Social media stays Up All Night
Social Media Week: day two
Rhod Sharp has been a regular presenter of 5 live's Up All Night since he came up with the idea in 1994. These days he presents the programme from his home near Boston in the USA. We asked Rhod some questions about about his use of social media.
How do you use social media on your programme?
I still think the most important social interface we have is our text terminal. People can and do vent their views on all our stories by text and they are read. What has always bugged me about this is that unlike a more streamlined social media interface we cannot text back.
I am thinking of one texter last week who accused us of not covering Scott Brown's sensational victory in the special election for Ted Kennedy's Massachusetts senate seat. He was disappointed, he said. I was disappointed that he clearly vented before he listened, given that we had a live report from a polling station ten minutes after they closed, three commentaries by first rate journalists, and were undoubtedly the first international outlet to report Martha Coakley's concession phone call to Brown at 0219 GMT. I could have called him back to tell him personally, but that would have been taking it too far.
I will also point out that email has tremendous integrity as a two-way street, even if it is not fashionable to describe it as a "social" medium. I have many conversations with individual listeners stretching back years, in some cases.
What are you getting out of it?
I was introduced to Twitter before Obama's inauguration, for which I am very grateful. Its virtues in reporting news as it breaks are now unquestioned, but it is only as good as the cellphone networks. For example, my attempts at Twittering from the Mall were thwarted by the secret service who choked everyone's bandwidth, and by the effect on traffic of my million plus companions all trying to do the same thing.
A year later, we were covering the Haiti earthquake by monitoring the hashtag #Haiti and watching the pictures uploaded to twitpic. It was amazing how quickly a comprehensive picture of the destruction began to emerge, and we could quickly identify and communicate with people who were using satellite internet connections. From those contacts came our memorable interview with Haiti Radio 1 DJ Carel Pedre. Our team in London co-ordinated its posting on the BBC News site, and I was then able to post the URL on Twitter. It was good work all round.
What isn't working?
My followers can be numbered in the hundreds, which is fine by me. I don't use Twitter to collect followers like so many butterflies on pins. A news programme has to have integrity, and celebrity blogging plays no part in its culture, IMHO. Others differ.
I was reading Andy Murray's Twitter posts in the 48 hours leading up to the Australian Open final and they are truly insightful about the pressures on a star athlete, but also the sheer banality of being on tour. On the other hand private life is what it says on the label, private, so I have relatively few security concerns.
Why do we promote external sites like the social networks? How does this add value for the licence fee-payer
Of course if the BBC had invented either Facebook or Twitter we'd be even more all over them like a rash. They are part of the media ecosystem now, but they are still media brands like The Guardian or The Wall Street Journal and there's a limit to how much anyone in the media should be plugging someone else's brand.
How important is it for 5 live to embrace social media?
I think the question is "how should 5 Live embrace social media" and the answer is, intelligently. Very intelligently.
How do you hope to use social media in 2010?
I'd like to see much more conscious use by the mainstream media of the social media resources. Our Pods & Blogs podcast has been chronicling the rise and rise of social media and what people do with them since 2005 when Chris Vallance, Kevin Anderson (now with The Guardian) and I came up with the idea and as Jamillah Knowles reminds us "failed to come up with a decent name for the segment." We need more recognition of the social media as a beat for our own journalists, and a big one at that. The BBC News User Generated Content team, for which Jamillah works, can only go from strength-to-strength.
Steve Bowbrick is editor of the 5 live blog
- Rhod and Dotun Adebayo share presenting duties for Up All Night. The programme is on between 0100 and 0500 every night.
- Follow Rhod on Twitter: @Rhod_Sharp.
- Short URL' and 'hash tag' defined by Wikipedia.
- Jamillah's Pods and Blogs is available as a podcast and is a pretty good social media primer in its own right.