Is #Journchat Losing Its Fizz?

Just Full Of IdeasBack 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.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Cayusa

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  1. says

    Hi Danny,

    That’s some really interesting food for thought there. I’m new to #Journchat & the love it. But I def. can see where you are coming from on things getting confusing and streaming into each other.

    That happened a lot last night. I started #Journchat at 8 p.m. ET and so I was seeing the Q’s as they were coming from @PRSarahEvans but I was held up in great (mostly) discussions on previous Qs. In that sense what you are saying make a lot of sense.

    I’m not quite sure how I feel about the 100 registered per week — though I see where you are going with that, #Journchat might really loose a good population of its audience because so many people will be “waiting” their turn.

    The new WordPress template looks interesting, I don’t know too much about it though. But I would be willing to try something new.

    Thanks for sharing,


    • says

      I know what you mean about the restricted user list, Sasha, and I see where it could cause problems.

      Maybe this is where the idea from David Spinks would be useful – have different “themed” #Journchat rooms and allow multiple conversations to take place that way?

      The P2 WordPress template is definitely a great solution, though maybe it’s not perfect for the #Journchat format. Certainly something like it may be worthwhile considering.

      I guess the main draw is to avoid the current confusion and multiple convos that are hard to keep up with, even for “#Journchat veterans”. :)

  2. says

    Danny, I found this post really interesting. I think you are just pointing out something that is natural in a social network.

    Last summer, a bunch of us on Plurk used it as a medium for what we called “Plurkshops” ( They ran for a few months…once a week, different topics, different moderators. They were fun, we looked forward to them and then they started to die off. Partly because people weren’t migrating to Plurk (which meant some of us were migrating back to Twitter) and I think partly because the novelty had worn off (but maybe that’s just my personal opinion).

    Social networks are fluid things…and when something novel becomes the norm, it can get boring. Not saying that of #Journchat, but just from my experience in the past 5 years.

    I started #pr20chat last week…and to be honest, if it dies a natural death (even in 2-3 weeks) that’s just fine because it’s reality.

    • says

      I think it’s a valid point, Beth, although not one that’s just related to SocNets.

      A marriage or relationship gets stale if you don’t keep things fresh; restaurants that stick to the same menu all the time can become humdrum; same sequels from video game developers year in, year out can lead to customers going elsewhere.

      I think with #journchat it’s more just a format thing as opposed to the actual idea. Sarah’s obviously trying to freshen things up with guests and guest moderators – perhaps it’s just time to expand the format and make it less confusing (which Twitter, to be fair, doesn’t help with).

      I agree that SocNets are fluid, but they can also offer a sense of stability as well – it’s just finding that happy medium.

  3. says

    Great read Danny! Love how this is a positive and constructive criticism on how to improve upon something so important. Totally agree that a registration, live stream/chat using another platform other than twitter may be something to consider moving forward. This would allow more control over the conversation, greater engagement in increasing the # of characters you can communicate with and most importantly, avoid the distractions that are counterproductive and counterintuitive to the success of the dialogue – i.e.: obnoxious hashtag crashers/spammers and those who continue to use vulgar and attacking language/tone during the chat. In spite of the few “bad apples” I look forward to the next chat and will always support ways to enhance the experience.



    • says

      Hi Nichele,

      I guess that’s the problem with open networks – you always get the party crashers jumping in with nothing to say except “WaReZ RuLeZ” 😉

      I personally would love to see live streaming video editions of #Journchat – I think that could really take it to another level. Of course, making it all work from a tech angle is another matter…

      Looking forward to seeing where it goes next.

  4. says

    Hi Danny. Thanks for your honest and insightful post. I must tell you that I’ve been looking for new ways to host the chat. You are not the only one feeling this way. #journchat has grown so big so fast, that something else is needed to keep up the momentum. It is because of people like you that we are able to keep evolving and keep questioning. Thanks again for posting!

