Three Sandy rumors that circulated on social media: As you might imagine from a story of this magnitude, Sandy has sparked a torrent of photos, videos and other reporting from both the media and a large population armed with smart phones and Twitter accounts.  The Breaking News team has been hard at work verifying photos and videos with our real-time curation (The Atlantic has a great collection of fake and verified photos), but we’ve also been investigating several rumored stories that circulated on social media and escalated at the height of the storm:
1.  Three feet of water at the NYSE trading floor - It’s unclear where this rumor originated exactly — the National Weather Service says it was a mention in “broadcast media,” while Buzzfeed reports it came from a tweet — but the erroneous report ended up in the NWS internal chat tool.  It was subsequently picked up by The Weather Channel’s Hurricane Twitter account and broadcast by CNN, triggering an avalanche of social sharing. (Poynter has a more in-depth look here.)   Our team was already scouring photos and videos in Wall Street, and we saw several tweets questioning the report.  We decided to hold off and search for a confirmation:

We’re not reporting that NYSE trading floor flooding yet — still only “NWS chat” as source, which CNN also sourced.
— Cory Bergman (@corybe) October 30, 2012
Moments later, we discovered a tweet from Politico’s Ben White who said a senior NYSE official told him the report was false.  Several other reporters, too, from CNBC, WSJ and the Weather Channel followed:

NYSE official tells me reports of water on the floor of the Exchange are FALSE.
— Ben White (@morningmoneyben) October 30, 2012
We then fired off a tweet to help spread the word:

Rumors of NYSE trading floor flooding are not true, says NYSE - @politico @cnbc @weatherchannel
— Breaking News (@BreakingNews) October 30, 2012
2. Coney Island hospital on fire, patients trapped inside - This story wasn’t picked up by the media as widely as NYSE, but it generated quite a flurry on Twitter.  It originated from the scanner — FDNY firefighters could be heard having trouble gaining access to Coney Island to respond to a report of a fire at the hospital:

Brooklyn: FDNY is enroute to Coney Island Hospital for a reported fire on the third floor with a heavy smoke condition.
— NY Scanner (@NYScanner) October 30, 2012
Several others shared the link to listen to the FDNY scanner online, and sure enough, you could hear (as we did) firefighters attempting to negotiate high water to reach the hospital.  The story suddenly became a dramatic rescue attempt with hundreds of lives in danger, and it quickly spread across Twitter.  However:

#FDNY units are on scene at Coney Island Hospital. No confirmed fire or reports of injuries at this time.
— FDNY (@FDNY) October 30, 2012
We held off on this rumor as well — as with most media, we don’t share unconfirmed scanner traffic — and we shared the FDNY’s tweet that put an end to the drama. Turns out, as this local blog reports, the FDNY was responding to a car fire in the parking lot, which was extinguished before firefighters arrived. As the FDNY tweeted soon after, “There is much misinformation being spread about #Sandy’s impact on #NYC.”
(Slate has more  background on how this rumor developed.)
3. Con Ed employees trapped in flooded plant after explosion - This story began with a flash caught on video and Reuters story about a rescue.  The video showed an electrical explosion in Manhattan, and it was widely shared on Twitter.  After Con Ed acknowledged an explosion at a substation in the area, we shared the clip on Breaking News, but we held off on any other news about the substation.  While the clip is the real deal, Reuters reported that a full-scale rescue of trapped employees was underway, sparking another flurry of Twitter rumors.  A couple hours later, Con Ed tweeted:

#ConEd - No Con Edison employees are trapped in a building. The story spreading is a rumor.
— Con Edison (@ConEdison) October 30, 2012
With any major story these days, the media will make mistakes, just as we have made in previous stories. Twitter served both as a rumor and truth machine, simultaneously spreading and debunking false reports, leaving some at wit’s end:

I’m going to stop retweeting news here. Realizing that half of what I see is being contradicted (see, Con Ed workers not trapped)
— Maggie Koerth-Baker (@maggiekb1) October 30, 2012

Ok so no burning hospital in Coney Island, no Con Ed workers trapped in power plant, no 3 feet of water in NYSE - who started these rumors?
— John Seabrook (@jmseabrook) October 30, 2012
This is why we believe Breaking News — not just as a Twitter account, but as a mobile and online destination in its own — fulfills a key role in the evolving new world of journalism. You could argue that Twitter “self-corrects” in real time, but in reality, it isn’t always that fast:

