Social Media Tips for Journalism Students: #1 twitter

This is the first in a series of posts on what I find useful as a journalism student in the world of social media. It’s by no means definitive, just what has worked for me.

Twitter – Become a conversationalist

Your twitter account is part of your online identity and is a great tool for journalism students. You should have a twitter account that you’re proud of and that you would want your editor to read.

The mistake of those new to twitter is to merely be a broad

caster or spamcaster. My heart sinks when I click to someone’s twitter profile page and see no @replies or #hashtags.

It’s important to join the conversation.

If you find something interesting that others may not have seen retweet it, if you have something to add or disagree with someone’s tweet then @reply them. You can build valuable relationships very quickly on twitter by joining in the wider conversation taking place.

Follow interesting people, and for the most part I don’t include celebrities in that. Most journalists of note are now on twitter and there’s invaluable information that you can garner from them and your opinion you can share back with them.

Look at who the people you follow are retweeting and linking. If you like the content that someone you follow has retweeted, click through to the origin of the retweet. It might be a valuable new person to follow.

Attract more followers and readers with #hashtags.
You may only have 20 or 30 followers in your first few weeks on twitter but what if you have something you’d like to share with everyone? Hashtag it! If you have an insight or news about the British General Election then end your tweet with #ge2010 and it’ll be discoverable to people interested in the election. Want to comment on Question Time? Hashtag with #bbcqt.

Just as you impart information, knowledge and opinion through an article, do so the same on twitter. If you have a blog publicise new posts on twitter. It’s a good way to drive traffic to your blog and get people commenting on and interested in your work.

At the time of writing I follow 580 people which might sound large but I’ve added each one of them because they’ve had something interesting to say and I don’t really suffer too much from twitter noise.

Twitter is a great platform for journalism students as it forms relationships based on insight, knowledge and wit. You’re created equal to every other journalist out there and have a direct means of communication with them and the genpub.  Your looks, friends, popularity and how much you go out don’t matter here. Your thoughts are your currency.


One from the archive… Let’s bring the 1960s back

~Originally printed in UCLan Pluto in March 2010~

Whether it be the sharp suited advertising executives of Mad Men, teenage heartbreak in the Oscar nominated An Education or the diffusion of sixties style to the British high street, the 1960s are back and about time too.

But what did the 1960s achieve and what can we still learn from them?

In the early 1960s when mainstream culture was still clinging to the American Dream ideals of the 1950s a new counter-culture was simmering underneath.  The history books are filled with iconic images of rebellion and defiance.

Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement, revolution in South America, women’s rights and the sexual revolution, Jimi Hendrix’s Star Spangled Banner.  Loud, passionate voices made themselves heard and changed culture and political thought.

The soldiers of these new revolutions were university students.  Students who gave a crap, not just about themselves and their interests, but the rights and causes of others.

It was extremely warming to see how many fellow UCLan students turned up to Town Takeover to protest against higher fees.  But as much as that cause is important it’s also a selfish cause.

How many of you have been annoyed or aggrieved by something only to vent it on facebook instead of doing something about it?  I know I’m certainly guilty of it.

Blame is often attributed to the political climate.  Apparently politicians don’t speak to younger people. Westminster is filled with boring suits talking about boring things. But I guess everything is going ok?

To the women reading this, are you happy to accept that you will earn significantly less for the same job as a man?  Muslim students are you happy to live in a country where fear and misconception about your religion is increasing?

The politicians don’t speak to us argument is a complete cop-out.  Politicians are very keen to speak to students, for the first time in your life you have a vote and it’s something they want from you. What’s not happening is students speaking to politicians.

In 1961, President John F Kennedy said in his inauguration speech the most famous and salient quote from that decade: “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”

Don’t think you’re being represented at the university? Make some noise about it.  The Student Council positions in the SU elections were all uncontested with one candidate standing for each position.  The Student Council is an important part of the politics of the Students’ Union.  They’re charged with representing us to the elected officers of the Student Affairs Committee.