    • says

      Hey there Sarah,

      Thanks for joining the conversation (nothing surprising there, though!).

      Glad to see that you recognized it’s not a negative post against #Journchat – more a “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” kind of thought stream.

      Really curious to see the future plans of #Journchat, and what other ideas might be suggested in the comments.

      Cheers! :)

  5. says

    I was right Danny, everything you said pretty much echos my opinions exactly. Personally, I’ve lost a lot of interest in #journchat lately. I think that when it started, its broad target audience was alright. Now I think that as you said, it would be a lot better to divide into journalists, PR, Social media divisions…or possible separate the chat into your so you’d have #journchat #1, #2 etc… Something definitely needs to be done about the amount of participants. It’s way too hard to follow/participate.

    I appreciate what Sarah is doing with the guests but it really isn’t interesting to me. I like being the one to answer the questions and to hear everyone else’s answers. When the focus is on one person, I feel like you can accomplish the same thing with a regular 1-on-1 interview, or a format like the one @jaybaer has been using with the twitter 20.

    There are a number of ways that #journchat could be improved and you pretty much nailed them…to me the biggest issue is the overcrowding. Either split it up, or find a platform that can efficiently accommodate such a large audience.

    @Beth I don’t think Journchat has gotten boring as it still brings in such a large amount of users…just needs some remodeling formatwise.


    • says

      Interesting ideas about the separation into #Journchat levels. Thing is, would it beneficial to separate the mediums (as in journos, bloggers and PR)? Isn’t that one of the key benefits of #Journchat at the minute, that it brings these “sworn enemies” together?

      Or do you mean keep the three mediums but have one topic per #Journchat room?

      Either way, think that could be a pretty cool way to expand the format.

      And that’s a good point you make about the guests – perhaps it would be better to offer an interview as a complementary part of #Journchat overall?

      Cheers as always, Dave, your views are always appreciated. :)

    • says

      David & Danny,

      I really like this discussion and I think it’s one that needed to happen.

      Personally, my biggest problems with #journchat are keeping up with the conversation and trying to find questions and Tweets relevant to my own interests.

      Therefore, I agree with you, Dave, that perhaps breaking up into separate subjects may be a good solution. I don’t think you should be dividing people necessarily (ie. by career), but perhaps having a different subject focus on a weekly basis would be a way to create the most meaningful conversations. That way, if I see on Friday that this week’s journchat will be focusing on PR/journalist relations, I know to plan to participate on Monday.

      Thanks again for your post, Danny.

      Tom O’Keefe

  6. says

    Danny – I haven’t taken part in #journchat nearly as often as you, or some of the other folks commenting here have, but what I have noticed is that it is turning into one gigantic echo chamber. Sure, new people are getting engaged in Twitter all the time, which would seem to make the case for some repetition. However, I’ve noticed lately that the same people are actively participating in the conversation, which leads to stagnant ideas, and more importantly stagnant communities.

    Perhaps the solution is to do more weekly guests?

    • says

      Possibly. Although, as David mentions above, sometimes that can lead to stilted and one-directional conversation?

      Maybe where it could go is to have 2 guests on from opposing viewpoints and lead the debates/discussions that way? Which is where something like UStream TV would be perfect – almost like a political debate.

      Instead of politicians, though, you have journos and bloggers up against PR types, with a dedicated topic per week up for discussion.

  7. Jon Ratliff says

    Great post Danny. I’m really new to #journchat and have only participated the past two weeks. Last week, I was really engaged, partly because the questions involved topics I had an interest in. I tuned in an hour late last night and looked forward to hearing from Richard Laermer. I kind of hung back and didn’t participate, though, because it at times had a nasty tone and the joint was lousy with spammers.

    I think ways to make it more focused would be very helpful because it does have that runaway train aspect to it. I would be fine with registering and knowing that I would be a participating in an upcoming #journchat but could view other chats (we’d still be allowed to view, right?)

