A new report from Yahoo! Research has used Twitter in an attempt to answer Lasswell’s maxim: “who says what to whom in what channel with what effect”.
The report, Who Says What to Whom on Twitter | Yahoo! Research, found that 50% of all tweets consumed are generated by just 20,000 elite users.
For the purposes of the study, they classified Twitter users into “elite” or “ordinary”, breaking elite users into the categories media, celebrities, organisations and bloggers.
One of the more interesting things looked at in the report is the lifespan of content, and what they found with media-related tweets.
“We find that different categories of users emphasize different types of content, and that different content types exhibit dramatically different characteric lifespans, ranging from less than a day to months.”
In its conclusion, the report found that “media-originated URLs are disproportiantely represented among short-lived URLs”.
We also find that different types of content exhibit very different lifespans: media-originated URLs are disproportionately represented among short-lived URLs while those originated by bloggers tend to be overrepresented among long-lived URLs. Finally, we find that the longest-lived URLs are dominated by content such as videos and music, which are continually being rediscovered by Twitter users and appear to persist indefinitely.
That can be seen in this figure, generated by unshortening 35,000 URLs that “lived” at least 200 days, and mapping them to 21,034 domains.
Read the abstract and get the PDF of the report here:
Who Says What to Whom on Twitter | Yahoo! Research
The Journalists Formerly Known as the Media: My Advice to the Next Generation – Jay Rosen: Public Notebook
The newspaper business model will not be saved with the introduction of paywalls because it is a rejection of the newspaper business model. The current model, entirely based on advertising paying for news, is in the process of being left behind by those who would defend it. It is worrying that users will now be made to pay for news simply because marketing departments are unable to make online advertising work.
The central argument, that users need to pay for news to recoup costs, is an effective raising of the white flag. It’s an admission that, unlike at Google, the media industry is bereft of ideas about how to make online advertising profitable. This extends to the entire industry, all of whom are discussing the merits and timetables of a user-pays model. It just so happens that the News Ltd announcement has thrust that model back into the spotlight.
It reminds me of a rant from David Cross in the outtakes of Arrested Development: “If you can’t market that kind of show and get better ratings, then maybe the problem doesn’t lie here, maybe it lies with marketing”.
In The Australian’s Media and Marketing section on August 10, Mark Day said a paywall would allow newspapers to wrest back control of their business model. How? The way the music industry did, through the “grim enforcement of copyright, uniform action by the music companies and technological advances such as the iTunes micro-payment systems”. The music industry business model was all but destroyed by online, and rather than bludgeoning users to return to the good old days, they instead bow to the consumer who is willing to pay, but demands to control how, when, and what they pay for.
I disagree completely that “the [music] industry was able to wrest back control of its product”. The music industry was dragged kicking and screaming to its knees, finally relinquishing control to a micro-payment model after consumer outrage put a gun to their head and forced the issue. Introducing a user-pays model isn’t about wresting back control of the news product at all, and you could not pick a worse example of an industry to emulate than the music business.
As an aside, in the music industry consumers have always paid for the product. In the news industry, consumers have never paid for the product, advertising has. The cover price of a newspaper wouldn’t cover the cost of the ink on its pages.
Surprisingly there were a few things I agreed with Mark Day about (despite the column’s title, Bloggers may howl, but cash for content makes sense), like his examples of the three strands of news (happening, manufactured, investigated) and what kind of news people might be willing to pay for. It’s a valid argument, and one industry people are having everywhere, but I do wonder if it’s the sense of inevitibility that is now driving the debate. Now that the introduction of pay-per-view content seems inevitable, everyone is expending cognitive energy on the issue, speculating about how the paywall could work, or what content people are willing to pay for. This, instead of developing a model where advertising still pays for news.
Whether it was the classified “rivers of gold” or advertising on the page, the news industry has for some reason given up on that model working online. I find it inexplicable that nobody in the news industry, across the globe, can figure out how to make advertising work online. Google are just smarter, I guess.
No less than the president of media at Thomson Reuters, Chris Ahearn, recently penned a piece titled, Why I believe in the link economy
Blaming the new leaders or aggregators for disrupting the business of the old leaders, or saber-rattling and threatening to sue are not business strategies – they are personal therapy sessions. Go ask a music executive how well it works.
It is clear a free internet has the power to wreck the economic model of newspapers and news-gathering itself. But the irony is, if that were to happen, the most valuable elements of news — that which is investigated, tested and credible — would disappear because of a lack of funding. Ultimately, that serves no one. Society would be the loser.
We do a disservice to society by making that valuable and important news inaccessible, by telling society that, unless you pay, we will withhold the information that informs your understanding of the machinations of government and the economy.
I first started writing this post over a week ago. The biggest addition since then is the Associated Press plan for content charging online, assessed by Nieman Journalism Lab after they got hold an internal AP document labeled, “AP CONFIDENTIAL — NOT FOR DISTRIBUTION.”
