Checking in to locations… media… and ideas

Check in services first came to my attention when I attended the SXSW Interactive festival in 2009. Foursquare announced a cellphone-based tool that let you “check-in” to your location and let people know where you visited. The more you visited, the more credibility you would gain inside the game. If you check in enough to one spot, you become the Mayor. If you check in enough times based on Foursquare-prescribed settings, you earn “badges.” I have collected 44 so far since I first officially checked into Foursquare in October 2009. (I didn’t join during SXSW because it didn’t allow check ins in my town… In October of that year I started to pretend Chicago was Columbia because I just wanted to play with the technology. Foursquare opened up to all locations in January 2010.)

I like checking in. I love the badges. I love being a mayor. (I fluctuate mayorships between 23 and 26 locations.) I am really busy with work in my newsroom, campus and taking my kids all over the place for activities. I rack up the points, the badges and the mayorships. I love it. I also love the simplicity of sharing my location on Twitter or Facebook if I think there’s a reason behind it (to talk about a sale, concert, activity or something else my friends or followers would like). I’ve met people through Foursquare by checking in and finding other people at that location. I’ve met up with people I know by discovering they were in the same spot as I was just by checking in. It’s all a bit self-centered, but I enjoy the fun behind it. I’m obviously competitive and this is a simple competition to play throughout the day. During SXSW 2010, I discovered the joys of Gowalla and blogged my thoughts about it after the conference. I clearly love this stuff.

But I hit a snag last summer when I had knee surgery. I was stuck in a chair with ice on my leg. I couldn’t check in. But that’s when I discovered the point behind tools liks Miso and Get Glue. You have a chance to check into the media you consume (and with Get Glue, you can also check into the wine you drink) and earn badges. I’m a big Get Glue fan and I’ve earned many “stickers.” You can show them off on Twitter and Facebook just like the location-based tools, but Get Glue also encourages you to play with the site and you can earn real stickers. (Although I’ve requested my stickers a couple of times and they’ve never shown up at my house. I do know other Get Glue users who did get their stickers.) I loved the chance to continue with my checking in obsession but with different material. I instantly envisioned opportunities for broadcast news outlets to encourage people to watch the show live by offering stickers.

But rewind a few months earlier and the Huffington Post started offering badges of honor for people who interacted with the site at a certain level. The Type-A Parent site started doing the same thing recently where members can earn “achievements.”

I’m listing all of these earning opportunities because I think I might have an idea to help engage my local audience as we head into the 2012 presidential campaign season. I’ve written before about how I have learned from failure of my Smart Decision ’08 project where I combined newsrooms to deliver an incredibly deep amount of information leading up to the 2008 election. The biggest problem was I never found a way to engage with news consumer and I could not get people who were interested in educating themselves through out site to participate and share. But what if I worked with a community of engaged citizens and used their help to encourage other people in our market to join in with the help of social awards. These would be badges of honor that would prove a person is educating himself or herself leading up to the election. Those badges could be posted on Twitter, Facebook or even their personal websites. I think it could be a really fun way to share, collect and encourage news consumers to participate in an election project. I’m just throwing this idea out there… but I want to find someone who wants to play! This could grow into a really fun project.

Baby Jessica and Chilean Miners

In 1987, I watched a live broadcast of a little baby rescued from a well in Texas. I cried and celebrated the return of this little girl to her family. I was engaged in watching the wall-to-wall coverage on CNN. It was a new cable channel that focused on the news 24 hours a day. The constant news coverage was a novelty. Little Jessica McClure’s survival and rescue was amazing to watch. (Did I mention I was in seventh grade at the time?)

Fast forward to 2010. For the last 68 days I have watched the world’s coverage of 33 miners trapped for 68 days in Chile. The men have survived in a section of a mine where there was air and the ability to receive nutrition and communication from up above. Workers have struggled to find a way to bring every man back. That process started tonight. And I am glued to the media coverage. But this time, I have watched all of it on my computer while my husband watched baseball on the TV. I watched it on a lot of different sites. I started with TweetBeat’s miner page where I was able to watch tweets from everywhere and watch a UStream of the BBC’s broadcast. I also followed the live coverage on The Huffington Post’s live blog, CNN.com’s live stream and live blog and MSNBC.com.

