Thrice Hail! It Appears That Steve Martin Has Joined Twitter

Hey do you like Twitter, but only wish it were somehow funnier? Well good news! Banjo legend, and sometimes comedian Steve Martin has now joined Twitter! And guess what? He’s really funny. Perhaps 140 characters is the perfect solution to a Ramblin man. R-A-M-B-L-I-N. Apostrophe. (Approximately 45 Mediaite readers will understand the reference to his first comedy album, Let’s Get Small.) Examples of funny jokes below!

Note – I suppose it’s possible that this is the work of some impostor. But who cares?! The jokes are still funny!

Some examples of the debut tweets:

@SteveMartinToGo: My publicist is nervous about my becoming a Tweeter. He says celebrities tend to make such monumental gaffes. He’s such a typical Wop!

@SteveMartinToGo: I would like to apologize for my previous Tweet. What I meant to say was that my publicist’s a Sammy, which means he’s a Samoan.

@SteveMartinToGo: I would like to cancel my previous apology. What am I if not a man?
@SteveMartinToGo: I would like to reinstate my first apology. It has been explained to me that I might never work again. Clearly, I am not a man.

: I would like to cancel my previous negation of my first apology.

@SteveMartinToGo: I would like to apologize to the people of certain parts of Manhattan, Italyville, but not Texas.

: I would like to apologize to the people of glorious Italy where I sometimes like to vacation. I love-a your spicy meat-a bolls!

@SteveMartinToGo: I’m actually part Italian, so I can make those jokes!

@SteveMartinToGo: I apologize for lying about being part Italian. I’m really Samoan.

Follow Steve Martin on Twitter here.

The New Is a "Consumption Environment." Translation: Twitter Is a (Reluctant) Media Company.

Twitter’s new Web site has lots of cool features and gizmos. But they’re all supposed to do one thing in particular: They’re meant to encourage you to spend more time on, where the company can show you some ads.

The Twitter folks don’t exactly present it that way, of course. I talked to CEO Evan Williams and COO Dick Costolo earlier today, and they both repeated the mantra that the new Twitter is supposed to reflect the fact that Twitter is a “consumption environment,” where it’s just fine to read (or watch videos or look at pictures) instead of write.

In Williams’s words: “We’re trying to get people to understand that they don’t have to tweet if they want to get value out of Twitter.”

Which is another way of saying that Twitter is a media company: It gives you cool stuff to look at, you pay attention to what it shows you, and it rents out some of your attention to advertisers.

And that’s the real parallel with Facebook here. Not that both have inline video in the timeline or other design similarities, but that both companies started out trying to avoid the advertising business, and that both of them have ended up embracing them.

Nothing wrong with that, of course!

Speaking of which, how are Twitter’s new ad products coming along? Just great, says Costolo, who told me about engagement rates that pushed into the “double digits” for some of the company’s “Promoted Tweets” – and single digits for most of them. Which is way, way higher than traditional Web ads.

And Costolo says Twitter’s “Promoted Trends” product has been able to “boost the conversation” around given Twitter topics by as much as 600 percent.

The informal feedback I’ve heard is that advertisers are quite comfortable with Promoted Trends, since they function much like conventional display ads. But less so with the Promoted Tweets, which are sort of like Google’s AdWords but not really–unlike Google (GOOG), Twitter has very little idea of what’s on your mind.

But we’ll see: Costolo says Twitter will start pushing out the paid tweet ads more aggressively in the next few months.

Here’s a brief chat I had with Costolo before Twitter’s press event this afternoon, where we talk about the new site’s new features, the company’s ad plans and the inevitable “what will TweetDeck think of this” questions. Apologies once again for the horrendous video, but at least this time I have an excuse. I managed to lose my Flipcam en route to Twitter’s headquarters, so this one was shot with the BlackBerry Tour’s limited camera:

[ See post to watch video ]

Twitter Relaunches Web App

Twitter today announced a new version of at the company's first-ever major press conference at its San Francisco headquarters. The new app will embed media in the right pane through deals with 16 photo and video hosts including TwitPic, YouTube, Vimeo and Ustream.

Alcatel-Lucent NextGen Communications Spotlight — Learn More »

Social Media Helps Drive Traffic, Engagement at NewsHour

When the PBS NewsHour relaunched both on-air and
online in December, a new homepage was unveiled, a news blog was born and a new
correspondent joined the team. But another big change unfolded behind the
scenes as well: The addition of a social media desk assistant (myself) dedicated to
fostering an online community and better distributing PBS NewsHour content
digitally. In just a few months, the PBS NewsHour has pushed social media sites
into the top 10 referrers to our website, and they will eventually leave organic search results on Bing and Yahoo in the dust.

Beyond the numbers is a shift in newsroom attitudes toward social media. When I first arrived, Twitter was only tolerated as an online trend. It has since expanded into something that most of our on-air correspondents -- Gwen Ifill, Judy Woodruff, Margaret Warner, Hari Sreenivasan, David Chalian, among others -- and many behind-the-scenes staff use on a regular basis. They gather information, track breaking news, crowdsource questions and share details that couldn't quite make it into the broadcast's in-depth analysis of the day's happenings. 



Breaking News

By focusing on breaking news that suits our audience, we've covered subjects that have become a "Trending Topics" on Twitter several times. While the short-term value is a spike in traffic for our content on the subject, the longer-term value is exposure to new audiences. We retain on
average 150-200 new followers during each event (in addition to our usual addition of about 250 to 300 followers on weekdays). While the return on investment remains lower than that of Facebook, the exposure -- and the immediate clickthroughs -- do bring in new unique visitors. We are working to determine precisely how many visitors we are retaining.

