The Chapter: News Media on Twitter

You have been waiting a long time, here it is: *drumroll* My final chapter for the UW Twitter Book!

Final? Well no, no story is ever final. But this version is supposed to go in print! Hence, if you find any errors, missing links etc., please let me know! Become my editor😉. I hope you enjoy reading:

News Media on Twitter

“Look, we are going down, brace for impact!”[1]

Passenger Jeff Kolodjay sat near the engines of the A320 bound to Charlotte, NC from New York, when a loud bang and the smell of smoke filled the cabin on January 15th 2009. He said his prayers when the captain announced the plane would hit the frigid Hudson River. All passengers survived.

Janis Krums was on a nearby passenger ferry when he witnessed the plane crash into the Hudson. He called 911, took the first snap shot of the floating plane. The picture made him famous, appearing in several news papers the following day.[2]

The first image of the “Miracle on the Hudson”, was not taken by a journalist, but by an amateur who happened to be on the scene.[3] The incident was a praise for Citizen Journalism and fed an ongoing conversation about the death of traditional [4]Journalism and News Media.

Easy access to reporting technology, Blogs and Social Media sites like Twitter has indeed created a possibility for citizens to participate in the reporting of news. But does that mean that traditional Journalism is dead?

Is Twitter killing Mainstream News?

The simple answer is: No, there is still a place for traditional news media within the new platforms of communication. There is still a demand for basic journalistic principles beyond breaking news. Credibility, depth and quality will become even more important in Journalism than they have been in the past.

However, there are new demands to journalism online. Many news networks have not yet been able to adopt new technologies and accept structural changes.

This chapter will show how Journalists of both big and smaller news networks can use Twitter to their advantage – and the advantage of their audience.

Roadmap:

Despite the apparent opposition of local reporting vs. mainstream media, there are strong commonalities in the communication of news networks on Twitter. Through four case studies in regional as well as national news organizations, this chapter will explore different ways in which Journalists make excellent use of Twitter as a tool.

I will show how big and medium sized news providers employ Twitter for Publishing, Resourcing and the creation of Reader Communities, modeling the way for other news organizations. As we will see, news networks often employ Twitter for several purposes. Indeed on well-handled profiles all those practices are interwoven and work to improve the image of the news brand.

Of course, as any other medium, Twitter demands for certain journalistic standards in terms of reliability and quality

As exemplary news media profiles I have chosen John A Byrne, Excecutive Director at Business Week (@johnabyrne); Rick Sanchez, News Anchor at CNN (@Ricksanchezcnn); King 5 News of Seattle (@King5Seattle) and Rhein Zeitung, a regional German newspaper (@RheinZeitung).  Subsequently, I will explain the methodology of finding these and other profiles on Twitter.

As exemplary profiles I present those who provide a high level of transparency, interesting and innovative ways of publishing and resourcing on Twitter as well as those who manage to create an online community around their brand or supply a platform for interested users to converse.


Twitter: Tool box for Journalists and Readers

Publishing

“Stop the Presses? Nevermind, it’s already on Twitter!”

You were the last of your friends to find out that Michael Jackson died? You didn’t know Iran had an election until you saw videos of street violence on TV {original Iran tweet}? You open the Sunday paper and find that the “news” are already old?

Journalists on Twitter are working to solve your problems! Rather than a deadline, online Journalism runs on a “24-hour news cycle” (Kovach and Rosenstiehl, 2007, p.86)[5]. Twitter is one of many tools that allow instant publishing and it is gaining a leading role in the race to break the story even with mainstream media.

WCCOBreaking

This tweet increased website traffic[6] for WCCO by over 230% in the first hour to more than 100.000 views. Instead of waiting for a story to be written out first, WCCO secured its role in leading the story by breaking the news on Twitter[7].

Many news networks already distribute their headlines on Twitter, but with the growing trend for recognition, real time tools like Twitter are likely to become more important in breaking news for news networks.

