“Time is the only thing you need to invest in when starting a company blog”

At Twingly, almost everything we do has somehow to do with blogs. And while our products and services mainly focus personal blogs, there is the ongoing question for companies whether they should launch their own corporate blog.

We wanted to know: Who should have a corporate blog, and how should the content look like? To get the answers, we asked Anna Loverus from the Gothenburg-based agency Matter a couple of questions. As Content Strategist and Creative, she works with these kind of topics on a daily basis and as seen both the good and the bad of corporate blogging. She offers some great insights which might be inspiring for our very own Twingly blog as well.

It’s 2013 and there are many different ways for companies to reach out via social media. What part can a company blog play in that communication mix?
I often feel that a lot of communication in social media takes place because it’s possible, not necessary or valuable. Just because we have the opportunity to talk doesn’t mean we have to say something. I believe that most companies who are blogging today shouldn’t have a blog considering what they publish. Because of the Internet we now have access to pretty much everything we want, any time. This means that your customers, users or fans have the whole Internet to choose from when they consume content.

Communication today is not about your brand; it’s about your readers. You have to find something that is of true value for the people you want to reach, and if you do, you will build a long-term relationship. Find out what your readers really care about and think of content they would find valuable. Sometimes this can be quite far from your field, but it’s still valuable for the people you want to reach with your communication.

The blog format has amazing qualities. Compared to other communication tools a blog can handle many types of content like photo, video, sound and illustrations. It’s easy to create interaction and you don’t need any advanced applications to get started. If you keep in mind that no one will care about your company as long as you’re only a company, you can create real relationships with the blog as a powerful tool.

Anna Loverus
Anna Loverus

What distinguishes a good from a bad company blog? 
If you’re not able to publish regularly, don’t start a blog. How many times a month you must publish content depends on the type of zontent but two times a month is an absolute minimum. Visiting a blog where the latest post was written three months ago won’t make anyone want to come back. Like I said, readers choose their consumption of media on the Internet today. It’s not too likely that posts about your new collaboration or employee will become a traffic magnet. A really good company blog isn’t about or for the company. The good company blogs know their audience; they publish relevant content for the audience at a regular speed that suits their readers.

What’s the best and most cost-efficient way to get started, if a company decides to try it?
Finding out what is valuable for your audience takes time. Producing valuable content takes time. But time is pretty much the only thing you need to invest in when starting a blog. Start with asking your organization if they have any experience of blogging or writing, photography, video making or any other content production. There are many free and easy tools for anyone who wants to start a blog. WordPress is a blogging platform that can be either self-hosted or hosted by WordPress.com, Blogger is another free tool and Tumblr and Squarespace are other alternatives. Make sure to choose a tool that is easy to work with even if you’re just testing.

Start with asking yourself why your company wants a blog? Is it because you always get the same questions to your support? Because you want to find new customers? Is it because you need to get your team to work more together? When you have an answer, focus on that particular cause. You should get yourself a publishing plan and some simple blog formats. Blogging isn’t just about what’s in your head when you feel like writing, especially not when it’s a company blog used as a communication tool.

One large difference between communications in social media compared to traditional media is that we often lack a plan or format. Just because you can publish directly into social media when you have an idea doesn’t mean you should. Make a list with subjects you think people actually want to know about from your company. It could be everything from common support questions to how your web shop products look on real people. Use this list and create some simple formats with guidelines that make it easy for all writers to contribute easily. Instead of giving one person at your company the responsibility to write the blog, give them the responsibility to be the editor of the blog. Engage people from different parts of your organization when you’re collecting and creating content for your blog.

What are the risks of having a company blog and how to handle them?
I would say there are several risks with blogging. There’s always a risk to get negative comments or people not liking what you do, but as long as you meet them with respect, it’s not too much to worry about. But one thing that many companies are afraid of is the lack of control over a blog, just like with all social media, since you can publish directly and without thought. I think this is why it’s important to create some formats and a publishing plan instead of just telling someone to post whatever they want.
Another risk with blogging is that you start to measure success in numbers of readers. Your company blog shouldn’t focus on lots of readers; try instead to focus on the value for your audience. Try to measure the value in other KPIs than readers only.

Do you have some examples of really outstanding company blogs?
I have two company blogs that I believe do a great job in targeting their audiences. Mutewatch is a small start-up company that has created a nice balance between valuable content and business focus in their blog. The blog, called Timetank, focuses on time management and behavioural psychology.

