You might be in it. But if you’re not, this growing social network that goes by the saying, “Show, don’t tell,” is an interesting social experiment that is taking the Americans by storm. Will this be the next “Facebook?” Perhaps not. But as we hit a plateau in the web 2.0 (we’re still at that stage?!), we will see more social networks breaking into smaller communities.
Human nature dictates that we will soon stick with people who have similar interests. Also, there’s more discussion if there are only a few of you. In Path, the mobile app that is also attracting a smaller crowd (including me), the “smallness” aspect of it attracts me a lot because I can only comprehend so much now. There’s too much noise (and spam).
I’m new to Pinterest and have not been actively “pinning” my interest just yet. I am still a tourist. But by the looks of it, this service seems designed for women. Just look at the “most popular” section, it’s heavy on women’s interest. And oh, did I say that you need to be invited to be in Pinterest?
So, yeah, at this point, I still need to figure out what would make me pin more.
More on this as I dive into another social network.
Last year, my daily news habit involved turning on the television, then while that’s on, I grabbed my Blackberry and I started wading through Twitter.
Today, a lot has changed thanks to Apple and an app called Zite.
This morning, I woke up with tons of thoughts in my head (what’s keeping me awake these days is another topic altogether). So what do you do when you’re up early? Exercise? Nah, perhaps not this time. Sleep more! Yes, I can do that. But as thoughts started percolating into ideas–I found myself grabbing my iPhone 4s. I tapped (we no longer click with a mouse these days too!) my News app folder, and fired off Zite.
To those unfamiliar with this mobile app (and I’ve had this argument before that apps will increasingly become the next good thing that happened to mobile), Zite is a mobile app aggregator, which wades through the web and “curates” content for you, based on categories or topics you’ve chosen. In short, this is now my one-stop for news that I want, and need. As one journo told me in a conversation, it’s my daily dose of news.
As you can see, our daily news habits are changing with technology. I was born in an analog world. I always tell my class that they’re lucky to be in an era where information is abundant–in fact, there’s too much information that we now need to find the best from all the grime.
Enter “Social curation” or social content and apps like Flipboard and Zite. These developments are riding on the idea that our info-overloaded society needs help in identifying content that we can share, save, tweet, copy, and e-mail to friends and peers. Today, Facebook serves this purpose somehow, but in my case, this social network is that, a distribution network + an online community that serves a different purpose.
We are turning to “smaller” social networks and even mobile apps to help us make sense of the world. This is both a good and bad thing. This talk from Ted Talks, for one, warns of a world where “filter bubbles” will threaten discovery of information that is also as important as the one we’re being served in a digital platter.
In an ideal world, 100 blogs will translate to more page views than one single, and well-researched report. For an online publisher that thrives on pushing numbers up and attracting audience, that’s good news. But in reality, 100 blogs don’t necessarily translate to more page views or even more readers. How much stories do you think visitors to your website read?
Another question, do you think they read everything on your site? Answer: no. They scan and pick what they want, then move on. If you can catch their attention in 6 seconds, then you’re making a lot progress. So it’s such a tricky world. And because the web is hyperlinked, it’s easy to jump from one page to another–so if there’s any good gauge of online engagement, it is time-spent and PV/UU, roughly translated as “how many pages do you view as a reader.”
To understand how news websites are evolving these days based on the evolving habits of readers, you can start with your own as anecdotal evidence. It’s clear, the next battlefield –and it has been for sometime now–is the mobile space. How are news organizations responding to apps like Zite and Flipboard?
Of course, all these are moot if you really care about your readers. As journalists, we’re all molded with a higher calling– to deliver the truth and worldview that machines and algorithms cannot do. Yes, we do need to make sense of the world with technology. But we also need people, trained ones, to help you understand the world. These people are hard to find. They don’t grow on trees! They’re not out there for the picking. The skills that we need are changing, that we ourselves need to upgrade fast to keep up.
To end, I found this interesting but anonymous quote:
Journalism is an art, not science. Sure, a machine or an algorithm can be coded to do things in a certain way, but unless it has some true intelligence and a taste for artistic senses, it always possess only the qualities of a MACHINE. Which are pretty much redundant. It’s not the 99% of the time of recycled material that matters. It’s that 1% of innovation sparks that come and totally flip a story around. Unless machines think like people, they will always be machines. And people will always have the POTENTIAL of turning out better output.
You have probably seen this article from Poynter Institute about a community website deciding to go Facebook-only. Argument goes that since people start most of their day now on this popular social networking site, it was a no-brainer decision to make: Go where the people are. Such move is seen as a radical step in self-publishing these days.
Because of this story, I was inspired to do a little experiment. I’m bringing my class to Facebook. One of my colleagues pinged me a link. So I’m following the logic of being where the people are. (But surprise, surprise, not all students are on Facebook).
Blogs and websites have a different purpose. Social networks are for distribution, conversations (in a way) and for sharing. Blogging, for one, is more of an exercise in thinking and story-telling. I must admit, after I started becoming more active on social networks, I stopped blogging. Cold turkey! Why? I got addicted to the real-time information rush. And, instant gratification of connecting and sharing ideas to people. How could a blog compete with that?
Perhaps, blogging or writing long-format news or content (to make it more generic), is only for the talkatives and highly opinionated elite. I remember attending one blogging conference where they revealed that most Filipino political bloggers still represent the “political elite.” They are, by default, educated, have access to the Internet/technology, and are more exposed to the world. But that was several years ago. Today, anyone who can type into a comment section of a news website can express their political opinion. And such is the Internet. It creates a community who will gravitate towards common interests.
Social networks are today’s starting point for most online activities. (In my case, e-mail and Twitter). This is where most old and young users are now introduced to the digital media. So for a community blog to decide to drop its website and go for a Facebook-only model is something that might make sense for now. And if its primary objective is to build a community, increase engagement, and eventually keep them coming back, then I suppose that’s a good, radical move.
But I wouldn’t abandon my blog or my news website. Both offer a different set of digital values that are quite distinct from social media. Blogs still represent you, as a person or as an organization. This is where people can find out what you’ve been thinking, wanting, doing, etc. I have my own profile on Facebook now, and a page that I created for purposes of sharing links and hopefully sparking conversation. But this blog will remain, and it has evolved over the years.