This might be the only opportunity in your entire life to speak so loudly and directly influence the things that affect you. You don’t have to accept things as they are.

Let’s bring the 1960s back to UCLan.

Latest project #ribblevalley

I’d like to take a moment from my usually blogging activity to bring your attention to another site I’ve been working on. is the site for a holiday cottage that my parent’s have recently renovated. I’m happy with the results, it’s not overly decorative, there’s plenty of information and I was especially happy with the Google apps integration.

Take a look below and follow Deer Cottage on twitter facebook and flickr.

The iPad Express

Yesterday I stumbled across a video preview of the Daily Express’ new iPad app on the Press Gazette website.

After watching the video some initial criticisms came to mind which I tweeted.

  • Firstly I don’t think that a music player is all that relevant to a newspaper app and will be irrelevant when OS 4.0 comes out with multitasking.
  • I also didn’t think that using the iPad as a way of presenting the paper edition’s pages was particularly innovative and in fact rather lazy.

Almost immediately I received a reply from the developer of the app @PageSuite and we began a dialogue. Ben Edwards, marketing manager at PageSuite emailed me and discussed some of the issues I raised.

Ben said:

…appreciate your feedback and support the notion that some publishers should (&will) further utilise iPad functionality with interactivity…

These will be monthly titles with large investment and one of the top 20 or so brands globally. You are a journalist student, so will understand the publishing industry – it’s extremely challenging times, resources are limited, subs & ad revenue strategies are being challenged. How do you maximise the opportunities your existing content affords, without substantial investment in resource, skilled labour, time and technology? We have publishing clients who aren’t in this position and can commit to the most interactive apps you could imagine… but the purpose of this email is to indicate this will not be the majority.

Our publishing clients already generate print editions, e-editions and now iPhone & iPad apps… because it works i.e. revenues increase, engagement increases, customer data & brands… increase. Our Metro iPhone app – a print facsimile – 150k downloads, 16min av. Time on app, 500’000 daily page impressions.

To give you some perspective, we work with 19 out of the top 20 newspaper publishers in the UK, 40 of the largest in the US, the largest in Canada & Brazil… Magazines too – only a limited number will design iPad apps for that platform – the majority will use RSS, XML feeds, print facsimiles and video content but presented in an engaging format (targeting their demographic).

And really it was the last sentence that addressed my criticisms. I don’t there there’s a one size fits all approach for the news media on tablet devices like the iPad. The Daily Express is far from being a bastion of great online content, to be blunt its website stinks.

But the iPad can actually offer something to the Daily Express demographic, which is the paper that they know and love in the convenient form factor of the iPad. Would this solution suit the Guardian reader? No, not at all but maybe the Express has understood their market for once.

Forgive me for lazily stereotyping the Express reader, but they aren’t exactly young and not exactly modern. The iPad allows them to intuitively zoom in on articles and rend the text larger than the newspaper they buy which can help with readers with poor eyesight. The interface offers a few viewing options but the one that initially drew the most criticism from me is the traditional page format and maybe that makes sense to Express readers?

What’s certainly interesting is the notion that the iPad versions of newspapers might surpass the usage of the web versions especially among the more traditional media and less web-savvy users.

Don’t ignore linking. Send them away to bring them back.

Linking is one of the most important things an online journalist/blogger can do yet for those new to online media it’s probably the most overlooked.

Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu) makes a great number of points on the power of linking in this video.

Linking more than anything is the crucial difference between the web and traditional media.

As Jay says, old media asks: “Why should I send people away?”. And many new to blogging and online media think the same.

Your words as a writer hold value, but only so much value.

By linking with others you add credibility to your writing. You identify other voices on the subject of your writing and become part of the web’s wider discussion.  The value of the link can be likened to a friend who gives directions or advice.  The link forms a conversation.

