Category Archives: Social media

What instagram tells me about newspapers

Dear reader, I have an admission to make.

I got caught up in all this talk of the end of days.

I know, it was foolish but like many others, I gathered all my belongings, closed up shop and headed for higher ground.

I ran from the instagramocalypse.

The news that Instagram was going to take all of my pictures, photoshop Kim Kardashian and Justin Beiber in to them (drinking Bud) then sell that on Facebook was just too much to take.  So I downloaded my pics and went to Flickr until someone explained the point of Kim Kardashian to me.

Silly me, some would say. All you have done is run from the frying pan in to the fire. ‘Fool, we told you this would happen’ said the smuggers who never went on Facebook in the first place because it is evil. (and wander round comment threads like the bloke with the ‘end of the world is nigh’ sandwich board around their virtual necks).

The truth of it is that I was an avid user of Instagram. I don’t know why, it just tickled my fancy; I’d grown quite attached to it. What made me move was not the idea that they were going to sell my pictures but that it wasn’t clear what they were going to do (and the tech commentators made it no clearer).  A communication problem then. One that’s still food for thought as Tim Worstall over at Forbes said

Is it really true that a business valued at $1 billion just recently cannot in fact find someone able to draft a clear explanation of their terms and conditions? I have to admit that if the answer to that is “Yes”, well, it doesn’t make me any happier about Instagram to be honest.

It’s funny isn’t it. When one person starts something that’s a lot of brain for a small thing – makes them look like a genius. When it turns in to a huge corporation that is still run by one person, that brain begins to look pretty small. Like putting Einsteins brain in a whale. Big stuff often acts really dumb! But I digress.

Social quid pro quo

We all know that in the social media world there is a quid-pro-quo. You give me the service and I give you my content. As long as we are both open and honest about what we get from it then I’m happy. I get what I want and, well, good luck making anything from the drivel I produce.

When you don’t like what I do you can ban me from the service. When I don’t like the way you work then I can withdraw my labour. And that’s what I did.

Some people cited the heavy hand of the evil Facebook empire behind the changes (Some easy tech-commentator maths here -  (Flop share float / platforms to monetize)*Facebook = evil corporate sell outs) But trust or respect for Facebook was not the issue for me here. My main worry for Facebook’s involvement is always that they would just render the whole thing unusable with their shitty user interfaces and api’s. If I sense anything it’s a huge corporation that doesn’t really know what it’s doing (see Forbes quote above).

So, I’m not the naive idiot that some commentators would paint those of us who left Instagram. When I talk about ‘open and honest’, that has some pretty strict limits. I just played the game and made the point.

And that’s what got me thinking about newspapers.

Print’s instagram moment

When was the Instagram moment for the newspaper industry? At what point did they cock-up communicating what they did so badly that people just upped and left? When did they change the T&C’s of what they did?

Was it the threat of a newspaperpocalypse? Whilst the high priests of journalism where sacrificing another celebrity, could we all see the countdown of the ABCe’s getting close to zero and the end of times (democracy)?

And look at the way they have dealt with it. Whilst Instagram (and others before themtook to their blog to explain their thinking, the press got the Leveson Enquiry. The (probably equally expensive) equivalent of eavesdropping on the Instagram/Facebook lawyers meeting where they cooked-up their ill-conceived changes.

You’ve got to think differently in this day and age. Where is my ‘we are listening’ article from the owners and editors of newspapers? Where is the quid-pro-quo?

Maybe we need to draft some new T&C’s for the newspaper industry.

You need me to put effort in to finding you online, to helping you with community/social material. I’ll do that. Every so often you do some proper democracy protecting stuff that’s useful for me so I’ll maybe even keep buying your product once in a while. But like Instagram it’s got to work for me. Work for me enough that I’ll even come back when you make stupid mistakes. And like Instagram it’s got to come with a little openness and honesty.

I’m not being naive here by using a word like honesty when it comes to newspapers.  I know the corporate strings get pulled, the few bad apples etc. etc. Like Facebook, I’m less worried about evil empires (Murdoch etc.) than I am the apparent ease with which newspapers seem to cock-up every possible opportunity with corporate cack-handedness and closed-shop mentality.

So, dear reader, I’ll be going back to Instagram in the New year. Confident that my pictures could just as easily end up being sold without my knowledge, still with no idea what the point of Kim Kardashian is but confident that’s what they intended all along.  I want to say the same thing about newspapers.

Happy new year.

