I’ve posted a few times before about turning processes into content but wanted to try to pull it all together in a new way – combining it with the presentations I give that talk about unsustainable models of audience engagement and participation – in advance of the keynote presentation I’m giving at (G)local 2.0 in Skopje on Thursday morning.
"How long does all that blogging take you?"
It’s a question I’m frequently asked but still find difficult to respond to because it’s equally true that I spend my entire work day, and none of my work day, blogging. That’s because I have integrated social media tools and techniques into my job in a way that makes it possible for me to turn the process I undertake into content.
Over the years, news and media organisations have come up with several models for encouraging audience participation and submission of content. The build it and they will come model involves the creation of online discussion spaces where audience members can participate in discussions, occasionally meaningful, with others. The send it to us model is used to gather what the media industry calls user-generated content, or UGC, usually in the form of photographs and eyewitness accounts of breaking news stories or comments about a programme, story or article.
Both of these approaches are resource intensive and carry very real technical, editorial and legal risks. These approaches also don’t scale well – as usage, and user numbers, increase, so does the amount of resource required. Ironically, the amount of "noise" also seems to increase so greater participation can actually lessen the editorial link, and thus value, between participation and the programme, article or other content.
But there is another reason why these approaches don’t scale well – because most media organisations still think of websites as something additional to their other content channels, as if they have a programme with a website hanging off it. Last year, Kate Adie, one of the BBC’s more widely recognised news correspondents, illustrated this point well when she told the European Broadcasting Union’s Michael Mullane,
"You are blogging to a peer group – that’s all right – I can
understand there is a demand for that. But journalists shouldn’t have
any time to blog – there are too many stories waiting to be told!”
It’s obvious that Adie, and I’m sure many others at the BBC and other
companies primarily in the business of journalism or broadcasting,
wouldn’t see creating content for the website as something that’s
part of their role. The website is something different. Something
tacked onto the back of their programme or other content.
We’ve all heard or seen it before – "That’s all from us here in the studio but if you want further information, or would like to comment, visit our website at w – w – w …"
This all changes when the website, and indeed social media, is part of the production process from the start. Effort put into engaging with the audience becomes part of the programme. It becomes not an additional burden upon the shoulders of already overworked production staff, but an essential part of the programme making process. In this way, blogging and social media takes all day and yet takes no time away from programme making at all. As I said in a recent post,
"Social media isn’t something you add to a website, it’s something you
do. When I look back over the social media projects I’ve been involved
in over the years, it’s obvious that the key variable upon which
success, or failure, is dependent is to what extent to which social
media has actually been integrated into the overall editorial
In addition to the online community and send it to us models above, many media companies – indeed, organisations and businesses engaged in just about any kind of business – are increasingly using existing third party social networking and content sharing services to engage with audiences (or consumers). There are two ways to do this – as something additional which, in time, will become burdensome for staff whose time could probably be better spent elsewhere, or through the integration of social media into the production process, generating (and widely distributing) content along the way.
Using social media as part of the production process makes it more authentic, honest and ultimately successful. It’s also sustainable – even if journalists and production staff spend all their time doing it, it’s equally true that it takes no time at all.