Monday, June 22, 2009

Dow Jones' Policiies for Twitter

The Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) reported on Dow Jones' corporate policy for Twitter usage, "WSJ Rules For Twittering and Other Online Activities…"

What's interesting is that while its reporters certainly understand Twitter, have been regularly reporting on its business ("Twitter Trips on Its Rapid Growth; Micro-Blogging Site Has 32 Million Users but Hasn't Built Revenue Model or Management"), the cultural implications ("Digits: Oprah Tries Twitter, Crowns Ashton King of It"), as well as Twitter best practices ("Decoder: Who Owns Your Name on Twitter?" & "Laid Off and Looking: Using Twitter for the Job Search") and even featured Twitter founders Biz Stone and Evan Williams at its recent All Things Digital conference, the folks at Dow Jones, the corporate parent of the Wall St. Journal seems to have ignored the content and the lessons about Twitter.

Dow Jones' corporate Twitter policy could be referred to as Dow Jones' corporate Anti-Twitter Policy. Here's how the Columbia Journalism Review summarized what Dow Jones reporters could do:
Twittering about your adorable children is, it seems, out. Ditto opinions. And rudeness. So basically, everything that (all that?) other Twittering reporters do, WSJ folks can not. (Oh, except for promoting/linking to their own stories — as long as they don’t get into how the pieces were “reported, written or edited.”)
I've seen what reporters at other outlets tweet about. I've seen quasi-political posts that would never make it into the print or online versions of the outlets they write for as well as personal (well, not too personal) information about non-work-related trips and thoughts, and that's the point of Twitter.

I certainly understand the need to protect an entity's brand, and think that some Twitter guidelines are appropriate and helpful. But even if you're the Wall St. Journal, limiting tweets to promoting your articles is going to be limiting.

Contrast that mindset with the New York Times, who recently hired Jennifer Preston to serve as the paper's “Social Media Editor.” Here's how an internal memo, cited by CJR and originally posted by The Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University:

She (Preston) will help us get comfortable with the techniques, share best practices and guide us on how to more effectively engage a larger share of the audience on sites like Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Flickr, Digg, and beyond…

[S]he will work with Craig Whitney and others to ask and answer the many tricky questions that arise in this context: What is the proper balance between personal and professional?

Let's see what kind of impact Preston will have on the Gray Lady's social media presence. As it is, the Times memo notes: "Did you know that The New York Times is No. 2 on the Top 100 Twitterholics based on Followers? (Behind Ashton Kutcher but ahead of Ellen DeGeneres.) Don’t care? OK, but the point is that an awful lot of people are finding our work not by coming to our homepage or looking at our newspaper but through alerts and recommendations from their friends and colleagues. So we ought to learn how to reach those people effectively and serve them well."

Interesting point. Back to you, Journal.

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