    I also want to say that it’s fantastic that many of the people involved in #journchat care enough about it to keep thinking of ways to make it better. Although I’m a newbie, I’d hate to see it go away.

    • says

      Hi Jon,

      That was something I noticed last night (and a few other times), that there is a less professional tone creeping in from certain parties, sadly.

      You would definitely be able to watch and participate in any chats – the “registered 100″ would just be to keep the numbers manageable and therefore make following the chat more easily.

  8. says

    #Journchat is a hashtag–and a just-now hashtag search reveals people are still using it, with a small percentage reserved for this blog post.

    Which begs the question: Why must #Journchat be once a week?

    Hashtags live forever. What if, instead of a Twitter thing, it lived elsewhere. It needn’t be constrained to three hours of typing. How about Facebook interactivity with a profile named Journ Chat? Or a BlogTalkRadio show where Sarah interviews someone for 30 minutes, and then there are 30 minutes of Q&A chatroom-style chatting; and then a new guest is brought on, etc.

    I realize the thing was born on Twitter–but like Beth indicates, things die. So, kill it from Twitter and move it somewhere else. Or, keep it on Twitter but let the hashtag decide where the chat goes.

  9. says

    Hi Danny,
    Interesting point you make. I too am a huge advocate for #journchat, I think it’s amazing. As a senior about to graduate in August, I have learned a lot.

    In the past few weeks, as the format has changed where the questions are sent to a guest participant, I feel like I’m participating less. I feel like I don’t have a lot to offer to the conversation.

    I enjoy #journchat immensely, and I love sitting back and watching it happen. But the whole reason I got interested in journchat was that it was a venue where I could have awesome conversations with PR pros/journos that are further along in their career than I am. Now I feel like if I ask questions of these people that I’m off-topic.

    Still love #journchat, just not totally crazy about the format.

    • says

      Hi Sydney,

      I think that’s a feeling that many people are having – the interaction. There are a bunch of mini-conversations happening along with the main one, which can mean that you feel disconnected as you try and find the one(s) you should be following.

      Perhaps this is where multi-rooms would come into play, as it would allow participants to choose the conversation that really suits them, and stick to one topic as well.

  10. says

    Greetings Danny,

    The problem seems to be the conversation has out grown the medium.

    I follow #journchat regularily, but not being a PR-person, I’m there to learn, not contribute. Twitter just doesn’t scale in this circumstance. You sometimes have to listen to a hundred voices to hear and pick out one message.

    Maybe the tool is the problem. Has anyone thought of setting up a room on FriendFeed?



    • says

      Friendfeed could be an option, although it would mean everyone setting up a Friendfeed account (though, of course, I suspect most #Journchat participants have one anyway).

      If there was an open source platform where you just choose a username without need for registration, I think that could be a workable alternative.

  11. says

    Good post! I think that any chat group loses its appeal after a while unless it attracts new members. In addition, the PR/journo ratio isn’t even, so PR folks are talking to each other, mostly.

    Perhaps we should examine the questions a bit, as well. Much of the time is spent talking about how we justify Twitter to our clients. Maybe we should talk in more depth about new technologies we are using, innovative tactics/tactics that are no longer viable, measurement, etc.

    I do like the Twitter format, though. It’s fast moving, and people can’t really hog the floor. Don’t like the massive retweets —can we eliminate all of those retweets to keep the conversations moving?

    • says

      That’s a valid point, Toni – there definitely seems to be more PR people on #Journchat than anyone else. Is this because less journalists are using Twitter (and social media in general) compared to PR people? Possibly.

      I agree the topics could be wider spread – maybe an idea would be to choose questions a few days in advance and have a TwitPoll to choose the best?

  12. says

    Great food for thought, Danny. It can get chaotic, but that’s some of the charm. Major kudos to Sarah for keeping it going. Whatever format it ends up taking, I’m planning to listen in.

