Can newspapers can make money from social media?

LIVE blogs, also known as live news pages, are one of the most engaging formats for online news, but are newspapers overlooking their commercial potential?

As businesses seek to make greater use of social media marketing, these blogs could be an effective way to bring commercial tweets and Facebook posts to the large audiences that newspaper websites command.

News-only blogs are hugely popular. They receive more visitors for longer periods of time than conventional articles or picture galleries on the same subject, according to a report by Neil Thurman, senior lecturer in electronic publishing at City University London, in the 2013 Digital News Survey.

They run frequently on sites such as The Guardian and BBC News, but I think are under-used by those regional newspaper companies that have the technology to host them.

An exception is Trinity Mirror, which employs permanent rolling news blogs on sites such as www.liverpoolecho.co.uk.

A good live blog need be neither thematic nor narrative in form. It should be a vibrant torrent of content that is generated not just by staff journalists, but by readers and their comments, photos, tweets and Facebook posts.

The large and engaged audience such a blog would attract has an obvious appeal to marketers.

Their messages, delivered as tweets, Facebook posts or embedded artwork, could be woven into the stream of non-commercial content.

It is a technique the Americans call native advertising, which critics say blurs the boundaries between editorial and advertising.

But does it? Are online-savvy audiences really such dupes that they cannot distinguish between these different types of content?

I would be interested to hear what people think.

Ethical considerations aside, it is time that regional newspapers began monetising their social media expertise.

Marketing networks such as LiveShopLocal are already springing up to provide social media support to businesses linked either by geography, market segment or size.

Many of these businesses are traditional newspaper advertisers, and we should strive to be their first port of call for all their marketing needs. If we do not quickly embrace social we risk becoming irrelevant to them.

I am deputy editor of the Malvern Gazette and this month we launched on its website a prototype of the sort of commercially orientated live blog described earlier.

A Very Malvern Christmas is a campaign running in-paper, on digital and on social media to support businesses in the Worcestershire town of Malvern in the run-up to Christmas.

Again, I would be interested to hear what people think of it. Add a comment or vote on the poll.

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About John Wilson

Editor of Hereford Times, Ludlow Advertiser, Stroud News and Journal, Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard and Gloucestershire Gazette series. Journalist for more than 30 years.
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