New media is providing numerous opportunities for traditional publications on the Web, among them social bookmarking. Much of this mostly free technology can act to create communities, help diversify a paper's content and attract readers to websites. Or can it?
Social bookmarking, or tagging, is best exemplified by the popular site del.icio.us. It allows users to bookmark a page, or store its URL for easy access, which is then stored in an online account. Users can share lists of their bookmarks with other users and even seek out content that interests them by soliciting other users to send links.
One paper that uses social bookmarking is the Spokane Spokesman Review. On its homepage sits a box entitled Just Browsing which shows the latest from the paper's del.icio.us account. Clicking on the links brings the reader outside the paper's domain, but to content which the paper deems important or even entertaining. Not a bad means of attracting readers.
However, it doesn't seem like the supposed fad has caught on in reality. Looking at the submissions from the Spokesman's del.icio.us network, they were all entered by one person and there are only 2 people signed up as fans of the paper's network. Worse, it seems that the Spokesman has had its network up for a while; the first entry dates back to last December.
On the other hand, the meager numbers of readers using the Spokesman's del.icio.us network could demonstrate a disconnect between the paper's readership and technology. For example, older readers that use the site are probably not inclined to use such tools as they are not familiar with them. And according to popular opinion, young readers who would be more inclined to use tagging don't read newspapers.
So, as for this example, the effectiveness of newspapers on del.icio.us is still up in the air.
But it seems that it will become more prevalent. Cruising around the digital universe you may have noticed that several newspapers, not to mention many blogs, have added little buttons with logos on them to their articles. One of the buttons is usually del.icio.us but others include social news sites such as Digg and Newsvine.
By adding these free buttons, pubications can theoretically increase traffic because their links will be found in more places meaning more exposure for people to click on them. But so far, this is still theory. David Callaway of MarketWatch and Edward Roussel of the Telegraph, both publications that have recently added a few social news site buttons, remarked that their respective sites have not experienced noticeable spikes in traffic. But if it's free and the potential is there, why not keep the buttons?