Why Engaging Readers is the New Key to Success in Journalism

Photo: Steven RollBy Steven Roll
ASBPE President

In a recent speech delivered via Twitter BusinessWeek.com’s John A. Byrne (@JOHNABYRNE) emphasized that the next phase of journalism will require editors and writers to get readers involved with every step of the process, from generating story ideas to filling in the missing details of a published story.

For example, Byrne said that when one of BW’s editors did a story early last year about Twitter, he tweeted the topic sentences and asked “tweeps” (his followers on Twitter) to fill in the rest. “This created terrific engagement among readers, seeded an audience for the story, and was truly innovative, Byrne said.

Part of being an editor or writer today, he noted, is learning how to create and build communities and then how to serve them.

One of BW’s editors did this last year with a story called “Social Media Will Change Your Business.” He created the story by asking readers of his blog to comment about what had changed about a story he had written three years ago on the same topic. The result was that all of that interaction was used to inform the reporting of the story and the end result really resonated, Byrne said.

Another reason why reader engagement is so important, Byrne said, is that it helps editors make better editorial judgments. “Most journalists get their respect and their reinforcement from colleagues — not the people who consume their writing. We need to understand the people we’re writing for and open up the process of journalism to improve our ability to serve them.”

Despite all of the turmoil and pain in the industry, this is an incredibly exhilarating time in journalism, Byrne said. “Never before have journalists had access to so many tools to perform their jobs more creatively than now. Never before have journalists had the advantage of having their own printing presses to do their own thing. We’ve spent too much time whining about the changes out there and not enough time taking advantage of the new opportunities.”

“You can become an entrepreneur. You can engage your readers as true partners. You can change the very nature of journalism,” Byrne concluded.

Journalism and Web 2.0 are beginning to make more sense to those participating in #editorchat on Twitter from 8:30 to 10 p.m. on Wednesdays. #editorchat is one of the many group discussions on various topics are held on Twitter during the week.

Why the funny looking title? You follow the dialogue on Twitter by doing a search for the term “#editorchat.” Because Twitter provides live search results, responses to the conversation pop up as they are made. Tracking the discussion in this manner also helps to avoid having to wade through tweets that are not part of #editorchat.

See you on #editorchat next Wednesday!

Follow me on Twitter at @b2beditor.

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Hello Steven,

Thank you for raising these issues and for mentioning #editorchat.

Innovation is a touchy subject for publishers as well as writers and editors. We're glad to see you joining the discussion here and on Twitter.

Best regards,

Tim Beyers
Editorchat co-founder
Motley Fool tech contributor
@milehighfool on Twitter
# posted by Anonymous Anonymous : April 16, 2009 at 4:37 PM
Steve, I assume the speech you're referring to is ASBPE New York's March event. A couple of the attendees live-tweeted the event. The tweets can be seen here. (This link starts with the last page, since they're in reverse-chronological order. Keep clicking "Newer" and read up from the bottom to read everything in order.)
# posted by Blogger Martha Spizziri : April 16, 2009 at 9:20 PM
This is absolutely the case. There is great opportunity here for journalists and I say that because I am a journalist who is now a community manager charged with actively engaging members and nurturing the growth of an online community affiliated with a news organization. I have just written the book "18 Rules of Community Engagement" (Happy About, May 2009)with details of my success in doing this very thing. Mark Potts, co-founder of washingtonpost.com mentions the importance of this skill in his endorsement of my book and it is very wise of you to encourage community engagement.

Angela Connor | @communitygirl
# posted by Anonymous Angela Connor : April 27, 2009 at 4:08 PM
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