August 25, 2011

Reimagining journalism in the age of social media

 

9 ideas for taking journalism to a new place

JD LasicaSocial media is far more than social marketing, which is why Socialmedia.biz returns regularly to the subject of how social is reshaping the worlds of media and journalism.

I arrived in Santiago, Chile, on Tuesday to take part in a three-day event: first, a gathering of 150 journalism students from major universities in Chile on Tuesday. And today I’m giving the closing talk at a gathering of news executives, editors, reporters and academics from major publications and universities in Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Costa Rica, Uruguay, Venezuela, the United States and elsewhere, organized by Grupo de Diarios América — the world’s biggest online Spanish network with some 50 publications and sites with a reach over 50 million users per month — and held at the headquarters of El Mercurio, Chile’s best newspaper.

My colleague Chris Abraham asked me a few months ago to offer my thoughts on where journalism is heading — or ought to be heading — for the benefit of both those entering the profession and those trying to figure out how to navigate these choppy waters. So this seemed like a good way to do that.

Plus, I finally made it down to South America!

The presentation, embedded above and available for download or embedding on SlideShare, offers some ideas about how journalism might be reimagined in an age when more people are embracing the precepts of social media.

Questioning nine fundamental assumptions

I found that the two-day symposium had far too few opportunities for interaction (thankfully, the organizers thoughtfully provided translations for talks in Spanish that were broadcast into a Listen Display Receiver, a nifty mobile device and earpiece), and so I framed the presentation more as a series of questions rather than answers.

Many of the suggestions below — and for the now widely accepted idea that journalism should be thought of as a process, not a finished product — have been discussed by thought leaders in the space for years. It’s time to distill some of these ideas and reexamine them through the lens of journalism in South America. Here, then, are nine assumptions by journalists and media organizations, and suggestions on how those assumptions might be reconsidered or reimagined.

1Objectivity is our sacred goal. Yet, users are increasingly turning to transparency as the new yardstick of a news organization’s credibility. Is transparency the new objectivity?

2Content is all that matters. While people come for the content, they stay for the conversation. Shouldn’t journalists spend more time engaging with users and participating in conversations? Continue reading

October 7, 2009

BlogHer, the FTC, ethics and conflicts of interest

How BlogHer deals with reviews and conflicts of interest from JD Lasica on Vimeo.

JD LasicaI‘ve been struck by the varying reactions to this week’s news that the Federal Trade Commission will now begin to regulate product endorsements not just in advertisements but also on blogs and other forms of social media. (PDF here; the regs don’t start until page 55.)

Two heavyweight bloggers and longtime free speech champions Jeff Jarvis and Dan Gillmor — bless them — have lambasted the FTC for its move into the online arena (here are Jeff‘s and Dan‘s posts, and reader comments). While I think skepticism is in order, and the specifics of the government’s involvement need to be more clearly defined, in the end I believe the FTC’s move is a healthy and welcome development for social media.

I’m coupling my thoughts on the FTC ruling with an interview (above) I did a while back with Jory Des Jardins, co-founder of BlogHer, which I’ve just gotten around to publishing today. In it, Jory describes how JCPenney approached BlogHer with the idea of having bloggers in its network of 2,500 blogs write about its new line of Linden Street furniture as part of BlogHer’s review program.

As in its past dealings with retailers, the BlogHer exec team decided on this approach: It would allow a dozen bloggers to accept $500 gift cards to purchase furniture from JCPenney, but only on the condition that the bloggers fully disclose the relationship with both Penney and BlogHer, that the bloggers be free to write reviews and produce videos telling about their experience — both positive and negative — and that the reviewers could not accept any advertising from JCPenney. Importantly, they were not paid to write product endorsements but to write reviews. BlogHer then assembled their posts into a widget, which they ran across their blog network.

JCPenney was “thrilled” with the program, and so were the bloggers. (You can judge for yourself about the quality of the reviews; this one was typical. The authenticity is what makes this valuable to marketers.) BlogHer has run several similar retailer partnerships — and in each case, Jory says, the key ingredient was disclosure.

Watch, embed or download the video on Vimeo

Lisa Stone, another co-founder of BlogHer, evoked the same themes in her keynote address to the Online News Association conference on Saturday. One reason for BlogHer’s continued growth and success, she said, was they adhere to the same standards and practices that traditional journalism institutions have built up over the decades. By 2006, BlogHer “became the schoolmarms of the Internet,” Lisa said.

Every one of the 2,500 bloggers participating in the BlogHer network must fax in a signed agreement to abide by BlogHer’s community guidelines. BlogHer blogs must not contain “editorial content that has been commissioned and paid for by a third party, (either cash or goods in barter),” the guidelines say, and so I wish the guidelines page would address how reviews fall into a different category. (For the record, I think the way BlogHer has done this is absolutely fine, though this would violate many newspapers’ policies.)

Lisa also made clear that BlogHer has no desire to impose its guidelines on the entire Internet. “We don’t believe in a universal standard for the Internet,” she said.

Fair enough. It’s not BlogHer’s job to police the Internet. Nor mine. Nor the Media Bloggers Association’s. Two years ago I chaired a committee to write the association’s Statement of Principles, which includes this:

“Clearly disclose conflicts of interest including personal relationships, financial considerations or anything else that might influence or appear to influence your independence and integrity. If you accept payments from advertisers or sponsors, clearly demarcate advertorial from editorial content.” Continue reading

March 3, 2009

How to use social media in the newsroom

newspapers-illustration

JD LasicaI‘m working with the vaunted Poynter Institute to put together an online class for senior newspaper executives on how to use social media in the newsroom.

One of our goals here at Socialmedia.biz is to cut across silos to get marketing people, journalists, businesses and strategists all talking to and learning from each other about creative uses of social media. In the end, we’ll all benefit from best practices, regardless of whether they originated in a newsroom, a startup or a blogger’s home office.

For the Knight Digital Media Center program conducted through the Poynter, I’ll likely be giving a webinar and taking part in online instruction around how journalists are already using the tools of social media. So we’d love to see some specific examples of how you’re using social media (aside from blogs), or examples of how other sites are using it in a way that could be applied to news sites.

In search of examples

Here’s what we’re curious about:

• Do you use Twitter to interact with your readers? How? Do they offer story ideas, tips, interview questions?

• Any examples of how Facebook is being used by journalists?

• What about Google Maps mashups, like you see on Everyblock (and formerly chicagocrime.org)?
Continue reading