IKEA has a very successful blog called Livet Hemma (life at home) where they post high quality interior photos with IKEA products. The goal is to inspire people to decorate with IKEA products. The design blog community is Livet Hemma’s target audience. IKEA creates great content for the bloggers to share. Take a look at livethemma.ikea.se.

Twingly TV/radio report: Public broadcasting gets linked the most from blogs

There is lots of talk about the so called “second screen” these days, meaning that viewers of live TV use their smartphones and tablets for interacting with other people watching the same show or movie, via Twitter, Facebook or dedicated second screen apps.

People want to engage with the content they consume, and they want to tell others about it. Thus, it is no surprise that many blog posts discuss current or upcoming TV shows, and often in a more comprehensive way than what’s possible in 140 characters.

For us at Twingly that was reason enough to analyse which of the websites and TV stations are being linked to from blogs the most. We published the results as a PDF report last week. For everybody who doesn’t understand the Swedish language, here is a summary of the results:

During the last 4 month, we found 18.000 links from blogs to Swedish TV and radio websites, with Public broadcasting service being the clear winner in regards to engaging the blogosphere.

81 percent of all links to the websites of Swedish TV channels referred to the Swedish public broadcasting TV SVT, with privately run free TV station TV4 capturing 9 percent of the links from blogs. SVT’s coverage from the Olympic Games in London turned out to be the most engaging TV content in the blogosphere during the past 4 month.

Even when looking at the various video-on-demand services available in Sweden run by TV stations and dedicated video services, SVT gets the lion’s share of the links with svtplay.se (54 percent), with tv4play.se coming second (31 percent). Newly launched Netflix hasn’t gotten too much of the Swedish blogosphere’s attention yet, although that might change in the future.

Among links to Swedish radio stations, an impressive 99 percent go to sverigesradio.se, the website of the Swedish public broadcasting radio.

We also had a look at the websites of international TV stations and how much their content is being discussed in the global blogosphere. With 66.147 links from blogs in the past 4 month, BCC.com ranks highest among the major TV stations, followed by CNN.com with 55.896 links and foxnews.com with 17.118.

If you want to see a detailed visual ranking for the different categories we examined, have a look at the 8 page report (PDF).

“Journalism and the knowledge of journalists is too important to be left to stagnation”

Emanuel Karlsten is a well-connected Swedish journalists and social media enthusiast. He thinks that the best way of developing new working concepts and business models in the age of social media is through experiments. According to him, the number of experiments is far lower than what it should be. With Ajour, he and a couple of other personalities from the Swedish web sphere are doing their part to help online journalism evolve. We had a chat with Emanuel.

Hi Emanuel. What have you done to become a well connected, well known figure in the Swedish blogosphere?
I am really not sure. It all started with being hired by a small newspaper called Dagen. I simply tried to be a good web editor. I started reading what people were writing on how to use social media, and follow those suggestions. During that time actively engaging in social media was considered being both brave and radical – most people just wrote about it. So my news site got a lot of attention and recognition, which meant that I also got quite a boost. I realized how easily things could be done without great budgets, if you just try. I collected as much knowledge as possible from every person I understood knew more than I. I tried to understand how they thought, read more, learned more and connected more. It has never been a strategy, it has just been me trying to do my job as good as possible.

Photo taken by Martin Ridne

You work as a journalist but you are also doing social media consulting for clients. How do you make sure there won’t be conflicts of interest?
I have been in conflict of interests. Sometimes I want to write about my clients, but if it is too sensitive I just don’t. But mainly my work as a consultant is with other media houses, so I am not very deeply affected.

How does a usual work week look for you?
Really there is no usual week. It depends on what clients I have and what projects they put me up to. But I invest a lot of time on roaming the web, looking for new things. When I don’t have a big client I work with the news project I created with some others, and I usually have about one or to lectures or trainings for journalists a week. I also spend every other Sunday writing my column for the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, and am a regular on a few radio shows.

What do you like about working with many different things at the same time?
I am a restless soul, so I am really not left with an option. But what pushes me the most is to see change. Journalism and the knowledge of journalists is too important to be left to stagnation and today there is almost no innovation in our business. It is frustrating and that is pretty much the reason I do what I do. I could not stay at a regular job – it moves to slow. I could not just be out educating and lecturing either – I would miss writing too much. And the way you challenge media is not just by talking, you have to show it somehow – so me and five others created an experimental new media site, Ajour.

