6 things we learned about journalism from Social Media Week

Panel discussions about journalism and technology can be pretty hit-or-miss these days. This week, I saw a couple of hits.

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="260" caption="Journalists on the social media and politics panel, from left, HuffPost's Laura Bassett, Politico's Keach Hagey, ABC News' Rick Klein, and Gannett's Laura Cochran. (via @PTInsights)"][/caption]

In two Social Media Week panels Tuesday in Washington, D.C., O'Reilly Media's Alex Howard (better known as @digiphile) posed good questions to journalists from major news outlets (Politico, ABC News, Huffington Post and Gannett) and representatives from major tech companies (Facebook, Twitter and Google). Their answers revealed how technology and social media are changing campaigns and the media coverage of them in 2012.

Here are some ideas and exchanges worth remembering.

1. Why Twitter matters

If Twitter is a key news source for only 2 percent of Americans, according to a Pew survey, why does it get so much time and attention from the media? Because Twitter users are what I call the "early adopters" of content and information.

Just as technology products pass first through a small set of influential early adopters who tell everyone else whether to buy them, content has early adopters online. By another name we might call them "news junkies" who watch the news most closely and alert a larger circle of friends to the important stuff.

As ABC News' Rick Klein put it: “I believe in the 2 percent figure, but it’s the right 2 percent.” In political news, for instance, Klein said Twitter reaches other reporters and political operatives, who drive the news cycle for everyone else.

2. Candidates watch the watchdogs

Politico media reporter Keach Hagey said that while reporters are scrutinizing what politicians and campaigns say on social media, that game plays both ways. “Campaigns are monitoring twitter feeds of reporters, taking names, … using that to decide who gets interviews,” she said.

3. Google+ Hangouts are a work tool

This tidbit from Gannett's Laura Cochran got a lot of attention after I tweeted it:

It's good to remember that some of these social tools have good internal uses for journalists; they're not just for broadcasting to the public.

4. Is Twitter really a "social" network?

Not so much, said Twitter's Director of Strategic Partnerships Mindy Finn. Better to think of it as an information network organized around interests.

5. Promoted trends (still) cost $120,000 a day

Finn confirmed that price in response to a question. It's the same price as we reported last June, so over the last eight months, the price of the most prominent form of Twitter advertising has been flat.

6. U.S. Congress is very social

A simple but impressive stat:

These panel discussions in Washington, D.C., were part of Social Media Week events going on worldwide. You can replay the videos from session 1 or session 2 online.

Related: At London's Social Media Week, a discussion of Twitter and collaborative reporting (The Next Web) | Today in New York, Ben Smith, Amanda Michel, Amanda Zamora, Jim Roberts, Peter Hamby and Richard Stevenson discuss social media in 2012 election coverage (#smwnyt)

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    Jeff Sonderman

    Jeff Sonderman is the deputy director of the American Press Institute, helping to lead its use of research, tools, events, and strategic insights to advance and sustain journalism.


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