The National Post: How One Newspaper is Embracing Twitter [Interview]

The National Post is a large Canadian newspaper that’s embracing social media as an extension of its newsroom. We had the opportunity to chat with Chris Boutet, the Senior Producer of Digital Media at the Post, about how the paper uses Twitter to provide real-time news to its readers, engage with them, and build its brand.

Why did the National Post first start using Twitter?

We began using Twitter to promote the information-gathering aspect of the National Post. Initially, the idea was just to be on Twitter because that’s where our readers were and that’s where they wanted to get their information, so we started tweeting.

Everyone at the National Post agreed that Twitter had this viral aspect to it, and that it could be used as a powerful tool to help people find and share content and engage with our brand.

We first created a bunch of different Twitter channels and assessed how they were performing. Then I took over the engagement aspect of things, and we really started to push the paper in that direction.

Can you describe the type of presence the National Post has on Twitter?

The National Post launched its two flagship Twitter accounts, National Post and Financial Post, in March of 2008.

Since then, we’ve been adding channels so our readers can follow the aspects of the Post they connect with most. We’ve compiled this robust Twitter network in the @nationalpost/the-post-on-twitter list. We have 26 official National Post Twitter feeds, and many of our reporters and editors have their own accounts.

We’ve also experimented with contextual Twitter feeds built around specific events, like the g20updates account that is still actively reporting on the repercussions of the G20 Summit this summer.

What are some of the goals the National Post has for its Twitter accounts?

We want people to engage with our content, first and foremost. We want people to share our stories, retweet our Tweets, and get involved with our reporting.

For example, we have a campaign where we send out @mentions thanking people for sharing our content or for mentioning us in their tweets. We want our readers to know that we appreciate their engagement, and we are actively using our Twitter account.

We also use Twitter as a way to build the personality of our brand. We are an irreverent newspaper, with a dry wit. We don’t take ourselves very seriously, and we encourage our readers to take everything with a grain of salt. Underneath this is a vaguely disguised optimism. All of this comes through on Twitter.

How does the National Post monitor its Twitter accounts?

You have to monitor Twitter to see how effective it is, and how engaged people are with your content. Analytics are the most powerful tool for this medium. They allow you to get an understanding of what your readers want, what they like to read, and how they are sharing things.

We use several real-time traffics analytics, like a Pro Account, to monitor how our content is being shared. We can see how much traffic is being driven back by what stories, who is sharing, who shares more than others, who re-tweets.

Does your paper see Twitter as a threat or a boon to traditional media like newspapers?

Twitter is basically an extension of our newsroom. It’s another method of reaching out to National Post readers and to all Canadians and really engaging them with our content.

In the past, the way the media and readership interacted was very guarded. Now, we’re trying to change this image by letting our readers know that there are real people behind the scenes, involved. When people write to us, we write them back. Twitter, and social media more generally, has the advantage of allowing people to reach out to you directly.

Twitter is a benefit to the modern newsroom, as it is another channel of communication and it enables real conversations between the media and its readers.

For more on how the National Post is innovating with social media more generally, including a look at some pretty unique uses of FourSquare, check out the second portion of this interview at our sister site Social Times.