HOME
          
LATEST STORY
Ken Doctor: Why The New York Times hired Kinsey Wilson
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Jan. 29, 2009, 7:54 a.m.

Social networks: news organizations ignore them at their peril

On the heels of my post the other day on building social networks around news (in which I mentioned that more than 90 percent of newspapers still have no social networking in their business model) here’s some information from the Pew Internet and American Life Project that that makes it clear why, in largely ignoring social networking, the newspaper industry is missing the boat:

The share of adult internet users who have a profile on an online social network site has more than quadrupled in the past four years — from 8% in 2005 to 35% now, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project’s December 2008 tracking survey.

By age group, the survey found that in 2008:

  • 75% of online adults 18-24 have a profile on a social network site
  • 57% of online adults 25-34 have a profile on a social network
  • 30% of online adults 35-44 have one
  • 19% of online 45 to 54 year olds have a profile
  • 10% of online 55 to 64 year olds have a profile
  • 7% of online adults 65 and older have a profile

View those levels in the context of the four-year quadrupling  rate, it’s clear that in another few years, virtually everyone under 45, and perhaps a majority of those older, will be active on social networks.  (It’s the newspaper readership curve, upside-down.)  What will they be doing and  looking for on these networks, besides banter with friends?

Well, add this forecast to Pew’s findings: “10 Ways Social Media Will Change in 2009″ at ReadWriteWeb, including this (italics added):

Social media will no longer be about features and applications. These have become a dime a dozen. People will be looking to get tangible and relevant value out of their social experience; they’ll be looking for meaning and for order. “Social media online is no different from social media offline,” said Brent Csutoras at a recent Social Media Club event. People will be looking for ways to keep their networks going regardless of device or platform. They will connect around meaningful topics and have live and simultaneous conversations within parameters they themselves define, which will bring relevance back to their interaction with others.

In an earlier Pew finding, 46 percent of Americans sought to connect online with the “meaningful topic” of the 2008 election — something the Obama campaign organization understood masterfully.  People used to read newspapers to make that connection, but that’s ancient history.

The moral of the story is, if you’re in the news business (I’m trying hard not to call it the newspaper business anymore), you need to be where your customers are and interact with them as they prefer to interact.  I’m getting mighty tired of trudging down my driveway every morning to retrieve a flimsy newspaper that takes me 10 minutes to read.  I’m of the geezerly persuasion, but I spend more time than that on Facebook.  American publishers: build a social network, a community, around the news and you’ll reconnect with your audience. For now, it can be local; eventually, these networks will want to be interconnected.

To give them credit, a few, a very small handful of newspapers, are active in real social networking experiments.  In my several prior posts on this subject, here and back at News After Newspapers, I’ve been asking for examples, and here’s what my list looks like now:

  • The Bakersfield Californian has a social network with profiles, friend connections, blogs, commenting and more.  The whole thing needs an update, but it attracts quite a local following.
  • YourHub (Denver, associated with the Post, and elsewhere) allows profiles, posting of blogs, stories and classified, friend messaging.  It needs a bit of an overhaul, as well, I’d say.
  • SavannahNow, an online community operated by the Savannah (Ga.) Morning News: profiles, user content, groups, blogs, forums.  And a nice, up-to-date look (even if it’s a little busier than older folks might like).
  • The Wall Street Journal, behind the paywall, has The Journal Community, where subscribers can post profiles, make connections, share news items, and form groups around their interests.
  • The New York Times offers TimesPeople, which is so far in a very featureless beta mode.
  • And one reader pointed me to the history of CoolerCrew, an online community around the St. Paul Winter Carnival Medallion Hunt, which began in the 1990s on the Pioneer Press forum site but migrated to its own website when the PiPress changed their board system — an illustration of the demand, and an opportunity lost, obviously.

For any additions to the list, I’d be much obliged.

POSTED     Jan. 29, 2009, 7:54 a.m.
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
Ken Doctor: Why The New York Times hired Kinsey Wilson
The former chief content officer at NPR will be moving up I-95 to one of the most important digital positions at the Times.
Why Google is taking another shot at helping readers pay for news
Google Contributor is the latest tool the company has designed to help readers pay for what they read online. But its previous experiments in supporting paid content have had limited success.
In Canada, newspapers’ attempts to experiment with ebooks haven’t seen much success
A number of papers across the country started ebook programs in the early part of this decade, repurposing their archives or producing new work. They haven’t been the moneymakers some had hoped.
What to read next
718
tweets
Ken Doctor: The New York Times’ financials show the transition to digital accelerating
The numbers may look flat, but they contain a continuing set of ups and downs. Up next: executing on a year’s worth of launches.
540Here’s some remarkable new data on the power of chat apps like WhatsApp for sharing news stories
At least in certain contexts, WhatsApp is a truly major traffic driver — bigger even than Facebook. Should there be a WhatsApp button on your news site?
343What’s the right news experience on a phone? Stacy-Marie Ishmael and BuzzFeed are trying to figure it out
“Nobody has to read you. You have to earn that. You have to respect people’s attention.”
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
Bureau of Investigative Journalism
American Public Media
Voice Media Group
Associated Press
Conde Nast
SF Appeal
Media Consortium
Apple
Byliner
Mozilla
The Daily Beast
Franklin Center