Another way Journalists use Twitter to publish rather than breaking news is by providing links to their own stories or Blog posts online or even to stories from other networks. Twitter has thus become part of a change in Journalism that breaks up old structures and enables collaboration.

“Twitter has changed the way papers and broadcast media operate. They used to more or less ignore each other, but now they work more closely together, retweet and credit each other. News has become more collaborative” explains Evonne Benedict from King 5 Seattle in an interview.

Publishing is fairly easy to measure in terms of Return on Investment (ROI). Via URL shorteners or other analytic tools, the publisher can monitor how busy his tweeted links were and thus get an idea of how a story was received.

Whether Journalists bring out their own stories or those of others onto Twitter, this use of the tool is fairly one-directional, just as traditional broadcasting. Twitter, however, allows readers to participate in the process of a developing news story.

Resourcing

How do you read 170,000 documents in 80 hours? Outsourcing or rather: Crowdsourcing. Uncovering a series of scandals about the expenses of British Members of Parliament, The Guardian sent over 20.000 volunteers into virtual archives to investigate original documents. None of them was paid. [8]

This extreme experiment illustrates how the willingness of users online to participate not only in the production of their own news through Citizen Journalism, but also to assist mainstream media in their work. This includes payment!

$20, $50 or in very special cases even $ 2000  is what users online are willing to pay for a news story at Spot.us in times of FREE, when readers are hardly willing to pay for news. Start-up founder and Journalist David Cohn (@DigiDave) convinces people to pay – or rather sponsor – news if they find the story worth investigating. Although Bette Midler’s contribution is an exception, the average donation is $42 for the stories. David’s start-up Spot.us (@spot.us) uses Twitter to promote the pitches and provide status updates of currently investigated stories.

On a smaller scale, Journalists can profit from Social Media in connecting to sources to which they would not otherwise have access. Some users have specialized in connecting Journalists to potential sources, such as @Reporterssource ,@HARO (Help A Reporter Out), @Bridge2Science and @ProfNet.

Twitter also allows writing professionals to receive instant feedback on their work:

digidave_blogjourno_comment

Crowdsourcing requires a fairly small amount of time and effort and if played and placed correctly can yield great benefits. However, if a Journalist uses Twitter just for this purpose, the users will grow tired fast, because the relationship is one-sided.

Community

Community efforts separate the decent multi-directional Twitterers from the real top shots. It can be time consuming and requires a conscious effort to build a community on or through Twitter.

Journalists like John A Byrne use Twitter to keep in touch with professional connections in the industry. Byrne follows Journalism professor Jeff Jarvis, “a pioneer in thinking about where Journalism has to go[9] and they occasionally comment on each other’s Twitter stream. For young Journalists growing into the field, Twitter provides a chance to make new professional connections.

Probably the more challenging is to create relations with the reader community. One of the strategies is reader engagement in the news process. Crowdsourcing can help to build a community. Involving readers in a news story not only integrates them in the reporting process. It also creates a personal relation to the story and thus the network.

Another strategy to build an active reader community is to provide a platform for conversation. This conversation can either happen on Twitter itself or be redirected from there.

King 5 News enables readers of the Twitter stream to talk to one another by asking questions, but also by retweeting comments and questions about reported topics to which others will respond.

Major news organizations have a little more difficulty managing a conversation on their Twitter stream. Instead, many of them try to redirect readers to their Blogs. John A Byrne’s Bio link sends people directly to a reader suggestions page. Sometimes, tweets with a call for action on the Blog will appear in the stream:

Byrne_Chevy

The German newspaper Rhein Zeitung has taken the conversation not only off Twitter, but brought it into “real” life. Once a month, Rhein Zeitung opens its doors to their facilities. Active Twitter followers meet the editor-in-chief and tour editing and printing facilities during the printing of next day’s paper. “Most followers look for the paper’s Tweet of the Day first, but the heavy metal printing machinery also still impresses and awes the ‘Digital Natives’”, says Lars Wienand, Editor at Rhein Zeitung.

