How The Newseum Uses Facebook to Spark Headline Creativity


The week of June 25, I visited Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Md., with my wife, Joy, and almost 1-year-old daughter, Megan. When we were planning our trip – needless to say – we put The Newseum as a must on our itinerary. We had visited the nation’s capital a couple years ago, pre-child, but didn’t have enough time then to savor all the fabulous exhibits at The Newseum.

I often visit The Newseum’s website,, and check out its posts on Facebook. When checking out the nonprofit organization’s Facebook Timeline, I noticed it holds a weekly Facebook contest called Free Tickets Tuesday. Every Tuesday at noon EST The Newseum posts a set of facts on its Facebook page, and anybody can submit suggested headlines. The winner receives two free tickets to The Newseum.

We participated on June 19 (my birthday – I thought I’d be lucky). The information provided was: “Write a headline about Microsoft’s new Surface tablet, which was unveiled yesterday and considered a rival to the iPad.” Our suggested headline was: “Microsoft Looking to Get Under Apple’s Skin With New Surface Tablet.” Unfortunately, we didn’t win, but recently I caught up with Sharon Shahid, online managing editor of The Newseum to discuss this Facebook contest and how it fits into their overall social media strategy:

When did you start holding this weekly contest, and how did you come up with the idea? 

Two summer interns initiated the idea, and it launched in July 2010.

What is The Newseum’s overall social media strategy, and how does this contest fit in with it?

The Newseum uses its website, as well as social media, to advance its mission of educating the public about the role of a free press in a free society, and to promote its exhibits, programs and events. The contest is a fun, educational way of including our Facebook friends and fans in the process.

What kind of ROI has The Newseum gotten on the Free Tickets Tuesday campaign since it launched? Have you seen an uptick in Facebook likes or tickets to The Newseum?

We don’t keep any formal metrics on the ROI from Free Tickets Tuesday. The contest is simply an engaging, fun way to say thank you to our Facebook fans and has proven to be very popular with them. We’ve noticed regular visitors to the contest and have gotten a few inquiries about how to get free tickets through word of mouth. The number of “Likes” on Free Tickets Tuesday or any other day varies, depending on the topics we post. Before we started the headline contest, we had about 15,000 or more “Likes.” Now, we’re a little over 45,000 and growing. How much of that growth is attributed to FTT, I couldn’t tell you.

Which week has the Free Tickets Tuesday contest drawn the most headline submissions, what were the facts provided, and what was the winning headline?

As of today (July 19, 2012), the April 24, 2012, topic about Starbucks pening at Disney theme parks has received the most headline submissions – 76. The winning headline was “SIP-A-Dee-Doo-Dah!” The all-time record of submissions to date was the July 12, 2011, contest, where we received 101 submissions. The topic was the telephone hacking scandal at News Corp. The winning headline: “Hackers Caught: The End of the World.”

Who picks the winners of the weekly contest?

It’s a collaborative effort among Web interns and the multimedia staff.

Is there a set of criteria The Newseum follows when picking winning headlines?

Newseum judges look for accuracy and originality. When good headlines are similar, the advantage goes to the earliest submission.

Can anybody on Facebook submit headlines? Do you have to be a journalist?

Yes, anyone can submit a headline. No, you don’t have to be a journalist. Based on some of the past comments on our Facebook page, some of the headline winners have worked at news organizations.

Can contest participants enter multiple headline submissions?

Yes. We’ve also had multiple winners.

Do you think The Newseum is evolving alongside the industry you cover? If so, how?

I do think the Newseum continues to evolve in terms of the quality of exhibits and programs it offers and the new galleries — specifically the HP New Media Gallery that opened in April 2012 — it has produced, as they relate to how news is gathered and disseminated today. I think the Newseum has adapted quite successfully to the rise in social media and has incorporated the new methods of communication in its educational focus. The Newseum’s fortunes don’t rise and fall with those of the news industry, but changes in the industry do affect the way we tell our stories and how often those stories must be updated to reflect the current condition of the industry.

You can also find The Newseum on YouTube, Twitter, Flickr and TripAdvisor.

This Week’s Headlines: Movie Theater Shooting, Yahoo’s New CEO

First off, our hearts go out to the victims of the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo. earlier today. Not surprisingly, the reaction in social media and traditional media tops our list of media and publishing headlines this week, even eclipsing the buzz about Yahoo’s new CEO. Here’s a look at this and other timely stories:

  • Colorado Theater Shooting: How it Played Out Online: Mashable highlights user-generated images and tweets from the scene of the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo. As the friends and family of victims reacted to the news in real time, the effect was chilling. We can only imagine if passengers on the Titanic or witnesses of the Kennedy shooting had been able to tweet or Instagram.
  • USA Today launches internet video guide: USA Today has announced the launch of “TV on the Web,” a daily programming guide to online videos and podcasts. PaidContent reports that this is the first internet video programming guide from a large mainstream newspaper. The guide will appear online and in print, pointing readers to online content curated by USA Today editors and reporters.
  • Latest Word on the Trail? I Take It Back: Reporters love getting juicy quotes from political candidates, but the New York Times reports that advisers to Romney and Obama are stamping out this practice, instead insisting approving and amending quotes before they’re published. Obviously, this puts political reporters in an uncomfortable position. On the one hand, they need to maintain relationships with key players in the political arena if that’s their beat. On the other, getting quote approval could be seen as pandering and a threat to journalistic integrity. (HT to @editortim for tweeting this link to us.)
  • Yahoo to Pay Mayer $100 Million Over Five Years: This week, Yahoo! announced former Google VP Marissa Mayer as its new CEO. We won’t get into the controversy over Mayer being pregnant, but we found this WSJ article on Mayer’s compensation to be interesting, especially in light of our recent posts about wages.
  • Times Names Buffalo News Editor as Its New Public Editor: Speaking of women in high places, the Times announced Margaret M. Sullivan as the paper’s fifth public editor. In addition to writing a column for the print newspaper, Sullivan will engage with readers online and through social media. She starts September 1.

