Why some social media posts fall into a pit of oblivion while others shine brightly is in great part a question of timing. A new study from Klout finds that, unsurprisingly, posts that land sometime during the workday tend to receive the most reactions — and that beyond that, it’s a matter of geography.
The study, by Nemanja Spasojevic, Zhisheng Li, Adithya Rao, and Prantik Bhattacharyya, sampled 144 million Twitter and Facebook posts and around 1.1 billion reactions to those posts — retweets, comments, likes, and so forth. In the U.S., people on social media in New York and San Francisco tend to react more in the first half of the work day. In Paris, reactions peak in the later half of the work day; in London, near the end of the work day. The most notable exception: Tokyo, where reactions on social media peak twice in the day, both outside of working hours.
User schedules need to be personalized for maximum engagement, and using a generalized schedule based on regional averages is limited in effectiveness. Why? Because any user’s audience is typically spread across various locations. So, when you tweet from Dallas, Texas it reaches your audience that is in the same city/time zone as you, but it doesn’t arrive at the prime time for reactions for any of your followers who are in different locations around the country or globe. Thus, the likelihood of them reacting is much lower.
On weekends, Twitter activity drops significantly across the board, though Facebook is still used fairly regularly (and most consistently on Sundays), the study found. Timing, though, is everything:
We find that a majority of reactions occur within the first two hours of the original posting time on most networks. Audience behavior differs significantly on different networks though, with Twitter having larger reaction volumes in shorter time windows immediately after the post (50% of reactions within the first 30 minutes), and as compared to Facebook which reaches 50% of reactions after two hours.
The researchers have made their dataset available publicly if you want to check their work — or just want an anonymized set of a billion or so social media posts to play with over the weekend.
BuzzFeed Dot Com, The Website: The Podcast, is aimed at a narrow listenership of people who work for BuzzFeed Dot Com, The Website. Scott Lamb, BuzzFeed’s vice president of international, explains: “This is a little bit of an experiment — we’ll see how it goes. It’s really intended for our international editors and those not in the New York office to learn a little bit more about what we’re doing here.”
The pilot episode features Summer Anne Burton, head of BFF, BuzzFeed’s team focused on distributed content. Burton covers a handful of topics about life at BuzzFeed, including how the BFF team was born:
When we started doing video, we thought we would do it for the website, and then it didn’t do as well on the website as it did on YouTube. And then we had also started hiring illustrators for BuzzTeam, and their work often did really well on the site, but often individual pieces of it would break off and go viral on the Internet and almost become a meme on their own.
Communication can be a problem for any growing news organization, let alone media companies that have foreign bureaus and other satellites around the globe. (The issue of communication with remote staffers came up in the debate over Gawker’s decision to unionize.) Recently media companies have started to embrace Slack as the method to keep the team in touch.
BuzzFeed is enjoying an extended growth spurt as a media company with new outposts in Canada and Mexico. The new podcast is framed as an audio postcard out of New York.
BDCTW:TP could be an odd show for BuzzFeed. It may not make you play M/F/K with the web like Internet Explorer, or offer the unexpected and unexplainable drunken debates of Another Round (highly recommend), but it could be an interesting experiment in transparency. An experiment that likely will be interesting to a somewhat narrow audience of, well, people like Nieman Lab readers. For instance, the phrase “distributed content” comes up several times in the first episode; here’s Burton giving her definition:
I think the way it’s defined, it really is pretty broad. It really depends a lot on the platform. It’s easy to think about a video as distributed content; you make a video and you can put it on YouTube, you can put it on Facebook. So it’s distributed in all these different places.
But there are things like paragraphs from a longer story that can also be distributed on Twitter through a screenshot. So we’re just kinda trying to think of different ways to take projects we’re doing and do them in many forms.
The audience local publishers are overlooking are those who are living lives online every day and not having their needs met. He writes:
Many newspapers are still built to cover “community” as defined seemingly generations ago as rigid beat structures constrained by geography and by local government services. Advocating a change to that system is nothing new; numerous blog posts have covered the ground. Unfortunately, experimentation has come largely but not exclusively from digital news start-ups.