I haven’t watched any coverage on television… It’s completely online. I feel incredibly connected to this experience just like the day rescuers brought Baby Jessica back to land. I cried watching the little 8-year-old boy cry as his dad was the first miner to return. I laughed as the second miner cheered and yelled and ran around celebrating.

I shared that experience with my husband who is sitting next to me on the couch and with friends on Twitter and Facebook. One of my friends, Zara Arboleda, expressed it best on Facebook from her newsroom in Fresno, California: “Technology is amazing. I’m watching this Chilean mine rescue with friends around the country. And good, old fashioned technology (a capsule, a hole and a rope) has saved the first of 33 lives… what a news night!”

It’s incredible how an emotional story is an emotional story – with old school broadcast or the many new communication tools of today. It’s just even easier to be a part of the experience… especially when someone else has taken over the TV.

(UPDATE: One other thing I discovered as I surfed this miner rescue online. The country of Chile is sharing the live feeds and even a constantly updated Flickr feed of the rescue. That’s incredibly savvy.)

A true Facebook experience

I brought my newsroom into Facebook long before “fan” pages were created. I knew it would be a space to share and interact with our audience. During breaking news, bad weather and interesting stories everyone wants to talk about, it’s a great place to interact. I have seen a growing participation in our small market in the middle of Missouri.

In the past year, I was able to build interaction with our page and take the number of “fans” (now they people who clicked “like”) up from 250 to 1330. It is not very large, but a nice start. I expected younger, more digital news consumers to participate. But in the end, I’ve found people 30 and older are more likely to comment. They are also more likely to share photos and stories with our Ning network. But on slower news days, the interaction stops. Also, very sunny and nice days slow down the conversations as well. It makes sense.

But I didn’t really understand Facebook interaction and its potential until I took my mom blog about my daughter to Facebook. I invited people I knew to “like” it. Then I started adding little stories that would never make it to the blog. I shared and met and created better online relationships with people I know and don’t know. In two weeks, it has boosted the blog’s site traffic by 100 percent. Readership time increased by more than a minute per visit. I think it’s fascinating.

On our news page, when we link to our site, it boosts traffic. But I have found building a relationship with our news readers are not as easy as it has been on Twitter. Our news users visit and maybe comment but there is little community I seem to be able to build there. It may be my fault. It may be our market. Maybe I just haven’t found the right way to take full advantage of the Facebook experience. But when I work with my mom blog page, there is consistent interaction. There are people who have liked the page who have never met me or my daughter. There are people who made new connections with us and the website that would have never happened without the Facebook experience.

With these positive experiences, I’m trying to find ways to take my new knowledge of Facebook page success and move it to our newsroom’s page. I added my name to our news page’s info box to try and add transparency to the “wizard behind the screen” feeling a Facebook page can give. I try to not over post, but worry about days when we under post. I have not given many people access to our Facebook page. I don’t have a tool that helps me manage access like CoTweet which I use to manage our many, many KOMU Twitter reporters. I’d love to hear other ideas out there.

Another twist in news delivery

This past weekend was full of HUGE news:
The oil leak in the Gulf
An attempted car bombing in New York City
Flooding in Nashville
The White House Press Corps dinner

What was on television. The DC event. Nothing else really.

So how did I know about the rest of what was happening in the United States? Twitter was on it. Facebook was telling me a lot.

The average person in social media was telling the story without layers of people preventing the information from going public quickly. Could I trust the facts? Well, I trust most of my Facebook friends because we have a face-to-face relationship in some way (or family ties). I trust many of my Twitter friends. But for those Twitter people I didn’t know who had some connection to a national news story, I had a friend help confirm it.

CNN, MSNBC or Fox didn’t help inform me this weekend. Social media did.

And when I spoke to my students, the Twitter followers knew what was happening, the others had no idea Nashville was under water.

Is Twitter a must follow tool for news hungry/informed people? I think so.

What a year

In the last year, I’ve watched my use of technology change dramatically… I used to tweet, blog, facebook openly. But I watched myself become more mindful and thoughtful about how I use some of these tools. If you read any of my updates on any of these social media tools, you may think I’m still quite loud. But there are some differences.

