Tuesday, March 13, 2007

ReadMe.txt

I’m a newspaper reader, so I usually find those really interesting stories on the third page of the business section. I track incremental developments in local stories over many different days. I know where to look for science stories on Tuesday, and for the high-tech columns and reviews on Thursday.

Most readers don’t.

And today, when the audience is increasingly made up of people who may hold the printed newspaper in their hands only occasionally – if at all – it’s crazy for us to pretend that Friday’s reader is going to remember what we wrote on Tuesday, or to dismiss an idea with, “We just had a story like that in the entertainment section a couple weeks ago …”

The audience needs your help.

There’s much engaging, interesting, useful reporting and storytelling in our newspapers every day. Chances are that most newspaper readers don’t find it all, and it’s a cinch that people who drop in at the website once in a while, or scan your headlines in an RSS reader, are the least likely of all.

Why wouldn’t we help them find the good stuff? If I ran a newspaper, I think I’d ask some smartalecky copy editor or cool younger features reporter to write a blog about how to find the best stuff from the paper – not just important news, but weird-ass foreign stories and strange trends and impossibly hip new bands from unlikely places. If possible I’d look for some attitude and personality to keep the audience reading every day.

I’d send this out as an email notice at mid-morning every day, so people could make better use of their newspaper, or just click through on the embedded links. I’d already have email addresses for all the subscribers. (Your circ department collects that, right? Well, make them start.) And I’d promote it heavily as a free email subscription for anybody else who wanted it.

Maybe I’d call it “ReadMe” or The Users Manual or “insiders’ guide.” Probably somebody at the paper would have a better idea for that, though.

Anybody want to try?

1 comment:

  1. "If I ran a newspaper, I think I’d ask some smartalecky copy editor or cool younger features reporter to write a blog about how to find the best stuff from the paper – not just important news, but weird-ass foreign stories and strange trends and impossibly hip new bands from unlikely places. If possible I’d look for some attitude and personality to keep the audience reading every day."

    We do it! Sort of. At GritCity (a blog for The News Tribune - link below) we (including two smartalecky copy editors, a smartalecky "webmeister" and yours truly, the features reporter) sometimes write "This Just In" posts with a hopefully funny summary of the day's news. The one roadblock to writing one everyday is that it takes a lot of time to do it well, between gathering links and crafting a witty post. We've talked about making it a more permanent feature ... I'll keep you posted!

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