Tell us a bit more about the project.
I think ultimately all of the co-founders have different goals. Some just want a platform where we can share great stories. For me it is about trying out new ideas. The whole concept of Ajour is to adapt to a social media world where the sender of a message is becoming increasingly important. So we had the idea on putting together a few of the most influential social media people in Sweden to create a newsblog/newssite where the WHO is the main way of drawing attention, not the WHAT. People trust that what we write is interesting, and thereby we could establish a stage which we then could use to give voice to people and stories that haven’t been heard yet but should be heard. So Ajour is about empowering citizens, challenging and encouraging them to pick up the pen, videocamera or whatever and do journalism together with us. But really, we do not know where it will end, we just wanted to experiment with this. Because it needs to be done, since so few others are doing it.

What importance does blogging have in your daily work?
People tend to think that blogs’ relevance has diminished and that it is now microblogging that is hot. That might be true in the sense that it is newer, but not in the way that it is impacting people. Especially in Sweden blogging has really changed the media landscape. Just look at the way young girls consume media today. They went from magazines to mainly blogs. Not just reading, but also writing. It is the big flagship in social media and is so for me as well.

How do blogs and Twitter changed journalism? Can a journalist still do excellent work without at least spending some time with social media?
Sure, a journalist can do a great and excellent work without social media. And a journalist can still do a great and excellent work without using a phone. But really – none of it makes any sense. Why would we not use a phone to reach people in a faster way? And why would we not use social media to connect to people? The biggest issue with social media and journalism is the gigantic gap of knowledge on how to actually benefit from it. There are so many ways social media could make the journalist’s job more effective. Those who have already understood this have experienced great success. It actually just means that we can do the same old work better, faster and more effective.

What are the challenge of social media disrupting journalism?
The challenge is how to develop a solid business model. I hate the word “find” because it suggests that it will just be there for you to pick up. Media has been great in trying to develop journalism online, but when it comes to business models it just got stuck. The problem lies not in that the model necessarily is wrong, it is just that we don’t get the same revenue on advertising online as we do on print. And that might not work, but we (media houses internationally) never really tried! The ones who did try, Facebook and Google, actually succeeded. But we have somehow bought our own lie on “it will not work” instead of trying to innovate. That is really frustrating to me. Another challenge is that while this is happening regular people – “non journalists” – are doing the journalists’ jobs. Often better. Because they are using the relevant tools and they are doing it transparent and many times with more confidence than a traditional journalist. This will probably become a bigger challenge for every day that passes.

“Without comments, any news site gets a certain PDF feel”

Dagens Nyheter (DN), Sweden’s biggest morning newspaper, has been one the first Twingly partners to integrate our widget solution into its website, back in early 2007. Today, five years later, we spoke with Björn Hedensjö, Head of Digital at DN, about how Twingly worked out for them, his view on the importance of blogs and comments as well as about what’s next for DN regarding social media.

DN was Twingly’s first client and integrated the widget in February 2007. What was the impact of that partnership and with what thoughts do you look back on 5 years of having incoming blog links showing next to your articles?
I started at DN in 2009, but the people working with digital there before me did a great job, and the Twingly partnership is a good example. The impact was big then and today we’re still a very natural environment for bloggers, and it’s important for us to put the incoming links in prominent positions on the site.

How has the role of the blogosphere changed for DN during the past years, and how important is it today?
I think it’s as important or more important today than it was a few years ago, despite the “competition” from microblogs and Facebook. I really feel blogs contribute in a unique way when they’re at their best, with in-depth coverage of current issues.

How much do you at DN actually work together with the blogosphere? What ways do you see for the future to leverage blogs even more for your site?
I wouldn’t say we work very actively with the blogosphere, but we link to blogs in articles when it’s relevant and of course all editors read loads of blogs. Also the Twingly partnership is important when it comes to tying us closer to the blogosphere. A senior editor of ours, Hasse Rosén, has recently started working with social and interactivity issues and eventually we’ll see some exciting results from that.

How valuable are reader comments for your web site?
Very important. Without them any news site get a certain, uncanny PDF feel.

