SNworkshop2014By Blathnaid Healy

Last week I moderated a CIRCOM Regional Social Media workshop, the first of its kind for CIRCOM. The workshop took place at ROOS Dagen in Ermelo, the annual gathering of the 13 regional public service broadcasters in the Netherlands. There were eleven  participants in the workshop from nine regional public service broadcasters in Europe, all are involved in the digital side of their organisations. Each participant presented a case study from their organisation, which resulted in a rich day of sharing, discussion and collaborative thinking.

I opened the session with a short presentation from a forthcoming report due to be published by CIRCOM Regional on regional public service broadcasters, social media and online community. I highlighted the social media platforms currently used across Europe and pointed to some trends that have emerged.

There were two interesting reporting projects that involved the community, one from RTV Noord in the Netherlands and another from YLE in Finland. RTV Noord’s New Media Coordinator Rens van Stralen explained that in Groningen there are a lot of small- and medium-sized earthquakes many of which happen during the night when the newsroom is least active. RTV Noord has added a feature to its existing app to enable its community to report when it feels a tremor. These reports of seismic activity populate a map. After reports pass a certain threshold it sends an SMS alert to RTV Noord news editors who can respond to the story. Similarly, YLE has engaged its community asking them to participate in a reporting project around an issue that affects almost every member of the community - dangerous roads. Online Producer at YLE Simo Kymäläinen outlined the story, which has generated a big response. YLE received more than 10,000 responses detailing dangerous roads, which they followed up. They are planning to repeat the project soon.

RTÉ’s Head of Communications Joe Hoban and Omroep Gelderland’s Head of Online Media Jan Willem van der Hogen both gave insights into bringing a community together on a social media platform. Hoban has spearheaded and developed the @RTE Twitter account, which gives Ireland’s public service broadcaster a definitive voice on Twitter. It curates content from other RTÉ accounts and signposts upcoming programming and events. Interestingly, RTÉ uses this account to communicate key messages and news about the organisation itself, which means the public often gets official announcements at the same time (or before) the press does. The public is RTÉ’s main funder and steps like this are positive. Van der Hogen talked about bringing together Omroep Gelderland’s community on Facebook, instead of using a traditional marketing route to kick-start growth, each day the station said it would pick a person out of the group who had liked the page, print their profile photo and put it up in a wall in the television studio. A very simple idea. At the end of the campaign it had stuck hundreds of photos up. To further incentivise it, all of the photos on the wall were entered into a draw for invitations to the summer barbecue at Omroep Gelderland. Some 400 people were invited to the barbecue.

The participants from RAI and TVR Cluj gave insights into changes being made at their stations. Giuseppe Solinas an editor at RAI in Italy talked specifically about the station’s news website and social media channels. Recently it has been consolidating its presence on social media and has seen growth as a result. RAI’s regional offices contribute to the overall RAI News output on its website and social media accounts. From TVR Cluj in Romania, Journalist Vasile Hotea Fernezan outlined recent efforts to improve web and social media output while working with limited resources. TVR Cluj’s new strategy leans heavily on mobile journalism and envisages journalists using their smartphones to record and edit video, photos and text as well as live broadcasting. They will soon be embarking on this cross-platform project, which will be interesting to watch.

The delegates from MTVA in Hungary and NRK in Norway both looked a specific case studies, a Eurovision song contest selection and ‘Slow’ TV cod fishing. Chief Editor, New Media Department, MTVA in Hungary,Tibor Nagyistok, gave a compelling overview of MTVA’s recent efforts to cover Hungary’s Eurovision song selection process. It hit on one of the recurring themes of the day – the creation of content, specifically video, by public service broadcasters with web, mobile and social in mind. For some public service broadcasters there are difficulties around YouTube, but Nagyistok explained how YouTube was an integral part of the station’s output and how they used a number of Canon S110 cameras and a team of student journalists to engage an audience on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. Editor in Chief of NRK Nordland, Tone Kunst, and her colleague NRK Nordland Editor Anna Brandal talked about NRK Nordland’s first regional ‘Slow’ TV broadcast. ‘Slow’ TV has been hugely successful for NRK and NRK Nordland’s first foray into the genre focused on cod fishing. They had a huge audience for the broadcast on TV and they also had a significant number of people who watched the entire three-and-a-half-hour broadcast minute-by-minute via the web stream. As well as using Facebook and Twitter, Instagram was a perfect companion for ‘Cod by Cod’ as you can see in this Flipagram.

There were some fascinating insights into RTVSLO Ljubljana from Assistant Director for Radio Strategies Matej Praprotnik. One very simple idea I liked a lot was that the station uses Flickr Creative Commons images but it also contributes to Flickr and licenses its contributions also as Creative Commons for the community to use them. It’s a simple give and take but keeps a good balance. Its experiments around merging comments sourced from Twitter with photographs to bring the second screen experience to a wider audience were also interesting.

BBC North West Editor Michelle Mayman outlined a recent initiative at her station. Over the course of a day, presenters, reporters, editors and production staff working on BBC North West Tonight turned the cameras on themselves giving the audience a stream of behind the scenes insights on their social platforms. Opening up the process and being transparent is especially important in public service broadcasting. There are benefits for the audience and for the station with an initiative like #bbcnwtlive.

Omroep West’s Misja Fuit spoke about Twitter, news gathering and verification. In particular, he explained that in the Netherlands a large number of police officers are on Twitter and they often break news or provide updates on particular cases using the platform. Among other things, this led to a fascinating discussion about official accounts.

There are a lot of interesting things happening across CIRCOM’s member stations and examples of these came through over the course of the one-day workshop. The range of topics covered was very broad, but there were similar themes that emerged throughout: connecting with a younger audience, mobile and video, working with the community and working out the balance for public service broadcasters when it comes to social media platforms. Overall, it was a very productive day and many ideas were shared by the delegates.