  13. Susan Ditz says

    First: big applause to Sarah for starting this valuable conversation. And thanks to you for a really thoughtful post.
    I agree it has become difficult to keep up with #journchat questions and answers. While I always learn something, I’m getting frustrated with the process. Much of what is being discussed needs more long form to be meaningful. Some great responses yesterday. Also some seriously obnoxious crashers.
    I like Ari’s ideas “Facebook interactivity with a profile named Journ Chat? Or a BlogTalkRadio show where Sarah interviews someone for 30 minutes, and then there are 30 minutes of Q&A chatroom-style chatting” or UStream TV or whatever everyone feels is the most effective platform.
    Would love to see more journos in the mix too. Maybe a different format would be more appealing.

  14. says

    You guys are giving awesome feedback. The initial idea for #journchat was born out of a need expressed by many in multiple industries. I’m definitely “hearing” the masses again and recognize that it’s time for a change. That change may take a little time, but I’m on it!

  15. says

    Interesting thoughts Mr. Brown. I check in to #journchat quite often, although not being a journalist or PR guy I don’t have a lot to contribute. I just hang around because cool people are there!

    I would agree that it is too big and too long – nearly impossible to keep up with what is going on with so many people answering different questions. Splitting into separate disciplines would certainly reduce the congestion, but would obviously remove some of the interchange between the different groups. Moving to a different format would also not reduce the number of people wanting to contribute at the same time.

    Maybe the solution is to do what Ari suggests – take the #journchat brand and have events in other media as well as Twitter. This would allow other ideas to be explored and would probably reduce the load on the Twitter mother-chat if some contributors preferred other media.

    But all in all, being too successful is a problem a lot would like to have to contend with :-)

  16. says

    I may be in the minority here, but I love the platform & chaos. I “favorite” tweets to come back to, review the #journchat hash-tag, etc. I also use TweetChat & periodically check my TweetDeck to see @replies and follow-up that way.

    The fear I have with all these ideas (they are great, don’t think I am putting them down) is that if we go to a more controlled environment, it will lose a lot of the value. I don’t think the impact will be there if we limit participation. We all have meetings weekly where we sit and have a formatted discussion (ask a question, one person answers, then others give their input) and quite frankly, those are often boring. The beauty of the current format is exactly what people don’t like – they allow you to form side conversations.

    Having a 2-3 @replies conversation with someone and having others add their 2-cents is the beauty of such format. Do we really want this to turn into a lecture or having someone stand and give a presentation? Or do we want to keep it a flowing conversation with professionals from various industries/backgrounds?

    • says

      We definitely want to keep it flowing, Kasey, I don’t think anyone is “against” that. It just feels that it’s possibly become so big that it has outgrown TweetChat (Tweetgrid is a great alternative) and is hard to keep up with for a lot of people.

      I agree that chaos can be good, but perhaps controlled chaos without being restricted would offer a more interactive experience for more people?

  17. Benjamin Barnett says

    It appears that #journchat needs to migrate to a more robust platform if it is to grow with it’s user base. This is only true if that is what the goal is though. Otherwise, it should exist as the hashtag that it can be and can survive on a strict diet of user input. We can measure the new meme created in this process.
    What was the goal for this # idea? PR? Revenue? or simply opening up a discussion forum.

  18. says

    Danny, You bring up very good points that some of us who do #agchat on Tuesday evenings are facing. Agchat was started by @mypaynknoper awhile ago with an attempt to gather farmers, Ag professionals, Ag media, etc. together to talk about things related to the Agricultural industry. We have started to realize how big Agchat is starting to get. It was one of the top 10 trending topics for the first time in tonight’s discussion. We should check out some of the ideas you mentioned. Thanks again for sharing.

  19. says

    I am not a journalist or a PR person.

    I found out about #journchat through chat stream of people whom I follow. I share a lot of information relevant to this conversation. If you start closing things up, you will lose people like me.

    There are ways to make things manageable.
    Highlight speakers, block spammers. I use TweetChat platform for that.

