Interview with Jan Jasper Kosok of freitag.de: “It’s ridiculous not to link to websites outside of your own”

Der Freitag is a weekly newspaper from Germany which has been focusing a lot on connecting their print to their online product (the print edition actually was nominated as one of the best designed newspapers in the world) and on making the readership part of it, promoting its community and blog network more prominently than most other newspaper websites we have seen. And they are using Twingly. We spoke with Jan Jasper Kosok who is in charge of the paper’s online presence freitag.de about the newspaper’s decision to integrate user generated content, abut the German blogosphere and the importance of social web channels as traffic sources.

Hi Jan. You are in charge of Der Freitag’s website and also for the community.  How did you get into that role?
In 2007 me and a friend ran a blog about Berlin pop culture. One day I was contacted by Der Freitag and they asked me if i could imagine working for them. At that time I wasn’t really ready but we stayed in touch and in April 2009 I joined them.

So it was your blog that created this career opportunity?
Yes. They wanted to hire somebody with a blogger background, who understood the dynamics of the blogosphere and social media.

How do you distribute your time between the two roles – working with the community and with the website in general?
The community part (moderation, commenting, projects involving users) takes definitely less time than working with the day-to-day-tasks as well as with the overall website strategy, especially since we are creating the concept for a relaunch for 2011.

You might be the German newspaper which is focusing the most on blogs and user generated content. How come?
The groundwork for this was laid before I joined. But once the basic mind set was created, the implementation went step-by-step, and today the combination of online and offline and the integration of the readership are part of Der Freitag’s philosophy. Readers like to be able to identify themselves with the product, and they want to have the possibilities to get in touch with it, even contribute to it. About 30 percent of the content consumed on freitag.de is generated by users. Besides our own editorial content and the articles we are syndicating from The Guardian the community has become our third main pillar.

What about the combination of online and offline?
We are actually publishing some of our community content in our weekly newspaper. Our goal is to create a feeling for the people who buy the newspaper that they are part of it, and part of the creation. So far it seems to work: Our readers have a closer emotional connection to us than what readers usually have to other newspapers. For a small-sized company like ours that is a powerfull concept. For the future our main challenge will be to grow the community and at the same time maintain the familiar atmosphere.

What are your thoughts regarding the current state of the German blogosphere?
In my opinion the (few) leading blogs in Germany have become more professional. Some people say the blogosphere is getting smaller and less active. On the other hand I today see a lot of blogs covering the topics that we wrote about in our blog back in 2007 – at that time we were pretty much alone in our niche. So I think your own thoughts about the blogosphere always depend on your personal areas of interests. Different people will tell you different things about where the blogosphere stands in 2010. However, citizen journalism in Germany is still in its early beginnings. I’m convinced that we’ll see a lot happening in the future.

You link a lot to external blogs…
Yes, we pay a lot of attention to the blogosphere and try to connect to external blogs. We also think it is important to not only link to our own articles via our Twitter account but to whatever content the editorial team at Der Freitag thinks is worth reading. It’s kind of ridiculous not to post a link to a good article or important information just because it has been published elsewhere.

When you link out a lot, you probably also get many incoming links from blogs (which you track with Twingly)? Yes that’s true. And since we are still fairly small we really feel the effects of when bigger blogs are linking to our articles. We are using the Twingly widget to show incoming links for everybody.

If you look at the incoming traffic from blogs, Twitter and Facebook. Where do you get the most visitors from?
That’s difficult to measure, because the heavily used URL shorteners make it difficult to track the exact source. But my impression is that Facebook is growing more rapidly than Twitter and is sending increasingly readers to us. On the other hand, in my personal opinion Facebook has become the place very everybody is, but Twitter has successfully gathered opinion leaders, other bloggers, journalist and media profiles which actively are distributing links.

What’s your vision for freitag.de for the next years?
We see our site as permanent work in progress. We want to deliver modern cross medial journalism and to be open for new trends, approaches and experiments. We hope to be able to establish ourselves in that niche.

