Social: Shouting about trust

 

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On Friday, something a little special happened within the regional Press. An industry built on journalistic competition came together across the country with one aim: To shout about our most special asset: Our trusted journalism.

In an age of fake news, misinformation, disinformation and of suspicion or contempt for anything outside the personal social bubble, regional journalism could probably be accused of not doing enough to shout about why it is still a trusted source of news and information.

Over the past 10 days, titles from publishers across the country have run a campaign called ‘Fighting Fake News’ which sought to spell out the processes the regional Press has in place to ensure that the news published is as accurate as can be. Of course, there will always be mistakes – but part of the campaign was explaining what happens when mistakes do happen, and that the regional Press never sets out to mislead.

Last Friday was ‘interactive day’ for the campaign, with dozens of newsrooms using the hashtag #trustednewsday to give readers an insight into what we do. Every journalist has probably experienced the multitude of questions people ask about what we see as mundane parts of our job when we reveal what we do for a living. #trustednewsday tapped into that sense of curiosity.

Of course, there were difficult messages coming back from readers. The curse of Fake News is that whenever we get something wrong, it’s likely it’ll be billed as Fake News by someone, even if just in jest. In Q and As readers asked about clickbait, spelling errors, training, mistakes and increasing cover prices. the best way to deal with such complaints is to behave as every other customer service industry does – by tackling it head on and either promising to do better or explaining why a situation is so.

Some of the highlights from the day on social media are below – hopefully plenty of food for thought for future campaigns up and down the country. There were many more great examples too.

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Social: Why speed cameras are more interesting than politicans

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If the news agenda is to be believed this week, we’ve been talking about nothing but the general election in our day to day lives. Not for the first time, the stories getting reaction on social media from the local press perhaps challenge our sense of what readers want and expect.

But some good news (Holdthefrontpage commenters look away now!) One of the best-performing regional Press posts of the week was this one from The National – the pro-independence title based in Glasgow:

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London Attacks: Constant conversation with readers drives newsroom decisions

Why should local news outlets be reporting on events in London in real-time? That was the question posed by some on Twitter yesterday. What value does it add to live blog in Blackpool when events are happening 300 miles away?

One post given prominence by industry website Holdthefrontpage suggested local newsrooms were ‘milking a tragedy’ while another suggested ‘clicks were being put before the truth.’

The reality is far less sinister than that. Put simply, newsrooms responded to what their audiences were talking about. Just because we, as journalists, mark out our work between national news organisations and local ones doesn’t mean our readers do.

That is perhaps best evidenced by looking at some of the social media posts shared by local news organisations over the past 24 hours. They show that what some dismiss as ‘spurious local angles’ are actually of interest to local readers, while others demonstrate that local people are perfectly happy to get national news from a local news site, because they trust it as a news source.

The posts below have been selected because the were flagged up by Crowdtangle as either ‘overperforming’ (in relation to the posting page’s normal posts) or just being engaged with by a lot of people:

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The Second City Derby and the other problem with Facebook Trending

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The ‘Second City Derby’ took place yesterday – between Aston Villa and Birmingham City. Having worked with the Birmingham Mail for almost a decade, I now understand why so many fans of the two sides get so frustrated with the national media’s attitude to the city’s football clubs.

You don’t need to spend a long time with fans of Blues, Villa, West Brom (not in Birmingham I know) and other Midlands teams to know that they are as passionate as any other set of fans, so the constant referencing by radio commentators and media pundits to the ‘passion on show’ from the fans always suggests more about how much Midlands football is ignored most of the time than anything else.

It made an appearance in the Facebook Trending box on my timeline today too – or rather, a reference to Gary Gardner, who scored for Villa, appeared.

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Facebook needs to offer newsrooms a panic button for important stories

33904_cooldnn20facebook20likeShortly before the elections in the summer, I was sat outside Dublin Airport trying to get an Uber ride to the Irish Mirror. A pop-up appeared on my screen telling me it was important to make sure I’d registered to vote.

Uber – reminding me of my civic duty to vote. Doing, in some ways, what the media has always tried to do, combining a role in civic life with the need to appeal to people, and occasionally being prepared to say to readers sometimes: “Hey, this is important.”

But how do we do that in a world of distributed platforms, and where eyeballs = money in the bank?

It’s a dilemma every social media editor will have faced — the need to get something out which is clearly important versus the very real risk that if readers on Facebook don’t feel it’s important, all in the knowledge that the signals Facebook will pick up will suggest you’ve suddenly got bad at knowing what your readers want.

And then Facebook penalises your subsequent posts, reaching fewer people than expected. And so the world of playing to get back in Facebook’s algorithmic good books begins. How do you overcome that?

 

But this isn’t a post to join the chorus of people decrying Facebook as ‘journalism’s public enemy number one,’ as the Guardian’s Roy Greenslade rather sensationally announced last week. In fact, it’s wrong to say Facebook is journalism’s biggest problem. Facebook is a symptom of two problems facing journalism.

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EU referendum: What does the social media reaction tell us about coming out in favour of Remain?

Several titles I work with have, over the past week, urged readers to vote ‘remain’ in Thursday’s EU referendum.

Contrary to the popular myth being shared on some parts of social media by Brexiteers, each editor has been free to decide whether their titles should back either side, or remain neutral.

I think the titles which have taken a side – including the Newcastle Journal, Birmingham Mail, Liverpool Echo and Manchester Evening News – are proof that you can take a position on something while still providing balanced coverage.

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Journalism’s challenge isn’t Facebook. It’s much bigger than that

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The annual Reuters Institute Digital News Report contains so many interesting insights into where online journalism – and the consumption of it – is heading it can be hard to know where to start.

Most of the coverage has focused around the stat that up to half of people now get their news on social media, with a growing number using it as their main source of news.

And with that came a grim summary from one of the authors of the report, according to the FT:

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen, the Reuters Institute director of research, said: “The move towards a more distributed environment offers publishers opportunities to reach new audiences on an unprecedented scale, but as people increasingly access news via third-party platforms, it will become harder and harder for most publishers to stand out from the crowd, connect directly with users, and make money.”

It led some commentators to suggest that Facebook is effectively bankrupting the news industry – by hoovering up huge chunks of advertising (which presumably was destined for news publishers instead, a bit of a big leap to make) and not actually investing in content creation itself.

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