    Lastly, the monster is out of its cell, and I don’t believe your attempt to move from Twitter would be very successful. Change of venue in any medium is often very detrimental.

    Ustream is well-integrated with Twitter. That may well work OK. It won’t eliminate side conversations. :)

    • says

      Hi Leonid,

      Thanks for your thoughts, appreciated.

      I wouldn’t necessarily say that moving to a “bigger venue” would necessarily be detrimental. Look at the successful sports teams that have moved to a bigger stadium and enjoyed great success; or the small shop that becomes part of a mall and enjoys greater custom.

      You can definitely highlight speakers but then that can also lose a lot of the other conversation going on. Which, as you mention, is the key reason for you being involved even as someone outside the “core industries” (which is another reason #Journchat has been so successful).

      There are pros and cons to the current format, which hopefully the piece shows. I’m sure whatever the feedback in this conversation, and others like it around the web, Sarah will do what’s best for her baby – as she’s already shown. :)

  20. says

    I think for me at least #journchat is dying. The questions, dialogue and length are all contributing to its demise in usefulness to me. We aren’t talking a lot of hardcore strategy or anything really to new most of the time. It’s great to hop in say two things and get followers but in the old days I would learn something every time I attended. I don’t know if the 3 hours is worth it anymore for me.

  21. Leah says

    Interesting insights. Wondering if Sarah had a heads’ up that your article was being released? If I’d been the moderator, I’d have appreciated it.

    Sarah, you do a great job. Anything that grows soon grows out of its original format.

    My views:
    The WordPress option may help.

    I’ve noticed that there seems to be more people who are neither journalists, nor PR folks, engaging in the discussion. There are also varying degrees of experience; students looking to get their foot in the door, as well as seasoned journalists looking to figure out the new landscape, even as journalism business models (jobs) seem to be collapsing.

    Might be time to split off into a couple of different discussions, based on participant goals.

    • says

      Hi Leah,

      I made sure that Sarah knew the post was being released – I have a great relationship with Sarah and respect for what she’s doing with #Journchat.

  22. says

    Great thought, Danny.

    I use P2 for my blog, and minus a few bugs, it’s a great platform. My main issue with P2 is that it seems to create random draft posts. I’m not sure why they pop up, but can be a pain to deal with on the back end, in terms of moderation.

    That said, what a neat idea! Technically, you can open P2 up (or any blog for that matter) so that comments don’t need moderation and can flow like a long-form Twitter. However, the threading options of P2 are much more appealing than favoriting tweets, for example, to come back to later. Still, there’s a “vibe” or “chaos” (as one put it) on Twitter that I’m not sure can be replicated–even though the folks at #collegejourn, for instance, have tried with different chatting platforms, etc.

    Your idea would certainly inspire more in depth conversation (which could be limited), AND be wonderful to come back to days later to catch up on or add more. It just wouldn’t require that people actually be there on Monday nights anymore. And that’s part of #journchat’s appeal.

    Worth a shot, and I hope that Sarah at least tests it out. Maybe she can convince users to switch. Time will tell.

    Good call.

  23. says

    I’m not a participant in #JournChat, I’m an observer. The idea of chat forums on twitter is interesting to me so I got permission from Sarah to copy the format and use it for #DesignChat. Week #6 was last night and we had our first guest participant. Our community is quite a bit smaller than #Journchat, but I’m curious to see if we run into similar problems as we go along. I have ideas for a new chat interface if anyone knows a willing web developer. :) – Ryan

  24. says

    I’m glad you asked this question, Danny. I love the concept of #Journchat, and Sarah has definitely built something impressive, but I’ve bowed out more than I’ve bowed in lately.

    I’m not sure the problem is #Journchat. Maybe it’s the medium. Many bright minds participate, but it’s hard enough to delve into deep, meaningful conversations in 140 characters, much less at the warp speed of #Journchat.

    I like what #Journchat has done so far, but like so much happening in social media right now, it needs to find its second act.