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Can social media save mainstream media? Or is that the wrong question?

It’s a common question: Can social media save——-? You fill in the blank. Can social media save newspapers? Magazines? Mainstream media in general?

The real essence of this question is, can social media techniques make mainstream media more profitable?

And just which techniques are most effective? All of them?

These questions are challenging journalists worldwide, as they strive to produce stories and reports that go viral, stimulate conversation and make a connection.

John A. Byrne, editor-in-chief of BusinessWeek.com, provides a valuable glimpse into this strategy in an interview with Ben LaMothe, a blogger with Econsultancy.

“What journalism needs to become in this digital age is a process that embraces and involves your audience at every level, from idea generation to reporting and sourcing and finally to the publication of the article when the journalism then becomes an intellectual camp fire around which you gather an audience to have a thoughtful conversation about the story’s topic,” Byrne told LaMothe.

Byrne also reported that BusinessWeek now has more than 60 journalists on Twitter. The magazine and Web site engage readers in numerous venues, encourage a dialogue with the public and invite them to take a subject viral.

Speaking of going viral, Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times offered another example this week of content so compelling and controversial, that it enjoyed a digital takeoff. Her article examined the demographics of Twitter, and she reached a surprising conclusion. I won’t ruin it for you, but suffice to say, a certain younger generation was not happy with the result.

Here is just one example of the conversation Miller’s one article triggered. The Twittersphere also had plenty of commentary on the article. Think the New York Times didn’t benefit from the numerous links and references to Miller’s article? Miller generated the type of interaction Byrne refers to in his interview.

Also this week, Brian Tierney, the man trying to keep Philadelphia’s two newspapers afloat, discussed that he is going to depend, at least in part, on social media to assist.

“Tierney, a newbie publisher but longtime PR whiz, launched a campaign with full-page ads, buttons, a Twitter account and a Facebook page to drum up public support to keep the Inquirer and Daily News under local ownership,” wrote the Poynter Institute’s Rick Edmunds.

So, is all this energy, hope and even angst over social media warranted? This fast-moving video titled “Is Social Media a Fad?” addresses the question as it provides a powerful grasp of the growing power of digital communications.

So, what is your favorite social media technique in the mainstream media. Or, better yet, what technique do you think the media ought to utilize better?

Speaking of social media, some former colleagues of the Boca Raton News reached out to me backchannel after my blog post on the demise of our Palm Beach County, Fla., paper. Nice to hear from old friends who have moved on. Many remain in journalism, and that is a good thing.


 

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