Newspapers & social media: CO Daily’s stupid Facebook trick

Facebook Friends box, Colorado Daily, May 13, 2009

Facebook Friends box, Colorado Daily, May 13, 2009=

I was just out to lunch with Tom Vilot, and he pointed out to me one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen a print newspaper do. He slapped the Colorado Daily onto the table and pointed to the upper-right corner of the tabloid’s table of content page. There, in that important bit of visual real estate, I saw this “Facebook Friends” box (see right).

OK, I snapped that picture with my crappy iPhone camera, I know it’s fuzzy. Here’s what it says:

“Status updates from Facebook users who’ve become friends of the Colorado Daily. To join, go to ColoradoDaily.com and follow the Facebook link.

  • Ed Post is kinda disappointed with his lunch.
  • Evan Taksar is already ready to go back to Boulder. WHO IS WITH ME?
  • Natalie Pritchett: Cookie dough for breakfast 2 mornings in a row can’t be good but gotta try it out b4 i pass it out! yum!”

I kid you not. This is, without a doubt, the stupidest thing I have ever seen a news organization try to do with social media.

What is the point here? It could have been, at the very least, to highlight some particularly intriguing things noted by the Colorado Daily’s Facebook friends. But instead it appears the paper went out of its way to choose the most inane comments, thus putting their worst face forward.

This, in my opinion, is worse than if the print edition of the paper ignored social media entirely. It’s using valuable print real estate to devalue that news brand’s print and online efforts. It’s almost as if someone at the CO Daily either really hates social media, or doesn’t get it, or both. This strategy is so bad that it nearly smacks of self-sabotage.

I applaud news organizations getting involved with social media, and integrating it into print efforts. And the Colorado Daily does a moderately decent job of communicating via Twitter. But this? Arrrrrggggghhhhh….

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Hashtags: Your Social Media Radar Screen and Magnet

Twitter Trending Hashtags
Image by mobatalk via Flickr

Later today I’m giving a talk at an entrepreneur’s group about how you can get more benefit out of social media by using hashtags. I’ve found that these can be exceptionally valuable tools to connect with topics and people. They also can help you make yourself (or a topic, organization, or event that matters to you) much easier to find and connect with.

I’ll be fleshing out these ideas in a later blog post. But for now, here are my main points I intend to make — Plus some resources I will to demonstrate…

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Why Use Twitter? Notes for My Journalism Expo Twitter Training

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

On Friday, May 1, I’ll be helping to give the free social media training being offered by the Public Media Collaborative for Bay Area people who work for mission-driven organizations — community organizations, church groups, social service agencies, charities, etc. It’s part of Journalism Innovations II: New Work & Ideas for Making the News, an event organized by Arts and Media. Social media training will be offered in English and Spanish.

  • WHEN: May 1, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. PT
  • WHERE: McLaren Hall, University of San Francisco (Directions)

I’ll be handling Twitter training, from 1-2:15 pm.

So: What do people who do community- or mission-focused work really need to know about Twitter? First, it helps to know why it works. After that, learning how to use it makes much more sense…

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Do Newspapers Count Online Readers Fairly?

apples and oranges
The way many newspapers count print vs. online readers is like comparing apples and oranges. (Image by telex via Flickr)

Newspaper publishers and advertising managers routinely toss around print and online readership numbers — but sometimes in ways that don’t make sense, and that might even miss opportunities to build revenue, business, and community.

Yesterday Dan Thornton, community marketing manager at Bauer Media, explained why it’s dangerous to compare print figures to Web site statistics.

It all boils down to this…

Thornton points out that in the UK, sales figures for print copies of the Guardian and Observer newspapers typically are multiplied by three to take into account shared readership, based on circulation research. However, online readership statistics generally fail to account for online reading that happens beyond the news organization’s Web site…

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1 Million Twitter Followers: Backstory on CNN v. Ashton Kutcher

Actor Ashton Kutcher challenges CNN to a Twitter race. He reached the 1 million follower mark first.

Actor Ashton Kutcher challenges CNN to a Twitter race. He reached the 1 million follower mark first.

Just after midnight mountain time on April 17 actor Ashton Kutcher became the first Twitter user to accumulate more than 1 million followers — winning the race he challenged CNN to by video on Apr. 14.

As Kutcher cross the 1 million follower mark, CCNbrk, which posts current headlines (but not links) from CNN breaking news stories, had just over 998,000 followers.

So what? Is this a publicity stunt and a popularity contest, and mostly trivial? Yes — even though Kutcher did agree to donate $100,000 to the charity Malaria No More when he reach 1 million followers. (However, Ethan Zuckerman pointed out that this charity’s initiative to donate bednet to Africans may be misguided.)

