Knight Blog

The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

NewsCloud Study Shows Facebook as a Tool for Transferring News

Dec. 15, 2009, 8:36 a.m., Posted by Knight Foundation

Not only is Facebook a great place for social networking, it's also a great tool for transferring news.

A NewsCloud experiment proves young people will participate in and contribute to a news and information community that goes where they live and share.

Jeff Reifman, founder of NewsCloud, created a Facebook site to distribute environment news from Grist, a site that provides environmental content daily, and another to distribute daily campus news from the University of Minnesota's newspaper, The Daily. .

The environmental news site, Hot Dish, allows users to read, rank, annotate, post, create, share and discuss climate change topics.

The application also includes an Action Team feature where users can earn points for prizes by meeting specific challenges. For example, users can earn points by sharing a story, posting a blog entry, being active in their community through volunteering, recycling, taking part in an environmental event, etc.

The grand prize winner won a trip to Greenland by persuading their gym to start recycling plastic bottles, having three letters to the editor published, and recycling an old washing machine.

The Hot Dish site had about 2,000 registered users and 346 agreed to be part of the research project.

Nearly three-quarters of the group surveyed said they used the Hot Dish site to interact with like-minded people. According to a NewsCloud report, users saw the site as a place where their views and contributions were more welcomed than in other Web sites.

According to Reifman, more than two-thirds of the content was contributed by users of the site during the two month period.' More than 2,300 comments were written, 1,500 stories were written, 4,500 stories were shared and about 1,200 eco-challenges were submitted.

This study indicates that social networks are a good way of getting young people involved with current events and community issues. Not only did the study inspire users to post articles and write comments on environmental issues, but also to actually do something about those issues.

This could definitely be a stepping stone for publications and other media that want to increase user engagement and interest.

The study also tested the distribution of news using University of Minnesota's student newspaper, The Daily. Although the outcomes were not as successful as Hot Dish's, the lesson learned is that timing and good marketing for a campus audience are essential for obtaining enough data for a study.

Follow the link to learn more.