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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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#followjourn – @samuelluckhurst Samuel Luckhurst/sports reporter

March 16th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Recommended journalists

Who? Samuel Luckhurst

Where? Samuel is UK sports reporter for the Huffington Post and it was announced this week that he will be heading up its new sports section

Twitter? @samuelluckhurst

Just as we like to supply you with fresh and innovative tips, we are recommending journalists to follow online too. Recommended journalists can be from any sector of the industry: please send suggestions (you can nominate yourself) to Rachel at journalism.co.uk; or to @journalismnews.

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Arianna Huffington: ‘Enormous opportunities’ for online video channel

February 7th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted by in Multimedia

The Huffington Post has announced the launch of a new online video channel this summer, at a conference to coincide with the site’s first anniversary under AOL ownership.

The HuffPost Streaming Network will launch this summer and feature original programming and debates, produced from studios in New York and Los Angeles. Editor-in-chief Arianna Huffington said the project would launch with 12 hours of daily programming and would eventually go to 24 hours.

Beet.tv’s Andy Plesser spoke to Huffington at the press conference.

She said:

It’s going to be really produced, not in any way thrown together.

The opportunities are enormous from the point of view of advertising. More and more of our readers want to consume video. It is completely interactive.

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Huffington Post UK launches tool for greater debate around news stories

Huffington Post UK has launched The Gauge, a new platform which invites debate around the biggest news story of the day on the Post’s new UK website while harnessing the power of social networks.

The tool also works to produce a visualisation of the results, giving a quick snapshot of the overall standpoint of the online community on any given topic.

Users are invited to “agree” or “disagree” with a daily proposition, and thereafter they’re invited to elaborate. It only takes a second or two to weigh in, and users can post more detailed responses on Twitter and Facebook.

The tool will also help to connect users to the site’s bloggers, through the ability to agree or disagree with their views and click through to see all the posts written by the individual. Users can also submit ideas for their own blog through The Gauge.

Editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post UK, Carla Buzasi, will be speaking at news:rewired – connected journalism on 6 October as part of the “bringing the outside in” panel. On the day Carla will be discussing the site’s strategy for drawing in content from outside its own four walls and how this is then integrated into its own output.

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News of the World: Reaction to closure of 168-year-old title

July 7th, 2011 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Editors' pick, Journalism, Newspapers

The News of the World has announced it is to close, with the final edition to be published this Sunday, and already the blogs have begun posting reaction.

Paul Bradshaw writes:

It took almost exactly 3 days – 72 hours – to kill off a 168-year-old brand. Yes, there were other allegations and two years in the lead up to The Guardian’s revelation that Milly Dowler was targeted by the newspaper. But Milly Dowler and the various other ordinary people who happened to be caught up in newsworthy events (kidnappings, victims of terrorist attacks, families of dead soldiers), were what turned the whole affair.

So while the Sun may be moving to seven-day production, that doesn’t make this a rebranding or a relaunch. As of Monday, The News of the World brand is dead, 168 years of journalistic history offered up as a sacrifice.

Charlie Beckett comments:

From the Newscorp point of view this is a sensible way to try to put this scandal into the past and to separate it from the BSkyB deal. It does not get to the bottom of the phone-hacking issue, however, leaving big questions against Rebekah Brooks. It does seem that Rupert Murdoch would rather shut a newspaper than sack his loyal lieutenant.

While the Huffington Post is now leading with “End Of The World” as its liveblog of the closure.

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‘Perfect timing’ for HuffPo UK, says Alastair Campbell

July 7th, 2011 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Events, Online Journalism

The Huffington Post is launching in the UK at the perfect time, says Alastair Campbell.

Speaking at Millbank Tower on a panel for the official launch event, Campbell said the British public are facing up to what newspapers have become – positioning Arianna Huffington’s news website in the perfect place to cause disruption.

