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Social networks aren’t optional

January 6, 2009

This is the third part of my “First Year in Journalism” series of thoughts. This is the second part of my “First Year in Journalism” series of thoughts. Also see: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 and Part 5.

I just blew up a few paragraphs and started this post over. This isn’t a difficult idea and I’ve already been chirping about it constantly: Be where your audience is. If people in town are known to say things while they’re at the Chinese restaurant, then learn to use chopsticks. If they’re more apt to Tweet with loose lips, then you’d best find yourself a Twitter profile.

Jason Molinet has been doing a phenomenal job on this network of playing devil’s advocate to my assertion — so phenomenal in fact that I’d like to use one of his arguments to cement my point.

In a recent discussion on “the Internet revolution” (his words) and social networks, he had this to say:

Why do newspapers need to chase these? It’s a case of the tail wagging the dog. Media web managers are so hungry for web traffic that finding a way to tap into these social networks isn’t about developing meaningful connections so much as funneling off visitors. It’s all about advertising — not publishing.

To that I have these things to say:

• Newspapers need to “chase” social networks for the exact reason I listed above;
• Relationships over the Web are much more “meaningful” than in print, where the public rarely has a chance to interact in a back-and-forth discussion with their news source (letters to the editor — a faceless entity as far as most of the public is concerned — do not count);
Most of all: It’s not all about advertising, but advertising certainly plays a bigger role than it used to. You can’t just produce something and drop it on someone’s doorstep the way you can with print. You have to figure out where each reader’s “doorstep” is (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) — that means advertising.

I’m all for it, though, due in large part to my second bullet point.

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