Google+ is only two months old but because it launched in a real-time web era, and it already had mind-share and a robust user base (gmail), its adoption rate has surpassed the digital social network spaces that came before it. Thus my Carnival of Journalism question for August: What does Google+ mean for journalists, today and tomorrow?
Here’s our consensus: journalists need to experiment with social spaces and tools, even though it’s a time-consuming exercise; Google+ has potential as a platform for conversation and collaboration; and Google’s real names policy is problematic. Featuring +David Cohn +Carrie Brown +Benet Wilson +Bryan Murley +Jack Lail and +Kathy Gill
Benet J. Wilson, DJTF chairman, online managing editor, Business Aviation, Aviation Week Group (from vacation!), on collaboration:
I got on in July, created a few circles…then did nothing…But then I found an interesting use — live blogging an event… I created the circle NABJ 2011 and used this blog, Facebook and Twitter to let folks know I would be live blogging the meeting using Google+.
I found Google+ to be a great tool. I could post as much — or as little — information as I wanted, not constrained by a 140-character limit. Since it was live, folks could — and did — follow along in and out, but they could also go back to the stream later. And they could post questions directly to the circle that I could answer in real time, or chase down a board member to get the proper answer.
I could see journalists using Google+ for a similar use, like covering a community or city council meeting. The notes taken could be used as part of a summary blog post or even a story. And the interactive feature can allow journalists to get questions from circle members they may not have thought of.
Bryan Murley, assistant professor of new and emerging media in the journalism department at Eastern Illinois University, on Circles:
I do like the way Google Plus lets you put people into Circles. I can see this being useful for a journalist once more people adopt the platform (assuming that they do). Also, for an educator, it can be a useful way to organize students into classes – intro to journalism, for instance – and then feed information only to those circles. In this particular feature, Google Plus distances itself from Facebook.
And on Hangouts:
This could be useful for a journalism instructor to host a webchat with professionals around the world so that students could interact with several professionals from the local classroom. For a student journalist, it could be a good way to conduct an interview with a subject who’s not easily accessible for an in-person interview (taking the place of the phone interview).
Carrie Brown-Smith, assistant professor of journalism at the University of Memphis, experiments despite social media fatigue:
If Web 2.0 has taught us nothing else, it is that we have to go where our audience is, and we can’t wait until after these sites become behemoths – better to get in early and start building credibility now. But I think the jury is still out on how important Google+ will be and how active journalists need to be there.
[And yet] my first reaction was a sense of powerful fatigue at having yet another space to monitor and contribute to. When people whine to me about how social media is too time intensive, I usually tell them too bad and suck it up – it’s too important not to make time for. But for once I too was overwhelmed, and I think journalists who feel utterly exhausted by it have a legitimate beef, especially in this time where they are being asked to do so much with so much less. To make a new network worth the time, it’s really got to offer something exciting. And for me, I didn’t quite get that from Google+.
The real lesson here is that journalists on Google+ should keep in mind how they are using the platform and how the public might be using the platform. The two aren’t necessarily the same and all-too often we think the rest of the world uses web technology the same way we do…
The reason to be on Google+ isn’t because it’s the newest, hottest, sexiest thing… You should be on these sites to understand how people are communicating and the vocabulary of this communication. Friendster informed MySpace which informed Facebook which informed Google+. If you ignore these sites you will fail to understand how a growing portion of the population deals with the flow of information and inevitably how more people will deal with this flow in the future.
Jack Lail, multimedia editor for the Knoxville News Sentinel, delves into the real names war:
Prior to Google+’s launch, there had been a growing chorus against anonymity for comments on news sites. Long-time blogger and Internet figure Anil Dash may have come up with the best headline: IF YOUR WEBSITE’S FULL OF ASSHOLES, IT’S YOUR FAULT…
Some sites have switched to requiring Facebook authentication to comments, some are using Facebook’s commenting system, and the voices of editors and journalists and others railing against acerbic anonymous comments have grown louder.
Whether it was meant to include article comments or not, the debate over real names on Google+ has brought some focused, thoughtful discussion around the subject… I’m hopeful that some of the suggestions and guidelines recommended by Joy Mayer get fully discussed by editors and newsrooms and in a Google+ circle for that matter.
Finally, I weigh in on the #nymwars but also highlight ways faculty and journalists might use the service (with tips, too):
In the intervening month since I pitched the topic, the bloom has faded from the rose a quite bit for me due toGoogle’s inexplicable heels-dug-in behavior regarding its “real names” policy. I think Google is wrong, and I believe that the service has lost both goodwill and momentum due to the manner (to call it uneven is being kind) in which the policy has been implemented…
If journalists are using Google+ as a form of environmental monitoring (and they should be!), then a logical first step is to set up circles based on known sources. Read the posts and comments and use comments as a way to identify new sources. If you want to try-before-you-buy, then set up a circle for “commenters” (and, perhaps, “sharers”) and place people there on a probationary basis, moving them to a trusted circle later. Alternatively, look at public posts and make a judgment based on what you can see; recognize that you can’t see limited share posts, however. (But you can see if that person has already put you in a circle.)
If journalists are using Google+ as a form of content sharing or information gathering, then those posts should probably be public rather than restricted to a circle. A post that has been restricted cannot be reshared publicly.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out and if the pluses of the system (no pun intended) outweigh the commercial motivation underpinning Google’s “real names” (otherwise known as an “identity service”) policy. Given Google’s decision to privilege Google+ profiles in search, journalists should be setting up shop there even if they don’t plan to hang around very much.