Social News Media, Part 1

by Rachel Lim, PBS Station Products & Innovation

Riding the waves of the constantly changing social media sea can be a wild ride. New capabilities, tools, applications and networks are announced every day, which means that today’s hottest hub might not be tomorrow’s. Despite this difficulty, effectively channeling social media can be beneficial for public media, and many stations have already tapped into these possibilities, utilizing popular spaces such as Facebook or Twitter to connect to existing members or expand their viewer base.

Facebook and Twitter are effective, useful tools, especially in increasing the SEO of your website. But alongside these two titans of social media are other social media hubs that could service station needs to harness the visibility and interaction the internet offers.

One potentially untapped arena in social media are social news aggregates, where user-submitted sites, links, images or videos are compiled and ranked. A few famous examples around the web include Reddit, Digg or StumbleUpon. Each site offers a community-based model in which users can vote for, “digg” or “like” user-submitted content, and many sites group the submissions under relevant topics for easy access. And if you have yet to explore these social news sites, but are looking for ways to diversify your web audience or increase your site’s presence, finding an online community to explore might be a good place to start. For those of you who already use social news sites, please share your experiences with us in the comments section. And for the novitiates to the wide world of social news, here are a few of the best sites to browse:

1. Digg. With 8.5 million unique U.S. visits a month, Digg is one the most active and frequently used social news sites. Users can submit links to interesting finds on the web; others can "digg" the link or "bury" it. The links that receive the most diggs are featured on their front page. Browsing the diversity of links that have been submitted by users show that Diggers are already tuned into PBS content.

2. Reddit. The long-time competitor to Digg, and usually considered the "smaller" or less mainstream of the two, Reddit has recently surpassed Digg in unique visits and page views, boasting over a billion page views a month. Their site is divided into "subreddits" that range from “Politics,” “WorldNews” and “Science” to “Funny,” “Music” and “Geek.” A look at the recent PBS links submitted by users to Reddit demonstrates that national material is being read, reposted, and read again. The Wall Street Fix, produced by Frontline, received hundreds of votes and 78 comments, demonstrating the powerful utility of these news communities in generating discussion and page views.

3. Tumblr. Like Digg and Reddit, Tumblr gives their users a live stream of posts that feature micro-blogging at its finest. However, in comparison to other social news sites, Tumblr is incredibly visual: their feed is filled with images, GIFs, videos and comparatively less text. As a blogging site, Tumblr allows users to repost content submitted by users as well as create their own unique content, and offers customizable, individualized sites to every user. Tumblr is one of the fastest growing social media sites, and, properly harnessed, can be a powerful tool. Check out Mountain Lake PBS's beautifully designed Tumblr site here.

4. Care2. Unlike Digg or Reddit, Care2 is less broad in its focus, describing itself as the "largest online community for healthy and green living, human rights and animal welfare." However, like Digg or Reddit, users can submit news links, and the community either upvotes or downvotes various submissions, with the top submissions making the front page. If you're looking for a specific "niche" audience, or seeking to activate concern for local issues, Care2 is often a wonderful way of finding like-minded people or reaching out to those who are interested in activism and non-profit work.

5. Newsvine. As the name might suggest, this news-oriented site is divided into two parts: the "wire," which includes all content from the Associated Press, and the "vine," in which users can submit links to articles found across the web. Like other social news sites, content can be upvoted or downvoted; the pieces with the most votes aggregate at the top of the page. One notable feature of Newsvine is its commitment to citizen journalism: users are encouraged to write their own columns and articles, and this content is highlighted with the "Featured Writers" section.

Are you already plugged into a social news site? Please share your experiences with us in the comments section!

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