How much audience participation is right for a news site?

    by Mark Glaser
    March 5, 2007

    Because the established powers in the media industry have a history of setting the news agenda, it has taken a lot of urging and cajoling for them to start giving more power and control to their audience. And now we’re starting to see the flowering of experimentation on many big news sites, from the FirstPerson citizen media effort at MSNBC.com to the recent redesign of USAToday.com with reader comments and recommendations for each story. But in perusing all the feedback to that redesign, many complaints have already cropped up. “I tune in to sites like this to find out what informed journalists and editors think is important in the world today, not what Woody1 has to say about Ann Coulter,” says one anonymous commenter. “I don’t think the public interest is well served by this bottoms-up approach to journalism…Reader comments have a place on this site, but it should not be on the front page.” How far do you think major news sites should go with reader participation? Should comments be played up more or downplayed? Should all big news sites have forums for readers? Share your thoughts in the comments below and I’ll run the best ones in the next Your Take Roundup.

    • I think there is a sweet spot between sites like Digg and Newsvine and your traditional newspaper website that no one has really hit yet. USA Today deserves credit for trying to reach that sweet spot.

      I think the new USA Today potentially has the right mix of features but has been undone a bit by the site’s design and architecture. It suffers from the “swap meet” approach that so many newspaper sites employ. I look at the site and my eye doesn’t know where to go. It just seems messy, which is understandable given the scope of the site.

      With time and some tweaks to the site’s design, I think this new site will serve its users well. I like the features but just wish it was pulled together a little better.

    • Readers have to be empowered to be active participants if they so choose. A dialogue is superior to a monologue, and now technology enables it at the largest scales. The challenge is site design and usability – can’t turn off the readers that just want to passively consume…still the largest group for any media outlet. Certainly this can be done although USA Today didn’t do a great job of it. USA Today also has very broad, shallow, objective, emphemeral content…hard to build engaged, passionate communities around that type of content, even if you put the right tools in the people’s hands.

    • shruthi

      Do you think the news media has changed over time. By change I mean, how interactive has it become with the audience. Is this a growing trend, is it here to stay?

  • Who We Are

    MediaShift is the premier destination for insight and analysis at the intersection of media and technology. The MediaShift network includes MediaShift, EducationShift, MetricShift and Idea Lab, as well as workshops and weekend hackathons, email newsletters, a weekly podcast and a series of DigitalEd online trainings.

    About MediaShift »
    Contact us »
    Sponsor MediaShift »
    MediaShift Newsletters »

    Follow us on Social Media