Category Archives: Social media and blogging

Is Vine useful for journalists? A round-up of reactions to the launch Twitter’s micro-video app


Twitter’s latest expansion into social media arrived last Thursday in the form of micro-video sharing app Vine, allowing users to create and upload six-second videos to be shared and commented on.

Teething problems aside, users have been creating stop animations and how-to guides alongside sport round-ups and animal GIFs.

But could Vine become a serious journalistic resource? Or will it simply be another addition to a long line of internet distractions with a few diamonds in the rough? Commentators have been giving their opinions on the matter.

Scott Klemmer, co-director of the Human-Computer Interaction Group at Stanford University told Wired that, based on the enthusiasm for Twitter, the results will be positive from a creative point of view and “people are going to do really cool things”.

One of the things we know about creativity is that constraints are essential for getting people to do creative stuff. If you come up with the right constraints that’s a benefit, not a drawback. And nobody knows that better than Twitter, where their 140-character constraint really created a whole new medium in a lot of ways.

UX expert and blogger Martin Belam dismisses those who don’t “see a purpose” in Vine, insisting that there is as much fun to be had in the process of creation as in browsing the product.

I do rather wonder, if you are looking at a bunch of random video clips that weren’t directly shared with you, and they don’t meet your content expectations, whether the problem might be your expectations, not the service?

Poynter recognises the potential for growth in that videos have more potential for realism and engagement, drawing people closer to the story or news event being reported, as Jeff Sonderman writes. Medinės dvitėjės sijos I-JOIST

Think of the impact Twitter has made so far on real-time reporting, making everyone, everywhere, a potential instant eyewitness who can share text or a photo with the world. Now think of how that effect is amplified when the public can easily start sharing videos of the same events.

At Sonderman points out, it also means it is much harder to for videos to be faked, especially when it is considered that Vine is only available to smart devices and videos can only be uploaded straight to the server, rather than saved remotely and tampered with.

#Tip of the day for journalists: Read Storyful’s new ebook on social newsgathering

Image by IsaacMao on Flickr. Some rights reserved

Image by IsaacMao on Flickr. Some rights reserved

Social news agency Storyful has published an ebook on social newsgathering.

It has been edited by Claire Wardle and includes articles previously posted on the Storyful blog.

The ebook is in PDF format and is free, allowing you to learn things such as how to spot a fake or hoax image, how to verify content from social media, and how and why your should use Twitter’s own version of TweetDeck.

The Storyful blog has become one of our favourite tips sites, with practical advice shared by working journalists on how to get the most out of social newsgathering. Save this PDF to your tablet or phone and your next train journey will be an educational one.

If you have a tip you would like to submit to us at email us using this link.

Hat tip: Mark Little

Hurricane Sandy and verification: 4 key takeaways from Storyful Hangout

Copyright: Image by MTA Long Island Rail Road on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Hurricane Sandy presented a challenge to journalists using social media channels: how can you be sure that the content you are seeing is accurate?

Storyful, an organisation that specialises in finding verifiable news on social media, hosted a Google+ Hangout yesterday on verification during Hurricane Sandy.

The guests were Adam Blenford, the online news editor at BBC News; Liz Heron, social media director at the Wall Street Journal; Aine Kerr, the US politics director at Storyful; Tom Phillips, the international editor at MSN, Craig Silverman, who writes the Regret the Error blog at Poynter; Paul Watson, chief technical officer at Storyful and a group of students from Griffith College Dublin. was listening in. Here are four main points that came out of the discussion:

1. Users care about the accuracy of the information they receive from news organisations.

Adam Blenford said: “If they don’t think they’re worried about verification per se as a concept, they’re worried about the trustworthiness of the organisations that they’re using to get their news from.”

Liz Heron said every time the Wall Street Journal posts a photo on Facebook – which will have first been verified by the news outlet – users will still question the authenticity of the image, even if taken by a professional photographer.

“There’s such high suspicion now among our readers and viewers that I think it’s really important, especially in a situation like covering Sandy, to be really obvious and clear about the fact that this has been verified. There’s huge suspicion out there about this kind of stuff, even for professional photography,” she said.

2. To get people interested in the verification process, it has to be as compelling as the fake content.

Craig Silverman mentioned The Atlantic, which embedded a “verdict” on images, and Buzzfeed, which put together a quiz on real and fake images, as examples of organisations that had done something a bit different with their verification processes.

