Social Media Experiment to Get People Involved in the News

The University of Minnesota is behind the drive

Partially encouraged by the seemingly inevitable fall of newspapers to the advantage of the Internet- and TV-dominated news scenes, a collaboration between the University of Minnesota, the NewsCloud news aggregator and The Minnesota Daily student newspaper currently seeks to discover new ways to get people involved in the media. One method they are currently testing is the recently launched Minnesota Daily Facebook application, which aims at making individuals get involved in reporting the news from their own perspective.

The application has been funded by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and it includes an incentive-based feature meant to encourage as many people, young and old alike, to tune in, comment the news, or write and share their own articles. A point system keeps track of each individual's achievements, and, after a certain amount of points is gathered, that respective user is eligible for prizes offered by The Minnesota Daily newspaper.

“It could revolutionize the way young people engage and interact with news through their social network. It changes the way we think about Web advertising, but business could see direct results,” the co-publisher and editor in chief of the paper, Vadim Lavrusik, explains. He also argues that this type of system could be of some inspiration to newspaper businesses worldwide that are currently struggling against the financial crisis and declining reader bases.

“Understanding how youth not only consume online information but manipulate, produce and talk through it for social and educational purposes will move us closer to understanding how to develop students' digital age competencies, such as their online communication, collaboration, and citizenship, thus informing the design and development of successful media-rich environments,” UM researcher Christine Greenhow adds.

“We're excited to apply our technology to support Dr. Greenhow's research. We hope these publications serve as a model for using Facebook to engage younger readers in important current events,” Jeff Reifman, the founder of the Seattle-based NewsCloud, the organization that has helped with the application's development, shares. The Journalism program director of the Knight Foundation, Gary Jebbel, concludes that, “It's important that we find new ways to reverse these trends by engaging young people where they increasingly spend time – online in social networks.”

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