The benefits news publications can gain when interacting with audiences offline.
Digital news publications should make an effort to interact with their audiences in an offline setting and gain valuable insights into their readership, experts say.
“The news organizations that thrive will put an emphasis on their relationship with their audiences” said Kevin Loker, director of program operations and partnerships at the American Press Institute.
“People want to feel more connected to the product,” said Loker, who conducts audience research in journalism, noting that a “valuable approach is offline engagement.”
By meeting with readers in-person publications can learn what their audiences truly value.
For example, at The Tennessean, a newspaper based in Nashville, editors invite a group or community they want to build a stronger rapport with into their office. From there, the editors listen to what the community members want out of local news coverage.
Jeremy Klaszus, creator and editor of pop-up journalism publication and Digital News Innovation Challenge participating company The Sprawl, employs a similar approach to his coverage of news in Calgary.
The Sprawl’s coverage of Calgary’s 2017 civic election ended with “a pop-up newsroom” held at a local bar where readers were invited to engage in Klaszus’s editorial process.
Asking for direct input from readers is “a way to engage with readers on a deeper level — rather than just treating them as passive consumers of news” said Klaszus.
“It’s essential if you want to build trust and grow a community.”
Unfortunately, for national, legacy publications, directly meeting with audiences is inherently more difficult.
Still, an effort needs to be made, says Jennifer Maerz, digital media consultant and editor at Lean Startup Co..
“Information doesn’t just come one way anymore,” said Maerz, “audiences are expecting to have a relationship of sorts with wherever they’re getting the news from.”
Larger media companies aren’t used to getting feedback from audiences that isn’t data-centric, says Maerz. Surveys and analytics, however, don’t really provide the same level of insight as a conversation.
Maerz also says that many traditional news publications are stuck in a mindset that doesn’t promote experimentation or meaningful interactions with audiences.
“A lot of legacy publications still think in a way of ‘let’s just have a website catering to Millennials’ or ‘let’s rewrite things in a millennial voice’ and don’t realize you need to have a major culture change.”
Article written by Michael D’Alimonte