Andrea Merovich, Communications Manager
As news organizations find more ways to engage their readers, they have a number of social media tools at their fingertips. While Facebook and Twitter already have an established place in the newsroom, media companies are starting to experiment with Internet's latest social networking platform - Pinterest.
What is Pinterest?
Imagine a bulletin board covered with all of your favorite things, ideas you want to try and images that inspire you – recipes, home decor ideas, magazine clippings of your favorite fashions. Now take that bulletin board and make it digital. That recipe scrawled on a slip of paper is now a simple mouse click away. With Pinterest, users collect pieces of their lives by "pinning" recipes, photos, articles and more onto virtual bulletin boards. If you see something interesting on a friend's board, you can "re-pin" it onto one of yours.
While most users are women between 18 and 34, the number and the types of users are growing. The relatively young company gets around 12 million unique page views monthly. Pinterest was named one of the five best social media sites in 2011 by Time magazine. Businesses are now marketing their goods and services via Pinterest, making use of well-placed pins and encouraging re-pinning. Better Homes and Gardens, Pottery Barn, Michaels’ and Betty Crocker are examples of national brands with a Pinterest presence.
In the newsroom
Newspapers have started utilizing Pinterest to discover new ways to interact with readers as well. Many news organizations are represented on Pinterest - The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Washington Post and The Philadelphia Inquirer, to name a few. Steve Buttry, Digital First Media’s director of community engagement and social media, recently described how Pinterest fits into the newsroom on his blog, The Buttry Diary. Buttry identified several areas that work especially well with Pinterest – Lifestyle coverage (particularly anything food-related), contests, community information, weddings and engagements, newsroom information/promotion and archives (historic front pages and photos of the community). There’s no one right way to use Pinterest, reminds Buttry. It’s really about exploring new ideas and learning from the results.
Several PNA news members have recently dipped their toes into the Pinterest pool and are learning how to make it work for them. We took a closer look at how three newspapers have incorporated Pinterest into their newsrooms.
The Lebanon Daily News started using Pinterest in March. “There seems to be a lot of value in it just because so many people are using it,” says web editor Andrea Gillhoolley. “It is a good way for LDNews to infiltrate its way into people’s lives and is just one of many tools we are using to try to engage our readers.”
Lebanon’s Pinterest team is made up primarily of Gillhoolley and photographer Jeremy Long. As they continue to explore Pinterest’s potential, they take note of what works and what doesn’t. Success on Pinterest is often measured by the number of re-pins. One such success is a board created by Jeremy to feature photos of local hockey team the Hershey Bears. Given its appeal, many hockey photos were re-pinned by other users.
In addition to the Hershey Bears board, Lebanon Daily News has a board dedicated to recent front pages of their newspaper and another titled Throwback, which features historic front pages from the newspaper’s past. Andrea and Jeremy created other boards for key lifestyle coverage. There’s one showcasing local food and dining spots, and another for historic photographs of Lebanon County.
Like many small newsrooms, juggling the tasks of gathering and reporting the news while also maintaining a strong social media presence can be a challenge. Still, the Sewickley Herald has acknowledged and embraced social media as a newsroom necessity.
Staff writer Bobby Cherry created the newspaper’s Pinterest account in March. He works with photographer Kristina Serafini to update the Pinterest page and the newspaper’s other social media sites.
“Like our other social media networking (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), we use Pinterest as a way to extend our news product’s reach. It helps keep us relevant, current and fresh,” says Bobby, adding, “We’re a community newspaper, so readers already feel a connection to us. But now they’re able to do so through any or all of our social media sites.”
The Sewickley Herald is exploring several initiatives to grow its Pinterest followers and encourage re-pinning. A recent success came on May 17, when they shared a story and photo about an athletic rivalry between two local high schools. The pin was re-pinned 64 times in two days. Thanks to that one pin shared on 64 Pinterest boards for others to see and click, the newspaper reached potential readers beyond their coverage area.
“Pinterest is all about being visual. Great photos supersede a great story on Pinterest. So with the talents of our professional photographer and my trusty iPhone, I’m hopeful we can create a Pinterest community readers will want to be a part of,” says Bobby.
The Patriot-News has been pinning since February, starting with basketball photos from an online gallery. The newspaper’s social media team pays attention to what types of pins result in the most followers and re-pins, and responds accordingly.
Dan Christ, director of audience engagement, heads up The Patriot-News’ Pinterest efforts with the help of staff writers Sue Gleiter, Mimi Brodeur and Sara Bozich. They have a small online team that takes care of Facebook posts and Twitter tweets, as well as the newspaper’s Foursquare presence.
The Patriot-News personalized its Pinterest page, effectively branding it by including boards like Central PA Eats, Central PA Outdoors, Central PAWorks and Central PA Plays. Each board features pins that are relevant and important to their readers, whether it’s a photograph of a loaded hot dog from a local eatery or a high school softball player sliding into home.
Community and lifestyle news dominates The Patriot-News’ Pinterest page – and it works. As prom season approached, Dan Christ created a board exclusively for prom fashion. Photos of area high school students and their dates soon populated the board. It wasn’t long before a proud parent found a photo of her daughter there and re-pinned it on one of her personal boards named “My Baby.”
As Pinterest is used by more news organizations, it’s important to observe how others are using this social media tool. If you see something interesting, consider trying it on your Pinterest page. The full potential of Pinterest has not yet been realized. Whether it’s finding more creative ways to engage the community or exploring potential revenue streams, Pinterest has an exciting place in today’s newsrooms.
We’d love to hear how your organization is using Pinterest! To share your story, contact PNA communications manager Andrea Merovich at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to read more? Check out PNA Affiliate member LocalYokel Media’s take on Pinterest here.