As Pinterest grows in use, it grows in value to journalists and news organizations.
I don’t pretend that I know all the ways that journalists should use Pinterest. My Digital First Media colleagues and I are discussing and experimenting with this now and many of them are well ahead of me. But I’ve spent the past few months learning, studying and gathering tips and examples from colleagues, which I’ll share here.
Primarily, I would say that news organizations definitely should explore the possibilities of engaging through a social tool that’s growing as fast as Pinterest. Some of your efforts will generate strong engagement and some will fall flat. But when people are spending as much time with a social tool as they do with Pinterest, you should seek to have them spend some of that time with you.
At least for now, Pinterest seems to be most valuable relating to lifestyle coverage, contests, community information and events and photography. I haven’t seen any indication that it’s useful in breaking news coverage (though that could change, or you might have some examples to show how it’s already being used).
Here are ways that I suggest journalists and news organizations consider using Pinterest:
One of the most popular topics for sharing content on Pinterest is food. Newsrooms need to include photos with their food coverage, especially recipes and restaurant reviews and stories. Jessica Fleming of the St. Paul Pioneer Press noticed that when she shares a recipe and photo on Pinterest, it gets repinned by others immediately. Your recipes and restaurant reviews will get more sharing and more traffic from Pinterest if you remember to publish photos of the food (or the restaurant or both). Obviously, professional shots of mouth-watering dishes are best, but at the least, you need to use a cellphone to capture visuals of the food you write about.
The York Daily Record’s Smart Magazine has more than 150 pins on its recipe Pinboard. You can expect that to grow during a monthly contest featuring seasonal produce (May recipes feature asparagus or rhubarb). Social Media Coordinator Buffy Andrews explains: “Readers will upload their recipe photos to our online gallery. We will pin their photos, along with a link to the recipe online, on a Pinterest board. Each month, they will be given a new vegetable and fruit. Each month, we will select a winner from a random drawing for a gift certificate. We hope to find a grocery store to sponsor.”
St. Paul Pioneer Press Social Media Editor Jen Westpfahl created a Pinboard for a series on kid-friendly dining.
The Delaware County Times is promoting a contest to give away Philadelphia Flyers tickets. Hockey fans take their pictures with the full-page newspaper ad featuring the Flyers’ logo and a sponsor’s logo (or logos downloaded from the website). The photos are posted on the Delco Times website and on a Cup Crazy Pinboard.
Buffy Andrews of the York Daily Record is the master at generating engagement on Pinterest for contests: Valentine’s, Peeps diorama and shoes (one pin is embedded below). The St. Paul Pioneer Press and San Jose Mercury News also did Peeps contests. Karen Workman of the Oakland Press had a Pinboard of community photos submitted in a contest to choose the Press’s Facebook Timeline photo.
You could have a board for each of your major community attractions and perhaps types of attractions (if I were still at TBD, covering Washington D.C., we might be doing a Pinboard of Washington statues). The Daily Freeman has an extensive Hudson Valley Pinboard (below) featuring attractions, activities and news of the region. The Salt Lake Tribune has a board of things to do in Salt Lake City and the San Jose Mercury News has one of things to do in the San Francisco Bay area. The News-Herald has monthly things-to-do boards for activities around Willoughby, Ohio. The York Daily Record has Pinboards of local museums, parks and libraries. The Berkshire Eagle has one for the Berkshires. Ed Stannard of the New Haven Register developed a Pinboard of local places of worship. The Morning Journal in Lorain, Ohio, features local wineries.
These community Pinboards should be fun, not just informative. If I were still at the Omaha World-Herald, we’d do boards on funky Nebraska attractions such as the Kearney Arch, Carhenge and Ole’s (I checked; they don’t have such a board yet). At the Iowa news organizations where I used to work, I’d suggest separate boards for the covered bridges of Madison County and the Field of Dreams. (Again, not yet, but the Register’s Unique Iowa board is along those lines.)
