Milk, Cookies, and Social Media at Whole Foods

One of the closing events of Social Media Week took included snack time at a grocery store, as Whole Foods presented Afternoon Snack: A New York New Food Media Panel.

On the menu were:

Liza Mosquito de Guia, Founder & Chief Storyteller, food. curated.

Cathy Erway, Not Eating Out In New York.

Nick Fauchald, editor-in-chief, Tasting Table

Emily Fleischaker, Associate Multimedia Editor, Bon Appetit

Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, Food 52

Nicole Taylor, host, Hot Grease Heritage Radio Network

Moderated by Josh Friedland, Editor & Publisher, The Food Section &

The event started the way every event should: with milk and cookies. But then the panel got sizzling. Here’s a recap of highlights:

Question: How is social media changing things?

Amanda: Publishing used to be more top down and social media changed that dramatically.

Merrill: Our commenting system keeps conversation going.

Emily: For traditional media, it’s a challenge. Our systems are optimized to send out a magazine to a million+ people and not get much back. “Changing that is a challenge but it’s an extraordinary opportunity.” Our product improves with feedback. We use it to engage with our users, to promote our content, and for inspiration.

Liza: I can’t believe the power of social media. “I was a nobody six months ago.” Social media helped fulfill a dream.

Nick: We forget that email is the core of social media – “it’s the mother ship… Today, we take that for granted.” Replying to their newsletters goes to his inbox. Facebook and Twitter are important – “Twitter is a means of filling in the gaps between stories.”

Nicole: Social media is the sole reason Hot Grease has been so popular. “I try to remember that everyone is not on Twitter” as she’s not a big Facebook person.

Cathy: I thought there was something a little unfulfilled with having so many nameless friends. I don’t want to forget the real-life social aspect of food. “When you come to a table, it should be about meeting people” and sharing the experience with them. It’s great to have two ways of social connections.

Amanda: Last week we used Hot Potato to run a virtual Sunday supper and all cooked it at the exact same time, taking pictures, uploading them – it doesn’t replace cooking in a kitchen with someone but it was a valuable community experience.

Question: There’s some debate over whether this is all good or all bad. Amanda, you got in a dust-up with Christopher Kimball at Cook’s Illustrated.

Amanda: He challenged us to a duel about crowdsourcing recipes. We had about eight conference calls with him. We agreed to all of his rules but he wouldn’t agree to any of ours.

Emily: We need a new revenue model. Social media almost makes it too easy to share content. There’s value in professional test kitchens. But the pros of social media outweigh the cons.

Moderator: Any other cons?

Nicole: There are some people in small towns, say an expert in canning, who aren’t online and get left out of this. This is our life – we live and breathe social media. There’s a group of people who will never be a part of the social media movement.

Cathy: If we’re all plugged into all these blogging and tweeting and creating content, when are we going to come up with the content, and when will we enjoy ourselves in the moment?

Question: Is this enhancing our discussion of food? Is it dumbing it down?

Liza: I think it’s making it more exciting. Social media’s all about developing relationships. You start to learn who you really trust. There are certain people who I’ve seen their content and I know I can trust them. When you’re using social media to get good ideas and feedback, you need to rely on trust.

Emily: It’s becoming so much easier for small producers of quality food products to sell them, thanks to sites like Foodzie. That’s a pro. One of the cons that Liza brought up is that there are a lot of stories that can’t be told in 140 characters. When I’m reading a great piece in the New York Times elsewhere, I always think, “How does David Carr turn off his Twitter feed long enough to write good stories?” The challenge is putting out a quality product while communicating with our fans, but we won’t have a quality product if we don’t communicate with our fans.

Question: What does the future hold for food writing?

Nick: Food writing is becoming more like being a potter – it’s generally more of a hobby, but if it turns into a career, great. “It’s becoming harder and harder to make money writing and selling words about food.” Part of the blame comes from writers in general because we started giving away the milk for free and no one wants to buy the cow.

Amanda: It wasn’t that long ago that the old media model was very exclusive. It’s always been a very limiting field. The limits are in a different landscape now.

Liza: I think there’s a big future for video. Advertisers want video content like that that they can sponsor. Hyperlocal is also a big opportunity.

