Media 2.0 101: Continuous News is a social loop

Continuous NewsThe next step for a newsroom participating in the “news as a process” business is to include the audience in the process of gathering and reporting events as they’re occurring. This may seem obvious, but Continuous News is a continuous loop that includes consumers on a scale with which traditional media companies are unfamiliar.

Traditional media is a one-to-many paradigm, and this influences our use of social media. We “get” that Twitter, for example, is a great notification system, so a part of its appeal to us is its one-to-many side. We want to get a message “out,” and Twitter is very good at that. It’s the feedback loop that we fumble with, and this is even true in the Continuous News model. To begin today’s lesson, let’s back up a bit.

News is evolving away from what I’ve called “finished products” for several years. To be sure, we’ll always have newscasts on TV, some version of a “daily record” in print (after all, we need that first writing of history), and websites that offer completed stories, whether they are blogs, like Duncan Riley’s wonderful Inquisitr or online newspapers, such as the Huffington Post. What the news is evolving “to” is a continuous stream of elements that need no finished packaging, as is practiced by the gossip site TMZ.com. You can laugh all you want about the content of TMZ, but they are masters of the concept of continuous news.

Social media is also driving the news business to the continuous stream. This is a new form of news, which, I suppose, is why it’s so hard for media companies to explore. We keep defaulting to finished stories and everything that goes with that, and we’re missing the opportunities of professional life in the stream.

One thing we must all learn about the stream is that it’s not exclusive, because our contributions are just that — our contributions. They’re part of a vast linear timeline that is here and now. We don’t wait for anything; our deadline is always “now.” So if we are but contributing to a much bigger stream than our own, what are our responsibilities to others participating in the stream? This is a critical question, as it relates to our future relevancy as professional journalists in the ongoing stream of consciousness that is the Web. We may even have to interact one day with, OMG, our competitors!

One problem we have with this feedback loop is that we don’t control it, and this is counterintuitive. We may not control it, but we can influence it. For example, let’s say a television station airs a segment in one of its finished product newscasts that shines a light on the best local tweets of the day on that particular story or issue. We certainly can use such — and we should — but how many of us go the extra mile and notify those people that we’re using their creations? What happens when we do that? Lots of things:

  • We acknowledge that the stream is bigger than just us.
  • We give credit to those who participate, thereby encouraging others to do so.
  • They get a chance to notify their friends about “being on TV.”
  • Our Twitter street creds grow exponentially.
  • Our “finished” presentation is better served, and we’re better off for it.

The same holds true for comments on our sites. Merely acknowledging their presence is big, but connecting back with them is even bigger. Interaction begets interaction. If we have none, we must look in the mirror. The stream is alive with people — our people — each of whom has a place in the infrastructure that is Continuous News, and we’re smart if we lead that all that participation by example.

When big events take place, do we create hashtags that everybody can use? Do we engage those on Twitter through the use of hashtags or through replies or direct messages? The people formerly known as the audience are waiting to be invited in, but not just to become our pawns (let’s face it — that’s what they mostly are have been to us).

In the stream, we’re all equal. Let’s not forget it.

Continuous News is a work-in-progress. We’re all learning as we go along. The AR&D clients who practice the concept are, we believe, far ahead of their competitors who don’t. “News as a process” is a lot different than finished product news, and that includes the way it’s monetized. The sooner we learn how to drop commercial messages into the stream, the better off our bottom lines will be served. Our clients are figuring all this out as they go along.

Others in the business are waiting for somebody to figure it out first. What they don’t realize is that by the time “the book” is complete on Continuous News, it’ll be too late for them.

(Originally published in AR&D’s Media 2.0 Intel newsletter)

Comments

  1. Terry, it’s disappointing that this is still even a topic you have to cover. This has been one of the key challenges facing local media for years and the opportunity has only increased with Facebook, Twitter, Loopt, etc.

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