Wednesday, January 21, 2009



Although it felt like the World Wide Traffic Jam at times, the online coverage of President Barack Obama’s inauguration has demonstrated that the audience for major news events is now and forever well beyond television. Multimedia and multiplatform coverage of the day broke — and in some cases shattered — records. The inauguration set a new standard for innovation by local stations, network and cable news channels and newspapers.

The efforts of so many outlets were so inspiring that it’s difficult to single out just a few. What’s clear is that the new tools of the personal media revolution played a key role. Twitter helped tell the tale in real time and supplemented the coverage for many news outlets. Cover It Live, embedded on many news web pages, proved itself to be the perfect liveblogging tool. And Mogulus showed its chops once again as an excellent service for live streaming.

People at the inauguration used Twitter, Flickr and other sites to tell their personal stories. Twitterers also passed word along about which entrances were still accessible. “By the Washington monument overlooking mall-amazing view of the millions from here! 18th st entrance easy to get through at 1030am” wrote Twitterer “goshdarnknit.” (The same information was noted by several people, lending it credence.)

Washington’s WUSA started a Twitter simply called “inauguration” just after the election (smart). The station’s digital director, Patrick O’Brien, was kind enough to share an internal memo with me about the concept:

“Ever since the election, I snagged up the Twitter account @inauguration. The account auto populates with every inauguration story from Google News. No reference to WUSA9, other than a link to our inauguration page. Posted are stories from USA Today, CNN, and local news sites. Through word of mouth and some Twitter follower strategies, I’ve accumulated close to 1,000 followers (and recently growing fast), which is now equal to WUSA9’s Twitter account. Then, every day for the past month or so, I’ve been manually adding stories from WUSA9, while it continues to populate from Google News.”

WUSA-TVs twitter application

(Note — the memo was from Jan. 9. As of Jan. 20, the “inauguration” Twitter had 1,843 followers. Not a big number, you say? Think of how each of those people “retweet” a given story. And how that second sphere influences a third — and so on. That’s social media.)

It wasn’t just the tools that mattered. What we saw was a different approach to the news, and one that made online coverage so much better than in years past. Previously, we would have seen online wrapups after the effect. This time, the inauguration happened in real time online, made possible by the acceptance of the “continuous news” approach. Call it “Broadband Barack,” call it “iINAUGURATION,” the day online was something special.

Here is just a sampling of some of the online treats that could be found:

AR&D Client NECN mashed up CoverItLive, WordPress, Mogulus and its own CMS to made a dedicated live, continuous news page:

NECNs liveblogging application

At its peak, the NECN livestream had 7000 viewers. In the Boston cable universe, that’s the equivalent of adding about a .3 to the ratings. Cable news channels typically do numbers in the sub-one-point decimals. This was a substantial, additive audience.

The CBS affiliates shared an HD player that included a choice of seven live feeds, a live Twitter feed, and video of past inaugural speeches:

CBS station player

I found the video quality to be very good and the overall experience satisfying. I would have enjoyed more interactivity and more text.

Video wasn’t limited to the TV folks. The Washington Post and Newsweek teamed up for live coverage, complete with commentators. They streamed coverage that was as professional as anything you’d find from the TV pros:

Newspapers being TV stations

Here, too, you could choose from raw live feeds. Again, as with the CBS player, I prefer the video embedded on a page with more interactive choices. On a day when the video had its problems, it probably would have helped keep some visitors happy while they waited.

There were a lot of great, positive choices made for online coverage. Terry and I were encouraged to see how many stations seemed to embrace the New Tools all at once. We encourage everyone to take a tour around the inauguration sites while those sites are still up to get some ideas for the next Big Story. The Obama Administration is talking about being very digital intensive. Its coverage got off to the right start, by making the event the first real “iINAUGURATION.”   Link>


Malia Obama making her own record of the eventThis picture of Malia Obama during the middle of her father’s inauguration speech paints a stunning portrait of the disruption to mass media that Steve and I have been writing about for years. Here we have the President’s daughter making her own “movie” of the historic event, capturing the moment from her perspective. Why is she doing this, rather than sitting there with eyes fixed on the podium? Because she can.

We have cited often the report by Nokia in 2007 that by 2012, one-fourth of all entertainment will be created and consumed within peer groups, and this snapshot of yesterday’s event is a telling harbinger of that prediction.

We want to make our own media. We want to capture and share our own events. We want to remember, and the tools for remembering are more powerful than they’ve ever been. We’re a networked culture, and our network is where we connect and share our lives. We’re not looking at the stage anymore, as David Cushman observed last year. We’re looking at each other.

While this event — this blockbuster of an event — brought us all together for at least part of a day, it’s important to acknowledge that our view of such things is shaped by what we’re saying to each other in addition to what the people on TV are saying. This is the leading edge of the personal media revolution, and we’re increasingly seeing the mainstream press working with the people formerly known as the audience to help form the “official” record of the day. This is a good thing, and I think everybody agrees.

Malia Obama’s little video of her father’s speech is like a million other amateur videos of family and friends that form the burgeoning world of personal media. Her event may have been more significant to the masses, but the family picnic, prom, holiday or vacation is just as meaningful to the people who make video records of them. But the capturing of events is a small part of what’s happening today, for it’s the ability we have to share those events — and how they then become a part of the attention of our connections — that is the real disruption of personal media.   Link>


The inauguration was an event that was truly worldwide, and the Web was seriously stressed with traffic. The broadband video traffic pushed the Web to its limits, and many people experienced slowdowns — or even outages — as they tried to watch video. Wrote James Klatell at

“We here at experienced streaming difficulties due to an unusually high number of requests…Clicking around to some of the other major news outlets, they seemed to be having similar issues. had a note posted for potential viewers who came to see the historic moment. “You made it!” the message read. “However, so did everyone else.” The only thing to do? Wait in a line online.”

