by YouTube and Blogger, Google added.

For a more detailed description of how authorship works see the neat description below by the Search Engine Journal:

Sites that have large portions of content written by a specific author can denote the author of each piece of content and can specify the author’s page on the site. The author page can then include markup that specifies what select data on the page is. Google can then display portions of the specified data from the search engine results page, giving direct links to the author’s page, other content from the same writer, and other pages that belong to the same author (such as social sites).

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