People who follow me on Twitter — and my hunch is that it’s about a dozen hearty souls wedged somewhere amid the spamming grocers, ice skating enthusiasts, European boat buiilders, BET executives and a dizzying array of of people who seem to work in what is generously called the adult entertainment industry — may already suspect that something a little unusual has been going on at the Times-News this week. Since Tuesday, most of my posts have involved a series of meetings about a new initiative within our parent company dedicated to our newspapers doing a better job of meeting customers where they seem to hang out most these days.
I’m talking, of course, about social media.
For the most part, we’re looking mainly at Facebook and Twitter — the two largest by far. In fact, Facebook apparently has enough users to be the world’s fourth largest country. it already has its own Hollywood movie, for those who might have forgotten. Hard to believe.
Yes, a lot of folks get news on those sites first. Even more, Facebook and Twitter are spots where people tend to sit a spell, make comments and communicate. Our emerging philosophy is we must meet them there and, well, play nice while providing content, advertising and customer service.
I’ll post more about this later. It’s fascinating stuff. I’m excited to be a part of it. I’m guessing our staff will as well.
But during our talks this week I had the opportunity to try two online productions for the first time. Neither are things I could be arrested for, at least I don’t think so.
First, my colleague at the Kinston Free Press, Bryan Hanks, asked me to take part in his weekly podcast, which was recorded from my office in beautiful downtown Burlington. Inspired by a view of the ice pop factory, Bryan, the managing editor at the Free Press, a fine blogger and sports fan, asked me questions about, well, our social media seminar and what I thought the changes ahead might mean. He had Jon Dawson, a columnist at the Free Press record the audio by speakerphone. We had it knocked in 10 or 15 minutes. Here’s the link. I hope it’s interesting. And no, you don’t have to tell me I sound like Huckleberry Hound.
So I cleared that hurdle pretty easily. It’s fair to say, though, that Bryan did the heavy lifting. He’s a gracious host. Thanks, dude.
No. 2 on the first time list was our use of a new online storytelling device. It’s called Storify.
In reality, it’s a story aggregation or “curation” service. Users can pluck content from a variety of online sources and tell stories in new ways with a variety of elements. It’s very cool and not too difficult. City editor Brent Lancaster was at the controls of his laptop computer. With a little guidance from ad director Serena Bowman and myself, we assembled an online story about Elon University’s big upset of the University of South Carolina Tuesday night in Alumni Gym.
Brent assembled the elemennts via Storify — Tweets from fans, a link to our story by Adam Smith, a cell phone video of the end of the game via YouTube, and a link to coverage by ESPN. Here’s the finished product. It took us about 20 minutes to do, tops.
We’ll be doing a lot more of this kind of thing. We’ll also be meeting more of our readers on Facebook and Twitter.
Come join us. I hate to be lonely.