Social journalism 2.0

When I was finishing up J-school, we discussed journalists on Twitter, what to say, how much to reveal and can a reporter maintain credibility if his or her opinions are public on social media.

Digital capabilities offer new opportunities for journalism, and with those opportunities come a lot of questions to be answered concerning best practices. The procedure is guess-and-check for some, or watch the competition for others.

Some trends:

  • Entrepreneurial journalism
  • Mobile journalism
  • Citizen reporting

Revenue is an issue. Widely, digital ads to not measure up to print, and profits are down, meaning reporters and staff get laid off. News media needs more content, meanwhile, it has less people to produce content. Hence, citizen journalism. Patch.com uses freelancers who are not required to be career journalists. Tips have always been accepted by the media – now, photos and videos on Flickr, YouTube and Twitter are commonly used in digital publishing. Citizen reporting helps to mend a hole in the system.

Many smartphone users look at their phone before they get out of bed. This is a blog, otherwise I would look up the latest statistic on that, but based on anecdotal evidence: I check my email and Twitter in bed. The newsiest news should migrate here immediately. But what news displays best on a phone? Slideshows, conversations? News anchors don’t sit there and read a newspaper story aloud, and mobile news really shouldn’t be copied off the Web, either.

Entrepreneurial journalism threatens to marry the rivals across the newsroom – ad sales and editorial. What happens when the person in charge of the content also has a say in marketing decisions, and vice versa? Best practices and ethics must be defined in this new space.

Lastly, distribution. A regional magazine veteran with whom I used to work began his career in the distribution department, and eventually moved towards the money in sales, and is now the publisher of a media group. He explained that he always saw journalism as standing on three legs: editorial, sales and distribution.

As much as we blame ad sales for the media industry’s woes, I think the leg we are lacking is distribution. As much as we try to alter editorial in order to fix our problems (front page hosting celebrity news instead of “serious” news coverage), the problem, perhaps, is in distribution.

What is distribution? It is fulfilling the need of advertisers to have an audience, the right audience. Yes, we can target editorial, and companies like Sugar Inc do that well. But it is distribution’s job to generate the number of readers that will be attractive to advertisers. Part sales and marketing, part logistics. Logistics used to mean delivery trucks, now it means social media.