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New NewsHour Site Spotlights Multimedia Content and Team

During last year’s election cycle, I worked as the Online NewsHour’s associate editor for the Vote 2008 site, and while the site and show changed considerably during my year and a half there, bold revisions on the site today (and soon, the show) demonstrate an invigorated energy at the organization to keep up with new media during rocky times for traditional journalism.

In addition to a new design layout, some new site features include a new blog, written by both online and on-air employees, and the promotion of online video, something the site’s actually had for a long time but was never given its due prominence.

Of course, one of the most prominent features of the site and show is its new correspondent. Hari Sreenivasan, who comes to the NewsHour from years at CBS News, will be joining the on-air broadcast and working with the Online team to combine new media efforts.

Sreenivasan talked to The Bivings Group about the new site and the strategy behind its design.

… and about new social media and outreach efforts.

… and last, what other news outlets can learn from the redesign.

Blending the traditional program with Online efforts has not been an easy task. It took years to get the teams in the even in the same building, let alone the same work space.

Many of the new initiatives emerge due to pressure from dwindling sponsorship resources earlier in the year.

“Newspapers are thinning, and television has its own crisis,” show anchor Jim Lehrer said in an interview with the New York Times in May.

With the Online changes come revisions to the show format and a new name. Starting Monday, “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer” will officially become “The PBS NewsHour.”

All of these changes reflect a struggle within Public Broadcasting to find a place across all media spaces, promoting brand without losing purpose.

Lehrer told the New York Times in a more recent article, that he’s “’very concerned about serious journalism,’ and for longtime practitioners of the craft, ‘we damn well better get with it.’”

Tech Geek Myth Busted: Top Ten Ways Technology Boosts Your Social Life

Image by Flickr user Extra Ketchup In 2006, a popular study by experts at Duke University and the University of Arizona concluded new technologies have been making loners of us since 1985. Earlier this month, this theory was challenged and perhaps debunked. New technologies actually increase our social interactions, not our isolation, the Pew Internet and American Life Project found.

Pew’s deep research came up with a variety of causes and conclusions to support their hypothesis, but in my opinion, here are their most interesting finds:

10. There’s been no significant jump in the number of truly isolated Americans. While the study did support the idea the number of many Americans’ social connections may have gotten smaller and less diverse in the last 30 years, there are two important caveats: First, new technologies actually combat, rather than cause, this trend. Second, roughly the same number – six percent – of the American public is completely isolated from others in 1985 and now.

9. Web users are more likely to seek counsel outside their own family. “Whereas only 45% of Americans discuss important matters with someone who is not a family member, internet users are 55% more likely to have a non-kin discussion partners,” the study reports.

8. Many 18-22-year-olds use social networking to keep in contact with nearly all of their key contacts. Pew found 30 percent of those 18-22 — the age group most likely to use social networks — use those networks to keep in touch with 90 percent or more of their “key influentials.”

7. Internet users like clubs. If you own a cell phone, use the internet at work or blog, you’re more likely to join a voluntary group, on or offline. These can include neighborhood associations, sports leagues, youth groups and social clubs.

6. Technology users have more “core” friends in their discussion networks. “On average, the size of core discussion networks is 12 percent larger amongst cell phone users, 9 percent larger for those who share photos online, and 9 percent bigger for those who use instant messaging,” Pew reported.

5. Web users leave their rooms. Contrary to the iconic image of a lone blogger on a couch sans sunlight in a basement apartment, it turns out internet users are 42 percent more likely to visit a public park or plaza and 45 percent more likely to frequent coffee shops than non-users.

4. Cell phone and web users make better neighbors. Whether or not you own a cell phone or use the internet makes no difference in the amount of time you spend face-to-face with your neighbors, however, 10 percent of internet users supplement their face time with personal emails. When online neighborhood discussion groups are considered, 60 percent of users “know ‘all or most’ of their neighbors,” compared to the average 40 percent.

3. Technology users seek conversation outside their marriage. If you use the internet at all, you’re 38 percent less likely to rely exclusively on a spouse as a discussion confidant, the study found. Use instant messaging? You’re 36 percent less likely than other internet users and 59 percent less likely than non-internet users.

2. Sharing those family vacation photos online might make you more politically open minded. “Those who share photos online are more likely to report that they discuss important matters with someone who is a member of another political party,” the study showed. 

1. Bloggers have more racially diverse friends. Pew found those who use the internet frequently and especially those who maintain a blog are “much more likely to confide in someone who is of another race.”

