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Q&A with hyperlocal site boasting 15,000 newsletter subscribers

ChiswickW4.com, which claimed 50,000 unique visitors during January, has just gained it’s 15,000th email newsletter signup.

Launched by the Neighbour Net group in 2000 to cover the W4 postcode area of London, Neighbour Net now boasts a portfolio of nine other hyperlocal sites in London, including EalingToday.co.uk and PutneySW15.com.

One of Neighbour Net’s directors, Sean Kelly, spoke to Journalism.co.uk about the site’s model.

Who’s behind the operation of the website? What inspired you to set up a hyperlocal site?

The site was set up by Tony Steele and Sean Kelly who both live in the Chiswick area. The aim was to fill the gap in local news provision initially in Chiswick and then extend the concept out to other areas.

Are your articles written by local contributors or do you have a dedicated team?

We have a dedicated editor for each site and a significant number of other local contributors in each area. The contributions tend to be reviews – restaurants, concerts, theatre. There is also a central office resource for content production which can write stories when the editor is away.

Is anyone employed to work full-time on the site?

Yes, we have four full-time staff but that includes sales and back office. The aim on ChiswickW4.com is to be able to respond 24/7 to breaking news.

Your site has a number of subtle advertisements – could you tell us a little about your business model?

Nearly all our customers are small local businesses and they either have advertising packages which include banner display and newsletter inclusion or listings in our directories.

We also like to be supportive of local independent businesses and like to write positive stories about them. Obviously we are more inclined to cover items about our clients but often feature non-clients as well.

Do you have a social media strategy? If so, what social networks do you use and how do you use them?

We put all our news content out on Twitter and Facebook as well as some aggregated feeds with local offers, events, jobs and traffic reports. The main use for us of social media is sourcing stories rather than broadcasting. It is particularly powerful for breaking news.

We try and follow as many people as possible who live in the area to ensure that if something is kicking off locally we hear about it quickly.

Why did you go down the newsletter route, rather than taking a different approach?

Probably because in 2000 there weren’t really many alternatives but e-mail newsletters have proven to be the most effective broadcast method ever since.

On a proportional basis they still deliver the highest level of response both for advertisers and in terms of click through to news items.

How does your traffic for the Chiswick site compare with the rest of Neighbour Net’s sites?

It makes up around 50 per cent of group total over the course of a typical month. On exceptional days sites like PutneySW15.com and EalingToday.co.uk can exceed Chiswick’s traffic.

Do you have any plans to roll out new features on the sites?

The plan is to increase the amount of user contributed content further although the editor will remain central to the story production process.

Are you planning to expand? If so, where to?

We normally expand contiguously so that people in the area may be familiar with the site and we can cross-sell to existing clients as well as provide editorial support from neighbouring sites.

The most important determinant of where we launch is finding a suitably high quality editor. The plan is to recruit more actively once the content management system is up and running.

ChiswickW4.com can be found on Twitter as @ChiswickW4.

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#Tip of the day from Journalism.co.uk: Using Facebook, Twitter and Storify for political coverage

Free online tools and social networks are being used around the world in journalism, from students to startups to national news organisations.

If you’re doing political coverage in any capacity at any level, Poynter’s Mallory Jean Tenore has some great tips for using Facebook, Twitter, and Storify.

Here’s one tip for each. See the full list on Poynter at this link.

Facebook

Gauge how open/accessible politicians are. Republican State Rep. Justin Amash was one of the first legislators to post all of his votes on his Facebook Fan Page. What does this level of transparency say about a politicians’ willingness to be open with voters?

Twitter

Dig up the past. One of the limitations of Twitter’s built-in search tool is that it doesn’t let you search for tweets from months and years ago. But there are other Twitter search tools that do. Topsy, for instance, lets you search for tweets from as far back as three years ago. To do this, go to Topsy’s advanced search page and where it says “Search a specific type,” click on “tweets.” This tool is good for seeing what politicians tweeted at a particular time in their campaigns.

Storify

Highlight voters’ reactions/politicians’ posts from various social networks. Storify is a great tool for organizing social media stories because it enables you to pull together Facebook posts and tweets and add context to them. Several news organizations used Storify last year on Election Day to highlight voters’ voices.

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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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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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Project Cascade: The New York Times’ new visualisation tool for Twitter tracking

In case you missed this over the weekend, the New York Times has been quietly working away for a while on a nifty visualisation tool that will allow it to track the way links to its content move through Twitter.

A product of the Times’ Research and Development lab, which is housed somewhere up near the clouds in the NYT’s 33-floor building, Project Cascade promises to take social analytics on in leaps and bounds and tell the NYT a great deal about how, where and when its content is being shared.

