Originally posted on March 21, 2009 by specialdee; Updated here May 25, 2009
I posed this question on Twitter: “How can newspapers build communities on their sites?”
1. People want to be connected to other people. Corporate sites need to allow staff to post both as themselves and as customer service representatives as needed. Be part of the conversation; listen.
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 the social networking sites where conversations about your stories/products are taking place, 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 entering a name to be used with the comment (not Anonymous or Guest) and an e-mail address that won’t be published with the comment.
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.
4. Space in the print version of a newspaper is prime real estate. Not all photos can be published in the print version. Readers want more local photos online. They want to be able to find those photos when using search engines.
5. Newspapers need to connect 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 / happenings. The bloggers would have to be logged in/registered. Citizen journalism. The non-newspaper person uses that phrase “citizen journalism” in abundance. Newspaper sites could make clear which articles are from staff and which are from readers.
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.
Local schools could have portals on newspaper sites, sponsored by advertisers, to student-written articles, poetry, artwork, as well as school news, honor rolls, schedules, etc.
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.
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 newspapers should be the starting point for news and community information.
Music could be part of the online news site experience. Surely there’s an advertiser in the music world that would sponsor a site that has its music player / store available for site visitors to play in the background.
Software companies could sponsor sites that allow online gaming.
Stylehive has built communities around shoppers. The site has national advertisers.
It’s all about the user experience. News sites need to be easy to navigate. Search feature should work correctly. Archives should be available. Customer service / letters to the editor should offer multiple communication options: online form, e-mail, public comment. Queries should be answered promptly.