On August 27, Business Wire Denver hosted a panel of media experts to talk about “The Future of How Global News is Delivered, and the Rise of the Fractured Communications Class.” Despite the daunting title, the focus of the discussion was clear: How are people getting their news today, who is providing it, and what are the media’s new roles in this landscape?
The panel, moderated by Joe Hodas, Senior Vice President, Brand Communications at Vladimir Jones, consisted of:
- Steve Snyder, Director of Corporate Communications, Frontier Airlines
- Michael Booth, Anchor Team Writer, The Denver Post
- Eric Elkins, CEO and ePR/Social Media/Marketing Strategist, WideFoc.us
- Jack Maher, Executive Producer, 9News
- Sandi Garcia, Director of Communications & Public Affairs, Kempe Foundation
Hodas started the panel off with the proposition
that we are a fractured communication class – that people don’t read the entire newspaper anymore, nor do people watch a full half hour of news. Instead, people gather their news in little bits and pieces from all over the place. He believes that this type of news gathered by consumers is making mass media less and less realistic. Their responses:
Elkins is a fan of fractured media. He does not believe that you can get to your audiences to come to you; you have to go where they are gathering. Where they are gathering news is constantly changing, so it’s important to stay ahead and stay aware of social media trends.
Booth wonders how the media can still get paid in such an environment. The Denver Post and 9News have two of the most popular websites in the west (presumably by hits), yet only 10 percent of the Post’s revenue comes from the Web. Mistakes were made in the past to allow people to receive writing and video and other content for free, and now it’s catching up to the industry.
Snyder explains that Frontier’s approach to social/fractured media is a careful one. “Because we live in a world where every single employee can also be a reporter, steps must be taken to ensure that the employees are aware of how and when they represent the company. Frontier is retraining every single employee to address this very thing.”
Maher, a self-described “social media curmudgeon,” notes that when he started in the journalism business, they used glue to keep film together. A story required a reporter, a photographer and a sound guy. Now he, and many of his colleagues, have to be jacks of all trades. Jack described this as the MMJ (multi-media journalist) concept. “It is no longer practical or acceptable to be one dimensional.” He wonders, “Is the product being diluted by going to all these places?”
Garcia reveals that social media has opened up many doors for her non-profit. She mentioned that keeping content fresh on their website with a small staff and smaller budget is challenging. Because of this challenge, there are no restrictions on using social media in their office.
Among the panel’s other observations:
How do the resources affect you?
Hodas: Engaging in social media is a commitment and requires resources. You need to understand where to find your audience, and create a sustainable strategic plan. Create very specific roles and responsibilities before you venture into social media. You need the right people doing the right things in order to make it work.
Snyder: Frontier has taken a segmented approach to social media. “There is no possible way we can support Twitter as a one stop shop for customer service.” Frontier has two Twitter accounts, a Frontier Sale Twitter account (weekend web fares, sales, bargains are broadcast here) and a Twitter Storm account that is used for any mass disruption of their services. They don’t use it to engage the consumer base in a dialog, more to inform.
Maher: 9News experimented with allowing viewers to “chat” live during a broadcast. They quickly figured out that it was the same 12 people who were commenting, including someone who was obsessed with steering the conversation to goose waste cleanup at Washington Park. Bottom line – bad comments hurt your brand because, particularly on the Web, they never go away unless you police them (which is a use of resources that was never needed before).
Can you affect revenue with your online/social media communications?
Booth: Only 10 percent of the Denver Post’s revenue is coming from denverppost.com even though it is one of the more popular news sites in the region. He also noted that what you pay for an internet ad is down to a penny or a fraction of a penny.
Snyder: If someone’s hammering Frontier on Twitter, how much does that actually cost them? How do you measure that? “United Breaks Guitars,” the popular YouTube video, can damage your brand. A measureable decrease in bookings can probably be realized for something like that. One area in which they can get a feel for some revenue is with the Twitter Sale account. This allows them to figure out how many people click through to the site.
Garcia: Kempe Foundation welcomes comments and discussion because of the type of work they do. They do not see it so much as a negative. They were recently looking for a staff member and for the first time, social media experience was considered. And while they have a new, broader audience, they haven’t seen that translate to substantial donations.
Maher: One plus about social media is that having the public available at all times have generated great news tips and spectacular footage, but not necessarily much revenue.
Elkins: The revenue model is broken and that traditional terminology needs to be changed. “Maybe it’s time to start calling advertisers ‘sponsors’ and sell them ‘sponsorship packages.’”
Question – Have you seen any change in the quality of writing when being pitched?
Booth: Not really, although people do pitch more and different individuals at the Post, which is “smart.”
Maher: Overall, pitches have improved particularly with easy access to video (can show someone who will be good on TV – takes the guesswork out).
Question – Measurement/Audience
Snyder: Listen and monitor, do some detective work and you can see how much influence someone has. Social media atmosphere is pretty self-correcting. In the end, common sense can take you a long way.
Garcia: Knows who their audience is because they donate. Want to go to an online newsletter, but they have an older audience and know that they want a hardcopy.
Question – What kind of online video is more beneficial to you – one that speaks directly to your viewers/readers or one that puts it in context?
Maher: If the video’s going to take me someplace I wouldn’t go otherwise (considering my resource challenges), I’ll love it. Don’t overproduce it. Give me raw material that I can work with as a journalist.
Question – Curious about public companies’ non-material communications and how social media affects it.
Hodas: There’s a fear on the legal and IR side of things to get involved with social media. Very little precedent has been set in the social media sphere and that’s scary.
Booth: Goldman Sachs example – giving high profile clients tips (although that was done more with phone calls, etc.). Common sense . . . simple common sense.
Elkins: It’s the wild west out there right now (with regard to social media) and you better be sure that your employees are being trained on what they can share and what they can not.
Hodas wrapped up the morning with this thought: “Mainstream media picks up from social and vice versa. Even though it seems fractured, it all works its way back to a circular communications model.”
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