BBC News appoints a Twitter newbie as Social Media Editor

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alexgubbay[UK] Yep. You read that right. News has broken that the BBC News’ newly appointed Social Media Editor hasn’t signed up to Twitter prior to today. In other words, he’s a newbie. As a result, let’s just say that there’s a bit of a Twitter storm brewing.

Alex Gubbay will start his new role as BBC News’ first Social Media Editor in January and will be charged with the editorial development of “user-generated content and social media initiatives across the BBC newsroom”, reports Brand Republic. To his credit, he’s currently Interactive News Editor for BBC Sport, and so, presumably, isn’t new to the social media scene as a whole, but being a late comer to Twitter doesn’t look too smart.

He’s also clearly failed at his job. Writing in May 2006 on his role as an interactive editor at BBC Sport he said:

“my role is also partly about looking longer-term and adapting our approach over time to new technology and the digital age right across all our coverage.”

So basically, although he was supposed to be looking out for trends like Twitter, he completely missed its launch until about two and a half years later when, coincidentally, he becomes head of social media and realises he doesn’t have one of the key components of the job: a twitter account.

This move also, inevitably, invites accusations of the BBC being an inward looking organisation that promotes talent within.

While it’s possible that Gubbay joined Twitter previously under a different user name, it doesn’t look like it (see Tweet below). Either way, he can now be found on Twitter (@AlexGubbay) so why not say hello.

bbc

  • Pete

    Give a shit?

    Maybe he’s just not as sad as the rest of the tech population who seem on the whole to be a bunch of twittering bellends.

    • Steve O'Hear

      Err, using and, more importantly, understanding Twitter would be part of his job? Btw, you can follow me @sohear ;-)

      • http://unistartups.slinkset.com/ Isaac Lewis

        Exactly, it he doesn’t sound like someone who understands social media. I’m guessing the BBC just thought they would sound relevant and forward-looking by appointing someone to fill this role, but they don’t actually care about what they do.

      • http://incuranse.net

        tvitter is the best media service

  • http://www.callumsaunders.co.uk Callum

    It actually shocks me that a Social Media Editor for an organisation as prestigious (depending on opinion) as the BBC has NO prior knowledge of Twitter – undoubtedly THE most revolutionary thing in SM of 2009!

  • http://www.socialmediamashup.co.uk Rob Murray

    Pete – this is a tech news site you’re reading. Bellend.

    Any job description i’ve ever seen for a social media job has detailed experience of ALL social media channels as a requirement so i’m not sure how they can offered such a prestigious job to a newbie on Twitter.

    That said, you can’t discount someone just because they haven’t had a chance to use Twitter. We forget that it’s still not had widespread adoption. I’m sure he has a wealth of skills to bring to the position from his interactive job.

    good luck Alex

    • Pete

      Yeah – a tech news site, not a Twitter fan boy site.

      I work in social media and I don’t use Twitter, man, looks like I better go and hand in my resignation now as I obviously can not begin to comprehend online social interaction without an active Twitter account.

      Jesus.

      • http://www.socialmediamashup.co.uk Rob Murray

        you work in social media and don’t use Twitter… thats like being a mechanic that doesn’t use spanners.

      • Pete

        Or maybe I like to actually work instead of spouting egotistical, meaningless bollocks all day?

  • http://monzadigital.com Tom

    There are a lot of assumptions going on here. Social media doesn’t equal Twitter alone and we have no idea of his prior experience across any social media.

    People are quick to critisize the BBC on tech issues, but we’ve very little to go on in this instance. I say we wait for some facts.

  • http://uk.techcrunch.com Mike Butcher

    What a joke of an appointment. Still. He’s come out with a bang huh.

  • Matt

    What Pete said.

    Twitter IS NOT a prerequisite for being involved in social media. I bet some of us can even remember being involved with social media before it was popular.
    Give me a messageboard thread anyday, at least it’s a dialogue..

  • http://www.almostwitty.com almost witty

    I wasn’t aware that working in social media required us all to maintain active profiles on all social networking sites. Bebo is a very popular site, but how many of us have active Bebo profiles?