Best Practices in Global News Media

The most significant difference in small and large news organizations is the size of the audience. While smaller networks manage to operate a single voice profile for the whole network by humans, larger networks usually rely on automation for the brand profile.

For larger networks a look at key figures thus proves more valuable than evaluating the corporate account, which is most likely a RSS-robot.

Case Study 1 : John A Byrne

“The most important thing we are trying to do here is to deeply engage with our readers. And to learn from our readers. And part of that process is to bring the newsroom outside and part of that is bringing the outside into the newsroom.” (John A Byrne)[9]

You want to see tomorrow’s news, today? John A Byrne is the Excecutive Editor of Business Week and an outspoken fan of Twitter. In a video[9] on the Business Week website, he talks about the people he follows as well as his own use of Twitter. This video is what brought me to his profile in the first place. The reason? John A Byrne is a Journalist who gives a real inside scoop – he shares with Twitter what will be Business Week’s news of tomorrow!

byrme_tweet1

TOP: Publishing – Tomorrow’s News Tweeted Today

byrne_leadAM

Nothing is as old as yesterday’s paper, so instead, John A Byrne provides his followers with the paper of tomorrow – or at least the headline!

Frequently, the Excecutive Editor of Business Week tweets the results of the news meetings that determine the lead story of the following day. He thus opens the news room to the online world allowing interested businesses and individuals to get a preview of what will influence the conversation of the following day.

This strategy gives readers a feeling of involvement and at the same time functions as a teaser without explicitly stating so. Readers will wonder about the details of the story and the information they will get. Unfortunately, there is no data available on how many of those reading the hook actually come back the next day to get the story.

Around 90% of John Byrne’s average 16,5 tweets per day are mission-oriented and most of them promote the most popular stories on the website.

Resourcing – What Is Your Story Idea?

“What’s Your Story Idea?” is the question Twitterers face when they click Byrne’s Bio link. He encourages readers to be participants in the news process and has found a way to do so that allows him to keep his Twitter stream clean and neat, at the expense of more personal information about Byrne.

John Byrne also incorporates reader feedback into his publishing, since most of his story promotional links are either most read or most discussed on a particular day.

Byrne makes a point in recognizing significant reader contributions and he regularly asks for reader’s opinions on songs for his weekly podcast.

Bynre opens the newsroom for user participation

Community- The Song Competition

The practice of reader participation in the song choice for Byrne’s weekly podcast has become fairly institutionalized. By sharing the results, shoutouts for contributors and sometimes giving readers a little insight on his take on a song, Byrne keeps up the interest in this practice. Without making it an official competition, users develop an eagerness for recognition by John Byrne.

Byrne has thus managed to create a community around his brand  that will allow him with a valuable resource in the future if he continues to maintain it.

Preferably, Byrne would continue to build more of these communities, encouraging users not only to talk to him, but also amongst each other about news worthy subjects.

Transparency – A One Man Show!?

Are 2836 people maybe too many to actually listen too? Byrne is an active follower, but he does not auto follow!

Account transparency is easily given, because only John A Byrne rules here – we assume. Beyond that, Byrne is transparent about the backstage of Business Week through his tweets.
Bio Link: Since the bio itself carries enough information, he makes the Bio link not about himself, but about the reader. It leads to a Business Week blog of reader suggested stories – this is how Byrne incorporates reader engagement without flooding his stream.

Bottom Line:

John A. Byrne allows the Twitter community a peek inside the newsroom and he opens up the door for people to step in and give their suggestions. His tweets are always relevant and he makes conscious decisions about what he tweets. Keeping a ratio of about 90/10 on promotional vs. personal messages, his personal tweets are generally job related.  Byrne uses his  Twitterstream to crowdsource and he breaks the lead story for the next day on Twitter first. As other broadcasters, however, he does not show a strong interaction in certain topics or ongoing conversations on Twitter, although he makes a start at this. However, I would be surprised to find him tapping into other conversations or pointing towards them if they don’t benefit him directly.