I guess the people saying Twitter fact checks itself have already forgotten how many HOURS we thought Coney Island hospital was on fire for.
— Dick Wisdom (@nostrich) October 30, 2012
Few Twitter users are following all the journalists that journalists follow, and many are left hanging when a rumor takes on a life of its own. Just as Twitter is important as a communications platform, so are the news organizations that verify social media reports — both on social media and on their own coverage platforms.
It’s always a good reminder that today’s news consumer should not live by social media alone — as Twitter would say, it’s an ecosystem.
- Post by @corybe

Three Sandy rumors that circulated on social media: As you might imagine from a story of this magnitude, Sandy has sparked a torrent of photos, videos and other reporting from both the media and a large population armed with smart phones and Twitter accounts.  The Breaking News team has been hard at work verifying photos and videos with our real-time curation (The Atlantic has a great collection of fake and verified photos), but we’ve also been investigating several rumored stories that circulated on social media and escalated at the height of the storm:

1.  Three feet of water at the NYSE trading floor - It’s unclear where this rumor originated exactly — the National Weather Service says it was a mention in “broadcast media,” while Buzzfeed reports it came from a tweet — but the erroneous report ended up in the NWS internal chat tool.  It was subsequently picked up by The Weather Channel’s Hurricane Twitter account and broadcast by CNN, triggering an avalanche of social sharing. (Poynter has a more in-depth look here.) 

Our team was already scouring photos and videos in Wall Street, and we saw several tweets questioning the report.  We decided to hold off and search for a confirmation:

Moments later, we discovered a tweet from Politico’s Ben White who said a senior NYSE official told him the report was false.  Several other reporters, too, from CNBC, WSJ and the Weather Channel followed:

We then fired off a tweet to help spread the word:

2. Coney Island hospital on fire, patients trapped inside - This story wasn’t picked up by the media as widely as NYSE, but it generated quite a flurry on Twitter.  It originated from the scanner — FDNY firefighters could be heard having trouble gaining access to Coney Island to respond to a report of a fire at the hospital:

Several others shared the link to listen to the FDNY scanner online, and sure enough, you could hear (as we did) firefighters attempting to negotiate high water to reach the hospital.  The story suddenly became a dramatic rescue attempt with hundreds of lives in danger, and it quickly spread across Twitter.  However:

We held off on this rumor as well — as with most media, we don’t share unconfirmed scanner traffic — and we shared the FDNY’s tweet that put an end to the drama. Turns out, as this local blog reports, the FDNY was responding to a car fire in the parking lot, which was extinguished before firefighters arrived. As the FDNY tweeted soon after, “There is much misinformation being spread about #Sandy’s impact on #NYC.”

(Slate has more background on how this rumor developed.)

3. Con Ed employees trapped in flooded plant after explosion - This story began with a flash caught on video and Reuters story about a rescue.  The video showed an electrical explosion in Manhattan, and it was widely shared on Twitter.  After Con Ed acknowledged an explosion at a substation in the area, we shared the clip on Breaking News, but we held off on any other news about the substation.  While the clip is the real deal, Reuters reported that a full-scale rescue of trapped employees was underway, sparking another flurry of Twitter rumors.  A couple hours later, Con Ed tweeted:

With any major story these days, the media will make mistakes, just as we have made in previous stories. Twitter served both as a rumor and truth machine, simultaneously spreading and debunking false reports, leaving some at wit’s end:

This is why we believe Breaking News — not just as a Twitter account, but as a mobile and online destination in its own — fulfills a key role in the evolving new world of journalism. You could argue that Twitter “self-corrects” in real time, but in reality, it isn’t always that fast:

Few Twitter users are following all the journalists that journalists follow, and many are left hanging when a rumor takes on a life of its own. Just as Twitter is important as a communications platform, so are the news organizations that verify social media reports — both on social media and on their own coverage platforms.

It’s always a good reminder that today’s news consumer should not live by social media alone — as Twitter would say, it’s an ecosystem.

- Post by @corybe

Breaking News joins RebelMouse
Breaking News may have begun as a Twitter account, but we’re always experimenting with new social media tools and platforms. We have active communities on Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, and today – RebelMouse.

RebelMouse debuted last week in private beta as a platform to visually display content shared on Twitter and Facebook, as well as Instagram and Google+ in the future. Users can also upload photos and videos directly to the platform.

