The concept of reader engagement championed in the blogosphere is now making the rounds in the traditional publishing world.
BusinessWeek serves as a good exhibit A.
MediaShift captured changes afoot at BW in a far-reaching post that included an interview with the big cheese himself, EIC John Byrne.
On the topic of reader engagement Byrne shared:
“We have had a very rigourous, very lively reader involvement on the site for a long time. In any given month, roughly 15,000 people participate in conversations on our site, but they are largely hidden from view. You have to either go into a blog and see how people are responding, or you have to go into a forum to see how people are exchanging views, or go to the end of a story to see the comments on it. We want to elevate those conversations and make them more apparent to everyone that these conversations are occurring …
“This is about elevating our conversation and giving credence to the rhetoric that everyone has, that the web is a dialogue and not a lecture. The truth is that very few people are delivering on it, having reporters actively engage with readers or elevating comments and saying, ‘This is as important as any story we have, any video we have, any audio we have.’”
Byrne went on to say:
“Time spent [on the BW Web site] is not as important to me as making a contribution to the site. I look at it as input and output. In any given month, we probably publish 800 to 1,000 stories on the site and get 15,000 comments in. So that’s about a 15-to-1 ratio and I want to triple that by the end of the year. So for every story we put out, I’d like to have 45 contributions from our readers.”
If BW inspires readers to pontificate with posted comments, no one can argue the virtues that come with such engagement.
So far I’m with you, Mr. Byrne.
But here’s where things go off track.
BusinessWeek is now looking to its readership to generate genuine editorial content as part of its engagement mantra.
Under the banner, “What’s Your problem? You’ve got workplace issues. Together, we’ll find answers,” the book is looking to readers to contribute essays, photos and even videos about the challenges that come with coping in today’s workplace.
Can the average Joe write compelling content?
Can people who don’t write for a living storytell in a way that captivates?
I’d say not likely.
And if you’re a grizzled reporter – or even an ungrizzled reporter – how do you feel about the arrival of amateur hour?
I’m guessing mixed feeling to say the least.
It will be interesting to see how this workplace content comes together starting August 14.
In the meantime, Mr. Byrne’s July 11 blog post hypes a new milestone at BusinessWeek: A column by an everyday reader cracked the top five most-read stories.
Ironically, the post didn’t generate one reader comment (as I put this view to rest), so reaching utopia in the form of a 45:1 ratio of user comments to story just took a hit.