Tag Archives: nieman journalism lab

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.


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.”

Nieman: Blogs, SEO chief and Facebook comments result in traffic increase for LA Times

The Los Angeles Times is experiencing an increasing amount of traffic, which Nieman Journalism Lab is attributing to engaging with its audience using its blogs.

In March the site had more than 160 million pageviews; in May it was 189 million, bucking the downward trend of many other major US sites. The Nieman report states:

That doesn’t mean the LA Times is going to lap the New York Times or the Huffington Post when it comes to reader counts. But the numbers are still impressive, and more so when you consider the secret sauce at the heart of it all: a full embrace of blogging that adds voice in some corners, emphasises timeliness in others, and has opened new doors for reader engagement. On latimes.com, news is getting the blog treatment and blogs are getting the news treatment. “Most of our blogs are reported stories,” said Jimmy Orr, managing editor/online for the Times. “What we’re seeing is big increases in our blogs, and that’s where a lot of the breaking news is.

The post goes on to explain some other changes at the LA Times, too. The site has recently added an SEO chief, “who works on the copy desk to optimise headlines” resulting in a “65 per cent rise in traffic from search and a 41 per cent jump in traffic from Google as compared to this time last year”.

Another move by the LA Times is to make the site more social by adding Facebook comments to around 50 per cent of articles, a move that has resulted in a 450 per cent increase in referrals from Facebook, according to Nieman’s post.

It also plans to expand its use of Facebook as a commenting system because of encouraging results it’s seen so far. The goal is a virtuous circle: A bigger community leads to more traffic leads to more impact for the Times’ journalism.

It is worth reading the full post on the LA Times’ traffic report which lists examples of the LA Times blogs, including LA Now, “which looks like a blog, but is actually a driver for breaking news”.




Nieman Lab: What we can learn from US sports journalists

Nieman Journalism Lab has an interesting post on recent innovations in online sports writing in the US.

Tim Carmody argues that all journalists, not just sports writers, can learn from developments the other side of the Atlantic.

The post directs us to SportsFeat “spotlighting well-crafted longform sports and sports-related writing”. Carmody explains that “most of the stories are current, but others reach into the archives even as they relate to the day’s news”.

Other sites to watch are Quickish, an aggregator of tweets and and SB Nation, which describes itself as “news, scores and fan opinion powered by 305 sports blogs” and a site former Engadget editor Joshua Topolsky, who is involved on the technology side, cites as “a testbed and lab for some of the newest and most interesting publishing tools I’ve ever seen”.

If there’s a common thread to all of these moves, it’s hybridisation and metastasis. The tools that drive compelling sports journalism on the web aren’t limited to sports. Nor are they exclusively held by sportswriters working for independent media companies.

As Rob Neyer wrote when he moved from ESPN to SB Nation, the new ethos in sports journalism, as elsewhere, seems to be breaking down the distinction between “us” and “them”. And this is a distinction that you can interpret much more broadly than one between writers and readers, pros and amateurs, sportswriting and non-sports writing. When the walls tumble, they tumble everywhere.

My bet is that this will be good for everyone – not just sports fans, sportswriters, and smart media companies, but everyone looking for new ways to read and write smart material on the web.

Nieman Lab’s full post is at this link.

Mashable: Monday is the worst time to post and tweet

Mashable reports on research looking into when readers are most engaged and when is the best time to get traction on posts and tweets.

Thursdays and Fridays are the best days of the week to engage with users via Twitter and Facebook whereas Monday is the “noisiest” and therefore the worst time to engage, according to the study.

Analysing more than 200 of its clients’ Facebook pages over a 14-day period, Buddy Media found engagement on Thursdays and Fridays was 18 per cent higher than the rest of the week, and that engagement was actually even better on Thursday than on Friday. Meanwhile, Twitter chief revenue officer Adam Bain — speaking at the Ad Age Digital conference earlier this week — said that Twitter users are more engaged with tweets on Fridays.

The reason is fairly obvious, says Jeremiah Owyang, a partner at the Altimeter Group: “People are heading into the weekend so they’re thinking about things besides work. They’re mentally checking out and transitioning to the weekend.”

However, [Rick] Liebling [director of digital strategy at Coyne PR] adds that there might be another factor at work: There may be fewer posts overall on Fridays, which means a greater number of average click-throughs.

The above idea, of engaging when there are fewer people tweeting,  is reinforced by this article on the best times to tweet posted on Nieman Journalism Lab last month. It states mined data on retweets and blog posts suggests the optimum time to get traction is at 9pm at night when other traffic has died down.

Mashable’s full post is at this link.

