Thursday, December 10, 2009

Journalism's Hottest Job

Amid the bankruptcies, layoffs and budget cuts in journalism, one beat has prevailed. Behold the rise of the social media director.

About 200 social media directors now exist at newspapers, book publishers, magazines and television news stations. Most have taken on their positions in the last two years. Rarely offline, their job is to tweet, ping, blog and friend-find throughout the day, building and interacting with new audiences, promoting media brands and sometimes breaking news.

It's a tweetfest out there thanks to SMDs like Woody Lewis, a former rock musician and investment banker. Having advised 15 news organizations on how to craft social media strategies, Lewis is co-developing social media platforms for independent publisher Chronicle Books and authors a blog, "Save the Papers," which debates how broadsheets can use social media to survive. How? First, by rethinking content. He calls news a "legacy process that is becoming a social phenomenon."

Newspapers have been rushing to unbundle their product, allowing news to alight on Twitter, for example. That's one way to protect a scoop. Last summer, when Brett Favre, the future Hall of Fame NFL quarterback, was signed by the Minnesota Vikings, Minneapolis TV station WCCO tweeted the story before it appeared on its Web site, scooping itself. Earlier this year a reporter at the Wichita Eagle convinced a judge to allow him to cover a racketeering trial using Twitter. "There is a velocity to this content," says Lewis. "Tweets are the gold standard of scoops. A growing number of newspapers are turning their entire mastheads over to Twitter."

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