How the social evolution has altered my FIR news-gathering process

Posted on April 8, 2011 9:37 am by | Content Curation | For Immediate Release | RSS | Social Media

As the way people use social channels evolves, so do the way I identify content worth sharing.

That was the thought that crossed my mind as I prepared my reports for the last episode of For Immediate Release, the podcast I co-host with my colleague, Neville Hobson.

Neville and I each prepare two stories to report for each episode, which has pretty much been the format since we started in early January 2005. For most of that time, the process of finding news or features worth sharing with the FIR community was pretty basic. I subscribed to a crapload of RSS feeds and pored over them several times each week, flagging stories for consideration.

I have several folders in my news reader of choice, FeedDemon. There’s one dedicated to PR blogs, one to business, one to technology. I have a sort of catch-all folder called “culture and society” that includes blogs and other sources that address the impact of social media and online technology on people and communities. And I have a couple folders that contain a dozen or so feeds from Google News searches of terms like “public relations” and “social networks.”

I would mark the items to consider for FIR, which I could then peruse over on NewGator‘s web-based news reader. (In 2005, FeedDemon was acquired by NewsGator, leading FeedDemon uto synch with NewsGator’s web-based RSS reader.)

As consumer use of RSS readers trailed off, NewsGator decided to shutter its reader site and FeedDemon struck a deal with Google to integrate with Google Reader. I had had a Reader account for a long time but never really used it much. I learned that the way to winnow down the items in my feeds to just those I’d consider for FIR was to share them—that is, mark them for sharing with others. As I delved into the sharing feature, I learned what longtime Google Reader users had known for a long time—you can get a bookmarklet for your browser that lets you share anything you find on the web, not just items in the feeds to which you subscribe.

Around that same time, more and more of the people I followed on Twitter were sending more and more links to good content. This is the often-touted idea of the news finding you. I was also subscribing to some curation efforts, like NetBriefs bulletins and Ragan’s PR Daily. I’d find an item I found interesting, click that bookmarklet, and just like that, the item was added to my list of story possibilities.

Over the course of a week, I was adding up to 30 items to the list. I found myself checking my feeds less and less often.

I haven’t abandoned my feeds. After all, the material shared by people I follow can be great, but it doesn’t guarantee I’ll see everything I find interesting. (This is an important point. The news may find you, but not all the news will—just that which you happen to catch as it scrolls by.) So I still check the feeds at least once a week. I still get good material from the feeds, but the premium I placed on them has definitely diminished.

What this all comes down to is community and curation. My community lets me know about great content while curators filter more good stuff that meets my needs.

How about you? Has your process for identifying news and information changed with the evolution of social sharing and the rise of content curators?



  • 1.Shel,
    As I was looking at the unread feeds in my Google Reader account the other day, I was thinking the exact same thing. As I come to rely more on Facebook and Twitter for my news, I spend less time on my RSS feeds. My replacement for the folders in Google Reader are Twitter lists and groups of my Facebook friends. My newsgathering process has become, like yours, more social.

    I also agree with you that social does not completely replace RSS. The thing I like about RSS is that it keeps a catalog of the feeds that are important to me. After all, I found this post in Google Reader and I'm glad I didn't miss it.

    Nathan Schock | June 2011 | Sioux Falls

  • 2.I totally agree. In fact, I have my RSS feeds hooked up to my email and phone but just the other day, I found myself deleting all my RSS feeds off my phone. The more we use the Social Media, the more useful and perhaps, even easier it becomes to find new information and sometimes even unknown news.

    A lot of the time, I find myself finding out about news courtesy of Facebook and Twitter which I use daily. And if you connect with like-minded people, you will often find that they realize that you are a lot like them and thus, will throw news your way. With Facebook of course, you have the option to join groups and so on. This allows you to get information that is pertinent solely to what you like.

    However, I will say this. RSS Feeds provide you the option to store and save news that Social Media is unable to do. It works like a database too as it doesn't delete your feeds.

    Champa | June 2011

  • 3.I too agree with you in terms of neglecting my RSS recently and using stuff like Facebook and Twitter to get my information now.

    The stuff I get on e-mail clogs up my inbox and i find myself just deleting them when I don't have the time to read it and it just stays there. With Facebook and Twitter however, I'm on it anyways, it becomes easier to browse around. Also, when I like something, the stories start coming to me without having to clog up my inbox.

    But, while using RSS, I realize that I get much more stories I would be interested in reading. If it was easier access on the web, they would be stories I'd spend time reading. I don't know what it is but once things end up on my e-mail list, I just delete them. Probably because to me, it doesn't belong there even though it's just easier access for me.

    Susana | June 2011

  • 4.The idea of my news finding me is still elusive. I have general feeds that I find important but have not been able to filter it yet. I have also not been able to incorporate all aspects of my life into social media. I can honestly say that I haven’t even put that much thought into it. But if there is a way to eventually have every type of information knocking on your door, I’m all in.

    Nick Selensky | June 2011

  • 5."What this all comes down to is community and curation. My community lets me know about great content while curators filter more good stuff that meets my needs."

    Beautiful. I loved that way you put it. I'm a student right now finishing up my general education coursework and I must admit that I don't have any kind of consistent method for receiving information and news because I don't have any consistent need/desire for it. Aside from special research projects or brief periods of interest when one must look in depth for info, I just stick to a quick Wiki or Google search for anything I need. Since joining Twitter I've kept up with the people I follow and their feeds but that's the only change I've truly stuck to.

    Ama Simone | June 2011 | SF East Bay

  • 6.This article made my day because as someone who has never subscribed to any RSS feeds, I now have a better idea of the why's and how's. I can remember when the iPhone first came out I had a ton of friends telling me how great the RSS feeds were, and especially the convenience they brought, but I was always hesitant, mostly because I enjoyed browsing the actual sites rather than getting a quick stream of info. If I had known that you could actually store and save the news, it might had been a different story. Now that I have my own social media blog that offers the feature to have my readers subscribe via RSS, I might just give it a try myself. I'm also looking forward to checking out FeedDemon and NewGator. Thanks for the heads up, Shel.

    Billy Rivera | June 2011 | Berkeley, CA

  • 7.As far as the news goes, I like to make sure that I am getting mine from a source that will not benefit economically from the increased oppression and violence towards certain groups which keeps them in dramatic stories.
    Of course, with social media I now have the power to get my news only from like-minded people, but if I do this, I know that I am likely to drown out any inconvenient, opposing viewpoints... like that there's no such thing as fairies. Are you happy? I said it. You heard me, I just killed a fairy.
    Then again, all journalists have a choice in how to go about obtaining their information and which middlemen (or middlewomen) that they trust to dig through it. Consumers of the news media then have their own right to puzzle through what news they trust and what news they do not trust.

    Leanna | June 2011 | California

  • 8.I enjoy everything I read, but I guess my lack of knowing about 'RSS feed" and 'FIR', have me a little lost. So i'll be giving myself homework to look-up these terms and see what it is that they mean.

    Taniesha R | June 2011

  • 9.It's great to hear how social evolution has changed your process for collecting stories to report on. There definitely is a lot of information out there that one has to filter through to get the best work and share it with others. My experience is somewhat different though because I do not have the same profession as you; I am a college student. I recall using using newspaper more in the past, but that experience was quickly replaces with such online news feeds such as Yahoo and BBC. Other than that, I too more frequently use suggestions from friends for stories I might want to check out.

    Stephanie Ortega | June 2011

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