“This is content people are really interested in, it’s useful to them but there are also ways to make it fun and interesting. I think that’s actually been very key to helping the real images or at least the verdict on the fake ones spread,” he said.

Tom Phillips agreed, saying there is a “need to make the verification process as compelling in terms of content as the thing it’s verifying, because if we’re not doing that then it’s going to get lost.”

3. Journalists should be wary of broadcasting debunked fake content because there is a risk users may misinterpret it as genuine.

Craig Silverman added: “The risk that is always there, however, [is] that when you actually put that tweet out there, even if you’re noting it as false, there are people who are still going to read it and who then may actually retweet it without that context of saying it’s false”.

4. A few fundamental journalistic principles can help ensure you are not fooled by fake content.

Liz Heron gave the example of using the live video stream of the New York Stock Exchange, which proved that the rumour it was under three feet of water was untrue. She added that often the simplest way to verify something was to contact the original source directly.

Adam Blenford also added that “it appears that the closer and more finely-tuned your Twitter lists and your Twitter stream was towards New York on the night of the storm, the less likely you were to get hoaxed”.

“That’s the old adage if you can get closer to the story, you’re more likely to get it right.”

In other news…

While on the subject of social media sharing, Twitter stated on Sunday (9 December) that Instagram photos would no longer appear integrated on the platform. Tweets will instead only link to an Instagram picture. In a statement published by the BBC, Instagram chief executive Kevin Systrom said it was felt that “the best experience is for us to link back to where the content lives”.

Markham Nolan, managing editor at Storyful, told this was an “inconvenience” for journalists specialising in verification.

“It was very easy to click in and out, have a quick glance and do the initial check,” he said.

But he added that he did not think it would “slow down the deeper verification”.

“It just means you have to click out of your Twitter stream every time you want to see an Instagram picture to see if it’s useful or see if it’s something worth verifying,” he added.

Study: Fewer UK journalists feel social media improves productivity in 2012 than in 2011

Image by Adikos on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

An annual study into how UK journalists feel social media impacts on their work was announced this week by Canterbury Christ Church University and public relations and media services outlet Cision.

The report’s findings are based on 769 responses from UK journalists. According to a release from the university the study found an “increasing number of concerns about productivity, privacy and the future of journalism”.

For example, the number of journalists who said they felt social media improved their productivity fell from 49 per cent in 2011 to 39 per cent in 2012.

At the same time, the percentage of those who disagreed that social media improved productivity increased from 20 per cent to 34 per cent. Journalists were also less positive this year about the impact of social media on their relationships with their audience.

In general, they think that social media allows greater engagement with their audience, but the number who strongly agreed with that sentiment dropped from 43 per cent to 27 per cent.

The study can be downloaded from Cision. For more on the findings see this report by the Drum.

#wef12: Why news outlets must embrace a participatory culture

Image by shawncampbell on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

Image by shawncampbell on Flickr. Some rights reserved

Outlining the shift in the way news is distributed and consumed today, Al Jazeera’s head of social media Riyaad Minty said news organisations need to understand that they “do not break the news anymore”.

The role of breaking news is now carried out by the people, Minty explained. And “people trust people first, before they trust an organisation” – highlighting the need for news outlets to embrace the participatory culture.

We are no longer the gatekeepers of information as media professionals … need to understand the shift and embrace it.

And if a news outlet is able to harness the crowd in its operations, it becomes part of a “virtuous circle” which ultimately means people come back to the news outlet.

Founder of social newswire Storyful, Mark Little, added that the service news outlets offer to users is not an exclusive right to content, it is trust.

Therefore there is “no fear anymore” for any news outlet to include external content in their own output, he added.

We don’t own content. What they are paying for – if they’re paying at all – is their trust in you.

And this will “require a real shift” in mindset, he added.

We have to become far more humble as journalists, we are now members of the community people look to and engage with… We don’t own the news anymore.

Student summer blog: A beginner’s guide to blogs and blogging

Danny Roberts is a sports journalism student at Leeds Trinity University College and tweets from @DannyRoberts74. In the post below and others to follow he hopes to help people, through his own experiences and those of professionals, to further their study and get that little bit closer to becoming a successful journalist.

