Sometimes it takes a natural disaster of epic proportions to realize that your social media presence is either succeeding or lacking. I should preface this by saying, that I'm not a formally trained Social Media Analyst. I haven't taken any classes on the topic, nor had any formal training. Do you know why? Because I could teach them. I consider myself a subject matter expert. I see and know first hand what works and what doesn't. I have been online using, testing and playing with the internet since 1998. I've seen it all and then some. Without further ado, I am going to use this space to tell each media outlet what I think is working and what isn't working about their social media presence. Regardless of what I say below, everyone did a commendable job with getting important information into the hands that needed it. Your efforts do not go unnoticed and are to be applauded.
They have a Facebook Fan Page and Twitter account, which is good, as some news outlets have one but not the other. Their Facebook wall is locked down. Only they are able to post to their wall, and viewers/readers are only able to comment on the stories/links. Viewers/Readers cannot post to the wall. They have a separate section for discussions and viewer/reader interaction….similar to their Talkback 16 forum. This is a good thing. In comparison, if any of you have been following WBRE's Facebook page since the flood, you can see what happens when a wall is not locked down….MASS CHAOS. More on that later. WNEP has more than 73,000 likes as of this post on Facebook. HOLY COW! They must be doing something right….or maybe more people like the Facebook page because they hate their webpage.
Their Twitter feed is updated several times a day with links to news stories on their website…however there is little interaction beyond that. If you reply to a Tweet or Direct Message their Twitter account they do not respond. This I don't like. Social media gives out what you put into it. If you want to increase your following a little interactivity with your followers goes a long way.
Some of the reporters/anchors have their own personal Blogs, Twitter accounts and Facebook walls to further connect with their audiences. To me the Facebook fan pages are kind of a bit overkill, but I guess it stops clueless people from connecting with them on their personal Facebook accounts. I don't think that I'd want readers to know every aspect of my life. I think that the journalists/photogs that do have Twitter accounts are getting breaking news/information out there than the main @wnep Twitter account. A good example of this would be @RyanLecky and @TrishHartman and @MichaelErat.
Side note: Why in gods name doesn't Mike Stevens have a blog? Of all people of the people that are at that station…and he doesn't have one? Maybe he doesn't know how to do the whole blogging thing, but I'm sure that someone there can show him how it works or possibly administer it for him. His "On the Pennsyvlania" road stories should really be accessible through words, pictures and videos on a webpage that isn't cluttered with crappy advertisements (which is what the WNEP.com website has morphed into). Most of the personal blogs from that I have come across, such as Andy Palumbo, are linked over at NEPA Blogs.
WNEP.com was once a great website, but now I literally cringe when I go there. It is very difficult to navigate and find what I'm looking for compared to the website of yesteryear. I know things are constantly changing and evolving on the internet, but usually for the better. This website is definitely not one of the more positive changes that the Internet has to offer. I actually think it has regressed. The homepage scrolls forever, and the main focus is on ads, ads, ads! I understand the need to make money, but this is out of control. I think that the ads could be done in a more tasteful way. I think this has to do with the many webmaster changes….Mark Sowers left for the TL, Chris Nelhybl died unexpectedly, and now I'm not sure who has taken over the reigns in his place. I know from experience that the programming/coding technique for applications, macros or websites varies from person to person. That is why, if you are not coming in from the ground floor of a build, it could take MONTHS to figure out what the previous "owner" of the project has done. I suspect that the current webmaster is still trying to figure out what exactly is going on with that website…or maybe they were just told to maintain what is there.
I also think that WNEP cut away from flood coverage too quickly. It seemed as though there was still a lot of stuff going on that needed to be covered. WBRE had broken out into 24×7 mode, which I think was more because they were evacuated and unable to access their normal feeds, but it ended up working out to their advantage.
Overall, an "okay" job. It could be better. I would have given a C if there was no actively updated RSS feed. Thankfully this saves me having to navigate their website to find what I'm looking for. Bonus points given for Ryan Leckey showing up to do "Leckey Live" for my Leadership Wilkes-Barre class project last year.
