Media Shift’s Mark Glaser spoke to BusinessWeek executive editor, John Byrne, about sweeping usability changes to the venerable magazine’s website.
In response to a question about upping participation from the user base, or community, Byrne says:
We have had a very rigourous, very lively reader involvement on the site for a long time. In any given month, roughly 15,000 people participate in conversations on our site, but they are largely hidden from view. You have to either go into a blog and see how people are responding, or you have to go into a forum to see how people are exchanging views, or go to the end of a story to see the comments on it. We want to elevate those conversations and make them more apparent to everyone that these conversations are occuring.
We are rewarding our readers for making thoughtful comments on our site by going to the reader and saying, “We like what you’re saying and want to feature it in a prominent way, can you send us a digital picture of yourself so we can put it on the home page.”
This is about elevating our conversation and giving credence to the rhetoric that everyone has, that the web is a dialogue and not a lecture. The truth is that very few people are delivering on it, having reporters actively engage with readers or elevating comments and saying, “This is as important as any story we have, any video we have, any audio we have.”
There’s more of value in this Media Shift post. For instance, Byrne waxes poetic about the portals.
We allowed new players like Yahoo, MSN, and AOL to come into our territory, to develop no content at all and become the dominant players. The incumbents [in business journalism], we have only ourselves to blame in the digital space. Now, I think pretty much all of us have been awoken to the fact that this has happened and now we have to fix it. By fixing it I mean scaling our site and doing what we do best, delivering high quality journalism that’s unique and creative and using the web for what it’s for. The web is all the mediums combined, it’s TV, it’s radio, it’s print and it’s new things as well. It’s not another medium. And it’s up to us now to reclaim what should be our rightful share.
Byrne points to a narrated slide show by Roben Farzad as an example of multi-media reporting that is now required of journalists and content providers. He also says BusinessWeek.com has twice the reach of the magazine and that one million podcasts are downloaded from the site each month.
What’s interesting is the fact that professionally-created content, even when it’s DIY-style and given away for free online, is still the centerpiece. User generated content is important and has a seat at the table–a nice seat with arms and a high back–at the same time it’s totally surrounded by expertise.