 

Ivory tower dispatch: Social networks are personal

Get off my land

Over the last semester I’ve been spending a lot of time talking about the use of social networks; how and why they might be useful/important/problematic to journalists. But over the months I’ve been hearing an increasingly common complaint from students. The gist of the complaints is something like this:

Stop telling us to use social networks. What we do with social networks is up to us.

The implication is that social networks are personal and not up for grabs as part of the syllabus. Us telling them what to do with their social network would be like us telling them who they could be friends with or what to where. Butt out of our personal lives!

I had to think a little about whether I actually was telling people to use social networks and, reflecting on it, I have to say that yes I was. A bit.

I was telling people that they should sign-up and explore things like Facebook and Twitter because I felt that they were important things to experience and understand as journalists and not just as users. But what I’ve never done is say that people must use their own social networks for that.

In fact I’ve made a lot this year of how you might separate the two things; How important it is that when you do use social networks as a journalist, you do think about how much of you (as your personal social networks represent you at least) you want to see. That might mean, for example, creating a new Gmail account and using that to build new accounts that are ‘work’ related.

The response to that is often, I don’t want another account to manage. Which I find quite an odd thing as it kind of suggest that because you use Facebook to manage your social life you’ll never be able to use it as a journalist  What a missed opportunity!

Person or professional? 

For me, understanding the line between personal and professional is really important when it comes to social media and journalism. There have been numerous examples of people falling foul of social media searching at job interview. And things don’t get easier once you have the job. Stories of journalists coming in to conflict with their masters over social media use are increasingly common. But, thinking about it, maybe there is a case for intruding a little on students personal social media habits.

It’s not just the old standard of employment if you saw you on Facebook, would you give you a job? I sense an increase in the numbers of people finding the content of their personal accounts putting them in a legal (and often moral) line of fire. So in this post-Leveson world where, journalists are having to aspire to higher moral and ethical standards than the audience, isn’t it fair to say that the personal is also up for scrutiny?

OK, in reality, that’s a line I wouldn’t cross. I’m not going to demand to see (and grade) students social media output to assess professionalism. What students do in the privacy of their own social media world is up to them – at least I hope they have thought about the distinction between private and public!  But the idea that this means I can’t talk to them about and yes, maybe make them, temporarily at least, sign-up for Twitter or Facebook is not something I can buy in to. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the developing norm is that social media isn’t where journalism should be. Maybe we should all just be people. Maybe social media is now ‘another country’ where different rules apply.

What do you think? Am I getting old? Just not getting it?

Picture: Nic Walker on Flickr

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Social media for journalists is like The Generation game

This week (as a earlier post suggests) I’ve been kicking off teaching with a look at social media and how journos can use it to create a presence. That presence isn’t just about promotion, it’s about connection. It’s about putting your virtual self in front of the audience and the stream of content they produce.

That got me thinking about The generation game.

For those who don’t know it, The Generation game was a UK game show that started in 1971 and ran, on and off, till 2002. It’s big finish was the conveyor belt game. The contestant would be sat in front of a conveyor belt loaded with consumer goods (and a cuddly toy) which they would have to remember. Then they would have a minute to try to recall all the items. Whatever they remembered they kept.

The whole thing struck me as an interesting analogy of the process of managing information for journalists and how it has changed.

In journalism terms the old solution to the game would be to take notes (in shorthand) of what went past. The digital solution would be to subscribe to the RSS feed of the conveyor belt and filter it later on. Job done. Walk away with the booty.

But now the whole thing is more like the end of the game.

When the contestant sits down they get a bit of time to consider the content but then the audience begins to shout. And shout. And shout. It’s noisy. Often helpful but more often than not the helpful stuff is drowned out by repetition and distraction.

The conveyor of news

The proliferation of places where you might find yourself in front of a virtual audience is a bit of a blessing and a curse. Social networks make it easy to build profiles – it’s easy to get yourself to these virtual places –  but managing the sheer amount of information/interaction that they demand is more challenging.

Information overload is nothing new to journalists on the web, which is why I used to spend  a bit of time looking at things like RSS as a means of controlling information. But RSS has, for many, been replaced by the stream  - the realtime flow of information from the connections we make on social networks.

RSS answered the challenge of how we manage information. That’s still the challenge, but now it starts with how we manage the interaction with people who find it for us. Filtering the filterers (maybe).

There is so much value in there, but the prize is for those who can handle the thousands shouting “cuddly toy!” to get to the detail.

 

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