Depending on where you were and when you tried to log in, you may have struck out entirely. Mike Wendland of the Detroit Free Press found trying to watch video a maddening experience:

“I tried them all —, MSNBC, Fox, ABC, CNN, the New York Times, CSpan and others — and without exception, they all failed. After about eight minutes into the speech, I had sporadic luck with the Washington Post stream, which, despite hiccups, delivered the only available live stream I could find on my Comcast broadband connection. Judging by the running commentary on chat rooms form others who couldn’t get the video streams, my experience was the norm.”

But those who did get through set records. CNN heavily promoted its coverage on Facebook. It wound up with traffic triple its previous record. According to C|Net, as of 1 pm EST, 18.8 million viewers had tuned in to the live feed, with 1.3 million concurrent live streams watching President Obama’s inaugural address. The numbers stretched CNN to its limit. Many visiting the live feed were put into a digital queue and had to wait for a “space” to open up.

The CNN Facebook Application paid off in promotional value as well. As of 1:15 PM EST, 600,000 “status messages” had been set using the app. An average of 4,000 status updates were set every minute. Millions of Facebookers checked in during the inauguration. CNN got plenty of facetime on Facebook.

Mogulus broke a company record, with 105,000 concurrent users and more than 1 million total users. Twitter was running at four-five times its normal rate. I experienced slowness updating with it, and I wasn’t alone.

Akamai notes that Tuesday was not a record day for Web traffic. Election Day, 2008 holds that honor. In fact, Inauguration Day traffic barely makes the top five. But alas — all that video…

It’s not surprising that the inauguration put such a stress on the system. To use the cliché, this was a “perfect storm” of demand. It peaked at Noon ET — prime time for the Web. It was video-driven, and was an event with international interest. Remember that much of our audience was at work, and because we were providing so much information online, we were doing the first job of journalism: informing.

So does this mean that video doesn’t work online? That the Web will never support a big video-driven event? Hardly. It only proves two things:

1. The enormous demand for online video
2. The woeful state of broadband in the U.S.

The pipes will get bigger and faster. The demand will grow. The infrastructure will support the Big Events. In the meantime, “normal” Web video traffic is supported very well. In the meantime, it’s good to see media outlets embracing complimentary technologies like Twitter and CoverItLive to supplement their TV coverage.   Link>


Ted McEnroe(Ed. Note: Ted McEnroe is the Digital Media Director at AR&D client NECN in Newton, Mass. We asked Ted to share his experience with “Tweetdeck,” a nifty bit of software that retools the way you can use Twitter.)

Alright. So you have found Twitter. Congratulations.

You even have followers and found lots of good people to follow. Bravo!

But how do you keep track of all those people whose tweets you want to read? Once your list of people to follow climbs over a couple hundred, picking out the best is like drinking from the fire hose. The Twitter web interface is nice, but you’re probably better off with a desktop client that doesn’t tie up your browser, and makes it easier for you to manage your Twitter account.

At NECN, I alternate between two clients – Twhirl and Tweetdeck. Twhirl has one great feature – the ability to manage multiple accounts, which is useful for someone who has both personal and business accounts to monitor.

But otherwise, I use Tweetdeck. Tweetdeck has two great functionalities – searching and groups, which make it easier for you to keep an eye on what’s going on among those you follow, and on Twitter as a whole.

Tweetdeck application

I divide my Tweetdeck account into nine columns – which means I can’t see them all at once – but because I can change the column order on the fly, it’s never really a problem. I have taken my list of about 300 people I follow and created two basic groups. One, Media 2.0, is for the key media people I follow, a list of about three dozen people who are really focused on journalism. Another, which I have titled “Social Meteors,” is for the key social media people I follow. If I don’t have time to keep an eye on my whole tweetstream, these two columns are the way I can quickly catch up.

The next two columns are for my own conversations – they list my @ replies and direct messages. Only then do I have my list of “all tweets.” Here’s why – if I have time to keep an eye on things, I can set up the view so I can see my replies and DMs and all tweets, just by scrolling a little right.

After that, there’s a column where I can eyeball all the other media organizations I follow with Twitter feeds – and then I take advantage of Tweetdeck’s search capabilities. I have searches set up for NECN (ALWAYS know what people are saying about you), Boston and Maine, but you can set up searches for whatever you want. I scroll through mine a few times each day, to see what might be going on locally. The program also includes a cloud column called Twitscoop, which is a great way to keep an eye on trending topics – although if you follow good people, you’ll be ahead of Twitscoop anyway.

Bottom line – finding a good client like Tweetdeck makes Twitter an even more indispensable source of information on beats, conversations and the business as a whole. It makes the water coming out of that fire hose a little easier to digest.   Link>


Obama may have inaugurated a new style in press relations: not the warm embrace, or out in the cold. Neither feed the beast, nor win the week. I will just call it the cool style, and let others more learned in American cool unfold what it means for our president. Jay Rosen on changes in the White House press room (and some advice for the new President).