Engaging the Audience


So how do audience engagement editors do their jobs?   This is a brand new job, and its remit varies from one organisation to the next.   In CJR, the Wall Street Journal’s audience engagement editor, Carla Zanoni, described her team as ‘shoe-leather reporters’,who in the wake of a fatal shooting incident, did a number of different things.

The team simultaneously verified information, promoted Journal articles and social media posts on the killings, managed reader comments, and shuffled online feedback and analytics to their colleagues. “The audience team is just like your shoe-leather reporters,” says Carla Zanoni, head of emerging media and audience development, “in that they feel like this is what they’ve been training for.”….They elevate a publication’s online persona by creating Web-friendly headlines, prioritizing when and on which social platforms stories are posted, and patrolling notoriously dicey comment sections.

For John Ketchum, at the Centre for Public Integrity, it’s all about analytics.   He spends two days a week crunching numbers.   And according to Mediashift, Will Federman at Fortune has one dedicated monitor for Chartbeat analytics.

“I’m looking at it constantly,” he said. “I tend to trust the data more than I trust my gut. People sometimes think we dabble in dark magic, but we are just looking at numbers.” Keeping up with changes in technology is another major part of his job. “With this job you can’t feel like you know everything,” Federman said. “One day Google or Facebook will alter their algorithm. You have to be totally open to change. If you don’t have an adaptive personality it’s a difficult job.”

Meanwhile, Mother Jones’s Audience Engagement Editor Ben Dreyfuss gives some advice about how to talk on social media.

The main operating theory has been that every headline we have and every tweet and every Facebook post needs to sound like a human would say it. Social media has made people better writers because of that.  The worst thing in the world is when you’re in college in a creative writing class and people write like a 19th century gay poet. The fact is affectation is a killer on social media. Just write the way you talk.

He was asked what would happen to him if the internet was down for twenty-four hours.  The answer is telling.

If the internet were down for 24 hours, I would freak out for 24 hours straight. However, I suspect my therapist would say that it would be the most emotionally maturing 24 hours of my life.

NPROne_rectangle_1READING: Out of Many, NPR One: the app that wants to be the Netflix of Listening gets more local (Nieman Lab)           Deciphering What the Next Generation of Public Radio Listeners wants Through NPR One (Nieman Lab) 

ASSIGNMENT  Write a 400-word blogpost reviewing the NPR One app.   To do so, please download the app on a mobile device.  It will not work on a laptop.   Then listen to an hour’s worth of material on the app, and play with tagging and skipping stories.  When you write the blogpost, please list the stories presented to you, noting the efficacy of the app’s customization and what you perceive to be the biggest differences with listening to local radio.  Did you feel the content offered was tailored to your interests?   In particular, how interested were you in the local content offered, and what other local content would you like to have?  How would you grade the app?

(for Jan 31 8pm, rubric here)


The New York Times Wants to Know if You’ve had Dinner with Your Neighbours

The 'Race' Race mural, inspired by New York Times columns

The ‘Race’ Race mural, inspired by New York Times columns

On the subject of reader engagement, the above is a classroom mural inspired by Nick Kristof’s post-Ferguson columns, “When Whites Just Don’t Get It.”   Another example of reader engagement will be in the New York Times magazine, which is using the Times Reader Insight panel as guinea pigs for journalism.  It’s asking them questions such as whether you’ve had dinner with your neighbours, and “Let’s say you are at a party and people are talking about a particular book that everyone has read except for you. Do you admit you haven’t read it, or do you fake it?”  I’m curious to find out if NYT readers are dinner party frauds.

For Tuesday’s class, please spend some time looking at Snowfall, which we will discuss in class.   Also, read the leaked Innovation Report. In case you want to see them again, class slides are in the Ctools site, under yesterday’s date.

ASSIGNMENT: Write a 400-word post comparing the treatment of one story in the paper version of the NYT with its online counterpart.  You should make reference to the aims contained within the Innovation report, and assess to what extent the online presentation meets those criteria.  You should pick a story related to your beat.  What are the strengths and weaknesses of each presentation?  How long did you spend on each?  (for 8am, 20th Jan)

Notes: Please also ensure that you have a working twitter account before next class.  The updated syllabus is in Ctools.