Model for Audience Engagement

Michael LoBue writes: Yet another shoe seems to have dropped for the crumbling industry we’ve known for almost two centuries as “newspapers”. Well, it’s actually larger than just print newspapers; it’s also crumbling for some of the recently popular electronic media formats. The fact that newspapers and some traditional TV news formats are crumbling is not news — what is at least noteworthy is that we’re beginning to see the new, successful form emerge. I think this is instructive for associations and how we communicate with our target audiences.

Let me repeat — nothing fundamentally new here, except that we are seeing some trends emerge from what has seemed like a tsunami of information cascading at us from all directions (e.g., print, broadcast, website, blogs, etc.).

TMZ chief is speaker at Cal journalism school
On Thursday (3/12) The San Francisco Chronicle reports on the visit of the guru of celebrity news to UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. While the faculty at this prestigious journalism school don’t seem to get it yet, their students appear to recognize the entire model of reporting news has already changed and Harry Levin’s TMZ model seems to be one of the more effective models.

Washington Post Folds Business Section Into Front
This story could have been filled with “Latin filler text” as I think it missed the real story. The story is NOT that the Post needs to cut costs. The story is that this is yet another example of the print media alone isn’t cutting it; there’s not enough of a market to sustain either the “print-form writing style” in newspapers, or the print-form by itself.

Stay with me…this is a build…

TMZ’s Financial Page
Whoa – TMZ, the leading paparazzi channel that got its start focusing on the Thirty Mile Zone in Hollywood is now using its investigative style to report on the intersection of politics and the economy.

TMZ is not the first to use this form of engaging dialogue vs. the over-powdered, teleprompter reading talking heads — TMZ takes Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” style even further.

What does this have to do with associations and how we communicate with members and non-member target audiences? Everything! We need to complement our traditional “publish” model where we’re feeding audiences bits of “history”. Even if the news or information was created just this morning, it’s still fixed-in-time.

The success of TMZ and The Daily Show is not that they are telling us what we want to hear; but they are engaging news-makers with questions that we’d want to ask – questions that strip away the highly controlled message the news-makers wants to tell us. I realize that traditional journalism has been about just this — but they have allowed their medium to control their reporting — their days of reporting history appear to be over!

If you’ve never watched TMZ, you should. Not because the subjects are all that interesting, but for the style they use. It’s very dynamic; you feel that the story is unfolding in real time. If you’re not convinced, then watch ET (Entertainment Tonight) and you should see the extremely dramatic contrast.

The successful communication channels of the association world will be the ones that capitalize on this model. One obvious feature is to allow visitors to go beyond just reading the pronouncements of the experts, and be able to engage the experts in a dialogue.