Twingly Team Interviews: “Websites benefit from interacting with readers”

A few weeks ago we introduced a new series called “Twingly Team Interviews”. We started with Marcus Svensson, one of our skilled developers. Today we bring you the second interview from our series: We had a chat with Anja Rauch who works as a Business Development Manager at Twingly. Being originally from Germany, one of her main tasks is making Twingly a known brand in Germany.

Hi Anja. Please tell us a bit about who you are and what your background is.
I am of German origin, lived for five year in London after studies before life took me to Sweden and to Twingly. I started my professional life with an apprenticeship to become a trained bookseller, which is basically an education in retail but specialised in booktrade. After that I went off to study economy. Since there were no properly paid jobs in Germany after I finished studies but a chance to go to London, I decided to move to the UK. On the big island I worked as Marketing Manager for a small company selling key tags and stuff to the car industry. After that I moved on to the Online Advertising industry and worked as an Operations Manager, ending up managing the European Ad Operations team. When I then met the man of my life, I moved to Sweden. I was lucky enough to start working with Twingly immediately which opened the world of social media to me.

How did you get in touch with Twingly?
I quite simply threw myself into the usual job browsing routine, subscribed to lots of portals like Monster.se etc. On Monster I saw that Twingly was looking for someone in Sales and having worked previously with Sales I simply contacted them directly about the job. I knew that with non-existent Swedish language skills I would have difficulties finding a job in Sweden, but apparently I still managed to convince them that it would be the right decision to hire me, because they did. I was very lucky and very happy as you can imagine. I started in May 2008 as Business Development Manager, mainly focusing on making Twingly a known brand in Germany. It is still one of my main tasks today, although I will get an increasing number of Swedish and international customers to take care of shortly. I look forward to that.

What is it that a Business Development Manager does at Twingly?
The tasks are varied. Monitoring the market one is responsible for, knowing what moves the industry or businesses there, which discussions are hot etc.. I do not only work with business partners, but also with the end users of our product, if one can call a blogger an end user. I also sometimes write blog posts on the Twingly blog, I hold contact to business contacts and in summer I started a German Twingly-Twitter-Account. I visit conferences in Germany like the dmexco plus I travel quite a bit to meet contacts and clients.

That sounds indeed very varied. What motivates you to go to work every morning?
Because the tasks are so varied it rarely gets boring. Also since I started at Twingly lots of ideas were toyed around, resulting in launching a proper blog search (summer 2008), then a microblog search (January 2009), then our current big project Channels (October 2009) or the Twitter-Liveticker Twingly Live in autumn 2009. And I reckon there is lots more to come during the next 12 months. At Twingly we are also a great team which works well together and which has a lot of fun together. It is one of the best work atmospheres I had during my professional life. And apart from that – over 100 partners are using our business offerings which feels good since it means that we must be doing something right.

What is the biggest benefit for publishers to integrate the Twingly services?
If a site starts showing blog links that link to their articles or pages, they usually get more links from bloggers. Being recognised on a site is another way for bloggers to get more readers for their own content. So in general the sites get more links and also more readers via the linking blogs. That supports their traffic figures in a positive way, and they also have a possibility to keep in touch with the bloggers that write about them. In Germany t-online.de is a good example for quite an increase in links from blogs since they started using Twingly in May this year, they went from about 200 new links to about 900 new links per month. Dagens Nyheter and Svenska Dagbladet in Sweden were by the way our first customers and they are still enthusiastic about the tool.

How do you think the online media and blog landscape will develop in the next years, and which role will Twingly play?
From what I see traditional online media and social media will blend and mix quite a bit more than today. Lots of journalists working on hot topics use Twitter as one of their main research resources, so whether they want it nowadays or not, they are in there and social media in general will be more and more an important source. Then lots of sites started having fan pages on Facebook, Twitter-Accounts, company blogs and trackback systems or Twingly for showing blog links. That means they interact more with their readers and people who are interested in them, which I think they will benefit from. Even if they are often still experimenting and trying to figure out a way that works for them. We at Twingly hope that we will be able to support the process as we do now – not only with new tools, but also with our knowledge we have to share.

