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Media140: Pat Kane on using social media and journalism

May 20th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted by in Events, Social media and blogging

“Reading a newspaper on a street corner might be seen as banal. What’s becoming just as banal is producing news on that street corner,” Pat Kane, co-founder of the Sunday Herald and author of ‘The Play ethic’, said in his opener at today’s Media140 conference.

The growth of social media and online publishing is showing ‘just how quotidian and everyday the practice of journalism becomes in this everyday environment’, he added.

Speaking at the microblogging and journalism event, Kane said there are some key reasons/benefits for journalists using social media tools:

  • Beat reporting
  • Early warning system– communities decide what’s the news. “Twitter’s the canary in the coal mine – Overlap with trad journalism
  • Real-time content
  • Traceable sources/interviewees/leads – “How much better can journalism practice be in a civic space?” asked Kane. Social media can be ‘an enrichment of a classic journalistic process’.
  • Can you help? – asking readers for tips, feedback etc
  • As a promotional tool
  • An expertise archive – “Used to be called desk research, now it’s handheld device responsiveness.”

But asks Kane:

“How distributive and collaborative are journalists prepared to be?”

“To what extent might the Darwinian acid that new media is throwing onto organisations transform them?

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Thoughts from Doha: a Q&A with Al Jazeera’s Tarek Esber

Tarek Esber is senior analyst for Al Jazeera Mobile & New Media and based in Doha. Intrigued by his recent online updates, Journalism.co.uk sent him over a few questions. Firstly, we asked him specifically about the Al Jazeera forum which took place last month, and then asked for more general observations about use of social and new media in the Arab world.

So, we noticed you tweeting from the fourth Al Jazeera forum last month – what was that all about? [TE] The Fourth Al Jazeera Forum was built on the success of past Al Jazeera Forums to debate, discuss, and extend the discourse on the critical dynamics of the Middle East in the context of a globalised world. The forum focused on key topics such as the new players in this emerging multi-polar world, the historical context of the power shifts, and the media’s role in this new political landscape. In addition, two case studies examined the war on Gaza and the instability in the Indian subcontinent. The forum was attended by an international mix of journalists, analysts, strategists, academics, and intellectuals to help bring these issues into focus, as well as leading thinkers and strategists were present to explore the evolving face of the region, its place in the global landscape, and the challenges in reporting it in depth. Speakers spoke in either Arabic or English, sometimes both, and live translation was available in English and Arabic.

What were personal highlights for you? This was my first forum so the whole event was a highlight for me. In particular though was the fact that the Creative Commons Team were there with Joi Ito, their CEO, chairing the first Workshop at the Forum – ‘Building Successful Media Projects in Open Networks’.

That particular workshop had a fascinating discussion about how media organisations can open up their content to their advantage. Our Creative Commons repository came up as an example of this as well as the new US government’s use of CC Licences.

Another personal highlight was the case study about the reporting of the War on Gaza, especially having the opportunity to hear Robert Fisk talk about that conflict. The discussion was particularly interesting to me, given the role Social Media played in the PR battle between the two sides. It was also the first major conflict that we as a New Media team had been able to cover using a variety of New Media tools.

We picked up your comment via Twitter that quoted Al Jazeera English managing director Tony Burman: “Western interest in our [Gaza] content being distributed via New Media shows demand for our kind of message/method” 

What are your thoughts on that, as a member of the new media team? I should add that quote to my list of personal Highlights. Tony Burman was referring to the reaction our New Media initiatives received during the War on Gaza.

I think it’s great and as a New Media Team it’s exactly what we aim to do. A major part of our job is discovering new methods of communication – using the latest tools and services to reach out to and interact with new audiences. Inevitably most of the people using these new services tend to be based in the west.

There was also a huge amount of interest in the Twitter feed we set up just for news about the Gaza conflict. 5,000+ followers from all around the world and for a lot of them it was their first exposure to News from Al Jazeera. The feedback we got was fantastic.