“RebelMouse makes it insanely easy to have a great site that puts together all your social activity,” founder Paul Berry told journalism.co.uk.

We’ll be experimenting with the Breaking News RebelMouse page, and we’d love to hear your feedback. You can sign up for a RebelMouse account here. And be sure to check out the pages of other news organizations:
Business Insider
Fast Company
Huffington Post
Mashable
NBCNews
ProPublica
Reuters
(Post by Lauren McCullough, @lfmccullough on Twitter and RebelMouse)

Breaking News joins RebelMouse

Breaking News may have begun as a Twitter account, but we’re always experimenting with new social media tools and platforms. We have active communities on Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, and today – RebelMouse.

RebelMouse debuted last week in private beta as a platform to visually display content shared on Twitter and Facebook, as well as Instagram and Google+ in the future. Users can also upload photos and videos directly to the platform.

RebelMouse makes it insanely easy to have a great site that puts together all your social activity,” founder Paul Berry told journalism.co.uk.

We’ll be experimenting with the Breaking News RebelMouse page, and we’d love to hear your feedback. You can sign up for a RebelMouse account here. And be sure to check out the pages of other news organizations:

(Post by Lauren McCullough, @lfmccullough on Twitter and RebelMouse)

Whitney Houston news drives mobile visits

Whitney Houston’s death Saturday night took many people by surprise. Unlike other recent high-profile deaths, like those of Steve Jobs and Etta James, this news seemed to come from out of the blue.

AP was the first traditional organization to publish an alert with the news that night, and our editors quickly pushed their report out to our mobile users and across BreakingNews’ social channels.

Mobile traffic to the BreakingNews apps and mobile site exploded after we sent out our push alert. In total, we saw twice the number of mobile visits compared to desktop website visits on Saturday.

That first tweet we sent out had a link to AP’s report, which has been clicked on 119,000 times according to Twitter Analytics. It has been retweeted just under 7,300 times. According to Topsy Labs data, that link was the most retweeted article after the news broke, with 14,000 posts including it.

In total, we tweeted 11 updates on Saturday night with seven links pointing outward to news organizations, including the Los Angeles Times and The Huffington Post. Those links have generated a combined 290,000 clicks. We pushed out two more breaking updates on Sunday, including news that Houston’s daughter had been rushed to the hospital. That link to CBS News’ report has received nearly 54,000 clicks.

We can’t take all the credit for these high click-rates. Twitter Analytics only shows the total clicks on a link and doesn’t parse out the impact of individual tweets. But we’ve heard from several colleagues who’ve attributed their traffic spikes, in part, to our promotion of their content. And it’s worth noting that we’re only measuring Twitter clicks here, not clicks from Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, our website and mobile apps.

As we announced earlier this month, Breaking News is sending more than 100,000 referrals a day to news sites and social services. Our mission is to help time-crunched users navigate the sometimes confusing vortex of breaking news information. By distributing links, we serve users and reward content originators with traffic and a burst of social followers.

(Post by Lauren McCullough, @lfmccullough; Photo by Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images file)

5 tips to grow your Facebook page from scratch

We’ve passed a big milestone over on Breaking News’ Facebook page: 100,000 likes!

True, this is a pretty modest Facebook audience compared to many other major brands. But unlike some of those brands, Breaking News is still a relatively new entity in the news ecosystem. We launched our Facebook page on June 11, 2010. Like many newer brands, we face the challenge of growing our page’s audience without the support of an established, traditional publishing channel and with a modest marketing budget. Sound familiar?

We’re celebrating this 100,000 likes milestone (and more milestones to come) because we think we’ve honed in on a Facebook strategy that is delivering real results – higher engagement, stronger viral sharing and clear audience growth.

Based on our case study over the last few months, we’re sharing five tips to help you grow your Facebook page’s audience from scratch.

TIP 1: Metrics are your new best friend.

Facebook has really beefed up their Insights offering over the last six months, making huge swaths of detailed information available for export as well as easy dashboard viewing. Clearly, we all care about growing our likes. But in order to gain audience, you have to determine what activities contribute the most to that growth.

The good news: You don’t have to guess!

