Invite participation. That’s today’s lesson from the NY Times. For a long time every media business – newspapers, magazines, ad agencies, broadcasters – operated with an us-and-them mentality. The “us” controlled the message and the distribution. The “we” received and consumed.
Granted that model’s been dead or dying for a while now and most media companies have accepted it if not actually figured it out. We’ve even seen some non-media companies get into the media business realizing that online and in the social space content is their product.
The New York Times does it as well as anyone with their reader submitted photos. Not only does it break down the barrier that historically separated us and them, it invites readers (customers) to become part of a community rather than a target audience. It involves them in the creation of the product. And perhaps even more importantly, for the Times, it generates free content that spreads across the web and attracts yet more readers to the newspaper.
Even more interesting is the fact that reader photos are often better than the professional images. No doubt that declaration will meet with plenty of disagreement but it’s true if your definition of better is range, diversity, personal and authentic. Even by professional standards some of the images hold up. That alone is a reminder that as more and more non-professionals become versed in the creation of content – video, photography, writing, marketing – those of us in the business of reaching and persuading people to take action ought to focus on building communities that will do it for us.
Take a look at what the Times gets out of its readers. Granted you probably can’t offer up a platform as prominent as the Times, but there have to be lots of ways you can give your customers, employees and friends a chance to participate.What do you think? Create it all yourself? Or get others to do the work for you?
Share your photos with the Times: post them here
New York Times readers: inauguration