Author’s note: This is an old memo I wrote from my days at Tribune Company. I’ve edited it into a blog post and have added a couple of links, but it’s very much a media rant. Enjoy!
What is it about Zappos that makes it an innovative, well-regarded company?
It’s not that Zappos sells shoes and clothes online, and it can’t be because of Zappos’ sleek Web site. (In fact, Zappos.com isn’t the most visually attractive website.)
Every inch – well, perhaps not every inch – of the page oozes, “We care about our customers.” There are links to live chats, and a company phone number is posted in a place that’s easy to find. It’s not buried on some hidden customer service page. (Read Zappos founder Tony Hsieh’s book, Delivering Happiness, for more on this.)
The fact is this: If you go to any news Web site, how does it feel? Does it feel like the news organization cares about what you think the news is?
Newsrooms are constantly reorganizing and changing the look and feel of their digital and print products, but I believe that there’s a unique opportunity to change the way people actually experience the news.
Here’s my point: Experiment with small, cross-functional teams to change the environment in which folks experience our content. And there are some things that you can gain:
- A feedback loop or connection with readers that you’ve never had before.
- Insight that will help your figure out ways to improve the quality of your reader comments. (On this point, this OMNT post is a must-read.)
- A look into reader dynamics.
- Experience. This will help teach your community managers, digital producers or bloggers how to wrangle a community.
- Expand the reach of the online communities you’re trying to build.
Most importantly, this will let your readers know you’re listening in ways mainstream media tends not to. My vision of true “journalism on demand” isn’t just similar to a restaurant comment drop box, but is a living, breathing, dynamic community.
Here’s what you’ll need to get started:
- A Small group of forward-thinking, customer-centric – not necessarily social media-savvy – folks in your news organization. A reporter. The public editor. A web producer. A marketing team member. Someone in ad ops. A circulation manager. Anyone who really wants to gain these insights, and someone who likes side projects.
- A platform. Start small. Try putting a link on a homepage to a live chat. From there, we can possibly build forums. Events. Anything. Try to make your community vibrant and open, because if you do, you can market it somehow.
- A message. If you think of branding your platform from the start, you’ll get support from the top down.
True journalism on demand can be an industry-changer. Be willing to test technology, timing and figure out what you even want to know. Don’t rush this into looking like a hokey marketing initiative, but a real effort to connect with your readers. (Perhaps, at some point, you can extend this into a chat with your advertisers.)
This isn’t cutting edge stuff, but test with some basics, including forums, live chats, instant messenger (or Skype), and customer service-driven platforms (e.g. Get Satisfaction).
If you do this, it should be a two-way street. In addition to getting ideas from readers, you could pitch ideas to them, asking what they think you should write about. The idea that gets picked will get done in a timely fashion.
Experiment with treatments. Is your execution a blog? A forum? A poll? Is this promoted in a box with a graphic, or as a text link? You don’t know what will resonate until you try.
Lastly, steward the conversation, and have clear, concise rules of conversation. If you’re waist deep in it, you can drive a positive experience for everyone.
What examples of “journalism on demand” have you seen in the news world? Is your news organization doing something along these lines? Please leave your thoughts as comments below!
- Daniel B. Honigman
April 14th, 2011
I was at dinner a couple of days ago with some friends when, apparently, there was some food blogger event or meetup happening the same time in the restaurant’s upstairs room.
As the bloggers walked into the restaurant, some stopped to take pictures. Myself, my girlfriend and several friends were in one of the pictures. (It’s the one above; if you click through, we’re in the picture at the top of the post.)
Don’t get me wrong: I am not mad that I’m in the picture. We saw this particular blogger kneeling down to take her picture, and based on her angle, it was clear that we would be in the picture. However, the blogger never approached us and asked if we would mind.
For bloggers, there are several reasons why they should approach people who may appear in their photos:
- It’s a courtesy extended by many professional journalists and members of the media. (NOTE: I’m not trying to spark a journalist vs. blogger debate.) Not all professional news photographers ask permission of their subjects to take candid photos. In fact, since we were in public, we’re fair game. Still, blogger photogs may want check and see if it’s OK to use a person in their photo, even if you can’t see their face clearly. (Here’s a good read on the history of photojournalism ethics.) This leads me to my next point…
- It’s a marketing opportunity. Let’s say I were asked if I minded being in the blogger’s photo. The conversation might’ve gone like this:
Blogger: Hey — I’m taking a quick photo of the restaurant for my blog; do you mind? You’ll be in it, but you’ll be totally small and unrecognizable, and your face won’t be in it.
Me: Maybe. What’s the blog for?
Blogger: Oh, I run a food blog called “Oh She Glows”; there’s a food blogger meetup going on tonight, and I’m documenting it.
Me: That’s cool; I’d love to check it out later! Go ahead and take the picture. It’s also cool that this restaurant is doing blogger outreach; is it on Facebook and Twitter as well?
…or something like that. (Not as cheesy, of course.) This could have been a marketing opportunity for the blogger; chances are they would have drawn in a few new readers. (This particular blog is about healthy food and exercise; I’m looking to learn more about these things, which is one of the reasons I was dining at that restaurant.) In addition, she could have generated more buzz for the restaurant, which I now know is active within the social media space.
- It’s just the courteous thing to do. Ya know?
What do you think? If you’re taking pictures for your blog — or for an article — do you ask the subject’s permission? Do you use it as an opportunity to tell others about your blog? Please leave your thoughts as comments below!
- Daniel B. Honigman
August 16th, 2010
The media landscape continues to change, but that doesn’t mean it’s a fight-to-the-death between Old Media and New Media.
TechCrunch’s Robin Wauters took Old Media to task for not being quick enough to report the Michael Jackson’s death, saying new media entities TMZ and Twitter get it, and Old Media essentially is too slow to be relevant anymore. In the comments, there is a mini-war going on, with some people siding with the Chicago Tribune, which says Old Media did the “heavy lifting” in confirming Jackson’s death, and others saying that Twitter and TMZ is all we need anymore.
Instead of asking who will win, why not ask this: Why can’t Old Media and New Media get along?
Old Media should stop pretending like new ways of information aren’t important. Whether Old Media likes it or not, people are getting their news in new ways. The Old Media does need to move quicker. Ask any editor at any newspaper, and he or she will tell you the newsroom needs to always be moving quicker to get news out. Old Media needs New Media for various reasons, not the least of which being that people increasingly are turning to New Media outlets exclusively to get their news.
Meanwhile, New Media needs Old Media, too. Twitter can run rampant with rumors (including a widespread, though false, rumor that actor Jeff Goldblum had died). Old Media is good at doing some “heavy lifting” when it comes to verifying information. Some New Media outlets are good at that, too, but this is the Old Media’s forté.
There’s no reason for this to be a battle. If Old Media is in the New Media world and doing it right, the two can live together harmoniously.
July 1st, 2009