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CNN President Cautiously Embraces Social Media

Jeff Zucker points to increased importance of digital

Jeff Zucker

Thanks to a recent partnership with Facebook, CNN can track which topics are trending on the social network at a given time. But CNN Worldwide president Jeff Zucker said on Tuesday that he doesn't want his network to lean too heavily on that social chatter when making news judgments.

"We can't be strictly driven by what people are talking about on social," Zucker said at Adweek's Brand Genius Think Tank event, in partnership with Time Warner.

But the social data help CNN understand the state of conversations about the news. For instance, Zucker revealed that in the last 24 hours Obamacare and Kenya have received about the same number of Facebook mentions.

And increasingly, social media plays a key role in newsgathering, Zucker continued, pointing to the militant group al-Shabab claiming responsibility on Twitter for the mall attack over the weekend in Kenya.

"We're looking at all that information every day, and, you know, it's part of that decision-making process and it's a tool and it helps us decide what stories we're going to cover ... sometimes," Zucker said. "It reinforces some decisions that we think we have. And sometimes we do find stories that are not necessarily in the mainstream press or part of the traditional conversation just yet."

Related to the rise of social media, Zucker also emphasized that CNN's digital properties are as important as its television broadcast.

"I don't think, going forward, we're going to care as much where people watch CNN as long as it has those three little red letters on the screen," said Zucker, adding, "whatever screen it's on should be immaterial to us."

Leading this trend is increased mobile consumption (about 40 percent of CNN's traffic is mobile). Television news will continue to be relevant, Zucker said, but "mobile's a huge part of the future."

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