Website in 2006 (Clean, easy to read & navigate, not cluttered w/ ads)
Website in 2011 (too much crap going on and not spaced out well)
The TL is as solid as it was for the coverage of the 2006 flood. I think that Social Media could come crashing to a screeching halt and the Times Leader would not miss a beat. Their website is constantly updated and even has labels to indicate "Advisories", "Breaking", etc. so your focus automatically goes to those story links first. Another feature that I do love about the Times Leader's website is that they have the times that stories were posted & updated. You can get a sense of how fresh a story is when you are reading it. I like that I can read most of what is in the newspaper online in advance of getting my hands on a copy. I don't subscribe to any newspapers at my house because, frankly, I don't have the time to read them. The Times Leader does not charge an online fee to read their paper as the Scranton Times and Pocono Record have opted to do recently.
Now onto Facebook. Their Facebook page is updated daily, but they don't post every single story to their wall. Their wall is open for viewers/readers to post to it, if needed. They have their Obits and Youtube account linked from the page and there is a discussion board for viewers to interact with each other on. I don't like the fact that the Facebook page is called Timesleader.com, it makes it hard to find, and for a while I didn't think that they had one. Also, I'm surprised that there are only 2,810 likes as of this posting. I thought the number would be higher.
Ah yes, Youtube…I nearly forgot that they had a Youtube account. Wait? Why would a newspaper need to use Youtube? Well the answer is simple, young Jedi. Thanks to video social media platforms (i.e. Youtube, UStream, and Vimeo), a strictly print media can make their break into video media competing with the big dogs in town (WBRE/WNEP). The Times Leader has several video journalists that make their rounds doing interviews and covering various events. Two that I follow are @PeterParker_PA (Chris Hughes) and @GerardH51 (Gerard Hetman).
Side note: After researching the other 3 media outlets, the Times Leader is the only one with a Youtube feed.
Speaking of Twitter, the Times Leader actually has a few accounts setup to handle their different areas of focus. @tlbreaking only posts breaking news stories, @tlnews covers everything, @tlsports is….you guessed it…sports, @tlarts is focused on local happenings with the art community, @tlcourts covers the court briefs and police blotter. All of these accounts w/ the exception of @tlarts are updated on a daily basis…and in some cases, several times a day. They are mainly just posting links to articles with these feeds. There is no interaction with their followers (at least that I can see).
Bonus points given for having a working RSS feed.
WNEP, take notice to how their ads are placed…. learn, embrace, change.
Overall, these guys have it down to a science, but I wouldn't have expected anything less out of them.
Website in 2006
Website in 2011
The underdog…I think. Going back to Beale's post in 2006, he expressed that WNEP was at an advantage due to their extensive resources (i.e. the helicopter, the better website, etc.). Plus at the time, WBRE and WYOU were both on air. Obviously that is not the case anymore… WBRE really stepped it up this time around. The station had to be evacuated, as they are 2 streets away from the levee, and were graciously taken in by the studios of Fox 56 located on higher ground in Plains. After the station went off the air to switch over to the Fox56 feed, WBRE/WYOU were transformed into a 24×7 news station which is pretty impressive considering that most of the reporters themselves lived in the flood plane and had to evacuate themselves. I can't imagine the hours that they put in that week. If I had to guess, I would have to say at least 80 a piece. There were times when I thought that they were kicking WNEP's butt on coverage…Andy Mehalshick at Luzerne Cty EMA headquarters…brilliant!!
The PAHomepage.com website has really improved over the last few years, but it wasn't around in 2006. Nope, they were still using the wbre.com domain name (WYOU was also using their own domain as well wyou.com). Back then, WBRE's webpage was my second least favorite news website in the valley. The CV clearly won first place in the worst website category. Anyway, if you still type in wbre.com or wyou.com in your web brower's address bar, it will redirect you to PAHomepage.com which is a good thing, because who would know to type in PAHomepage.com if your stations call letters are something completely unrelated. I'm still not loving the domain name situation, but I'll deal.
