I want to focus on some common themes running through social media projects involving Reuters Editorial: Networks, information gaps, and culture.
This is where it all started for Reuters. It’s 1851, the electric telegraph has taken off and Paul Julius Reuter has ended his business using carrier pigeons to carry stockmarket prices between the gaps in the telegraph network at Brussels and Aachen and has rented rooms in the Royal Exchange Buildings, one of the first purpose-built office blocks in the world, so that he can be at the epicentre of the telegraph offices springing up around the stock exchange – this is the Canary Wharf of its time. His ‘agents’ (this is just before he started employing foreign correspondents) are telegraphing short-form messages with stock market prices and pick-ups from regional and national newspapers. Reuter is then passing these onto the London papers, financial markets and some private individuals. By this time much of the world is in the process of being wired up by Telegraph, and the time taken to send a message to and from India is about to fall from a matter of weeks to just a few minutes. If you’ve not read it before can I recommend Tom Standage’s ‘The Victorian Internet’. He chronicles an unrivalled period of change which bears an uncanny resemblance to the present. The telegraph system was the internet; the telegram was like an SMS message or possibly a Tweet and it sparked off many of the phenomena that we worry about today: -- Telegraphs were extended to the homes of important financiers, diplomats and public servants and wives complained about their husbands’ addiction to telegrams -- James Gordon Bennet, editor of the New York Herald, said that the telegram spelt the end of the newspaper -- REGULATORS struggled to keep up with the new technology, initially banning the use of coded telegrams in Europe The point of mentioning all this is two-fold Firstly, that this isn’t the first time we’ve seen a disruptive technology threaten to disintermediate whole areas of activity including journalism Secondly, the entire history of Reuters has been to do with using networks to fill in information gaps. http://www.thebaron.info/location.html
This was codified in the Reuters Trust Principles written up in the middle of the Second World War when the independence of the company was under threat. There is no separate social media strategy. Everything is driven by this constitutional commitment to use whatever technology available to maintain its lead. Social media is no different from any other disruptive technology – the telegraph, the wireless, satellites, the Web. Hard-wired into the corporate DNA is the presumption that we will learn to adapt new technologies. I would say, however, that this disruptive technology is the toughest yet. Especially for journalists. Explaining the impact of social media can be difficult but I asked the cartoonist Matt Buck last year to try to pin it down …
It all used to be so simple… there was the expert, or a clever organisation, on which you could train the spotlight, and who would produce rabbits out of hats to the repeated acclaim of delighted audiences… And now…
… it’s all turned around. Social technology is allowing the audience to pull their own social rabbits out of their own social hats. And the SPOTLIGHT HAS SHIFTED (and in fact isn’t like a spotlight anymore – more like a mirror ball) Adjusting to the lack of a single focus is the huge shift that Reuters journalists are having to go through.
It’s a big company now and I’m only going to touch on those areas where Reuters journalists are central to our networking effforts
LiveBlogging is covered elsewhere in today’s meeting but I just wanted to mention very quickly a couple of things about our Japan Tsunami LiveBlog from March -- This was the first case of a liveblog where readers contributed more than Reuters -- Nuclear engineers who were not previously known to us came on to deal with technical questions -- Vetting and verifying all the contributions (there were 6000 contributors in the first week was extremely labour-intensive. -- When we closed it after a couple of weeks some of the fans decided to keep the blog going 1. Japan LiveBlog -- Technology: Scribble Live -- How does Editorial add value? Curation of other people’s content; Verification; Moderation -- Highlights: -- Issues: Verification standards: labour intensive (mention canning after two weeks)
This is Reuters Insider, launched last year as a kind of YouTube for the financial markets. It’s our own platform but the majority of the content – probably 90 per cent of the 700 videos a day – comes from partners. The relationships are mostly with organisations but there are a handful of bloggers. The aim is to create regular viewers and one of the tactics is to create a presence on open social networks to buuild up awareness. The service has a number of analysts and one of the tactics used is to contribute relevant video content to specialist LinkedIn groups to build up subscriptions and followings (can you follow?) eg Ricahrd Muller
This is one of our market chatrooms. We’ve got fifteen such chatrooms covering stockmarket investments in the Middle East, China, India and Brazil, commodities markets incluing the Oil Forum, and foreign exchange markets in the Dealing Room. There are now more than twenty staff working full-time on running such communities. A couple of them are making money in the sense that non-Reuters users We liken these to the London coffee houses dating from after the Great Fire and frequented by the likes of Samuel Pepys. The Coffee Houses perfectly exploited available technology to create social networks that worked. Newsheets were provided for free -- visitors could keep up with the news and the gossip. There were specialist houses catering to particular interests – Edward Llloyd’s majored on shipping news and insurance. Face-to-face contact provided a trusted network (and a kind of privacy). And it was here that we find the roots of both financial markets and the news business. I find myself thinking a lot about what we need to do to recreate the effectiveness of this early form of social networking – the quest for the Virtual Coffee House.
One of the best illustrations of data-driven engagement actually comes from the world of politics. This diagram sums up the way in which Barak Obama using social media customer relationship management systems to engage and mobilise support for the 2008 Presidential bid. Inspired by that kind of approach, collaborative teams I work with at Reuters are measuring everything that users do, classifying them into groups, and perfecting campaigns to move them further up the engagement ladder. Social data is at the heart of this. And for those involved it is strangely addictive.
How does this all fit together. This is an over-simple diagram of how I see things changing. For 150 years Reuters was in the bottom left hand corner gathering and supplying information largely to people and organisations it knew well. More recently reuters has ventured into the reatil market with the reuters.com family of sites. But what we are talking about now is using social technologies to collaborate with customers, and not only with those we know well but also those we don’t know at all. It’s a personal view but I’d say our comfort zone had shifted from bottom left quadrant to the bottom half of the diagram. This has brought with it the requirement for new rules of engagement with users of our services. I’m not going to go into all the details here but here are three issues that come up time and time again: Rules vs values – as a culture we prefer structure to ambiguity The particular positioning of Reuters as an even-handed broker of information and news poses particular challenges for the informal nature of social media. Creating the rules of engagement for industries that are increasingly tightly regulated is also a real challenge.
@ markjones Global Financial Communities Editor Social Media Strategy and Reuters News
Reuters Trust Principles “ That no effort shall be spared to expand, develop and adapt the news and other services and products so as to maintain its leading position in the international news and information business.”
Now the audience isn’t necessarily looking at the stage
Adjusting to a networked world <ul><li>Baking social media into our own services </li></ul><ul><li>Seeking intelligence from open social networks </li></ul><ul><li>Developing richer relationships with users via open social networks </li></ul>