Ahead Of The Curve Blog

digital audience engagement

Tools for controlling the digital deluge

21 March 2011 · by Blaine Sundrud

Newspaper companies that develop a solution to help readers set aside a story for further review will gain favor with both consumers and advertisers.

Controlling the Digital DelugeAs journalists, the “Digital Newsroom” provides us many real-time methods to keep information flowing to our consumers. Constantly updating RSS streams, SMS alerts and vibrant networking tools keep us in front of our readers throughout the day.

But those real-time, high-speed delivery methods don't match up with enterprise-class journalism. As a consumer, I find that great writing requires me to have some time to dedicate to reading the content, following the links, and digging through the talkback in order to really digest the material. So I need to set that particularly fabulous story aside until I have cleared my daily task list.

Obviously, that's easy to do with my print subscription; I just pull that page out and set it on the counter. I can read it later before heading to bed.

But what about my digital world?

Here is what I don't want:

  1. I don't want to have an ever growing list of “favorites” in my browser that becomes unmanageable. I don't know for certain if I like the story in the first place, so why should I call it my “favorite?”

  2. I certainly don't want to “like” it on Facebook or tweet it to myself for the same reason.

  3. Storing a folder of links is absurd.

Often I will just end up leaving a dozen browser windows open at one time until I can clear my plate to go back and read them. Which is fine until Windows reboots my machine, and I forget to reopen my last browsing session.

So what are the solutions I could use?

A host of new options have sprung up in the last year that has been generating quite a bit of buzz. Read It Later and Instapaper provide browser plug-ins for readers who like to read the long version, but don't have time right now. They each store the content for the reader who can then go back later and get the story without all the nasty page breaks and ads the newspaper site might want to put around their content.

Read It Later just announced 3 million registered users and Instapaper claims over a million as well. Odds are, some of your readers are already subscribed to these services or a variety of others. Why are these offerings getting so much traction? Because they understand what your readers want: everything — right now, except when they don't.

UnVault takes that need and extends it to a whole new level by offering not just content storage for later, but daily random reminders of great content that was put into your vault. Storing content isn't enough, if you never bother to look in the cabinet to see what you have.

So where does that leave us? The easy solution is to help your readers use one of these services. They all offer simple integration to existing sites and workflows. But is that really helping us?

Monetising our communities is still the Holy Grail out there for digital media. Simply handing our content to other services to let our readers take their time reading it sounds nice and simple — unless you ask yourself, how are we getting paid for our content? These services often provide nice, clean, reading platforms without your advertising content. This sounds like about the worst kind of deal we can think of, especially when the content being read is the sweet spot of the type of content our advertisers want: content that readers pause and mull over.

Depending on your CMS vendor, developing your own “StoryStorage” (or whatever you want to call it), may or may not be simple. However, taking the time to give your audience the tools they need to not just get what they want now, but what they want when they have time for it, may be a good way to build your community.

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