If readers want to comment on one of your articles, they need to log in with Facebook, OpenID or a DN.se account. Do you find that to be the best solution to keep the quality of comments up?
It’s not the best solution, but it has proven to be a step in the right direction for us, I don’t think there are any easy or general solutions that fit all. We have plenty of ideas in the backlog, one being a rating or ‘like’ system, where users rate each others comments. That has been very successful on other news sites. Recently we also started working actively to encourage good comments by highlighting them, perhaps writing new articles based on them. But many things could be done to make it better.

How do you see DN develop in the future in regards to social media?
A closer Facebook integration is not an unlikely next step.

How will that look?
A little bit too early to say!

While there hardly seems to be anybody without a Facebook account nowadays, Twitter is still only a niche phenomenon in Sweden. Do you think that will change in the near future?
No, I think Twitter in Sweden is pretty much established as a meeting place for a tiny, influential minority. It hasn’t changed much since I got my Twitter account in 2008.

How much time do you personally spend with social media while at work?
Depends, if I have a not so busy day, which is rare, I allow myself to just enjoy them. Other days it’s strictly work, but I check Twitter and Facebook regularly.

What are the biggest trends in online journalism that you especially look forward to be able to work with at DN?
Open data services and quick, simple and direct ways to broadcast news. A colleague of mine recently shot, edited and published a very professional clip from a bus accident in minutes, all via his iPhone.

The most discussed news articles on Swedish blogs in 2011

Sweden’s four biggest newspapers, Expressen, Aftonbladet, Dagens Nyheter and Svenska Dagbladet, might be different in many aspects, but they have something in common: Their websites all use Twingly to connect readers with the blogosphere.

So which articles did create the biggest buzz and engagement within the blogosphere in 2011? We had a look at the stats! Here is a list of the top 5 articles from each of the 4 newspapers which received the most incoming links from blogs.

Note that on each article page you’ll find the Twingly widget where you can see what the blogosphere said. And sorry, but it’s all in Swedish.

Aftonbladet
1. Missa inte Vilgot
2. Minst 85 döda i vansinnesdådet
3. ”Inför ny skatt för feta”
4.  Juholt föreslås bli partiledare
5. Här är ditt nya stjärntecken!

Expressen
1. Billström gav samma svar – 17 gånger
2. Usama bin Ladin är död
3. Nobelfesten 2011
4.  Ministrarna ville begränsa flyktingvåg
5. Marcus Birro: Lärdomar? Lita aldrig på små flickor i rullstolar,som ber dig om något

Dagens Nyheter
1. Usama bin Ladin dödad i USA-attack
2. ”Demokrati inte så viktigt för dagens unga svenskar”
3. ”Privatiseringar i välfärden har inte ökat effektiviteten”
4. ”Arkelsten förfalskar historien”
5. Norsk polis: Minst sju döda i explosionen

Svenska Dagbladet
1. SvD rapporterade direkt
2. Ministrar ville stoppa våg av irakier
3. Muslimsk högtid kan bli helgdag
4. Sluta straffa våra patienter
5. Brottslighet bland invandrare borde oroa alla partier

Next Stop: Research & Results in Munich

Next week I will be in Munich, attending the market research conference Research & Results (26th + 27th of October) as a visitor.

During the last year I learned really a lot about the entire social media monitoring industry. Thanks to our data clients, who gave me during lots of interesting chats and discussions a great insight into the challenges and beauty of their work!

Now, on the other hand I do not know so much about the classic market research environment. I therefore hope that the quite useful looking sessions as well as meeting lots of people from the industry will give me a deeper insight into that area of services.

The only thing that I do know, though, is that even in classic market research social media sources from Twitter, Facebook, blogs and other communities become increasingly important. When browsing the offerings of the different suppliers exhibiting at R&R, I found that quite some of them even help companies to set up their own communities and blogs and help them to draw their customers to it. That way the companies get an insight of what people there think about their brands and services.

However, not everyone engaging with a brand or service is involved in these especially created environments. It is at least as important, if not much more important, to monitor what is going on outside ones own bubble.

Anyway, I hope to learn a lot more during next week about how market researchers think as well as their methods of collecting the information most valuable to their customers!

Drop me a line if you fancy catching up over a coffee or so, or simply call me. I might also check Twitter once in a while.

Anja Rauch

P.S.: We couldn’t resist setting up a Liveboard for #rr2011

“The most exciting shift right now actually happens within children’s literature.”

