Even though the public’s engagement with social networks is growing strongly, news enterprises have been slow to wade into the social networking waters.
Publishers, and especially editors, still tend to see themselves as curators of content: selecting, generating, massaging and presenting material for the audience they perceive, but not really networking with that audience except in rudimentary ways like comment forums that are not enormously evolved from the old channel of writing a letter to the editor.
A Bivings Group report published in December, “The Use of the Internet by America’s Largest Newspapers” (which I’ve discussed previously) found that while the adoption of individual social media tools (social bookmarking, blogs, RSS, etc.) was pretty strong at the papers in 2008, only 10 percent, or 10 newspapers, had incorporated some form of social networking on their sites. (And I can’t find more than two or three of those — any hints appreciated.)
In any case, those ten newspapers, wherever they are, are still in an experimental stage, and robust social networking built around news is still something to be invented, although various pieces of it are out there. Is it feasible, or necessary? Absolutely — the rest of the web is rapidly moving to, or beyond, the “2.0” point of socially-networked interactivity; news media are behind the curve. Among other things, by building a social network around, news media can stimulate conversations about news, certainly something that will help news media survive and grow.
One social network connecting many news sites, readers and advertisers would be better than a multiplicity of networks at individual news sites. What should it look like? That’s the problem — we’re still working on it, and not with all deliberate speed or urgency. Here are some links that touch on some aspects of what’s coming. I invite readers to contribute more:
Social networks built around news can’t happen without journalists who are adept at social networking, themselves. Among bloggers, Gina Chen of Save The Media has done a particularly useful series to help journalists get started. If you’re a journalist and haven’t read these, get over there:
Social networks built around news should enable sharing of news content. Although there are various ways to do this, it has a ways to go:
As a step beyond sharing, social networks built around news should enable collaboration in news-related content creation:
“Networked journalism” means opening up the production process from start to finish – and beyond. It already has the tools: email, mobile-phones, digital cameras, online editing, web-cams, texting, and remote controls. This is channelled through new communication processes like crowd-sourcing, Twitter, YouTube, and wikis as well as blogs and Internet Protocol Television (IPTV).
Networked journalism is a process not a product. The journalist still reports, edits, packages the news. But the process is continually shared. The networked journalist changes from being a gatekeeper who delivers to a facilitator who connects.
Social networks “will be like air,” says Charlene Li — and to enable that to be true, we’ll need universal sign-in and network portability. With universal sign-in, I would be able to import some, or all, of my Facebook and Twitter contacts into my TimesPeople list, to contribute to the WhoRunsGov wiki, and to navigate LinkedIn, all with one sign-in. More about this:
A fully operational social network built around news will need to connect news content creators (journalists), news consumers and advertisers in a meaningful and sustainable way.
See also: Dan Kennedy’s slides, “Social Networking and the News.”
There’s much more to a full-fledged social network built around news, of course. Among the possible features:
Keep me posted on what’s out there that seems to fit with the emergence of social networks built around news.