The NYT – no stranger to the art of graphics and visualisation – writes on the project’s website that it “allows for precise analysis of the structures which underly sharing activity on the web”.

This first-of-its-kind tool links browsing behavior on a site to sharing activity to construct a detailed picture of how information propagates through the social media space.

While initially applied to New York Times stories and information, the tool and its underlying logic may be applied to any publisher or brand interested in understanding how its messages are shared.

Nieman Journalism Lab has a detailed write up on the tool at this link which is well worth a look.

You can learn more about data visualisation, social media analytics for publishers and more at Journalism.co.uk’s upcoming news:rewired conference. See the full agenda for the day on our dedicated event site.

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Twingly: Testing social media’s love of traditional news

Using its channels feature, blog search engine Twingly has done a rough analysis of which traditional news organisations in 10 European countries are “best loved” by social media.

The site looked at the “top stories” of the day for each of the news sites and calculated the references and links shared to them on social sites, including blogs and Twitter.

Comparing all these, there are quite some striking scenarios to look at. The strongest Channels in terms of linking blogs and tweets are without a doubt UK and Sweden. Taking a closer look at both, one notices that all top stories on the Swedish Channel usually have far more blog posts referring to them than tweets! In Norway it looks largely the same – almost all top stories get discussed more on blogs than on Twitter.

Full post on Twingly at this link…

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Is Facebook falling out of favour?

July 21st, 2010 | 2 Comments | Posted by in Data, Social media and blogging

Newspaper sites are more popular with internet users than social networks such as Facebook and Myspace, according to the annual American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI).

The statistics, which were also quoted in a Washington Times post, show online news outlets topped the tables with satisfaction scores of 82 per cent (FoxNews.com), 77 per cent (USAToday.com) and 76 per cent (NYTimes.com).

By comparison, social networking site Facebook achieved just 64 per cent, while Myspace was even lower at 63 per cent.

According to the report, this puts Facebook in the bottom 5 per cent of all measured private sector companies.

Wikipedia claimed the highest social media rating with 77 per cent, while YouTube achieved 73 per cent. Search engines also outperformed social media, with Google receiving 80 per cent, closely followed by Bing at 77 per cent.

This was the first time social media websites have been measured by ACSI, which pulls data from interviews with around 70,000 customers.

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World’s first social magazine launches on iPad

Flipboard, the world’s first personalised social magazine, has been launched on the iPad, offering its users a magazine packaged collection of the news, features, videos and images circulating within their social networks.

The app was masterminded by Mike McCue, former CEO of Tellme and Evan Doll, former senior iPhone engineer at Apple and is getting its first public demonstration later today.

Because Flipboard renders links and images right in the magazine, readers no longer have to scan long lists of posts and click on link after link – instead they instantly see all the stories, comments and images, making it faster and more entertaining to discover, view and share social content.

Flipboard also lets readers easily create sections around topics or people they care about. Choose from Flipboardʼs suggested sections on topics such as sports, news, tech and style, with content hand-curated from popular and interesting Twitter feeds. Or, create an entirely new section by searching by topic, person or Twitter list to make Flipboard even more personal.

See a demonstration video below, courtesy of Inside Flipboard:

See the site at this link…

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#Tip of the day from Journalism.co.uk – breaking news strategies for Twitter

May 13th, 2010 | No Comments | Posted by in Top tips for journalists

Twitter: Steve Buttry gives a fascinating and thorough breakdown of using Twitter to break news of a plane crash in Austin, Texas, including how to developing a breaking news strategy for Twitter, hashtags and verifying tweets. Tipster: Laura Oliver.

To submit a tip to Journalism.co.uk, use this link – we will pay a fiver for the best ones published.

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Advertising Age: Calls for Facebook privacy regulation could hit publishers

A US senator has written to the country’s Federal Trade Commission asking for the development of guidelines for how individual’s information on Facebook can be used.

The letter from Senator Charles Schumer follows Facebook’s launch of its Open Social Graph Platform – a series of new tools and functionality for the social network, including deeper links with third-party sites. The network’s new “like” feature, for example, has already been put into use by numerous news sites, including the Washington Post.

The flap couldn’t come at a worse time for online advertising, facing the very real prospect that it will be regulated in the form of privacy legislation that would require publishers, networks or marketers to receive specific consent to use consumer data for a variety of purposes on the web.

(…) Of course, Facebook needs to default to openness because that’s where the service derives its viral nature. The more that is shared, the faster the Facebook web grows.

Full story at this link…

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