One of the many tools available to aspiring and professional journalists alike is a blog.  A blog could help you on your way to gaining a lot of writing experience, help to build an audience, make yourself known to potential employers and even possibly make some money in the process.

A blog can be defined in many ways, but is usually described as a log that is available on the web. ‘Web log’ is where the term ‘blog’ is said to originate.

So, what can a blog be about?

A blog can be about anything that the author is interested in. With the ability to add text, images, video and links, a blog can be a place where you can share your feelings, views and favourite things with the internet population. There have been previously reported cases of journalists who have credited a significant part of their job hunting success to their blogging activities. So it is a good starting point for a journalist’s portfolio to say that you have a blog that you are passionate about, update regularly and that has a big returning audience.

Who can blog and how do I go about setting one up?

Anyone can blog. That’s the beauty of the internet! As long as you have a view and are passionate about something you can blog to your heart’s content.

Many sites allow you to set up blogs but two of the main ones are WordPress and Google’s Blogger. It’s easy to set up and edit, simply enter the name of your blog and your details and you’re away.

Blogs can make money in a few ways, there is the chance that a company may pay you to maintain a high-quality blog that tells potential customers or clients about the company and its latest news. It is likely that this will be on a paid-per-post or paid-per-word basis. The other main way is through advertisements, with money made through people clicking on links at the side of the page. Google has it’s own Adsense that can be added to help you with this process.

I was lucky enough to meet Christian Payne (@documentally) who attended Leeds Trinity journalism week, as a guest speaker, a few months ago. Besides running a very popular blog, he is a freelance “mobile media maker” who also specialises in social technology and connected platforms. He jokes on his site: ‘If you don’t know what that means then it is a good reason for hiring me.’ In his work Christian helps to create multimedia and offers photojournalism, PR, imagery, video and podcasting among other things.

I emailed Christian to ask if he could help out with this blog post and he was more than happy to oblige, even though he had just had surgery. (Which of course, he blogged about!). Blogging behind the alias Documentally at, Christian is able to blog about his everyday life to his many followers.

For me, my blog is an interactive calling card that not only introduces people to what it is I do, it’s a place where I can nurture a community of like minded people. A social network is often built of people who share a common interest.

Describing bloggers, he added: “The content creators are the storymakers, the communicators. They can be Jack and Jills of all trades or they can specialise.”

This year, Documentally has become sponsored. His views are respected enough that Scottevest sponsors his clothing and his international mobile data is sponsored by Vodafone. This means that he receives products from companies to test out in exchange for an honest review or to test how much data a blogger uses abroad. This comes with a wide audience that companies wish their products to be advertised to in review.

To add to this, he gets paid to document, talk and run workshops. He now has a great Twitter following of almost 21,000 at the time of writing. This has helped Christian connect with many people who share his interests.

Therefore, blogging can lead to a career within itself as well as offering a platform to advertise your writing and documenting skills. Get your work out there circulating and who knows who will see it or what will happen because of it. Good luck!

There are a number of blogs, including this one, which may be of particular interest to other student journalists and offer helpful tips, examples include the BBC College of Journalism or WannabeHacks.

Feel free to recommend any other blogs which could be of use to journalists-in-training in the comments below.

Guardian US, #smarttakes and ‘pop-up aggregation’

The Guardian’s US operation announced yesterday the launch of a new socially-driven aggregation series, #smarttakes.

According to a post on Comment Is Free the new project will see the introduction of “a pop-up aggregation tool that collects standout pieces of commentary and analysis from Guardian readers”.

We’ve been experimenting with the concept in recent weeks, like when the drone scandal broke, when Facebook went public and when the Montreal protests erupted. As of today, pop-up aggregation has a permanent home on the Guardian.

Currently the project is US only. The project will see users involved by tweeting about comment pieces with the #smarttakes hashtag. According to the Guardian announcement “great recommendations will also get retweeted from @GuardianUS”.

Hatip: Nieman Journalism Lab.

Reporting on the new development Nieman adds that the Guardian will also offer a “curated roundup” on the series’ page.

also spoke to Amanda Michel, open editor for the Guardian but who was previously involved in setting up #MuckReads at ProPublica, the non-profit’s “ongoing collection of watchdog reporting elsewhere”. The Nieman post highlights some of the lessons Michel learnt with #MuckReads:

Over email, Michel told me one lesson from #MuckReads was how to create a long-term commitment to using a hashtag. That helps not just to populate the project, but to build support, she said.

