Tweets on the Times: “Getting” Social Media, or Not?

While I generally don’t like the dismissive attitude embodied in the assertion that a person or organization doesn’t “get” something, a couple of recent tweets relating to the New York Times and social media make me at least ask the question.

As I was checking my Tweetdeck on the bus this morning, I noted this tweet from Jeremiah Owyang (@jowyang):

…which linked to this article about the NY Times hiring 12 techies and a social media whiz. That was encouraging to read, but as I scrolled down a bit through last night’s #Oscars tweets I came across this one from Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_NYU):

…which linked to this post about the reasons behind a plagiarism problem at the Times, and how the culture there and at the Wall Street Journal is antithetical to the world of social media. Felix Salmon’s (@felixsalmon) post (to which I have added emphasis) begins as follows:

Clark Hoyt, the NYT’s public editor, has a good post-mortem on l’affaire Zachary Kouwe, and asks whether “the culture of DealBook, the hyper-competitive news blog on which Kouwe worked” was partly to blame for his plagiarism.

It’s a good question, but also a dangerous one, because I fear it will help to keep blogs marginalized at the NYT and elsewhere: is there something inherent to the culture of blogging which breeds a degree of carelessness ill suited to a venerable newspaper?

The answer, in truth, is not that the NYT has gone too far down the bloggish rabbit hole, but rather that it hasn’t gone far enough. Kouwe was a reporter for the newspaper as well as for Dealbook, and as far as I know he has never had a blog of his own before or since. Big mainstream-media publications, when they hire people to write their blogs, generally hire people with no blogging experience at all — something which is both ill-conceived and dangerous. Some journalists make good bloggers; most don’t. So rather than gamble that you’ve found one of the rare exceptions, why not make prior blogging experience a prerequisite for such positions?

The fundamental problem with Kouwe was that when he saw good stories elsewhere, he felt the need to re-report them himself, rather than simply linking to what he had found, as any real blogger would do as a matter of course.

I hope the actions highlighted in Jeremiah’s tweet mean that the Times will begin to change its approach and will start linking externally. Bringing in some fresh people who don’t have the print reporter mindset may help. But if the paper’s policy against linking externally remains, it will hasten the Times‘ decline, for two reasons:

  1. There will inevitably be additional plagiarism incidents, as print culture tries (and fails) to keep up with the speed of the Web. This will lead to further embarrassment and reduced respect for the Times.
  2. By trying to re-write everything (to avoid linking), the Times will be wasting effort to be later with its reports than it would be if it immediately linked. So people will go elsewhere for timely news.

This post took less than half an hour on the bus. I could have tried to rewrite arguments, but what good would that have done? Excerpting and linking is both the right thing to do and the smart thing to do. It’s wasteful for print media to expend so much energy to avoid giving other people credit.

Hopefully the new social media whiz the Times is hiring will help management understand that.

Chancellor in Computerworld

A couple of weeks ago I got a request from Julie Sartain, who writes for Computerworld, to summarize what I’ve been saying about the business benefits of Facebook. I was delighted to contribute toward her article, which is available on-line today.

Here’s an excerpt:

But some companies just don’t get it. Aase compared these new opportunities for businesses to the adoption of early fax technology around 1990. Companies could suddenly receive customer purchase orders by fax instead of FedEx, a huge savings in time and dollars, and well worth the cost of the machine and the monthly charges for the additional phone lines.

If AT&T had offered all this for free, would anyone have declined? he asked. “Social networking sites like Facebook are a much more advanced communications phenomenon than the fax, but not only are many businesses failing to take advantage of these free communication services; some actively block employees from using social networks,” Aase said.

The full article is recommended reading for all SMUG students, and for anyone else looking for an overview of some of the practical business benefits of Facebook and MySpace. My Facebook friend Jeremiah Owyang also is quoted extensively…a lot more extensively than I am, but then he should since he’s a Forrester analyst.

If you’re new to Social Media University, Global, you can visit our Student Union in Facebook, or audit some classes that are part of the core curriculum. Here’s a Message from the Chancellor that gives you an overview and introduction to our educational philosophy, and you can read all of my posts related to Facebook here.

Being a Facebook Celebrity

Can you be a celebrity without having any fans?

In Facebook, I guess you can.


(Click the thumbnail to see the full-size screen shot, or better yet, click here to see my Celebrity/Public Figure page, in the Writer category.)

I had originally tried a workaround for the personal/professional Facebook separation by creating a group called Lee Aase’s Professional Contacts. Establishing a brand page for your professional persona looks like it might be a better way. People can become “fans” without being “friends.” You don’t have to approve it. You can put your email address on your Celebrity page.

So if you want to put forth a professional representation of yourself, you can. You can upload videos and photos. You can post links to some of your most significant news coverage or blog posts. And you don’t have to worry about the various applications you’ve installed on your personal profile cluttering your celebrity page.

Seeing that Scoble and Jeremiah have fan/brand pages in the Critic and Writer categories, I decided to give it a shot. I looked at the Facebook Terms of Service and didn’t see any requirement for a certain level of notoriety before someone could be a celebrity. So if two of my Facebook friends, Jeremiah and Scoble, can have both user accounts and celebrity pages, hopefully I won’t run afoul of the TOS with my celebrity page.

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