Jon Friedman of MarketWatch has come up with a set of five tips for Richard Stengel, who is to succeed Jim Kelly as managing editor of Time magazine. Interestingly, we have already been doing a couple of the points that he has made. I am putting down a couple of our learnings from the experiement.
1. Make the entire magazine more reader-friendly. It starts with the Web. It’s vital to make Time as interactive as possible. Readers love to put their two cents in and confront journalists. This is both healthy and productive for a magazine. I recently suggested to Steve Koepp, Time’s deputy managing editor and the person in charge of its Web site: If people enjoy writing for the Internet, then the readers will sense their excitement, too, and want to get involved by writing e-mail replies. Plus, I’d incorporate the voices of ordinary people in the pages of Time instead of only the staff’s words (it might cut costs in the long run!). Since everyone gears their products to meet the demands of young people, why not have these folks actually writing columns for Time?
Readers do love to confront anyone on a public platform, but the signal-to-noise ratio is so awful that if you do not pass the comments through a moderation queue, the entire website can go for a toss. And once a forum gets famous for name-calling and being abusive, it is very hard to claw you way back from there. Secondly, to be truly interactive the authors need to reply to the comments. That is a huge task in itself with regards to guidelines and the mechanism that would enable it. Allowing the public to write columns always ends up risking having highly opinionated and unsubstantiated pieces being published. Moderation is quite hard to find here.
2. Increase the entertainment coverage, including sports. And use a greater sense of imagination when you write about culture.
We have tried doing this and ended up with a lot of complaints about what a hard core news organisation is doing writing about light/soft news. Sometimes you own projected image can work against you.