You know the one. It’s that great new social media platform that Colorado Public Radio’s Ryan Warner is on and 9News’ Jeremy Jojola is not. At least that’s what Warner had Jojola believing for about 10 seconds at the Get Connected discussion hosted by the GroundFloor Media and CenterTable Crisis Team at the Denver Press Club last week.
Flarp, of course, is a fictitious social media platform. But the notion of a new platform existing that a social media-savvy journalist hasn’t even heard of isn’t that far fetched, underscoring the vicious social media spin cycle that makes the heads of communication professionals spin as we try to keep up.
In an effort to demystify the space – or at least explain how it’s currently being used by members of the media – we convened a panel of the aforementioned Jojola and Warner, along with the Colorado Sun’s Larry Ryckman and the Denver Post’s Saja Hindi. Below are three of our favorite takeaways.
Reddit: The New “It” Social Media Platform
Reddit isn’t exactly a new social media platform, but how news organizations are using it has changed. Once viewed as having more of a cult following, Reddit has gone mainstream.
“The Denver Subreddit is one of the most heavily trafficked Subreddits in existence,” Jojola said. “It’s a great place to keep an eye on what our communities are talking about.”
In that way, it has, for many journalists, taken the place of Twitter, which may have become overpopulated with journalists in the eyes of Hindi and Ryckman.
“We’re largely talking to ourselves on Twitter,” Hindi said.
“And getting into knife fights,” Ryckman added.
And Reddit isn’t just encroaching on Twitter. It’s also playing a role for content publishers that was once occupied by Facebook. Publishers had once relied on Facebook to drive traffic to the stories on their websites, but much of that traffic-driving potential dried up when Facebook tweaked its algorithm to decrease how often outbound links are shown in its newsfeed.
Ryckman indicated Sun stories see significant traffic spikes when they show up on Reddit, and while Jojola agreed, he offered one caveat: “People on Reddit are very skeptical and critical of the traditional media,” Jojola said. “So it’s not a great place for us to go posting stories ourselves.”
Metrics: “The Self-Esteem Meter” – But Not the End-All
You might recall there was a period in the not-so-distant past when many media outlets were assigning digital traffic goals to their reporters, which incentivized the production of stories that got clicks.
That was problematic for investigative journalists like Jojola, who would spend weeks on an award-winning exposé only to watch it get trounced on 9NEWS’ pageviews monitor in the center of the newsroom by a cute cat photo gallery. On the other end of the spectrum, Ryckman tracked the Sun’s metrics all year and saw a story on teen suicide rise to the top.
“It was a great story, but obviously not something we could write about every day,” Ryckman said.
There’s a metrics monitor in the center of the CPR newsroom, as well, which Warner has not-so-affectionately dubbed “The Self-Esteem Meter.”
“I can determine my worth as a human right there,” he said.
On a more serious note, Warner explained that he grew up listening to Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings, feeling as though they were the “voices of God.” Initially, he wanted his voice as a broadcaster to carry that same weight. Now, he feels differently, and it’s partly due to an ancient form of metrics — what he hears from his audience.
“People tell us they really want to be sitting next to their friend, hearing a story,” Warner said. “It speaks to the importance of building a relationship with your audience. We’re expanding our presence in southern and western Colorado, and those stories aren’t going to drive as much traffic for us. But it gives us a better chance to connect with that audience, because we’re there.”
Hindi echoed that sentiment.
“Metrics help us determine what’s working and what’s not, and social media helps too,” she said. “But I get my best stories from just talking to people. We can’t forget that.”
Pitching Media: Pick Up the Phone & Have a Hook
Speaking of talking to people, Jojola said it’s also a great way for a PR professional to get the attention of a journalist.
“I get so much stuff over social media and email, and I do try to respond to or pass along information that I think is good,” Jojola said. “But honestly, the phone is remarkable. It gives you a chance to talk to a reporter in person, and that carries weight.”
Then, once you get on the phone, don’t forget that you’re speaking to a news organization, not an ad agency.
“I get so many stories from organizations who rescue children and puppies from refugee areas, and they’re doing great work — we could host a nonprofit show where we talk to Orphans & Puppies, Inc., and it would be a great show,” Warner said. “But that’s not what we do. We’re a news show. Have you reached a milestone? Do you have a peg or something that’s topical? If not, it’s just advertising.”