Thursday, February 26, 2009

What community do newspapers create?

This article in Techdirt on newspaper funding raises the very real issue that other commentators have made before. The demise of ad revenues on newspaper websites is not down to the lack of advertisers, its down to the reason why advertisers would want to advertise on these sites.

Its not enough these days to provide hundreds of pages of content with adverts and hope you sell all the spaces crested. In fact, as I've mentioned before, some newspapers realise this and are even reducing their inventory.

So what does make a site valuable enough for advertisers to want to spend money on them?

1. Relevant content
But does this have to be an exact version of what I read on the train this morning? Why can't you include links in all your online articles to your sources or provide more supporting information than you currently do, so that you couldn't fit into your 100 word print-version? What about the additional articles that you wrote but couldn't get submitted by the deadline - but are still really useful?
Also, what about making the content more relevant by allowing proper personalisation and customisation (such as the Google news page). You could also consider adding useful tools and relevant interactive features & functionality. And don't get me started on channel relevance....

2. Engaging
You build a stronger connection with your audience/readership, by allowing them to engage. This isn't that difficult and you don't need that latest fancy disucssion board or chat tool, you just need to facilitate dialogue between yourselves and your users.
BTW: you also need to allow this to happen between themselves if you are after creating a community worth joining.
For a good example of this I point people at http://www.theregister.co.uk . This IT news site has a decent range of articles published throughout the day and often goes into significant detailed investigation of key technology issues. It also provides and invites discussion on each of its articles and generates a decent community around subjects and writers, without alienating the one-off commenter.

The question to ask therefore is... if The Register and similar reporters as Steve Rubel highlights here have manged to do this? Why don't the others stop trying to convince everyone that their traditonal business model still works and learn a newer trick or two?
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