INMA World Congress 2011 New York

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Even as participants at this year’s World Congress were debating the merits of social networks, INMA itself was experiencing a major boost in online influence through a professionally run editorial operation leveraging just such social media.

The technique is called “fusion journalism,” and at World Congress the blogging operation was spearheaded by Western iMedia, a multi-platform editorial startup operated out of Western Kentucky University.

Kerry Northrup, director of Western iMedia and leader of the team of nine multi-platform journalists who covered the event, says it’s a new vision of journalism, applied in a real-time situation.

He describes his team as “entrepreneurial journalists” who not only are re-invigorating traditional mainstream media, but also helping to shape what ultimately will become the new mainstream media. In this new model, Northrup said, it’s first about the story, and then about the medium – or rather, the media, plural.

“We integrate multiple formats and platforms to produce the most effective story, connected to the most significant audience,” he said. “We don’t just tell stories, though. We also produce the environments in which people engage those stories across multiple media and technologies.”

During the event, Northrup said, it was important never to lose sight of the main objective: “Our job is to inform. Our goal is journalism that gets noticed, because if it doesn’t, then what’s the point?”

INMA Executive Director/CEO Earl Wilkinson characterized the effort as an “echo chamber,” an idea that apparently resonated with the audience. Western iMedia’s editorial team produced 58 blog posts, 26 videos and 236 tweets during 78 hours of event coverage.

On-site participants and global followers amplified that with thousands of additional contributions and re-tweets using the promoted #inmawc hashtag. Some of those commenters were in turn connected to networks of sometimes more than 15,000 more followers, and often continuing beyond that for several levels.

The metrics were impressive. INMA’s Klout score – one of the leading metrics of digital impact – jumped 42%, and the organization’s measured reach increased nearly 20%. At one point during the event coverage, the interactive conversation through Twitter and Facebook engaged more than 100,000 people, according to data from TweetReach. That is more than 200 times the number actually sitting in the Sheraton conference hall at the time.

The World Congress coverage online got roughly double the number of eyeballs this year compared with the previous year, and triple the year before. Site traffic on the second day of the conference set a record and on the third day smashed that record by another 30 percent.

Western iMedia’s approach was to treat World Congress as one big story with many moving parts developing over several days, and also to encourage a strong level of involvement from the audience.

“We built the editorial plan around publishing a video-rich multi-blog,” Northrup said. “Each post was a piece of microjournalism capturing one aspect of the discussion, but combining into a comprehensive report, plus heavily engaging a local and worldwide audience in a running conversation through social media.”

Other aspects of Western iMedia’s coverage included:

  • Story Cards (see above) distributed to all participants that encapsulated the entire editorial program, from blog to Twitter hashtag to mobile QR code.
  • Basic training on social media for the portion of World Congress participants who were not already engaged online.
  • Providing an outline of a series of summary articles for INMA’s Ideas magazine, pulling content from the multi-blog and quotes from the Twitterstream.

Bob Ogle, online editor for INMA, said Western iMedia managed to take a fast-moving event and produce a cohesive record that will continue to resonate long after its conclusion.

“World Congress is difficult to cover because it takes place so quickly,” Ogle said. “Each presentation is rich with information that often isn’t easy to absorb, and as soon as one presentation ends, the next one usually begins immediately. There’s not a lot of time to catch your breath. So the challenge is to accurately reflect the key points of each presentation, engage the audience, and still keep pace with the event, and I think iMedia’s concept of ‘fusion journalism’ was the perfect solution for that challenge.”

For more information on the iMedia staff, visit

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