I’ve noted before that news organizations need to develop multimedia directories of community businesses and organizations, a place for the community to come for information and a place for businesses and organizations to advertise (paying to add their own content to the directory and news-archive content you provide on every business). You could do a separate community-directory Pinterest account, with boards for various business categories (restaurants, auto repair, landscaping, etc.). You would pin logos, building photos, product photos, etc. I’m not aware of anyone doing this yet, but if you know of someone, please share the link in the comments.
The Morning Journal in Lorain, Ohio, has a board of local public officials.
One of the best opportunities Pinterest might present is to highlight archival content. You could have Pinboards of historic front pages, photos from annual community events and big events in your community’s history.
The Salt Lake Tribune, which runs weekly photo galleries of community history, has a popular Pinboard of historic photos (below) with 899 followers. The York Daily Record also has a Pinboard of historic photos with 315 followers.
The Daily Freeman in Kingston, N.Y., used Pinterest embeds of its pages covering the sinking of the Titanic in its 100th anniversary coverage. The Freeman has an Old front pages Pinboard, something every newsroom should consider.
The News-Herald in Willoughby, Ohio, has a collection of more recent historic front pages, including 9/11 and the deaths of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.
The archival possibilities for Pinterest are endless. My old colleagues at the Des Moines Register could generate significant engagement and traffic, I believe, with a board for every year of Ragbrai, the annual bike ride across Iowa. (I checked; nothing yet, but look at all the Ragbrai photos and logos shared by Pinterest users.) And if I were still editor at Cedar Rapids, we would have boards for our coverage of the 2008 flood and various aspects of the flood recovery. (I can’t find the Gazette on Pinterest; if I’m wrong, please send me the link.) In a visit last month, I suggested that my Digital First Media colleagues at the Oakland Press might want to develop Pinboards for every year of the Woodward Dream Cruise.
This content generally isn’t driving any page views or revenue now. Presenting it in a context where people might browse and share, with links to historical content on your site, could generate page views and revenues from your archives.
As I noted recently in my post on my own Pinterest use and in a post on sports engagement, I think use of Pinterest in sharing sports photos will grow and the Pinterest gender gap (its users are mostly women) will shrink.
Continuing on the archive theme, I think sports departments can generate significant traffic to archived stories and photos by creating boards for all the past seasons of local pro and major college sports teams (perhaps even high school teams). And if you have a particular star, present or past, they might merit their own Pinboards.
At the Denver Post we could probably generate significant sharing and traffic by creating Pinboards for John Elway, Tim Tebow and Peyton Manning at least. And if those generate significant traffic to the website, we could add Jake Plummer, Craig Morton, Brian Griese and other quarterbacks through the years. And Terrell Davis, Dennis Smith, Floyd Little, Karl Mecklenburg and Bronco stars at other positions.
The Salt Lake Tribune demonstrates the appeal of archival sports photos with its Pinboard on the 2002 Winter Olympics, which has 853 followers.
But current sports photos also have great potential. The Salt Lake Tribune’s Utah Jazz board has 865 followers. It “was a bit of an experiment at first, but once we saw the fantastic reaction to it, we’ve made to sure to expand into a few other sports,” said Web/Breaking News Director Kim McDaniel. Boards for soccer and University of Utah football each have more than 400 followers and a skiing and snowboarding board has nearly 900.
The News-Herald in Willoughby, Ohio, has a guide to northeast Ohio golf courses.
Weddings and engagements
Create Pinboards of engagement and wedding photos published on your website. I’ve noted before that newspapers need a stronger digital approach to weddings (and that sites such as TheKnot and Wedding Window have done what newspapers failed to develop). With a smart Pinterest strategy (where brides are planning their weddings now), we might get back in the digital wedding game in a more meaningful way. One of my old newsrooms, the Des Moines Register, has a Weddings in Iowa board. The York Daily Record has just started a board of honeymoon photos from area couples (below).
