Media, Sci-Tech

Reuters’ “undisputed king of Tumblr”

By Mandy De Waal 9 November 2011

When it comes to news and social media, Reuters’ social media editor is the king of the hill. His Tumblr blog is in the top 25 of some 2.3 million tumblogs in the world. He’s also rated as one of the top media tweeters to follow. If you don’t know who he is yet, perhaps you should. By MANDY DE WAAL.

Anthony Bordain doesn’t know his name, but reckons he’s da bomb. Jon Stewart referenced his blog on The Daily Show during the Weinergate scandal. Paul Boutin at the New York Times has awarded this journalist the moniker “King of Tumblr”. And NBC New York says he’s “one of the top 20 people to follow on Twitter.”

The man’s name is Anthony de Rosa and he’s been the Social Media Editor of Reuters for the past five months or so where he’s a reporter, and is integrating social data throughout the news organisation. “I’m trying to help other journalists see what they’re missing in their beats by not using social platforms to monitor and report,” de Rosa says in an email Q&A with iMaverick.

“I think as news organisations integrate social better, the role of the social media editor will evolve less into teaching and more into strategy and planning, and continuing to integrate new way to enhance the news via social media. Social is making us all better global citizens, we know more about the world and we know it right from the sources on the ground as it is happening. That’s a big change for journalists.”

De Rosa’s no newcomer to the interwebs. “Yes, I am old at the Web, I was there when the web first became a thing. I recall BBS before the web actually existed and used a 300 baud modem on a Commodore 64 to get online. I remember tape drives, etc. The early days taught me you have to be entrepreneurial. The web is there for the taking. You just need a great idea and a lot of determination.”

Daily Maverick tried to squeeze out every drop of da Rosa juice out of him in the hope of gleaning all the social media knowledge this “the undisputed king of Tumblr” knows about Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr. Here’s the result.

Daily Maverick: Why are you called “the undisputed king of Tumblr”?

Anthony de Rosa: “I did an interview with Paul Boutin at the New York Times and he declared me “King of Tumblr” so it’s really that I am the king I suppose in Paul’s mind. There are a lot of people doing amazing stuff on Tumblr, I am just one of many. I happened to build a large audience there, about 100,000 followers now, just because I have been at it since 2007 and post anything that happens to intrigue me. I don’t have a particular focus, I’m pretty random. I guess people enjoy my randomness.”

Daily Maverick: What should media & journalists know about using Tumblr?

De Rosa: “Don’t force it. Journalists and media companies need to be there because Tumblr has a massive audience and a ton of viral potential. It brings a whole new audience to their publications. If you look at the numbers, it seems like most people in their 20s and 30s are either on Tumblr or Facebook or most likely both. Journalists and media companies should want to convert that audience into being part of their audience.”

Daily Maverick: Do you segment info for Tumblr vs. Twitter etc?

De Rosa: “I don’t really see any difference. Audience is maybe a bit younger on Tumblr but I don’t change how I post because of that. I post what I find interesting and whoever wants to come along for the ride is welcome. Twitter is meant for posting short messages, and is ideal for posting while on the road. Tumblr is more for rich media: video, photos while Twitter tends to focus on short bursts.”

Daily Maverick: Is trust and authority important?

De Rosa: “It is extremely important. It comes from being consistent over time. I try to be careful about what information I put out there. If I see something I won’t just share it immediately unless I trust the source and even then I may take a bit more time to vet the information myself. You develop a reputation for being trustworthy over time, it is not something you are given overnight. It’s not just a sense, you actually have to use the tools available to you to source out the information, corroborate it, use the digital clues available to you, and do traditional reporting with digital information.”

Daily Maverick: Is there a science to brilliant content curation?

De Rosa: “I don’t think it’s all that complicated. It’s the same way you program a television program or a newspaper. You have a sense for what is important and the science is really in making sure you do the due diligence to make sure you’re accurate. Curation is more of a gut feeling for what is important in the world, because there’s only so much time in the day and so much bandwidth you have to look at and deliver that information. The web is limitless and anyone can dive into whatever news they want about anything, but individuals on social networks are sharing a fraction of that based on their sense of what’s important.”

Daily Maverick: How do you know what’s going to become big news?

De Rosa: “I look at what impact it has on society and the world, I tend to focus on the big stories, often it’s pretty easy to know which they are. It’s a no-brainer that the euro crisis has massive implications not just for Europe but the entire world. I thought Occupy Wall Street was being under reported and sensed it would be a huge story, so that’s maybe an example of having a better sense than others that a story would get much bigger.”

Daily Maverick: What are you teaching journalists at Reuters about using social media for leads?

De Rosa: “They already have the skills to know what is true and what is not, social media just gives them more information to use to source out the legitimate information. All you really need to do with journalists is show them how to get to the data. They already know what to do with it as traditional reporters.”

Daily Maverick: How important are mobile apps for news companies?

De Rosa: “Huge, when you’re on the road the easiest way to report is from your phone. We need better apps to put items in a queue for an editor to review. The apps we have to monitor information will improve. Geo-location driven data will be massive.”

Daily Maverick: What are your favourite apps?

De Rosa: “Tweetdeck, Storyful, and Storify right now are helping me tremendously.”

Daily Maverick: Who are the top ten journalists you follow on Twitter?

De Rosa: “I can’t really lock it down to ten. I’d say look at the Twitter Lists I have built to see who I trust to follow.”

Daily Maverick: What’s the difference between being first or right with the news?

De Rosa: “It’s better to be right than be first. I’d rather be late reporting something because I am making sure it is correct. If you have better tools, you’ll be first and right. Get it right, first. I’m far less concerned about speed as I am with accuracy.”

Daily Maverick: How should media organisations deal with mistakes or inaccuracies on Twitter and other social media?

De Rosa: “Be transparent with your mistakes. Don’t hide them.”

Daily Maverick: What journalism “rules” do you apply to Twitter?

De Rosa: “All of them. Journalism doesn’t change when you’re on Twitter.”

Daily Maverick: Your top tips for news brands wanting to grow audiences using social media?

De Rosa: “I think you should be authentic, interact with the audience as much as possible, don’t just use it as another publishing platform but find the inherent value in that platform and leverage it using the tools it provides. Don’t be afraid to experiment.”

Daily Maverick: Where did you learn to dance?

De Rosa: “I was dancing the moment I was born. My dad has old 8mm reel to reel tapes of me and my sister dancing up a storm in the living room. The De Rosa’s are natural dancers. We’re self-taught.”



Read more:

  • The Week’s Top 20 in Social Media in The Atlantic Wire;
  • In Social Media and Politics, Engagement and Influence Trumps Follower Count at the Huffington Post;
  • Anthony de Rosa’s Tumblr blog SoupSoup;
  • Anthony de Rosa’s blog at Reuters.
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