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The Limitations of #Journchat

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Back in November last year, #Journchat was launched by PR maven Sarah Evans

Its aim was simple – use Twitter to bring journalists, PR professionals and bloggers together on Twitter in a weekly chat format.

Since then, #Journchat has gone from strength to strength and brought in special guests from CNN as well as regularly topped the Twitter trends every Monday night.

Lately, however, it seems to have lost its way and some of its sparkle. That’s not to say that #Journchat doesn’t offer any value – it does, and an incredible amount at that. And it’s done a great job of bringing together industries that otherwise tend to just criticize each other.

But maybe #Journchat is a victim of its own success?

Too Much, Too Little?

The way that #Journchat works is simple, yet it can also be frustrating. Because it uses Twitter as the chat medium, each question and answer needs to be within the 140 character limit of Twitter.

This is good for keeping answers short and punchy, but it’s also frustrating when an answer needs so much more and you have to go to multiple messages. By the time a longer answer is out, often it’s the next question. So in that respect, Twitter as a format isn’t ideal.

Bigger Isn’t Always Better

#Journchat runs for three hours officially, every Monday night from 7.00pm until 10.00pm CST. The length normally means that around eight questions are asked, with about 20 minutes allocated to each topic. Then there’s a wrap up and pitch session to close the discussion. You can continue to discuss topics but it’s not part of the moderated session.

Is three hours too long, though? Are there too many topics being discussed that it’s easy to become lost?

Some people can be on Q6. while others can still be chatting about Q3. This then leads to potential confusion throughout the #Journchat stream as three or four topics are being discussed at once. Which can then lead to missed questions and answers.

Invisible People

One thing that #Journchat is immensely successful at is encouraging probing questions and discussions on topics that are often avoided.

The introduction of special guests has also helped get an insider look at larger corporations like CNN, with questions being asked about inner workings and how the various forms of media are co-existing.

Yet too often, important questions based on a previous answer are being missed. Guest speakers are (obviously) being inundated with questions that they may have already answered, therefore missing the really juicy ones that everyone wants to hear a view on. Which is a shame.

Where Next for #Journchat?

As I said at the beginning, I’m a huge fan of #Journchat and what Sarah Evans is both currently achieving, and also trying to achieve. I just think the current format is stifling and maybe taking away some of its sparkle.

Perhaps the very format that made it successful is now holding #Journchat back? 140 characters on Twitter is great for little info bursts but for an in-depth discussion panel it obviously has limitations.

How about swapping to something like the new WordPress template P2? It’s similar to the Twitter stream but with two key differences – no character limit and threaded replies. This makes it far more effective to keep up with conversations.

Additionally, how about changing the format a little? It’s great that so many people want to be involved in #Journchat but perhaps it’s time to scale it back?

Have a registration where 100 people across the three mediums – journalism, blogging and PR – are the “live chatters” each week, with questions being provided by everyone else. You keep mixing up the 100 people so everyone that registers is involved in the debate at some point, and there’s less on-screen confusion.

Or, go to UStream TV and have a live feed from there with special guest, and have a similar approach to the debate. Questions can be asked in the chat room and the most relevant or topical can be asked.

These are just some ideas. I’m sure there are countless others.

I love #Journchat. I love the reason for its inception and I support what Sarah’s trying to do 100%. I just feel there could be a more effective way of hosting it.

Then again, maybe it is perfectly fine as it is. After all, it’s been going strong for more than six months now, so that must say something.

How about you? Do you participate in #Journchat? What’s your take – is it good as is or does it need freshened up a little? I’d love to hear your suggestions.

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The Limitations of #Journchat
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