Reader: Do you know the answer to this?

Writer: I don’t know for sure. Personally I believe this. But Blogger X knows a lot more than me and thinks this.

Reader: Thanks!

You’ve added to your own credibility by acknowledging others. Readers won’t forget this and it can increase your online reputation and presence. It’s vital than your blog plays to its strengths and compensates for its weaknesses with links. This is completely at odds with the old media idea of “the authoritative voice”, but it is the engine of new media.

And to live by own rule here’s some further reading on the power of linking: – New rule: Cover what you do best. Link to the rest.

ReadWriteWeb –  Link Journalism: Is Linking to News a form of Journalism?

copyblogger – Why linking to other blogs is critical

Kevin O’Keefe – Linking to and blogging about competitors’ blogs is smart

Journalism students: The internet is just a place

Have you read Jeff Jarvis’ Buzzmachine blog? Well you should!

In a blogpost earlier this week Jeff made the point that:

We in media have a bad habit of viewing the world in our image. We think the internet is a medium. I say instead it’s a place.

This really struck a chord with me and highlighted one of the frustrations I have with journalism school.  We’re taught the internet is a medium in a separate way to radio and TV.  Yes, the point about multi-media is made and that we can incorporate visual and audio content, but we’re taught the idea of a web article in an old media way.

Maybe it’s a deliberate move to make students more comfortable with the web.  But I think from the very outset it should be instilled that the internet is just a place.

One of the frustrations of people new to blogging is “Is anyone actually reading this? What’s the point?”.  Their expectation being that if content is simply put out there then it will attract a readership. A good comparison is to producing a pamphlet and only distributing it in one corner of one very small shop.  You need to get content out there!

Far more important than being taught “web writing style” is web promotion.  RSS and syndication, twitter and social media, comments, trackbacks, links. All this should be taught alongside the actual practice of journalism. Web writing style is easy to adapt to if you’re comfortable with print journalism. But getting a readership and awareness for your work can have a massive effect on your employability post-graduation.

In defence of twitter

Joseph Stashko has detailed here his reasons falling out of love with twitter.

Joseph’s argument is based around the over-consumption of nuggets of information. Chunking and bite-sizing news so we lose the big picture or don’t study it enough depth.

I’m in near complete disagreement with Joseph. Twitter has made the web more relevant again and opened it up massively.

By following like-minded or people with relevant interests I’m open to new content, new blogs, new ideas much more so than if I’m an individual staring at a Google screen.

I’m able to engage, I’m much more motivated to create and the wealth of what I’ve learnt is staggering. I’ve probably learnt more from those I follow on twitter than any of my lecturers.

A lot of people need to optimise twitter to filter out the noise. Make a list of the core people you follow for great content. Separate from those likely to tweet about their breakfast.

I’ve accepted it’s not about consuming every tweet and every link but I’m reading a lot more than I would have if I actively tried to search for such things.

Twitter also provides an angle. If I look at a news story on BBC there’s barely any analysis of it. But if it’s a significant enough story and it has its own hashtag I’m able to follow what people are thinking about it. They may link to relevant information for example, it provides a better understanding of the issues. In that respect it broadens my knowledge base rather than bite-sizes it.

In further defence, and this is my own personal use, it’s easy to build communities around hashtags like friends meet in a pub, much more flexible than a forum. I and many other Burnley fans use the hashtag #twitterclarets for Burnley news, gossip and general bitching before, during and after the match.

What this allows is for the other Burnley fans to see the discussion but also my followers who may have an opinion on the match (and believe me many had an opinion of our 6-1 thrashing at the hands of Man City). Likewise millions of Dr Who fans can augment watching the show on a Saturday night with discussion of it.

It’s ultimately a great thing to have in addition to what was there before. It doesn’t stop me checking my bookmarks every morning but there’s numerous issues I wouldn’t have been aware of without it and for me that is it’s greatest value.