HOME
          
LATEST STORY
Newsonomics: BuzzFeed and The New York Times play Facebook’s ubiquity game
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
April 3, 2009, 3:20 p.m.

Des Moines Register created Twitter hashtag for gay marriage ruling

One of the most popular hashtags on Twitter today is #iagaymarriage, which people are using to comment on this morning’s Iowa Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage. That’s fairly standard for big, breaking news, but this isn’t: The hashtag was created by Iowa’s largest newspaper, The Des Moines Register.

In anticipation of the ruling, the Register’s social media editor, Cavan Reagan Reichmann, sent out a message yesterday afternoon from the newspaper’s Twitter account, which has more than 2,200 followers:

Speaking over the phone from a busy Register newsroom this morning, digital editor Chris Snider told me, “We thought that we probably had enough clout that we could just create our own hashtag and hope it spreads.” It did. After the decision came down this morning, even competitors like The Gazette in Cedar Rapids were tagging their tweets with #iagaymarriage.

The hashtag’s proliferation has allowed the Register to collect reactions to the ruling on a dedicated page of the site, as well as in the sidebar of its news stories. Snider said that if the hashtag hadn’t caught on, their “backup plan” was a Twitter search for terms like “Iowa” and “gay marriage,” which could have produced a similar result.

The Register’s creation of #iagaymarriage is notable because while Twitter is all the rage among news organizations, most still treat the platform as something to be observed — as in, here’s what people are saying about this topic on Twitter. The Register, on the other hand, could rightfully boast: Here’s the conversation we helped organize on Twitter. It’s the man-on-the-street quote taken to a massive scale.

When devastating floods hit the Northwest earlier this year, Elaine Helm, new media editor at The Herald in Everett, Washington, helped establish the #waflood hashtag that spread like, say, the California wildfires hashtag (#ocfire) last year. In both cases, news organizations used the tags to gather news and reactions.

This is the first time that the Register has collected tweets about a breaking news story. Last week the newspaper launched a great landing page to follow its reporters — and some readers — on Twitter.

Snider, who has previously worked at The St. Louis Post-Dispatch and Baltimore Sun, has a great checklist that he follows for big news stories like this morning’s ruling on gay marriage. (It’s literally a checklist that you can download as a PDF.) Here are Snider’s recommendations for promoting a breaking news story:

— Post to Twitter
— Send breaking news text alert
— Send breaking news e-mail alert
— Post to Facebook
— Send update to Facebook fans
— Send a message to MySpace friends
— Create a widget so others can add news to their site
— Send to Drudge
— Post to Reddit
— Post to Digg
— Send to Fark
— Post to del.icio.us
— Post to Newsvine

Speaking of the Drudge Report, when I spoke to Snider, shortly after 10 a.m. in Des Moines, the Register’s traffic was elevated but “not crazy,” he said. They had about 215,000 pageviews at that point, compared to 160,000 by mid-morning on a typical day. But while we were on the phone, Drudge linked to the Register’s news story about the ruling at the top of his highly trafficked site. Snider said, “Well, now this thing is about to go through the roof.”

UPDATE, 3:39 p.m.: Snider tells me that the Register has seen 180,000 unique visitors already today. (That’s different than the pageviews metric cited above.) “We consider 80-100,000 uniques to be a pretty good day,” he writes in an email.

POSTED     April 3, 2009, 3:20 p.m.
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
Newsonomics: BuzzFeed and The New York Times play Facebook’s ubiquity game
The ubiquity game has different rules for digital startups than for legacy businesses. But for both, figuring out the right relationship with Facebook is key to their audience strategies.
Jeff Israely: Good content marketing benefits from a smart publisher’s touch
Our startup correspondent, building Worldcrunch in Paris, on the thinking behind its operation’s pivot: “The smart brands know they’ll lose your attention if they use this new publishing power simply to push their merchandise.”
How a hobby foreign affairs blog became a paywalled news destination — and a business
World Politics Review has grown from one man’s side project to a small news operation supported by a niche paywall.
What to read next
2481
tweets
Millennials say keeping up with the news is important to them — but good luck getting them to pay for it
The new report from the Media Insight Project looks at millennials’ habits and attitudes toward news consumption: “I really wouldn’t pay for any type of news because as a citizen it’s my right to know the news.”
926The next stage in the battle for our attention: Our wrists
News companies have moved from print dollars to digital dimes to mobile pennies. Now, with the highly anticipated launch of the Apple Watch, the screens are getting even smaller. How are smart publishers thinking about the right way to serve users and maintain their attention on smartwatches?
729A wave of distributed content is coming — will publishers sink or swim?
Instead of just publishing to their own websites, news organizations are being asked to publish directly to platforms they don’t control. Is the hunt for readers enough to justify losing some independence?
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 ➚
Alaska Dispatch
The Blaze
The Washington Post
California Watch
Ars Technica
The New York Times
Mashable
Newsweek
Upworthy
National Review
Chi-Town Daily News
Salon