On the subject of open journalism at the Guardian, we recently spoke to national editor Dan Roberts about some of the lessons learned from the Guardian’s UK projects such as its open newslist experiment and Reality Check blog.

#Activateldn: Why Facebook is a key reporting tool for Zimbabwe’s SW Radio Africa

After being fired from one job and finding her house surrounded by Zimbabwean paramilitaries six days after she set up Capital Radio and aired a test broadcast, Gerry Jackson then launched SW Radio Africa.

And Facebook has become a key tool for finding stories, Jackson told today’s Guardian Activate London conference in a talk called “media in exile”.

Jackson spoke of the human rights abuses, corruption and repression in the country, and how the radio station and SW Radio Africa website aim to expose wrongdoings.

She told the conference that Zimbabwe is “trapped” as “nothing changes”.

We are groundhogs [like in the Bill Murray film Groundhog Day]. We are reliving the same day over and over. That’s what it feels like in Zimbabwe.

But although we are groundhogs and do the same stories over and over again, we do highlight stories that rest of the world doesn’t seem pick up on.

Jackson is particularly proud of the radio station’s exposes. The website published a leaked list of the names of 450 individuals who had allegedly committed acts of violence.

The expose received a “huge response on Facebook”, Jackson said. But explained that “people were very frightened to write publicly” so instead messaged the journalist who worked on the story to report details of further atrocities.

The reporters at SW Radio Africa also arrange most of their interviews via the platform. They are also aware that the ruling party “keeps a close eye on Facebook”.

Jackson said around one million people in the country of roughly 12 million are on Facebook, with two million internet connections and nine million mobile phones with 700,000 of those being used for internet access.

It’s impossible to underestimate how much Zimbabweans love Facebook.

She said that not only includes those within the country but Zimbabweans living in exile, which is perhaps one third of the total population.

And key political figures are on Facebook, including members of the Zanu-PF party.

It’s interesting to see their list of [Facebook] friends.

New record for Storify as US bus monitor Storify gets more than 1.5m views

Digital storytelling platform Storify has announced that a Storify produced by US journalist and student Ben Doernberg, which curated the latest responses and reaction to a video in which a bus monitor is seen being taunted (there’s more on this story from the BBC at this link), has hit a new record for Storify by recording more than 1.5 million views.

At the time of writing the number of views stood at 1,575,345. More than $650,000 has also been raised after an Indiegogo page was set up to give the bus monitor a holiday.

See the Storify about the record here.

#GEN2012 talks newsreader apps – ‘Let content be a travelling salesman’

By Drnantu on Flickr. Some rights reserved

Social magazines and newsreading apps are a “key part of the puzzle”, if not a game-changer on their own, when it comes to digital strategy for publishers, and news outlets should be prepared to give up control over how content is shared on other platforms.

In a session on social magazines and newsreading apps at the News World Summit in Paris editor-in-chief of Digital First Media Jim Brady said the technology is responding to the changing ways people are accessing content.

Consumers coming into the market made it pretty clear about what they want – they want choice, they don’t want to necessarily consume a package containing content from one brand.

Tthey don’t necessarily want to get it on the platform you’re delivering it to. They want to consume information by subject in a lot of cases and not by brand.

And in order to meet these needs news outlets need to “step away” from the mentality of “trying to maintain control”.

The more control you try to exert the less successful you’re going to be.

He added that publishers of high-quality content should “do all the things you have to do to let people in the world know” about what you’re producing.

Let your content serve as a travelling salesman.

Publishers’ “resistance of giving up control is something we have to give up”.

He also warned that websites are becoming “less and less important”.

Newsreading apps are highlighting that “more of your audience are consuming content, not print and not the web, a third whole category of content”, he said.

So Brady encouraged publishers to let go of control and get content on these platforms.

You can’t cant change the game until you change the thinking. That’s where we’re still short.

Robert Picard, research director at the Reuters Institute added that publishers do not have the choice of whether such platforms increase in importance.

The choice available “is whether we make use of them to best possible use”, he said.

Or news outlets can have their own social readers, he added. But then the challenge is how to get users to engage with their content, rather than others.