1. Twitter headline feeds
With more than 280,000 followers, the New York Times’ main Twitter feed dwarfs the Wall Street Journal (19,000+), the Washington Post (4,800+), and the Chicago Tribune (5,200+). Many metropolitan and small-town dailies have followed suit, creating a Twitter handle as an extension of their brand, but the Times, like other large dailies, has gone one step further, establishing channels for Books, Arts and Entertainment, and other sections. These are sub-channels that support personalized interaction, a point of interest for advertisers.
2. Acquiring providers of social media services
In November 2008, Gannett Co., publisher of 85 daily newspapers, acquired Ripple6, Inc., maker of a social networking platform that links marketers to end users. By investing in a company that has already helped Procter & Gamble with its social media initiatives, Gannett will be better able to collaborate with its advertisers. Look for more acquisitions, or partnerships, as legacy publishers broaden their online portfolios.
3. Creating more online events to attract readers
The German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) introduced a thematic website last month to promote the translation of The Kindly Ones, a controversial novel that has generated much publicity in Europe, and more recently the U.S. By posting streaming video and a downloadable mp3 of a popular actor reading chapters from the book, and then creating daily discussion forums around related topics, FAZ generated a significant increase in traffic to its Web site, which had seriously lagged those of its competitors.
4. Promoting and monetizing user-generated content
In 2007, the Cincinnati Enquirer created CaptureCincinnati.com, a photo-sharing site where over a thousand local photographers uploaded nearly 12,000 images. The best shots were featured in Capture Cincinnati, a coffee table photo book that included a DVD, selling at a retail price of $39.95. Last year, the numbers continued to improve, and the Enquirer expects strong sales of the 2008 edition as well. Marketers might call this bundling products, but whatever you call it, the Enquirer probably won’t argue.
5. Story-based communities
The Toronto Globe and Mail uses Cover It Live, a live-blogging/discussion tool that provides interactive coverage of breaking news and live events such as conferences and hearings. Real-time comments, audio and video postings, and polls are among the types of content that can be recorded and then embedded in the story, like this piece on a subway shooting in January.
6. Collaborative outsourced news services
While British startup Yoosk bills itself as an “interactive news magazine,” it represents the type of outsourced service many newspapers may wind up using as their own resources dwindle. Yoosk allows its users to put a question to politicians and celebrities, to comment on the publicly viewable answers, and to submit their own ideas for interview features. Its founders hope to collaborate with established news sites, including newspapers willing to outsource parts of their magazine sections.
7. Customized delivery
Denver-based MediaNews Group, publisher of such major dailies as the Denver Post and Oakland Tribune, has announced plans to test a “customized news delivery service called ‘I-News’ or ‘Individuated News” this summer with the LA Daily News. This service would allow subscribers to choose from different categories, including news from other parts of the country. Blending the offerings of regional newspapers into a separate platform may help more of them survive.
8. Branded communities
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has launched MySTLtoday, a branded community featuring areas such as user-created groups, user-posted content, and special interest sections like St. Louis’ BestBridal. Excerpts from shared stories are printed each week in the legacy paper. This might seem old-school, but it strengthens a traditional middle American brand, and it promotes more interaction, which helps advertisers pinpoint their targets.
9. Publishing APIs for third-party developers
The New York Times has taken the lead in an area sure to attract other organizations. By publishing application programming interfaces, or APIs, for third-party software developers, the Times Developer Network has encouraged the creation of a new class of social media applications. Developers have already produced mashups that combine Times content with other resources. Advertisers should see new opportunities to embed messages tailored to the end user, and the Times may partner with those developers it deems worthy, avoiding the incremental cost of creating new applications internally.
UK’s The Guardian has announced similar plans to open up its content with Open Platform.
10. Burning the boat that brought you
Unfortunately, this isn’t the most agreeable method for many, but social media applied to a smaller, virtual organization might be the way of the future. As reported here last week, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer may move to an online-only version of its daily newspaper. This is the ultimate way to save a paper through social media: make the Web its only channel of distribution, and leverage the history of the brand. Loyalty won’t be hard to track, and the test of that loyalty will be the price point established by subscriptions, for individual sections or the entire publication. The argument “would you save this paper for the price of a latte?” becomes very cogent, especially in Seattle.
The word “newspaper” will take on a different meaning, like “record album,” or “TV show.” It won’t go away, and it will continue to describe some of the most hallowed brand names in the world. Social media will play a big part in that transformation. As the dynamics of our society change, as institutions go public or private, or disappear entirely, the need to report these events in a responsible manner will be even more critical. Social journalism is more than a buzzword, it’s the way social media will save the industry.