- AP’s Online Strategy » Nieman Journalism Lab
- Why I believe in the link economy (Chris Ahearn, President, Media at Thomson Reuters)
- Will Rupert Murdoch Lead Way for Paid Online Content? – TIME
[“the pay wall would have destroyed them. Or cured them”]
- Economics for CEO dummies – The Future of Journalism – Open Salon
[“He made an unfortunately apt comparison between a stale bagel and his newspapers”]
- Pitfalls of the pay wall | Knight Digital Media Center
[“Before they jump into charging for content, news organizations must bypass the quality journalism argument and answer these five questions instead”]
- Rupert Murdoch’s move to charge for content opens doors for competitors | Media | The Guardian
- Economists on pay-per-view online print news – Terry Flew from QUT
Last week I tweeted about an article that literally took the words out of my mouth in relation to this blog post.
Five Key Reasons Why Newspapers Are Failing | SPLICETODAY.COM
The first point there illustrates this post:
1. Consumers don’t pay for news. They have never paid for news.
Social Media Optimisation, or SMO, is gaining momentum as the new content distribution buzzword. Content is increasingly shared, and news content particularly is delivered through social networking sites. Will SMO replace SEO, search engine optimisation, as the way news organisations get their content seen by a wider audience?
A New York Times article last week tried to explain the future of news distribution by describing how ‘the young’ share news online via social networks.
SMO, or Social Media Optimisation, is one of the most important stories of the new media campaign – for several reasons.
- MSM (main stream media) are beginning to understand that social content distribution is a serious threat to their current distribution methods
- MSM in the main were disrespectfully late in adopting SEO, and
- It’s only now, well into the Facebook boom, that people are starting to take notice of the value of SMO.
While SEO, Search Engine Optimisation, will remain very important to news gathering and searching methods, it could soon be superceded by a much more important player in news distribution channels and strategies – Social Media Optimisation, or SMO.
How do people share information online? How do they find it? How does social media facilitate this?
What the New York Times article shows is the acceptance, if only partial, of the concept of SMO – that news is no longer force-fed, it is now shared, social, viral, and word of mouth.
Young people expect to see video with campaign stories
New York Times
â€œAnd they’ll find it elsewhere if you don’t give it to them, and then that’s the link that’s going to be passed around over e-mail and instant message,â€œ says Huffington Post’s Danny Shea. Brian Stelter writes: â€œYounger voters tend to be not just consumers of news and current events but conduits as well — sending out e-mailed links and videos to friends and their social networks. And in turn, they rely on friends and online connections for news to come to them. In essence, they are replacing the professional filter — reading the Washington Post, clicking on CNN.com — with a social one.â€œ
Like it or not, for traditional news media the news is a commodity that must sell. For it to sell and make money, it must be traded, clicked, monetised, and advertised. When content went online, MSM (mainstream media) very slowly caught up to the idea of SEO – making content user and search engine friendly.
Arguments from MSM – and let me be brutally honest here – dinosaurs, have been that using SEO techniques in news media is simply bowing to a digital master. Many in MSM have for too long bucked at what they call ‘writing headlines for a machine’.
That argument represents a fundamental lack of knowledge about how the future of information distribution will be shaped, and does not bode well for the necessary rapid uptake of SMO – integration with Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, Pownce, Tumblr, Stumbleupon, and numerous other variety of social networking startups.
People use the internet to search for information. When doing so, people looking for a story about the conclusion of the divorce trial between Heather Mills and Paul McCartney would most likely use the search terms, heather mills divorce, or paul mccartney divorce, or heather mills paul mccartney divorce, or even add the word settlement to any of those searches. They will not search using a print headline like â€œDamnation of Her Ladyshipâ€œ or â€œLady Liarâ€œ, from the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror respectively, both on March 19.
People use a search engine to find what they are looking for, so writing page or article titles that assists them to do that is by no means writing headlines for a machine – it is writing headlines that will help real people find information using a machine.
But as MSM has only recently grasped the importance of doing this, and just as they catch up and start optimising content for search, the rules of the game gradually begin to change again.
MSM need to not be left behind this time. News in the new world of digital media is shared. Social media is word of mouth advertising. Social media is recommending a product to a friend, and whether that be viral video or a news story, it is a link to content of mutual interest, shared among a community of friends, a seperate community of family, another community of professional contacts, and innumerable other communities that gather around hobbies.
That MySpace, or Facebook, may be the flavour of the social networking month and gone tomorrow as another new social networking site enters the friend-swapping fray, is no good reason to neglect to stay in the game. If you’re only just starting to embrace MySpace as the skyrocketing Facebook begins to face new competition from bebo, you’re two full lengths behind the leaders.
The only saving grace for MSM in the past is that they have generally formed a pack that lag behind the innovators. Be warned though, as soon as your competition gets a clue and embraces the reality of online content sharing and community building in their news distribution strategy – you’ll find out just how lazy you’ve been when you lose community respect and relevance.
When the editors and owners hit the panic button and ask, â€œWhat the hell have you been doing? We’ve been left behind!â€œ – What will you say?
Integration is not just newsrooms. Integration is leading innovation, or at the very least keeping up with it.
Traditional media no longer control the news distribution channels.
Seed your content. Link out. Allow your video to be embedded, linked to, displayed elsewhere.