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Newspaper communities

March 21, 2009
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A few days ago, on Twitter, I posed the question “How can newspapers build communities on their sites?” and received several responses. In the post preceding this one, I list the responses. In this post, I recap those responses.

1. People want to be connected to other people.

2. Writers/reporters need to interact with readers. By allowing comments to be posted to stories, the stories grow. When writers/reporters leave comments to the comments, a relationship grows. Be visible, be on Twitter and other social networking sites, reply to your readers.

3. No one wants to register to read stories online. No one. Leaving comments should be a simple process, such as a name to be used with the comment other than Anonymous or Guest, an e-mail address that won’t be published with the comment.

4. People realize not all photos can be published in the print version. They want more local photos online. And, they want to be able to find those photos when using search engines. I think the Sun Journal does a good job of putting additional photos online that did not make the print version.

5. Newspapers should be connected to social networking sites, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Ning, Flickr, YouTube, Amazon. Connect to some social music sites, too, such as blip.fm and last.fm. Niche markets. Be good at connecting people through interests.

Personally, I think it’s a great idea for newspapers to also offer ISP services. Each time those users log on, they’ll be doing it through the newspaper’s ISP department. Definite potential.

6. Allow algorithms to learn individual user’s preferences and “tastes” which would then select and suggest stories that user might be interested in reading. This would require a user log in, so this should be offered, but not mandatory.

7. Newspapers could have a blogroll of users with blogs. This would definitely offer readers access to more local news. The bloggers would have to be logged in/registered. Citizen journalism. That’s what respondents answered. All of them.

People would like to be able to use one username / log-in information on all sites that require a user to log in. Check out OpenID.

8. Along the same idea as blogs, are forums. By offering forums for various interests, such as Chamber of Commerce and other non-profit events, boating, construction, genealogy, gaming, etc., the site has added value for its readers.

In my opinion, newspapers are a trusted resource. And, newspapers probably have more readers online than an individual blogger has on his/her own blog. That is why it is a win-win situation for newspapers and community members to join together on the newspaper’s site. Give bloggers a place to list their blog, putting it in front of the newspaper’s large audience.

9. The news needs to be updated throughout the day. No one wants to read old news. Readers particularly want sports updates during games / tournaments. I think the Sun Journal Sports Department does an excellent job in updating.

10. Newspaper sites should focus on local news. Perhaps offer links to national and world news, but definitely, the highlight should be local. The more localized, the better.

11. Multi-media. Live-blogging. Video content shared online and on local tv stations. Podcasts shared online and on radio stations. Local newspaper should be the starting point for news and community information.

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