All the places you can get Heardio!

Heardio. It’s kind of a weird name, right? Sort of sounds like radio. Or rodeo. Or maybe some disease you pick up while traveling somewhere exotic. What it really comes from is the word HEARD… followed by the first letters from the words IT, and ON. Got it? HEARD-I-O. Because what I’m interested in finding out from you are just a few simple words.. “I heard it on…”.

Heardio is a thesis project from a California State University, Northridge graduate student studying the process of news diffusion (hows news spreads) via social media, like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Since what I’m studying is inherently social, let’s be social, and start a conversation! Please “like” Heardio on Facebook here, and follow Heardio on Twitter. This way you’ll get all of the Heardio news straight from the Heardio’s mouth.

In a couple month’s, this little Heardio blog will move into its final home at Heardio.com, where you’ll be able to vote through simple polls how you heard about large, important news events, and see how the way you heard it stacks up to others near you – or far away from you. Why is this all so important, you might ask? Because in 2012, news is no longer vertical. It’s horizontal, and it spreads in many different ways – from text messages to status updates to tweets to blog posts to word of mouth to message forums. I’m interested in finding out if people reading news online are more apt to read news in general, and disprove that whole theory that the internet is making us dumb. (I can’t really PROVE that, but I can try.)

Until then, thanks for reading and remember – news moves quick. Where’d ya hear it?

 

News in the San Fernando Valley

For a class project, I set out to take photos of the representation of news going digital in the San Fernando Valley, a bustling surburbia north of downtown Los Angeles. This proved to be challenging in many ways – it was near impossible to find photos of people reading newspapers, and the one old man I did set my lens on looked up in horror and told me I couldn’t take his photo. (I don’t know how journalists do it!) Instead, I sought out pictures that illustrated the fate of newspapers, like a rare newsstand now selling lottery tickets and ink jet cartridges, and newspaper lying abandoned in driveways. My favorite set of photos within this series has to be the crumbled, upside-down news kiosk – crippled on a sidewalk after being hit by an “erratic” driver.

As we as a society move more and more digital, will news kiosks, stands and papers just become fossils of the time, or will we find ways to keep them in our lives, serving some purpose, if even just for crafts?

Please view my photos on Flickr here and then chime in – is the physical news paper a thing of the past?

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Here’s what happens to my newspapers.

ImageThis picture was taken at 6:15 pm. Sad, right? This newspaper sat in the driveway the whole day, unwanted, unloved, and worst of all – unread. But I’m not uninformed. Oh no, I’m not. I’m informed because I read LATimes.com (free for me as a paper subscriber) and I watch for breaking headlines all day on Twitter, by reputable news accounts like @CNN and @KTLA.

In fact, I’ve called the LA Times to find out if I can donate my unread papers to schools for art projects, but there’s no sort of program in place unless you’re going to be out of town. I currently pay for a four-day subscription, in which news papers are delivered Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I usually only get around to reading Sunday’s edition – and the other papers lay unwanted in the driveway until I scoop them up and throw them in the recycle bin. Our neighbor once warned us that abandoned newspapers make it look like nobody’s been home, and we should always pick them up and toss them to avoid burglaries and theft. He’s a retired police officer. We should listen to him – but sometimes, when you’re running late for work in the morning and you’re carrying your coffee in one hand and purse in the other, it’s just easier to leave the newspaper where it is.

Do you find yourself abandoning print newspapers? Why or why not?

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Why do we share news on social media?

You’re browsing your Facebook news feed when something catches your eye. It might be a juicy story about a celebrity break up, or how the local theatre is closing down due to code regulations. Either way, you might find it interesting or entertaining, and you hit “share”. Beyond the interest or entertainment factor, why do we share what we share on social media?

In Chei Sian Lee and Long Ma’s article “News Sharing in Social Media: The Effect of Gratifications and Prior Experience”, a research survey was completed to find an answer to their research question – How do gratification and experiential factors influence users’ intention to share news in social media? In a survey of 203 people, the authors found that the most salient reasons for sharing news on social media include the need to socialize and prior social media sharing experience. Evidently, much of social media sharing comes from wanting to interact with people, keep in touch, and encourage brainstorming through posting content online. In addition, people who blog or share pictures and videos on social media are much more likely to share news online; which is not a surprising finding considering the State of the News Media 2012 Research Report.

Some of the other reasons that Lee and Ma confirmed are for entertainment, status-seeking (as in, you feel more powerful or intellectual by sharing news) and information-seeking (as in helps users be aware of current events and feel better informed). Do any of these reasons sound like why you share news on social media? Discuss.

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State of the News Media 2012: Facebook VS Twitter

In the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism Annual Report, “The State of the News Media 2012”, authors Amy Mitchell, Tom Rosenstiel and Leah Christian reported on the rise of social media and its impact on news in 2012.

The authors studied the most “dominant” social media of 2012, which ended up being Facebook and Twitter. According to the Pew Research Center’s survey, Facebook and Twitter are “pathways” to news, but according to the authors of the study, their role “may not be as large as some have suggested,” as the majority of news readership still happens online on standard .com websites.

