One way to boost audience engagement is to allow readers to participate and submit content of their own. Many organisations, like The Financial Times, are welcoming this strategy.

The FT has adopted this approach to boost audience engagement with their content. It focuses on getting readers more involved and creating communities amongst readers.

A recent segment on the FT website, Management’s missing women, is one example of how audience participation can not only boost content’s fluidity, but can also boost audience engagement with a brand.

The segment focused on the small fraction of females that are in managerial roles, compared to males. It included interviews, data and was open for readers’ contributions within the comment section.

Response to audience engagement

The comments were not all positive and the tone became ‘condescending’. So, the FT moderators had to step in to reinforce the FT’s guidelines. As a result, the tone of the comments took a positive shift and allowed more readers, in particular women who could relate to the article, to share their contributions.

The popularity and engagement with the comments were a success – they eventually moved to a standalone section on the website.

Lilah Raptopoulos, community manager at the FT, told journalism.co.uk:

“There are a lot of people commenting, but when you are responding to them, you are not just responding to that one person but also to everyone else reading the comments.”

“It reminds people that there is an active presence [in the comments] and that we care about civility and the conversation staying productive.”

Allowing readers to participate through comments or submitting their own content can be hugely beneficial for an organisation. It is a way to gain insights about their readers’ interests and ideas. It also builds a more trustworthy relationship between the two parties.

The aims of the strategy

Raptopoulos believes there are two main aims within reader’s participation:

  • Shift the original viewpoint of a reader to a more positive tone through the variation of comments
  • Finding a shared interest amongst the commenters  so you can build a community for readers with similar interest and views.

Raptopoulos said:

“I think carefully with the editor and reporters about what we, as journalists, want to know more about from our readers in regards to that topic and what would be valuable to ask them to help with.”

Surveys at the FT have found that there is “a strong link” between comments and engagement.

The surveys showed readers who comment on an article are seven times more engaged as those who do not. It is unlikely that the engagement level will decrease. Rather, it will only increase or maintain the reader’s participation in the future.

“Our goal is to have those readers participate and have those who aren’t reading [the comments] starting to read them,” said Raptopoulos. “[Comments] are the most direct link we have with our readers and I think it’s important for every news organisation to build long term relationships with their readers, especially now.

They need to get to know us and we need to get to know them and show them that we’re listening, and this is a clear and easy way to do it.”

 

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