The urinal wall that brought a reader into a newsroom #peesells

The Orange County Register welcomed Anna Bourland into its newsroom this week to manage the @OCReggie Twitter account for about an hour. Here is how the idea was born on Twitter.

Twitter / ocregister: With 5 outdoor TVs, a urinal …

Twitter / ksablan: What? Did @OCReggie just use …

Twitter / abourland: @ksablan They do did and I …

Twitter / ksablan: @abourland 500 points to you …

Twitter / abourland: @ksablan Oh… should I just …

Twitter / ksablan: @abourland We have free water …

Twitter / abourland: @ksablan awww, I was hoping …

At this point, I turned to Sonya Quick (@sonyanews) who leads the social and mobile efforts of the Register’s newsroom, and asked if she would be alright with actually bringing Bourland in to handle the @OCReggie account. Sonya loved the idea, and we headed over to Roxanne Hack (@roxannima) who was managing the Reggie account at the time and she delivered the good news.

Twitter / ocregister: @abourland you're hired! come …

Here is the wonderful Anna Bourland (@abourland) after her visit with the Register. Thank you Anna!

What should publishers do about embedded content?

Twitter preview of blog post

Embedly is an incredible technology that converts links into embedded content. The screenshot above shows how Embedly’s Parrotfish plugin (for Safari, Chrome and Firefox) works with Twitter.com to convert a shortened URL into an actual excerpt from the content on that page.

Storify and other so-called curation tools (see my What is curation storify) use Embedly, so I’m very excited about this and any other embedding technology, but I wonder how publishers who rely on on-site display advertising feel about tools that basically allow people to view some or all of their content without actually visiting their site.

What should publishers do about embedded content? Here are some crazy ideas.

  • Accept that people get content in new ways that don’t involve visits to your site.
  • Thank Embedly for building attribution, with links, into its API.
  • Understand how to leverage embedded content to build your brand(s).
  • Embed advertisements directly into your content.
  • Figure out other ways to generate revenue.

Tweet counters: I can’t trust them

It’s nearly impossible to find out how many times a web page has been tweeted. At 11:45 Thursday night, I gathered these numbers to help explain what I mean.

Tweet button: 12

A Mashable blog post about Bit.ly was tweeted 12 times (as of 11:45 Thursday night). At least that’s what the official Twitter button widget said on the post itself.

Tweet button count for a Mashable post

Twitter search: 73

I clicked on that 12 button, which brought me to a Twitter search for tweets linking to that page … and I counted 73 tweets, not 12.

Bit.ly: 99

I randomly pulled up one of those tweets, and checked out the statistics provided by bit.ly. Scrolling down the page to “conversations” revealed 99 tweets, not 73 and certainly not 12.

BackType: 794

Armed with my BackType bookmarklet, I decided to go to a fairly unrelated source for some numbers. Oh no, the BackType page for that Mashable post, showed a whopping 794 tweets. That’s more than four times the tweets counted by Bit.ly, Twitter search, and the tweet button combined.

Tweetmeme: 898

When Twitter rolled out its own tweet button, they partnered with  Tweetmeme, creators of the old “retweet” button. I wanted to see what the veteran service had to say. The Tweetmeme search for that Mashable post found more tweets than any of the other methods: 898 tweets.

Trust

Yes, this is only one example, and a very non-scientific experiment. But I performed this little exercise because I see these discrepancies all the time, especially with popular posts/pages. Of course, one anecdote doesn’t prove that all counters are wrong, but with so many services disagreeing on one simple number, I simply can’t bring myself to trust any of them to be right.

t.co to the rescue?

One service might be able to provide the one tweet count to rule them all. Sometime this year, Twitter plans to wrap “all links shared on Twitter.com or third-party apps” within its own t.co URL. It will become part of the Twitter infrastructure. If Twitter can aggregate the many different URLs that are used to share a single web page, then it will be able to provide an accurate count of tweets linking to that page.

Twitter will also track clicks on those links. If I were in there shoes, I would consider charging for those t.co statistics.

Measure engagement with one click

I created this BackType bookmarklet to quickly measure the reach of articles and blog posts in social spaces.

Drag this button BackType Stats to your browser’s bookmarks tool bar. If you are using Explorer, make sure your “Links Toolbar” is showing, then right click on BackType Stats, click “Add to Favorites” and save the link in your “Links” folder.

Now, when you’re viewing any web page, just click on the “BackType Stats” button to see how that page is being shared and discussed on Twitter, Facebook and reddit.

I won’t get into the details of BackType, but it’s a service that shows at least these details about any web page:

  • How many times a link to the page has been tweeted
  • How many times those links have been clicked
  • How many times the link has been shared on Facebook
  • How many times the link has been liked on Facebook
  • How comments have been posted on the page
  • How many times the link has been commented on in Facebook
  • How many times the link has been commented on in reddit

Take a look at BackType’s analysis of a post about the Knight News Challenge by The Nieman Journalism Lab.

BackType example: Knight Challenge