November 6th, 2008
Reading Eagle has brought their journalists out from behind the curtain to share with readers what they are reading on the web — often beyond what can be found on Reading’s own site. Their new link journalism feature is called, appropriately enough, What We’re Reading:
Each editor has a profile on the page with photo, email, Twitter, and links to what they are reading (courtesy of Publish2 widgets). For example, assistant news editor Karen Miller shares interesting links on money and investing, adding her own perspective as context.
Readers can find more of Karen’s great links here. Contributing to this group link blog are Reading’s editor, managing editor, assistant metro editor, web designer, and internet copy editor, so it’s a great cross section of the edit staff’s interests and perspective. Administrative Editor John Boor was one of the catalysts of this initiative:
John explained in an email the thinking behind the What We’re Reading feature, what they have planned, and how they are going about it:
The idea of linking to other news sources and providing a constantly updated list of linked-to stories is one of the goals. We’re hoping to increase our site traffic in our own, smaller way, using the model of “The Drudge Report,” and others who, essentially, create success by being mega-aggregators.
Secondly, we see it as an opportunity to inject more personality into the site. We’re hoping that people will connect with staffers’ faces or names they’ve seen, and maybe keep checking back to see what one of their favorites thinks is important enough to share.
Third, it’s been a while now since I’ve seen the importance of social networking tools, such as Twitter, Facebook, etc., not only to aid journalists, but to engage readers and, basically, cast wide, digital nets in an effort to build a sense of community with our news site as the hub. We’d like to encourage a much greater buy-in by those who visit our site, and by using these tools. Publish2 has come along just in time to help us with that. Now, with our “What we’re reading” page(s), we’re not just passing down our own material from our ivory towers. We’re no longer the gatekeepers. We’re stepping out onto the public square and sharing stories that are important to us and hoping they may help others.
Publish2 has given us a way to accomplish this project very easily. We can populate the page dynamically, using the widget you provide on each user’s links page. We just have our staffers register with Publish2 and the rest is pretty much a piece of cake. It is so easy to link from the browser toolbar widget that it takes very little additional time for our staffers to share what they’re reading. In addition to this functionality, we really like the way Publish2 encourages the sharing of links, whether to our own news site or to others’. It’s exciting to me to consider the possibilities. I appreciate your efforts to provide this venue, allowing news organizations to cooperate in mutually beneficial ways, for the public good. It doesn’t hurt, either, that it provides an alternative to the more traditional and expensive ways to procure and disseminate news and other worthwhile information.
There’s so much I love about what Reading is doing. First, that they want to “inject more personality” into their site and build brands around their editorial staff. They are breaking free of the constraints of the newsprint medium, where journalists were faceless, inpersonal bylines. Their edit staff are real people with real interests, who can step “out onto the public square.” And they are taking a truly web-native approach, which has proven successful for publications born on the web — it’s about people and connections.
It’s notable that Reading isn’t spending precious dollars trying to develop their own technology, and they aren’t paying for an algorithm to provide impersonal, semi-relevant links. They are using a free web application to tap into what their journalists are ALREADY reading, adding comments and perspective, and sharing that with their readers. And that’s how they can connect with their readers in a way that no algorithm can — it’s people sharing on the web.
And that gets to another idea I love — using social networking tools to “cast wide, digital nets in an effort to build a sense of community with our news site as the hub” — for example, John is taking the links he contributes to What We’re Reading and simultaneous sharing them on Twitter.
I’m also excited that they see the potential for “an alternative to the more traditional and expensive ways to procure and disseminate news and other worthwhile information.” There is a huge potential for Reading and other newsrooms to collaborate on creating a new newswire for the web, one based on links instead of licensing fees. Imagine the possibilities as more newsrooms join Reading.
This is just the first step for Reading in incorporating link journalism and news aggregation into what they do, as a complement to their own original reporting (and they read that, too!). What’s essential is that they STARTED and have given themselves a basis for learning and innovating. I’m looking forward to seeing what else they come up with.
Reading also shows that the ambition to innovate and the ability to harness technology for editorial innovation is not just the province of the big national newspapers. In fact, Reading is making better use of technology to easily and collaboratively scale up their news aggregation efforts than some big media companies that are still using some rather old-fashioned editorial processes for link journalism.
My post about the success of the Drudge Report was widely read, but here’s a newsroom that didn’t just read about harnessing the power of news aggregation on the web — they are actually going to DO it.
So why aren’t you doing it?