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Des Moines Register: Embracing Twitter

Geoff Wood

It's hard to not notice that Twitter is invading the mainstream media; it shows up everywhere from NBC's Today Show desk to ESPN's coverage of women's basketball(1). However, one gets a distinct feeling that many of these media outlets are jumping on the Twitter bandwagon not because they want to be there but simply because its hip and they don't want to be left behind. The results are often awkward and transparent.

One exception as of late that everyone should note is The Des Moines Register (@dmregister)(2). This mainstream media outlet has not only joined the bandwagon, they've embraced it and are being innovative both in fulfilling their journalistic mission and in promoting it to their readers.
The first example I want to share is their Twitter interface: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/twitter
This is a great design that let's you easily see the Twitterstream of four branded-Des Moines Register accounts as well as index of reporters and editors (including their assignment areas). Also included are top Twitter users in the Des Moines community and even a future opportunity to monotize their use of platform through showing sponsored accounts.
This idea isn't unique to the Register, other papers (such as another Gannett Property, the Indianapolis Star http://www.indystar.com/twitter) also have a Twitter index but they don't convey the same level of interaction.
The second example, is their coverage of the Iowa Supreme Court's unaminous decision to overturn a ban on gay marriage last Friday. As covered in this post by Zachary M. Seward of Harvard's Neiman Journalism Lab, it started with the paper anticipating that decision would be a big topic of discussion in social web (3). They created the hashtag #iagaymarriage and sent it out to everyone following the @dmregister account prior to the announcement. Hashtags are organic and change with the will of the users but are often controlled through first-mover advantage. As Seward points out, The Register took that advantage and was able to run with it by both channeling conversation through a dedicated page on DMRegister.com (which is a great idea to get Twitter-sourced content out to people who don't use Twitter) and get competitors such as the staff of the Cedar Rapids Gazette to adopt the hashtag.
I'm impressed by what we've seen from the Des Moines Register so far and look forward to see how they use the platform next.
(1)I don't typically watch women's basketball but alma mater is really good and I watched them through their tournament run to the Elite 8. Go Cyclones! (2)For disclosure purposes, I lived in Iowa for 22 years and consider myself a native Iowan (3)They were right