Building up a Tumblr

Matthew Keys made some interesting points in a live chat on Poynter about the use of Tumblr. He made some useful suggestions about how to get started, and what individuals and news organisations are using Tumblr well (Poynter’s Joe Grimm also offered up this list of 60 innovative Tumblr accounts). It’s worth checking out the entire live chat, but one of the points Keys emphasised that came through to me most was about collaboration:

Independent journos are some of the best users of the Tumblr platform. They’re not afraid to promote content that wasn’t created by them — they don’t feel like they’re in competition with other Tumblr users, they feel like they’re collaborators.

As a reporter for an “old media” organisation, I could not agree more, especially because I share those same characteristics of jealously guarding information and refusing to cite others. On my Twitter feed, it takes an incredible story by the Associated Press or Reuters for me to cite them, though I am a little more willing to give credit to newspapers and other news organisations. Competition brings out the absolute worst in me.

I asked Keys whether Tumblr really served a purpose for journalists already using WordPress and Twitter, which is something I’ve been wrestling with, as you will know.

Comment From Prashant: Is there much point in maintaining/updating a Tumblr account if a journalist is already running a WordPress blog and tweeting regularly? Where does Tumblr fit in?
Matthew Keys: Prashant: Absolutely. Tumblr is another social community that reaches a different audience than you might usually find on WordPress or Twitter. It is the ultimate social blogging platform.
I’ve heard that argument before, so later in the chat, he elaborated on how Tumblr’s audience was “different” to that found on WordPress or Twitter.
Comment From Prashant: Matt: I’ve seen lots of people say exactly that — that the community is different, but could you elaborate? Different how?
Matthew Keys: Prashant: Most of the people on Tumblr are also on Twitter and Facebook, so that much isn’t different. It’s really how people choose to use Tumblr. Its ease of use for publishing multimedia-rich content gives it a major advantage over other platforms, so Tumblr users tend to publish photos, video, audio, chat convos, etc. Tumblr also give a person a feeling of “ownership” over other people’s content. When you reblog a piece of content found on another blog, you can add in your own two cents. That’s something a retweet can’t always do on Twitter or a “share” can’t always do on Facebook.
I think there’s also something to the idea that using Twitter, Tumblr, and a variety of other social media, you can develop a wider range of sources and tap in to a wider range of opinion on a given story or issue — this undoubtedly applies less in Iraq, where internet penetration is in single digits, but is still worth making a note of. Neal Mann, a freelance producer who works a lot with Sky News, sums it up nicely in a guest post on the BBC College of Journalism blog:
To me, my Twitter feed is a personalised wire service, except, unlike the traditional wires, I have to interact with it. I’ve found there is an added benefit to interacting and becoming known for being quick to break news: my followers have become an extra tipping service. I often receive tweets from followers along the lines of ‘have you seen this’ or ‘check their timeline’, and this interaction has proved invaluable, leading to me being first to a number of big stories.
Keys’s comments have spurred me to at least start posting a little more regularly on Tumblr, though I’m conscious that I can’t post as often on it as I do on Twitter — they’re both quite different. I’m not following many individuals or organisations at the moment, but as with Twitter, I’ll add to the list as I find new and interesting sources. Please feel free to suggest some interesting accounts to follow (on Twitter or Tumblr) in the comments or via e-mail. Of course, you can always follow me on Tumblr or Twitter, as well. I wrote a piece recently for the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents’ Club monthly magazine about my own experiences of using Twitter in Baghdad, and the issue it was published in has just been released. I’ll be posting text of that article and another in the magazine by a social media expert (and ex-journalist) soon.
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