If you're using "senior US official" as source, just type ¯_(ツ)_/¯ instead.
— Anthony De Rosa (@AntDeRosa) January 8, 2015
HAHA. Truth to power.
“Best of Twitter” and other social-media reaction pieces continue to be popular among local-news providers. I think they’re fine — often amusing, occasionally enlightening — no real harm in doing them. I’ve dabbled (here and here).
But what about the great story reactions that occur within a newspaper’s own domain? That’s right, I’m talking about THE COMMENTS, a phrase that causes many journalists, and unfortunately the occasional digital communities manager, to roll their eyes and groan with disgust. Or worse, mock their readers. Descriptions I’ve heard journalists apply to commenters (also known as customers):
Do readers sometimes spout ugly and hurtful words? Yes. Can they also provide valuable insight and context? Yes.
The last couple of years, it’s been trendy for engagement editors (or their marketing counterparts) to say, “Let’s not be limited to the site. We’ll go where the conversation is already happening! On social media!!” I think that’s a fine idea, but ignoring the comments section is not.
I’m proud to have worked at a company that early on decided to make engaging with readers in the comments not just a goal, but a job requirement. News sites that do this can be richly rewarded, in measurable terms (e.g. return visitors and time on site), and also in less measurable ways (increased credibility for journalists, greater rapport with customers, fodder for future stories). Not to get too marketing-speaky, but the comments are an opportunity to build a relationship with an audience, and newspapers are squandering it by hiding these sections, neglecting them or doing away with them altogether.
I’d love to see news sites make comments more visible on their article pages, not less so. Pull them up higher, give them some eye-catching graphical treatment. Not only could this add value to stories, but it would provide readers incentive to contribute more thoughtful remarks. And, frankly, showing a meaningful conversation between a reporter and a reader right there on the page would make the news organization look good.
My advice to community managers: Go forth into new territories, find and convert new readers there, but don’t abandon the customers who are already in your store.
A quick sweep this afternoon revealed the following on the World Wide Web’s front pages:
Retrospectives are fine. Predictions are fine. “Where to ring in the new year?” Not fine.
Article pages and other “side doors” are the new darlings of the digital space because of search and social medial referrals, but publishers that neglect their homepage are doing themselves and their audiences a disservice. The homepage is a brand’s front door, and if the wreath is still up well past the holidays, readers will wonder if anyone’s home.
Times like these, the old-school print copy editor in me gets testy.
In an age where major media outlets preach the gospel of mobile first and responsive design, orphans and bad breaks in headlines abound. I’ve heard production editors reason that because there are just so many sizes of screens to account for — desktop and laptop monitors, iPhones, iPads, iPad minis, the Android contingent, etc. — it’s not worth sweating the presentation.