Tapping into Your Organization’s Data

I’m at the CIO Perspectives Forum here in DC today, and I participated in an interesting lunch discussion.  This discussion focused on how organizations can better manage the content that they generate.  There were several interesting issues brought up – of which a few I’ll mention below.

First, what constitutes information that an organization needs to archive and classify?  While it is clear to save memos, proposals, spreadsheets, database, etc., what about instant message conversations or company-related tweets?  If these are worth managing, how does a company capture such data and place this data into place with more traditional items?

Second, related to capturing and indexing tweets and other social media communications, should companies restrict their employees from using social networks and social media sites?  Further, if an employee is a friend of a client on Facebook, should they defriend the client when they leave the company?  In the past, when you left a company there were policies about what departing employees could do with their Rolodexes, but what about now?  In fact, if employees are friends with clients on Facebook, the Rolodex is now public.  How can an organization use their employees’ connections with clients?  Should the organization take the cue from a client’s profile and take them skiing if the client lists skiing as an interest? 

Third, what is the value of an organization data mining its own data?  Several of our clients use our product ImpactWatch to monitor the media through data mining, but what if a company looked at its own data?  For instance, would data mining archived e-mails help reveal new ideas and solutions that are scattered through different conversations and people?  Could this capture ideas that people who are not connected with product development so that the company can exploit these ideas?  While there is clearly some privacy concerns, it is worth noting that individuals should expect that their company likely has the right to monitor their company-provided e-mail accounts.

These were some of the questions that we discussed.  We clearly did not come up with definite answers, but these are important issues and opportunities that organizations need to consider when dealing with their own data.

Medical Openness in Social Media

As social networking sites and technologies have flourished over the last few years, there has been much discussion about privacy today.  It is not that uncommon for people to provide updates about their personal lives on their Facebook accounts or Twitter feeds.  They talk about if they are sick, have a crush on somebody, are out partying, etc.

While this information sharing is innocuous at times while concerning at others, there are some social networks that are pushing the limits.  For instance, while at the O’Reilly Gov 2.0 Summit last week, I learned about the site PatientsLikeMe.  This is a fascinating site in which people with medical conditions come to connect with other people suffering from the same condition.  However, there is so much more than providing moral support and answering questions, people are expected to build detailed profiles about their bodies and health histories.  When they undergo treatment, they are encourage to share their experiences to it.  Does it give them gas?  Do they get headaches?  Is their sex life affected?  Of course, does the treatment actually work?

Now, it is one thing for me to announce on Facebook that I’m going to have Papa John’s Pizza for dinner tonight, but it is another to share personal side effects of a medication that I’m currently taking.  PatientsLikeMe does acknowledge privacy, but expounds upon the importance of openness on the site by stating: “You see, we believe sharing your healthcare experiences and outcomes is good…for a greater purpose: speeding up the pace of research and fixing a broken healthcare system.”  By sharing detailed health information about yourself, you help others understand how medical conditions and the procedures used to treat them work.

So, do you think that openly sharing your health information on the Internet is worth the potential it can to help others with their health?

Web Collaboration Requires Trust and Surprise

I attended the O’Reilly Gov 2.0 Summit today and enjoyed listening to many of the insightful speakers.  One of them was Clay Shirky; who is popular on the tech conference circuit.

He talked about how organizations have tried to harness their community members to use the data and services that they provide turning them to them to the public to develop applications and new uses for their services.  Shirky cited Apps for Democracy as a success story in this area; over four dozen applications have been developed to harness government data.  On the other hand, the Los Angeles Times tried to invite its readers to help write editorials through a wiki; this was a failure since the space was used to post information that was either not useful or vulgar (ie links to porn).

Shirky argues that when organizations invite others to participate in their work, they need to have a “social contract” that is complete enough to provide a purpose for the applications and new uses but not complete enough that it stymies participants from coming up with new ideas that the organization that did not think of.  Further, by limiting creativity, this chips away from the participants’ motivation to work.  According to Shirky, the Apps for Democracy contract was sufficient, and the LA Times contract was too complete.  The newspaper already had an idea of what its users would produce, and it was embarrassed that the experiment didn’t turn out well after advertising it.

Shirky said that organizations that undertake such initiatives need to keep three things in mind:

  1. Expect surprises; allow and trust people to be creative
  2. Don’t take credit or advertise the initiative until the results are understood
  3. Allow people to use their own motivations