News Organizations Pin Hopes on Social Media

NBC News, Weather Channel find natural fit; others explore possibilities 3/12/2012 12:01:00 AM Eastern


The New User Engagement? Stick a Pin In It
Stations Show Some Interest in Pinterest

The sharp increase of users on social media’s shiny
new toy, Pinterest, has piqued the curiosity of several news
organizations. For some, integrating this emerging platform
into one’s brand has been a challenge, while others have found the
pinboard’s capabilities a natural fit.

NBC News created its own account, as well as a separate Today show
account, in January, just as Pinterest surpassed 10 million monthly
unique viewers. Today’s boards are a collection of recipes, travel, style
and health featured on the show, as well as real-time photos. Integrating
that content was a natural crossover, says Ryan Osborn, senior
director of digital media at NBC News.

“It’s a very lifestyle-focused platform, and the Today show has a great
amount of lifestyle content,” says Osborn.

Recently, NBC News experimented with the breaking news of Whitney
Houston’s death, posting a board of photos of the late singer. While
Osborn says that got a response, Pinterest “is still proving its value
beyond just design and lifestyle,” he says. “I think it’s still unclear to
see its value as a newsgathering tool.”

The Weather Channel—which has a strong social media presence
in its own right with Weather Channel Social, pairing weather-related
tweets to city forecasts—has also signed up big-time. The network
opened its account two months ago and has followed Pinterest’s lead
by creating boards about recipes and style in relation to the weather.
With the help of user-submitted photos from the iWitness section of
its Website, Weather Channel also tapped into Pinterest’s news potential
as tornado outbreaks devastated the Midwest this month. The
“Severe Weather” board made it easy for users to quickly view and
share photos of the storm’s terrible impact.

“As the space evolves, we try to evolve with it,” says Renee Willet,
Weather Channel senior social media marketing manager. “It’s a really
natural fit for us. What we do on a daily basis is just so visual; it just
gives us another outlet with which to share that.”

PBS NewsHour
opened its Pinterest account in January as well, with
a childhood cancer awareness board for its health unit. Following in
those footsteps, NewsHour joined public media initiative the American
Graduate Project to launch the “Why I Go to School” board.
The board, which accepts submissions from students, features text
explaining why that student stays in school, along with an accompanying
inspiring photograph. “We were pleasantly surprised by how
profound their answers were across the board,” says Veronica Devore,
education reporter for PBS NewsHour.

And while CNN has not yet become an active member, network
execs acknowledge the platform’s potential. Lila King, participation
director at CNN Digital, says that although they have no immediate
plans for a big project on Pinterest, they are watching as it develops
to find “the right space to jump in.”

“It’s created a model of collaborative curation,” says King. “In a lot
of ways, that collaborative curation is the holy grail of a big breaking
news story.”

Not everyone is as convinced. While Pinterest opens up more avenues
of communication between media brands and their audiences,
Associated Press social media editor Eric Carvin says that Pinterest’s impact on newsgathering hasn’t yet been determined as “people aren’t
putting that sort of content there.”

AP has not yet created a Pinterest account under its own brand, but
Carvin says that editors are encouraged to create their own personal
accounts; the food editor and fashion editor have begun using the site,
as their respective beats are naturally aligned with Pinterest’s model.

Pinterest will prove itself as a useful (or not so useful) tool for newsgathering
as organizations figure out how to utilize the platform. Those
in the midst of a news event—protesters at Occupy Wall Street, for
instance—often share those experiences online via photos or video,
says King, and news organizations may be able to use the idea behind
Pinterest to improve the effort of compiling those interactions.

“[Pinterest may not be] exactly the place that needs to happen,” King
adds, “but just because of its concept, I think there is an enormous
amount for us to watch and learn.”

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