Brent Boyer

Brent Boyer

Brent Boyer: Getting with the times

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Brent Boyer

Contact Editor Brent Boyer at 871-4221 or e-mail bboyer@SteamboatToday.com.

— For several years, I resisted the temptation. The urging of friends and colleagues couldn't sway me, nor could the hard reality that social networking via the Internet and mobile devices has become the communication method of choice for many Americans younger than 30.

Then, about a month ago, I wised up and did an about-face. I created a Facebook page. And then I signed up for Twitter. I might even create a profile on LinkedIn before the week is done.

Put simply, applications such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are communication and networking tools that quickly are replacing the handwritten letter and even e-mail. I won't debate whether that's a good or bad thing, but ignoring the exponential growth of these and other social networking applications would be a little like burying my head in the sand.

Newspapers must keep up with the times - and I'm aware of the irony a statement like that implies for an industry built on putting ink to paper and distributing yesterday's news today, in a hard-copy format. But I also think many newspapers are doing a good job of reinventing themselves, and indeed the industry. We're no longer defined by the print product we distribute each morning. Rather, we're defined by the reporters, photographers, videographers and designers who cover school board meetings, attend prep sporting events and disseminate that information to our readership via Web sites, mobile devices and hard copies of the morning paper.

These social networking tools, at their core, are simply providing additional avenues for the exchange of information. Logic would have it that the easier it is to exchange information, the more likely people will do so. The application for newspapers is relatively simple: use social networking tools to help us disseminate news and information in the manner our audience prefers.

That news and information is a product people will continue to consume, regardless of the existence of a printed newspaper. Teenagers who today have little interest in their hometown news will mature into adults with a desire to be connected and informed about the community in which they live. And they won't look for a corner newsstand to get that information.

Instead, they'll use their iPhones, BlackBerries, computers or whichever device is popular at the time. They'll be attracted to story links posted by their friends and family members on Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. In fact, they're already doing it, and people my age and older are struggling to keep up.

In an effort to stay with the curve, the Pilot & Today recently created a Facebook page that includes RSS feeds of our latest headlines and reader comments, as well as news videos. Readers also can sign up for a free Twitter account via the link at the top of our home page and "follow" Steamboatpilot. Doing so will give readers immediate access to all stories posted to Steamboatpilot.com. Breaking news alerts also will be sent via our Twitter account.

And finally, we created a story-sharing tool that can be found just below the headline of all of our stories on Steamboatpilot.com. The tool allows readers to post links to interesting or favorite stories on more than three dozen social networking sites and applications such as Digg, Google Bookmarks, Delicious and Reddit.

Never heard of 'em? Like me, maybe it's time for an about-face.

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