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Ideas for Boosting Reader Participation -- Relationship Building

Nov. 12, 1997 / Zurich, Switzerland, presented by Nancy Malitz
Check also the 20 tips

Questions? Comments? Links don't work? Contact Nancy Malitz or Norbert Specker

1.Repurpose old content
Motley the Cat Cartoon Contest
The Detroit News Online

2. Utilize your photodesk
Minneapolis Star Tribune Caption Contest
Previous entries

3.Surveys and tallies trigger instant reader response, and subsequent letters
Casinos narrowed to four -- The Detroit News Online
Casino finalists -- The Detroit News Online
Kansas City Star Talkback

4. When you present reader response: 1) present it as readable content, 2) answer it! and 3) have some fun with it.
The Detroit News Online Sports Talk
New Jersey Online South Jersey Columnist answers South Jersey letters
Philadelphia Online / Headbone Interactive TV Voter
Detroit News Online / Tribune Media Services Terror Tally
Providence Journal Diner (Rhode Island)
Providence Journal Diner Results

5. Don't wait for your purchase of a big database machine to begin building databases of your own. Start with community. Build systematically.
Cedar Rapids Gazette (Iowa) Special on Families -- Shaping Values for our Children
Flatgard Family Story
Flatgard Family Picture
Another Flatgard Family Picture
Flatgard Family Profile
Cedar Rapids Neighborhoods
Harambee House Neighborhood
KCRG-TV Our Town Series

And be creative about what constitutes a database:
USA Today News Snapshots
USA Today Sports Snapshots

6. Treat special projects as if they are their own websites, and register them throughout the 'Net on search engines, etc. The effort will win you new audiences.
Detroit News Online: Gay Rights in Europe
Gay Rights Survey
Chicago Tribune Homicides Package
Chicago Tribune Homicide Questionaire
Chicago Tribune Homicide Response

7. Raid government databases for content. They present it badly. You can do better.
Sample government database
Los Angeles Times: How to Survive Small Claims Court
Rochester Democrat & Chronicle: Grading Our Schools
Detroit News Online Fund Finder

8. Offer a greeting card or post card or "letter" service, because recipients of the cards are new people, who will visit your site.
Detroit News Online Halloween Site
Detroit News Online Halloween Animated Greeting Cards
Nando Net Cyrano Server for help with your love letters

9. No sports section should ever be without a contest of some kind.
Philadelphia Online / NFL Players CyberCoach game
Kansas City Star Chiefs Page
KC Star Chiefs Your Picks

10. Involve your readers in any ongoing contest -- they'll help you maintain it.
Rock Mall Trivia Challenge

11. Newspaper process pieces -- stories about how something is made or how something works -- are well adapted to the web. If the story lasts longer than a day, get the readers involved.
Houston Chronicle: Tibetan Monks Mandala Project
Mandala Project: Periodic Photos
Mandala Project: Readers' Questions
Houston Chronicle Beer Can House
Beer Can House Slide Show

12. Offer your pictures and front pages for purchase online. Emphasize specialized photos you can't get elsewhere, and personal collectibles (front pages commemorating a birthday, high school sports).
Washington Post Photostore
Washington Post Photo Store Front Pages
Florida Today Space Online Galactic Shopper
Florida Today Space Online Current Photos

13. Get your teachers involved with homework help. It will bring families to your site.
Minneapolis Star Tribune Homework Help
Minneapolis Star Tribune Teachers Page
Homework Help Sample Page

14. Find a way to let your readers contribute their own pages. You may have to create, or go buy, a "web-o-matic" program.
Hotwired Geek of the Week Sample Hotwired Member Page
The Detroit News Online PetNet Sample PetNet Memorial Page

15. Try to bring in local non-profit organizations, clubs, schools. This also may require some kind of "web-o-matic" process so that they can maintain their own pages.
Sample non-profit organization home page.
Sample non-profit page.

16. Look for local hobbyists, the most obsessive the better, who might contribute their content, or add their pages, to your site.
Michigan High School Sports Home page

17. Bring in college readers, as USA Today does in its collaboration with U-Wire (University Wire.) This creates a symbiotic relationship with college online sites.
USA Today College News front
USA Today College News story
University of Oregon page
Harvard Online page

18. Even if your staff is small, find a way to go to the media's edge with occasional, very focused projects.
Augusta Chronicle's Masters Tournament Golf Site
Augusta Chronicle: Send greeting cards from the Masters Tournament.
Augusta Chronicle: Hole by hole tour of the Masters
Augusta Chronicle: Masters Trivia Quiz
James Bond Tomorrow Never Dies PAge
St. Paul Pioneer Planet Just Go Music Page
St. Paul Pioneer Planet Rolling Stones Page

19. Don't neglect the easy and obvious. Hide scavenger hunt links in your site; link with wit!
New Jersey Online Users Contest
New Jersey Online Contest Clues
I, Cringely, on PBS

20. Offer e-mail versions of your product. It keeps your user e-mail database current, reminds users you are there. Then use the product judiciously. Don't bombard your readers. Don't spam.
Model: Wall Street Journal's notifications of important breaking news.
Even Happy Puppy, a teen-oriented game tips site, offers an e-mail newsletter.
E-Mail Offer

21. Check your staff for niche specialists who no longer feel they have sufficient space in the printed newspaper. Hints: Chess, pets, fishing, video games, HAM radio, classic car enthusiasts.
Detroit News Online Comic Book Connection

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