What web trends are you most fascinated by right now?
Location based services and all realtime services. Location based services are nice toys for keeping people in the loop of where one is, giving the possibility to potentially meet spontaneously. On the other hand one might share more details than one wants to. Fascinating how my Google results grew since I work for Twingly. Realtime services are great to get information instantly when it happens, I am following i.e. also the development of a realtime service/ database called Datasift which has huge potential to function as a base of new realtime services. On the other hand I am wondering if really everything has to happen in real time. Does it not make our anyway fast paced life even faster? Pros and cons all the time for everything I reckon.

/Martin Weigert

Final Voting on for German Social Media Award!

Only two days are left – today and tomorrow – so vote for your favourite project! These are the candidates in the second and final round:

Gute Sache (Good Cause):

Kunst (Art):

Gesellschaft (Society):

Medien (Media):

Wirtschaft (Business/ Economy):

Voting is easy. Go to one of the links above and read what the project is about. If you like it, click the button right under the title. Note – you have one vote per category and per day! Which is great, we think, cos we have real trouble deciding between all these cool sites. So we simply vote on different days if we really like more than one project in the same category. If you haven’t done so, start voting now! You’ve got only today and tomorrow…

The winners will be announced on the 10th of November at 6 pm on the Convention Camp in Hanover!

Like you, we are very curious to learn who won the race in the different categories. But what we know for sure is that there will be a nice little Twingly surprise for each winner. Provided that the snail mail does not decide to cross our plans…

You did not really get what this is all about? Then check out our post from a few weeks ago.

German Social Media Award – FTW!!

As some of you already might have seen we are one of the proud sponsors of the German Social Media Award hosted by Twittwoch.

And some of you might think “What the heck is “Twittwoch”?”. Well, here comes a quick round-up. Twittwoch is a German non-profit organisation that arranges regular Social Media Come-Togethers and Workshops. These give (business) people an opportunity to exchange ideas about social media face to face.

The name “Twittwoch” derives from “Twitter” and “Mittwoch”, German for “Wednesday”, and so the most  regular event still is the Twittwoch-night which happens once a month across several cities in Germany like i.e. München, Berlin, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Essen and Hannover. Just that the topic is not anymore exploring the new opportunities of Twitter, instead it is an exchange about all kinds of social media topics.

Twittwoch thought it is about time that all the nice small social media initiatives get appreciated, the ones that often get run by one or only a few people, with lots of enthusiasm but often with little or no financial support.

Until the 1st of October you can suggest new candidates – please note that only projects in German language can enter the competition!

You might already have discovered that here are different categories you can vote in, and of course you can vote for all of them if you wanted to.

And that you really should do – VOTE!

Each project needs 250 Facebook-Likes to get into the second round – until the 15th of October. All projects with 250 Likes will enter the second voting round. For details, please take a look at the rules here.

The lucky winners will be presented on the 10th of November at the ConventionCamp Hannover, which is an annual conference where all kinds of people from economy, research and web 2.0 together come together for knowledge exchange and discussion.

Again, now it is your turn to vote! You do not have to be German to do that, but obviously you need some German to find your way around the site…

Will  “Wir für Frank”, “Tiny Tales” and “Manomama” lead all the way through to the final? Or will your vote or project suggestion change the game completely?

Your choice. Everything is still possible.

From Stockholm to Berlin: Interview with SoundCloud CEO Alexander Ljung

As you already might know, here at Twingly we like to support our fellow Swedish startups and Internet founders. And not only those with a great taste for colours. Even those who decide to leave Sweden and to start a web company somewhere else in the world, like Alexander Ljung and Eric Wahlforss who created Berlin-based SoundCloud.

SoundCloud is a platform for DJs, artists and producers who like to connect with colleagues and friends and to present and discuss their latest tracks and releases. Founded in 2007, SoundCloud is now very close to one million registered users and has become a significant player in the digital music business.

