It’s not too often that legacy media learns a new mass communication tool along with its audience. But that’s exactly what’s going on now because of Google Wave. Although it’s still invitation only and in preview, the real-time wiki collaboration platform is being used by some media companies for community building, real-time discussion, crowdsourcing, collaboration both inside and outside the newsroom, and for cross publishing content.
Google Wave may seem familiar to older users of the Internet, who have been using the parts that make up the whole of the platform for years. Wave, however, brings those pieces together cohesively to allow users to share photos, embed videos, and converge other Google applications such asGoogle Maps and Google Calendar to create customized blocks of user-editable content on the fly. Here are four ways that newsrooms are using Wave.
Using Waves to Foster Engagement
Using Google Wave allows newsrooms to reach out to their audiences and invite their active participation on news stories. In the process, waves become a vehicle to create an engaged local community who can also play a role in the newsroom. That may redefine how news is gathered, reported and presented to its audience, blurring the boundary between newsroom and community bulletin board.
Chicago Tribune’s RedEye blog started its first public wave on November 10, and since then it has attracted more than 300 blips. Following that success, Stephanie Yiu, RedEye’s web editor, and Scott Kleinberg, senior editor of digital and print, now lead a half-hour public wave session every day.
“It’s a lot more live than Twitter because it’s like you can see people typing and everybody gets to know each other,” she told me. “It’s really about connecting with our readers on a new platform. We’re learning with our readers and moving forward together.”
RedEye sends out tweets promoting each wave with a link asking Twitter followers (those that have access to Google Wave) to join the conversation. Yiu told me the daily wave is a discussion about RedEye’s cover story. During the last 10 minutes they ask participants for suggestions on how to make the wave better.
What makes Google Wave so useful is the community building aspect, according to Yiu. “The great thing is once it ends at 11 o’clock, it keeps on going. They keep on talking,” she said. Yiu is hoping it will be a cool way to get feedback, such as movie reviews, from their readers that that they can also run in the RedEye print product, which is something they’re already doing with Twitter.
Using Waves As ‘Town Squares’
Robert Quigley, social media editor at the Austin American-Statesman, has started two public waves so far. “People are enthusiastic and they want to talk about news. I was surprised how much discussion there was about the news,” he said.
However, said Quigley, the challenge right now is keeping public waves on topic. If they get more than 50 blips discussion grinds to a halt, reported Quigley. He added that in order for Google Wave to work during a news event, there needs to be the ability to moderate and or easily spin something into another wave and link to it in the first wave to keep it on topic. He stressed Google Wave is in its early stages and in preview, but there’s definitely potential with it, so these are issues that could be addressed in the future.
“We’ve been looking for years for collaboration with the public in a meaningful way and this could be the tool,” he said.
Quigley is eager to keep pushing the envelope with Google Wave to see what it possible. He told me, for example, that he wants to try a participant’s suggestion to embed a Google Calendar with links to waves listed within it so users can follow that calendar with the wave schedule. He also hopes to try the map gadget the next time Austin gets hit with an ice storm. He said he would embed a map into a Google Wave and then people could report conditions at their house. Users could edit the map as weather conditions change.
Google Wave has the potential to become a virtual “town square,” where otherwise separate gadgets applied to content created by journalists and enhanced by the wave’s users can be used to provide an accurate, detailed description of what’s happening locally.
Wave as a Newsroom Content Planning Tool
Chris Taylor, online editor at TBO.com, is also the online breaking news editor in charge of planning content for his converged newsroom (which includes the Tampa Tribune, WFLA-TV and TBO.com). Each night he emails a content budget to the deadline team, but he is now also using a daily wave that others in the newsroom can add to, edit, etc. Taylor said there are about 15 people on this wave and he has requested more invites from Google to get more people involved.
The daily wave accounts for all the content the newsroom knows is coming or is chasing down. There are about 40 stories in a wave and each story gets a paragraph and after each story is a blip. “Anything we can do in a newsroom of this size [to help] the content we produce to keep from falling through the cracks is a plus,” Taylor said.
When Taylor comes into work in the morning he can immediately get caught up on the status of all items in the newsroom budget by checking the wave. He said reviewing the wave at his desk takes one-tenth the time of having meetings.
“I think using it for this will get people comfortable with wave, which is my ultimate goal,” he said. “As we get more comfortable with it, we’ll be able to be where our audience is.”
Turning Blog Posts Into Public Waves
Andrew Nystrom, senior producer of social media and emerging platforms at the Los Angeles Times, collaborated with social media reporter Mark Milian on the blog post “How Google Wave Could Transform Journalism” that ran on the newspaper’s web site a couple of months ago.
Among some of the ideas listed in the post were: collaborative reporting, smarter story updates, live editing, discussing while reading, and a transparent writing process. Nystrom said in an email interview they’re looking at all the potential uses that Milian posited in the blog post. In a case of “eating his own dogfood,” so to speak, Milian even embedded the post as a wave and it has since received more than 350 blips.
“That experiment was definitely an eye-opener. My understanding of Wave has always been that it’s a valuable tool for small-team collaboration. So to see it succeed as a larger-scale crowdsourcing tool was unexpected to say the least,” Nystrom said by email. “People quickly swarmed the wave and provided a ton of really smart insights. Things we had never thought of.”
He added that they’ll definitely do more of this and that it’s just a matter of identifying which topics would benefit from collaboration.
“Ideally, every post would plug into wave because I love the inline commenting system. But I don’t want to flood the ocean,” according to Milian. “When we do another piece on Google Wave, or on something that begs for crowdsourcing, you will definitely see it in Wave.”