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Friday, 25 June 2010

#Newsrw: Engaging with "Readers+": hard work but valuable for local news websites

Local newspaper websites should be talking to a group of people that Samantha Shepherd defines as "Readers+". Shepherd, the digital projects co-ordinator at the Bournemouth Daily Echo, describes "Readers+" as active website readers who engage, respond, argue, point out mistakes, comment and complain to their local news website.

Shepherd, who was speaking at News Rewired, compared them with "lurkers" - those who read but don't participate any further and "shouters" - those who just complain loudly about anything and everything (but especially the local council.)

The Echo uses a variety of social media tools to talk directly to the "Readers+" group in particular as these people are loyal to the brand, involved and concerned about news content, pedantic, and are often willing to contribute to the news process.

Shepherd described Facebook as a great "untapped resource" of news for local media organisations and noted that 70,000 Facebook profiles are attached to Bournemouth in some way. The paper also features photos taken by people in Bournemouth and posted on Flickr.

For Shepherd, it is important to adapt to online communities and not impose rules upon them from the outside. She said honesty, civility, actively responding to your readers and an ability to deal with criticism in public are the keystones of engagement.

Although social media therefore takes a significant amount of time and the rewards are not always "tangible", Shepherd's bottom line was that there is value in talking to "Readers+" people to improve the Echo's journalism and to foster other business opportunities.
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