We’ve compiled your questions about Social News Desk from Slack and email with answers at Editorial Matters.
The Q&A will update periodically to capture further conversation, adjustments and new features as needed.
What’s in the feed? Can we add or subtract specific tags to change what posts via AutoPilot?
It’s possible to tweak the list of sections covered by AutoPilot. By default, AutoPilot will look for and post your stories after they publish to web from sections under news/local, sports, entertainment and lifestyles. State/regional, opinion and business are optional additions.
If you just have a one-time or occasional item to add, and don’t want the section included routinely, the Editor’s Pick flag should work as a trigger for those posts.
AutoPilot sticks to a schedule including both local and syndicated content. It posts something at regular intervals as long as there are items in the queue. That interval is 20 minutes by default, but can be set shorter at sites with a higher volume of posts.
You can inject posts into that scheduled stream by flag or manual post, and it will back out the schedule accordingly. Blox Notifier still handles Breaking-flagged news items and ignores any schedule on SND.
Does the feed include subsections? So news/local will also include news/local/crime-and-courts?
Yes. Sections under the main sections will be included.
What type of assets are pulled into AutoPilot?
Articles and collections. We may expand the number of asset types based on editor feedback.
What is the purpose of Editors Pick?
Sites may use Editor's Pick flags to add items to AutoPilot without having to log into SND and manually create a post.
[Editor’s Pick is being phased out as the “news to use” flag on websites as the new website design eliminates this block.]
However, flagging an item Editor's Pick is just a shortcut. It isn't a way to schedule for specific times or dates in the future. That must be done inside of SND using your login.
We write quite a few briefs that don’t really warrant a social push (often they’re just 3 inches). Is there a way we can keep those from clogging up our feed?
Excluding routinely by section tag works best. So if all items share a tag, it’s easy to filter.
If that can’t be done, a keyword could be used to exclude on spot basis. This keyword would have to be added by an editor. If an issue arises, please contact us about your specific situation.
AutoPilot is named that way because it’s not meant to be manually managed, so deleting a post on a spot basis frankly will be difficult, short of going directly to the FB or Twitter pages to knock it out.
But we can refine these rules at any time to account for a category of stories we didn’t think to filter in the first place.
What happens when we post more than one story at the same time?
As a general practice, we discourage sites from posting multiple items at the exact same time, especially at midnight. If you must post items at the same time, they all will queue --but they will not all post to social channels at their publish time.
AutoPilot spaces them out at 20-minute intervals by default. This frequency cap is meant to prevent posts or sites from getting downgraded by FB or Twitter for blasting out too many posts in too short a period.
Any item flagged Breaking still will post immediately through Blox Notifier, ignoring the SND scheduling feature entirely.
Can we schedule future posts in AutoPilot?
Stories queue according to their timestamps. So if an item is scheduled in TCMS/Blox to post in the future or on a weekend, it will schedule accordingly in AutoPilot, no further action needed.
If you add a new local story for the current time using Editor’s Pick or by manual post, it should push previously scheduled posts out to a later posting time.
But if you want to set a specific future posting time for an item, it is possible to do so manually with a custom post that ignores the actual start time of the item. Again, Social News Desk automatically then adjusts other post times so that multiple posts don’t clump together.
How can we see what’s in the feed?
Social News Desk doesn’t show a comprehensive list of upcoming posts at each site, but as a general reference, you can refer to the feed URL sent with your kickoff note. What’s in the feed should mirror what’s upcoming in the queue or already posted.
Again, items generally don’t post to social media at the same time as they’re published to the site. The queue fires out a social post about every 20 minutes as long as it sees items to send. That interval can be set shorter at sites with a higher volume of posts.
If SND appears to miss a post entirely, it’s possible the queue is overfilling. This possibility is top of mind as a post-launch issue, and we would first address by shortening the interval for high-volume sites.
Does a local feed take precedence over the national feed from SND? So if a SND story is slated to go out at 6:20 p.m. and there is a local story for the same time, does only the local story post?
Both stories will go out, according to their timestamps. AutoPilot watches sections and flags, not the origin points of the content. While it ignores the broader national feed from Lee Digital Content Center, it is watching for the 8-14 items a day flagged as Spotlight.
