Publishers, embrace the rise of real-time social storytelling

If you're publishing online, you may fear the crazed feed frenzy of social media. Columnist Jordan Kretchmer urges you to benefit from the change and lays out four ways to do just that.

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There’s been a great deal of discussion about the future of the publishing world lately. I’m constantly reading articles with questions like, “What implications does Facebook Instant Articles or Apple News hold for publishers?” “Are traditional publishers going extinct?” and “How can publishers survive in this digital first world?

I’m here to put these questions to rest. It’s no secret that consumer behaviors have changed. People don’t wait hours to read a long-form article when they can jump on Twitter and see the latest tidbit. Speaking of Twitter, social networks have been a primary driver in this shift in consumer behavior. Thanks to social media, the newsroom isn’t always the first to break the news.

Nowadays, your average tweeters and Instagrammers often beat traditional reporters to the scene, breaking stories and posting real-time updates before news outlets.

Take The New York Times’ coverage of the Brussels Bombings, for example. One of the most notable and trustworthy sources for news became aware of the attacks when a London-based editor found a tweet about smoke at the Brussels airport. Twelve consecutive hours of live reporting ensued and brought millions of eyeballs to the Times’ website — all thanks to that one tweet.

With the added voices of these citizen journalists across the social landscape, the news world is understandably crowded. This harsh reality is a stark contrast to the lack of competition publishers experienced in the 1600s. Now, even the most distinguished of publications have to reinvent themselves.

Luckily, this is simpler than it sounds. Publishers — you’re not going anywhere. The solution you’ve been vying for actually lies within the crazed feed frenzy.

Let’s look at four paths to success.

1. Turn readers into reporters

The most pressing demand for publishers is the need for more content, faster. With increasingly strapped budgets and declining resources, this is a huge challenge for newsrooms, regardless of the team’s dedication, agility and size. But like I said, the solution lies within the feed frenzy.

With over 2.5 billion pieces of digital content uploaded every day, publishers are sitting on a huge opportunity. Your readers are already posting breaking news in real time — make them an extension of your team.

Mashable’s 2014 coverage of the Ferguson protests showed the power of bringing audience voices into the narrative. Pulling in tweets and Instagram images, Mashable told an authentic, real-time story with the voices of reporters and social users alike. Using the hashtag #Ferguson, Mashable editors included filtered user-generated content (UGC) in its engaging and emotional live coverage — including a piece about the Ferguson-related protest in New York City, pictured below.

Screen Shot 2016-04-04 at 1.18.17 PM

Bringing readers’ voices into your narrative solves publishers’ biggest challenges. UGC is free to use (with permission), and an unlimited supply is being published every day.

But UGC is just part of the equation. Newsrooms are still a critical part of the story — it just takes the right balance of reporter and audience voices. With the right tools, newsrooms can form everything from evergreen narratives to breaking news stories in minutes.

2. Interactivity is the key to community

In today’s media landscape, consumers want to interact with what they’re reading. It’s not enough to just publish long-form Pulitzer-worthy stories anymore; engaging your readers within your narratives is critical if you want to retain even a shred of relevancy in this noisy landscape.

Publishers need to create ways for their audiences to interact with the content they’re consuming. Social media has endowed readers with the expectation that their opinions should be heard.

Incorporating things like gamification, interactivity and on-site discussions gives people an incentive to stay on-site. The logic is simple: show readers that you value their feedback, give them a space to express themselves, and you’ll see engagement skyrocket before your eyes.

3. Collaborate any time, anywhere

Live coverage is the new norm. To captivate an audience, it’s important to keep readers informed in real time, giving them new information as events unfold. To keep pace with social updates, newsrooms need to act quickly. Executing successfully requires a frictionless workflow where reporters and editors work in unison. The key to this is collaboration.

Reporters post updates from the ground, and citizen journalists react on social networks, while newsroom editors easily string a comprehensive narrative together in seconds.

It should be that simple, and it can be. Cutting-edge collaboration tools let newsrooms create visual, engaging stories that mirror the live pace of unfolding events while showcasing real voices from real people.

4. Extend the life of your story

We need real-time stories in our fast-paced world. But what happens after the story passes? The average news story has a lifespan of 2.6 days. What if you could extend that? You’re spending countless hours and exhausting creative energy putting out alluring stories for your audience. Don’t let them go to waste.

Start thinking of every story you publish as a reusable asset, one that can be resurfaced in a yearly recap or a #TBT. Get creative. Publishers should repurpose their most successful collateral, restoring relevancy to stories with proven track records.

In 2015, Al Jazeera asked its audience to share their favorite memories. The publication rolled the top stories into a “Year in Review,” giving loyal readers the chance to relive their most memorable moments.


Thanks to the ubiquity of social media, user-generated content is quickly becoming a key pillar of publishing. While it may not look like traditional journalism, it’s impossible to ignore UGC’s impact on the news landscape.

The end of publishers as we know them? Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s just time to start telling stories differently.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Jordan Kretchmer
Jordan Kretchmer is the Founder and CEO of Livefyre, a real-time content marketing platform used by global media companies and brands to engage consumers through a combination of real-time content, conversation and social curation. Named to Inc’s 35 Under 35 and the San Francisco Business Times 40 Under 40 in 2014, Kretchmer has also held senior creative and digital roles with Current TV, Butler Shine Stern and Partners, and Mullen Advertising.

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