I'm going to deal with their Twitter feed first, because there is something annoying the bejesus out of me that I have to get off of my chest. (@WBRETV) Why are you posting links to your Facebook wall for stories? Not everyone has a Facebook account. Duh! Why not link to your own web page instead…you know, were readers could generate revenue by clicking the ads…and view the videos? Sometimes links are posted with no description, so you have no idea what you are clicking on. They do update the Twitter feed everyday, so I'll give them that, but they don't interact with anyone. The only way any of this could make sense is that someone linked the Twitter and Facebook accounts. In other words, say you log into Facebook and post a link to your wall…if your Twitter is tied to Facebook the link and text of what you put in the share box will be posted on your Twitter timeline. While this may be a helpful feature for some…I think in some occasions its best to leave the two accounts stand alone. @DaveKuharchik & @MonicaReports are the only two Twitter WBRE journalists that I could find, they update semi-frequently, but mainly to promote their new variety show @PA_Live (which BTW, NEPA Blogs now has a segment on…check it out here!). I'm still bummed that Doug Currin left…he was very tech savvy.
WBRE's Facebook wall is still open for anyone to post…which boggles my mind. Thing were a little out of hand during the flooding. There was name calling, snarkiness, and a huge swath of misinformation posted by well meaning readers. It was a little overwhelming to sort through the good and the bad information. The good thing about Facebook is the timeliness of the information…the bad thing, if the information isn't correct it spreads like wildfire. Thank god that Luzerne County had a Rumor Control Hotline in place during the flood or people would have believed that JJ Banko's collapsed. (Just an example of one of the rumors that I heard.) This could maybe be a lesson learned for next time. I'd recommend a similar setup to WNEP. It just keeps things more orderly. I wanted to also mention that WBRE gave several amateur photographers their much needed 15 minutes of fame. Pretty much anything that was posted on the Facebook wall made it to the live newscast. This was a win for WBRE as many of their reporters could not get to the counties that they serve due to evacuation orders and flooded roadways….however….Governor Tom Corbett was not a happy camper.
In his press conference held in Forty Fort, he condemned those in the media who were encouraging their viewers/listeners to go out and take photos to send in. I must stress that WBRE said several times NOT to take pictures if it was not safe to do so….but people are people and care more about fame than safety. While I think that this statement was not directed at any one specific media outlet, I feel like a lot of it may have been directed towards WBRE. I also noticed that WBRE didn't show quite as many photos as they had after he made that statement. Maybe it was just coincidence…who knows.
Stories are frequently posted to the WBRE Facebook page, so there is always fresh content. Also helpful: They have a "Fan Pages" link which lists out all of their personalities Facebook pages. There's a network shows link which would be pretty neat, if it actually worked. They also have a questions tab where they post polls to their fans. They have more than 16,000 Facebook fans as of this post.
Overall, their social media footprint could be better, but it is improving. Bonus points for letting my Leadership Wilkes-Barre colleague and Comedian/Magician Tony Leone on the show to creep out Kristi Capel live on the air last year. Points taken off for not having an RSS feed.
Website in 2006
Website in 2011
The Citizens' Voice:
The Citizens' Voice has really grown up in the last few years. They have finally navigated off of that horrible content managed website they had a few years ago. They have improved 10,000% since the 2006 flood. They do have all or most of the stories that appeared in the paper available for reading online…for free. Their updates aren't as frequent as the Times Leader, but don't get me wrong….they are improving. They really have impressed me with their flood coverage mainly thanks to their Social Media presence. If I had time to read an actual newspaper each day, this is probably the one I would pick to subscribe to.
Out of the four main media outlets I am reviewing, this is the only one that has an interactive Twitter account, @CitizensVoice. They interact with their followers and help get information across quickly than maybe some of the other outlets do. A lot of the reports have their own Twitter accounts and will post live updates from where they are at. @CVPatSweet @DAllabaugh and @CVBobKal do a great job of live tweeting. Bonus points given for Bob Kal being one of the few that voted for the Leadership Wilkes-Barre class project idea that I pitched even though it was eventually voted down in the next round.
The Citizens' Voice Facebook page has 4,270 likes as of this post which is significantly higher than the Times Leader. I suspect that might be due to the fact that you cannot easily find the Times Leader because of its naming convention (as noted above). They have the standard discussions and photo sections, but no obits or Youtube like the TL does. I was almost certain that I've seen local video stories posted to the CV website, but now I'm not finding them. I'm pretty sure they were not using Youtube to share them though.
They finally have RSS feeds! Yay! (I just noticed this as I was typing up this post) Bonus points.
Keep up the good work guys. I'm heading over to Google News Reader to add your feeds as I write this.
Website in 2006 (HORRIBLE!)
Website in 2011 (Grown up)