Our Livestation stream, which allows anyone who has an internet connection to watch our English and Arabic channels live for free, also proved very popular. During the War on Gaza viewer figures shot up six-fold and the largest pool of viewers were in North America, a traditional dark zone for Al Jazeera. We’re working on that. Since the War on Gaza we’ve started to make a push to get Al Jazeera English broadcast in Canada and the USA: the IWantAJE.com site gives more information.

Our YouTube channels, in Arabic and English, were just as important. They have always been extremely popular but during the time of conflict we were one of the most viewed channels on there.

Did you find the Twitter activity surrounding the forum useful / something to learn from in future? We hadn’t planned to do anything on Twitter for the Forum this year. It was really a spur of the moment thing – I was at this Forum and a lot of very interesting things were being said. My natural urge was to tweet the most interesting parts especially as this was an invite-only event.

This was a personal reaction rather than a Al Jazeera New Media Team initiative. Some of the other members of the team were tweeting in Arabic as well and we set-up a Hastag (#AJForum09) for people to follow. It was all done using our personal accounts.

In the future, and we already have plans to do this for the AJ Film Festival this month, we might be better off setting up an official channel for the Forum so people can tune in specifically to hear what is going on rather than tweet from my personal account. It’s certainly clear that the interest is there. We’re also thinking about other things we can do for the next Forum such as taking questions via Twitter and trying to get some of the live streams online.

What are the most salient points about new media that came out of the forum? Well we’ve already talked about most of the larger points: The Creative Commons repository and the potential for Open Networks, our work during the War on Gaza and how New Media is helping Al Jazeera reach new audiences.

In the ‘Reporting from the Fragile World: Can the Global Media Reconcile with Changes in the Middle East’ session, New Media came up quite often, especially the online PR battle during the War on Gaza came up a few times. The extensive use of social media tools by both sides was unprecedented, especially the amount of preparation the Israeli government did before the conflict started.

In the same session some good points were made by Fahmi Howeidy, an Egyptian columnist and author, about political bloggers in Egypt. He mentioned that in Egypt, people under 30 don’t read papers, they read blogs as it is their method of escaping the government’s oppression of the media.

He also said that, while he didn’t feel political bloggers had much of an effect on government policy in Egypt, what they had done is made people aware of the governments attempts to control the media and dissenting voices.

He said that in the past, when journalists were arrested and imprisoned for speaking against the government, there wasn’t much national or international outcry but when bloggers were arrested, there was. This took away the impression that government officials were ‘Gods’ – it humanised them which means that they can be held accountable for their actions.

How does uptake/use of new media differ in the Arab and western world? Very interesting question, and it’s something I’ve been learning a lot about since moving to Al Jazeera in Doha from the UK. It’s hard to generalize about the Arab world as a whole as it’s really a diverse region in many ways.

Social media, in particular, seems to have really been embraced in the Arab world. There are more and more interesting Arab voices in the blogosphere everyday opening up their cities, their lives and their countries policies to the whole world. There are also a good number of Arab Social Media Services and more are being created every month. There is WatWet, the Arab Twitter and Ikbis which is usually referred to as the Arab YouTube. There are also Arab blogging platforms such as Maktoob.

But I digress from the question: How does it differ to the west? When I think about new media in the Arab world the first thing that comes to mind is constraints. There are technological constrains in some parts of the Arab world – good internet connectivity can be very expensive and might not be widely available. Hosting can also be an issue. Local hosting companies are rare in some parts and are usually expensive. Western hosting can be bought but the cost is still high.

Then there is censorship. In some Arab countries you can’t access services like Blogger or YouTube. In others you might be able to get started but soon find that if your content isn’t acceptable then your site might be blocked.

The biggest difference for me though is the reason people use the services. I feel that in some parts of the Arab world the services are mainly used as a way to escape restrictions in daily life. As with the example above about Egypt, it gives young people the chance to talk about their lives and their governments in a way they can’t do in public. That’s not to say people in the west don’t do the same, I just get the impression that it’s more widespread in the Arab world.

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Social Media Journalist: “The problem with most news organisations is a lack of editorial understanding of social media” Kevin Anderson, Guardian blogs editor

Journalism.co.uk talks to reporters across the globe working at the collision of journalism and social media about how they see it changing their industry. This week, Kevin Anderson, Guardian.co.uk.

image of Kevin Anderson

1) Who are you and what do you do?
Kevin Anderson, blogs editor at Guardian.co.uk.