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  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/news Alex Gubbay

    Hi Steve et al,

    Cheers for the write-up and giving me some attention today. :-)

    Twitter clearly is going to be a key aspect to what I do, or more to the point what BBC News does on, and with social media.

    But as others have said here, it’s far from the only aspect to my wider brief in this new role. Lots of other sites to think about, as well as BBC output itself – on the web, TV, mobile and elsewhere – and internal developments.

    Plenty to get to grips with then once I get started in January.

    In the meantime thoughts, definitely keen to hear your thoughts about where and how we can improve. Hopefully in time I can make a bit of a difference to what we do and how we do it…

    Alex

    • Steve O'Hear

      Thanks for stopping by Alex and you’re very welcome for the attention :-)

      And I totally get that Twitter doesn’t equal social media alone – all the best with your new role.

    • http://ariherzog.com Ari Herzog

      Hi Alex, thanks for chiming in so maybe you’ll allow me to rant for a moment.

      I respect your lack of knowing different social media tools, and like another commenter mentioned above, everyone doesn’t know about Bebo so Twitter ought to perhaps be seen in the same light.

      But… Bebo and Twitter have different audiences, purposes, and goals.

      When you consider news breaks on Twitter before any other social media channel — and long before the “mainstream” media such as BBC itself — I think it is very curious that the BBC hired someone who was not up to speed on the various technologies.

      This is not against you, Alex, but the BBC.

      I live in the United States and am self-employed as an online media strategist. I’d enjoy chatting with you if you like. You can tweet me @ariherzog, else find me elsewhere online under the same name.

      • Rob

        Ari,
        it seems rather insulting to Mr Gubbay that you assume he has a “lack of knowing different social media tools” and is “not up to speed on the various technologies”. Just because he didn’t have a Twitter account doesn’t mean he didn’t know about Twitter or use it.
        Perhaps he just decided he didn’t want to foist his own personal opinions and the tedious minutiae of his daily life onto the world until he had something to offer?

      • Alex Gubbay

        Hi Ari (and thanks Rob!),

        Rant duly allowed, but I would argue that my track record editing the BBC Sport website, where we have been constantly thinking at how best to use and integrate social media into what we do, demonstrates I do have relevant knowledge and experience.

        That’s not to say I or we know it all, far from it in fact. But if nothing else, hopefully shows that I am at least familiar with the various technologies and how we might work more with them, with Twitter very much a crucial network and platform.

        Happy to chat more, especially once I get started in the New Year.

        Cheers

      • http://ariherzog.com Ari Herzog

        “Rant duly allowed, but I would argue that my track record editing the BBC Sport website, where we have been constantly thinking at how best to use and integrate social media into what we do, demonstrates I do have relevant knowledge and experience.”

        Website editing is hardly relative to social media managing. That’s like saying you can drive the Indianapolis 500 because you know how to change a tire.

      • Rob

        Ari, you do realise he means editing in the sense of “editorial”, not editing in the sense of opening up Notepad and fiddling with some HTML?

      • http://ariherzog.com Ari Herzog

        Yes, Rob, I understand what editorial direction involves. But not knowing if he’s a micro- or macro- manager, the key is managing a publication is not comparable to managing how the publication could use social media.

        Again, I admire his passion and I don’t doubt his expertise; but Peter Edwards commented after you and I mentioned above, understanding Twitter is far different from understanding Bebo or Facebook. Especially when his peers are already there.

        Call me a skeptic.

      • Rob

        Well, you sounded distinctly like you were expressing unfounded doubts about his expertise to me.

        “managing a publication is not comparable to managing how the publication could use social media”

        It’s an awful lot more comparable than is merely being a user of that social media.

        To use your analogy, if you’re an Indianapolis 500 driver, it doesn’t qualify you to run the team.

    • dasein

      Agree, Alex.

      Twitter is not the centre of the universe, of social activity for most people, or of digital potentials, contrary to the obsession that some writers with TechCrunch seem to have.