Case Study 2: @RickSanchezCNN:

“The Magic Wall” and Live Holograms – CNN has embraced a number of uncommon technologies [10]and is one of the most influential providers of news online (as they claim on their Breaking News Twitter account). Judging from this profile, CNN should be at the top of the Twitter thought leaders, but maybe they have not quite adopted Twitter yet?

“Dear CNN, Please Check Twitter for News about Iran”, ReadWriteWeb titled on June 13th, when protests rose in the Iran elections.[11] Users criticized the network for a lack of reporting on the subject and the hashtag #cnnfail quickly rose as a trending topic, which means it was among the top ten topics on the site.

When the criticism hit CNN, Rick Sanchez proactively talked about CNN’s coverage of the #iranelection[12]. Sanchez is thus the most noticeable non-robotic CNN News provider tweeting. Rick Sanchez is the flagship of CNN in the online world. In the industry, he is well known for his activities on his own CNN Blog as well as Twitter, Facebook and other Social Media.

Other than John A Byrne, Rick provides personal information and tweets with humor. Rick’s biggest asset is his personal voice, the biggest turnoff the voice of his producer!

TOP: Publishing – With a Personal Voice

Rick's personal voice

Rick “shares” his Twitter account with his producer who will tweet on it when Rick is unavailable or on air. The logic for combining the two voices in one stream is clear: The broadcasting voice is less attractive to follow and Rick’s fans are most likely to respond actively to queries, surveys and discussions.

Journalists like to hear themselves talk – and Rick Sanchez is no exception! But he does it with humor!

Rick’s tweets are generally conversational and “human” and sometimes he even tweets in Spanish. He frequently talks about private things involving family and friends without getting too personal. However, as a news broadcaster, the main focus of the conversation on his stream is Rick Sanchez – and the show. This is great for CNN and interesting for fans who want to learn more about Rick Sanchez the public figure.

People trying to get insights in the back end of news will have to filter out the tweets about poker nights and holidays. Rick’s pleasant if sometimes hurried style helps with that.

The producer’s voice desperately trying to get people to react is less pleasing.

Resourcing – Asking Too Much

Rickfollowertweet

ricksanchezblogtweet

Rick himself will sometimes point to his CNN Blog to continue a conversation or he will ask direct questions. CNN’s “ireport” – a reader driven reporting system, is not part of his Twitter agenda.

Rick’s producer on the other hand is constantly trying to get people to contribute to Rick’s stories when he is on air. Since the other FRP tweets are purely promotional, this part of the stream hardly adds value and can even  be perceived as spammy and asking too much.

Community – Me Myself and I

While Rick’s producer attempts to involve his audience in the news production process, this is limited mostly to the Blog. The lack of the use of hashtags and RTs indicates that Sanchez is not actively engaging with his audience on Twitter. He does not go out to search for hot topics among his readers to discuss on his stream, but only replies to those who come to him. The profile thus reflects the mainly one-directional broadcasting character of Rick.

Transparency – What The FPR?

You would think that on is individual profile only Rick is posting. However, fairly regularly his producer picks up that job. To our disappointment. These posts are tagged *FRP* = “From Rick’s Producer” in an effort for transparency, but there is no reference or additional information given on the profile or biolink. The unassuming reader takes a while to figure out this detail by reading through the feed.  The Bio Link redirects  to Rick’s CNN Blog, which features an “about” column at the side. It explains briefly who Rick is and he also uses this page to invite people to engage online and follow him on Twitter. Combining the personal and the network.

Bottom Line:

Rick’s use of Twitter as a publishing tool is Although Rick is widely present online, his Twitter profile does not show an interactive character. His conversational style and voice are a great plus and attracting to followers. The shared voice with the producer I would consider a nuisance rather than a support of both Rick as a Journalist on Twitter as well as the network.

