The Now/ledge

A Guide to the 'Now' Revolution in News / by Alan Soon

Don’t correct tweets, delete them

At the end of every major fast-breaking news events, media junkies gather — almost like clockwork — to rip apart news organizations that were too fast in firing off the “post” button on Twitter. It’s almost as if, event after event, we’re constantly surprised that with the speed of Twitter come inaccuracies.

Craig Silverman, a freelance journo based in Montreal, runs a fascinating (and almost sad) blog on inaccuracies in media called Regret The Error. In a recent review of the coverage of the shooting of U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, the question of correcting tweets came up.

Should a news organization delete a tweet that was inaccurate?

Boston’s WBUR was apparently first on Twitter to report that Giffords had been killed — and they got the story wrong. The Congresswoman was shot, but she wasn’t killed.

Instead of deleting the erroneous tweet, WBUR decided instead to issue a correction. In its defense, WBUR said:

We have decided NOT to delete the erroneous tweet, because it serves as part of the narrative of this story. Facts can change fast when news is breaking, and that leads to errors. We need to own the error, not hide from it. But we also need to rectify the error and explain ourselves to people who trust us. Deleting the tweet would do more to harm trust than preserving it would do to harm truth.

Well, the goal to preserve reporting as the “first draft of history” is an honorable one. It works well in print — but fails miserably in online tools like Twitter. It’s simple: leaving an erroneous tweet out there runs the risk of someone else re-tweeting it. That’s irresponsible. The goal is accuracy, not the burial of errors. So instead, what WBUR should have done was:

1. Delete the inaccurate tweet;
2. Post a new tweet explaining the correction and set the record straight

Ultimately, for Twitter to continue serving journalists, it needs to create a way for users to issue corrections while maintaining a sequence of events. That way, as far as news coverage goes, you’ll only be able to see and re-tweet the most recent update.

Isn’t that a better way to draft history?

Filed under: News, Twitter

It’s official: Asian users are more engaged with social networks

Surprise! It turns out not everyone around the world uses social media the same way (tell me you knew this!).

Analysis in the current edition of the Harvard Business Review, backed by data from the Trendstream Global Web index, mapped out how people share information of themselves online — specifically, what people are doing with blogs, social profiles, photos, videos and microblogging.

Conclusion: Asian users are more engaged than their counterparts in the West when it comes to social networks. Users in China and India are apparently three times more likely to Tweet than those in the U.S. They are also twice as likely to share videos.

Filed under: Social Media, Twitter

Is Twitter really a news firehose?

There’s no doubt about what Twitter does for many of us — it’s a great, simple way to pick up on what’s happening now.

So how useful is it in driving traffic to news sites?

Data from Hitwise shows that Twitter.com (Note: this is the web service and doesn’t reflect traffic from apps like TweetDeck) ranked #39 in the amount of clicks it sends to news and media sites. Surprisingly, Facebook is #3.

Twitter.com made up a mere 0.14% of upstream visits to news and media sites last week. This compares to 3.64% from Facebook and 1.27% from Google News.

Where did all that traffic go?

Filed under: News, Social Media, Twitter

Reuters tells journos: Don’t break news on Twitter!

Reuters is in a bit of a bind.

To protect its bread-and-butter wire service, it’s telling its journalists not to “scoop the wire” by breaking news stories on Twitter. According to the latest guidelines issued to staff:

As with blogging within Reuters News, you should make sure that if you have hard news content that it is broken first via the wire. Don’t scoop the wire. NB this does not apply if you are ‘retweeting’ (re-publishing) someone else’s scoop.

“Scooping the wire” must have been a difficult discussion internally. Just a year ago, Dean Wright, the agency’s global editor for ethics and innovation (interesting to see that Reuters has paired ethics and innovation in the same position) wrote in a blog:

If I don’t beat the Reuters wire with a live tweet because I deliberately hold back, someone else will. If I don’t beat the Reuters wire because I’m slow or inattentive, someone else will. The reason my live tweeting was fast is that it was unintermediated, while the journalist covering the story went the traditional route and had a discussion with an editor about how best to position and play the story. Both methods have important roles. In this case, the editor added value.

Overall, the guidelines are constructive. Reuters wants its journalists to:

  • Get manager approval before using social networks for professional purposes
  • Have a second pair of eyes to look over the tweets before sending
  • Separate professional and private activity through different accounts
  • Think about whether they’re linking only or mainly to voices on one side of a debate
  • The concern at Reuters is understandable. But it needs to keep two things in mind:

    First, though powerful, Twitter is a very niche product that doesn’t (yet) have the same reach as TV or the wires. Breaking news will be seen by more editors, financial services analysts and investors faster on the wires. When was the last time you heard of a fund manager putting a sell or buy order on a stock because of what he/she read on Twitter?

