Improving Boston.com: Suggestion #5 – Engaging with Readers, Really


Here’s the big secret of newspapers: they really hate feedback, unless it is positive. Call an editor to complain about the accuracy of the story and you’ll soon discover what I mean.

boston2Newspapers have become islands of self-importance. Editors and reporters think that they are smarter than everyone else and bristle at suggestions on how they can improve. Trust me. I was a reporter for 10 years. I worked in newsrooms and wrote thousands of news stories. I know of what I speak.

Feedback – unless it is glowing – is unwanted.

That mentality needs to change. Take, for example, Boston.com’s “Off the Shelf” book blog. I read a post there recently on self-publishing and disagreed with it. So I wrote a comment and left a link to relevant commentary from a guest poster on my book blog.

It went in the queue for moderation – and never saw the light of day.

That’s when I noticed that none of the posts on “Off the Shelf” contained any comments. Is anyone reading the blog? Or has the staff at “Off the Shelf” decided they don’t want any feedback? Or any discussion? You would think that a blog with no comments on it would be hoping, praying for a reaction – any reaction. I know I love receiving feedback on HighTalk. It lets me know people are reading. I want feedback – even – no especially, if it is negative.

Boston.com does allow comments on most of their (carefully hidden) blogs and news stories. But they need to respond to the comments. Why aren’t the editors and reporters engaging? Why doesn’t Boston.com create forums for active discussions on news? Why aren’t these linked to the stories?

Why aren’t there more polls and surveys?

The real benefit of the web is listening and talking with your users. Boston.com has to take this to heart – and utilize that underlying philosophy into the way they gather and distribute news. Readers can be their eyes and ears in the committee. They can add to the reporting and become part of the news gathering process. But Boston.com and other newspapers need to want that to happen. By listening – by connecting – to readers – Boston.com can become a better and more relevant site.

Read the start of our 6-part series Improving Boston.com.

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