CategorySocial Media


Yesterday Brian Stelter reported that Tumblr, the popular blogging platform, is hiring two journalists. They come in the form of Chris Mohney, senior vice president for content at BlackBook Media and Jessica Bennett, a senior writer at Newsweek and the Daily Beast.

This comes at a time of significant buzz around Tumblr its nearing 100 staff members and it recently passed 15 billion (!) pageviews per month. Its founder David Karp has been profiled in a national newspaper, and the type of curation pioneered by Tumblr is the type that has held journalists agog at conferences over the last six months.’

Traditionally a favourite online hangout of creative teens, journalists have got to Tumblr relatively late (it celebrates its 5th birthday this year), but what does the move to hire editorial staff tell us?

From Stelters piece:

Andrew McLaughlin, a vice president at Tumblr, said that in telling stories about its users, the company wanted Mr. Mohney and Ms. Bennett, the only two hires for the time being, to “do real journalism and analysis, not P.R. fluff.”

Looking at Tumblr as a city of 42 million residents and telling their story has very real benefits, both to users and advertisers. Reuters Anthony De Rosa has shed a bit more light on what Tumblrs content strategy might be in his interview with Bennett, where she says:

Think trend stories — the democratization of creation. Think on the ground: who are the teen tumblr users in a remote town in Ukraine, and how did they find the platform? Think big picture: how is social media changing the way we interact and engage? Think data: what can Tumblr users tell us about the current presidential race? The mandate is broad, and the format will go beyond the written word.

So is 2012 the year when players like Tumblr, Facebook and Google get into the content game properly?

In Facebooks case, its a maybe. The company has just hired Daniel Fletcher, a 2009 journalism graduate with previous stints at Time and Bloomberg to become their managing editor.

Hiring a journalist isnt a new thing for Facebook last year they hired former Mashable employee Vadim Lavrusik as their journalist program manager, tasked with building the sites reputation as a home for journalists. But this new hire seems like it could be closer to editorial whether its creating original content or smartening up Facebooks many corporate pages.

So what about Google? Larry and Sergeys employees always stay resolutely tight-lipped about whether Google sees itself as creating original content in future. Some clues may lie in how it seems to be shifting its purpose on the web.

One of Googles maxims is to organise the worlds information and make it universally accessible and useful. In simple terms, their search bar acts as a conduit to pass you on to wherever you wanted to go on the web quickly, efficiently, accurately. Now Google seems to be wanting you to hang around on its services, and bring them all into one place.

Its done this in three distinct ways.

First making logins and business accounts one and the same your email account will now log you in to all Google services.

Second Reorganising search to integrate with Google+ and allowing normal searches to crawl through Google+ accounts (unlike Facebook or Twitter).

Third An overhaul of privacy policy which means that all Google services (Picasa, Maps, YouTube, Gmail and more) are interconnected. No privacy walls, just one authoritative policy which applies to all services and means that Google have access to a wealth of interconnected data based on your browsing habits.

Newspapers dream of knowing as much about their users as Google do.

If Google were to become a content creation company tomorrow, their recommendation system would be second to none, and their ability to dictate the flow of news would be unprecedented.

Of course Google doesnt need to take a step in that direction in order to continue to be monumentally successful, but the concept of Google producing their own content service rather than just serving up a platform isnt too hard to fathom given how much behavioural data could be fed into such a service.

If you look at trends and buzzwords in journalism over the last few years, its easy to see how they link up with Tumblr, Facebook and Google.

Tumblr thrives on curation, Facebook on community and Google on data. Given the trickle down effect to the journalism industry (tools like Storify becoming popular, community managers being increasingly in demand and the growing area of data journalism) it seems like any of these companies would find that they slot into the current ecosystem rather well.

Whether any news organisations would be pleased about that remains to be seen…


By now you’re all likely to be aware of Sky News making significant changes to their employees social media usage via an email to staff last Tuesday.

In this weeks Media Mouthwash podcast I called the policy anti-web, but Ive deliberately left it this long before writing something about it because I think its a much more nuanced issue than some dissenting voices have made out.

Don’t tweet when its someone elses story

This is probably the most galling aspect of the policy. If an employee isnt particularly social media-savvy, then theres no harm in another journalist using Twitter and other networks to promote and share their content in a way that means itll get maximum exposure.

If I was the only person sharing my own work around Twitter, then it’d get very limited traction, and theres no harm in staff helping get extra eyeballs onto a colleagues piece.

Always pass breaking news lines to the news desk before posting them on social media networks

There is fundementally nothing wrong with this. If were acknowledging that Twitter is a medium like any other, and one that should sit alongside videos, blogs and audio reports amongst Sky News output, then it makes sense that it should be properly integrated with the news desk.

Communication with the desk is essential in order to make the news operation an efficient one. I don’t have a lot of experience with them, but I cant imagine the vast majority of news editors being too happy with a journalist breaking a story on Twitter and then strolling over and telling the desk about it a few minutes later.

Breaking news without context on Twitter holds little or no value for the journalist or his/her audience in itself. The value comes from using Twitter as the start of a narrative.

When I was covering the bomb blasts and shootings in Oslo, I started by using Storify to collect information and photos about events in the city centre. Then when people became aware of the shootings, I moved to turning my Twitter feed into one dedicated to covering new developments.

My follower count didn’t rise because I was constantly breaking new information on Twitter, but because I was able to organise it more efficiently into an understandable narrative than others covering it at the time. I didn’t retweet everything I saw, I thought carefully about how people following me would be able to easily understand what was happening.

Breaking news in itself holds little value were my parents really any the worse for getting the full picture of the London riots on Newsnight rather than watching it unfold in real time on Twitter?

Passing lines to the news desk before tweeting makes good sense in a large organisation because the news desk is the hub that controls their coverage. They can distribute information to correspondents, multimedia specialists and graphics teams.

The ego of a single journalist itching to grab a bit of social media limelight should be able to bow to the collective nature of a news operation in order to strengthen its overall coverage. As Martin Belam notes, being first really mattered when your rivals had a 24 hour print cycle before they could catch up.

If anything, this shows that Sky would like to step away from the never wrong for long tag that indicates theyre happy to be wrong as long as they correct themselves quickly.

The BBC are rarely quicker than Sky when it comes to breaking news, but hold far more trust because they seem to pride context and verification much more. Is it a bad thing that Sky want to move toward this model more? I dont think so.

Do not retweet information posted by other journalists or people on Twitter.

This is slightly more problematic, but I wouldn’t go as far as saying that its removing the social from social media. As a Sky News employee, I certainly wouldn’t have been able to cover Oslo or the riots in the way that I did if Id adhered to this rule.

However, if you look at the social media usage of many journalists, they primarily use it as a promotional, rather than as a news gathering tool. Sky News new social media policy does not stop journalists from seeking out sources on Twitter, or finding photos that can be later added to strengthen news coverage. There are lots of journalists with big followings on Twitter, but only a fraction of them seem to use social media to actually dig things out and add another aspect to traditional sources.

If anything, the whole debate seems to be a microcosm of the divide that often seeks to engulf any rational discussion about online journalism. That is, if you don’t agree entirely with the popular view of mainstream media persistently not getting it, then your’e old news, you’re irrelevant, or Victorian.

I think its important to understand that there are many shades of grey what works for Sky News wouldn’t work for Tech Crunch and vice versa. This policy is neither surprising nor as draconian as some commentators have implied whats more interesting will be observing if it becomes indicative of Sky News shift to a markedly different kind of news provider.…

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