Best Practices in Local News Media

Case Study 3: RheinZeitung

“Twitter is already the driving force of our Web2.0 development. We will continue to invest more energy and resources there.” Lars Wienand, Rhein Zeitung representative

Rhein Zeitung is a German regional newspaper using Twitter as part of their image strategy. Twitter is a “catalyst” for them “to speed up the process of changing our image from a classical newspaper to a news media provider”.

Publishing –Chatter Behind the Scenes

“If you just want news, you might be better off somewhere else, we are not in competition with @cnnbreak!” (RheinZeitung)

For those who want regional news only, RheinZeitung runs several subject-related RSS Twitter accounts, but @RheinZeitung is not one of them.

Every once in a while, @RheinZeitung mentions one of their own news stories on Twitter, but the account is deliberately not an RSS feed. Most tweets are entertaining regional news and funny news stories from around the world. Even for their own stories the tweets contain RheinZeitung’s own particular sense of humor:

RZSaurier

Translation: Skull weeks at MCArchaelogy: After discovery of prehistoric Dutchman’s coronal bone yesterday, today discovery of a dinosaur’s head.”

With about 20% of their tweets unrelated to news events or the network, the publishing aspect of Twitter seems negligible to Rhein Zeitung. Indeed they have received feedback indicating that a user unfollowed, because the account was too “chatty”. With 32.1 average tweets per day, this is not utterly surprising!

Resourcing – Anyone Seen My Pen?

Rhein Zeitung does not currently use its Twitter stream to actively crowd source stories or ideas, although they have the capabilities to do so. Their mostly regional followers are a surprisingly strong community.

Occassionally incoming news tips will be acknowledged, but they are not actively encouraged and @RheinZeitung does not usually ask its readers for feedback. In an interview a representative mentioned that an online survey was mentioned on the Twitter stream, but this is hardly close to the level of resourcing that other news network do on Twitter.

This regional stream is designed to be beneficient and entertaining for followers. Tweets about an editors funny quest to rediscover utensils are more like then requests for help. However, the paper might be missing out on a great opportunity to improve its reporting here.

TOP: Community – I Like Your Tweets, Wanna Go To My Place Later?

The community around Rhein Zeitung on Twitter is tightly knit – a result of its regional character and its community efforts.

The most remarkable community effort are the“follower nights”. Developed in a combined effort of followers and staff, Rhein Zeitung opens its gates  to active followers. Not only do they get to witness the printing of the following day’s paper, but they meet with the editor-in-chief to talk – among other things – about the paper’s web2.0 philosophy.

Online and offline feedback for the RheinZeitung Tweeters!

Online and offline feedback for the RheinZeitung Tweeters!

RheinZeitung has changed its image. Online and offline!  Translation: We got a letter addressed “RheinZeitung Twitter Department… we received it well!”

Through these events, the brand brings together higher management, editors and users/readers and creates an amazingly tight network between their followers.

The account also regularly features little image riddles or trivia and has grown an eager circle of participants. The riddles are hooks that keep users on the stream and interested in the paper’s conversations.

The paper deliberately keeps its self-promotion low and thus they have more time to tap into conversations and engage with their readers. The editors search around on Twitter and answer people’s questions or give comments and feedback on other profiles. Helping others begets new followers!

RZPflanze

Translation: “Now we are curious, too: RT@herkenroth: Does anyone know this plant? Blooms in August”

And indeed the non-motivational tweeting seems to attract the audience. Lars Wienand reports “viral feeling”, since many new followers come from already existing followers recommendations.

Transparency – The Mysterious “Staff”

Transparency is one of the prime features of Rhein Zeitung’s new media image that the editor-in-chief @rzchefredakteur praises. However, concerning the Twitter stream, @RheinZeitung’s transparency is poor. There is no way to tell who is tweeting, although the “staff” is mentioned frequently. Two main tweeters are responsible for the stream.