Cathy: It’s not just about writing. There’s radio, there’s video – there are more things we can do. It doesn’t have to be limited to writing for a magazine anymore.

Higher Education’s Future: Collaboration, Augmented Reality, Faculty Education

Friday’s Future of Social Media in Higher Education hosted by McGraw-Hill Student Innovations offered five great professors (matched with a masterful moderator) to explore the challenges and opportunities in using social media to advance higher education. The faculty included:

Adam Ostrow Editor in Chief, – @adamostrow

Dr. Kathleen P. King Professor, Fordham University; President, Transformation Education LLC  – @drkpking

Greg Verdino VP Strategy & Solutions, Powered; author of microMARKETING – @gregverdino

Mary Casey NYU Student and Founder of

Vineet Madan VP Strategy & Business Development, McGraw-Hill Education

Yianni Garcia (Moderator) Marketing Specialist,  – @yiannig

On to the panel coverage…

Yianni: One in four students in 2 or 4 year programs are taking at least on course online.

Question: How does social media play a role?

Kathleen: Distance education is moving more swiftly in community and 2-year colleges. Community colleges can respond more quickly to changes in demographics, the economy, etc. Four-year-universities and research centers can’t move as fast. Distance ed is a good connection for us with social media – the faculty’s already using technology, and students are embracing it. Working on using other tools like Twitter, Facebook, etc. We also must address the needs of non-traditional students – this used to mean older students in their 20s through 70s. That term “non-traditional” are outnumbering traditional students.

Mary: Beyond distance learning and online courses, there’s the trend around open content. There are intellectual property issues, but they can spark interest from those not present in a class.

Vineet: Of 12 million college students, only 6 million are 18-24. A big reason for dropouts is lack of engagement. We need to promote engagement more than just enrollment.

Greg: Students want to text with deans or people admissions offices.

Adam: Social tools present new ways for students to participate, rather than the old way of getting graded just for showing up.

Question: How do you use various tools to engage students?

Mary: Blackboard is great, but it’s not collaborative and archival. You can only collaborate with students in your class, that semester. NYU has taken the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn under its umbrella. They’ve tried to develop collaboration between that and Stern Business School. Needed: apps for collaboration. Gradeguru is one that fits in, provides incentive for collaboration – “it’s kind of revolutionary.” Facebook’s Courses application: you can submit which classes you’re enrolled in to get opinions of a class. Another: Dropbox – lets more than one user edit documents at a time.

Question for Mary: Are you using Google Docs extensively?

Mary: Yes, a fair amount.

More on apps…

Vineet: Tegrity records courses, sort of like a DVR for college courses.

Kathleen: Skype – ‘it’s like Kleenex now’ – everyone uses it.

Yianni: How will we make these technologies more compelling to engage students?

Mary: I want to bring up augmented reality to overlay digital technology over the real world. Would love to use it in history classes.

Greg: Students are already using platforms. If we know that 85% of college students are on Facebook, You need to go where students are.

Kathleen: Faculty need to learn how to use these tools professionally. Many colleagues don’t get the professional use. She takes issue with Greg and Adam saying they don’t remember their education well – they don’t remember their formal education but they’re examples of lifelong learning.

Adam (responding to another question): Technology will lower the cost of so many things for education – so much of what you need is on your phone. The iPad will play a big role in furthering that, replacing textbooks and adding even more.

Audience question (from Sanford): How do we align incentives between professors there to teach (but often to get tenure and get published) and students there to learn?

Kathleen: There is no incentive in most universities for engaging with social media or even for faculty to engage their students. We have to start with the professor first, and we have to look to the institution. Most universities: publication and research is how you get tenure. If I’m spending 20% of my time doing innovative things, it’s counterproductive. It’s detailing me from my goal and livelihood. What has to be done: we have to integrate innovation in teaching and excellent teaching. Teaching must be raised to be more important than the merit and tenure system.

Networked News Gatherers Panel Share How Social Editors Work at #SMWNYC

David Berkowitz is Sr. Director of Emerging Media & Innovation at 360i. You can follow David on Twitter @dberkowitz.