Nieman: A year later, lessons for the media from the Haiti earthquake response

On the anniversary of last year’s devastating earthquake in Haiti, Nieman Journalism Lab’s Michael Morisy takes a look at the media response to the crisis and some of the tools at its centre, including radio, Ushahidi’s mapping platform and crowdsourcing.

Critical to parsing through all the data were centers far outside of Haiti, like one group in Boston that helped geolocate emergency texts, information that was then passed along to relief workers on location. Groups of Haitian expatriates helped translate the flood of data from Creole, French, and Spanish into English, passing it along to the most appropriate aid organizations as well as the U.S. Marines, who often served as the basis for search-and-rescue missions.

In Haiti, the report found the use crowdsourced emergency information had hit a turning point, helping inform real-time decision-making.

Full post on Nieman at this link.

Nieman: ‘The real tablet revolution seems to be upon us’

Ken Doctor, Newsonomics author and regular news business writer for Nieman Journalism Lab, suggests that news reading may be on the rise thanks to predicted high sales of tablets over the next two years.

Ready to trade up? That’s the new question now moving to the forefront of news publishers’ longer-range strategic planning, as the real tablet revolution seems to be upon us …

With tablet sales projected to reach 70 million in the U.S. in 2011 and 2012 (50 million of them iPads), and with early survey results, such as the Reynolds Journalism Institute’s study, showing longer news session times, more-than-snippets-reading, and a renewal of lean-back, pleasurable longer-form reading, publishers have been edging into an age of news reading renewal.

Maybe, people do want to read news and watch news after all, and maybe branded news can find its mojo once again.

Although Doctor shows that digital consumption of news may increase with more people buying iPads and similar tablet technology, he stresses that this could impact dramatically on print sales.

The full post can be read here.

In a feature for Journalism.co.uk published today, Norwegian media blogger Kristine Lowe looks at the reasons behind declining magazine sales figures for tablets, and whether so-called ‘tablet journalism’ for magazines needs to be done differently.

Read the full feature at this link: Tablet journalism: does our newest format need a new approach?

International deadline for Nieman Fellowships fast approaching

The world’s oldest journalism fellowships are open to entries and the deadline for international applicants is fast approaching. The Nieman Fellowships allow around two dozen journalists, usually half from the US and half from other countries around the world, to study at Harvard for a year in the field of their choice.

Some study classic journalism-influencing subjects like economics, history, or government; some dive deep into a particular topic area they’ve worked in before. Others want to study the kinds of Lab-like subjects that will influence journalism’s future: revenue models at Harvard Business School, digital media at the Berkman Center, nonprofit structures at the Hauser Center, online media law at Harvard Law School.

There are no age restrictions, but you need to have spent a minimum of five years as a working journalist before you can apply. Deadline is 15 December for non-US applicants.

Visit Nieman Journalism Lab at this link for more information.

Citizen Media Law Project: The laws of news aggregation

The Nieman Journalism Lab has posted an interesting report on the legality of different forms of news aggregation based on a white paper created by Kimberley Isbell of the Citizen Media Law Project.

While the paper is based on US copyright law, it is likely to be a useful point of reference for anyone dealing in online content.

In the paper Isbell offers context by discussing recent cases and the impact on the legal environment, including the licensing agreement between Google News and Associated Press announced at the end of last month. In a wider context, she adds, news aggregators can often argue a fair use policy.

(…) news aggregators could argue that the type of consumer that would only skim the headlines and ledes on the news aggregators’ website is not the type of consumer that is likely to visit individual news websites and read full articles, and thus would be unlikely to be a source of traffic for the newspapers’ websites if the news aggregators did not exist.

Her work concludes with some useful bullet points of best practice, reproduced in summary below:

  • reproduce only necessary portions of the story, not in its entirety;
  • try not to focus on a single source;
  • prominently identify the source;
  • link to the original source of the article;
  • provide context or commentary where possible.

US journalism groups join forces on global health reporting

Two US journalism organisations – the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting – are partnering in an attempt to support greater coverage of international news.

The collaboration, which will have a focus on worldwide health news, is part of the Nieman Foundation’s fellowship in global health reporting, which was launched in 2006 and includes a four-month reporting project at the end of the academic year, an announcement on the Nieman Foundation’s website explains.

Journalists in the program travel to the developing world to learn and report about health issues firsthand and recent participants have produced important, groundbreaking international health stories. However, due to the many recent changes affecting journalism, and international reporting in particular, placing those stories in mainstream media outlets is becoming increasingly difficult

(…) In collaboration with the Nieman Foundation, the [Pulitzer] Center’s staff will help Nieman Global Health Fellows with story planning and placement.

The partnership will also see Pulitzer Center journalists invited to Harvard University for events on underreported international stories and an annual workshop for Nieman fellows.

See the full announcement here…