QIT#9 Reader empowerment beyond content

This one really brings the incoherency of the QIT series to a new level. So please, bear with me:

I’ve been hearing a lot of debate about how news organisations need to re-engage with their readers and, for the most part, this seems to focus on content creation.

There is talk about promoting “citizen journalism”, using “UGC”, releasing APIs for developers, etc. etc.

It’s all good stuff. But there is no denying that those who volunteer time and effort to create news-worthy content or applications are a tiny minority.

Most people just want to be told what the news is by people who are employed to know.

Does that mean those who create want to engage more than those who do not? I don’t think that’s necessarily true.

Perhaps it’s just that others have time and skill barriers that stop them. Or they don’t really see how such engagement would benefit them.

I’m always stunned by how popular polls on news websites are. They almost always do well, perhaps because of their low barrier to entry: just one or two clicks and you’ve contributed.

The frustrating thing is that most of these polls are – beyond capturing a mood – utterly futile.

Readers may overwhelmingly vote that the Prime Minister should resign, but that poll is unlikely to have much influence on Gordon’s decision to bow out.

To look at it in the more negative light, you could argue such polls do little more than reinforce the idea that news organisations pay lip service to engagement, but don’t really want to empower their readers in any meaningful way.

So, what if polls were devised to empower? What if, at the end of the vote, the majority will of the readers was enacted? What message would that send out? What should the questions be?

3 thoughts on “QIT#9 Reader empowerment beyond content

  1. I have to say it.
    Cannot resist.
    The question should be a poll.

    Just suppose that at the end of every poll, you asked ‘what would you like us to do with the results?’

    Most of these website surveys are multiple choice, so I reckon the first option would be ‘do nothing’, as I know that’s the usual outcome even before I start.

    In contrast, the 2nd option would be ‘do something’, simply because it represents the opposing view. What that something is does not matter.

    It follows that option 3 is ‘undecided’.

    That means option 4 is probably a wildcard, usually with a topical, humorous twist. Possibly something like ‘have another poll’.

    All of this is just my way of noting that readers don’t necessarily want engagement – as you’ve noted – or perahsp thaey want their engagement in a different format, such as a campaign, or a reader’s forum.

  2. Let me start from afar.

    There’s an underground passage near where I work and one of the iron sewer grates in it had collapsed, leaving the sewer shaft open and dangerous. After tolerating that for a week, I sent a complaint to the local authorities, demanding it be fixed. After three more weeks, I had completely given up hope that they will do something, so I decided to organise a group of people and we do it ourselves. I set up a Facebook group, called I Want This Fixed. My idea was to get a bunch of members together and then send them all an email detailing my plan about how we could fix the grating.

    This whole idea did not work, because somebody else (not the authorities) beat me to it. But in theory it could have worked. In theory, I could have been the local newspaper. In theory, people could have expressed their dissatisfaction not by joining a Facebook group but by voting in a poll.

    So I don’t think your idea is extremely mad or undoable.

  3. ….and continuing Dilyan’s point, how about if local media did more to get involved in those kinds of local empowerment groups….you want the fence in Drake St fixed then log onto….

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