Webb on the Web: Three examples of traditional media using social tools effectively

byAmy Webb
May 18, 2009 in Data Journalism

We all know that social media tools, such as Facebook and SMS, have become popular. I'd like to show you three examples of folks I think are doing a good job and explain to you why I think they're having a positive impact.

1. Local Newspaper + Text Messaging
TBO.com, which is the website of the Tampa Tribune, Centro and News Channel 8 (all in Tampa, Florida), has been experimenting with text, or SMS, messages.

TBO.com initiated a mobile project recently during a local pirate-themed festival. TBO.com sent sponsored text messages to everyone attending the festival, to alert them about parking and events. In return, attendees could text back to TBO.com at 82672 (T-A-M-P-A on a phone's keypad) to learn more about the events or to contribute their own reporting.

This isn't pure text messaging, but it does involve mobile phones. TBO.com has also recently started to use two-dimensional barcodes. Barcodes are posted throughout parts of the city, and visitors can "scan" the them with their mobile phones to receive text messages with historical, events and cultural information. (Click here to download a primer on two-dimensional barcodes.)

2. Twitter
I know that I write often about Twitter, but it's a powerful communications tool. BusinessWeek editor-in-chief John Byrne has been using Twitter to both let people know what's being published in his magazine, but also to solicit story ideas and feedback. You can read his posts and/or follow him here: http://twitter.com/JOHNABYRNE.

3. Collaborative Reporting
I've been using the live-blogging/discussion tool Cover It Live for quite a while, and I continue to think of new ways it can be harnessed and used by journalists. The news organization leads the discussion, and anyone is allowed to post comments, links, ideas and more. There are already great examples of news organizations using Cover It Live, for example the Toronto Globe and Mail's coverage of a subway shooting last January.

The Globe and Mail also posted a blog entry about why they choose to live blog, and how they use Cover It Live to do so:

Like a lot of newspapers and media outlets, we at the Globe have been experimenting a lot with a great live-blogging and live-discussion tool called Cover It Live. The software comes from a company located in Toronto, but is being used by everyone from Newsweek and Yahoo to Vanity Fair and the Austin Statesman-Review...

But my favourite part came a couple of hours into the blog, when someone commented that they didn't think much of the swine flu map we were linking to in our news story, which was this map -- a mashup created by infectious disease expert Henry Niman. So the editor moderating the blog (Brodie Fenlon) asked if anyone knew of a better one. Within a minute or two, someone had posted a link to this map, which after a little bit of investigation turned out to be substantially better -- with more recent updates, links to sources of the info, etc. And in a nice bit of symmetry, that map was also "crowd-sourced," in that it was composed of data from multiple contributors...

What do you think?

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Amy Webb is a digital media consultant and head of Webbmedia Group, LLC. She has also launched Knowledgewebb, a new website for multimedia training. You can also follow Amy on Twitter and delicious. Webbmedia Group is a vendor-neutral company. Any opinions expressed about products or services are formed after testing, research and interviews. Neither Amy Webb nor Webbmedia Group or its employees receives any financial or other benefits from vendors.