    Second, in the long run, such a move robs Reuters and its journos of the knowledge of how to build a sustainable and effective news service through social media services. Ultimately, a modern journalist has a personal brand that matters.

    Filed under: News, Social Media, Twitter

    Social media and the TV connection

    A new post by Hitwise analyst Heather Hopkins is highlighting an interesting (but perhaps not too surprising) trend regarding news consumption on Facebook vs Google News.

    Facebook sends news traffic to:

  • The Weather Channel
  • CNN.com
  • Yahoo! News
  • MSNBC
  • People Magazine
  • Google News, on the other hand, sends news traffic to:

  • The New York Times
  • The Wall Street Journal
  • The Washington Post
  • Reuters
  • CNN.com
  • Note the difference and possible conclusion: Facebook is great at directing news to broadcast sites, presumably for breaking news and live events; Google, by contrast, sends traffic to high reputation newspaper sites, presumably for the broader picture.

    This data coincides with what the TV industry already knows: social media is helping to create an online water-cooler conversation, encouraging people to spend time online and on TV at the same time.

    Case in point: NBC showed the Golden Globes on both coasts in the U.S. for the first time this year, in a nod to the symbiotic relationship between TV and social media; ultimately, people witnessing a live event want to be attached to each other.

    Filed under: Facebook, Social Media, Twitter,

    Hashtag journalism: A study of Twitter in Australian political news

    Ahead of an expected election this year, a core group of influential journos in the Canberra Press Gallery have been tweeting their way on the campaign trail.

    Julie Posetti at PBS’ MediaShift has a great post on the use of Twitter by Australian journalists to cover the ins and outs of what happens in Canberra. As part of her investigations into how Twitter is changing journalism, she’s found that:

  • Twitter is a new dissemination point for breaking political news
  • Collegiality is being fostered between tweeting political journalists
  • Journos are linking to long-form stories on their own companies, but more interestingly, also to their rivals
  • Journos are posting photos to illustrate the mood and feel of the situation

  • This is a fascinating prelude if you will, to the other upcoming election in the region — that of the Philippines on May 10th. It would be interesting to see how the coverage plays out on traditional media and social news. I suspect Twitter will play a large part in that.

    I was recently at a Purple Thumb conference organized by Yahoo! (where I work) to discuss the changing media landscape and how social media could change the way this election is covered. One point that came up over and over again was that despite the variety of new social tools, traditional values are more important now than ever. That means the basics like getting the facts right, great story telling and covering both sides.

    I can’t wait to see what political journos in the Philippines do with Twitter. If you’re a reporter in the Philippines, I’d love to hear from you.

    Filed under: News, Twitter

    Who in the world is Marsha?

    If you were watching Twitter’s trends last night, you may have been wondering: What’s Marsha and Rana?

    It’s more a “who” than a “what.”

    Marsha and Rana, two Indonesian students found themselves at the center of the Twitter spotlight, not for academic accomplishment but for ongoing taunts and insults.

    Rana, a junior high school student in Jakarta, started insulting BlackBerry users by calling them tacky. But Marsha decided to take on a bigger fight: She smeared public schools as sub-standard.

    It wasn’t long before public school students flooded their Twitter streams attacking Marsha, retweeting one insult after another. Some users also created phony accounts in her name in a bid to fuel the rage. Marsha made it top of Retweet Rank in no time (her account @marshaaaw has since gone dark).

    Wednesday’s surprising incident on Twitter is a reflection of significant trends in Indonesia.

    First, according to a report by Sysomos in January, Indonesia is Asia’s biggest Twitter market. Interestingly, Indonesia didn’t even make it to Sysomos’ league table in June 2009.

    Second, the growth of mobile phones has skyrocketed among students. And it’s not just the $50 Nokias — we’re talking BlackBerry smartphones, which are ubiquitous among students, homemakers and businessmen. The BlackBerry is practically a “community” phone that ties people and conversations together.

    Twitter apps are also everywhere. They are light, fast and they work on practically every platform on phones. Tweets are spreading like wildfire.

    Welcome to the new SMS — faster, easier and full of rage.

    (Photo/Creative Commons: basibanget on Flickr)

    Filed under: Tools, Twitter, ,