April 11, 2009

NPR’s experiments with social media


NPR’s experiments with social media from JD Lasica on Vimeo.

JD LasicaAndy Carvin, social media strategist for NPR.org, has spent the past several years experimenting with innovative approaches to the news. As the head of National Public Radio’s social media desk, he’s been given a sandbox to foster high-quality journalism using social tools in an age when the public demands engagement and participation — and when many other traditional news organizations have been slow to adopt social media.

gustav08oncubaFor example, as Hurricane Gustav churned through the Caribbean last August, eventually causing $8.5 million in damage in the South, Andy (@acarvin on Twitter) formed a Ning group — Gustav Information Center — and got scores of volunteers to participate in sharing information during the course of a single weekend, largely through the power of Twitter and Facebook.

“Part of what I do at NPR is to really help our journalists think about how can online communities be used to improve the quality and diversity of our journalism,” he says in this 9-minute video interview, conducted at South by Southwest Interactive in Austin, Texas, in March 2009.

He also cites David Troy’s cool visualizations with Twittervision (you’ve surely seen this, yes?) and Twittervotereport during the 2008 elections, a project by NPR and techPresident that allowed anyone at a polling station to report problems using Twitter, text messages, voice mail, iPhones and other mobile devices. “It didn’t matter if you had no Internet access at all or if you had an iPhone and everything in between — you could submit reports and geotag it.” The site got about 10,000 submissions during the election.

For its Inauguration coverage, NPR collaborated with CBS News, American University and volunteer programmers, adding Flickr photos and YouTube videos to the mix. They got more than 40,000 contributions, which is “somewhat astounding,” Carvin says.

NPR staffers who’ve recently begun using Twitter include David Greene and Scott Simon (a scant 195,035 followers as of this writing).

Keep evangelizing, Andy! Here’s the interview (9 minutes):

Watch or embed the video on Vimeo
Watch or download the video on Ourmedia

Related:
Using Twitter at the Chicago Tribune
How to use social media in the newsroom
Using social media to build an audience

JD Lasica, founder of Socialmedia.biz, is now co-founder of the cruise discovery engine Cruiseable. See his About page, contact JD or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.