Again, the queue fires out a social post about every 20 minutes as long as it sees items to send. This frequency cap is meant to prevent posts or sites from getting downgraded by FB or Twitter for blasting out too many posts in too short a period. That interval can be set shorter at sites with a higher volume of posts.
But if you add a new local story for the current time using Editor’s Pick or by manual post, it should push previously scheduled posts out to a later posting time. Finally, any item flagged Breaking will still post immediately through Blox Notifier, ignoring the SND scheduling feature entirely.
What happens if an evergreen asset is reposted with a current time? Will that go out on AutoPilot?
It will, the first time. But AutoPilot builds in failsafes to prevent it from sending the same item repeatedly by accident. As a side effect, this also prevents intentional resends via AutoPilot.
However, you can use the dashboard to schedule custom posts for anytime, and promote evergreens as often as you want. Read on for more on the tools.
USING SOCIAL NEWS DESK [Login required]
Can we repeat-post some items based on value and also as part of our weekend plan?
Yes! After you get dashboard access, you can repost any story anytime with custom headline and description – a great idea to improve on an initial post or revive something with a long life.
Resharing content, whether it’s a day old story that could use another boost, or an evergreen project with a month-old timestamp, will get more social media referral, the primary goal for this tool.
Sometimes we want to promote an item at a different time than it originally posted – for example, a big package posted for the morning website peak that casual social readers might have more time to read in the evening. How do we change the queue to do this?
Our advice would be, let the item post via AutoPilot but also do the additional “optimizing” post with a handcrafted item scheduled for a different time. Especially now with better analytics to spot high-potential items, the one-two approach may yield even better results.
We want to keep an item updated and in front of people, but not as Breaking. Will removing the flag this trigger a separate post in SND?
It can, but only if the flag is removed within two hours of posting time, or the post time is updated at the same time as the flag is removed. For some, this may be a desirable way to refresh the item in social media. Others who don’t want to do a second post will want to remove the flag and not update the timestamp until at least two hours have passed.
So does this mean any timestamp update will trigger another social post?
Thankfully no. An item moved back into the two-hour window will not trigger a second post from SND AutoPilot because it remembers the unique asset ID on the item and recognize it as previously posted.
If someone wants to intentionally send an item twice or more, those posts still can be triggered from the dashboard.
Why does Notifier handle Breaking posts to social, but Alerts go to the AutoPilot queue?
We switched Alert-flagged social posts to Social News Desk as we can see many sites using Alert in combination with other flags. This flagging practice makes sense, but significantly increases the chances of duplication between the two services. So only Breaking will go from Notifier to all points.
Alert-flagged items still fire immediate emails and push alerts from Notifier, but corresponding social posts will queue at SND. Anything that needs to get out everywhere all at once probably qualifies as a Breaking flag item.
Why would we use Editor’s Pick instead of manual posting right in Social News Desk’s dashboard?
Using the Editor’s Pick flag to add posts is just a shortcut to posting a routine item that won’t otherwise get into the AutoPilot queue and won’t need any special treatment. It also signals this story was selected as important or worth highlighting, as it can be seen in on website articles (though not on social media posts).
The News to Use block currently controlled by Editor’s Pick will disappear in the new site designs rolling out this quarter, so we're a little ahead of that by re-appropriating the flag. We can disable the block if this create issues for you.
We don’t like the descriptions that appear with AutoPilot postings. How do we control those?
This issue is best addressed upstream in TCMS. Reporters and/or editors can control/craft descriptions from TCMS. This same issue crops up everywhere the description info shows up online – social, email, feeds, etc. We understand it’s not easy to get compliance from everyone, but crafting good descriptions carries benefits everywhere our stuff appears.
We don’t like the images that are posting to social – sometimes they crop awkwardly. What can we do?
This issue also can be addressed upstream in TCMS with a custom crop of the preview image.
Especially if the image is a portrait or vertical image – or sometimes even square -- it will show the middle of the image, cutting off the top and bottom of the image.
For all platforms, a preview looks best with at something close to a 16:9 aspect ratio.
Stay tuned for more updates, which will be noted as they occur in Slack and periodic email roundups.