Blog turned live feed is Verlag Dierichs’ answer to social media “news”

By Jens Nähler

As a newspaper, we have a big audience that is waiting for information.

First challenge: Information is not slow anymore. Before someone reads news something in the newspaper, he already knows most of the information in it.

You’re lucky if the reader knows it from your company’s Web site. But nowadays it is more likely that he knows the news from other sources, for example social networks.

That is the second challenge: News is everywhere, and people are becoming fed up with it.

Third challenge: Readers don’t turn on their computers anymore to read news. They turn on their mobile devices — and many newspapers don’t even have a strong mobile platform.

Even if they have one, it is pretty likely that while on the road, a newspaper’s Web site isn’t the first choice. The first choice is social networks because they don’t only offer news. Their stream also contains service information and entertainment. And readers are longing for info-tainment whilst having a break or being on the road.

That’s why we decided to start Kassel Live for the main city of our newspaper, using the blogging platform Tumblr, which is also a social network. (In the United States, by the way, Tumblr reaches more people between the ages of 13 and 25 than Facebook does.)

Kassel Live started as a blog — and as an experiment. Now, half a year later, it turns out to have become a strategic move for our Web offerings. Our company is thinking about establishing a digital subscription model for our main Web site – and we want Kassel Live to be an appetizer of what’s going on in our local area.

So, what is it about?

We want Kassel Live to be the fastest way to get to know something about Kassel. We want it to be compact and to be optimised for mobile consumption. And we want it to contain not only news but also entertaining content.

Kassel Live has to qualify as a permanent, entertaining news stream, where people with an interest in what’s going on in Kassel right now get the information first.

Facebook shows us how successful news stream offerings can be. We, as a newspaper, are experienced in live-tickers — and we know they are successful, too.

Live is the key word. 

We chose to use Tumblr as Kassel Live’s platform because it was a new platform for us and we wanted to get to know it. Yet far more importantly, Tumblr is by far the easiest way to blog. Thinking of all our editors (and in the best case, every single editor contributes to Kassel Live) we wanted it to be as simple as possible.

So, where do we get our informations? Citizen journalists are our first source. Users can send us topics via e-mail or use the hashtag #kslive on Twitter or Instagram. We check user news, photos, or videos before publishing them.

Mobile reporters are our second source. Every day from 8 a.m to 6 p.m., at least two journalists or freelancers are on tour in town and the surrounding areas. They use the Tumblr app on tablets or smartphones and are in contact with the newsroom all the time. 

Our newsroom members are our third source for content. Every journalist should cover his or her event first on Kassel Live with text, pictures, videos, etc. before writing for the Web site, print edition, or our radio station.

And finally, there’s the online news desk. Editors check social media, police reports, and other sources for important and funny Kassel-related topics and aggregate them. Furthermore, they share Kassel Live news via social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Google+).

A brief summary after six months? We’re on quite a good roll, but, of course, do have some problems. 

  1. We must get all journalists trained and motivated.

  2. We have a newspaper background. And it looks as if newspapers are too often too serious — especially for younger people. That’s why we must become “cooler.”

  3. As a newspaper, we sometimes seem to consider ourselves too important. Instead of only trying to educate our audience, we also have to entertain it. I know that this sounds hard, but that’s one thing we have to learn from Facebook, Upworthy, and Buzzfeed. Let’s develop more creativity for new approaches, for special and surprising posts.

  4. We don’t have enough content on weekends and evenings.

  5. We don’t have enough citizen journalists (at the moment).

On the upside:

  • We’re seeing 4,000 to 7,000 visits per day so far. That’s a good start during wintertime — and the best season for live blogging for a mobile audience, summer, is just about to come.

  • We found a new source for news in the print edition and established another channel in the social media world.

  • And, not to forget, this platform is a “boot camp” of sorts for journalists to learn mobile skills. 

About Jens Nähler

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