BLOGSCANNING by Robert Janelle

Janelle-92X185Flip.jpgThe video had been watched almost 20,000 times and had 410 comments. Not much by global standards but impressive for a hyper-local story.

Low overhead getting started produces great niche content
From SCAN's Print Edition

The rise of social media has done many things, among them providing more information to consume and more ways to follow breaking news stories obsessively.
The kind of news story that can lead someone to compulsively seek updates varies from person to person but for me, it was being left stranded in a snowstorm when OC Transpo went on strike Dec. 10.
Attempting to find some kind of opportunity in the ensuing chaos of this labour disruption, I decided to try my hand at some modern media monitoring.

While the evolution of the Internet has changed the way many professions work, it's arguable that media monitoring has gone through the biggest change since companies began selling relevant newspaper clippings to celebrities in the 19th century.

The Internet has not only created an environment with more information, it has also made it easy for anyone to publish to a wide audience, which means there are plenty of places a media monitor needs to be checking to find out what’s being said about a client.

After reading up on initial strike details from the larger local media outlets, I hit up micro-blogging site Twitter to see what was being said in 140-character chunks.

Typing “OC Transpo” into the search box produced quite a few results, given that the strike had only been on for a few hours. Not many comments are fit to be reproduced in a professional publication. Suffice it say, Tweeters were not impressed with the decision of Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 279 to strike in the middle of December.

Students announced that they were trudging through the snow, seeking rides or even looking for places to sleep on campus to ensure they made it to exams on time. Others lamented lost income from not being able to get to work at all and at least one freelance journalist bemoaned being trapped at home.

Web-savvy companies like U.S. Internet service provider Comcast have begun paying particular attention to what’s being said about them on Twitter due to the exponential growth a negative comment can have. One person who’s being followed by a thousand readers tweets about poor service. Then several of those readers, who have a thousand of their own followers, comment on their own poor service and suddenly it's all over the place.

This leads to another key aspect of new media. Along with anyone being able to publish, there’s also the two-way conversation aspect.

Not long ago, a media monitoring agency would provide its client with a tape a televised interview and that would be the end of the job. But thanks to sites like YouTube, it's also possible to see what the viewing public thinks of the clip.

Searching for OC Transpo on YouTube immediately brings up the now infamous CTV interview with union boss André Cornellier, in which he provided rather curt responses to the reporter. At the time of this writing, the video had been watched almost 20,000 times and had 410 comments. Not much by global standards but impressive for a hyper-local story. The comments there are even less appropriate to be reprinted but mostly express disdain for the union, along with shouting-down anyone expressing support.

Hitting up the regular blogs, public relations blogger Bob LeDrew analyzed the union’s PR problems in posts titled “How not to get support, transit union edition,” and “Cornellier zips his life, but too late to rehab his union’s image?”

Meanwhile, Public Transit in Ottawa became a real go-to site for strike updates.

The blog initially provided analysis and updates about transit in Ottawa, with a strong focus on the future of the city’s public transportation system, but in the last few weeks strike coverage has dominated the site. The site demonstrates how the low overhead needed to get a blog up and running can lead to great outlets for niche content, a lot more content being generated faster than ever. Right or wrong about labour issues, OC Transpo's union should take a good look at the social media monitoring tools out there. It needs them, desperately.

Bob Janelle is a freelance journalist who has plied his trade at the Citizen and Kingston’s Whig-Standard. A bilingual grad of Algonquin’s J-School, where he won awards for both writing and photography, he is a self-confessed video game addict.

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