The researchers also explored the types of people that use social media for news, and the differences in these readers according to platform. For example, Facebook users get news from family and friends, but Twitter users get news from more varied sources, including family, friends, news organizations and brands. When one thinks of the differences in functionality in these two platforms, this differentiation makes sense. Facebook is more of a “closed” network, in which you have to approve who can see your content by “friending” that person. On Twitter, if you have the normal unprotected Twitter feed, anybody can choose to see your content, and you can choose to see others’ content. This means that there will be a wider variety of content you can access.

This split in news reading habits amongst social media users has interesting implications for those studying news diffusion and mass media effects in correlation to social media. If somebody uses both Facebook and Twitter equally as often, are these findings still relevant? Does a journalism organization benefit more from posting links to their stories on Twitter or Facebook? It appears as of today, there’s advantages and disadvantages to both. Let’s discuss: do you think news has a better chance of being seen, read, shared and engaged with on Facebook or Twitter? Why or why not?

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What have you got to lose with online news?

Online news is hard to resist simply because of its convenience. Type in a website address and with a couple of clicks you’re reading fresh, current content from around the planet.

Wiliam Quezada, a 24-year-old behavioral therapist from Downey, Calif., said “We used to have a paper subscription to the Los Angeles Times along with other magazines, but stopped that once their online website started to update their content on a real time format. I think it’s more based on convenience in why I read the news online since I’m no longer required to lug around multiple newspapers and magazines.”

However, is there a downside to reading news online? Some of the implications of such constant access and exposure to online news include things like information overload. “Technology is constantly increasing the amount of news being reported at a huge rate; which starts to create an overflow of information. Next thing you know you have tons of open tabs on your laptop and questioning yourself at where to start,” Quezada said.

There’s also the possibility that the quick turnaround time for online news, especially news diffused through social media, creates more opportunity for factual errors. “When news is reported through social media, the margin of error increases. There is a huge possibility the reported event is a hoax or riddled with factual errors,” said Quezada.

In an article by Jeff Sonderman of Poynter.org, he claims that most Americans now get news on a digital device – and 70% of that news is discovered on a laptop or desktop computer. 23% of people get their news on a mobile phone. This creates a stronger sense of urgency in the online world – and shows that while traditionally we went looking for news – today news finds us.

What are some disadvantages of online news? Why?

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Kony 2012: The elements of going viral

If you’ve spent time on the Internet lately, you’ve probably noticed many posts, blogs, tweets and news articles about KONY 2012. Kony 2012 is a video that aims to make Joseph Kony, a Ugandan guerilla group leader, famous to help lead to his capture. Kony 2012 was created after an initial documentary film “Invisible Children” was made in 2005 and shown at small film festivals around the world. The video posted on Monday, March 5 was a mash-up created with the help of the celebrity sponsors – or as they call them, “culture makers”. The video was launched on the Internet after enough people had contacted “culture makers” like Oprah, Ellen, De Generes, Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber and Bill Gates and these celebrities responded with supporting tweets or messages. (The website has a section where people can automatically tweet or message their suggested culture makers or celebrities).

Here’s a break down of how KONY 2012 went viral:

  1. The creators of the video, the charity Invisible Children, already had a strong social media presence before the video – estimated at 1,000,000 Facebook fans and 100,000 Twitter followers.
  2. In the video, the founders repeatedly ask people to take action on social media to spread the word (in between clips of children crying). They took emotionally devastating imagery and combined it with an easy way for you to help, by spreading the word on social media.
  3. Some analysts are saying because of the unusual goal of the video (a man hunt, of sorts) it took more precedence than your usual charitable call to action to “get involved” .  The goal the creators provided to viewers of the video was specific – find Kony.
  4. The video also had the help of celebrity support. The initial celebrity advocates were people like Diddy, Oprah and Kim Kardashian – people with twitter followers in the multi millions who already had highly engaged audiences to help spread the word.
  5. Kony 2012 did have the help of web-based promotion in the form of financial marketing and advertising support totaling around $2.3 million. Invisible Children listed their financials on the website after criticism about this video (some are saying it’s deceptive and inaccurate), and they’re showing that $1.2 million was spent on a “national tour”, $300,000 on “Awareness media”, $300,000 on web and design and funds were allocated to other “awareness activies” as well.

These things don’t guarantee a video or cause will go viral on the web, but they certainly help more than harm. Things often go viral just due to humor, like the video of a baby ripping paper, but in many cases, viral campaigns have several moving parts that contribute to help make the spread of its message a success.

Do you see how all of these elements worked together to make Kony 2012 an instant success, or do you think it was just based on the charitable initiative and strong production values of the video? Why or why not?

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News goes mobile

It’s a common sight in many mainstream movies, TV shows and news segments today – a bystander whips out a cell phone during an altercation, poised and ready to capture the next unnecessary act of police brutality (think of the University of Florida’s famous slogan: “Don’t tase me, bro!”) or shocking breaking news. Mobile technology, which started first with the ability to make calls on the go, has dramatically changed the speed of transmission for news in all forms – voice call, text messaging, tweeting, Facebooking or even e-mail.