At last week’s Next Conference in Berlin, I had the chance to talk to Alexander about why they left Stockholm to start SoundCloud, about the differences between Swedish and German web culture and about why it can be pretty difficult to be productive in a city like Berlin.

Hi Alexander. Spotify, one of the most talked-about music start-ups in the world, is based in Stockholm. How come you didn’t choose the Swedish capital for starting SoundCloud?
Since SoundCloud was part music platform and part social network, we didn’t want to launch the site only with our Swedish friends as the first registered members. So we thought it might be good to move to another city and to leverage the contacts we make there for creating an international platform from start. We had several cities in mind but in the end we chose Berlin, mainly because of the good music and club scene, but also since it was and still is affordable to live and work there.

How long did it take you and your co-founder Eric Wahlforss to plan the move to Berlin?
Actually less than a week. Everything went pretty quickly. In the beginning we stayed at and worked from friends apartments or cafes. It was really helpful that we already had some people in Berlin we knew, and a lawyer supported us with the administrative work.

What was the biggest challenge after you had started the company?
There was a lot of paper work and bureaucracy involved in starting the business, and in the beginning we had some trouble with our broadband operator – which can be a huge problem when you are running a web start-up. But otherwise, most things worked out fine. Berlin was a great choice, since we were so close to our main target group – DJs, producers, artists. We went out clubbing almost every weekend, tried to increase the size of our network and asked people on the dance floor to start using SoundCloud. That was fun.

What are the differences between the Swedish and German start-up scene?
I think everything is less centralized in Germany, since there are several big cities with strong web companies. This might also be the main disadvantage for the German market from a global perspective – what’s missing is a central hub where resources, talents and knowledge is concentrated. Another difference is that here in Germany there is much more secretiveness surrounding the web business. People don’t want to talk about what they are working on. And of course (corporate) people are a little bit formal. Something that a Swede has to get used to 🙂

Even after many years, Berlin is still extremely popular among young urban people from all over the world. Why is that?
The atmosphere and culture in Berlin is very unique. Since the costs for living are still low, people can afford to only work a few hours per week, and do the stuff they want the rest of the time. Some folks are like professional club goers. And the consequence is that people in the creative, media and Internet world are much more understanding and tolerant when someone comes to a meeting a little bit later, and with a hangover. Nevertheless, if you want to create a company, you have to work hard, which means that you need a lot of discipline here not to get tempted too often to enjoy the Berlin nightlife.

Still, some people say Berlin needs to become Europe’s Silicon Valley
It is definitely cheaper to start a company here than in most other cities. And recently many web start-ups are either moving to Berlin or launching here. So maybe one day Berlin will become an important European hub for Internet companies…

/Martin Weigert

Photo: Jyri Engeström

t-online.de connects with bloggers!

The biggest German general interest portal t-online.de started to reach out to bloggers!

Since a couple of days there is a little Twingly-box with linking blog posts to the down-right hand side of each news article.

And there are a lot of top news to link to – from the smallest electrical driven car to name dramas and the latest gossip around the German football team in the World Championship to come.

So take the opportunity and be part of one of Germany’s largest websites – we hope you get lots of new readers by linking to t-online.de!

As for us, we are just very proud to support t-online.de’s social media strategy and look forward to a strong and successful partnership.

A year in Germany (oder so)

Soon it will be one year since Handelsblatt.com as the first German partner ever went live with Twingly – and in total it were twelve exciting and inspiring months for us working in the market of a country that is and has been so close to Sweden in many ways.

One can start with Gustav II Adolf’s invasion of Germany in early 1600, Swedish soldiers during the 30-year war on Saxon soil (battle at Lützen, close to Leipzig, where the same king found his death), the Hanse (Visby was in 1200 an important Hanse-town – and don’t say it is not Swedish, you Gotland critics 😉 ) and one must not forget Swedish soldiers joining the German army in WWII (to name a darker chapter of history).