My title is misnomer seeing as desk editors handle most of the commissioning.

My role is two-fold. I spot newsworthy items bubbling up in social media – blogs, social news sites, Twitter, etc – and report on that or pass it along to the appropriate site editor.

I also seed and develop strategies to promote Guardian content in those social networks. My current focus is what I call real-time innovation. I use emerging tools for editorial purposes and feed back lessons we learn into our editorial development process.

2) Which web or mobile-based social media tools do you use on a daily basis and why?
People ask me how I stay on top of it all, and I say that my network is my filter. I have Twhirl and IM on constantly, sitting in the background. New media professionals and contacts around the world pass me things I need to read or stories I need to follow up on through Skype, Twitter, IM and Del.icio.us.

Popurls.com is a great one-stop site for buzz, especially for the US elections, which I’m following right now. NetNewsWire, Flock and Ecto are my blogging tools of choice.

The Flock browser is good in a number of ways. Its Flickr uploader is great – better than Flickr’s until recently. It also allows you to add sites to multiple Del.icio.us accounts.

You can go from reading your RSS feeds to blogging instantly in Flock, as it pulls NetNewsWire functionality into the browser too.

For publishing, a combination of Ecto and any good blogging platform creates the best multimedia journalism tool that I’ve ever used.

I recently got a Nokia N82. With its stellar camera and integrated Flickr uploader it has a lot of promise , but it’s hampered by poor data plans in the UK.

The mobile carriers are focusing on USB-based data plans to link computers to the mobile web, which maybe a good start, but there are still too few good data plans for phones.

I end up relying on WiFi, which on the N82 is much better than on previous phones.

3) Of the thousands of social media tools available could you single one out as having the most potential for news either as a publishing or newsgathering tool?
I think in terms of editorial objectives and then find an applicable tool. In 12 years of doing online journalism, I’ve had to learn hundreds of desktop tools, content management systems and now a dizzying range of social media tools.

You have to be aware of them to work effectively. Knowing about the tools allows me to do something on deadline without worrying whether it can be developed on time.

However, the problem with most news organisations isn’t a lack of tools or technology but a cultural lack of editorial understanding of social media, internet media and internet culture.

Most news organisations continue to try to force their existing editorial strategies into the social media space instead of considering editorial strategies that are appropriate for the space.

Online video isn’t television on the internet, just as blogs are not about publishing a newspaper with comments.

I can use Twitter both as a newsgathering and promotional tool, or I can just use it to broadcast headlines at people.

Social media can increase loyalty from visitors to a site and increase the time they spend on the site, but it’s not about the tools but the way that journalists use them.

4) And the most overrated in your opinion?
I hate to sound like a broken record because others have said this before, but I really think Facebook is overrated for the majority of our audiences.

Traditional journalists who had never seen, much less used a social network before, hyped it because it was a revelation to them.

However, for those who had used social networks before, it was YASN – yet another social network – only shinier, with 20 per cent more Web 2.0 goodness.

I believe in freeing content and making it available where the audiences are, so it makes sense for content to be easily available to Facebook users and for news organisations to have a presence there.

News organisations can learn things from the success of Facebook, but they should also study the life cycle of social networks and learn not only from their successes but also from their failures.

Allowing like-minded readers or viewers to connect and interact using your content as a focus is a good social media strategy.

Hosting and taking an active role in the conversations around your content is also a good social media strategy.

Building a site or service that externalises community and keeps the ‘unwashed masses’ at a safe distance from journalists creates nasty overheads. It also means managing communities and brings nothing to your journalism and very little to your site visitors.

Why would Facebook users decide to move to InsertNewspaperHere-book?