When asked if she felt technology had changed the rate of speed in which news spreads, 67-year-old Charlotte Samples, copywriter, said “It’s almost instantaneous. It’s almost like they couldn’t go any farther in how quickly they hear these things – they would have to go back in time! It’s gotten to the point now where I expect to see something. If somebody says “Oh there was a gunman at so and so,” you can expect that you’re going to turn on the news and there’s going to be a camera somewhere, whether it’s in somebody’s hand, whether it’s in a police car!”

One only needs to think back to the recent University of California, Davis pepper spray incident to think of the power of ordinary citizens wielding mobile technology who’ve helped create, shape and solidify news. In this video posted on YouTube.com, which now has over 1,600,000 views, you can hear college students chanting, “The whole world is watching.” Indeed they were – from the comforts of their own mobile technology, helping to transmit the video through their network of peers, creating a viral “snowball effect” by sharing news and opinion at the same time.

With how quickly news can spread now due to mobile technology and social media, some might argue that its benefits for journalism far outweigh its disadvantages. What concerns do you have with mobile technology being used to assist journalists? Why?

Paying for Online News

Last week, the Los Angeles Times announced that they will begin charging readers for access to news on their website, LATimes.com. In an LA Times article by Jerry Hirsch, this move is said to be an integral move for “joining a growing roster of major news organizations looking for a way to offset declines in revenue.”

As newsrooms around the globe continue to face monumental layoffs and cuts to workforce and resources, this move is hardly surprising from an economical perspective. However, to some citizens, like 26-year-old Kelly Clark, an executive assistant in Sherman Oaks, Calif., the move is not a welcome change for those used to accessing and enjoying free online content.

“You should be able to look things up online without having to pay. You don’t have to pay at other sites. That doesn’t make sense,” said Clark.

When asked if she would utilize LATimes.com when the new policy is in place, Clark said “No, I won’t. I guess I’ll go to New York Times, Google… You can do research for free. I definitely think they’ll lose readership. I think people will go to other publications. You can get a lot just by going on Yahoo news – even if it’s fluffy news. That’s ridiculous. I will not pay a dollar to go on their site.”

Paywalls, or as the Los Angeles Times is calling it, “Membership Program” are not new concepts to the digital news world. Websites such as NYTimes.com and WSJ.com utilize paid subscriptions intended to increase revenue and encourage reader loyalty as print subscriptions continue to decline.

What does this mean for how breaking news travels? If top performing and well respected news websites charge for content, it is likely that there will be an increase in news diffusion across social networks and through word of mouth.

Is paying for premium digital content a new way of future? What do you think? Will you pay for news content or use free web services?

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Whitney Houston’s Death – How news moves

Welcome to Heardio Blog! What’s a Heardio? Pronounce it like this – “heard – ee- oh!”. Heardio stands for “Heard It On” and is an abbreviation of and acronym for the myriad ways we hear our breaking news. News moves quick – where did you hear it? We’ll get into what this little social experiment means soon, but for now, let’s dive in. News moves quick, right?

The latest breaking news to stun the universe is the death of 48-year-old  legendary R&B singer Whitney Houston. Whitney’s troubled days never overshadowed her magnificent voice, and as news of her passing spread, social media networks were buzzing with disbelief. I decided to casually poll my Facebook friends to ask where they heard about Whitney Houston’s death. I had 47 respondents, ranging in age from 19 to 64. Seventeen out of 47 respondents had heard about Whitney’s death via Facebook, followed by nine people hearing about it in person.

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What was the most shocking omission? Newspapers. Out of 47 people, nobody had heard the news of Whitney Houston’s passing via newspaper. Perhaps this isn’t so shocking. Because her death was announced in the afternoon, it would have been many hours until the morning paper arrived in the driveway. In addition, in today’s hustle-bustle world, there’s hardly time to languish over a freshly-printed paper with a morning cup of joe. Instead, the news comes to us, lighting up our iPhones or buzzing through to us via mobile text alerts. These days, the news is always ON – just like we are.

A 28-year-old University of Washington social work student Monique Hernandez, was not surprised about how quickly social media was overcome with news of Whitney Houston. Hernandez found out about Houston’s via Facebook, and quickly checked CNN.com to fact check the story. “I don’t know how many people really read news anymore on their own, so I think it’s (social media) a lot quicker way to get information, and sometimes more accessible,” she said. “It’s happening via text, Twitter, Facebook. It’s just going so social media and I think we’re really involved in media and in gadgets and in technology. It’s really just more the norm now.”

To find out more about why people flock to social media sites in times of mourning or grief, check out this article from New York Times Author Ian Lovett, “Posting to mourn a Friend”. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/19/fashion/facebook-and-twitter-posts-on-whitney-houston-overran-sites-early-on.html

Think about what you saw when you were online in the hours or days following Whitney Houston’s passing. After thinking for a few moments, reflect on this question. Do the results of this graph surprise you? Why or why not?

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