Mainstream media embrace social media

While there are still journalists out there who ‘don’t get’ social media or try to ignore them as much as possible, it seems that mainstream media are more and more embracing blogs, video sharing, social networks and microblogging. The coverage of the US elections demonstrates this: have a look at ReadWriteWeb and Nieman Journalism Lab and find out about CBS working with YouTube or The Washington Post buying a ‘promoted trend’ on Twitter. Storify, even though it’s such a new tool, is being used by a whole bunch of mainstream media to curate social media feeds on election day.

This involvement of mainstream media also puts certain things into perspective, like the often repeated notion that ‘(long form) blogs are sooo 2005′. I guess it’s true people switch to other platforms and styles such as Twitter and Plurk, Tumblr and Posterous, but the ‘classical’ blogs are still very relevant. In financial journalism it seems that the growing importance of Twitter is stimulating rather than holding back a rich ecosystem of blogs.

Even though I’m totally convinced of the importance of blogs, I have to admit I was surprised, finding this advertisement for the Europe blog of The Wall Street Journal, not far from Antwerp, Belgium:

Advertisement for the Europe blog of the WSJ

This particular billboard does not look very glamorous, but anyway: here we have it, a mainstream media company, promoting blogs by very classical means and this even in small towns and villages.

It all takes time, maybe too much time. Does this recognition of social media mean that mainstream media are fundamentally changing into more social (transparent, collaborative) organizations? I guess it depends, fundamental change is not an inevitable consequence of  launching blogs – but more about that in a later post.

Making sense of our streams, in real time

How do we make sense of the streams of information on social networks? It’s easy to get overwhelmed and difficult to tell a good story about what happens on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc. I’m a strong believer in virtual worlds as islands in those streams, where we can gather, and make time for thoughtful discussions. But even then we could make good use of tools to tell stories about what happens ‘out there’.

Josh Stearns on Groundswell has a great post about The New Curators: Weaving Stories from the Social Web.

Josh discusses Slices of Boulder, which seeks to aggregate and curate local information streams. The project is a collaboration between the Digital Media Test Kitchen at the University of Boulder and Eqentia.

Another tool, or rather a platform, is Swift River, built by the folks behind Ushahidi. It was designed with crisis situations in mind. The developers describe it as a “platform that helps people make sense of a lot of information in a short amount of time.” On their blog they try to clarify the concept as being an open source Yahoo Pipes for any SMS, Twitter, Email, and JSON/ATOM/XML/RSS feed, soon video and audio as well.

Storify finally is as Josh explains “based on two panes: 1) Navigating various content feeds (i.e. a Twitter search, a Facebook stream, as well as content from YouTube, Flickr and more) and 2) A blank stream where you can drag and drop elements from those streams to build your story.” It is simple, but compelling.

Storify demo from Burt Herman on Vimeo.

To be honest, Storify is the only tool mentioned here I actually experimented with (I’ll try the others out as well). Have a look at my post about Second Life in a browser and two stories on my financial blog (the blogposts are in Dutch, the tweets in English): one post about the US GDP report of last Friday and another one about Nouriel Roubini being pessimistic about the growth prospects (a social media discussion in which he does not hesitate to call a participant “an idiot”).

Storify (find an invite code at TechCrunch) actually helps you to discover stories.  It makes it easy to combine social media streams, and by doing that you stumble upon unexpected stuff (such as the angry outbursts of Roubini) and you can make that discovery process visible.

On Zombie Journalism Mandy Jenkins explains ten ways journalists (and bloggers of course) can use Storify: gathering reactions on breaking news, combining past content with newer information and social streams, showing your own quests on Twitter, Facebook etc, or organizing your own live tweets from a conference.

Robin Good is following up the fast expanding universe of real time curation tools on his blog. He also prepared a mindmap about all this:

Yes, we all have time to blog

People often complain they don’t have  time to blog. This week I’ll have two seminar opportunities to try to convince people that even very busy people can blog – provided they are ready to change some daily work and life routines.

Journalists and students amaze me when they appear at meetings and jolt down notes on paper. There are so many tools for digital note taking these days – and for online and public note taking. There are still so many people keeping their bookmarks on their own browsers, instead of using social bookmarks, not to mention the limited use of tools such as Google Reader.

In March I posted on PBS MediaShift about the tools helping to “live-stream your newsroom”, but in fact one could use those same tools for a personal learning environment — and blogging is part of that environment. I now tried to use Prezi as a concept map and presentation tool in order to express these ideas. In contrast to the more linear slideshow I made about the subject, the Prezi-version shows better the cycle of the social media.

It starts from digital notes and concept map wikis, to evolve via Twitter and Tumblr to RSS feeds, social bookmarks, long form and live blogging to immersive discussions and participatory presentations. If everything goes well, the comments and interactions help the blogger to restart the whole cycle.

The emergence of simple tools such as Tumblr and Posterous, combined with smartphones and tablets, make it much easier to keep up with blogging and social media. This may sound self-evident to many of you, but in broader circles the discussion about the possibilities of these tools is just beginning. Just look around, how many entrepreneurs, managers and experts are actively blogging? Many of course, but many more don’t use these tools or ask their communication departments to do it in their place.

So here is the Prezi, I’ll update the thing this week, so don’t hesitate to comment!