If you publish a bridal guide, you might develop a separate Pinterest account, with boards for bakers, jewelers, dress shops, venues, travel agencies, etc. Pins could link to the vendor’s page in your digital bridal guide.
Pinterest terms say it is for noncommercial use, so you shouldn’t charge directly for the Pinterest content without exploring that possibility first with Pinterest. But Pinterest is popular with brides and news organizations should be exploring the opportunities.
Newsroom information and promotion
You can and should use Pinboards to tell people about your newsroom.
I like the Daily Freeman’s staff board, which includes email links and phone numbers (you might add links to Twitter, Facebook or other social accounts or a staff member’s blog). Buffy Andrews has a board for her colleagues on the York Daily Record’s features staff.
The York Daily Record has Pinboards of front pages, people showing off the print edition on their vacations and Smart magazine covers.
The Salt Lake Tribune has a board of the newspaper’s own history.
Other Pinterest uses
Potholes, etc. A newsroom could promote its use of SeeClickFix through a board of before-and-after photos of potholes, burned-out streetlights, messy parks and other community features in need of attention.
Weather photos. A newsroom could use several Pinboards (maybe even a separate Pinterest account) on local weather, with a board for each month or season and separate boards for big storms or heat waves. I suspect sharing of weather photos will become big on Pinterest.
Enable Pinterest sharing. Keep in mind that one of the biggest benefits of Pinterest is that people will share your photos on their own boards. Put “Pin it” buttons on your news sites to encourage sharing of your content, and try to run photos, videos or other visual content with each story.
Turn quotes into visuals. Some stories don’t have accompanying photos. Daily Local News Editor Andy Hachadorian saves quotes from stories as photos, over a blurred image of a newspaper page, an idea modeled on the Wall Street Journal’s quotes board.
Photo galleries. I don’t suggest publishing whole photo galleries to Pinterest. But pinning a single photo or a few photos linking to the gallery (and noting that it’s one of a gallery), as Stannard does for New Haven Register photos, will drive some traffic for photos on your site.
Projects. A project in your newspaper should have a Pinboard, as the York Daily Record does for its Remember series, and as we’re doing for our Digital First Media American Homecomings project (below). (This is an example of boards that can be shared. This board, which was just launched, will be featured on several of our newsrooms’ Pinterest pages, with multiple contributors.)
Other visual content. One of the most popular Salt Lake Tribune boards, with 899 followers, collects the editorial cartoons of Pat Bagley.
Advertising. The Berkshire Eagle has a board for its Big Deals.
Consider news uses
The examples I have seen or thought of for using Pinterest are what I would describe as ways to distribute or promote our content. I think journalists should use social media this way. In teaching journalists how to use Twitter and Facebook, I have stressed uses in gathering and reporting news, such as live-tweeting, finding sources, listening to the community conversation, searching for witnesses to breaking news, crowdsourcing and reporting news directly through social media. I say it’s important for journalists to get beyond the posting of headlines and links and use Twitter and Facebook for journalism.
Perhaps my colleagues and I have not yet found many such uses for Pinterest. I’m sure a Pinterest search could be helpful in doing news stories, or at least features. And you might get some story ideas from Pinterest. Ivan Lajara explained in a blog post how to use Pinterest embeds to illustrate a story or blog post. (I used Pinterest embeds in this post, though you can see that they messed up the headings that follow the embeds.)
I think that promotion and distribution of content is an important to the future of the news business and journalists need to be involved in that pursuit. But I do separate that pursuit from the gathering and reporting of news. I’m not sure yet whether Pinterest will become useful in gathering and reporting news as we gain more experience at using it.
And you shouldn’t just be pinning your own photos. Collect other photos from the community on your Pinboards, too.