Nowadays  there are lots of German tourists in Sweden, plus the silent invasion (as I’d like to call it) of Germans working in Sweden or finding their love there (me = one example), Swedes moving to Berlin for working and living (maybe loving, too?), Germans buying Volvos even though most still prefer VW, Mercedes, BMW, loving their Sony Ericsson mobiles, chatting on Skype and longing for Spotify – and maybe even for Twingly. Although we are a little different to Spotify or Skype.

Anyway, Germany in many ways is one of the most important business partners for Sweden. And in 2009 it also became one for us at Twingly.

During 2009 we probably went from “Who the f… is Twingly?” to “What? You don’t know Twingly? Check it out!” if you would have asked someone in the German blogosphere.

Some newspapers online joined us on our path of recognition in Germany by using Blogstream to connect their content with blogs. These are Handelsblatt, Wirtschaftswoche, Karriere, Freitag, Lausitzer Rundschau, BILD and FOCUS. The last two decided to give it a few months try only, though, but keeping in touch and with our further development of services we are pretty confident to welcome them back as partners at some point later soon.

We also welcomed the German first shop to use Twingly to connect to blogs – check out Yomoy.

In 2010 there will be a few more German Blogstream partners joining which really glads us and we feel honoured to be entrusted with supporting them in their online strategies.

The year to come will bring new Twingly products and therefore also a greater variety of business models that will suit different types and sizes of businesses. All new products like i.e. Twingly Channels or Twingly Live (to name the ones already somewhat out there) will incorporate real time web – which has been stated as one of the top trends for 2010, as every digital native by now knows.

Twingly Live already now supports lots of events and conferences. Twingly Channels will be doing the same and a lot more like i.e. Social Media Monitoring for everyone or “channeling” the media around one event or in general givving the opportunity to get all important news in one place. Possibilities with Channels as we imagine it to be will be endless, and that’s why right now we work hard on getting all you want into place before we launch the open version some time in the first half of 2010. Stay tuned.

We will also develop our Enterprise Solutions like i.e. Blogstream further and it goes without saying that the results for Germany on the Twingly blog search will be better and better. Not sure if I have to mention this, but – we do love feedback and we want yours. So let us know if you have a great idea or a problem!

At this point I would like to say thank you to all our German business partners who allowed us helping them to improve their connection with social media.

But the same thank you goes to all the great people that I have met over the year online via i.e. Twitter but also offline and in real life on for example the Microblogging Conference in Hamburg, the re:publica in Berlin and the dmexco in Köln in September. It is just so nice to be a part of the German blog and social media world, although we are located rather remotely in Sweden. But thank goodness Germany is in the end only a couple of flight hours away. So thank you for your friendship, support and trust!

For 2010 the following these events are already scheduled: the MBC (so it hopefully takes place), the re:publica (tickets bought, hotel booked, flight to be booked) and the dmexco in autumn.

Also, since there are some quite innovative things cooking at our end we would be interested in taking part in some more happenings and/or competitions in Germany. Any hot tips, anyone, for what we absolutely should not miss this year? Get in touch.

Let’s bring it on in 2010 then! Or how was that again in German? “Es gibt viel zu tun. Packen wir es an”.

Looking forward to see you soon, in real time and in a brand new decade!

A little Social Charity Wonder from Berlin

Sometimes great things happen as a result of many little things. Like real social stuff for and from real people, and even in real-time (not to forget to mention the trend of 2010).

Today happened a small fairytale resembling the Christmas Carol from Charles Dickens. Place: Berlin Charlottenburg in Germany.

It started last Friday when the blogger Sachar Kriwoj involved people on Twitter and via his blog Massenpublikum (German for “mass audience”) to help a little flower shop in his district from being closed. The story is that the owner was forced to close the shop for half a year because of a severe health issue. When re-opening it a few months ago he quickly realised that it would be too hard to build up again what he achieved previously. Therefore he decided to close the shop after Christmas, abandon his dream and simply work as an employee in another flower-shop, applications he sent already. Like he put it “There are people who are worse off than me”.

