By Steven Roll
When I read Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock in high school, I scoffed at his premise that the pace of technological change would accelerate so rapidly that people would someday be unable to keep up. After all, it didn’t take me much time to master the first-generation word processing program on our family’s green-screened computer. But given the technological advances since then, Toffler’s prediction seems alarmingly accurate.
As business journalists we experience the impact of profound changes to communications technology every day. At ASBPE’s national conference last summer attendees described how having access to all of these new forms of communication is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because learning how to use new technologies such as a podcasts is exciting and often enables us to present information in an interesting format. It is a curse because of the additional time we need to learn about them and effectively use them.
One thing that hasn’t changed is that there are still only 24 hours in a day. Business journalists are often asked to juggle learning to use new forms of communication with traditional roles such as writing detailed feature articles on complex topics.
The primary goal of this blog is to equip b2b journalists to handle these demands.
To kick off ASBPE’s National Blog, I’d like to define some words that each illustrate the nexus between technology and journalism. Knowing the meaning of these phrases might make the difference between being duped and finding your next scoop or market niche.
sock puppet: According to Poynter Institute’s Web Speak Blog, sock puppetry is the act of creating a false identity to manipulate an online discussion. The “sock puppet” appears to be a neutral third party on a message board or blog. A sock puppeteer creates a fake identity while having a personal interest in the discussion — usually as the author of a blog post in question or as a representative of a company under discussion. In July, the New York Times reported that John Mackey, the chief executive of Whole Foods Market used a fictional identity on the Yahoo message boards for nearly eight years to assail competition and promote his supermarket chain’s stock.
crowd sourcing: Poynter’s Web Speak blog says it is taking a task traditionally accomplished by a professional journalist and includes outsourcing to a large group through an open call. The Oct/Nov. issue of the American Journalism Review describes how the Gannett newspaper chain reorganized its newsrooms to encourage greater reader involvement in the news reporting process. AJR reported that Gannett’s goal is to “recruit readers at the beginning stage of stories, publishing inquiries on the papers’ Web sites and in their print editions, and ultimately using citizen contributions to help produce high-quality content.”
mashup: using software or Web applications to present data in a compelling format. The original mashup man is the 20-something Adrian Holovaty. A great example of his work is chicagocrime.org, which uses Google maps to report crime statistics.
social bookmarks: Wikipedia describes social bookmarking as a way for Internet users to store, organize, share and search bookmarks of web pages.
Social bookmarking sites include Digg, del.ici.ous, and Fark. Besides serving as an electronic filing cabinet in which you can store pages you’d like to see again, these sites rank popular items on the Internet. So the next time you hear someone say that the story they wrote was “farked up,” you’ll know they don’t have a speech impediment, and their story was widely read on the Internet.
social networking: Web applications designed to facilitate interactions between people. Two of the most popular sites are Facebook and LinkedIn. LinkedIn is geared to an older, more professional crowd. The CEO of my employer, BNA, added his profile to LinkedIn a couple of weeks ago. Facebook caters to a younger, more casual crowd. But many publications and associations are taking it seriously because it offers “group pages” that provide an effective platform for communicating with their audiences. A good way to test the waters on Facebook is to join ASBPE’s group page. Despite the recent controversy surrounding Facebook, the site reportedly has 50 million active users and is likely to retain its status as one of the most popular destinations on the Web.