Sep 20, 2010
Working away and finalizing some deadlines, I got a call from “The National Post” trying to get me/our business unit to subscribe to their newspaper. Since we already receive both the Calgary Herald and Globe and Mail, I politely declined and thought nothing more of it.
Later that night I came across an article on the future of the New York Times and I immediately remembered how the Seattle Times stopped publishing newspapers, and moved their content on-line. Of course, this is not breaking news as the newspaper industry’s decline has been going on for sometime now. Personally, I haven’t had a newspaper subscription since I moved out from my parent’s home. All news I read is online. I can understand why papers such as the Post are trying to gain subscriptions. They are losing readership to the myriad of free news content, especially throughout the social media sphere. The question I ask is why subscribe to any newspaper that provides me day-old news when I can get news for free via any number of social outlets (online papers, blogs, twitter, facebook, digg, etc..) . Ironically, as this article on effects of social networks on newspapers points out, the digital media industry could actually be in a position to help the struggling newspaper industry.
It seems the newspaper industry is currently floundering on how to move forward, with some attempting to use an older economic model and applying it to today’s standards and others using legal means. They are in an unenviable position. One is to make consumers pay for news under the argument that “quality journalism has a price” with risk of continued readership loss to free social media outlets. Another position would be to provide free news content paid through on-line advertising - which isn’t as lucrative
Despite the dire situation, there is some hope With the success of the Apple IPad and the rising tablet market, newspapers have an interesting opportunity to make print relevant again but in the digital realm. But the question is whether consumers will come back to the fold? I guess I’ll know the answer the next time I get a call requesting a subscription.
Mar 24, 2010
The Federal Budget was released on March 4, 2010 and during the announcement I sat at my desk reading the tweets by Finance Canada. A tweet, for those who don’t know, is a message one can post on the popular social media tool called Twitter using 140 characters or less. It is designed to update your followers on a number of issues from what you are doing at that moment to interesting news and articles you want to share. Finance Canada intended to tweet portions of the Finance Minister’s speech on the 2010 Federal Budget. As an active practitioner of social media, I was curious to find out the Finance department’s twitter approach but more importantly, its’ potential effect on how governments from all levels will use this social media tool to achieve their goals.
I’m not going to speculate about the Federal Government’s twitter intentions but it seems President Obama’s successful use of social media is having a profound impact in Canada. More and more politicians are developing Facebook Fanpages, Twitter accounts, YouTube video channels and so on. Although, one could argue that more than half of these are inactive, updated infrequently or updated by someone other than the politician in question. Thus, is there an actual strategy in place for all these social media uses or are elected representatives just jumping on this new communications tool bandwagon because of its popularity. Have they actually thought out who exactly they are sending their information to or communicating with? Do they know what they are trying to accomplish? How would they know if they are successful in meeting their goals?
My other concern is that the uses of social media by government officials is still through the traditional communications lens of message control rather than engagement and conversation which social media has progressed to (hence the term social). Finance Canada’s decision to tweet the federal budget is an excellent example of this. However, I still don’t know what exactly the federal government hoped to gain by tweeting portions of the Finance Ministers speech and providing links to the Finance Canada website. Yes, it may show that our Government is using new communication’s tools to relay information to Canadians but there is no incentive for social media-active Canadians to follow Finance Canada on twitter. How would this be different than watching CPAC and listening to the Minister give the Budget Speech live? Only a very keen political junkie who is not near the closest TV or computer would require real time updates via twitter on the federal budget. It would have been more useful to engage Canadians on twitter about the Budget. Let the tweets travel the other way. It would have been great to know the thoughts of my fellow Canadians, what they liked or didn’t like, suggestions, advice they might have for the Finance Minister. Instead, we got tweets that were copied from a speech and links to portions of the budget documents. Even today the only tweets from Finance Canada are links to news releases and media advisories.
The federal government missed an excellent opportunity to get some real time public assessment of the Budget, perception within the social media sphere, and some very valuable research data that can be used as the Minister inevitably travels to different parts of the country to sell the budget. Rather than engagement and creating dialogue, Finance Canada’s budget tweets were another example of pushing a controlled message to the public using a popular communications tool.
With a more and more disengaged electorate, I understand there needs to be new ways of communicating government messages, services and programs to the public. However, it is too easy to fall into the social media hype and begin tweeting away without understanding how to effectively use it or putting some much needed thought into developing a sound strategy to maximize return for investment. Let’s hope our all levels of government begin to understand this as they wade into the ever-expanding social media waters.