How newspaper websites should and should not be using Twitter

Many newspaper websites are beginning to leverage Twitter in some way or are beginning to integrate Twitter onto their sites. The level of integration goes from a light widget type integration to a deeper user experience. However, very few newspapers are using Twitters great service to actually create page views as well as increase the coverage area for their site. In light of this I wanted to do some quick research to hopefully provoke some ideas on how a newspaper website could use Twitter to increase page views and grow their coverage area.

Ideas and examples on how a newspaper website should use Twitter

Aggregating Content from the Web – Tabloid model – Tabloid is an iPad application that turns a Twitter stream into a newspaper. It grabs the links found in the tweets of people you follow and formats them into a tabloid-newspapers style. I’m not suggesting you go out and build an iPad app for this, but just suggesting you look at the model. A model like this would involve a fair amount of work to do, but in the long run could provide your site with additional content that’s relevant to what Twitter users find interesting on the web. It could be a great way to source additional interesting content for your site.

A lighter version of this may use a Twitter list that’s maintained by the newspaper. The newspaper would begin to add the best contributors to their Twitter list. From this list each update is scanned for a link which is then parsed and ingested into a database to be displayed on the newspapers website. The display page would most likely contain thumbnails and teasers to full content but should drive traffic as well as provide you a way to effectively crowd source.

Breaking News

Chron.com I believe has a great model for sourcing breaking news from a strong twitter user base. This model is called the nowNews model which takes a list of trusted local tweeters and scans for the hash tag #hounews. The list of users can be increased at any time and managed using Twitter’s console. This adds supplemental and timely content to the site as well as offers exposure to users who see news happen which in turn gives them a much larger exposure. This also increases the area of news coverage for Chron.com to go beyond that of what’s typically covered by a paid journalist staff. In this example the hash tag is being displayed which let’s the user know the service is done through Twitter functionality however it would work just as well by displaying the tweets with the hash tag removed so the updates appear as breaking news or latest updates and less like Tweets for those who aren’t so Twitter saavy.

Journalist Social Connections

Mashable Contact InfoEach journalist who has a Twitter feed should include the account in their by-line to make the person more accessible to Twitter users off site. This helps create a transparency and trust between the journalist and the viewer as well as drives traffic to the site. Mashable.com does a good job of exposing their journalists social connections from their article pages that I think newspapers can use as an example.

Ex: By: John Smith
City Editor – Chron.com
@jsmithChron OR optionally Follow Me on Twitter

Twitter Links on Your Contact Us Page

The contact us page should contain a visual directory for each staff member that provides a mug shot, contact information as well as any social media presence like Facebook, Twitter, etc.  These linked accounts would need to be owned accounts only however and not personal accounts. An owned account just meaning that the account is a representation of your brand in some form and if the person left you’d most likely retain access to the account.

Ingesting Tweets

In a case like Chron.com’s nowNews mentioned above it may make sense to actually ingest the tweets and display them on an article page. By ingesting the tweets and displaying them on an article page you’re generating one more page view per tweet for your site by taking the user from the front page to the article page to view not only the tweet but information about the author as well as the ability to capture comments on the tweet using your own content management system. This also let’s your non-Twitter users view tweets how they’re used to viewing your articles and let’s them use your sites normal syndication tools like RSS, email, Facebook, ReTweet, etc. Additionally this allows you opportunities to create more pages like a ‘Top contributor’ page to show which Twitter users are posting the most news to your site. Perhaps a ‘More contributions from this author’ page to show a list of tweets with your hash tags that has been contributed by this author. A friend of mine suggested the muckrack.com model as a similar example. However, just imagine a service like this integrated into your newspaper website.

Note: While ingesting Tweets does create quit a few opportunities for page views you would need to make sure that any delay of ingesting a tweet and displaying it on the site is minimized so you don’t lose the immediacy of the tweet.

ReTweet

This is a no brainer. Using tools like the Tweetmeme widget in a prominent place to make your content easy to syndicate to Twitter is just a must do. This button should be placed near whatever your wanting the user to reTweet.

How Newspapers Should Not Be Using Twitter

Duplication

Twitter feeds should never mirror newspaper updates that are appearing on the page they are featured on. For example, let’s say you just broke news about a gorilla that was caught on camera juggling cats. However, the tweet that appears on your homepage next to the article basically says the same thing and links to the same article. There must be a differentiation between the updated Twitter feed and the article feeds.

Staff Only

Combining staff only Twitter feeds for your users as your Twitter presence. This generally leads to duplication, but also limits your reach to your existing reach for content and doesn’t offer a good differentiation for your viewers.

Too much Twitter branding

Everyone knows what Twitter is, but not everyone uses. Likewise not everyone understands how Twitter actually fits into a newspaper website. By focusing too much on the Twitter brand it can appear as though it’s an advertisement or something that’s not native to your site which can lead to less usage or confusion as to what your trying to do with it. I’d recommend removing some of the branding and integrating the updates to look more like your site.

Firehose RSS Feeds To Twitter

While I understand many newspapers are using services like Twitterfeed.com, rss2twitter.com, ping.fm etc to easily push their RSS feeds to Twitter because it’s easy. However, if your doing this your missing a huge opportunity to engage your audience, build trust and a loyal following which could lead to a much bigger return in the long run.

Hope some of this helps and would love to here how your using Twitter or not using Twitter on your newspaper website.

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