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Social Media Journalist: “I’ve never met anyone who isn’t a media type who’s ever heard of Del.icio.us.,” Robert Hardie, Northcliffe Media

April 28th, 2008 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Uncategorized

Journalism.co.uk talks to reporters across the globe working at the collision of journalism and social media about how they see it changing their industry. This week, Robert Hardie, from UK regional newspaper publisher Northcliffe Media.

image of robert hardie

1. Who are you and what do you do?
Robert Hardie, content strategy director for Northcliffe Media.

2. Which web or mobile-based social media tools do you use on a daily basis and why?
All Northcliffe’s 56 This Is websites for obvious reasons, LinkedIn, Facebook (probably weekly) and my Attensa for Outlook RSS reader.

We get 200,000+ interactions across the This Is network, which is an amazing insight into what normal people use UGC and social media for.

LinkedIn to keep aware of who’s doing what that we might benefit from, Facebook to see what it’s doing more than what my friends are doing (I just speak to them), Attensa for Outlook so that all my RSS feeds end up on my Blackberry.

3. Of the thousands of social media tools available, could you single one out as having the most potential for news either as a publishing or a news gathering tool?
Google News, it works for both readers and publishers and indexes better and wider than anyone else.

4. And the most overrated in your opinion?
Del.icio.us. I’ve never met anyone who isn’t a media type who’s ever heard of it, let alone used it.

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Social Media Journalist: “Our future isn’t traditional online but in mobile media platforms,” Steve Smith, Spokesman-Review

Journalism.co.uk talks to reporters across the globe working at the collision of journalism and social media about how they see it changing their industry. This week, Steve Smith from The Spokesman-Review, USA.

Steve Smith, editor of the Spokesman-Review

1. Who are you and what do you do?
I am the editor of The Spokesman-Review, a 90,000 circulation daily serving several counties in eastern Washington state and north Idaho.

As editor, I supervise all news and editorial operations, including our website, our other digital platforms and our radio operations.

I have a staff of 124 full-time employees in the newsroom and an annual budget of about $9 million. I have been here since July 2002.

Before coming here, I worked in a variety of roles at seven other newspapers in six different cities.

2. Which web or mobile-based social media tools do you use on a daily basis and why?
I use YouTube daily because we post all of our multimedia on the site and also are capable of embedding YouTube videos on our blogs, including my blog, “News is a Conversation”.

I use MySpace and Facebook when hiring. We check the profiles/pages of prospective employees and actually have rejected applicants because of questionable behavior observed on their pages.

I also go into MySpace frequently to check on the pages devoted to our entertainment magazine, “7”.

In addition, I check several industry blogs daily. Several times a day, I check Romenesko, the must-read industry blog on the Poynter Institute for Media Studies site.

I do very little of this on my mobile, though I do use it for blog work, reading and posting.

I’m still somewhat of a troglodyte (no MySpace page of my own) so I don’t use the mobile to access video or social networking sites.

The Spokesman-Review is the pioneer newspaper (in the United States at least) for transparency. Our transparent newsroom initiative is built around interaction with people in our communities. Blogging and the various blogging tools are critical to us.

We also webcast news meetings and provide as much two-way interaction as possible via chats and other real-time opportunities. Increasingly, we’re developing transparency systems that work on mobile devices.

3. Of the thousands of social media tools available, could you single one out as having the most potential for news either as a publishing or a news gathering tool?
Blogging from the field has the most potential for us at the moment. We’re in the process of developing ideas for 7 that would have real non-media people posting live reports from concerts, nightclubs and other events.

We’re also involved in some beta proposals for training citizen journalists and giving them publishing platforms.

I have no idea where all of this will lead. We’re experimenting with some developing Google applications such as Google Maps and Google Street View to see how they might enhance our blogs.

4. And the most overrated in your opinion?
Tough question. I am willing to try anything with any tool. Until something proves to be useless, I won’t dismiss it.

I do believe our future isn’t in traditional online but in mobile media platforms, the potential of which is yet to be understood. That may drive us to networking tools that enhance the mobile experience.

To reference one single overrated tool, as it were, I’d have to mention Wikipedia. There is an enormous amount of information there. I go to the site often for informal searches. But journalists beware. It is a bottomless quicksand pool that will easily send reporters and editors off in the wrong direction, at best wasting time and, at worst, producing factually inaccurate, even humiliating journalism.

