Monthly Archives: October 2008

Results of @statesman Twitter survey

Thanks to everyone who filled out my Twitter survey. I learned a lot in reading it, and I enjoyed every comment.

Here’s the report I sent my bosses:

I built and put out an unscientific survey of the followers of our Statesman Twitter account to get a feel for who they were and what they were thought of our account.
Most questions allowed them to write-in their answers, so they can’t be quantified in numbers, but they give me great feedback as I work.

Here are the results that did involve numbers or multiple-choice questions:

I received 138 total responses (all garnered through call out from Twitter Statesman account) out of 1,900+ possible responses (about 7 percent):

Before they followed us on Twitter:

43 said they never visited statesman.com
52 visited a few times a month
24 visited a few times a week
18 Visited every day
1 didn’t answer

Visits to statesman.com now that they follow us on Twitter:

1 Never visit statesman.com now (person is in L.A.)
10 Visit a few times a month
75 Visit a few times a week
50 Visit every day
2 didn’t answer

Summary (of the 7 percent sampling of our followers):

Before following us on Twitter, 95 of 138 (68 percent) either never visited or came a few times a month).
Now that they’re following us on Twitter, 125 of 138 (90 percent) either visit a few times a week or every day.

Other findings:

85 respondents (62 percent) indicated that they follow more than one Statesman account (one of our other main feeds or a reporter).
52 respondents want more Tweets on nights and weekends
86 said they do not want more Tweets than what we’re doing now.

Print subscriptions:

Before they followed us on Twitter:

32 were subscribers to our print edition
* 22 were 7-day subscribers
* 10 subscribe only on weekends
37 said they read the print edition “sometimes.”
67 did not read our print edition
2 didn’t answer

Since they started following us on Twitter:

5 said “yes” when asked if they would consider subscribing now
30 said “maybe” when asked if they’d consider subscribing
13 didn’t answer or were already subscribers

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Hook’em on Twitter

Sports editor John Bridges has been Twittering for a few weeks no on @bevobeat using his own voice. We still feed the Longhorns-related blogs on there as well because we figure people who follow that account probably can’t get enough Longhorns coverage.

Bridges, also does an excellent post-game chat using CoverItLive.

To my surprise during Saturday’s big win over Oklahoma, I saw columnist Cedric Golden pop up on Twitter. We have a newsroom “mottos” file that keeps track of funny comments overheard in the newsroom. Cedric just a few weeks ago said he was “Too legit to Twit.” Haha. I then heard from Bridges that Kirk Bohls was also on Twitter. Suzanne Halliburton, our Longhorns beat writer, has been on Twitter for a while and has been using it successfully.

And Christian McDonald‘s team reworked our ACL aggregator to use it for the Longhorns. Check it out here. Anyone who followed @bevobeat and used the keyword #UT (or mentioned “Longhorns” or “Horns”) showed up on that page. Just as exciting, we were putting our staff’s latest Tweets right out on the Statesman home page (at the top of the page).

I’d say our paper has bought in. Next up: the election.

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Twitter reactions to the debate

This is a repost from my official blog on statesman.com (which I rarely use).
Last night, the presidential debate was the hot topic among TV pundits. It also was the talk on Twitter. Before, during and after the candidates’ second primetime test, people were commenting and sharing opinions on Twitter, a free-to-use microblogging service.

Using our newspaper account, @statesman, I asked Twitter users after the debate who they thought had won. I received several responses, and most had thought that Sen. Barack Obama had won the debate. Obama has a longstanding presence on Twitter — as of this morning, his official Twitter account has more than 94,000 followers. That’s how many people have signed up to read short (140 characters-or-less) dispatches from the candidate’s campaign. Obama’s campaign has had a presence on Twitter since the early days of his campaign and has sent out 221 updates through the service. Sen. John McCain’s official account has only 2,500 followers, though his campaign didn’t get on Twitter until a few weeks ago and has only sent 12 updates through Twitter.

The responses I received immediately after last night’s debate included nine people who thought Obama had won, two who thought McCain had won, and six people who thought neither candidate had won.

Be aware that this is very, very unofficial and just meant to be a look at responses to me (from among hundreds or perhaps thousands just in the Austin area) who were Twittering about the debate.

Twitter user @RichardAZ said, “Obama just comes across as a lot more ‘together,’ score one for calm and statesman-like.”

@jmerriman said, “‘That one’ won the debate”, a reference to a moment in the debate when McCain called Obama “that one.”