Now, to Sachar’s girlfriend this was not just any flower shop but her favourite one. The two of them learnt the story and that in total 10.000 Euro were needed in order to keep the shop open. 4000 Euro could already be collected via private sources, but where to take the rest from?

Sachar added the case simply as a new project on Betterplace.org which helps to collect money for projects worldwide and of all backgrounds. He tweeted the message out to his followers like “if everyone of my followers would give less than 2 Euros then we would make it”. Lots of retweets followed and lots of people got engaged during just 5 days – and despite skeptical voices even from the blogosphere the target was reached! 144 supporters helped to make it happen, and thanks to blogger Sascha Lobo who put in the last couple of hundred Euro, even one day earlier than the deadline, which was the end of day tomorrow, on Christmas Eve.

The result: the shop owner has an entirely new perspective for 2010, something he did not even dare to dream of about five days ago. Sachar and especially his girlfriend like many other people keep their little favourite flower-shop.
And what about the ones who tweeted, blogged and contributed financially? They can be very proud of being part of something really special.

The #blumenladen (“flower shop” in German) is not only one of the best examples for the true and positive powers of Social Media I ever experienced. It is also one of the great examples to show how to use Social Media for Charity purposes and shows how powerful it actually can be.

Wouldn’t it be great to make more of this happen in 2010?

Merry Christmas everyone, and have a great start into a happy, healthy and successful New Year 2010!

Lausitzer Rundschau – 1st German regional newspaper working with Twingly

The Lausitzer Rundschau (LR-Online.de) is the first German regional newspaper to join us on the Twingly-adventure!

lr-online1

They are based in Cottbus, which is situated close to the Polish/German border, between Berlin and Dresden. Here the Google-Map for everyone that wants to take a closer look, the region is called Lower Lusatia.

Historically, Lausitzer Rundschau (short version LR) has come a very long way. They were founded in 1946 and have been a newspaper of the SED (the leading political party in the German Democratic Republic) for the region of Lusatia. Obviously being an SED-paper was not quite that beneficial for their reputation, mock names at that time were among others “Lügen-Rudi” (“lying Rudi”).

In 1991, the “Wende”, as one calls the big political change in Germany, also started for Lausitzer Rundschau. They got bought by the  Saarbrücker Zeitung, which again is a part of the Holtzbrink Group, one of Germany’s biggest publishing groups.

Since then LR is an independent newspaper and strives to supply their region with high quality regional news. They run 11 local news papers in the Brandenburg region and 2 in the Saxon part of Lusatia.
No talk about “Lying Rudi” anymore nowadays, which shows that they succeeded in really being “more than just a newspaper”.

Their online strategy has developed significantly during the past years. The latest steps are to connect its content closer with the world of social media. LR-Online now has not only joined Twitter actively but also wrote some really good articles for their readers about the subject.

LR-Online wants to involve external blogs more with its content, and this is where Twingly comes into the game. Having already some Swedish and Norwegian regional newspapers as partners that use Twingly successfully, we really are excited to see what our blog service will be able to do for LR and we look forward to support them in their social media strategy.

FOCUS-ing on blogs

The online portal of FOCUS, Germany’s second largest weekly news magazine, now shows links of bloggers that refer to their content.

We are delighted that the internationally renown flagship of  Hubert Burda Media now integrates Twingly Blogstream , that way they would like to involve users and bloggers even closer with their offer online.

FOCUS got launched first on the 18th of January 1993 as a challenger to SPIEGEL and despite all odds – succeeded! Many tried before to get into that position and failed, however Focus’ concept proved to be successful and continued to do so over the last sixteen years. Despite ups and downs in economy and world politics it stands strong and keeps on tickling Germany’s media landscape with its innovative concepts – the latest of which probably being one of the first German media sites online that give it a try with integrating feedback from external bloggers with their content.

We are very confident that it proves to be a viable concept to them, too, and really look forward to supporting them in their further steps to come.

Anyway, always remember to – FOCUS. Not only when blogging ;).