Dirk Smillie wrote at Forbes.com in Journalism's Hottest Job that there are now about 200 social media directors at newspapers, book publishers, magazines and television news stations. Most started in the last two years. He writes that, “Rarely offline, their job is to tweet, ping, blog and friend-find throughout the day, building and interacting with new audiences, promoting media brands and sometimes breaking news.” I have been talking about the relationship of social media and mainstream news for a bit (see Social Media Does Not Replace Traditional Mainstream Media and Social Media Helping TV Stations Attract More Viewers and It Could Change Way TV News Created).
Dirk goes on to question whether simply tweeting the news is a money maker. He points out that most newspaper RSS feeds don't carry ads; neither do blog posts or tweets that break news and adds that Lynn D. Johnson, senior vice president for social media at the Advertising Research Foundation, says news organizations aren't earning "anything significant" from social media. This is where the mainstream news needs to get creative. They should not simply reproduce the old media content in the new media. For example, social media can be a useful means to drive traffic to your regular, ad laden channel. A Seattle TV station took over the top TV news ratings spot when its news staff tweeted to establish a better connection to their audience.
Dirk concludes his post with a quote from Woody Lewis: "Whether news organizations believe in its potential to make money or not, they see the train leaving the station and don't want to get left behind. They know that social media is where users want to be." Woody writes the blog, "Save the Papers," which debates how mainstream media can use social media to survive. They certainly need to be more creative in how they broadcast their content with all the new options open. They need to lead readers and viewers to revenue producing channels as well as add revenue to the new channels.
There is another way that mainstream media can use social media. They can better mine it for breaking news and trends. Using the Darwin Awareness Engine ™ we observed a few weeks ago that social media was all over the Lou Dobbs story at least a week before the mainstream media. Social media creates a vast amount of interesting content. For example, as early as 2005 news people were turning to bloggers for story ideas. The Awareness Engine can provide greater control and flexibility over how you mine this data.