Why Audit Bureau of Circulations Reports Need to Add Social Media Engagement

newspaper stack

With media outlets focusing more and more on digital, it’s critical that they are able to present these results to advertisers. One of the tools they can use during their sales pitches to local and national businesses is the Audit Bureau of Circulations’ Consolidated Media Report.

According to the ABC website, the Consolidated Media Report “is an innovative report that allows newspaper publishers to show advertisers their total audience” through print, digital editions, mobile and social media. This report is also used for magazines and business publications.

Social Media Reporting

Every day, publishers and freelance writers are exploring new ways to reach new audiences online, and one of those ways is social media – from Facebook to Twitter, Pinterest to Google+, Instagram to LinkedIn, Tumblr to foursquare.

It’s not mandatory for newspapers to include social media metrics in their Consolidated Media Reports. But they should anyway.


Social media is an important part of a news organization’s brand story. This is how readers engage with the newspaper and other readers – whether it’s through comments, likes or shares on Facebook; retweets and replies on Twitter; or repins on Pinterest.

The Audit Bureau of Circulations would do good, though, to review what information is included when it comes to social media in the Consolidated Media Report.

Here’s a rundown of what metrics can be reported from the following social media platforms:

  • Facebook: Number of likes;
  • Foursquare: Number of users;
  • Google+: Number of members in a circle;
  • Instagram: Number of followers;
  • LinkedIn: Number of group members;
  • Pinterest: Number of followers;
  • Tumblr: Number of followers; and
  • Twitter: Number of followers.

Social Media Engagement is Key

Here’s the problem, though. Social media measurement isn’t all about numbers.

As a matter of fact, a publisher could have a high follower count and not very much engagement. The engagement is what’s most important.

Publishers should make sure their sales team members provide additional social media metrics to potential advertisers besides what is included in the Consolidated Media Report.

There are a whole slew of tools they can use to create social media reports – everything from Facebook Insights to Google Analytics, and many of them are free. Social media analytics tools allow newspaper publishers to set goals – called conversions – and create reports based on those, whether it’s engagement, sales, etc… It’s important that these reports document both quantitative and qualitative analyses.

Susan Cantor over at ABC pointed me to several newspapers who have included social media metrics in their Consolidated Media Reports: Honolulu Star, Austin American-Statesman, Chicago Tribune, and The National Post (in Canada).

This Week’s Headlines: Columbia Gets a Chief Digital Officer, Banyan Project Plans Co-Op News Site

Happy Friday, and hope all our readers are staying cool. Here’s a look at the media and publishing headlines that stood out this week:

  • Columbia names J-school dean chief digital officer: Sree Sreenivasan, once dean of Columbia’s journalism school, will now help the university develop online curricula in his new role as chief digital officer.
  • Banyan Project planning its first community-owned news co-op: The Banyan Project has announced work on a cooperatively owned community news site that will debut later this year in Haverhill, Mass. The co-op model is designed to be replicated in other markets. We’ll be watching to see how it works.
  • Insider: Variety acquisition cost will far exceed a $40M price tag: Variety‘s bidding process has reached an advanced stage, and PaidContent recently analyzed the costs involved with the acquisition, which run higher than the $40 million price tag due to deferred maintenance and other costs.
  • TV station newsrooms staffed up in 2011, as print newsrooms shrank: A new study by the Radio Television Digital News Association and Hofstra University showed that TV news staffing reached its second-highest level ever last year (due in part to fewer stations). Meanwhile, ASNE reports that newspaper staffing is at its lowest point since it began its annual census in 1978.
  • NYC Is Turning Payphones Into Wi-Fi Hotspots: New York City’s Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications is turning the cities now-obsolete payphones into wireless hotspots where locals and visits can connect smartphones, tablet, or laptops to the Internet. Wonder if other cities will emulate this innovative idea?

Anything else we should be following? Leave a comment and let us know!

How the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Uses DocumentCloud

Every day, new journalism technologies emerge that give journalists better tools to engage readers. One such tool is DocumentCloud, a new tool sponsored by IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors.) In recent news, reporters at Mother Jones used Document Cloud in their article on the Obamacare decision, and reporters at ProPublica used DocumentCloud in the GlaxoSmithKline scandal that was released on DocumentCloud on June 2, and published June 3.

Ebyline spoke with one editor who’s been using DocumentCloud in the newsroom.

“Here at the Journal Sentinel, we’ve used it for a variety of projects. Most recently, I used DocumentCloud to annotate police incident reports to pinpoint examples of misreporting of FBI crime and weapon codes,” said Ben Poston, a Data Editor at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Poston says that he hasn’t used DocumentCloud to do a lot of textual analysis of documents, but that the ability to annotate, share and build a document gallery has taken stories to the next level.

“I think it helps us be more transparent with readers and also guide them through technical documents,” said Poston. “Before DocumentCloud, we might just link to a PDF of a document, but it could be 100 or more pages, and very few readers are going to take the time to sift through that many pages.”

Poston recommended that journalists can use DocumentCloud to store and organize all of their documents.

“I’m really bad at keeping paper files organized…so uploading docs electronically to the cloud makes more sense and allows easy sharing among reporters here,” he added.

Here’s a video of DocumentCloud lead developer Ted Han explaining the website’s functionality:

Ted Han, DocumentCloud – 2011 Knight News Challenge Winner from Knight Foundation on Vimeo.

Has your newsroom used DocumentCloud? Why or why not? Leave a comment and let us know!