Social Networking and the News

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Social Networking could well be the future of news syndication. More and more relevant daily information comes to us through websites like Facebook, Digg, and Delicious, rather than traditional sources like the paperboy or the evening news. With this being the case, it’s not unusual to see a growing number of mainstream establishments and traditional news sources beginning to hesitantly embrace social networking as a viable means of information distribution.

Traditional news sources have not typically been very eager to allow the shift of web 2.0 ideals to influence how business is done and it’s not hard to see why. As online data distribution gains popularity and credibility as a convenient method of becoming informed, finding your daily newspaper on the front porch is more often being replaced with an online source instead. The benefits of saving money and saving paper are both two major factors working against hard copy publishing. Perhaps seeing things from this perspective makes it easier to sympathize with old-school editors initially responding to income erosion by digging their heels in, as this alternative is much simpler than attempting to uncover ways of morphing into an equitable position through online solutions.

After trying it for two years, it seems that The New York Times has discovered simply charging an online subscription fee is not the answer. In September the newspaper announced that they will no longer be charging a fee for any online content. The next step for newspapers and printed publications to make money in an online world is not obvious. They could take their next move from the music industry’s play book and take radical legal action whenever possible and refuse to sell anything online which is most likely not the way to go. Alternatively, it may be worth joining the fray like NewsCorp did with their MySpace acquisition.

The Globe and Mail

The Globe and Mail also seems to be willing to experiment albeit on a smaller scale. Their social bookmarking and interaction tools on globeandmail.com are some of the most professional and advanced solutions you’ll see on any site let alone a newspaper’s website. Interactive tools are found in the top right corner of every story with sharing options, comment submission, and even a wide range of licensing options. The Globe and Mail seems to approach this trend in a way that encourages social networking without alienating readers who don’t understand the myriad of mysterious icons. Contrast this approach with the Calgary Herald which uses a more traditional visual approach and hides the networking options in the middle of the page.

The Calgary Herald

Making social networking options accessible and easy to use is a great way to encourage bloggers to cite you as a source and although it may not be the saviour of traditional media outlets it certainly shows how forward thinking an organization is prepared to be in order to stay relevant and competitive.

With the value of good data being a valuable currency among online sources, newspapers still have the upper hand, but have a limited amount of time to meet the deadline of finding better ways to syndicate. Partnerships with or acquisitions of tech firms may be the next best step to take before Amazon and its Kindle wireless reader, Google, or Yahoo effectively archive paper media.

  • kevan

    A timely post, especially as fellow “philosophartists” join the conversation: you should read about the trip that David Byrne (formerly of the band Talking Heads) took to the New York Times Research & Development department. This R&D team is conducting experiments with devices and gadgets that could help bring the printed word to a more portable, future-friendly context. It’ll be really interesting to see where it all leads.

    Even thought it’s great the way “social news sites” brings ideas our way, do you think places like Reddit and Digg will ever appeal to crowds beyond the technocrats?