From Andria, posted at the Gannett group's active blog:
About Walser's comment:
"I sometimes wonder if the drive for massive interactivity with readers isn't getting ahead of where time-starved readers really are...Checking several of Greenville's top blogs was depressing. Good postings - many on controversial topics - have produced no online response."
It's a good point, and we need to encourage responses by rewarding those who contribute. For specific ways to generate buzz on blogs, ask Mary Newsom how she developed her Naked City community. Sometimes I think she asked specific people to post, to generate reaction. Or she spread the word about specific postings by old-fashioned talking.
Minneapolis developed "karma points" at Vita.mn Surfers want other people like them to review restaurants or clubs or books, but many don't want to take the time to write themselves. Thus rewards. And rewards don't have to be concrete.
And for specific tasks, like finding an obit, submitting a wedding announcement, sharing a story idea, the website should make the work easy and fast. Sometimes five or 10 minutes is all readers will give, before they turn away and don't come back.
About Rich Mathieson's comment:
With its "Taking Back the Neighborhoods" series, I think the Observer found how effective initiating "community conversations" can be. Instead of just hosting "town hall meetings" where a couple hundred attend, though, imagine hosting online forums where thousands can participate.
Have you seen how hard it is for the Charlotte group at Flickr photo sharing to get people to turn out for an event? Rewards are needed, beyond coffee and cookies. But it's clear that volunteers in the community aren't having good success with organizing real events from online communities, so that's a place we could succeed if we give it enough energy/money and time. One of Newsom's Naked City commentors proposed a meetup recently, where they could duke it out in person (verbally, I'm sure).
One specific news event that does turn people out and create community: zoning battles. We should find a way to host the conversations that go on online and in face-to-face meetings about zoning and development. I know a developer who's planning on building some stuff near me, and he wants an online place to post sketches and get neighborhood feedback. A volunteer in the neighborhood has yet to come through with a custom website: Imagine if charlotte.com could become that place.
About Liz's old bottom-line comment:
Shouldn't we also ask about results? In other words, when we ask about new features on the internet or in the paper, shouldn't we ask if the newspaper has measured any increase in hits or readership as a result?
The managing editor in Dayton, a Cox paper, brought this point home in an interview as well. She meets people at conferences who are excited about a new toy, but have no idea whether it's increasing traffic. We should beware falling for the newest gadget if it doesn't work by adding readership or increasing useability.