News OrganizationsPin Hopes on Social Media

NBC News, Weather Channel find natural fit; others explore possibilities
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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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