I’ve accepted a position at the Register

Old shirt with OCRegister.com logo
I’ve dusted off an old Register shirt with a logo that once promoted the company’s digital presence.

Today, I start working at the Orange County Register again.

This might come as a surprise to some, since I revived this blog in July with a post about why I left newspapers, and followed that up with an explanation of why I stopped working for a newspaper company.

There are many reasons for my return, but this is the biggest one: they asked me to return. I’m not saying that all they had to do was ask. I’m saying that there has to be a reason that they reached out to me.

You see, many incredibly talented journalists left the company in June. Most of them are better “print journalists” than I’ll ever be. My forte has always been digital. To the best of my knowledge, the Register hasn’t reached out to any of my incredible colleagues. That the company is asking a digital specialist to return says to me that they are making a shift to bolster their presence online, and hopefully on mobile and social platforms.

I’m joining with a strange title of Newsroom Operations, and will be helping journalists to get their jobs done. I will be troubleshooting, filling one of the duties that a previous Register worker left vacant when he recently left the company.

Wait? So it sounds like I’m a newsroom IT guy, and the reason they reached out to me is because they needed a newsroom IT guy. It could be that simple, but I think there’s something more afoot. The Register is still full of talented individuals, some of whom could easily fill the shoes of the position described. The Register is experienced in shuffling newsroom staff to fill holes. They know how to make do and they have the people to do it.

They didn’t have to ask me to come back, they chose to reach out to me. This newspaper company just might be prepping for digital.

I’m going back to help amazing journalists. I can only imagine how rough things have been since the staff has had to pick up the slack left by my friends and I when we left almost five months ago. I’m going back to help my coworkers make the best use of their tools. I’m going back to help make their work easier. If you’ve ever worked with me, you know that I’m going back to bring a little levity and to help make some good people smile.

So, what do you think? Good move? Bad move? Leave a comment or talk with me on Twitter @ksablan.

Please retweet to spread the word about please retweet

Dog begging
Begging by Eric J Paparatto Photography licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Tweets that include the phrase “please retweet” are four times more likely to be retweeted than the average tweet, according to data from 2011.

It’s old news, but I was shocked when I recently included the magical phrase in a pair of Twitter posts that ended up with 802 and 349 retweets. Those are by far my most retweeted tweets.

It’s about so much more than the retweet

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that you should start inserting “please retweet” into all of your tweets. Would you continue following someone if she always asked you to retweet her? Offline, do you maintain friendships with people who constantly ask for favors? Continue reading

I challenge Twitter journalists to create a list

African Silverback Gorilla
African Silverback Gorilla by Joey Lax-Salinas licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Okay, all you self-proclaimed social media journalism geeks, here is your chance to win absolutely nothing except the satisfaction of helping fellow reporters, photographers and editors who are new to Twitter.

If you’ve ever helped a person create a Twitter account, you know that one of the first questions newbies ask is “who should I follow?” I always suggest reporters follow officials, experts, companies, customers and constituents of the industries, communities, issues and topics that they cover.

In addition to entities related to their beats, some journalists want to find Twitter accounts that provide good tips and information about journalism and social media. I often point to a few Twitter lists, like Jay Rosen’s selection of Top Journalism Linkers. I have my own list of people who frequently tweet about journalism.

As good as some of those lists are, new Twitter users could easily be turned off when they scroll through tweets from Rosen’s list and find Dale Cressman tweeting about a cure for Taylor Swift converts, me tweeting about bovine dysentery, and Mathew Ingram retweeting trivia about Mark Hamill’s age.

Those off-topic tweets could be avoided if Twitter allowed users to “follow” search results instead of people. Imagine if your first Twitter experience was a timeline full of tweets that only included certain words and phrases.

To make my point, I conducted a Twitter search that includes all English language tweets that include the word journalism along with the word social or mobile. I also included the word data, to capture conversations about data journalism. Continue reading

Twitter should let you follow words again

Follow this path by Sven Lohmeyer licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Follow this path by Sven Lohmeyer licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

I gave up on Twitter twice before finally “getting it” years ago. I became a fan of the tool when I realized Twitter could send me every tweet that included certain words or phrases — even if I didn’t follow the people who posted those tweets.

That feature went away years ago, but I was reminded of it recently when Danny Sullivan at Marketing Land wrote about an idea to help Twitter gain and keep new users. Danny imagines a Twitter where people follow interests instead of accounts. If you follow sports, for instance, you see all sports-related tweets posted by anyone.

Words instead of interests

Instead of following interests, I suggest that Twitter resurrect the ability to track specific words or phrases. When I search Twitter for “data journalism,” I want an option to “follow” that search. Selecting that option would tell Twitter that I want to see tweets like this one in my main timeline, even if I don’t follow Nicholas Jackson:

My concept addresses a concern that a Marketing Land commenter brought up with Danny’s interest-based approach. If Twitter offers general interests, like sports, the results would be too broad to be useful. In my model, a person could be more specific by following tweets that contain “World Series,” or “Lakers,” or  “Landon Donovan.”

Twitter can’t just flip a switch

Unfortunately, the ability to follow specific words never really existed in the way that I’ve described it.

Once upon a time, Twitter supported instant messaging, so you could tweet and read tweets by chatting with Twitter from an app like Google Talk (now Google Hangouts) or AIM. It was through instant messaging and SMS text messaging, that you could tell Twitter that you wanted to “track” a term. Here are some other Twitter commands that worked back in 2008.

Twitter stopped supporting IM clients six years ago, and the “track” command is absent from its current list of SMS commands. With the incredible volume of tweets being sent nowadays, I don’t think it would be wise to re-introduce the “track” command to SMS messaging or to revive support for IM.

If my proposed idea is a simple one to implement, it could help journalists quickly find value in Twitter by letting them track terms and public figures relevant to their beats. It could help companies quickly find value in Twitter by letting them track industry terms and competitors. If it helps attract and keep new users, it could help shareholders find greater value in Twitter.