Case Study: NPR’s Social Media Desk

The digital news source that is most related to my beat of social journalism is NPR’s Social Media Desk Tumblr. The social media desk, active for less than a year, has become a daily source for social and digital news from both within NPR and beyond, and a platform to share tips and hacks on a wide range of social media platforms.

NPR’s Social Media Desk Tumblr consists of a single text post on weekdays, with a bullet-point style format. Each post contains two to a half-dozen items, ranging from social media hacks to observations from NPR journalists in the field to praise for an innovative project to musings on the future of a social platform.

The Tumblr is led by Mel Kramer, a digital strategist at NPR; Wright Bryan, a producer for blogs and social media at NPR; and a handful of NPR social media interns. The format is clear that Kramer and Bryan solicit entries and content from the NPR staff at large, and share their highlights in the blog.

Their audience is massive, but narrowly defined. Kramer, Bryan, and the social media desk write almost exclusively for an NPR and NPR member station audience. Yet their daily posts have been published publicly in addition to being distributed via internal email since October of 2013. With my Trending blog, I’m hoping to appeal to the independent and freelance journalists who perhaps do not have the institutional knowledge that NPR’s blog requires.

To keep the Tumblr’s bullet-point style, most items about social trends (like this one about Reddit) are posted without remark. Sometimes the day’s blogger will add an “I” statement, but there is not much more analysis than that. My favorite posts are when the blog tries for deeper analysis, such as this post with lessons learned about Fortune’s foray into a daily email newsletter.

Even though the platform (Tumblr) does not allow for much commenting or engagement, it is clear that Kramer and Bryan are very keyed into their audience, soliciting leads and ideas via internal emails. Kramer never fails to respond to a question or comment on Twitter, and makes herself known on almost every social platform there is. This week, the Tumblr has gone even further in engaging in a true conversation by posting a feedback Google form on their blog, with the intentions of changing and refining their work to better suit their audience.

The other blog produces the type of content I hope to write about for my beat is the BBC Trending blog. The Trending team, based in London, has journalists all over the world sending tips and trends every day for their bloggers to investigate. Their output is daily posts, videos twice a week and an active voice on Twitter. The BBC Trending blog applies world-class quality journalism to a new topic: social media around the world. The Trending team is one of the first to realize that social media isn’t just a way towards a story, but has become a story itself. I will look to the model that the BBC team has pioneered for identifying important social media stories around the world to find my own social media trends to report on and analyze in the context of today’s global news.

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