When I initially profiled the network and criticized this point, they responded, agreeing on the lack of transparency. The editors are currently evaluating the benefits of reavealing the Tweeter’s identities.

Even without revealing identities, the transparency level could be raised by providing a table of company-related twitter accounts (which already exists on http://rhein-zeitung.de/rztwitter) This could also be beneficial to further strengthen the community and reader relation with the news provider.

Bottom Line:

RheinZeitung successfully uses Twitter to change their image from a newspaper to a media house. As representative Lars Wienand states, most interactions have been with “young people”, not traditionally newspaper subscribers.

With its Twitter account, RheinZeitung’s editing office shows a more human (and surprisingly humorous and random) side that engages with its audience regularly on an equal level Instead of providing an RSS feed on Twitter, RheinZeitung seeds its stories while providing a look behind the scenes of reporting.

Additionally, they manage to connect their readers and engage in conversations around reported or seemingly unrelated topics. With their follower events, they have established a forum to increase reader engagement and grow a community around the brand in its new form.

In a next step, Rhein Zeitung could use the connections that have grown to its advantage beyond the gimmick of the “Tweet of the Day” by allowing readers to contribute actively to news stories via story suggestions, polls or other contributions.

Case Study 4: King5Seattle

King5Seattle is an NBC affiliated broadcasting Station in Seattle. But instead of broadcasting a simple newsfeed, their stream is a flow of conversations – with relevance to their audience!

Publishing

king5_tweet3

@King5Seattle focuses on providing mainly regional or local news and adds national news if they have a high entertainment value. With 86% links to news stories and images (out of which 61% link back to the King homepage) and an average of 31,6 tweets per day, this account gets closer to an RSS-feed than any other huma- operated news network account I have seen.

However, the human element counts! Most of the provided links and story Retweets are commented on. With additional information or a humorous side note, King5 thus adds value to the original tweet, while contributing to an already existing conversation.

king5_tweet2

“News has become more collaborative” explains Evonne Benedict from King 5 Seattle about their practice of retweeting and crediting news stories from other networks.

TOP: Resourcing – How Is The Weather Next Door?

King5weather

Crowd sourcing is a part of the King5Seattle’s Twitter agenda. Frequently, they send out requests, mostly for pictures, weather or traffic updates. Since the requests are small and often lead to user pictures used on the local TV station, the community is eager to contribute.

On their background, King5Seattle includes contact information for news tips encouraging users to contribute at all times. This is a great way to take advantage of Citizen Journalism or simply audience contributions.

Additionally, King5 uses other users Tweets as a resource. About 60% of their tweets are retweets from other users or originated in someone else’s tweets. Although this seems to be an obvious and easily accessible resource, not many news networks take advantage of it.

Community – The Local Megaphone

“Twitter is great, because it enables us to get back to the ways Journalism used to be: Closely connected to the local community.” (Evonne Benedict, King5)

News Media are a multiplier for otherwise silent or unheard voices. King 5 transfers this position to Twitter on both small and larger scale.

king5blood

“A severe heat wave in late July 2009 caused a blood shortage across all of Western Washington and @KING5Seattle and  other mainstream media outlets helped get about 30 retweets. At least 10 people tweeted they were donating blood that week”, explains Sean DeButts from Puget Sound Blood Center about the  shout out that likely helped to save lifes.

“Twitter is not really about us, it is about you!” (King5).

What sounds like clever marketing lingo at first actually becomes meaningful with shout outs for events like this. And @King5Seattle does not limit its megaphone position only to organizations.

Often the network’s tweeters will retweet questions of their followers and ask the community to help or join the conversation. Direct questions to King 5 are usually answered in Direct Messages to keep the stream “clean”.

The network could improve its community effort by institutionalizing input from their followers or encouraging meet up events among their Twitter community.

Transparency – One Voice! One Unidentified Voice!

Concerning Transparency, King5 is not doing a good job! It is not clear who is tweeting from the profile. Several people are trying to tweet on the account under “one voice” (Evonne Benedict).