Twitter
I used to lifecast a lot more than I do now. As my number of followers jumped and as those followers were more and more involved journalism and technology, I became more mindful towards what I wrote and started to mindcast more. I explained my thoughts on lifecasting/mindcasting earlier in 2009. I think I still believe in a combination of mind/lifecasting. But I toned down the life portions. Twitter turned into a more professional venue than when I joined in 2007.

I also took Twitter and made it a mainstay in our newsroom. Thanks to the CoTweet tool, I have multiple people helping manage the tweets from all of our daily general assignment reporters in the newsroom. Feel free to check out how I explained the use of that tool if you’re curious. (Hootsuite is another option if you are curious about other options that offer similar benefits.) My focus on newsroom Twitter use quieted me down a lot on my personal account.

Facebook
I have always used Facebook as a place to connect with people I have met face-to-face. I’m more open about the information I share about my children and I post a bunch of pictures. I tend to connect with friends and family in this space. But in the last year, Facebook became a more powerful tool on a professional level and for my newsroom. I started friending more people in the industry and I picked up my use of fan pages for my newsroom. I plan to start using some of the settings that allow me to regulate security based on groups when I have a little time to myself. (Good luck to me.) I haven’t perfected a process of using Facebook on a professional level for the newsroom at this point, but I look forward to getting better at it in 2010. The one thing I do know about Facebook is I moved a lot of my lifecasting from Twitter over to Facebook in 2009. I also started looking at how a fan page may be more useful for certain businesses over building a blog or Twitter account. Of course it all depends on the target audience or customer. But I found myself recommending the creation of Facebook fan pages for the first time in 2009.

Blogging
I run three blogs. I have this one and blogs about each of my children. My son’s blog is mainly aimed towards family members. It hasn’t picked up a lot of organic viewership. I don’t market it… but it’s a sweet space to share his life updates. My daughter was born with a physical difference and it has gained followers organically through my membership in online communities and support groups. (I help co-moderate a support group in Yahoo Groups) After my trip to SXSW in 2009, I started considering taking her blog up a notch and actually working on SEO and increasing its marketability. I’m still not sure if I will go in that direction. My trip to SXSW in 2010 will probably convince me. Of course I have this blog. I wish I could give it more love these days. The newsroom job and my efforts to put my thoughts into practice are really important. I would love to spend more time writing out my thoughts on our work. These are excellent goals as we head into the new year.

The one major change I made in my blogging practice in 2009 was to move my mom blogs to WordPress. (This blog has always used the WordPress platform.) I spent more time playing with templates and learning the potential of this CMS for other news-focused websites. I played with the Money Commons site and there is a possibility the project could come back to life this year.

Mobile
I’m an iPhone user. I’ve had one since it first came out. Lately I’ve found I use it even more. The expansion of applications help me run a mobile version of almost every tool I use on my computer. I can work entire days without opening my laptop. I am not ready to travel without my computer, but I can see that happening in the near future if it becomes possible to upload the photos I take from my SLR camera or the HD video from my point and shoot camera to my phone.

Online Portfolios
I have taught an Internet-based course for the last four years and a major focus of it has been to teach my students the skills needed to build an online portfolio and know how to keep up with it when they graduate and move on with their careers. That way they can continue to promote their work online without needing to spend extra money or rely on someone else to build a website. In the last year I really focused on showing students how to take advantage of open source CMS or free tools (with the opportunity to upgrade) like Wix and Weebly. My tools page expanded this year to include document sharing and collage making tools. Since moving away from Dreamweaver and into more user-friendly tools, I’m seeing more of my students continuing to update their online portfolios and keeping potential employers interested in their work. These days I’m also talking more about why LinkedIn is a helpful tool. I’ve also expanded my use of these tools personally. I used Weebly to build a personal family holiday website and I’m starting to just jump in and use these tools to help friends expand their career potential online because I think what I’m teaching is useful for any career – journalism or not.

Other Tools
There are more and more tools coming out to help us communicate. In the last year, I started finding ways to use Ning, Livestream, Qik, Cover It Live, Google Wave and Google Voice. My goal is to constantly try these kinds of tools, offer my newsroom opportunities to test them and put them into the workflow of our newsroom if and when it is appropriate. In the meantime, I’m also hoping to find more opportunities to use these tools in the classroom. In 2010, I hope to allow my students the chance to live blog, tweet, stream… Whatever we can think of… Just to give them the experience of playing with these kinds of tools.