Here are the main categories of metrics we watch closely as we look for correlations to like spikes: 

  1. Volume of posts (per day and per month);
  2. Stories created (“stories” are likes, comments and shares on a post);
  3. Reach (the number of unique users who saw our posts, either organically in their News Feed or Ticker, directly on our page, paid or virally from a friend’s like, comment, share);
  4. Impressions (Facebook’s aspirational metric for possible times your posts could have been viewed);
  5.  Link clicks (how many times users clicked on URLs accompanying posts).

TIP 2: Map out a straightforward strategy with actionable goals that everyone buys in to.

Breaking news: Not everyone on your team is as obsessed with perfecting a Facebook post as you are. Getting everyone to buy in to your plan is key, and you can do that with a to-the-point strategy that focuses clearly on a small number of tactics that serve your main goal (growing likes). Identify clear actions everyone can take as part of their daily routines. Also identify how you will measure the success/failure of those actions.

This shouldn’t overwhelm your team and should keep everyone focused on actions that are truly important.

Here’s an example from our strategy document:

THEORY TO TEST: We can reach a higher number of Facebook users on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

PROPOSED ACTION: We posted 85 times on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in October: We posted 43 posts on 4 Fridays; 27 posts on 5 Saturdays; and 15 posts on 5 Sundays.

Let’s aim to increase our monthly total Friday-Saturday-Sunday output to 120 posts (~30% increase), with an average of 10 posts per day.

HOW WE’LL MEASURE: We’ll compare our month-over-month Reach and Impression metrics.

TIP 3: Experiment with posting photos and asking Questions.

A few months back, several folks on the Breaking News team noticed that photos being shared in our personal News Feeds seemed to be standing out more. We decided to start experimenting with uploading images directly to our page (instead of linking out to them), and we’ve seen a huge boost in engagement and sharing as a result. Photos as a peg to share news work really well on Facebook, especially when the photos are unique.

Facebook Questions have proven to be a great way to get our Facebook audience talking about breaking news, especially when the question is related to a “talker” story. Generally, we try to ask at least 2 Questions a week on our page. We try to keep them short and easy to answer. We try to avoid Questions that ask users to second-guess court rulings or arrests, and we also try to avoid Questions that would require the user to be an expert on the subject-matter.

TIP 4: Experiment with Facebook advertising.

We’ve been experimenting with Facebook ads, flighting campaigns in small bursts to discover the most bang for our buck. For some campaigns, we tied it to an ongoing story in the news. In others, we used Facebook’s “sponsored story” product to plug the overall page. In all instances, we discovered social ads – only served to people whose friends have already liked the page – proved to be the most effective way to draw engaged fans at an affordable rate. Overall, we spent a very modest amount of money to expedite our growth.

TIP 5: Test, learn, adapt (repeat).

The key to any goal-setting process is to be agile. Breaking News on Facebook isn’t perfect, and we don’t claim to have all the answers. What we do have is a process to test and measure our theories for growing likes. This structure allows us to experiment and learn and then experiment again. We’re looking at our Facebook performance every month and we’re tweaking based on the results we’re seeing. We can brainstorm new experiments and plug them into the existing structure that our team has bought in to. In many ways, this kind of discipline is an even bigger win than passing 100,000 likes.

(Post by Lauren McCullough, @lfmccullough)

Storify rolls out new design: Our award-winning partners over at Storify have rolled out a snazzy new drag-and-drop design that makes it easier to build embeddable social media stories.  Since BreakingNews is a source on Storify, you can tap our curation to help create your own social stories.
Just click the “+” button to the right of the media window, drag over BreakingNews to your list of sources, and you’re off and running.  As stories break, you’ll be able to see the tweets, eyewitness photos and videos we’re curating and verifying in real time from Twitter, YouTube and a variety of photo services.
Go here for more on Storify’s new features, and congrats to Burt and Xavier for a terrific relaunch that makes social media storytelling easier than ever.

Storify rolls out new design: Our award-winning partners over at Storify have rolled out a snazzy new drag-and-drop design that makes it easier to build embeddable social media stories.  Since BreakingNews is a source on Storify, you can tap our curation to help create your own social stories.

Just click the “+” button to the right of the media window, drag over BreakingNews to your list of sources, and you’re off and running.  As stories break, you’ll be able to see the tweets, eyewitness photos and videos we’re curating and verifying in real time from Twitter, YouTube and a variety of photo services.

Go here for more on Storify’s new features, and congrats to Burt and Xavier for a terrific relaunch that makes social media storytelling easier than ever.