Sunday, 15 May 2011

An attempt to turn a newspaper inside-out

How do you turn a newspaper inside out? That's been the question bugging me for about a week and I've found myself thinking about it more and more in the context of the Register Citizen Open Newsroom project.

I broached the subject with Glyn Mottershead and Neil MacDonald over a pint recently; this is how it unfolded.
Me: "You know, like, you have skin and, uh, it contains everything and you can't see your organs and stuff..."
Glyn: "Er..."
Neil: "I'm going to the loo."
Me: "Well, that's like a newspaper. It comes out and it's complete and finished and it presents this skin to the world. And it would be great to turn it inside out, show what's underneath."


Essentially, I wanted to be more public about how the paper came together. Glyn and Neil are social media nuts; they love the idea of media engagement and had lots of encouragement. 
So, last Wednesday, an experiment started from to show how Wales on Sunday is created and try and engage more with people.
I used Storify to track the start of the project (kudos to news editor Steffan Rhys for working so hard on it, and I especially love Adam's video capture of his page design) 







Using Twitter and a Facebook  page is the obvious starting point but I'm open to suggestions for developing it (and expanding it). These accounts aren't about pushing links to the website or giving cryptic hints followed with a 'buy Sunday's paper'; I want them to be about what we're doing. Or about what we should be doing as far as our audience is concerned. Or what we're doing wrong/right/not enough of. Stories that are going in the paper will get discussed and displayed (but I'm not ready to put an exclusive splash in the public domain three days before publication - maybe this will happen but I'd like to keep my job for more than five months).
Right now it's a journo echo chamber - especially Facebook (and why do Facebook pages have to be so complicated? I had to draft Ed Walker for assistance) - but that will change over time, I hope. 

It's not a Citizen Register project - I'd like to work towards that but the logistics are beyond my ken right now - but it's a toehold in something I feel strongly about. If I was doing this three years ago it would have been mostly journalists and early adopters getting involved - now it's a much larger audience. That's a good thing, of course, and also means we're more likely to get told exactly what we do wrong in no uncertain terms. Customers - past, present or potential - have standards and expect them to be met or failures accounted for.
Of course it's not all about growing engagement; it's about fostering an audience's emotional investment as well. 
How to develop it? All ideas welcome...
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