Social Media: First for breaking news

Recent events in North Africa and the Middle East have demonstrated the massive effect that social media is having on the traditional process of the news cycle, with many of the main news agencies now concentrating a significant level of resource on monitoring and reporting via social media channels, specifically Twitter.

Last year, the BBC, in its internal weekly publication Ariel, instructed its staff to embrace social media as a primary source of information. The Director of BBC Global News Peter Horrocks, no less, informed staff that the use of social media channels was not discretionary. “This isn’t just some kind of fad from someone who’s an enthusiast of technology,” he wrote. “I’m afraid you’re not doing your job if you can’t do those things.”

Following the  recent wave of uprisings across Egypt and the Middle East, Al Jazeera’s reporting of events has earned it a nod of approval from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; a massive coup for a channel that’s traditionally been seen as anti-American, and effectively frozen out of the US cable networks for the past decade.

Mashable published a recent story about the digital media lessons learned by Al Jazeera as the wave of revolutions swept across the Middle East. The piece included a quote from Al Jazeera’s English online chief Mohamed Nanabhay.

“At any given time there were three times more people on the live blog than on the main story,” he told the title. “Your editor usually invests [so much time] in the lead story… but if you look at the numbers, people were on the live blog hitting refresh. [So] we threw more resources into that.”

Social media news feeds have demonstrated that peoples’ hunger for updates is insatiable. Users don’t just want the top story; they want live updates as it happens, every time something breaks. Many news services now provide rolling news feeds, automatically updated feeds of information pulling in breaking news announcements, comment and opinion from across the wider social web, making the user part of the news conversation.

Social Media World Forum Europe 2011 will be hosting a star-studded panel, “Social Media: First for Breaking News”. Representatives from some of the leading players in this trend discuss what it means for news and social media in the future.

Mark Jones, Global Communities Editor at Reuters, Kate Day, Social Media Editor at the Telegraph and Tom Glover, Deputy Director of Communications and Head of Digital Communications at the Financial Times will be joined by a senior representative of CNN. For more information see the event agenda.