Social News

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The Social Media Club gathered at the KQED studios in San Francisco to discuss “social news aggregators.” It was a panel discussion so unfortunately there was not a lot of time for interaction with the audience but with Digg, Reddit, and Topix represented on the panel, there was plenty to learn. Pictured above, the panel included:

From my notes,

Story to Comment Ratio. In response to a question from Daniela. Out of about 40k stories/day Digg figures they get about 8k comments. The story/comment ratio is an important metric for measuring the health of a community but we need to keep in mind that Digg stories are usually not much more than a line or two summary of what they’re pointing to.

Copyright. For mainstream media, copyright often extends to headlines. Topix had to negotiate the right to republish headlines. Wired re-writes them. The Digg users often re-write Wired News headlines. Evan complimented the Digg community for sometimes coming up with better headlines than their own.

Where’s the Story? – In response to a comment from Tom Foremski Evan said that professional newspaper journalists have been sitting in a happy medium between the trade journals and the public. The trade journalists are doing all the heavy lifting, staying close to their sources and sniffing out the stories because of their deep understanding of the industry. Once the trades publish a story, the mainstream journalists would pretty up a technical article, make a few calls to verify facts, and publish it for the mainstream audience.

This game is now being played on the general news organizations. Online aggregators are picking up the general news and re-purposing it for their audiences. The social tools that overlay the aggregated news feed is a “crowdsourced” version of the newsroom.

Traffic Sources: Evan mentioned that 90% of their traffic comes via the sidedoor (RSS feeds, clicks from aggregators such as Digg). Yet, even with just 10% of the traffic, it is important for them to spend time on their front door because that represents their brand.

Advertising: Chris had a great observation on the shift to online and what that means for existing business models of the large media companies. A member of the audience mentioned that large media companies are resisting the shift to online because they have a large infrastructure and revenue stream to protect. To this, Chris further added that as the management of these companies look at their net yield/user, it’s a fraction of what they would make from them via advertising on the traditional print or broadcast video channels.

As readers come online and shut off their TVs or cancel their newspaper subscriptions, it’s not like the receivers of the attention are gaining the same amount of revenue that the large media company has just lost. It’s not zero-sum, value is being lost and will be captured elsewhere. Advertising models are going to have to change, it’s not about net impressions, it’s going to be something else. We’re currently stuck in a new world with measurement tools based on the old business model. Until that gets changed and we learn to measure and value something like engagement, it will always appear as if value is being “destroyed.”

7 Replies to “Social News”

  1. Nice summary of the evening. An interesting point is about the value creation. These media sites don't make a heck of a lot of money, so how can newspapers and magazine make money with the current online business models? Newspaper web sites are growing in readership but that increase cannot support their costs of doing business. So how will we pay for professional journalism…?

  2. Thanks Tom. <br />
    <br />
    Newspaper sites are sitting on a valuable archive of reviews, stories, interviews and experiential knowledge of their staff.<br />
    <br />
    News is valuable when it first breaks and is unique. This space is well-served by the news aggregators we saw on Thursday who scoop this up and quickly and efficiently distribute it through their associated social networks.<br />
    <br />
    Once a news story is broadly distributed, it becomes a commodity and re-purposed to the point where secondary stories break their connection with the original story and no longer serve as a source of traffic to the original.<br />
    <br />
    Starting about a month later, the news becomes valuable again for archival reasons. As the news archive business can tell you, such a story can still be &quot;monetized&quot; as a source of truth. The going rate is usually $2.95 behind a pay wall.<br />
    <br />
    I would argue that these stories could be better monetized if they were outside the wall as reference points for historical perspective. I was recently looking for information about the 1997 Asian Currency Crisis and the top result was from &lt;a href=&quot;http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A.....&quot; rel=&quot;nofollow&quot;&gt;Wikipedia.&lt;/a&gt; There is a &lt;a href=&quot;http://www.nytimes.com/library.....&quot; rel=&quot;nofollow&quot;&gt;NY Times&lt;/a&gt; page dedicated to the topic but it only points to NY Times stories. There's no reason a newspaper can't broaden their coverage to include multiple sources and perspectives as &lt;a href=&quot;http://units.sla.org/division/.....&quot; rel=&quot;nofollow&quot;&gt;this one&lt;/a&gt; hosted by the Harvard Business School or the Wikipedia example above.<br />
    <br />
    Taking this same example to the local level, there is no reason restaurant and movie review stories can't pull in past perspectives from their stories. If a new restaurant features a cook from another restaurant, link to a review of that restaurant. If a movie features a particular landmark, link to a local story that ran when they closed off the street for the filming.<br />
    <br />
    Newsrooms are sitting on goldmine of material that can be re-purposed to enrich stories as they develop. If the news editors pulled in related stories not only from their own archives but also from sites out on the open web, it will not only help their brand, it will help the reputation of their editorial staff. <br />
    <br />
    An editor must do more than re-write headlines and arrange the top stories for the home page. Each major story is an opportunity to create a new home page around that story and provide their perspective and viewpoint.

  3. Nice summary of the evening. An interesting point is about the value creation. These media sites don’t make a heck of a lot of money, so how can newspapers and magazine make money with the current online business models? Newspaper web sites are growing in readership but that increase cannot support their costs of doing business. So how will we pay for professional journalism…?

  4. Thanks Tom.

    Newspaper sites are sitting on a valuable archive of reviews, stories, interviews and experiential knowledge of their staff.

    News is valuable when it first breaks and is unique. This space is well-served by the news aggregators we saw on Thursday who scoop this up and quickly and efficiently distribute it through their associated social networks.

    Once a news story is broadly distributed, it becomes a commodity and re-purposed to the point where secondary stories break their connection with the original story and no longer serve as a source of traffic to the original.

    Starting about a month later, the news becomes valuable again for archival reasons. As the news archive business can tell you, such a story can still be “monetized” as a source of truth. The going rate is usually $2.95 behind a pay wall.

    I would argue that these stories could be better monetized if they were outside the wall as reference points for historical perspective. I was recently looking for information about the 1997 Asian Currency Crisis and the top result was from Wikipedia. There is a NY Times page dedicated to the topic but it only points to NY Times stories. There’s no reason a newspaper can’t broaden their coverage to include multiple sources and perspectives as this one hosted by the Harvard Business School or the Wikipedia example above.

    Taking this same example to the local level, there is no reason restaurant and movie review stories can’t pull in past perspectives from their stories. If a new restaurant features a cook from another restaurant, link to a review of that restaurant. If a movie features a particular landmark, link to a local story that ran when they closed off the street for the filming.

    Newsrooms are sitting on goldmine of material that can be re-purposed to enrich stories as they develop. If the news editors pulled in related stories not only from their own archives but also from sites out on the open web, it will not only help their brand, it will help the reputation of their editorial staff.

    An editor must do more than re-write headlines and arrange the top stories for the home page. Each major story is an opportunity to create a new home page around that story and provide their perspective and viewpoint.

  5. I totally agree. It seems somehow backward to give away breaking news but charge for old news(!) I think both should be given away…
    As you say, newspapers have tons of material in archives and the search engines will serve it up for ever and ever. It’s a shame not to let the search engines establish your brand wherever, and all over the internet.
    Soon, many of these things will seem obvious, but for now, they are counter intuitive to many of the media establishment. But that is changing.

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