Have some fun
Develop some fun local Pinboards. I remember a colleague at the Des Moines Register who used to clip photos from small-town Iowa newspapers of people with their large vegetables. Those photos might make a fun board. Newsrooms in Denver, New York, Florida (or anywhere that cares about Tim Tebow) might have fun with a board of people Tebowing (if that stays hot in the coming season).
I’m not going to go into copyright issues here, beyond saying that Pinterest might encourage some copyright violation. TechCrunch and others have reported on that, and you should be careful not to post wire photos or syndicated photos there until those issues are worked out. This is something news organizations should watch, but I think the benefits of sharing your photos on Pinterest outweigh the risks.
Tips from Digital First colleagues
I pass along some tips from colleagues who are using Pinterest:
Cheryl Sadler, The News-Herald:
One of the most popular pins I’ve seen on our page is a tip from one of our Community Media Lab bloggers who is an artist. The text for the pin is her tip for an art project, and the image I pinned was the final product. Several of the repins were onto boards about ideas, art lessons, DIY, etc.
Seeing the success of that has made me somewhat alter the way I’m pinning content. I had been focusing on getting all the vitals in the text for a pin, but now I’m trying to think more like the Pinterest audience. For example, the text of a pin I posted early on in my pinning is “Theresa Neuhoff Audia writes, “I woke up at 6 a.m. to prepare for my first adventure of the day – hang gliding at Wallaby Ranch in nearby Davenport.”" If I were to pin that now, I would probably just say “Hang gliding at Wallaby Ranch near Orlando.” (Is it worth it to go back and edit these? If you do, do the pins pop back up as just pinned?)
Another pin that’s been popular is from a photographer in our Community Media Lab. I stopped looking at his content as just good photography to pin and started looking at the subject matter instead. His photo of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands on our Travel board has been repinned over a dozen times.
Diane Hoffman, The Mercury, Pottstown, Pa.:
I’ve found that there seems to be themes that go around with all of our Pinterest followers, one day it might be tattoos, another day it’s recipes, but if you can sort of predict what is going to be the next interest you can certainly get a lot attention. For example, we recently started a board about Mother’s Day and it has gotten a lot of attention.
You’ll get the most traction from things pinned in the evening because that’s when most people use pinterest. It’s not at the check-at-my-desk level of Facebook yet. It’s something people do while watching TV at night or after the kids are in bed.
I’ve posted lots of really good baseball photos and the one with the most response so far was one I posted around 9 p.m. It’s a great photo but no better than the others I’ve pinned (in my opinion) so I really think the timing is the difference.
If you haven’t signed up for pinerly.com yet, do that. It’s in its infancy but I think it’s going to offer great metrics (and later scheduling for those of you who don’t work during prime pinning time). It’s in beta so you have to put in your email address and wait for an invitation. And it’s only one account per email so I’m still waiting for my work one.
When we started on Pinterest we were careful to look at the topics that were already popular there. We didn’t want to just put a bunch of mug shots of our columnists and make it all about us, like a lot of media outlets seem to be doing there. We looked at our content to see what we had that would fit the topics already popular there and created our boards around that. We’ve added boards as we’ve found more content that people respond to. The Utah Jazz board was a bit of an experiment at first, but once we saw the fantastic reaction to it, we’ve made to sure to expand into a few other sports.
We’ve also built boards for popular galleries on our site (baby animals) and for events (opening of a long-anticipated shopping center downtown), though we’re trying to keep things tight and continue to focus on topics of interest to Pinterest users in general. We hope to drive more of that female traffic to our site by exposing them to content they may not even know we have.
We try to pin at least a few things to a variety of boards every day, but don’t normally post entire galleries. We select a few enticing shots and use the pin as a teaser to invite readers in to the full galleries on our site. We get a nice residual effect, too, as we just revamped our photo gallery display on our site and added share and Pin buttons for all individual photos at sltrib.com.
This is the second post in a series on Pinterest. I will post in the next week or so a primer on how to use Pinterest and some helpful links.