Gamify the news by rewarding 3 types of activities

March 16th, 2011

I find myself continuously inspired by OMNT co-creator Rob Quigley’s posts, so I felt a need to expand on the great points he made in his recent post, “The ‘gamification’ of news, and how it can be relevant.”

The gamification of news can be a powerful tool for marketing and reader engagement, but it must be done in a way that rewards all types of readers, based on their level of involvement. (Check out the Forrester Social Technographics Ladder; slide nine here is especially helpful.)

If the news is gamified as a knee-jerk response to industry trends, the user experience may end up not be a relevant one. Before you start to create a game around your publication, you’ll not only want to think about the goals — rewarding loyal readers to increase loyalty is a simple one — but what exactly you want to reward readers for.

I’ve thought of  three main things news organizations want to reward readers for:

1. Reward activity.

This is the most general type of reward, and many sites and platforms do this (Foursquare and GiantBomb are two examples). News organizations can reward readers for reading, commenting on and sharing (Facebook/Twitter/e-mail) stories.This type of reward, however, is easily gamed. Think about all of those erroneous Foursquare and Gowalla check-ins meant only to boost numbers. (This led to our well-received Foursquare etiquette post.)

Rewarding basic reader activity is a great way to get your audience to spend more time on your news site, or to visit multiple times each day. The more local traffic your news organization receives, the more likely advertisers will want to get involved; incremental revenue is never bad.

2. Reward curiosity.

Once your news organization sponsors reader activity on the site, you’ll want to reward readers who take that extra step outside of the basic on-site experience.

Perhaps they follow up on a series of restaurant-related articles by following along with a Gowalla or SCVNGR activity. Reward them with a coupon they can use at one of them. Maybe they consistently read stories about their neighborhood, or their local politician. If this is the case, you might want to invite them to a sponsored summit or activity; for instance, a political debate. If a reader users a “social” ad or promotion, reward them.

3. Reward involvement.

Yes, there’s a difference between reader activity and reader involvement.

The most active news readers and followers are the ones most likely to contribute, or want to contribute — but there’s no way for them to do so.

In my SXSW Interactive panel, titled “Better Crowdsourcing: Lessons Learned from the3six5 Project,” I spoke of the need to involve one’s audience by having a built-in hierarchy of involvement.

In this case, what’s the process for involving readers at different levels?  For users that read the news, how can you get them to read more? For readers that read a lot, how can they contribute? For readers that contribute, how can you make them a more active part of the stories you tell each day?

Can they be a moderator in a reader forum? Can they contribute to a blog? Would your news organization allow them to create a more specialized blog using your publication’s blog platform? If these features don’t exist, perhaps it’s important to consider them.

How big are your calls to action? If a reader submits a tip, not only should you thank them, but perhaps they could earn a special “Armchair Reporter ” achievement for doing so. If a reader posts a valuable comment on a story, they should be rewarded in some way for doing so.

What else can news organizations reward readers for doing? Please leave your thoughts as comments below!

- Daniel B. Honigman

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Entry Filed under: future of media,gamification of news


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