They’re not “geeks” – they’re early adopters

Last week I was at a magazine publishers talking about social media platforms, when it was put to me that the platform I was talking about was “mainly used by Valley types”, and why should journalists invest time in a platform when the majority of readers of more conservative titles don’t use it?

It’s a recurring question – so much so that I have decided to present my answer here. I’d welcome any additions.

You can put it where you want

The flexibility of RSS means that just because you are on Twitter/Facebook/Flickr/YouTube/blogs, doesn’t mean your reader has to be. Twitter may be mainly used by Valley types, but you can put it on your site in minutes with a widget, creating an easy way to keep your site (and your readers) frequently updated.

The BBC have done this successfully many times with sporting events. But you can also aggregate feeds together, as I did earlier this year with Environmental News Online, so you could see ‘What our reporters are doing right now’. Dynamic content and a stronger reader relationship for the effort of an occasional text message from a reporter.

Advertisers want your social media-using readers

Just because a minority of readers use social media doesn’t mean they’re not important. Recently Universal McCann released a report on the rise of “a new breed of super influencers” that has been created by social media tools.

These people tend to be influential over a range of around a dozen categories (e.g. food, drink, music, fashion). And they are “much more likely to be motivated by overt commercial messaging [and] celebrity endorsements”. Sounds like a great pitch to advertisers…

Oh, and another of those things they influence people on? What magazine to buy or website to visit.

They’re not “geeks” – they’re early adopters

Five years ago people who downloaded mp3s were seen as geeky. Now it’s a mainstream activity, and expected to make up the majority of record sales within a further five years.

Twitter has only been going for two years; YouTube is 3 years old and Flickr 4. MySpace is 5. blogging services like are still not even a decade old.

Do I need to labour the point?

Distribution has always been about getting your content to where the reader is. Guess where they are now?

And if they’re not there already…

Teach them how to fish…

Finally, just because some people aren’t using social media now, doesn’t mean they won’t in the future. Publishers seem to have a mental block on the possibility of taking an active role in people’s use of social media – for no reason: this is a two-way medium now.

There’s no reason why you can’:

  • create a Flickr group and show readers how to join Flickr in order to join in;
  • set up a YouTube channel and invite them to post to it;
  • encourage them to tweet from their mobile phone.

After all, aren’t you about bringing benefits to the readers?

Not only that, but if users learned how to social network/blog/twitter/upload images/video through you, they’re more likely to build some sort of relationship and user loyalty with what you’re doing.

If they learn from someone else, well, you’ve missed a golden opportunity.

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10 thoughts on “They’re not “geeks” – they’re early adopters

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  2. Dorien

    Interesting entry! It’s very important to be able to give good arguments when journalists ‘wave’ your advice away like that.Because it’s just an excuse to just stay where they are. On the other hand, it is indeed necessary to know where the average media public stands. I like the thought that media companies help their readers discover Facebook, YouTube, Flickr,…But then of course, there needs to be some benefit for the company to do so.

  3. Paul

    Just having read this:“to-hell-with-the-web-it’s-got-no-responsibility”/

    I always get confused when it comes to “new media” on this blog. The hope that the possibilities of “web 2.0” will lead to a decrease in certain forms of censorship (cf the link above) seems to me to be contradicted by the above post where the arguments seem to be all about marketing. OK, that is a bit extreme, but I find the enthusiasm for flickr-tube-book what have you should be tempered a little, as there is no inherent benefit to these tools, it is definitely about how you use them- not that I am suggesting you don’t, of course.

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  5. paulbradshaw

    Paul, you’re completely right – the arguments above are all about marketing. The person I was speaking to understood the journalistic benefits (which I’ve written about elsewhere), but was perhaps playing devil’s advocate about the commercial benefits.
    The point is I don’t think we can afford to ignore the commercial or the journalistic side of news on the web; if we’re interested in the future of our industry we have to be interested in the commercial side, and we have to look to how that can support good journalism. If we don’t, those who understand distribution on the web but care less about the content will win. Game over.
    That said, I think increasingly journalism will be supported not by business models but by foundation and non profit support, and we should perhaps be doing more to help that happen.

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  8. Kaitlin

    Sweet I’m not a geek! The big business support is there. They just already have people in the positions that would be doing the work. They want early-adopters to tell them for free. It’s the way of the web. Free share, etc. That has to merge at some point with business techniques and online journalism, which has more to do with filtering and researching content than publishing actual articles. Look at how mad ppl get at the NY Time for not spending a week on a story. If NY Times could just put it out there, offer some other materials as links and ask for others to do the same, update the content, there wouldn’t be a problem. Why doesn’t print media online think it has to be accountable to the endless information out there too?

  9. focoafrprtng

    It is also important to remember the people that communicate in different ways. Some medias/platforms serve some audiences better, so we cannot forget about these people. Just like how getting rid of newspapers would keep a lot of people from getting the news, as this is the only way they know how.


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