Last week, another oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. Given that one of our major traffic drivers for the past four months has been BP's Horizon oil
, we immediately tweeted the news, credited to @AP. That tweet was retweeted at least 155 times over the course of the day, including more than 100 within the first hour. The followup article, which was posted within 45 minutes of the news and updated throughout the day, received 541 clickthroughs on its aggregate link and, per that site, was retweeted more than 100 times. It also generated at least 39 comments on Facebook. According to our Google Analytics, the page was viewed 1504 times with 233 referrals from Twitter compared to only seven hits from Google News. The
biggest referrer? Facebook, with 270 hits.

facebook_referrals_versus_yahoo!,_bing (2).png

Why it matters: In addition to exposure to new audiences, it gives us a demonstrable way of measuring the return on investment for our web content that, in turn can shape the way we structure our emerging, web-conscious newsroom, and the bridge between our traditional broadcast practices and the "early adopter" status online that some of our team members maintain. 

Features Designed for Social Media

By comparison, consider a piece that was designed for the web and meant to spread rapidly online. Our arts team, @NewsHourArtBeat, interviewed musician Andrew Bird, whose fan base is largely online-oriented. Bird himself retweeted the link, as did 97 other Twitter entities. The story (published Sept. 2) has seen more than 8,000 individual page views on an otherwise slow weekend
for web traffic. A throw from the broadcast on Monday night, plus a well-timed tweet during the show added another 55 clicks to the main link. 

Why it matters: We're pushing content before an audience that is aware of -- but not involved with -- our brand, while maintaining the editorial standards that have supported the show over the past 34 years. While web traffic is never the whole reason we do a
piece -- we've come to recognize that content needs an impetus to spread, and to matter to our viewers, new and old.

Social Media Use for Reporting

In addition to the shift toward pushing content into the social media space, we're also drawing on social media as a source by pulling content into our pieces and using Twitter especially to gain insight into events and places that we can't physically cover. As Sreenivasan has said, Twitter has become an "immersive sonar" of sorts, enabling us to monitor multiple sources and streams of information simultaneously.

While it is more work to verify sources, it's easier to see trends, directions and questions around a topic that readers and consumers are likely going to want answers to. This enables us to reach and expand our audience more effectively over the long-term. 


Across the newsroom, PBS NewsHour reporters and correspondents -- including Sreenivasan -- had Tweetdeck and HootSuite running in the background awaiting news of a verdict in the former Illinois governor's corruption trial.

As news broke of Blagojevich's conviction on one count, it was precariously near air time. Twitter beat out the AP for reporting facts from the scene, which we could then cross-check against primary sources. It also helped us uncover live-streams from Chicago media that the newsroom watched until our own broadcast went live.


As news of the Proposition 8 verdict broke in California, the newsroom turned to Twitter, sourcing a copy of the judge's verdict before the court's official document was posted on PACER. We supplied it to our on-air team before the broadcast, informing their discussion of the subject as much as possible, in addition to republishing it via DocumentCloud on our own website.

Engagement on Facebook

We've come to depend on -- and ask questions of -- our ever-faithful Facebook audience. When I started engaging the community on our page, we had about 5,000 fans and an RSS feed was used to add content to the page. Today, we have more than 15,000 fans and, according to Facebook's Insights toolset, we have in excess of 5,000 active users on the page every day, and an average of about 50 new "likes" per day.

According to those same statistics, about 13,000 of our fans were active on our page in the past month. On Sept. 3, for example, 15 minutes before our regular political analysts Mark Shields and David Brooks were due into the studio, I posted to our Facebook page a request for topics for the online-only segment they tape every week. Within 10 minutes, I had several substantive questions. The video of Brooks, Shields and Sreenivasan answering those questions (and two more from Twitter) was posted later that evening, and we have since thanked each of the contributors personally for sharing.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Now that social media has an established presence at the PBS NewsHour, we're examining how we can further embrace it both as a way to push our content -- via targeted advertising and search engine optimization, etc. -- and to pull people in by encouraging correspondents and staff members to use social media as a resource for stories, ideas and audience development.

So far, we've started to run Facebook advertising campaigns with incredibly small budgets ($10 to 15 per day) and very high returns (between .05-.078 percent conversion). Combined with a recent PBS
Facebook push, we've seen a jump from 14,900 fans (on a Friday) to 15,448 (on the following Wednesday). We spent, on average, $.63 per new fan. This represents a turning point. We will continue our organic efforts -- consistent posting, integrating other fan pages' into our content shares, targeted distribution, etc. -- in addition to our new paid endeavor.

Our ultimate goal is to maintain our incredibly high (87 percent) interaction rate as we grow our fan page to 30,000 fans and beyond. Ultimately, we expect Facebook's utility to keep up with market trends -- and rival the ROI of Google search in our quest for relevant, engaged users. 

Outside of the numbers that prove our success, our users' appreciation of our efforts has become something that we look for and appreciate as a team.

Our brand, one of the oldest and most respected in television, has morphed from a group that had an erratic and undefined presence on the Internet to one that has become a place to test new ideas and reach into new parts of the media space, in addition to being a hub of the traditional in-depth reporting and analysis.

What do you think of our efforts at NewsHour? How do you think they could be improved? Share your thoughts in the comments.

@KateGardiner (
is the PBS NewsHour's first-ever social media desk assistant and a
recent graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of
Journalism. She frequently consults on social media development for
media companies.

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