Happy new year to everyone and I’d love to hear how you’ve changed your use of technology in the last year.

Talking about Twitter, social media and more

A couple of weeks ago I met Travis Smith and Jamie Stephens for a cup of coffee and a conversation. It was a lot of fun. We sat down to talk about social media and the various tools we can use to communicate to our audience – be it a news audience or a customer audience. It really doesn’t matter. What matters is being “real” in a social space.

If you’re interested in listening to the conversation, check it out here.

Making Twitter legitimate in the newsroom

I haven’t had the chance to blog a lot lately. That’s because I’ve been busy trying to renew and rethink the way KOMU8 News and KOMU.com delivers news to our audience. A big part of that has hovered around using Twitter as an effective news delivery tool for general assignment reports.

It all started back in March when I was at South by Southwest Interactive Festival. I had an opportunity to see a demo for CoTweet. It helps multiple people manage the one Twitter brand at the same time. To me, this sounded like heaven. The program not only helps multiple people tweet at the same time in an organized manner, it also sends you email alerts if your Twitter account gets any kind of mention. (In my newsroom’s case, that means I get an email anytime someone uses @KOMUnews in a tweet) I was very lucky to get access to the company’s private beta. That private beta moved into a public beta last week and that’s pushed me to make sure I wrote up my newsroom’s CoTweet process so others can follow the fun and possibly try it out themselves.

To remain extra transparent in how our newsroom uses Twitter, I collected the photos and initials of each CoTweet user and added their photos onto the side of our Twitter page.
cotweetmerge

Currently, the people who manage CoTweet with me are a mix of full time managers (our Executive Producer and Managing Editor) and part time web editors or newscast producers. I’m working on trying to blend in more of our traditional managers to look at ways to incorporate Twitter workflow into the daily news gathering and sharing process. CoTweet makes it easy to place each person’s initials public next to the Tweets they post on the @KOMUnews account. That helps Twitter followers know who is posting the information and it helps our brand become less vague. I got the Twitter image idea from the CoTweet folks. Their Twitter background looks very similar. (I just have many more people who are helping manage KOMU’s account)

We have many reporters in our newsroom, and I’ve decided to keep their online tweets separate from the @KOMUnews Twitter brand. I’ve asked each of the reporters to create their own professional Twitter accounts. (Professional means they use their real names and post legitimate information about their life and work in their Twitter profiles) As the reporters gather information from the field, I ask them to send tweets about their story with @KOMUnews or #komu included in the 140 character reports. CoTweet picks those up and my crew and I can decide if the information is good enough to share (or in Twitter lingo, we “retweet” reporter posts) on KOMU’s Twitter feed. We’ve recently published an internal handbook on how reporters should post tweets and how managers and keep up with CoTweet to share the best information on the KOMU brand.

Anyone who is “On Duty” will get email alerts to the @KOMUnews tweets. Anyone who is a member of KOMU’s CoTweet will be able to follow KOMU’s followers without knowing KOMU’s Twitter password, so that keeps only a small number of people privy to changing the look and settings of KOMU’s account, while many others can keep an eye on its content updates. CoTweet also makes it easy to email Twitter questions or thoughts to other members of our newsroom. If a viewer asks @KOMUnews a question, I can quickly email the question to a reporter or anchor to get their input. If that reporter or anchor is on Twitter, I ask them to reply on Twitter or using Twitter’s direct message function. It helps so many more people participate and actively keep KOMU’s Twitter account an active element in our newsroom.

cotweetmonitor

The process isn’t perfect, but it’s helped us cover breaking news effectively. It has also helped our reporters share information about their reports throughout the day instead of just focusing their efforts towards our traditional 5, 6 and 10pm newscasts. After testing this process for the last month and a half, KOMU.com has launched a new look and it includes easy access to our Twitter feed. It doesn’t look pretty, but it is effective to give our most recent updates. It’s faster than posting information into our content manager. It’s faster than getting an anchor in front of the news desk to report on the air. It’s also helping open our minds to a new 24/7 process of news gathering and sharing. As I told a news director friend of mine last week: I’m not helping build reporters who report for newscasts, I’m helping build reporters who can report the news – whenever and however they need to report it.

