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How important are ‘tweet’ and ‘like’ buttons to news publishers?

 

A conversation was sparked on the effect of social media sharing buttons by the designer Oliver Reichenstein on his blog informationArchitects. In the post titled Sweep the Sleaze he writes:

But do these buttons work? It’s hard to say. What we know for sure is that these magic buttons promote their own brands — and that they tend to make you look a little desperate. Not too desperate, just a little bit.

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If you provide excellent content, social media users will take the time to read and talk about it in their networks. That’s what you really want. You don’t want a cheap thumbs up, you want your readers to talk about your content with their own voice.

The Tweet and Like buttons, followed by their lesser rivals Google’s +1 and LinkedIn share buttons are now ubiquitous on news websites. Visitors to the Huffington Post in January 2008 would have been given the option to share an article via Digg, Reddit and Delicious. Now they are given up to 20 ways to share an article just via Facebook alone. Users are certainly being bombarded by myriad sharing options, they are not always that pretty and Reichenstein is approaching the issue as a minimalist designer.

But is Reichenstein right?

Joshua Benton at Nieman Journalism Lab did a little digging into the effectiveness of the Tweet button for a variety of news publishers. Using a Ruby script written by Luigi Montanez , Benton analysed the last 1000 tweets from 37 news sites to find the percentage of tweets emanating from the site’s Tweet button.

The analysis comes with a few caveats so it’s well worth reading the full article but the take-away is that people are using the Tweet button. Of the news sites analysed most had 15 to 30 per cent of their Twitter shares come via their Tweet buttons. Importantly, they act as a starting point to get content onto Twitter and can lead to further retweets or modified retweets.

Facebook Likes are a different story. They are far less visible on another user’s news feeds, especially after Facebook changed the amount of output its Social News feed spits out.

At least one publisher has found positives to removing the Facebook Like button from their site, claiming it increased referrals from Facebook:

Jeff Sonderman writing at Poynter hypothesises there is a strange tension created by having a sharing button on news articles:

One argument in favor of sharing buttons is the psychological phenomenon of “social proof,” where a person entering a new environment tends to conform to the behavior demonstrated by others. How does that apply? The tally of previous shares on a given article could offer social proof to the next reader that it is indeed worth reading and sharing — “just look at all these other people who already have!”

But in this case, social proof is not the only force at work. We also know that many people share content because it makes them look smart and well-informed. Part of that is being among the first to have shared it, and thus not sharing something that’s already well-circulated. In this way, a sharing button could limit the potential spread of your best content.

These buttons are being used but news publishers need to think about how they are being used and how engaged the users of them are. Sonderman thinks Reichenstein gets close to the mark when he states:

If you’re unknown, social media buttons make you look like a dog waiting for the crumbs from the table … That button that says “2 retweets” will be read as: “This is not so great, but please read it anyway? Please?”

If you’re known and your text is not that great the sleaze buttons can look greedy and unfair (yes, people are jealous). “1280 retweets and you want more?—Meh, I think you got enough attention for this piece of junk.”

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Media release: Study finds 13% of Google searches include journalist photo bylines

April 30th, 2012 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Search, Social media and blogging

More than one in 10 Google UK search results includes at least one journalist photo and bio byline, according to a study by search and social analytics company Searchmetrics.

The study looked at the top 100 search results from 1 million keywords and found that 13 per cent included journalist bios and pictures for the author of articles.

Getting a photo and bio displayed in search results requires a journalist to have a Google+ account and their profile to be linked with news stories (instructions on how to do this are here).

UK writers in the top 20 include Charles Arthur, the Guardian’s technology editor, and Edward Chester, reviews editor at TrustedReviews.com.

US journalists dominate the top 20, “meaning UK journalists and publications are missing out on increased visibility, traffic and potential advertising revenue”, according to a release from Searchmetrics.

The author profile feature, known as authorship markup, is something that Google has been rolling out since the end of last year. It includes author profile information with a thumbnail image and links.

The release states:

Journalists and bloggers who write about technology, medical and food topics are among those that are most visible in author profile integrations according to the study by search and social analytics company, Searchmetrics, which analysed Google UK search results relating to one million popular keywords.

Marcus Tober, founder and chief technology officer of Searchmetrics said in a statement:

More writers from US-based sites are appearing in the top 20 because authors generally need to have a profile on the Google+ social network to be displayed in author integrations – and we assume more writers for US sites are on Google+ and also Google has possibly encouraged some US sites to set up their articles for author integrations.

It was surprising to see more than one in ten of the results tested are showing author integrations because this is still a new feature – it’s much higher than I expected.