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Social Media Journalist: “Facebook is overrated. The novelty is wearing off and people are getting bored” Matthew Buckland

Journalism.co.uk talks to reporters across the globe working at the collision of journalism and social media about how they see it changing their industry. This week, Matthew Buckland from Mail & Guardian, South Africa.

image of matthew buckland

1) Who are you and what do you do?
I am Matthew Buckland, the GM of Mail & Guardian Online.

As head of the online division I am responsible for the overall online and mobile strategy, with an overview of editorial, production, technical and online sales.

I am also involved quite heavily in our social media strategies and sites.

2) Which web or mobile-based social media tools do you use on a daily basis and why?
I use Twitter, both web and mobile. I blog on my own blog about online media, web 2.0 and technology, thoughtleader.co.za and sometimes on Poynter’s new media titbits.

I use Mybloglog on my blog quite a bit. I use Facebook web and mobile… but less and less these days. At the end of last year I began using Slideshare to share my presentations and see others. I Digg every now and again, and use a local version, Muti.co.za.

I also keep half an eyeball on Linkedin – but don’t really do it justice. I am an occasional Del.ici.ous user. I use both Flickr and Picasa as online photo albums/photo sharing.

For video sharing I use Youtube, obviously. I’m also a wikipediaholic.

I used SecondLife for about a week, but realised it would be best for my health to shut it down and never look at it again :-)

Generally I find these social media tools are a good way of networking, sharing ideas and content, and building relationships with people. They also waste a lot of time and create noise in my life.

3) Of the thousands of social media tools available could you single one out as having the most potential for news either as a publishing or newsgathering tool?
I think of all the hyped up social media tools we’ve seen, blogging has shown that it is more than just a fad, but here to stay.

We’ve seen how mainstream online publishers have embraced blogs both as new publishing formats and newsgathering tool with considerable success.

4) And the most overrated in your opinion?

I’m beginning to think Facebook is overrated. The novelty is wearing off and people are getting bored, very quickly.

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Social Media Journalist: ‘Services like ustream or qik that live stream video from DV cams and phones have huge potential’ Damon Kiesow

Journalism.co.uk talks to reporters across the globe working at the collision of journalism and social media about how they see it changing their industry. This week, Damon Kiesow, Nashua Telegraph.

image of Damon Kiesow

1. Who are you and what do you do?
I am the Managing Editor/Online at The Telegraph in Nashua, NH. I am responsible for the overall news presentation and strategy for our digital publications including NashuaTelegraph.com, NHPrimary.com, FeastNH.com and EncoreBuzz.com.

We have a staff of about 50 in the newsroom and nashuatelegraph.com was a finalist in two categories in this year’s Newspaper Association of America Digital Edge Awards.

2. Which web or mobile-based social media tools do you use on a daily basis and why?
On a typical day:

I use each for a variety of reasons. Delicious is my reigning favourite due to the huge filtering and early warning effect it provides. I follow about 78 people, mostly digital media professionals.

A few times per day I review their most recent bookmarks to keep up to date on what they are thinking about and what new tools and toys they have discovered.

I know many of them do the same and some of my ‘best’ ideas we have implemented at the paper have come from those bookmarks.

Twitter serves a similar purpose – and I am following many of the same people as on Delicious. But I like Twitter for the flexibility (IM, phone, PC, Web) and both the immediacy and asynchronous nature of the service.

It is just a great way to stay in touch with people without the burden of reading or responding to email or phone calls.

I use Ning mostly every day to visit sites like wiredjournalists.com, and we have created several Ning sites for the newspaper including Encorebuzz.ning.com.

I have been on LinkedIn for 5 – 6 years and it is still the best place to accumulate business contacts. I probably do not use it every day, but a few times a week I get requests to connect.

Facebook is one I use just due to the critical mass of people they have online. I check it every day and we do have a few small applications running on the service that feed out breaking news from the newspaper. Most of my time there is spent ignoring Zombie and Pirate invitations.

3. Of the thousands of social media tools available, could you single one out as having the most potential for news either as a publishing or a news gathering tool?
If I had to choose from just the tools I use regularly – I would pick Twitter. They have really focused on a core concept and seem very open to letting people expand on it.

