By Ellyn Angelotti
Interactivity Editor and Adjunct Faculty
During the typical work day, you can find me and most of my Poynter colleagues on AIM (AOL Instant Messenger). When we work from home, AIM helps us to keep up with one another almost as if we were in the same building. We use AIM to write messages and video chat with each other to ask each other questions and collaborate on projects.
Using instant messaging to communicate with users is nothing new for news organizations. The Wall Street Journal (screen name: WSJ) has had a AIM news bot since 2003. My favorite WSJ feature is the stock quote retriever. See it in action in this IM exchange here:
In April, USA Today (screen name: USA Today) introduced its IM communication with users. When you send an IM to USA Today, you can choose to receive news alerts throughout the day via IMs of news headlines. This is what happens when users send an IM to USA Today:
The creator of AIM, AOL, has (to no surprise) maximized on delivering information to users via IM. Earlier this year when I found a few strange buddies on my buddy list, all it took was one google search of the mystery screen names to find out what was going on. In what the blogging community deemed a controversial move by AOL, the company injected a handful of promotional screen names into AIM users buddy lists (even one IM avatar, called McLovin12Four, to promote the movie SuperBad).
Here is an example of one of these news bots, Liv Greene (screen name: Liv Greene), an avatar who provides users with information about sustainability.
Besides creating an instant messaging account, news organizations and Web sites have found other ways to embrace the use of IM-ing to allow users to share stories and information.
- As you can see in this story from newsok.com, when AIM users click the running man icon, they can ping this story to their buddies.
- Since the beginning of May, NewsKibitz has provided AIM members a venue to comment on stories using IM. AIM-ers can log into their accounts and chat about select news stories. However, with only seven stories (mostly on the weird side) to comment on (the last one was added May 9), the lasting impact of this project is questionable, yet inspirational. Click on the image below to see how NewsKibitz integrates IM users comments on this site.
- In a more modest adoption (in that, it is only available to a limited number of people who communicate weather messages to the public), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is experimenting with the use of IM to communicate during severe weather events. Last September, NOAA released a detailed description of the IM service they provide.
Considering the effectiveness in using instant messaging as a quick and simple communications system, we want to extend this form of communication beyond Poynter and interact with our users through their chat windows.
But what happens if we are away from the computer and you have a question? We found a free service called AlwaysOn that serves as our virtual AIM secretary. When we are logged off AIM, users can leave us a message and we will receive it the next time we log on.
So here is what you see when you IM us when we’re away:
And when we log back on, this is what we see:
How do you (or a news organization) set up an AIM account?
1.Set up an AIM account.
Sign up and select a screen name on the aim.com site. It will walk you through the process of creating this free account.
2. Choose a IM application. You can download the AIM application from the AIM Web site. If you are on a Mac, your computer should have the iChat application (Extra perk: If you have a built-in video camera you can video chat with other AIM users. With the Leopard operating system you can share your screen with a buddy or see your buddy’s screen).
3. Add buddies. Ask your colleagues if they are on IM. If you’re a Facebook user, many people display their IM screen name on their profile.
How could news organizations use instant messaging to communicate with users? Share your ideas by posting a comment. Read more