The benefits of using social media sites, predominantly Twitter, to cover live news events, newsgather and let the readers in were stressed by speakers from Sky News, Trinity Mirror, NWN Media and Northcliffe in a session at the Society of Editors conference today.
Sky’s social media correspondent (once titled ‘Twitter correspondent’) Ruth Barnett explained what had been learned since her role was created:
“We’d be very foolish as journalists not to be part of this interaction (…) I use it as a newswire – not one as valuable verifiable and reliable as PA, but as a good source of leads, eye witnesses and trends.
“If we can tweet our own breaking news it allows us to be proud of it, own it and direct traffic back to us.”
But there’s more to come: Trinity Mirror multimedia head David Higgerson emphasised the need to work with the audience to improve the use of tools such as CoveritLive.
“The big lesson that we need to learn is that we need to involve the audience more. If people want more passive coverage we’ve got the BBC, which is not to be critical of the BBC, but it can be hard to interact with it,” said Higgerson.
There needs to be experiments with livestreaming video into liveblogs, he added, and newspapers should start looking at the potential of tools like Audioboo. There’s no reason Audioboo, for example, couldn’t be used for more in-depth reporting, such as livecasting election results, he explained.
But the biggest challenge is finding a way to work with the ‘army of citizen journalists’:
“We need to go to them and our reporters need to be building relationships with them. If we can engage with them on local terms we can create a potent force for live news.”
But it was Hull Daily Mail editor John Meehan who suggested that liveblogging and live-tweeting could be a revenue opportunity for news groups:
“If paid content on the web is part of our salvation we have an obligation to develop services that go far beyond news and traditional reporting (…) It used to be paid-for live coverage in print (…) Covering it live on the web, real-time and interactive, may be one of the keys to earning revenue from content published online,” said Meehan, who used the Mail’s coverage of transfer deadline day in September as an example (500 posts on CoveritLive by journalists; 6,200 comments received on all-day liveblog).
“We’ve got no plans to make them pay for it, but I think we as an industry should have an eye on where we can make money from. If that many people are going to spend that much time on a service, they really value that service (…) Mainstream news is a commodity; we need to find the things that aren’t commoditised.”