“News is inherently social,” said Santiago Alonso-Lord, Director of Project Management for Engagement at The New York Times. This is a definite advantage for news organisations as they approach it, he believes. News stories already have social elements: people, locations, issues: social media makes it easier to tap into these.
The New York Times doesn’t have a written social media policy for its 500+ journalists who use social networks: the essential principle is use common sense. Alonso-Lord said that as journalists spend more and more time monitoring and updating Twitter and Facebook, there is a risk they will be spending less time on their stories, and this is something to be wary of. He was speaking at the 19th World Editors Forum in Kiev last week.
The relationship between news organisations and social networks is mix of cooperation and competition, or ‘coopetition,’ Alonso-Lord said. “Social networks benefit from our content and we benefit from exposure,” he explained, “but there is some competition for advertisers.
Social media provides new platforms for story-telling, such as the Facebook Timeline. “We tried to juxtapose the news event with how it was told in our newsroom,” Alonso-Lord specified, pointing to the sinking of the Titanic as an example. The Timeline shows both a picture of the NYT front page with the breaking story, and a picture of within the newsroom at the time.
There is also content that wouldn’t have existed without social media, such as a graphic showing the top-mentioned football players on Facebook during the World Cup, or a video illustrating the live tweets during the recent GOP convention in Tampa.
Niche social media efforts can be effective in spreading the read of a publication, Alonso-Lord said, such as Pinterest for photography. “It’s really a chance for the photo desk to take their content and package it in a new way,” he said.
The potential for commenting and user interaction on social media is very interesting, said Alonso-Lord. People like to comment on NYT content offsite as well as on, he said, highlighting Reddit as a place for discussion.
Social media certainly is important, Alonso-Lord said, but how important is it? “It’s really not clear in many cases how much success social media brings,” he continued, adding that we need to find clearer ways to measure it. This is a particularly pertinent issue when editors are faced with the question, “do we hire another social media producer, or another reporter?”