However, there’s an interesting backstory: The CNNbrk account was only recently acquired by CNN.

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Government 2.0: More Transparency Online

Several planners of the recent Government 2.0 camp

Several planners of the recent Government 2.0 camp (By Patrick at work, via Flickr)

There is a movement afoot among government employees to use “social media tools and Web 2.0 technologies to create a more effective, efficient and collaborative U.S. government on all levels.” It’s called Government 2.0, and it could end up being very useful for journalists, citizens, and government officials and employees.

Members of this movement held a lively and productive unconference, Government 2.0 camp, in late March in Washington, D.C. The Twitter stream for the hashtags #gov20camp and #gov20 are still going strong.

Personally, I find this movement remarkable and encouraging. One of the great difficulties citizens encounter in learning about or interacting with their government has been the top-down, silo-focused, and generally tight-lipped or obfuscatory approach typical of government communication…

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Twitter via text messaging, on the cheap

homeless guy on his phone
Image by Malingering via Flickr

UPDATE: Right after I posted this article, David Herrold told me (very nicely) that you can indeed turn device updates on for individual Twitter friends via the Twitter interface or by texting “on username” to 40404 from the phone number you’ve connected to your Twitter account. So you don’t need to convert RSS to SMS to get text updates from specific Twitter users. Still, the strategy I outline below is helpful for following Twitter search queries and hashtags via text messaging.

Technically, Twitter is designed with that frustrating 140-character limit so it can work even over the barest of bare-bones cell phones via text messaging. But even so, twittering by text messaging is cumbersome and a little financially risky.

A colleague e-mailed me with a Twitter question. She wants to use her mobile phone to send and receive tweets via SMS text messaging, but doesn’t have a data plan for her phone. (Hey, there’s a recession on, you might have heard.)

Yes, you can indeed read and post to Twitter solely via text messaging if you choose. I do think it’s a good idea to get set up to post to Twitter via text. You never know when you might need it.

The tricky part lies in receiving tweets via text messaging, while controlling costs…

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Safari iPhone bookmarklets: Clunky setup, but very useful

The new Apple iPhone
iPhone apps are cool, but sometimes bookmarklets are helpful, too. (Image by Victor Svensson via Flickr)

As an avid iPhone user, I love my apps! I use several of them daily, including Omnifocus, GroceryZen, Twittelator Pro, Google Mobile, iBART, and Google Maps.

Apps are not enough, however. First of all, some online services I use (like Gruvr or My511, nudge nudge) don’t yet offer iPhone apps. (This is especially annoying if they also don’t default to mobile-friendly site layout upon mobile access, grumble…)

But also, several very cool and useful online services are meant to play nice with the rest of the web.

For instance, I get value from my preferred social bookmarking service Delicious because I can use it to bookmark, tag, and comment on any page I happen to be browsing. And on Twitter I often tweet links to pages I find online. For these services, I want their functionality integrated with my iPhone’s Safari browser (since you can’t run two apps at once on the iPhone, and since the iPhone also doesn’t yet allow cut and past, grumble…)

That’s when Javascript-based iPhone Safari bookmarklets can come in handy…

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HughesNet Users Reportedly Cannot Search Twitter

HughesNet
Image by Justin Shearer via Flickr

NOTE: Dawn Stover has an update on this problem, see end of this post.

Increasingly, as Chris O’Brien recently wrote in the San Jose Mercury News, Twitter search is rivaling Google as a top choice to find out what’s happening right now. However, apparently some people who rely on HughesNet for broadband net access via satellite may be, at the moment, unable to use Twitter search.

I was tipped off to this by Dawn Stover of Popular Science. Dawn lives in a rural area of Washington state, and relies on HughesNet for satellite broadband. Today she wrote to me:

I can hardly ever click on Twitter Search without getting an error message: Status: 500 Internal Server Error Content-Type: text/html

I have searched Twitter Help to no avail. Googling suggests that this may be a problem unique to people who use HughesNet as an Internet service provider — satellite being our only option here in the hills. It doesn’t matter what browser I use. I’m not sure whether it is restricted to Mac users.

I’m wondering whether you’ve heard of others with this problem. It is REALLY frustrating because it makes Twitter almost completely useless.

I’m curious: Are many other HughesNet satellite customers are also experiencing this problem? Does it happen in some places and not others? Does this also happen to people using other satellite broadband providers? What’s causing it?

In the meantime I recommended that Dawn try Realtime Twitter Search Results — a Greasemonkey-based Firefox plug-in that incorporates the latest Twitter search results right into a regular Google search. I’ve been using it for a few days, and like it. (Hat tip to George Kelley for recommending it.)

UPDATE MAR. 10: Dawn Stover wrote me this morning…

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