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Pinterest and its value in the newsroom

Published: 27 September 2012

Since its official launch in 2010, Pinterest has shown a steady growth, which has seen it crack the top five most popular social networking sites this year.

<i>Pinterest</i> and its value in the newsroom
By Darren Gilbert

While its main users tend to be people interested in home décor and lifestyle subjects, there has been a trend of more and more companies leaning towards the social networking site. And that should include news organisations.

Now, you may be wondering what a site such as Pinterest has to offer to journalists and news organisations. It’s a question that Jeff Sonderman posed in an article he wrote for Poynter earlier this year: “Does Pinterest deserve a spot on the list of essential services for the socially savvy journalist?” The short answer is yes. However, its one that needs to be properly explained.

One only has to look at Time magazine, The Wall Street Journal and the Today Show as three examples. Despite this, Elana Zak on the blog, 10 000 Words admits that she hasn’t seen many news organisations using the site. However, it’s more of a problem that stems from the idea that at first glance, Pinterest doesn’t seem “incredibly relevant” for hard news. While that may be currently true, considering the topics that it focusses on, to believe that would also be selling it short.

As Zak pointed out, “with a bit of creativity and imagination, … Pinterest could prove to be useful for all areas of a news organisation”. It simply needs to be understood.

It’s a point to which Sonderman agrees to as well. “With a large addicted audience and impressive growth trend, Pinterest is worth at least a little of journalists’ time.” It could be argued that it deserves a lot more attention considering its current size and popularity. It also provides an interesting angle. “What we are finding is that it is giving us a really great opportunity to showcase the visual side of our coverage that often could get lost on other social networks,” says The Wall Street Journal’s Emily Steel.

Sonderman certainly agrees with Steel: “Pinterest is all about visual expression. It’s a way to show, not just tell. It’s also another tool to curate the Web, to gather images and ideas from many sources.” It is with this point in mind that Sarah Marshall points out, on Journalism.co.uk 10 ideas (of which I’ll only cover a few) for using Pinterest in the newsroom.

As she first points out, journalists and those in the media need to think about what Pinterest users are sharing. For Steel, it was about creating boards that fitted into the culture of Pinterest and then adding their own content around popular topics. As Zak says, the site is perfect for sharing news. “Why not use Pinterest to share some good photos from a breaking news event? Pin the photo and then add a link to where readers can find the most current information on the event.”

For Zak, a perfect example was when Canada’s CTV News sent a reporter to cover Occupy Wall Street and created a board on Pinterest. What about doing that for a breaking news event in South Africa? This dovetails a second idea that Marshall recommends: Use Pinterest as a new storytelling platform. It’s what The Wall Street Journal is doing, having compiled a board that tells the story of the New York Fashion Week. And it doesn’t necessarily have to stop there.

“If you work at a community newspaper,” says Zak, “one of the most popular items is always slideshows, especially ones dealing with local fairs or school events.” And then of course there is the opportunity for reader interaction and participation. “CTV News has a great board called ‘Canada through your eyes.’ All pictures were submitted by viewers.” As Marshall points out – her third idea – you should look beyond the obvious Pinterest users. In doing this, more opportunities, as Zak pointed out, are available.

This leads to a fourth idea: Showcase behind the scenes of the newsroom. For Zak, it’s the perfect opportunity to give a face to a name and drop that proverbial curtain that hides the media from the public. CNN’s iReport as well as The Guarduan have been experimenting with this with some success. Also, besides allowing your audience behind the scenes, it opens up opportunities to interact and even pitch possible stories to journalists. And isn’t that what social networking is about?

What are your thoughts on Pinterest Do you think it can work for the newsroom?

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