I’m learning lessons about social media nearly every day. But I learned long ago that few things touch people like photos of animals. The two types of learning come together in this story of a mountain lion, a Maine coon cat and some smart journalists at the Denver Post using an array of social media tools.
In a couple of recent meetings, I have met and discussed community engagement with Post colleagues, gaining respect for their smart use of social media. We will be working together much more closely as the Journal Register Co. partnership with MediaNews progresses. In our initial meetings, I have seen multiple ways we could benefit from sharing our ideas and insights in both directions.
I’ll start that by sharing, through this post, a great example of using social media in multiple ways to bring some fun content into the site and then to bring attention to that content. What’s interesting is that the photo in question actually was submitted initially to a TV station’s website, and the station wasn’t making full use of it. Then the Post journalists tracked down the photographer, got more pictures from her, and multimedia magic ensued.
News Director Kevin Dale explains (he gave me permission to use these emails; I added the links):
The mountain lion v. kitty story and gallery is an exceptional example of how the Denver Post digital team excels in social media. Originally, the neighbor of the homeowner sent a photo to 9News, which posted it and left it at that. Vikki Migoya and Dan Boniface saw the post and went several steps farther:
- Vikki, who routinely monitors competitor websites, spotted the item on the 9News and passed it to Dan.
- Dan found the neighbor who tweeted it to 9News, then found his Facebook page that linked to the homeowner’s Facebook page.
- He then found a post with a Yahoo email for the neighbor.
- Vikki gave that info to Kieran Nicholson, who tracked down the homeowner and got permission to use all of her photos.
- While Kieran worked on the story, Vikki and Meghan Lyden worked on the slide show, which we posted immediately.
- We then moved it through the Breaking News headlines and then pushed it all back out on all of our social media channels.
Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit have been pushing huge amounts of traffic to us from links to the story and gallery. That drove us to a record traffic day on Tuesday – 2.6 million page views – and we are trending to break 3 million today. We’ll see where it ends up. But, when people talk Digital First, we are already there and getting smarter and better every day.
Social Media Editor Dan Petty elaborated in another email:
So great to see our team efforts pay off with this. I made sure to link the photo gallery to the story in the text so we could get more clicks that way, but our Facebook referrals I saw this morning were like 8-10% of referral traffic, which is the highest I’ve ever seen it.
Migoya also elaborated in a separate email:
Part of my morning routine is scouring partner and competitor sites for content.
I noticed that the “most viewed” item on the 9News web site was a photo that wasn’t even on their homepage. The post said a Twitter follower had sent it to them, saying it was at his neighbor’s house.
Boniface and I thought it was a great image. But clearly, we make sure we have rights to images before we post them, so we set out to track down the photo.
Dan found who had Tweeted it to 9News. He then found a Facebook post from that man. The man’s Facebook page had a link to his neighbor on his wall. Dan tracked that to a Yahoo message post with the neighbor’s name and email.
I took the name and email to Kieran and asked him to track her down and ask for permission to use the photo and get the story behind it.
Kieran emailed the woman, who responded positively and sent him links to two Picasa galleries.
While Kieran worked on a story, I asked Meghan for help with the images. She quickly put together the best into a photo gallery.
Once we had the gallery (9:15), Barry (Online News Editor Barry Osborne) sent a link to it through the breaking news stack to get some eyeballs on it from the home page. Boniface put it out on Twitter and Facebook.
Once Kieran filed the story, we added a freeform to it that linked to the gallery.
Barry put the story in Top1 with a blurb link to the gallery (about 11 a.m.)
Later on, either Petty or Schneider put our gallery on Tumblr.
The social tools I count in this story: Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo!, Picasa, Reddit, Tumblr and email. You can’t just seize on a favorite tool such as Twitter or Facebook. The digital journalist needs to be comfortable using several tools and learning new tools.
It’s a great example that you don’t have to be first with the story to be the best. The photos were out there on social media. They made it to a TV station that initially didn’t even post the photo on its front page. But social sharing made it one of the most popular items on that site, bringing it to the Post’s attention. Then some smart journalists found more photos (be sure you check out the photo gallery) and gave it a better ride. They gave it such a good ride that the TV station decided it was worth a story, too.
This story also shows three important points about user-generated content:
- Some users take pretty good photos. Gail Loveman, the Boulder woman who shot the mountain lion and the cat (I actually like the photos of the lion with the statue even better) is not as good a photographer as the professional photojournalists at the Post (including Pulitzer-winner Craig F. Walker). But she’s good.
- Amateur photographers or just people with cellphone cameras are present sometimes when interesting things happen and they can capture some photos that journalists can’t. Whatever the skill Loveman showed in shooting the photos, the key factor here was that she was around when the mountain lion showed up.
- Get permission to use pictures from the public. By seeking permission to use the single photo, the Post got the whole gallery.