Searchmetrics top 20 authors with picture and bio bylines

Author, Writes for (includes), Topic, Page 1 integrations*, Total integrations**

  1. Elaine Lemm , NYT, About.com, Food, 581, 1,989
  2. Dr. Melissa Stöppler, WebMDNetwork, Medical, 545, 1,412
  3. Diana Rattray, About.com, Food, 530, 1,529
  4. Tim Fisher, About.com, Technology, 472, 1,897
  5. Alison Doyle, About.com, Job search, 438, 1,442
  6. Dr. William Shiel, WebMDNetwork, Medical,  403, 866
  7. Dr. Ben Wedro, MDDirect.org, Medical, 328, 877
  8. Dr. John Cunha, WebMDNetwork, Medical, 328, 790
  9. Bradley Mitchell, About.com, Technology, 321, 1,363
  10. Cathy Wong, About.com, Alt Medicine,  316, 839
  11. Stephanie Jaworski, JoyofBaking.com, Food, 307, 1,005
  12. Laura Porter, Visit Britain, About.com, Travel, 281, 1,929
  13. Edward Chester, TrustedReviews.com, Technology, 264, 733
  14. Luke Westaway, CNET UK, Technology, 254, 1,292
  15. Gordon Laing, Cameralabs.com, Photography, 248 , 1,200
  16. Charles Arthur, Guardian, Technology, 218, 1,271
  17. Laura K. Lawless, French, About.com, Languages, 218, 705
  18. Hubertus Keil, Alicante-Spain.com, Travel, 214, 1,070
  19. Adam Pash, Lifehacker, Lifestyle/Tech, 204, 1,311
  20. Richard Trenholm, CNET UK, Technology, 200, 1,931

 

*The number of times a writer appears in author profile integrations displayed on the first page of Google.co.uk search results in Searchmetrics’s study
**The total number of times a writer appears in author profile integrations displayed in Google.co.uk search results in Searchmetrics’s study

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Tool of the week for journalists: Google Follow Your World

Tool of the week: Google Follow Your World

What is it? Add a location and Google will notify you every time a new satellite image is added for that location.

How is it of use to journalists? Mark a location and each time Google updates the satellite and aerial imagery in your area of interest, you will be notified.

Think of it as like Google Alerts for mapping information.

Consider the possibilities for digital journalism in having images showing the changes to the Olympics site, an area of coastal erosion or the development (or lack of change) within the Government enterprise zones.

It is a tool that requires patience as it may take months or even years for Google to update the aerial imagery for your area of interest.

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Google to help Tunisian journalists pick up new skills

February 10th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Journalism, Training

Google is to sponsor six Tunisian journalists to spend three months at a leading French newspaper, picking up digital news-gathering skills.

The internet giant has teamed up with liberal daily Le Monde, which will offer a newsroom placement to each of the journalists, covering daily news and the French presidential elections taking place in May.

Google’s William Echikson wrote on the company’s European public policy blog:

Our hope is that they then will return home with new skills that will serve to construct a new, free but responsible professional press in Tunisia.

At Google, we are aware of the need to work with publishers to smooth the transition not only from oppression to freedom, but from analogue to digital distribution. We are sponsoring a series of digital journalism prizes with Institut de Sciences Politiques, the International Press Institute in Vienna and the Global Editors Network in Paris.

Meanwhile, journalism academics at City University in London are heading to Tunisia next week to lead a series of workshops for Tunisian journalists on “reporting a democracy”.

The project is the first of its kind being organised by the Journalism Foundation, which was founded last December and is led by former Independent editor Simon Kelner.

City lecturer Roy Greenslade writes on his Guardian blog:

The courses are the first to be held in Tunisia since last January’s overthrow of Ben Ali’s authoritarian regime.

They will provide practical advice to journalists on coping with the realities of reporting in a free society. But the classes will be held amid an ongoing battle for media freedom.

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UCLan project awarded £64,000 from Google to support ‘news entrepreneurs’

November 30th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Awards, Data

The University of Central Lancashire’s Journalist Leaders Programme has secured €75,000 (£64,000) of Google funding to support “news entrepreneurs” after being named as one of three winners of the International Press Institute’s News Innovation Contest.

The programme, founded by researcher, academic and consultant on newsroom and digital business innovation François Nel (pictured), will develop a project called Media and Digital Enterprise (MADE), to offer an “innovative training, mentoring and research programme”.

The funding awarded by IPI will be spent by the UCLan programme on working “to create sustainable news enterprises – whether for social or commercial purposes – by helping innovators”.

Nel told Journalism.co.uk MADE will “support the entire news ecosystem as we need innovation across the sector”.

He is now looking for people with entrepreneurial ideas who are interested in news innovation.

The other two winners of the contest are Internews Europe, a European non-profit organisation created in 1995 to help developing countries establish and strengthen independent media organisations to support freedom of expression and freedom of access to information, alongside the World Wide Web Foundation, a Swiss public charity founded by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web.

In February Google announced it was awarding $2.7 million to the Vienna-based IPI for its contest.

There were round 300 applicants, reduced first to 74 and then to 26 before the three winners were selected by a panel of seven judges, including journalism professor and commentator Jeff Jarvis.

The winners of the total fund of $600,000 were announced yesterday; Nel heard this morning how much the MADE project is being allocated, telling Journalism.co.uk “it’s fantastic to have support for news innovations”.