These days, digital-savvy readers live seamlessly between online and offline. Amazon.com is their local market and Netflix their local theater. The problem is neither Amazon or Netflix are “local” in a sense that is recognizable by local media. But, chances are about 30% of your hometown have shopped at Amazon in the past year. And Netflix has 40 million U.S. customers. There is a reason suburban malls are in trouble and Blockbuster went out of business.
As apps and online services have replaced old roles for traditional media — from Craigslist starting on classifieds to Yelp or Foursquare replacing local dining and nightlife guides — Kiesow argues that local publishers have given up on that territory entirely. Instead of providing these services, local newspapers and other media could act as a bridge, bringing together the stateless digital realms of companies like Uber or Instagram with the real world.
This is likely something local reporters recognize. Journalists make up a healthy chunk of users on Twitter, which puts them in a unique position to see how tribes of locals band together around distinct local hashtags.
Then the question for local media becomes: How do you quantify local lives online, and how do you reach those readers? Kiesow says this is connected to one of the biggest problems facing publishers right now: How do you understand your readership and their needs?
For local publishers, building an audience is increasingly about reaching the hyper-connected as well as “the readers we never see.” “The problem is the news industry has gone for years without needing to examine who its audience is or what they want. And our organizations have calcified to the point that it is difficult for us to even ask, much less answer the question,” Kiesow writes.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took a cue from Reddit’s Ask Me Anything on Thursday afternoon and opened himself up to a “Townhall Q&A” where he answered questions from Arianna Huffington, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Stephen Hawking, along with a few hundred other less famous people.
Many people asked Zuckerberg to speculate on the future of Facebook, offered up gripes (there’s no “dislike” button, certain posts don’t get enough attention, etc.), or, in Schwarzenegger’s case, asked Zuckerberg about his weight-training regimen.
What do you think Facebook’s role is in news? I’m delighted to see Instant Articles and that it includes a business model to help support good journalism. What’s next?
People discover and read a lot of news content on Facebook, so we spend a lot of time making this experience as good as possible.
One of the biggest issues today is just that reading news is slow. If you’re using our mobile app and you tap on a photo, it typically loads immediately. But if you tap on a news link, since that content isn’t stored on Facebook and you have to download it from elsewhere, it can take 10+ seconds to load. People don’t want to wait that long, so a lot of people abandon news before it has loaded or just don’t even bother tapping on things in the first place, even if they wanted to read them.
That’s easy to solve, and we’re working on it with Instant Articles. When news is as fast as everything else on Facebook, people will naturally read a lot more news. That will be good for helping people be more informed about the world, and it will be good for the news ecosystem because it will deliver more traffic.
It’s important to keep in mind that Instant Articles isn’t a change we make by ourselves. We can release the format, but it will take a while for most publishers to adopt it. So when you ask about the “next thing”, it really is getting Instant Articles fully rolled out and making it the primary news experience people have.
Facebook has played a huge role in the digital publishing industry over the past few years. Based on everything you’ve learned, how do you think the way journalists and news organizations present their stories online will evolve over the next few years? And what types of products are you focused on in this space?
I think there will be a couple of trends towards richness and speed / frequency.
On richness, we’re seeing more and more rich content online. Instead of just text and photos, we’re now seeing more and more videos. This will continue into the future and we’ll see more immersive content like VR. For now though, making sure news organizations are delivering increasingly rich content is important and it’s what people want.
On speed / frequency, traditional news is thoroughly vetted but this model has a hard time keeping us with important things happening constantly. There’s an important place for news organizations that can deliver smaller bits of news faster and more frequently in pieces. This won’t replace the longer and more researched work, and I’m not sure anyone has fully nailed this yet.
A group of Southern public media outlets is getting a second shot at a collaborative effort to cover education in the region. The Southern Education Desk received $246,000 in funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting earlier this year, Current reports. The funding goes through April 2016.
The Southern Education Desk first launched in 2011 as part of a larger CPB-backed project to fund local journalism through collaborative Local Journalism Centers, but the funding expired in 2013 and only WBHM, the public radio station in Birmingham, Al., maintained the program.
“I think they were too general around education,” he said. “They didn’t have a clear enough sense around the master narrative. I’m not saying it was a total failure, but it didn’t gel the way other [Local Journalism Centers] did.”