Let’s meet our panel for today on Networked News Gatherers: Defining the Social Media Role, hosted by Time Inc:
  • Moderator: Melissa Parrish, Director, Community Strategy for Lifestyle Digital, Time Inc
  • Jennifer Preston, Social Media Editor, The New York Times
  • Rachel Sklar, Business/Project Development, QAbrams Research and Writer for Mediaite (and she admitted she doesn’t know what Farmville is… so embarrassing)
  • Cyndi Stivers, Managing Editor,

Question: How are you involved with using social media across your organization?

Jennifer (NYT): Twitter usage there started when one developer wanted NYT Twitter headlines on his phone. There’s a big team involved with a lot of different constituents across different departments.

Rachel (Abrams Research): I’ve learned a lot. There’s not much of a filter in what I post as my own brand in this space.  “It’s very much an authenticity thing… and being conscious of the user experience as well.” It was funny watching Huffington Post get fully on the Twitter bandwagon – at the Democratic National Convention, all I had time for was checking what was happening on Twitter. We’ve gotten to the point where we can use the word Twitter without flinching.

Cyndi: We have a really active community. We were on Facebook before it opened up. By summer of 2008 we were on Twitter – last year in January Twitter was 138 on the list of referring domains, and then by May it was number 7 (leveled off around number 5). We feel like a startup even at a huge company.

Question via Twitter: How is social media changing relationships people have with writes?

Rachel: You can update something very fast. Writers are called out publicly things.

Jennifer: It’s made a big impact in terms of crowdsourcing. Brian Stelter has been a real leader in the newsroom, showing colleagues how to use Twitter in a very effective way. In the newsroom, many journalists use Twitter. Beyond crowdsourcing and engaging with users, we found there’s tremendous benefit in using social media just to get into the real-time web. When Fort Hood broke, we put up a Twitter list, and on our Lede blog, we took content from the Twitter list and put it in a module. An important thing about journalists is trust – Ann Curry mentioned this at yesterday’s panel. In breaking news situations you need to provide real-time information but you have to verify it.

Question: What’s it like using social media in a crisis?

Jennifer: My first month I wanted to hide under my desk. I was learning in a very public way. Through colleagues and friends in the space I found these incredibly welcoming, helpful, kind people.  … Instead of imposing many rules we’ve encouraged people to get out there and experiment and innovation.

Question: If you’re hiring for a position called a Social Media Editor or Social Marketing Manager, is it more important that they have personal experience in social media or that they have an editorial/web/print background?

Rachel: I’d say it all together would be perfect. The most important thing is enthusiasm. Understanding the rules of sharing is important but common sense is key.

Question: How do you determine the line between editorial use and promotional use?

Rachel: If we’re going to survive as an industry we need to figure out new models. Old models aren’t working. There have to be creative solutions. With the McFlurry scene in 30 Rock, I don’t know if it was paid for [it wasn’t – and it directly led me to buy a couple McFlurries – Ed.], but I didn’t care.

Cyndi: Didn’t help that it was funny? It’s not traditional advertising by any stretch.

Question: As editors, are you just as happy to get people talking even if it’s negative?

Rachel: When Mediait launched there was some perceived backlash due to some misconception. That never came to anything and is not attached to the brand but it drove me bananas. You also have to be careful how you respond. Monitoring how your brand is being perceived is important.

Jennifer: People have been talking about New York Times content for a very long time – the dinner table, water cooler, the horse and buggy. We want to be wherever that conversation is taking place.

Audience question: How will NYT’s plan to charge for content effect things?

Jennifer: The metered model won’t be put in place for another year. In that time, we’ll make sure the user experience in terms of the payment process will be frictionless. A lot has to be worked out. For people coming to our site through Twitter or Facebook or a recommendation that will stay open. [So that means just find what’s posted on Twitter everyone, and you don’t have to pay! Yeah, let’s see how long that lasts… -Ed.]

Question: Is the social media editor role here to stay?

Cyndi: Everyone needs to have those skills. Curiosity’s a trait of our business. It’s just another element in the toolkit, and I think it’s not going away.

Rachel: I think both – you have to do everything, and you have to promote your own stuff, but it takes time. The bigger you get the more you need that person.

Jennifer: [I missed the first part of her response due to my exceptionally loud sneeze. – Ed.] We’re turning over the keys to our different desks and they’ve done a fabulous job with Twitter, modules, etc. That’s the real challenge of a Social Media Editor – to push it out through your organization.