      In my humble opinion, Twitter for the most part generates excessive noise and static, and the day I shut down my Twitter account is the day priorities returned to reality.

      Twitter is good for some things, but it is not an essential tool for navigating the digital world, personally or professionally.

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  • Peter Edwards

    Twitter is a crucial component of News Online.
    Its primary role is in breaking news. Consider how Michael Jackson’s death was reported there first. However, it is also as part of a move towards collaborative news. Recall the Iranian 2009 presidential election and the many Iranian people who read and contributed to BBC Persian News via Twitter and YouTube when their government blocked website access. The US government begged Twitter not to risk doing any software updates in case it brought the site down, in a sure sign that Twitter had come of age.
    This has implications for the future of journalism. There are ongoing debates on paid versus “free” news and expert versus amateur reportage and opinion that are shaking up the profession of journalism.
    For example see this anlysis of Rupert Murdoch’s attack on Google and the BBC: http://blogs.zdnet.com/Foremski/?p=946
    Although the use of Twitter may or may not be a big deal, understanding and making use of it organisationally is one. The Guardian has not been slow off the blocks and in fact @guardiantech now has 1.4 million followers on Twitter. I would say the BBC is playing catch-up and that is why the experience of the appointee matters.

    • dasein

      Most of the “citizen journalism” coming from Twitter is error-filled rubbish, or the viral spreading of rumour, or just plain conjecture.

      Give me a professionally written dispatch, vetted by experienced editors, any day, even if I have to wait a bit longer to get the news.

    • dasein

      Actually, I’d say that Alex Gubbay was smart not to dive into Twitter. The notion of “citizen journalism” via Twitter is uninformed nonsense, given that Twitter is consistently the source of unfounded rumours and misinformation during most news events. Moreover, it generates so much noise and diversion that I’d be worried Alex would not be doing his job if he spent time on Twitter.

      Twitter will not be around in three years. Hybrids of it may survive, but it remains a cultural novelty. Maybe anyone older than 25 will remember the online novelties that appeared with breathless fanfare and then evaporated a few years later.

      • http://ariherzog.com Ari Herzog

        While not an “online novelty,” I am old enough to remember the commercial launch of microwave ovens and the time a salesman knocked on our door to sell me and my family on the idea of buying a microwave.

        Those are still around — and being innovated for more sales.

        You can knock Twitter all you want, but as an online media tool for content creation and distribution, it’s more vogue than Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and YouTube, to name the bigger tools of its ilk. I have no doubt we’ll be on the bandwagon of something else in three years, but news creation is in the present, not the future, so why look ahead?

        I have no problem with people not using Twitter. But I have a big question — which goes to the heart of BBC as an organization — when http://twitter.com/bbc has not sent one tweet in light of http://twitter.com/cnn, http://twitter.com/nytimes, http://twitter.com/latimes, etc.

        This is not about the new social media manager for the BBC. I’m sure he’ll do great. But he has a tough mountain to climb.

      • Rob

        Um, that’s because the BBC isn’t exclusively a news organisation, unlike the other organisations you mention. It wouldn’t be editorially inappropriate to put news on there, instead I imagine they’re just keeping hold of the general BBC name to prevent it being hijacked.

        Nearest would be http://twitter.com/bbcnews which more interestingly is a collaboration with the online developer community via backstage.bbc.co.uk

        For an example of where he BBC is using Twitter in a more appropriate editorial context perhaps have a look at this:
        http://twitter.com/the_4th_floor

  • rockyc

    Not sure how fair it is to bash BBC for “hiring from within” – they might otherwise have been pummeled for hiring someone who did not know Twitter OR the BBC, but hopefully they have assigned someone who is up to the task.

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  • http://mutimba.posterous.com Mutimba Mazwi

    I think the debate should be about whether Twitter forms an important part of the social media community

    The answer is yes. Twitter, despite many models emerging along the same lines, will remain trendy for many more years to come.

  • SteveK

    Am I missing the point here, are people judging this guys ability to do the job based solely on whether or not he had a twitter account?
    OR, do people have access to the job specification and his CV?

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