However, this is a conscious decision and only long term followers know who tweets for the account. The staff prefers to remain the “man (woman) behind the curtain”.

Bottom Line:

King5Seattle does a great job as a regional broadcaster on Twitter, providing relevant and interesting tweets to their regional community in a personal voice. They entertain, inform and help to form opinion through their tweets.

The profile’s followers become part of the stream as King5Seattle uses reader suggestions. At the same time they are reaching out to participate in existing conversations, and encourage conversations initiated by their audience.

King5Seattle manages what journalists on a national level do not quite seem to be able to do: They create a sense of community among news consumers in which the station itself is on eyelevel with the other Tweeters. Followers are thus more inclined to give something back.

Lessons Learned

In bigger news organizations, publishing certainly takes up most of the time and space on the Twitter streams. It is what most Journalists know best and as I have shown, innovative and interesting examples of publishing on Twitter exist indeed.

However, most major networks use Twitter as a one-directional publishing tool only! More significant progress in resourcing and community efforts can be seen in regional news. While publishing is part of smaller networks’ agenda, the readership concerns and needs have a higher priority.

Twitter thus echoes a general development in Digital Journalism: Local and Hyperlocal reporting have gained importance over the web. While theoretically, the internet allows people all over the world to communicate with each other, the most productive and valuable relations grow within a limited geographic range. This is where the conversation reaches deeper levels.

People feel strongly and care about what happens in their surrounding space, because it directly affects them. In times when local newspapers are dying, [13]Twitter is a convenient tool to deliver those local news in collaboration with users as citizen journalists.

However, Twitter does not only benefit local news. Major news networks have found creative ways to use the tool and are continuing to build upon their achievements. While it is easier for a small network to build a close community, larger organizations might benefit from experiments that encourage a closer relationship to the news brand.

Methodology – Feel Alone in the Twitterverse?

I go about several different ways to find people on Twitter. Here is a short list. Some of them are more and others less helpful. Hit and run!

Flip the Channel - TwitZapping is finding people on Twitter Guerilla Style ©pcbritz

Flip the Channel - TwitZapping is finding people on Twitter Guerilla Style ©pcbritz

Structural Approaches:

The most simple and logical thing to do is to search people on Twitter you already know. Those do not have to be friends or business contacts. Search people you hear about in the media who you find interesting.  I read in interesting articles online. This is how I found many of the profiles I looked at more closely.

Lists and directories can help you to identify users to follow. I have been recommended WeFollow by several people and found it useful. It allows for a search within a category.

Twibes are also a great way to find people. They are ordered by subjects or interests and assigned 1-3 key terms or hashtags. The Twibe filters these and creates a feed of them. People on Twibes will be somehow affiliated with the search term.

Snowballs – The Twitter Way

Thought leaders can be helpful in identifying new connections and interesting users. Most thought leaders will follow a small amount of active users that inspire them, mostly in the same field. Use the snow ball system. Identify thought leaders and check out who your grand figures are following.

Trouble identifiying thought leaders? Hint: If you search a key term and find a series of RTs of the same person, you might be on the right track!

#Follow[placeanydayoftheweek], originally #Followfriday or #ff: People will show appreciation or share great users via follow friday. Combine with thought leaders and you’ll be very likely to find good people!

Guerilla Method: TwitZapping (My Personal Favorite)

Frustrated with all the structured approaches? Try TwitZapping (no, that word doesn’t exist yet, I made it up!)

I grew up as a bored teenager with a remote in my hand… that’s when I trained my thumb for texting, plus I learned to appreciate randomness (”uuh, Bible TV” ZAP “wow, cool – city council meeting” – ZAP “Hm, documentary on New Zealand Birds? Alright”). I’ve carried some of that into Twitter.

Flipping “channels” also works on Twitter – What I call TwitZapping.
The rules: Pick a person, hover your mouse over the people they follow, look back at the Twitterstream and click, blindly. Check out the profile without moving the mouse and click again – until you find a “channel” interesting to you or you run into Oprah.

