Earlier today, the conference delegates at TRAFFIC heard from CNN News personality, Rick Sanchez, who addressed the group with lunchtime keynote. The central theme of Rick’s unscripted (and unfiltered) speech can be described as being about how social networks are transforming the news from being a broadcast to being a dialog. Of particular note, Rick reported that the audience for his mid-afternoon news broadcast is up some 73% during his tenure. This is a rare growth story in broadcast television news. He attributes much of this growth to his integration of Twitter, Facebook and Myspace.
This raises the question how websites can engage a dialog with an audience in a way that extends beyond the website. Email newsletters (Web 1.0) and RSS feeds (Web 2.0) are still widely used. However, the virality of both of these methods is predicated on active forwarding of content through word of mouth or “pass along”. In Web 3.0, we will see a much greater emphasis on “user syndication” which is one-to-one (personal communication) but also one-to-many (broadcast). In the example of Rick Sanchez, he might broadcast out on Facebook or Twitter and the audience Tweets or emails back.
At Epik, we are beginning to experiment with integrating social media into our content network. Here are two current examples:
Online polling using Twitter OAuth
We have begun to integrate polling with social syndication. This is made possible through an exclusive partnership with Switzerland-based PollPigeon.com — a company with social media roots. To see how this works, you can try out this poll. If you vote in the poll, your vote is counted by logging in with your Twitter ID (OAuth to be specific) or Facebook. Your poll response is then inserted into your Twitter stream or onto your Facebook wall. We are experimenting with embedded social polls in a few other areas, including the upcoming WhoWoreItBest.com which ties in with the new directory portal Clothing.com. WhoWoreItBest.com will be a social experiment to see how consumers might participate in this act of user syndication. An iPhone application is in the planning.
I believe that single-sign-on is going to be a huge positive for domainers. The more that people can take their identity, preferences and reputation with them, the easier it is for new sites to grow audience rapidly, and virally. In the past, most sites, had their own user-registration databases. Meanwhile, OpenID, Facebook Connect and Twitter OAuth open up the possibility of letting the user take their identity with them, and along with their identity comes their social graph — the other people with whom they are connected online.
The above example is taken from an Epik-powered fan site called MitchelMusso.com where we recently added a Facebook widget, and where we have seen steady growth in the fan base. When a user adds themselves as a fan, it appears on their personal wall, which in turn virally introduces the site to other persons. This concept will be more broadly deployed across the Epik network of reference portals.
Do journalists get social media?
During the Q&A of today’s TRAFFIC keynote, David Castello asked the question that I was about to ask, namely who owns the brand “Rick Sanchez”, and the related question of who owns RickSanchez.com. Well, it turns out that CNN has licensed the rights to “Rick Sanchez” as television news personality. As for the domain name, an insurance broker in Miami owns it. My conclusion from this is that journalists have yet to take control of their online brands. The day is coming when the traditional media will be forced to compete with the growing capability for online media to provide a comprehensive platform for real-time journalism. The odds are that you won’t read about in your local paper, but the seismic shift in journalism appears to be far from complete.