Perhaps the most common social media misstep news providers commit involves positioning Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook buttons and the like at the end of a news item, so that clickers must perform several swipes on screen or mouse to reach share functions. Al Jazeera’s English news app commits this error. Some might argue that this policy encourages readers to spend more time on a page and actually consume more of the content. But which is preferable: one user spending more time with Al Jazeera content, or, potentially, a digital socialite sharing the same article with her 15,000 connections? Either way, it doesn’t seem likely that a publication would lose an engaged reader just by placing share buttons atop their page. Washington Post sharing buttons are frequently below the scroll or at an article’s dead end. The Christian Science Monitor also frequently positions its sharing tools below the scroll, as does The Jerusalem Post and Foreign Policy magazine. (CJR’s app does this, too.)

There are plenty of news organizations that make social media options immediately available, of course, such as BBC News, GlobalPost, The Times of India, Univision, Politico, Le Monde, and The Moscow Times. And some information providers are, lo, adopting new ways to be both informative and social. The Guardian, which itself has a sturdy sharing platform, recently reported on a new MTV app that will live stream programs and allow users to chat with other viewers during the experience. An app with limited content will be free, and a paid application will offer premium content, both of which will initially launch in seven European countries.

Bob Garfield, co-host of NPR’s On the Media, wrote in his book The Chaos Scenario that we are in “The Listenomics Age…If you do not listen [to audiences] carefully, you are a fool. Not because the crowd is a threat (although, of course, it is) but because it is your greatest resource.” Garfield goes on to extol the importance for digital content providers to learn “the art and science of cultivating relationships with individuals in a connected, increasingly open-source environment.”

“The mindful use of digital media doesn’t happen automatically,” wrote Howard Rheingold in his book Net Smart, to be published this month. “[T]hose who understand the fundamentals of digital participation…will be able to exert more control over their own fates than those who lack this lore.”

 

Justin D. Martin is a journalism professor at Northwestern University in Qatar. Follow him on Twitter: @Justin_D_Martin