Everything you’ve been wondering about AP’s sponsored tweets: A Q&A with the people behind them

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Now that we’re more than halfway through the AP’s sponsored tweet experiment, most journalists and consumers seem to have settled into one of two camps: The AP is selling its soul and forsaking its audience, or the AP is doing what it must to survive.

To recap: During CES this week, the newswire’s main Twitter feed is sending out two sponsored tweets per day from Samsung, both of which direct to a website Samsung set up for CES.

News organizations have been posting sponsored tweets for years, but the AP’s entry into the trend has been under particular scrutiny, and reaction has been wildly mixed. Some consumers and journalists have been perturbed or disappointed, others understanding, and some are downright furious.

We caught up with AP managing editor Lou Ferrara, who oversees social media in the newsroom, and Eric Carvin, the AP’s social media editor, and asked about the backlash, how the tweets have affected the account, what the future holds and more. 

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The evolution of AP’s social media policy

A wise man once said the only constant is change. With its third social media policy change in less than a year, the Associated Press is putting that saying to the test.

Yesterday the AP revamped its social media policy.

Below is a redlined version we generated of the newest update compared with the previous January update (which is no longer online but was kindly provided to us by the AP). 

The main difference here is the opinion line that tries to make sure AP staffers show both sides of a topic: “Posts and tweets aimed at gathering opinions for a story must make clear that we are looking for voices on all sides of an issue.” Below is also the rules on how to retweet, which basically says that AP reporters should do their best to not show bias or blatant opinion when retweeting.

Above are the guidelines on exactly how to retweet: basically staffers can’t post personal opinions, or even imply them.

The below guidelines attempt to break down how to friend subordinates and how to live-tweet an event. Basically, it’s OK to be friends/followers with newsmakers as long as it’s necessary for reporting.

As far as publishing, the AP discourages breaking stories on Twitter and would rather reporters allow the org to break a story via the wire service. The AP considers pushing a story on social media as risky enough to lose an exclusive. Once the story has been pushed out via the wire, though, then the reporter can tweet about it.

The new rules eliminate a lot of guidelines on the back-and-forth between sources and reporters. The AP says it’s all for building social media ties with sources, but tells staffers to “make this kind of contact with figures on both sides of controversial issues.” In other words, give both sides equal weight. It also tells journos to “avoid interacting with newsmakers on their public pages — for instance, commenting on their posts.”

Will this be the last update for the AP? Doubtful. What’s next? Stay tuned.

AP (no affiliation with the news organization despite sharing initials)