TECH COMMENTARY BY ANDREW DODSON

Twitter: A Home For Broadcast Tech Pros?

My challenge to the engineers who are helping broadcast countless hours of live news each week: Sign up and tweet at least one message a day. Let this community know how your latest ENG gizmo is working out for you. Maybe you just bought some new specialty, point-of-view cameras that you want to tell us about. Let us know that your innovative minds are still churning out new ideas.

I had a social media moment last month while gearing up for the Fourth of July weekend: My editor Harry Jessell retweeted my tweet about ABC expanding its Watch ABC app into more markets.

Now, Harry is a fairly tech-savvy editor, but since I joined the TVNewsCheck team in January, he hasn’t exactly been a celebrity on the micro-blogging social network. (He’s since made the decision to add Twitter to his busy workday schedule.)

Conversely, I’ve used my Twitter account during that same timeframe to break industry news and network with potential story sources. In my eight months on the job, I’ve gained more than 350 followers — many of them in the broadcast and general technology sector.

That got Harry and me thinking: Is there a community for broadcast technology folks on Twitter? Are there chief engineers from DMA 15 to 125 using Twitter to follow the industry? Are they adding to the conversation? What about tech executives at the top 30 station groups? Do they have anything to say in 140 characters or less?

Sinclair Broadcasting CEO David Smith has plenty to say about the future of television — why isn’t he tweeting about it?

After surveying thousands of accounts, we found that Twitter is a mixed bag for those interested in broadcast television. Broadcast tech leaders, like Sinclair VP of Advanced Technology Mark Aitken (@MisterDTV) and ATSC President Mark Richer (@ATSC_Guy), share industry news; trade reporters, like myself, follow hundreds of accounts to see what the industry is talking about each day; and broadcast vendors, organizations and public relations professionals publish tweets to build their brand and sell their angle.

BRAND CONNECTIONS

Head over to Playout, the technology blog of TVNewsCheck, for our Top 48 Broadcast Technology Twitter Accounts that you should follow. If you have a Twitter account, you can subscribe to our list of these must-follow accounts. Twitter lists serve as a filter from your other followers. Our list will let you just focus on the day’s industry news.

And while you’re there, make sure to follow me @AndrewDodson.

New to Twitter? It isn’t hard to set up an account. Go to Twitter.com and fill out the quick form that asks for your name, email address and a password. From there, you’ll be asked to create a Twitter handle. Harry’s, for example, is @HAJessell. The “at” symbol that precedes a user’s handle is used when mentioning that person in a tweet, notifying them of your 140 character-long message.

From there, you can browse groups for people to follow or search for them by name. In addition to following Harry and myself, also make sure to follow NewsCheckMedia Publisher Kathy Haley (@NCheckPublisher), TVNewsCheck (@TVNewsCheck) for breaking news and our sister site NetNewsCheck.com (@NetNewsCheck) for the latest news on the business of digital media.

Broadcast technology analyst Joe Zaller (@Joe_Zaller), president of Devoncroft, is one of the must-follow people on our top 48 list. He’s probably the only person who closely tracks the daily workings of the broadcast technology marketplace. His Twitter account is aggregated with industry news from a bevy of sources, including his own blog (Zaller broke the news about Harris Broadcast’s CEO being let go last month), in addition to some quick conversations with his more than 500 followers.

“I’ve made the decision that I’m in the content business and Twitter is good for that type of business,” Zaller says. “But most of the people I’m communicating to on Twitter are just in receive mode. They don’t have the advantage of a journalist to sit there, figure out information and tweet about it. They have a day job. No one is sending them ideas for stories.

“The stuff I publish is very geeky, maybe a bit dry, but part of my business model is to provide lots of information for free as a way to try and get people to engage.”

My competitor at TVTechnology, Deborah McAdams (@TVBroadcast), says Twitter has become the modern day AP wire.

“In the olden days when you worked in a newsroom, you had wire stories coming in from your AP subscription,” says McAdams, who has an impressive 2,000-plus followers. “But Twitter is a type of AP wire that you can specifically tailor to your own needs and the type of information that you want to have.

“It’s a very easy format to cruise down, see who’s posted, look at the headlines, see if they’re meaningful and just see what’s going on.”

While Twitter might be more about consuming information, networks like LinkedIn, is where more engagement occurs. You can only say so much in 140 or fewer characters on Twitter.

For example, on LinkedIn, there are a handful of groups — some private, others public — that keep the broadcast technology conversation active. The Advanced Television Systems Committee has 45 participating members; Broadcast Engineering magazine is substantially larger with nearly 3,500 members. Both groups are private, meaning those interested in joining need a LinkedIn profile and must request to join. The group’s moderator decides whether to accept your request.

Broadcast Engineering & Operations Professionals is another group that requires permission to join. Some of the more popular threads on it include looking for a broadcast solution to air live Skype calls on air and what is the best approach to building a small control room in the heart of New York City. Broadcast engineer job postings are also shared in this group.

I’m not a member of all of these groups (in fact, I’m still waiting on approval from the ATSC group. Maybe they don’t want me on the inside?), but the ones I’ve perused seem to have quality engagement. Some of it goes outside the realm of U.S. broadcasting, but nonetheless, is still interesting.

Twitter likely isn’t the place where Sinclair’s Smith will divulge his next business plan. The same goes for Syncbak Founder Jack Perry (@JackPerry_TV), who, by the way, has been pretty quiet recently.

But Twitter can be a community for TV tech professionals.

My challenge to the engineers who are helping broadcast countless hours of live news each week: Sign up and tweet at least one message a day. Let this community know how your latest ENG gizmo is working out for you. Maybe you just bought some new specialty, point-of-view cameras that you want to tell us about.

Simply let us know that your innovative minds are still churning out new ideas.

That’s news that broadcasters — and the general public — really want to read about. Remember to keep things concise. You have only 140 characters to make an impact.

To stay up to date on all things tech, follow Andrew Dodson on TVNewsCheck’s Playout tech blog here.


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