Just a few days ago we announced that the two largest online booksellers in Sweden, Adlibris and Bokus, have launched Twingly Blogstream on their sites to show blog links. But another renowned company within the Swedish book industry made such a step already two year’s ago: Norstedts, Sweden’s oldest publishing house founded in 1823. The company runs both norstedts.se as well as rabensjogren.se (the country’s leading publisher of children’s books) and is putting a lot of emphasis on integration with social media channels.

Norstedts recently relaunched its websites and now more than ever highlights incoming blog posts. We spoke to Klas Fjärstedt who is the one in charge of Norstedts’ and Rabén & Sjögren’s digital media about this move.

You recently relaunched your site and put blog reviews about your books into an even bigger spotlight. Tell us about the thoughts behind that decision.
The Swedish blogs dealing with books are usually of very high quality. Linking directly from our sites to those bloggers reviewing our books can be seen as a clear sign of how much we appreciate and value the “bookosphere”, which is gaining importance. We want bloggers to know that if they refer to one of our books they’ll be visible on our main homepage, regardless of what they write, regardless of whether they praise or criticize a book. We think this kind of openess and transparency is important. We don’t select manually which blog posts will be visible.

The book industry is driven by new content. Older books vanish quickly from the spotlight. The books on our homepage usually are the latest releases. However, bloggers write about both current and older publications. It’s fun to see some older release appear back on our homepage simply because someone blogged about it. Bloggers are kind of in controll about a part of our site, which I think is exciting.

I also want to emphasize that we have been using the Twingly integration since 2009. As far as I know there is no other book publisher yet that has done this ste, and it’s only now that online booksellers seem to wake up. I think there is a lot of inspiration to gain from visiting our sites, and we are proud to be cutting edge.

Any other improvements on your site you find especially noteworthy?
The key criteria for our relaunch was added value, simplicity and openess. Those attributes are the foundation for what we do on the web, and there is a lot Twingly can give us in order to accomplish our goals. We also reworked out design, everything looks much clearer now. On rabensjogren.se we built new templates in order to present the children’s books’ characters in a more vivid way, like here. On norstedts.se we have new templates to present book series, e.g. here.

What’s the impact of social media on the book business?
It’s huge. There is a lot of online conversation about books, and our goal is to participate in that. We want to make it as easy as possible to blog about our releases, to bring our content to other sites (by offering a HTML code for embedding book covers) and to share it via Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels. We know that a recommendation by a blogger for a book has a lot of impact on the purchase decision – often it has more weight and a higher conversion rate than advertising. Bloggers invest a lot of time to review our books and most of them are quite ambitious, thus there is a big benefit for our customers to read those postings.

Can you compare the “bookosphere” to the fashion blogosphere?
I’m under the impression that in Sweden books and fashion are the two most popular topics people blog about. They want to express their opinions and feelings about books!

These are exciting times, even books are going digital. What are your thougths on the future of books, and which ways do you see to bring the traditional book and the digital world together?
Fictional publications will move towards e-books. We already publish many of our releases digitally. Regarding children’s books we see an interesting trend towards applications, creating interactive versions of book content. The most exciting shift right now actually happens within children’s literature.

Do you personally read blogs? Which ones are your favourites?
Yes I do, and my main source for recommendations are the people I follow on Twitter. Twitter is a fantastic knowledge channel!

Here is Klas on Twitter.

Interview with Rob Begg from Radian6

Note: we did this interview with Radian6 Director of Product Marketing Rob Begg last week. Today Radian6 was acquired by Salesforce for about $326 Million. A huge congrats from us at Twingly!

We are happy to have Radian6, the worlds leading Social Media Monitoring firm as one of our clients, using Twingly blog data to increase the value of its products. Rob Begg is the Director of Product Marketing at the Canada-based company and explains how they managed to get that successful.

Hello Rob. Radian6 was founded in 2006 and launched in 2007 – today you are the leading Social Media Monitoring firm in the world despite a lot of competition. How did you manage to achieve that?
We believe that our growth and success is due in large part to our commitment to research and development. We are always working on ways to improve and expand our offerings. The feedback we receive from our customers is extremely important to us and helps fuel some of our new developments and updates.

