Making the news more interactive

By Adrian Nieoczym
adrian@nieoview.com

I must admit I had a lump in my throat yesterday at about 1 p.m. when I realized that Kelowna.com was officially done, at least as a source of daily local news. It’s just amazing to think that something my colleagues and I poured our hearts and souls into simply no longer exists.

But it also has me thinking again about what I would do differently if I get involved in another online news venture.

As some who commented on this blog pointed out, a lot of work has to be done figuring out how to do advertising on the web. I fully agree with this, though my expertise in this area is limited. But I do think a new model for online advertising has to be developed in lockstep with a new model for online news production and distribution.

In my last post (Lessons from a .com, geodomain, hyperlocal meltdown) I said we need to make the news more interactive. The traditional way to come up with news stories is for a newspaper or a website’s reporters and editors to sit around and talk about what’s going on and what they think the important stories are. The editor then assigns the stories, the reporters go off and do them and then they are published and/or posted online. Readers get their say after the fact, through comments and letters to the editor.

Imagine if the job of a reporter was instead to be part of an online community of people (preferably paying subscribers) who are interested in what’s happening in their community. The reporter puts his or her skills, knowledge and media accreditation at the use of that online community.

For example, through social media tools embedded in their news outfit’s website, a city hall reporter could participate in discussions about city council. Say council was dealing with a contentious development application, readers could discuss, debate and rant about it. The reporter would participate and write stories providing information about the development that readers wanted or needed. There could even be ways for readers to direct the reporter about who should be interviewed and what questions should be asked or what kinds of research the reporter should be doing  or what kinds of angles they should be poking into.

Obviously this is not a fully thought out idea, just some thoughts about where online journalism needs to. I’m curious what others think.

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2 thoughts on “Making the news more interactive

  1. You are so on the money, Adrian, it’s not funny.

    I’ve been working on my owns news blog, more as a hobby than anything, and I’ve found it very interesting how quickly people jumped onto the concept of interacting with me (the reporter guy).

    Normally a reporter is at arms length to the readers. We do the research, write the story and go onto something else while the readers do their thing. It is the way it has always been, but if you look at it, there’s a disconnect in that system.

    The system is designed to be one way. We deliver the news and readers consume it. But, the Internet is morphing these days into an interactive medium; there is back and forth involved.

    How you get people to pay for that interactivity is a problem. That said, I think you’re onto something and I encourage you to keep thinking about it.

  2. You know, I knew they were having problems – managerially speaking – when the owners (who hired me at the very beginning, before Kelowna.com) let me go for being “too detail orientated” (their words, not mine!), and then only a half a year later, started looking for an “extremely detail orientated” developer.

    I almost submitted an application again in spite.

    The original concept (before it was a news site)? Loved it. The owners themselves? A little bit too hypocritical for my tastes. Especially when they would tell me to go do something, but give no direction or guidance whatsoever, and then get upset because I didn’t do things precisely the way they had envisioned it. Or take it to the opposite extreme and have far too many details, and not want to wait for the fundamentals to get done and fully tested before starting to complain about “feature x” being missing. I mean, c’mon. Let’s try to walk before we experiment with running. That, and their vision would change on an almost weekly basis. Not a full mid-stream change, but enough to make me constantly play catch-up. In the end, I was going squirrelly from their handling of the project.

    I think the owners need only to look into a mirror to discover the real reason why they didn’t succeed.

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