About two weeks ago, I decided to take the Reddit dive and launch one of those “Ask Me Anything” threads. I was surprised by how well it took off, and there were quite a few provocative questions posted by the community (I’d say about half of them were from my Twitter followers).
One question asked for guidance on how a social media editor might keep themselves from moving up the ladder of a news organization later on. I answered by saying a social media editor shouldn’t develop a strategy that causes them to be stagnant over the course of their career — in other words, tweeting out headlines and links on Twitter isn’t a bad way to start out, but they should advance their strategy and doing more five years from the time they opened their account.
Backing that up, I laid out my digital strategy as it pertained to social media over the past five years (I’m counting 2008 since I started in the middle of the year and 2012 since the year is nearly up, just in case you’re doing the math). In 2011, part of the strategy involved covering in near-real time global events — usually during breaking news situations — and mining social platforms for content. In 2012, the strategy evolved to providing people with greater access to news stories: Going beyond the headline to give people access to raw video, photographs, documents, transcripts, audio and so on when available.
Essentially, the goal is this: If I can get access to it, I want you to have access to it.
There are a lot of free services that have allowed me to carry out this strategy this year, but there are also some services that require me to shell out a few bucks. Some examples:
- I pay a service called RadioReference $15 for six months of access to its vast archive of emergency scanner traffic, which I’m then able to upload to SoundCloud when certain news breaks.
- To monitor and record audio from certain media outlets, I subscribe to SiriusXM’s online service, which costs $14 a month, and paid for software from Rogue Amoeba to record the audio (a license for which costs $32).
- Another streaming service I subscribe to, LiveStation, gives me access to BBC World News, Sky News and Al Jazeera English for $5 a month.
- For court documents, I use a service called PACER, which charges ten cents per page up to three dollars for a dossier related to federal court cases, billed in quarterly installments. One quarter, my bill was a little over $21 (yesterday, PACER charged me $3 to down a criminal complaint against Nakoula Basseley Nakoula — the document has been viewed over 4,000 times).
Any costs, including the ones above, are paid out of pocket. Since I don’t charge for access to the content, nor do I use advertisements or solicit for donations, the financial return on the investment is $0.
I bring this up for a reason: On Thursday, a Twitter user asked me if I would enable downloads on Scribd so they could mirror some court documents that I had uploaded the day before. Due to the cost associated with acquiring (and, occasionally, hosting) some of the content, I usually disable downloading on services like Scribd and SoundCloud. Instead, I make available the option to embed the content on other websites.
Some news organizations have taken advantage of this option. For example, the New York Times recently embedded audio of an interview between Rep. Todd Akin and radio show host Mike Huckabee that I uploaded to SoundCloud (months ago, SoundCloud generously donated a professional account for me to use). As of today, the audio file of Akin’s interview with Huckabee has been listed to over 9,000 times.
Other news organizations have also embedded the content I’ve uploaded. Multiple news organizations linked to this set of six jailhouse calls made by George Zimmerman. Newsrooms have also linked to the over 200 documents I’ve uploaded to Scribd, which has driven over 330,000 reads to date.
I feel like disabling downloads while allowing websites to embed the content I acquire and upload to services like Scribd and SoundCloud is a fair compromise. The numbers I see for the traffic being driven to the content helps justify my personal social strategy for this year as well as the associated out-of-pocket costs of subscribing to services, software licenses and so on.