This week in web publishing offers a point, a counterpoint and if needed, an escape plan.

Point - Not Taking Advantage of Social Media

According to a recent survey by Gartner, newspapers are not doing enough to take advantage of the social power of their readers. Faced with declining circulations, falling offline and online revenue, and competition from digital sources, newspapers are spending most of their time rearranging deck chairs rather than trying to capitalize on their biggest supporters -- their readers.

In November and December of 2008, Gartner surveyed approximately a thousand Internet users in the U.S., U.K. and Italy in an effort to understand how consumers discover and share different types of content. By looking at the main influences on media consumption, the main factors that prompt people to look for content, as well as the main tools people use to search, findings suggest that newspapers are not “providing brand stewards with the necessary tools they need to optimize their role as influencers”.

Like a chain reaction, it begins with failing to optimize the search experiences on their websites and then carries on to a lack of integration between content and social media functionality. Allen Weiner, research vice president at Gartner encourages publishers to look “past the basics”.

While many newspapers have already incorporated social media content, “they just haven't taken the step of integrating social media tools into their content management "ecosystem" to provide pervasive deployment of important social features”.

Newspapers aren’t any different from the enterprise types we talk about every day. They must take the time to prioritize the integration of social media into a current or future content management system if they want to engage the user successfully.

Counter Point - Using Social Media Technologies

Some newspapers are taking the critique by Gartner seriously. One indication is the Financial Time's launch of Newssift, a semantic search engine that sifts through business news.

Newssift indexes about 4,000 business news sources, from online newspapers and blogs to news portals and research sites. About 120,000 articles a day are consumed and semantically tagged. Articles are then categorized by business topic, organization, place, person and theme.

The technology is a manifestation of many collaborators, including:

  • Back end search powered by Endeca
  • Tagging and data extraction by Nstein
  • Sentiment analysis provided by Lexalytics
  • Categorization by ReelTwo

Users can save their searches, as well as create their own “memetracker” for any industry or topic.

Escape Plan

If all of this online publishing, search and content management news has you down, perhaps you should be headed to Canada.

According to the Newspaper Audience Databank, almost 75% of Canadian adults read a print edition of a newspaper each week. Only 4% of adults read newspapers online exclusively.