Our editors & readers talk
Throwing a pebble and watching the ripples
Thomson Reuters hosted a speech by the British Prime Minister in London on Monday and we opened up the event to the Web with the help of two advisors — documentary maker Christian Payne and social media guru Mike Atherton.
These two have helped politicians, business people and even a Hollywood studio to connect with online audiences. Our event perhaps lacked a bit of Hollywood glamour but we had business people and politics in spades and we gave Christian and Mike full access to cover the event as they saw fit.
Christian created an alternative video feed of the proceedings using a Nokia mobile phone, and a wireless connection to the Qik social video platform.
This prompted a conversation in the Qik comments.
And somomething similar happened on Christian’s own site — OurManInside — which also carried a streaming feed and acted as a catalyst for another set of comments.
Meanwhile Mike Atherton ‘tweeted’ the proceedings throughout the event (for the uninitiated you ‘tweet’ when you use twitter , which is like blogging via SMS text message). He attracted hundreds of new ‘followers’ as the buzz about what was going on spread.
Meanwhile I had the more straightforward (but quite compulsive) task of monitoring what others were saying in reaction to Gordon Brown’s comments, picking out what I thought were the most interesting and featuring them on the Reuters website alongside our live coverage.
So, what did we learn from all this?
1. Interestingly, our two social media experts were able to create a ‘buzz’ around the event by keeping quiet about it. Dropping hints that they were involved in something big over the weekend served to raise the interest of their many followers in the social media world. Then going very quiet reinforced the idea that something was up. I’m not a PR expert but I think this is roughly the reverse of our standard approach.
2. It’s a lot easier to get a live video feed from a mobile phone out onto the Web than it is to take a professional video feed and stream it onto a website.
3. We can’t confine our attention to people who come to our sites to discuss our content – conversations will happen wherever people gather online and we’ll have to learn how to find the nuggets.
4. Finding out what people are saying online is getting easier. But monitoring multiple conversation threads isn’t easy. As I watched Mike Atherton flicking between screens and tapping away at his keyboard it struck me that this is a particular skill that not all of us have.
5. Measuring the success of such coverage isn’t easy. One of my colleagues asked what the impact on site traffic had been. Answer: negligible. But mentions in social media shot up. Is that enough to justify the effort?
6. The technology is still flaky. Bloggers complained they couldn’t hear the audio from our very own Thomson Reuters video widget. They were referred to the Qik video stream being provided by Documentally — but this broke down at one point due to connectivity problems.
7. Downing Street is actively embracing social media. It has a very personable ‘twitterer’ in the Communications Office who is using this to communicate with journalists and bloggers and indeed did this in advance of the Reuters event.
Mark Jones is Reuters News Global Community Editor