#bbcsms: News, a new technology business

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'Technology and Innovation': Report from the fourth session on day two of #bbcsms:

Social media is increasingly driving traffic to news sites, said Nic Newman, the former BBC media strategist. Research shows that 7% of mainstream media traffic is now coming from social media.

At the same time, the number of news site referrals from traditional search is falling for the first time.

The balance between big organisations and social media content is changing, but mainstream media is still setting the agenda on social media rather than the other way round.

Many of the most successful users of social media are the stars of mainstream media: so how do individuals become so-called 'network nodes', and what value does that add to their media organisation?

A research project on millions of tweets showed that most originated from a very small number of Twitter accounts - many from mainstream news organisations.

Newman was chairing the BBC Social Media Summit's session on technology and innovation.

Liz Heron, Social Media Editor of the New York Times, described her role in a team of social media editors at the Times working closely with developers. Social media was originally seen as a way to reach new audiences. Now, Heron said, journalists are being told not to think of social media only in terms of alternative forms of distribution: it's for interaction and engagement too. The Times wants its journalists to "source up" on Twitter and Facebook.

But the paper doesn't have social media guidelines: "We just tell people to use common sense and don't be stupid." Journalists using social media are reminded they are still 'the Times' but can "show a personal side".

The Times had an innovative way of covering the Oscars: using Facebook Connect, users could compete with friends and celebrities to predict the results. And the data from Facebook revealed what kind of person was voting for each film - information that was given back to users.

Heron said the Times now wants to concentrate on Facebook - a community that journalists haven't worked out how to interact with as well as Twitter.

The other two panellists in the session were both tech company innovators.

Mark Rock, founder of Audioboo, said most big media companies like the BBC "are still stuck in the electrical age". While Audioboo is used by 20 BBC regional radio stations, the BBC does not allow it to be embedded on its website.

"The BBC should be leading innovation, but it's not," said Rock.

Mark Little, founder of Storyful, which he describes as "the first news agency of the social media age", wanted to change attitudes to social media. Its interactions have much in common with traditional journalism - where talking to people is critical. Social media "is just a new way of doing that".

And remember, he said, that the most important words on social media should be "thank you very much".


Original blog post introducing the fourth session on day two of #bbcsms:

Some of the key people in news organisations today are programmers: not people who schedule or commission programmes but those who write software.

News is an increasingly hi-tech business with a lot going on behind the scenes to create new ways to filter and visualise content and engage with audiences. But how much should this be part of the remit of a mainstream media organisation, and how much left to tech specialists working elsewhere?

That's one of the issues under discussion in the fourth session of the BBC Social Media Summit: 'Technology and Innovation'.  

As the online capabilities of both journalists and users develop, what barriers remain to providing content the way both would choose?

And how will the ever-growing importance of mobile technologies change the answers, as we move into a world where content moves seamlessly between devices?

Please contribute your thoughts, ideas and experiences in Comments below, and we'll feed them into the debate on Friday. What practical changes should we be focussing on?  

The panel includes Mark Little (Storyful) and Mark Rock (Audioboo). Details of the Summit and confirmed guests here; full list of attendees here.

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