Newspapers in this country are going further and further down the barrel until they reach the bottom, like the Sun. We’ll still have newspapers in future, there’ll just be fewer of them.

The panel (moderated by Richard Bacon) comprised of HuffPost founder Arianna Huffington, Kelly Osbourne, Jon Gaunt, Celia Walden and Shami Chakrabarti. Key themes that emerged throughout the debate were phone hacking, superinjunctions, the public perception of journalism and the issue of trust.

Huffington responded to claims from Toby Young that the launch was ill-timed by saying the website has “a phenomenal reach”, and its social nature would set it apart from other more well established UK sites.

Huffington Post is a combination of constant updates. It’s not about sitting on the couch and passively consuming, it’s about constantly passing on information, sharing and liking.

We employ 1,300 journalists, editors and reporters, but ulimately Huffington Post is a platform for our 9,000 bloggers. We promote linking, original reporting and making information available, people blog for us because they can use our huge audience and because they have something to say.

Jon Gaunt agreed with this, saying Huffington endeared herself to her bloggers by making her website very open. But he also criticised many newspapers’ forays into digital journalism.

Lots of newspaper websites are useless, because they’re made and look like newspapers. They’re created by people who’ve worked in newspapers their whole lives, and look terrible.

One thing the panel agreed on was the issue of trust and the role it would play in the future development of journalism. Summing up, Campbell said:

The single most important piece of communication regarding the death of Osama Bin Laden was still Barack Obama’s words, despite the thousands of articles written about the event.

Politicians still have ability to set the agenda, but people don’t trust politicians, journalists or economists – we still trust each other.

That’s why social news works – we talk to people we trust.

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Huffington Post UK: Writing for free is a ‘grey area’

As the Huffington Post goes live with its UK site today, ahead of the official launch event this evening, many journalists feel the site is wrong to recruit 300 unpaid bloggers.

Dave Lee, freelance journalist at the BBC, thinks that the Huffington Post causes damage to journalism.

 

While Manchester-based freelance journalist Louise Bolotin criticised Arianna Huffington for her policy.

 

However, not all reaction has been negative. Kat Brown has written a piece for Huffington Post’s lifestyle section titled Writing for Free Doesn’t Have to Mean Betrayal.

Writing for free is a grey area. Despite the ubiquity (and importance) of blogs and that many high profile sites trade content for prestige only, it’s often looked down upon if it makes up part of your career. When, as a newly-hatched post-grad, I joined one journalism forum, the stance was: “Don’t write unless you’re paid. It undermines you and it undermines journalism.”

So why write for free?

Free is why people write fanzines, update blogs and tweet. It’s pressure off, it’s the opportunity to practise something you enjoy and share it with people immediately. And particularly online, there’s a limited supply of people who will pay. My pitching skills are sufficiently atrocious that, if I were only to write for money outside my main job, I would probably forget how to hold a pencil within a year. I don’t want that, because I love writing and I need to do it.

Take a look at the full article here.

 

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Google links to HuffPo UK go to US before launch

Huffington Post’s UK pages are being indexed in Google – despite the official launch not being until tomorrow.

A search on Google for ‘site:huffingtonpost.co.uk‘ reveals future content for the site, although users are currently redirected to the original US site after clicking through.

Bloggers have been publishing their first posts and although entire categories aren’t yet accessible, individual authors’ posts are directly linkable.

The masthead has also appeared in the form of the “All The Blog Posts” page – giving a clue as to what areas will be covered by the site when it launches tomorrow.

Thanks to Jonathan Frost for spotting it.

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Alastair Campbell and Kelvin MacKenzie to speak at HuffPo UK launch

July 5th, 2011 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Editors' pick, Events

The Huffington Post has announced full details of tomorrow’s UK launch event, which will consist of a panel discussion moderated by Richard Bacon.

Speakers on the night include Alastair Campbell, Kelly Osbourne, Celia Walden, Kelvin MacKenzie, Shami Chakrabarti and Arianna Huffington.

