The Washington Post, Social Media and Audience-Building

August 30th, 2006

The Washington Post (or, properly, Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive) is one news outlet that gets social media: they seem to truly understand the the benefits that come from being a part of the broader internet conversation as well as the ability of user-generated content to build audience loyalty. Political operations interested in turning casual site visitors into passionate supporters can look to them as a model.

The Post was one of the first major media sites to host blogs, and the Post.com now fully embraces its own bloggers rather than sequestering them off as also-ran content (on the site’s top navigation bar, “Columns and Blogs” is a single link under “Opinion”). According to Post.com Opinion Editor Hal Strauss, they originally added blogs as an easy way to get additional content, but the ability of blogs to build a passionate audience quickly became obvious — an item by a popular blogger like Joel Achenbach can gin up a couple of hundred reader comments in a day.

The site is also very friendly to outside writers, with Technorati-powered “Who’s Blogging” features on most or all of its articles. Contrast this approach with that of the New York Times, which walls off much of its content behind a paid subscription barrier. When offered a choice between equally good Times and Post articles, is a site like e.politics going to point to the one that gives a reciprocal link in return or the one that acts as if the blogosphere doesn’t exist? Multiply that effect by the number of active bloggers, and you can see how significant this simple feature can be for traffic-building.

The Post.com recently took an even more radical step by forming its own blog ad network, making it a potential financial and promotional partner for bloggers!

Beyond blogs, the Post.com is seriously embracing the broader world of user-generated content and social media. Like many sites, they’re encouraging easy Del.icio.us tagging, but they’re also implementing reader comments on all news stories, starting with less controversial topics and expanding to political coverage after the editors are sure that the content filtering mechanisms work.

Next, according to a June presentation by Executive Editor James Brady, the site will encourage readers to create profile pages that gather all of their comments in a central place. Absolute genius — every reader becomes a potential author. Not only will this tie them more strongly to the site, but they’ll also have every incentive to spread the word about their own creations and draw more people to read the original articles. Turning a chunk of readers into both passionate fans and aggressive marketers is hard for a publication to beat.

Overall, the Post.com folks show an endearing tendency to try just about anything that might help build their audience, and I’m a big fan of editors who’ll throw everything at the wall and see what sticks. In a world in which many traditional media outlets are wondering how to survive, it may be the only approach that works.

cpd

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15 Comments

  • 1. Micro Persuasion&hellip  |  August 31st, 2006 at 7:24 am

    Washington Post Plans Social Net for Readers…

    In the latest in its series of moves to become a “two-way” newspaper, the Washington Post is gearing up to launch a social network of its most passionate readers. According to Colin Delany, WashingtonPost.com is implementing reader comments on all…

  • 2. Beta Alfa 2.0 » Was&hellip  |  August 31st, 2006 at 9:53 am

    [...] Micro Persuasion: Washington Post Plans Social Net for Readers e.Politics: The Washington Post, Social Media and Audience-Building [...]

  • 3. Dan Blank: Publishing, In&hellip  |  August 31st, 2006 at 1:13 pm

    [...] e.politics looks at the The Washington Post’s social media push: [...]

  • 4. A shameless plug for my e&hellip  |  August 31st, 2006 at 1:31 pm

    [...] I don’t often do this on my blog, but since several different blogs and news sites have mentioned the Washington Post’s introduction of reader comments on news stories, I thought I would mention that the newspaper I work for in Toronto, the Globe and Mail (www.theglobeandmail.com) has allowed reader comments on every story we publish since last September. It has proven to be an extremely popular feature with readers — so popular that on some contentious news stories we are overwhelmed with hundreds of comments. [...]

  • 5. coopLOG&hellip  |  September 1st, 2006 at 7:41 am

    Washington Post : le média de demain…

    Le Washington Post, plus ouvert et plus social, préfigure le média de demain. Après avoir lancé sa plate-forme de blogs, le grand quotidien américain autorise chaque internaute à commenter les articles, à créer une page perso qui réunit tous s…

  • 6. Stalkings… at Beans&hellip  |  September 1st, 2006 at 11:59 am

    [...] Does it seem weird to have rules for brainstorming? No? Well, here you go, then….If you view potential customers as prey, this has your name all over it…New York will not tolerate turning the cityscape into advertising — unless the city gets paid, reports Ad Age…We presume Pollsters and researchers will do the happy dance as the Washington Post gets all 2.0…My Pet Rocks are gonna be jealous… Share and Enjoy:These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages. [...]

  • 7. Project Syndicate »&hellip  |  September 1st, 2006 at 2:55 pm

    [...] According to Colin Delany, WashingtonPost.com is implementing reader comments on all news stories. You can see a sampling here. They’re starting with less controversial topics and will expand to all stories once content filtering mechanisms are operational. The Post also allows you to request the removal of a comment that you find objectionable. [...]

  • 8. Web 2.0 Newspapers »&hellip  |  September 1st, 2006 at 4:44 pm

    [...] Good link from Jarvis, who quotes the FooCamp discussion on the future of news. Speaking of the Wik: "Newspapers are a collection of information desperate for a framework, while Wikipedia is a framework desperate for information," says Adrian Holovaty from the WashingtonPost.com." Also, good e-politics post (via Micropersuasion and Much Ado About Marketing) on the Washington Post's latest social media efforts — we'll get into that more soon. [...]

  • 9. A Friend in Every City &r&hellip  |  September 6th, 2006 at 8:15 am

    [...] e-Politics reports that “The Washington Post (or, properly, Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive) is one news outlet that gets social media: they seem to truly understand the the benefits that come from being a part of the broader internet conversation as well as the ability of user-generated content to build audience loyalty. Political operations interested in turning casual site visitors into passionate supporters can look to them as a model.” [...]

  • 10. Nonprofit Communications &hellip  |  September 12th, 2006 at 12:37 pm

    [...] Colin Delaney at e.politics looks at how the Washington Post is implementing social media and social networking to build an audience. Colin believes nonprofits can learn a lot from what they’re doing. [...]

  • 11. Mark  |  October 4th, 2006 at 10:40 am

    According to Colin Delany, WashingtonPost.com is implementing reader comments on all news stories.

  • 12. ben preven  |  October 31st, 2006 at 4:22 am

    Alert – Beware of propaganda. The US Department of Defence has allocated funding to retain the services of “surrogates” to “develop messages” for the 24-hour news cycle, particularly on the internet. Any posting on any blog or page may be from a paid Defence Department contractor posing as a private citizen. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/6100906.stm

  • 13. Boomerang » Blog Ar&hellip  |  January 29th, 2007 at 4:07 pm

    [...] Blog e.politics reports that the Washington Post is experimenting with yet another new media feature – the comment. In an effort to engage its audience and create an interactive experience, readers will be able to add their own comments to an article. Currently the program is in a test phase to gauge public reaction. An example can be seen here. [...]

  • 14. tovorinok  |  July 5th, 2007 at 5:18 am

    Hello

    Great book. I just want to say what a fantastic thing you are doing! Good luck!

    G’night

  • 15. Weekly Roundup September &hellip  |  July 10th, 2007 at 4:33 am

    [...] The Washington Post gets social media and how it can build audience loyalty. [...]


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