Which companies or individuals benefit from your services?
Radian6 currently has over 2,500 clients from a variety of industries: higher education, technology, healthcare, non-profits, manufacturing, consulting, and many more. Our client base spans the globe with Canada and the US figuring prominently in the mix. Client size ranges from smaller regional businesses to global corporations, and all sizes in between. Over half of the Fortune 100 use Radian6. Our clients include Dell Computers, Microsoft, Southwest Airlines, The American Red Cross, and UPS.

How important is the monitoring of what’s being said in the blogosphere for your customers?
Blogs are a very important part of the online conversations that are taking place around our customers’ brands and products. It is essential that clients have a complete picture of the social conversations happening around their brand and many of these conversations happen on blogs.

What are you thoughts on the future of social media?
There is no doubt that social media will continue to grow and shape the world in which we live. It has dramatically changed the way the business world functions. Facebook and Twitter have certainly been on the forefront of this transformation and I expect that they will continue to be leaders in this space.

Do you personally read blogs? Which ones are your favourites?
I read Chris Brogan for honesty and practical thinking, our own Amber Naslund and her co-blogger Tamsen McMahon at Brass Tack Thinking as well as Brian Solis. In the past I used to be in the Interactive TV business so I love keeping up with the ITVT blog. And since I’m an indie music nut I regularly check TwentyFourBit.

An interview with the CEO of Silobreaker

We continue our series of interviews with companies that have decided to partner with Twingly to add additional value to their services. This time we asked Kristofer Månsson, the CEO of Silobreaker, to give us some insights into the world of media monitoring and intelligence. The London-based firm connects to our API in order to get the latest data from the blogosphere.

Hello Kristofer. Silobreaker offers a variety of media monitoring and search services. Who is your target group?
Basically, anyone whose job it is to follow, monitor, analyze and understand what’s going on in the world. This includes corporate, military and government intelligence professionals; investment managers, analysts and others in financial services and consulting; PR, communications and other more traditional media-monitors; journalists, researchers and “news junkies” in general.

Give us an insight into the world of intelligence and media monitoring. Where is your industry heading?
We obviously believe in an increasing demand for “smart” technology, since that’s the business we are in. Insight no longer comes from access to information but from your ability to make sense of it. And we cannot solve information overload simply by trying to read more articles. We don’t have the time nor the brain capacity. At Silobreaker, we regard aggregated content as the raw material and not the refined product. We also want to move away from traditional keyword search, since it requires you to know what you are looking for and it returns nothing but “hits” as results (often far too many). The opportunity and competitive advantage comes from the automated analytical processing of the aggregate media flow. That requires computer power and software that is capable of reading, analyzing and contextualizing the information flow and then presenting the findings in intuitive and easy-to-understand results. We want our users to spend less time on searching and have more time for interpretation and decision-making. Technically speaking, Silobreaker combines content aggregation with search, statistical and semantic text-mining and explanatory visualizations to meet a large range of user requirements.

Among other sources you do monitor social media. How important is this area to you?
It has been an important complement to traditional news media for quite a while. Social media have become the obvious channel for things like expressing product sentiment, for the messaging from political parties, NGOs and special interest groups; for calling to demonstrations, and for reporting from major events around the world, including from such places where traditional media is banned or state-controlled. Companies simply cannot afford to ignore social media, nor can analysts who in turn are following the companies.

Are there any new features or services that you are especially proud of?
We have recently launched Silobreaker Premium, a Software as a Service (SaaS) offering for corporate, financial, military and government users. Silobreaker Premium combines aggregation of news content from both traditional and social media together with a suite of analytical tools and visualizations. The aim is to help our customers understand quickly the effects of unexpected events and to discover angles, relationships, stories and perspectives before they become obvious.

You and a bunch of your colleagues are Swedish, but your headquarter is in London. What’s the background on that?
We started Silobreaker with only English-language content, which made UK and US users the obvious targets. So we decided to run business development out of London and product development in Stockholm. Today, we deal with several other languages, including Swedish, and we now also have local sales staff in Sweden. However, 75% of the traffic to our news search engine Silobreaker.com still comes from the UK and North America, so the English-speaking markets remain our largest user base, and London remains a good base for the company.

“The news itself has become a commodity and isn’t of high value anymore”

Hier ist eine deutsche Version des Interviews.

The Lausitzer Rundschau is a local newspaper from Germany and partner of Twingly. We interviewed Benjamin Marx, who is in charge of the newspaper’s online strategy as well as deputy editor in chief. He explains the role of social media for the media outlet, how the website integrates with Twingly and how the editorial department plans to increase reader engagement and interactivity.