The panel will debate the media’s impact on the Self-Expression Revolution.

Today Huffington Post UK told journalism.co.uk it has more than 300 bloggers signed up for the site, with more expected to sign up after launch.

UK editor-in-chief Carla Buzasi said today: “It’s a really interesting mix of people. Alastair Campbell is blogging for us on day one, and hopefully the others on the panel will be following suit shortly afterwards.”

The event is taking place at the Curzon Millbank, with the panel debate beginning at 7pm. An open invitation has been sent to the site’s bloggers-to-be to attend the launch.

Currently the url huffingtonpost.co.uk is password protected, but will be unveiled and made public this week.

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Exciting experiment or nothing new? Bloggers’ take on Huffington Post UK

Arianna Huffington is launching the UK version of her American blog-orientated news site the Huffington Post this week, and the move has sparked debate in the blogosphere.

Huffington launched the Canada arm last month, but Huffington Post UK will be the site’s first foray outside of North America, with a French version set to follow soon.

Speaking to Ian Burrell for the Independent, Paul Bradshaw, professor of online journalism at City University comments about the difference between UK and US media landscapes that may require a different approach.

“It’s going to be hard for The Huffington Post to communicate what they stand for,” says Bradshaw, who is not inclined to blog for the site. “In the UK they are known as the site that sold to AOL. In the US they might have been known as the site that offered an alternative voice but there’s a different media landscape over here.”

In the same piece, Brian Cathcart, who teaches journalism at Kingston University, adds:

“They will need some new ideas, some really inspired appointments, and to discover some talent. It doesn’t seem that the existing model in the US would offer us anything terribly exciting and new over here.”

Paul Bradshaw may not be persuaded to write for the site but blogger and podcaster Neville Hobson is. In a post titled On board with The Huffington Post UK, Hobson writes that he relishes being part of “a grand experiment”.

So what’s in it for me? To a great extent, I see it as being part of a grand experiment, contributing my opinion and commentary on topics that interest me and that will be published in an online medium that has huge scale and reach. It offers an opportunity for such opinion and commentary to reach many people who, frankly, would be unlikely to visit my blog.

It also means that I’ll be writing for a mainstream medium. That traditionally means you need to be a journalist, which I’m not. I don’t know yet who any of the other bloggers are who’ll be writing for the UK edition, but my guess is that a majority will not be journalists.

Overseas expansion does of course mean a clutch of new hires, but Bobbie Johnson of GigaOm views the operation as “low-risk”, and points to several reasons why.

Well, first, that Huffington Post UK is looking — on the surface, at least — more like a reworking of the current AOL UK operation than a brand new entity. That’s a low-risk strategy, but as I’ve previously argued, it might take more to make an impact in a highly competitive media market like Britain.

Secondly, it’s interesting that this team consists almost exclusively of young journalists, with very few of the high-level, experienced hands that Huffington has made a great play of luring over in the United States. There’s no equivalent, for example, to the likes of political heavy-hitter Howard Fineman, brought over from Newsweek, media reporting veteran Michael Calderone from Yahoo or award-winning reporter Trymaine Lee from the New York Times.

I asked my Twitter followers what they thought of the project, and received a variety of responses.

Adam Tinworth, Editorial Business Manager for Reed Business Information pointed out the possible disruption created by the launch.

 

 

Graphic designer and student journalist Jonathan Frost was very enthusiastic.

 

 

While subeditor Paul Wiggins was rather more succinct.

 

 

Finally, if you want to get involved in blogging for the Huffington Post when it hits UK shores, food journalist Andrew Webb has helpfully published the full requirements on his blog.

For now you can follow their progress via the dedicated Twitter account @HuffPostUK, whose first tweet had a distinctly non-UK feel to it.

 

Image of Arianna Huffington by Knight Foundation on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Disclosure: Joseph Stashko is a blogger for Huffington Post UK.

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