Unraveling Social Media One Tool at a Time
Thanks to the Association of Alternative News Media and Online News Association for inviting me to present at its ONA Digital Camp in San Francisco on Saturday. The group included editors, publishers and reporters from weekly newspapers as close as Monterey and as far as New Orleans and Hawaii. For me, newspapers like that are like crack. I am addicted to them so I went home with a pile of their publications. These reporters are on the ground in their communities, reporting local news with often tight budgets and small staffs, and I love reading what they come up with. The most impressive investigative story I found was in the Arkansas Times. It is an eye-opening piece on “Frac-sand mining” That’s right, if you think fracing is controversial, check out what is happening in states such as Arkansas which are suffering environmental degradation because their soil carries a key ingredient needed for fracing.
The paper with the funniest cover story? The Charleston City Paper. It’s about the “Luv Guv”, Mark Sanford, who is running for the U.S. House of Representatives. I took the newspaper’s quiz about him, and scored frighteningly well, while wishing that I could write headlines like that.
Closer to home, I enjoyed the cover piece on Carmel’s Brita Sigourney, in the Monterey County Weekly. The extreme half-pipe skier is heading for the Winter 2013 X Games. There’s lots of good journalism out there, and I was happy to hang out with the producers of that.
In my presentation, I talked about seeking readers instead of expecting them to come to you and your website. It is something all publications struggle with, no matter if it is a weekly or a daily newspaper. In preparing for the talk I was reminded again of how important it is to understand how best to use so many aspects of the digital world: blogs, SEO, and a long menu of other social media tools. Our readers become more and more specialized every day in the topics they want to read about, and the ways they find them.
I started with a story about the most recent column I wrote for www. mercurynews.com. The story was about my husband’s new electric car, a Nissan Leaf. After writing the column, I decided to also blog about surviving life and marriage with an electric vehicle. You probably already guessed, but the WordPress blog received almost as many views as my column did on our newspaper website. And, when it came to comments and discussion, the blog far exceeded comments on the newspaper site. Also, that discussion is continuing. The small, but mighty electric car community is thriving, but they are doing it in a world only loosely connected to traditional media.
That, of course, is our continuing challenge, isn’t it? We need to find as many and varied ways to root out our readers as possible. Like the newspapers in Arkansas, Charleston, and Monterey, we have stories that matter to large communities of readers. We need to find them and make it as easy as possible for them to find us whether they are searching on Google, navigating the blogosphere, or reading their friends’ feeds on Facebook.
Here’s a link to my presentation “Beyond Sharing Buttons: Finding Our Readers” which provides only a cursory overview of some of the places where readers hang out. Tell me a story about some of the places where you have found pockets of readers.