Nel and others working on the Leaders Programme have been working with news organisations, including Johnston Press, Trinity Mirror and the Guardian Media Group, looking at digital processes and innovative business models.

MADE allows us to pull those strands together and work with directly with news entrepreneurs. And we’re really excited about the possibility of putting this to the test.

Nel explained that MADE will “deliver good skills for a whole range of news start-ups” and he is now “looking to work with individuals, groups and companies, who are interested in news innovation” to get involved.

The project will help develop new skills and test the business plans, offering bespoke support to those with entrepreneurial ideas.

We’re looking to support five good people and good ideas for at least three months so that we can give those ideas legs.

The project includes various partners that were part of the bid, including one to build content and one to build communities.

Developers at ScraperWiki will be working with the project to develop innovations in data journalism and build content. Another partner is Sarah Hartley who is now working on the Guardian’s social, local, mobile project n0tice, with this area of the project focusing on building communities.

MADE will also involve Nel’s colleagues at Northern Lights, an award-winning business incubation space at UCLan.

The project also has an international element, involving groups in Turkey, drawing on Nel’s connections in the country.

Nel explained why the funding and ongoing support from IPU is vital.

In the digital news media space the cyber world is littered with start ups. The corpses of news start ups are every here. What we really need to do is help news entrepreneurs stay up and that’s what we are trying to do here.

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#news2011: Paywalls – ‘the solution is going to be unique and individual’

November 29th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Business, Events, Journalism

In one of the first sessions at the Global Editors Network news summit today the panel discussed paywalls and paid-for apps.

One of the speakers was Frederic Filloux, general manager of ePresse Consortium, the “digital kiosk” or newsstand from ePresse which launched in July this year after just six months of development by a two-man team (the catalogue section of the iPhone app is shown in the screenshot on the left).

Filloux gave an interesting insight into the model and the online challenges of the industry in which it performs.

He said the kiosk has a “news DNA”, leaving the leisure magazine market to other outlets.

“It is highly selective. It had just eight publishers at start, and might have grown to 12 in January. It is capturing an 85 per cent reach, the market is quite concentrated.”

I spoke to him more about the platform after the session, when he also discussed how ePresse would be working with Google’s One Pass system

Frederic Filloux of ePresse by journalismnews

During the session the speakers also called on editors to experiment with numerous revenue streams, and find their unique market.

Filloux told the conference “the company that will survive will be the one able to have not two but 15 different revenue streams and be able to test, experiment and find out what will be most valuable … It will have to test a lot and try many formulas.”

Fellow speaker Madhav Chinnappa, head of strategic partnerships for Google News, added that “the solution is going to be unique and individual”.

In my personal opinion the most successful paywall has probably been the Financial Times, but they have a unique set of circumstances. It took them years to develop their paywall, trying different things. They spent a lot of effort around customer data. They come from unique position. I don’t know any human who pays for a subscription to the FT, it’s companies, so that’s going to be different from most newspapers in the audience.

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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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You can now see how many readers are online with Google Analytics real-time reports

October 3rd, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Traffic

Google Analytics has launched real-time data, allowing news sites to see how many readers are online and gauge the success of individual tweets.

The development was announced on the Google blog last week and is being rolled out  over the coming weeks.

You can sign-up for early access using this form.

The Google blog illustrates how real-time can be used to monitor the impact of social media.

For example, last week we posted about the latest episode of Web Analytics TV and also tweeted about the post. By campaign tagging the links we shared, we could see how much traffic each channel is driving to the blog as it happened. We could also see when we stopped receiving visits from the tweet, which helps know when to reengage.

Meanwhile, Google is also launching a premium analytics account with additonal analysis and support for an annual fixed fee, according to this blog post which has more details.

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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’s +1 button now acts like Facebook share

August 25th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted by in Social media and blogging, Traffic

Google+ users can now use the +1 button to share content with their circles of contacts within the new social network.

Following the development this week the button will act like Facebook’s share button in that anyone with a Google+ profile can directly share a link to their wall (or stream in Google+ terminology).

Google made the announcement on its blog yesterday and said it would be rolled out over the next few days.

The +1 button was launched at the beginning of June, allowing anyone logged in to a Gmail account to recommend web content to their contacts, who would then see a personally ranked suggestion when using Google Search. At the end of June Google+ was launched by the search engine giant which appeared to be taking on Facebook by creating its own social network.

The fact the button now acts like a Facebook share widget may persuade a few more news sites to adopt it. Take up early on appeared to have been slow based on often lower traffic referrals when compared to other share buttons.

In yesterday’s blog post, Google also announced another development of interest to publishers: the creation of “snippets”.

When you share content from the +1 button, you’ll notice that we automatically include a link, an image and a description in the sharebox. We call these snippets, and they’re a great way to jumpstart conversations with the people you care about.

Of course: publishers can benefit from snippets as well. With just a few changes to their webpages, publishers can actually customise their snippets and encourage more sharing of their content on Google+. More details are available on the Google Webmaster blog.

The video below takes you directly to an explanation of snippits.

 

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