Journalists Should Join Google+ to Understand What Comes Next

    by David Cohn
    September 1, 2011

    This month’s Carnival of Journalism, a site that I’ve organized where bloggers can convene to all write about the same topic, was hosted by Kathy Gill, a social media consultant and senior lecturer at the University of Washington, who seized on the new social network that is Google+.

    Still in its infancy, Google+ has been the topic of many-a-tech blog posts. As a former tech writer, I love and hate this stuff.
    Sometimes I want to slap Mashable right in the “http” and tell them to
    never do another “Top X Ways [name your industry professionals] Can Use
    [new social-networking tool].” If you are curious though, here are the top five ways journalists can use Google+, courtesy of Mashable.



    Equally, I want to avoid speculation about Google+ vs. Facebook or Twitter, etc. It’s a valid conversation, but there
    is already plenty of it. If a Facebook executive has a sneeze that
    sounds like “aww-choogle-phluss,” the tech press is all over it.
    I personally am not a fan of Facebook and welcome my Google+ overlords.
    I do have a post in me about privacy, Silicon Valley speculation, etc. —
    but I don’t want to add my voice to that already loud chorus.


    Instead, I want to write about Google+ in terms of everyday average
    use — both how journalists use the Internet and how everyday average
    people use the Internet (assuming the latter is slightly different).

    Sure enough, 10,000 Words (the Mashable of journalism blogging) recently did a post on the top 10 ways journalists use the Internet.
    This is the ENTIRE Internet mind you — but the results of the study are
    revealing. According to research, journalists use the Internet for:

    1. Reading news

    2. Searching for news sources/story ideas

    3. Social networking

    4. Micro-blogging

    5. Blogging

    6. Watching webinars/webcasts

    7. Watching YouTube

    8. Exploring Wikis

    9. Producing/listening to podcasts

    10. Social bookmarking

    By rough estimate, I’d say six of those activities can be encapsulated
    by Google+ in a way they can’t be on Facebook (partly because Facebook
    looks like a user-interface designer puked on a screen). One could
    argue that with Google Hangouts you can add another one or two activities to
    the count above, and considering the network is still young, who knows where it
    could go?

    While I won’t venture what the top 10 Internet activities are for
    non-journalists, I suspect the majority of them are social in nature,
    including email (Gmail having lots of penetration) and research (Google
    again). Now we can start to see some real Epic 2014 scariness/potential.

    The real lesson here is that journalists on Google+ should keep in
    mind how they are using the platform and how the public might be using
    the platform. The two aren’t necessarily the same, and all too often, we
    think the rest of the world uses web technology the same way we do.
    Whenever I want to be humbled, I watch a member of my family use the
    computer and think to myself — ignorance is bliss.

    The reason to be on Google+
    isn’t because it’s the newest, hottest, sexiest thing. That might be a
    good reason to be on it as an individual (hard to separate) but not why
    you should be on it as a journalist. You should be on these sites to
    understand how people are communicating and the vocabulary of this
    communication. Friendster informed MySpace which informed Facebook which informed Google+.

    If you ignore these sites, you will fail to understand how a growing
    portion of the population deals with the flow of information, and
    inevitably how more people will deal with this flow in the future. The best journalists will be problem solvers on the social web.

    If you are a journalist your JOB is to understand and insert yourself into the flow of information. That’s what Google+ represents, the flow of information.

    A version of this article first appeared on my blog, DigiDave.

    Tagged: blogging facebook google google+ hangouts information journalism social network twitter

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