Hi Benjamin, please tell us a bit about yourself.
Sure! I have a background within journalism, an university degree in oriental studies and experience as a web developer. I worked both as a foreign correspondent reporting from the Middle East as well as with creating several web portals. After that I focused on consultancy within crossmedia and online strategies. In this role I came to the Lausitzer Rundschau. One day they asked whether I would be interested in taking over the role as Director of online business, which I agreed to. Since January I’m also deputy editor in chief developing and redefining our crossmedia and multimedia strategy and appearance online.

Benjamin Marx

How will the future of newspapers look like?
For 65 years one of the core elements of our newspaper has been the local reporting and I believe this is where even online newspapers have their biggest potential. Especially from a local newspaper like Lausitzer Rundschau people expect to read about news and events from their local town and neighborhoods. They expect us to observe, question and even investigate the actions of local decision makers. There are two big questions any newspapers has to find an answer for though: How will readers consume content in the future, and how can the business model be adjusted to the ongoing change without losing the revenue needed to finance the necessary network of editors and reporters.

What is the goal of your online strategy?
We aim at leveraging new media channels in a way that is highly relevant for the users. We also want to find ways to increase the perceived value of our content, the news itself has become a commodity and isn’t of high value anymore. The time period of having a news exclusively is rather short. Hence we have to find ways to add value – mainly by providing readers with background information which they don’t get elsewhere. Being a local newspaper we can rely on a well established network of local informers and contacts. But what we need to know first is what people want to read and there lies the beauty of the Internet. In former times we only had the readers letters, now we have lots of ways to measure reader activity and preferences, among them comments and blog posts.

So you are paying close attention to what people write in response to your content?
Yes. There are some topics and news types that usually engage a lot of people on the web and that lead to a host of blog posts. In some occasions we even got in touch with bloggers and asked them for permission to print some of their content. By doing that we again ”captured” the discussion that we initially created.

You also use Twingly for the purpose of ”capturing” the discussion…
Correct. We have implemented the Blogstream widget under each article. When a blogger links to a piece on our website it is visible for our readers, who can proceed to the blog post to get an additional opinion. The Twingly widget is a good way for us to find out which topics are especially popular among bloggers.

What are your thoughts on the current social media hype?
Well social media is a lot of fun. At the same time one has to evaluate which tools to integrate into the editorial work. For us Facebook and Twitter are the most important social media channels. By ”outsourcing” your community to those two platforms you get rid of a lot of hassle that you would need to deal with if you establish your own community (which hasn’t worked for most newspapers anyway). We receive about 5.000 readers each month through our Facebook page and Twitter stream, which probably isn’t revolutionary, but we are happy with that particularly because those are people we otherwise wouldn’t reach through our print product.

How does the journalist of the future look like?
There is an industry-wide tendency seeing the journalist of the future as a true multi-talent – somebody who is able to work for and with any channel imaginable, from print to online, radio and TV. I’m not convinced this will happened. For sure journalists will need a different mix of competences and areas of interest (as they even did in the past) and a basic technical understanding might be required, especially regarding online and mobile. But I believe that between the current positions of the editor and the reporter a third role will evolve: the technical producer: A person with an advanced technical and creative set of skills who receives content, formats and adjusts it to different media channels and platforms, takes care of graphical visualisation, meta-information, comment moderation and other kinds of community management. At Lausitzer Rundschau we currently double the manpower in this area until May.

What is your vision for Lausitzer Rundschau online?
For once to be on as many platforms as possible. To achieve this we are developing a HTML5 version of our site which will work on almost any device. Furthermore we are going to experiment more with prioritising content based on user votings and activity. Our readers feedback and opinions will have even more influence on the position and visibility of articles on the Lausitzer Rundschau website. And then there is another functionality we are currently working on: The collaborative editing of articles similar to how Wikipedia does it. We want to offer our readers the possibility to make changes directly within an existing text, for example to add information or background insights. Of course an approach like that is not without risk, since persons we are reporting about might be tempted to change or remove less positives paragraphs. Nevertheless we think this is a very exciting experiment and are curious to see the blogosphere’s reaction towards this move. And of course we will closely monitor and moderate the editing process in order to avoid abuse.