One other thought about CoTweet: The company responds to your thoughts and questions. Any time I needed something or shared ideas on CoTweet’s site, I’ve gotten rapid replies and assistance. I think that’s pretty fantastic.

Please let me know your thoughts and if you need anything better explained about our newsroom CoTweet workflow. I’m happy to tweak this post to help make sure other newsrooms understand what I’ve been up to!

Mindcasting versus Lifecasting

I love to follow trends and as I dig deeper into the many ways to use social media in the news business, the more interesting it is to watch trends in this quickly changing world. The big talk I’m seeing right now is the difference between mindcasting and lifecasting.

Mindcasting is when you broadcast what’s on your mind. This blog post is a mindcast. I’m typing out my thoughts on these two different styles of social communication. A lot of journalism professionals who are looking at the future of the industry tend to mindcast. They share links and tips and ideas about what is happing to the profession of journalism. Lifecasting is broadcasting what you’re doing in your life. If you are at the gas station, you mention how you’re filling up the tank. If you’re in the waiting room of the doctor’s office, you might mention how you’re not looking forward to stepping onto the scale when the nurse calls you into the examination room. A person who lifecasts talks about the day to day activities in their life. Usually you’ll see these two styles in many different forms on Twitter.

That made me think about how I tweet. I thought about it a lot especially after I got blasted by a person who has been in the broadcast profession for a very long time. He complained about how I tweet. He complained about how I tweet about going to the grocery store (which I actually do on a very rare occasion). I told him he could stop following me and not need to worry about my tweets. But he just kept complaining. What I couldn’t get him to understand was the fact that what I write on Twitter is something he can choose to read or not read. That’s the great thing about the microblog experience. You can choose to read and you can choose to not read. It’s much easier than deciding to unfriend a person on Facebook. A Twitter stream is just a Twitter stream. You don’t loose any other connection with that person. If you follow them on Facebook, you also lose all of that person’s contact information. If you unfollow on Twitter, you just don’t “listen” to that person’s little comments – mundane or non-mundane.

The interaction with this person made me realize that I use Twitter with a combination of mindcasting and lifecasting. I have a bunch of followers who seem to be okay with that style… And I had to think about what is appropriate for a journalist. If I was working in a more traditional newsroom, would I tweet differently? I doubt it. I think the items I tweet about show the many facets of my life: journalism, newsroom management, higher education, technology, parenting, parenting a child with physical challenges, owning a dog, running and exercise, marriage, and you know – sometimes it’s about grocery shopping. It makes me real. It shows the reality of being a journalist who is more than just a journalist. We’re all like that… Or at least, we all try to expand our life beyond work.

I’d be curious to hear what you think – in a mindcasting or lifecasting way.

So many things to talk about

As I get closer to the end of this year’s RTNDA conference (soon to become RTDNA – Radio Television Digital News Association), I am leaving with a lot of topics that I would like to think about more.

First, I was confronted by a long time journalist who basically yelled at me for my Twitter presence. I was told that he had no interest in when I go to the grocery store and that I should get out of his face with all of my updates.

I told him that he can stop following me and he’ll never know another special moment in my life. But that didn’t seem to calm him. I got him pretty bothered and it made me wonder if more of the older journalism leaders have this kind of attitude even though I’ve offered to explain how this tool actually works or attempts to work with journalists. So I shook it off and moved on. There is a super simple solution if he wanted: Just don’t follow me and he’ll never worry about a single thing.

Another issue: Tools. I love to talk about the tools I use to get great work done to connect with my community or to enhance the tools I’m already using (like Facebook and Twitter). I need to write a full post with video and explainers on the most popular tools out there.

Also, it would be great to get a better idea what news directors and other hiring managers want from job hunting journalists. Do they want to see a DVD of work? Will a website suffice? (Probably not since there are still newsrooms where the internet connection isn’t fast enough) I’d like to interview more managers out there and get a better idea of what’s really going on.

Another random thought – RTNDA is the first conference I’ve attended this entire year where I felt like I was working with people who have a common goal: Help our industry. There are people who actually feel the way I do without feeling that need for constant self-promoting. There are people who want to help the broadcast industry continue to grow, learn and succeed. I’m relieved. I was starting to think I was the only naive person out there who just cared a lot and wanted to help find solutions and change for our industry!

