Being Prepared: A Look at Breaking News Coverage on the Web

A few recent cases of breaking news coverage serve as a strong example of how social media is redefining the media industry and how it’s imperative to adapt.

Take a look at the recent coverage of the shooting in Tucson when Gabrielle Giffords was shot. The website of the Tucson Citizen, the publication that initially broke the story, had servers crash following the steep increase in traffic as the story filtered through the social web.

For the rest of the weekend the Citizen’s servers crashed every 15 minutes on average, according to editor Mark Evans.

While reporters were working frantically to get stories posted in between re-boots, the Citizens social media team was offering continuous, breaking coverage via the companies social media outlets. The Knight Citizen News Network offers a rather detailed account of how recent changes kept the Citizen leading the coverage and conversation.

Man with the "golden voice"

After the Dispatch's "golden voice" video went viral Ted Williams, the once homeless radio, received numerous high-profile job offers.

When the Dispatch’s “golden voice” video went viral a few weeks ago the paper’s slim social media presence allowed a huge opportunity to slip through their fingers. Instead of leading the discussion and driving their own traffic the company was forced to issue YouTube take-down notices and play digital catch up.

While the Dispatch’s video wasn’t breaking news in the same sense¬†Giffords shooting was the moral is clear: be prepared.

Not only redefining how breaking news is covered, social media and interactive web practices have also allowed for innovations in ways news can be presented.

Andrew Pergam used a service called Storify to create a sort of social timeline about the media coverage immediately following Giffords’ shooting. It starts with the first mentioning on Twitter of the shooting and chronicles a selection of the Citizen’s social media team’s updates.

The New York Times recently unveiled an interactive mapping project called Mapping America: Every City, Every Block. The maps offer the freedom to search census maps by qualifiers such as Ethnicity, Income, Housing and Education.

When a gunman marched into the Discovery Channel headquarters and opened fire earlier this year Twitter actually beat the media to the punch. One picture uploaded to Twitter via Yfrog, a photo-sharing platform, showed a gunman roaming the Discovery office grounds received more than 55,000 views.

That is a brief overview of a handful of recent happenings. Companies from news organizations to small businesses will be forced to adapt quickly or suffer the consequences.

If you’re interested in learning more about social media, producing mobile video, building an online presence, internet privacy ¬†issues, and many other topics consider attending our upcoming SoCon11 conference. February 4-5, 2011 Atlanta, GA.

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