The Old Guard Doesn’t Get Social Media: A Case Study

Full disclosure; this post is going to be personal.  But then again, all the posts on this blog are personal so forget I said that.  Nevermind…no disclosure, but still, it’s personal.

One of the most frustrating things I experience as a father, friend, and human being in general is watching when someone I care about does something that I feel will cause them harm. Sometimes I’ve even felt that way about entities that I’m emotionally vested in like rock bands or TV shows.   In fact two of the most painful moments in my pre-teen life came when KISS went disco with their evil incarnate album Dynasty, and that unfortunate episode of Happy Days when “The Fonz” (literally) jumped the shark.  Even at that young age I remember thinking to myself,  “why are they doing something that is so blatantly self-destructive?”

The OC Register is my hometown newspaper, one that has been in existence for close to 100 years, and I love it due to the counterbalance it provides to its Big Brother to the north The Los Angeles Times. But like most dailies, it is going through interesting times.  The print media space is a tough place to be right now and some will say that it is a forgone conclusion that eventually it is going to end up taking a dirt nap.  I’ll let those brighter than me continue to debate that topic, but one thing I know for sure is that in a fight like this, when your survival is on the line, you want to make sure you are using best practices and taking advantage of all the tools at your disposal in order to emerge victorious.  And there is the rub.

My beloved paper does not seem to have any clue as to how to use social media, specifically Twitter, and is engaging in one of the most annoying and counter-productive usages of the platform; tweeting paywall links.  By this I mean when using a mobile device, clicking on a link in a tweet from their main Twitter account (@OCRegister) directs you to a page that looks like this;


The first time I had this happen to me I involuntarily winced at the idea that a content company in this day and age could be so ignorant of how to use the most powerful tool for information dissemination since…..well, ever.  It was maddening to me so I proceeded to send them some “gentle” tweets commenting on their misstep, all of which were ignored (another mistake in the Twittervese, but a topic for a different post).  Eventually one of the staff writers jumped to their defense from his personal Twitter account, informing me that the paper was taking a “different” approach to monetizing their content by using a premium model, aka a paywall.  He seemed like a nice enough guy, but missed the point entirely.  I’m not even going to argue whether the paywall approach is the right strategy or not, but I know for a fact, Tweeting paywall links is a non-starter.

If your goal is to get the most eyeballs on your product, either to monetize through ad revenue or conversion to sales or subscriptions, Twitter can be a powerful tool in your arsenal, but only if you can get your tweets in front of enough people.  That is done by having interesting or engaging enough content from your Twitter account (original or curated) that it motivates followers, and ideally key followers, to re-tweet your content, thus perpetuating the distribution.  Where then is the motivation for anyone to re-tweet a paywall link.  You might as well re-tweet a dead link.  The process stops before it ever starts and what you end up doing is limiting your reach on the platform, which the numbers bear out.

Newspaper Daily Circulation Twitter Followers
Newsday 377,744 33,058
Houston Chronicle 360,251 64,835
Orange County Register 356,165 16,543
The Star-Ledger 340,778 34,367
Tampa Bay Times 340,260 30,012

But remember, I love the Register, so I was not just content to throw some virtual stones at them, I wanted to do something to help them.  Following up on a suggestion Josh Brown gave me at last year’s Stocktoberfest, I contacted the business news editor and offered to create content for them; and was summarily rejected.  Now I understand that to her I’m just some random person, with no Pulitzer Prize or journalistic history behind my name, but let me explain the offer I made, and why declining it without any discussion reveals an even larger ignorance of the power of social media.

As the paper has no specific active investing coverage on their website, I offered to provide that for them.  My pitch was based upon my personal experience trading markets as well as my interaction with literally hundreds of market participants each week through my blog, work, and the StockTwits community.  I also told the editor that my social reach and presence in the StockTwits community would help to distribute my content to a larger audience.  And as an example I tweeted this out.

Based on the re-tweets, this got in front of about 400K Twitter followers.  Not monumental, but decent, and an example of how many potential eyes I could bring the Register with my content.  I also offered to do a weekly Q&A with their online subscribers about the markets.  Interactivity, what a concept huh? And the topper was that I offered to do this all for free, at least initially, to see if the relationship between the them and I worked before formalizing it.  The reply I got was, “Thank you but we are not currently looking for new contributors.”  No reach out.  No conversation.  No “tell me more about how you think this might work.”  Just “No thanks!”  Someone with a specific expertise, an online and social media presence, offering content and interactivity for your audience, all for free, and you don’t even pick up the phone to have a chat?

And it makes perfect sense, because since all social media links for the OC Register end at a paywall, I would never tweet them and my followers would never click them anyway once they realized what was going on.  So lack of understanding of the social media model not only limits their distribution, but self-eliminates potential contributors who come from that space to begin with.  Brilliant!

Unfortunately my experience with the Register tells me that the hole is already dug and not only are they already standing in it, they are pulling the dirt onto themselves with both hands as fast as they can.

If you want to learn more about investing, trading, and the markets, all while helping to kick pediatric cancer’s ass, check out my book, Trading: The Best Of The Best – Top Trading Tips For Our Times.  It includes over 200 market tips from 60 active traders and investors, and all proceeds go to the McKenna Claire Foundation to help support research for a cure.  Just click the banner below or go directly to Amazon by clicking here.

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