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A Candid Chat with The Globe and Mail’s Social Media Evangelist Mathew Ingram – Part 1

Mathew Ingram - Photo by Rannie Turingan
Mathew Ingram, Communities Editor at The Globe and Mail, has been relentless in spreading the word about how the newspaper is using social media to engage its readers. He is very passionate about reaching readers through social media and getting more of the Globe’s journalists on the social media bandwagon.

At the Third Tuesday Toronto event last week, I chatted with Mathew after his presentation, "How The Globe and Mail is using social media to connect with its readers". It was a repeat performance for those who attended his seminar at PodCamp Toronto 2009. You can watch Mathew’s presentation from PodCamp here as well as download his slides. His Globe blog, Ingram 2.0, also provides more information about what they are doing with social media.

This post is one of a two-part series about the after-presentation discussion that took place with Mathew.

The more things change, the more they stay the same?
Mathew compared the Globe’s brand to a record label. Artists develop their own personality under a label; the label promotes them and helps to make them who there are. The artists can then leave and go to another label or go independent. It’s the same at the Globe. You have journalists that people like because of their talent and the personality evident in their articles – Christie Blatchford, for example. The Globe is the medium that helps them to get their following of readers. But, they can easily leave the Globe and go independent or to another newspaper.

This is certainly an issue for the Globe and is made more acute since more and more of their journalists are joining social media, like the micro-blogging tool, Twitter. The Globe journalists on Twitter use their real names and state their Globe affiliation. They link to a personal blog, show their personality and share personal information. What happens if any of them decide to leave the Globe? They take all their followers with them. But, as Mathew astutely pointed out, this problem is an old problem, experienced before social media and before the Internet. Service organizations like law firms or PR agencies always risk losing clients when an employee leaves the company. It is just happening in a new medium.

So what, then, are the implications for newspapers and social media? Instead of staying on the fence about social media, jump in and don’t worry about what happens if a journalist leaves. It is the strength, the reputation and the integrity of the brand behind the journalists that is important. Social media is just a new medium for the newspaper to engage with its readers. And newspapers must embrace this medium, continuing to build and strengthen their brands in the new social media marketplace that not only includes Canada, but the rest of the world. If is doesn’t, it may not survive.

How does the Globe (or any newspaper) compete?
For newspapers, social media has brought on major competition, particularly blogs. It is much harder now to distinguish themselves from other sources. So how do you compete? I believe it comes down to the integrity of the source. Do you trust the source? If the source is on the social media bandwagon, it is to its advantage. It gives readers the opportunity to get to know the individuals behind the source and build a connection with them. Then they can make an informed decision on whether or not to trust the source.

How do you moderate a multitude of comments?
One of the challenges the Globe faces is how to moderate the comments on their online articles. Each article usually gets hundreds of comments because they are not moderated. It is not procedure to respond to every post.

Mathew has a process that he hopes will eventually pay off in attracting comments of value. He responds to comments that have broken through the clutter. He agrees, disagrees or acknowledges the comments that were intelligent and offer value to him as a journalist and to the other readers. “People just want confirmation that someone is listening really,” said Mathew.

In Part 2, find out what type of journalists are prime candidates to adopt social media, how the Globe is measuring success and who at the Globe is on Twitter.

Photo Credit: Rannie Turingan