Social Media for Broadcast Journos

I attended a session with Chip Mahaney (@ChipMahaney on Twitter) during the second day of sessions at the RTNDA conference.

He focused a lot on Facebook and Twitter. It was great to hear what he had to say and really reminded me how important it is to focus on the social networking tools that people already use. (I say that often – it’s so great to hear someone else have similar thoughts) You can target people who are in your newsroom who already know how to use these tools and have them help you administer the products. They’ll teach you stuff you probably didn’t know.

Facebook is savvy with its product pages. Not only does it give you the opportunity to promote your newsroom’s brand, you can get creative, promote and track the activity on your page. This is something I haven’t taken the time to do yet but recently got the support of my station to move forward and really work on building a great identity on Facebook. What’s even better, Facebook has written up how to do it. It’s very smart.

Worried about snarky comments? Facebook requires less maintenance on the snarky level because people have to use their names and maintain their true personality on that site. It’s a great point. You will see fewer snark because you can’t slam a newsroom anonymously. Your reputation is important on Facebook… so you probably won’t muck it up just to leave negative comments on a newsroom Facebook page.

A big discussion came up over employees using Facebook at work. Everyone should have access to social media. Former news director and current MultiMedia Concept Group’s multimedia executive Joe Coscia said it really well: “This is the voice and pulse of what our market is saying.” He wants to hire younger people who have the smarts and know the technology. That’s what rubs off onto the rest of the organization. His big question (which is everyone’s question) is how is this going to help the core business. This isn’t driving the same margins. Maheney mentioned newsrooms should develop a written guideline for your staff on how they should manage their time. “I don’t mind Facebook use – but I want to know they’re on there promoting the company on company time.”

The next portion of the discussion to use your Twitter accounts to engage your audience. Some sites have a cache — there’s a delay in posting!! (Could be 3, 5, 10 minutes late!) Your logo, information can pop up right away using Twitter.

Chip showed how Tweetdeck works, how to search topics, follow trends and understand some of the basics of hashtags. Twitter isn’t a big deal because it is a website – what is great is the power of the site. Every post is open and viewable by anyone else. It’s powerful as the messages travel everywhere and anywhere. You can track trends with Twitscoop and other tools… Twitter gives you all of its content and it gives anyone a chance to harness that information. All of that content is free. These tools help organize the millions of tweets a day.

Assignment editor could create searches to keep track of information in your area. It’s portable. It’s quick. It’s informative. So dang simple.

Chip is going to offer advice on tech tools later on today at RTNDA… So he wrapped up with some general tools and advice.

How To Win Friends and Influence People,” by Dale Carnegie. Chip used this book as a great example on how to use social networking. So he tweaked the advice into today’s terms.

1. Realize the social networking world does not revolve around you or your station. It’s everyone’s home! You don’t have a tower. You’re not
2. Listen before you speak. See how people talk to each other. Figure out the terminologies. Ask questions. People love to help. But listen first.
3. Make your friends feel special. (@reply by a person’s name) A big personality who replies or comments and call someone out by name, it’s special to them.
4. Ask lots of questions.
5. Proactively manage the conversation
6. Bring something to the table that the online community values.

You as a leader in a newsroom can implement these tools:
1. Be online. You don’t have to be the biggest consumer, but you need to be out there with a genuine interest. You need to show that it’s important and you care.
2. Learn to keep score. This is for any kind of online work. Check the metrics on your online properties. Hold yourself accountable for raising traffic month to month.
3. Start small. Move fast. Start with one thing – one tool to connect with your audience. Maintain it and keep it moving. Do something new again next month. One month, get onto Twitter. Next month, get onto Facebook. Do seminars to teach the culture. Take advantage of the social networking experts in your town. (Chip’s town has meet ups where
4. Exploit your expertise. If it’s weather, communicate really well about weather. If it’s investigative reporting, do it.
5. Learn a new skill every month. If you can do it, your staff can do it.
6. Experiment. It’s OKAY to fail, as long as you “fail fast” and learn. Don’t let it linger out there. See what works and move on. Set a time limit and decide if you will move on or keep it going.
7. You can’t stand still. Learn. Go to Mashable and learn.
8. You can’t try everything at once
9. Hire people who know more than you.

Your staff needs to know how you stand on social networks. Be open and honest.