It is too early to say if Twitter will be a huge hit for us as a newspaper but we pick up a few followers a week and the trend seems to be increasing.

I like the fact that we can use it both simply to push content (using twitterfeed.com) and as a two-way conversation with readers. We follow anyone who follows us and try to be responsive to questions or comments that come in via our Twitter friends.

In terms of other products – I think the most likely winners this year will be services like ustream.tv or qik.com that allow live streaming video from DV cameras and cell phones respectively.

This has huge potential both as a newsgathering tool and as a social media/self publishing phenomena. We are just starting to experiment with both of these services.

4. And the most overrated in your opinion?
At the moment I consider Facebook to be the most overrated. Things are beginning to change but it is still a walled garden for the most part.

I would not be comfortable investing a lot time or effort in using Facebook as a social media platform for the newspaper without some continued opening up of their API and clarification of their terms of service.

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Social Media Journalist: ‘Blogging… the most important social media activity for me by a distance’ LLoyd Shepherd MessyMedia

March 28th, 2008 | 1 Comment | Posted by in Handy tools and technology

Journalism.co.uk talks to journalists across the globe working at the collision of journalism and social media about how they see it changing their industry. This week, Lloyd Shepherd, MessyMedia.

Headshot of Lloyd Shepherd, MessyMedia

1) Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Lloyd Shepherd, and I’m co-managing director and co-founder of MessyMedia. We publish mainstream entertainment and information websites, aka blogs, and we’ve got two going at the moment: Westmonster and Glitterditch. I also do consulting with the Guardian, Channel 4, Yahoo! and the BBC.

2) Which web or mobile-based social media tools do you use on a daily basis and why?

As for social media tools, I’m going to define these as ‘tools that help me interact with other people to get stuff done and swap ideas’. So I’d say these qualify:

Google Apps: it’s a small miracle that you can set up an office software suite for nothing these days, and it’s not even the cost that’s miraculous: it’s the fact that you can run a virtual office IT system without an office IT department.

Mac OS: Apple Mail, iCal, Safari, Address book. All syncing with an iPod Touch.

Netvibes: my browser home page. It lets me track key headlines, Facebook, Twitter and some nice Flickr photos all on one page. My world in miniature.

Facebook: not essential, but useful, particularly for keeping in occasional touch with former colleagues from far-flung parts of the world. This morning I got a question from a former Yahoo! colleague based in Singapore who wanted to know about hotels in Beverly Hills. Why he thought I could help I can’t imagine, but those occasional human contacts are very important over time.

Twitter: I’ve been in and out of this, but right now I’m really into it. Again, it’s about the human touch. People you may know only by reputation come alive in Twitter, and that’s important.

last.fm: Not for work, but still officially The Best Website In The World. Arguing about Elton John and Morrissey with people from Tokyo – it’s what the web is for.

Blogging: I run two blogs: Dadblog, and MessyMedia. Both are essential to me. They let me think things through by writing about them, and they are a calling card. The most important ‘social media’ activity for me by a distance, I reckon.

del.icio.us: I use this for links I want to share, rather than links I want to keep for myself. For the latter I use….

EagleFiler: great local software for storing and annotating all manner of things: webpages, emails, documents, the works

3) Of the thousands of social media tools available could you single one out as having the most potential for news either as a publishing or newsgathering tool?

Publishing and news-gathering: most of the things that have ‘potential’ are already huge: YouTube for video, Flickr for photos, Wikipedia for breaking community coverage. These things are going to get bigger and bigger and bigger. I think Twitter’s still got a long way to go: Number 10’s [the UK Prime Minister's website] launch of a Twitter account last week was an interesting moment. And Ning is fascinating too, and growing fast – I think it has to work out a way of providing ‘enterprise-level’ community services (like Pluck) but if it does, it could be massive.

4) And the most overrated in your opinion?

Digg. A daily celebration of the banal and the obsessive. I feel exhausted every time I look at it.