TwitZapping might not be as effective, but it opens up profiles you would have otherwise never seen (like Oprah and Ashton Kutcher for me). It also gives you a feeling for the Twitterverse at large – beyond your usual buddies. It’s the luck of the draw, but sometimes you DO get lucky.

Thought Leaders in Journalism on Twitter

To get a start in the Twitter Journalism community, follow these profiles:

@digidave and @spotus for Crowdfunded Journalism

@demotix for Citizen Photojournalism

@reporterssource, @bridge2science and @profnet for connections between Journalists and sources

@jayrosen_nyu @jeffjarvis @kegill @thenewschick @NiemanLab and @ICFJ for a critical view on the future of Journalism

@mashable For hints on best practices and tools for Journalists and others

@thomsonreuters For a newsfeed that includes interesting RTs
@GroundReport for global news through the “hyperlocal perspective”

@knightfdn for funding of “transformational journalism”


[1] Brooks, Mike et al ”Airplane Crash-Lands Into Hudson River; All Aboard Reported Safe”. CNN.com/US. Jan 15th 2009. <http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/01/15/new.york.plane.crash/index.html&gt;.

[2] Johnston, Lauren and Matt Marone. “Twitter User Becomes Star in US Airways Crash“. NYDailyNews.com. January 16th, 2009. <http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2009/01/15/2009-01-15_twitter_user_becomes_star_in_us_airways_.html&gt;.

[3] “NY Jet Crash Called ‘Miracle on the Hudson‘“. MSNBC.com. January 15th, 2009. <http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2009/01/15/2009-01-15_twitter_user_becomes_star_in_us_airways_.html&gt;.

[4] Newspaper Death Watch <http://www.newspaperdeathwatch.com/&gt;.

[5] Kovach, Bill and Tom Rosenstiel. The Elements of Journalism: What Journalists Should Know and the Public Should Expect. New York: Random, 2007.

[6] Brauer, David. “How WCCO Got the Favre Scoop“. MinnPost.com. August 18th, 2009. <http://www.minnpost.com/braublog/2009/08/18/10948/how_wcco_got_the_favre_scoop&gt;.

[7] Catone, Josh. “Tweeting First: The New Way Mainstream Media Breaks News”. Mashable.com. August 18th, 2009. < http://mashable.com/2009/08/18/mainstream-news-twitter&gt;.

[8] Andersen, Michael. ”Four Crowdsourcing Lessons From the Guardian’s (Spectacular) Expenses-Scandal Experiment”. Nieman Journalism Lab. June 23rd, 2009. < http://www.niemanlab.org/2009/06/four-crowdsourcing-lessons-from-the-guardians-spectacular-expenses-scandal-experiment&gt;.

[9] Byrne, John A. “How I Use Twitter“. Business Week. <http://feedroom.businessweek.com/?fr_story=22f6378a9c00c3375a48cfcc40f15a26cbf6cebc&chan=careers_special+report+–+social+media+2009_special+report+–+social+media+2009&gt;.

[10] “CNN And Technology: 9 Landmark Moments“. 10.000 Words. July 28th, 2009. <http://www.10000words.net/2009/07/cnn-and-technology-9-landmark-moments.html&gt;.

[11] Kirkpatrick, Marshall. “Dear CNN, Please Check Twitter For News About Iran”. June 13th, 2009. ReadWriteWeb. <http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/dear_cnn_please_check_twitter_for_news_about_iran.php&gt;.

[12] Cashmore, Peter. “CNN’s Response to #CNNFail [Video]”. Mashable. June 16th, 2009. <http://mashable.com/2009/06/16/cnnfail-response&gt;.

[13] Gill, Kathy. “No More Free Content“. Wiredpen. March 8th, 2009. <http://wiredpen.com/2009/03/08/no-more-free-content&gt;.

Updated 9/25/09 10:27 – Format corrections

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