If you haven’t got me interested with your your first sentence, I’m out.
I’m fickle, ruthless and impatient with online content. And I’m not alone.
Journalists have always known the importance of snappy headlines and crafting a lead that makes a reader want to know more.
That’s why most stories written are in an ‘inverted pyramid’ style, with the most pressing information at the top and less information (traditionally it could be cut from a printed page) at the bottom.
With digital distractions (yes, I’m looking at you social media) all over the web, it’s important to remember that your reader is only one click from moving on. Continue reading →
But I also find it interesting that during conversations I’ve had with people (journalists, politicos, public relations/communications professionals) about social media, they think Twitter first. There’s no doubt that there are some key influencers on Twitter.
I knew the risks in 2011 when I went to work for a company owned by hedge funds. And I knew the risks in 2012 when I turned down an attractive offer from a family-owned newspaper company to stay with the company owned by hedge funds.
All this makes the j-school students I teach, the journalists of the future, nervous.
Journalism is an art that requires practice. I tell students it is a muscle, and like athletes they are training.
Yes, this means endless writing, but it also means feeding the curiosity that comes so naturally to all journalists. You wake up with questions, ask more questions throughout the day and even when you drag your sorry self to bed… still, more questions.
Learning more about where you live, and the people who make up your city is a way to start answering these questions.
At the same time, journalists are always curious about new tools to find and tell sotries.
The training in journalism never ends – reporters who have been in the business more than a decade will remember ‘training days/courses’ (I was once sent on a fabulous week-long course in D.C. called ‘Managing the 24/7 newsroom’ at the American Press Institute).
These days, however, skills are self-taught, or learned through support networks with colleagues who have figured out something new and are willing to pass along the knowledge.
When I ask journalists (and communications professionals) what they’d like to learn next, they often tell me they’d like to become more comfortable with ‘Big data.’ To them I say, roll up your sleeves and get started. It’s time to work some muscle. You have to just do it. (Getting comfortable with spreadsheets is a start.)
When examining social media data, the greatest understanding isn’t during a “Eureka!” moment, Sterne said.
Rather, more can be gained from asking “That’s funny… I wonder why that happened?”
Just as in journalism, asking the right question will help you understand the story more fully.
Quite a few times during Sterne’s talk, I found many parallels between social media analytics and things we practice naturally in journalism.
Sterne spoke of intuition, and this need for understanding as important as intelligence and knowledge when looking at data.
Creativity is essential – when examining social media metrics, we need to look from a different perspective, Sterne said. And then he delivered this gem, which all journalists can probably identify with:
The goal to presenting social media analytics is story telling, Sterne said.
“Don’t just crank out numbers in reports,” he said. Help people understand your audience, who the typical person is who you are appealing to.
“And sure, if someone comes at you looking for statistics, give them all the charts and graphs they want,” he added.
One point I took issue with was Sterne’s response to a question about real-time analytics. They’re not accurate enough, he said. You need to have a broader perspective of what’s out there – and real-time is drilled down too far.
“The problem is you look at the last data point, and not the whole picture,” Sterne said.
I disagree. When it comes to social media, you need to be on top of what is out there, whether you are dealing with crisis communications or customer service. I think you need to look at the forest and the trees.
Really, we’re friendly – and just calling with a few questions….
Any journalist who has tried to contact a federal government researcher/scientist/source can tell you how frustrating an exercise it can be. There are delays, referrals to communications and then days can pass before a response.
This is smart in many ways, but mostly because it’s using the social network to share the report, and that it offers a quick news bite for those with short attention spans. (Of course, the Beeb directs followers to its main news site for those wanting more than a snack – sadly Instagram doesn’t allow users to hotlink.)
If you think about it, most Instagram users would be on their phone, and don’t have time to sit through a 2:00 report.