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Social Media Journalist: ‘Social networks are an echo chamber rather than a way of being exposed to anything new’ Adam Tinworth, RBI

March 18th, 2008 | No Comments | Posted by in Journalism, Online Journalism

Journalism.co.uk talks to reporters across the globe working at the collision of journalism and social media about how they see it changing their industry. This week, Adam Tinworth, RBI.

image of Adam Tinworth

1) Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Adam Tinworth, and I’m currently head of blogging for business publisher Reed Business Information.

2) Which web or mobile-based social media tools do you use on a daily basis and why?
I’m a Twitter addict, and am constantly keeping up with the discussions there, either on my laptop or my iPhone.

More stories “break” to me through Twitter right now than any other sources. It’s so quick and easy to publish out with it, you can get news to people before you’re even on the second paragraph of a traditional news story.

I couldn’t live without my RSS feeds. I’ve been an RSS junkie for long enough that I predate Google Reader. I keep my subscriptions in Newsgator, so I can access them in NetNewsWire on my Mac, FeedDemon on my work PC, and the iPhone web version on my, well, iPhone.

While once upon a time I was a heavy forum user (and a Usenet/Mailing List guy before that), most of my conversational reading is in the blogosphere now.

I find the much stronger sense of a huge range of personalities you get on people’s blogs much more appealing than the handful of dominant personalities that tend to dominate forum-like discussion places. And I speak as someone who has been one of those selfishly dominant personalities in the past. I also occasionally flirt with social networks (note that that’s “flirt with” not “flirt in” :)), but find them limited and frustrating.

That said, both Seesmic and Flickr, which have strong similarities with forums, are sites I wish I had more time to explore the true potential of.

3) Of the thousands of social media tools available could you single one out as having the most potential for news either as a publishing or newsgathering tool?

Honestly, I think we’re only just scratching the surface of how blog-based CMS could completely change the way we deliver news to interested people.

I suspect that the news sites of the future will have much more in common with blogs that than monolithic sites with clunky, slow back-ends we build right now.

4) And the most overrated in your opinion?
Facebook (and social network sites in general). I think they’re interesting “walled garden” communication tools, but their strength is also their weakness: they only expose you to the thoughts and recommendations of those you already know.

They are something of an echo chamber, in which existing relationships are reinforced, rather than a way of being exposed to anything (or anyone) new.

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Social Media Journalist: ‘USG is the most overrated social media ‘news’ craze’ Jack Lail, Knoxville News Sentinel

Journalism.co.uk talks to journalists across the globe about social media and how they see it changing their industry. This week, Jack Lail of Knoxville News Sentinel.

image of Jack Lail

1) Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Jack D. Lail. I’m the managing editor/multimedia for the Knoxville News Sentinel in Knoxville, Tennessee.

I am in charge of the editorial content on our family of websites that include knoxnews.com and govolsxtra.com.

2) Which web or mobile-based social media tools do you use on a daily basis and why?
AIM, Twitter and Facebook mainly. I dabble in lots of others. Email? Is that a social media tool? Live in it. Google Reader? Certainly use it every day.

3) Of the thousands of social media tools available could you single one out as having the most potential for news either as a publishing or newsgathering tool?
I continue to think the unsexy RSS feed has the largest potential and is the most important tool. Twitter and Facebook have potential.

Next is blogging, if you consider that a social media tool. It is critical for mainstream media to adopt and adapt. Because it is a web native publishing platform as well as a social network, it engages and creates community in very effective ways.

Not a software tool, but the iPhone is the biggest game changer in terms of new platform. I’m actually starting to believe the hype about the mobile web.

Users get that product and every other hardware maker is improving their smart phone offerings at a more rapid pace. Did we just go from Gopher to Netscape in the mobile space?

4) And the most overrated in your opinion?
YouTube and Facebook notwithstanding, user-generated content seems to be the most overrated social media ‘news’ craze or the most ineptly executed by traditional media organisations.

I think you’ll see a few sites that thrive at this and nail it and everybody else will suck. There seems to be a difference also in layering in news in social media sites and creating community around news.

Obviously, there are more social media sites being launched than can be supported by audiences or business models. Is it spring and time to prune?

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