So what went wrong?
The desk faced several challenges, according to Tanya Ott, now vice president of radio at Georgia Public Broadcasting. Ott served as managing director of the desk for most of 2013 while working as news director at WBHM.
To start with, the desk comprised eight stations across five states, making it “if not the largest geographic spread of the LJCs…one of the largest,” Ott said. Furthermore, participants included radio and TV stations and joint licensees, which created challenges in “conceptualizing cross-platform content,” she said.
For most of the two-year cycle for the CPB grant, station reporters also had difficulty balancing station and desk responsibilities, Ott said. At times, journalists were challenged to provide locally focused education coverage while also delivering stories that other partner stations would air.
The revamped Southern Education Desk will narrow its focus on how it covers education, and it has a goal of producing 10 series on various topics before its funding expire. The first, which was published earlier this month, was on Common Core standards.
Funding, however, remains a challenge as CPB says it doesn’t plan on extending its funding beyond next April. Though the Southern Education Desk is hunting for additional revenue sources, other LJCs have had trouble remaining viable.
Innovation Trail is a collaboration between five upstate New York public media outlets covering tech and business, and editor Matthew Leonard told the Lab in 2013 that it has been able to remain active past its initial CPB funding because the participating stations have all contributed money to continue the reporting, and reporters only spend part of their time reporting on collaborative projects. Still, Leonard said, it hasn’t been easy.
“People just see the content out of their radio like it’s Morning Edition or All Things Considered, so it’s very hard to sell the LJC as a brand,” Leonard said. “You’ll likely hear people say, ‘Okay, we’re going to do a 10-part series around universal pre-K’ — around a story idea — then you can get that. But around the LJC itself: ‘Isn’t that attractive and appealing to you as an underwriter?’ Not so much.”
Circa’s backend placed every news event into a broader, branched network of stories — providing a structured vision of the larger narratives that other news organizations might not identify from day-to-day copy.
Rather than pointing out solely what’s wrong with the world — think political gridlock, war, terrorism, and catastrophic climate change — solutions journalism aims to show how people are making things better.
Circa is being put on “indefinite hiatus,” Matt Galligan, the CEO and co-founder of the mobile-first atomized news app wrote today in a post on Medium:
We have now reached a point where we’re no longer able to continue news production as-is. Our ongoing plan was to monetize Circa News through the building of a strategy we had spent a long time developing but unfortunately we were unable to close a significant investment prior to becoming resource constrained. We could have compromised and included off-the-shelf advertisements or charged a subscription for the product but we never felt like any of the simplest solutions would pair well with the high-quality experience we wished to achieve, or even bring in enough to make a difference.
Circa last published new content on June 21, raising questions about what was to become of the app, which made its name on a variety of smart ideas about mobile news presentation.
is @circa out of business or was there just no news for a whole day
Last week, Matthew Keys reported that Circa had been in talks with Daily Dot Media about potentially purchasing the company. In April, Fortune’s Dan Primack reported that the company was looking for a buyer. And last year, Ken Doctor reported that Circa was looking for $8 million in venture funding, following up on its initial $5.7 million in funding.
Though it appears that those talks were fruitless, Galligan said in his post that the company was “still working through an opportunity to keep the technology and spirit of Circa alive.” Still, Galligan said some of Circa’s employees had already found new jobs and encouraged other companies to consider hiring the rest.
It’s never been clear how large of user base Circa had — they’ve never released user numbers, but in the post Galligan called its audience “modest” — but the app has had an outsized influence on how news organizations think about their mobile experiences. And while the app is now being eulogized on Twitter, its downfall underscores how difficult it can be for a news organization to build a useful product.
Chopping up a story into bits risks draining all human voice from it. Think about how, say, The Economist and BuzzFeed would write up their takes on a given story. They’d be quite different, obviously, but they’d also be identifiably theirs. Circa stories are bland and sapped of personality — a CMS strategy confused with an editorial one. (For a back-and-forth Circa’s Anthony De Rosa and I had about this, including his defense of its “voiceless by design” approach, see this tweet and its replies.)
Beyond the Medium post, Galligan said he wouldn’t be discussing the app’s demise any further in “the interest of continued negotiations around Circa.”