Here are the other responses from those who liked Obama:

@mike_miley Obama won. He sounded like the Coach where McCain sounded like a lineman

@captspastic Obama, easily. McCain sounded either nervous, or sick through the first 3rd of the debate.

@twirm I think Obama won because he addressed more questions with answers from his campaign, McCain seemed to just bash and tell stories

@andreslucero Obama criticized mccain’s views w/o going off the hook, while mccain lashed out in his usual cranky way (i.e. “that one”).

@pambaggett Buy up bad mortgages? How much would *that* cost. No holocaust, but Rwanda’s OK? Healthcare is a responsibility, not a right?

@dangdaniel What is a tiller and why does it need a cool hand?

@shaktiboy Obama won because of healthcare. They both lost at foreign policy: where will the money come from to implement their hawkishness?

Responses from those who thought McCain had won:

@travisfell McCain won b/c he rightly associated Obama with the subprime mess and continued his foreign policy mastery

@RobbieCooperATX McCain won because he stood on his record and was clear on the way ahead. Obama has/did neither.

And those who didn’t see a clear winner:

@tlpayne A tie

@abelcruiz No candidate proved to “win” the debate. If I had to pick a winner, Tom Browkaw. He seemed to keep them in check all night.

@junewild I am completely dissatisfied with the debate and remain undecided. Nothing’s compelling. Flip a coin? What use is my education?

@clarkdebonair I have no idea who won the debate. What is an undecided person to do?

@lua21 No one won the debate, we all lost

@inbodyd It is irrelevant. Data shows that few are swayed by debates. The issue is whether voters will turnout not who they vote for.
Thanks to all who responded!

If you aren’t on Twitter already, you should check it out (and follow our statesman and Austin360.com accounts, if you’d like). It’s a great way to interact with our community.

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Covering the election

We’ve now used Twitter to extensively cover two hurricanes and one Austin City Limits Music Festival. The Next Big Thing is the election. Twitter has done a good job with its Election page, and CNN and NYT will certainly do a great job covering the election.

So, the question is: what can a small metro paper do (or a smaller one)?

I know we live in gloomy times in journalism, but I prefer to think of them as innovative times. There are tools we can use in an election that a newspaper journalist could only dream of having just a few years ago. And we’re frankly being forced to innovate.

Here are some of my favorite tools for covering events like an election:

1. Blogs – I know that it’s sooooo 2005 to even mention a blog, but a good blog done well can go a long way, even for a smaller paper. People think blogs are just opinions – and many of them are. But the best blogs are authoritative works by journalists who put in the reporting work.

2. Live blogs – A step farther is the live blog. We’ve been using CoverItLive for a while now to make our blogs more real-time (and encourage more user participation). CoverItLive embeds right in any blogging software and looks professional. It’s easy to use – and it’s FREE (though maybe not for much longer). Take advantage of this software. Check out something cool we did with it – we hosted a joint live chat. Our Longhorns beat writer and the Sooners beat writer for the Daily Oklahoman chatted in the same session. Each paper hosted that live chat. So Sooners fans and Longhorns fans were together for an hour.

3. Twitter – I know I sound like a broken record here, but Twitter really can be a good reporting tool. I think we have proven that with our coverage of Hurricane Ike. The next step is to really find a good way to harness what the community is saying as well (the way Twitter itself is doing with its election coverage). But beyond aggregating the community’s Tweets in one place, I think a newspaper has to find a way to steer the conversation. I’m going to try some of that this November (by asking people to report on their polling places, etc.).

4. Video – I’m not necessarily a huge fan of video on newspaper Web sites. To be frank, I think most people are not looking for video when they’re sitting in their cubicles at work … and most people are reading newspaper sites during their work shifts. That being said, I think video done right adds a lot to a report. Ideally, we’ll find a way to get honest, raw opinions from voters as they head to the polls or as soon as they come out.

5. UGC (user-generated content). Outside of Twitter, it would be nice to find a way to get the community more involved. In a Democracy, nothing is more community-oriented than gathering in November to vote. Newspapers should be open to leading their Web sites with a reader-submitted photo. They should be willing to play up a user-submitted video. They need to make both easy to upload to their site – and they need to encourage it. UGC isn’t going to bring more page views necessarily, but it puts the newspaper in the position of being THE place for the community to go. And that’s where we need to be.

In the next few weeks, you’ll see me attempt to do all of the above. What more should we (as newspapers) be doing? What tools are we missing out on? We want your help!

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