And Sometimes They Jump Too Far Ahead of the Social Media Curve

With good reason, nearly everyone seems to be jumping full steam into social media these days: we use Facebook, we tweet (well, The Curmudgeon doesn’t tweet), we put ourselves on LinkedIn (The Curmudgeon’s there but hasn’t looked at it in ages), and much more. People are afraid to be left behind, and The Curmudgeon has more or less told himself it’s okay to be left behind at least a little. He has no idea, for example, what Snapchat is.

Nor, to be honest, does he care.

Figuring out how to use social media is especially a challenge for businesses. Should they have big web sites? Small ones? Any at all? Should they encourage, or even require, their employees to use LinkedIn? Should they tweet – and if so, under what circumstances?

For professional reasons, it’s useful for The Curmudgeon to receive daily headlines from a number of publications every day. Some are professional publications but some are just newspapers in cities or regions where his employer has clients. One of those regions is southern California, so for a number of years The Curmudgeon received daily headlines from the Los Angeles Times.

la-timesAnd then, about three years ago he realized that he had stopped receiving those headlines. He receives so many headlines every day that it took a while for him to notice, but when he did he went to the paper’s site, looked to confirm that he was still on the mailing list, and found a notice explaining that the Times had changed its policy and was now sending daily headlines only through Facebook.

And that’s where The Curmudgeon drew a line. He is not a fan of Facebook and seldom uses it and had absolutely no intention of having a business send messages to his personal Facebook page. He didn’t think that was unreasonable: after all, a friend had once told him “Facebook for your personal life, LinkedIn for professional, and there’s no need to have your co-workers as your Facebook friends or your friends on your LinkedIn page.”

So life went on without daily headlines from the Los Angeles Times. One day not too long ago, though, a story from that paper crossed his path through another source, and while checking out that story he decided to look into subscribing again to daily headlines.

And lo and behold, the Times was once again sharing its daily headlines via plain, old-fashioned email.

Apparently the paper had jumped too far ahead of its readers, somehow figured out the mistake it had made, and took a step back from its overly aggressive adoption – or, as The Curmudgeon prefers to think of it, overuse – of social media. So now The Curmudgeon happily receives his Los Angeles Times headlines daily, although he suspects that at some point in the not-too-distant future the Times will once again choose to follow the path it wants to follow, as opposed to the path its readers want to take, and again try to deliver its daily messages in a way its leaders feel is more contemporary.

Newspapers are fighting a losing battle to retain their readers and are clearly torn between hanging onto their existing hard copy readers and trying to recruit new ones. The Curmudgeon believes they need to do both, but to do that, they’re going to need to respect the preferences of both groups and perhaps – as this apparently unsuccessful detour into Facebook headlines suggests – tailor their efforts to the individual groups instead of trying to force them both into a one-size-fits-all solution.

Because as the Times apparently learned, that was no solution at all.

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