Social media has created a human filter for quality content. The social web, like the old water cooler, favors conversations around news and even in-depth journalism that may not otherwise receive the exposure it deserves. Recent analysis of the most-tweeted stories from The Daily iPad app revealed that users shared more hard news stories over gossip and opinion pieces.
This doesn’t necessarily mean these are the stories most people are reading. The gossip articles (or “fluff” pieces) often out-perform news items in pageviews, often because that is what people are searching for. But the tide may be changing.
The incentive to share quality content is simple: A person may be more likely to read gossip, but they may share a news piece to shape their followers’ perception of them. They may even view it as a public service. I tend to believe it’s usually the former rather than the more altruistic latter. As a result, news organizations producing quality journalism are being rewarded with accelerated growth in social referral traffic — in some cases, growing at a much faster pace than search referrals. More notably, social media is enabling the citizenry to be active participants in producing journalism by giving them platforms to publish to the social audience. This has made journalism more efficient and, in many ways, enhanced the quality of storytelling.
Content creation is one of the missing links and perhaps the cosmic difference between search and social. Search points to content that has been made, while social enables users to create content on the platform itself. How the two affect the quality of journalism are fundamentally different. Sure, social does a big amount of pointing itself, which enables news sites to grab referred traffic. But the people formerly known as the audience are also creating videos, status updates, tweets, photos and more.
Social media has revolutionized content creation, which is now a collaborative process with readers who contribute and verify it. Though social media makes content publishing easy for everyone, it can also be overwhelming, Herman said.
“Curation helps cut through that noise to find the most relevant voice, amplifying the media that helps inform and enlighten,” he said.
Journalists have always “curated” content by grabbing pieces of information and contextualizing it into a story. The difference is that social media now provides efficiency in getting that information, often through first-hand sources who are micropublishing to their social profiles. This social journalism has spawned other content curation companies like Storyful, Curated.by and ScribbleLive.
“We now have many more voices who can be included in stories,” Herman said. “This means that what we read is richer and gives more information to the reader.”