News & Observer tweet-up: my newspaper groks it
For those of you social media butterflies, how does your local newspaper interact with you?
Call me a dinosaur but I love my local newspaper. We at Terra Sig World Headquarters still get the dead-tree version on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and you’ll occasionally see me blog here and elsewhere about pharma stories I first learn from the News & Observer of Raleigh, North Carolina. Part of the reason is because it is the main newspaper of the Research Triangle region. (The Durham Herald-Sun is another, with about 1/5th the circulation, and few people know that almost all of Research Triangle Park is located within Durham County.) I like the smell and feel of a newspaper and I immensely respect those of my friends who write for the paper.
As much as I get excited on days when we get over 500 visitors here, the N&O has a print circulation of 134,470 daily and 190,514 on Sunday. But in these latest numbers from May, a new print/web metric was reported by the auditing firm who compiles these numbers. The N&O reaches a combined number of 797,346 unduplicated readers as determined from the last seven days of print and last 30 days of the online version. Like most papers around the world, the online readership far outnumbers those who access the paper in print.
Last night, I had the pleasure of attending the second “tweet-up” sponsored by the N&O at Sitti Lebanese Restaurant in downtown Raleigh. The paper has been committed to engaging the online community and this two-hour gathering of local Twitter users was one of those activities. Writers, editors, and advertising folks from the paper were in attendance together with some of the best-known (and not-so-known) local voices in social media. We gathered around some fabulous Sitti Middle Eastern food provided by the N&O (the chicken kabobs, falafel, and hummus were to die for) and a cash bar in the restaurant courtyard, although most folks were sucking down the ice water provided by the waitstaff in the 100F heat.
I had the pleasure of talking with Senior Editor Dan Barkin and “Interactive Retail Sales Manager” Kara Bloomer about the revenue challenges of online advertising relative to print – my interpretation of our discussion is that the fragmentation of eyes online significantly reduces rates per eyeball relative to print, thereby driving down revenue from print advertising since merchant budgets are now split across the media.
Regular readers may also recognize Dan Barkin’s name – he wrote a profile a few years ago on Anton Zuiker, the co-founder of what is now the international ScienceOnline science communicators conference. Dan’s tagline to describe Anton – “the let’s-get-together-and-see-where-this-goes guy” – was central to the chorus of a song I wrote for Anton to celebrate his 10th anniversary of blogging. Hence, I informed Dan that he and I co-wrote a song and that I will share royalties with him when it appears on The Voice next season.
In fact, a good deal of what bloggers write is derivative from those who write professionally for our newspapers and magazines. Enterprise journalism is rare among bloggers but is done spectacularly by such writers as Ed Yong at Not Exactly Rocket Science. In most cases like me, the day job precludes much original reporting, although we do some original analysis of primary literature. More likely, bloggers grasp upon something mentioned by print journalists and provide additional analysis, corrections, etc.
I am, therefore, on record as saying that bloggers are partly dependent upon print journalism being a viable career option for professional writers (i.e., making enough money to eat, pay off college loans, have a family, and buy a house).
Beyond the fact that a vibrant press should be keeping governments, policymakers, and business under close scrutiny, I have this additional symbiotic relationship with my professional writer colleagues.
So I am most grateful to the N&O for reaching out to us to strengthen and bridge these communities whose boundaries are becoming less and less distinct. I know I’ll miss someone but I want to thank Eric Frederick, Managing Editor of newsobserver.com and Metro Editor Thad Ogburn for hosting us, Road Worrier columnist and Transportation/Airport reporter Bruce Siceloff, and Brooke Cain of their Happiness is a Warm TV blog for promising me great coverage of the new season of Breaking Bad for our C&EN readers.