Tuesday, March 17, 2009

BoSacks Speaks Out: On why Twitter is important to Publishers and their employees

BoSacks Speaks Out: Well, What can I say? I have been posting since 2007 that publishers and publishing employees had better get familiar with social networking and specifically Twitter.

My Friend Steve Smith clearly agrees with me by his report..

Did you know that Business Week editors have over 40 Twitter accounts that they use for reporting. So do many other newspapers, magazines and journalists across the country.

Publishers as diverse as Playboy and Christianity Today have editors posting and experimenting with this unusual communications tool.

Is it the be all and end all? No, of course not. It is just yet another platform in the ever-changing universe of Information Distribution, formally known as publishing.

If you aren't there yet you better get there soon. It just might come up on your next job interview.

Listening, not imitation, may be the sincerest form of flattery.
Dr. Joyce Brothers (1928 - )

Steve Smith's Eye on Digital Media: Listening To Twitter
Posted By Steve Smith
It's 12:11 p.m. and Martha Stewart is at lunch with Ludacris. It's 10:31 p.m. and In Style staffers are watching "Jack and Sharon Osbourne walking in" to an American Idol "Top 13" party in L.A. It's 7:30 p.m. and BUSINESSWEEK ONLINE editor-in-chief John Byrne mentions that he began his career as a rock critic at a college newspaper. This comes after Byrne's asking readers what intro music to use for his next podcast.

Then, it's 3:10 p.m. and Scientific American seems to be responding to a reader query and states (in a way only SciAm can) that "consensus view is that spontaneous mutations of natural pathogens is far more dangerous/likely than terrorist- building smallpox."

Huh? We can't say you will understand all of the chatter on Twitter, but you and your magazine brand had better get there pronto. At MINONLINE's own Twitter page (TWITTER.COM/MINONLINE) we are constructing a makeshift directory of magazine brands and their main Twitter feeds. Visit it yourself to see which of your competitors is already using the micro-blogging service, or tell us about your brand's feed.

So far, we are following nearly 100 of you and getting a fair look at how magazines generally are using this phenom of 2008. Twitter has been exploding in recent months and it is downright fashionable in media circles to broadcast these little 140-character missives to "followers" who subscribe to the feed. Magazine online managers have been setting up official, branded feeds in recent months, and we will be aggregating that list at our own Twitter home for our readers to peruse.

Everyone is in test mode when it comes to broadcasting media messages and/or interacting with readers. Many magazine Twitter sites merely repurpose their RSS (really simple syndication) feeds and treat this as another content distribution platform. BW Online's John Byrne, who uses the platform much more broadly with his 10,700 followers, says that Twitter "is showing up as one of the top referring domains...user response has been overwhelmingly good." His editors now have over 40 accounts they use for reporting. BWO recently put a Twitter feed on its site to invite readers to suggest how President Obama could craft an economic stimulus package.

Redbook editor-in-chief Stacy Morrison says her Twitter feed will point followers to new stories, but it is the chatter over Redbook's annual Americans' Hottest Husbands feature that blew the doors off. "Finalists' wives from around the country are tweeting to drum up support for their guys," she says. "We expect a big increase in the number of votes this year thanks to this additional platform."

You can attract a massive following quickly in this viral atmosphere. Women's Wear Daily editors have been tweeting about celebrity sightings at fashion fetes, and in just three weeks the feed has attracted 69,000 followers.

While posting new content links back to a publisher's main site is a standard, albeit unimaginative, use of the tool, the best feeds that we have seen respect the conversational and even trivial roots of the platform to craft a new kind of reader/publisher relationship.

Playboy's feed will punctuate the links to the latest cyber-Playmate pics with complaints about Twitter's and a roundup of what his Twitter followers snack on. Christianity Today editors post: Editorial page meeting Thurs. p.m. What should we opine about in the May issue? And an editor at defunct yoga magazine Ascent twittered (above) until the bitter end: counting down: 4 days till the final issue goes to the printer.

Doubters once bashed the micro-blogging fad (and who knows? It may still be one) as self-absorbed techies posting the detritus of their bored lives to one another.

This it is. But when you weave into that everyday ephemera real conversation and actual content, then the trivial becomes the essential. It is in the little personal observations and meaningless asides that Twitter feeds achieve an intimacy that is unique and quite different from a blog post or e-mail missive. When handled well, these feeds move between the personal and promotional, the outward facing content that builds a brand and the inner, human workings that make the content.

It is still unclear to any of us how once-imperious media brands go about building the kind of personal connection and community readers now crave. Whether Twitter itself is the answer seems unlikely. But interacting with it sure seems to be raising some good and necessary questions about who media are and how they relate to audiences.

The new min Twitter (TWITTER.COM/MINONLINE) feed will be used not only for reporting and content posting, but we will also aggregate the many other magazine brands in our following section. Come here to see what brands are using the platform or to add your own.

Steve Smith (POPEYESMITH@COMCAST.NET) is digital media editor for min/min's b2b/MINONLINE.COM. He posts regularly on The Minsider blog and directs the min Webinars. Smith also co-chairs the annual min Day Summit and as ceo of Roving Eyeball Inc., consults for a number of publishers in the digital space.

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